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Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018

Trend Alert: Big, Bold Floral Walls

If theres one thing you can count on, its that some type of floral pattern will always be in >

But todays floral trends are a far cry from your grandmothers busy, tightly patterned situation. Instead, its all about big and bold, and the trend is hitting hard for those who want to make a statement on one wall, or more.

This Ellie Cashman Design "dramatic, large-scale floral wallpaper is inspired by the still life paintings of the Dutch Golden Age," they said. "Majestic, ethereal blooms cascade down a dark, shadowy background." The wallpaper appears as part of Elle Deacute;cors April Edit: Large-Print Florals Their edit also includes dinnerware, placemats, and pillows, along with several fashion pieces.. "The April Edit is devoted to all petals, pistils, and stems," they said. "A fresh bouquet, literal or figurative, marks the start of spring like no other. But beyond adding a fresh spray wherever counter space allows, plant a seed in your wardrobe and on your wall, too."

Elle Decor

Its just one of the large-print florals that are breaking the light and airy mold this season. Expect to see lots of these dark, dramatic looks, many with black backgrounds and others that continue with the jewel tone theme weve been seeing in fashionable interiors.

This black-backed print helps an entry come to life.


You dont need a flat wall to create a statement wall - and your large floral print doesnt have to be the only print in the space, etiher.

Think you cant go bold in a small space? Think again - Mike Schwartz

Maybe its the fifth wall you have your eye on. - Twist Tours

"Floral prints are always in if you asknbsp;Anthropologie," said Country Living. "Rather than a traditionally feminine look in 2018 they feel especially fresh and more interesting >

We also love that you can incorporate this trend into your home even if you dont want to make such a semi-permanent commitment. There are numerous peel-and-stick options that will give you the look in an easily removable material, like this one from Etsy.

Or this fun and unique pattern from Walls Need Love that adds peacocks to the mix.

If the thought of covering a wall in something so bold is still too much, even in a removable application, think about smaller bursts of flower power, like these drapes. - SF Girl By Bay

Or some show-stopping recovered dining chairs.

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Small Renovation, Big Hassle: How To Prepare For The Unknown When Buying A Home

"You never know whats behind the walls." This renovation mantra is so important and should be tattooed on the forearm of everyone about to embark on renovation or even small updates to their home.

The horrific discovery of knob-and-tube electrical wiring masquerading as updated electrical in a 100-year-old home is a great plot point on House Hunters Renovation - but a brutal, and not inexpensive, setback in real life. But, its hardly the only issue you can come across when doing renovations, and youre not immune because your home was built 20 or even 10 years ago or youre just doing a few little things here and there to freshen up the place. Before you get started on these renovations, protect yourself by taking a few key steps.

Load-bearing walls

Many a renovation has gone off the rails because a load-bearing wall made it difficult and expensive, or darn near impossible, to move. While you may not be able to eliminate every potential surprise, you can give yourself a leg up by hiring a professional to take a look before you buy, and certainly before you swing the hammer.

"An experienced general contractor can do an initial consultation and assess your wall for as little as 100," buildernbsp;Jeff Andreson told Houzz. Annbsp;architectnbsp;is another possibility because they may approach the situation differently, which could save you money. "A structural engineer may also be required," and is often your best bet for achieving peace of mind.


"Homebuyer inspections are the rule these days," said Angies List. "Sometimes plumbers are called in to do a more thorough follow up inspection. Unfortunately, this often happens after the home has already been purchased."

And the issues can be costly. Hiring a plumber to check everything out before you purchase could uncover problems throughout the house, from the main sewer line to water heaters that could cause extensive damage if they leak or burst, to leaky toilets. "One problem homeowners often neglect to have fixed is a leak at the base of anbsp;toilet," they said. "The leak often appears small or insignificant, but over time the water will begin to rot the subfloor and even get between the subfloor and the finished floor. Someone unaware of the damage this kind of problem can create, may try to seal this themselves, sometimes making it worse."


If you have a home inspection, which you obviously should ALWAYS do, your inspector will look for signs of foundation damage. But, there are things you can look for ahead of the inspection that may impact your decision to purchase, such as: cracks in exterior and interior walls, cracks in floors, gaps around windows and doors, and doors that stick. Foundation issues can arise regardless of the age of the home, and could be indicative of a serious problem in places that are prone to earthquakes. But you also want to take them seriously in areas with known soil issues, like Texas.

"All foundation problems are not equal," said RE/MAX real estate agent Bill Gasset. "A few settlement cracks may be normal and safe, but you need an inspector to tell you one way or the other. Foundation repair can be expensive, something to keep in mind when you consider the price of the home."


Back to the old knob-and-tube situation. If someone has deliberately tried to hide illegal or dangerous wiring, thats obviously a huge issue, both ethically and financially. And, its one you likely wont find out about until you get inside the walls. Also, you may or may not have recourse against the seller since it will be difficult to prove there was knowledge that necessitated disclosure.

Even in a newer home, issues with the way electrical fixtures were installed could make what you thought was a quick and easy update into a larger undertaking. This is what it looks like under the bathroom light fixture we just had removed. It lacks the support and structure to properly install the new fixture we purchased, so we would either need to spend a bunch of money to shore up the situation inside the wall or get a different fixture that can be installed directly into the studs We chose option B.. While not a huge problem, it was an unexpected one, and one that required us to spend more money, extend our installation timeline, and depend on our contractor to redo his schedule to accommodate us - not an easy feat. Ultimately, it was a good lesson for how to prepare for any type of renovation.

  • Add time to any job - You just never know whats going to come up
  • Research potential issues so youre better prepared to roll with whatever comes your way
  • Have a Plan B - See first bullet point
  • Set aside extra money - Ditto

Establish a good >
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Rising Land Values Threaten Viability Of Canadian Farms, Says Senate Report

Rising farmland prices are putting the family farm in Canada at risk, as good farmland is being converted for residential and commercial development. A report by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry says the purchase of farmland by non-agricultural interests, along with environmental issues and policies, demographic pressures and an aging population are combining to drive up farmland values to the point that the family farm is no longer viable.

"Economic conditions are conspiring against farmers, who already encounter more adversity than they need," says Diane Griffin, chair of the committee. "We need the government to help counter the market forces that are stacked against Canadian farmers, which make it harder for them to buy the land they need to run successful farming enterprises."

Nearly seven per cent of Canadas total area -- about 65 million hectares -- is used for farming. The average price of an acre of farmland rose by 10 per cent in 2015, with Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec showing double-digit increases. The growth rate has slowed since then because of a decline in commodity prices, but the committee says this decline in the growth rate does not mean theres been a decline in value.

Several factors are contributing to the increase in values. Farmers told the committee that foreign investors have been competing with farmers for land, along with other non-agricultural interests including financial institutions, pension funds, private investment firms and private companies.

The average age of farmers was estimated to be 54 in 2011. Selling land is a way for farmers nearing retirement to create their own pension plan.

"If youre an entrant farmer, basically land rental is the only way to get in and actually start if you are going to crop farm," Paul Glenn, chair of Canadian Young Farmers Forum, told the committee. An increasing number of retired farmers are hanging on to their land and renting it to their neighbours or a young farmer. Total farmland area rented or leased by private interests increased from two per cent in 1986 to 27 per cent in 2011.

"Stakeholders are concerned about this increase since this type of ownership makes farmers employees rather than owners and exposes them to additional risks because of rising rents," the committee report says. "They are also concerned about potential changes to the production structure resulting from the loss of family farms and the shift to large-scale farms."

The committee says that farmers close to retirement sometimes divide their land to distribute various parcels to their children, reducing the cost of land ownership for the new farmers. "However, this requires good planning and a desire on the part of the younger generation to get into farming. Several witnesses said that this desire is tied to the sectors profitability."

Some organizations such as Ducks Unlimited Canada may also be driving up farmland values by acquiring land for conservation purposes.

The committee heard from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture that other environmental policies, such as provincial regulations on manure management, require farmers to acquire more land to comply with the regulations, putting more pressure on land values.

The provinces have jurisdiction over the ownership of farmland, but the committee says the federal government has a role to play in helping farmers. It is recommending that the lifetime capital gains exemption be increased for farmers to make it easier for new farmers to acquire land. Tax exemption and property tax deferral programs, which are offered in some provinces, should also be considered, it says.

Its also calling for common land-use planning policies to be established. In provinces like B.C., its up to the local municipalities to come up with these policies. Metro Vancouver, for example, is considering a proposal that would restrict house sizes and residential footprints on agricultural land. Both Ontario and British Columbia are currently studying land-use policies >Ontario loses 175 acres of farmland a day, according to the Ontario Farmland Trust OFT, citing Statistics Canada figures from 2016. The trust says, "There is increasing concern that productive agricultural land is being lost to land-grabbing, large-scale development and investor acquisition. These issues disrupt the integrity and viability of agricultural communities, the farm economy and agricultural ecosystems. Land-use planning can do more to protect this critical resource."

For owners who want to make sure their land remains a farm forever, the trust offers an easement agreement. It is a permanent legal contract between the property owner and the OFT. It is registered on the land title in perpetuity and can include provisions to protect the farmland and maintain uses on the property that are compatible with agriculture, says the OFT. Each agreement is tailored to the needs of the farmer and can be applied to the entire property or part of it. The OFT currently has about a dozen such agreements in place.

"The easement agreement ensures that the property owner maintains ownership and the right to sell the land," says the OFT. The easements can impact the property value, so an appraisal is conducted to measure any reduction in market value. If there is a negative impact on land value, the farm owner is compensated with a charitable tax receipt for the difference in value.
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Buyer Love Letters Often Work; But They Can Backfire Too

In many areas of the country, housing inventory is low and competition among buyers is intense. When that happens, many buyers agents will encourage their clients to submit a cover letter - frequently referred to as a "love letter" -- along with their offer to purchase. Sometimes such letters are submitted -- in any kind of market -- in order to take the "sting" out of a below-list-price offer. In the tight inventory market, their purpose generally is to induce the seller to find some reason to favor the offer of the letter-writer rather than that of some other buyer.

While such letters are not yet standard practice, they are certainly not uncommon. A recent Google inquiry for "letters from buyers to sellers" turned up more than 1.5 million hits in a matter of seconds. In 2015, a Redfin report revealed that 43 of successful offers had included a buyer-to-seller letter.

An internet search shows not only that such letters are popular, but also that there is no shortage of people and organizations who will show you how to write one. Templates for these letters abound. They range from a standard letter format to slick marketing pieces complete with graphics and places for pictures.

Advice as to the content and emphasis of buyer letters varies. Some focus on the characteristics of the property. They suggest that the buyer focus on aspects of the property that it is assumed the seller enjoyed as well. "I know that our collies will love romping in that backyard meadow just as your Labradors do." Others will call attention to aspects of the property to which it is assumed -- possibly known -- that the seller had an emotional attachment. "We will give that rose garden the same loving attention that you did."

Others advocate that the buyers letter should seek to highlight some personal similarities between the buyers and sellers. This is based on the premise that people like to interact and do business with people like themselves. So, if "our little Susie loves the Girl Scouts just as your daughter does" or "if we are both dyed-in -the -wool Raider fans, mention it. Call attention to your similarities and differentiate yourselves from your competition.

Of course, there can be downsides to buyer love letters as well. In 2016, attorney Jon Goodman caused a bit of a stir when he presented on the topic at the annual meeting of the National Association of REALTORSreg;. Goodman developed a scenario in which a buyers offer was rejected. The offer had been accompanied by a letter that contained a photograph of his family. The buyer was, as Andrea Brambila, writing in Inman News put it, "a visible member of a historically oppressed minority." Subsequently, the buyer who was rejected learned that the house had sold for a considerably lower price than his offer. Quoting Goldman, Brambila wrote, " If we had had his life experiences, we might have perceived what he perceived -- that his offer was rejected because he was a member of this minority, in violation of the Fair Housing Act"

Not in all, but certainly in some, buyer-to-seller letters there may lurk the potential for a Fair Housing Violation. This has led some attorneys to advise that sellers and their agents make it known that such letters will not be accepted. That is extreme caution. Others have simply suggested that, if they think there is a potential problem, sellers and their agents should be careful to document the business reasons for taking another offer.

A more likely reason for exercising caution with buyer letters is discussed in a 2015 Realtorreg; Magazine article, "Dont Write Me a Love Song", written by Christine Smith. Smith points out that buyers who reveal their emotional connections to the property are likely weakening their future negotiating positions. Their offer may be accepted, but there is almost always another negotiation or two down the road -- after the property inspections. If a seller believes the buyers have truly fallen in love with the property, he or she is less likely to give in when those future negotiations arise.
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Ask the HOA Expert: Admendments To Governing Documents

Question: Recently, our HOA members approved substantial amendments to the governing documents which include:

1. Sidewalks are now deemed common area even though the subdivision plat indicates that the sidewalks are located within a utility-and-sidewalk easement located on private lots.

2. An HOA landscape easement was created over the front yard of the privately owned lots.

3. The HOA claims authority to enter lots to inspect for compliance with architectural design restrictions.

Can the HOA legitimately claim these rights?

Answer: The HOA cannot vote itself ownership of property belonging to private owners without their consent. In this case, all lot owners would need to agree to >The third item is different. As long as the HOA has the right to dictate architectural design standards, it has the right to inspect for compliance.

Question: Ive heard that special assessments have to be kept in an escrow account and cannot be used until all owners have paid. Is this true?

Answer: It depends. Special assessments should be kept in a designated account if they are to be used for a specific purpose, like repairing roofs. If the special assessment is simply to build reserves, the funds can be put in the general reserve fund. There is no requirement that an entire special assessment has to be collected before its spent, however, if all the money is needed to pay for a specific project, the board needs to be careful about starting a project without the money to pay for it.

Question: One of our board member is pursuing a personal agenda. He performs unauthorized maintenance and pesters unit owner about minor rule infractions. What can we do?

Answer: Communicate with him directly, clearly and specifically. Explain that performing unauthorized maintenance undermines the budget and the system for addressing maintenance. Provide him details about specific complaints by owners. Explain that his independent actions undermine board authority.

For more Ask the HOA Expert, see
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Property Survey Always Wise, Often Required

Question: At our settlement recently, a lawyer charged us 150 for a survey. When we questioned this charge, we were told it was a lenders requirement and we could do nothing about it. Just what is a survey?

Answer: I hope the lawyer at least gave you a copy of the survey and fully explained it to you.

It is important to distinguish between a survey and an appraisal -- both of which are usually charged to the buyer. An appraisal assists the mortgage lender in assessing the value of the house so as to determine whether a mortgage should be made and in what amount. Generally, the appraisal will analyze the condition of the house, its location, structural soundness and comparable sales in the area.

A survey, on the other hand, goes to the question of the marketability of the house. There are, however, several kinds of surveys: 1 location, 2 boundary, 3 if involving a commercial property, an American Land Title Survey, commonly referred to as an ALTA survey.

The typical survey that the homebuyer gets at the settlement escrow is the location survey. Oversimplified, all it does it show where the improvements the house, fence, shed are located as they >It does not, however, show you where the actual boundaries are. To do this, you will need to order the Boundary Survey. Here, the survey will -- in addition to showing the location of improvements -- determine where the property corners are, and then prepare a more detailed presentation. Often, however, it is very difficult to locate the corners of a piece of property. Years ago, great-grandma Smith told her attorney "the end of my property is where the oak tree stands." And thats what her deed -- and all successor deeds read. However, the old oak tree was demolished years ago. To be precise, the survey will have to do a lot of research, legwork and measurements. So such a survey will be more expensive.

The location surveyor determines whether the house is within the property borders, whether there are any encroachments on the property by neighbors and the extent to which any easements on the property may affect legal title.

Lenders always insist on obtaining a clear "lenders" title insurance policy covering the face value of the mortgage. Title companies will issue an exception to title unless a survey has been ordered, and thus surveys are usually required.

My own belief is that everyone buying a house should obtain a survey whether or not the lender requires it. You can at least start with the location type. It is a good idea to learn, for example, whether there are any building restrictions affecting your right to add a porch or a fence. Equally important, does the next door neighbor have any possible claims of adverse possession? If the survey shows an encroachment -- one way or the other -- on a next door property, a potential buyer must investigate very carefully before taking title.

But, here are some suggestions involving the survey process.

First, location survey prices vary considerably. Ive seen them as low as 130 and as high as 300, for the same single-family house. Ask your settlement attorney for an estimate. If it seems too high, arrange for your own survey and make sure a copy of the survey gets to your lender well in advance of settlement. It must be done by a qualified, licensed surveyor.

