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Updated: Sunday, October 23, 2016

8 Amazingly Easy Tips For A Pet-Friendly Home

For many of us, its an absolute pleasure to share our homes with our four-legged best friends. But theres no denying that our pets can sometimes lead to wear and tear on our homes. Yet with careful planning and some redesigned elements, we can enhance our house so that its conducive to our pets and ourselves. If you live with a beloved pet, the following design trends and home-living tips are sure to promote a home thats comfortable for everyone -- and everything -- that lives there.

Avoid Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, your guests are bound to note from the moment they enter your home even if pets arent present that you live with animals. In spite of routine cleaning, carpeting harbors pet odors and allergens. If you cant live without carpeting, opt for a low pile thats easy to clean. You might also consider adding easy-to-clean area rugs in your home -- just be sure to add slip proofing beneath these rugs to keep them secu>

Durable Flooring

A hallmark of a pet-friendly home is durable flooring. While hardwood and eco-friendly bamboo are durable, they may show wear and tear i.e. scratching sooner than a concrete or tile floor will. Your pets likely spend considerable time on the floor, so it makes sense to install flooring that is ideal for them. You may also want to consider other pet-friendly types of flooring like vinyl and linoleum. Be sure to research your flooring in order to choose the best type for your home and your particular pet.

Install a Dog Door

Many homeowners love the convenience of a dog door, which allows dogs and even cats to let themselves in and out of the home as they need. With a dog door, you dont have to rush home from work to ensure that your dog gets out on time and you dont have to worry about forgetting to let your pets in and out. You can also opt to install a custom door that includes pet-friendly access within its design.

Stain-Resistant Fabrics

Even if you have strict rules about no pets on the furniture, there comes a time when your pet is bound to leave a mess on your fabric. By choosing stain-resistant materials, you can take the headache out of pet messes. Similarly, easy-to-clean fabrics like microfiber will also hold up to pet wear and tear better than many other types of fabric. Leather is quite easy to clean, but if you have large dogs youll need to take extra care with their nails to ensure that your leather upholstery isnt punctured or scratched.

Built-In Feeding Station

Do you ever wish you could fill your pets water bowl in place? When you create a custom feeding station, you can install a faucet that allows you to fill up your dog or cats water bowl right in its place. You can also install attractive cabinetry where you can store your pets food and treats. This type of station is easy to integrate into a kitchen, mud room, laundry room or wherever you choose to feed your pets.

Designer Bed

Although many people dont mind snuggling with their pets, others may dislike the wear and tear four-legged creatures impart on bedding. If you dont allow your pets to bed with you, you can still enhance their comfort by getting them a deluxe bed that brims with comfort. With so many >

Outdoor Hardscaping

Pet urine can lead to unsightly patches on your lawn. To keep your landscape looking its best, consider installing an outdoor area behind your home where pets can take care of their basic needs. You can also install hardscaping, which makes cleaning up after pets a breeze. Concrete is not only effective as a hardscaping material, its also an affordable option.

Pet Apparatus

To keep your pets from becoming bored when youre working or busy with household chores, add a pet apparatus to your home. Cats love to climb and look out of windows, while dogs often enjoy dog housing where they can >


Naturally, youll want to make any changes to your home with your pets in mind. With these general tips, youll be able to create a pet-friendly environment that youll love as much as they will.

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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The Ethan Allen Disney Collection: Six Reasons to Spend All Your Christmas Gift Money On Yourself This Year

Forget about Christmas gifts. This year, its all about you. And the Ethan Allen Disney Collection. Your friends and family will understand, right?

After all, this first-of-its-kind collection is far from juvenile. No stuffed Goofy doll here. These surprisingly stylish pieces, described by the Orlando Sentinel as "funky" and "fresh" and by Refinery 29 as "playfully elegant" may just be impossible for you to resist.

"Ethan Allen teamed up with Disney, the makers of all our wildest childhood dreams, and together theyre bringing us a brand new collection thats both chic and cheerful," said Refinery 29. The full collection is set to be >

If youre successful in getting your brood to forgo gifts this year, heres an introduction to the Mickey and Minnie Mouse-inspired pieces youre going to want to get your hands on, ranging from "coasters to bedding to chairs with the infamous duo on them," said simplemost.

Character Chest: 1,599

Crafted from white oak and maple, the Character Chest "depicts - adorably - Mickey and Pluto talking an old-time selfie," said simplemost. A prime spot in a childs room would be the obvious choice, but this chest is chic enough to be used in adult spaces as well.


Bravo Chair: 1,479.00

The >


Mickey Shadow Cabinet and Minnie Shadow Cabinet: 499 each

"Mickey and Minnie are a perfect pair, and so are these cabinets," said D23. "These are the ultimate his and hers nightstands for Disney fans."

Ethan Allen

Mickey Mouse Club Chair and a Half: Price not yet >

Large enough for cozying up with a loved one, this bright red chair and a half will make the perfect addition to our, we mean your, home.


Mickey Pull-Up Ottoman: 359

We all need a place to kick our feet up. This Mickey-shaped ottoman is adorable and practical.

Coasters: 39

Actually, we take back what we said about Christmas presents. The collection also includes several reasonably priced gift items, like this cute six-piece coaster set.

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Messing With The HOA Can Be Expensive

Most homeowners in a common interest development probably understand that it can be a real hassle to get into a dispute with the Homeowner Association HOA. Not so many, though, may know that it can become pretty expensive as well. A recent case from Californias Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal makes the latter point abundantly clear. Rancho Mirage Country Club Homeowners Association v. Thomas B. Hazelbaker et al., August 9, 2016

Thomas and Lynn Hazelbaker owned a condominium in the Rancho Mirage Country Club development. The development was subject to regulations and CCamp;Rs which were enforced by the Rancho Mirage Country Club Homeowners Association Association. According to the Court record, heres what happened:

"In November 2011, defendants [Hazelbakers] applied for and received approval from the Associations architectural committee to make certain improvements to the patio area of their property. Subsequently, however, the Association contended that defendants had made changes that exceeded the scope of the approval, and which would not have been approved had they been included in defendants November 2011 application.

"On June 19, 2012, the Association sent defendants a request for alternative dispute resolution pursuant to [Civil Code 5930], identifying the disputed improvements and proposing that the parties mediate the issue. Defendants accepted the proposal and a mediation was held on April 8, 2013. A Memorandum of Agreement in Mediation dated April 9, 2013, was reached The agreement called for defendants to make certain modifications to the patio, in accordance with a plan newly approved by the Association The agreement provided for the modifications to be completed within 60 days from the date of the agreement. It also provided for a special assessment on defendants property to pay a portion of the Associations attorney fees incurred to that point

"The modifications described in the mediation agreement were not completed within 60 days. The parties each blame the other for that circumstance."

On September 4, 2013, the Association filed a lawsuit seeking specific performance of the mediation agreement. Subsequently, the parties reached an agreement regarding the modifications, slightly different from those agreed to in mediation. Those modifications were completed in September 2014. However, the parties continued to have disagreements about who should bear the costs of litigation to that point.

On October 15, 2014 the Association filed a motion seeking attorney fees. The motion was based on Civil Code 5975c which is part of a large body of law, commonly referred to as the Davis -- Stirling Act, concerning common interest developments. 5975c says, "In an action to enforce the governing documents, the prevailing party shall be awarded reasonable attorneys fees and costs."

On December 2, 2014 the trial court issued an order granting the Association 18,991 in attorney fees, plus 572 in costs. The Hazelbakers appealed.

The central question for the Appellate Court was "is a lawsuit to enforce an agreement that was reached during mediation or another form of ADR an action to enforce the governing documents in the meaning of section 5975, where the mediation was initiated pursuant to the Davis -- Stirling Act? And the Courts answer was "yes", at least in circumstances similar to this case. The Court acknowledged that the answer might have been no had the mediation involved other matters.

The Hazelbakers also questioned the amount the trial court had awarded. They should have been satisfied with what was assessed. The amount initially requested by the Association was 31,970. In any event, the Appellate Court upheld the trial courts figure of 18,991, noting that "It is well settled, however, that the trial court was not required to issue any explanation of its decision with regard to the fee award."

Finally, the Appellate Court noted that, as prevailing party in the appeal, the Association is entitled to recover its appellate attorney fees. That figure will be set by the trial court.

We dont know what the patio improvement itself cost; but we do know that you can add to that figure the Hazelbakers own attorney fees plus those of the Association.

This all started with a decision to depart from or modify the plans as approved by the Association. Typically, it would really be a bother to go back to the architectural committee and seek approval for the change. But it might have been a whole lot cheaper. Maybe theres a lesson there.

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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Ask the HOA Expert: Abstaining From Voting At a Board Of Directors Meeting

Question: If a board member abstains from voting at a duly called board of directors meeting is this abstention vote an affirmative vote?

Answer: No. The vote is not counted at all. But not voting may have the effect of a negative vote if a certain number of affirmative votes are required to pass a motion.

Question: A unit owner called and said their toilet is overflowing. Is the HOA responsible to clean drain lines that cause back ups?

Answer: It depends where the back up occurs. If the blockage occurs in a line that serves only one unit, it is common for the unit owner to be responsible for the repair. If the blockage occurs in a common line shared by two or more units, the HOA is usually responsible unless the source of blockage can be traced back to a specific unit.

Question: One of our residents has complained of a mold odor within their unit. The board has been investigating dryrot repairs in this building but has not decided on a repair schedule. What should we do?

Answer: If the board is aware of dryrot issues in this building and an unit owner has complained of mold issues, the board should order an air quality inspection immediately. If that inspection indicates dryrot >

Airborne mold in sufficient concentration can be a real health hazard, especially to those that suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments. Take this issue seriously and proactively. The source of the mold, of course, could be from a source within the unit itself failure to use kitchen and bathroom ventilation, resident installed humidifiers, etc.. So, the source of the mold dictates the proper course of action.

Question: We have a disgruntled owner a former board member who publishes a newsletter following every board meeting filled with what he calls, "The Real Story". His spin is often inaccurate and filled with implications of wrong doing by the board. This behavior has been going on for years and he has cost the HOA thousands of dollars by delayed renovation projects, CPA audits and other expenses incurred to prove the boards innocence. No wrongdoing has every been discovered. But several board members have resigned because of the badgering and it is getting difficult to recruit replacements. Suggestions?

Answer: America is the land of free speech but free speech does not entitle someone to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. And just because a member makes claims does not require the board to react to it. To help counteract his misinformation campaign, the board should publish a recap of the meeting shortly after the meeting to tell the real story.

If this person continues to spread lies or defame board members, have the HOAs attorney send him a letter about the consequences for defamation of character which include charging him with legal expenses incurred by the HOA to put a stop to them. Hopefully, he will understand that there could be a high price to pay. The board should, however, be prepared to take legal action if necessary. Some people are slow learners.

Question: Our HOA has been in existence for a couple of years. The main entrance is very unattractive and needs lighting and a sprinkler system. The cost of these improvements would be 5000 and we only have 1000 in reserves What would be the best way to handle this matter?

Answer: The governing documents generally provide the authority the board needs to raise money to care for the common elements by special assessment if necessary. But have you done an Operating Budget that includes insurance, utilities, landscape care and other expenses >

Question: Our HOA has a entry gate with access control that uses smart cards which cost less than 5 each. The HOA charges 50. The boards justification for the high charge is to discourage multiple cards per resident.

Answer: It does make sense from a security point of view that only residents should have smart cards. If extras were easily and cheaply available, they would likely be handed out to friends and >

Question: Our board received a complaint about a resident running a business out of their home. They apparently ship a lot of items and the neighbor wants us to do something about it. Should we ban home businesses?

