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Updated: Friday, April 28, 2017

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.

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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 .

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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.
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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

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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

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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.

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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.
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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 >

  • 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 >

    Family Friendly Kitchen Ideas

    It can be easy to get carried away in the kitchen. And were not talking about cooking.

    This area is typically the most used, most coveted, and most expensive part of the house to deck out. And if you have kids, extra measures might need to be taken in order to create a kitchen that is family friendly and still as sexy as you want it to be.

    Whether youre just building a home, renovating your existing kitchen, or want to come up with a few easy tricks for making it more functional, weve got some tips.

    This chic kitchen proves easy care can also be easy on the eyes. "In this Carpinteria, California, kitchen, Verner Panton childrens chairs add a dash of color. The Tulip chairs and side table are Eero Saarinen designs," said Architectural Digest.

    Notice how the surfaces- both those that are built in and the ones on the furniture - can be wiped clean without much effort.

    There may be no more difficult decision youll make in your kitchen than what surface to dress it up with. The most on-trend countertop surface today is quartz, which is great for families since it is practically indestructible. It also looks chic on this oversized island that offers plenty of work and play area.

    Another advantage of this kitchen for families is the placement of the microwave, which gives small kids easy access.

    Keeping countertops at one height instead of adding a higher breakfast bar keeps the floorplan more open and helps to protect young kids from falling from high distances. This kitchens task lighting helps illuminate the workspace, and the two built-in drawers give kids a convenient place to stash their gear.


    Open sightlines to the outside allow the cook to keep an eye on the kids while theyre out playing. This kitchen also features separate beverage refrigerators - a great tip for those who want to keep kids and adult beverage easily accessible.

    Architectural Digest

    If you have young children, youre bound to have stacks of sippy cups and plastic silverware, plus enough art supplies to fill several shelves at Michaels. Thinking smart about storage can help keep the mess at bay. A low drawer or two designated as the kids space for all things plastic will help them know where to go when looking for a drink, and may also encourage them to help set the table for dinner and help you cook.

    "The design of your kitchen has a big impact on how easy cooking with children can be," said Case Remodeling. "If youre doing a kitchen renovation, ensure that the design allows the children to see you cook when theyre at the table or elsewhere in the room. They will learn by watching and it will spark their enthusiasm."

    This smart solution for organizing art supplies adds a useful drawer to a bench in the nook, which keeps paint and crayons in one place instead of scattered throughout the house.


    We always wanted a desk in our kitchenmdash;a place where we could line up cookbooks and that could serve as a homework station. But, the sad truth is, unless you have a massive space for a massive desktop, itll probably end up looking like ours: covered in bills and school papers and never used for homework or any other function besides being a paper trap.

    This is why creating a breakfast nook is so ideal. Having a separate but nearby space for kids to study, do homework, craft, or play games allows you to keep your eye on them while working in the kitchen and helps build family closeness.


    Just because you have a smaller space doesnt mean you should sacrifice function. Dont have room for an island and a breakfast nook? Combine the two

    Architectural Digest

    Full Story >

    7 Ways To De-Stinkify Your House For A Showing

    Your stinky house isnt making any friends. And if youre trying to sell that house, its certainly not convincing any lookers to become buyers. You may think your house smells like roses and baby kisses, but, trust us. Everyone thinks that.

    The truth is that every day smells can get past most of us. You might not realize that the cat box is giving off "They dont clean me enough" vibes, or that theres a slight musty smell in your master bathroom - a musty smell thats going to make potential buyers think your home has issues, by the way and, by issues, I mean you should be prepared for inspections and scary terms like "leak" and "mold" and money coming right out of your pocket..

    But, before you can even get to the inspection stage, you have to get someone interested enough in your home that theyll want to make an offer. Use these creative tips to de-stinkify your home and infuse it with the magical scent of "buy me."


    There may also be musty smells coming from your washing machine or dishwasher. A cup full of white vinegar and a run through the cycle should help freshen them up.

    Baking soda

    Your mom or grandma had the right idea with that box of Arm Hammer in the fridge. It helps to absorb odors, which will come in handy when potential homebuyers open it - which they will.

    "Baking soda, unlike most commercial air fresheners, doesnt mask odors, it absorbs them, home economist Mary Marlowe Leverette told Houselogic. "Baking soda sodium bicarbonate in a convenient box neutralizes stubborn acidic odors - like those from sour milk - as well as other funky smells lurking in your home. Its a natural odor eliminator."

    Not convinced? Baking soda can also be used to eliminate odors in: Your dishwasher, your drain, your garbage can, your upholstered furniture pieces, and your cat box.


    Speaking of cat boxes, agents preference as it >"Activated charcoal, which is a form of carbon that has been activated to make it extremely porous, is great for absorbing a range of odors, especially those caused by pets," said Gizmodo. "You can buy activated charcoal specifically designed for pet odorsfor 7. Put them in or near your litter box to help mitigate the stink."

    These charcoal bags are another great product you can use throughout the house to absorb unwanted smells. "Place a few of these charcoal-filled linen bags around your house and poof - odors gone Best of all, each bag lasts for up to two years, just put them outside in the sun for an hour once a month to rejuvenate the charcoal," said Bravo. "Large bags are suited for bedrooms, kitchens, and living areas; whereas smaller versions are great for bathrooms, your car, or even your fridge."

    Chocolate chip cookies

    Theres a reason so many real estate agents bake cookies for open houses. Not only are they delicious and capable of imparting a sense of warmth and comfort, they can also cover a multitude of malodorous sins. Pick up a couple of packages of pre-made cookies you can just pop into the oven before potential buyers show up.

    Air fresheners

    The problem with many air fresheners is that they attempt to cover smells with what many consider to be even more offensive smells. If youre showing your house, beware of anything overpowering or highly chemical-laden because it can aggravate your visitors allergies. Gimme the Good Stuff has a great rundown of all the chemicals that can be found in some of the air fresheners on the market and some natural alternatives, including vitamin-infused air fresheners.

    Odor-eliminating nightlight

    Sounds odd, but this Hamilton Beach TrueAir Plug Mount Odor Eliminator Air Cleaner Purifier with built in night light might be the answer to your stinky problems. "Why just use a night-light when you can use a night-light that also makes the room smell great? Plug this into an outlet and a tiny fan inside pulls air through a carbon filter and sends it back out as fresh, odor-free air," said Bravo. "An optional green meadow scent cartridge can be installed to add a light scent to the room."

    Dryer sheets

    Have a teenager with stinky teenage sneakers? A dryer sheet placed in each shoe will help absorb the odors But, if theyre really bad, you might insist theyre kept outside or removed enti>

    Full Story >

    Paying For College? Why Your House Can Be A Windfall

    Some of us are deep in the land of college tours and scholarship research and trying to learn all we can about how to get our kids into their preferred school, and pay for it without having to pack up and live with them in their dorm. And, by "some of us", I mean Yours Truly. And by "deep in," I mean sinking into a world of confusion and despair and conflicting information and Google searches like, "How much can I get for my plasma?" The bottom line is sobering but so is the massive information dump. If you can remember what it was like to learn a language from scratch, you kinda get it, but only if that language consistently contradicted itself and caused even more waves of confusion. So, a lot like English, then.

    But, lost in all the fun, new terminology and layers of requirements and so many dates for scores and applications and deposits that you need to expand your iPhone calendar entry space is a bit of great news for homeowners and homebuyers who are staring down the reality of paying for college for their dependent child.

    Rising costs

    First, a reality check. Think you know how much it actually costs to go to college? "Unfortunately, for many parents, its simply not possible to fund a degree from their savings or income - not with the total annual cost of college hitting roughly 23,000 for the average four-year public school and about 46,000 for private schools, according to The College Board," said mortgage site In case you missed it, thats PER YEAR. PER CHILD.

    Ouch. Especially if youre nearing retirement age. There goes that beach house. But, the good news for homeowners is twofold, and its the first one that came as a surprise:

    1 Nothing about your house - not the mortgage, the value, how much you owe, or how much equity you have - matters when it comes to getting financial aid for most public schools. You can owe 1 on a home worth 2 million and it wont matter or even be known to those who are deciding whether your child receives financial aid. Presumably, if you owe 1 on a 2 million home, you wont need financial aid, but thats another story.

    2 If you do have equity in your home, congratulations. You may have a built-in solution to pay for those >

    Lets talk financial aid

    The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and you will come to love/hate this document that will be used to determine how much you receive to offset the cost of college. "The purpose of the FAFSA is to calculate your expected family contribution, or EFC - the amount the government believes your family can contribute for college that year," said Bankrate.

    The FAFSA will ask you for your drivers license and social security numbers, your most recent tax returns, and information on bank accounts and investments, including any stocks you might have. But what it wont ask you for is information about your house. This is great because it protects what is, for most, their single largest investment and also "boosts their aid eligibility by knowing which assets the government doesnt take into account," said Bankrate.

    Some financial planners also focus on the family home as a smart investment tool when it comes to paying for college by encouraging them to pay down the mortgage and "transfer assets from assessable accounts to sheltered ones."

    Keep in mind, though, that different rules may play for private universities. "Generally speaking, private colleges look at the equity you have in your home as a resource to pay for college," said Money Crashers. "Public schools, however, typically do not."

    Tapping home equity to pay for college

    Has your home appreciated since you purchased? Many homeowners who need to find additional funds for college are using their home equity and taking advantage of low interest rates instead of looking to other types of loans.

    "In a climate of lower housing interest rates, a home loan might seem like an attractive option for some parents to help shoulder the cost of paying fornbsp;college," said US News. "Since the downturn of 08 and 09, the lending environment has improved enough that some of the rates on home loans are more competitive over a Plus loan," Trish Gildea, senior financial planner at Summit Financial Corp. in Burlington, Massachusetts, told them.

    In fact, Bankrate currently shows a home equity interest rate of 5.21 and a 30K home equity line of credit HELOC at 5.38. The current rate on a Parent PLUS Loan "a federal student loan available to the parents of dependent undergraduate students," isnbsp;6.31," according to Edvisors, plus there is an origination fee thats over 4. You may also have an easier time qualifying for credit tied to the equity in your home as long as you have been making payments on time and have a low enough loan-to-value ratio; "Eligibility for a Parent PLUS Loan does not depend on the borrowers credit scores or debt-to-income ratios. The borrower of a Parent PLUS Loan must not have annbsp;adverse credit history.

    Dipping into home equity may also have specific advantages if your child is planning to attend a private college. "Taking out a mortgage or tapping a home equity line of credit willnbsp;reducenbsp;the amount of equity you have in your home," said Money Crashers. "Since private schools view home equity as an option to pay for tuition, utilizing this strategy can increase your chances of receiving financial aid if your child is attending a private college. You could use the money you pull out of your home to pay down high interest consumer debt -- but pay close attention to the interest rate. It probably wouldnt make sense to take on a home equity loan at 8 to pay off debt at 5. But if money is cheap, pulling it out of your house to pay off other debts can help you qualify for financial aid at a private institution."

    Preferred loans

    US News notes that, "On average, parents borrowed 7,406 through a home loan -- an umb>

    Wondering which of those loans is best for you? It depends on your unique set of circumstances, but, because of the flexibility, "Wealth advisors say a HELOC is the most common choice for parents choosing a home loan to pay for school," they said. "A borrower can limit the amount to just whats needed under a HELOC compared with a home equity loan, which requires taking out a lump sum. The minimum amount for a home equity loan can range between 10,000 and 25,000 at lending institutions."

    In addition to all the other factors, youll want to keep the "when" in mind if youre considering a HELOC. "Experts say timing is important when it comes to a HELOC andnbsp;filling out the FAFSA," said US News. Thats because, "If the proceeds of a home equity or HELOC is in your bank account on the date you file the FAFSA," youll have to count it as an asset, which can reduce the amount of aid received.

    Full Story >

    Making Your Home More Energy-Efficient

    Your home is your place to rest, play, and spend time with your family. It should be a place of comfort, and this comfort need not come at a high cost. Many homes, however, waste a lot of energy in ways that can be prevented. Here are five ways to make your home more energy-efficient.

    Replace or Weatherize All Windows

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

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

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

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

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

    Seal the Homes Thermal Envelope

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

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

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

    Upgrade Your Home HVAC System

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

    Upgrade Insulation

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

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

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

    Use a Programmable Thermostat

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

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

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

    To Avoid Contract Disputes, Itemize Items That Convey

    Question. We have signed a contract to buy a house. When we first saw it, before signing the agreement, there were two refrigerators. One was in the kitchen and one was in the basement. The real estate agent told us that both refrigerators would stay with the property. Settlement is scheduled for next week, and we have now been told that the basement refrigerator has been removed. Our mortgage lender, however, insists on our signing a statement that the refrigerator remains as part of the house, and as part of the lenders security.

    I do not understand when a refrigerator is a fixture and when it is not.

    Answer: Your question has stumped a lot of people, including several law professors to whom this question was posed.

    There is no easy answer as to what is a fixture. An item, standing by itself, may not be a fixture, but when made part of the property, it can change its characteristics. For example, a kitchen sink in a plumbers shop window is personal property. Once it has been installed in your house, however, it becomes a fixture and is part of the real estate.

    Generally speaking, and in the absence of a contractual agreement to the contrary, fixtures remain with the house. Personal items can be removed by the seller.

    As you can see, it certainly makes a difference if an item is characterized "personal property" or "fixtures." For example, can a seller take a removable wet bar from the basement, even though the plumbing is hooked up? Does a window air conditioning unit convey with the property?

    There are no easy answers to any of these questions. The courts have applied a number of tests, including:

  • The manner in which the article is attached to the real estate. If the article can be removed without substantial injury to the building, it is generally held to be personal property.

  • The character of the article and its adaptation to the real estate. If, for example, an article was fitted or constructed specially for a particular location or use in a house, one can argue the article becomes a permanent part of the building, and thus a fixture.

    For example, the courts have held these items to be fixtures: pews in a church, screens and storm windows specially fitted to a house and electronic computing equipment installed on a floor specially constructed for it.

  • The intention of the parties. What would the average person consider the article to be? Gas stoves, for example, are intended to remain in a house permanently, and thus are fixtures. The so-called "Murphy beds" fastened to the wall on pivots are considered fixtures. But roll-away beds that are not fastened to the wall are not fixtures except in Wisconsin.

    Going through this fascinating history of fixtures, one important caveat comes to mind.

    When in doubt, spell it out in the contract. Furthermore, if the seller or the real estate agent verbally advise you that a particular item will convey, again spell it out in the real estate contract. If you want the refrigerator to convey with the property, put it in the contract to avoid any confrontation in the future.

    Too many homebuyers are often disappointed because they >In your case, I would argue that the second refrigerator stays with the property. This is based not necessarily on the fact that it is a fixture, but on the promises made by the sellers agent -- and on which you >Custom in the area is also important. I understand that in the Western part of the country, refrigerators do not necessarily convey; however, they do in the Eastern states. But dont
    Full Story >

  • Ask the HOA Expert: Contacting A Director On The Board

    Question: I am having trouble contacting the individual directors on the board of directors. The HOA president says there are "privacy issues" to giving out phone numbers or email addresses. Ive asked our property manager and I get the same response. I thought that as a homeowner I have a right to directly contact my board members.

    Answer: All members, even board members, have the right to privacy. Your board has hired a management company to handle business. The manager, in turn, contacts the board as needed when business matters exceed the managers authority. I suggest you contact the manager with your request. Either he will be able to help you or will ask the board president or board for direction. This is a reasonable process to protect board member privacy.

    Question: Does an Architectural Review Committee ARC have the right to ignore published regulations >Answer: If the ARC has a procedure to follow and it has not been followed, you have the right to appeal the matter to the board of directors. The requirement for neighbor input was put there for a reason and should be honored as long as it exists.