Next, ask your sellers who did their survey. Unfortunately, most lenders will not honor a survey if it is more than six months old. But inquire from the prior surveyor whether the old survey can be updated and whether this will save you some money. Some of the more reputable surveyors are happy to get your business and will give you a break in the price.

Additionally, if you are refinancing your existing home, some lenders and title insurance companies are willing to accept a survey affidavit instead of a new survey. You will have to sign an affidavit that no improvements have been made to the property since you originally purchased it. These affidavits are available at a minimum cost.

You should also go to the local government surveyor in the land records office where your property is located. They are quite helpful and may be able to assist you with boundary questions, easement issues and such.

If you are buying a condominium unit, you will not have to obtain -- or pay for -- a separate survey of your unit. That survey has already been done as part of the plans which were recorded with the condominium documents. But that does not excuse you from carefully reviewing the condo plats and plans. For example, are there limited common elements that impede your access to the roof? Do you have a limited common element?

Finally, if you are considering installing a fence -- or even a swimming pool -- in the future, you will want stakes posted, it will cost you additional dollars. You should make the necessary arrangements for stakes at the time you order the survey.

And dont forget to get a copy of the survey from your settlement attorney.
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Get The Home You Want, Millennials: Smart Strategies For First-Time Homebuyers

Hey, Millennials. Come on into the real estate market We really need you to buy some homes so we can keep chugging along. Oh, wait. Prices are rising and so are interest rates, plus inventory is scary low. Hmmm. Well, come on in anyway, wontcha?

Its not easy to buy a home in a hot market where inventory remains at historic lows - and that covers a lot of areas across the country at a wide range of different price points. But its especially hard right now for Millennials, who arent exactly getting a warm welcome from the market that has been begging them to participate.

"I think its fair to say this is the most competitive housing market weve seen in recorded history," Danielle Hale, chief economist for, told Curbed. "Theresrecord low inventoryand strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. Millennials are reaching prime homebuying age - in 2020, the greatest proportion of that generation will be turn 30 - just as baby boomers are looking todownsize. This has created especially fierce competition for smaller homes, the type of starter homes that mostfirst-time buyersdesire. This dynamic can be especially frustrating for young adults because they may be bidding for the same smaller home as someone from an older generation who can lean on the accumulated wealth of decades of homeownership."

But that doesnt make buying impossible - just a bit more challenging. Get a leg up by following a few smart strategies.

Work with the right REALTORreg;

This is not the right time to give your brother-in-laws cousins neighbor who just got his license a shot. Having a competitive edge is more important than ever, and you need a savvy, experienced, and well-connected real estate agent to help you buy a home.

Work on your down payment

You may be competing against buyers who are coming in with an all-cash offer, which youre going to have a hard time standing up to. But, there are ways you can make your offer look better. Remember that if it comes down to a multiple-offer situation for your home, sellers wont just compare the offer prices. Theyll look at your down payment and the terms, and you need to have better terms than the next guy. You may only have 3.5 down, and that may be all you need to qualify for your FHA loan, but that doesnt mean the seller will embrace you.

"Your down payment is a key part ofthe offer you present to the seller," said Money Crashers."The general rule of thumb is simple: the larger the down payment, the stronger the offer. More precisely: the greater the down payments share of the total purchase price, the more likely the seller is to accept."

If youre ready to buy and theres no time to get a second job or go into hyper-savings mode, you can always take advantage of down payment assistance programs like the National Homebuyers Fundor hit up a >Be flexible on the closing

If another potential buyer is insistent on a 30-day close, but you could close earlier, later, and even rent back to the seller if need be, you just might end up with the house you want. Flexibility is key to submitting a winning offer, so make sure you have a Plan B - a place to stay for a few days or longer if youre going to be between houses, and a mover/storage option squared away.

Look in adjacent neighborhoods

Yeah, you have your heart set on a specific neighborhood. But if its just not happening, consider the next neighborhood over. Experts say they have great potential upside.

Consider the worst house on the block

Buying the ugly duckling is a top strategy for investors, and one that can get buyers in the door literally if theyre having trouble purchasing move-in-ready homes. "When your budget as a first-time buyer doesnt stretch to a house in perfect condition in a neighborhood you adore, you might consider buying a home that needs work. Or maybe youve watched fixer-upper TV shows and think you could handle sweat equity. Either way, real estate experts say buying a house that needs renovating can make sense as long as you are realistic about the process," said the Washington Post. "A fixer-upper can be a smart investment, particularly if you can buy a property under market value and then increase its value with the right projects. While some home buyers prefer move-in-ready homes, they are stuck with the choices the previous homeowner or builder picked for their countertops, fixtures and floors. Not only do buyers of fixer-uppers get to select their finishes, they also can make sure the work is done the way they want."

If youre worried about how youre going to pay for all those renovations, ask your real estate agent or lender about a 203k loan, which rolls renovation funds into your mortgage. "An FHA 203k loan, sometimes called a Rehab Loan or FHA Construction loanallows you to finance not one, but two major items 1 the house itself, and; 2 needed/wanted repairs," said The Mortgage Reports. "Because the lender tracks and verifies repairs, it is willing to approve a loan on a home it wouldnt otherwise consider."

The loan addresses a common problem when buying a fixer home: lenders often dont approve loans for homes in need of major repairs."

Waive contingencies before you submit your offer?

Note the question mark. Your real estate professional may caution you against this strategy. But, lenders like Better Mortgage are making it work with a program that "allows buyers in select markets to not only underwrite their finances, but also get the appraised value of their home before they submit an offer. That means they have the option to waive both financing and appraisal contingencies to make their offer as competitive as cash."
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Whats Wrong With Oklahoma?

As the two-week Oklahoma teachers strike ended last week, its clear that the rabidly red state has some serious problems, namely that oil money doesnt trickle down like economics are supposed to. Ignoring the benefits of its central location, >

Take the wind industry, for example. Once on track to be the number one source of wind-generated energy by 2030, according to the Department of Commerce, Oklahoma decided instead to cut the industrys last tax incentive in 2017 in House Bill 2298. Meanwhile, oil and gas production tax rates have plummeted, from an average seven percent to two percent for new wells for the first three years, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

At 7 percent, Oklahomas tax rate is well below that of other major energy states, says the OPI, compared to 8.3 percent in Texas and North Dakota, 13.3 percent in Louisiana, and 13.4 percent in Wyoming, according to a 2017 report by the Covenant Group.

According to forecasts from the Oklahoma Tax Commission the new subsidy will cost Oklahoma 333 million in lost gross production tax revenue, says the OPI. Are oil companies going to refuse to drill if they have to pay 7 percent? And if its causing such a shortfall that teachers have to march to get lawmakers attention, isnt that a good enough reason to review the governors budget?

And that brings us back to the teachers. According to The Guardian, Oklahoma ranks 49th in state teacher pay. The state offered teachers a raise just in time to stop the strike, but the teachers soldiered on because they are striking for the children. State spending per pupil has dropped by 26.9 percent since 2008 and is also the last time teachers got a raise. Students are making do in many areas with outdated and duct-taped schoolbooks, four-day school weeks and school closings.

Legislaters fight back with a Catch-22 - the budget shortfall doesnt allow the state to meet the teachers demands. What the lawmakers fail to realize is that catering to the oil and gas industry is preventing other jobs from coming to Oklahoma, which is starving the mostly rural state.

One of the three busiest trucking highways in the nation goes smack through the middle of the state, I-40, coming east from Memphis, Federal Expresss hub, and west from Barstow, California, outside of Los Angeles and a major highway intersection of I-15, California State Route 58, U.S. Route 66 and I-40. Intersecting with I-75 at Henryetta, Oklahoma, and I-35 in Oklahoma City, 1-40 creates a nice triangle to and from Dallas, home to DFW international airport. Yet, when one drives through Henryetta, theres little commerce, just fast food restaurants and a duck decoy manufacturer. Nearly equidistant to Tulsa and Oklahoma City, it just doesnt make sense why Henryetta isnt a huge town, teeming with manufacturing, packaging and shipping jobs, but to date, its only claim to fame is as the birthplace of Troy Aikman.

The trickle down of poo continues with the housing industry. According to Zillow, the median home value in Oklahoma is 116,900, less than half the national median and the median list price per square foot in Oklahoma is 99. And yet, nearly 12 percent of OK homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.

Californians, foreign investors and retirees smell the blood in the water. You can buy property cheaply, pay almost nothing in property taxes another problem and live like its 1970. Just dont expect any updates.
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Inside Tips On Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens make dining al fresco at home more appealing than ever. A rebounding trend in outdoor living reveals more and more properties feature outdoor kitchens that once were the province of only the very wealthy.

Today, moving the homes indoor central meeting place outdoors creates an open-air living space thats both accessible and inviting as any indoor room. Great for gatherings and socializing, having a kitchen and dining area outdoors also eliminates some of the indoor mess and hassle of food preparation and makes for a more inclusive cooking experience.

You can create outdoor living space that is an organic part of your yard or a discrete, open-air self-standing room or suite for your home. With features ranging from simple and functional to more extravagant, an outdoor kitchen investment comes with a return thats at least equal to a major kitchen remodel - 80 percent or more.

Talk to your real estate agent about the return on your investment in an outdoor kitchen in your specific neighborhood. If you are enterprising, hands-on and have budget constraints, you can put ideas into play yourself. If you need a truly professional look, hire a contractor to design and build the area.

Here are a few elements to keep in mind when crafting your outdoor living space:

Outdoor kitchen appliances

Durability is paramount for any outdoor appliance and should be a primary concern, especially if you live in a harsh climate cold, wet, dry or hot, even if you cover your appliances in inclement weather.Cooking fuels are commonly gas or charcoal, but outdoor kitchens can incorporate a wood-burning oven, outdoor fireplace, or a fire pit.

Barbecue fans might opt to include a smoker or mesquite grill. Higher end outdoor kitchens often include ample counter top space, drawers and cabinets for storage, as well as a sink, and refrigeration. Existing utility connections could narrow your choices, but you can run a natural gas line to the outdoor kitchen. Adequate plumbing pressure is a must in order to accommodate hot and cold running water.

Outdoor kitchen living space

The living space that frames your appliances helps set the tone for outdoor living.

If you have an existing deck or patio, you could develop that space into a living area. If you install an island and bar area with stools or opt for a simple outdoor dining set, consider protecting your space from the elements, just as you would your appliances.

Some kitchens incorporate a roof, covered archway or pergola; others could need only an ample patio umb>Outdoor kitchen flow

To build functionality into your outdoor kitchen, consider the flow of space just as you would your indoor entertaining areas. Keep your cooking area accessible to your indoor kitchen, when possible, to experience less running around with dishes and ingredients you keep inside the home.

Put seating near your cooking area, but not so near as to interrupt the flow of the chef.

Outdoor kitchen ambiance

Keep lighting in mind when it comes to evenings. Its a lovely time to >Overall, the design of your outdoor kitchen should compliment your home, especially adjacent areas.
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9 Home Improvements That Can Help and Hurt Value

Home improvement can be taken as very demanding action, but there are also some ways of home improvement you can do yourself. Therefore, before you start with any, see what improvements are the most needed in your home. Nowadays, a big attraction is an energy-efficient home which saves a lot of energy and reduces energy costs. On the other hand, maintenance problems and pest or bug infestations are a major turn off and should be looked into ASAP.

We bring you several great pieces of advice you can use to improve your homes value and feel more comfortable and cozy.

1. Water Filtration System

A water filtration system in your kitchen is a small addition that will appeal to many home buyers and is used for purifying the water. When you have a water filtration system installed in your house, you dont have to buy bottled water anymore. The best thing is that its not expensive at all, and everyone can afford it.

2. Removing Old Carpets

Besides looking old, old carpets might also be hiding contaminants and allergens which means you have bad air quality in your home. Sometimes the best option for testing an indoor air quality is to call a professional company because they will su>Wooden floors are an excellent way to bring the touch of outdoors in your home. Great examples of environmentally friendly natural products are tile or laminated floors. By replacing your old carpets with a hard surface floor, your house will be easier to clean, and youll have more time to do things you like.

3. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling

It is no secret that homes with popcorn ceilings are outdated so get rid of this popcorn ceiling fast. To be sure that it does not contain asbestos, it would be best to hire professionals to test it. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling is as simple as buying a solution to soften the texture from the hardware store and scraping the popcorn away.

4. Bathroom Remodeling

Remodeling bathrooms is a great way to add more value to your home. If a full rebuild is not in your budget, you can invest in many small changes that will freshen up your bathroom. Replace the dated wallpaper, old lighting, add some fancy cupboard knobs or change the faucet and shower heads.

5. Kitchen Remodeling

Just like the bathroom, a big kitchen update can do wonders. Stained sinks and old appliances are all things to look at. If replacing the kitchen cabinets is too much for you, you can always give them a new look by adding a new varnish or paint layer and swap those old doorknobs with modern ones.

6. Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance is an ongoing process, no matter if you plan to live in your house for a long time or move soon. Repairing or replacing broken appliances or fixtures will avoid further damage. Certain things are not to be left, and for example, leak spots on the ceiling can cause great damage to your roof if not taken care of immediately. If your home is up for sale, a sign of poor maintenance will make the home seekers wonder what else is wrong with the house.

7. Water Heater Upgrade

An old water heater can be a turn off for some home buyers, but you can find water heaters that come with a tankless model. This kind of water heaters are more efficient as they only heat up the water that you need.

8. Appliance Updates

Nowadays, energy-efficiency is becoming trendy. Appliances with an energy star label use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than other conventional appliances. New models look great, and many are stainless steel which is a bonus. If you do not have the money for buying modern devices, upgrade the lighting to energy star.

9. Update Fixtures

Fixtures in your home include curtain rods, light fixtures, doorknobs, switch plates, outlet covers, etc. Make sure that these are updated because sometimes its the small detail that counts. For example, outlet covers and switch plates look more attractive when made of metal. These changes are easy to do yourself and arent so expensive, just be sure you choose the right color which looks great combined with other furniture in your home.

Matt James is a freelance writer specialized in home improvement, smart technology, architecture design. He has a love of outdoors and spending time with his dog Cooper. You can reach him on Facebook and Instagram.
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Preparing Your Child To Move

Children respond to the general atmosphere set in the home by the attitudes of their parents. If you look at moving as an exciting adventure full of new possibilities, then chances are very good that you will infect your children with enthusiasm and anticipation.

Many times we forget that making more money or moving to a larger home is not a change that children will understand. The younger the child, the less able they are to "see into the future" as you do. They tend to focus on losing the security they already know, along with missing friends and family. Your job is to turn the sadness and doubt into happiness. Ask yourself what advantages there are for the child in the move. For example, will the family be closer to Grandma, the ocean, or another favorite person, place, or activity?

One of the easiest ways to turn an unhappy frown into joy and excitement is to communicate frequently. Let your children know, step by step, what is happening and what is likely to happen next. Tell them what the move means to the family -- how important it is that Mommy got a big promotion or that Daddy is opening a new office for his company, and how other aspects of the move will be good for the child.

Be ready for those "What about me?" questions by researching schools, churches, activities, and community amenities in advance, and offer your child choices and ways to participate where it is appropriate. Whenever possible, look up information on the Internet, or have your agent e-mail, fax, or mail vital information about the community so that you and your child can plan where to go and who to meet in order to help ease the transition into new activities and surroundings. Contact organizations with whom your child is already associated or with whom he or she has an interest, and ask for referrals to your new city. Knowing they wont have to give up favorite hobbies or sports goes a long way toward helping children adjust.

Making contacts with future friends, >Your REALTORreg; will be able to show you your home either through e-mail, the local MLS service, or Have your Realtor take pictures of your home and send them to you. Have fun by showing your child the new house plans, or draw them yourself and let your child cut out furniture and toys to place in the rooms. Show your child a typical day in the home as you go from room to room. Draw a map, and show how close Mommy and Daddy work, where schools are, where Aunt Bea lives, and other points of interest to help them orient themselves in their new surroundings.

If time and finances permit, take your child on a trip to visit your new city and home to get acquainted. If thats not possible, get on the Internet, and show him or her the city, neighborhood, and home where youll be living. Most cities have Web sites available that offer a wide range of information, so you can plan activities for after your move, such as visits to the theater, a visit to the local zoo, or a trip to a local restaurant that serves your childs favorite food.