Answer: Banning home businesses is a bad idea since many people do it in a way that has no impact on the neighbors whatsoever. However, controlling how home offices impact the neighbors and the common area is a good idea. The HOA should have guidelines for home offices as they >

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How Color Help Sell Your Home

Yes Just like curb appeal matters, the colors of your home can and will influence buyers. With that in mind, we explore which colors tend to appeal to the masses.

The color scheme of your home, from the outside in, sets the tone. Its like going to see a theatre play and seeing an intricately crafted and appropriately painted set for the production. It can immediately intrigue youbefore the play has begun and even if you know few details about the play.

When it comes to color, be sure to consider the location. A peach-pink home in a retirement community might be okay, but that same color in an upscale, urban city may be unappealing to younger city dwellers.

The outside of your home is one of the largest areas potential buyers will see. So make your decision carefully and be sure to have a professional paint job done. If you choose white for the exterior, your home is likely to appeal to the masses, according to one study that indicated upwards of 40 percent of people liked white homes.

The great thing about a white home is you have plenty of options to make the home stand out by using an accent color for the trim. The downside is that white gets dirty very fast and shows it more than other colors. So before you list your home, make sure that you have a fresh coat of paint applied or pressure wash the exterior to bring back that newly painted look.

Also take into consideration the color of other homes on the block. Typically, white will not look out of place. However, if you had a purple home on a block where the homes are mostly beige and neutral colors, youll get noticed but wont likely get the kind of attention you want.

Beige with neutral-colored trim is another popular color scheme. Both beige and white are safe exterior colors. They dont turn buyers off.

Theres also been a trend to paint just the front door a deep, rich color like red. This may not be appealing to all. However, buyers would tend to overlook it because its a simple change as well as one that can easily and cheaply be changed to the new buyers choice. As long as the colors look good together, this wouldnt necessarily turn buyers away.

The paint inside your home is equally important. In fact, one good tip for sellers is that if they can do nothing else, they should get some fresh paint up on the walls. The new paint helps showcase the home and gives it a new-home feel.

There are a wide variety of interior colors. Dont feel like you have to go with only beige. You can be a little more daring, using bold accent colors. Just make sure the paint colors you choose dont give a dark, closed-in feeling. Aim to create comfort, a sense of calmness, >

For a more chic and sophisticated look, interior designers often choose from the grey palette. A dark grey color can create a bold statement and attract the eye to a particular area.

Whatever colors you choose, remember that your aim is to appeal to the masses. Test the colors out first. Get opinions from the experts.

Your real estate agent has likely been in hundreds of homes and can offer you some very good guidance.

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You May Think Its Trash But It Could Be Treasure

Stephen Ranger walked into "one of the worst houses in the city" and found a rolled up blanket under the bed. The find -- a Second Phase Navajo chiefs blanket worth more than 100,000, -- was unexpected. A find such as this is rare, says Ranger, vice-president of Waddingtons Auctioneers in Toronto, but it does happen. So when you decide to downsize or purge, its a good idea to call in an expert before you toss everything in the trash.

"Theres never a downside to calling in a local auction house to do a quick walk through," Ranger says, adding a Waddingtons expert costs 200 per hour. "It gives peace of mind."

"If you think something is worth money, chances are it isnt. If you think something is worthless, theres a possibility it may not be," says organizing company Downsizing Diva co-founder Karen Shinn. "Two sisters asked an antiques auctioneer to visit their house and look at their most valuable possession, a dining room set. It was the biggest thing in their house, they had spent the most money on it and used it for important times -- it had emotional value.

However the auctioneer told them it was worth about 400. Then he asked about the two vases sitting on the buffet. The sisters were going to donate them to a church yard sale. Those vases were Moorcroft," Shinn says.

Old magazines, postcards and even vintage cereal boxes are among the items people think are worthless but can actually have value, she says.

"When youre downsizing and want to make sure you dont get rid of valuable items, the best advice is to do your homework. There are a lot of resources out there -- the Internet, antique and art appraisers, books, senior move managers -- so check to make sure you have an idea what something is worth before you let it go. Items may have heart value to you and your family, but when youre talking about dollar value do your research."

If you have something thats been in the family a long time, you may want to have it checked out, Ranger says. "Send a photo to your local auction house." The auction house should give you feedback about whether its worth auctioning or not.

Larger cities usually have qualified specialists working for established companies. "What you want to avoid is someone who comes in and scoops up that van Gogh in the closet," before you know whats happening, Ranger says.

However be prepared for the negative too. The value of most household goods has depreciated, he says. "The next generation doesnt collect like the last one.

Millennials are not collecting figurines or traditional furniture." That said, there are collectors for just about everything, antique, vintage, new and everything in between.

"Every fall when our crews go into homes during back-to-school season we come across valuable items that parents were ready to toss that are actually worth quite a bit of money to collectors," says Mike Thorne, president of St. Catharines, Ont.-based

JustJunk and Shinn have been in the business for 15 years each and put the knowledge theyve gained over the years to work to help their clients spot treasures. It doesnt mean theyll catch everything of value, but a seasoned eye is an asset to your downsizing/purge project.

Here are some of the top kids items with money-making potentialthat JustJunktells parents to look out for when decluttering:

Pokemon: Pokemon Go may have taken the world by storm this summer, but theres plenty of money to be made from the original Pokemon for Nintendo Game Boy. Original game cartridges in good condition are selling to collectors for a few hundred dollars.

Polly Pocket:These tiny dolls and play sets that were popular in the early 90s can fetch 500 or more if theyre in top condition.

Furbies:Launched in 1998, these strange owl-like robotic creatures are still highly sought after. Collectors will pay about 600 for one of these guys in mint condition - sometimes even higher if its in the original packaging.

Harry Potter:If you happened to get on the Harry Potter train early and bought a 1998 first edition of the first book in the fantastically popular series - Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone - you could be in for a payday. Copies in great condition are currently selling for about 6,500 each. Add a signature from author J.K. Rowling and the price more than doubles to about 15,000.

LEGO:Some LEGO sets and mini figures can sell for hundreds of dollars to the right collector. Before getting rid of any LEGOS, its a good idea to check online to see whats hot on the collectables market.

If you have the time and the inclination, you can search items on the Internet to get an idea of their worth. Consignment shops, selling items online and garage sales are ways to cash in on your unwanted items. But you have to gauge whether the time spent will be worth it.

When they are downsizing, people typically make three piles -- keep, donate and toss. Adding a fourth pile could make good financial sense.

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Smart Investments In Your Kitchen Cabinetry

At an average of 50,000, a kitchen remodel is a major undertaking. A good return on that investment means different things to different people. You may be considering resale value, your bank balance at the moment, the elements of your dream kitchen-or all of the above. Whatever the case, kitchen cabinets are a key component of every remodel.

In order to make the best choices for your particular needs and desires, and to make an investment of time and money that really pays off, a little homework is in order. Lets get you started with a little background on the basics that will have you making decisions with confidence and cooking in >

Talk to the Pros

When it comes to considering the return on investment for remodels, youre really talking about what your home will sell for after that remodel is complete. No one will be able to answer that question better than real estate professionals and professional interior designers who work in your neighborhood. Consult with at least one of each to find out what finishes and extras other clients in your area are looking for, and what theyre willing to pay for those amenities.

Start With a Great Floor Plan

So much happens in the kitchen-a good floor plan can really help you direct activity flow in that high-traffic space. Buyers are looking for their dream kitchen, and they are surprisingly informed about what makes a good floor plan. Make sure your cabinets are conveniently placed for maximum accessibility. Whether thats surrounding the refrigerator with floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets, or giving up some cabinet space in order to mount the oven on the wall, think carefully about how you operate in the space. Where are the prep, cooking and cleaning zones in your kitchen, and how will cabinetry best serve them?

Keep It Simple

Any real estate agent will tell you that, if resale value is a consideration in your remodel, you should avoid ornate or trendy >

Make a Good Match

Of course, open floor plans are very desirable right now, so thats definitely a consideration to make if your remodel budget will allow it. If youre already working with an open floor plan, be sure that your new cabinets are faced with doors that complement the design >

Its All in the Details

With kitchen remodels, it really is all in the details. One thing buyers today are willing to pay for are those little extras that make cooking and cleaning a much more pleasant affair. Roll-out drawers are definitely worth consideration and are really not the budget buster most of our clients expect them to be. A vertical, pull-out pantry near the fridge or cook top is another favorite, as are quiet-close drawers. We love the look and warmth of under-cabinet lighting, which also makes for great task lighting. And while glass front cabinets are not for everyone, if you do make that choice, be sure to go the extra mile with interior lighting-it makes the kitchen a show stopper.

The Nitty Gritty

Now youve got a sense of the choices and amenities available and those that buyers are currently looking for. But when it comes to a return on your remodel investment, what should you look for in the cabinets themselves-high-end for the high rollers or down-and-dirty to make that sale? Its true that you can see the difference in upscale cabinetry created from specialty woods, but most buyers arent expecting that extra. On the other hand, you dont have to be a real estate agent or designer to spot cheap cabinetry, and buyers definitely dont want to walk into a kitchen they know theyll have to remodel themselves.

In our experience, there are lots of quality, mid-range cabinets out there that give you the best chance of making your money back. You need cabinets with the design and craftsmanship that allow you to offer those quiet-close drawers and sliding shelves in the cabinets, and finishes that work with all kinds of design >

What are you looking for in your next set of kitchen cabinets?

Award winning interior designer, Kerrie Kelly, writes for The Home Depot about what kitchen remodel features will give you the most resale value. For more info on kitchen cabinets like the ones Kerrie talks about in this article, visit the Home Depot here.

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Effective Communication In Your HOA

Communication is both a skill and an art form. When babies cry, the motivation is to get their needs met. Meeting the needs of others is nowhere in a babys method. While infant communication is primitive, it is highly effective. A crying baby gets fed, diapers changed, burped, etc. With maturity and training comes more sophisticated and usually less self-serving ways to communicate. Homeowner associations are charged with communicating with the members. The reasons for communicating vary including:

Socialization. As moderns become more isolated from each other, the need to find connecting points becomes more important. HOAs can provide a platform to coax members out of their isolation by offering volunteer opportunities and social functions. Introducing the members to new residents through newsletters grooms the connections as well. A Welcoming Committee not only provides the human touch, it can provide early warning about important HOA rules and regulations so that newcomers dont inadvertently get crosswise with the HOA from the get go.

Paying the Bills. There are few things more immediate and urgent than collecting HOA fees. Without money, HOA services suffer or are curtailed. Without money, maintenance lags and property values drop. So, getting 100 payment compliance is extremely important. While the hope is that it is done voluntarily, sometimes it must be coerced by legal means. But even when lawyers are brought into the matter, a carefully worded demand letter can produce quick results.

Getting Compliance. Every HOA has rules. Hopefully, those rules are few, necessary and not overly intrusive. When a rule is made, explaining the need for it and the goal in having it can go a long way to encouraging compliance rather than defiance. Whenever a rule is being contemplated, the board should always, always, always solicit member input. This tactic reduces the likelihood of challenge.

Communication comes in many shapes and sizes. The common ones include signs, newsletters, meeting minutes, postings, emails and the HOAs website. These communications can have a variety of meanings: to inform, to warn rule violations, to invite summer social and to congratulate kudos for a job well done.

The more the words, the less the meaning. When it comes to effective communication, less is more. Use words economically. This takes thought. In conversation, many words are used to test impact on the listener. So, in conversation, its not uncommon for the same thing to be repeated with different words in an effort to embellish or give greater impact to the meaning being conveyed. If folks write the way they talk, their writings, would ra>

Words have both strengths and weaknesses. One weakness of the written word is that it may be read by an unintended audience which doesnt have the background the writer needs to be understood. Another pitfall is that some of the audience may be prejudiced against the writer and refuse to understand the communication the way its intended. These folks will actually take the message, add their own spin and circulate the "real story". A war of words ensues. The time and emotional energy it takes for damage control may discourage future communication altogether.

