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Updated: Monday, August 29, 2016

7 Reasons To Run To IKEA Today To Grab New 2017 Catalog Items

Yesterday was basically a national holiday in our house. After days of running to the mailbox with joyful enthusiasm, only to be disappointed by the presence only of bills, 75 Chinese and Italian takeout menus, and assorted other junk mail, it finally came.

The IKEA catalog. Its here. Hallelujah.

So what that basically means is that I did ZERO housework or back-to-school organization after 5pm last night. If it hadnt been for sad puppy eyes and a slight trail of drool left on page 47 of the catalog, I may have also forgotten to feed my animals The beings of the human variety who live here knew they were on their own.

All sense of responsibility goes out the window when the IKEA catalog comes. Cant help it.

Real Simple agrees. "Theres nothing like getting the fresh, new IKEA catalog in August, thumbing through the pages, and bookmarking or tearing out your favorites to bring to the store," they said.

Its not like everything in it was a total surprise. Ive been peeking online for weeks, reading tidbits about this years hot items and why the 2017 catalog is, from a design and content standpoint, a departure from previous years. It reads far more editorial this year, with features on "13 real people around the world" that highlight "how Ikea is connected to the way they live and incorporated into their daily lives," said POPSUGAR. It also includes a recipe for pulled salmon sandwiches umm, no, a companion to its new menu item, the smoked salmon sandwich that gets a starring spot on the very stylized back page no thanks, Ill be sticking to meatballs.

This idea beyond the 2017 catalog is to go beyond cool, inexpensive, put-it-together-yourself stuff, creating "home furnishing solutions that help people to live a life without negative expectations," said Real Simple. "We want people to care less about other peoples opinionsand more about what they want themselves." The Washington Post adds that IKEA welcomes a "more >

OK, sure. Were on board. But, really, we just want to look at the stuff. And we know that many of you dont even want to bother with the whole catalog, so for anyone who doesnt regard it with nearly as much excitement, or who would prefer a Cliff Notes version, were happy to help. Here are a few of the things you should head right on over to the big blue and yellow box to buy.

Were suckers for IKEAs utility carts, and this new one is more of the same good stuff. Priced at 29.99, Sunnersta comes in white. But, truth be told, were picturing two of them side by side in our front hall, spray painted in peacock blue.


The Gladom Tray Table is genius. No, really. This little, powder-coated, metal side table in pale yellow or sage green has a tray that lifts off And its just 29.99, which means we can get a good dozen of them without feeling guilty. The Washington Post likes it too. "A table that is also a tray; a tray thats also a table. I can think of many uses for this flexible metal design."


Everybodys got an awkward corner that just needssomething, right? Well take the Sderhamn Corner Section. How cute is it in baby pink it also comes in turquoise, white, and dark gray? Its durable in microfiber and its affordable at 200.


We love IKEAs rugs for their size and pricing, but this new LOBBAK rug also brings some snazzy design in a herringbone pattern. Because its a flat weave, itll clean up well, and it can also be used outdoors. Best yet: its just 79.99 for the 67" x 82" rug.


Smart storage is one of the main concepts of the 2017 catalog, and the KVISTBRO storage tables are a great option. "Its a table and display case in one Fill this wire-patterned stand with books, blankets or even kids toys for a practical yet pretty storage solution, said Today. "Theres a handle on the top that makes it easy to open."


Yes, thats a kitty cat print. On the curtains. These MATTRAM panels are 24.99 and we need all of them.


We usually veer toward stone countertops, but this BARKABODA Wooden Herringbone Countertop is so pretty, we just might have to make an exception. Its 229, comes prefinished and in a 98" length, and can be cut down to fit your needs.


"This new countertop option is so unique and lovely," said Apartment Therapy. "Adding pattern to your kitchen is totally on trend, but its an especially cool twist to have it be on your counter surface. Finally, it comes in at a price point that would fit into many reno or refresh budgets and has DIY or hack applications beyond the kitchen, too yet looks super luxe. Love"


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The Other Sphere of Influence: The Power of REALTOR Recommendations

When it comes to real estate, we know agents influence everything from the locations a buyer considers to the type, size, and >

A survey from Campbell Communications and Inside Mortgage Finance Publications "revealed that real estate agents hold sway when it comes to choosing a lender," said The Truth About Mortgage. "In fact, the survey claims 45 of buyer decisions regarding which lender to go with are controlled or influenced by real estate agents."

Larry Vecchio, broker of VRI Homes and founder of, has found this to be true in his East Coast-based real estate practices. "It would make sense that a buyer would approach their trusted real estate agent for counsel on resources like mortgage lenders, inspectors, and insurance agents," he said.

A lively conversation on Zillows advice thread tackled the question of whether a buyer should use the home inspector that was recommended by a clients real estate agent. While opinions were mixed, the common sense response was: If you trust your real estate agent, you should trust their recommendations.

A trusted expert

For many real estate professionals, the trust factor extends beyond industry->

Quicken Loans

"We probably refer three to five things to every client - contractors, oil tanks, cable companies. Even local restaurants we recommend," said Vecchio.

Vecchio established Surf Your Town, with community websites in every town served by his companies that list preferred vendors and allow clients to find recommended businesses ranging from banks to bed amp; breakfasts and carpet cleaners to chiropractors close to home.

"People consider us a community expert, so they ask for recommendations all the time. The percentage who take our recommendations is probably 80 or higher. If they ask us for a referral, theyre at least going to follow up. Thats the trust level weve established within our communities."

Charlotte Observer

Knowledge of the area

Today, building that trust is about service, but its also about knowledge. Moving from one house to another, even if its just next door, could trigger a need to seek out new utilities; people who are moving to another city or state, typically need more guidance in this area. Who better to turn to than their real estate agent, whose job it is - quite literally - to know the ins and outs of the area.

If you think this isnt an important factor for buyers, consider the story of "Seth." This work-from-home software engineer bought a house in Kitsap County, Washington after extensive research into the available Internet in his neighborhood, according to Ars TECHNICA. The story of how he was repeatedly foiled in his attempt to secure said Internet service is maddening, but the bottom line: Unable to get what he needed, Seth chose to sell his new home after just two months.

The upshot for agents is: It pays to be someone whos keyed in to whats available in their target neighborhoods and able to serve their clients as an area expert. Some agents have even had great success by promoting the high-speed services offered at a specific address for a tech-savvy clientele.

The science behind referrals

Referrals are nothing new. Pre-Internet, referrals were one of the main sources consumers had to find an agent, a doctor, a tailor, or a house painter. But the ability to do a Google search and find anything they need in a couple of clicks has not lowered the likelihood that people will follow the referral given to them by a friend, colleague, family member, or real estate agent.

A study on Media Post shows that "59 of people consult friends and family for purchasing decisions - and that, even given a recommendation, they are likely to do further research," said ConversionXL. Tech company Vendasta reports that "more than 88 of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decision."

What that means for agents is that clients will ask around when theyre looking for you, and then theyll look to you for whatever else they need. The experience you provide matters, and your influence goes far beyond which neighborhood they should buy in.

Especially if its a neighborhood that doesnt offer high-speed Internet.

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Hiring a Handyman When Selling Your Home

As you get ready to sell your home, you may discover the need to make numerous repairs and updates. But when do you have the time? Most jobs you can do yourself, but others require a little more skill. Maybe its time to consider hiring a handyman.

According to Angies List, hiring a handyman can prevent waste and overcharging, as the handyman will only charge you for hours worked. Plus they keep their rates low with low overhead and by not having to pay other workers.

A handyman is someone who can handle small painting and carpentry jobs that can be completed quickly. He typically works alone, charges by the hour plus materials, and in some states is required to be licensed and carry insurance.

If you think youre going to more extensive work, you should consider a contractor. A contractor differs from a handyman by taking larger jobs that require going behind walls, or tearing out and rebuilding areas. Contractors supervise specialized tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians, and craftsmen.

Before you hire a handyman or a contractor, make a list of the jobs you need done. If your list is composed mostly of repairs and some updating like painting, a handyman should suit your needs.

To hire the right person for the job, do the following:

1. Get recommendations from family, friends, or your real estate professional. She may know an individual or company that specializes in "make-ready," a room-by-room clean-up, touch-up and fix-up. You can also contact sites such as HomeAdvisor or Angies List, to hire workmen.

2. Interview several handymen before making your decision. Make sure the handyman you hire has the experience and equipment to do the jobs you need and is willing to guarantee the work.

3. You want someone youll feel comfortable having around your family and in your home. Hire only personnel who are bonded and insured.

4. Inspect the work while its in progress and when its finished. Most professionals want to do a good job out of pride of workmanship. Handymen also >

What you dont want to do is leave small repairs undone. Home buyers notice if maintenance has been ignored, and may conclude the home is in need of greater repair than it actually does.

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Principal Must Be Told Of Agents Profit

Sometimes real estate agents buy their own listings. That is, having contracted to represent a seller, the agent then decides that he or she would like to purchase that property. Doing so can be a little dicey, but, if handled with care and proper concern for the sellers interests, it can be done. Nothing about it is per se illegal.

But, what about this? Suppose a listing agent has contracted to purchase the property at a price acceptable to the seller, and then, during the course of escrow, the agent contracts to sell that property to a third party at a higher price, i.e. at a profit to the agent, without telling the original seller about the profit. Wouldnt that be ok? After all, the original seller was satisfied with the price he received, so whats the problem?

Well, both the courts and the real estate commissioner have a problem with what we have just described. A reminder of their problem is set forth in a decision by Californias Third District Court of Appeal in the case of Roberts v. Lomanto.

Lomanto had been the leasing agent for a shopping center owned by Roberts. In June of 1997, Roberts decided to sell the property, and he retained Lomanto also to be the listing agent for the sale of the property. Although several letters of intent were submitted, no sale of the property was forthcoming. Then, in October of 1998, Lomanto herself entered into a purchase agreement with Roberts. She told him he could not get more than 11 million for the property, and that was the price they agreed on.

As a result of certain unsatisfied contingencies, the term of the purchase agreement expired. However, in July of 1999, the parties reentered into a second agreement at the same 11 million price. Then, in November of 1999, Lomanto entered into an agreement with Pan Pacific Retail Properties whereby she assigned to Pan Pacific her rights under the purchase agreement. Roberts executed a written agreement to that assignment.

What Lomanto didnt tell Roberts was that, in addition to taking over her position in the 11 million dollar purchase, Pan Pacific also agreed to pay Lomanto an assignment fee of 1.2 million. Which is another way of saying Pan Pacific paid 12.2 million for the shopping center. Escrow closed in December of 1999. Very close to the time of closing, Roberts learned for the first time that Lomanto was receiving an assignment fee, however she refused to tell him the amount.