Allowing your children to participate as much as possible makes the time they spend anticipating the move pass more quickly. Keep them occupied by letting them plan and pack a box or two of their special things. Consider their input on new decor and the layout of their new rooms. Encourage them to take the time to exchange good-byes with friends and loved ones and get addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers to stay in touch.

While you are preparing for the move, try to stick as closely to your normal routine as possible, and let your children know that, although they will soon live in a new house, the rules of the household will still be the same. Bedtime is still at 9 p.m., and homework must still completed before TV time is allowed. And although Mom and Dad are a little busier and distracted with the move, they love their children very much and are giving the entire household a new opportunity to grow.

On moving day, have a bag packed of personal belongings for each member of the family, being careful to include medications, clothes, and personal items. Let your children choose what amusements and favorite "loveys" they wish to take along, and reassure them they will see their other favorite toys when they arrive in their new home.

Your preparedness will go a long way in reassuring your children that their needs are being considered.
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NAR, the DOJ and Procompetition

On June 5, 2018, NAR can make its case that ldquo;the breadth and depth of competition in the real estate and brokerage industryrdquo; at a public workshop held by the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission. Part of the strategy is to share a report by independent economist Frederk Flyer, PhD, titled Procompetitive Benefits of Policies Limiting Access to Multiple Listing Service Data.

Flyer asserts that much of the criticism of limiting information access is concern that consumers of third-party data aggregators of real estate listings, such as Zillow and Trulia, will not have access to full MLS information.

However, what the DOJ and FTC fail to recognize, is that these websites compete in a different antitrust market, argues Flyer, as neither Zillow nor Trulia broker real estate transactions as licensed real estate practitioners do. In fact, part of their business models is to provide lead generation services to the brokers using the brokersrsquo; and their competitorsrsquo; data.

ldquo;Real estate websites such as Zillow and Trulia are in the business of vying for Internet ldquo;eyeballsrdquo; and are not in the business of providing brokerage services; hence limiting these sitesrsquo; access to proprietary MLS data does not harm consumers of brokerage services nor does it limit their access to information,rdquo; writes Flyer.

ldquo;These sites are not even essential to consumers who use actual brokerage services, since these data aggregation sites do not provide consumers of brokerage services with any greater access to information.

And that could be the key sticking point ndash; greater access to information. Is a Zestimate greater information? Is access to advertisers greater information? Is allowing brokers to advertise their services on top of their competitorsrsquo; listings greater information?

As we discussed ad nauseum in the 2000s, the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission believe that associations restricting MLS data to third-parties limits competition, giving NAR and its subsidiaries a monopoly that harms consumers. NARrsquo;s opposing view is that the forced sharing of MLS listing data with third-party websites benefits the websites, not consumers.

The establishment of the MLS, in which brokers share their listings with other brokers, in itself fosters competition among those members who pay for the service, requiring no obligation to allow third-parties to benefit financially from the collective listing data. It also keeps brokers from showing only their own listings as consumers can see that there are other homes available for sale or rent on association websites and consumer-facing access to the local MLS.

Nar General Counsel Katie Johnson explains that innovation isnrsquo;t spurred by providing unrestricted real estate data to technology companies.

States Johnson, ldquo;I can confirm that NAR has no plans to alter MLS policies mandating how property listings are displayed by online brokerages when the 2008 settlement agreement expires November 18, 2018.rdquo;

This should be interesting. Realty Times is open to new arguments from either side. So letrsquo;s throw it out there ndash; brokers, has sharing your listings via your MLS with third-party sites helped or hurt your business?

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A New Time for the Real Estate Industry: The Blockchain and Professional Services

Technology is the ally of the real estate industry, in terms of improving customer service and serving the needs of professionals worldwide. Nowhere is that fact more >

Now is the time to broaden our definition of e-commerce to include a new coin of the realm, so to speak, in which decentralization is as independent as it is interconnected; which is to say now is the time to ensure the integrity of the real estate industry, with technology that guarantees a level playing field for all.

Take, for example, the work of ECoinmerce: a model of decentralization, which appeals to business owners of every interest, and is a mode of doing business that is anything but business as usual. Put another way, this platform is a model of inspiration for real estate agents who want to protect the privacy of their clients, and prioritize what matters most to themselves and their profession as a wholendash;ndash;success.

How can these individuals succeed if they do not have the freedom to choose their preferred method of success? How can they maximize their success if there is only one system that limits their ability to succeed? How, in the end, can anyone prosper if there is no prospect but one, because a single competitor monopolizes success?

The answers to these questions rest, in part, with blockchain technology and the decentralized nature of this medium. By applying this resource to the real estate industry, or by making the features of ECoinmerce applicable to real estate agents in particular, competition can thrive. It can attract crowds of consumers without crowding out the competition, because decentralization precludes what traditional forms of e-commerce cannot exclude: the sort of monopolization that exercises too much control over prices, while denying vendors and users the leverage they need to be competitive.

As new platforms expand, and as real estate professionals adopt these applications, the rewards will be significant. They will also signal a shift, economically and emotionally, where the former furthers the latter, delivering a superior level of customer satisfaction and a degree of personal contentment unavailable elsewhere.

Let us celebrate this transformation, since it is democratic in its dividends and far from divisive, given its power to unify such a diverse number of users. Let us accelerate the arrival of this revolution within and beyond the real estate industry, so we can rally buyers and sellers on behalf of a better tomorrow.

A writer and branding consultant, Lewis Fein covers the real estate industry, technology, and marketing, among other issues. A graduate of The Emory University School of Law, Lewis resides in Southern California. You may reach him at .

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How To Maintain Those Fancy Countertops

Todays luxury countertops are easy to sell - they are beautiful and durable. Materials such as granite, solid surfaces, and ceramic tiles are making a statement not only about home fashion, but about easy maintenance. But beauty lasts only as long as proper care. Good fabricators will tell you how to clean and maintain your surfaces, but even then, there may be some suggestions that might have slipped through the cracks.

Todays consumer has a delightful array of choices for countertop surfaces. The rules are being broken with materials crossing design boundaries every day. Concrete is now being formed for countertops instead of floors and FormicaR, the leader in laminate countertops, has entered the flooring arena. Ceramic tiles have come out of the bath and kitchen and are used for decorative as well as surface applications throughout living areas, indoors and out. And marble and granite, once found only in bank buildings, fabulous hotels and ultra residences are being fabricated into floors and countertops for an increasing number of executive homes.

If you are en"counter"ing a luxury surface for the first time, you want to know what kind of cleaning and maintenance products to use so you dont accidentally etch the stone, strip color or cause any toxic penetrations. This is particularly important on surfaces in which many hands come into contact or food is prepared. So what kind of care do these luxury surfaces require? Lets begin by grouping the materials into two groups, natural and man-made.

Natural Stone

Natural stone is the earths formation of minerals and gases that have slowly cooled and condensed over millions of years into a solid core, forming rock beds of various colors, patterns and degrees of porousness. They include marble, granite, slate, terra cotta, and terrazzo. Thousands of types of stones have been quarried throughout the centuries from all over the world and are finding their way to modern luxury kitchens. Because natural stone is porous, including the most dense stone - granite, it must be sealed to protect the stone from penetrating water or oils. Sealants, known in the industry as impregnators, do not protect the surface as such, but protect moisture from accummulating within the stone itself.

According to Andrew Levine, president of Stone Care International, nothing is maintenance-free, but understanding the nature of your surface will help you provide better maintenance. Stone Care makes specialized products for cleaning and sealing all surfaces, from laminates to solid surfaces to natual stone. "You still have to clean, and cleaning with the right product is important, because choosing the wrong product can cause a problem. Household cleansers are not for all surfaces. Tilex is fine for ceramic tile, but it can actually etch marble. Fantastic and 409 will attack the color and fade stone. Some stones wont react, but you dont want to take a chance. You have to choose the right product for the surface."

"Stone has a PH balance due to its high moisture content. It is a chemical in a solid form, so it has different cleaning requirements. Granite comes from magma - it is a natural acid so it wont react to acids, but marble is an alkalai, recrystallized limestone. It is vulnerable to acids like orange juice and colas."

Solid surface, ceramic tile, concrete

Unlike natural stone, solid surfaces and ceramic tile are man-madematerials that are produced in factories. Solid surfaces, better known by name brands such as Avonite and Corian, are pressure/heat treated products in which the pigment of the surface design is consistent all the way through the countertop. As with natural stone, solid surface materials are custom fabricated for each kitchen. They are most in danger from burning, but should the worst happen, those without high gloss finishes can be sanded to restore the countertop.

Most complaints about solid surfaces center on their tendency to streak. Newspaper and fingerprints are particularly difficult to clean, along with any greasy residues. A cleanser that cuts grease, doesnt streak, and doesnt eat through the material is required. "Again, what you find in the supermarket may not be adequate. Windex is often used, because it wont hurt solid surfaces and it doesnt streak, but it doesnt really clean either," advises Levine.

Concrete is mixed, poured, stained, sanded and fabricated for a variety of looks including old world or very urban contemporary. Like natural stone, it requires a sealant to protect it from stains, moisture penetration and accompanying bacteria.

Ceramic tile receives a permanent glaze right in the kiln, making it fairly maintenance-free. The grout, which is porous, can have stain and sealer added to blend with the tile, and most tile can be laid so closely that the grout is not a problem. Although tile is the most vulnerable surface to chipping, it cleans easily with most over-the-counter products. Levine adds, "Ceramic tile makes a good surface. It comes from mudstone, and it is pretty safe, but watch out for products like drain openers."

For a complete list of cleansers and sealants for a wide variety of countertops, visit Stone Care International.
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What To Consider If You Are Buying An Historic Home

Youve fallen in love with an old Victorian house and want to bring her back to her glory days. With dreams of starting the next row of "painted ladies," you close the deal.

You may already have some ideas of things you want to do to your new home, but before you make any changes to the structure itself, do a little research and make sure you have the answers to these three questions:

1. Is your home designated as historic - part of a state or federal historical building or neighborhood registry? If so, you may have to adhere to a number of regulations and be subject to some historical preservation oversight in order to update the home.

2. How extensive do you want the updates to be? Do you plan to "take it back to the studs," or simply do some cosmetic work like refinishing floors?

3. How authentic do you want the renovations to be? The more accurate the details, such as spindle bannisters and egg and dart moldings, the higher the cost in materials and labor.

Your home and its state of repair may dictate which course of action you choose. For example if your home has serious structural damage or decay, then preservation may not be possible. However, youll still be able to reconstruct and renovate.

Not sure if you should preserve, restore or renovate? Here are a few definitions that may help you form a plan:

Preservation means restoring and using the building for its original purpose, with as much of the original features and dcor saved as possible.

Restoration means tearing out improvements made over time that dont reflect the original age and >Reconstruction means making major changes to the floor plan such as adding new rooms and dramatically altering and repurposing parts of the home.

Renovation or remodeling freshens the look of the home using modern materials such as updating an older kitchen with custom cabinetry, farm sinks and granite countertops.

Before you begin, find out if there are any local or state subsidies for historic preservation for homes in your area. You could get tax breaks and special home improvement loans or other assistance. Contact your local tax assessor-collector for more information, or your local housing authority.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has some excellent resources for homeowners of older or historic homes. Also, check out and for more information.
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Insulated Concrete Forms: The Answer for Storm-Resistant Homes?

The year 2011: An EF5 tornado rolls through Joplin, MO, killing 158 and devastating the entire town. That same year, almost 16,000 people are killed and entire towns wiped off the map in a magnitude-9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan. 2017: Then Category 5 Hurricane Maria brutalizes Texas and Puerto Rico.

While no area is immune from the calamitous effects of increasingly powerful storms, there are ways to help protect yourself, and your home. One increasingly popular building product is giving people peace of mind and providing a potential solution for storm resistance - especially for those who live in areas that are more prone to destructive weather and its catastrophic aftereffects.

According to a story on NBCDFW, the North Texas NBC affiliate, "More North Texans are looking into building homes out of concrete using Insulated Concrete Forms for the walls."

Insulated concrete forms ICFs are "cast-in-place concrete walls that are sandwiched between two layers of insulation material, usually expanded polystyrene EPS foam insulation forms," said Proud Green Home. "The foam blocks are stacked as interlocking blocks, connected with steel reinforcing rods. They offer well-insulated, airtight, energy-efficient building enclosures. Also, ICFs are a great fit for regions prone to severe weather because of their strong impact resistance."

Specifically, ICFs are said to be able to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour - enough to provide protection from both an EF5 tornado and a Cat 5 hurricane.

NBCDFW profiled North Texas homeowner Gary Karnavas, who has a meteorology degree as well as a keen interest in extreme weather, and who built his family home with ICFs. "Basically, the walls of his home have a six-inch core of concrete," they said. "The result is a building thats stronger than a wood-built home."

About "nine times stronger than conventional construction," Cameron Ware with NUDURA, the company Karnavas used for his homes ICFs and one of the leaders in the industry, told them. Ware also said that, "on average it can add an additional 5-10 percent on your overall build price."

The additional costs can be offset by increased energy-efficiency, however. Thats another advantage to building with ICFs; Karnavas mused that his electric bill for his 5,700-square-foot-home has not topped 200mdash;this despite having 300 square feet of windows on the west wall of the home to maximize the views.

According to Oklahoma City-based BuildBlock, another ICF industry leader, the product can provide "30ndash;70 savings in energy consumption and costs good for your pocketbook and the environment," as well as "75 reduction in outside air infiltration less dust and allergens." It also creates an environment that is more fire safe and is "five times quieter than a wood-frame home."

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In Homeowner Associations, Dogs Do Present Challenges

Some may be old enough to remember the rock band from the 1970s called Three Dog Night. There is an interesting story behind their name. Australian aborigines domesticated and kept wild dogs dingos. On cold nights they would customarily sleep with their dogs to keep warm. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs, and if a night was especially cold, it was a "three dog night".

The >

Barking dogs can be a very contentious issues in an HOA. Many dog owners think that while other dogs may bark, theirs certainly doesnt. Lets come clean on this one. When left alone, all dogs bark. Some howl. Its their nature. They are social animals and when deprived of company, barking is a way of attracting it. But in the confines of a common wall community, barking generally attracts only the unwelcome attention of the neighbors.

Modern technology provides answers to the barking issue by surgical and non-surgical means. Surgery is considered in extreme cases when behavior modification cant be accomplished. Some of the bark control gizmos include:

Bark Control Collar Shock. Automatically emits a battery powered electric shock when triggered by barking.

Bark Control Collar Spray. Automatically emits a citronella lemon spray when triggered by barking.

Bark Control Collar Ultrasonic. Automatically emits a high pitched sound.

Stationary Ultrasonic Unit. Automatically emits a high pitched sound without collar.

Portable Ultrasonic Unit. Emits a high pitched sound when triggered by a trainer.

Reports on effectiveness of these devices vary. They are battery controlled so making sure the batteries are working is essential. Whether shock, spray or ultrasound is more effective is subject to trial and error. But according to industry reports, over 2/3rds of those that reported using the devices for more than 90 days said behavior improved.

There is a belief that shock collars are the dog equivalent of Tasers stun guns. But according to the industry, the level and duration of a collar shock is a tiny fraction of what a Taser does.

If a dog barks in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, is he still a bad dog? Since barking is bound to cause complaints in a homeowner association, be prepared to offer effective alternates to the owners of the offenders. Good boy.

For more on this topic, see
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Dealing With Powers Of Attorney

You and your spouse own your home and you would like to sell it. However, your spouse is currently unable to sign the sales contract. This is because he is either out of the country in some exotic far-away-place where fax and overnight delivery is unavailable, or because he is physically and mentally unable to make decisions or sign legal documents.

What to do?

There is a document called a "power of attorney", whereby your spouse signs a legal document authorizing you to act on his/her behalf. The giver of the power of attorney is called the Principal. The receiver is generally called the "attorney in fact". The latter is given the right to act on behalf of the principal, for the purposes and functions spelled out in the legal document. Note: the power given to the attorney in fact may be very broad, unless conditions and limitations are spelled out in the legal document.

There are two types of Powers of Attorney:

1. General -- here, the principal authorizes the attorney in fact to take any and all actions as if the principal was taking them him or self. This is also known as a Durable Power of Attorney.

Keep in mind that your own State law may have specific requirements in order to sell real property by way of a Power of Attorney. Some states will not permit real estate to be conveyed by such a General power of attorney.