As it is written, "In the beginning, there was the Word." Words are with us forever. Its what we do with those words that make all the difference. Like blacksmithing, right wording takes hammering and shaping before the whole thought can take shape.

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Et Tu, Draperies? The Rise of Roman Shades

Sometimes, regular blinds just wont cut it. Your living space is warm and inviting, or bright and energetic, and adding regular or faux wood blinds feels a little too ordinary. You need a little more character, a little more texture, or you want to add some color to your window treatments. This is a perfect time to consider adding roman shades for a >

The Benefits of Roman Shades

Roman shades, also known as roman blinds, are window coverings used to block out intrusive sunlight while giving your living space a modern look. But unlike standard blinds, these are fabric treatments, which stack up evenly at the top of the window when pulled open. When they are down, theyre flat or hobbled, and their fabric is typically more adept than standard blinds at blocking out sun and keeping rooms cool or warm in the winter months.

Since these shades are fabric, the color and design options are seemingly endless. Roman shades come in every solid color in the spectrum and hundreds of patterns and designs to fit any room of any home. They also come lined or unlined, so you can decide whether you want some sunlight to peek through or you want complete darkness.

Choosing the Fabric and Size

To decide on what sort of fabric you want for your roman shades, consider what you need the shades to do and what matches best with your living area. Is your furniture patterned or solid? Consider countering it with an opposite look in your shades.

Choosing the "face fabric," or the fabric you will see in the room, as well as whether a liner is present, is important, because it will change the look of your room and determine the translucency and maneuverability of the shades. Lighter colors and thinner materials versus darker colors and more rigid fabrics are self-explanatory. Take a few samples, hold them up against an open window, and fold them in your hand to determine how much light they do or do not block, and how flexible theyll be when you raise and lower them.

Once you figure out your preferred material, as well as the color and pattern, think about whether you want the shades to be >

There are a number of other aesthetic choices when it comes to roman shades, and once you have all the bells and whistles ironed out, its time to decide on how to control the shades. They can be raised and lowered with different cord systems, or they can be remote controlled using a small electric motor.


Its important to know before you purchase the shades whether you want to install them inside or outside of the window frame, as this will affect the size of the shade. Installing shades on the inside of the frames is the most common approach; you just have to make sure the frame is wide enough.

As with any installation, measurement is key. Carefully measure your windows based on the inside or outside mounting, and follow installation instructions closely. Specific installation instructions will vary based on the type of shade you choose.

Viola You have new, modern, beautiful roman shades accenting your home, adding even more character and comfort to your living space.

Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for and a frequent public speaker on Social Media Marketing, Social Customer Care and profitable company culture. An active blogger and early social technology adopter, you can find her online as happykatie sharing home dcor, yoga, parenting and vegetarian cooking tips.

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Apathy And The Condo Owner

Question. I live in a condominium development consisting of more than 200 townhouses. Our Bylaws state that to have a quorum, we must have a majority of the homeowners of the Condominium Association, either in person or by proxy. A majority did not attend the recent annual meeting, either in person or by proxy. The Board of Directors said we could not elect new Board members or have an official meeting because there was no quorum. We returned for second meeting and again could not meet the quorum requirements.

A few of us about 100 in person and by proxy are quite upset because we cannot elect new members to the Board or have our concerns raised with respect to such items as budget, maintenance and repairs. What recourse do we have?

Answer. If down the road you ever get the chance to amend your Bylaws, drop the quorum requirement down to 33 1/3 percent.

Unfortunately, those of us who work in or with community associations have to admit that apathy is often very strong. Indeed, often the reason given why people are purchasing a condominium unit is because they do not want to get involved anymore. They do not want to shovel the snow, or to cut the grass. They want others to handle all of these matters.

The most obvious answer I can give is to sell your unit. You are facing the beginning of what appears to be significant problems in your community, and if a majority of owners are not interested in casting their votes either in person or by proxy, the democracy of the community will fall to the will of the minority.

Obviously, it is clear you do not want to sell but would like to get more deeply involved in the day-to-day activities of your Association. I suggest you start a major political campaign within your community, quite similar to the political campaigns of candidates for public office.

Ask the Management Company for the names, addresses and phone numbers of all unit owners -- whether they reside in the complex or are absentee owners. This should be public information, although I dont believe that private phone numbers should be >

Before the meeting it will be your responsibility to line up as many proxies as possible. Even if you have to stand on the street corner when people are on their way to or returning from work, you have to educate your fellow owners about the serious nature of the problems within your Association.

The purpose of the special meeting should be to elect directors so that the Condominium will be run by the will of the majority. If it is a special meeting, the only business that can be held is that which was spelled out in the meeting notice.

One caveat: read your Bylaw provisions on proxies. There may be restrictions on the number that can be given any one owner.

You also should have a lawyer review local law to determine whether there are any comparisons that can be drawn from corporate law. Often, there are provisions in the law dealing with the inability to obtain a quorum, and there may be other legal avenues available to you that have not yet been addressed.

I also suggest you plan to run for the Board of Directors. Obviously, you are concerned enough about the stability and the future of your Association, and people like you should not sit by on the sidelines. You should get involved; that is the essence of condominium living.

One final solution is to go to court and have the court appoint a receiver to run and manage the Association until the Board has an opportunity to establish a new election. I am not advocating this severe remedy, because it is not only time-consuming and expensive, but the courts should not get involved in running your own Association.

After all, the court might take the position that if the membership of your condominium is not interested in attending the annual election or even giving proxies, why should the court get involved?

Unfortunately, the problems facing community associations today are varied and complex. The condominium is a community. It has to be run by a strong Board of Directors, with full authority from the membership. The Board, however, must recognize that, like any other elected official, it owes its allegiance and gets its authority from the community at large.

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Breaking Down The 50 Worst Cities To Live In

People looking to buy a new home or potentially >

You know, those cities where the home prices so far exceed the national average you need the income of a small, oil-rich country to afford to buy there?

Or one whose real estate market and/or job market is stagnant, or worse?

Or one with a crime rate that is enough to scare off literally potential buyers?

There are also lists that outline where not to buy for these and various other reasons, like this one from 24/7 Wall St. that whittled down 550 cities into a scroll of "Americas 50 Worst Cities To Live In." Their methodology was based on data "in nine major categories: crime, demographics, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure."

Many of the cities on the list are expected - places like Detroit that have been hard-hit by the economy and show few signs of recovery more on that below. But, you might be surprised by the No. 1 city on their list of: Miami.

Miami Herald

"No city in the United States is worse to live in than Miami," they said. "The citys median home value of 245,000 is well above the national median of 181,200. However, with a median household income of only 31,917 a year, well below the national median of 53,657, most of these homes are either out of reach or a financial burden on most Miami residents."

Unlike the images of seaside mansions and bikinied beachgoers that may spring to mind when you think of Miami, it turns out the city is not all glitz and glamour, thanks to a mindboggling disparity between the tippy-top of the citys wealthyand everyone else.

"According to recently >

Second on the list, the aforementioned Detroit, whose problems have been well-documented. Low home values and a high poverty level, not to mention the citys bankruptcy in 2013, make progress a challenge. But the high crime rate and educational issues might be the most upsetting factors.

"Although its hard to pick out the citys biggest problem, crime is a worthy contender," said Area Vibes, who named Detroit No. 1 on their list of worst cities. "A criminality rate thats 155 above the national average will have residents huddled in their homes after dark. Detroits struggles extend to the >

Detroit was also No. 3 on Neighborhood Scouts website of the Most Dangerous Cities. This site breaks out crime rates by violent and personal, and then further breaks down the data by type - a useful tool for those who want specific info >


The rest of the "worst" according to 24/7 Wall St. include:

3. Patterson, NJ - "Like many American industrial cities, Patersons economy is no longer prospering as it once was," they said. "More than 30 of the areas residents live in poverty, nearly double the national poverty rate."

4. Hawthorne, CA - "The poverty rate is not as high as in some other cities on the list, but the home values that are just astronomical make it near impossible for many of Hawthornes residents to afford a home," said Cities Journal. "It should also be pointed out that Hawthorne is a very polluted city where the air is hazardous about 15 percent of the year. The national median is about 6 percent."

5. Fall River, MA - "The median household income in Fall River is only 35,037, just roughly half the income a typical Massachusetts household earns and about 18,500 less than the income the typical American household earns," said 24/7 Wall St.

6. Birmingham, AL - Low home values, low incomes and a poverty rate of 30.5 - almost double the rate across the country - put Birmingham on the list.

7. Memphis, TN - Despite its deep musical roots, Memphis has experienced hard times of late. About a third of those in the city are living in poverty and violent crime is nearly five times higher than the national rate.

8. Flint, MI - The city of Flint, Michigan "has seen more than its fair share of struggles in the past few years, said Business Insider. "Its known as one of the most dangerous cities in America, and the poverty that afflicts the city is part of the reason its residents have been exposed to such dangerous levels of lead," which led to a state of emergency in the city. Flint has the second - highest poverty rate of any city in the U.S., at approximately 40.

9. Cleveland, OH - At just 24,701 a year, Clevelands median household income is the second lowest in the country, and its 39.2 poverty rate the fifth highest.

10. Gary IN - "Gary was called the murder capital of the world in the 1990s, but violent crime is down dramatically in Gary in recent years," said Forbes on their list of Most Miserable Cities. Still, the city is "plagued by high foreclosures and migration out of the city."

In fact, 24/7 Wall St. reports that, "Garys population is shrinking faster than that of any other U.S. city. The number of people that call Gary home has dropped by 26.7 in the last decade and by 25.5 in the last five years. A declining population is not especially surprising given the citys bleak economic conditions."

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Quick Question: Whats The Right Price?

Important real estate questions can often be asked quickly "Whats the right sale price?" or "Whats the right list price?" however, the answers may take a while. A question may be simple to ask, but the answer is usually complex because real estate is complicated.

Even when the person answering is very familiar with the subject, arriving at the "right" best fit, complete, and accurate answer may first require asking questions of the quick-question asker, because:

Context is vital: Asking these questions is necessary to clarify location, property type, >

Point of View is highly >The questioner may be asking from their point of view, or asking about the other parties involved, asking for a friend or >

Level of understanding is essential: The questioners level of real estate knowledge and experience determines how a complex answer to a "simple" question should be framed for maximum understanding. The answer must take into account the askers knowledge of the law, finances, the real estate industry, and >

And all this must be processed quickly. The person asked is expected to respond almost immediately.

As a speaker, writer, and author, I am regularly asked: "May I ask you a quick question?" My answer is as quick as the question may have been: "Yes, of course. Id be delighted, however, the answer may not be as quick as the question."

A quick question is often a closed question which grammatically begs a short, factual, even "yes or no" or "either or neither" answer. However, there can be a lot for the answerer me in this case to consider before beginning to formulate an answer. For instance heres a quick question I was asked recently:

"I have a quick real estate question for you, PJ," began Bill, a stranger who had heard I write this column. "Is it better to list a house at a lower price to entice buyers [into a bidding war] or set a price more compatible with what the hoped-for sale price might be?"

Yesor noor eitheror neither. The answerer may have an opinion from past experience or a personal preference for the same reasons. However, the accurate answer to the question lies in transforming this general query into a specific response >

The general answer to Bills general question? "That depends on how desirable to identified target buyers Bills property is and whether there is a buyers or sellers market in that location." At the same time, Bills goals regarding the sale are just as important to consider in choosing a marketing strategy for price list and sale.