    Question: Can owners and board members be prohibited from conferring with the HOAs lawyer by the board president who is the appointed liaison?

    Answer: Since conferring with an attorney probably triggers cost to the HOA, the board should have a strict policy concerning how and when it is done and who has authority to do so. This policy should be communicated to the attorney in writing so he knows who he authorized to deal with.

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

    New Agents Should Look For Good Companies - Ethically Good Companies

    The population of California real estate licensees goes up and goes down, as does the market. Right now, we are well below the highs in 2007 when the total was more than 525,000, but we are also above the lows in 1999 when the number hovered just below 300,000. Currently, in 2017, the trend is upward. In January the most recent month for which figures are available, the licensee population was approximately 412,000. Two years ago it was 402,000.

    One would like to think -- and I do -- that most of those coming into the business do so with the intention of conducting business in an upright and professional manner. They want to be productive agents, to be sure; but they want to remain good people too.

    What advice might we give to such persons?

    Robert Solomon, one of the premier Business Ethics philosophers in the country, writes:

    "Whether we do well, whether we like ourselves, whether we lead happy productive lives, depends to a large extent on the companies we choose. As the Greeks used to say, lsquo;to live the good life one must live in a great city. To my business students today, who are all too prone to choose a job on the basis of salary and start-up bonus alone, I always say, lsquo;to live a decent life, choose the right company."

    Do you want to live a decent life, to like yourself as a real estate agent, to be as ethical in your business life as you would be in your personal life? Find a good company.

    So, how might an agent go about finding a good company, one that is good not only in the production sense but that is also good in the sense of ethics and values? Actually, in very much the same way as one might find a company that will help an agent to become productive.

    If you are starting in sales, you want to join a company that has a productive sales staff. Youll learn from being around them. Additionally, you want to look for a company that provides training and professional education.

    The same considerations apply with respect to ethics and professionalism. You want to join a firm that has good, ethically good, people. Youll be a better person for being in their company. Similarly, you want to find a company that teaches and reinforces values. This isnt so easy.

    Just about every real estate company on the planet will tell you that they have and believe in values and high ethical standards. So, you may need to dig a little deeper. Ask how they implement those values. Ask what they do to reinforce them. Ask them if they have a plan or a program to instill and support these values.

    Regrettably, many company interviewers wouldnt have the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. That wouldnt mean that they are bad people. It just suggests that the companys commitment to values may not be terribly strong.

    A broker to whom values are important needs to have a program -- a plan that is just as carefully conceived as any marketing program -- that reinforces the values of the company. Our priorities are revealed in our actions. Ask a simple question: How much in the way of time and resources does the company devote to training in the skills and methods required for productivity? Then ask: How much in the way of time and resources does the company devote to reinforcing its values and the importance of ethical behavior?

    If a company is not setting aside time for discussion and instruction on ethical issues, if it is not taking advantage of the materials that are available through the various Realtorreg; organizations, it is possible that its professed commitment to values and professionalism may not be as strong as suggested. It might not be what the new agent ought to be looking for.

    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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    What You Can Do At Home To Help Stop Climate Change

    Canadas National Research Council recently launched a new initiative to address the impact of climate change.

    The agency is upgrading building codes, specifications, guidelines and assessment tools. It plans to >The 40 million project has the "potential to have a profound impact on the Canadian construction industry and on the future of buildings in Canada," says Doug Crawford, chair of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes.

    "With climate change, the total annual precipitation is increasing, as well as the frequency and severity of extreme events, such as heat waves, high winds, floods and droughts, all of which is resulting in increased stress on built structures," says Richard Tremblay, general manager of construction at the National Research Council of Canada.

    Environment and Climate Change Canada says Canadas temperature is rising more quickly than the global average, resulting in changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events.

    There are hotter summer nights and a risk of more flooding and forest fires.

    Every dollar spent on adapting infrastructure today will result in 9 to 38 in avoided damages in the future, says the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Every dollar spent on energy-efficient programs for buildings generates between 4 and 8 of GDP in the country, Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, recently told a forum in Ottawa.

    "It is clear the impacts of climate change are real and they are framing the problems of the 21st century," she said. "Canadians want more energy-efficient buildings. And there is a lot we can do on this front. We can update codes for new buildings to make them more energy efficient. We can also retrofit our homes and buildings, which saves Canadians money on their heating bills. Construction is a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada. When we make our infrastructure more energy efficient, we also create more jobs."

    There are also lots of things that you can do at home to help slow climate change.

    Insulate your home and install energy-efficient doors and windows. Seal cracks to keep in the warmth. Try lowering the temperature on your water heater to between 55 C and 60 C and insulating your pipes.

    Save electricity by using energy-efficient lighting. Turn off computers and electronics when they are not being used.

    Fix any leaky faucets in the home and consider installing low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. You wont notice any difference but they can save a lot of water.

    Clean your ventilation system, which will cut down on energy use as well as improving air quality and comfort. Each year, clean the filters on your furnace and your heat recovery ventilator if you have one.

    Use cold water to wash your clothes and consider hanging them outside or on a drying rack instead of using the dryer.

    When replacing your appliances, look for the models that have the best energy efficiency. All appliances are now clearly marked with energy efficiency ratings. Energy Star appliances use at least 20 per cent less energy than standard models, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

    The ministry also suggests that you contact your local utility to see if it offers "green power" alternatives, such as wind, water, coal or solar solutions. You may be able to switch to a company that offers power from renewable resources.

    In spring when its time to start your garden, use plants that require minimum watering. Plant trees.

    The David Suzuki Foundation says that garbage buried in landfill sites produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. "Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging."

    Since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production, you can also help by changing your eating habits to include at least one meat-free meal a day, it says.

    Transportation accounts for 25 per cent of emissions, so leaving the car at home and using public transit or walking, cycling or carpooling will also make a difference. Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint, says the foundation. Avoid flying when possible.

    The foundation also takes a political stand, urging you to "take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change. Remind them that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs. And next time youre at the polls, vote for politicians who support effective climate policies."
    Full Story >

    Build A Deck For Backyard Appeal

    Outdoor appeal is a key piece to the home selling process. What better way to increase the exterior appeal than having a beautiful deck? Decks are living, natural additions that effectively blend into the landscape while adding extra entertaining space for less money than a porch or addition.

    Need more convincing? Here are some of the key advantages to why decks seal backyard appeal and convince sellers to look at your home longer than others on the block:

    How much you save: The cost to build a deck might average 6,600 to 9,400 depending on square footage and materials. However, a deck costs far less than an addition - almost 50,000 - so why invest more when you can get something just as beautiful for less?

    An outdoor living area is less expensive because you dont need electrical wiring or plumbing. Plus you can recoup at least 85 of that investment during the resale.

    How it adds to the house: Adding a deck onto your home increases the exterior appeal without all the extra work. It means extra room for entertaining, >

    It can adapt to any kind of landscape, whether you need a raised platform deck for a sloping hill and multi-story home or a short deck for a flat backyard.

    How it blends with the landscape: Unlike a porch, a deck is natural. Made of wood or plastic to look like wood, decks blend into the landscape seamlessly. Its simple to add bushes, trees and flowers around the edge of the deck. By the end of the whole process, your deck will have a warm, homey feel in the yard.

    Photo courtesy of Destiny Painting Services in Dallas, TX

    How easy it is to maintain: Depending on the type of material you use to build the deck, maintenance should be simple. One treatment of staining and regular cleaning should take care of any pests or dirt. Decks can handle most weather conditions, and you can even build an awning to help it endure the climate better. Just keep an eye out for termites, mold or other things eating away at the wood and treat them quickly.

    Photo courtesy of Proactive Painting in Eagle, WI.

    So dont wait Add this beautiful, natural addition to your home and get those sellers flocking to your backyard.

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

    Full Story >

    Inside The Cult of Home Goods: Best Tips For Shopping This Fave Store

    If theres one place designers, wanna-be designers, and those who just want a great deal on something cool, chic, or practical Hey, why not all three? agree on, its Home Goods. Not to mention celebrities. People Magazine just ran an article on celebs who love the store, led by comedy maven Melissa McCarthy, who was photographed pushing a HomeGoods cart. We knew we loved her.

    The home furnishing store isnt just a place you wander in to, its a destination for millions who swear by it for inexpensive and unique furniture pieces, accessories, and other deacute;cor items for every part of the house.

    "Few stores inspire devotion in their customers like HomeGoods," said Popsugar. "Treasures aboundnbsp;in HomeGoods locations across the country, and for that reason shoppers are seriously dedicated to the brand."

    But, it can be overwhelming to navigate the store, especially if you are easily distracted by pretty things there are so many pretty things. So how do you make it out of there alive and with smart buys in your bags? Weve got tips.

    Go at the right time

    Planning to get up on Saturday morning, go to breakfast and then head to HomeGoods? Right. You and everyone else in the city. If a little thing like work is keeping you out of the store on weekdays, when its easier to see the stuff without having to peer around people and theres less of a chance of fighting over a coffee table, head over on your lunch break. Or during the dinner hour. If you have to go on a weekend, remember the first rule of weekend Costco shopping: Elbows up.

    Dont skip the pillows

    You may think you dont need another pillow, but you would be wrong. HomeGoods pillows are legendary, and when you can get a down-filled pair for 25, you just have to pick one up. Did we say one? We meant five. If you cant find something here to match - or spice up - your deacute;cor, youre not looking hard enough.

    If you love it, buy it

    There is probably no better tip for shopping at HomeGoods than this. That blue, glass-front cabinet that stopped you in your tracks? You better buy it now, or kiss it goodbye forever, because it wont be there when you come back tomorrow. HomeGoods has what it has and they typically dont get in more of the same item. Need two of those leather-topped chrome barstools? Dont leave and drive to another store. Drag one to the front and ask a salesperson to help you find a match, because when you get back, itll be gone.

    Check out the rugs

    You may not think of HomeGoods as a rug emporium, and, truth be told, theres not a ton of inventory here. But there are some amazing deals, especially on larger rugs that can take a big chunk out of your paycheck if purchased elsewhere. This huge 9x12 wall rug is just 399 and is on trend with the color scheme and pattern.

    Plan to fall in lovehellip;a lot

    We walked in and grabbed a small cart. Silly mistake. Halfway through the trip through the store, we had to go swap it out for a larger cart. Shoulda known better.

    Bring your sense of humor

    Nothing says, "The British are coming" like a giant couch draped in modified Union Flag motif. Not everything HomeGoods will appeal to everyone, which is part of what makes it cool. And, we can promise you that if wed returned to the store the next day, this couch would have been gone. You know someone walked in and died over this. To each, their own.

    Dont get caught in a theme spiral

    If you watched the popular HBO miniseries Big Little Lies, you may have spotted beachy accessories sprinkled throughout "thenbsp;>

    But keep this in mind when working with a theme: A sprinkle is good. But watch out for the downpour. HomeGoods is great at styling their vignettes and making you want to bag up the whole thing. But, take home two of everything, and it may look like the beach threw up on your living room.

    Think unique

    Theres something about this wood-and-copper chair that made us stop and stare. And stare a little more. There were several of them, and, at 99 each, theyd be great in a breakfast nook. But even one placed in a corner could be a showstopper, between the distinctive shape and the mix of materials.

    Dont forget to check the clearance art section

    HomeGoods has some great, affordable art pieces, especially if youre looking for something that is really on trend. But we love the clearance section. There are some great deals here, although you have to look carefully to make sure there arent visible boo-boos. We couldnt find anything wrong with this abstract painting. Amazing savings is right: It was only 18.

    Hit the end caps

    Thats where a lot of the other clearance deals are, like this 12.99 glass candle holder. Did we need another candle holder? Uh, no. But we couldnt resist the shape and mix of materials, not to mention the price.

    Expect the unexpected

    A splash of color. A unique touch that might bring a bit of interest to a forgotten area. Or a piece that catches your eye for no real reason other than its fun, cool, or different. It happens a lot at HomeGoods. For us, it was this:

    Truth be told, this big, blue, ceramic OK sign it makes no sense whatsoever in the space. But we fell in love with it anyway, and now it lives on the office bookcase right next to the desk. Weve named him "Bob."

    Full Story >

    10 Totally Free Tips For Getting Your Home Sold Quickly

    Staging your home is a critical step in getting it sold, but all the recommended updates and upgrades can get pricey. Thankfully, there are tricks you can use to make your home look bigger, better, and brighter, without spending a dime.

    1. Fix up your floors

    Dont want to pay to replace or refinish your floors? No prob. Grab a brown crayon to fill in divots. A one-to-one mix of olive oil and vinegar rubbed directly on scratched areas will also help make it look new. You can also use canola if you dont have olive, but then use a one-part vinegar, three-part oil mixture. Or, try this hack that uses walnuts to fix scratches. No, seriously.

    Floors look great but dont sound so hot? "Fixnbsp;creaky wood floorsnbsp;with a generous dusting of baby powder," said One Crazy House. "Work it into the cracks until the floor is no longer noisy."


    2. Make it sparkle

    Presumably, you already have cleaning supplies, sponges, and paper towels in the house. Now all you need is some elbow grease to make your home look shiny and new.

    When selling your home, you need to take the cleaning beyond your typical weekly run-through. Think "Spring cleaning" turned up a notch or two. Remember that potential buyers will be looking everywhere, including inside drawers and cabinets. Make sure theyre crumb-free and well organized. They may also open your refrigerator. While this can seem intrusive, you dont want to give them a reason to walk away, so make sure to tidy up the inside, wipe up any spills, throw away rotten food, and put a nice big box of Baking Soda in there to absorb any leftover smells.

    3. Let the light in

    Everyone is looking for "natural light," so show off what youve got by opening up those blinds and drapes. Did you just reveal a bunch of dirty windows and sills? Ewww. Grab that cleaning spray and make them shine. An old toothbrush is a great way to get gunk out of corners and in window tracks.

    If your place isnt light and bright, even with all the blinds and drapes drawn, youll need to depend on artificial lighting. This is no time to have lightbulbs out. Go hit that stash in your laundry room cabinet and switch out for fresh bulbs.

    4. Declutter

    Home stagers will tell you there is no more important step when preparing your home for sale. "If you are serious about staging your home, allnbsp;clutter must go, end of story," said Houzz. "Its not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage or a nice >

    Do a walk-through with an outsiders eye, or ask a friend or family member to help since theyll be more objective. Anything that isnt used regularly or is taking away from the open feel of the house can be packed away. Small appliances and anything else hanging out on countertops can be put in a cabinet if youre not ready to stick it in a box. You want people to see the bones of the house, not your blender.

    5. Depersonalize

    While, youre decluttering, keep personalization in mind. Buyers want to be able to picture themselves living in the home, and they might not be able to do so if they cant take their eyes off your wall of taxidermy.

    6. Create closet space

    Even if you have the worlds largest walk-in closet in the master bedroom, you can give buyers the impression that there isnt enough space by overfilling it. Stagers recommend taking half of your clothes and shoes out and packing them away to create some airiness. Does the idea of packing up your stuff freak you out? Youre going to have to do it when you move, anyway. This is just giving you a head start.

    7. Remove the stink

    Does your home greet guests with a big whiff of cat box? Potential home buyers might just turn right back around and get in the car. You also want to make sure your animals arent irritating those who are touring or impeding them from entering certain rooms. Dont want to board them? Su>

    8. Pull those weeds

    You really cant overestimate the importance of curb appeal today. Even if you dont want to spring for a few bags of mulch and some colorful flowers to frame your door, there are easy and free steps you can take to give buyers a great first impression. Dispose of any visible weeds, leaves, and other unwanted stuff hanging out in the yard. Give your bushes a trim and mow the yard. If you cant power wash your home, at least wash the outside of the exterior windows that are within eye level.