2. Specific -- here, the principal gives specific information and instructions to the attorney in fact. For example, sell my house located at 123 ABC Street; or write a 1,000 check to my insurance company from my bank account. The specific instructions are contained in the legal document, and the attorney in fact has no authority to exceed those instructions.

If you plan to sell your house, and find yourself in the situation where one party in title will not be available to sign contracts, deeds or other legal documents pertaining to the sale, it is best to have your attorney draw up a Power of Attorney that meets your needs, as well as the legal requirements in the State where your property is located.

The principal may want to put a time limitation on the Power -- for example one or two months. However, with a durable power of attorney, the principal normally does not place any such limitations. The purpose of a durable Power is to assure that in the event the Principal becomes incapacitated, his attorney in fact will be able to step in without having to go to Court.

Lets go back to our example. If your spouse knows in advance that he/she will be out of the country when you want to sell your house, have the Power of Attorney executed before the trip starts -- and give a long lead time before the Power expires. Keep in mind that although we now >However, if you do not have a Power of Attorney and your spouse suddenly has a stroke -- or is otherwise unable to comprehend and sign legal documents, then you will have to go to your local Court and seek permission to become the Conservator of the Estate of your spouse. This is a >Speaking of banks, if you will need to use a power of attorney to get information or money from a bank, check with the bank first. Many banks have their own power of attorney forms they insist on being used.

Preventive law is the key; consider obtaining a durable power of attorney now, while you both are in good health. Each spouse should sign a separate document, making the other spouse the attorney in fact. However, an alternative attorney in fact should also be designated, just in case both of you become incapacitated at the same time.

Your local attorney should be consulted to make sure that you are using the proper forms and that you fully understand the consequences of your actions. A Power of Attorney gives someone else the right to sell your house, and you want to make sure that you are not giving away the store.
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REALTORS Are Well-Advised To Pay Attention To Market Disruptors

Alvin Toffler, a "futurist" at the time, wrote in his 1970 book, Future Shock, that one of the problems of the ages to come would be overchoice. We would have more options than we could handle, more choices that we could adequately explore.

I dont know if Mr. Toffler had the real estate business in mind at the time, but the current issue of California Real Estate certainly bears him out. The edition March/April, 2018 contains an article entitled "The Disruptors: Upstarts or Stalwarts?" and it asks the question, "Which new business models should be on your radar in 2018?" The article goes on to provide an analysis of twelve new and >The author, Amber Toufen, managing editor of Inman News, discusses twelve. They are, in no particular order: Compass, eXp Realty, GoldenKey, Houwzer, Knock, Offerpad, Opendoor, Open Listings, Purplebricks, Reali, Redfin, and Zillow Instant Offers. In addition to indicating the current and planned geographical markets of each, she provides a brief analysis of each based on four categories: The Pitch; Whats different for clients?; Whats different for Realtors?; and Industry Impact.

The constraints of space prohibit discussing all the analyses provided by Ms. Toufen, but we will offer some samples.

eXp Realty: The author notes "Its a licensed brokerage with a twist. Its cloud-based, so no central office. Agents meet in the virtual online office to network, and the brokerage does not charge typical brokerage fees." Having pointed out that, "Eliminating overhead means eXp agents share less commission with their broker," she goes on to observe that, "Not having a central office can be detrimental for less-experienced agents who may benefit from training, coaching, or one-on-one agent-broker time."

What will be the industry impact of eXp Realty? Ms. Taufen writes, "Its industry impact will be measured by the number of agents who agree that a central office has become a luxury and not a necessity."

Purplebricks is another novel business model discussed in the article. The author writes, "It lists homes for sellers for a flat fee of 3,200. Sellers are responsible for paying the buyers agents commission. The company gives buyers 1,000 toward closing costs." "Sellers are assigned a Local Real Estate Expert to manage the sale. Buyers who use the experts to represent them pay the traditional buyers agents commission and receive 1,000 back from Purplebricks for closing costs." "The company pays agents a portion of the buyers agents commission on the buy side or a portion of the 3,200 listing fee for listing agents."

Other models pay agents salaries rather than split commissions. Still others deal directly with buyers or sellers. At the outset, the author suggests that if the new models sound threatening for the traditional models, "then talk to those REALTORSreg; who have been in the industry for some time -- theyve seen other next big things come and go, and theyre still around to usher transactions to the closing line."

On the other hand, she observes, "those REALTORSreg; the ones who are still around can also explain that their longevity is partly due to paying close attention to new and different competitors in the market. Skilled real estate agents and brokers who know what the competition has to offer and are willing to adapt their practices accordingly will be able to differentiate themselves and have a greater chance of outlasting the next big thing."

California REALTORSreg; will find this magazine article worth their attention. Readers who are not CAR members might request a reprint from California Real Estate, 525 South Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020.
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Whats Next for Your Home?

Whats next? When it comes to your home, if you dont consider what possibilities could lie ahead mdash; both positive and negative mdash; you may get caught off-guard and find decisions are forced on you.

Homeowners who consciously develop financial, life>

"Wait and see" is not the most successful real estate strategy. By the time its clearly evident where the real estate advantage or disadvantage lies, it may be too late to do anything but watch others benefit from being in the right place at the right time. Thats because:

1. The selling process can take time, especially when the goal is to achieve the best return.

2. The real estate market is difficult to predict and periodically it stalls. If its stuck on "buyers market," sellers may not achieve top dollar or a quick sale.

3. Rising interest rates can limit buyer purchasing power and reduce overall returns for sellers.

4. If something negative happens near the house or condominium property, market value and buyer interest may decline. For instance, local hi-rise development or transit construction can slow or reverse appreciation for some properties.

5. If a superb opportunity presents itself how can you be ready to act quickly?

Owners benefit when they stay aware of what is working and not working with their current property and community. For instance, if the home is too big or too small for family needs or finances, a move may improve the quality of life. If work or family interests make the current community less attractive or a distant location more enticing, selling may provide benefits on many levels. When local real estate values are on the rise, cashing in on increased value may make sense, especially if the resulting move would be to an area with lower real estate values.

Although some property owners are fascinated by all things real estate, many find their career and personal lives demanding enough that there is little time for investigating exactly what is going on in real estate on local, regional, and national levels. Thats why smart homeowners make solid ongoing connections with experienced local real estate and mortgage professionals who keep the owners current on shifts, risks, and opportunities.

As well as ensuring property owners take advantage of real estate opportunity, this ongoing professional input and orientation helps owners avoid typical causes of hesitation or inertia. The pros and cons of "staying or selling" in a variety of situations can overwhelm owners who try to tackle decisions without professional backup. Owners may also not be aware of the wide range of options and solutions open to them. In contrast, this problem solving is what real estate professionals do for a living.

Does your situation include either of the following problem scenarios, which are common challenges for real estate professionals, and often overwhelming to homeowners working alone on their one-time issue?

  • Selling mdash; the traditional downsizing reaction to "an empty nest" mdash; could take owners out of a beloved neighborhood and away from preferred amenities, professional services, and other local benefits when all this comfort and security hold significant value. Professionals understand how to prioritize criteria for determining when a move is the right decision and they also know all the available options for the next home. Sellers who havent bought or sold real estate or arranged a mortgage in more than five years, are probably out of touch with todays fast-paced real estate and finance marketplaces. Simply reading general online content or watching generic videos will not guarantee sellers get the correct, very specific information on topics of value to their decision making.
  • In areas where property value is on the rise, the price differential between selling and then buying a new home or renting may not be enough to liberate cash to invest in income-generation mdash; a common purpose behind downsizing. If sellers want to move to another region, state, or country, even if they are in touch with their local real estate market, they may not have sufficient >

    When faced with real estate issues to resolve, homeowner indecision is usually a sign that they dont have enough information or the right questions answered so that they can move ahead. Whats really possible for them may be quite different from what online chatter talks about.

    To dispel indecision, sellers need to uncover true facts about their current real estate situation and what their wide range of "whats next?" choices includes. They also gain from understanding how to get from "here" to "there" with minimum cost and hassle.

    Property owners who select the right real estate and mortgage professionals to provide ongoing,
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For the First Time in 45 Years, the National Association of Realtors has Revealed a New Brand Logo to Represent the New NAR

NARrsquo;s driven CEO Bob Goldberg and his leadership team are charging this new brand roll out as part of their dedication to making positive changes within the organization and redirecting focus back onto its members. Mr. Goldberg spoke directly with Realty Timestrade; about the rebrand, noting that it is no small feat to evolve a logo from something that is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, but a necessary step. The new logo, he says, is meant to be a direct reflection ldquo;of our new dimension of who we arehellip;this brand represents a person, a human, behind the transaction. We need to update [the logo] and make it more contemporary, more modern, more representative of the new NAR.rdquo;

The ldquo;new NARrdquo; is a vision shared by Mr. Goldberg and his entire leadership team whom he says is united in making changes to the organization. ldquo;The fact that I have a leadership team that was willing to change an iconic logo thats been in place for 45 years and say, lsquo;You know what? Lets change it up,rsquo; shows who NAR is. NAR is willing to take chances, is willing to make changes. We are going to walk the talk that we are different. Its truly a partnership between our staff and our volunteer leaders to make these changes happen.rdquo;

NAR has already changed its focus on becoming a more member-centric organization by beginning their ldquo;Day in the Life of a Realtorreg; Programrdquo; earlier this year. Through this innovative program, NAR staff members are required to spend time with members to garner a true understanding of the trials and tribulations of being a Realtorreg; to be able to serve them better.

Additionally, like their new 3D logo, NAR is working to become more dimensional on the leadership level as well. Mr. Goldberg and his leadership team are focusing attention on personally assisting NAR members by visiting NARrsquo;s 13 regions to meet with members, and by taking time to respond to individual emails and messages on social media. A task that is by no means a small endeavor, but one that is important to the leadership team. ldquo;We as an organization need to be much better partners and listeners to our members, so by us going out and meeting with our members, listening to them, its really going back to the basics of the human interaction, and all that ties back to the representation of what were trying to do with the new logo; its a new change for NAR, its a new dimension. Thatrsquo;s why the logo is a 3D cube. Were all about this new dimension and it ties to all the changes that we want to depict for our members and consumers that this is not, as [President Elizabeth Mendenhall] puts it, lsquo;Your daddys NAR.rsquo; It is a huge change for what were doing, and we are turning this ship rapidly; its not a slow change, it is a rapid change.rdquo;

Realtorsreg; can expect to see the implementation of the new logo beginning in June. Recognizing that this new roll out will directly affect its members, NAR will be working with its members to ensure that they have enough time to convert to the new logo over the next year to year and a half. NAR will also be available for additional support, including providing members with new guidelines of use.

For more information on the NAR brand roll out please visist

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Home Improvement Projects That Arent Worth DIYing

Generally, DIY can save homeowners money. For example, HomeAdvisor reports that a homeowner who chooses to install their own linoleum flooring may save as much as 5,000 compared to a homeowner who hires a contractor. However, some projects are simply too complex, involve too much risk and require too much specialty knowledge for homeowners to DIY.

Damage from Smoke or Fire

Smoke and fire can do terrible damage to a home. Smoke damage can affect everything from clothing to upholstery, carpet and the very walls of the home.

While homeowners can use specialty cleaning products to remove soot, and can replace drywall >A typical homeowner will pay between 3,000 and 22,000 for smoke damage restoration, yet performing the DIY project may be even more expensive. If the homeowners efforts fail, hiring a contractor afterword to finish the job could make the effort more expensive than if the homeowner had hired the contractor in the beginning.

Damage from Wind

Wind can damage everything from the homes siding to roof. Repair work can be extensive, and many DIYers take much longer than contractors to make repairs. During that time, the home is vulnerable to damage from rain and the other elements. Homeowners who try to repair their own roof or siding may save on labor but could cause other costly problems while fixing one problem at a time.

The advantage of hiring a contractor for this work is that the contractor has all the tools on hand to fix the job and will likely have a crew of people as well. Whereas a damaged roof and siding can be repaired in a weekend by a contractor, a homeowner could take many days or weeks.

Wind damage can cost between 2,000 and 10,000 to repair via a contractor. Homeowners hoping to save money can do some of the work on their own. For example, the homeowner can cut fallen tree branches to a more manageable size, then may haul them away to save on clean up costs from the contractor.

Earthquake Retrofitting

This type of project requires a lot of specialty knowledge about a variety of systems in the home. Retrofitting takes place in the basement or crawlspace and up into the exterior walls. Earthquake retrofitting is done by bracing the walls and by anchoring the home to the mud sill or bolting the foundation, whichever is appropriate.

The cost to earthquake retrofit a home is approximately 4,000. However, if the efforts fail, the home could be seriously damaged or completely destroyed. Foundation repair after an earthquake can cost as much as 25,000, while the replacement of the entire home is far more costly. The best way to ensure that the home will survive a major earthquake if one happens is to hire a contractor.

Mold Damage

Mold is a serious problem that often occurs after a flood. Water damage after a flood can cost between 1,000 and 4,000 to repair, with mold remediation being a large part of that. Angies List reports that mold remediation can cost between 2,700 and 3,300. Mold remediation costs over 500 should be handled by a licensed contractor because mold remediation can be invasive and could potentially do damage to the home.

Mold remediation involves an assessment of the home, contamination control, source removal and moisture control. This multi-faceted project must be comprehensive, or mold will return.

Homeowners who arent sure about a DIY project can contact their contractor for more information. Speaking to a contractor can help the homeowner get a sense of how much a project will cost and whether it can be completed as a DIY.
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Earthquake Preparedness Tips That Will Get Your Family Ready For An Emergency

We all do it. We get a little comfortable in our day-to-day lives and we get lazy about safety measures. And then we get a reminder, like the recent 5.3 earthquake in Southern California. In light of the trembler, its a good time to revisit earthquake preparedness and take steps to incorporate safety measures into your home, whether youre in Southern California where theyre naturally occurring, or in a place like north Texas or Oklahoma, where they are probably the product of fracking. Its important to remember, too, that these measures can also be adapted/applied to other natural disasters or emergency situations, so even if youre not in an earthquake-prone area, its a good idea to get cracking on or review your existing family plans.

Have a "go bag" ready

There are numerous resources online, like this one from, that outline the basics essential for a good go bag that you can grab and use in an emergency. One should be created for the home, and dont forget to add one to each car in the family, with edits and/or additions where necessary. Beyond the basics, like a gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, and at least three days of non-perishable food, youll also want a flashlight, phone chargers, batteries, a first-aid kit, and medicine everyones prescriptions as well as pain >You also want to think about the needs of your individual family - kids, pets, and older family members may need special items. And, make sure you keep important documents and valuables in a place where they can be easily accessed as well.

Prepare your car

In addition to a go bag for each car, dont forget the most essential thing: "Fill up your tank Its not safe to drive around with so little gas" Those Mom words probably still reverberate through your head, but she happens to be right. While you cant have a full tank at every moment, making sure you dont let the tank get dangerously low is always a smart move - especially if you want to make sure youre prepared in an emergency.

Make sure everyone knows what to do

In California, kids do earthquake drills in school so they know where to go and how to best protect themselves should one strike. But they may be confused about how to apply that to home, a friends house, or another location. Running practice drills at home will give you the confidence to know everyone is up on what to do should the ground start to shake, especially if youre in a state that may do tornado drills but fail to prepare kids for what to do in an earthquake.

You also want to make sure everyone in the house knows what to do should they be trapped in rubble. Adding a whistle for everyone to the go bag is key. "Teach everyone in your household to use emergency whistles and/or to knock three times repeatedly if trapped," said Earthquake Country. "Rescuers searching collapsed buildings will be listening for sounds.

Make a family communication plan

You may be separated from loved ones when an earthquake occurs, and cell phones may be down, making it hard to get ahold of each other. In the 1994 Northridge, CA quake, local phone lines were down but long distance lines remained functional. Designating an out-of-state friend or family member as a go-to for calls can help you get in touch. In addition, Earthquake Country recommends that your family communication plan include:

  • Select a safe place outside of your home to meet your family or housemates after the shaking stops.
  • Provide all family members with a list of important contact phone numbers.
  • Keep your childrens school emergency >

    Consider earthquake insurance

    According to the California Department of Insurance, homeowners in California, one of the states that is most prone to earthquakes, and, especially, deadly quakes, do not have to have earthquake insurance. However, "If you have homeowners insurance in California, your company must offer to sell you earthquake insurance. It must offer this every other year." NBC News reported a few years back that "only 10 percent of Californias 7 million plus homeowners have earthquake insurance - and that number has dropped by more than 50 percent since the deadly Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 that killed 63 people.