The specific answer for Bills specific question would first involve collecting property and ownership details, then determining market conditions, then creating a marketing strategy that reflects Bills goals. Thats what real estate professionals do. One that is familiar with Bills specific property and market, would have a knowledgeable answer for Bill. If this were Bills listing professional, Bill would receive specific, high-level details regarding each pricing option, so he could make a confident decision about all aspects of price. Along with market data on actual sales, this information would include details regarding listings competing with Bills for target buyer offers.

My answer to Bill after he answered a few of my questions was directed to what information and support he could expect to receive from the real estate professional he selected to sell his home. Bill had intended to use the "right" answer to his quick question to select a listing salesperson.

My quick answer concentrated on explaining how either strategy could work. However, I stressed that only a professional with local market knowledge and experience, could provide the information to help him see which alternative would achieve his goals. The question Bill really wanted an answer to was: "How do I identify and select the best real estate professional to sell my home and achieve my goals?" Thats the quick question I answered. Bill told me the answer was exactly what he needed.

My Quick Question: Does this make you afraid to ask me or anyone else a "quick question?" It must not. Sorting out what you dont know about real estate will ensure your selling or buying success. Real estate professionals are trained to answer quick questions and every other type, so ask away. Listen to the answers. Youll learn a lot very quickly.

Remember, there are no "stupid questions" in real estate, except those questions you dont ask and later wish you had.


Here is a sampling of articles from my RT column "Decisions amp; Communities" that explain complexities in simple terms regarding price and selling your real estate:

  • What Price Location?
  • 6 Home Seller Procrastinations: What Are You Waiting For?
  • 3 Key Pre-Offer Home Seller Actions
  • Quiz: Are You A Hot Seller?
  • Theres More to It Than Price

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10 Tips For Staying Sane While DIYing

The home renovation industry continues to grow every day, and growing in lockstep: the number of people who are doing it themselves, with, well, varying results. Launching into a difficult project with no experience or training can prove disastrous. So can undertaking a renovation without a strong foundation in place - and that applies to both the home youre working on and your >

Follow a few tips to help you DIY without leaving your body, your house, your marriage, or your finances DOA.

Make a plan - and stick to it

The research and planning you do beforehand will save you time and aggravation later on. Figure out your new floorplan, if there is one, and all the materials, details, and resources before you swing that hammer. The tighter your plan, the better your chances for achieving your desired result.

Take a broad view

Yes, experts insist that the secret to a successful remodel is planning, but "more specifically, a master plan," said The Oklahoman. "Having a master plan doesnt necessarily mean you are going to do a full house remodel this year. It just means you have an ultimate vision for your house - a clear goal as to how you want it to function now and in the future."


Choose - and order - your products early on

So, you fall in love with this floor tile that looks just like old barnwood, but you wait until the last minute to order it, and... its been discontinued. Uh oh. Selecting your products at the beginning of your project is important because it helps you develop the big picture, but make sure you get them ordered, too, or you might have to start over.

"Making product selections early can prevent delays later," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Proper planning can also help keep you on budget."

Create a realistic budget

Speaking of budget...

You may think you can fully renovate your entire kitchen and master bath for 5,000, but...nah. Unless you have some trick for getting products for free, youre dreaming. Can you make some significant changes to your spaces without depleting your bank balances? Sure. But your budget has to match up with reality, or youll just end up frustrated and disappointed. And dont forget to add in a contingency to your budget so when you have oopsies and overages, you dont have to scramble to find extra cash.

Be realistic about the timeline, too

Do your research when it comes to figuring out how much time to set aside for your renovation projects. Then add some more. And, if youre a super-novice, sprinkle some more on that. Its better to err on the long side of a potential timeline; that way, if youre making arrangements to be off work, to stay with friends, or to have someone watch your kids or dogs, youll be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Learn a little something

Resources are out there to help you become skilled at all kinds of stuff. Take that online >

Bring in the pros for the tough stuff

Knocking down walls or getting into electrical or plumbing? it might be a good idea to bring in contractors to accomplish those tasks.


Renovating with a spouse or significant other? Be kind to each other and keep the communication flowing. Renovating is known to be one of the most stressful activities a couple can do together. You dont want to end up with a beautiful kitchen but a broken marriage.


Dont sweat the small stuff

The success of your renovation, to a large degree, depends on your ability to roll with it when things dont go your way. The stain color for the floor will be off. The bathroom tile will be backordered. The countertop will be delivered with a massive crack in it. Does that all qualify as "small stuff?" Maybe not, but keeping a good attitude - and keeping your eye on the prize - will help you make it through, even when it seems like your project is going off the rails.

"Sure, remodeling is exciting," said Better Homes and Gardens. "But theres also a lot of frustration as you encounter unexpected snags, delays, and the inevitable inconveniences that come from living in a construction zone. Youll handle the lows better if you know theyre coming."

Practice the art of compromise

Back to the stress of renovating and the effect it can have on your >

Want to know why couples fight during the process? Taste issues, according to a survey on Houzz. "Why all the tension? Its everyones >
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Renovations To Think About Now If You Want A Holiday-Ready Home

Extended family descending on your house this year? Dont panic. If you start now, you can have a holiday-ready home by the time Aunt Brenda and her brood shows up.

"We say it every year - the holidays will be here before we know it," said Prime Lending. "For many people, that means hosting parties, welcoming overnight guests and opening your home to unexpected drop-in visitors. You may be thinking it would be great to spruce things up around your house before the holiday hustle and bustle begins. Now is a great time to dive into your home makeover and wrap it up before the holidays arrive."

Here are the areas you might want to focus on first.

Get your kitchen looking cheftastic

Chances are, your kitchen is going to be one of the places where people are congregating during the holidays, and not just while cooking. If its seen better days, or if it just doesnt reflect your >

Photo by Mary Evelyn Interiors - More transitional kitchen ideas

Replace or repair appliances

Thinking about the function of your kitchen - not just how youll use it over the holidays, but all year round - is key to making good choices when renovating. "If you are hosting Thanksgiving, a double oven and a new refrigerator may be your top priority," said Prime Lending.

Maybe your dishwasher has seen better days or your washer and dryer have been hanging on for a while. Knowing that theyll be put to good use with a house full of people might inspire you to make some upgrades now.

Consider the stuff you serve with and eat on, too

While youre in the kitchen, you may want to think about upgrading your cookware, cooking utensils, glassware, silverware, and anything else that will be helping you prepare, serve, or eat food during the holidays. How old are those dishes, anyway?

Living room redo

If you have clunky built-ins or a large armoire housing your outdated TV, it might be time to make some changes. Turn the built-ins into bookcases or a sleek desk with some streamlined shelving above, which can provide both function and a fashionable upgrade. Turn a fireplace into a focal point by retiling or simply painting old brick white and hang a flat screen above. Voila. Your hangout space is updated and holiday-ready.

If youre not super tech-savvy and have never installed a flat screen before, its smart to hire someone who is and who has. "If a new flat panel television, home theatre system, or other electronic devices are bound for your household this gift-giving season, consider seeking installation quotes from a trained professional," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Proper installation can maximize your enjoyment of new electronics for a fraction of their purchase price, and the stress of following a multi-page instruction manual may bring out the Scrooge in many DIYers."

Better Homes and Gardens

Add new bedding

You can make the guests rooms or the guest couches, if your family converging on one house for the holidays looks anything like ours hospitable and improve the look at the same time by changing out the bedding. Buying new sheets and a comforter is easy and inexpensive - and dont forget new pillows, too. Choose a neutral color for the comforter and add some patterned pillow for some zip. Or, choose a graphic pattern to give the bed a modern feel. A fresh coat of paint in a color that is neutral and that gives the rooms a calming nature will help transform them into something that feels resort-like.

Address the back yard

If you live in a climate that allows outdoor enjoyment throughout the year - or if you know the kids will be playing outside regardless of the temperature - making some changes in your yard might be in order. The fall is a great time to buy patio furniture, since its typically on sale after summer ends. A firepit can be an inviting addition to your outdoor area, and one that will allow your guests to gather in front of a crackling fire while bundled up with a tasty, holiday beverage.

Update the guest bathrooms

One thing you can count on is that your guests will be spending time in the bathrooms. If yours are in need of some attention, nows the time to pay some. If you dont want to do a complete overhaul, you can make simple, inexpensive edits by changing out the showerhead, faucets, lighting, and slathering on a fresh coat of paint. A new paint color and some new hardware can also liven up older cabinets. Add a fresh set of towels and bath mats, and youre all set.

Do a complete audit of everything else

Do a complete walkthrough of your house. Turn on all the baths, sinks, and showers, and all the lights and TVs. Sit on the beds, couches, and chairs. Open closets. Search the walls, doors, and baseboards for nicks and scratches. This will give you a head start on anything that needs to be fixed or replaced before family starts knocking on the door.

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Hot Toronto Rental Market Takes Real Estate Agents By Surprise

Its not only the housing market thats hot, and the job market thats competitive. In the Greater Toronto Area, rental properties are seeing multiple offers. For would-be tenants, the experience is not unlike applying for a job, as they hope to be selected from a pool of qualified applicants.Its also not unlike going into a multiple offer situation when buying a house.

"Last year we could put an apartment on the Multiple Listing Service. Regardless of price point, in two or three weeks, a few people would view it and wed get one application," says real estate agent Sue Anfang of Keller Williams Realty in Toronto. Anfang specializes in residential real estate purchase and sales, some investment properties and residential leasing. She has been in the business for 10 years.

Now, in a turn of events thats catching Toronto real estate agents by surprise, rental properties are attracting multiple people. In the last year, good places priced right are getting more than their share of attention.

Anfangs recent downtown condo lease had 40 showings in two days and rented for more than the 1,750 asking price.

But the market isnt just hot downtown. Her listing for a "smallish basement apartment" in Scarborough, a Toronto suburb, was listed for 920 per month. It was very clean and bright, unusual for a basement, and it had 20 showings in one week and resulted in five good applicants, she says.

"Its happening downtown, in North York, Markham and Richmond Hill too," says real estate agent Susan Chen of Century 21 Kings Quay Inc. She has been a sales rep for four years, helping clients buy and sell, but she also helps international students find rentals.

The big indicator of a changing trend is that real estate agents were doing most of the showings. Having agents involved in high end rentals isnt unusual, but theyre getting involved at every price point as desperate tenants approach agents to see how to win in multiple offers, Anfang says.

On the other side of the table, landlords who want better quality tenants and dont feel confident in doing the search themselves are calling on real estate agents to help, she says.

Real estate agents go through the applications, check references and do credit checks. Landlords are then given their pick of a litter of highly qualified tenants. She says "landlords are, in a sense, hiring."

Doing rentals is a lot of work for agents about the same amount as when helping people buy or sell and the compensation is not high. "You might get a half-months rent for doing it. For a basement apartment, that could be a couple hundred dollars," she says.

The hot real estate market is partially to blame for the frenzy. Some homeowners are cashing in on their homes in the suburbs and moving downtown to be closer to work and cut their commute. Because of lack of inventory, as well as high prices, they decided to rent instead.

As with the housing market, multiple offers can bring out the aggressive. Anfang had an agent calling at 11:30 pm, asking what they could do to get the condo unit for their client.

Anfang, who often works for the landlords, offers these tips:

  • Dont start looking until you have given notice. I need to know you will be able to take the rental when the landlord wants occupancy. If representing the landlord, I want to know that youve given notice.
  • Have your references lined up. Fill out the rental application and take it to the showing. Make sure your references know they may be getting calls. References from past landlords are best.
  • Have your income verification ready. It sometimes takes time to get a copy, so request one in advance of your apartment search.
  • Do a credit check on yourself. Equifax will cost about 20. If you request a free version, it will be sent by snail mail, which will take time so take that into account.
  • Google yourself to see what comes up. A landlord may check you out so it will pay to see what theyll see.
  • Have a Plan B -- line up a temporary residence an Airbnb or arrange to stay with family or friends because you dont want to be without a place to live.

