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Updated: Friday, November 28, 2014


Baby Its Cold Outside: 10 Ways To Stay Warmer at Home Without Killing Your Heating Bill

Face it. Its frigid. You dont have to live in a Snuggie until the sun comes out again in spring. But then again this one is pretty cute. If youre looking for ways to keep that heating bill down without losing a toe, weve got a few tips.

1. Slippers. You know those chunky slippers with the non-slip bottom and the fluffy stuff inside? Get some. It doesnt matter how layered up the rest of you is if heat is escaping through this little piggy.

2. A good blanket. If you can afford it, go for down. If youre allergic, go for faux down. And check out Overstocks Blanket Buying Guide for more info.

3. Dress in layers. "Bundle up," said The Old Farmers Almanac. "To avoid getting overheated inside, wear layers." Choose a "wicking polyester or silk undershirt next to your skin versus cotton."

4. Flip your fan. In the summer, the fan circulates the air, which can make you feel cooler. Flipping the switch "helps push warm air thats risen to the ceiling back down to the floor where you can feel it. The less thats wasted, the less demand there is on heating systems and the more you save," said Distractify.

5. Stay hydrated. Drinking water can actually help you stay warmer. Who knew? "Water is actually amazing for retaining body heat," said The Week. "Simply put, the more you have in your system, the easier it is to keep warm. Stay hydrated - especially before you dash out into the frozen slush every morning,"

6. Light a fire. You can lower your heater by a few degrees by gathering in front of a warm fireplace. Plus, itll give you a chance to snuggle.

7. Go for the combo of extra layers and hot drinks. "When you feel a chill, reach for a sweater instead of thermostat," said Distractify. "With the extra layers, your body will heat up much faster than the furnace can heat your house. Then, "drink lots of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and other warm liquids including soup This will raise your body temperature in a jiffy."

8. Harness the sun. "During the day, open the blinds and curtains on the south-facing windows - and let the Sun warm you. At night, close the blinds and curtains to better insulate your home," said The Old Farmers Almanac.

9. Seal it up. "Make sure your home is air sealed," said The Simple Dollar. "Air leaks and drafts allow warm air to quickly escape your house, resulting in tremendous heating and cooling bills. The solution to this problem is to check your home for air leaks and properly air seal any leaks you discover. You can get more info from this useful guide from the Department of Energy."

10. Shut em up. If you have guest rooms and other spaces you dont use, close the vents. This will force more air into the rooms you are using and make the heating system more efficient.


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Will Seller Make The Necessary Home Repairs?

Question: My wife and I have placed an offer on a property that is currently owned by a >

We now have a signed contract, and had our own home inspection conducted on the property. Our home inspector has determined that the cause of the leak was due to improper drainage at the rear of the house, at the base of the chimney. This has caused the chimney to settle improperly, with the base leaning slightly away from the home, while the upper portion has rather dramatically tilted towards the roof. Our inspector recommended we have an engineer determine if the chimney is structurally sound, and what steps need to be made to repair/replace the chimney.

Our question is two-fold. First, is the >

Answer: Working with a >

Because the company has not lived in the house, and has no real knowledge of its condition, quite often those houses will be sold in their "as is" condition. This means that you buy the house in its present condition and the >

However, from the facts that you have described, it really makes no difference if the seller is a ">

You had the home inspected and a couple of major problems were discovered. Does your contract contain a home inspection contingency? The standard home inspection contingency that I usually see gives purchasers two options. If they are dissatisfied for any reason with the inspectors report and timely advise the seller of their concerns, they can cancel the contract and get their earnest money deposit returned.

Alternatively, they can present a list of defects to the seller, who has three days to advise the purchasers that 1 all of the work will be done, 2 only some of the listed items will be corrected, or 3 that none of the work will be corrected. Unless the seller agrees to do all of the work, the purchaser than has an additional three days in which to accept the sellers proposal or cancel the contract.