When Roberts later read in the newspaper that Pan Pacific had effectively paid 12.2 million for the center, he was grieved. So grieved was he that he brought suit in Sacramento County Superior Court. Surprisingly, the Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of Lomanto. Not surprisingly, the court of appeal reversed that ruling.

Central to the appellate courts decision were three points: i A real estate agent owes fiduciary duty to his or her principal, and that duty includes, "the duty of fullest disclosure of all material facts concerning the transaction that might affect the principals decision." ii "If the agent, or a >

Theres nothing illegal about an agent purchasing his or her listing. And theres nothing illegal about making an immediate profit on that purchase, provided that everything has been disclosed and that the principal has given approval.

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

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5 Value-Adding Ideas From The Azores

How special are "brand new ideas" from local big box stores, popular websites, TV shows, and other "follow-us" resources when everyone else uses these same ideas?

If you prefer to lead the pack, rather than follow it, consider gathering out-of-the-box inspiration from somewhere beyond the usual and at the leading edge of practicality: the Azores. Some of their cultural trappings are unique to these Islands and some are variations of European practices with a distinctive Azores twist. Where do you search for inspiration when youre ready for value-adding improvements?

Portugals mid-Atlantic 9-island archipelago was my summer destination for idea-gathering and " a place to think." In this very different context, I collected a wealth of ideas, inspired by the Portugese strong commitment to the land, their long, rich history, and the practical ingenuity required to live in isolation in the middle of the often-fierce Atlantic Ocean.

Until you visit the Azores or a location that challenges your views on what works, Ill share five Island-inspired ideas that represent practical, >

1. Enhance Curb Appeal

If your lawn wanders uneventfully down to the sidewalk, consider adding an outstanding curb-appeal feature that may also keep dogs off your property. Low white stucco walls and hand-crafted black stone walls define roadside property borders for Azores real estate owners, while providing dramatic settings for single plantings like roses, bougainvillaea, and trumpet vine. You could substitute a split rail fence, wrought iron railing, or even a raised bed along the sidewalk for value-adding drama.

2. Accentuate Windows

Do you lust after shutters to jazz up your front windows, but lack the space to hang them? In the Islands, exterior shutters are functional elements, closing to protect windows at night and in storms. North American non-functional, decorative shuttersoften each shutter is not as wide as half the window[]can end up detracting, rather than enhancing. Consider the Portugese painted, stucco, or stone exterior framing of a window in white or a complimentary color. This detailing makes windows appear larger and can add interest to dull brick or frame walls. Which frame shape and color scheme would easily contribute value-adding glam to your home?

3. Whos the Somebody?

Have you seen litter in the street outside your house or in a beautiful natural corner of your neighborhood and wondered, "Why doesnt somebody pick that up?" In the Azores, and Portugal in general, people dont wonder about "somebody," they grab a broom and clean up themselves. Municipal crews sweep streets and sidewalks and property owners pitch in, too. Preserving and protecting the beauty of their communities and islands is vital to residents. Not a bad attitude to emulate.

4. Unique, Affordable Decorative Identifiers

Do you want your home identified by more than its street number? Azulejo roughly pronounced "as-you-lay-joo" are decorative glazed tiles, usually in shades of royal blue or azul, mounted near the front door in celebration of home and of whats depicted in the tiles. In churches and public buildings, azulejo often covers entire rooms and depicts complex scenes like battles. On homes, azulejo may represent >

5. Living It Up on a Budget

I met many very happy Americans and Canadians living in the Azores as I traveled through the islands of So Miguel, Faial, Pico, and Terceira. Most said the same thing: "We came for a visit and fell in love with [our island], so we came back and bought a house/built a home." Not everyone I met had family ties to their island. All were attracted by the natural beauty, diverse locations, strong communities, and affordable life>
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Surviving Each Other In An HOA

Communication is a lost art in some HOAs due to lack of basic people skills. Board members often get more criticism than praise and then along comes an abusive owner who makes unreasonable demands. But it works both ways. Sometimes its an owner that suffers at the hands of a domineering board.

The term "Communication" has a warm connotation. It denotes a form of fellowship. However, if you believe the media, HOAs are police states with warlord boards. While there is always an element of truth in the stories, they are selected because they arent the norm like Elderly Owner Has Condo Foreclosed but the stories give the impression that such is the norm. Often as not, homeowners with a "my-home-is-my-castle" mentality disregard rules and regulations to challenge the HOA. Boards that are confronted by these challenges can react with defiance. Anger begets defensiveness which invites retreat or counter attack.

Few boards have the ability to communicate "artfully". This art includes reining in outspoken directors, negotiating with vendors, soothing the ruffled feathers of feuding neighbors and enacting rules that invite compliance rather than evoke defiance.

What is communication? According to Webster, communication is "to have or hold intercourse or interchange of thoughts; to give, or give and receive, information, signals or messages in any way, as by talk, gestures, writing, etc." Here are some tips to improve HOA communications:

1. Take a >

2. Learn "active listening", which is actually listening and paying attention when a person is talking to you. This technique doesnt mean that you agree or disagree with what is being said it lets them know that you hear them.

3. Learn how to >

4. Dont form assumptions about right or wrong. If you already have your mind made up, compromise is more difficult.

5. Respond to communications in a business like way and without anger. Ignoring communications from an owner who has an ax to grind often leads to more and stronger demands, and possibly personal attacks.

6. Count to ten. Take a walk, a break or a breather before you react. Answers given in anger ra>

The art of surviving each other in an HOA environment has long term benefits which can help grow neighbors and friendships. This is an art worth perfecting, especially if you are in a position of leadership and authority.

Excerpts from an article by Beth A. Grimm, Esq.

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Security Deposit Is Not The Last Months Rent

Question: I have been renting an apartment, and my lease will expire at the end of November. I have taken a job out of this area, and expect to begin my new position on November 1 of this year. My landlord has a security deposit which is equivalent to one months rent. Should I pay for November since I will not be living in the apartment? The landlord will not be hurt, since she can use my security deposit for the November rent. Should I discuss the situation with my landlord?

Answer: The landlord-tenant >

However, unfortunately, this is the situation in too many cases. The landlord often presents unreasonable demands, and the tenant counters with his/her own unreasonable requests.

We have to start any landlord discussion with a review of the lease. In every landlord-tenant arrangement, there should be a written document, which is called a "lease." Once it is signed by the landlord or the agent and the tenant, this becomes a legally binding document on all parties who signed it.

Thus, it is important for tenants to thoroughly read and understand the lease before signing. Typically, however, it is my experience that most tenants do not bother to review the lease before it is signed. It is only when a problem arises does the lease begin to be scrutinized, and often that is too late.

The security deposit is an amount of money -- generally one months rent -- which a tenant gives the landlord upon signing of the lease. This deposit -- which in some jurisdictions must be kept by the landlord in an interest-bearing account -- is not to be used for the last months rent. It is used to pay any damages which the tenant may have caused to the property during the tenancy.

Landlord-tenant laws differ all over this country; some are stronger than others. In fact, the landlord-tenant laws in the District of Columbia are considered perhaps the most tenant-friendly in the United States. It is to be noted that this article is addressing residential tenancies; there are different procedures and laws impacting commercial leases.

You have suggested you want your landlord to use your security deposit for the last months rent. I cannot recommend this under any circumstances.

What will happen if the landlord finds damages in your apartment, which were caused by you -- i.e., your movers put a hole in a wall or your dog ripped a screen door? Your monthly rent is 1650 and your security deposit is in the same amount. If it costs the landlord 500 to make the repairs, this leaves the landlord only 1150 to be applied to your November rent.

Thus, your actions may cost the landlord to lose money. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, many landlords are not wealthy individuals, and any monetary loss they incur is significant.

You probably believe your landlord will not spend the time -- or the money -- filing a lawsuit against you for this small amount of money. This may be true. However, the landlord has this right, and one day you may find there is a judgement against you because you failed to appear in court.

More significantly, your landlord can create credit problems for you -- which problems can continue to haunt you for a number of years. The landlord can report your delinquency to credit reporting companies, and any lawsuit which is filed may also be picked up by these credit bureaus.

It is not a pleasant experience to explain to a banker or a department store -- several years after the incident -- why you failed to pay your legal rental obligations.

I cannot recommend you skip your last months payment; it is just not worth the subsequent problems -- and hassles -- you may encounter. Also, assuming you have a conscience, you should recognize that you may have financially hurt another human being.

However, I strongly recommend you discuss the situation immediately with your landlord. He/she may be understanding, and may even be willing to give back your security deposit if the property can be rented out immediately.

The landlord-tenant >
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Homeowner Happiness And How It Affects You

Owning your own home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. But are you truly happy with your current situation? According to a recent survey by HomeAdvisor, there are a number of different factors that come into play that determine whether someone is happy with their current living situation or not.

Some of the key factors include:

Accessibility -- Homeowners dont want to spend hours having to get from one location to another. They want to be able to get to any important services, attractions and employment opportunities within the shortest amount of time possible. On average, Americans spend about 39 minutes commuting to work.

Community -- People want a diverse place where they can live and work. They also want a neighborhood that is safe so they can raise their family and enjoy spending time outside. Roughly 70 percent of all Americans live in a community where they feel safe. That leaves 30 percent of all individuals living in a community where they dont feel safe.

Dwelling -- Homeowners want a place that is not only affordable, but also comfortable. You want something convenient where you can enjoy spending hours at a time >

With home prices climbing, you want to make sure you are doing everything you can to purchase one that you are going to be happy with. The last thing you want is to end up committing to a home and end up feeling miserable. Even though 62 percent of the population already own their own home, that doesnt mean that they are happy. When you are happy with your purchase, you are going to take pride in your home and make sure it is taken care of at all times.

Is happiness that important?

Happiness matters more than most homeowners realize. It matters so much that the United Nations, Harvard and Gallup have devoted precious resources to better understand what makes homeowners happy. Homeowners should be the happiest where it matters the most, in the comfort of their own home.

Your home is where you form a lasting >

Finding your happy place.

Finding the perfect location for your new home isnt always as simple as you might think. To help you determine your happy spot, there are a few key questions you can ask yourself.

  • Where do you get your coffee in the morning?
  • What is your ideal mode of transportation to work?
  • What do you do when your neighborhood is having a block party?
  • What will your children be doing this summer?
  • What does your ideal home look like?
  • Just how spoiled are your pets?


Youre investing a lot of time and effort in your new home, so you want to make sure its one that you will enjoy for years to come. Investigate your different options and find out which ones work the best for you and your specific needs.

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

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7 Real Estate Pitfalls That Could Cost You A Sale

Selling a home has its typical challenges. Maybe the couple across the street just listed their house, which you know has an amazing kitchen while yours is just slightly less so. Maybe values have started to drop a tad. Or maybe youre getting transferred and you have to sell - and find something new in your future city - in what seems like an impossibly short amount of time.

