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Updated: Thursday, May 05, 2016

PACE Loans Should be Accompanied by Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support truth in lending. Support AB 2693.

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

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Partition May Be The Only Remedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Glass House Management In Your HOA

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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

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

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

    Add an Outdoor Living Space

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

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

    Think Smart

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

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

    Upgrade the Wine Cellar

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

    Skip the Bath

    It was once en vogue for master bathrooms to feature opulent, sunken bathtubs with jets and a bay window to gaze out over your lush lawn. Affluent home buyers want an unforgettable luxury shower experience with multiple shower heads and custom designs. Go above and beyond by adding on the streaming waterfalls, exposed rock face, sauna->
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    Tiny Homes: Are We Really Destined To Stuff Ourselves Into 300 Square Feet?

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

    What is going on here?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    Small House Bliss

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

    Mobile or not

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

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


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

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

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

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

    All part of the fun

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

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

    Is it generational?

    Not so fast.

    ABC News

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

    Is tiny home living overrated?

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

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

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

    Makes sense to us.

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    5 Easy Steps For Indoor-Outdoor Living On A Budget

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

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

    Create a patio

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

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


    Cover up

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


    Create an opening

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

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

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

    Select Windows


    Comfy seating

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

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


    Add in the extras

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

    Huffington Post

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    Myths About Millennials And Canadian Real Estate Projections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo by: Dallas Air Photos

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

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

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

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

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

    What does it cost to hire a drone?

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

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

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

    How To Get Started

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Execute an air conditioner check

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

    2. Check out the area around your air conditioning units

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

    Ugly House Photos

    3. Do a ceiling fan once over

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

    4. Check those filters

    Lastly - as it >

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

    5. Dont forget about your refrigerator filters

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

    Marathon Air

    6. Clean your refrigerator coils

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

    7. Refresh your showerhead

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

    8. Check your sprinklers

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

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

    9. Check your deck

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

    10. Mulch it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Full Story >

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    8 Laundry Rooms Thatll Make You Want To Fluff And Fold

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

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

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

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

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

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


    dcor pad

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


    Oplab Dcor

    Ummm, you had us at TV.


    Get Your Southern On

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


    My Design Chic

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


    Inside Story Design

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


    Georgiana Design

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


    Inside Story Design

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


    My Design Chic

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

    Full Story >

    A Sellers Guide To A Winning Open House

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

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


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


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

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

    Lure Them In

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

    Complete Your Honey-Do List

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

    Be Cautious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Full Story >

    Ask The HOA Expert: Second Hand Smoke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Differences Drive Referral Success

    Exactly how is each prospect, client, and their >

    As a real estate professional, how you adapt what you do to this essential service truth and how you communicate this reality determines whether prospects and clients will refer new business to you.

    Referrals are significant business drivers, so anything that interferes with clients referring undermines business growth.

    How each prospect, client, and property is different is the real point of what you do and of the services you provide. How aware you and your clients are of this truth is crucial to your success.

    In a busy market and over many years, continuous success -- liberally loaded with ongoing pressure and stress -- can distract you. Your professional focus can shift from the uniqueness of each client and the problem you solve to concentrate on similarities between transactions -- the "sameness."

    This mental shift is applauded when a "sameness" focus initiates economies of scale to control expenses and provides time-saving reusables for marketing and advertising. On a larger scale, target marketing concentrates your business activities on defined market groups with clear similarities. This "sameness" has practical applications, including:

    • Template->
    • Standardized email and other digital campaign formats inexpensively allow repeat reach-outs to past clients and new prospects in greater numbers than door-to-door canvassing.

    Digital content, social media, online practices, and mobile computing facilitate a "sameness" focus. However, concentrate too intently on "sameness" and successfully sustaining your real estate practice may be challenging.

    The real estate truth is that every property is unique. That makes seller, buyer, and the resulting real estate transaction unique, too. At the heart of this are the unique definitions of success created by each seller, each buyer, and you.

    From your perspective, success is achieved when the deal closes and generates commission. Through many transactions, you have worked with clients: either sellers who sold or buyers who bought. Do your clients always feel as successful -- and hopefully more successful -- than you do?

    Which of the following two statements accurately describe typical reactions for your clients after their transaction closes?

    Scenario 1: Clients feel dragged through an often-confusing, usually-stressful legal and financial process with you in charge, but at least they ended up with something -- not what they initially expected, but something.

    Scenario 2: Clients are aware of you continuously tweeking the legal and financial process to accommodate their unique situation and significantly reduce confusion and stress, until they achieve more than they expected.

    In Scenario 1, clients have completed a real estate transaction and are ready to move on, but do they genuinely feel "tell all my friends" successful? On contemplation, they may have reservations about what happened, or didnt, so they hesitate to refer you. Since they may have initially seemed pleased with results -- from your perspective -- lack of referrals may surprise you.

    In Scenario 2, clients feel that the success was theirs. Since you both understood their definition of success, you were able to achieve more than they expected. You knew which aspects of the property would mean more to them and which features would not. You were also clear how to make the process less confusing and stressful for them. On contemplation, they are clear about how you helped make things happen and wont hesitate to refer you. In fact, they may champion you to friends and family.

    When you do not clarify the prospects or clients definition of success from the start, you miss opportunities to understand what makes them different and how differently they see real estate. Do you listen for success?

    • Buyers -- Hearing a buyers "dream home" description, are you mentally matching it with listings? This order-taking passivity is not listening.
    • Sellers -- Hearing details of sellers attachment to their property, are you mentally erasing their presence in the property with staging strategies? This marketing is not listening.

    Active listening involves asking questions about statements that clients make and standards they insist on, so you understand exactly what they mean by what they say. Questions clarify what they value. Resulting discussions can ensure practical, achievable goals are set. If you do not confirm information and goals with the client, neither they nor you will concentrate on what really matters.

    For example, buyers may be distracted by decor issues while sellers may be off-track reacting to negative buyer remarks about the home. Distractions waste valuable time -- time that may make a crucial difference, especially in a hot market. What approach do you take to focus on a clients achievable definition of success?

    • For inspiration as you rethink your seller approaches and for more ideas on uncovering seller uniqueness, consider 6 Home Seller Procrastinations: What Are You Waiting For? or 3 Tips for Sellers Stay Or Go? Dilemma as a place to start exploring seller perspectives.
    • To discover different buyer viewpoints and gather insight on recognizing opportunities to draw out uniqueness, consider Home Buyers: Seven Insights Into Confident Decision Making and Five Core Matching Questions For Buyers.

    Source: "Whats Your Point?" by PJ Wade

    Full Story >

    How To Find The Right Dining Table On A Budget

    You know whats irritating? Walking through a furniture store and falling in love with a piece of furniture only to flip over the tag and see that it cost three times your monthly salary.

    When it comes to a dining room table, you want something substantial, especially if it will act as an everyday table and also if youll be entertaining frequently and/or hosting holiday feasts.

    Shape and size are also important considerations, and theyre not the only ones. A dining room table is not just "a surface to gather around for meals," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Interesting choices in shape, >

    But that doesnt mean it has to be expensive. If youre looking for a great table at a price you can handle, here are some great places to look.

    World Market is a great place to look for stylish furniture at affordable prices. The Wood Durham Extension Dining Table is great looking, goes with almost any decor with its walnut stain, adds a bit of flair with its turned legs, and seats up to 10 with the self-storing leaf. And its only 349

    World Market

    Prefer a cleaner leg on your table but want a bit of a rustic look? Check out this Carmichael Table from Pier 1. Available in rubbed black, sage, or antique ivory, its priced at just 359.

    Pier 1

    IKEA may be king when it comes to inexpensive - and some would say disposable - furniture, but the megastore has a variety of tables, chairs, and dining sets for a variety of budgets, and some might last you through several stages of life.

    The clean lines of the Bjursta table make it a favorite, and its extendable with two different leaves. The white Henriksdal chairs bring some glam to the space. The whole set with four chairs is just 475.


    You can also find affordable dining room sets at stores like Macys, Rooms To Go, and Ashley. This rustic-industrial Freimore Dining Room Table and Stools from Ashley is just 379.


    Modern minimalism with an Asian flair makes this Madina three-piece dining set a great buy at 899, on sale at Macys.


    If youre comfortable with buying over the Internet and dont feel like you need to touch, feel, and see the finish in person, you can find some of the deals on sites like Overstock, like this five-piece set that combines a rustic look with a modern gray finish for 600.


    Or this Christopher Knight outdoor set for 643.


