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Updated: Saturday, May 28, 2016

Three Important Responsibilities Home Buyers Have

The American dream of owning a home is something everyone should have if they want it. You should be able to live where you want and enjoy the features of your environment that help you >

You can own a pet, build a treehouse, paint the walls your favorite color, and play music and videos as loud as you like without disturbing your neighbors. Thats the essence of the dream -- independence.

For most first-time buyers, its better to accept that for dreams to come true, you have to do the groundwork. Yes, you will be far more independent than you would as a renter, but you will still have some very real responsibilities to make homeownership work. Here are the top three responsibilities youll have as a homeowner.

Financial responsibilities

You owe your lender timely payments. Paying on time helps you build your credit. With great credit, you can take on more projects such as remodeling, or youll be able to buy furniture, cars or other things you want with lower interest on your payments.

Your debts should never be more than 40 percent of your income. If you get overextended, youll have problems meeting the minimum payments. Instead, limit the amount of credit you actively use and pay off balances every month. Dont add new charges until youve paid off your balances.

You should also be in a position to save money, which you can do several ways. You can put money in your 401K, you can pay extra on your principal every month, or you can buy bonds or invest in the stock market, according to your tolerance for risk. You can put money in a safety deposit box or under the mattress as long as you are saving rather than overspending.

Common wisdom is to build six months of cash so you can continue to make your house payments if you lose your job or become ill. You need savings for emergencies, large expenses such as student debt, and retirement.

Neighborhood responsibilities

When you buy a home, your household becomes part of the neighborhood. You can influence whether or not the neighborhood prospers or declines simply by the way you treat your neighbors and your home. Its up to you to uphold or to set a higher standard for the neighborhood by keeping your lawn and trees trimmed, your home freshly painted, and toys and trash picked up from the entry.

This is the way you can protect your investment and those of your neighbors. Its one of the reasons many neighborhoods have homeowners associations -- to protect values by standardizing safety and maintenance for the community.

To get the benefits the HOA provides such as higher and consistent home values, you have to pay your dues and obey the covenants. You can volunteer to help or youll have to abide by the decisions others make. Before you buy a home in a HOA-managed community, read the covenants so youll know what youre getting into. If not being able to use certain exterior paint colors bothers you, then dont buy the home. Find something else.

Household responsibilities

You owe yourself and the other members of your household the best life you can possibly provide. Buying a new home is a great time to step up your life>

Your home should help you be who you want to be. Thats the purpose of shaping your environment. You have control over whether you entertain like Martha Stewart, paint in your studio like the next Picasso, or grow a lawn as sleek as the Augusta fairways.

Choose a home that meets as many needs as you can within your means. Separate bedrooms for the kids may be doable, but you may have to compromise on a Jack and Jill shared bath. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your older children about prioritizing, delayed gratification, give and take and winning and losing gracefully.

Make sure the area you select offers amenities that your building doesnt have. If you dont have a yard for the kids and the dog, make sure theres a park and playground nearby.

Think about how far and how long it will take you to get to shopping, work, and other friends and family. Think about how a long commute will affect your family. Would you rather be sitting in traffic or attending your sons ball game?

You and your spouse may want the prestige of living in a certain area, but if your house-payment is too high, youll introduce problems into the >

Buy the best home you can thats within your means and it will see you through years of comfort.

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Running For The Board Of Directors In Your HOA

Question: I want to run for election to our Communitys Board of Directors. What exactly does the Board do? What can it not do? Please advise.

Answer: If you really want to be on your Board of Directors, you must first do your homework. You must read your States statute dealing with community associations whether you live in a condominium or a homeowner association, and you must read -- and understand -- your associations legal documents.

There is a power source recognized in community association law. This means that when you seek guidance as to what a board can -- and cannot do -- you must first look to the applicable state statute. If there is a specific prohibition contained in that law, it will usually be the end of the discussion.

However, state laws are general in nature; they usually deter to the specific documentation >

The next level of this power source are your operational documents: first the declaration in a condominium or the Master Deed in a HOA. Next, we turn to the Bylaws, and finally the rules and regulations.

I am often guided by a legal opinion issued by the high Court in the State of Florida. In analyzing the role of a particular Board that was involved in litigation, the Court in effect said the following: If something is in the Bylaws, the Board can be unreasonable; if it is not in the Bylaws, the Board must be reasonable.

Service on a Board of Directors is an unpaid, thankless task. Yet, a major investment -- your home -- is at stake, which is why many owners make the difficult decision to serve their community.

Many community associations are big business -- with revenues often exceeding other businesses and even local governments -- although most unit owners and many Board members do not understand this. Budgets often exceed a Million Dollars annually. An Association Board must deal with a wide variety of issues -- such as pet and parking restrictions, crime on the common grounds, trash, tot lots, employment and tax issues.

Money issues:

Finance and budgetary matters are perhaps the most important function of a Board of Directors. The Board must establish an annual budget, so the amount of the owners assessments can be determined.

But it is important to remember that a Board of Directors establishes policies and procedures; the Board is not -- and should not -- be the manager. Many writers have likened community associations to a mini-government. In this context, consider the Board as the legislative arm of government, and your property manager as the executive branch.

Work closely with your property manager; dont fight him/her all the time. There has to be a team effort, and the team generally includes the property manager, the attorney, and the accountant. You probably do not have the expertise -- nor the experience -- to craft your own budget, but the buck stops with the Board of Directors. If next years budget is too low -- or if there are unforseen emergency expenditures -- you will have to pass a special assessment. Go tell that to your friends and neighbors

Rules and enforcement:

Another important function of the Board goes to the enforcement of the association documents, including but not limited to, architectural covenants. Boards in the past have often harshly and strictly attempted to enforce their rules; as the result, homeowners throughout this nation refer to their architectural control committees and Boards fondly as the "local KGB."

There is no question but that the rules and regulations must be enforced. The law is quite clear that arbitrary and selective enforcement will not stand the test of litigation. However, common sense -- and a bit of humanity and heart -- must be part of the enforcement process.

The Board has to adust to new and developing issues, such as the use of drones over the common elements, as well as the potential impact that such groups as AIRBNB may have on your community.

The Community Association Institute has a publication entitled "Be Reasonable." Permit me to quote from this material -- which should be read by every Board member of every community association in America:

"Its time for associations to write responsible rules and review existing restrictions. To eliminate restrictions that are outdated and illogical, and to address specific problems with clear, specific solutions. To realize that overzealous, unreasonable boards of directors can be more damaging to property values than the violations they so vigorously try to prevent. Its time to be reasonable."

And finally, lets get one thing straight: if you are on an ego trip, or me>
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Ask the HOA Expert: Owner Not Paying Assessments

Question: We have an owner who has not paid an assessment for several years. The property is being used as rental property.

Answer: Your board needs to adopt a formal Collection Policy that provides for an "assignment of rents" provision. This provision allows the HOA to redirect rents to the HOA when a member fails to pay the HOA assessments. There is a sample Collection Policy at in the Policy Samples section. Have the proposed Collection Policy reviewed by a knowledgeable HOA attorney to ensure it complies with the governing documents, federal and state statutes. The proposed Collection Policy should be circulated for comment to the members before enactment. Once enacted, start enforcing the provisions on any owner who is delinquent.

Question: Our HOA recently had a reserve study update which the board is evaluating to ensure that we are adequately funded. What is a proper funding level? I have heard numbers from "30 Funded" to "80 Funded".

Answer: 100 Funded should be the goal. For example, if you have a 30 year roof that costs 90,000 to replace, you should reserve 3,000/year to be 100 Funded. Reserving anything less will produce a lower level of funding that will have to be made up in the future by others that shouldnt have to pay it. Having a goal of 100 Funded insures that all members pay their fair share. Understand, however, that it is impossible to maintain 100 at all times since large expenditures can draw reserve down dramatically in any given year. The funding plan should anticipate these draw downs and adjust annual contributions to build up reserves again. The main issue is to avoid funding by special assessments which are unfair to most that have to pay them.

Question: Our governing documents have policies regarding tree cutting and clearing. From time to time, the board gets requests from lot owners asking permission to cut a tree because of fear that it will fall on the house. If there is no disease or damage, we deny such requests. It has been suggested recently that the HOA can be held liable for damage and injury from falling trees.

Answer: The HOA is certainly liable for failing to maintain trees in the common area and should have a regular tree maintenance program to keep trees trimmed, healthy and safe. Trees located on private lots is another matter. If an owner maintains a tree is in danger of falling, it should either be obvious to a casual observer or be documented by an arborist. The board should make prudent decisions based on >

There is also a fire hazard presented by trees that are closer that 30 feet to the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees. If an arborist believes they are a danger, they should be removed.

Question: Our HOA has extra parking spaces which are first come/first serve. There are several residents which park extra vehicles and boats there long term. This doesnt seem fair.

Answer: If the HOA has extra parking spaces, it should not allow any resident to commandeer them, especially for no cost. These are revenue generating assets which can be rented long term at market rate. In many urban settings, a reserved parking spot is worth 50 or more a month. The board should charge market rent on a yearly basis. This way, parking revenue benefits all HOA members by helping reduce HOA fees.

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5 Front Yard Landscaping Tips That Will Wow Buyers

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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What To Do When Your Tax Appraisal Comes In High

Your house is worth how much more than it was last year? Hot damn You obviously made a smart buy. But while youre getting all excited about your great investment, you may not have thought about how it affects your property taxes... right up until that moment you open the mailbox and receive a notice that your rising equity means rising property taxes.


If your expenses just went up alongside the perceived value of your home, well, youre not alone. Appraisals all over the country, especially in states like Texas, have risen substantially over the past few years - a byproduct of having some of the strongest real estate markets in the country. According to the Dallas County Central Appraisal District DCAD, "Tax assessments are rising 1213 this year, said CBS, and, in other hot areas, theyre up as much as 40.

Thats the downside of appreciating real estate markets. But that doesnt mean you have to live with it.

"Good news for Americans facing eye-popping property taxes: You can fight city hall, or whichever government body sends you this annual economic albatross," said Bankrate.

The knowledge that "as many as 60 of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher amount than their current value, according to the National Taxpayers Union, said Kiplinger, should give homeowners some solace, or at least a little encouragement as they try to knock that appraisal down a bit or a bunch. If youre looking to lower those property taxes, here are a few things to try.

Understand what youre dealing with

Its important to note that while appraisals are generally based on a combination of local tax rates and assessed property value, they are not necessarily accurate on a house-by-house basis, Unless the government has a drone thats been spying on the inside of my house they dont, right?, Im quite sure they are unaware of how badly I need new floors. And a cooktop. And window coverings. In order to sell my home for what theyve appraised it for, I would need to do some updating and repairs. Most of us would, and that can help if youre planning to dispute your appraisal.

Request Your "Property Tax Card"

"Few homeowners realize they can go down to the town hall and request to view or receive a copy of their property tax cards from the local assessors office. The tax card provides the homeowner with information the town has gathered about the property over time," said Investopedia. Here youll find information about your lot size, exact room dimensions, fixtures, and details about any improvements that may have been made over time. Find any errors? You may have just discovered the key to lowering your taxes.

"As you review this card, note any discrepancies and then raise these issues with the tax assessor. The assessor will either make the correction and/or conduct a re-evaluation. This tip sounds laughably simple, but mistakes are common. If you can find them, the township has an obligation to correct them."

Fair Assessments

Hire a professional

For many, the surest bet when fighting increasing assessments is hiring a lawyer, property tax negotiator, or consultant. Keep in mind, though, that youll be paying for those servicesanywhere from one-third to one-half of the money saved if the taxes are lowered.

Fight it yourself

If you plan to do it on your own, you need to prepare yourself:

First, locate your assessors office. This will help you find out precisely how the property tax calculation is derived and get their criteria for home appraisals.

Fight it in person. According to experts, this is the most effective way to dispute your appraisal. Emails are often ignored or requests flat out refused. And make sure you "come armed and ready," said Banking My Way. Gathering comps from your real estate agent that outline recent sales for similar homes in your neighborhood is key. Taking pictures of areas of your home that need repair or arent in "selling shape" to illustrate why the higher appraisal number is inaccurate can also help.

Put Zillow to use for you. Weve talked at length about the inaccuracies of Zillows Zestimates. But in this case, that might help bolster your case. Zestimates for your home and similar homes in your area showing lower than the appraised amount? Print out those pages and add them to your file.

Network. If your communitys Nextdoor community is as lively as ours, its full of discussions and information about property taxes and appraisal disputes. Using social tools like this can help you get to know what your neighbors are up against and find common solutions specific to your neighborhood. It may also help you find someone to help guide your dispute.

Do some reconnaissance. Neighbors with the same floorplan across the street have a pool? Make sure to mention that in the file youre putting together. Know whos redone their kitchen? Note that as well. "What many individuals dont realize is that in many cases, information about other home assessments in the area is also available to the public," said Investopedia. "You can often find discrepancies that could lower your taxes. For example, lets say that you have a four-bedroom home with a one-car garage, and your home was assessed at 250,000. Your neighbor also owns a four-bedroom home, but this house sports a two-car garage, a 150-square-foot shed and a beautiful swimming pool. Despite this, your neighbors home was valued at 235,000. If an error is found, it pays to bring it to the assessors attention as soon as possible so that you can get a reassessment if necessary."

Pay attention to the timeframe

Filing an official protest has to be done within a certain timeframe. You dont want to miss out on savings because of a missed deadline. In Texas, property owners only have until May 31 to challenge their property tax assessments.

"Most municipalities differ, with some towns stipulating that you only have 14 days from the time of your property tax assessment to appeal, and some may go as high as 60 days," said Banking My Way. "Your towns tax appraisal office will have the deadline information."

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Tips For Selecting An Interior Door

Take a minute to count the number of doors in your house. Surprising, right? Consider then, the impact that a little attention to the doors can have on the overall >

Lets take a look at the options:


Prices for interior doors vary depending on what theyre made of. There are pros and cons associated with the materials themselves that are worth considering before you start thinking about the different >

Solid Wood: Believe it or not, most residential doors are not solid wood, but they offer such excellent soundproofing that they are a very popular upgrade. The weight of a solid wood door also lends a high-end feel when you swing it open or shut. Available in all kinds of wood, from exotic mahogany to the most common pine, solid wood gives you the option of staining to accentuate the beauty of the wood or painting to work with your decor.

Solid Core: These doors are actually constructed of medium-density fiberboard MDF, which is essentially an engineered hardwood that is available in wood-grain or smooth finishes. These, too, offer great sound proofing and that high-end heft, and are arguably the best value for your money.

Hollow Core: These are the most common and affordable doors available. Hollow-core doors are constructed with wood grain or smooth panels that cover a honeycomb-like center. Hollow-core doors are much lighter in weight and offer less soundproofing, but the upside is affordability.

Prehung or Slab: Finally, its important to consider whether you will hang the door in an existing door frame, or purchase a door that is prehung in its frame. Hanging a heavier door is a more delicate process, so we recommend homeowners interested in solid wood doors consider prehung options. A lighter, hollow-core door is simple to hang from existing hinges as it doesnt have much impact in terms of weight.


Once youve decided on the type of door that best fits your needs, its time to think about >

Panel: Panel doors offer a little detail and history. The panels are constructed of rails and stiles to create two-, four- or six-panel options. Rails and stiles can be straight or curved to match your design aesthetic. Straight lines tend to fade to the background, which is often the best option when youre upgrading several doors in one space. Panel doors work well in more traditional design >

Flush: Flush doors are just that: smooth, with no detailing. The lack of detail makes them a good choice in any decor, but especially if youre working with more contemporary >

French doors: French doors are a beautiful upgrade in the right spot. The detailing of the panesand the light they bringimprove the look of any space, and the value as well. Great for exterior doors, they can also help open up interior spaces while still offering boundaries, both visually and spatially.

Pocket doors: Pocket doors are problem solvers. They are the perfect solution in tight spaces, or as a way to add a little privacy within a larger space. They also add a custom flair. Installation requires wall space on one side of the door large enough to accommodate the door when its open. Dont forget that these are also available in flush and panel >

Specialty doors

Of course, there are a few door >

Barn doors are a beautiful way to add real visual interest and architectural flair, and are much simpler to install than you might guess. A simple track above the door holds the panels and allows them to slide open and closed. Choose rustic, natural wood tones and textures or more tailored and polished door panels.

Frosted glass inserts are a great way to let in the light and maintain privacy while adding a very custom, high-end look. Great for closet doors, they also work well in other interior and exterior situations.

Those are just a few of our favorites. Whats on your wish list for interior doors?

Kerrie Kelly is an award-winning interior designer and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in northern California. Kerrie writes on interior design topics for Home Depot. Many of the interior doors mentioned by Kerrie in the article can be viewed online at

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Are You Responsive?