Whatever the circumstances, you want the sale to go as smoothly, and take place as quickly, as possible. So dont do this stuff. Really. Just dont.

1. Dont take your own photos

How important are house photos? Many buyers wont even look at a listing that doesnt have them. Ditto for poorly taken photos that dont adequately show the home. Weve talked before about the National Association of REALTORS NAR survey that showed that homebuyers rate photos as the feature they use most when searching for a home online.

"Home sellers used to count on curb appeal to make a good first impression on potential buyers," said HGTV. "Now, with 80 percent of homebuyers starting their house hunt online, a homes pix appeal, or how good it looks in photos posted on the Internet, is taking over as the top way to impress buyers off the bat."

To put it another way: "Heres a shocker: Most of the listings with bad photos also have wording like price lowered Marked down and Priced to sell in the listingall signs that the phone isnt exactly ringing off the hook," said Adorama. "Could it be that the lousy photos of these properties are turning away potential clients?"

Ugly House Photos

The easy answer: yes.

If you insist on taking pictures yourself, and we really, really recommend you dont unless youre a professional photographer, at least heed some tips. But again, not a good idea. Trust us.

2. Dont try to sell your home by yourself

According to the National Association of REALTORS, 87 of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or brokera number that has been rising consistently since 2001 when it was just 69 percent.

The reason: Homes sold with a Realtor get a higher sales price: "The typical for sale by owner FSBO home sold for 210,000 compared to 249,000 for agent-assisted home sales," said the NAR. Homes listed with a real estate agent also sell weeks earlier than FSBOs.

3. Dont argue with your agent about price

What you feel like you should be able to get for your home. What your neighbors across the street with the updated kitchen and the oversized lot got for their home. These are two things that are ir>


Its your agents job to research the area, the market, recent sales and new listings, and come up with a smart pricing strategy to get your home sold.

If you disagree with the listing price your agent recommends without a legitimate reason like youve found real comparables that werent part of your agents research or listing presentation, there might be trouble brewing.

4. Dont trust Zillow as the word of god

In a nutshell, using Zillow as well as Redfin and Trulia to determine your homes value, is dangerous, because their price estimates are off. And not by a little.

Zillow has copped to being off by 8 on their Zestimates, but that doesnt come close to the L.A. Times report that found Zestimates can be wrong by as much as 61 depending on the house and the location. A recent study found that their average Zestimate is off by 14,000.

5. Dont follow prospective buyers around while theyre touring your house

Buyers hate this, plain and simple. If they have questions, they will ask. Shadowing them will only make them feel uncomfortable, which isnt likely to result in a sale.

6. Dont refuse to negotiate

If theres one thing you can count on during a home sale, its that theres going to be something to negotiate. Even if both parties immediately agree on the sales price, there could be issues that are uncovered during the inspection, or conflict surrounding the close of escrow and move-in dates. Your inflexibility could end up in a cancelled escrow.

Ugly House Photos

7. Dont ignore your agents request to fix up or at least clean your house

Staged homes sell faster and for more money. So do updated homes. But that doesnt mean you have to shell out a bunch of money. Depending on the condition of your home, it could take as little as a good scrub down and a little decluttering to make your house shine.

Your agent will undoubtedly have suggestions to make your house more saleable. Listen to them. Even if its uncomfortable to hear that your house isnt as tidy as it should be or that your dcor >
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New Tech All Homes Will Have By 2020

New technologies are constantly emerging, rendering others obsolete every day. Many of these technologies eventually enter into our homes after being used in businesses or other capacities throughout the world first. Once they show themselves to be useful, people incorporate them into their everyday lives. Here are some technologies that every home will have by 2020.

Light-Transmissive Flooring

LED light emitting flooring can provide safety, informational, and decorational benefits. It can help guide people around the house, leading to exits and safety routes in case of an emergency. It can also enhance the atmosphere of the house, due to the fact that various colors can be used in the floors.

Light transmissive carpet is designed to directly engage with peoples vision and natural tendency to seek light. LED carpeting is conducive with the natural habit of being guided by the floor while moving. This new convenience can keep people from having to find a source of light during the night in order to navigate through their house.

Smart Home Theater

As smartphones are now the norm, smart devices throughout the homes are now expected. In a smart home, all electronic devices and gadgets are able to connect with each other and to the home network to work in unison.

Home theaters will play a large role in a smart homes function, as they will be able to replace sound systems in TVs and gaming consoles, offering a more surround-sound experience. Lessening the number of electronics people need to invest in and having everything done with only a few gadgets is a very attractive concept to people.

Gesture Control

This is the closest that technology seems to be headed in the arena of superpowers. PointSwitch technology, which is already used in businesses, allows the user to control their surroundings with just the point of a finger. You can turn on and off electronics, lamps, alarms, and anything else without having to actually get up and press a button. This works by creating a transparent and touch-friendly space around the user, but at a distance. This will make anything as easy as a point of the finger.

Smart Windows

We will soon be able to bid farewell to the high costs of heating and cooling our homes. With smart windows, its possible to turn the glass from translucent to opague by simply turning a switch or touching a button. Aside from aesthetic purposes, this will also eliminate the need for curtains or window shades. The convenience of smart windows will likely spread throughout homes, saving people money and time as the sunlight changes throughout the day.

Fingerprint Unlocking

If you are like many people, you often lose your keys. Keys will likely become a thing of the past as the fingerprint will now be the new way to unlock homes and cars. While keys can be copied or stolen, fingerprints cannot, so it adds an extra level of security. The registered fingerprints will be easily manageable, letting people adjust who has access to their house at any time.

Communication with Appliances

Perhaps you have been out of town for a while and want to check on the house. You will soon be able to send messages to your house to check on the temperature, activity, and anything going on around it. You may also be able to converse with your appliances, such as your refrigerator, while in the grocery store if you have forgotten your list. Pre-heating ovens can also be done when communicating with appliances, making time less of an issue in the evenings.

By the time 2020 rolls around, many new technologies that are emerging today will be old news. The final goal for new technologies is always convenience for the consumer and aiding in making life a bit more easy.

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10 Things You Havent Thought Of Thatll Make Your Move Easier

Moving is one of the most stressful activities there is. Its true - experts put it right up there with getting married - and divorced - and remodeling a house. If youre getting ready to move or are in the process of buying or selling a house, you may have been thinking about the unpacking and the packing and the change of address and turning on utilities. But there may be a few things you havent thought of. These tips can help you make a smooth move.

1. Hook up your cable and internet ASAP

Many utilities require only a phone call to switch them to a new address, but cable/satellite and Internet are a different story. There are a lot of options out there today, but not all of them are necessarily going to be available in your home. Doing the research ahead of time, figuring out whats best for your home, and making any necessary installation appointments as close to your move-in day or even before, if youre us will help ease the transition from one home to the other - especially if you have kids. And dont forget to change your address with Netflix and any other similar services to avoid any interruptions.

2. Find doggy daycare options

Animals dont always adjust to moves so easily. If you need to place them somewhere to minimize the trauma during the actual move and initial unpacking, youll want to do the research and make the arrangements in advance.


3. Pack a box of essentials

And take it with you. Bring anything you think youll need for the first night in your home, and then a few extras in case theres a holdup with your moving truck and your stuff doesnt arrive for a few days. If worse comes to worse and your moving truck doesnt arrive as expected, you want to make sure you have the things you need to get you through at least a few days. Things like:

  • A couple of outfits for everyone for a few days - and dont forget pajamas
  • Towels and toiletries - soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Medications for every member of the family - dont forget about any pet meds you have, too
  • A first aid kit
  • Jewelry and other precious items
  • Chargers
  • Toilet paper and paper towels - youll be glad you remembered
  • Paper plates and plastic cups and silverware
  • Dog food and bowls
  • Dog leashes and beds
  • Checkbooks and credit cards
  • Important papers including taxes, passports, social security cards, etc.

You may also want to bring a cooler filled with sandwich fixings and bottled water, plus some snacks like protein bars and peanut butter and crackers. It might be a day or two before youre able to get to the market, and eating delivery pizza for every meal is going to get old pretty quickly.


4. Think about the kids

A simple deck of cards or a new coloring book and crayons can be lifesavers if you have small kids who are getting bored with all that box carrying.

5. Do your due diligence when it comes to movers

Going with any old mover without checking them out first could end up being a disaster. If youre not loading up a truck and driving your things to your new house yourself, youll want to take a few precautions.

"Get quotes from at least three moving companies, and make sure they do in-home assessments so your quote is as accurate as possible," said HGTV. "Talk to family and friends for recommendations, or get free moving quotes from websites like >

Youll also want to research them online. Sites like Consumer Affairs and are a good place to start.

Finally, dont forget that moving expenses are tax deductible. "Obtain an IRS Change of Address form, Form 8822, by calling 800 829-1040 or visiting the IRS website. You will be able to download and print form 8822 and most other IRS tax forms; e.g., Form 3903 to help deduct moving expenses," said HGTV.

6. Sign up on Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a great way to network in your new neighborhood for things like babysitters and handymen and garage sales and the aforementioned doggy day care. Signing up when youre moving in will also alert neighbors who may become new friends.

7. Leave the clicker

If its attached to the visor in your car, you may forget and take it with you.

8. Change the locks

You never know who out there could have a copy of your house key. Its a good idea to change the locks before you move in so you dont have to worry that the cousin of the friend of the girlfriend of the guy who used to live in your house has an easy way in.

Always Ready Locksmith

9. Call a cleaning service

Most people clean before they move out, thankfully, but it might not be up to your standards. Plus, theres just something about moving into a freshly cleaned place. If your realty company didnt already take care of a move-in cleaning, youre going to want to.

10. Find a doctor and dentist

If someone gets sick or needs medical attention in your new neighborhood, you want to make sure you know where to take them without having to Google the nearest random doctor. This is another place Nextdoor will come in handy.

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Five Ways Big Data Is Changing Real Estate

The term big data is used to refer to very big sets of data that can be analyzed and computed to reveal trends and patterns. These patterns are of particular importance as they >

Big data is useful in many ways from designing of better houses to improving the project management process. Additionally, investors in the industry have found ways to reduce risk in the industry through the use of big data. The following are some of the ways big data has impacted real estate.

Accurate pricing

Practitioners in the real estate sector deal with appraisals often. Appraisals involve a qualified individual going to a piece of real property and determine the value of the asset. Banks use these appraisals while offering loans so as not to avoid awarding loans for a house whose value is less than the amount of the credit.

Over recent times, appraisals have been a tricky business since the value of most estates depends on a ton of factors. Big data has, to a great extent, simplified the process of pricing. The internet does offer much information on how much similar properties are selling for. Big data reduces room for error and omissions. The value of a real asset may also determine the insurance premiums payable by the homeowner. Consequently, insuring a house is necessary.