    Wayfair has several different sets at every imaginable price point. We love their extendable tables, perfect for everyday use and for guests. This round pedestal table can easily tuck into a breakfast nook and expand to accommodate guests. Plus, the round >

    The Kersey Dining Table brings some mid-century >


    Full Story >

    Living Posh: What To Buy For Your Home When Money Is No Object

    Ever wonder how the other half lives? Maybe you are the other half and want a few ideas for how to spend all that money adding the most posh, plush, and luxe not to mention crazy expensive items to your home. Either way, weve got a list that will have you salivating.

    When not just any old fridge will do, who do you turn to? Well, Dolce and Gabbana, of course The famed fashion designers just launched a new collaboration with Italian appliances brand Smeg "to produce 100 limited-edition FAB28 refrigerators, all of which are hand-painted by artists specially commissioned by Dolce and Gabbana themselves," said Vogue. "Bedecked with these prints that weve seen pop up in past collections from the fashion house, each fridge will be available through Smeg and Dolce amp; Gabbana for - get ready - 30,000, or about 34,140."

    Dolce and Gabbana arent the only top clothing designers to veer into the home world. Fendi Casa has been creating furniture and design objects since 1987, with items reflecting their high-end, contemporary tone.


    For luxury, it doesnt get much better than Versace, and their home collection is about as posh as it gets.


    Calacatta marble not exclusive enough for you? How about countertops made from glazed volvic lava stone, "an ancient and natural stone extracted from the Nugere crater at the heart of Auvergnes volcanoes in France," said LEEZA Surfaces. Thats Pyrolave, which, in addition to being rare, is also very strong, heat resistant, and available in 32 colors. The cost: A measly 370/square foot.


    Baccarat is known for their luxury crystal glassware, jewelry, and gifts, as well as a number of incredible chandeliers. You can pick one like this up for a few thousand dollars, but as long price is no object, bring this beauty home. The Baccarat Zenith Chandelier with 48 Lights with only set you back a mere 147,600.

    Crystal >

    Maybe you envision a different kind of showstopping chandelier. One reminiscent of museums, botanical gardens, and luxury hotels around the world. One from world-famous artist Dale Chihuly, perhaps.


    If youre planning to add a Chihuly work to your house, youll want to be aware of a few things. "If your ultimate splurge is a Chihuly masterpiece, youll want to get started early to incorporate all that will be required," said Houzz. "Youll also have to accept that the artist is going to be the boss, especially if its an artist as accomplished as Dale Chihuly."

    Looking to bring some ultra luxury to the foundation areas of your home? Hire Mark Evans to sculpt leather onto your walls using knives. His work adorning a Russian billionaires mansion is the most expensive wallpaper in the world, realized by "etching the leather down to the suede with a number of bladed tools of different sizes, from a large hunting knife to several sculpting knives," said Most Expensive. The results are photorealistic depictions of animals, the crucifixion and even the celebrated "Fight of the Year" between Doug Jones and Muhammad Ali. Evans leather etchingscover the walls of two rooms in a mansion in Moscow. The tally on the "unnamed billionaires" walls: 2.71 million, or "around 23,675 per square meter."


    With so much grandeur throughout the other areas of your home, you certainly cant skimp on floors. How about this exotic Macassar Ebony wood? Its only slightly more than that budget option at Home Depot with a price of 150 per square foot.

    "Having Macassar ebony milled into flooring will no doubt set your home improvement budget back a ways," said This Old House. "Truth is, most people who can afford to use this exotic hardwood arent too worried about budgets.

    This Old House

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    The Dangers Of Being House Poor

    Most of us who have bought a home have at least some awareness of the loan-to-value ratio, or LTV - one of the factors lenders use to determine whether a borrower is qualified for the loan they want. Lenders typically want your mortgage payment to be between 28 and 33 percent of your income and your total debt including car payment, credit cards, etc. under 40 percent, according to "Money Under 30."

    The thinking is that the higher the LTV, the more likelihood a borrower may default on the loan, which is why, "Assessments with high LTV ratios are generally seen as higher risk and, therefore, if the mortgage is accepted, the loan will generally cost the borrower more to borrow or he or she will need to purchase mortgage insurance," said Investopedia.

    The danger in a high LTV ratio for a buyer is the possibility that youll end up house poor.

    "You may not have heard of the term "house poor" but you probably know what it means. The family that owns a 3-bedroom house, but cant afford to pay their credit card bill," said lifehacker.

    Investopedia described it as, "A situation that describes a person who spends a large proportion of his or her total income on home ownership, including mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and utilities. House poor individuals are short of cash for discretionary items and tend to have trouble meeting other financial obligations."

    Leave Debt Behind

    Fixing up the house, and other ways to become house poor

    Buying a home you cant comfortably afford is only the beginning. Even if the desire to own a home triggers an intense period of saving and a whole new outlook on being thrifty and delaying gratification, can you maintain it once youve gotten your keys? The urge to nest, rip the home apart, fix it up, and make it reflect your taste and >

    What will you do about the fact that the kitchen countertops are from 1972 and so is the mold growing on the grout in the secondary bathrooms shower? How about the new living room set that would look so great in front of the fireplace youre going to redo? Or a pool in the backyard or at least a new patio set so you can entertain friends. Oh, and youll need to add a great big grill for that and maybe a pergola, too.

    Miracle Method

    And, youll probably be too busy painting and ripping out floors and gardening and hanging window treatments to cook dinner, so add in a bunch of restaurant meals.

    Before long, you may just find yourself maxed out on credit and struggling to make all your payments on time. Or, huddled around the table eating Cup-o-Noodles with no cable or Internet and trying to come up with more cost-cutting measures. That can be a dangerous place, not only for your credit and, ultimately for your living arrangements, but also for your psyche.

    "Living house poor not only hurts your finances, it takes a toll on you mentally and physically," said Money under 30. "Knowing that your income and your home expenses rule your life can be a great source of anxiety. Being house poor removes the liberating feeling of being in control of your finances. Ironically, we Americans view home ownership as the ultimate symbol of financial security and success, but if youre living house poor, your finances are anything but secure."

    And that may not be the worst of it. Being house poor can get really risky if theres a job loss or other change of circumstances in your family. When youre living paycheck to paycheck, missing just one could be enough to crumble your world.

    Preparing well for the purchase

    Still ready to take the plunge despite the potential pitfalls? Remember the three Ps: price, practicality, patience.

    • Price: You dont have to buy at the max of what the lender gives you. Breaking down the monthly payments and looking at a detailed accounting of what the home will cost you may be a better determining factor of what you can afford than the sales price of the house.
    • Practicality: If your budget is stretched to the limit, what will that mean for your future in terms of being able to save for college and other important items? What will it mean for the immediate future? Are the sacrifices you need to make in terms of limiting entertainment, vacations, gifts, etc. worth it?
    • Patience: When youre not finding the right house in your price range, it can be tempting to raise it. Remembering how you want to live in that house can help you refocus.

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    Essential Garage Equipment for Car Enthusiasts

    What makes a car enthusiast? The vehicle you own says a lot about your passion for cars. About 12 percent of Americans are loyal to a particular vehicle brand, and vehicle brand loyal customers are four times more likely than other consumers to describe themselves as car enthusiasts, according to Scarborough. What you have in your garage also makes a statement about your love of cars. Here are some essential items every car enthusiast should have.

    Garage Space

    First, you need a garage with adequate space. A small garage might provide enough space to park your car, but if you want room to work, you may prefer something bigger. Chicago architect Allan J. Grant recommends that a single-car garage should be a minimum of 10 feet wide, and a two-car garage should be at least 20 feet wide, with 24 feet being optimal. For a car enthusiast, a two-car garage provides better working space.


    A good workbench is the first piece of essential equipment, says Popular Mechanics. You can build your own workbench inexpensively or purchase one from the store.

    There are several ways to design your own workbench. The simplest is to use a pair of sawhorses to support a solid-core door or a plank of medium-density fiberboard. You can also find many designs online for building workbenches out of simple materials such as 2 x 4s and 4 x 4s. Bob Villa offers five different DIY designs for workbenches you can build in a weekend.

    To speed things up, kits for building your own workbench are also available from suppliers such as the Simpson Strong-Tie Company and Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation with its 2x4 Basics product line. If youd prefer to buy a pre-made workbench, modular workbenches from manufacturers such as Craftsman and Gladiator provide the flexibility to customize your workspace.


    To use your workbench, you will want a good bench vise. A bench vise holds your projects in place, provides extra force and stabilizes items while glue dries. Avoid cheap vises, and invest in a quality vise from a manufacturer such as Craftsman.