You must read your contract very carefully. Most inspection contingencies have time limits which must be strictly followed. If the purchaser is to notify the seller within three business days, and misses that deadline, this contingency is considered to have been waived and the purchasers remain bound by the terms of the contract.

In your situation, if your sales contract only requires the seller to convey title to you "as is", then the seller will most likely not agree to correct the condition of the fireplace. In that case, and assuming that you do have an inspection contingency, unless you are prepared to spend your own money fixing the situation, one of your options is to cancel the contract.

You do have other options, however. If you can get a licensed contractor -- or better yet a city housing inspector -- to give you a statement that the fireplace condition is a housing code violation, that will give you a lot of leverage. In some jurisdictions, the existence of such violations is grounds for cancelling your sales contract. You should discuss this with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where your house is located.

There is one other option that may be available. The seller gave you an earlier inspection report that represented all the leaks have been corrected. While the >

Heres a suggestion should the seller be willing to make the necessary repairs. Get a couple of bids from independent contractors and tell the seller that you would prefer a cash credit at settlement instead of having the seller do the work. All too often, the seller may not hire a licensed contractor, and you may have problems in the future.


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Benjamin Franklin Inspires Buyers to Succeed

Everyone is in a hurry these days and real estate buyers are no exception. In their haste to get the deal done, they can undermine the success of their significant purchase and their long-term goals.

Benjamin Franklins observation that "Haste makes waste" serves as an excellent summary for the tendency of many buyers to act too quickly and, therefore, not gain all the benefits available to them.

Haste to read listings and view properties can mean many buyers leap into the buying process before they are sure of what they want and need, and before they are aware of all their financial and real estate options;

Haste to squeeze a real estate purchase into already jam-packed schedules and smartphone-driven communication overload can add pressure that results in hastily-made, misguided and hard-to-live with decisions;

Haste to act in high-pressure and multiple-offer situations may lead buyers to jump at a property without a clear picture of what they are buying and what compromises they are making.

Slowing down the buying process once it gets started can be a challenge since real estate is all about acting on urgency. Once you view an acceptable property the question becomes, "Are you ready to make an offer or will you risk losing out?"

The key to success lies in developing "smarts" before you jump into the sales funnel and face the pressure of making an offer. Start by taking time to learn how to act in your own best interest beforeyou dig through listings, view properties, and make a choice then youll benefit on many levels.

Rush into the home buying processwhether you are intent on a condominium, a vacation property, or a detached home - and your lack of preparation can make you vulnerable to THREE COMMON BUYER MISTAKES that arise from acting in haste and regretting in hindsight:

1. Again Franklin hits the 21st-Century point on the head with his statement: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Work with your chosen real estate professional to familiarize yourself - and everybody who is part of your buying team - with the entire buying process, from start to finish, before you plunge in:

What are your "essentials" when analyzing your needs and wants?

How will the real estate professional match these parameters with potential neighborhoods, building >

What is involved in being pre-approved for financing and what are the benefits?

How do you view a prospective property to uncover its full value and potential, and to avoid being distracted by staging or by a property that shows poorly?

What is "an offer" and what does it legally commit you to and protect you from?

What strategies can compensate for typical "unexpected problems" like multiple offers, bad home inspection reports, last-minute financing issues etc.?

What happens between the day your offer to purchase has been accepted until the day you move into your new home?

What recourse will you have if problems pop up after youve settled into your house or condominium unit?

Once you understand what will happen, what rights you have, and how your real estate professional can head off and resolve problems that arise, youre ready. This knowledge will take some of the pressure off and provide self-preservation perspectives for the many decisions ahead.

2. "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid," says Franklin and explains why knowing who is working in your best interest is essential to success. How the real estate industry works for buyers can be confusing.

Sellers have a listing salesperson and listing brokerage committed to placing their interestsfinancial, legal, and otherwisefirst, ahead of everything including real estate commission.

Buyers have to ask questions to find out which, if any, real estate professionals are legally bound to place the buyers interests first. The buyer agent >

not happen automatically for buyers.

Be smart. Clarify, in writing, who will negotiate for you at every step along the buying process before you start.