With more and more people searching real estate listings online, the quality of your net presence is makes a vital statement. What message do real estate professionals deliver when their website is not responsive?

Google recommended Responsive Web Design is the most common method of achieving mobile-friendly web pages configured to look great on the small screens of smartphones and other mobile devices. Responsive uses computer code that responds differently to different screen sizes, but ensures page displays remain similar and readable on any mobile device.

Asking buyers and sellers to use non-responsive real estate websites is equivalent to real estate professionals choosing to sell unstaged, even handyman->

In April 2015, Google announced search changes that favor mobile devices. With this and subsequent edicts, responsive switched from a target-driven alternative to a business essential. Smartphone internet use and mobile computing continues to dominate.

The internet is increasingly being defined by the rising mass of mobile computing devices. Mobile phones have replaced desktop and laptop computers on many levelsfrom what people are buying, to what they use to search the net. Websites and blogs that do not cater to small-screen mobile devices, particularly smartphones and other hand-helds, are increasingly ignored. Significant internet usage continues to shift away from non-responsive sites and blogs.

Websites designed and coded for these larger screens do not automatically make a graceful transition to small screens. Your beautifully-designed non-responsive website can look hideous on a smartphone. Potential viewers must do so much pinching, scrolling, zooming, and squinting at tiny fonts they may give up and click on a competitors website, which is designed to look great on screens of any size.

To go responsive or not? The time, expertise, and expense required for transition to responsive may be daunting for some site owners. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Prioritize. Traffic, lead generation, and e-commerce are among the key reasons for investing time and money to go responsive. For example, suppose you have a blog and a website, and your blog draws significantly more target traffic. Start with the blog and overhaul the website later. Expanding the blog and phasing out the website may be an alternative.
  • Allocation of time and resources. Create an efficient sequence for continuous updating and modernizing just as you suggest sellers do with their assets. Responsive design may be the latest overhaul, but it will not be the last that technology dictates.
  • Analyze Dont Just Assume. Switching to mobile friendly may not instantly create dramatic shifts in traffic or usage statistics since so many factors are involved. Reduced bounce rates may indicate phone users find it easier to stay and read, but >
  • >If content is not top-notch and video excellent, mobile-friendly design alone will not be enough to increase traffic and usage.

Is your website or blog or the competitions responsive? Check the following three simple tests to determine whether your web design is responsive or not:

Test 1. Visit your website or blog on your desktop or laptop. Using your browser, go to the responsive test mode. For example, on Mozillas Firefox, click on Tools on the navigation bar top left; then, click on Web Developer. Then, click on Responsive Design View. If you prefer to use keys, the shortcut is pushing ControlShiftM. On the right-side of your screen, a vertical double bar or arrow appears. Click on it and move the right vertical border toward the left. You can approximate smartphone, tablet, and other handheld-device screens. If the design is responsive, the website page will remain readable and lovely to look at. If not, a jumbled mess may appear. Google also has a Mobile-Friendly Test.

Test 2. Using your mobile device, go to your website or blog. If the web pages are responsive...well, you know the drill.

Test 3. Ask mobile-addicted prospects and clients what they think of your website or blog. If you hear complaints about what a pain it is, the site is non-responsive. "No complaints" may be worse since it may mean users have bounced off to competitors.

If you present yourself as a tech-savvy professional or a social-media natural intent on engaging prospects and clients on their terms, transforming your website and blog into mobile-friendly territory is essential. Take time to decide the best strategy that is compatible with your short- and long-tem goals:

  • Nowhere Fast: Those who find little or no business comes to them over the internet may decide there is no need to redesign. There may be a very good business case for going responsive and optimizing the site to gain traffic, leads, and referrals, but thats another article, for another time.
  • Halfway There: Blogs are not automatically responsive. For instance, popular WordPress WP accounts for almost 25 of internet activity and powers many blogs. Earlier WP blog templates or themes were not responsive. Even now, new bloggers do not have to choose responsive themes. Transforming non-responsive WordPress blogs and websites may me>
  • All the Way: The process of transforming a website to responsive is not as simple as switching templates. Coding changes are just the beginning. Designincluding layout, fonts, images, and site navigationwill need modification to optimize smaller reading "windows." Then, theres Search Engine Optimization SEO to consider. Although this may be an opportune time for a full-site overhaul of content, navigation, and all >

Are you responsive? Weve been talking about communicating your value and intentions using technology. "Responsive" means much more. In both the technical and >

Resource: Whats Your Point?

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8 Common Email Marketing Mistakes

While Email Marketing is not as new as Social Media and other digital channels, its still one of the most powerful and lucrative ways for agents to generate leads, get listings, and close more sales. It may not sound as "sexy" as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but savvy agents who know what theyre doing can get great results. On average, over the past 3 years, every 1 spent on email marketing has brought in a return of over 30.

One reason behind emails massive success is that "inbox-checking" is as addictive as video games, and its very personal. If someone is waiting for an important business update, or to hear from a friend, it almost always comes via email, which is one of the main reasons people tend to be glued to their devices all day.

Whats the catch? As mentioned earlier, you just need to know what youre doing. Here are 8 common mistakes agents make when they create email content. If you avoid these and follow email marketing best practices, you can leverage your campaign for maximum results, including lead generation, new listings, and more:

1. They offer promotional content with no real value. Your emails main function may be to promote, but readers are wary of sales jargon. Instead of a hard sell, offer useful information that benefits their lives, like how to spruce up their yard, or an update on local real estate trends.

2. Generic or clich subject lines. Were bombarded with emails all day, and we delete almost all of them. To survive the "delete massacre", your email needs a subject line thats original, stands out, and builds curiosity. Try asking a question "Why are home sales up in June?", making a promise "Have a lush green front yard in January", or offering ultra-specific advice "3 Inexpensive ways to boost your homes value in under a week".

3. Not enough newsletter->. Many agents only send an email if theres a new listing to announce. Big mistake. You should also send a monthly newsletter about recent successes, like your agencys home sales over the past quarter. It will show what you can do for THEM, without a hard sell. And since homeowners like to know their homes value, they will want to read about current market trends.

4. Erratic, unpredictable schedule. People like consistency. If they dont hear from you in a few weeks, and then suddenly get bombarded with emails, they may not appreciate it. It may be once a week or even once a month, just have a schedule, and stick with it, so people know what to expect.

5. Theyre afraid of long emails. Contrary to conventional wisdom, longer emails are not less effective. Many long emails are devoured by readers. The ideal email length is the amount thats necessary to convey your message. Just dont be too wordy, and keep it neat and organized. People read content thats interesting and concise, as long as theres not too much fluff or unnecessary words.

6. They forget to be personal. Often overlooked, the "From" section can be really important. People want emails from PEOPLE, not COMPANIES. Instead of "Best Realty", it should say "Kate from Best Realty." Same thing at the end of your email.

7. They skip the "P.S." Believe it or not, many people read the end of your email before the middle, because its shorter and less intimidating. Be sure to end with a powerful "PS" message, and maybe even a call-to-action.

8. Weak or no call-to-action. Even an informational email needs to tell people what you want them to do. It can be as simple as "call for more information", or "reply to this email if you have a question." Just give specific instructions.

By following the advice of experts, you can leverage what many consider the most powerful digital marketing tool available. Use these strategies to get more listings and close more sales than your competitors who live in the Dark Ages.

Another digital marketing tool being leveraged by thousands of agents is ScoreApprove, a free home buying assessment service that can offer your clients huge credit benefits.

Want to generate more qualified leads, faster than ever? Now you can, by offering home buyers a free home buying assessment that combines both financial and credit data, with many other amazing services, all completely free. Click Here for more information.

To learn more, visit today.

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5 Basement Renovations That Pay Off

With homeowners using their basements for laundry, exercise and storage, aesthetics are usually a secondary concern. How can you update the looks of your basement? Here are a few ideas worth exploring:

1 Enhance the Floor

Floors in busy areas eventually end up in bad shape. A new floor will tremendously enhance the appeal of your basement. The costs of a new floor are less expensive than most homeowners assume. Vinyl floors are affordable, tough and require little upkeep. Apply an epoxy coating for an even cheaper flooring option. Several coats of epoxy make even the roughest floors look new.

2 Add Shelves

Clutter undermines the look of any basement. Adding shelves to your basement walls will help organize clutter and contribute tremendously to its overall look. Varnished wood shelves add an additional shot of >

3 Utilize Waterproofing Strategies

The presence of water in your basement causes rotting wood and corroded plumbing fixtures. Cracks in your basement wall can also expand, potentially damaging your foundation. Call a waterproofing professional if you notice leaks in your basement. Failure to address a leak can result in major damage and costly repairs to your home.

4 Improve the Stairs

Change the look of your basement staircase for a dramatic improvement in looks. If the stairway is enclosed, knock down the wall to create an open staircase. Replace the old stairs with newer wood and install a decorative banister for an added shot of >

5 Build a Small Kitchen

A basement has water, electrical and gas lines that are useful in a kitchen remodel. Generally, a kitchen by itself would seem odd in a basement. But, if your basement is already designed as an entertainment room, the addition of a kitchen makes perfect sense. A stove and a refrigerator will cut down on going upstairs for snacks.


All of these basement improvements will make your space more livable and boost your propertys value.

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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Designing Your Home Like A Pro In 10 Steps

Pulling together a flawless home isnt easy. But you dont need to be an expert or hire one to create an inviting space - you just need to follow a few expert rules.

Heed these designer tips to get a designer look that Freshome says is "fabulous and functional, all at the same time," in your home.

1. Pick the perfect paint color

Paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a room, but choosing the right hue can be challenging. Staging pro Meridith Baer had a few suggestions on Elle Dcor to make it easier. "When you go to pick paint, either go for a perfect shade of white, a color that flatters every skin tone, or go for bold in a dark shade of red of brown or even black," she said. "Ceilings painted white or cream tend to make the room feel larger."

2. Decide your rooms purpose

If you have a great room, it may serve several different needs. But in other spaces, choosing a single purpose is key. "If youve got the space, try to narrow things down and let the rooms real purpose decide the dcor," said designer Katie Leavy of Capital Design in Washington, D.C. on HGTV. "Decide, for example, if your room will be a living room that youll entertain in on just a few occasions or a family room youre going to use every day. A rooms purpose should be one of the strongest cues for the decor."

Photo by Phil Kean Design Group - Search traditional kitchen design ideas

3. Pay attention to lighting

Have you ever noticed how well-lit the rooms are when you tour a model home? Thats - literally - by design. Different types of lighting are layered into spaces to create an ambient feel. If your rooms are too dark or youre not accentuating focus areas, give your lighting plan another look. And dont forget to put everything on dimmers. Being able to adjust the amount of lighting is key

4. Add in some texture

"Equally as important to color, is texture. A room at first glance can seem like a single color scheme, but if you look closely you will notice shades within the same color and plenty of texture via fabrics/textiles," said Freshome. "An all-white room may have linen draperies, a plush velvet chair, shiny silk cushions, rattan chairs and woven baskets, and a nubby cotton sofa with a faux fur blanket tossed on the side. All of these elements add texture and please the eye, creating a warm, rich environment."


5. Raise the roof

High ceilings are a much-desired feature, but if your home hasnt been blessed with them, you can still fake it with a few clever tricks. "If your ceilings are on the low side, paint them white to make the room feel less claustrophobic," said This Old House. Hanging curtains at a taller height than the windows "can trick your eye into thinking the room is taller. Love patterned panels? Try vertical stripes; the lines visually elongate your walls. Leaning a large mirror against a wall can also make a room seem taller."

Katie Detherage

6. Focus on your coffee table

If the coffee table in your living room is simply a utilitarian piece to rest a drink or a pair of tired feet, you may not have thought about how you can >

"When designing the top of your coffee table, start with something large and wonderful in the middle: a floral in an interesting pot, a huge bowl maybe filled with sea urchins or something else interesting," said Elle Decor. "Then build out from that: stacks of art books, candles, sculpture or pottery. Make it interesting and change it regularly."

7. Make a good first impression

Getting the outside of your home right can also be tricky, and a big spend on landscaping may not be your priority. But one simple step can make a big difference, and make you smile every time you drive by. "If you want your house to make a great first impression, paint the front door a fun, glossy hue," said This Old House. "Red is a lucky color in many cultures," Lara Allen-Brett, a New Jersey-based stager, told them. "A red door meant welcome to weary travelers in early America, and on churches it represents a safe haven. Two other hues gaining favor: orange and yellow, according to San Francisco-based stager Christopher Breining," they said.

8. Mix and match different >


The Covetable

9. Add in some art

Focus on your walls to take a good space and make it great. "Art is a great go-to for giving your space a more luxurious, unique feel," said HGTV. "A lot of people are intimidated by art because it can be so expensive. But you dont necessarily have to spend a fortune on art." Online sites like, flea markets, or even places like IKEA and World Market can be treasure troves for great art pieces.

Dont forget to also hang that art at the right height. "Galleries and museums hang artwork so that the midline center of each piece is 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor," said Houzz. "The average human eye level is 57 inches. And you should do the same."

Photo by STEPHEN FLETCHER ARCHITECTS - Search transitional living room design ideas

10. Add in a little bit of you

If you play by the rules, you may end up with a nicely pulled together space, but it can also be boring. Dont forget to add in a little bit of you so the home reflects your >

"Personality is what makes a space great. Make your own statement and have fun. The more you try, the more you will begin to see what works and what doesnt," said Houzz. "Incorporate unexpected elements for drama. The unconventional ottoman seats, library->

But, while youre being bold, remember not to go too far. Going crazy with a theme or displaying an inordinate amount of collectibles can make a space look crowded or overworked.

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Taming Vancouvers Wild Real Estate Market

It hasnt been a very good year for the reputation of Vancouvers real estate agents so far. After a series of stories in the Globe and Mail about the questionable conduct of some real estate agents, B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the province would take action on "real estate agentconduct, conflict of interest and housing affordability".

An independent advisory group has been set up to make recommendations on these issues, such as in a dual agency representation where one agents acts for both the buyer and seller in a transaction.

But the government decided not to wait for the advisory group report when it came to the practice of real estate contract assignment -- so-called "shadow flipping." It has introduced new rules that came into effect in May.

An assignment clause allows the buyer of a home to sell the property before they take possession of it. In the red-hot Vancouver market, stories emerged of houses that were purchased by buyers -- and sometimes real estate agents -- and then resold before anyone took possession, sometimes several times, for more money. The profit from the subsequent sales went to the middle-man, not the original homeowner.

"In a hot housing market, we have to make sure there is no room for shady operators who take advantage of people," said Clark. "What we see happening in Vancouver is not right. It is not fair."

Now clauses in real estate contracts must state that the contract cannot be assigned without the written consent of the seller. Any profit from an assignment will go to the initial seller.

Assignment sales are legal in B.C. and in the rest of Canada.

"When done properly, assignments are legal and can be a useful tool for buyers and sellers," says the Real Estate Council of Ontario RECO. "An example of this would be where a buyers financial or personal situation changes before closing. Assigning allows them to pass along the contract to another buyer, without backing out of the deal with the seller.

"For instance, someone could buy a condo that is still under construction and might not be ready for a couple of years. The buyers work or family situation could change during that time, causing them to change their mind about living in the condo they purchased. Another example may be where a buyer runs into financial difficulties to close on an existing house and wants to find another buyer rather than risk the financial penalties that might come with having to back out of the deal."

RECO says the issue of assignments appears to be a localized issue "and we havent seen evidence of it being prevalent in Ontario. However, we are monitoring closely."

The British Columbia Real Estate Association BCREA has updated the residential and commercial Contracts of Purchase and Sale to include the new clause.

"Like many other provisions in the contract, buyers and sellers have the option of keeping the new paragraph, changing it or striking it out completely -- but at least the conversation is more likely to happen now," says BCREA president Denna Horn.

BCREA says that assignments are important tools for the development process. "A builder or developer often signs contracts to buy land in a holding company or joint venture, which means they do not have to incur the expense before actually having a project," says the association. "The rights to the property are then assigned to the partnership at closing. Restricting assignments would slow the ability of the private sector to increase the supply of homes."

The association says that assignments have been a very small part of the real estate market in B.C. "It is only in the recent unusual market, and in certain limited areas, that the number of assignments has apparently increased."

The association says most of the real estate boards in the province allow assignments to be advertised on their Multiple Listing Service systems, "providing the original seller gives their explicit, written consent. Since 2012, six real estate boards, including the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, report only 1,013 assignments on their MLS systems."

But many of the sales took place outside of the MLS system. Before the new regulations came into force, the Globe and Mail reported that dozens of assignment listings were posted on Craigslist.

The B.C. provincial government also announced that it will soon begin collecting citizenship data of real estate owners, though the Property Tax Transfer Form. Theres a lot of concern about how foreign ownership is driving up real estate prices.

