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Updated: Sunday, December 21, 2014

What Makes A Smart Suburb - And What to Run Away From

For all the talk about people abandoning suburbia for urban cores, American moving trends still gravitate towards less dense spaces. According to a recent review of Census data by Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko, most movers in the US trend towards "lower density, lower unemployment, and cheaper housing." This is illustrated by continued shifting from major high-density urban centers to smaller 18 hour cities and suburbs. Nearly half of these between-county moves are less than 100 miles, and 38 are less than 50 miles. "With the exception of the three moves that are the reverse flow of a higher-ranked move," Kolko writes, "all of the 10 top between-county moves are from a higher-density county to a lower-density county -- in other words, to a less urban, more suburban county." This suggests that American suburbanization continues unabated by the re-popularization of urban cores.

Perhaps central to this trend is a movement towards inner suburbs, along with the "incrementally urbanizing" and redevelopment of outlying suburbs to bolster their appeal to city dwellers. Different types of suburbs exist, but many people consider the suburbs to be one single trope: cul-de-sacs and matching homes, manicured lawns and white picket fences. From the standpoint of an investor or potential homeowner, understanding how urban trends translate to the suburbs can make all the difference with finding a region that will thrive in the changing housing economy and avoiding property in one of the oft-mentioned "dying suburbs."

Key to teasing out the differences between sustainable and unsustainable suburban growth is developing an understanding of what makes suburbs appeal to consumers and what does not. The suburban model is largely based around single family homes that offer more space than their urban counterparts at a lesser-or-equivalent price point. Suburbs traditionally center on families, and schools and safety are paramount to a successful suburban community. People who criticize suburban living often find problems with its sense of isolation from wider culture and community. Other criticisms include long commutes, car-centric culture, and tendency towards "beige-ness."

Taking these considerations into mind, finding suburbs that draw from the positive and avoid the negative is key to a successful buy. What trends should a homebuyer or investor look for when hunting for a perfect burb?

Good deal indicators. Often referred to as inner or first-ring suburbs or railway burbs, communities right beyond the city limits of major cities are growing in popularity, especially when fitted with public transit access to the city. Closer suburban cities tend to mirror many of the characteristics of the cities next to them, often including revival downtown spaces of their own to direct commerce to the city center. Suburbs that model themselves after the 18 hour city culture are also poised to attract creative industry business, young professionals, and Boomer retirees, making them a safe investment.

Less than ideal. Further flung suburbs can be more difficult to assess for their investment value. Take particular note of whether the city seems to have a centralized commerce space or is >

Make sure to avoid. Anything defined by sprawl and endless parking lots. Anything that presumes the growth of tract housing for local economic health. Any exurb that is >

Based in Los Angeles, CA, Nicholas Brown has been writing since 2008. He holds a Master of Arts in English from Northeastern University. His professional interests include sustainable living, personal finance, real estate and investment trends. He writes for

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Homeowners Advice: Dont Invite a Christmas Burglary

If youre a fan of >

According to HomeAdvisor, home burglaries account for 4.7 billion in property losses every year in the U.S. A home burglary occurs every 13 seconds, and almost one-third occur through unlocked doors or windows. Three out of four burglaries are residential.

Before you leave your home for the holidays, be sure to protect it against burglary. Tell trusted neighbors how long youll be away and ask them to watch your home for you. Offer to do the same when they take a vacation.

In this age of oversharing, dont advertise on social media that youre leaving for Christmas vacation. That means facebook, twitter, instagram, and others. Instead post your photos and comments after you return home.

Burglars look for easy access and quick getaways. They typically spend no longer than eight to ten minutes inside and look for easy to carry items. So make your home less inviting by putting secure locks on all windows and doors. Keep bushes and trees trimmed. Look for places intruders can gain access out of sight of neighbors. And the key you keep under the mat? Take it with you or leave it with your trusted neighbor.

Homes without security systems are 300 times more likely to be burglarized than homes without, so a security alarm system is a great idea and well worth the cost as having one will help lower your homeowners insurance. While most burglaries happen during the day, motion-sensored lighting is also a great deterrant. Get an automated system to turn lights and tvs on and off periodically so your home looks occupied while youre gone. Home security systems such as Protect America start at 20 a month.