3. "He that can have patience can have what he will" said Franklin, long before smartphones and apps were even dreamt of, but he hit the mark when it comes to getting the right accurate information before you act.

Click on one of the growing number of real estate apps and you instantly have data at your fingertips. With information, faster is not necessarily better:

Often apps and online sources condense or generalize when a buyer really needs specific details >

Data can be incomplete or inaccurate, but the average buyer will may not be aware of these deficiencies until it is too late.

Significant issues like property condition, problems regarding abutting properties, liens or work orders, and unregistered changes are just a few details which may be lacking in digital offerings.

Take the time to listen to the local, experienced real estate professionals who work for you since they can provide >
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Religion In A Homeowners Association

America is engaged in a war of cultures. Almost daily there seems to be some crisis somewhere >

Homeowner associations have a unique opportunity to reverse or moderate these attacks on Americas traditional values and liberties. As private organizations, they have the right and flexibility to decide how issues of faith expression are dealt with and avoid the nonsense of political correctness.

While HOAs cant enact rules and regulations that contradict the Bill of Rights, they do have some latitude on how these rights are played out. Free speech can be restricted on private property. One example that comes to mind is limiting personal signs in the common area. In other words, the fact that America enjoys free speech doesnt entitle a citizen to crash a private party to express it. So it is with signs. HOAs can control or restrict signs in the common area if thats what the members want.

When it comes to >

>. HOA clubhouses are usually made available for private use by members and residents. If a resident wants to host a poker party, a quilting club or High Mass, they are all legal activities in every state of the country and, as such, the HOA should not have a policy restricting the activity.

The HOA is not obligated to allow private use of the clubhouse but since most clubhouses are ra>

Restricting Outside Groups. The HOA may have a restriction that limits use to residents and their guests and preclude outside groups from using the facility if no resident is involved. If outside groups are not allowed, the ban needs to extend to all of them.

Limiting Access to Schedule. There may be limitations placed on requests to monopolize the clubhouse schedule for a set time each week.

Limited to Legal Purpose. Use activity can be limited to those that are lawful and do not disturb the community noise, smell, lighting, etc..

Charging a Fee. The HOA can invoke a reasonable fee for private use since use creates wear and tear on the facilities.

Christmas Ornaments. Another controversial topic that comes up is whether the HOA should allow Christmas ornaments to be displayed. There seems to be an impression that all ornaments should be forbidden. The real answer is "yes and no": Its really up to the members to decide and that decision only should impact the general common area. If decorating the common area with Christmas decorations is something most of the residents feel appropriate, so be it. HOAs are private property controlled by democratic vote. Not everyone will get their way.

Demonstrations of >

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


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Ten Essential Steps to Buying a Home

Youre ready to take the leap and buy a home. If this is your first time, you may want to know what to do to make the process go more smoothly. Here are ten steps youll be going through to buy your next home.

Check Your Credit Reports and Scores - You get one free look at your credit reports annually. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and see how easy it is to get credit reports from the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Youll need all three because they each report differently, so you may find an error at one bureau but not the other two. You dont know which credit bureau your lender will use so you want all three bureau reports to be accurate. If you see a mistake, contact the bureau and alert them to the error. Send a copy of your proof, such as the paid balance.

Get prequalified - Your lender will "run your credit" to look at your credit reports and evaluate you for risk. Your income, credit scores, payment history, revolving debts, obligations such as child support as well as the type of loan you choose are all factors in determining your interest rate and other terms of the loan. The lender will also consider how much home you can buy based on your down payment; smaller down payments mean higher monthly payments. Last, the interest rate and terms 30-year, fixed or adjustable rate will determine what you can afford in monthly payments.

Make your wish list - Decide where you want to live and how many bedrooms and baths youll need. Consider life>

Hire a real estate professional - Your real estate professional should be expert in the area where you want to live and familiar with the type of home you want to buy. Your agent has house-by-house experience in your neighborhood and can offer the best advice on homes in your range. Ask for referrals from people you know who have recently bought or sold a home or choose an agent in the neighborhood who is less than five minutes from the neighborhood you want.