    And dont forget about the area closest to your front door. Sweep that stoop and make sure your welcome mat is actually welcoming, instead of dusty and dirty.

    9. Address your furniture

    Some of the most common problems in homes when it comes to furniture: 1 Its ugly; 2 Its old; Theres too much of it; The arrangement is uninviting. Ugly and old might be hard to overcome when youre trying not to spend money, but the rest you can do something about.

    "Sometimes when sellers are trying to make a small room seem like its more spacious, they have a tendency to push all of their furniture against the walls to leave a big open space in the middle. This type of arrangement may leave a lot of open space, but ultimately leaves the interior design looking unfinished -- a big turn off for buyers. In this situation, its better to create furniture groupings. First, envision the way the space should be used," said Freshome. "Do you have a huge flatscreen TV that requires a lot of seating? Is there a corner in your living room that would serve perfectly as a reading nook?nbsp;Group the furniture in ways that would make sense for the intended use. Then, make sure that there are clean and direct pathways through the room. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home and one of the quickest ways to do that is by creating a cozy seating area thats fit for conversation."

    If the problem is that youve created a crowded space by using too much furniture, ditch a few pieces in a friends garage for the time being or, even better, donate them to create an intimate seating area. You can always bring those pieces back into your new home.

    10. Borrow stuff

    If, at the end of the day, your home still isnt looking show-ready, maybe its time to raid a friends house. Have a loved one who has an extra couch thats more neutral than yours or a couple of great accessories? Its time to test their love for you.

    Full Story >

    How To Improve The Value Of Your Home In 5 Easy Steps

    What increases the value of one home might not increase the value of another. A resort->

    Building a 4,000-square foot addition to your 1,200-square foot home in a neighborhood that consists of all small starter homes is not a wise home improvement. If youre looking to add some value to your home, try one of these five easy steps that almost always adds value no matter where your home is located.

    Start Outside

    Whats the first thing buyers see when they drive up to your home? Your lawn and front door, and they make more of an impression than you might imagine. If your lawn is a mess, your door needs some paint, and your house is dirty, the first thing you do is get it all cleaned up. Youre not going to spend thousands on elaborate landscaping, but you might be surprised just how much of a difference a freshly mowed lawn and some brand-new mulch in the flower beds make.

    Move it Indoors

    Paint is everything in a home. You can have your home any color you want but if you choose to sell and want to increase the value of your home, youre going to add value by adding a nice, neutral paint color to every wall. No more personal colors in bedrooms, no more accent walls, and no more old, dirty paint. Even if your paint is only a few years old, you will make a big difference in the overall value with a fresh coat.

    Upgrade the Fixtures

    Next is the fixtures. Its time for new door knobs, light fixtures, and faucets in the kitchen and bath. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also important, and every one of these very small details makes a very large difference. You can upgrade these for next to nothing while seeing a significant improvement on the value of your home.

    Fix Any Small Issues

    If you want to add value to your home, its time to fix the small issues. If you have a leaking faucet, get it fixed. If the air conditioner makes a funny noise when it runs, call the home warranty company and ask them to come out and take a look. If its broken, theyll replace it. If its fixable, you just got rid of that pesky noise and increased the overall value of your home in the eyes of buyers. Small issues are some of the biggest issues. Repair any little dings or holes in the walls, fix any broken baseboards, and repair anything thats not quite perfect. These little things add up substantially.

    Clean it Up

    Finally, its time to clean your house. Hire a professional to come in and clean every single nook and cranny. Youre not tidying up for dinner guests anymore. Youre cleaning cabinets, drawers, walls, floorboards, ground, baseboards, trim, and everything in between. You might not think a home thats clean is worth more, but youd be surprised. If your sparkling clean house is for sale for the same price as another house down the street thats almost identical but isnt spotless and has a lower asking price, people will want your home. Even if its more money, its less work for them and its cleaner.

    A house is an investment, and thats why its imperative you do what you can to increase the value of your home without spending much money. Its not always expensive upgrades and renovations that add a few extra dollars to the overall cost of your home. Sometimes its small, easily forgettable details that make the biggest difference to a buyer.

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    Real Estate Professionals Linda and Robby Adams Pay It Forward With A Special Donation To Ocean Connectors

    Las Vegas, NV April 11, 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, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Ocean Connectors on behalf of their client. They are the first Realty One Group agents to make a donation in cooperation with the Realty ONE Charitable Foundation.

    "Linda and Robby Adams are part of the Agent with Heart movement, and are committed to making a difference in their community 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.

    "Real estate agents like Linda and Robby make the community a better place, and homeowners like to do business with people who care. Please join me in thanking Linda and Robby for making a 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 Linda and Robby Adams 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 Linda and Robby Adams, please call 760-445-8685.
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    Whats Replacing The Home Office

    If youre thinking about getting rid of your home office, or youre trying to decide between a home office and creating another type of space in a new home, you have options. Use this guide to learn more about whats replacing the home office.

    1. Family Rooms

    Spending time with your family should be important. Even if your kids are on their phones and everybody wants to watch something different on TV, quality time matters. To create the perfect family room, all you need is comfortable seating, a table for games, a TV and maybe a bookshelf.

    2. Home Theaters

    Movie aficionados know that the living room is fine for watching movies, but if you want the real experience, a dedicated space is ideal. You may not be able to fit a multiplex-size screen in your room, but that doesnt mean you cant have a home theater of your own. Focus on a high-quality TV, comfortable seating and multiple ways to watch your favorite movies, from Blu-Ray to streaming services. A pair of top-quality stereo speakers or a surround system will also help you enjoy your at-home cinema experience too.

    3. Arts and Crafts Spaces

    Whether youre working on life-size sculpture pieces, painting with oils or just trying to find a place for the kids to work on craft projects, having a dedicated space can be perfect for the creative family. Youll also be able to tailor the room to its purpose, which will make it more functional and easier to handle than a makeshift setup.

    Easy-to-clean surfaces, old furniture from the garage and a coat of eggshell or semi-gloss paint can make cleanup a breeze. A dedicated arts and crafts space can also provide you with an area to do things like wrap gifts for birthdays and events.

    4. Libraries

    Digital books might be increasingly common these days, but for lovers of the tried-and-true paper versions, nothing beats a home library. Giving up your office space can help you turn an extra room into a readers paradise.

    Floor-to-ceiling shelving will work wonders for storage. Built-in options are also ideal if you dont want to commit to a long-term solution. Make sure youve got plenty of comfortable seating, floor lamps, task lights and a cozy blanket or two as well.

    5. Guest Rooms

    Overnight guests can easily overstay their welcome. But having to drive friends and family to a hotel nearby isnt always ideal. For a multipurpose space, you can even consider a pull-out sofa or Murphy bed on the wall. Youll still have room for your family area, theater setup, crafts space or library if you make a sleeping area part of the regular deacute;cor.


    Take the time to decide whats right for your home, family and work needs before making a decision. Remodeling or redesigning can be a costly, time-consuming.

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

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    Wow Home Buyers With These 5 Front Yard Landscaping Tips

    Your front yard is the red carpet inviting buyers into the beauty that is your home. If its rugged, messy and unkempt, buyers will take one look and then keep on driving to the next property on their list. Dont let that happen by making your front yard luscious and as amazing as the inside of your home.

    What areas should you focus on in your front yard? Where do you start? To help you break down the revitalization of your front yard, here are the steps you should take:

    1. Cut the grass.

    Buyers dont want to trudge through high grass as though they were in the Amazon or on a safari in Africa. This means the lawn mower needs to be out at least once a week if not every other week, keeping it trimmed and maintained. It also needs to be green so it looks alive and lush. Water so the sun doesnt dry out the lawn and turn it yellow or brown. A professional landscaper can help maintain a balance of trimming and growth so it looks just right for buyers.

    2. Plant more shade trees.

    One or two trees in the front yard are all right, but if you want to really add some shade, plant more. Shade trees will detract from the glare of the sun, and it can help decrease the temperature of the house if theyre placed close to windows. It also will help keep the lawn green with moisture. You can plant trees that are shorter and will grow by the time the new owner buys the home, but be sure theyre strong and can handle the climate.

    3. Install outdoor lighting.

    Outdoor lighting is a good way to both illuminate the house at night and accent parts of your yard. Depending on where you install the lights, your house will look very appealing at night to those buyers who might not have time to do their shopping during the day. Outdoor lighting also helps to illuminate a path like a sidewalk to get from the curb to your front door for easier navigation. It helps to accent the beauty of your landscaping which all together increases the beauty of your home.

    4. Consider adding flowers for more color.

    If your front yard has a lot of greenery, you should increase the yard appeal by adding more colors. Flowers are a great and simple way to do this, as well as shrubbery with different blooms. Perennials are the best for this because they last for more than a year, which means less maintenance for the seller and the new homeowner. They come in a wide variety of colors and types so the yard can be decorated with any number of them while still requiring less maintenance.

    5. Keep everything clean

    In addition to keeping the lawn trimmed, everything else should be clean. Anywhere that can build up dirt or grime - siding, porch, front door, driveway - should be cleaned on a regular basis. Buyers dont want to see a lot of dirt and mess, and it will detract from them wanting to walk into the house. So take a broom, a power washer and a few hours on the weekend to keep everything sparkling clean. Dont have a power washer? A professional power washing service can cost as little as 293.

    Photos courtesy of DesignMine

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    Sellers: Avoid The Downside of Hot Markets

    Are real estate values on the rise in your neighborhood? Do you feel under siege from real estate professionals who have eager buyers interested in your property?

    Before you get swept away with the promise of a record sale price for your house, condominium unit, or recreational property, there is an important question to ask yourself:

    What housing choices will I have after selling?

    When eager buyers out number listings, thats a hot sellers market. This buyer competition creates the best opportunity to cash in your real estate for big profit. Other bonuses include:

    • Receiving an acceptable offer in only a few days or weeks after listing puts less "keep the house perfect" strain on the family.
    • Achieving your ideal closing and a sale price that is at or much higher than the listing price.
    • Doing less to improve your property to sales-ready condition, which saves time and money.

    Hot markets cool down, so sellers should not dawdle if they want to get the greatest return on their real estate investment. But thats only half the project. If you want to stay in your neighborhood or move to a hotter one, you will benefit from key research and clear thinking before you cash in your property:

    • If you want to buy in the same hot neighborhood youre selling in, market research is essential. The price increase that you plan to benefit from will also increase the purchase price of the home you want to move to next. Could you end up spending most or all your newly-gained real estate profit to buy a lesser or smaller home? Or will a significant mortgage be necessary?
    • Purchasing in a peak market may not be the best strategy. Real estate values can increase more quickly in some neighborhoods than others. Buying into one of these areas in a hot market may require more money or purchasing a property which requires modernizing renovations.
    • Renting until the next market downturn is an option. Liquidating real estate holdings mdash; your house, condominium unit, recreational property mdash; in a hot market and moving into rental accommodation until the next real estate dip can make good financial sense. Finding that ideal rental property mdash; great location, reasonable rent, good amenities mdash; may not be as easy as you expect. Hot real estate markets drive rental rates up, too. What if drastic compromises are necessary? How long can you comfortably live in rental housing waiting for the next market you can afford to buy into?
    • Schools vary with location. Is the temporary rental accommodation or your next buy within the catchment area of current or preferred schools?
    • If the real estate market is tough on your buying plans, your adult children may be having a tougher time. In the last century, children commonly moved into the family home when they married. Often the parents stayed on. This traditional pattern may make sense in a permanently hot neighborhood which your family values highly. Once you sell out of this location, could your adult children afford to buy into this prized area later?
    • Rising real estate values mean increased realty or property tax and increased property insurance costs. Can you afford these higher carrying costs whether you dont sell or if you sell and buy in the same area?
    • Increasing real estate values attract developers who want to build multiple units to reap this enhanced profit. Their activity changes neighborhoods mdash; not always for the better. Ask local real estate professionals about planned and approved developments in the neighborhood. This information enables realistic projections which will help you decide whether the neighborhood might change so much you would not be happy there long-term.
    • Investing the proceeds of the sale short-term, to be ready to jump into the next downturn, is not easy. For instance, when you are ready to buy again, financial markets may be down and the investments may not be easily liquidated. Expert financial advice is essential to protect yournbsp; capital and keep these funds invested for your future.

      Fear of considerations like these should not stop you from listing.

      Ignore these issues and wrong guesses and wrongly-deferred decisions may result. Research and professional expertise will clarify exactly what the risks are on all fronts and which you can live with.

      A real estate professional who knows you and your family priorities will help establish the best selling strategies and the need for additional information. You can then proceed with the most "livable" decisions.

      No one knows what the future holds, but you can make excellent strategic educated guesses.

      Heads Up: The selling issues discussed here should be addressed by sellers in any situation or real estate market.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Fixing A Units Roof

    Question: Can individual unit owners prepay their fees in order to fix just their units roof?

    Answer: Condo unit owners typically dont own their unit roofs unless they are detached units, like houses. In attached condominiums, the roofs belong to the HOA. As such, roof repairs and replacements should only be paid for by the HOA according to a prescribed schedule. While lack of funds may force doing only a portion of the roofs, like two of five buildings, replacing the roof over one unit makes little sense since the same unit owner is responsible for a share of the repairs of all unit roofs and if one unit needs a new roof, adjoining units probably need one too. So, no, the board should not cooperate with such an arrangement.

    Question: Recently, the board enacted a "no alcohol in the pool area" rule. This elated some and offended others. The issue soon became hotly contested. Eventually the board agreed to rescind the rule, but stated that it would continuing to research the issue. What do you recommend?

    Answer: Common areas belong to all owners and the HOA has every right to control certain kinds of behavior, especially where there is risk involved. Allowing alcohol around a pool is asking for trouble. Who is going to monitor those that abuse it? Drinkers are often loud, abusive and may decide to swim while inebriated. This is especially dire since few HOA pools have lifeguards present. There is also the issue of broken glass which is a safety issue to one and all. The glass issue, of course, extends to other types of containers.

    This is a good topic for discussion at a special or annual meeting. The board should get a good read on what the majority think. If there is no clear consensus, the board should monitor the alcohol use and, if abuse is frequent, revisit the ban based on historical evidence. There is no Constitutional Right to drink in the common area.

    Question: Several Board members have asked if it is proper for the board to officially recommend specific candidates for election. I have read the bylaws and I dont see anything that addresses this issue.

    Answer: It is perfectly acceptable for the board to appoint a Nominating Committee to solicit candidates that are in good standing. Good Standing: There may be a bylaw restricting members from election that are delinquent in assessments or that have unresolved rule violations. But otherwise, every member in good standing has the right to run for the board, the board should generally avoid steering the election.

    Providing candidate bios and their statements usually provides the voters the information they need to make an informed decision. On the other hand, if your HOA has a large number of owners that dont participate in the annual meetings and elections, board members could solicit their proxies to obtain a legal voting block large enough to swing the vote. The board needs to be careful how it handles such things so its not accused of using undue influence or rigging the election.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

    Full Story >

    10 Plants That Will Spruce Up Your Garden And Keep Mosquitos Away

    Is your green thumb overdue for a project? Spring is the most popular time for new plantings because of the optimal conditions, with longer days, more sunlight, and increased rain. As long as youre gardening anyway, you have a great opportunity to choose some plants that can safely keep mosquitos out of your yard. Here are 10 that have been shown to be effective.


    Mint is an effective mosquito repellant that also helps to keep flies away. Its also a great addition to an herb garden. It can be invasive, however, "and can take over an area very quickly," said do it yourself. "Plant mint in a large coffee can with the bottom cut out to keep it from taking over your garden."