"The objective here is to get beyond the theory, get beyond the conjecture and the speculation and actually have hard data," said B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

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REALTORS Offer Companion Animal Bill

This year the California Association of REALTORS CAR is sponsoring Assembly Bill 2760, a bill "to statutorily distinguish between a medically necessary companion or support animal and other animals kept as pets."

By way of background, it is noted that service animals are clearly defined in the law, whereas companion animals, support animals, and therapy animals are not. Service animals are defined under federal law, as any dog or housebroken miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Guide dogs and signal dogs are examples. Federal regulations also make clear that comfort, emotional support, and companionship animals are not service animals.

Unlike service animals, companion or support animals have no special training or skill set. Rather, it is by their simple presence that they are perceived as having a beneficial -- even therapeutic -- effect on a particular person who is beset by some mental or emotional condition whose effects are serious enough to rise to the level of a disability. In such cases, both state and federal fair housing laws require that landlords be willing to make reasonable accommodations for such animals, should they be needed by a tenant with a corresponding disability. This would be required even if the landlord has a general "no pets" policy. Service and support animals are not, under the law, considered to be pets.

In a landmark California fair housing case Auburn Woods I Homeowners Association v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission the Court recognized that it was not necessary for an animal to be specifically trained in order for it to have a beneficial effect on its owners who were, among other things, suffering from debilitating depression. Thus it wrote, "Pooky [the name of the dog] did not need special skills to help ameliorate the effects of the Elebiaris disabilities. Rather, it was the innate qualities of a dog, in particular a dogs friendliness and ability to interact with humans, that made it therapeutic here."

Still, because there is no clear definition for support animals such as Pooky, CAR argues the need for legislation. "The vagueness in state law allows individuals without a legitimate need to game the system and claim a status for pets that is not deserved. Unfortunately, the backlash against fake service animals may prevent some individuals with legitimate support needs from being able to access housing. In other instances, it may expose property owners to unwarranted litigation when they try to enforce a no pets rule."

Thus, the CAR-sponsored bill proposes the following:

"Support animal" means a support dog, companion animal, emotional support animal, or assistive animal that is prescribed by a California licensed physician or licensed mental health professional in order to treat a mental or emotional illness or mental or emotional disability. [my emphasis]

This would provide a major change. As it is now, no such "prescription" is required. Moreover, there is actually no specific requirement that a person certifying the existence of a disability and the need for a particular support animal have any kind of licensing or a particular field of expertise. As one exasperated attorney suggested, perhaps it would be sufficient for your yoga instructor to cite the need for an emotional support animal.

One organization opposing the bill, The National Housing Law Project, has written that the proposed definition would be out of step with existing Federal rules and procedures:

"HUD provides that non-medical service providers, peer support group members, or other >

Moreover, the Judiciary Committees Legislative Analyst whose analysis reads more like an attack has commented that "...limiting verification to a licensed mental health care professional is unnecessarily restrictive, contrary to established federal law and HUD guidance, and may even have an adverse impact on low-income people with disabilities..."

AB 2760 faces an uphill battle in Sacramento. While almost everyone acknowledges that the current vagueness surrounding what counts as a companion, support, or therapy animal leads to disputes, inconvenience, and sometimes monetary losses, theres not much agreement on how to fix it.

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

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No News Is Bad News In Your HOA

Homeowner association newsletters are a great way to enlighten, inform, remind and encourage. Inviting the membership to HOA events and meetings helps neighbors meet neighbors. Frequent reminders of important rules or architectural policies helps build a friendlier and more harmonious community. Recognizing volunteer efforts encourages others to step up. Newsletters neednt be long and involved, just >

Here are some tips to make your newsletters good news:

Focus on Building Community. Get HOA members to become participants rather than observers. Offer opportunities to do that on committees and social events.

Understand Your Audience. How old are they? What is their financial status? How do they like to spend their time? Find out by getting feedback from your readers with a questionnaire.

Inspire Your Readers. Make sure events, activities and volunteer opportunities are well publicized. Create headlines to grab the readers attention.

Be Consistent in Layout and Content. If you have a "Rules amp; Regs Corner" which highlights a particular HOA rule or policy, publish it in every issue.

Archive Your Newsletters and Articles. Many articles bear repeating and as time passes will have new eyes that see them for the first time. Repeat seasonal reminders. Create folders on your computer for the months that you publish the newsletter and put article files in the months they fit best. In time, you can build a reservoir of content to draw upon that will make newsletter writing much simpler and quicker.

Lead With Your Strong Suit. Organize the strongest points of an article before you write it. Put the most important information up front.

Keep Articles Short. If an article is long or complicated, readers will move on. If there is simply too much good content to abbreviate, break the article into several articles.

Give Credit amp; Contact Information. Include the newsletter committee, writer and editor names and contact information as well as board and management contact information.

Be Positive amp; Uplifting. While criticism has its place, too much of it is a downer and chases most readers away. Strive for the positive. Be upbeat.

Proofread. Editing is a rewording experience. Carefully review your work for grammatical and spelling mistakes or get a detailed oriented person to do it for you. Make sure your facts are straight.

Reprint with Permission. Search the internet for content that would be of interest to your readers. If you find an article that includes author and contact information, be sure to get permission before reprinting and give credit where credit is due. For an archive of over 1800 HOA >

Have Fun With It. Give them a giggle or two. The internet is full of jokes, puns and cartoons.

Include Pictures. Folks love to see themselves in the paper. Share event pictures, photos of board members, the manager, committee members, new residents and volunteers.

PDF It. Programs like Adobe Acrobat make it possible to convert newsletters into Portable Document Format PDF which can be posted on the HOA website or emailed to those that do email. PDF was designed with HOAs in mind since it can save printing, supplies and postage costs plus countless hours required to process paper newsletters.

Get Advertisers. If your HOA is large and newsletter distribution monthly, it may attract advertisers like real estate agents, insurance agents, painters, remodelers, etc. and help pay for itself.

Newsletters are a wonderful way to bind your HOA in a custom way. Keep your residents and owners in the know at least four times a year. No news is bad news.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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SCIN: A Potential Family Real Estate Tool?

SCIN. No, its not the stuff that covers our body. Its a highly complex legal and financial transaction that may be of interest to elderly homeowners.

SCIN stands for "self cancelling installment note". Lets take this example:

Your parents own their house but their financial situation makes it difficult to maintain. You are prepared to buy the house and rent it back to your parents, but because you currently have your own house, you are unable to qualify for another mortgage loan.

Your parents purchased the house back in the 1960s for 30,000, and it is now worth 600,000. Over the years, they have made approximately 100,000 in improvements. They are eligible for the up-to-500,000 exclusion of gain, because they file a joint tax return and have owned and lived in the house for a very long time. When they sell the house -- to you or anyone -- they will not have to pay any capital gains tax. 600,000 - 130,000 = 470,000.

Since the house is free and clear of any mortgage, your parents are prepared to take back the entire sales price. You sign a promissory note for 600,000, and the note is secured by a deed of trust the mortgage which is recorded among the land records in the jurisdiction where the property is located. The note carries an interest rate of 4.25 percent, which you understand is what commercial banks are currently charging for similar mortgage loans.

You go to closing and take title to the property. Your parents sign a lease whereby they agree to pay you a monthly rental and you pay them the monthly mortgage payment. While this is income to you, it will most likely be offset by the various tax deductions you can get -- such as depreciation, mortgage interest, real estate tax, insurance and maintenance of the house.

Although this sounds like a routine real estate transaction, there is one unique feature. The promissory note you signed in favor of your parents contains the following language:

In the event of the death of both of the lenders i.e. the parents prior to the final payment of principal and interest, the unpaid principal and interest shall be deemed cancelled and extinguished as though paid upon the death of the last lender. This is a SCIN -- a self cancelling installment note. Why is this such an important tool? When a person dies, estate tax must be paid on the value of the decedents adjusted taxable gifts. If your parents made gifts to you that exceeded the yearly gift-tax exclusion currently 14,000 per parent, you should discuss this with your own accountant to get a clear picture of the estate tax consequences.

A bona fide SCIN cancels the remaining obligation upon the death of the lender, so there is nothing left to be included in that decedents gross estate, and thus no tax is owed on that cancelled debt.

Note that I used the word "bona fide". Thats Latin legalese, which Blacks Law Dictionary defines as "in or with good faith... without deceit or fraud".

The Internal Revenue Service is constantly challenging the bona fides of these SCIN transactions, claiming they are not done in good faith but are designed to avoid having the pay the estate tax.

A SCIN signed by family members is presumed to be a gift and not a bona fide transaction. But according to one Federal Court, "this presumption may be rebutted by an affirmative showing that there existed at the time of the transaction a real expectation of repayment and intent to enforce the collection of the indebtedness." Costanza v IRS, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, decided February 19, 2003.

Space in this column does not permit me to recite all of the facts upon which the Sixth Circuit overturned the tax court and held that the SCIN was, in fact, legitimate.

Here, however, are some suggestions to assist you in rebutting the presumption:

The note must be secured by a valid and enforceable deed of trust, which is recorded in the appropriate land records office. The borrower would want this anyway, because mortgage interest cannot be deducted unless the mortgage deed of trust is recorded;

Go to the internet and find out from the mortality tables what the life expectancy is for your parents. The promissory note should come due prior to that expected death. For example, if your mothers life expectancy is 22 years based on her current age and the mortality tables the loan should mature no later than 20 years from the date it is entered into.

The sales price must be market value or higher. Otherwise, even if the SCIN is held to be valid i.e. bona fide the IRS has the right to assess a gift tax on the difference between the sales price and the fair market price at the time the sale took place. In fact, to avoid having the IRS claim this was really a gift, you should either increase the sales price above the market value, or increase the amount of the mortgage interest rate, so as to show there was consideration for the cancellation provision. After all, if this was not a family transaction, the lender would not want the note to be cancelled without getting some premium for that.

Treat the entire transactions as if the parties were strangers. Have a lawyer prepare the legal documents, and go to a title attorneys office for the settlement.

Finally, have your parents document in writing their need and desire to have the monthly payments for their retirement years.

A SCIN can be a valuable family tool, if done properly. Otherwise, the amount of the cancellation will be considered part of the estate and will have taxable consequences. There can be taxable consequences to the note holders estate when the note is cancelled. Thus, before you proceed down this path, please make sure that you have consulted with a tax professional.

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Ten Fears That Keep REALTORS from Showing New Homes

In a recent new homes seminar, fifty-three REALTORS were asked how many had heard of a new home internet advisor or concierge. Four hands, 8, went up. Internet advisor services have been around for ten years or longer.

"Knowing that I have a team of internet advisors helping me find new homes inventory on demand changed the way I do business," Orlando Realtor Mary Carpousis said,

"A year ago I had never sold a new home, and since overcoming the fear of finding the right inventory, I have sold five new homes, including three prebuilds."

When asked in a survey what these Realtors would do if they had a home shopper who preregistered and/or pre-visited the builders sales office without the Realtor, only one out of two would do the right thing. Call the onsite sales consultant and confirm that if they brought the prospect back for a second visit and the prospect purchased a home, the agent would be paid.

Twenty-one percent said they would tell the prospect that he would not receive a commission unless the prospect insisted the agent be paid. Twenty-six percent did not respond, which in the authors opinion, they were not sure what to do.

A second survey asked the agents to write what they felt was the most important thing learned about working with onsite consultants. These are some new things they learned:

"How much help they could be."
"They take a lot of the stress out of the buying process"
"They know how to show the homes and I need to stay quiet."
Give them time to showcase their property."
"They help us protect our commission."

One agent said he learned that for 16 years he had been doing it wrong

Based on this unscientific study, here are the top ten fears that keep Realtors away from showing new homes.

  • Not knowing how to find new homes inventory on demand
  • Not knowing how to set up the introduction to the new home consultant
  • Not knowing how to add value to their service, if they cannot negotiate price
  • Not knowing where to add a new home in their showing schedule
  • Not being paid if they dont take the prospect to the sales office on the first visit
  • Not knowing what to expect from the onsite agent
  • Not being treated professionally by the onsite consultant
  • Not understanding how to qualify resale buyers for new homes
  • Not understanding how their commission is protected by the builder
  • Not trust the onsite agent to treat the agent professionally
  • These are not training issues, really. They have to do with education. But where is it?

    Somewhere along the line a builder convinced Realtors they needed to learn construction, which is about as far away from the money as the agent can get.

    Realtors need to stop expecting homebuilders to do their training for them. Why? Because understandably, the training comes from the builders perspective, when in fact it needs to be done from the Realtors perspective. And only a Realtor can address the fears listed above.

    So why arent Realtors encouraging their agents to farm for new home buyers and show more new construction at the outset of their careers?

    An opinion: Because they fear that their agents will not list and sell resales, which is in too many cases the most unsaleable inventory on todays market.

    Is it possible a new home showing might light a fire under a new agent struggling to make her first sale?

    Like this Realtor for example: She spent weeks with a >

    But she remembered something she had learned about helping her prospects understand the money. She suggested that her prospects visit the new home sales office of a builder selling homes around the same price point as their bids just to see what they could actually get for their money.

    Her prospects visited one builders model, purchased an inventory home in two days, and closed in 30 days, which left this this Realtor wondering why nobody told me about this showing strategy.

    She did not know construction or the first thing about working with onsite sales consultants. She did not need to. She needed to help her prospect understand what they could get for their money.

    What made this so special? It was this newly licensed agents first sale.

    But the fact remains, Realtors resist showing new homes, and are not encouraged or trained to do so by their brokers.

    As one can see from the survey, it is not the benefit of new homes vs resales that needs addressing.

    What needs addressing is the devastating effect fear of the unknown has on the agents ability to produce not lose- sales they could be making.

    What say you?

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    Ditch The Makeup-Free Selfie When It Comes To Selling Your Home

    Makeup-free selfies are all the rage, with celebrities and starlets snapping shots of their fresh, cosmetic-free faces.

    Its a bold move for many whose fame and bank accounts depend on putting forth a perfect image, and its a trend that has garnered a lot of attention in an age when extreme photoshopping is the norm and body images issues are affecting younger and younger kids.

    Everyone from Cameron Diaz to Sharon Stone to Sofia Vergara to Beyonce, and, most recently, Gwen Stefani, have shown their stuff - their real stuff - without any help from concealer and contour, and have been embraced for their efforts.

    So should home sellers be applying this trend to their homes? Not so fast.

    ET Online

    An occupied home

    A home without a little help is going to be blah, at best. And a blah home isnt going to excite buyers, which is why a little staging can make such a huge difference.

    "Plastic surgery might improve ones looks. But so might a little makeup. When it comes to making your house more attractive to prospective buyers, home staging is definitely in the makeup category," said MarketWatch. "Just like makeup, its an on-the-surface solution. Staging can help your place look its best during the sales period without the cost or expense of a renovation."

    Preparing a home for sale is all about helping to accentuate certain features and de-emphasize others, just like makeup. Have an oddly shaped room? The right furniture placement can make all the difference. Not enough counter space in the kitchen? Clearing them off and removing all the clutter is the obvious first step. That includes small appliances, which can be taking up valuable real estate and which can easily be stored elsewhere while the home is listed.

    A vacant home

    If you translate the makeup-free selfie to a vacant house, its obvious why its not a great idea to go bare. Vacant homes have been proven to be harder to sell and take longer. Buyers may assume that theres no intense hurry to buy a home that has already been abandoned by the owner. But the larger issue may be that potential buyers cant picture themselves in the home.

    Century 21

    "While home staging is in part about showing a property in its best possible light, it can also help potential buyers imagine themselves in the space. Particularly after a move-out, or before a property has ever been occupied, many buyers like to see what a room really looks like, how it lives, said MarketWatch. "Buyers have a hard time envisioning themselves if its empty," Scott Leverette of McGuire Real Estate in Berkeley, Calif told them. "I think also a home looks smaller if its empty."

    The bottom line is vision. When it comes to a home, you simply cant expect the average person to have it. A buyer may not be able to picture where the seating area would go in a living room with no furniture to serve as an example. In the empty master bedroom, they might not realize that, yes, their king-size bed will fit.


    New homes

    This need for a little makeup help is not limited to older homes. Several years ago there was a new home builder in California that insisted on showcasing one of the model homes with "standard" items, in stark contrast to the other models, which were decked out with all the upgrades and options. The idea was to show one plan "as is" so buyers would understand what they were getting for the sales price. That meant basic flooring, white tile countertops and no window coverings.

    Not surprisingly, buyers were not impressed. This particular model sat while the others sold, and, in the end, buyer incentives were needed to get it moving.

    It just goes to show how important it is to set the scene for buyers, even when it means a higher focus on design - or some nicer stuff - than may be your norm.