    Adequate lighting is essential for working on your car. The easiest way to improve the quality of your overhead lighting is by installing ceiling-mounted fluorescent light fixtures. Four-foot instant-on T8 bulb fixtures with wide reflectors or diffusers are a good start.

    However, to get lighting in hard-to-reach places, youll want more than overhead lighting. Mercedes mechanic Kent Bergsma recommends avoiding clip lights and halogen-type shop lights and instead using stage and movie lighting equipment, such as an LED video lights with barn doors.


    The more tools you own, the more storage space you need. For general storage, a pegboard is the most affordable way to store individual tools and other pieces of equipment, and a tool chest provides organized storage.

    To store your off-season tires, it puts less stress on tires to store them upright than to stack them. You can hang tires on hooks if theyre mounted on the rims, but never hang unmounted tires because this will distort and damage them.

    Ramps, Jack Stands, Lifts and Hoists

    Its also essential to have equipment to elevate your car. An auto ramp set is great for working under your car. Jack stands with safety pins will come in handy to change tires. If you can afford it, a vehicle lift will really make your garage look like a car shop. An engine hoist with a stand is also useful.

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    What To Look For When Buying Or Renting A Handicap-Friendly Home

    Buying a house: Its one of the big coming of age moments for many people, but it can also be an overwhelming experience. If you or your loved ones need assistance it can be even more daunting as there are additional aspects that you must look for. Perhaps you are helping a client look for a house that will make it easier to perform your caregiver duties and responsibilities. Or maybe its for a family member. Regardless, if youre not prepared and you do not know what to look for, the process will be miserable and you will overlook certain aspects that will greatly inhibit the way of life for the person needing daily assistance. But if youre willing to put in the time to do the methodological research you will most likely avoid future bumps in the road and you will purchase/rent the most handicap-friendly home

    Here are some things to consider when buying a more accessible home.


    For anyone with mobility issues, the most important issue is space. A house with narrow hallways, tight turns and complicated labyrinths of rooms isnt going to be conducive for independence and easy maneuverability for anyone who uses a wheelchair or any other mobility device. A flat, one-story house is often the only option for mobility device users, but be careful with houses with sunken rooms and random steps, which will instantly make certain rooms off-limits or challenging to get to.

    Floor plan

    Seen more and more in newly built homes, open floor plans and houses with more space give homeowners more flexibility with decorating and making the house their own. But when a wheelchair is involved, it adds yet another level of convenience, allowing you to organize large items of furniture where you want, leaving room for open walkways and maneuvering space. Make sure doorways, hallways and corners are all wide enough for a wheelchair or any other equipment. Compliant to the Fair Housing Act, doors must have a 32-inch passable opening, but many people, if able or willing to renovate to their preference, prefer it wider, closer to 36 inches, if possible.


    Kitchen design is one of the most varied areas of home design, but following trends wont make a kitchen accessible or even operable for anyone who uses a wheelchair. There are a few things to look for, and a few simple fixes if the house you decide on isnt perfectly optimized for you. Side-by-side refrigerators are more user-friendly than setups with the freezer on the bottom or on the top, simply because of whats in reach. Ovens, often placed high on the wall, are not only awkward and unsuitable for use, but can be dangerous. The folding-down door is hot and will get in the way, and lifting items that are both heavy and dangerously hot dont make for a good cooking combination. Look for double, stacked ovens, and lower-level microwaves, or at least scope out cabinetry that can possible be moved.

    If the problem becomes affording a home, there are numerous programs set up to help. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a homeownership voucher program, Social Security has a Supplemental Security Income program, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has housing grants for disabled veterans.

    And if theres any question, remember the Fair Housing Act, which says that when selling or renting houses to anyone, the renter or seller may not question race, color, national origin, >

    It may take some creativity to find the perfect house, or to customize one you find, but its possible. Create a checklist of the things most important to you, making sure to know whats non-negotiable and what you can live without. If you cant get everything, make sure you can at least get the things most important.

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    Mortgage Payments When You Are In Financial Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    4. A short sale. Here, the lender will authorize you to sell the property for what it is really worth, and the lender will get all the proceeds. Let us look at this example. The house can probably be sold at 395,000, but the mortgage is 425,000. The lender may allow you to sell the property for 395,000, giving a real estate broker a commission. The lender gets all the remaining sales proceeds; you get nothing from the sale. However, under this "short sale" approach, you will be >

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

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

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

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

    Full Story >

    Vacation Home Safety Tips

    Among the fastest ways to kill a post-vacation buzz is returning home and discovering your house is in shambles. Maybe a water pipe broke and now youre trudging through ankle-deep sludge. Perhaps a burglar slipped inside, ransacked the place and gallivanted away with your most valued possessions. Or it could be that you forgot to clean out the fridge before leaving, and now mold has infested every nook and cranny. Just like its important to shop for an excellent vacation deal, its crucial to make sure returning from that well-earned trip isnt a headache or disaster. Here are six easily-skipped steps to keep in mind while youre planning that enticing itinerary.

    Of Course Somebody is Home

    Hiring a house or pet sitter is the best - albeit costly - method to ensure your home stays just like you left it. House sitters can vary from a trusted friend or family member, to somebody who is a professional. Typically a house sitter will take care of any pets youre leaving behind, water plants, collect the mail and sometimes other small tasks. Its challenging to trust somebody enough to be in your home for days on end, but their presence ensures burglars avoid your place and that your appliances and utilities dont decide to take a vacation of their own.

    Celebrate on Social Media After the Trip

    Booking a vacation is exciting. Its a break from the daily grind, and thats often something we want to share with our friends, family and acquaintances via social media. But you should probably hold off on announcing to the whole Internet that your home is vacant and ripe for the picking. Websites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for complete strangers to gather your personal information and then find out where you live with a quick online search.

    If you cant help yourself from announcing the trip and posting photos, then do yourself a favor and greatly restrict who can see and share the information. The same plan of action holds true for automatic email responses and voicemail systems. The rule of thumb is that if youre not comfortable with somebody being in your house when youre not there, then dont tell them - even indirectly - that youre heading off on some sweet adventure. Scound>

    Burning the Midnight Oil

    Casing a house is a common tactic for many home invaders. They spend days - sometimes even weeks - monitoring when youre home, what rooms youre in, what youre doing and who youre with. Theyll know your daily habits better than you do. The best way to thwart these folks is to make sure it genuinely looks like somebody is home. Set up an app-controlled light timer. You can even set up a timer-controlled power supply to stereos or TVs. But dont keep the same timer settings day by day. Vary when lights come on, which rooms they pop on and for how long everything is running. Also be sure to use compact florescent light bulbs to save electricity and your energy bill.

    Lock it Down, Regardless of Where You Live

    Its oddly common that in small, homely towns where "everybody knows each other" folks leave their homes and cars unlocked. If youre involved with this mindset, then you may very well leave your door unlocked during an extended absence. And unlocked doors are the biggest "burglarize me" signals out there. More than 30 percent of home burglaries happen from an unlocked entrance. Dont be the person who forgot to close and lock the windows or sliding glass door. Put a dowel rod behind any type of sliding entrance, and be sure to lock the deadbolt. Its easy to prevent an easy crime.

    This Needs Power, This Doesnt

    Imagine how devastating it feels to show up back home after your trip and discover a charred pile of rubble where your home once stood. Let that feeling sink in for a few moments, and then take a look around at what electronics and appliances you currently have plugged into the wall throughout your home. A power outage or surge could trip these devices and cause a fire if the device isnt plugged into a surge protector or turned off. Now since youre leaving certain electronics on timers to discourage home invasions, make sure what you do leave plugged in is plugged into a surge protector. You can group electronics and appliances close together to limit the number of protectors youll need to buy.

    Otherwise, think about how much energy appliances like your refrigerator, water heater or climate control require and consume. If you dont have plants, animals or open food, then you can pretty much turn off your climate control depending on what the outside weather is like. Set your water heater to vacation mode to reserve energy consumption. And last, either remove perishables from the fridge, turn it off and open the door to prevent mildew, or make sure the appliance is completely full of non-perishable items. If you have empty space then fill jugs of water there to insulate your fridge and lower energy consumption.

    Finally, if youre off on an adventure during the winter, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to come by and run the facet for about 5 minutes every day or two. If your pipes are properly insulated, this should help prevent them from freezing over or breaking.