    For sheer beauty and a lovely scent, it doesnt get much better than lavender. Thankfully, mosquitos dont share our love of the scent. "Have you ever noticed that insects or even rabbits and other animals have never decimated your lavender plant? It is because of their lovely fragrance, which comes from its essential oils that are found on the leaves of the plant," said Garden Design. "It is even argued that lavender oil hinders a mosquitos ability to smell This plant is very tough and drought-resistant once established, and only needs full sun and good drainage. And while it can endure many climates, it thrives in warmer areas."


    Catnip works as a mosquito repellent thanks to the ingredient nepetalactone, which "was found to be 10X stronger than even DEET in a recent study," said Best Plants. "It is a good non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical sprays."


    You might not enjoy having citronella candles in your yard, which can be smelly and also are "often laden with chemicals," said Natural Living Ideas. But go the citronella plant route and you can get the mosquito-repelling qualities in a more natural manner. "The citronella plant officially known as the citrosum plant and often referred to as the mosquito plant can be grown in your garden for mosquito control. The plant carries the fragrance of citronella in its foliage, and when a leaf is crushed and rubbed onto the skin, the aroma is very pleasant, yet it helps to naturally repel those mosquitoes. While not as effective as bottled repellents, it comes without the high price or potentially hazardous chemicals, and when grown in the garden, youll always have it on hand."


    If you dont want to plant citronella, plant lemongrass instead. This ornamental grass contains citronella, and many - except for mosquitos - find the scent to be pleasing.


    "Not only do they make your landscape more attractive, but marigolds also have a distinct smell that repels mosquitoes," said Angies List. Super easy to grow, marigolds can start from seeds or from a "starter plant from a nursery or floral department." Placing them close to doors and windows or in outdoor living spaces will help ensure that mosquitos stay away from the places your family typically congregates. And, "They also deter insects that prey on tomato plants - an added bonus for gardeners."

    Lemon Balm

    There are numerous potential benefits to growing lemon balm in your yard. Not only will it keep those bloodsuckers from invading your yard, but, "This member of the mint family hasnbsp;whitenbsp;flowersnbsp;and a gentle lemony scent, as well as somenbsp;healing properties," said Rodales Organic Life. Because its considered a calming herb, lemon balm has been "used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion including gas and bloating, as well as colic," said the University of Maryland Medical Center. "Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to promote >

    The potential downsides: It "attracts pollinators, such as bees," said Angies List. "Its fast growing, drought resistant and reseeds itself, so consider planting in a pot rather than in your yard to avoid a lemon balm takeover."


    Rosemary has a pleasant scent and makes a great fresh herb to add to roasted chicken, potatoes, and steak, but it is also effective at repelling mosquitos. Plus, it looks great in the garden. "Plants can be grown in containers on a patio and shaped into ornamental pyramids, grown in herb gardens or planted in landscaped beds, where some varieties can grow quite large," said Mother Nature Network MNN. "The plant itself and its cuttings are effective repellents. You can make a simple repellent spray by boiling 1 quart of dried rosemary in a quart of water for 20 to 30 minutes and then straining the liquid into a container at least a half-gallon in size that contains a quart of cool water. Put a cap on the combined liquid and store it in the refrigerator. Add the repellent to small squirt bottles as needed when going outdoors."

    You can also clip some of the rosemary and burn it for extra insurance against mosquitos. "If youre planning to gather around a fire, trynbsp;burning a little sagenbsp;or rosemary," said Rodales. "Thenbsp;incensenbsp;these plants give off when they burn not only smells good but is unpleasant enough to most species of insectsnbsp;that itll repel them - as long as youre near the smoke."

    Lemon Thyme

    Lemon thyme is a perennial with an herby lemon smell and taste, "It pairs well in everything from salads and vegetable dishes, to meat, and fish," said The Kitchn, making it a great choice if youre looking to grow fresh herbs to use in your cooking. It properties can also send mosquitos away, but requires one extra step. "The plant itself will not repel pesky mosquitoes," said MNN. "To >


    Expand that herb garden with basil and you also get the benefit of a plant that turns mosquitos off. "Basil is another herb that can also double as a pest repellent," said Garden Design. "The pungent smell the basil leaves give off are what keep pests at bay. This herb likes to be kept damp, needs good drainage, and enjoys lots of sun. You can plant basil in containers or in the garden, alone or with other flowers, as long as both plants meet the same requirements."

    Full Story >

    7 Paint Colors That Wont Go Out Of Style

    If youre a person who loves to change things up every year or so and make sure your walls are dressed with the most on-trend colors, youre probably paying close attention to color forecasts like Pantones color of the year. But for those who want to paint it and forget about it for the foreseeable future, something with a longer shelf life, as it were, may be in order. Whether you just dont like to paint or abhor paying someone else to do it or have features in your home like soaring ceilings that make it hard to pull off and expensive finding colors that will stand the test of time is important. Choose from these >

    Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter

    This light gray shade is a go-to for designers and creates a chic palette. Its consistently Benjamin Moores top seller for numerous reasons: the warm undertones that allow it to adapt to any space and >

    A quick note on quality paints: Many of the paints here are pricier than what you might find at Home Depot. Keep in mind that a higher-quality paint will tend to last longer and clean up better. But, if you want to save a few bucks, looks for annual sales or take a paint chip from a high-end paint store into Lowes and ask them to color match.

    Benjamin Moore White Dove

    For those who have never owned a home before, getting rid of the white walls and replacing them with splashes of color when they do buy is on their must-do-right-now list. But, in many homes, like architecturals and Spanish >

    "White is really one of the most asked-about colors," said Houzz. "The perfect white is sought after for cabinets and trim. Undertones in white paint are important and can really shift a palette. A favorite choice because its a "pure white," said Houzz, White Dove "is crisp with no undertones. It looks great against any color."

    Pratt amp; Lambert Antique White

    This white is the optimal choice "if you have to paint a room quickly and dont know what to do," said interior designer Athalie Derse in House Beautiful. "Its a home-run color - a dirty celadon that has been in the line forever. It works for any environment - modern or traditional, no problem - and with any color - blue, red, yellow, tangerine." Elle Deacute;cor has several other great options for go-to white paint here.

    The most popular color in the world? Blue. And, thanks to its varying shades from just a whisper to almost-black, its versatility is also beloved. The "one thing remains consistent: its stunning," said Elle Deacute;cor. "And because it works equally well as both a statement color and an accent in a room, its no wondernbsp;designers love it so much."

    Benjamin Moore Tranquility

    This light blue has gray undertones, which gives it an unexpected depth and sophistication. Its a great choice if you want to layer in bolder deacute;cor but leave your walls looking stunning but a bit more sedate.

    Sherwin Williams Perfect Greige

    This beige-gray hybrid is a great choice if youre looking for a neutral that will still look great years down the line. It brings a rich feel and can suit any type of deacute;cor and color scheme. You can see more examples of how it looks in different spaces here.

    Benjamin Moore Old Glory

    If you want to go a little bit dramatic without being overly bold, "This >

    Valspar City Chic

    "This taupe is effortlessly chic," said designer Erinn Valencich in House Beautiful. "It reminds me of a warm stone color, something youd see on the walls at the Louvre. Mixed with crisp Parisian black and ivory, its truly a timeless combination. It would look especially stunning with gold or brass accents."

    Full Story >

    Nail Traditional Curb Appeal With The Right Mailbox

    Traditional >

    1. Post

    Nothing says "traditional" more than a >

    2. Wall-Mounted

    Give your entry a proper facelift with a wall-mounted mailbox. With its >

    3. Door Slot

    A mail slot is quintessentially timeless. If your front door can accommodate a mail slot, its a sleek way to keep your mail safe and out of the elements. While a mail slot doesnt work for all households, this choice is beneficial for those who want easier access to their mail and deliveries. Add some brass bling to a sturdy oak door with a >

    4. Built-In

    For those who want a more drastic change to their curb appeal, a built-in mailbox could be an ideal choice. Constructing either a wood or masonry fence around your front yard will not only add some >

    5. Post-Mount

    If you already have an existing post and are looking for a simple upgrade, a post-mount mailbox is the way to go. Whether youre looking for additional embellishment or want a simpler >

    6. Pedestal

    A mailbox doesnt need to be attached to a wall or at the end of your driveway. Have fun with a pedestal mailbox floated near a walkway or entry. A traditional pedestal mailbox with intricate detailing and >

    What kind of mailbox are you eyeing for your traditional home?

    As the lead interior designer at Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, Kerrie Kelly writes for The Home Depot not only about amazing interiors, but about boosting the curb appeal of your exterior, as well. She provides great advice about everything from painting your front door to options for upgrading your mailbox that will update the look of your home.

    Full Story >

    Lessons Learned To Avoid A Stressful Move

    As a designer, shed helped others move. But her own move proved a bigger challenge

    Its been said that moving is one of lifes most traumatic events, right up there with switching jobs and losing a loved one. Having experienced all three - and having just recently moved with a toddler in tow - I can honestly confirm that, yep, moving is pretty stressful.

    We decided to move when our rent rose higher than what we were willing to pay for our apartment. But no one wants to pack and unpack, plus we faced the anxiety of transitioning our 2-year-old to new surroundings. So I decided I would control this move and my anxiety about it by devising the perfect moving plan.

    The Not-So-Perfect Moving Plan

    As an interior designer, I plan moves for my clients. I plan with contractors and furniture movers and closet designers. But when I had to plan a move involving my own space and things, my anxiety shot up. Add in a 2-year-old and a demanding business, and I was completely overwhelmed.

    So I got super organized. I color-coded each room and moving box. I measured our new space and created a furniture layout plan. I even created a new filing system for all the papers we unearthed in the process of packing. Of course, none of that helped when our movers didnt follow my carefully color-coded plan. Lets just say that I wasnt a lot of fun to be around during our move.

    Photo by FormFunctionNT - More closet ideas

    If I could do it again, instead of striving for organized perfection, here are the things I would focus on.

    Edit Early

    I tell my clients to edit their home every year, advising them to go through closets, drawers and even take a critical eye to worn-out textiles. But I know that many of my clients probably dont do this mdash; and the same goes for me.

    When we had our son, life took over. My closets werent edited for over a year. My paperwork wasnt neatly filed away. And my sons items seemed endless. Kids grow and, as a result, their toys keep changing, as do their clothes and accessories. This requires a constant state of swapping out items. If you dont keep up with it every few months, youll be drowning in baby gear.

    Photo by Manuel Sequeira Architecte D.P.L.G - Browse contemporary kids room photos

    When moving, start clearing out every room as early as possible - ideally months in advance and definitely at least one month ahead. Try not to get bogged down in the sentimentality of every item. Trust me, on moving day, youll be glad you pared back.

    Embrace the Chaos

    This is probably easier said than done, but giving in to the turmoil of the move rather than resisting and trying to control it will go a long way toward saving your sanity. Moving is a chaotic process, and it takes a lot of time to emerge from the chaos. Theres really no way around it.

    So dont do what I did and have perfectionist expectations for getting everything done really fast. I cleared my schedule for a single week to tackle moving tasks. But that just wasnt enough time. Feeling short on time left me feeling stressed. I should have used a big red marker on my calendar to circle two months. With enough time, I might have actually enjoyed - or at least better tolerated - unearthing years of nostalgia and packing up boxes.

    Photo by Envision Landscape Studio - Browse Asian landscape ideas

    Look Ahead

    One thing I realized through the move is that big changes can lead to a more productive path. And thats certainly true in our new apartment. Our closets are organized and less full, theres fresh paint on the walls awaiting new family photos, and my son loves discovering all the different places to play hide-and-seek. You can feel openness throughout our apartment.

    And I, too, feel renewed energy. I look forward to our future here in this new home. I think if Id deliberately looked ahead during the moving process and kept my eyes on our goal mdash; to be settled and happy in our new apartment, as we are now - I would have been less of a stress case. But Im comforted by the fact that not only did we survive the turmoil of moving, but we learned important lessons that will help it to be better next time around. After all, were not done yet.

    Photo by Stonebreaker Builders amp; Remodelers - Search traditional closet pictures

    Also See:

    • Hire an Interior Design Expert to Create a Moving Plan
    • Find an Armoire That Makes Organization Easy
    • 8 Key Times in Your Life to Take Advantage of a Major Declutter

    Full Story >

    Understanding Adjustable Rate Mortgages

    Question. We are shopping around for a mortgage for our first home and are confused about the many loans that seem to be available. Interest rates are low, real estate appears to be picking up again, and the adjustable rate mortgage is of interest to us. We do not understand how that works. What exactly is an ARM, and do you have any advice on whether we should use this form of loan?

    Answer. Interesting -- and timely -- question. For a number of years -- especially since mortgage interest rates were very low -- ra>

    Lets look at the Adjustable Rate Mortgage. This was created in the early 1980s when lenders were hurt financially because homeowners were repaying their loans at 8, 9, or 10, while the cost of borrowing that money was more than 15.

    Lenders made a basic decision several years ago. The shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate would be. Thus, today you can still obtain a fixed-rate, thirty year mortgage, meaning that you will be guaranteed that the mortgage payment will be the same every month. But the fixed rate, thirty year mortgage -- although still quite low today -- carries about the highest interest rate going.

    The Adjustable Rate Mortgage is guaranteed to stay on the books for thirty years, but the interest rate is adjusted periodically. There are many variations on the adjustable rate theme. There is the so-called 7-23, where the rate is fixed for the first seven years, and then adjusts thereafter for 23 more years. If the rate is adjusted for five or seven years, the initial rate will be lower than the one for a fixed rate thirty-year mortgage, but higher than an adjustable rate mortgage that is adjusted every year.

    Today, the most common ARMs are the one-year, the three-year adjustable, or the 7-23. But even with these common ARMs, consumers should shop around for the best deal.

    Here is what you should do:


    • Determine the initial interest rate. It is defined as the rate on which your loan will be based in the initial period -- whether it is 1, 3, 5, 7 or even 10 years.
    • Ask if the ARM is based on a negative-amortization schedule. Although my experience is that most ARMs currently are not amortized on a negative basis, I still have seen some loans with a negative factor built in. This means that although you may be paying a lower interest rate for the first few years -- lets say two or three percent -- the interest still is being charged on your loan at a higher rate -- for example 4 or 5 percent.. If this is the case, the extra interest payment the difference between what you are paying and what is being charged you, is added to your mortgage balance. Under no circumstances can I recommend the negative amortization mortgage.
    • Determine what the rate adjustment will be. Find out if there is a cap on the periodic increases, and determine what index the lender uses as a base for calculating changes in the adjustable rate.


    Generally, lenders use one of three indexes: 1 the weekly average yield on Treasury Bills, which is published by the Federal Reserve Board, 2 the 11th District cost of funds index -- called COFI, or 3 the Libor London Interbank Offered Rate The lender then adds to that index number a rate adjustment called a margin and if the adjusted rate is higher than the old one when your adjustment period comes due, your interest will be modified accordingly for the next set of payments.

    Another point to consider is whether there is a ceiling on the overall amount that your rate can increase. Lenders realize that an ARM without such a ceiling is a potential disaster for consumers. If you start with a 3 loan, for example, and there is a 2 point cap on the yearly increases, it is conceivable that at the end of the fifth year you would be facing a mortgage rate of 13.

    Most lenders, therefore, are putting an overall ceiling on the amount that your interest rate can rise. And it is usually limited to 5- 6 percentage points. Thus, if your initial rate is 3, the most you will ever pay would be 8 or 9. Make sure you understand what the ceilings are, and get them in writing, before you commit yourself to an ARM.

    This analysis is equally valid for the various kinds of ARMs, whether the three year, the 5-25, the 7-23 or even the 10 year ARM.

    There are also serious problems with interpreting how the rate adjustment works after you get the loan. Anyone with an ARM is advised to carefully review their original loan documents, to determine whether the lender has properly and correctly assessed the new adjustable rate, when the adjustment period comes due.