    "There is really no nice way to say it: We all have a few ugly bits in our homes, and its best to face the facts early on. The good news: There are plenty of quick fixes for your homes trouble spots," said Houzz.

    A few quick-fix ideas from New Jersey-based home stager Kelley Gardner on Houzz: "White towels and a white waffle-weave shower curtain can do wonders to a dated bath. If you have oak kitchen cabinets, paint them white and add quartz or stone counters to help update. Remove dated wallpaper and paint. Take down dusty, dated window treatments. Inexpensive updates can include changing out light fixtures, throw pillows and bed linens."

    Call it the lipstick and mascara version of home staging. When it comes to fresh homes, every little bit helps.

    Full Story >

    The Power of Investing in What You Know

    Perhaps the greatest error a real estate buyer can make is to purchase a property in a city or state where he has no contacts or no history of any kind. This situation, which is easily avoidable, too often becomes an unavoidable problem -- a financial albatross -- because of ignorance by one party and possible indifference by another.

    Put another way, when you invest in commercial or residential real estate -- when you become the new owner of a rental building or a house in an otherwise strange to you locale -- expect more problems than prosperity.

    I offer this advice not as a false alarm or to needlessly sow panic, but to prevent the latter. In my role as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Real Estate Knowledge Institute "REKI", I issue this admonition to unite buyers and sellers, to create a copacetic >

    The downside to not acting is, in contrast, potentially devastating because too many things -- including maintenance, repairs, inspections, payment of taxes and the timely receipt of rent -- are at the risk of chance.

    For example: If you live and work in Phoenix, Arizona, and have never been to and have no economic intelligence about Detroit, Michigan, why would you invest in real estate in the Motor City? Why would you buy a house, in a neighborhood you do not know, in a county and state you may never visit, based on nothing but the most extreme form on speculation?

    And yet, this scenario is one of the chief challenges confronting real estate investors: They go with the foreign over the familiar, thereby leaving themselves vulnerable to all manner of costly consequences because of unscrupulous contractors, incompetent building managers and overpriced maintenance companies.


    The emphasis should, therefore, be on knowledge; knowledge of what to buy, when to buy it and where to buy it; knowledge that you need to be on the ground -- in the area, accessible to see and protect what you own -- lest you surrender your will, and your money, to forces all too eager to consume it.

    The more knowledge that permeates the real estate industry, the better: It represents the rise of a more astute >

    Knowledge benefits everyone, creating a more stable marketplace; one less prone to wild price swings and volatility in general, thus removing the uncertainty that bleeds losses, fosters fears and furthers distrust.

    We deserve something better than chaos or confusion. We deserve knowledge, yes; but we have a responsibility to apply that knowledge -- in our own respective areas -- so we advance success as a whole.

    Far from breeding contempt, familiarity is a real estate investors ally and most potent asset.

    It is that very familiarity that we need, now and forevermore.

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    Foolproof Ways To Choose Your Neighborhood And Up Your Value

    Deciding where to buy a home can be one of the most difficult decisions to make. If you have a built-in reason to choose one area over another its close to work; its where you grew up and youre emotionally tied to it; theres a rumor about a professional football team coming soon, it can be easier. But for the rest of us, a multitude of factors can make the choice challenging.

    So how do you know where to buy if youve got value in mind? Here are a couple schools of thought.

    Go where the rich go.

    A recent feature in CNN Money noted that "The United States is the top destination for those worth more than 30 million buying residential property valued at a million or more, according to a report from Wealth-X and Sothebys International Reality."

    New York is the leading city worldwide for wealthy residences, they said. Los Angeles and San Francisco are also in the top five. Within those cities, individual neighborhoods cater to moneyed buyers. So what do you do if you cant afford those premium neighborhoods? You live closeby.

    "Theres a neighborhood in Southern California called Coto de Caza that was popularized on Real Housewives of Orange County and is one of the most desirable places to live anywhere in the states," said real estate advisor Sara David. "Several years ago, a developer came in and built a community of substantially smaller but still very attractive production homes just outside the gates and marketed the property as Coto de Caza adjacent. It was a huge draw for buyers, who have seen their home values explode over the years. Its not a unique situation. There is a long history of adjacent neighborhoods gaining in reputation and value simply because of what they are next to."

    Go where Starbucks goes

    "Confirmation that Starbucks is boosting more than your productivity," said Apartment Therapy. "Higher home prices actually follow Starbucks, rather than the other way around."

    Yes, call it "The Starbucks effect," said TIME magazine. "Proximity to a local coffee shop has a very real, and positive, effect on home values," with data over 17 years showing that "homes adjacent to the local Starbucks almost doubled in value, up by 96. Those further out appreciated by 65 over the same period."

    Go where the schools are

    Its an obvious choice to look for good schools for homebuyers that have a family or are planning for one. In fact, in some cases, buyers are willing to forgo other amenities to be in a top school district.

    "Homebuyers are willing to pay more and give up certain home features for a home located in their district of choice," said AOL. "They are especially willing to give up accessibility to shopping and nearby parks and trails among other amenities, to reside within school district boundaries of choice."

    But being near acclaimed schools is important even for childless couples.

    "Living near a high-scoring school can increase your homes value by over 200,000, according to the Brookings Institution," said AOL. "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.

    "Even those couples who dont have kids yet but are planning to are worried about the quality of schools in the neighborhoods where they are considering buying," said Stacie Staub of Live Urban Real Estate. "High-scoring or popular schools do raise property values and demand for homes, no question."

    How did you choose your neighborhood?

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    Spring Gardening: Pretty Plants That Can Also Be Pretty Dangerous

    While youre spring planting, you may have your eye on the stuff that brings the most coverage or color. Who doesnt want big, bright, beautiful blooms all over the yard?

    But, some plants can also bring unintended consequences. That gorgeous bush with the deep purple flowers that would make for such a lovely view right outside your kitchen window might not seem so great when you hear about what it can do to your kids, your dogs, or both.

    "Your garden may be a >


    Rhododendrons bold flowers that bloom from winter through summer are tempting. The problem? The entire plant is deadly.

    "Swallow any part of this plant, and youre going to look as bad as you feel," said This Old House. "While drooling from the mouth and teary-eyed, youll begin vomiting violently, just as your pulse slows down and low blood pressure sets in. Death can occur shortly after falling into a coma or during a violent seizure."



    Who doesnt love the way hydrangeas look, with their dreamy clusters of lush flowers? Unfortunately, the dream can turn into a nightmare if swallowed. Hydrangeas can cause "stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, lethargy and, in severe cases, more serious problems like labored breathing, convulsions and coma," said dengarden.

    diy network


    Stalks of layered, brightly colored, bell-shaped flowers make gardeners want to run out and plant Foxglove in droves. But foxglove is also one of the more dangerous plants to have around if you have kids and pets. "Foxglove, also called Digitalis purpurea, is a common biennial garden plant that contains digitoxin, digoxin, and other cardiac glycosides, said "These are chemicals that affect the heart. Digitalis is poisonous; it can be fatal even in small doses."

    Flower Info


    Pleasing to the eye and low maintenance? No wonder larkspur is favorite of gardeners looking for clusters of color in a range of colors from white to purple/blue. The rub is that Larkspur can be deadly, causing stomach problems initially, leading to a slowed heartbeat. "Seek treatment right away," said This Old House, "because six hours is all it takes for this flower to become lethal."



    As beautiful as it is fragrant, oleander is a popular choice for those looking for decorative shrubs. Its also "one of the most toxic, commonly grown garden plants in the world," said Mother Nature Network. "Ingesting any part of this plant can be deadly, especially for children. Even smoke from burning oleander can be fatal."

    And the death wont be an easy one, either. "Like other poisonous plans, ingesting it first affects the digestive system with vomiting and diarrhea, then poisoning progresses into life-threatening circulatory problems," said This Old House. "If your hearts still ticking after that trauma, oleander can also deal a fatal blow to your central nervous system, causing seizures, tremors, and coma that can lead to death."

    Angels Trumpet

    The unique shape of the Angels trumpet - like a bell hanging from a vine - makes it a popular choice in gardens across the country. "The catch is that all parts of these plants contain dangerous levels of poison and may be fatal if ingested by humans or animals," said Mother Nature Network. "Angels trumpets have occasionally been used to create a recreation drug, but the risk of overdose is so high that these uses often have deadly consequences."

    Living Color Garden Center

    Lily of the Valley

    It smells so sweet and it looks so delicate and yet lily of the valley is highly poisonous. Ingestion can cause symptoms ranging from blurred vision to gastrointestinal issues to irregular heartbeat to nervous system consequences including mental confusion.

    Bee-friendly plants

    Bees are important as pollinators, and many of the same plants that attract them also bring butterflies to your yard. But if your kids are scared of bees or if anyone in the house is allergic, you might want to avoid catmint, calendula, lavender, and heliotrope. You can get more information about plants that attract bees here.

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    How Safe Is Your Bathroom? A Guide to Bath Safety

    The bathroom is one of the most-used rooms in the house. Not only is it essential to modern living, it is also wide open when it comes to design choices. But did you know its also an opportunity to make your home safer?

    When it comes to designing a bathroom, there is a lot more than just color schemes and sink models to consider. Did you know there are almost 200,000 bathroom accidents per year in the United States, and many of them are preventable?

    For instance, glass doors can be dangerous for older individuals if they try to use them for support in and out of the tub. Shelving must be secure so that bath products stay put and dont create a falling hazard if someone leans on them. Still, it is not just senior family members who need special consideration. The bathroom contains danger zones for the whole family, from babies, toddlers and teens to adults and seniors.

    The market has responded by offering safety products that can seamlessly be integrated into the design of any bathroom. By familiarizing yourself with some common sense safety tips and considering and confronting these risks, you can create a space that is beautiful, functional and safe for all lifes phases and ages.

    I. Babies

    Bringing home a baby can be overwhelming. Suddenly, there are many more products in the home than there were before. Changing tables, playpens and cribs are just the beginning, but baby safety requirements extend way beyond the nursery.

    Babies require constant supervision in the bathroom. This is especially critical at bath time. Water temperature, water depth and even frequency of bathing all affect a babys well-being. For instance, the National Institute of Health NIH suggests you keep your hot water heater temperature below 120 degrees to avoid scalding or burning the baby. To make sure youre at an appropriate temperature, use a thermometer; just be sure to use a modern one older ones contain mercury. However, water temperature is not the only safety concern at this critical stage:

    A. Always use a baby gate or keep the bathroom door closed to avoid having a baby in the room unsupervised. If you and the baby are in the room, always be within reach.

    B. Invest in a portable baby tub - theyre much easier for baby bathing. They are mobile, smaller and easier to handle, and they come in a variety of >Expert Tip: "Depending on where you use the babys bathtub and how many bathrooms are in the house, store the babys tub right in the base of the shower or bath, or on top of the washer and dryer in the laundry area. You can also try using command hooks and nylon rope to hang the tub someplace on the wall near the shower so you can still access your tub. If space is a problem in your home, I recommend finding a collapsible >II. Children

    Toddlers and small children are known for being curious during bath time. They are beginning to become more independent, standing up, getting in and out of the tub or shower by themselves, splashing and playing, and investigating cabinets and shelving. They love to explore their surroundings, but in doing so, they are sometimes at risk.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC says drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years old, and it takes only a few inches of water for a young child to drown. Most drownings in the bathroom occur when the parent leaves to grab a towel or answer the phone, or the child is left in the care of an older sibling and no adult is present. Just as babies require constant supervision at bath time, children need to be monitored in the tub and other parts of the bathroom, too. Here are some additional ways to keep children safe:

    A. Non-slip treads keep active children from slipping in the tub when they stand. As adhesive technology continues to advance, there is a widening range of non-slip tub treads, from standard discs and strips to animal shapes, stars and a wide range of colors. If a tub doesnt have a built-in non-skid surface, non-slip treads are a safer option than a suction mat.

    B. Toddlers need help learning to take care of themselves, of course, but that extends to specialty products that can help them gain independence earlier. A training toilet can be a useful tool during potty training, and a step stool can help little people reach the sink. However, make sure to store these items out of the walkway when not in use so that they do not present a tripping hazard for other family members.

    C. Once out of the tub, immediately dry a childs feet to keep them from slipping.

    D. Childproofing the bathroom is essential. Put items that need to stay visible out of reach, keep the toilet seat down and constantly supervise your child while in the room.

    Expert Tip: "Childproofing is a measure of safety, which can make a home less convenient. However, it is not a permanent feature. Nothing will replace proper supervision." - Kenny Lynerd, Owner, Child Safe Home

    E. Adding latches to cabinets and drawers is also recommended. There are a variety of >

    Expert Tip: "Keep toiletries, toys and other bathroom items contained and put them away under the sink, into drawers or up high. Keeping items neatly organized with labels and out of reach from the little ones is the best way to play it safe." Heather K. Powers, Professional Organizer, HKpowerStudio,

    III. Teens

    Teenagers are asserting their independence, and that often includes alone time in the bathroom and experimentation with personal >

    A. Many electric hair grooming tools are heated and can inflict serious burns and present fire hazards if left on or can be general safety hazards if not stored properly. Convey to teens the importance of making sure tools are off after use, allowing them to cool and properly storing them including cords.

    B. Razors are an essential tool for many, but mismanagement can lead to injury and infection. Make sure that a razor has drying time after use to inhibit growth of bacteria and replace blades or disposable razors often, as dull blades are dangerous. Also, store razors secu>

    C. Styling and other bathroom products can leave a buildup on surfaces if not kept in check. This attracts dirt, creates slippery areas on the floor and in general, diminishes the safety and beauty of the space.

    Expert Tip: "To help keep bathrooms clean, make daily cleaning a chore. Towels should be hung up, not on the floor. Use disposable cleaning wipes for quick cleaning of the sink. Show the family how to clean and what the expectations are, and make it a routine or habit." Sommer Poquette, Blogger. Author. Consultant, Green and Clean Mom.

    D. According to the CDC, injuries around the tub or shower are most common among those ages 15 to 24, so instruct teens to be especially cautious and allow plenty of time for grooming as rushing can lead to injuries. Bathroom clocks can help the whole family manage time while getting ready, and they can lend a decorative or whimsical touch to the space as well.

    E. Many teens begin to wear contact lenses, and proper care and cleaning of the lenses is essential. Make sure that each contact lens wearer in the home has a dedicated shelf for products and lenses, and if not, consider a small basket to keep cleaning solution and lenses organized. Easy access to cleaning solution and fresh lenses will encourage eye safety.

    IV. Adults

    Many adults want to recreate a spa retreat in their bathrooms. Just remember that proper product storage in the shower with shelving or shower caddies is important. Easy access of products equals safety, and accessibility of the room, no matter the time of day, is essential.

    A. As far as storage, keeping things off the floor is the first consideration. In the bath/shower itself, built-in shelving is safer and provides a custom look beyond an over-the-shower head caddy.

    B. An in-tub seat can help with safety for all members of the family as well as create a retreat-like space for >Expert Tip: "There are many options for seating in the tub and shower. Benches are great for the whole family, and then there are stools, as well as seats with backs that can help the less mobile members of the family." - Eddie Riddle, Marketing Manager, Bath Safety, Liberty Hardware.

    C. Nightlights help the whole family. There are many >

    D. Make sure that proper ventilation is installed in the room to prevent mold and mildew, which can cause serious health problems if left unchecked. A high-quality ventilation fan is required, and many of the best performing models have Energy Star ratings.

    V. Seniors

    Growing older does not have to mean losing independence. Bathroom designs such as grab bars in the bath or shower and raised toilet seats increase senior stability and can also be helpful for the whole family. Injuries increase with age, especially over age 85, so prevention, as always, is the key.

    A. Grab and assist bars increase stability. A grab bar should meet ADA requirements, including the correct distance from the wall and the ability to support up to 500 pounds. The assist bar can support up to 300 pounds, and both are becoming more standard in bathroom design.

    Expert Tip: "It is important that grab and assist bars be installed directly into the studs or with grab bar anchors, so its highly recommended that these are installed by a professional in order to meet ADA requirements." - Eddie Riddle, Marketing Manager, Bath Safety, Liberty Hardware.

    B. Consider a multifunctional assist bar that doubles as a toilet paper holder or towel rack, or perhaps have a concealed mount grab bar integrated into a bathroom remodel to provide safety for the whole family.

    Expert Tip: "The trend now is hidden in plain sight. If you have a towel bar, why not have a towel assist bar, for instance? Assist and grab bars are definitely becoming more integrated in bathroom design, and there are many designs that look good and can blend in with the room decor." - Eddie Riddle.

    C. Raised toilet seats and lowered tub sides with adjustable height can address flexibility issues. An elevated toilet seat with or without arms is an easy way to add more independence for a senior. While an elevated toilet seat is as easy to install as a conventional one, the lowered tub sides must be installed by a professional.