    A Tidy Home is a Lived in Home

    The final step that is extremely easy to skip on longer or seasonal trips is how your home looks. Sure, you have lights popping on and off at random times, but is your yard unkempt? Are mail flyers, newspapers and packages creating the next great pyramid on your doorstep? These are signals to anybody paying attention that youre not home. Either stop packages, the newspaper and your mail from being deposited, or get somebody you trust to pick everything up for you. Plus if youre leaving in the winter and it snows, make sure they shovel your driveway or sidewalk.

    Full Story >

    FHA: Appraisal Or Home Inspection?

    People in the real estate business know theres a big difference between an appraisal and a home inspection. But this difference may not be so apparent to others. To be sure, an appraisal results in a number representing the value of the house, and theres no such figure at the conclusion of a home inspection. But it seems that much of what the appraiser does in order to reach a conclusion is essentially the same as what a home inspector does.

    The similarity between what appraisers and home inspectors do is especially striking if FHA financing is being used in the transaction; the FHA appraiser is called upon to make a variety of observations and judgments that are expected of a home inspector as well. Are the hand rails up to code? Is there peeling paint that could be a health hazard? Are the appliances that are included in the transaction in proper working order? Are there any roof leaks? Do the heating and air conditioning if present systems function correctly? Is water pressure adequate and is their proper drainage around the house? The list goes on and on.

    It is no wonder that FHA buyers -- many of whom may lack experience when it comes to real estate purchases -- are sometimes inclined to forego having a home inspection because they mistakenly believe that essentially the same job has been done by the appraiser.

    Concerns about this and >

    Not only did Salomone voice concern about buyers failing to obtain home inspections, but also he cited problems occurring within the appraisal community itself. Salomone wrote as follows:

    "Unfortunately, many appraisers have become wary of participating in FHA-insured home loan transactions given the confusion with the Handbook requirements. Concerns over liability are leading many appraisers to require the current homeowner to take time away from work to physically test washer/dryers, stoves, etc., so that the appraiser cannot be blamed for any >

    The result is that many appraisers are increasing their fees for FHA appraisals. Some appraisers have opted out completely of FHA appraisals, or are asking for additional home inspections to comply with the Handbook."

    In his letter, the NAR President offered three specific suggestions.

    1 Remove "operate all conveyed appliances and observe their performance"

    "Each party [buyer, seller, lender, agent] has a different interpretation of the requirement of the appraiser in evaluating appliances as the Handbook does not explain the extent of testing needed to determine if an appliance is operational. NAR members have told us that appraisers are being asked to run washer/dryers and operate stove burners, without any sense of how long to run the washer/dryer or how far up to turn the burner, in order to fulfill FHA requirements NAR asks that FHA require appraisers to determine whether the conveyed appliances are in a condition to be operated based on a visual observation, by noting connection to an electric or water supply, and remove the instruction to operate or observe their performance."

    2 Change "observe, analyze and report" to "observe and report"

    "According to the newly published Handbook, the Appraiser must observe, analyze, and report" that a property meets HUDs Minimum Property Requirements MPR and Minimum Property Standards MPS for safety and soundness purposes. The quoted language is new to the FHA guidelines for appraisals and can be construed to increase the appraisers scope of work, such that tasks traditionally undertaken during a home inspection are being covered by the appraisal."

    3 Revise form HUD-92564-CN, For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection

    "to give consumers a clear understanding of the differences between a home inspection and an appraisal, FHA should consider:

    • Changing the paragraph header text Appraisals are Different from Home Inspections to Appraisals are NOT Home Inspections."
    • Changing the paragraph text An appraisal is different from a home inspection and does not replace a home inspection, to An appraisal is not a home inspection and is not an alternative to a home inspection."
    • Adding the text An appraisal makes sure that the house meets FHA minimum property standards and requirements, which do not include all items reviewed in a home inspection."

    Small suggestions, it would seem, but with big implications.

    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 >

    Forming A Consensus In Your Homeowner Association

    When it comes to decision making in homeowner associations, parliamentary procedure Roberts Rules is often the basis for making them. It provides a systematic and efficient way to get business done. However, parliamentary procedure is based on the democratic notion of "majority rules". Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. While the system works pretty well, there is another process for decision making called "Formal Consensus".

    Consensus is generally understood to mean that all parties agree to a proposal or the proposal fails. But its hard enough to get two people to agree much less a group so consensus is ra>

    Formal Consensus is a process which requires an environment in which all contributions are valued and participation is encouraged. To develop this process requires an organization to define commonly held principles which form the foundation upon which the process is built.

    With Formal Consensus, decisions are adopted when all participants consent to the outcome of discussions about a proposal. People who do not agree with a proposal are responsible for expressing their concerns. No decision is adopted until there is resolution of every concern. When concerns remain after discussion, individuals can agree to disagree by acknowledging that they have unresolved concerns, but consent to the proposal anyway and allow it to be adopted. Therefore, reaching consensus does not require that everyone must be in complete agreement.

    Proposals ought to be prepared in writing and distributed well in advance of the meeting in which a decision is required. This encourages prior discussion and consideration, helps the presenter anticipate concerns, minimizes surprises, and involves everyone in creating the proposal. If the necessary groundwork has not been done, the wisest choice might be to send the proposal to committee. Proposal writing is difficult to accomplish in a large group. The committee would develop the proposal for consideration at a later time. The presenter reads the written proposal aloud, provides background information, and states clearly its benefits and reasons for adoption, including addressing any existing concerns.

    The Formal Consensus process consists of three levels:

    Level 1 - Broad Open Discussion. Allows everyone to express their perspective, including concerns, but group time is not spent on resolving problems. The scope is broad, allowing the discussion to consider the philosophical and political implications as well as the general merits and drawbacks and other >

    Level 2 - Identify Concerns. The group focuses its attention on identifying concerns, still not resolving them. Reactive comments, even funny ones, and resolutions, even good ones, can suppress the creative ideas of others. The concerns are identified and publicly listed, which enables everyone to get an overall picture of the concerns. The focus is on identifying the body of concerns and grouping similar ones.

    At this level, only concerns are to be expressed, reasonable or unreasonable, well thought out or vague feelings. The facilitator wants to interrupt any comments which attempt to defend the proposal, resolve the concerns, judge the value of the concerns, or in any way deny or dismiss anothers feelings of doubt or concern. Sometimes simply allowing a concern to be expressed and written down helps resolve it.

    Level 3 - Resolve Concerns amp; Call for Consensus. The group explores resolutions. The scope is very narrow. The focus of discussion is limited to a single unresolved concern until it is resolved. To encourage the process, the facilitator asks, "Are there any unresolved concerns?" or "Are there any concerns remaining?" If there are, concerns are discussed. If, after a suitable interval of silence, no concerns are raised, the facilitator declares that consensus is reached and the proposal is read for the record. If, at this level, consensus cannot be reached, that too should be announced so other business can be attended to.

    It is important to note that the question is not "Is there consensus?" or "Does everyone agree?". These questions do not encourage an environment in which all concerns can be expressed. If some people have a concern, but are shy or intimidated by a strong showing of support for a proposal, the question "Are there any unresolved concerns?" speaks directly to them and provides an opportunity for them to speak.

    Formal Consensus provides a creative way to integrate conflicting views. Adopting this approach achieves a much higher degree of "buy in" by those that are subject to the decision. Being heard is the key and this process strives to make sure that all are. For more on Formal Consensus, Click Here.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Trend Alert: How To Add Shiplap To Your Home

    Shiplap is having a moment thanks to HGTVs Fixer Upper. But you dont have to live in Waco, TX or other parts of the south where shiplap was used in the construction of many older homes to add his bit of character to your home. If you want to jump on the shiplap train, heres how to get it and what to do with It.

    "Characterized by long horizontal or vertical panels formed by overlapping rabbets grooved boards, weathertight shiplap has long been popular in areas with harsh climates," said Remodelista. "Because of this functionality, and due to the fact that it was often made from >

    But, as architect Sheila Bonnell of FRAMe Architecture Design showed on Remodelista, shiplap has more versatility than you think and can work in nearly any space and any >

    Look how well it pairs with marble counters and open shelving in this kitchen.


    Here it sets a unique foundation for eclectic furnishings.


    But those who want the look without the expense of real boards also have options. Emily, a DIYer from website Table and Hearth, "researched all kinds of materials that you can use to achieve a plank wall; real wood planks themselves, reclaimed wood, or ripped-down panels of hardboards or plywood. I wanted the >

    The answer: this 1/4 plywood underlayment that cost 13 apiece. She had Home Depot rip them down into 8 wide planks, painted them gray, and trimmed it out with poplar battens.