Any practitioner in the industry will be well advised to embrace the use of data so as to remain top in a changing industry.

Streamlining the financial process

The real estate sector is embracing big data to improve the financial decision-making procedures. Established real estate platforms use risk algorithms to determine the risk scores for a particular region. Real estate platforms can also use big data to analyze a propertys structure and the owners financial well-being. Such information is important in helping commercial real estate professionals make informed decisions.

Financial institutions and investors: determining foreclosure and short-sale changes

Besides the consumer and industry uses of big data, financial institutions such as banks can use data resources to determine if a short sale or foreclosure is worth what an investor may be willing to offer. By keeping data organized institutions use big data to ensure that they do not sell real property at a price lower than the market price. In most cases, banks are rich with knowledge regarding real assets that they demand to earn full equity from the foreclosures and short sales.

Understanding between communities

Data is not only providing information to real estate professionals, but it is also fueling and initiating ways of looking at developments and various community projects. For example, the Hudson project hopes to establish a new bank in Manhattan. Big data fueled this project. From the big data sets, real estate professionals learn what areas are best in terms of provision of health facilities, energy efficiency, and such points.

Trends and models

It is the wish of every investor to know what the property will be worth in the foreseeable future. This is what big data has helped to achieve. Through the use of real estate investor software programs, investors have been able to estimate the future values of some real estates. These predictions, while not enti>

Big data seems to be the fuel for a desirable commercial real estate market.

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7 Model Home Ideas To Steal For Your Home

You dont have to be in the market for a new home to tour model homes. In fact, model home complexes are a great place to get a few ideas for your existing home. Whether youre looking for ideas to renovate your kitchen and want to see the most current trends, are having a hard time deciding on paint colors and want to see how others are incorporating color into the home, or are simply looking for a little inspiration, you can find it here.

Getting color ideas

Model homes are ra>

1 The color is by and large not used large scale, meaning, all the walls of every room wont typically be painted in bold or bright colors;

2 The main color scheme generally flows from room to room. The shades and placement of color may be different, but there is a coherent look and feel throughout the home that makes it feel finished.

If you want to introduce color without covering every surface, consider these tips from Lennar: "You can add color to a space without painting walls. Pop color with pillows, rugs flowers and artwork. If you do add color to walls, use it sparingly. A painted feature wall can be a great backdrop for a bed or built-in cabinets."


General design inspiration

You may not have thought about putting certain colors together or layering a bunch of patterns in one room or choosing tile that looks like wood instead of real wood... but you will once you see what theyve done in model homes. If youre in a design rut or youre not sure how to take the first step toward modernizing your space, walk through the models. Consider not just what you see, but how you feel in the space. Starting to feel >

Incorporating the newest trends

Looking to redo your kitchen? Touring a model will give you some great ideas about how to handle the layout and materials. It may not have occurred to you to take down your double-height island and continue the counter height the full length, but this is a hot kitchen trend intended to capture the open space feel. Seeing all-white cabinets may inspire you to have your dark wood cabinetry painted, and the quartz counters are sure to inspire you to start researching new countertop options.

Meritage Homes

Treating small spaces

In general, the less crowded a room is, the more airy it will feel. But that doesnt mean leaving it empty. Furniture placement is key to creating a space with form and function. Notice how the office in the room above has just the right amount of furniture. And instead of placing the desk up against the wall, its been floated, which allows the eye to more easily move around and makes the space feel larger.

Getting space planning tips

Model home designers are great at disguising awkward spaces with creative solutions and showcasing spaces with furniture thats to the perfect scale and placed in such a way that it shows the room in its best light. If youve got a weird spot in your home that you dont know what to do with or are having trouble figuring out what furniture to buy or where to put it, studying what theyve done in a few models might help you figure it out.

Styling a guest room

Go stand in the guest room in the model down the street. Simple, clean, and elegant, right? Excited to go home and redo your guest room? Remember three key things: lighting, pared-down accessories, and crisp bedding.


Getting your kids rooms just right

Kids rooms are often some of the most challenging spaces to design, because its a slippery slope between a creative space and a circus room. Model home designers love to theme these spaces or give them some pizazz, and they often get the balance just right.

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7 Things Some Agents Forget To Tell Buyers About The Pre-Approval Process

Most agents these days have heard a horror story or two about the mortgage approval process...or lack thereof.

Its not uncommon for homebuyers to spend months searching for their dream home, and then months going through the mortgage process, only to be told the "D" word. For better or worse, the hand that denies loans is the hand that rules the buying process.

In addition to disappointed buyers, theres often collateral damage, in the form of agents and brokers, who after months helping people find the home of their dreams, discover that their time and hard work amounted to nothing.

How Smart Agents Avoid "Mortgage Purgatory"

To avoid the risk of investing time on dead-end leads, savvy agents have come up with strategies to focus on qualified leads, most likely to be approved. This benefits sellers and agents, and even buyers, who prefer to know early if theyre unlikely to qualify, so they can get a head start improving their credit and positioning themselves to qualify.

One common policy is for prospective buyers to be pre-qualified for a mortgage before agents get too deep into the buying process. That enables agents to avoid wasting time, because not only do they have an assurance buyers will qualify for a loan, they also know which price range to target, based on the amount buyers pre-qualified to borrow. In a perfect world, all buyers would get their preapprovals the moment they decide to start shopping but, unfortunately, as we all know, this is often not the case.

Another option many agents are starting to take advantage of are some of the newer tools available like ScoreApprove, a web-based tool that gives agents and buyers detailed credit information including a live credit score and assesses their ability to qualify for a mortgage based on their current credit and financial situation. This information helps agents to distinguish between qualified leads and those buyers who are unlikely to obtain a loan.

While these have proven to be helpful techniques, the mortgage pre-approval process can still be tricky to navigate, especially for first-timers. Its important for agents to walk buyers through the process and tell them what to expect to help make it as smooth as possible.

Agents are busy and often overlook or forget to convey basic facts about pre-approvals. This can have serious consequences because buyers who dont know what to expect can get frustrated and overwhelmed, and sometimes may be driven to try other agents.

To avoid this fate, and keep buyers happy, here are 7 things many agents forget to tell homebuyers about the pre-approval process that you may find helpful:

1. Benefits of pre-approvals. Buyers often assume that pre-approval only benefits sellers and agents looking for a quick and easy sale. Agents should point out it helps buyers too, making their offer a more complete package, giving them more negotiating leverage, and showing them how much they can borrow so they can avoid wasting time on a "wild goose chase" in search of a home they cannot afford. The biggest benefit for buyers though is peace-of-mind, knowing they wont have to scramble at the last minute to find a loan once they have an accepted offer.

2. Provide a checklist. The hardest part about the mortgage process is keeping track of which documents are needed. The list can include W2s, income tax returns, bank statements, titles and deeds, past rental information, and more. A simple checklist can be extremely helpful, and buyers will be grateful to agents who provide it.

3. Save all documents. Applicants are sometimes asked to provide documents such as proof of income that date back 12 months or longer. Remind buyers to hang on to everything they can, and even dig up old paperwork, to ensure the process doesnt stall because of missing documents.

4. Look for houses in their price range. Pre-approval helps narrow the search for a home, by showing buyers how much they qualify to borrow. However, some buyers still look at homes above their price range, hoping theyll figure out a way. Try to remind them to focus on homes within their borrowing range, to save time, hassle, and disappointment.

5. Shop around for different lenders. Mortgages can be tricky, and not all lenders have the same criteria, rates, or loan options. Its important to speak with several lenders, to secure the best possible loan with the lowest rates and greatest flexibility.

6. Think long term. People who are denied a loan can often repair their credit and get approved a few months later. The problem is that most buyers are looking for a quick fix, and dont bother to take the steps necessary for long-term gains. Its beneficial to remind buyers that buying a home can be a long process, and the baby steps they take now to repair their credit can have big results in the next 6 to 12 months.

7. Check the expiration date. Pre-approvals generally only last a few months and then have to be renewed. The clock is ticking and buyers sometimes forget how quickly time passes. They should be reminded that once theyre approved, they need to work extra hard to find the right home as quickly as possible, to take advantage of their pre-approval, and not need to start from scratch.

Want a simple way to know which leads are most likely to qualify for a mortgage? ScoreApprove is a cutting-edge tool that automatically sends you homebuyers credit information, along with their personal homebuying assessment, so you can determine how much time you should be spending with each buyer.

Click Here To Learn How ScoreApprove Can Help Your Business.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Collection Policies

Question: Our collection policy states that if an owner is 30 days past due, the management company sends a pre-lien notice letter. Several board members think the board members should be notified when these letters are sent.

Answer: When a collection process is implemented, the board should be kept apprised of the progress. It is easily and cheaply done by email to all board members. It is standard procedure for the management company to keep the client informed of significant events like this.

Question: We are having a difficult time with our management company providing accurate, complete and timely financial statements. Month after month, the same problems. Weve written them letters and met with them in person yet no improvement. Weve had it and want to terminate the contract but fear they wont >

Answer: Providing accurate and timely financial reports is an HOA management companys highest priority since money is an essential component of the HOAs operation. An occasional error is to be expected but ongoing errors is another matter. Either the management company is doing it correctly or not. Numbers dont lie except at Enron.

Management contracts cut both ways. If one party is not living up to its end of the bargain, it has no right to continue. The board or HOAs attorney should advise the management company of the specific breaches that are the basis for termination. If the facts are true, there should be no argument.

Question: Our board of directors recently passed the following resolutions. Be it resolved that:

  • Board members shall be on signature cards of all bank accounts.
  • Management company may not sign any checks without the approval of the board.
  • Management company shall produce true and accurate financial statements.
  • The HOA will not be responsible for any late fees incurred due to failure by management company to make timely payments.
  • Management company must develop a system to pay HOA bills on time and correctly.
  • Answer: Clearly the board has many issues with the current management company which need to be resolved, and soon. Observations based on your numbered resolutions:

  • Both the President and Treasurer are usually signers on the HOAs bank accounts. This should be done as soon as possible. If the management company interferes, get a new management company.
  • The management company should be authorized to pay itself for normal monthly charges authorized by the management agreement. Special billings should receive prior approval from the Board President. It should only be necessary to get the whole board to approve a payment when its outside the approved budget.
  • The management company should normally produce a monthly income and expense statement and reconciled bank statements by no later than the 15th of the following month.
  • This is reasonable. The HOA should not pay for late fees caused by the management company.
  • Many HOA management companies pay bills twice a month to avoid unnecessarily delaying payment or incurring late fees. The HOA, of course, must have the money available to pay the bills.
  • Question: Do board members have a legal responsibility to follow the reserve study recommendations?

    Answer: The board should be careful about deviating from reserve study recommendations. Most reserve studies recommend a funding plan that steers the HOA away from special assessments. If the board decides to fund reserves less, the risk of special assessment grows.