    D. Additionally, a transfer bench can help individuals move with ease on and off the toilet, as well as in and out of the tub. These are useful for people recovering from injuries, as well as those dealing with more chronic mobility issues.

    E. As we get older, we need brighter lights to see well. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare, use static cling window decals to let light in while maintaining privacy, or replace an old window with glass blocks to act as a natural light source. Make sure all bulbs in bathroom lighting are replaced immediately when they stop working.


    Each stage of life presents risks and the bathroom is filled with potential hazards.

    The bath safety products industry has been responding to these risks and others, creating innovative products that are safe, multifunctional and stylish. Take whimsically-designed non-slip bath treds, for example, or integrated towel and assist bars. The combination of well-designed products and awareness of the hazards intrinsic in the bathroom can lead to increased safety in one of the spaces in our homes that receives constant use.

    No matter what stage of life youre in, everyone can benefit from each of the safety tips mentioned in the guide above. Safety at any stage benefits people of all ages A safe bathroom makes for a safe and happy home.

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    13 Brutally Honest Reasons You Cant Afford To Sell Your House On Your Own

    Thinking about selling your house without a real estate agent? Its a choice some people make, mainly to try to save some money. But the number of people who list their home For Sale By Owner is in decline. "Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves - a record low of for-sale-by-owner transactions," according to a National Association of REALTORS NAR survey.

    So why isnt it a good idea to go it alone? Let us count the ways.

    1. Because youre not thinking with your head

    No matter how level-headed you think you are, selling your home is emotional. When someone comes in with a lowball offer or offends your decorating >

    2. Because you think your house looks fine as is

    And it may, for everyday living. But a "lived-in" house is not going to wow buyers. Beyond the obvious tips of making your house sparkling clean, a Realtor will help you declutter and depersonalize to get it in selling shape.

    3. Because you clearly have no sense of smell

    If you did, youd know your house smells like crap. Cat crap, to be exact. Or maybe its just musty, which could give potential buyers the idea that there are water issues which there may very well be. A real estate agent would undoubtedly make you address any odor issues, along with a whole host of other staging stuff to make your place look - and smell - good.


    4. Because Formica countertops went out in the 60s

    Actually, were they ever really in? A dated kitchen isnt just going to affect your sales price. It may keep you from getting offers altogether. The rule about kitchens and bathrooms selling homes is still true; even small but impactful changes can help substantially, which Realtors are keenly aware of. Trying to save a buck by listing a home yourself and not making even small changes can hurt you in the end.

    5. Because you have a view of the freeway

    Think its gonna be easy to distract from the eyesore down the street or the overwhelming noise in the backyard? Nope. But an agent will give it their all in ways you may not have thought of or be skilled in, using smart pricing and marketing strategies to deflect, downplay, or refocus attention on other, more attractive elements of the home.

    Survive Institute

    6. Because you dont know thousands of people. And youre not connected to hundreds of agents.

    Thats the difference an agent can make in using their network to market your home far and wide and getting it in front of potential buyers.

    7. Because you need to come down 20k from your "dream" sales price

    Then come down another 10k. Then you might actually be close to market value. This goes back to that "emotional" process thing. Your home isnt worth the memories you made there, or the work you put in. Market value is market value, and a real estate agent will have a much easier time establishing that and sticking to it.

    8. Because what you call charming and eclectic may just be seen by buyers as tiny and outdated.

    You may not be able to get real about the reality of your home. But your Realtor will.

    9. Because the only offer you got was 30,000 below your asking price

    Know how to proceed? What if you play hardball and lose the only bite youve had? What if you agree and always regret the idea that you left money on the table?

    10. Because the inspection report showed all kinds of unpleasant stuff, and now the buyer wants a big, fat credit

    Its an agents job to handle the multiple unpleasant details that would make a regular person run toward a quiet space to roll up into the fetal position. The fact that you dont have to do any of the negotiating - not on sales price to begin with, not on whether or not you can include your master bedroom furniture, set of luggage, lawn chairs, and collection of vintage cookbooks in the home sale, and not on whos going to pay to fix the leaky roof and the cracked living room window - is well worth the commission you pay.

    Moving Mountains Design

    11. That overgrown mess you call a front yard

    Curb appeal is critical to getting your home sold. A real estate agent will help you focus on the simple steps to get it in good shape. Fail to address this key area and those coming to see your home may just pass on by.

    12. You

    Yes, you. You could be the No. 1 deterrent to getting your house sold, starting with the house tour. Shadowing potential buyers while they check out the house, pestering them with questions about how they like it, interrupting their agent to add in inconsequential details - all of these things may turn off buyers and send them off to the next home.

    Agents know what to emphasize and how to give potential buyers space. Crowding and/or annoying them may be enough to make them walk. After all, if dealing with you during the home tour is a drag, whos going to want to deal with that during the escrow?

    13. And the most important reason of all: the money.

    "In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall," according to the NAR.

    By the numbers: "The median selling price for all FSBO homes was 210,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of 151,900," they said. "However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of 249,000 -- nearly 40,000 more for the typical home sale."

    Still want to do it on your own?

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    5 Curb Appeal Tips Captivate Buyers

    Sellers think once their home or condominium is listed online perhaps with its own website theres little left to do but wait for offers to pour in. Wrong

    Curb appeal is king. The work of drawing prospective buyers out of their cars and through the front door has just begun. Most buyers want to get inside a property before theyll make an offer, but if they dont like the homes exterior, they wont easily be enticed inside.

    Properties that look great online descriptions, dimensions, and video still have to deliver curbside to be sold.

    With condominiums, its the building and grounds that draw buyers inside. The condominium board and management are tasked with keeping the street face, interior common space, and grounds looking great to retain building value. If litter, mess, or shabbiness is an issue, unit owners know who to talk to.

    Homeowners must become their own "Curb Appeal Police," ready to be hyper-critical of every detail so the house shines in all respects from the buyers perspective

    1. Target Buyers

    Sellers want to attract those who will pay the most, but sellers do not automatically have a clear picture of this "who" they must win over. Ask your real estate profession to provide a profile of the buyers they are targeting in marketing and advertising campaigns. These details should help with curbside decisions of what to accent and what to minimize, and how to accomplish both efforts on budget and on time.

    2. Not to Your Standard

    This can be a challenge for sellers who used their home as a canvas for their creative expression. Real estate professionals have learned that to attract significant qualified interest, buyers must see the home as a welcoming canvas for their own creative expression often very different from the current sellers. Input from the listing and staging teams will help transform exterior surfaces and landscaping into a "buyer magnet." Check out design publications and sites, and drive by new homes and youll discover that its all about neutral shades, clean lines, and mimicking luxury properties. Combine the professional marketing expertise of the sales team with your knowledge of the property to pull this all together in an impressively-attractive package a welcoming canvas.

    3. Not "Tart Up" But "Smarten Up"

    Curbside views should not be cluttered or over-grown. Garish colors and over-done front gardens send the wrong message. Striking a balance between standing out for buyers and not being radically different from the neighborhood is key. Enticing buyers out of their car and in the front door is the objective.Which curbside details or impressions will speak to the quality and opportunity of the house? Understanding the target buyer viewpoint is key here, so ask the listing team how this curb-appeal message would materialize for the buyers being targeted.

    4. Squeaky Clean Impresses

    Particularly in grimy urban areas, sparkling clean building facades and windows are impressive. Manicured gardens and well-maintained driveways are also stand-outs. Keep touching up and polishing until a firm offer is signed and sealed. Until then, too clean and fresh is impossible.

    5. Curb Appeal: Up To and Thru The Front Door

    The curbside first impression should continue to impress and welcome up to and through the front door to open on an immaculate, well-presented foyer.

    The welcoming first view into the home should speak to the homes quality and to the loving-care the home has received.

    With a clear idea of the "who" you wish to attract and professional knowledge of how to make your home appear a welcoming creative canvas from curbside, you and the property are now ready. Ideal buyers will want to make an offer on real estate that reflects their dreams not the sellers.

    Bonus: "9 Success Tips for Your Statement Door Makeover"

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    Making Real Estate Investing More Popular

    Real estate investing can be as fraught with complexity as it is fruitful with rich opportunities and profitable dividends.

    The challenge is to demystify this process -- to translate the nuances and contradictions of this vocation, for many, and this avocation, for many others still -- into something that people can apply with consistency.

    For there are multitudes of novice investors who do not understand, and need to appreciate, the dynamism of the marketplace; who require the tutelage from an expert -- and deserve the mentoring from a financial professional -- so these men and women, these investors, can learn the intricacies of buying and selling real estate, of renovating and flipping homes, of converting rental properties into sources of recurring revenue; of mastering a discipline that demands the intelligence of a teacher and the wisdom of a proven investor.

    I write these words from experience because, in my role as Director of Marketing and Communications of the Real Estate Knowledge Institute "REKI", I recognize that people deserve a real-time counselor with the ability to offer insight that investors may not otherwise possess.

    I understand that the best way to build a business is through personalization, creating an emotional bond between your brand and the individuals you serve.

    The same rule applies to real estate investing because, without an eye for detail, an ear for language and an intuitive sense of what constitutes a good deal versus a bad one, investors can too easily succumb to the temptations of -- they will often surrender themselves to the false promise of -- too-good-to-be-true sales and promotions.

    Thus, the most valuable type of real estate is knowledge; the most precious commodity a real estate investor can own is intellectual property, the capital by which transactions occur and the exchange of contracts happens.

    By personalizing the union between a professional real estate adviser and a potential protge, the latter can learn from the former in ways no conventional seminar can equal, no ordinary textbook can match and no customary video can compare.

    This new >


    Knowledge can further these ideals, led by experts of character and decency.

    Indeed, we owe it to our fellow investors -- we have an obligation for the real estate industry as a whole -- to elevate our collective game, so to speak.

    In so doing, we will heighten the value of knowledge and increase the virtues of successful real estate investing.

    This ambition is achievable because it is practical, and it is pragmatic because it is so readily doable.

    Real estate investors will benefit from these rewards, making them more astute observers of emerging trends, changing market conditions and shifting economic opportunities.

    If we seize this moment -- if we do what we must -- then we will sow the strengths of a superior group of real estate investors.

    Professional by their behavior, and accessible by the character of the content they provide, these experts can expand our knowledge about real estate investing.

    Now is the time to capture this invitation of growth and leadership.

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    Ask The HOA Expert: Evaluating Our Management Companys Effectiveness

    Question: Our board would like to evaluate our management companys effectiveness by way of a member survey. What questions do you recommend?

    Answer: Since the vast majority of members are disconnected from day to day HOA operations and have little first hand knowledge of the managers contract obligations, few have an informed basis for evaluating the managers effectiveness. A suggestion form might be more appropriate. List the various categories of tasks the HOA is responsible to perform like General Maintenance, Landscaping, Pool, Janitorial, Communications, Newsletters, Rules Enforcement, Financial Reporting etc. and ask for specific recommendations for improvement. Dont be surprised if the recommendations are tied directly to a members critique of service quality.

    Question: Can HOA governing documents be amended to allow compensation to directors for their services as board members? It stands to reason that they could be held more accountable if they received compensation for performance.

    Answer: Most governing document stipulate that board members serve without compensation. There is a very good reason for this. Boards are comprised of elected members who ra>

    Also, the board has an unavoidable conflict of interest. Since contracts and other expenditures are approved by the board, so would board compensation. The board is elected to safeguard the interests of all members. Its best done when the directors serve as unpaid volunteers.

    Question: Our board is in the process of drafting an Architectural Design Policy. We are thinking about recording the policy with the county.

    Answer: Architectural design standards can be complex and subject to change as taste and technology change. It is appropriate for the governing documents to state that an Architectural Design Policy exists, that construction and renovation must conform to it. The specific policy should not be recorded but be easily available upon request or posted on the HOAs website. As with any policy, the board should have it reviewed for comment by the members and by a knowledgeable HOA attorney prior to implementation. A sample Architectural Design Policy is available at in the Policy Samples section.

    Question: A unit owner has requested permission to rebuild her deck and expand the size. What issues should the board consider?

    Answer: Having unit owners repair and replace their decks is often a problem because those decks are typically attached to the structure which is an HOA responsibility to maintain. So, the unit owner should also be held responsible for any damage caused by the deck to the structure, like dryrot. This agreement should be in writing, dated, signed, notarized and recorded against the unit title to advise future owners of this responsibility. You should use an attorney to put the agreement in proper recordable form.

    Will the new deck match the look, design and material of the original installation? Conformity in common wall housing reinforces market value. The new deck should look like the old unless the board has adopted a new standard.

    As far as expansion is concerned, the board has no authority to approve a unit owner expanding into common area or to enjoy exclusive use of a common area. This must be approved by a vote of the members which may be 100.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Dos And Donts For Painting Your Bathroom Cabinets

    If your bathroom cabinets are old, ugly, tired, or all of the above, youve probably thought about painting them more than a few times. And if youre like us, you may have done a bit of research but failed to take it further for fear that they wont end up looking decent. But the truth is that if you follow the directions of those whove been there before and, especially, if you heed their warnings regarding shortcuts and mistakes, you can transform your bathroom pretty easily. This list of dos and donts will help guide you.

    Do: Get a paint sprayer: A paint sprayer will give you the cleanest, most professional look. You can buy a pretty basic unit for under 100, but for about the same cost, you can rent one for the day and get a much better version.

    Dont: Fret if a paint sprayer isnt going to work out. A foam roller and brush can give you a pretty clean finish.

    Do: Buy several of them in different sizes and shapes. Theyre cheap, so stocking up wont cost much, and having a variety will help you to easily get into corners, nooks, and crannies.


    Dont: Use a crappy product. The last thing you want is to walk into your bathroom every day and scowl at the poorly done bathroom cabinets - kind of the way you do now. One of our favorite DIYers from The Turquoise Home found a great product that we cant wait to try: "Aces amazing Cabinet, Door and Trim Paint. You can brush it on and it will level and not leave any brush strokes"

    Behr Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel is another favorite for painting bathroom cabinets. "It basically performs like an oil-based paint but without the horrible smell and difficult clean up," said Provident Home Design.

    Do: Take the time to sand. Weve tried the lazy girls version of painting right over other paint and it just doesnt work out well. Admittedly, sanding is a terrible, tedious process, especially if you have detailed panels that require you to get into lots of little corners, but its well worth it in the end.

    Level Up House

    Dont: Sand inside. Take it outside and put a mask on while youre at it. The dust you kick up is unkind, especially if anyone in the house has asthma.

    Do: Clean the surfaces thoroughly. Youll want to use a degreasing product like "trisodium phosphate TSP cleaner and a scrubbing pad or sponge to thoroughly wash all surfaces to be painted," said Lowes. "Then rinse at least twice with fresh water and a sponge." And after sanding, youll also want to make sure you vacuum up all the dust and wipe down all the surfaces thoroughly so you dont get little pieces stuck in the paint.

    Dont: Leave the doors and hardware on when you paint. You cant easily get every part of the door if you dont take everything off, and the paint you inevitably get on the hardware will make it look like a DIY job.

    Dont: Forget to number your cabinet doors so you know how to put them back on when youre done. This is not a fun thing to figure out after the fact.

    The Turquoise Home

    Do: Label the hardware, too. See above.

    Dont: Paint with your animals in the room. Just trust on this one.

    The Turquoise Home

    Do: "Let the paint settle for a couple of minutes and then look back over it for paint pooled in the corners or drips underneath the edges," said The Turquoise Home. "The paint will still be wet enough to clean up those areas and will still level and dry flat.

    Dont: Quit after one coat. Youll probably be dying to be done after one, but remember: A little more effort here goes a long way.

    Do: Prep, prep, prep. Tape stuff. Use dropcloths. Make sure everything you dont want covered in paint is nicely protected, or youll be scraping paint off of it FOR LIFE.

    Dont: Use flat paint. Because its not washable, it wont hold up as well as another finish.


    Full Story >

    Mortgage Payments When You Are In Financial Trouble

    None of us can appreciate -- nor anticipate -- the future. Although we always believe it will never happen to us, once in a while, calamity strikes, and then we have to address these very hard and difficult questions.

    You own a house, with a sizable mortgage. Suddenly, you or your spouse lost their job, and you cannot make the monthly mortgage payments.

    There are a number of options you should immediately consider. However, the very first thing you should do is to talk with your lender. Dont just discuss your issues with a low-level employee. Try to go as high up the corporate ladder as you possibly can. And dont be afraid to be honest. Legitimate mortgage lenders will try to work with you, since they dont want to evict you and have to own and carry your house until they sell it.

    Here are some of the options which are available to you.