    Heres how plywood shiplap looks in another room using 6" boards.

    Hooked on Houses

    You can also get a great look using shiplap without covering an entire wall. This shiplap treatment clads a fireplace using untreated cedar fence boards that have been cut and washed prior to installation and then stained in walnut.

    Paper Daisy Design

    Take the focus up to the ceiling. Whether youre using authentic shiplap, new or reclaimed boards, or plywood, a planked ceiling treatment creates interest in an unexpected place. "Rough-hewn pine boards overhead draw the eye up to the vaulted ceiling in this bedroom designed by Chip and Joanna Gaines," said HGTV.


    Why should the inside of your home have all the fun? The shiplap look can bring interest and distinction to your exterior as well.

    Go au natural,


    use a rich stain,

    Photo by - Search contemporary exterior pictures

    or combine it with other materials for a truly unique look.


    Full Story >

    Rising Farmland Values, Land Use Concerns In Ontario And B.C.

    Farmland values in Canada rose by 10.1 per cent in 2015, following increases of 14.3 per cent in 2015 and 22.1 per cent in 2013, according to Farm Credit Canada. The biggest increases were in Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec in 2015.

    Farmland values increased by 6.6 per cent in Ontario and by 6.5 per cent in British Columbia. In the agricultural areas closest the countrys hottest residential markets -- Toronto and Vancouver -- theres concern that some of the countrys most important farmland is in danger of being overwhelmed by real estate investment.

    "Farmland prices in Metro Vancouver range from 150,000 to 350,000 per acre for parcels less than five acres, and from 50,000 to 80,000 per acre for parcels more than 40 acres," says a report prepared for the Vancity credit union. "Farm Credit Canada recognizes that the financial viability of many farm businesses becomes questionable when land prices reach 80,000 per acre. Without addressing the high price of farmland in Metro Vancouver, the ability to grow a resilient, more self->

    In Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has teamed with Environmental Defence to produce a report called Farmland at Risk: Why Land-Use Planning Needs Improvements for a Healthy Agricultural Future in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

    "Ontarios land-use planning system is geared towards the accommodation of urban residential development and other urban->

    The Vancity report, written by members of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the B.C. Food Systems Network, says that the province has strong legislation that created the Agricultural Land Reserve ALR, a zone where agriculture is recognized as the priority use and non-agricultural uses are controlled. Although most applications to have farmland removed from the zone are unsuccessful, "the hope of success may still encourage speculation and be a factor affecting the price of larger parcels of farmland," says the report. Almost one-third of the actively farmed land in ALR is being leased from non-farmer landowners, and 35 per cent is owned by businesses that the report says are "holding companies".

    It says another factor that is putting pressure on small parcels of farmland is that people are building estate homes on land where agriculture is permitted to gain a property tax advantage.

    "To qualify for reduced property tax, an owner must report a minimum annual farm income earnings derived from the production and sale of qualifying agricultural products. For properties smaller than 1.98 acres, the minimum required farm income is 10,000, and for parcels between 1.98 acres and 10 acres, the minimum is 2,500," says the report.

    "Anecdotal reports suggest that most estate home owners are achieving these minimums from non-food agricultural products such as hay, pasture and trees, rather than from food produced for local consumption. Non-food products play a part in farm viability, but a balance should be encouraged to support local food production."

    The Vancity report says, "To develop a robust local food system, we need strong policy solutions to address the high price of farmland, to increase the amount of actively farmed land and to discourage the non-farm use of ALR land."

    In Ontario, the Farmland at Risk report says farmland makes up about half the land area of the Greater Golden Horseshoe and "represents one of the most important economic sectors of the region, contributing 11 billion and 38,000 jobs" to the economy.

    It says farmland also "provides a number of other precious ecosystem services that benefit all GHH residents, including storm-water storage and runoff control, protection against erosion on waterways, water filtration, carbon sequestration in soils in plants, pollination and habitat for many animal and plant species."

    Ontarios Greenbelt Plan, enacted in 2005, protects a band of land surrounding the Greater Toronto Area but the report says outside the Greenbelt, protection of farmland is "much less certain."

    It says, "These less protected lands are the ones at risk of being paved over to accommodate an additional 2.5 million people by 2013."

    The report blames the provincial government for allowing urban sprawl to continue "in response to the demands of municipalities hungry for tax assessment and development charge revenues, even though these revenues are not adequate to cover more expensive servicing costs associated with greenfield or low density development."

    It says speculators and developers lobby to expand settlement boundaries, "creating an unhealthy cycle of municipalities requiring new sprawl developments to pay for the debts of existing ones."

    The sprawl inevitably leads to conflicts between the farm operations and residents of the new developments.

    The report urges the province to adopt a "positive planning" approach that would better integrate farmland into land-use decision making and make agriculture a priority. The province should also develop new separation distance guidelines for "non-livestock agricultural uses that also need to be protected from neighboring uses," says the report.

    "A fresh perspective is needed on farmland in the GGT, one that sees agriculture as a permanent feature of the regional landscape and farming as an essential component of our economy and cultural heritage."

    Full Story >

    Planning A Kitchen Remodel In 7 Easy Steps

    If your kitchen is looking a bit dated, consider a remodel to upgrade its efficiency and looks. Heres a quick guide to planning your kitchen update:

    1 Plan it out.

    Sketch out what you want your finished kitchen to look like. Whether you draw your designs by hand or use software, understanding the finished look of your kitchen is an essential first step.

    2 Measure your space.

    Its important to know how much space you have to work with. Record the dimensions of your entire kitchen and other surrounding areas in your initial sketch. Use your measurements to plan the rest of your project.

    3 Choose storage options.

    One of the biggest advantages of remodeling your kitchen is adding more space. Think about your current storage problems and how to solve them. Consider all your storage options, from standalone shelving units to built-in turntables in your new kitchen cabinets.

    4 Pick a color scheme.

    Do you want to keep the same color scheme or go with something different? Do you want your kitchen to stand out from the rest of your home or blend in? Now is the time to answer these questions. Your color scheme could impact the appliance- and flooring->

    5 Compare materials.

    Now its time for window-shopping. Head to your local home improvement center and begin calculating your remodeling budget. Compare the different costs of different materials. While its okay to splurge on some aspects, stray away from a 50,000 kitchen remodel.

    6 Have a set budget.

    Once you know how much your project will cost, start saving your money and planning your remodel in earnest. Prices can change over time, so be sure to include some flexibility in your budget. Youll also need to factor in the cost of permits and contractor labor.

    7 Find a remodeling pro.

    Unless you are an expert, you will probably need to hire a remodeler to update your kitchen. Research local contractors, check their references and interview at least three pros before hiring one.


    Remodeling and redesigning your kitchen takes work. If you want to create an updated kitchen, youll need to plan, budget and hire a trusted professional.

    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 >

    6 Places To Build An Affordable Art Collection

    Buying your first home and looking to fill that gallery wall? Maybe its time to get a few grown-up pieces. Or perhaps youve decided you want to start collecting modern or not so modern masters. You dont have to wait for an inheritance.

    "Collecting art can be an expensive habit, but these days there are plenty of places to get amazing original art for a great price," said POPSUGAR. "Whether you like graphic, abstract illustrations or contemporary photography," you can find a great source to start or build on your collection.

    Heres where to start. is the ideal place to start because of their sheer volume of art from which to choose. Categories range from vintage posters to florals to contemporary to animals to digital art, and you can even search by the color of your dcor, making it possible to hone in on exactly what you want. This is also a great place to search by artist, so if youre looking to add a Picasso to your collection, Femme Au Balcon can be yours in a 24x31 art print for 24.99, with numerous options for framing.


    "This site discovers talent through ongoing design competitions," said POPSUGAR. "Designers submit, the Minted community votes to tell them what to sell, and we end up with seemingly limitless options at super affordable prices."

    Art on Minted is available in a number of different curated categories - limited edition, photography, typography, foil-pressed, or you can do a search based on your parameters. You can order it in a variety of sizes, framed or unframed, and even add the artists signature.

    Be prepared to fall in love with a whole lot of stuff here, like Yield, a limited edition print by Neil Waters that we bought in a 30x30 unframed print for 123 and that is going to look great over our fireplace couldnt resist.



    "20x200 has a large selection of fantastic photos, illustrations, drawing, collages and prints of paintings," said POPSUGAR. "You can start as low as 20 for an 8x10 and enjoy the satisfaction of owning a limited edition piece."

    We love the drama of Blossom Restaurant, The Bowery by Berenice Abbott, starting at 60 for an 11x14 print.