    You may have to settle for neighbourhoods outside of the downtown core. Remember, rentals that are closer to good transit options and highways are more in demand because people want to be close to work and amenities, Anfang says.

    Landlords tend to choose tenants who are the best fit, often people who are quiet and who they dont think will put a lot of wear and tear on the property. They look for someone who is responsible and employed.

    But even for a professional who is making good money, its not a given that they will get the unit in a multiple offers situation.

    For students the competition is even stiffer and they have to sweeten the deal. Agent Susan Chen says summer is always a busy time with students looking to rent. She says there are fewer units for lease this year compared to last.

    To find a rental in North York, another Toronto suburb, she had to put one students application in three times. Landlords prefer someone who has a job, Chen says. There are more potential tenants -- this year she has seen seven or eight competitive offers on rental properties. She says one deal in August drew more than 10 offers.

    But there are things students can do to get the landlords attention. "They may have to go up a little in price, or be willing to take a longer lease," she says. It was Chens client who offered to pay 50 more per month on Anfangs downtown condo lease and ended up with the unit.

    Another tactic is to offer one year of rent upfront. "International students dont have a guarantor and it may be the only way to get the landlord to choose them," Chen says.

    Connie Adair is a Toronto-based freelance writer who covers real estate and design, and has co-authored a book, Crack in the Armor, about police and post-traumatic stress disorder. Email .

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    HOA Meeting Ice Breakers

    Ice breakers are a great way to begin a homeowner association meeting. They help to >

    Ice breakers can be fun, amusing, thoughtful, surprising or just plain silly. The days of one-liner jokes as ice breakers are gone. There are many new creative ideas. The most popular are games that have participants reveal something personal about themselves, or which encourage participants to get to know each other personally. The idea is that more than just having fun, the ice breaker will truly help to create group cohesion based on trust and understanding.

    One of the tricks of an icebreaker is timing. It should not be too long otherwise the serious work of the meeting will not be given enough time. It should not be so short that participants feel it was a perfunctory exercise. Timing also depends on the size of the group, the overall length of the event, and the purpose of the event. An all-day retreat might warrant a half hour ice breaker, but a one-hour meeting may merit only a minute or two. The following are some ideas compiled by category, and gathered from a variety of sources:


    1. Have participants say three things about themselves - two true and one lie. Others guess what the lie is.

    2. Have everyone write on a piece of paper their answers to these questions: What is your favorite food, animal, TV show, hobby and color? Sign your name. Dont let anyone else see the answers. The leader then reads the answers to the whole group, and members try to guess whom each set of answers belongs to. Award one point for each right guess. The person with the most points wins a prize.

    3. Give each person a list of five to ten traits that they must find in common with the people around them. Sample items could be: "Find someone that was born in the same month", "..someone who lives in your state", or "..drives the same model of car". A prize is awarded to the participants with the most in common.

    Activities. Write the words "agree," "disagree," "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" on separate pieces of paper and post them on four different walls of the room. Then make a statement such as "our organization can change the world" and have everybody move to the part of the room that matches their opinion. Have the group discuss why they chose their response. With everyone in a circle, have someone come up with a short story that they whisper to the person next to them, and so on. Have the last person recount the story out loud.

    Simple Lead-Ins.

    1. Ask participants to state one or two "burning questions" they hope will be answered in this session.

    2. Have participants describe one strategy/resource they have used successfully >

    3. Have them state their personal definition of the topic such as "Rule Enforcement" means...".

    Be creative and come up with your own meeting ice breakers.

    For more innovative HOA management strategies, subscribe to

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    Prepare for a Rural Life: The Things You Dont Expect

    Making the move from city life to country living can be one of the best decisions you ever make. The life>

    To better prepare yourself for a move to the country, take a moment to read over and consider the implications of the following insights. As a person who spent the first 13 years of her life in the heart of a bustling city before moving to the country, I can understand why it may feel like youre moving to an enti>

    The Perks of Mother Nature

    Lets start with the obvious fact that the city endlessly burps out clouds of pollution and exhaust while the countryside constantly emits fresh, clean air. The close proximity to mother nature has a very positive effect on your physical and mental health. You dont have to deal with traffic, trash or a 5-mile commute to reach a city park. All you have to do is step outside and youre there.

    Your children can play without constant supervision, which will give them a much greater sense of independence. You will have more room to spread out and indulge in new interests and hobbies. Growing your own food is common in rural communities and is a useful tool for adults to overcome a variety of health and social issues. Not only is it >

    But with all this space and freedom come other factors you may not consider, factors that arent necessarily drawbacks, but definitely worth noting. If you live in a big enough city, chances are you dont have a car, or if you do, its economical and small. But out in the country owning a vehicle is a necessity as is an Amazon Prime account, seeing as you cant walk to the grocery store or take public transportation to school or work. Its necessary to drive and most of the time it will take more than a few minutes to get where youre going. Owning a >

    Reshaping Your Hobbies and Social Circles

    Now that youre living in a rural community, enjoying your space, freedom and hopefully a shiny new car, you might be surprised to hear gunshots in the distance or even nearby. Dont worry, the chances that the gun shots are crime->

    A major thing that most dont consider when moving to the countryside is the dramatic decrease in social interaction. You may notice a drop in time spent in your social circles when you move because you wont be around all of the time. But in return, you will be rewarded with a greater sense of community and, hopefully, an especially fruitful grapevine. Rural communities tend to be spread out but close knit. If someone doesnt have something you need, chances are they know someone who does. Prepare yourself for these social changes by visiting the community youre interested in and attending local >

    Investigate the Community

    Visiting the community youre interested in is another great way to prepare for your move. If you have children, make sure you do your research on the local school district; compared to city, educational programs can be few and far between. Dont worry though, your children will benefit in many ways from a move to the country, especially when crime rates are significantly lower in rural areas than in the city.

    Another thing you should prepare for is the cell reception or internet speed in your new home. Check out available internet providers so you dont wind up in a tight spot. If you work from home and use the internet a lot, or youre used to streaming Netflix on TVs, an iPad and your sons laptop, you might need to consider the implications of slow internet connection for where you want to live and the costs of improving it.

    Full Story >

    Selecting The Proper Condominium Manager

    Question: I have owned a condominium for a long time and have served on the Board of Directors for several years. One big problem involves our condominium management firm.

    What criteria should be used for selecting a management firm? What services should the management company perform? Once a contract has been signed, how often should the management be evaluated? What is the appropriate interaction between the board and the management company and its employees?

    There is a lot of dissatisfaction with management among the co-owners, but I also suspect our Board of Directors may be partially at fault by trying to handle management on a daily basis, rather than concerning itself primarily with policy. Your advice would be appreciated.

    Answer: Management in a condominium association is vital to the success of the association.

    While some condominium associations prefer to "self-manage" their association, this often does not work. Even if the self-managed board pays its own manager, it means volunteer members of the Board of Directors have to get involved in the day-to-day operations -- and often these Boards of Directors do not have the time or the inclination to get deeply involved. More important, most Board members do not want to contact their next door neighbor and tell her "hey, you are three months delinquent".

    Whether your condominium contains 12 units or 1,200 units, you are running a business. The members of a Board of Directors has a fiduciary responsibility to act reasonably and properly. They should not -- and indeed cannot -- get involved in every detail of the association.

    A well-run condominium will hire a management company and delegate major responsibilities to it. However, all too often the Board over-delegates -- and under-supervises -- and the results turn out to be unsatisfactory to the condominium owners as well as to the management company.

    How do you select a management company? I recommend you contact six to ten management companies and ask them to send bid proposals. They should include in their proposals the names of several condominium associations they currently manage so you can obtain references.

    It is imperative that you call the President or Vice President of those other condominium associations to determine whether they are satisfied with the management company. And of course, we all know that no one will provide a reference who will have negative comments.

    Price alone should not be the determining factor on whether to go with a particular management company. If the cost is low, the quality and quantity of services may be equally low; you will only "get what you pay for."

    You should determine whether there will be an on-site manager, and how many hours that manager will devote to your project. Will the on-site manager have responsibilities for other condominium associations as well as yours?

    Obviously, if you are a small association, you will probably have to accept the fact that the manager will be working with other associations at the same time.

    Ask whether the management company is a member of the Community Associations Institute CAI, a national organization dedicated to the problems of community associations.

    Do the managers actively participate in the many educational programs conducted by the CAI?

    According to one commentator on condominium activities, association management "typically involves at least nine areas of responsibility."

    These include environmental standards, maintenance of common properties, the provision of common services, internal communications, financial management, general administration, procurement of insurance, the preparation of tax returns and other reports, and assistance to the Board of Directors on policy matters.

    With respect to evaluation of the management company, the Board should assign one but not more than two members of the Board to be the liaison with the management company.

    The company should furnish biweekly or monthly reports listing the kinds of services performed, problems raised for Board consideration, delinquency stats, and future planning problems to be considered by the Board.

    The Board should meet periodically with the company to review these reports and program future activities for the association.

    I recommend that at least once a year the Board should request that the management company prepare a brief "state of the condominium" report, which should be made available not only to Board members, but also to the owners in the association.

    After the Board receives this report, it should evaluate the management company based on its past practices. If the Board is dissatisfied with the management company, it should give that company an opportunity to explain its actions and correct its activities, if possible.

    You highlighted perhaps the most significant aspect of the >

    The Board should clearly recognize that once it hires a management company, it should delegate responsibilities to that company and not try to get involved in the day-to-day activities of the association.

    If Board members want to get involved, they should manage the condominium themselves. Learning to delegate is difficult but not impossible.

    After the management company is in place, ask it for periodic feedback as to whether the Board is getting too involved in the daily operations of the association.

    Full Story >

    The 2017 Real Estate Forecast: Hot With A Chance Of Scorching

    According to forecasts just >

    "NAR is predicting existing-home sales to reach 6 million in 2017, higher than its 5.8 million forecast for this year. But other entities are even more bullish. MBA is predicting home sales to eclipse 6.5 million next year, while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are both predicting 6.2 million."

    Whats driving this trend? "A huge wave of Generation Yers," otherwise known as millennials, whose long-overdue march into homeownership may finally be happening. A strong showing from this group can prop up the real estate market not just next year, but for several years to come. "They are predicted to keep home sales and condo sales strong well in to 2020, according to economists," they said.

    Top markets for appreciation in 2017

    While the overall picture for home sales next year and into 2020 looks rosy, sales and price appreciation will, obviously, vary depending on the market, with some of the usual suspects at the top.

    Park Easier

    "The top markets for price appreciation likely will be in Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Denver, Colo.; and Boston, predicts Eric Fox, vice president of statistical and economic modeling at VeroForecast," they said. "These markets robust economies have growing populations but a tight supply of homes for sale on the market that will likely lead to some of the largest price increases across the country."

    Gord Collins notes that, "The top forecast markets show price appreciation in the 10 to 11 range," with Seattle at 11.2, "followed by Portland, Oregon at 11.1 and Denver, Colorado at 9.9.

    Jeff Harris

    The California Association of Realtors forecast shows "modest gains next year amid tight supplies and the lowest housing affordability in six years," said the San Jose Mercury News. "Sales of existing single-family homes -- which make up about 68 percent of the overall market -- are projected to rise 1.4 percent in 2017 to 413,000 transactions. Meanwhile, the median house price -- or price at the midpoint of all sales -- is projected to rise 4.3 percent to 525,600. Thats the smallest percentage gain in six years."

    On the other end of the spectrum, cities like Detroit and Patterson, NJ may continue to struggle; both of these cities appear numerous times on WalletHubs list of worst real estate markets; both made the list of highest percentage of homes with negative equity and lowest median home price appreciation. Patterson also has the highest average number of days until a house is sold, while Detroit is tied for most unsold homes owned by banks - dubious distinctions, indeed.