    1. Temporary indulgence. Here, the lender, at your request, may grant you a short period of time -- usually not more than three months -- in order to cure any delinquency. However, this is me>

    2. Repayment plan. Here, the borrower is given a fixed period of time -- usually not to exceed one year -- in which to bring the mortgage current by immediately making and continuing to make payments in excess of the monthly mortgage payment. It is important to get this repayment plan reduced to a written document, signed by both the lender and the borrower.

    3. Special forbearance >. Here, the regular monthly mortgage payments are suspended or reduced for a period of up to eighteen months from the due date of the first unpaid monthly installment. At the conclusion of this >

    In this case, the lender will make a determination that the default is curable, and based on the current financial and appraisal data, the lender must be satisfied there is a likelihood that the borrower will be able to comply with the repayment plan. Clearly, the burden will be on you to document and justify the plan, so as to satisfy the lenders requirements.

    If you are in the military, the Soldiers and Sailors >

    4. A short sale. Here, the lender will authorize you to sell the property for what it is really worth, and the lender will get all the proceeds. Let us look at this example. The house can probably be sold at 295,000, but the mortgage is 350,000. The lender may allow you to sell the property for 295,000, giving a real estate broker a commission. The lender gets all the remaining sales proceeds; you get nothing from the sale. However, under this "short sale" approach, you will be >

    5. Deed in lieu of foreclosure. This is another remedy that may be available to you. Under this arrangement, you deed your property to the lender or to whomever the lender designates and this is in lieu of instead of foreclosure proceedings. This arrangement is an acceptable and customary procedure when, for example, the borrower is deceased and the estate is willing and able to transfer the property, or the borrower has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the trustee has abandoned interest in the property.

    6. Foreclosure. Here, the lender will sell your property at auction or in some states at the Courthouse, and you will lose your home and your credit rating whatever is left of it. Legitimate lenders do not want to foreclose. and they will >

    7. Bankruptcy. Your final option, of course -- which should be used only as a last resort -- is for you to file bankruptcy. When someone files for bankruptcy, there are many protections that automatically apply from the day the bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court. The most important protection under the bankruptcy law is known as "the automatic stay." If you are in bankruptcy, no legal action can be taken against your house unless the lender requests the Court for permission to "lift the stay."

    You cannot ignore your financial problem, hoping you will win the lottery or find some other immediate source of funds. The level of your cooperation is the most significant aspect that will determine how willing the lender is to similarly cooperate.

    Full Story >

    Five Smart Homebuyer Strategies

    The National Association of REALTORS has announced that theres a housing supply shortage. Homes are selling quickly and home prices are starting to inch up again. Its becoming a sellers market in many areas.

    Any time the market changes, its time to change strategies. During a buyers market, buyers have the upper hand and can make more demands to sellers over their homes price and condition. During a sellers market, buyers concede the upper hand to sellers and are more willing to accept higher prices and terms.

    When homes are in short supply, buyers dont have the luxury of taking their time, teasing sellers with lowball offers, demanding that every little thing be fixed, and shopping for homes with multiple real estate agents. Do these five steps instead.

    Make a good first impression. Not only do you need to impress sellers, you need to impress real estate agents. Hire one agent and let him or her profile your needs to the marketplace. Be specific about your must-haves so you dont waste your agents and your time viewing homes that lack what you want most. When you find the home you want, send the seller a letter along with your offer outlining why you love the home.

    Get preapproved by a lender. Not only will you know how much home you can buy, youll be ready to make an offer quickly. Your real estate agent can include the fact that youre financially preapproved by your lender in with the offer, which will carry weight with the seller.

    Shop within your price range. In a sellers market, its wise to shop for homes within or slightly below your price range. This will give you more room to make full-price offers or above in case the home you want is in a bidding war with other buyers. Youll be able to pay your own closing costs. Trying to buy a home out of your reach during a sellers market will only cause you and your agent frustration.

    Be flexible. No home is perfect. To get more home for your money, you might shop for an older home that needs renovation. Try to look past ugly wallpaper and stained carpet and visualize the home with more attractive finishes. You may be able to get more living space in an established neighborhood than with a newer home that is priced higher for similar square footage.

    Be ready. Be ready to see a new listing at a moments notice. Be ready to make an offer when you believe this is the right home for your household. Once a seller has accepted your offer, proceed as if youre in a normal market. Set a reasonable closing date that accommodates the seller as much as possible. Confirm the offer with your lender. Schedule the inspections youll need and dont nitpick the seller over small things.

    Whether youre in a buyers market or a sellers market, you should feel good about the home you choose, the deal you make, and the courteous way you treated all parties to the transaction.

    Full Story >

    8 Great Tricks For Keeping Mosquitos Away

    We all know about using bug spray. And citronella candles. But what about other ways to keep those pesky mosquitos away? As if they werent annoying enough before, the threat of the Zika Virus has made mosquitos even more dangerous. So weve scoured the web for the best tricks for keeping the buggers away.

    1. Plant a garden. There are several plants that are known to be mosquito repellants, including lemongrass, lavender, and marigolds.

    2. Grow your own herbs. One of the best is something you might want to grow for other, tastier, reasons as well.

    "Basil is so effective at repelling mosquitos and adding a delicious flavor to Italian fare that youll want to grow it all around your house," said POPSUGAR. "Windowsills, porches, the gardenthe possibilities are endless" Not only will it keep those nasty flying things away, but youll also be able to make some killer pesto

    3. Make your kitty cat happy. "Some studies report that catnip is 10 times more repellent to mosquitos than sprays, so this plant is a big win for gardeners," said POPSUGAR. "Bonus: if youve got a cat, theyll get plenty of entertainment from any catnip you plant" And, its pretty to boot

    Bonnie Plants

    4. Trap them. You can easily make an effective mosquito trap with a plastic soda bottle or milk jug and bait made from brown sugar and active dry yeast. Get directions here.

    DIY Natural

    5. Make yourself smell delicious. Dabbing vanilla extract on your pulse points has been said to help repel mosquitoes. Beware the urge to bake cookies later

    6. Recycle your coffee grounds. Turns out, they make a great mosquito repellant. "Thats right, old dried up coffee grounds work as an effective repellent for mosquitoes, according to the EPA," said Simple Organic Life. "Mosquitoes and other insects hate the way used coffee grounds smell. Get directions on how to put this eco-friendly tip to use here.

    7. Raid your spice drawer. "Another repellent considered in the above study with citronella was turmeric," said Daily Health Post. "According to this study...turmeric oil alone showed outstanding efficacy among the test repellents. In fact, turmeric oil provided protection for at least eight hours, whereas DEET gave only six hours for this species."

    Healthy Harlem

    8. Or raid your babys room. "Creamy baby oil can repel mosquitos and wont smell horrible," said Buzzfeed.

    Full Story >

    Glass House Management In Your HOA

    Homeowner association boards are elected to handle HOA business. Some do it better than others because of training and natural ability. While good business practices are fundamental to getting the job done right, "people" practices are equally important.

    And even though HOA elections are not typically barraged with candidates, the membership does care what the board does. When the board doesnt do it right, some members simmer at a slow boil, some bellow a great hue and cry and others beat the tar and feather drums. The picture isnt pretty for otherwise well intentioned directors.

    A truly effective and perceptive board understands the need to keep business transparent. Think of board business in terms of living in a "glass house" and exposed to scrutiny by the general membership. This is difficult for some directors to deal with since it seems cumbersome and intrusive. In reality, running business transparently is largely symbolic. Doing business this way usually reduces scrutiny. When practiced, the suspicion of whats going on behind closed doors subsides. Here are a few of the most important glass house management practices:

  • Board meetings are open to members and held in guest friendly venues, locations and times.
  • Members are allowed to express dissenting opinions and question board actions.
  • The board responds respectfully to dissenters.
  • The HOA has a website which stores need-to-know HOA information See HOA Websites section for recommended components.
  • Meeting minutes are distributed in draft form within one week of the meeting.
  • New owners receive welcome packets with "need to know" information.
  • Newsletters are distributed at least quarterly.
  • All rules and policies are written and easily available.
  • Rules are few and truly necessary. Each one includes the reason for enactment, a reasonable penalty and right of appeal.
  • Board policies that affect life>

    Using these glass house practices demonstrates that the board operates in the open and respects members and their opinions. Communicating that attitude will keep most members satisfied that the board is doing a good job. Failure to provide these kind of services results in suspicion and hassles that the board doesnt need.

    Another benefit of glass house management is that it gets the board organized and prepared to do business. With good communication and management systems in place, crisis management becomes a thing of the past. As the board becomes more proactive. the directors feel more personally rewarded. Getting things done attracts achievers. Success begets success. Happy members mean a harmonious community. When it comes to HOA business, keep it transparent.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

  • Spruce Up Your Digs: 4 Ways to Attract More Luxury Home Buyers

    According to real estate brokerage company Redfin, luxury home sales picked up in the last quarter of 2015 and ended a nine-month slump. The real estate firm also reported the average sale price in the luxury market in quarter four of 2015 was 1.62 million. Sales in 2016 are predicted to climb and attract a new wave of luxury homeowners.

    Indeed, luxury home sales are on the upswing with amenities to match. This year, everything from extravagant chefs kitchens to green appliances that talk to each other are timeless additions. But which high-end amenities attract affluent buyers who want a piece of the luxury market? Heres the scoop on what luxury home buyers really want to see before closing the sale.

    Add an Outdoor Living Space

    The great outdoors have become a focal point for the luxury home market, with natural looking pools, lush gardens and fully loaded outside entertainment areas. According to Casual Living, more than half of consumers would like to add an outdoor kitchen to their property. Give home buyers what they want and create the outdoor oasis theyre looking for.

    Add an outdoor living room with a comfortable couch and fire pit, oversized tables for a gathering of friends and flat-screen TV for warm-weather entertaining. Include a wet bar and Systems Pavers BBQisland to attract home buyers looking for the perfect location for their next dinner party.

    Think Smart

    Todays homes can do more than self-adjust their Nest thermostat after learning your habits. Entire kitchens can communicate with you to keep your home running smoothly. Your LG refrigerator can alert you when youre out of champagne, and your oven can turn itself on and adjust itself to the optimum temperature to get dinner done on time. And modern home buyers want the technology.

    According to a Smart Home Survey by Coldwell Banker and CNET Smart Home, 81 percent of current smart-home device owners said they would be more open to buying a home with connected technology already in place. Another 66 percent said they would offer all their smart-home products with their home if they thought it would sell their property faster.

    Upgrade the Wine Cellar

    Dedicated wine refrigerators and rustic cellars are now a thing of the past. Instead, home buyers are looking for complete tasting rooms that combine the cozy comfort of a den with restaurant lounge ambiance to host friends and family. Add soft lighting, a fireplace and your best wine collection to complete the look. You can still keep the cellar, but use it to store the wine at the appropriate temperature, instead of crowding around a dusty bar>

    Skip the Bath

    It was once en vogue for master bathrooms to feature opulent, sunken bathtubs with jets and a bay window to gaze out over your lush lawn. Affluent home buyers want an unforgettable luxury shower experience with multiple shower heads and custom designs. Go above and beyond by adding on the streaming waterfalls, exposed rock face, sauna->
    Full Story >

    Tiny Homes: Are We Really Destined To Stuff Ourselves Into 300 Square Feet?

    Tiny homes are freaking everywhere. Theyve taken over cities roads, and, more importantly, the television, replacing important and compelling searches for private islands in the Caribbean with a quest for as little square footage as possible. People are actively and happily seeking to live in mouse houses.

    What is going on here?

    "Are tiny houses popular? According to Google Trends searches, yes," said Tiny House Talk. "Right now, theyre about as popular as theyve ever been. But why? It stems down to becoming a homeowner and enjoying a life without a mortgage."

    The whole idea of the tiny house movement seems antithetical to what many of us have been striving for our whole lives: a place to put all our stuff. No, really, a place to legitimately put down roots. Space may be at a premium in many areas, but that hasnt stopped many people from moving up, not down.

    "The average size of a new home built in 2014 was 2,453 square feet, up from 1,660 square feet in 1973, the earliest year for which U.S. Census data is available," said US News. "Only 8 percent of homes completed in 2014 had fewer than 1,400 square feet, according to census data."

    But tiny homes eschew the notion that bigger is better. Ask many authorities on the topic and theyll say that a "real" tiny home maxes out at 400 square feet; many are living much smaller than that and boasting about it. When it comes to living tiny, size matters, only in reverse.

    Are the spaces cute and clever? Sure. With a minimum amount of space, you naturally have to find ways to maximize function.


    Certainly, from a budget standpoint, tiny homes make sense. Check out these options, all of which you can buy for under 50,000. This prefab tiny home is less than 10k

    And this modular tiny home designed by BIO Architects and called DublDom comes in a 280-square-foot version and a 431- square-foot option, and can be constructed IN ONE DAY. Downside: Currently, you can only get it in Moscow. Dasvidaniya.

    Small House Bliss

    About that budget. Yes, with enough cash on hand you can buy a tiny home outright and not have to pay a mortgage. Sounds great, right? But, frankly, having to sleep on the dining room table or climb down a set of rickety stairs from the loft thats not tall enough even to accommodate a compact human in the middle of the night to use a bathroom the size of a cruise ship shower - that may not even have running wateris enough to say a big fat "No" to the whole idea, savings notwithstanding.

    Mobile or not

    Of course, part of the promise of tiny homes for the shiny, happy people you see on TV is the ability to spend spend less on housing and more on fun and adventure. And, for many, that means being mobile.

    When youre not tied down, you can go anywhere you want. Presumably, this is a temporary condition for those who are not retired, because: jobs. And money. Even if you dont have a mortgage, ya gotta eat, right?


    But constant mobility has its downsides. The idea of not knowing where to set up next might be exciting for some; for us, the lack of permanence is anxiety producing. And then theres the question of water.

    "One of the parts of building a tiny house that many people worry about is tiny house plumbing. This is one big area where your tiny house will be very different from a regular house. While normal houses generally have permanent access to water because theyre on the grid, when your house is mobile, theres no guarantee that youll always be near to a water source that you can hook up to," said The Tiny House.

    Its when the conversation turns to how to get water out of your house that it really gets sticky. Not tethered permanently to a piece of land? Youre talking about composting toilets and dump stations to offload waste water.

    Umm, no. Really, no. I have to wear two pairs of gloves just to clean my perfectly nice toilet connected to my perfectly nice plumbing.

    All part of the fun

    For a lot of tiny home enthusiasts, the challenges are all part of the fun. Not that emptying waste water is ever fun, but you get the point. Which makes one wonder: Are

    we experiencing a permanent shift in the American dream? Is homeownership just not the thing anymore homeownership with more than 300 square feet, anyway?

    Is it generational?

    Not so fast.

    ABC News

    "The Tiny House Movements growth is largely among the young and child-free, but its gaining momentum among seniors, too; some 40 percent of tiny house owners are over age 50," said Senior Planet. "After all, what better time to downsize, personalize, simplify and save -- either alone or by buying a plot with friends and forming a tiny house community? A finished build-it-yourself house averages around 23,000, and plans and kits are available online. To have a house custom built runs around 50,000-60,000. Thats a few hundred thousand less than a tiny Manhattan apartment and an alternative to a Florida condo."

    Is tiny home living overrated?

    So, beyond the freedom factor, budget and otherwise, whats the draw of tiny homes? Its a question thats being asked by more than just us. And, curiously, the answers arent always glowing.

    "Tiny homes offer the escapist fantasy of having less: less square footage, less responsibility, and less stuff. The idea has been particularly trendy in recent years," said Tech Insider. "Tiny homes have been the subject of countless Pinterest boards, articles, and blog posts, with many claiming they are the homes of the future. But the reality of small living is not always easy, and often not cheap either."

    Their article profiles several people who ended up ditching their tiny homes because: they got pregnant and realized they couldnt raise a family in 130 square fee; they had zoning issues and didnt want to be permanently impermanent; it was too isolating being in the middle of nowhere; and they just missed the comforts of home - a real home with real bedrooms with doors and everything and a kitchen with actual full-size appliances that doesnt double as a study space and a gym and a guest room.

    Makes sense to us.

    Full Story >

    Win At The Contact Sport of Real Estate Sales

    Real Estate sales has always been, and always will be, a contact sport. While you wont have to break out your helmet and shoulder pads just yet unless youre dealing with one of those clients, reports have shown it can take as many as 25-30 contacts with a lead before that lead turns into a sale.

    Not only is this difficult for you -- the process of purchasing a home can also be a long and challenging road for your clients. So being in constant contact with them is a great way to maximize your chances of closing with a sale and a happy client.

    Since you are only one person, this responsibility can seem overwhelming. But using the proper approaches and technology along the way can help ease the burden, and make the sales process much easier for both you and your buyers.