    If youre looking for a conversation piece, William Wegman has you covered with Roller Rover, available starting in 14x11 for 120.

    Roller Rover


    Search by >


    In the Banksy section, we went a little nuts for Panda with Guns Bright Dots, which is sure to become a talker, no matter what configuration you order it in.


    Eventide Collective

    Eventide promotes art that is modern, original, and accessible. "A collective of talented photographers. A gorgeous selection of prints. Incredible art to fill your empty walls," they said. We love the whimsy of Lounge, available in sizes ranging from 8x10 to 40x60, framed or unframed, and Printed on Hahnemhle fine art paper.



    We know what youre thinking: the IKEA prints are what were trying to get rid of. But if you havent been there for awhile, you may not know about their limited art collection.

    "Were adoring their newest Art Photography collection, the second in their annual IKEA Art Event series," said BRIT CO. The "limited edition collection of 11 posters by 11 contemporary artists from around the world includes artists like Mandy Barker, Mathieu Csar, Bobby Doherty and Bara Prsilov... that have captured images from butterfly wings and ribbon-wrapped bread to quirky little creatures and mythical-looking figures."


    Full Story >

    Having HOA Neighbor Knowledge

    One of any homeowner associations challenges is helping neighbors "make nice". The board is frequently called on to mediate disputes and fine neighbors for doing bad things. Actually, its not the boards job and in most cases, except those that directly impact the common area, these "opportunities" should be bounced back to the complainer to handle.

    What exactly is a "good" neighbor? To be one, you dont need to be friends or hang out together. Being a good neighbor is an attitude. A good neighbor attitude allows you to live as privately or as sociably as you wish. Heres how to cultivate and nurture it:

    Meet Them. While marching up to their door with hand extended is great, the chance encounter works well too. Introduce yourself at the mailbox, while walking the dog or when you take out the trash. Learn their names and offer a cordial "Hello" or "Good Morning" when you see them.

    Keep Them Informed. Contact them before undertaking something that might affect them, such as hosting a big party, building a fence, cutting down a tree or getting a dog.

    Be Aware of Differences. Age, faith, ethnic background and marital status can drastically affect lifestyles. Be aware of the differences between you but home in on what you have in common.

    Point of View. From your neighbors viewpoint, how does your compost pile, swingset or junk car look? Would you like that view? If you do, refer to your neighbors viewpoint.

    Be Appreciative. If a neighbor does something you like, tell them Theyll be pleased that you noticed the new awning, patio furniture, plants, etc.. Assume the Best. Most people dont intentionally create problems. Assume the neighbor doesnt know about the annoyance when you speak to them.. Your delivery will be dramatically kinder. And assume they will be cooperative.

    Be Candid. If your neighbors do something that bothers you, let them know as soon as possible.

    Be Calm. When discussing a point of contention, speak calmly, listen carefully and thank them for telling you how they feel. You dont have to agree or justify your behavior. If you dont react defensively, anger usually subsides, lines of communication remain open and resolution is possible.

    Take Your Time. If caught in angry confrontation, take a break to reflect and finish the discussion when cooler heads prevail. Dont leave it hanging. Time and lack of resolution will intensify hostilities.

    But the best advice of all is to treat others as you would like to be treated. This attitude will pave the way for good neighborliness. Love your neighbor as yourself and your HOA will thrive.

    For more information on this subject, see

    Full Story >

    Whats A Housing Cooperative?

    The question is often asked: whats a housing cooperative? How does it differ from a condominium? Can I get financing if I purchase a cooperative apartment, and does cooperative ownership give me the same tax benefits as compared to a single family home?

    The general public often confuses condominiums with cooperatives. In reality, as far as living standards go, there are few differences. However, from a legal -- and financing -- point of view, there are major differences.

    There are many definitions of cooperatives, but the one I like best is that a cooperative is a multi-unit apartment building, in which each resident has an interest in the entire building, and a lease or contract or share of stock enabling the owner to occupy a particular apartment unit within the building.

    If you own a condominium, you actually own your entire apartment, as well as a percentage of the common areas called the "common elements". A cooperative owner, on the other hand, does not, in fact, own the unit.

    The cooperative association, which is usually a corporation consisting of all the unit owners, owns the entire building, including all of the individual units. Each co-op unit owner either owns shares in the cooperative association -- just like owning shares in any other corporation -- or for non-stock corporations has what is known as a "proprietary lease". This lease spells out the rights and responsibilities of the owner, as well as the obligations and duties of the Association.

    Decisions on the management, lifestyle and financial details are made by the cooperative unit members themselves, either through their vote at regularly scheduled meetings, or by delegation to an elected board of directors, which runs the day-to-day operations of the cooperative.

    While this may sound complex, in reality cooperative living can be very desirable. Cooperative residents generally get the same tax treatment as other homeowners. If they have a loan and if it is secured by their ownership documents ie. the stock certificate or the proprietary lease, they can deduct the yearly interest paid on that loan. Additionally, if the cooperative association has a mortgage on the entire building -- called a blanket or underlying mortgage -- shareholders can deduct their proportionate share of the interest on that mortgage. And under most circumstances they can also deduct their proportionate share of the real estate taxes which the cooperative pays. It gets a little complicated if there are commercial units in the complex.

    How do you go about buying into a cooperative apartment? Let us assume you have picked a building and have agreed with the seller on a price. It is important to enter into a written contract to purchase this unit, spelling out the various terms and conditions agreed upon, including when the transfer will take place, the price and any financing arrangements between the seller and the buyer. Most real estate companies have standard form contracts; however, consumers should still read those forms carefully to make sure everything is acceptable. Just because it is a form does not mean its perfect for your needs.

    Perhaps the most important distinction between a condominium and a cooperative is that most cooperative associations require the prospective purchaser be approved by a membership committee comprised of current cooperative owners. The approval process allows the committee to approve or reject a potential purchaser. However, there are only two grounds on which rejection can legally be based: financial or unwillingness to abide by the terms of the associations rules and regulations. If the membership committee believes that the potential purchaser does not have the financial capacity to live in the complex -- or if the committee determines that the potential purchaser has demonstrated an unwillingness or an inability to comply with the operating rules -- that potential purchaser may be rejected for ownership. However, under no circumstances can the applicant be rejected for other reasons, such as age, sex, race, sexual preference or religion.

    The two classic cases in history involve Richard Nixon and Barbra Streisand -- both of whom were rejected for membership in New York cooperatives. The membership committees of those cooperatives were concerned that the presence of these celebrities would create havoc within the cooperative, and would make their building a tourist attraction.

    Until the mid-1980s, it was difficult to obtain financing for the purchase of a cooperative apartment. Thus, sellers often had to "take back" some of the purchase price, by way of a promissory note. As security for this promissory note, the new owners would pledge the shares of stock or proprietary lease which they received at settlement.

    In recent years, however, cooperative financing is freely available, and is referred to as "share loan financing." Indeed, there even is a little competition among lenders who are interested in making such loans.

    There are many cooperative apartments all over the United States, although they are principally found in major metropolitan areas, such as New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles. One interesting aspect of cooperative living is the very active participation in the management of the cooperative by the co-op members. It is this participation -- indeed a spirit of involvement -- that has kept cooperatives alive and well, and a competing force to condominium living.

    There are those who claim that cooperatives are not as good investments as condominiums, and indeed some cooperative associations have changed to condominium. This columnist cannot accept such a general claim. There are many condominiums which are financially unsound and are just not good investments. Much depends on the individual project: how is it managed? Is the Board actively involved and does the Board have the expertise to run such a project? What is the financial state of the association? Does the Board allow delinquencies to mount or have they adopted a "zero tolerance" approach to collections?

    These, and many other factors, must be considered -- both for condominium as well as cooperatives. Potential purchasers must do their homework, review carefully the legal documents and the financial statements, before they sign any contract to purchase.

    Full Story >

    How To Score A Great Deal On Real Estate

    With many real estate markets rebounding or thriving, foreclosure rates way down, and short sales all but gone in most areas, can you still find a bargain when buying a home? Yes, but youll have to be sneaky, creative, diligent, or all of the above.

    Pay cash

    Youve got a couple hundred K lying around, right? It may sound ludicrous to some, but buying a house all cash is a growing trend, and one that can save you money upfront and down the line. Sellers may be more willing to negotiate on the home price for a cash purchase. A shorter home search and escrow period can save you money on carrying costs in your current home. And, obviously, not paying a mortgage can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest.