    Part of the reason: People may not realize theyre not covered under their homeowners insurance, they said. But also, they dont want to pay for it if they dont have to. According to Sunde Schirmers, product management director for USAAs property and casualty group, "for most states, the average cost for coverage is between 100 and 300 annually. California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska tend to have higher premiums, with an average costaround 800. But the California Earthquake Authority and Governors Office of Emergency Services offers adiscount programfor policies on homes that are braced and bolted to the foundation. Agrant is availableas well."

    Damage from a minor quake can shatter windows and breakables and knock down bookcases and other furniture items. "A 7.0-magnitude quake usually triggers catastrophic damage to masonry and frame structures," said USAA. "Given the potential damage, the cost may be an easy expense to justify. According to a study by the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering, estimated damage resulting from an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 will equal more than 30 of your homes value."

    Seismic retrofitting

    Depending on the age of your home, there may be some structural issues that need to be addressed to make your home safer during an earthquake.

    "Also known as seismic retrofitting, reinforcing your homes structure ensures that the foundation, floor, and walls are fastened together and bolted down, from below the ground up, better protecting it from earthquakes," said Farmers Insurance. "Work with alicensed contractoror an engineer to reinforce your homes structure, rather than trying to do it yourself."

    Necessary retrofits may include:

    Repairing and Bolting the foundation. "Keep in mind older homes are especially in danger of frail or cracked foundations," they said.

    Bracing the cripple walls. "Another smart upgrade involves adding plywood sheathing to shore up the cripple wall or the short wood wall, which extends from the foundation to beneath the floor of the house. If the cripple wall is not stiff enough, it can literally cripple your main floor, which can buckle under the pressure of an earthquake."

    Bracing unreinforced chimneys and walls. "Some older homes have walls or chimneys made of brick or other masonry, which arent braced secu
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New Construction: Should You Go Builder Grade Or Upgrade?

Who hasnt walked through a model home and thought, "Ill take it Even down to those fancy place settings on the dining room table" That exclamation is typically followed by a sad-face realization that, A The place settings are not for sale, and; B All those fancy upgrades are going to cost you. A lot.

Models are typically fancied up by the builder and interior designer and outfitted with all kinds of bells and whistles including upgraded flooring, countertops and appliances, lighting, window coverings - you name it. The idea is to show buyers what their home could be. If they have an extra 100K or more to sink into it.

If thats not you, either because you want to stay within a certain budget or youre already stretching to buy a new home, you dont have to forgo upgrades altogether. In fact, buying a home with builder grade everything is not considered a great idea from a value standpoint.

"A surprisingly large amount of the money you spend on your new home will be determined by thenbsp;options and choicesnbsp;you make - and those options are forever changing," said New Home Source.nbsp;"For example, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, both considered pricey upgrades for years, are now standard in most new homes. However, going with the most common or lowest denominator is not always the best way to savemdash;or spend - your dollars."

Theres also the fact that, when you do go to upgrade later on, youll have to deal with a number of issues. Here are five reasons to do some smart upgrades now.

The cost

Ultimately, how much you upgrade or not is dependent on cost. Finding out that a model home has 86,000 worth of upgrades, which far exceeds your budget, can be devastating. Breaking them down to individual items and comparing the cost to what you would spend down the road is a good first step.

Its also important to remember that your selected upgrades dont require you to write a check to the builder. They get rolled into your mortgage. Add 20,000 in upgrades to your 400,000 mortgage, and youre looking at about 80 a month.

Photo by Arthur Rutenberg Homes - More kitchen photos

Yes, you may be able to finance your new floors or countertops at Home Depot, and you may even be able to qualify for zero percent interest. But, those payments will be spread out over only 24 or 36 months, instead of 30. If youre worried about adding to your bottom line, an extra 300 per month could hurt.

The value

In considering your options and upgrades, weigh wants and needs against potential value. "When selecting builder upgrades for your new home, you need to be strategic," said Houzz. "You want to choose the upgrades that will save you hassle and money by doing them upfront."

Some upgrades provide instant value. "The idea that you have to wait years to see a return on your investment is false," said New Home Source. "A quality refrigerator and freezer can keep food fresh longer without drying out - and with the cost of food rising, this is a savings youll notice immediately," certified kitchen designer Joyce Gardine Combs told them.

Hardwood flooring is a >

Other upgraded appliances may provide additional value - a great dishwasher can use less water and provide other energy savings. Quartz countertops may not be provide much in the way of cost savings but they do represent the most popular material today, which is predicted for many years to come. If its something you just cant live without, and youll regret not doing it from day one, the extra cost may be worth it. But, keep in mind the reality of countertops when it comes to new construction. "Though the glitz of sparkling quartz or luscious marble countertops may be pretty compelling to go for now, if you can wait and get them later, youll gain choice and may end up saving money," said Houzz. "Builders typically use only one supplier for natural stone or quartz counters and may offer limited options. And with the builders premium, the cost can be quite a bit higher than if you sourced the material and labor yourself."

You dont have to worry about contractors

Weve all heard the horror stories about contractors, but even if you find a good one, youre still going to have to contend with having people in your home and making sure they show up on time or at all, work within the agreed-upon timeframe and budget, and do what they said they will do. There is freedom in knowing that everything is going to be as you expected on day one, and that you dont need to worry about what happens if the flooring guy is sick or doesnt show up for work.

No mess

Your contractor will say theyre going to clean everything up and leave your home spotless. They may even mean it and make a valiant effort. But, lets face it. Youre going to be cleaning up dust for a while. And that doesnt account for all the mess that is created day to day. If youre staying in the house while these renovations are being made, expect to be dirty. All the time.

No fuss

Speaking of whichhellip;How many times have you heard people say the worst decision that they ever made was living in their home during a renovation? The alternativemdash;>
Full Story >

Why Its So Important To Get The 411 On A Neighborhood Before Buying A Home

When buying a new home, the neighborhood is every bit as important as the house itself. So, you need to check it out. Thoroughly. Yes, you look at the schools and you figure out how close the nearest Target is and you also hopefully research crime reports and take a look at sex offender maps of the areas you are considering.

But is that enough?

When it comes to researching your neighborhood, what you dont know can hurt you. What if you bought a house in this Arlington, TX neighborhood in the summer, unaware that in the winter, its overrun with migratory egrets. If youre thinking it might be cool to have visitors for a few months, consider this: One homeowner in the area estimated that the egrets "cost her 10,000 on the constant cleanup of their droppings and a heavy pruning of her trees once they flew away last fall," said NBC DFW. And, It is Against The Law to disturb them.

Google is your friend if youre looking to learn more about potential neighborhoods. But it turns out the best tools for figuring out whats going on are the people who may soon become your neighbors. After all, how else would you know that the woman two doors down runs a screaming yoga >

The site detailed a story in which buyers changed courses on a home they loved when they discovered that their potential neighbors disputed the property boundaries and planted rose bushes on what was probably not their land. It gets worse. They also said,nbsp;"We smoke like chimneys and plan to sit out on our front porch every night smoking,"nbsp;with a smirk,nbsp;"And theres nothing you can do about it."

Not only will meeting the neighbors "give you a good idea of whether you will be compatible, but neighbors will disclosenbsp;material factsnbsp;that a seller might forget to mention," they said. "Sellers can be forgetful about these things and not purposely trying to fail to disclose."

Meeting and talking with neighbors could give you a more detailed understanding of the neighborhood, including things that might impact your decision to buy, like:

It may be full of renters

No offense to renters, but it could be that a preponderance of them in your neighborhood affects your home values. "While its hard to do an analysis down to every property, we found that ZIP codes with a higher-than-average concentrationnbsp;of renters havenbsp;lower property values compared to the county they are located in - by 14," said

Your real estate agent should be able to give you an understanding of the ratio of ownerndash;occupied homes to rentals in the neighborhood you are considering.

There could be plans you dont know about

Maybe theres a new multi-family community coming that could add traffic to the neighborhood streets and also impact the local schools. Or a new retail project with a loud preschoolmdash;or a loud bar. Or even transitional housing for formerly homeless individuals that would, at the very least, be a political football in the neighborhood.

In addition to talking to neighbors, there are a few other ways you can combat surprises in the neighborhood youre thinking of moving to:

Visit multiple times - during the day, night, and on weekends. If you only saw the house on a Saturday afternoon, you may not know that commuters love to cut through the neighborhood twice a day, Monday - Friday. "Your new neighbors kid might get his drum kit out only during evenings or at weekends," said The Mortgage Reports. "And there might have been a reason the student house on the other side was so quiet on the morning of the open house: Its residents were too hungover to get up after one of their frequent all-night parties."

Check out Nextdoor if you can - Nextdoor is a treasure trove of information and can give you a good feel for what it would be like to live there. But, it could be tricky to get in becausenbsp;Nextdoor is hyper local and reserved for residents of a particular neighborhood.nbsp;Try following Nextdoors own recommendations for joining the site in "neighborhoods outside ofnbsp;your primary residence," which involves using a separate email address - but beware that you may not be able to register an address that is already being used on the site. If that doesnt work, you may be able to ask your real estate agent for help, or perhaps a potential new neighbor can be of assistance.

Full Story >

Dont Be Afraid Of The Sellers Disclosure

State and federal laws are strict in requiring sellers to tell what they know about the condition of their homes that isnt obvious or discernable to potential buyers. Buyers cant see behind walls or under houses, so they >

When you sell your home, your real estate agent will present you with a federal and/or state-mandated disclosure form called a Real Estate Disclosure Statement, Property Condition Disclosure, or Condition Report. Youre required to disclose the presence of lead paint, radon, asbestos and other toxic products if you know your home has them.

While the forms may ask you to disclose whether or not you know there is lead paint or radon present, you arent required to do tests to determine the presence of toxic chemicals. But your buyers lender can always require proof of tests and/or remediation for any problem that has been disclosed, such as fire and water damage.

Its important to answer every question as truthfully as you can. You must answer the questions yourself - your real estate professional can not fill out the disclosure for you, but he or she can help you understand whats being asked of you. If youre in doubt about what to disclose, such as a repair, its best to err on the side of too much information than not enough.

While disclosure forms allow you to check the "I dont know" box, you should only do so if you truly dont know the condition of that item. If you answer that you dont know the condition of an appliance you use daily, such as a sink or bathtub, you might raise suspicions in the buyer.

The best way to feel confident about the condition of your home is to have it inspected by a licensed professional home inspector. Your real estate professional can recommend someone or provide you with a list. For a few hundred dollars and a few hours of your time, youll either find that your home is market-ready, or the inspector will bring a problem to your attention that you can fix.

When you disclose a problem to the buyer that has previously been fixed, be sure to provide a copy of work orders, receipts and invoices. If the problem hasnt been fixed, expect the buyer to either ask you to fix it, or to offer a little less for the home.

Remember, the more thats left unrepaired, the more the buyer will discount the offer, if he makes one at all. Homes in the best condition sell the best.

The sellers disclosure is designed to do one thing -- hold you and your real estate agent harmless if youve disclosed the truth about your property. You dont want to give the buyer any room for complaint or litigation after the closing.

To get an idea of the types of questions youll be asked in a disclosure, you can find legal forms at

So, dont be afraid of the sellers disclosure. Its not meant to be a deal-killer, but a deal-maker. Many agents provide a copy of the disclosure to interested buyers, so they can get an idea of the homes condition before they make an offer or have an inspection.
Full Story >

Realty Times Furthers DroneView Initiative By Creating The Leading National Drone Database Of Real Estate Listings

Following last months DroneView launch, Realty Times is taking additional initiative, to offer agents the opportunity to display and promote real estate listings with drone technology directly on, free of charge.

Technology is changing the way consumers are buying and businesses are selling, and the real estate market is no exception. By taking this initial step toward becoming the number one source for drone real estate listings, Realty Times is creating visibility for agents in a way that has never been done before, offering a new edge to the way agents are able to sell their listings, as well as how their potential buyers view them.

Each listing is featured on Realty Times front page and displayed on the Realty DroneView page, however Realty Times is also aiming to create a new take on the traditional agent marketing platform by creating an optional "listing website" for each drone listing as well. These websites will include the Drone video, Agent video, Virtual Tour, price of the home, agent contact information, photos of the home, number of beds, baths, square footage, etc.

Any REALTORreg; interested in submitting their drone listing at no cost can do so by completing this form.

A complementary listing presentation slide is available allowing agents to alert their potential clients that they use drone technology in their marketing and promote their listings on sites such as

By making this new service free of charge to real estate agents, Realty Times seeks to remove the stigma that drone videos and listings are only for high-end or large acreage properties by showing that drone technology can benefit any and all listings just as beautifully.

For agents interested in creating drone videos for their current or future listings, Realty Times offers Drone services options and package providing the very best in drone videos for real estate, at an affordable rate.nbsp;

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Payment Plans

Question: We have a unit owner who is over a year delinquent. Our property manager took it upon herself to set up a payment plan to include the dues plus 50 extra per month. It will take over three years to pay off the late assessments Is it typical for managers to make this kind of decision without input from the board?

Answer: No, the manager should not have made any deal unless the board authorized it. If the manager was not authorized, the board can rescind the offer and tender a demand for payment in full.

Has your board adopted a formal Collection Policy? That policy should call for aggressive measures like filing liens against the unit, garnishing wages and foreclosure if allowed in your state. The policy should allow the use of an attorney to collect rather than a collection agency. The attorney will press for full payment of the delinquency, late fees, attorney fees and >Question: We have two board members that plan projects outside of the board meetings. When the rest of the board finally finds about them, they are already in process. This is creating unnecessary tension or friction.

Answer: Board members can research anything they want outside a board meeting. But if it is something that requires board approval, that approval needs to happen. If a majority do not approve the proposal, it dies on the vine like any other. However, sometimes a project is in keeping with the budget and can be approved by the Board President. Speak to the individuals in private and insist that all projects need to be at least run by the President. If the President feels the board needs to weigh in, the project will need to wait until the board convenes.

Question: Our current HOA fees have been the same amount for seven years. The proposed budget is calling for a 30 increase with an additional 500 special assessment. I understand the importance of maintaining the property and providing adequate reserves for future capital projects. However, at what point do high HOA fees have a negative impact on unit market values?

nswer: Your board is finally addressing a long overdue reality: HOA fees that dont keep pace with increasing costs and inflation will prevent the board from paying for adequate maintenance, repairs and services. Over seven years, inflation alone would cause a 30 increase in prices. Boards that fail to increase HOA fees each year usually pay for cost increases by starving or stealing from reserves. Over time, though, reserve projects like painting and fencing can no longer be avoided and the board is forced to address the deficit by increased fees, special assessments or both.

While the HOA needs to be competitive with similar HOAs, keeping HOA fees artificially low is not how to do it. Too many HOAs keep their fees artificially low by ignoring reserves. Because of this, future owners will be forced to pay for expenses that should have been partially subsidized by current owners.

As a general rule, 25-35 of HOA fees should be dedicated to reserves which are only used to pay for major renovation work like painting, roofing and paving. A professionally done reserve study will produce a funding plan specific to your HOAs reserve needs. See for a list of qualified reserve study providers. The balance of the HOA fee should be adequate to pay for operating expenses management, landscaping, pool, etc. without stealing from reserves. That means that HOA fees should increase a minimum of the current inflation rate each year, currently around 2.5 .

For more Ask the HOA Expert, see
Full Story >

REALTORS Sound The Alarm On Growing Cannabis At Home

Later this year, Canada plans to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Legislation is working its way through the House of Commons, but individual provinces are responsible for specific regulations, including whether residents will be allowed to grow their own cannabis plants at home.

Quebec and Manitoba have already said no. Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories will allow it. Four plants are the maximum allowed according to the federal legislation. In B.C. and the Yukon, plants cant be visible from a public space. In New Brunswick they must be in a locked room or box.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nunavut may allow landlords to have a say in whether plants will be allowed in rental units. Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have yet to decide what to do about the issue.

"In recent weeks we have seen Ottawa Public Health as well as apartment owners and landlords speak publicly about the challenges the Canadian Real Estate Association CREA raised over a year ago with government officials. Namely, growing cannabis at home poses huge problems for the health and safety of people and buildings," says Michael Bourque, CEO of CREA, in an op-ed article published in the National Post.