    Full Story >

    Important Tips For Choosing a Fire Pit

    Weve all been waiting for the sun to come out so we can enjoy a little more time outdoors. As my clients begin to get their backyard entertaining spaces up and running again, there is almost always talk of a fire pit. Theres just something about gathering around a fire at the end of the evening with some hot chocolate or a glass of wine thats as warm as the fire itself.

    If youre thinking of adding an outdoor fire pit, here are five quick tips to consider before you get started.

    1. Location, Location, Location

    For safety and security, an outdoor fire pit should be at least 10 feet away from the house and shouldnt be placed on your wooden deck. Some communities have specific requirements about placement in >

    Next, map out the space youll need for the fire pit itself. Outdoor fire pits are generally anywhere between 18 and 48 inches in diameter. Youll need space for people to sit comfortably around the fire, but remember that people tend to back away from the fire as time progresses. Plan for an additional six to eight feet of space for chairs and movement.

    2. All About That Base

    Outdoor fire pits come in all kinds of shapes and sizes these days, but they boil down to three base >

    An actual fire pit is dug into the ground and completed in any of several different finishes more on that below. These are obviously permanent structures, so plan your backyard layout accordingly.

    Coffee table fire pits resemble low tables and, when not in use, they can be covered and used as an actual table.

    Raised bowls bring a stylish, artistic element to the space. Whether metal or concrete, deep or shallow, these simple components can be customized for exactly the look you want.

    3. Find a Fabulous Finish

    Youll have a lot of choices in terms of materials for your new outdoor fire pit. First, decide whether a mobile or stationary unit is best for your space and the way you entertain.

    Mobile fire pits are great when you have the space to move the party, depending on the weather or the view at a particular time of the year. Theyre also a great way to try out a fire pit before you invest in a more permanent structure.

    Mobile fire pits are almost exclusively made of metal, but can be found with accents and finishes for traditional or contemporary design >

    Stationary fire pits offer a custom look, and actually become a part of the architecture of the house. Choose a finish that complements the exterior of your home and the outdoor furniture youll be using.

    Stone finishes that resemble slate, natural stone, limestone or even pavers are a safe and solid choice that works well with traditional or transitional spaces. Concrete bowls are trending these days, and look great in more contemporary spaces with an eco-friendly design.

    Bronze, copper and stainless steel have the unique ability to bring a historic vibe, an industrial look or an ultra modern, artistic flair to your outdoor entertainment space. Prefabricated models made of metal tend to serve a more traditional or transitional design >

    4. Fire It Up

    Now youre ready to gather your family and friends and light that fire. We love the smell and sound of an actual wood-burning fire - not to mention the convenience. Most communities have restrictions about whether and when open fires are permitted, so check for those details before you make a decision.

    Propane is efficient and super safe, too. It works much like your outdoor grill, with a hose attached to a hidden propane tank. Propane has the added advantage of allowing you to have a little more fun with the contents of the pit. You can cover the propane jet with all kinds of material, from natural and colored gravel to fiberglass crystals in finishes that resemble glass.

    5. Precautions

    As delightful as an outdoor fire pit is, you should never forget that youre dealing with open flames. Make sure you have a plan if things get out of hand. A strategically placed fire extinguisher is the best option here. Placing your fire pit near a hose is another great choice. If neither of those is an option, keep a bucket of sand and a bucket of water nearby. A roaring fire is that much more enjoyable when you have confidence that youre prepared to put it out, whether it spreads from its confines or youre simply ready to call it a night.

    Kerrie Kelly is an award-winning interior designer based in California who also enjoys writing about outdoor yard design for Home Depot. Kerrie is the author of the popular book Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide. You can view a selection of fire pits, including >

    Full Story >

    What To Look For When Buying a Smart Home

    Avoid Temptations And Be Smart When Buying A Smart Home

    Homeowners are turning to smart homes to enjoy more security, convenience and peace of mind. In the past, these homes were the domain of the rich. Currently, developers are seeking to address the needs of homebuyers from both sides of the spectrum. By shopping wisely, you can find a smart home that suits the tastes and preferences of your family without spending a fortune. The following tips will keep you on the right track and help you to make a smart decision.

    Smart Homes are Cost-effective

    A few decades ago, smart homes were beyond the reach of the average home-buyer. Today, these homes are becoming common in the middle-income neighborhoods since they come with energy-efficient features that make them cost-effective in the end. While you need to invest a fortune to acquire a smart home, the intelligent features that maximize the solar energy and thermostats that regulate the power depending on the climatic conditions will help you to avoid wastage as well. The modern technology will help you to reduce your utility bills and lower your overall costs.

    Keep an Eye on Customization

    If you are dealing with an agent, it is easy to generate a list of must-haves, tastes, and preferences when hunting for a smart home. However, if the house is for sale by the owner, it could have been customized to the owners preferences. If you want to avoid frustration, make sure that the house suits your needs as well. If you are not vigilant, you might end up paying dearly for items that you do not need while missing your preferences. Ensure that you come up with a list of deal breakers and confirm that the home ticks all the right boxes before you sign on the dotted line.

    Stay on Budget

    Smart home developers aim to woo the rich and famous with extravagant perks that go beyond their wildest dreams. But, how much is too much for the average buyer? Automatic burglar proofing devices that alert you when thugs invade your home, or laser-sensitive gates that open when you drive in are welcome, but smart toilets that perform dialysis tests could be out of your price range. While the modern features have brought many benefits to the contemporary homeowner, make sure that you are not paying for something that you do not need. If you want to enjoy the comfort without breaking the bank, you must avoid the temptation to go overboard.

    Make the Right Decision

    While buying a smart home, do not forget the basics of real estate investment. Many people fantasize about the endless list of automated devices and unfortunately, they ignore the importance of good location, neighborhood amenities, good school districts, and so on. When buying such a home, focus on the resale value. Whenever you want to sell you home in the future, the prospective buyers will have several issues to consider. However much you automate your home, you will not get value for money if the house does not meet these prerequisites. Do not let the luxury of an automated home coerce you to make a poor investment decision. Instead, buy the right home first, and then decide what to automate.

    Think about the Future

    Modern technologies change on a daily basis and the state-of-the-art devices in your home today might be obsolete in future. Before you invest on any smart device, you must do your homework, identify the features that are trending, and anticipate the future. Whatever the cost of your smart home, you do not want to end up with a dinosaur when the curtain falls on the current technology. In addition, if you customize the house to your needs, remember to tone it down a little to avoid difficulties when it comes to selling it down the road.

    Full Story >

    Buying To Renovate: What You Need To Know

    If youre looking for a house thats not exactly turnkey, youre not alone. Call it the HGTV effect. Is anyone else OBSESSED with House Hunters Renovation?

    "So youre thinking of buying a fixer-upper? Maybe youre a do-it-yourselfer, or you just love this home so much that you dont mind lavishing extra TLC on it in the years to come," said U.S. News. "Or perhaps youre enthralled with home renovation television programs where every home has a camera-ready happy ending."

    Yes, buying a house in need of renovation definitely has its advantages, starting with the ability to make updates that match your >

    Not every home in need of renovation is a diamond in the rough

    Some homes might just be too far gone to bring back to life. Or at least too expensive to be a good deal. There is a reason "movie plot lines have been based on the darker idea that rehabilitating a home can result in disaster," said U.S. News. "Sometimes fixer-uppers turn out to be dismal downers."

    It could be that the house hasnt been maintained properly and has serious issues that are going to increase the timeline and drive up the renovation costs. Maybe it needs work thats well beyond your scope - and budget.


    "If the house needs significant structural improvements, many real estate experts recommend avoiding it altogether," said This Old House. "Thats because major repairs - plumbing and electrical system overhauls, foundation upgrades, and extensive roof and wall work - are usually invisible and hardly ever raise the value of the house enough to offset the cost of the renovation."

    Inspection, inspection, inspection

    Some homes in need of renovation are purchased as foreclosures or at auction, but the problem therein is that you might have to buy "as is." That means you dont get to inspect the home before purchase or request any repairs from the seller when you uncover problems.

    It goes without saying that this is an idea that is often frowned uponespecially for those who are inexperienced in home renovation. Buy a home "as is" and you may end up with a great big money pit. Making sure your home is inspected before you purchase can help you see the full picture and decide whether its a good buyor a goodbye.

    Think about bringing in an architect and an engineer, too

    If youre planning on knocking down walls and arent we all, you might want to consider hiring an engineer and/or an architect early on. Structural walls or surprises inside the walls like plumbing or HVAC may make the open floorplan youre dreaming of unachievable - or at least really expensive. It pays to do your due diligence before you purchase, even if it costs a little more upfront.

    House Beautiful

    Whos doing the renovating?

    Planning on taking on some or all of the renovation yourself? Are you a first-timer, an old pro, or somewhere in between? If the grand total of your experience is patching a few nail holes in your college dorm room, you might want to think about hiring a professional.

    Some things, like tiling or installing hardwoods, and some types of demolition, can be taught in a clinic at your local home improvement store, or even on a video on YouTube. Other skills like roofing, plumbing, and electrical work are usually best left to the pros. Keep in mind that, depending on what you plan to do to the house, you may also need permits before any work can begin.

    Theres a loan for that

    Financing is an important factor when buying any home. A traditional mortgage wont pay for your repairs and updates, and most people arent super excited about shelling out a bunch of cash for renovations on top of their down payment and closing costs.

    "If youre buying a home that needs a little TLC, a typical fixed-rate mortgage isnt going to help you pay for repairs," said "Your lender isnt going to approve a 300,000 loan to buy a home thats only worth 250,000. And, while homeowners sometimes use home equity loans to remodel, you cant get a home equity loan when you have no equity. This can be a big obstacle for buyers who dont have extra cash to make needed renovations or repairs before moving in."

    Thankfully, there is another alternative. Several loans build cash for renovations right into the terms. "Four government-backed loan programs are designed for purchase-remodelers," said Bankrate:

    • FHA 203k
    • Streamlined FHA 203k
    • Fannie Mae Home>
    • Fannie Mae HomePath mortgage

    "Each program bases the loan amount on the value of the home after renovations are complete," they said. Youll want to talk to a lender and get preapproved prior to finding a home to streamline the purchase process.

    Full Story >

    The Best Real Estate Article Ever Written

    This is the best real estate article ever written. You dont believe that, and you shouldnt. Which is precisely the reason that the statement -- that in some sense or other may be considered false -- is neither misleading nor deceptive. It fools no one. It is puffery.

    Puffery, like most terms, is subject to varying definitions; but these seem to be the most common elements: It is an expression of opinion, not a representation of fact. It typically involves subjective qualities taste, feel, appearance, not objective features. A reasonable person, from the audience to which the puffery is directed, will not take it seriously. It will not influence any reasonable person to consume, purchase, or engage the product, service, individual, or company that it appears to endorse. The key to puffery, then, is that those to whom it is directed will know that it is puffery.

    The employment of puffery is not against the law. In a 1983 Policy Statement on Deception, the Federal Trade Commission wrote, "The Commission will not pursue cases involving obviously exaggerated or puffing representation, i.e. those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously." At the same time, it acknowledged, "The term Puffing refers generally to an expression of opinion not made as a representation of fact. A seller has some latitude in puffing his goods, but he is not authorized to misrepresent them or to assign to them benefits they do not possess Statements made for the purpose of deceiving prospective purchasers cannot properly be characterized as mere puffing."

    For a comprehensive examination of laws >

    The Realtor Code of Ethics, which at Article 12 requires a "true picture" in all advertising, does not contain an exception for puffery. Nonetheless, on the basis of practice, it would appear that members assume that there is an implicit exception.