    If a special assessment is called for due to under funding, a case could be made that the board did not fulfill its fiduciary duty and be held personally liable. And just as importantly, past owners who have sold will not have paid their fair share. Unless there is a compelling reason to deviate, the board should follow the recommendations.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Tax Treatment Of Your Vacation Home

    Question: We own our principal residence which is located in the District of Columbia, and we also have a second home in Delaware by the ocean. I know that when we sell our principal residence, since we are married and have lived in house for many years, we are eligible for the up-to 500,000 exclusion of gain. I know that we can also deduct our mortgage interest and our real estate taxes when we file our annual income tax return. However, we do not know how to handle this for the vacation home. Can you give us some guidance?

    Answer: It really depends on how you use your second home. Did you use it enti>

    If, for example, you bought the home many years ago for 70,000, and added 30,000 worth of improvements, your basis in the property excluding closing costs would be 100,000. If you were to sell it for 200,000, your gain would be 100,000, less any real estate commissions or other expenses >

    You do have a number of options available, however, and this column will address some of these. However, you are strongly urged to consult your own legal and tax advisors, before making any major decisions.

    First, you could decide to keep the second home and continue to rent it out. If you believe there is a strong rental market, and that the house will continue to appreciate, why sell it and pay the tax? Perhaps while it is still your second home you can refinance, lowering your interest rate, so that your cash flow would not be too great. Obviously, this makes you a landlord, and unless you turn the property over to a property manager, you will have to endure the negative aspects of being a landlord as well as the positive.

    Second, if you have children, leave it to them on your death, They will get what is known as a "stepped-up" basis in the property. In other words, even though your basis may be 100,000, if the value of the property on the date of your death is 200,000, the childrens basis is the value on the date of your death.

    Third, you might consider doing a like-kind exchange of the property. Under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, you can "swap" the beach property for any other like-kind property, and like-kind has been broadly defined to include any form of real property. It can be a farm in Ohio, an office building in New York City, or another beachfront lot or house in Florida.

    This is a complex and tricky process, but under the right circumstances it would enable you to "sell" the ocean property and exchange it for some other property that may be more suitable for you. Keep in mind, however, that the new exchanged property called the replacement property by the Internal Revenue Service must be held for investment purposes, and -- at least for a reasonable period of time -- cannot be used as your principal residence. Some taxlawyers say the "safe harbor" is one year, while others say two years.

    These are but a number of the options you should consider so as to avoid paying a considerable amount of money to Uncle Sam.

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    The Only 3 Things You Need to Land More Leads

    Are you tired of the old location-location-location real estate slogan? As far as the buyer is concerned, the old saying still rings true. But for agents, theres a new tune to sing in order to generate more leads and close more sales: exposure-exposure-exposure

    Youve probably been working hard on your exposure, but are you doing the smart things that actually attract leads?

    1. Get Exposure -- Your listings dont have to be luxury mansions or designer houses to bring in scores of leads. You must know that a quality listing is as much about the presentation as it is about the house, so make sure you showcase it the right way: a good number of high quality, large photos, correct facts about the home with a good description, a list of major features and all that jazz.

    Once youre ready to go online, always make sure to put your listings in the right section of your agent website. Buyers search with a certain intent and will use the appropriate filters for their needs. Your website needs to serve your prospects well -- thats the one basic thing you need to know about getting on the exposure express.

    2. Get More Exposure -- Get your quality listings on the right consumer portals One very good option is Point2 Homes. This international portal has just smashed a new traffic record of 3.43 million monthly visits in July. It has 18,000 listings browsed every hour and 137 million page views so far in 2016, which translates into a huge potential lead base.

    And to make online spreading of your listings even easier, choose an online marketing solution which gives you access to listing syndication. Point2 offers its customers a network of 50 consumer portals in the US and 24 consumer portals in Canada. This means you only enter your listings once and you can distribute them to the largest online marketplaces.

    3. Get Even More Exposure -- Now that theyre in tip-top shape and on a great network of consumer portals, you need to make sure your listings stand out. Many portals offer advertising options, but Point2 Homes Featured Ads are a particularly great way to go. With Featured Ads, your listings show up on at the top of searches and are neatly highlighted. You can advertise your agent profile as well, and make prospects see you as the local expert. To get ads on Point2 Homes youll need one of the higher tier memberships. Ads are included in the Professional - 1,000 worth of ads per year, - and the Elite - 6,000 worth of ads per year.

    Click Here For More Info.

    You might think keeping track of all that is difficult, but your strategy will come together smoothly with the help of an all-in-one solution like the one offered by Point2. Along with all of the exposure brought in by the consumer portal Point2 Homes, you also get a mobile friendly DIY website with integrated social media sharing options, drip e-mail marketing campaigns, built-in Customer >and much more.

    Summer is the perfect time to step up your business and the Point2 Summer Sale offers huge discounts - up to 300 OFF complete online marketing solutions. This is a limited time offer and only available by phone, so take advantage of the open door to online real estate stardom and call 888-277-9779 now or click here to find out more.

    Point2 is a leading provider of real estate marketing and lead management solutions specially designed for top performing agents and brokers.

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    Negotiating With Home Sellers

    If you dread the negotiating process when buying a home, never fear. Your real estate agent is an experienced negotiator who helps keep the bargaining from becoming emotional and veering off track.

    Your agent must know your desires by heart and have quick access to you if a negotiation point needs to be made. Its important to stick to the strategy you and your agent have agreed upon -- showing the seller how strong your offer is.

    First, get preapproved for a mortgage loan. That means your mortgage lender has reviewed your credit history and assets, checked employment and income, examined your debt-to-income ratios, and has preapproved you for a certain amount, terms and interest rate so you know exactly how much you can spend.

    Being preapproved shows sellers that you are prepared and able to buy. Before you submit an offer, ask your agent to find out more what the seller wants as far as terms. The more your offer matches up with the sellers requests, such as a closing date, the more likely your offer will be accepted.

    Find out when the house will be vacated, if any repairs or improvements are planned, and if the seller has any pressure points such as a >

    Your agent must also find out if other offers are on the table. Your position is stronger if there are no other offers. The seller may be less likely to bend on price concessions or repairs if there are other offers.

    Have your agent pull up the most recent CMA comparable homes recently sold or on the market within a reasonable radius of the home, so you can sculpt your offer price. Be sure that you are comparing apples to apples in terms of updates, size of the home, amenities, location, schools districts, etc.

    Once these steps are made, you are ready to write an offer.

    Making the offer

    Make yourself think like the seller. It helps you anticipate what the seller will accept in price, terms, and other conditions. By considering the sellers position, you will likely create an offer that is either accepted or strongly considered.

    Your offer should be clear on the terms, closing dates, repair requests or other conditions the seller needs to meet and it should be accompanied by a letter from your lender that you are preapproved to buy the sellers home. Include a cover letter summarizing your strengths as a buyer in terms of creditworthiness, flexibility in closing, and the strength of the offer.

    Dont insult the seller with an offer thats too low or requires too many concessions. The seller may be nostalgic about his or her life in the house and may not like the idea that you want to remodel.

    The only thing a seller cant argue with is a strong set of comparables that show the home is overpriced or out of date. These are homes that have sold that are nearby within two blocks and similar in age, size and features. If you can show that a similar home has sold within the last two months for less than the seller is asking, thats good.

    Be sure all conditions, repairs, etc. are agreed to in writing. Some sellers may feel that a handshake covers a promise, but its essential to be clear on paper what is expected and when. A sellers promise to paint should be included as an addendum to the contract and include all details, such as primer, exact color and type of paint, how many coats, and when the work will be finished for inspection.

    Negotiating after inspections

    The offer is negotiated and accepted, the earnest money is at the escrow agents office. Now the inspections occur, and this is where the contract negotiations can break down.

    No home is perfect, not even brand-new construction. During the inspection process, the inspector is usually required to tell you about any condition of appliances, heating and cooling systems, roofs, electrical and plumbing systems, etc, and if your future home is up to current city codes.

    Sellers are usually not required to bring a house completely up to current local building codes. Negotiate a repair only when a system is unsafe or a major repair is needed to make the system operate effectively.

    As long as the seller has a reasonable explanation of what your position is and why, and communication remains open, the seller should have as much desire to make the contract work as you do.

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    Should You Cosign On Your Kids Mortgage? The Crucial Questions To Ask Yourself

    If your child is looking to buy a house and cant qualify on their own, you may have thought about consigning on a loan. "It can be a brutal world out there, and you want to help someone you care about. Thats a perfectly reasonable argument," said US News.

    But have you examined the potential consequences of this action? Your good intentions could end up costing you, so you might want to ask yourself a few key questions before you sit down at the closing table.

    Whats the plan?

    Its a good idea to examine the goals here - both yours and the recipient of your kindness. Is this house a long-term investment that will be on your credit for a long time? A short-term thing thats only intended to help establish credit for your child? A moneymaking venture that could pay off for both of you after you flip the house? Knowing the plan can help you make the best decision.

    Is your child responsible?

    What have you observed about your son or daughters financial responsibility. Do they have a lot of outstanding credit theyre not managing well? Do they regularly borrow money without paying it back? Do they buy a lot of unnecessary items instead of being more prudent with their money and establishing some solid savings? These could all be red flags.

    What is your financial commitment?

    If your child needs a cosigner, does that also mean they need help with the down payment? If your money is going to be tied up in this home purchase, youll want to establish ground rules from the beginning. Is it a gift or a loan? If its a loan, what are the terms? What if he or she defaults? If your name is on the mortgage, the responsibility to pay may fall to you.

    GO Banking Rates

    How important is your credit to you?

    Your credit is going to take a bit of a hit with the addition of a new mortgage.

    "The loan appears on your credit report, and the monthly loan payment factors into your debt-to-income ratio - regardless of whether the primary applicant makes the payment each month. Because youre liable for this balance in the event of default, being a cosigner can decrease your ability to get new credit," said Money Crashers. "But this isnt the only consequence of a higher debt-to-income ratio. Cosigning a loan can also lower your credit score because the amounts you owe makes up 30 of your FICO score. Thus, the more debt you have, the lower your credit score. Ideally, your debt-to-income ratio should be no higher than 36, as your credit score will drop as your debt approaches or exceeds this percentage." But the real danger is, again, in the possibility of your child defaulting on the loan.

    "The bank wants to have someone on the hook in case a loan is not repaid; if you cosign a loan, youre that person who is on the hook," said GO Banking Rates. "So if your child doesnt make his loan payments, you will be expected to do so - or risk suffering the impact of a defaulted loan on your credit score."

    Will two mortgages be a hardship?

    Cosigning for a loved one could prevent you from doing the things you want to do, like buying a new house for yourself, refinancing, or even buying a car. "One potential downside for parents is that the mortgage will show up on their credit as an outstanding loan obligation, which could complicate refinancing or buying another home in the future," said US News.