    And keep in mind: depending on the cap, at some point in the future, you may be required to make more monthly payments than you can afford.

    Full Story >

    What Not To Do When Selling Your Home

    Unless youve never bought or sold a house before and have never looked at home listings or watched a single show about real estate which is pretty hard these days, you have some semblance of an idea of how your home should look when you go to sell it. You probably also have a clue about how best to show off that home in photos or, at least, you know the importance of showing off that home in photos, even if you personally lack the skill to take them yourself.

    But what happens when you ignore the rules? Does a hot market render them ir>

    "You might think that buyers can see the potential of a house that just needs a little bit of work, but most are looking for a house that is move-in ready and doesnt need any major repairs," said Business Insider. "And even a home that only needs minor repairs may still look like a bad deal to some buyers, turning them off based on appearance alone."

    The truth is that if you want good money for your home, you have to do a little work to get it "show ready." Buyers expect to be able to walk in to a clean, decluttered home - at the very least. If its not updated, it better at least look like its move-in ready.

    So how do you explain this listing, then? Well leave the address and other identifying info out of it to protect the innocent. But a few things we can say: The home is brand-new to the market, and is no bargain, as you might think from looking at the photos; Its priced at least 10,000 over what it should be, just based on comparables, which, for a house in the low 200,000s, is considerable. The photos were obviously taken by the homeowner, who clearly didnt know how to best show off the property although there were a couple snaps that were passable for an amateur and who, it looks like, didnt even care enough to try to get it right by: Getting the camera in focus, cleaning out cluttered spaces, and even making sure there werent random people in the frame of one shot.

    At least it will serve as a great example of "what not to do" when selling your home.

    1. Dont take your own photos

    Wed be remiss if we skipped over one of the main problems here before getting into the details. Dont Take Your Own Listing Photos. Oh, were we screaming? Photos that were not professionally done stick out like, well, photos that werent professionally done.

    "You already know that a listing with pictures attracts a lot more attention than one without, but do you know how to take great pictures of a home? Whether youre an agent or a person trying to sell his own home, its vital that you make a big first impression, and pictures are the best and maybe only opportunity that you will have to do just that," said Inman.

    If you absolutely insist on taking your own photos, at least consult some basic rules. Most of which were broken in the listing in question. Note that the photo below was one of the better of the bunch.

    2. Address your kitchen

    Dont want to make any upgrades to your kitchen before you get the home on the market? Thatll cost you literally. Even painting out those cabinets, a cheap and easy fix, would make a huge difference. But, if youre not going to make changes to improve this key area, at least make the most basic effort to show it in its best light by removing as much clutter as you can. That means everything off your countertops. And your fridge. And the top of our fridge. Theres no reason that stuff cant be put away for photos, and for showings. Basic staging rule 1.

    3. Emphasize the space and function, not the other way around

    That printer on the kitchen counterop says: "We dont have room for a home office." Unplug. Put in closet. Problem solved.

    4. Always keep your selling points in mind

    People like bedrooms - clean and tidy bedrooms that they can imagine their children sleeping and playing in. What, exactly, are we trying to show off here? The dead animal on the wall? The clutter on the floor? The glare from the windows? Perhaps the unique angle of the image that ignored all those basic listing photo rules? This shot shows none of the attributes of the room and only makes a potential buyer question the sellers taste levelmdash;and gives them closet space concerns.

    5. Focus

    Maybe check the photo to make sure nothing is blurry before posting it? Just a suggestion. Also, even if this picture was in focus, it still wouldnt be effective. Youre not selling bedding, youre selling a home. This image tells a potential buyer nothing about the size or condition of the room.

    6. Show off your bathroom

    Where do we even start here? From the weird angle that doesnt show the space, to the missing light bulb, to the clutter in the shower/hanging robe, this is just all wrong.

    7. Emphasize outdoor space

    It goes without saying that showing off your outdoor space is important. A little effort to repaint the unkempt patio would have helped. At the very least, mow the yard, trim the bushes, and remove the ladder. An unkempt backyard will only make a potential buyer wonder what else needs attention, espeically if theyve seen some questionable spaces indoors.

    8. Keep people out of your photos

    Stalker alert The straggler near the fence draws attention away from the other features of the yard - which, in this case, might not be so bad, really. Stillhellip;If you only have one photo of the yard or if the best of the bunch has a person in the frame, theres still one thing you can do: Learn how to to use the cameras crop feature.

    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Makes A Special Donation To SPCA-LA

    Nonprofits receiving donations, one real estate transaction at a time.

    Las Vegas, NV April 04, 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 300 donation to SPCA-LA, Friends for Life on behalf of her client.

    "Dana Roberts is part of the Agent with Heart movement, dedicated to making a difference in the community 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 real estate agents like Dana that make the community a better place, and homeowners like to do business with people who care. Please join me in thanking Dana for making a 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 >

    A Checklist For Going Green In Your HOA

    There is much talk of green construction. The following checklist will help identify features that produce a healthier, high-performance building that costs less to operate and has fewer negative environmental impacts. HOA developers and builders take note:

    Location: Green buildings are not built on environmentally sensitive sites like prime farmland, wetlands and endangered species habitats. The greenest development sites are "in-fill" properties like former parking lots, rail yards, shopping malls and factories. Look for compact development where the average housing density is at least six units per acre. The building should also be within easy walking distance of public transportation to reduce the need for cars. A green building should also be within walking or biking distance of parks, schools, and stores.

    Size: No matter how many green building elements go into a building, large square foot green buildings still consume many more natural resources than samller square foot green buildings. The larger building will also require more heating, air conditioning and lighting. Smaller is greener.

    Building Design:

    1. Natural Light. Buildings should be oriented on its site to bring abundant natural daylight into the interior to reduce lighting requirements and to take advantage of any prevailing breezes. Windows, clerestories, skylights, mirrors, reflective materials and other strategies should be used to bring daylight to the interior of the house.

    2. Shading. The exterior should have devices like sunshades, canopies, green screens and, best of all, trees, particularly on the southern and western facades and over windows and doors, to block hot summer sun.

    3. Heat Gain/Loss. Dual-glaze windows reduce heat gain in summer and heat loss during cold winter months.

    4. Roof Reflectivity. The roof should be a light-colored, heat-reflecting. An Energy Star rated roof, or a green landscaped roof reduce heat absorption.

    Green Building Materials: A green building will have been constructed or renovated with

    1. Non-toxic Building Materials amp; Furnishings like low- and zero-VOC volatile organic compound paints and sealants.

    2. Strawboard for the sub-flooring.

    3. Renewable Wood Products like bamboo or hardwoods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council

    4. Salvaged Materials like kitchen tiles and materials with significant recycled content.

    5. Non-Toxic Insulation derived from materials like soybean or cotton, with a high R heat resistance factor in a buildings walls and roof will help prevent cool air leakage in the summer and warm air leakage in the winter.

    6. Energy Efficient Windows amp; Doors should seal their openings tightly to avoid heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter.

    Energy Star Rated Lighting, Heating, Cooling amp; Water Heating Systems and Appliances.

    1. Renewable Energy Generation like solar panels.

    2. Water Efficient irrigation system, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, rainwater collection and storage system particularly in dry climates.

    3. Indoor Environmental Quality. Natural daylight should reach at least 75 of the buildings interior. Natural ventilation via building orientation, operable windows, fans, wind chimneys and other strategies should bring plentiful fresh air inside the building. The HVAC heating, ventilation and air conditioning system should filter all incoming air and vent stale air outside. The garage should not have any air handling equipment or return ducts and should have an exhaust fan to prevent carbon monoxide and other fumes from entering the living spaces.

    Shade/Native Landscaping. Use vine covered green screens, large canopy trees and other landscaping to shade exterior walls, driveways, patios and other "hardscape" to minimize heat islands. Yards should be landscaped with drought and pest tolerant native species rather than water-guzzling plants and grass.

    While some of these green features are currently >

    Information from the U.S. Green Building Council

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

    Full Story >

    How To Stage Your Home While You Live In It

    In a study performed by a top real estate agency in the country, it was determined that homes that have been beautifully staged sold for approximately six percent above the asking price on average. Furthermore, the estimated time on the market was cut in half. In addition, approximately 81 percent of home buyers surveyed in a separate survey stated that it was easier for them to visualize the home as their own when the home was staged.

    As powerful as these statistics are, you may be faced with the dilemma of trying to stage the home while continuing to live in it. You understandably want the home to continue to be comfortable for you and your family to live in, but you also need to enjoy the benefits from staging as well. By following a few helpful tips, you can more easily accomplish your goals.

    Remove All Signs of Personalization

    One of the most important elements in staging a home >From room to room, there should be no signs of personalization that tell the buyer anything about you and your family. This can take a lot of work to accomplish, and it likely will leave your home looking rather stark or bare. Investing in affordable and non-descript home decorative pieces, such as framed pictures of natural landscapes or flower vases, may help to dress the space up.

    Redefine Each Rooms Purpose

    Another hallmark of home staging >For example, you may lose your home office or kids playroom for a few weeks. Keep in mind, however, that you may keep the kids toys in a storage bin in the closet, and you can easily pull them out as desired. In addition, you may be able to work at the kitchen table until you sell the house.

    Make Use of a Storage Unit

    You will likely want to remove some of your belongings from the home. Some individuals will cram their garage full of boxes and furnishings, but this is not ideal. After all, a potential home buyer wants to walk through the garage as well when touring the home. Investing in a storage unit close to your home is a great idea. You will have easy access to your belongings if you need them.

    In addition, you can clear away older pieces that look less stylish as well as large pieces, such as a looming china cabinet that makes your dining room appear to be smaller than it is.

    Some people will spend a small fortune staging their home. You may find, however, that many aspects of staging can be accomplished through the removal or ideal placement of your current belongings in the home. It can be uncomfortable for you and your loved ones to live in a staged home that must be maintained in pristine condition every day, but keep in mind that this will typically only last for a few weeks at best.

    Furthermore, it is well worth the effort. Once you receive an offer, you may revert to a more comfortable routine in the home.
    Full Story >

    A Guide To Interior Painting In Your New Home

    If you just bought a house, painting it is no doubt high on your to-do list. Painting before you move in is the easiest way to get the job done because you wont have furniture and decorative items in the way.

    However, some people prefer to live in a new home first to see how natural light affects the space.

    Regardless of when you decide to paint, there are lots of things to consider before, during and after you put brush or roller to wall.

    If you can visit the house before the deal closes, take measurements so you can figure out how much paint to buy and lots of photos to help you come up with a colour scheme. Some paint companies offer apps so you can add different colours to your photographs. They also offer calculators so you can figure out how much paint to buy.

    Colour can be used to solve problems, with lighter colours making rooms look larger and darker ones doing the opposite.

    "If you have a long and narrow room, you can consider painting the end walls a darker shade than the long, narrow walls. The darker colours will recede and create an illusion of width in this instance," say experts at Sherwin-Williams on the company website.

    Contrasting colours can be used to highlight architectural features, such as mouldings. Or unsightly architectural features and mouldings will visually disappear if they painted the same colours as the background, says Home Hardwares website. "A boring room will come alive with colour-blocking to create a beautiful feature wall."

    Another Home Hardware trick is to paint the ceiling colour down the wall by one foot from the top and finish it will a narrow moulding to make the ceilings seem higher.

    Sherwin-Williams says light affects colour dramatically. "Fluorescent light tends to be cool lighting and brings out more green or blue in a colour. Incandescent light light bulbs brings out more of the red or warmth in a colour. It is important to view colours in daylight and at night because they will look different."

    Rather than go with a small paint chip, paint a larger test swatch on the wall to be sure youre happy with the colour. Some paint companies, such as Benjamin Moore, offer pint-sized samples.

    "Your colour will look more intense on the wall than on a paint chip. If you are feeling unsure, simply go one shade lighter," Home Hardware suggests.

    If you see a colour you love, Benjamin Moore has a Colour Capture app that "lets you capture inspiration colour with your phones camera and instantly find its match from Benjamin Moores 3,500 plus paint colours," the company says.

    Another consideration is the level of gloss, such as high gloss, semi-gloss, flat and eggshell. Glossy paints will show more imperfections than flat paints but stand up better in high traffic areas.

    You may also want to choose a low VOC volatile organic compounds product to keep your space healthier. Some paints also contain anti-microbial ingredients to fight mould and mildew growth.

    Will you choose a latex paint? Latex tends to resist cracking, chipping and yellowing. It has a low odour and is water based, so clean up is easy with water. It is quicker to dry and is ready for a second coat faster than alkyd paint, says CILs website. Alkyd paint "applies similar to a latex paint and has low odour and VOCs. When dry it has the durability of an oil-based alkyd."

    The type of paint you choose may depend on the existing paint. "Painting latex over oil or alkyd can result in peeling and flaking," says CIL. How do you know if the paint is latex or oil? "First do the nail polish test to find out what youre dealing with. Using acetone-based nail polish remover and a cotton pad, rub the paint a little. If the paint comes off, its latex and you are good to go. If its oil, make sure to choose a 100-per-cent acrylic latex paint. Acrylic adheres well to most surfaces, including oil paints and will give you smooth long lasting results."

    Do you need to prime? Some primers are useful in covering dark colours or blocking stains. For example, Kilz2 latex sealer/stain blocker has a mild odour, is mildew resistant, hides colour, blocks stains and promotes adhesion. It also seals porous surfaces, the company says.

    Paint companies have their own primers. Check for the features you want.

    Other things to remember:

    Brushes are available with synthetic and natural bristles, with synthetics lasting up to five times as long as natural bristle brushes, says Dulux. Synthetics are suited to water-based paints. "As a rule of thumb, the larger the area you are painting, the larger the brush you should use," Dulux says. For example, two or three inches is suggested for cutting in, while a one- or two-inch brush will give more flexibility when painting things such as doors and baseboards, the company says.

    "Rollers are ideal for painting large areas, particularly ceilings. They are quick and easy to use. There are several types of rollers to suit different paint jobs: foam, mohair or sheepskin, available in short, medium and long pile. Your choice depends upon the sort of paint you are using. Foam rollers are not recommended for normal latex paints as their spongy texture creates air bubbles in the paint film, which can then burst, leaving a cratered, range peel effect," says Dulux. "Deeper pile rollers do not necessarily apply more paint to a smooth surface. The longer the pile, the more pronounced the surface texture stipple becomes."

    Prepare your project -- you will have to prepare walls by cleaning and patching, then taping off areas you dont want painted. "If using masking tape to protect a surface when painting, remove the tape as soon as you can," Dulux says. "You will get a cleaner edge and there is less chance the tape will bond to the surface it is protecting and become difficult to remove."

    There are a lot of things to consider before you run out and buy gallons of paint and invite your friends to help out. Plan ahead.

    If its all too much, you can always hire a professional painter.

    Consumer Reports suggestions include getting at least three quotes in writing, checking references and credentials, obtaining a detailed written contract and ensuring you have a copy of the painters insurance. It also says, "Dont make a large down payment and withhold the final payment, typically 10 to 15 per cent, until you are fully satisfied with the job."

    Full Story >

    Chic Small Space Solutions That Bring Big Impact

    Size doesnt always matter. Your small space doesnt have to suffer just because you dont have thousands of square feet to deck out. Perhaps its an outgrowth of the tiny home movement or perhaps its the fact that retailers have gotten smarter about the fact that not every living area can accommodate a grand piano and a couch that seats 20, but there are more chic small-space solutions now than ever before.

    You can use a few tips and tricks and some products that have been specifically designed for smaller spaces to create a home that lives large, no matter the size.