    No one files an ethics complaint when someone advertises their listing as the "best value in town" or the "cutest cottage on the lake". Though, in the latter case, they might complain if that cute cottage turned out to be a mile up the road from the lake. The public knows that terms such as "best value" and "cutest" are mere expressions of opinion. No one is deceived or misled by them.

    But real estate agents advertise more than the properties they have listed; they also advertise themselves. In this arena there seems to be a greater propensity for sliding from exaggerating puffery "the best agent in California" to claims that apparently assert facts "the top 1 in the nation"

    A few years ago, then Chief Counsel of the California Department of Real Estate, Wayne Bell, who is now Commissioner wrote an article entitled "Consumer and Industry Warning: False and Misleading Designations and Claims of Special Expertise, Certifications and/or Credentials". At that time, some readers may recall, the real estate industry was awash with experts and specialists. Mr. Bell wrote, "A growing number of individuals and companies, many of whom are unlicensed, purport to be experts in the area of short sales, certified forensic loan auditors, short sale specialists, loan modification specialists, loss mitigation experts, fraud investigators, and the like, and many of these designations and claims seem to be nothing more than marketing ploys by unscrupulous fraudsters to capitalize on the desperation and vulnerability of unsophisticated and/or financially strapped homeowners."

    Calling yourself an expert or a specialist in those contexts cant be defended as puffery. It is not exaggeration where the audience knows it is exaggeration. Rather, unless verifiable, it is misrepresentation intended to mislead.

    In that article, Mr. Bell also pointed out that the California Business and Professions Code prohibits falsely claiming designations, certifications, or membership. Even using the term "realtor", if one is not a member of the national and state associations, is a violation of the Code 10177e. The penalty? License suspension or revocation.

    The lesson? It may be ok to "puff" your listings; but be careful what you claim about yourself.

    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 >

    New Regulations Make Drones a Home Seller and REALTORs Best Friend

    Look, up in the sky. Its a bird. Its a plane. Nope, its a drone, and its coming to sell your house.

    "Your local real-estate agent might have a new trick up their sleeve very soon: Using drones for aerial photography of sprawling properties," said Fast Company.

    New regulations just >

    The growing popularity of these unmanned aircraft influenced the new rules - drones for commercial use were deemed illegal in 2014. The new regulations will help pave the way for drone photography to become standard practice for real estate listings, which would be a win-win for agents and clients thanks to the adoption of new technology and greater exposure.

    "Drones already are part of our world," Pasadena, CA agent Steve Clark told the Register. "If youre not hiring a drone operator that is top notch, then youre losing and more importantly, your client is losing."


    Key to what drones can deliver is a view of the surroundings - good for properties with large parcels of land where the homes placement is important, but also for any house where emphasizing the yard, street, neighborhood, or proximity to area amenities could help illustrate its value.

    "There are aerial videos and still photos that you cant get any other way, said Clark. "Unlike conventional photography, drones can help home hunters see the homes surroundings. Theres a way to tell the story, and I think the drones have captured that."

    And its not just in California, either.

    Knoxville, TN-based The Voigt Group found that drone photography helped differentiate them in the market and boost interest in their properties for sale.

    "These cameras allow us to capture images not often seen in our market," said Business Manager Robert Voigt in the Knoxville News Sentinel. "Larger markets like Los Angeles and New York see brokers using this technology pretty often. We wanted to offer it here."

    Free Skies

    The aerial photography taken from the drone "offers a unique perspective of the properties that Voigt markets," said the News Sentinel, and helps to create widespread interest, especially when promoted on social media. The Voigts Facebook showcasing aerial photography of a West Knoxville listing "reached about 8,337 people, with 1,367 clicks," said Brittany Voigt. "I had a ton of people ask me about the property."

    Central Indiana agent Jimmy Dulin told 24-Hour News 8 that the amount of information buyers can get from drone photography - "how neighbors take care of their properties, how close the home is to a road and if theres a church or school nearby," said News 8 - is critical to the decision process. "All that collaborative information - its become an essential piece," he said.

    Dulin also said that "drone photography is now the standard for large, expensive homes," but he expects it to eventually "become expected for homes of all sizes and price points."

    Thats in line with industry expectations. The FAA has predicted that real estate will comprise 22 percent of drone use by the year 2020, and not just from real estate agent use. Greg B. Mays, owner and operator of Flying Fish Aerial Photography, LLC, a licensed drone operator since 2015 and a REALTOR Appraiser for over 25 years, points to drones as the real estate appraiser s "next great tool" on the National Association of Realtors NAR blog.

    "This booming and exciting new technology is making its debut in many different fields of commerce and real estate is no exception," he said. "An interesting question arises from all of this. Should real estate appraisers consider using this technology when appraising real estate? The simple answer is, absolutely."

    Drone use for appraisers could reveal: "pictures of a new roof system installed on an older improvement; large acreage tracts that the client wanted in order to know more about forestation and topography; proximity to surrounding properties or features such as rivers, lakes, commercial buildings, and power lines -- just to name a few," he said.

    Full Story >

    Fitting Every Design in One: Creating an Eclectic Interior Design for Your Home

    Designing an eclectic home is both challenging and rewarding. Throwing together unlike pieces requires an artistic knowledge of design. Although the design process can be confusing and stressful, these tips will give you the power to put together creative and coherent rooms. By using white space, experimenting, and focusing on color harmonies, its possible to create a noteworthy and wonderful home that shows off your eclectic taste.

    Consider Minimal Walls

    Sometimes, the best way to make a room shine is through the use of white space. By leaving walls open and bare, its possible to devise a room that shows off your more eclectic furniture pieces. Minimalism and eclectic >


    Dont get discouraged if your initial conglomeration of eclectic furniture seems to clash. Its normal, and the only way to make a winning design is by taking things one step at a time. Experiment, try out different pieces, and see what works best. In fact, some of the most powerful and innovative design choices come from experimentation and combining unlike things. For example, Z-AXIS DESIGN created an apartment by throwing together both Parisian and Taiwanese design elements for a wide-ranging mix of furniture that ultimately looks unique and >

    Take Things Step By Step

    The easiest way to go from a chaotic mess to a room that shines is to ask yourself the following question: "What one thing can I change that will improve this room?" By focusing on individual design choices, everything seems more manageable and less overwhelming. Is your lamp clashing with the tabletop? Add accessories or alterations to artfully combine the two. Does your room seem like its lacking something special? Maybe you need a bold, solid rug to tie everything together. With incremental decisions, interior design becomes more of an experimental process and less of an exasperating ordeal.

    Using Color to Your Advantage

    Color is the great unifier of design. When it comes to your room, you can easily match eclectic pieces by paying attention to color harmonies. One of the most important things to remember is not to overdo the color. While a few bright pieces look great, saving saturated colors for smaller accents is a wise design choice.

    Modern hardware or furniture can look great when you combine pieces of more sophisticated browns, greys and neutrals with colors that stand out. Robins egg blue paired with sunset orange will look >

    Create an Art Wall

    One of the best ways to showcase your eccentric taste is through an art wall. By combining mismatched frames of different materials and colors, you can combine art of all >

    These items can define the tone of your room and turn it into a stylish success. By using white space, paying attention to color, and experimenting with design choices, your entire home is bound to look eclectically wonderful.

    Full Story >

    Lawn Care For The Fall: Essential Tips to Follow

    All summer youve been watering, cutting, trimming and feeding your yard in the hopes of having the greenest plot of land in the neighborhood. So what should you do to get your lawn in shape for the cool breezes of autumn? These six steps will help you get a head start on the colder weather.

    Aeration and Overseeding

    If you live in a climate with cool-season grass, fall is the perfect time to aerate your lawn because the air is cool and the soil is still warm from the heat of summer. The earlier you can do this, the better the results will be for your yard. Depending on where you live, September or early October is the best time to tackle this project. Youll pay around 120 for lawn aeration.

    Aeration removes small plugs of soil from your lawn, allowing greater amounts of air, nutrients and water to reach the root system of your grass. It also reduces soil compaction in the process. Following aeration, you might want to overseed your yard. Overseeding makes it easier for seeds to germinate while the soil is loose.

    Feed Your Yard

    Fall is the prime season of the year to fertilize cool-season grasses. Unlike warm-season grasses, which often go dormant in the fall and winter, cool-season grasses can actually hit their peak growth rates during the fall. This means they need a full dosage of nitrogen to help boost the health of the soil and your grass. Most importantly, this will help prevent the growth of weeds, which choke out the grass over time.

    Cut Down on Mowing

    Throughout the summer, youve gotten into the habit of mowing weekly. But if you have cool-season grass, its time to start cutting back on the number of mowing events each month. Generally speaking, every other week should be your maximum. If you have too much leaf coverage on your yard, you can mulch those up, but remember to leave your cutting deck high so you arent cutting off too much of your grass in the process.

    The professional recommendation is not to cut off more than one-third of the total blade of grass each time you mow. Doing so can result in scalping the lawn, which stunts the growth of your grass. If you live in a warmer climate with warm-season grass, you can likely skip mowing altogether because your grass is going into its dormancy cycle.

    Leaf Removal

    There are two approaches you can take when dealing with falling leaves. At a bare minimum, you should remove any fallen foliage within seven to 10 days because it blocks sunlight from reaching your grass. But, if you get a >

    Sow and Reseed

    Believe it or not, but fall is a great time to reseed the bare patches of your yard and sow new sections of lawn for cool-season grasses. Applying fresh soil and some new seed to barren patches of your yard can help prepare your lawn to bounce back in the fall. As mentioned earlier, this time of year is often the strongest for cool-season yard growth, so take advantage.

    Winterize Your Sprinkler System

    If you have an underground sprinkler system to help you keep your yard green all summer, it could be the biggest threat to your utility bill and soil during the winter months. If you fail to blow out your underground system, the water left in the pipes could freeze, expand and burst the pipes. This could lead to a water leak in your yard that could compromise the integrity of the soil and cause serious damage. If you live in a cooler climate, its important to winterize your sprinkler system immediately.


    With one weekend of work, you can accomplish most of these tasks and have a yard that looks great for the coming fall months.

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

    Full Story >

    7 Ideas To Try For A Stylish Entry

    Is your entry an afterthought? Its understandable that it can get overlooked with so many other spaces to consider throughout your home. But, as the first space your guests see when they arrive and the last when they leave, your entry is crying out for a little attention. >

    "The best entry halls make a strong statement and set the >

    Not sure where to start? Consider these seven ideas.

    Bring on the color

    Even if the rest of your home sticks to a simpler palette, the small space of an entryway can be a perfect spot to load up on bold color. This apartment "has a yellow color scheme running throughout," said House Beautiful. "In the entry, stools covered in a purple velvet, Romos Zola, next to heirloom chairs covered in Designers Guilds Varese make for an unexpected combination of colors that grabs attention right away."

    Make it a work space

    You dont have to have a spare room to create a home office space. Just fashion your hall with a parsons table or a simple desk and tuck a chair or two underneath. When not in use as your workspace, its a stylish entry setup.

    Burlap and Lace

    Incorporate an entry bench

    Many people think "entry" and immediately go out and buy a table, with a large mirror above. But going with a low bench instead gives you wall space galore to do something special. In this spirited entry, a unique wallpaper pattern, a trio of molded mirrors, bold, graphic pillows, and a vase of fresh flowers give the space pop.


    Add some storage

    If youre short on storage space and need to make every inch count, a storage bench might be the answer. Not only is it an inviting way to design an entry, but it can also neatly house jackets and backpacks, extra blankets and pillows, kids art supplies, or anything you dont have space for elsewhere.

    If its shoes youre looking to organize, a storage piece like this could be the answer. It hides the shoes inside and gives you a surface to showcase some of your knickknacks.


    Bring in a unique antique

    Make your entry memorable with a unique piece that does double duty. The industrial feel of this of this vintage Dutch steel console creates an eye-popping first impression in this Park Avenue apartment. And check out all the drawers and cabinets Set against the Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue walls, the overall look is unexpected, which is what makes it so great.