    Go to an auction

    While foreclosures are down across the country, some homes still end up going through the process and then ending up available at auction. That means you can bid in person or online if that option is available in an attempt to get a bargain home. Take note that youll probably be in competition with investors and home flippers, and many auctions require an all-cash payment, which makes them difficult to purchase for the average person. Youll also want to keep in mind that many auction homes are in poor condition - be sure to check them out before bidding so you dont end up with a money pit.


    Buy in a developing neighborhood

    If youre willing to compromise on location, you might be able to find a great deal. And, you might even get help with the purchase.

    "Some towns offer transitional and developing neighborhood homes at very steep discounts," said Fortune Builders. "You may have to agree to live in the house for a certain number of years or agree to do a good amount of repairs, however this is definitely a program to search for in the area youre looking to buy.

    Buy a fixer upper

    Have a way with a hammer and a desire to make your place your own? Buy a project house. Youll save a ton of money and youll be able to redo it in your style instead of living with someone elses. Some loans might even help pay for your renovation as part of the home purchase.

    Rent to own

    Is your less-than-excellent credit and/or unsubstantial down payment making it difficult to get a good loan? Maybe youre having trouble competing with other buyers in a competitive market. Both of these scenarios could end up with you paying more than you want to. But you may be able to get a great deal and ease into the market with a rent-to-own or lease option arrangement.

    "Whether the issue is a lack of down payment, a little too much debt, or a lingering ding on their credit report, sometimes buyers just have to wait while they work on their credit profile or save more money before they can buy a home," said "In such a case, a rent-to-own or lease-to-own arrangement can sometimes be a solution."

    The advantages of renting to own are the ability to lock in a purchase price from the beginning of the agreement, and saving toward a down payment - During that time, the renters usually pay an above-market rent, with the excess rent credited toward a down payment when the contract ends, said - and work on improving their credit so at the end of the term, they are able to qualify for a great rate.

    Lease Option Jacksonville

    Buy in the burbs

    People dont move to the suburbs because they want to be an hour and a half each way from work. Its a tradeoff for affordability, plus a crack at a family-friendly atmosphere and quality public schools.

    For 500,000 499,990, to be exact, you could buy this brand-new home in the family friendly suburb of Santa Clarita. Youll have to deal with a long commute towell, pretty much anywhere, but, in return, youll have great space and a home designed just for you with all the features and finishes you want that no one has ever lived in. For the same money, you can buy this tiny condo a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica. Its only 855 square feet and one bedroom, but think of all that time youll save not being in the car

    Thats the thing about location. Its give and take. While you might be able to find something in the location you really want for the money you have, it may not be what you want.

    Full Story >

    Home Improvements That Really Increase Your ROI

    Now, most of us know that there are plenty of things we can do in a home to bring an improvement, as far as our preferences go. But how many of these improvements actually bring in a return on investment ROI if or when an actual selling time approaches?

    As our likes may not be the likes of others, improving according to our preferences doesnt necessarily give us more bang for our bucks, as some commonly say.

    That said, our article below centers on what are some of the areas of improvement that stand a better chance of a high ROI once they get done. Lets start with the two most important and used rooms in average homes: the bathroom and kitchen area.

    Small or Larger Bathroom Remodel or Renovation Project

    Now, were speaking about an upgrade or remodel job and not a full bathroom addition. Even small changes such as replacing or tearing down old, mildew stained wallpaper and using a fresh coat of paint will go a long way.

    Replacing older lighting with a system that you can actually see better with, usually can be done without emptying your checking account. Adding a new vanity, a new tile floor and even something as minor as changing the hardware or fixtures can all be done today for less than 700.

    Converting a walk-in closet into a powder-room with toilet and sink can really bring in about 15 percent for an updated bathroom area--not including plumbing expenses.

    Concerning kitchens, you dont need to start by a massive overhaulsimply do one item at a time. For instance, removing a stained sink or old microwave or refrigerator for newer, energy-efficient models add big value to your home at selling time. Later, if needed, move on to new cabinets, back splashes or counter-tops. Generally speaking, you can expect to get back about 25 percent of a homes value for a new kitchen or a remodel project.

    Floor Coverings

    After a bathroom and kitchen remodel, nothing makes or breaks the ROI more than miserable looking flooring. Smelly, stained or torn carpets being the worst offenders.

    Laminated floors, simulated wood flooring or even a tile job may do the trick. If you have budget constraints, then consider replacing the carpet and re-doing the floor covering--one room at a time, whichever is worse.

    "Going Green" and Curb Appeal

    Nothing is as attractive as a carefully sculpted shrub and colorful plants to present a certain curb appeal to buyers. However, if youre not thinking in terms of "green" or sustainable plantings, youve defeated your purpose in these green-oriented times.

    Planning for the future is vitally important as you really dont know when or if youll be selling in the foreseeable future. Planting shade trees can actually reduce your overall cooling expense by up to 30 percent, so be sure to buy greenery suitable to your region soil or weather requirements.

    Replacing A Garage Door or Front Door

    Replacing an older, two-car, steel garage door may give you a healthy ROI of 87 percent on a 2,500 investment. That being said, if you convert your garage into in-law living quarters or even an efficiency, expect an even higher ROI. Without having to add a ceiling, floor or walls, youll be gaining valuable space that can further result in both a higher ROI and additional income--barring zoning regulations of course.

    Your front door, especially if it has factory-finish colors, wood-look embossed steel and etched glass windows, will further blend well with your curb appeal and ROI as well.

    Which Brings In The Highest Returns?

    • Front door replacement: 96.6 percent
    • Wood deck additions: 87.4 percent
    • Attic bedroom or efficiency garage conversion: 84.3 percent
    • Garage door replacement: 83.7 percent
    • Minor kitchen remodel: 82.7 percent

    Which Brings In The Lowest Returns?

    • Home office remodel: 48.9 percent
    • Sun-room addition: 51.7 percent
    • Bathroom addition: 60.1 to 85 percent
    • Backup power generation: 67.5 percent
    • Master suite addition: 67.5 percent

    The list of high ROI renovation options is almost limitless. Moreover, if you make the upgrades intentionally, and dont allow yourself to do them on impulse or under coercion, you can expect rewarding returns every time. That said, choose wisely.

    Full Story >

    Dont Discriminate. Rent To Criminals?

    You cant - you just cant - make this stuff up. Last Monday, April 4, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD released a 10-page memo on the "Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions." The gist of the document was this: Landlords and property managers who adopt a blanket policy of refusing to rent to applicants with criminal records are in violation of the Fair Housing Act and can be sued and face penalties for discrimination.

    The HUD position arises out of the doctrine of disparate impact which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The heart of the doctrine is this: "A housing provider violates the Fair Housing Act when the providers policy or practice has an unjustified discriminatory effect, even when the provider had no intent to discriminate." If the implementation of some apparently neutral policy has a disproportionate negative effect on minorities, then that policy may be considered discriminatory.

    Here, the issue arises because "African Americans and Hispanics are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population. Consequently, criminal records-based barriers to housing are likely to have a disproportionate impact on minority home seekers. While having a criminal record is not a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act, criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on renters or other housing market participants of one race or national origin over another"

    The HUD memo notes that "African Americans were incarcerated at a rate nearly three times their proportion of the general population. Hispanics were similarly incarcerated at a rate disproportionate to their share of the general population" Thus, a policy making housing unattainable for those with criminal records would have a disproportionate disparate impact on African Americans and Hispanics than it would for Whites.

    In the next step of the HUD analysis, "the burden shifts to the housing provider to prove that the challenged policy or practice is justified..." "A housing provider must ... be able to prove through reliable evidence that its policy or practice ... actually assists in protecting resident safety or their property."

    Hence a policy that excluded applicants simply on the basis of arrests would not pass muster. HUD argues, "... a policy or practice of excluding individuals because of one or more prior arrests without any convictions cannot satisfy its burden..." This is because "...the fact of an arrest is not a reliable basis upon which to assess the potential risk to resident safety or property..."

    So, your tenant-applicant has prior arrests -- but no convictions -- for arson, aggravated assault, and armed robbery. Just remember the HUD opinion. Your unjustified denial of such an applicant -- even if not a minority -- would probably be found discriminatory under the disparate impact analysis.

    What about convictions, then? Surely, its ok to have a policy of refusing to rent to persons who have been convicted of crimes.

    Well, no. For one thing, there are crimes and there are crimes. "Housing providers that apply a policy or practice that excludes persons with prior convictions must still be able to prove that such policy or practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest. A housing provider that imposes a blanket prohibition on any person with any conviction record... will be unable to meet this burden."