Burglars look for signs youre gone, such as lights that stay on during the day and a buildup of mail and advertising flyers on doorknobs. Ask your neighbor to pick up your mail and keep the doorway clear of flyers. You can also go to your local post office and request that your mail be held while youre gone. And if youre still taking a newspaper, make sure you call the paper and drop service while youre gone.

Once you return from your Christmas vacation, your home could still be inviting to burglars. If you had a great holiday with lots of presents, dont advertise the fact to thieves by stacking your outdoor trashcans with empty electronics boxes and shopping bags from expensive stores.

Take precautions and you can take a better holiday.

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5 Home Projects Only a Professional Should Do

Its easy for homeowners to get caught up in the world of Pinterest and do-it-yourself blogs. While unique, custom projects can be a great way to personalize or spruce up your home, some projects are better left to professional contractors. Next time a friend or client has a brilliant idea to attempt one of these projects on their own, let them know why some things are best when left in the hands of pros.

1. Tree Removal

Whether its cutting down an overgrown tree or digging up a giant stump, this project can be an accident waiting to happen, especially if the tree is close to your house. Working from a height of 10 or 15 feet with large power tools can be dangerous enough, but add the factor of falling branches, and the risk of injury or damage to your car, house, or telephone lines increases even more. Removing a stump can be risky, too, as roots growing close to water or electrical pipes can cause serious damage as they are pulled up or moved.

2. Electrical and Plumbing Work

Not only can messing up electrical work in your home create much more serious issues, you also generally need a permit and inspection to do this kind of work. Bigger plumbing problems and projects like installing a shower or sink should only be attempted by professionals. Incorrect installation or repair can lead to damaged pipes or waterlogged walls, along with other expensive issues.

3. Pool Repair and Installation

Both above and in-ground pools are difficult to repair without special tools and products. While simple projects around the pool are fine to do yourself, repairing cracks in the foundation or remodeling your pool is something that a professional is better equipped for.

The same goes for pool installation. You may think you are saving a lot of money by installing a swimming pool by yourself, but as cautions, installing a vinyl or fiberglass pool is a very big job. A task of this magnitude requires some serious homework before you decide to it take on, plus you may have to rent or buy large construction equipment, or even hire help to do the job right. Measurements must be precise, permits and inspections must be passed, and you must consider how the ground and concrete will settle and shift over time.

4. Removing a Wall

It may seem like a good idea to knock down a small wall in your house to open up the kitchen or create a bigger living room, but it isnt as easy as it may appear. If the wall is load-bearing or supports any part of the house, or if it holds electrical or plumbing, you could cause serious damage to the structure of your home.

Popular Mechanics recommends consulting with a building engineer before attempting to knock down a wall. A building engineer can give you advice on the best way to remove the wall and let you know if any special permits are needed.

5. Flooring

Homeowners might want to call a professional if they plan to rip up carpet or lay new tile. You might not know whats underneath your carpet and if the subfloor is damaged or rotten, you could wind up spending thousands in extra costs just to repair it. Laying tile is another delicate and very precise projectif the tiles arent cut perfectly, laid completely straight, or if one of them cracks, you may have to start all over. If youre not experienced in flooring, it may be best to leave it to a flooring expert.

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Seven Ways To Rock Your Hanukkah Party

Its Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication, the time when friends and family come together to rejoice, celebrate, and chow down on potato pancakes. If youre attending a Hanukkah party this year, you might be tempted to bring a few traditional dreidels yawn or a plate of >

1. Bring along a package of Hebrew alphabet cookie cutters and youll be a hit with the little ones. Make your own Kosher cookie mix ahead of time and cookie decorating stuff and youll make fans out of the parents too. Or, you could make it easier on yourself and bring a pre-packaged Hanukkah cookie kit.

2. Update and upgrade your potato latke. You can Take it up a notch with butternut squash latkes with sriracha aioli, ditch the frying pan and make these potato and zucchini latke waffles, or try a gluten-free version.