Select your home - No home is perfect, so expect to find a few things that are disappointing. Try to see past minor flaws such as bad paint colors or old carpet. Think long-term. Is this the house you would want if it were painted and recarpeted? Which home best suits the activities and needs of your household now and in the years ahead? Dont buy more than you need or can comfortably afford.

Make an offer - Youre either in a buyers market or a sellers market, so your offer depends on the current market conditions. If a home has been on the market a long time, you can ask the seller for a price reduction, repair concessions, and help with closing costs, but if its new on the market, the seller is unlikely to accept an offer lower than 95 to 97 percent of the asking price. Ask your real estate professional for advice and a CMA so you can determine a fair offer price. Be sure to make your offer contingent on a satisfactory inspection.

Get an inspection - A home inspection is a professional third-party opinion of the homes condition. The inspector works for you, so it is his job to point out problems big and small. He will check age of all systems, note large and small repairs that are needed, code violations, and so on. Some inspections are not included, so you will have to hire a separate experts to look for pests, or inspect the septic tank. You need to know what problems and expenses youll be facing as the next owner.

Renegotiate Terms - If the inspection reveals a problem that is more severe or is not noted on the sellers disclosure of the property, you should renegotiate terms. Either ask the seller to fix the problem or ask for a price reduction if you prefer to fix it yourself.

Get an appraisal - The bank appraisal determines market value. If the home doesnt appraise for the purchase price, the bank will refuse to make the loan unless you increase the size of your down payment or renegotiate a lower price with the seller. If the home meets the appraisal comparables, the lender will move toward closing. Pay close attention to the comparables that the appraisal uses -- they may skew the value in a different direction than you might be expecting.

Go to closing - Once final negotiations are complete, and youve done a final walk-through of the property to make sure all repairs have been made, the parties to the transaction meet at the escrow office. This office could be a title company, real estate attorney, or whatever is customary in your area. All paperwork is signed by both parties. The lender pays the seller, minus any liens against the home such as the sellers mortgage. Once all the disbursements have been made, you get the keys to your new home, according to your agreement.

Congratulations Youre ready to move into your new home.


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Holiday Hostess Gifts That Will Get You Invited Back Again Next Year

Whether its Friends giving with your neighbors or an extended stay with your in-laws over the holidays, showing up empty-handed is a bigger faux pas than forgetting to thaw the turkey. You dont want to end up on the uninvited list nor do you want to be the one asked to make Aunt Bettys labor-intensive apple-sausage-toasted-cornbread-chop-vegetables-for-two-hours stuffing.

The answer? A great hostess gift. Here are 11 options that will get you invited back again and again.

1. A game to liven up the crowd. Depending on the room, this can be a family-friendly choice like the always dependable Pictionary or the new >

2. If youre going to a party or gathering where you dont know everyone, bring an instant icebreaker like Table Topics box. It holds a stack of 135 conversation starters to get guests thinking and talking. 25 from Uncommon Goods.

3. Get your movie on with a holiday themed-collection like the DreamWorks Holiday Collection featuring Shrek the Halls, the Peanuts Holiday Collections.

4. Forget that store-bought package of cookies. Pack up a few mason jars with your favorite holiday baking recipes get some ideas here if you dont have your own. This personal, thoughtful gift has a part two, which is that you get to cook together, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor

5. Create homemade ornaments together. Hit your local craft store and buy a box of plastic ornaments in bulk. The load up on paint, pens, glitter, or whatever grabs your attention. The kids will love making their own ornaments and itll keep them busy for awhile so the adults can drink, we mean cook. Get some more ideas here.

6. You can never go wrong with a collection of nicely scented hand soaps. You can find unique versions everywhere look in the area near the checkout line at Marshalls or craft stores like Michaels. We especially love the holiday themed and scented soaps at Bath amp; Body Works. Set of five for 18.