    Its all about the scale

    Overwhelming your space with furniture thats too large - or too much of it - will only make it look smaller. "Likenbsp;Goldienbsp;Locks looking for the right bed, one was too big, one too small, and finally one was just right, furniture needs to be just right in a small room," said Freshome. "A large couch in a small area can overtake the space, while a small couch will seem dwarfed." Search for "apartment-sized" furniture for right-sized pieces that dont scrimp on >

    Pottery Barn is on board with the trend. "Their new small space collection was designed to be lsquo;size-conscious and multifunctional, with accessible price points," said Sunset. The SoMa upholstered sofa "easily folds out for any visitor. Its comfortable to lounge on during TV binges, too - theres a double layer of padding that you wont find on some basic sleepers."

    No eating area? Build it in

    You can never go wrong with a banquette. Its one of our favorite features in a kitchen, and is especially useful in a small space where you need to find a creative way to tuck in an eating area. Look at how charming this banquette is, and it takes up almost no space. For extra functionality, make sure your banquette seats have storage inside.

    Reflect... on your backsplash

    A few strategically placed mirrors can help bounce light around the room and make spaces look larger, so why not bring them into the kitchen? This mirrored wall greatly expands the visual idea of the kitchen without increasing the square footage.

    Create a jewel box in the bathroom

    This bathroom may be small, but it lacks for nothing when it comes to >

    Pay attention to color

    Conventional rules say to go with light colors in a small room, and that remains the easiest way to keep a petite space from feeling confined. However, "dark hues can work their own type of magic in small places, and more often than not the result is dead >

    Dont be afraid of patterns

    You may be afraid of overwhelming your small space with too much pattern, but carefully chosen spots can make the space feel luxe. "Are you crazy for color? A great way to add interest while still maintaining an airy, open look is to paint three walls a light hue and choose a fun wallpaper for a single accent wall," said HGTV.

    A clever use of stripes can also "trick the eye," they said. Have a narrow space? Go horizontal. If its low ceilings youre dealing with, this a great way to pull the eye up and make the space feel larger and/or accentuate ceiling detail or a snazzy light fixture.

    Think smart storage

    Finding places to put stuff seems to be a universal challenge, but it may be more difficult in a compact space. Items that do double duty, like these ottomans that open up to reveal storage inside, or these ingenious stairs, can make a small space infinitely more livable.

    Full Story >

    The First Offer May Be The Best Offer

    Versions of this column have appeared before. It is still true. And for many, still >

    Sometimes when everything goes right we have trouble accepting that fact. Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more clearly illustrated than in the case where a seller receives a good offer right away.

    The annals of real estate are well stocked with stories of sellers who refused to take a good, but not perfect, first offer, and who then waited a long, long time before finally accepting something else at a considerably lower price. And most agents who have been around for a while know to shudder when a good strong offer is made almost at the outset of a listing; for the sellers reservations are almost inevitable. "Did we list it too low?" "If someone will offer this much so soon, maybe we should wait a while and see if we can get more." Etc.

    When we read of Silicon Valley listings routinely selling at above list price, and while we are still in a period when multiple-offer situations are commonplace, it is understandable that such thoughts come to mind. Nonetheless, they are generally unfounded, especially if the market is anywhere near "normal", as ours is today.

    As an antidote to the ill effects of the "curse of the first offer", a couple of observations might be kept in mind.

    First, the fact that an offer is received early in the listing period -- even in the first few days -- doesnt mean that the property has been listed too low.

    It is easy to overlook how very efficient the residential real estate marketplace has become. Modern multiple listing systems MLS provide agents, and thus their buyer clients, with virtually instant access to information about existing inventory and about what has newly come on the market. In the old, old days a buyers agent did not become aware of new listings until "the book" i.e. the compilation of MLS listings was published. There might have been a lag time of ten days or more from the time the listing was taken.

    Today, a good buyers agent will have electronically entered a "profile" of his clients needs and price range into the system. Then, whenever he logs on to the MLS, he will be notified if a listing has been entered that matches that profile. In a low-inventory market such as we have had recently, buyers agents will log on a half-dozen times a day, or more, to see if an appropriate new listing has been entered. Moreover, in most systems the buyers agent is able to place the buyer himself on a similar notification.

    The point is that potential buyers learn quickly of the existence of an appropriate new listing. Thus a flurry of activity at the outset of the listing does not necessarily imply a too-low price; rather, it reflects the efficiency of the system.

    Secondly, an early first offer does not imply that the seller should hold out for full price.

    We all know that there is typically a bit of a dance in the pricing and negotiating for a property. Sellers, with the concurrence of their agents, will usually list their property for an amount that is both higher than what they believe its value to be and higher than what they would be satisfied to receive. Why? Because they know that buyers almost always want and expect to pay less than the listed price

    However, when an otherwise acceptable offer comes in near the outset of a listing period, sellers are frequently tempted to hold out for full price, or much closer to it than would normally be expected. Caution should be exercised in this regard.

    For one thing, as we have noted, exposure of the property to buyers occurs pretty quickly nowadays, and sellers shouldnt assume that there are going to be more, much less higher, offers as the listing period progresses.

    Secondly, there often can be a transactional benefit to "leaving something on the table." A real estate transaction is a process. These days, with inspections and disclosures, there are almost always "second negotiations" during the course of escrow. A buyer who feels ground down in the purchase negotiation may well be more difficult to deal with as other issues arise.

    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 >

    Important DIY Home-Improvement Safety Precautions

    Youve been thinking about it and putting it off for years, but its finally time to take on that DIY home-improvement project. Youve planned it out, watched plenty of YouTube tutorials and bought all the materials you need. So whats next? Its time for a crash course in DIY safety.

    Take Your Time

    Accidents are more likely to happen when youre rushing. You tend to take risks you know you shouldnt and forget important steps. These accidents often happen with tools youre already familiar with, such as ladders and drills.

    Ladders are a common source of injury. Instead of rushing to grab the first ladder available and setting it up quickly, take the time to make sure you have the right tool for the job. You need to check that the ladder is tall enough to get you where you need to go or to let you reach what you need to. Dont use a ladder thats too short because you may lose your balance or fall off by overextending yourself. You also need to make sure you set up your ladder on stable ground so it doesnt slip out from under you or rock as you climb up or down.

    When it comes to drills and other power tools, you cant take any shortcuts. Double check that your drill is turned off before you plug it in to avoid any accidents. If you dont know how to use a power tool, take the time to read the instructions, watch a tutorial video or seek help from someone who does. You also should never leave a power tool on and unattended, even if for a second.

    Have the Proper Protection Equipment

    Before you start your DIY project make sure you have all of the protection you need to complete the job. This starts with the right clothing. Avoid loose-fitting clothing and instead opt for a brand of clothing that is made for doing labor. Get pants and shirts that will protect your skin from the sun and wont get caught in any of the equipment. Opt for boots or closed-toe shoes that will protect your feet in case you drop something and will prevent slipping.

    You also need to think about safety accessories, such as protective eyewear, gloves, ear plugs and masks. If you are cutting anything or using power tools, you should always wear glasses to prevent any materials from getting in your eyes. Wear gloves if youre dealing with anything sharp and a mask if youre using hazardous chemicals.

    Know What to Do in an Emergency

    Another important precaution you need to take before starting your DIY project is knowing what to do if something goes wrong. This isnt a what to do if you mess up your project, but what to do in a real emergency.

    The most important tip is to not panic. If something happens, take a deep breath and think before you react. For example, if something catches on fire, dont immediately douse it with water. Electrical, gas and chemical fires react badly to water and instead need to be put out by a fire extinguisher which you should always have nearby when youre working. If something gets caught or stuck, you shouldnt try to force it through or pull it out until you know its safe to do so. Turn off the piece of equipment youre using, make sure any safety devices are on such as on a large piece of equipment and then work to dislodge whatever is stuck. If you keep a clear mind, youre more likely to resolve the situation faster and smarter.

    Full Story >

    10 Spring Cleaning Tricks For Everyone

    Lazy cleaning isnbsp;all about minimizing the effort. But, minimal effort doesnt have to mean you live like a slob - it just means you need to know some cool tricks tools that will help do the work for you, or at least make it less painful.

    Make a salad

    Go ahead, prepare lunch. Now, while youre at it, shake some of that vinegar into your sink, along with some baking soda. The combinationnbsp;"is one of the most effective ways to unclog and deodorize drains," said Readers Digest. "Its also far gentler on your pipes and your wallet than commercial drain cleaners."

    Vinegar is a miracle substance that can do everything from cleaning stainless steel, glassware, and coffee makers, to trapping fruit flies, so make sure to stock up.

    Freshen up your microwave

    Vinegar is also the perfect product to use in a dirty microwave. Add a half-cup of it to two cups of water in a microwave-safe bowl, turn it on for three minutes, and then let sit for a minute or two after. The inside of the microwave will be nice and steamy, so you can easily wipe it clean without almost zero effort.

    Do some laundry

    So, you got all excited about spring cleaning and washed all the towels, blankets, and stuff that had been at the bottom of the laundry basket since last spring. Now that stack of clean stuff is so tall its about to tip over and hit the floor, which means youll have to re-wash everything, contributing to the time and hassle that is doing laundry. Or maybe that just happens in our house. The truth is, the least painful method weve found for putting away laundry is to fold/hang while youre watching a favorite show. Laundry is a mindless task that requires little, if no, brain power, so itll hardly take any attention away from the TV screen.

    Dust away

    Dont have any dusters? Raid your laundry room for some fabric sheets. Theyre especially useful for baseboards and blinds, because "the chemicals in dryer sheets help to repel dust," said Buzzfeed.

    Clean the floor

    Socks make great floor cleaners, especially the fuzzy kind you can pick up for a buck at the supermarket. If you want to have a little fun, turn up the music, spray the bottoms with some all-purpose cleaner, and have a family dance party on the hard surfaces in the house.

    Or, pick up a pair of these microfiber slides, 11 at Amazon. "That way you can clean while you walk to the kitchen to get another serving of ice cream," said House Beautiful.

    Clean the blinds

    A sock on the hand sprayed with cleaning solution or vinegar also makes a great tool for cleaning dusty blinds, and, the bonus is that you can entertain yourself with sock puppets when you start to go stir crazy.

    Clean the carpets

    If you have visible stains on your carpets, its safe to say theres probably far more disgusting stuff down in the fibers that you cant see. But lets get real. You know youre not going to go to the supermarket, bring home one of those giant rental cleaner things, and push it across your floor over and over, emptying out the nasty tank and refilling it again and again in what is - at least - a several-hour commitment to your floors. If you were willing to spend that kind of time cleaning, you wouldnt be reading something about cleaning tips Search Groupon for carpet cleaning specials and get on the phone and make an appointment already.

    Clean the bathroom

    Is there anything as demoralizing as having to clean the bathroom? This is the place where breaking up the tasks and allowing products and tools to do the work for you comes in very handy. Go and liberally spray those counters and sinks and move along to another task while the cleaning product eats away at the grime - or, go back to your book or video game. In a few minutes, you can go back and wipe up the mess. If your surfaces are in really bad shape, you may need to repeat the process or ramp up the product youre using.

    Dont have a sponge or anything you can use to scrub? Grab an old toothbrush. Its especially useful for getting in the little spots around your faucet that a sponge would have trouble reaching. A toothbrush dipped in bleach is also a great tool for cleaning up any spots in the shower that need extra attention, and for cleaning around the bath faucet and drain.

    Now, youve got to tackle that toilet. No one enjoys this task. No one. But it has to get done. If youre heading to the market for cleaning supplies, look for Borax. "Toss a cup of Borax in the toilets overnight and shut the lid," said the TODAY Show. "Leave it overnight. In the morning, flush and get on with your day"

    Dont have any Borax and cant make it to the store? Grab a can of Coke. "Due to its acidic nature, Coca-Cola can be used to clean toilets,nbsp;cook a steak, and evennbsp;make an emergency oil lamp So if your toilet has rings and lime scale stains, but youve got no cleaning gear on hand, you can grab a can of Coke out of the fridge to make your porcelain throne sparkle," said Huffington Post.

    Let it soak in

    Nasty cooktop or countertops? No need to waste your time scrubbing. Spray it down, let it soak, and get back to watching The Voice. Come back on the next commercial and wipe it up.

    Make it a game

    You can keep your 300 Roomba. Well take this 33 remote control cleaning brush from Japan Trend Shop. "Your dreams are answered as you literally can sit and have the RC Mop do the housework for you," they said. This radio control toy/genius cleaning item is recommended for ages 12 and up, but Im pretty sure my 10-year-old will fight me to use it.

    Full Story >

    Appraisals Can Be Challenged

    Question: We are refinancing our home to replace an adjustable rate mortgage with a good fixed rate loan. Unfortunately, the appraisal came in low and when I received the copy from the mortgage company I noticed many errors, some of which are significant.

    For example, the appraisal statet my home is stone and frame instead of stone and brick. It also omits a finished bedroom in the basement and a porch. The appraiser is >

    Discussing the potential adjustments with an independent appraiser leaves me to conclude that if the errors are corrected, it would add at least an additional 10,000.00 to the appraisal, and thus about 8,000.00 more in a loan to me.

    Should I have my home reappraised? Should I contact the corporate officer of the mortgage company? Should I consider any legal action?

    Answer: I cannot recommend you consider legal action. Not every wrong that occurs should be taken to court. Usually the courts want a Plaintiff to demonstrate that he or she has exhausted all other remedies before filing suit.

    To prove the measure of your damages -- if any -- in court, you would need to obtain another appraisal, so you can demonstrate the error of the original appraiser.

    I am a believer in going to the top, when necessary. You write that the mortgage companys loan officer does not seem to care about the apparent error. I suspect that the loan officers boss -- the president of the mortgage company -- would care.

    People in business usually are concerned about staying in business, and reputation and word of mouth are a very important aspect of business growth.

    Even in todays market, where mortgage lenders are very busy doing refinancings, I would try to meet with the president of the mortgage company or at least someone in a supervisory position above the loan officer, and discuss your concerns.

    The lender may put pressure on the appraiser to reappraise your house. I have heard of numerous instances where appraisers have made mistakes but have been honest enough to go back to the house with a view towards correcting the original appraisal.

    You should note that the appraisal business is not scientific. At best, it is a sophisticated art. While appraisers certainly use such bench marks as comparable sales in the area, square footage, replacement value and other similar concepts, the bottom line in my opinion is that appraising a house is a very subjective exercise.

    The best test of market value still is what a ready, willing and able buyer will pay a ready, willing and able seller. The price sets the market value. All of the other factors are significant, but not necessarily critical to a determination of price.

    You should also understand that the appraisal industry has been under significant pressure -- and has taken a number of steps -- to correct many of the errors which they made during the 1980s 90s. Indeed, most appraisers are now taking a very conservative approach, just to be on the safe side. And under new rules, the appraiser must not be selected by the lender; this creates potential problems since I have personally seen appraisers from a different part of the country where the property was located. Clearly, an appraiser must have a working knowledge of the area

    If your mortgage lender is >

    Thus, in your particular case, I would go to the mat with this appraiser and with this lender. Clearly, if there are errors in the appraisal, those errors should be corrected -- at no additional cost to you.

    Full Story >

    Getting Political In Real Estate: The Ups and Downs of Declaring Your Beliefs

    Finding that clients are looking to partner with people and companies they respect for more than just their results? In todays world, buyers and sellers are increasingly driven to work with those they believe in, and not just what they can accomplish.

    Perhaps that old saying, "Its not personal, its business," was easier to live by before we became so aware of our collective growing conscience and/or well-defined social and political beliefs, and certainly before the the age of social media. If youre finding that clients are being more selective and looking more closely at how real estate professionals act and how their values and beliefs match up with yours, youre not alone.


    A Forbes article from 2013 titled "People Do Business With People They Like" spoke to the power of appreciation and the importance of saying, lsquo;Thank you." Seems so simple - and, so long ago, when you consider some of todays roadblocks.