    Be "virtually" everywhere

    One of the easiest ways to stay "top of mind" with your clients is to be seen in multiple places. Thanks to technology, you dont have to physically be everywhere; instead, you can leverage the Internet to constantly be seen around the virtual online communities your customers hang out in.

    Best practices include posting several social media updates each week to engage your clients and keep your name in front of them. These posts can include your newest listings, online search tools, information about neighborhoods and schools in your city, and simple tips to help buyers locate their best potential new home.

    Automated emails amp; newsletters

    Another great way to stay in front of your clients virtually is to create automated emails and e-newsletters. This is easy to do using a simple email platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Most contact management systems even have templates that make this process as easy as "plug and play" so you dont have to be a computer genius to put these systems in place.

    By loading your client list into one of these systems, you can create automated campaigns to move them through the buying process, and ultimately end up with a sale, all with minimal effort on your part.

    Increasing contact frequency

    Once youve created your automated processes, the next step is to increase frequency and get more personal when you see signs that clients are getting closer to pulling the trigger on their new home purchase.

    With social media posts and automated emails or e-newsletters, you will see more interaction from specific clients as they become serious about buying. When this happens, you may want to turn off any automated communication you have with them, and be more available to personal and one-on-one communication, like phone calls or in-person meetings.

    Make virtual contact even more effective with ScoreApprove

    One technology tool that makes all of the above strategies more effective, efficient and powerful is ScoreApprove -- a Real Estate sales tool unlike any other.

    ScoreApprove helps you identify qualified clients immediately with a home financing assessment. It also follows up with them for you, so you wont lose track of your best potential leads.

    By simply sending clients an email with a link to a 60-second questionnaire, youll be able to see a clients credit grade, as well as the maximum amount theyll be able to finance for their new home.

    Best of all, the questionnaire is a great way to supplement your homebuyers questionnaire and needs assessment. Youll have a steady stream of qualified leads that will continue to help you generate sales. And ScoreApprove is 100 free for real estate agents to use

    Click Here and find out more about how ScoreApprove can help you close more sales starting today.

    Full Story >

    PACE Loans Should be Accompanied by Disclosure

    Not long ago we wrote about the increasingly popular PACE Property Assessed Clean Energy loans that can be used to finance a variety of energy-saving home improvements. One reason these loans are popular is that they do not require conventional income and credit qualifications. Moreover, loan costs and origination fees are built into the loan amount. Money out of pocket is not required at closing. An especially appealing aspect of the loans is that they are treated very much like tax liens. They are added to the property tax bill and payment is collected along with regular property taxes.

    As wonderful as all that is, the California Association of REALTORS CAR is supporting legislation Assembly Bill 2693, Dababneh that is likely to have a significant negative effect on the current volume of PACE loan originations. Why?

    First, we note that PACE loans are not all that wonderful from everyones perspective. Not only do they look and feel like regular property tax liens, they are also treated like them with respect to priority. That is, a PACE loan on a property has so-called "super priority" status. Should there, for example, be a foreclosure against the property by a mortgage holder, the PACE lien would have to be paid off first, before the mortgage lender received proceeds. Mortgage lenders do not like this.

    Thus, the super-priority status of PACE loans has resulted in the fact that neither Freddie Mac nor Fannie Mae will lend on properties that have existing PACE liens. If you have a PACE lien on your property, you cannot refinance with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, unless the PACE lien is paid off. Similarly, you cant sell a property with a PACE lien and simply allow the buyer to assume it as he would assume the tax bill. The PACE lien must be paid off in order to have new purchase financing placed against the property.

    Well, that might not seem so bad to some people, but for others it is a big -- and not so nice -- surprise. It shouldnt be a surprise, but it is likely to be because PACE loans are not accompanied by all the disclosures that we are generally used to when it comes to real estate financing. Thus the CAR-supported bill. Not only would the bill require a full listing of loan costs and fees, but also it would show whether or not the loan was assumable by a new buyer. Included is the following language:

    I understand that if I refinance my home, my mortgage company may require me to pay off the full remaining balance of this obligation. If I sell my home, the buyer or their mortgage company may require me to pay off the full remaining balance of this obligation.

    Support truth in lending. Support AB 2693.

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

    Full Story >

    Partition May Be The Only Remedy

    Mama lived a good life and raised two wonderful children. Jack moved to Oregon and his sister Carol lived in the family home in Washington with her mother. Mama just died, and had the good sense to have a Last Will and Testament, giving the home to both children equally as tenants in common.

    Jack wants to buy a condo and wants to sell the house and get half of the sales proceeds. Carol wants to stay in the house but cannot afford to buy Jack out. The house has appreciated nicely over the years.

    How do they resolve this dilemma if they cannot reach a friendly - brother and sister agreement?

    There is in the law a concept known as "partition". Judges throughout the nation have made it clear they will not force two or more people to continue owning real property where one of the owners wants out.

    Jack can file a partition lawsuit in a local court where the property is located. Alternatively, he can find a speculator who will give Jack immediate cash, in return of getting a deed to Jacks half interest in the house. A tenant in common can sell her interest -- or even give it to someone by gift -- without the consent of her fellow co-tenant. And the speculator can then file the partition lawsuit, and ultimately kick Carol out of the family home.

    If Jack and Carol owned two properties, the court can order that each would end up owning one of the properties. In our case, the court will force the sale, with the proceeds being divided equally. The sale can be handled by an independent real estate agent or the Judge -- after advertising the sale in the Washington Post for several weeks can hold an auction right in the courthouse. From my experience, however, having represented brothers or sisters in similar situations, the only winners in a partition action are the lawyers and the speculators who often get a good bargain.

    Carol will get half of the proceeds. She may be able to be reimbursed for any real estate taxes or mortgage payments which she made over the past three years. But unless she can arrange to be a tenant with the new owner, she will have to move out of the family home.

    A recent report by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws found that partition lawsuits have resulted in the displacement of many low-to-moderate income families across the country. For example, the report stated that "African-Americans have experienced tremendous land loss over the course of the past century, ... and partition sales have been one of the leading causes of involuntary land loss." The report made it clear, however, that "forced partition sales have negatively impacted other communities as well", pointing out that Mexican-Americans lost hundreds of thousands of acres of land in New Mexico and other states."

    Such displacement is not limited to rural areas. Cities -- including Washington -- face similar concerns. All too often, property is handed down from generation to generation. For example, great-grandfather had two brothers and a sister. The three inherited the property when he died. Each brother had a wife and two children. When one of the brothers died, his wife inherited the property but she remarried and had another child. It gets complicated especially when there is no Last Will and Testament. I once had to track down 32 distant >

    There is a bill presently pending before the D.C. Council, entitled "Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act". The purpose of the proposed law is to remove -- to the extent possible -- the adverse consequences of a partition action while at the same time recognizing the rights of a co-tenant to sell the property. Clearly, it is a difficult balance.

    If enacted into law, before John -- or the speculator who bought his interest -- can file the court action, Carol will have to get advance notice. Once the lawsuit is filed, the Judge is authorized to obtain an appraisal so as to assure the property will not be sold at a "fire sale". Furthermore, Carol will have the right to buy the property. She can bring in a friend or a >

    Higher income families typically retain estate-planning specialists to ensure a smooth transition of wealth to the next generation. Mama -- to her credit -- gave the property by Will to her two children, but did not consider the consequences. All too often, however, there is no Will and a contested probate case drags on for months or years.

    The proposed act is presently pending before the D.C. Committee on the Judiciary, whose chairperson is Kenyan McDuffie. It has been enacted in a number of states, such as Montana, Nevada, and Connecticut, but for readers in other state, talk with your state legislator about this important law.

    Full Story >

    5 Easy Steps For Indoor-Outdoor Living On A Budget

    There are few among us who wouldnt love to have a beachfront property with sliding glass walls that move aside to reveal unobstructed access to the deck and panoramic views of the beach beyond.

    But, for most of us, making the most of what weve got is more the reality. That doesnt mean we cant create an amazing space, though, even on a limited budget and with minimal DIY skills. If youve got a little time and a little money, you can create a space that draws the outdoors in and the family out. Heres where to start.

    Create a patio

    You dont have to build an expensive deck or pour thousands of dollars of concrete to create a great patio that serves as the foundation for your outdoor room literally. Pavers are a DIY project you can get done in a weekend depending on your energy level and the size of your space, and theyre a favorite of experts, too.

    "A patio can be created with many materials, but its hard to beat one made from pavers for ease of installation and low maintenance," said DIY Network. "The initial cost may be higher than other options, but youll save in the long run by not having to stain or seal it continuously. Plus, repairs are easier, one paver at a time."


    Cover up

    Shelter is key, not only for creating a shady spot where you can escape from the sun without retreating back into the house, but also because it helps to make the space feel complete. If your budget cant stretch enough to include a custom pergola or patio cover, a large, offset umb>


    Create an opening

    Insufficient access from inside to out and vice versa? Thats fixable.

    The most economical solution is vinyl or aluminum sliding patio doors, said Angies List. "For a basic sliding patio door, including installation and hardware costs, you will probably invest anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 from a big-box store. The least expensive French patio door options are going to start between 1,500 and 2,000 at a big-box store."

    Want to really commit to the indoor-outdoor experience - with or without an ocean view - with bi-fold or accordion doors? Expect to make a hefty investment. But if youve got the money or the skills, you, too, can have a house thats wide open to the outside.

    Select Windows


    Comfy seating

    Creating the ideal outdoor living space today is all about making it as comfortable as possible. That means cushy seating areas that are plush enough to entice you away from the TV.

    This Corfu 4-piece seating group has the modern wicker look thats been so popular for the past few years, plenty of space for family and friends to gather, and also comes with an outdoor coffee table. Better yet, its just 458 on Wayfair


    Add in the extras

    Just like youd accessorize the inside of your home, the outside screams for a little attention to detail. An outdoor rug, a few throw cushions, and some decorative outdoor lighting can transform your space from "just OK" to "just WOW."

    Huffington Post

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    Myths About Millennials And Canadian Real Estate Projections

    A flurry of recent media reports claim that millennials are leaving Vancouver in droves, due to rising real estate prices and rental rates. Thats just not true, says the British Columbia Real Estate Associations chief economist, Cameron Muir. He says population estimates show the number of 20 to 34-year-olds has increased during the last decade, and "home ownership rates for the millennial age group were significantly higher during the most recent census than in recent decades."

    Using population estimates from the B.C. government, Muir says in the City of Vancouver, from 2005 to 2015 the number of millennials grew by more than 15,800, or over 9.5 per cent, to 181,000.

    "Growth in this age group over the past 10 years has been so strong that they are now the most populous age cohort in the city by a wide margin," says Muir. In the wider Metro Vancouver region, the population of millennials has increased by almost 18 per cent.

    "Even a local credit union produced a report speculating that millennials are disengaging from the Vancouver economy, largely the result of high housing costs," says Muir in a report. "This viewpoint is surprising, especially when you consider millennials are such an abundant demographic cohort in large vibrant cities across North America and that so many of them seek out the kind of urban life>

    He says, "Millennials are being attracted to the City of Vancouver and the region, not retreating from it."

    The Canadian population continues to be dominated by the baby boom generation. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC recently updated its long-term housing growth projections, which show that more than one-third of households will be seniors by 2036.

    CMHC calls the children of baby boomers the "echo generation" -- those who were aged 23 to 43 in 2015. In terms of household formation, "the echo generation will continue to be the main source of both homeowners and renters," until 2021, says CMHC.

    "Its a myth that millennials dont want to own their own home," says Barry Gollom, vice president, mortgages and lending, CIBC. A poll conducted for the bank "suggests that millennials place as much importance on being a home owner as Canadians in other age groups," says Gollom. "Home ownership is an important milestone to many, and that hasnt changed even though it has become increasingly difficult to get into the market."

    The poll found that 85 per cent of respondents said home ownership is important, including 86 per cent of those aged 18-34, of whom 42 per cent were renters, 36 per cent were owners and the rest lived at home with their parents.

    Another poll commissioned by competitor BMO found that 89 per cent of millennials agree there is value in home ownership, "but are willing to defer the decision to own until it is personally right for them. Three-quarters of those surveyed shared that they dont feel pressured to buy sooner."

    Damon Knights, director of home financing with BMO Bank of Montreal says, "As with many other areas of their lives, our millennial customers face unique realities in the housing market compared to past generations. Prospective home buyers should certainly not enter the market until it is personally right for them, but as they sit on the sidelines, they need to be mindful that the market is not waiting for them. If home ownership is an eventual goal, it is crucial to speak to a mortgage specialist and set up a saving strategy that responds to the ever changing, and likely rising, rate of home prices."

    CMHC says that one-person households will be the most common type of households by 2036.

    "One person households and couples without children will replace couples with children as the most common types of households," says the report. "Growth in couples without children and one-person households is to some extent a product of aging -- children growing up and moving out of their parents homes, and partners dying and leaving widows/widowers behind, respectively."

    The fastest-growing household group will be those aged 75 plus. "Among senior-led households, more than half of the household maintainers will be aged 75 or older in 2036," says the report. "This will mean increased demand for services to facilitate seniors staying in their own homes."

    The report says about 70 per cent of Canadian households will own their homes in 2036. It says the numbers of both owners and renters will increase, but the average annual growth for owner households will be about five times that of renter households.

    More than half of households will live in single-detached dwellings, but the percentage of apartment dwellings will continue to grow.

    Full Story >

    Drone Photography Is Changing Real Estate For Good. Are You Keeping Up?

    Photo by: Dallas Air Photos

    Real estate companies are quickly adopting drone technology as it offers them a new way to catch the eyes of potential buyers.

    According to Joe Carriere, owner of Dallas Air Photos, "most real estate professionals utilize MLS to promote their listings online. Up to 30 images of a property can be uploaded to the MLS system. However, only one single photograph can be chosen as the propertys first impression, or Featured Image. A Feature Image taken from the drones perspective, is the perfect opportunity to grab the attention of a potential buyer with an incredible first impression that sets the property apart from all others."

    Joe says, "An aerial shot of a home, in comparison with a street level shot provides not only depth and dimension, but also a view of what is behind the home. A pool, beautiful backyard, lake, ocean or mountain view can all be captured and showcased perfectly by aerial drone photography."

    Aerial photography is currently the best way to showcase the selling points of a home or building, and drones offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative to helicopters and planes. Drones are the next step in high-end real estate sales and agencies who are quick to adopt them will receive a cutting edge advantage over their competition.

    The picture above taken by Dallas Air Photos shows the difference between an aerial shot
    and a regular photo. According to MLS statistics, the properties photographed by drones sold 68 faster.

    What does it cost to hire a drone?

    These days, the cost of hiring a drone for real estate starts at around 200. This would be for a single family home or small building and will typically include all of the exterior shots you need, and basic editing. At about the same cost of regular photography, drone photography is becoming an increasingly popular digital marketing strategy.

    Use the reference below to get an idea of what you can expect based on your budget.

    According to Joe, drone operators who are experienced with real estate will "provide the REALTOR two versions of the photographs; one image will be at full size for the creation of fliers or other marketing material. The second, identical shots, are replicated in the smaller MLS size and proportion."

    How To Get Started

    Drone operators are ready to fly all around the United States. Websites like help you find aerial photography no matter where you are or what your project is.

    Full Story >

    10 Quick And Easy Things You Can Do To Get A Head-Start On Your Summer To-Do List

    We know. You have all these great intentions of spiffing up your house, cleaning this, updating that, and decluttering EVERYTHING.

    But, before you know it, the kids will be out of school, and June will turn into July in a blink. Throw in a couple of pool parties and a family vacation, and before you know it, youll be buying school supplies again.

    No need to get anxious or give up and getting all those have-tos done. Here are 10 things you can easily take care of this weekend so your summer to-do list doesnt get lost in the shuffle.

    1. Execute an air conditioner check

    If you havent had to turn on your air conditioning yet this year, do a little self-congratulatory dance and then flip it on and make sure everything is working properly. You dont want to find out you need a new fan belt on the first hot and sweaty day of the year.

    2. Check out the area around your air conditioning units

    If weeds or other plants have grown up around your AC units, you may want to trim them back. "Air conditioning units and heat pumps require plenty of air circulation to work efficiently, so its important to keep shrubs trimmed back away from the unit," said Todays Homeowner. "Make sure theres at least 18" of room around the sides of the air conditioner, and three feet or more above the unit."

    Ugly House Photos

    3. Do a ceiling fan once over

    Now, go room to room checking all the ceiling fans to make sure theyre in working order. But before you turn them on, note the dust level. If you havent used them in a while, dust and dirt may be ready to fly off as soon as they get going. An old pillowcase spritzed with cleaner, then thrown over each blade and slid off is a great trick to get them clean without special tools.