"Risks associated with regular growing of cannabis include mould, spores and fungus. People living in these surroundings with any type of respiratory illness could be adversely affected. And the damage to the home or apartment is well known to REALTORS who have encountered grow-ops across the country," says Bourque.

A recent report by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health identified several environmental health risks associated with growing pot at home: access and accidental poisoning, indoor air quality, inappropriate use of pesticides, and electrical, fire and radiation hazards.

"The presence of cannabis plants, products and waste in the home increases the risk that children, pets or unaware adults may inadvertently consume cannabis with detrimental effects," says the report, which was written by Angela Eykelbosh and Leela Steiner. They say the effects of cannabis intoxication on children range "from lethargy and ataxia to tachycardia, hypoventilation, coma and seizure".

The authors say several studies "have shown a clear >

On indoor air quality, the authors say growers often boost the >

Cannabis is also smelly when its flowering or being dried and cured. "To date, there is no evidence to suggest that cannabis odours are specifically detrimental to human health, however, as with any strong odour, it can be argued that odour itself impacts well-being through annoyance, disruption and stress," say Eykelbosh and Steiner.

One solution to the mould and humidity problem would be to grow the plants outside. Some provinces will allow this, but it "increases the risk of theft and may exacerbate odour issues," says the study. "A second option is to allow or encourage growth in secure, non-attached structures on the same property, which would also allow for the installation of odour-control technology, if necessary."

Some pesticides that are used on food crops are dangerous if used on products that are smoked. For example, myclobutanil, sold under the trade names of Nova 40W and Eagle 20 in Canada, may not be completely combusted when the cannabis is smoked, and the remaining residue or combustion products can then be absorbed through the lungs.

The authors also say that cannabis grow equipment is an electrical and fire risk. "High-wattage grow lamps 500 -- 1000 W produce enough heat to cause serious burns, and draw large amounts of power that, in addition to other grow equipment, increase the risk of shocks and overloads, leading to fires." Other fire hazards include the presence of fertilizers, compressed gas and dried plant material, they say. "Because of these and other physical and structural hazards, home grows are considered more risky to first responders than typical residential fires and presumably also to occupants in need of rescue."

Illegal cannabis processing is also a concern, say the authors. For example, producing hash oil using butane or other organic solvents is a particular concern, because the process can cause a powerful explosion. Radiation hazards from ultraviolet lights can result in skin and eye damage, depending on the amount of time they are used and whether shielding or personal protective equipment is used.

One potential solution to all these issues may be the development of "grow your own" products -- fully enclosed hydroponic grow systems that automatically regulate growing conditions for the plants, while sealing in humidity and odour. They can also be locked. These units are currently being sold for 1,500 to 2,500.

Bourque says that "its pretty clear that Canada has the production capacity to deal with new demand for cannabis products thanks to a rapidly growing, well-funded and capitalized cannabis industry. CREA and Canadas 125,000 REALTORS hope that governments ban home cultivation, as has been done in Manitoba and Quebec. Failing that, we feel there is a clear case to proceed with caution and prepare for the coming into force of the home cultivation regulations."

Full Story >

Warning: There Is Still A Lot Of Lead Paint Around

Spring is upon us and so is the season for sprucing up homes, remodeling, and even making additions. In many cases, this activity will involve homes that were built before 1978. Those situations call for particular concern regarding the possible presence of lead paint, and of taking steps to ensure that lead exposure is prevented.

Consumer use of lead paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978. That still leaves millions of pre-1978 houses where lead paint is present, sometimes under layers of non-lead paint that had been subsequently applied.

The Environmental Protection Agency EPA administers a somewhat complex set of rules known as the Lead-Based Paint Renovation Rule Lead Renovation Rule. This Rule lays out the types of property to which it applies, the types of activity it covers, and the certification requirements for firms and individuals who, for compensation, engage in those activities.

The Lead Renovation Rule applies to "target housing" and to "child-occupied facilities". "Target housing" is defined as any housing constructed before 1978, with certain exceptions. Those exceptions include housing for the elderly or disabled persons, provided that no child under six resides there or is expected to reside there. There is also an exception for zero-bedroom dwelling places, such as a studio or loft.

A "child-occupied facility" is any building or a portion of a building that was constructed prior to 1978 and that is visited regularly by the same child, under 6 years old, on at least 2 different days within any week, provided that each days visit lasts at least 3 hours and the combined weekly visits last at least 6 hours, and the combined annual visits last at lease 60 hours. No, I didnt make that up. Child-occupied facilities may be in public or commercial buildings, as well as dwellings.

The type of renovation activity that the Rule covers is the removal, modification, or repair of painted surfaces or painted components. Exemptions to the Lead Renovation Rule include work that is done for free no exchange of money, goods, or services, work performed by do-it-yourselfers in their own homes, work necessitated by some emergency, and minor repairs.

"Minor repairs" are defined as projects that "disrupt 6 square feet or less of painted surface per room for interior activities or 20 square feet or less of painted surface for exterior activities" where the work does not include window replacement or demolition of painted surfaces.

Firms and individuals that do work of this type and in locations covered by the Rule must be Certified Renovators. The training curriculum is an 8-hour >Penalties for violations of the Lead Renovation Rule can be serious. Last year the EPA completed 127 enforcement actions against violators. Recently March 12, 2018 the EPA announced six lead-enforcement actions in California and Arizona that settled for a combined total of 287,000. One action was against a California leasing company that failed to follow lead paint disclosure rules. The settlement was for 148,6The Environmental Protection Agency provides a robust and easy-to-navigate web site that discusses many aspects of the Renovation Rule and also provides an interactive locater listing firms that are certified. The address is .
Full Story >

Condos Win: Banks Lose

A new case in the District offers good news to condo associations struggling with condo owners delinquent on their fees: It reinforces their right to foreclose on a unit without having to wait for the bank to do so first.

HOAs have lost money they desperately need to operate whenever they wait for banks to foreclose first. Other winners in the case are buyers looking to whisk up a foreclosed condo at a huge bargain. Losers are banks that are left without the right to foreclose first and unable to get back the money they loaned.

Back in May 2014, Andrea Liu bought a unit at the Sonata, a luxury condo building in Northwest Washington, at a foreclosure auction, paying 17,000 for an apartment that was valued around 700,000. The reason Liu got such a deal on the condo was because the previous owner stopped making mortgage payments and paying condo fees on the unit. Under D.C. condo law, condo associations have what is known as a six-month "super-priority" lien. If a unit owner stops paying fees to the association, the association can foreclose and get its money before anyone else, including the bank.

In mortgage law, a mortgage lender records a first deed of trust to establish its priority lien on a property. If the owner defaults, the lender can foreclose. If the first deed of trust holder forecloses, the rights of any other lien holders are usually wiped out - except super-priority liens, which can wipe out even the first deed of trust.

Because of this, most banks, when faced with a foreclosure by a condo association in the District, will often pay the condo association what it is owed to prevent the foreclosure.

In this case, U.S. Bank, which held the mortgage on the unit that Liu bought, tried to pay off the approximately 5,200 the owner owed in condo fees to the association. But it was one day too late. The foreclosure had already taken place. U.S. Bank then filed its own foreclosure action in the D.C. Superior Court against the original condo owner and included Liu in the lawsuit. Not long after U.S. Bank filed its suit, another case came before the D.C. Court of Appeals. In Chase Plaza vs. JP Morgan Chase Bank, the court held that a condominium association can extinguish a first deed of trust by foreclosing on its six-month super-priority lien.

In the Superior Court case, Liu argued that she purchased the condo at the foreclosure sale free and clear of U.S. Banks mortgage. The Superior Court disagreed and found in favor of U.S. Bank. Among other reasons for the decision, the court said "it would be an inequitable windfall and contrary to the parties expectations to permit Ms. Liu to disavow the banks mortgage . . . and would impose an enormous foreclosure deficiency on the previous owner if Ms. Lius purchase is not subject to the banks lien."

On appeal in early March, the Court of Appeals reversed the Superior Courts decision, confirming that Liu was the property owner and did not have to pay U.S. Bank anything. Perhaps the most significant reason is found in this statement from the courts opinion: It is "the general and well-settled principle of foreclosure law that liens with lower priority are extinguished if a valid foreclosure sale yields proceeds insufficient to satisfy a higher-priority lien."

And the court made it clear that the Districts six-month lien is such a higher-priority lien. That is why it is commonly referred to as a "super-priority" lien.

The high court also dismissed the lower courts suggestion that it was unfair for the bank to lose more than 800,000 while Liu got a windfall. The court pointed out that "although it may seem like Ms. Liu was able to procure the property for a >It is important to note that the U.S. Bank case only deals with condo fees prior to April 7, 2017. The law was changed after that date, permitting condo associations to choose either to foreclose on the six-month super-priority lien, which would not be subject to any existing first deed of trust; or to foreclose for more than the six-month lien, but subject to any first deed of trust.

This is an evolving legal issue. The bottom line: While banks are historically >The super-priority lien is not unique to the District. Some 25 states, such as Alaska, Alabama, Nevada, Florida and Illinois, have similar laws. The Maryland legislature also adopted a modified form of lien. As of 2011, Maryland condominium associations have a four-month priority, but not to exceed 1,200. While other states including the District include such items as late fees, legal fees and special assessments in the computation of the delinquency, in Maryland the delinquency can only be based on the actual, unpaid regular assessment. Clearly, the banks had their way in Annapolis.

Bottom line: If banks dont want to lose money, they cannot wait to foreclose. While no one wants to wish a foreclosure on anyone, if a condo owner is delinquent and cannot pay the condo fee, that is impacting everyone else in the association. Many years ago, Fannie and Freddie - the secondary market for loans - required banks in states with super-priority liens to take prompt foreclosure action so as to protect their investment and their assets.

Clearly, U.S. Bank did not heed that advice.
Full Story >

Get Your Home Summer Ready Now Before It Gets Scorching

Do you live in a part of the country thats still dealing with sub-zero temps? Maybe youre lucky enough to be in that in-between place where you dont have to run your heater or your air conditioning - for at least the next few weeks, anyway. Regardless of your location, now is a great time to start thinking about summer and getting your home prepared. Paying attention to a few maintenance items can give you a leg up on the season so you dont need to wait in line for repairs once summer heat hits.

Check your roof

If youre in a part of the country that had a rough winter, you definitely want to check your roof to make sure it hasnt been compromised. A summer rainstorm could provide a not-so-fun surprise leak right over your couch. However, if spring storms that can include tornadoes and hail are normal for your location, you may want to wait until closer to summeror check again at the end of the season.

"Check for misaligned, cracked or missing shingles, all of which can let water seep in," said Liberty Mutual. "Also check flashing those metal pieces where the shingles meet places like your chimney for rust, and inspect the caulk around pipes or skylights to be sure it hasnt cracked. Take a look at the chimney. If its masonry, inspect the joints between bricks or stones for pieces that have fallen out or have vegetation growing in them. Both could be signs of water problems."

Get your air conditioning serviced

Heres whats going to happen if you dont: Theres going to be a scorching heat wave in your city, causing everyone to flip on their air conditoning at the same time as you turn on your A/Cwhich, of course, will not work. And neither will the air conditioning units of numerous other people, all of whom will be calling for service at the same time.

No one wants to be forced to wait several days at least, all sweaty and angry, for a repairman to come and provide some >Check your sprinklers

If its been months since youve used your sprinklers, you just dont know if theyre still in good shape. Wait until the warm weather arrives and you could have a situation on your hands similar to the A/C conundrum. Check them now so that if you need a fix or an adjustment, you can schedule it well in advance.

Manage air leaks

Did you check for leaks in the winter? Youre probably good to go, but, then again, it wouldnt hurt to do another check. After all, leaks are quite literally sucking the air out of your home, and dollars are going with it.

"Taking the time to make sure your home is properly sealed and insulated will lower your total energy usage," said Central Heating Air Conditioning. "Similarly insulating your attic and walls, and sealing cracks and openings will prevent warm air from leaking into your home. When your home is sealed tightly, there is less chance of your cool air escaping. Your system will run less often, while keeping you just as cool and comfortable."

According to, sealing a home up tight can provide a cost savings of between 1020.

Spring for a new fan

If you dont have ceiling fans in key areas of your home, it might be time to add them. Fans can make the room feel more comfortable, so your air conditioning doesnt have to work as hard, thus saving you money. If youre staying away because you dont like the way fans look, it might be time to take another glimpse, as more modern and streamlined options are readily available today, like this one from Home Depot.

Dont ignore your fireplace

Once the temps have risen and your fireplace is off limits for the next couple seasons, dont just walk away and pretend it doesnt exist. If you havent closed the damper, youre letting hot air into your home, which will make it much harder to keep cool.

Change out your window coverings

You can freshen up your space by opting for lighter materials that bring in the sunlight. "As warmer weather becomes the norm, and we crawl out of the darkened caves weve been hibernating in all winter, update windows to reflect the light, airy mood of the upcoming summer days," said Quicken. "Change out thick, dark curtains with lighter fabrics to take advantage of the added daylight and brighten up the room."

While youre addressing your windows, take a look around to make sure you dont have any unwanted friends hanging around. "Also, to ensure you keep the creepy crawlies out when you open up your home to let outside air in, do a thorough inspection of your window screens and look for any tears or holes requiring repair," they said. "This is also a good time to rid the exterior of your windows of the grime and buildup of winter."
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Real Estate Agents Spring into New Month of Generous Donations Through Agent with Heart

Terri Repetto of Realty One Group in San Diego, CA has made a donation to Compassion International, Inc. on behalf of her client, Abigail Newsome.

Craig Carr of Keller Williams in Chesterfield, MO has made a donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children ndash; St. Louis on behalf of his client, Daniel Gruber.

Geri DeVille of RE/MAX Top Producers in Brea, CA has made a donation to St. Jude Childrenrsquo;s Research Hospital on behalf of her clients, Christian and Alexandria Fuentes, as well as a second donation to Childrenrsquo;s Hospital of Los Angeles made on behalf of her client, Esperanza Dey.

Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Irvine, CA has made a donation to the Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management on behalf of her client, Stephanie Hoon.

ldquo;Irsquo;d like to personally thank Terri, Craig, Geri and Dana for their continuous display of kindness and generosity. Each of these agents has made numerous donations to various nonprofits through Agent with Heart, and we are grateful to have such incredible partners in giving to assist our program in making a difference to nonprofits everywhere,rdquo; says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise.

ldquo;Our goal is to serve as many nonprofits as possible, and thanks to real estate agents like them, we are able to accomplish that each month. Terri, Craig, Geri and Dana are all exemplary agents who have mastered the lsquo;pay it forwardrsquo; concept, and all of us at PinRaise are grateful for their continued support and generosity,rdquo; concludes Mr. Giaimo.

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local nonprofits who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit

To contact Terri Repetto, please call 619-348-5122 or visitnbsp;

To contact Craig Carr, please call 314-401-9286 or visit

To contact Gerri DeVille, please call 714-392-1001 or visit

To contact Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit


Full Story >

What Is Real And What Is Pure PR About The Tesla Solar Roof?

Tesla rocked the solar power world when it acquired Solar City for 2 billion. The entire industry waited with baited breath to see what grand machination Tesla CEO Elon Musk had cooked up. They were not disappointed when he announced the creation of the Tesla Solar Roof, a line of photovoltaic solar shingles designed to mirror standard roofing tiles.

While solar shingles were not a new concept, Tesla appeared to have improved upon its predecessors. Whereas previous solar shingles adhered to standard asphalt roof tiles, the Tesla Solar Roof would actually replace traditional roofing tiles and last forever.

While there is much to be excited about whenever a new advancement is made in the solar industry, its important to understand what is fact and what is fiction. So, what are the true facts behind the Tesla Solar Roof, and what is pure PR?


The Tesla Solar Roof is Visually Beautiful

Tesla has managed to overcome one of the most common obstacles the solar industry encounters when trying to convince homeowners to install a system. Many people find solar panels ugly. Its true that solar panels have a tendency to stick out and could visually displease individuals who prefer the >Tesla has answered these concerns by creating a solar system that seamlessly blends in. These shingles dont just sit on a roof, they are the roof. Whats more, these tiles are designed to mimic some >The Tesla Solar Roof is More Durable Than Standard Roofing Tiles

When Musk first presented the Tesla Solar Roof, he showed off its ability to stand up to harsh elemental threats. These new tiles were pelted with two-inch balls of hail traveling at 100 MPH. The same test was also given to standard roofing panels. The Solar Roof withstood this icy attack while the roofing panels shattered like glass.