    But likability is an especially important key to success in real estate during tumultuous times, when buyers and sellers are searching for more than just an accomplished agent, said Heather George, REALTORreg; with Signature Gallery of Homes, the Trish Nash Team. "Real estate is ultra-competitive, and an agents success will always be based on results. However, in todays world, people are increasingly looking to lsquo;connect on a deeper level," she said. "They want to believe in and trust their agent and to know they are working with a good person they perceive as an ally. My business is based on the >

    Politically - and socially - charged

    The >

    The DeleteUber campaign started in late January, "when Ubers New York City Twitter account announced that it was turning offnbsp;surge pricing for trips at JFK airportnbsp;in light of the protests against Donald Trumps executive order thatnbsp;bans immigrantsnbsp;from seven Muslim-majority countries," said Fortune. Soon, the hashtag was the No.1 trending topic in the country, and, as of early February, more than 200,000 accounts were gone.

    The idea that the ride-sharing company would try to profit from the New York Taxi Workers Alliances "one-hour work stoppage in solidarity with the protests," seemed in especially poor taste to many, and it was further fed by a politically charged environment around President Trumps win; Ubers now-former CEOnbsp;Travis Kalanicknbsp;he recently resigned was part of Trumps economic advisory council although he resigned from the council in February prior to leaving his own company.

    Many former users bristled at Kalanicks perceived support of Trump. Subsequent events like this and this have only made the situation worse, while rideshare competitor Lyft has gained users, and fans, for their business practices and for things like: announcing a 1 millionnbsp;donation to the ACLU.

    But, it goes both ways. Trump supporters boycotted GrubHub after their CEO told "employees who support Trumps rhetoric to quit," and then Kelloggs because they "pulled advertising from leading white nationalist website," said Eater. And also Starbucks, because they are "supporting a liberal agenda." And then there was the sold-out-forever Hamilton, which supporters threatened to boycott after the crowd booed Vice President Mike Pence during a performance of the Broadway show.

    Most recently, his supporters launched a boycott of Hawaii, "making the islands a target of a social media firestorm" after "a Hawaii judge blocked President Trumps revised travel ban from taking effect," said NBC4i. So far, there has been no measurable impact on these boycotts.

    And that goes for LendingTree, too, despite company founder Doug Lebda being vocal about his support for Trump. The stock price at press time was over 124, the highest its been since 2015.

    The effect on real estate

    Many real estate agents and companies prefer to keep their opinions to themselves, and those who dont are facing a variety of consequences. Kim V. Colaprete and Chavi M. Hohm of Team Diva Real Estate in Seattle blogged about then-candidate Hillary Clinton prior to the election, proclaiming, "We are with her"nbsp;in a blog post outliningnbsp;their support for Hillary Clinton, said Inman. "In the post, the couple praised Clinton for her views on womens rights and healthcare, equality for LGBTQ, immigrant and minority communities, and creating a system where equal pay and affordable higher education is something that anyone, regardless of their background, can access."

    Colaprete further expressed that they have always been "fairly open" about their political views, both personally and professionally, and noted that, "When you are a lesbian couple running a business together there is no lsquo;hiding who you are and what you stand for. In fact, WHO we are and WHAT we stand for is what makes Team Diva successful."

    The pair noted that "theyve received pushback for Clinton blog post and previous posts that outlined their stances on marriage equality and other important issues," but arent backing down because their viewpoints are essential to who they are. "Whether everyone agrees with you or not -nbsp;as long as you are being true to you and being clear and respectful -nbsp;folks will respect you back," Colaprete told Inman. And when the "trolls" come out: Its all about the "delete" and "block" buttons.

    Of course, not all agents have the ability to express themselves so freely online. Tony Brust, formerly a real estate agent in Jim Maloof/Realtors Pekin office in Central Illinois, found himself out of a job after his Twitter exchange with comedian Patton Oswalt went viral. The reason: Owner Michael Maloof told the Chicago Tribune, "We were made aware that this had gone on and we parted company. Were kind of a conservative,nbsp;God-loving,nbsp; family-oriented company down here and the respect of our fellow man is deep into our culture."

    Its not just real estate agents and companies who are being asked to toe the line. Construction companies are also under scrutiny.

    "Any company looking at President Trumps proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States as a business opportunity may soon want to reconsider if it wants to do business with San Francisco," said the San Francisco Chronicle. Legislation is being introduced "that would bar San Francisco from contracting with companies that seek a contract to work on the wall during the bidding period, regardless of whether the companies win a contract. The bill is one of several similar proposals around the country, with the Bay Area leading the way and New York also in the mix.

    Full Story >

    HOA Board Directors: Lone Ranger or Tonto?

    Being a person that wants to serve and protect your own interests, you get yourself elected to the board. At the first board meeting, the president gives you a pep talk about not giving instructions to contractors or discussing board issues with other members unless you preface comments with "the board policy/decision is...". You bristle at this. Who does this guy think he is? This is America, Home of the Free and Land of the Lone Ranger. Why shouldnt you be able to say what you want, when you want and to whoever you want?

    As a director on the board, you wear two hats: one as an elected official and another as a member of the HOA. While you are clearly entitled to your personal opinion, you need to be careful how and when you express your opinion as a board member. Once elected to serve the interests of the HOA, you need to view things through corporate glasses. This can be difficult when the issues are contentious.

    The homeowner association form of government is a representative democracy.... a few are elected to represent the many. A fundamental concept of democracy is rule by the majority. Thus, decisions of the board do not require consensus, just that most agree. This may leave some directors in the minority opinion and in even direct opposition with the rest.

    When it comes to being a minority position director, there are several approaches, one good and one bad. An HOA board needs diverse points of view to make good decisions. If few have an opinion, usually the loudest voice will prevail and effectively the board will run by a dictator. Dictators dont work well within the democratic context. Having dissenting opinions expands the perspective and dissenters can often have a major impact on shaping key parts of the final decision. A Lone Ranger dissenter may not carry the day but can still impact the outcome.

    On the other hand, a dissenter can choose to express opposition by churning the boards decision through the HOA grist mill, spinning the facts and creating ill will. It compromises the ability of the board to do its job and causes bad feelings among neighbors. Thats bad for everyone.

    That said, there are times when a board or board officer is acting irresponsibly or even criminally. Whistleblowing is certainly appropriate when there is self dealing going on. If the matter is irresponsibility or neglecting HOA business, a vigilant director can be effective by promoting candidates that are more suitable or encourage ineffective directors to step down. But bad mouthing the current regime to neighbors over the back fence is usually self-defeating. It makes the Long Ranger look small minded, he will be ostracized or minimized by the remaining directors and lose ability to impact decisions.

    A Lone Ranger director can also compromise the HOAs interests by interfering with day to day management. One of the most frustrating things a contractor goes through is trying to respond to many "chiefs". In a professionally managed HOA, the manager is usually authorized to direct contractors. But when a Lone Ranger director steps in to micro-manage a project, the contractor will often try to respond to both the manager and Lone Ranger. But it takes more time and effort and reduces the chances of a successful outcome.

    Tonto was the Lone Rangers sidekick and mentor. With his wise manner, he would balance the Rangers hero compulsivity. Between the two and creative thinking, they always figured out a way to save the day.

    In the final analysis, while dissent is a fundamental part of the democratic process and can produce good outcomes, consistently being a Long Ranger erodes the ability for the board to work as a team. Tonto understood the concept of teamwork and often gave the Ranger a different point of view by providing additional information and options. Encourage opposing points of view but strive to forge an outcome that works for the majority. Hi yo Silver

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

    Full Story >

    Realty Times and PinRaise Announce Nonprofit Partnership

    Agent with Heart program to benefit local nonprofits and real estate agents

    Yorba Linda, CA March 28, 2017 -- Realty Times and PinRaise announced a new partnership to promote the Agent with Heart movement.

    Under the Agent with Heart program, real estate agents and brokers who join the Agent with Heart network agree to donate a portion of their commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing a transaction.

    "Were excited to get behind the Agent with Heart movement," said Realty Times Vice President Chris Warrick. "We believe that most local real estate professionals strive to make a difference in their neighborhood, and the Agent with Heart program gives them a way to do this in a way thats both easy and impactful."

    "There are so many local nonprofits that are in dire need of sustainable donations, and this program provides the means to do that," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Research indicates very clearly that people like to do business with people who care, and nothing demonstrates that more than an Agent with Heart," Giaimo concludes.

    Under the partnership, agents who join will be promoted on both and, and will receive a marketing kit that includes trademarked logos, digital assets, listing presentation inserts, social media materials, a press >

    Agents who subscribe to the Realty Times custom newsletter will have the opportunity to feature their Agent with Heart designation on their digital masthead. With the expanded distribution, it provides homebuyers and sellers even more ways to find an Agent with Heart.

    About Realty Times: Realty Times is one of the worlds most viewed news portals for real estate, attracting a national and global audience of homebuyers, sellers, consumers, real estate professionals and ancillary businesses. Its market condition reports, consumer advice, market outlooks, listings other content is updated daily, providing crucial and timely real estate news. For more information, please visit

    About PinRaise: The PinRaise app connects consumers with local businesses who agree to donate a small percentage or fixed dollar amount to the nonprofit of the buyers choice, providing recurring revenue for the nonprofit, a differentiator for the local business or real estate professional, and a feel-good story for the consumer. PinRaise is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. You can download PinRaise at the App Store or Googlereg; play. For more information, please visit

    Full Story >

    Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting Quickstart Guide

    Technology advances are making electric water heaters more popular than ever. The electric water heater market, valued at 6 billion in 2015, will expand at an annual compound growth rate of 7.5 percent to reach 33.22 billion by 2024, Global Market Insights projects. Advances in energy saving, comfort control and display technology are driving demand. As more homes acquire electric water heaters, home owners will increasingly require specialized maintenance for these appliances. Herersquo;s a quickstart guide to assist you when troubleshooting electric water heaters.

    Check the Power First

    As a safety precaution, make sure to turn off circuit breaker or fuse for the heater before doing any troubleshooting. Checking the power will also tell you if a power issue is the problem. Look for tripped circuit breakers that need to be reset or blown fuses that need to be replaced.

    Diagnosing Hot Water Problems

    If therersquo;s no hot water, ruling out a power problem is the first step, Whirlpool says. After looking for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses, check to make sure therersquo;s power running to the thermostat for the electric water heating element. If itrsquo;s receiving power and itrsquo;s still not working, replace it or the heating element.

    If the waterrsquo;s not running hot enough, make sure the heater is large enough by checking if it can manage 75 percent of its capacity as hot water. After checking this, look for a crossed connection. You can do this by turning off the water source and then turning on the hot faucet. If water still runs, therersquo;s a crossed connection. Next, check the upper and lower heating elements to make sure therersquo;s power and electrical continuity. Replace the element if needed, clearing away sediment before you install the new element. If the element is working, check the upper thermostat and then check the lower one to see if either needs to be replaced.

    If the water is running too hot, the thermostat is usually set too hot. Verify that both upper and lower thermostats are set in a range between 110 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Fixing Leaks

    If therersquo;s a leak problem, after turning the power and water off, the first thing to check is whether the temperature and pressure Tamp;P >

    Next, lower the thermostat setting to make sure there is no excessive heat or pressure. After this, look for any loose pipe connections that need to be tightened. Follow up by checking the heating element bolts and making sure theyrsquo;re tight. If the heating element still leaks after all this, take it out and replace the gasket.

    Finally, check to make sure the storage tank isnrsquo;t leaking. Corrosion or other issues such as worn o-rings can cause storage tanks to leak. Keep extra o-rings at home so you dont have to make an extra trip to the store if you need a new replacement.

    Interpreting Discolored Water, Bad Smells and Noises

    Rust-colored water can be a sign of a corroded glass-lined tank or a sacrificial anode rod thatrsquo;s going bad. A bad rod should be removed in favor of a magnesium anode replacement.

    A smell like rotten eggs can be another symptom of a sacrificial anode rod thatrsquo;s on its last legs. To fix this, start by flushing the water heater. Then use a solution composed of 2 pints of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide per 40 gallons of water to treat the tank for two hours. If this fails to remove the smell, use a zinc-alloy anode to replace the old anode. If all this doesnrsquo;t remove the smell, remove the heater and replace it with a plastic-lined substitute.

    A low noise with a rumbling quality can be a symptom of sediment buildup causing overheating and making water boil. Flush the water heater to fix this.

    A whining noise with a high pitch can be a symptom of scale build-up on electrical heating elements. To fix this, flush out the water heater and clean up any scales that have accumulated on the tank and elements. Then replace the heating elements with low-watt density substitutes with greater surface area for improved heat transfer.

    Full Story >

    Real Estate Commissioner Issues Warning To Agents and Brokers

    Although many California real estate agents and brokers may not know it, this month March, 2017 Real Estate Commissioner, Wayne Bell, issued a "Licensee Alert" in the form of a Supplemental Disciplinary Advisory to an advisory that was issued in September of 2015. That advisory was titled Disciplinary Warning to Real Estate Salespersons Who Act, Conduct Themselves, and/or Advertise as "Independent" Real Estate Professionals -- and a Simultaneous Caution to Brokers Who Allow or Support Such Practices.

    The earlier advisory began by noting, "Under California law, with its two-tiered licensing system, real estate salespersons cannot provide -- or advertise that they can provide -- real estate services independently of their responsible brokers. Moreover, salespersons must be associated or affiliated with a responsible broker in order to engage in real estate licensed activities in this State."

    Three specific problems were identified:

    1 "CalBRE has received a number of reports of salespersons who are conducting property management businesses without any broker affiliation or supervision. Such activity is a crime."

    2 "Also, it is evident that a number of salespersons have branded themselves as independent real estate practitioners, and they practice and advertise as such. That is unlawful as well, and the advertisements in connection therewith are false and misleading to the public."

    3 "Finally, it has been reported to CalBRE, although it has not been verified, that some brokers are assisting associated salespersons with some of the practices abovehellip; CalBRE has been told that some brokers are helping salespersons with lsquo;independent branding and the advertising >

    In the recent supplementary advisory, the Commissioner noted that, since the earlier warning, CalBRE has continued to be made aware of the false and misleading advertising engaged in by some agents.

    "A scenario that we have repeatedly seen is the use by a salesperson who for this illustration we will identify as John Doe of a fictitious business name that would lead members of the public to incorrectly believe that the business is operated and managed by a real estate broker. In this example, salesperson Doe conducts business using the name Doe Real Estate. Doe advertises using that business name, and the advertisements are connected to, or accompanied by, a webpage and other materials that extol the virtues of Doe Real Estate. The public would not think that Doe is a salesperson who must be supervised by another, and would most certainly conclude that Doe Real Estate is a real estate broker or brokerage, And the above practices are unlawful."

    The Commissioner also notes that similar unlawful practices are employed by agents who advertise as teams, but who do not comply with the rules governing team advertising.

    Perhaps the most common example of non-compliant team advertising occurs when the advertisement either does not identify the responsible broker, or which fails to do so in a compliant manner. The law requires that "The responsible brokers identity under which the members of the team are a part, must be displayed as prominently and conspicuously as the team name in all advertising and solicitation materials." [my emphasis] But it is commonplace, if not typical, that the team name will be this size and the brokers name will be this size. Or, maybe the brokers name will be the same size, but it will be displayed in a white-on-white color schemehellip; Or hidden in some other way.

    The Commissioners warning advisory ends as follows: "CalBRE will take appropriate disciplinary action including the imposition of significant fines, and -- where appropriate -- the revocation of licensure against real estate salespersons who engage in the unlawful activities discussed above, and against real estate brokers who permit their salespersons to engage in such activities."

    He appears not to be kidding.

    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 >

    Five Sanity-Saving Strategies For Home Construction

    Is this the year you begin construction of your dream house?