    There may also be additional impacts to your finances you hadnt considered. "You should consult a financial advisor first to make sure you can comfortably afford to help without jeopardizing your financial security," they said. "You may also want to consult your tax preparer about potential tax implications, and, depending on the circumstances, ask a lawyer how to structure the legal paperwork in case your child divorces a spouse or defaults on the loan. Nobody plans on things going awry with real estate transactions, but it can happen, so its best to be prepared."

    Hows your >

    "Another important risk to consider with a cosigned loan is the effect it could have on your >

    Clear Mirror Healing

    Whats your goal?

    If youre simply looking to lend a hand, well, first of all, thats super nice of you. Homeownership is still the American dream, and helping someone elses come true is awesome. But, is putting your credit at risk really the best plan?

    There may be much better ways to help, like:

    Gift a down payment - just make sure you know the tax implications.

    Put the house in your name and rent it to your child - if you have the financial wherewithal and the goal is simply to provide a safe place to live, this might be a better solution. You can always pass the home along at the later date by providing seller financing.

    If you choose to go ahead with cosigning, take precautions. There are steps you can take to help protect yourself, like using the tools provided by the lender to set up alert when payments are due, overdue, and when theyre posted, and setting up direct debit so payments are automatically made at the same time every month.

    Full Story >

    Lease/Options Are Useful, But Can Be Tricky

    A recently-revised memorandum Option Contracts and Leases with Option to Purchase has been >

    A good lease/option agreement consists of three components: the option agreement, a purchase agreement, and a lease agreement. While terms are always negotiable between the parties, a typical scenario would be as follows:

    Option agreement: The optionor seller grants the optionee buyer the right to buy the property within a certain amount of time. I might grant you an option to buy my property within the next twelve months. You could exercise the option -- buy the property -- in the third month or any other month right up until the end date specified in the option. Typically, the option is paid for at the outset and is not refundable. It is between the parties whether or not the option money will be credited toward the purchase price.

    It is important that the option agreement specify the purchase price or a clear method of determining it. We might agree today what the price will be, but we could also agree that it would be determined by an appraisal, or an average of appraisals, or by an increase/decrease of the Dow Jones average, etc. at the time the option is exercised.

    Purchase Agreement: It is also important to agree at the outset on the terms of the purchase. If I have an option to purchase your property for 500,000 -- but no terms are specified -- you wont be happy if next year I exercise the option saying, "OK, Ill give you 5,000 down and I will pay off the 495,000 balance at 5,000 per year."

    Moreover, if a sample purchase agreement is spelled out, the optionor/seller may have the opportunity to confirm the buyers financing plans.

    Lease Agreement: The option agreement and a proposed purchase agreement are essential for any option to purchase. If the optionee is to have possession of the property, then a lease agreement is also needed. In general, a conventional lease is sufficient, but some special considerations might apply. Often the parties may agree to apply some portion of the rent to the downpayment. It is certainly OK to do this, but if there is going to be conventional third-party financing, it is a good idea to determine how the lender will treat the matter. Suppose, for example, that the parties agree that the total rent amount will be credited to the downpayment. Many lenders might not agree to this, arguing that you had to pay rent anyway, so you really cant count that as also accumulating a downpayment. Here, it is more plausible from the lenders point of view that you pay higher than a market rental rate, and let the overage be credited to the downpayment.

    Also, many lease/option agreements automatically terminate if the tenant does not comply with the terms of the rental agreement. This matter should be clearly addressed at the outset.

    Finally, both parties will benefit from having all disclosures and inspections performed at the beginning of the lease/option period. Surprises at the end can take all the fun out of it.

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

    Full Story >

    HOA Manager Balancing Act Part II

    The article HOA Manager Balancing Act seemed to suggest that if a management company was involved in a homeowner associations management both before and after transition that there was an inevitable conflict of interest. It also begged the question "Can the manager really remain neutral?" The answer is "yes" when the following is included:

    The Management Contract should clearly define the >

    Before Transition. The management company is often involved in the developer controlled HOA before the first sale closing takes place. Duties include working with the title company at sale closings, setting up the HOA bank accounts, arranging utility and contract services, coordinating new owner occupancy, hiring and training staff, securing insurance, and a myriad of other services essential to the HOAs welfare.

    Warranty Issues. Savvy developers realize that once turnover takes place, the new board of directors will make decisions >

    Consultants. Advice from independent consultants is invaluable to HOA management companies when dealing with matters that are outside their expertise like matters of law, engineering and construction defects.

    Turnover Accounting. The Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions CCamp;Rs describe when HOA assessments fees, dues begin. The escrow company collects HOA assessments from both the buyer and developer at closing. If fees are being collected from new owners, the developer normally must pay fees as well on unsold units. The HOA financial records belong to the HOA and must contain a list of all expenditures. These records are subject to audit and open to inspection by every member.

    Code of Ethics. While most state statutes may not address HOA management company ethics, there are a number of trade organizations that do. For example, manager members of Community Associations Institute CAI, Oregon Washington Community Association Managers OWCAM and California Association of Community Managers CACM must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics that addresses conflict of interest. Further, state statutes and the HOA governing documents provide guidance to HOA managers.

    Board Control. The homeowner association is controlled by the board of directors. It is the boards responsibility to determine if and when legal counsel, an auditor or an independent building inspection firm is needed. It is the boards responsibility to review and approve all contracts. Management companies should encourage the board to seek advice from consultants even when the Board may be >

    24/7 Job. HOA management companies are on call 24 hours a day. Managers work full days and attend many night board meetings. They handle the difficult and the unpleasant. They offer advice and listen to criticism. They respond to midnight emergencies and mediate neighbor disputes. They wear many hats and sometimes they are expected to be all things to all people, but throughout the process they are professionals.

    In the End. Who is the client? The HOA managers client is always the homeowner association. Sometimes the HOA is controlled by the developer and sometimes by the homeowners but the manager always serves the interests of the HOA. Successful HOA management companies are made up of service oriented people who take their job seriously because they know their good reputation hangs in the balance. I am proud to know some of the best in the business and I am proud to call them colleagues.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

    6 Surefire Methods to Keep Your Neighbors Noise Out

    Are you suffering from clunky neighbors in the upstairs apartment, a newborn baby in the adjoining townhome or a neighbor who loves to mow the yard every Saturday morning? If youre tired of dealing with unwanted noise, consider these surefire methods to block out your neighbors racket.

    Install Acoustic Tiles

    Acoustic tiles offer professional-grade soundproofing. They range in price, size and effectiveness. Its best to speak to a soundproofing professional before you begin your project.

    You can install acoustic tiles in your bedroom using double-sided tape. You can also use wallpaper paste for a long-term application. Either way, they will help diffuse the sound from noisy neighbors.

    Seal Gaps in Your Windows and Doors

    Sealing gaps can help you reduce the sounds coming from your neighbors and increase your homes energy efficiency. Older windows and doors warp over time, creating gaps in the original seals. This not only lets in a draft and allows climate-controlled air to escape, but it also lets in more noise. You can purchase a simple bottle of insulating foam from your neighborhood hardware store.

    Consider Moving Furniture

    You can also block out unwanted noise with furniture. For example, if you live in a townhome, you can block noise from your neighbors bedroom by switching your bed to the non-adjoining wall. You can also expand your buffer by installing a bookshelf along the shared wall to muffle some of the noises coming from next door.

    Add White Noise

    The simplest option with low-level noise is to drown it out with something less intrusive. If you enjoy sleeping with the windows open, but cant stand the sounds of traffic, turn on a fan in your room to drown out the noise. You could even go as far as buying a white noise machine to offer something a little different than the sounds of a fan.

    Insulate the Floors

    If you live in an apartment and cant stand the noise coming from downstairs, consider installing new insulation and padding below your flooring. You can also lay down large area rugs to provide a slight buffer.

    Close Your Curtains

    Layers between you and the outside world serve to muffle the noises that disrupt your peace and quiet. If you have simple horizontal blinds, consider upgrading to fabric curtains instead. A fabric upgrade wont block everything out, but it can help reduce unwanted noise.


    There are many ways to block out the noises from unruly neighbors. Use these tips to help you achieve a quiet and >

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

    Full Story >

    Understanding The quot;Tax Freequot; Exchange

    Residential homeowners have a number of tax benefits, the most important of which is the exclusion of up to 500,000 profit made on the sale of the principal residence.

    But real estate investors -- large and small -- still have to pay capital gains tax when they sell their investments. And since most investors depreciated their properties over a number of years, they often have to "recapture" the depreciation, as well as paying a lot of capital gains tax.

    There is a way of deferring payment of this tax, and it is known as a Like-Kind Exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.

    Keep in mind the exchange process is not a "tax free" device, although people refer to it as a "tax-free exchange." It is also called a "Starker exchange" or a "deferred exchange." It will not >

    The rules are complex, but here is a general overview of the process.

    Section 1031 permits a delay non-recognition of gain only if the following conditions are met:

    First, the property transferred called ">

    investment." Neither property in this exchange can be your principal residence, unless you have abandoned it as your personal house.

    Second, there must be an exchange; the IRS wants to ensure that a transaction that is called an exchange is not really a sale and a subsequent purchase.

    Third, the replacement property must be of "like kind." The courts have given a very broad definition to this concept. As a general rule, all real estate is considered "like kind" with all other real estate. Thus, a condominium unit can be swapped for an office building, a single family home for raw land, or a farm for commercial or industrial property.

    Once you meet these tests, it is important to determine the tax consequences. If you do a like-kind exchange, your profit will be deferred until you sell the replacement property. However, the cost basis of the new property in most cases will be the basis of the old property. Discuss this with your accountant to determine whether the savings by using the like-kind exchange will make up for the lower cost basis on your new property. Also, if you do not do an exchange, how much tax will you have to pay. Sometimes, its better to "bite the bullet" and pay the tax, rather than get involved with another rental, investment property.

    The traditional, >

    Congress did not like this open-ended interpretation, and in 1984, two major limitations were imposed on the Starker non-simultaneous exchange.

    First, the replacement property must be identified before the 45th day after the day on which the original >

    Second, the replacement property must be purchased no later than 180 days after the taxpayer transfers his original property, or the due date with any extension of the taxpayers return of the tax imposed for the year in which the transfer is made. These are very important time limitations, which should be noted on your calendar when you first enter into a 1031 exchange.They are literally carved in stone; they cannot be waived or modified.

    In 1989, Congress added two additional technical restrictions. First, property located in the United States cannot be exchanged for property outside the United States.