The Tesla Solar Roof Is Guaranteed to Last Forever

Tesla is standing by this product in perpetuity. The Tesla Solar Roof comes with what the tech giant is calling an "infinite tile warranty."

Basically, this is a roof you will never have to replace. This is especially useful for home owners when you consider that the average roof lasts anywhere from 10 to 50 years, and the average cost of a roof replacement is in excess of 25,000.


Teslas Solar Roof Provides More Protection Than Solar Panels

There is no doubting Teslas claim that the Solar Roof is more durable than standard roofing tiles. The proof was right there in Musks initial video presentation. However, many people are under the mistaken impression that this new product is more adept at shielding a home against the elements than a traditional solar panel. This is not true.

Solar Panels are extremely efficient against the elements, standing up to hazards such as hail with durability similar to that of the Solar Roof. One of the key benefits of having solar installed on your home is its ability to act as a shield for your roof against harsh weather conditions.

The Solar Roof Will Save You More Money Than Solar Panels

Another common misconception regarding this product is that because it is newer than standard PV solar panels it must be more efficient at producing energy and saving you money on your monthly utility bills. That is also not true, especially when the enormous cost of Solar Roof installation is added to the equation.

PowerScout estimates that the Solar Roof is 70 more expensive than installing solar panels on a roof that doesnt need to be replaced. Whats more, it is 35 cheaper to replace your existing roof and install a solar system on it than it is to install a Solar Roof. More on Solar Costs at

When you consider the time that it takes to pay back your installation costs, a traditional solar panel system starts saving you money far quicker than Teslas new product.

The Solar Roof also tends to produce less energy than traditional panels. In fact, the Solar Action Alliance estimates that the Solar Roof produces only 70 of the power generated by a traditional panel system of equal size.

Energy Production Will Last Forever

Teslas infinite tile warranty covers the panels themselves and their ability to provide a stable roof. But Forbes estimates that their solar cells ability to create sustainable energy will be obsolete within 30 years.

So, while the Tesla Solar Roof is a sturdy roof that will last the lifespan of your home, it will not continue to generate sustainable power forever. Anyone wanting to continue reaping the benefits of its power generation capabilities would have to replace the tiles after 30 years.

What Matters to You?

When it comes to whether or not the Tesla Solar Roof is a wise investment, it really boils down to what youre looking for. If you want an aesthetically pleasing solar panel alternative, then the Tesla Solar Roof would be perfect for your needs. If youre looking to save the most on your utility bills and generate the highest amount of solar power, then a traditional solar panel system is still the way to go.
Full Story >

Boost Your Property Value: 4 Smart Features Worth Adding

Your home may be your castle ndash; but what that means for each person can be very different. Some people prefer light colors, some dark. Some want a location that lets them walk everywhere, while other people want to live far away from the hustle and bustle. However, there is one point that many homebuyers do agree upon: smart home technology. Adding smart home technology solutions doesnt just make your home more covetable ndash; it can increase the demand for and value of your home when you sell it.

Smart Home Technology

Almost two-thirds of new homebuyers say that smart home technology makes home life better and safer too, according to a survey from Better Homes and Garden. They see these new technologies as the ldquo;new normrdquo; and that fact is reflected in their home-buying preferences. A recent Houzz survey found that 28 percent of homeowners would consider smart technology integration important in any home renovation, while some 35 percent of first-time buyers prioritize smart technology. Moreover, people of all ages are willing to pay more for properties that include smart home technology.

Adding smart home technology to your home can increase the interest and value of the property, especially amongst smartphone users. According to J.P. Endres, a realtor based in Westchester County, New York, homebuyers will pay as much as five percent more for certain high-tech amenities.

Here are four smart home additions worth getting to boost your homersquo;s property value:

Smart Thermostat

The first thing to put on your smart home technology list is a smart thermostat. Not only will it let you or a new buyer control the temperature from your smartphone but smart thermostats also learn from you. Over time, they can automatically adjust settings to reflect the way you live and when you are home. The features are convenient but they also help you save money on home heating and cooling costs.

Connected Lights

Smart home lighting allows you to turn lights on or off, dim lights, or even put them on a schedule ndash; all from your phone. Inc reports that adding smart home lighting and a connected thermostat could help you reduce your energy bills by half.

Smart Locks

Adding smart locks can help you keep your home safer. You can program your door to unlock when you or a guest comes close using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on your Samsung Galaxy S7. Not only is this much more secure than a fake key under a plastic rock, it is also more convenient. No more making sure your neighbor has a key to water your plants or that you remember to give your dog-walking friend the key. You can unlock your home from wherever you are.


Having a home security system is a major burglar deterrent and a huge incentive for homebuyers of all ages. According to Redfin, roughly 9 out of 10 people say that home security is the primary reason they would choose a home with smart technology. If your home doesnrsquo;t have a security system, you could be limiting your homersquo;s demand and, by extension, its value.

Technology can have a profound effect on your daily life. Raise your property value and reduce your energy costs by adopting smart home technology in your home.

Full Story >

Black Stainless Steel: Is It The Next Big Thing?

Stainless steel has ruled the appliance world for many years, with no serious contenders on its heels. But now, here comes black stainless steel, fighting for dominance in the kitchen.

Like any new finish, we wont know if it has true staying power until some time has passed. But if youre looking for the newest thing, if you know youre going to be in your home for a while, or if youre getting it ready to sell, black stainless is a great choice.

But first, what exactly is black stainless steel? "What major appliance manufacturers, such asnbsp;LG,nbsp;KitchenAidnbsp;andnbsp;Kenmore, are trumpeting as lsquo;black stainless is essentially traditional stainless steel coated in a sleek, dark finish," said the Washington Post. "The actual hue varies by brand."

If youre thinking about incorporating the look into your kitchen, here are a few things to consider.

Its sexy

Expect to hear some "oohs" and "ahhs" when people walk into your kitchen. Black stainless steel has that sleek look that gets attention, so if youre hoping to create a show stopping space, it may be an easy choice.

Its trending

But, in this case, that might not be a bad thing. While design experts warn clients against chasing trends, black stainless steel offers a way to be on the forefront of one.

"According to home improvement expertnbsp;Karl Champley, whose job includes traveling the world looking for the latest design trends, the move toward darker appliance finishes started in Europe and is slowly making its way westward," said the Washington Post. "Champley, winner of lsquo;Ellens Design Challenge and a spokesman for thenbsp;National Kitchen and Bath Association, says that although black stainless wont dethrone >

It gives off an inviting, high-end feel

Black stainless steel is an easy way to make your space look upscale while also creating a warmer feel. "Since black stainless steel appliancesnbsp;debuted several years ago, theyve been touted as a warmer alternative to the industrial look of regular stainless," said Consumer Reports.

It resists fingerprints

For many people, this is the No. 1 selling feature. Traditional stainless steel is great, but its always smudged in our house, anyway. "Manufacturers say that their black stainless steel appliances resistnbsp;smudges and fingerprints and that cleaning is easier," said Consumer Reports. Nancy Bock, senior vice president of education for the American Cleaning Institute, told them, "Black stainless doesnt require any special polishes to keep it looking good. Cleaning is generally simple and can be accomplished using warm water and a soft cloth."

The difference is a fingerprint-resistant finish that also resists water spots and streaking. But...

It scratches

No more and no less than how traditional stainless steel scratches, but still. Keep in mind that in busy households with kids and animals, it might be hard to keep a scratch-free surface forever.

Selection is still somewhat limited

As with any newer finish, manufacturers have not yet rolled out a ton of options - at least not when compared to traditional stainless steel. That being said, you will find options from Samsung, LG, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Frigidaire, and Bosch, which just introduced its first kitchen suite in black stainless.

Full Story >

Renovation Reality: Actual Costs Of Four Popular Redos

So you want to redo your kitchen. Great Now you have to do is pick out your new appliances, countertops, backsplash material and other assorted finishes, figure out what to do with your cabinets, find a contractor, and get started. Phew Before you can do any of that, though, you have to set a budget. Yes, we said the "B word."

Lets face it: Budget is a bad word. Not just because it represents an amount of money you may not be enti>

If youre getting ready to do a remodel or make some updates, it behooves you to do the research before you get too excited about it. It just might turn out that what you think will be an easy and cheap little project isnt either. Weve broken down four of the most popular renovations by expected cost so that you can make a more informed decision.

Redoing kitchen cabinets

If youve never priced out renovations, you really have no point of reference. We personally experienced one of those perception-does-not-meet-reality situations recently when we started gathering information about the cost of painting our kitchen cabinets to take them from the traditional Cherry tone weve never liked to something a little more modern. True Story: We had laughingly agreed that we would pull the trigger if it was less than 1,000, only to come to find out that it was going to be triple that. So, never mind on that whole painting the kitchen cabinets thing, unless we decide its worth the hassle and stress and family strife of a DIY weekend.

When estimating the cost of your kitchen, contractors may calculate the cost per foot or by the number of cabinets you have, and your estimates may vary wildly due to a number of factors. Its important to beware of lowball estimates here. Repainting kitchen cabinets is no easy feat, and cutting corners can greatly impact the final product.

When comparing your estimates, look at what each includes; lower-cost jobs may not provide adequate protection for your floors, counters, and appliances, may not prep the cabinets properly, may not include the appropriate number of coats of paint, and may only include the outside of doors and drawers. Also pay attention to whether you are expected to provide paint and materials or if theyre included in the estimate.

Expected cost: 1,200 - 7,000

New flooring

The cost of having new flooring installed will also vary greatly depending on factors including the material chosen, the amount of square footage involved, and the condition of existing flooring. If youve never explored flooring options, you may not realize that installation is typically priced per square foot. Many contractors have set prices, while some adjust the price depending on the ease of the material being installed. There may also be geographical differences that affect the cost of installation. And dont forget to check with big box stores like Home Depot, who may have installation specials tied to specific flooring product purchases. In general, these are the going prices for professional installation:

Expected cost: 2 - 2.50 per square foot

Interior painting

Painting is one of those activities that can give you great bang for your buck, especially if you choose to do it yourself. But not all of us are great at finishing what weve started guilty or capable of painting challenging spaces, which makes outsourcing a smart move. Be sure to ask questions of potential contractors including whether or not they provide materials, any extra costs involved with taller ceilings, and steps they take to protect your home and furnishings - you dont want to end up with speckled everything. They should also be able to give you an estimate as to how many hours the job will take so there are no surprises at the end.

Expected cost: 24 - 45 per hour

New shower

Ever looked into redoing your shower? Would it surprise you to hear that a basic frameless shower door costs 1,500? Yes, what seems like a small job can quickly become a budget-buster, especially when you start to factor in the cost of materials. Get fancy with that tile, and youre really looking at an expensive renovation given the small amount of space involved.

But, if your shower is tired, not functional, or in need of a reno for other reasons, it can be well worth it. When comparing estimates, you want to look beyond the overall cost to examine what is involved. Is the contractor using the most modern and recommended materials behind the tile to ensure the area is water tight? Are there extra costs involved in installing the shower mechanisms and the drain? Are they updating the plumbing? Are they building out a tile floor or installing a shower pan?

Expect to pay: 1,200 - 2,500 for shower, 1,000 - 2,000 for frameless shower door
Full Story >

Canadian Mortgages Under Scrutiny As Stress Test Kicks In

Canadas new mortgage stress test requires anyone who is getting a mortgage from a federally regulated financial institution to qualify at two percentage points above the Bank of Canada posted rate or the actual contracted rate. The new rule was implemented because of concern over rising household debt and overheated real estate markets in Southern Ontario and B.C.

It has focused attention on Canadian mortgages and prompted suggestions for how mortgage rules could be tweaked to better serve both home buyers and lenders.

Mortgage Brokers Canada, in a discussion paper authored by Will Dunning and Samuel Duncan, says the much-referenced "posted mortgage rate" from the Bank of Canada "misrepresents actual conditions and is potentially misinforming participants and policy makers.

"Publication of the date may be doing more harm than good," say the authors.

The paper argues that actual contracted mortgage rates are far less than the posted rates. Mortgage Brokers Canada tracked the difference over 10 years from 2006 to 2016, finding that the average gap was 1.38 points in the fall of 2006, rising to 1.94 points by 2016.

"If posted rates provided an indication of what actual rates might be in future, then the data would be useful to borrowers, so that they could calculate how their payments might change in future and they could assess their ability to afford their future costs," say the authors. "But, there is no evidence that actual contracted mortgage rates do tend to move towards the posted rates."

The stress test anticipates that in five years when most mortgages come due, interest rates will be two per cent higher. "However, at current interest rates, in five years approximately 15 per cent of principal will have been repaid, and more importantly income will have increased likely by 10 per cent," says the Mortgage Brokers Canada paper. "As designed now, the stress tests take neither of these events into consideration.

"By using the two-point increment today, the stress test is unduly restrictive and unnecessarily impairs the housing market and the broader economy."

Dunning and Duncan argue that using an interest rate that is 0.75 points higher than the actual mortgage interest rate would accomplish the stress goal and take repayment of principal and rising income into consideration.

"While this may be more complicated to communicate to the consumer, it is a market-based measure that can protect consumers in the wake of rising rates, while not unduly restricting mortgage financing to borrowers who are able to afford their initial obligation as well as their likely future obligations," say the authors.

Another discussion paper by Michael Feldman of the C.D. Howe Institute says the government should allow longer amortization rates for residential mortgages. He says it would give consumers more choice, while increasing competition in the mortgage market and removing some mortgage risk from the federal government.

Currently, most mortgages come with five-year terms and 25-year amortization periods. At the end of the term, homeowners still owe a large amount on the mortgage, known as a balloon payment. Feldman says there is a mismatch between mortgage term and amortization, which means homebuyers must refinance or renew the outstanding balloon payments every five years.

"This creates a risk to both investors in mortgages and borrowers, if the lender is unable to renew the loan at maturity and the borrower is unable to find a new lender," he says. "If the federal government could facilitate a shift to longer mortgage maturities, borrowers and investors would be better protected from mortgage lenders that become insolvent."

He proposes a mortgage product that matures when it is fully amortized. It would include an interest rate reset and penalty-free right of redemption at least every five years. "However, in the absence of agreement on an interest rate reset and the failure of the borrower to fully repay the mortgage at that time, the mortgage would become a floating rate mortgage until it matures or is repaid, or until a new rate is set by agreement," proposes Feldman.

Such a product would help develop the market for residential mortgage-backed securities for uninsured mortgages, where an institutional investor would invest directly in a pool of mortgages without any government backing for repayment, he suggests.

HSBC Canada says a recent global survey found that Canadians are among the least likely to shop around for a better mortgage. Only half of Canadian mortgage-holders reported they shopped around to get a better interest rate or terms, compared the global average of 61 per cent. The most likely homebuyers to shop for a mortgage are in France 79 per cent, Malaysia 74 per cent and China 69 per cent.

With mortgage rates beginning to climb in Canada after a long period of historically low rates, 78 per cent of Canadian mortgage holders said they had never seen a rate increase on their current mortgage. But "like vinyl records and barber shops, higher interest rates may be making a comeback," says HSBC.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. survey conducted in the fall found that 82 per cent of current homeowners say they feel confident that they have the tools and information they need to handle their debt load.
Full Story >

No Such Thing As Real Estate Ethics?

A delightful little book by John Maxwell is provocatively titled, Theres No Such Thing as Business Ethics. Now some might simply think, "no kidding." But for the curious, or those inclined to disagree, Maxwells book makes an interesting argument. His point is not that all of business is unethical. Rather, he disagrees with the point of view that the operative ethical principles of business are somehow specialized and different from occasionally, contrary to the ethical principles that govern our everyday lives.

According to Maxwell, the test of what is ethically acceptable or unacceptable in the business context is exactly the same as that which applies in our everyday, non-work circumstances. For him, it is all summed up in one principle, The Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you follow that, your behavior will be ethical; if you depart from it, it wont be. At work or at home, in the office or in the neighborhood.

I believe that Maxwell is correct that ethics in the context of business is simply an extension of ethics in general. There arent special exceptions for business. Its as wrong to lie to your competitor as it is to lie to your neighbor. All of us, of course, have encountered different attitudes. We have heard "But this is business" said as if it meant "Anything goes". Certainly, some people feel that way. People who would never cheat in a neighborhood card game can be perfectly content to deceive their customers or rip off their suppliers. But this doesnt show that such people are operating according to a special "business ethic"; rather, it simply reveals that, in the context of business, they have made the decision to be unethical.