7. If this is a yearly event and home cooking is involved and youre not adverse to spending a little, think about bringing a nice copper pot and adding a new piece to the collection every year. Mauviel copper sugar pot, 150 at Williams-Sonoma.

8. Pull off the same idea without the expense by giving unique collectable salt and pepper shakers or a new collection of gourmet spices each year. Start with this artisan salt sampler. 26.95 from Saltworks.

9. When it comes to hostess gifts, nothings better than the combination of pretty and utilitarian. These agate coasters fit the bill with semi-precious agate that create pieces of art for your tabletop. 48 from Robyn Nola.

10. Who doesnt need a neon yellow teapot? You can be sure your hosts will think of you every time they use it. 14.95 from CB2.

11. Fancy up your hosts bar cart with this monogrammed cocktail shaker. Its a step beyond a bottle of wine. Add this Little Black Book of Cocktails and get ready for a fun night. 23 from Pottery barn; monogramming extra.


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Why CMAs and Appraisals Arent The Same

As part of the homebuying process, your real estate agent may create a comprehensive market analysis or CMA. Later, when you apply for a mortgage, a bank appraisal is conducted by a licensed appraiser. Are CMAs and appraisals the same thing?

While both CMAs and appraisals help determine a homes market value, their purposes are not the same. The CMA is a sales tool to help you find an offer price for the home you want to buy. The homes in the CMA include the home you want to buy plus similar nearby homes. This helps you see how the home you want compares to other homes so you have an idea what to offer.

A real estate professional may prepare a CMA for their sellers to help them choose a listing price. The CMA includes recently sold homes and homes for sale in the sellers neighborhood that are most similar to the sellers home in appearance, features, and general price range.

Although the CMA is used to help determine current market value, the sellers home is typically not even featured in the CMA. The CMA is me>

The CMA offers the same advantages to you as a buyer. They help you better understand the local market. You can expand the search and get different results in a CMA simply by changing the zip code or the price range or the number of bedrooms and baths.

Appraisals are all about risk retention for banks and their customers. If the buyer is receiving financing through a bank, the bank will order an appraisal.

Unlike the CMA, a bank appraisal is a professional determination of a homes value. Its performed by a licensed appraiser, using guidelines established by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates federal housing loan guarantors such as FHA, VA and housing loan purchasers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

An appraisal is a comprehensive look at a homes location, condition, and eligibility for federal guarantees. For example, the home you want may have porch steps but no handrail. If you want to buy the home with an FHA or VA-insured loan, your seller will have to repair or install a handrail. The FHA or VA appraiser will look at the home a second time to make sure the steps were made safe.

Appraisers use the same data in their market research to find comparable homes as Realtors do. They are also members of the MLS, but they have additional guidelines from the bank to follow to minimize risk to the bank and to the borrower. If home prices are falling, the appraiser takes the number of days a home has been on the market far more seriously.

When the appraisal is finished, the bank makes the decision to fund the loan, or it may require the seller to fix certain items and show proof that the repairs have been made before letting the loan proceed. If the loan doesnt meet federal lending guidelines, the bank will decline the loan.

Despite stricter lending and appraisal standards, most buyers loan applications go through to closing. One reason the system works so well is that real estate agents are preparing CMAs that are better tuned to lending standards as well as market conditions. As a buyer, its in your best interest to understand how lenders approach risk and to learn what the market is doing.

Simply put, you need both a CMA and an appraisal to determine market value. A CMA helps you decide what you should offer the seller. An appraisal determines what the lender is willing to lend to help you purchase a home.


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Updated: Friday, November 28, 2014

Religion In A Homeowners Association

America is engaged in a war of cultures. Almost daily there seems to be some crisis somewher...
> Full Story

Ten Essential Steps to Buying a Home

Youre ready to take the leap and buy a home. If this is your first time, you may want to kno...
> Full Story

Holiday Hostess Gifts That Will Get You Invited Back Again Next Year

Whether its Friends giving with your neighbors or an extended stay with your in-laws over th...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2014 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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