    Second, if property received in a like-kind exchange between >

    In May of 1991, the Internal Revenue Service adopted final regulations which clarified many of the issues. Here are some of the major highlights:

  • Identification of the replacement property within 45 days. According to the IRS, the taxpayer may identify more than one property as replacement property. However, the maximum number of replacement properties that the taxpayer may identify is either three properties of any fair market value, or any number of properties as long as their aggregate fair market value does not exceed 200 of the aggregate fair market value of all of the >
  • Who is the neutral party? Conceptually, the >
  • Interest on the exchange proceeds. One of the underlying concepts of a successful 1031 exchange is the absolute requirement that not one penny of the sales proceeds be available to the seller of the >

    Generally, the sales proceeds are placed in escrow with a neutral third party. Since these proceeds may not be used for the purchase of the replacement property for up to 180 days, the amount of interest earned can be significant. Or it used to be before banks started paying less then pennies on the dollar in interest accounts.

    The IRS permits the taxpayer to earn interest -- referred to as "growth factor" -- on these escrowed funds. Any such interest to the taxpayer has to be reported as earned income. Once the replacement property is obtained by the exchanger, the interest can either be used for the purchase of that property, or paid directly to the exchanger.

    The rules are quite complex, and you must seek both legal and tax accounting advice before you enter into any like-kind exchange tra

    Full Story >

  • Is It Finally Time To Buy A Condo?

    The popularity of condos has swelled and waned over the years, gaining popularity especially in areas where buyers may be priced out of the single-family home market and where high-density is the only way to go if you want to buy something new.

    Despite their greater affordability, condos have been harder for buyers to get approved to purchase unless they had a large down payment. Thats because the Federal Housing Administration FHA, a popular source of loans for first-time buyers because theyre a government-backed; b require as little as 3.5 percent down; and c are often a solution for buyers who have less than perfect credit, has historically only approved a small number of condos for their financing, leading the L.A. Times to previously call condos an "FHA no-lending zone."

    But that may be changing with new legislation that just was just signed by the president.

    "President Obama has signed H.R. 3700 - the "Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act" into law. The National Association of REALTORS NAR hailed the development as a significant step in eliminating barriers to safe, affordable mortgage credit for condos," said the NAR.

    NAR has long been an advocate of the bill, testifying before Congress and lobbying for its passage. Additionally, nearly 140,000 REALTORSacross the country voiced their support for the legislation during the NAR call for action."

    McCrimmon Home Team

    Passed unanimously by Congress, the bill lowers "the owner occupancy requirement for condo complexes from 50 to 35 percent," said 10 News. "That means more condos could be purchased with a 3.5 percent down payment, well below the usual 10 or 20 percent requirement."

    Thats huge news for condo buyers who have experienced the frustration of searching for an affordable property only to be shut down by a lack of available inventory.

    The FHA does have 90 days to devise their new rules on owner occupancy, "or the 35 percent owner occupancy rate goes into effect," said 10 News. In the meantime, lets take a look at some of the pros and cons of condo ownership.



    No exterior maintenance. If youre looking for a lock-and-leave life>


    Somebodys gotta do that maintenance, which probably means youll be paying a homeowners association HOA fee.


    If you have an HOA, you probably also have some amenities in the community, like a pool or gym, that you may not have in a single-family home.


    You still have to pay for the amenities even if you dont use them. And HOA fees are not tax deductible.

    Emerald Coast Realty


    But if you do use them, you might meet some neighbors, which could make living in your condo even more enjoyable. Sometimes, close quarters create great bonds.


    And sometimes close quarters just translates to lots of noise. In a condo, youll typically be sharing at least one wall, and probably at least one floor as well. For some, privacy may be one of the downsides of condo ownership. Those who are buying for the first time, moving down, or simply looking to own something of their own at the lowest possible price might not mind so much. Still, the idea of going from an apartment to something that still feels like one can be disconcerting.


    Even with the drawbacks, a condo you buy is still something you own, and the benefits of owning real estate are many - like pride of ownership, to start, not to mention the tax benefits. If youve never owned property before, youll love being able to write off your mortgage interest, which, on average, is about 1,900 a year in savings, said MarketWatch, plus any points on your mortgage, property taxes, and private mortgage insurance, which youll need if youre putting less than 20 percent down.


    Even if the new law results in greater availability of condos, making them more attractive and more viable to buyers, condos are still traditionally more difficult to sell than single-family homes. "Condos can be difficult to sell. Why? Well, they pretty much all look the same," said Money Crashers. "If there are empty units in your building, those are likely going to sell first. And if there are a lot of empty unitsgood luck. Also, Condominiums often appreciate in value much slower than single-family homes. This is because you dont own any land, which is the biggest driver for appreciation. Instead, you only own the living space. Theres a big difference."



    If youre in an area where single-family homes are out of reach for many or most buyers and condos are your one shot at homeownership, you might not care that it could be harder to sell some day. And, it might not even be an issue in your area. Your Realtor should be able to advise you on neighborhoods that are best buys.

    Also, newer condo units that vary the exteriors to look more like a village may avoid the "everythings the same" problem.


    You could have to pay an assessment. "Assessment is the bad word of any planned community" because it means money out of your pocket.

    "Every month, a portion of your condo fees goes into the developments reserves," said US News. "Thats where the condo association gets the money to fund occasional projects, such as repainting the buildings exterior. If an expense cant be delayed - lets say a pipe burst and there isnt enough in the reserve to cover repairs - condo owners could be asked to pay an assessment, which can range from a minor pittance to thousands of dollars."

    You can help avoid any potential issues by doing your due diligence upfront.

    "Before buying your condo, you should request and read the documents that apply to the management of the complex," said Investopedia. "What are the hot issues for this complex? How big is the condominiums reserve fund? You need to get a sense of whether the condominium you are considering is well run, whether the rules and restrictions would allow you live the life>
    Full Story >

    How To Beat Sellers Stress

    Three things are certain in life: death, taxes ... and undue stress caused by moving. Whether or not you use the services of a Realtor to help you wade through the uncertain waters of the buy-and-sell process, moving is stressful, period. And theres not much you can do to avoid it. And were not just talking about packing and paperwork. Moving is an emotional process. If youre not calming down your nervous children, youre trying to reassure yourself that youll meet people in your new neighborhood, that you bought the best house within your means, and that your kids new schools will measure up.

    Its easy to forget while were dealing with all of these jitters that moving actually can represent an exciting adventure, a growth opportunity and the prospect of new beginnings. Once the dust settles after your move, youre entering one of the most memorable times of your life. With any luck, youve recruited a REALTOR whos familiar with the obvious stresses as well as the insidious and subsequently more detrimental ones. Depending upon your >

    Its important to remember throughout the entire selling and buying process, however, to reserve time for yourself and your family. Its not a waste of time, but rather an insurance policy for your sanity and continued happiness. Stress is sneaky, as weve all discovered. It can eat away at us during what are supposed to be the happiest of times, because after all, any major change in life is stressful. If its supressed, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically and spread throughout the family. And theres nothing worse than moving a grumpy family across the country. For the sake of your continued family unity, keep in mind the following stress->

    First, remember that its perfect normal to feel unsure of your decision right now. Youve just made a major commitment, and all of us experience those last-second "What on earth did I just do" worries after signing contracts and making life-changing decisions. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with "what ifs" and dread, reframe this decision as a prime opportunity to begin your lives in a new environment. The old saying "When one door closes, another one opens" definitely applies here. Trust that your Realtor is looking out for your best interests, ask as many questions as you need to throughout the entire process thats part of what your Realtor is paid for, and look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of you.

    If you can, keep an emergency fund in case you run into any unexpected costs. One example: If your buyer comes forward after a home inspection is completed and requests a series of repairs prior to move-in, youll be prepared. Chances are good that you wont necessarily agree with the buyers requests, but at least you wont face the additional stress of being short the money for repairs if you plan ahead and save some extra cash no set amount -- just as much as you can handle. A goal you might try to shoot for would be in the range of 2,500. Its probably in your best interests not to try to guess what the buyer will want to repair, and then fix it ahead of time. Thats because buyers have a habit of isolating areas of your home that you never considered having repaired, and not even noticing the ones you expected them to pinpoint. So save yourself any expenses until youve determined their requests.

    And while were on the subject of finances, try to anticipate and prepare for the initial expenses youll face upon move-in. Resign yourself to the fact that during the moving process, youre going to feel as if youre holding your wallet upside down, and everyone -- movers, contractors, buyer, etc. -- is sitting underneath, catching the windfall and demanding a larger share. Keep in mind that this is an investment for the good of your family, and that these costs are a one-time inevitability.

    Remind yourself of why youre moving in the first place. A job transfer, or is it a voluntary choice? Obviously, whether or not you had some degree of control over the decision will affect your outlook. Regardless of your answer to that question, round up as much information as you can about your new hometown. What kinds of cultural offerings does the town/city offer? What are its landmarks and natural attractions? Research some possible day trips you might take with the family once youre settled. Is your new hometown near state borders, giving you the opportunity to explore different regions of the country without much effort?

    Envision your new home. Where will you place the furniture? Remind yourself of the homes primary selling points. Will you have more space? More closets? A large backyard and/or swimming pool? What does your new streetlook like? Do a lot of young families reside there? If so, your children are likely to be reassured by that knowledge. As often as possible, try to picture yourself and your family fully adapted to your new environment.

    Remember to have a little fun occasionally. Youre still allowed, even if you feel as if you dont have a penny left to your name. Take the family out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic -- anything that gets all of you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. Keep a regular "date" to get out together -- for example, every Friday night leading up to the move. Take your mind off your stress for a few hours, and remind yourself that your family members are experiencing many of the same emotions. Like misery, stress often loves company, so enjoy your time together and remember that this stress wont last forever. Regardless of what youre feeling now, the move will happen and everything will eventually fall into place. Journeying into the unknown is what makes life rewarding, so trust in your Realtors expertise and in your familys resilience, and look forward to the journey ahead.

    Full Story >

    6 Ways to Upgrade Your Entryway

    Its funny how one of the most important spaces in your home can often be the most overlooked. The entryway tends to be a place where you just hang your coat, toss your keys into a bowl and take off your shoes - yet this is the first thing your guests see when they enter your home. Doesnt sound very welcoming, does it?

    It may be small and it may be humble, but your entryway is crucial when it comes to making a good first impression. Here are a few easy ways to transform your entryway into something unforgettable.

    1. Front Door Fix

    Dont neglect your front door. Even the nicest home on the block can look a little "blah" with a subpar front door. A stand out shape, unique color or interesting finish can make a door the focal point of your exterior and transform the entire look of your home. For example, if your house is painted in a basic beige, grey or white, choose a brightly colored door to complement the subdued exterior.

    Have a small, dark entryway? Choose a door with a big window or multiple panes of glass to let more natural light in. This will help the space appear bigger and offer a brighter first impression to your guests.