If it is true that ethics in business and ethics in everyday life are the same, it is legitimate to ask, why are codes of professional ethics sometimes so complicated?

The National Association of REALTORSreg; is rightfully proud of its Code of Ethics, a document first formulated in 1913, and amended at more that 30 different national conventions since then. With 17 articles, supplemented by over 70 Standards of Practice and more than 140 official Case Interpretations, it presents a complex set of documents.

Nor is the NARreg; Code of Ethics a unique phenomenon. There are hundreds of professional and trade group codes of ethics. Physicians, lawyers, funeral directors, and wedding planners -- to name just a few -- all have professional codes of ethics. So also do many individual companies and corporations. They vary, of course, in range and complexity. How is it that professional codes can become so complicated? People need to understand that there are various purposes served by professional codes, although not every code serves them all.

1They bring to our attention and provide direction with respect to issues that might not otherwise even have been identified as matters for an ethical concern. While ethical principles may remain the same, frequently the circumstances encountered in business are quite different than anything we experience in the non-business world. A professional code can help us to decipher those situations.

2 In many situations they provide us with the wisdom and insight of those who have preceded us. Quite simply, they save us the trouble of reinventing the wheel.

3 Professional ethics codes sometimes also cover matters that are not so much ethical as they are issues of professional etiquette or proper procedure. They help to keep professionals "on the same page" when they are interacting with each other.

4 Professional ethical codes are also sometimes used for the purposes of "drawing lines" in order to remove any unclarity about what may be considered acceptable or unacceptable. They help to remove the "shades of grey" that can be found in so many situations.

Professional codes, such as that of the Realtors, are based on everyday ethical principles. Their value resides in the fact that they show us how those principles apply to specific business contexts that well may not be "everyday".
Full Story >

Condominium Mailing Lists Are Public Documents

Question. I live in a large condominium complex. Many of the owners are becoming increasingly upset with the practices and the conduct of our Board of Directors. Our annual meeting is coming up in about three months, at which time we will be able to elect several new Board members. We have asked our management company for a copy of the mailing list of all unit owners, so we can send a position paper to everyone. However, we have just been informed that our Board has instructed management not to make this list available to anyone. What can we do?

Answer. Whenever a condominium owner has a legal question regarding the operations of the Association, you must first look to your basic legal documents. In most associations throughout the country, there are generally four sets of documents governing a condominium association, although in some states, they have different names.

The "Declaration" is the document that actually created declared the condominium. This document is recorded among the land records where the condominium is located. The Declaration, among lots of other things,defines what constitutes common and limited elements, as compared to units. The Declaration also spells out the percentage interests and voting rigohts that each unit owner holds within the Association.

The "Bylaws" of the condominium outline the basic operating procedures as to how the Association functions. In effect, it is the "bible" of the association. For example, Bylaws generally define such matters as the number and role of the Board of Directors, what constitutes a quorum for voting at annual or special meetings, and what unit owners can and cannot do within their specific unit.

The third set of documents are the "plats and plans" of the complex. If they were prepared properly and by a licensed architect, they are very valuable because the define and show -- right on the appropriate location on the plans -- what is a common element, and what is a limited common element. This is extremely important to give guidance as to whether ndash;for example -- the condo or the unit owner is responsible and has to pay for certain repairs, such as a pipe burst.

The last set of documents are the "Rules and Regulations" of the Association. These are promulgated by the Board of Directors, and should be circulated to all owners prior to final implementation. Usually, these Rules deal with such issues as trash collection, keeping pets, use of the swimming pool and health club, and similar housekeeping matters.

There is a legal heirarchy in connection with these legal condominium documents. Absolute priority must be given to the condominium law in your jurisdiction. Every state has a separate condominium law. Although most of the laws are substantially the same, there are some differences which must be carefully looked at when considering a legal issue.

The next level of priority goes to the Declaration. If there is something specifically spelled out in that document, it must be followed, unless the Condominium law states otherwise. It takes a very large majority of the owners to amend the Declaration.

The third level of priority is found in the Bylaws, which also requires amendment by a large majority, usually 66 2/3 of the percentage interests. Finally, we get to the lowest priority level -- namely the Rules and Regulations.

The specific answer to your question probably lies in your Bylaws. Of all of the various condominium documents which I have reviewed, I cannot recall a single condominium association that does not contain language permitting unit owners and their mortgage lenders access to the books and records of the Association. Clearly, the mailing list of unit owners falls within the category of "books and records."

The Board of Directors -- or the management company -- may charge you for copying this information. This is, in my opinion, fair and equitable, and you should be prepared to pay a reasonable copying fee. However, if the Board refuses to give you the current names and addresses of all the owners, you should bring this matter to the attention of the full membership at the next annual meeting.

You should also consult your attorney -- as well as contact the attorney for the Condominium Association. You have the legal right to this information, and the Courts will enforce this right if you ultimately have to bring a lawsuit against your Association.

There is, of course, a privacy issue involved. Clearly, unit owners do not want their names and addresses circulated for commercial or solicitation purposes. I do not think it appropriate for the mailing list to be used for such purposes. All too often, unit owners -- under the ruse of condominium business -- will obtain these mailing lists, only to use them for their own personal or professional reasons. Although living in a condominium subjects the unit owner to the concepts of democracy, the concept of privacy is -- or should be -- an important aspect of this democracy. Thus, if an owner does not wish to have his or her telephone number >

However, the name and address of each unit owner is a matter of public record in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds for the jurisdiction in which the property is situated. Since this is public information -- and since the law the highest priority as well as your legal documents allows each owner access to all books and records -- there is no excuse for not giving you this important information.

Often, however, in order to preserve privacy, on behalf of client association, I have negotiated with owners seeking the mailing list that if they submit in a closed envelope the information they want to circulate, and submit enough envelopes for all owners, and if they pay the mailing costs, the board ndash;through managementndash; will address the envelopes and mail them. I believe this is an appropriate solution.

Full Story >

HOA Meetings By Design

Meetings are the venues wherein homeowner association business decisions are made. Since these meetings are usually infrequent, the importance of the decisions made cannot be understated. However, some HOAs are decision challenged because:

The meetings ra>

Discussions are endless and often inconclusive.

Issues decided at a previous meeting continue to be revisited.

Disagreements frequently turn ugly.

Meetings end when members are exhausted, not because they have completed the business at hand.

Many boards manage to conduct their business with a minimum of fuss and a measure of efficiency. These meetings dont happen by chance; they happen by design, and that design begins with an agenda.

If you dont have a destination in mind, any path will do. If a meeting lacks an agenda, it will go anywhere and everywhere and end up going nowhere. The agenda provides a road map for the meeting, identifying the issues to be discussed and establishing the order in which business will be transacted.

Knowing what is on the agenda allows board members to begin formulating their views before the meeting begins. It helps, of course, if board members actually review the agenda and any accompanying information in advance. But it takes more than advance preparation and an agenda to produce a successful meeting; boards also need a set of rules to guide their discussions.

Meetings dont have to be rigid or overly formal, but they do have to be orderly. Some boards use a simplified version of Roberts Rules of Order which includes such concepts like:

  • When a topic is brought up, a formal motion is required before it is discussed. This will ensure that more than one person thinks the issue is worth discussing.
  • Only one person is recognized to speak at a time by the chair.
  • Standards of civility no personal attacks or interrupting.

A time limit for the meeting and for each speaker on each issue. Otherwise, boards end up spending too much time on >

A reasonable agenda, advance preparation and rules of order provide the foundation for an effective meeting, like the tracks on which a train runs. But like a train, a meeting needs a steady hand on the throttle to keep it moving forward. Conducting both a train and a meeting require a certain amount of skill. The person in charge needs to control with a firm but not a heavy hand. In HOA meetings, this means giving all board members a chance to express their views, but also requiring them to stick to the topic and the time limits.

Some owners think they have an absolute right to participate in board meetings and some boards think it is best to hold their meetings behind closed doors. Both are wrong. Many states have specific requirements for most board meetings to be open to members to audit not participate. Some have exceptions for "executive session", or a closed door session, which may exclude members which include:

  • Employment issues
  • Contract negotiations
  • Consultation with counsel or review of information provided by counsel.
  • Constitutionally or legally protected topics such as medical records and attorney-client privileged information
  • Privacy issues
  • If a board discussion item does not fall under one of these exceptions, it must be discussed at an open board meeting.

    As far as member participation in board meetings, state laws vary. However, regardless of state statute, its good policy to set aside time for an open forum so members can ask questions and express their views.

    Homeowner associations are required to hold annual meetings, but many governing documents are silent on how often the board must meet. The board is generally free to meet as often as it chooses. The size and complexity of the community and the personal commitments of board members will typically dictate the meeting schedule. Another consideration is that managers typically charge for their time to attend board meetings. Since its important for the manager to be present at board meetings, the board needs to weigh the cost and benefit of more or fewer meetings.

    When properly organized, smaller HOAs can usually suffice with quarterly board meetings while larger ones may need bi-monthly or monthly meetings. The more the meetings, the more important it is to have those meeting organized and efficiently executed. Volunteer time can only be stretched so far.

    What happens after board meetings can be almost as important as what happens during the meetings. Some board members take votes against their proposals personally rather than of the suggestions they have made. They sometimes take their disappointment and anger outside of the meeting room, complaining publicly about the decision and even encouraging owners to overturn it. This behavior undermines the decision-making process, exacerbates tension, and erodes trust. As long as the board action is legal and in compliance with the governing documents, board members should accept that "majority rules" applies to votes they dont like as well as to those with which they agree.

    All board decisions wont be unanimous, nor should they be. Honest differences of opinion are healthy, encouraging an exchange of ideas that improves the decision-making process and contributes to the successful meetings boards want to have. While board meetings wont always produce good decisions, they will almost certainly reduce the number of bad ones. To produce the likelihood of more good decisions, design your meetings for success.

    Excerpts from an article by For more on effective meetings, see

    Full Story >

    How To Get The Most Out Of Your Media Room

    Most households have a room where the main activity is watching television. Were well beyond needing simply an electrical outlet and a pair of rabbit ears to entertain ourselves at home -- now, game consoles, cables, satellites, computer networks, streaming systems and stereo components can all communicate with your television. Be prepared for new devices incorporating cable management and methods of communication that will become "standard" in the future. Whether youre renovating your media space, building a new one or considering a quick upgrade, here are the elements to consider so you can make the most of your media room.

    Screen Space

    The more invisible the technology, the more able you are to immerse yourself in the media experience, but the beauty of a media room is that you dont have to hide the TV. So, splurge on the screen that suits your fancy and feel free to make it the centerpiece of the room in this case. On the other hand, if you would like to create a space thats a little more understated, yet visually dramatic when viewing media, consider a projector with a retractable screen. The screen hardware mounts to the ceiling, and the screen rolls up when youre not watching. Be sure to get a TV system that will handle all your media interests--Internet access, gaming, DVD or Blu-ray, and the components of your particular home theater set-up.

    Sounding It Out

    Most of our clients who build media rooms enjoy their screen time so much that we recommend they invest in audio equipment thats on par with their video equipment. Technology has thankfully advanced enough that you dont have to fill the room with tiny speakers for a surround sound effect. Install them flush to the ceiling or walls so you can keep your attention focused where you want it. If you want speakers to be truly invisible, you can go wi>

    Command Center

    Finally, you need to create a space where you can house all of the electronic components of your new media center. Hard drives, DVR and cable equipment, gaming consoles and stereo equipment need a space to live that wont clutter up the room. The best solution for cable management is to have a small cabinet installed in the most convenient space to your equipment, yet is easily accessible. Youll need ventilation, but can easily install a media cabinet with a panel door thats ventilated.

    Bringing It All Together

    Now that youve got all your technology worked out, its time to bring in your people Consider the other functions the room will serve. If the room will function as more than a media room, break up the space to accommodate your other pastimes. Will you need a simple game table with seating for four, or a pool table that converts to a ping pong table and crafting station? Create those spaces behind the seating in your home theater so the whole family can spend time together without everyone having to watch "Rambo" again or rock out to some "Guitar Hero."


    A sectional sofa is a versatile choice for a multipurpose space. They seat a lot of people comfortably, or just a few when folks want to sack out or snuggle up. If, however, your home theater is going to be dedicated solely to showing your favorite films, individual seating can really up the experience. Consider something that reclines -- recliners have come a long way in terms of attractive design. You can even get them with wi>

    Color and Texture

    For designers, this really is a case of saving the best for last. This space is your retreat from the world, and an indulgence youve earned. Make sure you love the way it looks. In terms of color, go deep and bold for the best cinematic effect. If you cant handle deep navy on all four walls, consider adding it as an accent color on the wall behind the screen for maximum viewing effect. Add some texture and theatrical flair with draperies that block the light and add to that sense of indulgence. If soundproofing is an issue, make those draperies wall to wall, and have some fun with the fabric. Remember, more than any other room in the house, this is room where you should feel free to make it your own.

    Now, hit the lights and pass that popcorn

    Full Story >

    12 Ways Buying New Construction Is Better, Worse, And Way Different From Other Homes

    Buying a new home isnt the same as buying an existing home. The more you know going in, the more prepared youll be to roll with the process - or run from the process.

    Everything all bright, shiny, and new

    No one elses taste, no one elses floorplan, no one elses germs. When you buy a brand - new home, its built for you and hasnt been lived in by anyone but you.

    Decisions, decision, decisions

    There are those who love the idea of selecting the flooring, the cabinets, the kitchen countertops, the finishes, and the myriad other choices that need to be made when building a new home - and then there are those who get the shakes just thinking about it. If youre the latter, perhaps an already - built home is a better option for you.

    What you see is not what you get

    Model homes are typically decked out with beautiful upgrades and multiple options, and those upgrades and options can cost big bucks. If you want your home to look like the model, be prepared to shell out far more money than what the base price of the house indicates.

    Youll have a warranty

    "Warranties for newly built homes generally offer limited coverage on workmanship and materials >

    The duration of coverage varies depending on the component of the house. Coverage is provided for workmanship and materials on most components during the first year. For example, most warranties on new construction cover siding and stucco, doors and trim, and drywall and paint during the first year. Coverage for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems is generally two years. Some builders provide coverage for up to 10 years for lsquo;major structural defects, sometimes defined as problems that make a home unsafe and put the owner in danger. For example, a roof that could collapse is a lsquo;major structural defect.

    Home warranties are typically extendable after that first year, although youll be responsible for the cost.

    You may have to buy sight unseen

    In some cases, model homes may not be built - or only a few of the floorplans will be featured as models - and you wont have an opportunity to walk through the homes to get a feel for how they live. You should have pictures and floorplans to view, and maybe even a virtual tour, but if youre the type that needs to be in it to get it, you may be disappointed.

    The noise - and the dust

    When considering which home to buy, the location of the lot is obviously important. But have you asked about how construction is going to roll out in the neighborhoods? It could be that your home is on a street that serves as a main artery for trucks and other construction traffic. Or perhaps youre in a location where construction is going to be going on all around you for months. Yes, the noise and dust will disappear - eventually. But how long are you willing to wait?

    Dont expect a price reduction

    You may be used to negotiating on the price of an existing home for sale, but new home prices arent typically negotiable. The builder or developer may be willing to throw in some upgrades as part of the negotiation, but, the hotter the community, the less likely you are to get anything for free.

    You can still work with your real estate agent

    Working with an agent who is savvy in new construction will help get you the home you want and any available extras. Keep in mind that many new - home communities today offer real estate agents a commission for bringing in a buyer, but they insist that the real estate agent register their buyer on the first visit. So dont show up alone to tour the community for the first time You could cost your agent money and then have to navigate the purchase on your own.

    It might behoove you to work with their in - house lender

    If youre already working with a lender, you obviously dont want to be disloyal. But, there may be financial benefits to working with the builder/developers in - house lender. Many times, they offer a lower rate overall, will buy down your rate, or will offer you a "teaser" rate that keeps your payments lower for the first year or first few years.

    Get familiar with this term: Standing inventory

    If builders have pre - built homes that are waiting to be sold, this is the one place you may have wiggle room room on price. Another advantage of standing inventory is there is no construction wait, and these homes are often nicely amenitized with upgrades.

    You might not be able to buy the lot you want

    New homes are typically >

    Amenities might not be available or built right away

    If a communitys amenities are a draw for you, be sure to ask about when they will be built. It could be that the pool and community park youre so excited about are years out from being realized.

    Full Story >



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    Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018

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