    House Beautiful

    Add a striking piece of art

    You dont necessarily need a mirror in your entry - especially if you enter and exit the house through your garage door and only head to the front door when guests arrive. Instead, hang a great piece of art that will get your visitors attention the second they walk in. We also love the extra seating that gives you a "landing" space near the front door.

    a of we

    Or, turn your entry into a gallery wall

    We love how the width of the bench matches the width of the photo grid.


    Full Story >

    Explore New Markets At a Global Forum

    A recent global forum serves as an example of the importance of gaining perspective when considering business expansion into new markets.

    In this column, "Decisions amp; Communities," I am asked to shine the real estate spotlight on economic, business, communication, and other >

    Which context do you use to clarify your local potential and that of your business or practice, as well as its expansion opportunities?

    Which process and >

    When considering a new market or reviewing your current status with a target demographic, youre often too emotionally and professionally involved to be objective and inspired. And usually too busy serving clients to have time to develop the new perspective necessary for fresh thinking.

    One quick and usually inspiring way to step outside "the box" you work in to gain room to think is to attend a conferenceideally by yourself.

    PJs TIP: Step outside your industry and attend a forward-thinking forum that would attract your preferred or target client market.

    Sometimes the best way to gain local insight is to think global. The issues in your microcosm are usually the same or similar, but the larger global scale can bring clarity to local issues. For instance, I recently attended a Global Forum entitled "Leading in Uncertain Times, which covered a wide range of globalization topics from disruptive technology and social entrepreneurship to the Fintech revolution and emerging markets. Exposed to expert discussions on subjects that challenge communities everywhere, I ended up with a variety of fresh perspectives on your businesses and practices.

    The 10th annual Toronto Global Forum was designed to foster discussion on North American and global issues by bringing together heads of state, central bank governors, government ministers, academia, global economic decision makers, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and 2600 delegates from more than 40 countries. Formal meetings and plenary sessions, coupled with more casual conversations and pointed discussions provided excellent context for forward-thinking.

    This Forum is one of three annual global summits created by the International Economic Forum of the Americas IEFA to "promote the role of the Americas in major decisions and reforms >

    The 130 speakers, leading specialists from a variety of professions and countries, stimulated imaginations and challenged norms. Their business insights had the potential to trigger fresh thinking when applied to the context each delegate was considering. You may be surprised at the ideas that pop into your mind when youre free from daily-work pressure and surrounded by others intent on capturing opportunity.

    Here are a few highlights that may start you thinking about how to connect with the markets you want to serve. Your clients will be dealing with issues like these in their businesses and careers even if you dont feel you are:

    "Riding the Wave of Disruptive Technologies"

    In this panel discussion, panelist Adam Khan, Founder and CEO of Illinois-based Akhan Semiconductors and co-inventor of the Miraj Diamond Platform, explained that diamond semiconductor technology provides "new pathways of flexibility" that may facilitate breakthroughs in consumer electronics, wearable applications, and in many other fields. Diamonds offer an alternative to silicon that may provide greater cost-saving and improve returns while using less energy and resources. What changing or emerging technology could facilitate your adventure into new markets? Which disruptive influences will targets face?

    "Social Entrepreneurship in the Mainstream"

    Debra Schwartz, Managing Director, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation participated in a lively panel discussion of how real estate investment has developed a new and growing niche tied to social enterprise. Schwartz and other panelists shared many financial variations on funding for housing and community projects. The discussion highlighted two strong emerging economic trends:

  • "Nonprofit" now requires sophisticated financial thinking. Funding is less tied to donations and more directed to complex, customized, creative financial and investment solutions that support new initiatives and existing programs and communities. More about this in the following months.
  • "Nonprofit," "profit," and "risk" are three of many dated economic terms and concepts that need a twenty-first Century overhaul to facilitate widespread assimilation and truly-innovative thinking essential to building and sustaining strong communities. Out-dated thinking is often the main barrier to local improvement. When communication accurately explains actual opportunity and intent, instead of paying lip service to old-fashioned concepts, local initiates will benefit. [number list ends]

    Where does dated thinking get in the way of goal achievement for members of the markets youd like to target?

  • "Managing Risk in a Volatile World"

    Share in this significant highlight: Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of Eurasia Group and TIME Magazine Editor-at-Large informally in front of the entire Forum interviewed Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. What does this high-level interaction reveal about what youd like to communicate to emphasize how you serve clients and help them achieve goals?

    "Harnessing the Potential of Emerging Middle->

    Emerging markets continue expanding, with projected global growth of an additional 3 billion by 2030. Harvard-educated Tunde Kehinde, co-founder of Africa Courier Express ACE, a widely-acclaimed Nigerian online logistics startup, modeled after Amazon, stressed that Africa is the next big business frontier represented by more than a billion young consumers jumping online. Kehinde explained that since the internet enables wide-spread access to expanding middle->


    For more on global entrepreneurship and an interview with Adam Kahn, visit PJs blog:

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    Automating HOA Collections

    One of the biggest expenses and hassles for a homeowner association is collecting the regular homeowner fee. Every month, checks, money orders and cash are processed, tallied, bank deposits made and books posted. Then, letters are sent to those that havent paid for one reason or another. Followup phone calls are made, sometimes two or three to the same person before connecting. All of this takes time and money. Meanwhile, the HOAs finances suffer since there is no government bail out to fill the coffers. Isnt there a better way? Absolutely.

    Many folks already take advantage of automated bill paying for mortgage, auto, utilities and a myriad of other regular payments. Automated payments ensure that bills are made on time and in full. Vendors know it works and welcome those that take advantage of it. Heres one of the most important factors: Folks set up for automatic payments ra>

    So how does your HOA take advantage of this boon? First, set up the system with your bank or find a bank or financial service that has the capability. An alternative is available from Vanco Services at which provides an internet based option. Then, offer a financial incentive to all members that use the automated payment system. Your budget may need to adjusted somewhat to pay the fees but eliminating most of the collection problems more than offsets the cost.

    The HOA can also make automatic payment mandatory as part of the Collection Policy. There is nothing sacred about check payments. If its in the HOAs best interest to go paperless and it is, the board should formalize it as policy. Then, every member should receive the information, forms, etc. required to get set up for the plan. A transition time of 30-60 days is more than enough time.

    This collection strategy is simply too good to pass up. It gets to the root of the HOAs greatest need: money to pay the bills. By eliminating most collection problems, the HOA will come closer to the ideal than previously thought possible. Automate and enjoy some of that carefree living the developer marketed.

    For more innovative HOA management strategies, subscribe to Thanks to Tom Fisk of Rochester MN for his contribution.

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    7 Simple amp; Smart Basement Repairs to Consider

    No space in your home is more accommodating and homey, or conversely scary, than your basement. A nicely finished basement can be the entertainment centerpiece of your entire home, housing your big-screen TV, the most comfortable couches in the place and a warm, inviting atmosphere that wraps each guest in comfort.

    But, if your basement is unfinished or has other lingering issues, it can be a downright scary place to spend any amount of time. Here are a few simple tips to help you fix your basement:

    1 Gutter Extensions

    Believe it or not, one of the easiest and smartest things you can do to fix your basement takes place outside. By adding extensions to your gutters downspouts, you can avoid a lot of the issues that commonly plague basements, from foundation issues to leaking walls, mold and mildew buildup. Gutter extensions carry water away from the foundation of your house, helping to prevent seepage and long-term damage from soil erosion. Average gutter extensions cost no more than 10 per foot.

    2 Outer Foundation Work

    There are two big steps you can take on the outside of your home that will protect your basement and improve your foundation. Your home ideally sits on a crown of soil that slopes six inches over the first 10 feet in all directions away from your foundation. If the soil around your foundation has settled, build it back up with a shovel and some dirt to ensure water does not build up against the foundation wall.

    Second, reshape your landscape by creating a berm beyond the eaves of your home. This will prevent rot, termites and water from getting too close to your foundation. The minimum suggested distance for a dirt berm is six inches away from your homes foundation. You can complete both of these steps in a weekend and help prevent water from pooling against your foundation and leaking into your basement.

    3 Plug Visible Gaps

    A number of pipes and vents have to exit the basement of your home through the foundation walls. Examples include the water pipes leading to outdoor faucets, bathroom fan vents and dryer vents. The holes drilled into the foundation to allow for pipes and vents to escape can lead to water issues in your basement through seepage and general rain intrusion. You can easily seal these cracks and holes yourself by using hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk, both of which retail for about 20.

    4 Repair Leaky Pipes

    Insulate any pipes collecting condensation. Insulation will prevent the buildup of condensation on the outside of pipes carrying hot water in the winter months and cold water in the summer months.

    Always call a plumber to tackle larger jobs like major leaks or cracks. Many times these pipes run to other parts of your home and require a professional to properly address the problem.

    5 Insulate Your Walls

    You can also prevent foundation damage by insulating your walls. As the environment inside your home heats and cools, condensation can build up on exposed foundation walls.

    As the condensation builds over time, cold water can expand and crack your foundation, while warm water in the summer can lead to mold and mildew. Insulating your walls establishes a barrier between the internal environment of your home and the temperature outside.

    6 Install Drywall

    If you want to improve your basement further, consider installing drywall over the insulation. This can help to dampen the temperature swings in your basement, holding in cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.

    7 Window Repairs and Replacement

    Basement windows are another source of leaks in your basement. Replace your old, faulty weather stripping or apply a polyurethane caulk around the edges to insulate your window frames. For windows that are outdated, upgrading to energy efficient windows will drastically improve the conditions in your basement and prevent seepage of both air and water.


    There are many smart, simple ways to fix up your basement in order to create a safe, enjoyable space for friends and family.

    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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    New Condo Board: Transition Is Important

    Question: I have just been elected President of our new condominium. Our new board of directors have just taken over from the developer, but frankly we are at a loss at to where and how to go. Any suggestions? Harry,

    Answer:Harry, my condolences. Being a board member is not fun; the hours are long, the pay is zero and no-one ever thanks you for your hard work. They do, however, complain a lot.

    What many condo owners -- especially first time home-buyers -- do not understand is that many associations are big businesses, with budgets in the millions of dollars. Unless owners get involved, learn the process, and hire competent professionals, the association may be headed for disaster -- financially as well as emotionally.

    A condominium comes into existence when the condo documents are recorded among the land records in the county or city where the property is located. The developer selects the first board of directors, which manages the association until turnover of control is accomplished. In general, the laws in the surrounding jurisdictions require that control be turned over to the owners within so many years after the first sale, or when a certain percent of the homes have been sold, whichever comes first. The turnover requirement is spelled out in your associations governing documents.

    Transition between developer and owner control is perhaps the most important aspect of any community association. If done properly, the association will be off to a good start; if done poorly, it may take a long time to get back on track. And some associations never succeed.

    Once the owners are in control, there are four mandatory steps that must be taken by the new Board:

    1. Select a management company: The new board must decide whether to retain the existing management company -- which had been selected by, and may be too loyal to, the developer -- or select a totally independent management company. The association may decide to forego hiring such a company and become "self-managed", but I personally do not recommend this, even for a small association. If the board gets involved in everything from collecting condo fees to arranging to shovel snow and cut the grass, burn-out will take place quickly, The boards role is to make sure that management is doings its job and reporting monthly to the board.

    2. Audit the books: An independent auditor or a certified public accountant must examine the associations books. It is important for members of the new board to satisfy themselves and the owners they represent that during the time the developer was in control, all moneys collected and all expenses paid have been properly accounted for. Keep in mind that while the developer is in control of the association, the developer also has access to the association funds. You want to make sure that funds which should have been paid by the developer are not inadvertently or purposely paid out of association proceeds.

    Full Story >



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