    What have you done to ensure your dream does not turn into the nightmare that house building has become for too many?

    • If you purchase a custom-built home from a subdivision developer, you may believe its construction will be smooth sailing, with just a few choices of interior and exterior finishes to resolve.
    • If you buy an amazing lot and hire an architect and contractor to turn your dreams into a stunning and practical design, on budget and on deadline, you may believe the hard work is behind you. Thinking theres little to stress about until the agreed-upon move-in date does not make this true.
    • If youre determined to self-manage and self-build your long-contemplated, inspired design, you may believe that keeping overall control of the build will ensure no surprises with budget, scheduling, and quality control.

    In any and all of the above three scenarios, youd probably be wrong.

    The degree of unplanned problems, frustrating delays, and escalating costs will vary from situation to situation, but the unpredictability of construction will not. Because problems, delays, and additional costs are expected and accepted as part of the construction process, they appear.

    Adopt the following Five Stress-Saving Strategies to minimize the unexpected and help the expected to materialize in all three of the dream-house construction scenarios above:

    1. Plan The Entire Project.

    Just as homebuyers fixated on acquiring a chefs kitchen can overlook many other aspects of the home, similar distractions can leave aspects of house plans incomplete or poorly thought-out. Mentally live in every corner of the dream home. "Walk" through every activity that will take place during each season. Consider all the elements of functionality youll count on to make the home practical, affordable, and a pleasure to live in. Architects, contractors, and every other professional involved in this project will >

    • Let an architect focus on ambitious design aesthetics instead of your budget and practical needs, and you and the house may suffer.
    • What you overlook or do not fully think through in the planning stage, may come back to haunt you during construction or after you move in. Getting it right from the start beats rebuilding once you move in.
    • Invest time on the wide range of variations and wild possibilities during this planning phase. Prioritize costs, price options and consider timing. For instance, your temptation to add a second lavatory sink, an extra bathroom, a skylight, a larger window, or a new amazing feature during construction will slow progress and raise costs.
    • >

    Learn to read plans scale, perspectives, symbolshellip; so you can see what the professionals see. Youll save time, money, stress, and frustration. Youll enjoy the process when you understand what is going on and should be coming next:

    • Computer graphics will make the visualization easier, but they may not tell the whole story and are not detailed enough for contractors to work from.
    • Architects design plans formalize concepts and aesthetics, but they may not be to-scale, "how to build the house" instructions. If the architect will not be involved in the entire build, who will project manage to translate design into precise reality?
    • Contractors work best from detailed architectural or construction plans. Incomplete plans mean expensive guesswork, delays, and changes. This is all true for self-builds, too. You want construction accuracy, building-code compliance, and first-rate craftsmanship, so take time to find the right professionals and help create the comprehensive plans they need to get the job done.

    2. "Hope" Is Not A Building Strategy.

    Figuring out how much you can afford to spend and hoping this will be enough for what you want built is a formula for disaster. Have your plans costed out by construction professionals. Disagreeing with professional budget projections does not make their calculations wrong. Either your budget or your house plans may need revamping. Add a realistic contingency amount to the budgetmdash;an amount that would undermine your project if you had to come up with it out of the blue. Cost out interior finishing and flooring, including furnishings, and also landscaping. This part of the build may cost almost as much as the structure.

    3. Do Not Expect Your Schedule To Dictate Move-In Date.

    You may hope to move in by the holidays or before your interim housing lease runs out, but this is not what drives the construction timetable. The more restrictive your interim accommodation arrangements, the more vulnerable you are to forced compromises, expensive shortcuts, sloppy workmanship, unplanned accumulating costs, and unseasonable weather. Ask about realistic schedules and what could cause delays. The fact that you have chosen to temporarily live precariously or expensively is not a construction criteria. Many would consider this bad planning on your part. Youll pay for this one way or the other, so save by resolving interim accommodation issues at the start.

    4. Changes Change Everything.

    Once construction is underway, moving a wall, window, or layout element is never "simple." Many interconnecting systems and details, from wiring and plumbing to planning permission, may be involved. Changes on the fly can wildly inflate costs and add significant delays. This is where the nightmare ramps up.

    5. Youre Not The Only Customer.

    Youve put your life on hold to get the build complete, but contractors and suppliers of everything from roofing systems, engineered structures, heating systems, and windows must satisfy many clients at oncemdash;some of them more significant spenders than you. Trusting, respectful >

    What could possibly go wrong? Wont everything just go according to plan?

    Full Story >

    6 Places You Can Get Great Stuff For Your House For The Cost Of Lunch

    So you just laid out a bunch of cash for your down payment and closing costs, and dont forget about the moving company. Or, maybe youre just getting ready to buy or move into your first home, and youre not sure how youre going to furnish and fill up your great new space after draining your savings account. The same-old hand-me-downs youve been putting up with just arent going to cut it in your new place, right?

    You dont have to drag your beat-up college futon with you, nor do you have to settle for IKEA everything with a 20-year-old, 300-pound TV thrown in. By making smart use of available zero-interest credit programs, you can get all kinds of cool stuff for your home and pay it off monthly. Choose right, and it may only take a homemade lunch here and there instead of going out with coworkers every day to afford that great couch, flat-screen TV, and new fridge. Heres where to go and what to check out.

    Home Depot

    Home Depots Consumer Credit Card can have an interest rate as high as 26.99, but get in on their special promotion and you can pay your principal balance over 24 months with no interest. That means you can use the money to buy new floors, redo your bathroom, or put in new kitchen countertops, and, as long as you make your minimum payment on time each month and pay the balance in full by the end of the promotional period, youre good to go. Keep in mind that the more you spend, the higher your payment will be. So if you spend a couple grand on new doors and windows, your monthly payment may be closer to dinner than lunch.

    Its important to note that the zero interest on this and any of these retailers programs, is really deferred interest. Youll definitely want to keep in mind what happens if you get behind or fail to pay off the balance in time.

    "When a card offers deferred interest, its not waiving the interest. Rather, its setting it aside until later," said Nerdwallet. "If you pay off your purchase by the end of the deferred-interest period, youre fine. But if you carry a balance past the end of the period, youll be charged interest on your entire purchase, going back to the day you made it."


    Lowes offers a similar program to Home Depot, but the promotional period tends to be shorter. If you prefer this store over Home Depot or if they have the tile you cant find anywhere else, youll have to be OK with a promotional period of 12 months instead of 24 months.

    Best Buy

    Best Buy typically offers a few different options for interest-free financing, including 6- or 12-months financing on purchases of 199 and 399, respectively, throughout the store, 18 months for appliance purchases over 599, and 24 months on home theater purchases of at least 799nbsp;and up. New dishwasher or 60-inch TV. Hmmmm...

    Like other interest-free programs, you have to make your minimum payments on time every month. Miss one dollar or one day, and youre looking at a hefty interest dump.

    Furniture stores

    Zero-interest programs are helpful for those who are looking to get a few key pieces or furnish entire rooms or a whole home and dont have several thousand dollars to pay out at once.

    Ethan Allen and Rooms To Go both offer 60-month, no-interest financing programs. American Signature Furniture has a 36-month, no-interest program good on purchases of 2,999 or more.

    Furniture and more

    At Sears, you can buy a dining room set, a lawnmower, a microwave, and a treadmill with no interest. The retailer offers zero interest for 12 months on various items, including appliances, home fitness, lawn and garden, furniture, mattresses, and outdoor living. Spend requirements vary depending on the item 499 for furniture, 599 for mattresses, so make sure youre hitting the minimum to qualify for the zero-interest promotion.

    Step up your furniture game at Macys, and get a new mattress at the same time Furniture and mattress purchases at Macys qualify for 12 or 24 months of interest-free financing with a minimum purchase of 999 or 1,999.

    Mattress Stores

    Speaking of mattresses, this can be an expensive purchase, and, if youre currently sleeping on something lumpy, bumpy, and backache-inducing, youre not alone. Being able to spread out payments over time without paying interest makes it infinitely less painful. Check out Mattress Firms no-interest-for-12-months deal and Sleep Experts, which has a 48-month, interest-free program. Want to go super upscale with your mattress? You can get zero percent interest for 60 months on a minimum Purchase of 4,499nbsp;at Sleep Train. They also have no-interest plans for 6, 12-, 24-, and 36 months with smaller purchase amounts.

    Full Story >

    How To Score A Deal On Home Appliances

    Who doesnt dream of a kitchen full of shiny, new appliances. Raise your hand if you want a new refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, microwave - and, hey, lets throw in a washer and dryer, too - but dont want to pay top dollar for them. The expense is definitely a bummer when it comes to buying new, but you dont have to go broke to get what you want. Use a few tips and tricks to get a great deal.

    Buy at the right time

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

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

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


    Ask about price matching

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

    Check outlet stores

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

    Scratch and Dent

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

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

    Shop Pre-Owned

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

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

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

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

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


    Consider what you really need

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

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

    Full Story >

    10 Surprising Items People Hate Having in Their Home

    Warning: This article might cause you to feel ashamed, embarrassed and like youre committing home design sins. OK, maybe not. But what you are about to read is a list of common household design elements that many homeowners, according to a recent, lively Houzz discussion, absolutely refuse to have in their home.

    The dirty, and hilarious, truth is that many homeowners - even the most extreme yet playful haters - make do with these things in their own homes, and are actually quite fond of them. Plus, what many people are probably reacting to are those basic, off-the-shelf options that fill old, dated homes and apartments like mine. Actually, many advancements have been made in things like carpet and laminate. And the point is, its all fun and you should never take your house too seriously anyway. Just make the most of what you have - and never say never.

    1. Carpet. Oh, come on. Why is everyone so down on carpet? Its soft, it comes in lots of >

    OK, I admit that I dont quite understand putting carpet in the kitchen or a bathroom. And stock apartment carpet is more than ho-hum. But let designer Judith Taylor convince you that theres more to carpet than what you think.

    11 Reasons to Love Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Again

    Photo by Paul Anater - Browse eclectic home design photos

    2. Laminate flooring. As with most things, the cheaper you go, the cheaper itll look. Laminate flooring has come a long way. You can have enti>

    Laminate Floors: Get the Look of Wood and More for Less

    3. Taxidermy. This is a tough one. Ive hunted before. I grew up in Texas. I have a friend who wants to train to be a taxidermist. But its just not for me mdash; from a moral, ethical and environmental standpoint. What Ive found is that many homeowners who agree with me still find themselves in households with taxidermy because their spouse or significant other is really into it. I think if we can find a way to accept everyones views and be respectful enough to have a serious, smart conversation about the subject, then weve made a little progress.

    Take user mmers, for example. She sums the dilemma up nicely: "There are a few things I would have said lsquo;never to until I married my husband. Unfortunately we have some taxidermy things his office. I ra>

    Photo by Mark Newman Design - Look for contemporary living room pictures

    4. Vertical blinds. Ill admit, I was a little taken aback by this one. I like my vertical blinds, especially the ones in my bedroom, and especially after I hang a large blanket, a dark red fitted sheet and blackout curtains over them. Thats just me.

    As longtime designer Becky Dietrich points out, however, vertical blinds have come a long way, work great for large windows and sliding glass doors, and are now available in materials like sheer fabrics.

    How to Choose the Right Window Blinds

    5. Fake flowers. Actually, pretty much fake anything. I definitely can get behind this one, though of course there has been a vase of fake flowers in my home at various points in my life, ones I let stay for far too long.

    Architect Eric Reinholdt advocates for humble materials that "dont draw attention to themselves or pretend to be something theyre not." I think thats a simple way to make a home more honest and inviting.

    Design Workshop: The Beauty of Humble Materials

    Photo by Todd Davis Architecture - More modern bedroom photos

    6. Wallpaper. Again, I think this is a case where many people have an image in their head from a time long, long ago. I can remember the floral-print wallpaper in my parents bathroom, yellowed and peeling. But today things are different.

    "Just a few years ago, wallpaper was considered a fusty >

    Considering Wallpaper? Heres How to Get Started

    Photo by Jill Wolff Interior Design - Search traditional living room design ideas

    7. Too many knickknacks collecting dust. If I had a nickel for every time I dusted, I wouldnt have enough money to buy a stamp. Im guessing from the comments in the above-mentioned Houzz discussion that many people are just like me, so much so that theyve made it a mission to rid their homes of any tchotchkes that can accumulate dust.

    But thats not the right solution. Our homes should be filled with memories and things that make us happy, no matter how abundant or small. Keep your collections and display them with pride mdash; learn how to fight dust instead.

    What You Need to Know About Dust and How to Fight It

    8. Fluorescent lighting. I cant imagine any situation where fluorescent lighting makes a home feel, well, homier. In a home office or workshop? Fine. But a kitchen? Dont think so.

    5 Questions to Ask for the Best Room Lighting

    By Mitchell Parker - See more Home Design Photos

    9. Recliners. People seem to fall into two camps: those who like big reclining chairs and those who loathe them. Sorry, I love my recliner. Granted, it looks like a big lump of ugly, but when I see it, all I think of is the times Ive spent curled up rocking my newborn daughter, reading a good book or watching an exciting sports game. Theres nothing like it. Maybe its a dad thing.

    The Beautiful Thing About Dads Chair

    Photo by Jeni Lee - Look for eclectic living room pictures

    10. Clowns. OK, I read Stephen Kings It, have seen Killer Clowns From Outer Space and wouldnt want my house filled with anything reminiscent of a clown. But lets cut some people some slack here. After all, Id be more than happy to have this Australian family of clowns in my home

    My Houzz: An Australian Circus Familys Home Juggles Extra Room

    Also See:

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    Is This Home A Good Deal?

    Theres no perfect home, but some homes are more ideal for your household than others. When you look for your next home, carefully consider these four criteria - price, features, location and condition. The closer you get to meeting all four criteria, the better your chances are of making a good buy.


    In any market, price has to come first. To determine what you can comfortably afford, talk to your real estate professional. He or she can recommend a lender who will prequalify you for a purchase loan. When you know how much you can spend, it will be easier to shop for homes within your price range. With luck, one will stand out.


    The size of your household and your activities determine the features you want in your next home. The number of bedrooms, baths and living areas are a matter of comfort and convenience. You may want an extra bedroom for guests or a second master suite for parents.

    If you work a lot at home, youll want a private home office or a computer nook. You may want a playroom for the kids, a separate laundry area, and fenced yard and covered patio for entertaining. An eat-in kitchen may be more important to you than a formal dining room. You may want an outdoor kitchen or at least an entertainment area.

    Think about your daily life from morning to bedtime, and how your next home can make these activities more pleasant. This should be your "must-have" list, and will help you look at homes more objectively.


    Some areas will always be more expensive to live in than others. Neighborhoods that are well-kept tend to maintain higher home values. Homes that are close to jobs, schools and shopping centers tend to sell for more money than homes without as much infrastructure.

    What is the best home you can find in the area where you want to live? If these homes are out of your range, you can compromise -- buy a smaller home or a home that needs lots of work in the best neighborhood you can afford.


    Condition refers to the state of repair. Does the home have curb appeal? Is it updated and well-maintained, or does it need extensive and expensive remodeling? Carefully consider any deferred maintenance, such as a roof that may need to be replaced in only a few years. Consider the design and functionality -- is the kitchen too small and would you be able to afford to remodel it? Look closely at repairs, cleanliness and traffic flow.

    The one advantage of buying a home that needs updates and repairs is that these homes cost less than updated homes in the same neighborhood.

    Be prepared to compromise. Dont frustrate yourself or your family looking for perfection. Sometimes the home of your dreams doesnt have every feature on your checklist, or it may be a little further away than your favorite neighborhood, but youll be happy if it has most of criteria you want at the price you can afford.

    Full Story >



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    Updated: Friday, April 28, 2017

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