If you do make the traditional potato pancake, make extraslots of them, so you can eat a grilled cheese sandwich on latkes the next day.

3. Yes, its the Menorasaurus Rex from The Vanilla Studio. And if dinosaurs dont do it for you, maybe you prefer elephants. Or turtles.

See more awesome options here.

4. Inject some cool into your dreidel. The aforementioned dreidel is fun to play withfor a few minutes. Extend the wonder, and the play time, with the truly inspired Dr. Dreidel by artist Hannah Rothstein. "All four sides of the wooden dreidel include unique laser-etched illustrations of Dr. Dre that coincide with the Hebrew letters," said Mashable. "That includes a happy, thumbs-up Dre for gimmel, a shruggie Dre for hay, a dead-pan Dre for nun and a depressed Dre for shin."

5. One word: karaoke. It wouldnt be Hanukkah without the now->

If youre looking for more opportunities for a Hanukkah sing-along, check this out.

6. Dress up your body. Bring some festive fun to your get-together with Hanukkah temporary tattoos in gold and silver metallic. Our advice? Get a couple of packages so you dont have to fight over who gets to wear the "Light Joy Latkes" tattoo.

Its worth noting that "real" tattoos are a controversial topic; they are banned by the Torah, however many reformed Jews continue to challenge this view, especially as it >

7. Braid it, colorfully. Really want to make an impression? Bake and bring this rainbow challah. There are four hours of prep time involved here, so you have to want it BAD.

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The Three Most Important Responsibilities Buyers Have

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

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

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

Financial responsibilities

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

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

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

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

Neighborhood responsibilities

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

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

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

Household responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Real Estate Agents, Unwrap Your Gift In The Form of Massive Savings

This holiday season, make sure you add your own name to the gift-shopping list And if what you really want is to see your business grow more in the year to come, then the best gift you can give yourself and your business is the gift of more leads.

Point2, an industry-leading provider of complete marketing solutions for agents and brokers, has kicked off the holiday season with massive discounts of up to 400 on its Professional and Elite packages. This means that you can get all the smart marketing tools you need in one package, without having to spend a fortune.

Cater to your professional needs

Briefly put, the Point2 Agent Professional package is all about helping you get more exposure and more leads. And until January 9th, you can get that for only 399 -- thats 150 down from its original price.

But dont let the attractive price be the main factor in your decision, as the Point2 Agent Pro package enables you to:

Be where the on-the-go home-buyer is looking -- The agent website solution offers an impressive number of gorgeous templates which are both mobile-friendly and optimized for search engines SEO.

Showcase your listings and yourself -- The Pro package comes with free featured listings and agent ads on Point2s own real estate marketplace, Point2 Homes, which registered over 90 million page views within the past year.

Grow your client base with valuable lead management tools like custom forms, predictive marketing, and drip email campaigns.

Give your broker team a five-star gift this winter

The Point2 Agent Elite package was designed to suit the needs of brokers and broker teams.

Thats because it enables you to streamline your teams work with multiple user accounts, team websites, and automated lead routing, while also showcasing your listings to their full potential with unlimited single property websites and 20 featured listing and 5 featured agent ads.

Whats more, the discount has never been bigger - 400 off

Additionally, you can opt for installment payments or lock down your rate with multi-year payment options to better manage your online marketing budget throughout the following year.

Call 888-277-9779 by January 9th to take advantage of the discounted Point2 Agent solutions. Or click here to find out more.

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How to Select an Interior Door

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

Lets take a look at the options:


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Specialty doors

Of course, there are a few door >

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

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

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

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

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Updated: Sunday, December 21, 2014

Seven Ways To Rock Your Hanukkah Party

Its Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication, the time when friends and fam...
> Full Story

The Three Most Important Responsibilities Buyers Have

The American dream of owning a home is something everyone should have if they want it. You s...
> Full Story

Real Estate Agents, Unwrap Your Gift In The Form of Massive Savings

This holiday season, make sure you add your own name to the gift-shopping list And if what y...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2014 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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