    4. Check those filters

    Lastly - as it >

    If theyre not changed out regularly, and, especially if you can see visible dirt, hair, or malformations because the filter is starting to pull into the unit, get yourself to Home Depot and dont forget to measure first so you dont have to guess at the size while youre in the store.

    5. Dont forget about your refrigerator filters

    Filters in your refrigerator and icemaker are usually supposed to be replaced every six months but check with your manufacturer. If its been at least that long, change them out. The fresh taste of your water and ice will be worth the effort

    Marathon Air

    6. Clean your refrigerator coils

    If youve never done this, you may be surprised by how gross they can get. But keeping your coils clean by shutting off the power to the unit and vacuuming the coils through the back can extend the use of your refrigerator and also save you money on your electric bill - up to 100 a year

    7. Refresh your showerhead

    If your shower isnt providing a strong stream of water anymore, it might not be your water pressure. Try cleaning the showerhead to remove mineral deposits. All it takes is a baggy full of vinegar tied around the showerhead and left overnight to soak. In the morning, run the water to see if its made a difference.

    8. Check your sprinklers

    Lots of things can cause part or all of a sprinkler system to fail, and youll want to know if you need to call a repairman because its blazing hot outside. Todays Homeowner offers this tip for testing your sprinklers: "Place straight-sided tuna cans on the ground around the yard, and run your sprinkler as usual. If your irrigation system is set right, all of the cans should be filled to the same level."

    While youre at it, check your hoses for leaks. Replacing leaky hoses can save water, and save you money.

    9. Check your deck

    "Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up," said The Nest. "Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the decks boards. If the water beads up, youre in good shape; but if it soaks right in, its time to reseal that sucker."

    10. Mulch it

    A layer of mulch in your yard will help "keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat," said The Nest. More importantly, its one of the quickest, easiest, and cheapest ways to up your curb appeal - and thats important whether you plan to spend many more seasons in your home or youre thinking of getting ready to sell it.

    Full Story >

    One Wants To Sell The House, The Other Does Not: What To Do?

    You have just inherited the family home, with your sibling. He wants to sell but you want to keep the property. After all, it has been in the family for a long period of time, and the two of you grew up there.

    What can you do? Unfortunately, this is a common problem -- especially among families. Fortunately, there are a number of possible solutions.

    First, are you sure you both own the property? Has it gone through probate? Did your mother or father, or whoever died last have a Will. Does the Will give you any guidance? Generally speaking, Probate Courts want to enforce a persons Last Will and Testament as closely as possible.

    Is there a mortgage on the property that has to be paid off? Is there any equity in the house? You should obtain an appraisal of the property. What is it really worth? It may have so little equity that it does not pay to get into a legal fight with your sibling.

    Let us assume the house had a market value of 500,000 on the day your mother or father died. Let us further assume that the house was free and clear of all mortgages.

    Under these circumstances, you and your sibling each own the equivalent of 250,000. Keep in mind, however, that should the house be sold on the open market, you will probably not obtain the full 500,000. There are closing costs, fix-up costs and real estate commissions which have to be paid, thereby reducing the net proceeds to be divided between you.

    You should make a valiant effort to reach a peaceable resolution. Since your sibling wants to sell, this means that he wants the money. One simple solution is to negotiate a sales price for his half, and buy him out. If you do not have enough of your own money, you may be able to borrow the funds by placing a mortgage on the house.

    The alternative will be long, prolonged -- and expensive -- litigation called Partition

    On the other hand, if you are unable to reach agreement, I recommend you both retain separate legal counsel. You have separate interests, and most lawyers would prefer not to have a potential conflict of interest when they take on a new case.

    The ultimate remedy is for you to file a suit for partition. This is a legal concept, which has been universally accepted throughout the United States.

    The Courts have made it clear they will not require two or more people to continue to own real estate when someone wants out of the >

    The only winners in a partition suit, however, are the lawyers and the speculators who purchase the property.

    You might also want to consider asking your brother to have the matter decided by binding arbitration. Under this arrangement, you both would select an arbitrator who would have the written authority to review all of the facts. The arbitrator would make a determination that in the opinion of the arbitrator would be fair and equitable to all of the parties.

    In the final analysis, this matter should be resolved amicably between you and your brother, without outside involvement -- or interference -- from the courts or from an arbitrator.

    Your parents left the house to both of you; they did not want to leave a lawsuit as their legacy.

    Full Story >

    Builders Digital Experience BDX Updates New Home Source Professional Platform For Real Estate Agents

    Agents Get New Tools, Modern Interface, and Free New Construction Website

    Austin, TX- Builders Digital Experience BDX has launched major updates to theNewHomeSourceProfessional.complatform, which allows real estate agents to search for new construction homes and is used by a number of MLSs nationwide to complement their current database.

    With listing data provided directly from thousands of builders nationwide, the new platform offers a modern interface, more search filters, multiple result views homes or communities in list, photo, and map options, expanded detail pages, and printable reports, plus saved searches and saved listings that can be shared directly with clients.

    All agents with a free account on New Home Source Professional now also get a free, multi-purpose Consumer Portal, which serves as both a standalone, agent-branded new construction website for agents to generate new business and a place for clients to review shared listings and searches.

    In 2015, nearly 10 of all homes sold were new construction,according to the National Association of Homebuilders. Yet because much of the inventory is in the form of builder plans that do not have fixed addresses or prices, it often doesnt appear in MLS systems. Thats why over 25 MLSs partner with BDX to provide New Home Source Professional to members. Current partners include CRMLS, MRIS, MRED, MFRMLS, MIAMI, ARMLS, MLSListings, GLVAR and ABOR.

    MLSs have added the platform through a no-cost partnership with BDX, which includes an MLS-branded version of New Home Source Professional. More than 400,000 agents currently have access the platform via their MLS.

    "New Home Source Professional gives my Subscribers access to the unique information on a new property that does not fit into the traditional MLS," said Sean Murphy, Executive Vice President of the MLS of Southern Arizona.

    "Their team has been responsive to the feedback from my Subscribers and it shows in the updated platform. The updates to the platform will make using the service a more fulfilling and productive experience for my Subscribers."

    The new tools are in addition to existing platform features and information, including builder contact information, interactive assets, compensation details, promotions, events, community-level data and educational articles and videos for agents. The updates are for desktop and tablet users, with mobile set for a summer launch.

    The platform updates were based on feedback from agents and BDXs MLS partners, who are part of an expanding industry effort to make sure agents have single access to all new construction inventory and develop >
    Full Story >

    8 Laundry Rooms Thatll Make You Want To Fluff And Fold

    Lets face it. Laundry is no fun. In fact, its often counted among our most hated chores. But since running around in stinky, soiled clothes is not an option for most of us, its gotta get done.

    Which is why were always thrilled to see rooms that make it feel like more of a yay and less of a yuck

    "A laundry room doesnt have to be a dull and boring room where you just toss your dirty socks and t-shirts. The laundry room is a place where you can really show off your creativity," said Kimberly Grigg of Knotting Hill Interiors and Get Your Southern On.

    Indeed, it can even be a luxurious space, said Advice on the House.

    "When decorating a home, there are endless possibilities to make each room a chic oasis. The laundry room can be upgraded to exude personality and design flair so it becomes a more enjoyable place to spend time in," they said. "From the color palette or patterns on the walls to the floors under foot and everything in between, decorating your laundry room with things that inspire productivity and tranquility can transform your tired, dull space into a room that feels luxurious, welcoming and >

    In these 8 rooms, we might even be inspired to scrub out a few stains, fold everything real pretty, and actually see the bottom of the laundry basket.


    dcor pad

    The ample countertop and storage space, the glass-front cabinets, the glam lightsthis laundry room has it all. But what really gets us is the double washer and dryer. Twice the capacity to get and keep everything clean? Oh. Yes.


    Oplab Dcor

    Ummm, you had us at TV.


    Get Your Southern On

    Glamorous and utilitarian? Well take it. Something about the all-white palette and reflective surfaces make this space feel so tranquil that we wouldnt mind doing a loador 10.


    My Design Chic

    Then again, who says you cant have a little fun with color and pattern?


    Inside Story Design

    Is it weird that all that storage is making us a little flush? We love that there is a space for everything in this traditional space, including a pullout for dog food and built in bowls for puppys food and drink.


    Georgiana Design

    Lacking space for a "real" laundry room but still want to create something with form and function? Hide it in a hallway.


    Inside Story Design

    Because why should kitchens and bathrooms have all the fun. Adding a little luxury to your laundry room makes it a place you dont mind hanging out for a while.


    My Design Chic

    Look. At. All. That. Counter. Space.

    Full Story >

    A Sellers Guide To A Winning Open House

    Holding an open house for your soon-to-be-listed or newly on the market home is a lot like being on a game show where edging out the other contestants in a short period of time is key. In TV game shows, such as "Jeopardy," the contestants dont automatically know answers to so many trivia questions; they study and they plan and they make it appear to viewers like they walk around with that body of knowledge every day. Open houses need to be thought of similarly. Once your home is on the market, an open house is your opportunity to plan and strategize how you are going to win over buyers in very short time.

    Even in a strong real estate market where houses sell quickly, its still important to ask your agent to hold as many open houses as possible until the home sells. One reason is that even buyers with agents still like to look at homes on their own without feeling the pressure of a home tour. Sometimes their agent is out of town when your house goes on the market. Many buyers are not represented by an agent and the only way for them to tour a home is through an open house. Your agent will plan the open house to include everything from signage to freshly baked cookies. As a seller, you should take the following steps:


    Back to the game show analogy, think of depersonalizing as studying the answers and questions before trying out for "Jeopardy." Your house is lovely for how you live in it, but buyers dont want to see youin your house. In fact, the more your house makes it difficult to guess who lives there age, >


    While you are depersonalizing its also a good time to declutter as the two go hand in hand. The more simple and understated your home is, the more likely buyers can see the home for what it is and imagine themselves in it. When you have too much stuff cluttering walls and counters and shelves, buyers turn their focus toward those things and sometimes even make the assumption in logic that if you are cluttery, then you are disorganized, which means maybe you dont take care of the house as well or as on time as you should. A good rule of thumb is to box up or store at least half of the smaller items displayed in your home.

    For example, how much is on your kitchen counter right now? Now imagine reducing that number to just three things. What would you choose to keep versus store? Some sellers are benefited by going to other open houses in their area and looking at how other people have decluttered and arranged what is left. Online pictures, such as what is found on Pinterest, can help too. Often you can get some good ideas on what works visually just by seeing how others do it. When you are all done decluttering, clean your home like never before because buyers notice dirt and grime. Hire a maid service if you have to.

    Lure Them In

    The outside of your home is as important as the inside, especially the front entry area. Before an open house, take care of simple yard maintenance such as mowing, edging and weeding flower beds. A fresh layer of mulch adds color especially in winter months when not much is blooming. At your front door, clean off spider webs, blown leaves, and place a large, colorful pot of annuals or anything you can buy in season.

    Complete Your Honey-Do List

    While you have the yard power tools out, dust of your workbench and take a walk around your house inside and out. Make a list of all maintenance issues such as wiggly door handles, missing fascia, paint that has chipped, etc. and repair them before the open house. Buyers see even the smallest of maintenance issues as an extension of the condition of larger items such as roofs, plumbing and major appliances and assume you havent taken care of the home. You might talk to your realtor about a pre-inspection to deal with all home maintenance and problems upfront, before you get into contract with a buyer.

    Be Cautious

    Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, theres one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a >
    Full Story >

    Dual Agency Can Be A Good Thing

    A man cant serve two masters, the Good Book says; but neither the law nor common practice precludes the possibility of both buyer and seller being represented by the same real estate agent. When this happens a "dual agency" situation is created; and dual agency is a subject about which both confusion and controversy abound.

    First of all, how does dual agency come about? In what sorts of contexts does it occur? No doubt the example that most readily comes to mind is when an individual agent shows his or her own listing to someone who then decides to buy it or at least to try. A most natural setting where this might occur would be at an open house.

    Dual agency is not restricted to situations where there is only one individual real estate agent i.e. person involved. We have noted before that California law stipulates that it is the broker or the brokerage company that is actually the agent in a transaction. Suppose, for example, that Jim Jones of the ABC company writes an offer for a buyer who wishes to purchase the property listed by Jane Jackson who is also an agent at the ABC company. There would be dual agency in this situation, because the ABC company is the agent of both buyer and seller. Moreover, this would hold true even if Jim and Jane worked out of different offices of the ABC company. It wouldnt matter if Jim worked in the Los Angeles office and Jane in the San Diego office; the ABC company would still be acting as a dual agent. This is not the case when there are two independent franchisees represented, even though they share the franchise name.

    It is not hard to imagine why some people find dual agency controversial. "How," they ask, "can the same agent represent parties whose interests are in conflict?" "It sounds like asking the same person to be both prosecutor and defense attorney." "Su>

    In response to this, let us note first what California law requires. Other states may differ. There are two primary conditions: i Dual agency must be adequately disclosed to both parties. There are severe penalties for agents who fail to disclose dual agency. ii The law specifically prohibits someone acting as a dual agent from telling the buyer how low the seller will go, or from telling the seller how high the buyer will go. Not that agents always know these things, anyway.

    However, we know that all sorts of other information can influence what someone may offer, counteroffer, accept or not accept; and it is this fact that the critics seize upon. They will argue that insofar as the dual agent uses his skills and knowledge on behalf of the buyer, then in that respect he will be doing a disservice to the seller, and, of course, vice versa. How could this not be so?

    Those who believe that dual agency does not entail unavoidable conflict reject the model that the critics assume. They do not believe that sales negotiations are what the theorists would call a "zero sum game" -- one in which every plus for one side means a minus for the other. That may be an appropriate model for the adversarial proceedings in a courtroom, where one party wins and the other loses; but it fails to take into account that sales negotiations are, after all, negotiations. The aim is not simply for one side to "win" and the other to "lose." The aim is to get a deal together, to create a transaction that is, of necessity, acceptable to both parties.

    Not only is it the aim of sales negotiations to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement; but also, especially in residential real estate, there are often important considerations which have nothing to do with the ultimate price. There are matters of personal pride, emotional attachment, convenience, etc. All of these are factors which an agent, or agents, must take into account.

    More than one transaction that could have happened didnt, because agents were not sufficiently sensitive to the personal nuances that play such an important role in negotiations. That is especially likely to happen when agents act like adversaries. Ironically, it is precisely because of their special >

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

    Full Story >

    Ask The HOA Expert: Second Hand Smoke

    Question: Our HOA has ongoing problems with cigarette smoke which permeates the hallways and stairwells every time a resident smoker comes and goes from their unit. The ventilation system recycles the smoke throughout the common areas. Besides the bad odor, Im concerned about health hazards.

    Answer: Second hand smoke is a serious health hazard. The estimated 41,000 deaths in the US in 2015 >

    Some boards worry that bans on smoking will negatively impact property values. In reality, there is growing support for smoke free HOAs which would be highly prized by non-smokers who would pay a premium to live there. Something to think about.

    There is no Constitutional right to smoke. Moreover, inflicting a health hazard on others is against the law. The board should take this issue seriously. For a sample No Smoking Policy, see the "Policy Samples" section at

    Question: Our governing documents, like most, prohibit co-owners from serving on the board at the same time. Does this principle apply to committees?

    Answer: Committees can be composed of anyone that has an interest in serving, including renters. As long as the members are serving effectively, the board should encourage such participation. Since committee members are appointed rather than elected, the board can unappoint them if they arent doing their job.

    Question: Our HOA board wisely ordered a reserve study this year. The study was completed and indicates that we are seriously underfunded. The study includes a funding recommendation that will substantially increase our fees. Is increasing reserve contributions a decision that the board alone can make? Do the general members have the right to voice their opinions, concerns, etc. prior to the boards decision. Should the reserve study be available to the membership to review?

    Answer: As long as the governing documents give the board authority to approve the budget usually the case, the board alone can make the decision. The board doesnt have to follow the reserve study providers recommendation but departing from it will encourage greater challenge from members, particularly those that dont want to pay more. The logic is "If the board can propose an increase lower than the professional, why not propose one even lower still?"

    If the governing documents require the board to get member approval for increases over a certain amount, the board will have to bring the matter for a vote. In either case, its wise for the board to hold a special meeting to discuss the reserve study and its implications, particularly if there is a significant increase in fees indicated. Ask the reserve study provider to present the study and answer questions. This will add a much higher level of credibility to the process and take the spotlight off the board.

    One mistake some boards make is deciding ahead of time that the members wont approve a large increase so a much smaller one is proposed. It is always preferable to present the higher recommendation and let the chips fall where they may. If the case for the professionals funding plan is made and a majority of the members still vote it down, future shortfalls can be blamed on the membership, not the board. If the board decides on its own to under fund, it has failed in its fiduciary duty to budget properly and should be held responsible for shortfalls.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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