    "A housing provider with a more tailored policy or practice that excludes individuals with only certain types of convictions must still prove that its policy is necessary to serve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest."

    HUD advises that landlords and property managers should be aware of "...criminological research showing that, over time, the likelihood that a person with a prior criminal record will engage in additional criminal conduct decreases until it approximates the likelihood that a person with no criminal history will commit an offense." Hence the advice that "individualized assessment of relevant mitigating information beyond that contained in an individuals criminal record is likely to have a less discriminatory effect than categorical exclusions..." "Relevant individualized evidence might include: the facts or circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct; the age of the individual at the time of the conduct; evidence that the individual has maintained a good tenant history before and/or after the conviction or conduct; and evidence of rehabilitation efforts."

    So it comes to this: Dont have a blanket policy which used to be seen as a way of preventing discrimination; but, rather, make an individualized, necessarily subjective assessment of the tenant-applicant based on your non-professional, personal reading of his past and likely future behavior. Good luck with that.

    Now, I dont want to be accused of treating HUD unfairly here, or of giving the impression that its recent memo suggests a soft-on-criminals approach. So, let us acknowledge that the memo does take a strong law-and-order stance when it advises that the Fair Housing Act "does not prohibit conduct against a person because such person has been convicted ... of the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance..." [my emphasis]

    So you can refuse some people because of their criminal past. There, dont you feel better?

    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 >

    Millennials: Leveraging the Generation Label

    Millennials are big news because of their behavior and numbers - over 83 million - but belonging to this group may not help achieve your real estate dreams. Further, following media hype about millennials may lead you astray.

    Online and off, millennials are media darlings. Articles and statistics about what they do and dont do abound. But being a millennial is an artificial distinction linked to an accident of birth which does not necessarily carry any special benefits with it. In fact, individual millennials intent on belonging to this "special" group may be led away from otherwise achievable goals, including real estate ownership.

    "Millennial" is a popular label replacing Generation Y and Echo Boomers that business gurus and authors apply to those born in years ranging from the early 1980s to the first years of the 21st Century - thats the Millennium connection. This label has no absolute definition. The defining range of years is usually chosen to prove the users point. Popular start years are 1980 or 1982 while wrap years run from 1992 to 2004.

    When experts go on about what millennials do and dont do, its not unusual for individual millennials to react by measuring their success and failure against these apparent standards. Not unusual, but not useful for the five reasons listed below. Here our focus is real estate, so well concentrate on how following and not following touted millennial patterns may lead to or away from real estate ownership. Keep these realities in mind before you leap on a trend, scrap a dream, or beat yourself up because you have not achieved what others have:

    1. Individuality overrides Commonality

    Do the math. If youre between 36 years old and 12, you fall within the millennial swath chosen for this article which examines what the label may cost you. Since legal majority is necessary for real estate ownership, not all millennials are shopping around yet. However, this does mean there is time to learn about the art and science of real estate - everything from legal issues, financial shortcuts, and design concepts to how purchasing and owning work best.
    What do those in that 12 to 36 range really have in common? Does the range make you think more about differences and individuals rather than a monolith of sameness? With this in mind, when you hear a fact about millennials, ask yourself what range of behaviors and choices might exist beyond those identified. Develop this into a habit and youll become a resourceful, creative thinker. Just the right type of person to tackle real estate ownership.

    2. Cross Generation Goals

    For some families, millennials and their boomer parents may combine goals to jointly purchase real estate that meets both sets of lifestyle needs. Those who unthinkingly follow the stereotype of millennial children moving into the basement, may overlook other solutions to changing housing needs for the two generations involved.
    For instance, some families have added a formal self-contained suite to their home which millennial children use while they save for their own home. In other cases, boomer parents use the suite because they are busy traveling and enjoying a second home.
    Do some calculating and planning to learn whether the purchase of a two-unit building may combine starter home and downsize home for your two-generation family. Buy a small apartment building, and the additional rental units and the resulting income can help finance the purchase and replace employment income for both generations.

    3. Achievable Expectations

    The 2008 global recession affected employment and, therefore, many lifestyle achievements for adult millennials. Although they are described as willing to move from job to job, the harsh realities of under employment and student loans are economic burdens for many millennials.
    Saving is always a challenge, but when you learn how money can work for you, goals can be reached. For instance, an average wedding costs more than 20,000. Down-scale costs with clever wedding alternatives. For wedding gifts, ask for donations to closing costs and youll be well on your way to that new condominium or house, which will be a great place to honeymoon.
    On the other hand, millennials will represent more than half the workforce by 2020, according to researchers. Those who have expectations of ideal life-work-balanced employment will continue the search rather than settling for less. This level of goal setting translates easily to real estate ownership. Millennials will live active involved lives well beyond their eighties and nineties, so they have time to find the ideal job and build their ideal life around it, real estate included. All this time offers opportunities to learn how to be proficient at saving and borrowing money and at buying real estate and other investments.

    4. Shared Goals

    In the shared economy, collaboration is welcomed. Collaborative buying could include the buyer and several friends as tenants. The buyer will own the real estate and take the financial risk of buying. The friends agree to pay rent to share the house or condominium where bylaws allow renting at a cost that gives them more space and amenities for the money than renting elsewhere.

    Shared living also provides opportunity to save on many costs from food and transportation to heating. Taking this a step further, a few friends could create a cooperative that buys or builds housing.

    If you dont have friends with vision like this, consider buying into an existing cooperative where costs are lower because "sweat equity," that is, pitching in and working, is part of ownership.

    5. Social Media Networking

    Millennials grew up with technology and they are not finished with it yet. Although they are described as obsessed with video games, binging on Netflicks, and endlessly texting, millennials are also starting online businesses and creating vibrant communities, online and off. Applying a "many hands make light work" philosophy to sharing skills and knowledge online could lead to many creative financing and ownership approaches and to variations on existing alternatives.
    For instance, co-housing, which originated in Denmark, is one of many variations that might appeal to those with strong commitment to community and the environment. Co-housing involves buying a large parcel of land and building a few homes and communal buildings, not just one house. Shared costs and maintenance responsibilities make this affordable. The resulting community lives together and earns together.

    Whether you are a millennial or belong to a different generation, dont let your birth-date label turn you into a follower. These five ideas for leveraging the generation label are just the beginning. Technology enables individuals to achieve more than ever before in history. Use that power to zig while others zag and to break patterns that limit results.

    Short on creative ideas about real estate and financing? Talk to real estate professionals. Most have many ideas and stories to share with those who have high expectations and are ready to strike out on their own path to success.

    Full Story >

    The subway tile equivalent when it comes to sofas is the Chesterfield. Known for its tailored look, quilted leather upholstery, rolled arms, and wooden legs, the Chesterfield dates back to Britain and Lord Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield 1694-1773. Its believed that "he commissioned the first leather chesterfield settee with its distinctive deep buttoned, quilted leather upholstery and low seat base," said London Gallery. "Aside from being a much-admired politician and writer, patron of Voltaire, the Earl was a known trendsetter. Apparently the Earl requested a local craftsman to construct a piece of furniture that would allow a gentleman to sit upright in the utmost of comfort allowing sitting without wrinkling the garment."

    The goal remains, and while Chesterfields still hearken back to the early days, with images of nobility and refined gentlemans clubs, theyre just as home in a modern living room. "Theres something intrinsically luxurious and old fashioned about a Chesterfield sofa. All that tufting Those curved arms Theres just so much to love," said Apartment Therapy." Which is probably why the Chesterfield has remained a >

    As the sofa of the moment, there are endless options from which to choose. No matter what size, color, and fabric you choose, one thing is for sure: your couch will be a standout.

    This 118" cigar leather sofa has that regal yet comfortable look that comes to mind when you think of Chesterfields.

    Zin Home

    Reproductions not working for you? An easy search online yields results for antique Chesterfields, like this 19th-century beauty.

    Antiques Atlas

    The look is >

    Cococo Home

    Luxurious lines, bold color choice, and velvet instead of leather. This Chesterfield is no wallflower.

    The Chesterfield look can also adapt for more modern family needs. Check out this leather sectional with a uniquely shaped chaise.

    Home Improvement Central

    Or this linen version with a squared-off chaise.


    This more streamlined sofa has a Chesterfield feel that may appeal to a more modern aesthetic.


    This Oxford Tub Chair provides a similar look in a smaller size.

    Distinctive Chesterfields

    All that tufting works equally well in other places. The Chesterfield may just have inspired the latest headboard craze.

    Full Story >



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    Updated: Thursday, May 05, 2016

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