    2. Change up Your Hardware

    Looking for a quick change? Update the hardware By switching out handles, locks and door knockers, you can easily change the look of a simple door from traditional to modern or from boring to eclectic.

    Sure, they are a little old fashioned, but I love the drama of a big, heavy door knocker. Historically, door knockers have symbolized everything from the faith to the business or trade of the people in the home. This piece of hardware doesnt carry as much meaning these days, but it is a great way to show off your personality and the things you love. Keep it simple, keep it >

    3. Turn up the Heat

    Although radiant heat flooring is most often seen in bathrooms, were starting to see these systems used in other spaces. For tile, stone and hardwood entryways, this is a fabulous upgrade that will make your family and guests love you, especially if you live in a cold climate or in the mountains like I do. Radiant heated floors are also a bonus if you prefer to go shoe-free. I guarantee that no one will be complaining once their feet hit that warm floor Talk about a good first impression.

    4. Make Way for Color

    I always say that a bright coat of paint is the best way to update any space. Its budget friendly, reversible and nothing will transform your mood faster than a new color. I love the idea of a bold, painted entryway that makes your mouth drop open. This is an opportunity to make an impact. If you dont want to go with a bright purple, yellow, orange, red or green, think about your entry as the beginning of a progression of color. Here, you can set the tone and build up to bolder color choices. Or, you could try the gradual approach with a darker entry that gives way to lighter colors to make the space seem bigger.

    5. Mood Lighting

    Adding a dramatic light fixture or lamp is like that final piece of jewelry on a perfect outfit. Light fixtures pull double duty. They serve to create a more inviting space and set the mood for the rest of your home. You already know about the dramatic chandelier approach, but dont feel obligated to go the traditional route. If a chandelier seems too formal, pick a conversation piece. Choose something modern, witty, colorful or edgy. If you dont have space for a big fixture, a really cool accent lamp, or even some clever wall sconces, will do the trick.

    6. Accessorize

    Accessorizing is the most fun part of updating your entryway. Whether youre working with a completely bare space or youre adding a few new items, this is your chance to let your personality shine through. Add a mirror, a unique work of art, a narrow console table or a vase with fresh flowers. If you have enough space, you can even add a few pieces of furniture to create a small seating area.

    I love incorporating closet->

    You spend so much time designing and decorating your home - dont let the entryway be an afterthought This is your chance to give your guests a little sneak preview into your >

    Jen Visosky is an interior designer with a brash, bold, no-rules approach to life and design. Her front entryway design advice includes bold colors, a new door and plenty of unique accessories. If youre looking to jazz up your entrance with a new front door, check out the selection at Home Depot.

    Full Story >

    4 Things You Should Be Doing With Your Home Equity

    You may be sitting on a goldmine. Or a small fortune. Or at least a little chunk of cash. Rising home prices across the country means homeowners have some equity. So what can you do with it? More importantly, what should you do with it? If youve got money in your house, youve got some options.

    "Done wisely, you can use the lower-interest debt secured by your house to pay off debts with high interest rates, like credit cards," said houselogic. "Its also a good choice if you know exactly how much you need to borrow for a big expenditure like a new kitchen."

    Historically low interest rates have ignited "a surge in demand for home equity loans this year," said HOUSINGWIRE. James Chessen, chief economist for the American Bankers Association, told them: "The market for home equity loans and lines will likely continue to grow as a larger pool of qualified borrowers looks to take advantage of low rates to make property improvements or pay off higher-interest debt."

    1. Make smart updates to your home

    Home improvement is "the No. 1 use" of home equity loans and home equity lines of credit HELOCs, Kelly Kockos, senior vice president of home equity for Wells Fargo in San Francisco, told Bankrate.

    Smart property improvements that raise the value of the home make sense for those who have a cushion. But, its important to keep in mind the increase in payments. Even if a kitchen remodel or an overhaul of the front-yard landscaping ends up raising the value of your home, you wont recoup that money until you sell.


    Make sure youre not "increasing overhead to the point that its not affordable or comfortable for you," Justin Lopatin, vice president of mortgage lending for PERL Mortgage in Chicago, told Bankrate.

    Youll also want to focus on smart renovations that provide return on investment. An attic remodel may not pay off like updates to your bathrooms. A new front door gives your home a fresh look and helps with that all-important curb appeal, and is the one item that pays back the investment at a minimum of 100 percent year after year.

    2. Put your kids through college

    "A HELOC or home equity loan can be an attractive way to finance a childs education because the interest rate might be lower and the maximum loan amount higher than some other types of education financing," Andy Tilp, president of Trillium Valley Financial Planning in Sherwood, Oregon, told Bankrate.

    Interest rates on home equity loans and lines of credit are "roughly comparable" to rates federal Stafford loans, according to, "but far less than the 7.21 percent interest rate currently charged for federal PLUS loans made to parents."

    SCPR notes that as the economy has improved, the number of people using their home equity to pay for college has dropped. But "with the total annual cost of college hitting roughly 23,000 for the average four-year public school and about 46,000 for private schools, according to The College Board," they said, it remains a reality some are going to have to face. Just be sure to check with a financial professional to make sure this new loan wont put you in a financially risky position.

    "Ive seen parents struggle because they have to delay retirement, sometimes for many years, because of this huge debt. And if they lose their home, and with a bit of an ironic twist, they may be moving in with their new college grad," Tilp told Bankrate.

    3. Pay off those high-rate credit cards

    Did you know that the average interest rate on credit cards is more than 15 percent? If you have a 10,000 debt on a credit card at that interest rate and make the minimum payment, youll be paying it off for nearly 30 years, and itll cost you almost 12,000 in interest.

    A HELOC with an interest rate around five percent that you use to get your cards paid off makes a lot of sense.

    The Guardian

    "HELOCs are often touted as a great vehicle for consolidating high-interest debt," said nerdwallet. "Because HELOCs are secured by your home, their interest rates are significantly lower than credit cards. Additionally, rates on home loan products including HELOCs have been at historic lows since the Great Recession. This means that if you roll several cards onto one HELOC, you could save serious money on interest payments."

    The tax-deductible interest is also a huge advantage. "This could add up to savings when tax time rolls around."

    4. Leave it alone

    If theres one thing we learned from the downturn, its that reckless financial decisions >

    "The fact that youre staking your home against your ability to pay off the debt is just the beginning of the potential drawbacks," said HOUSELOGIC. "A home equity loan is a lien on your house that usually takes second place to the primary mortgage. As such, home equity lenders can be left with nothing if a house sells for less than whats owed on the first mortgage. To recoup losses, second-mortgage lenders will sometimes refuse to sign off on short sales unless theyre paid all or part of what theyre owed.

    Moreover, even though the lender loses its secured interest in the house should it go to foreclosure, in some states, it can send debt collectors after you for the balance, and report the loss to credit agencies. This black mark on your credit score can hurt your ability to borrow for years to come."

    Leaving your equity and letting it continue to grow while the home appreciates and/or you pay down the balance is the safest choice. But is it the one that works for you?

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    Is Ordinance or Law Insurance Right For Your HOA?

    Homeowner associations especially condominiums are required to properly insure the common elements which often include the structures. As buildings age, the unavoidable happens: they fall out of compliance with building codes. Building code changes periodically to improve fire and life safety, structural integrity standards and energy efficiency.

    As new building materials, equipment, engineering and designs are developed that meet that charge, code is revised. One example is the current standard of six inch versus four inch exterior walls to improve insulation performance. There are many other examples. The older the structure is, the more out of code it becomes.

    While the building code generally doesnt require older buildings to meet current code, if an out-of-code structure experiences fire, flood, wind or earthquake that does substantial damage, the code issue is likely to raise its ugly head. This means that even though the original structure wasnt required to comply, the rebuilt structure will be, or at least the part of it that requires reconstruction. While this is logical why rebuild to an outdated standard?, basic fire and hazard insurance only pays for rebuilding what is there, not what could be.

    So, if you insure four inch walls, the insurance will only pay the cost to rebuild four inch walls, not six inch walls. You pay the difference.

    Fortunately, the insurance industry provides supplemental insurance coverage for older buildings called "Ordinance or Law Coverage" which is specifically designed to pay the increased cost of reconstruction. However, this coverage must be requested. It doesnt automatically kick in simply because of building age.

    If your HOA buildings are ten years old or older, contact your insurance agent to discuss the merits and costs of Building or Ordinance coverage. It is usually very reasonably priced.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    4 Tips to Better Help You Adjust to Life in the U.S.

    As anyone who has moved to the United States from another country knows quite well, it can take a great deal of time to get acclimated. Everything from learning a new language and customs to getting used to the different foods, shopping malls and rules of the road can be simultaneously exciting and overwhelming.

    In order to adjust to life in the United States and make the transition to your new home as smooth as possible, consider the following words of advice:

    Be Gentle with Yourself

    As Rapid Immigration notes, moving to a new country can cause a serious case of culture shock. Some people end up feeling depressed, lonely and angry as they try to adapt to their new home and culture. To help cope with these feelings, its important to understand what you are experiencing is completely normal.

    Allow enough time to adjust to your new country and, whenever possible, look for some similarities between cultures and citizens, rather than always focusing on differences.

    Apply for Your Drivers License

    For many newcomers to the United States, obtaining a drivers license is one of the most significant adjustments they will have to make. Perhaps you didnt have a car in your former country, or if you did, the rules were so different you might think you have arrived on a different driving planet. To get around in your new city, its important to earn a drivers license as soon as possible.

    In order to do so successfully and with minimum stress, check out these free online practice testsat The website is also a great source of information on different traffic laws and safe-driving practices from state to state, which will help you prepare to earn your drivers license.

    Learn Our Social Customs, Idioms

    Chances are U.S. social mores are quite a bit different here compared to other countries. To help get acclimated to your new home, its important to read about these customs. Vanderbilt University recently published a great article filled with advice about some of the many situations newcomers will encounter. For example, most people in the U.S. like to have a good amount of personal space between themselves and others.

    In fact, if someone backs away during a conversation, it usually does not mean they arent interested in talking to you, but rather are hoping to re-establish a more comfortable personal distance. If English is a new language for you, learning our variety of idioms that pop up in daily conversation can also be helpful. offers an in-depth list of the most common idiomsand their meanings, which will help you understand what it means to burn the midnight oil or when something "really takes the cake."

    Make Your New House a Home

    A comfortable and inviting home can really help newcomers to the United States adjust to their new life. To help cope with possible feelings of homesickness, consider decorating your new place with your favorite artwork and posters, as well as some family photos taken in your hometown. Stock your kitchen with a mix of your favorite spices, herbs and shelf-stable foods from your old country. If you didnt bring any with you, ask a friend or family member to mail you some, or perhaps look for stores in your community that sell them.

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    A Six Step Media Room Tune-Up

    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.

    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

    As a talented interior designer, Kerrie Kelly is always coming up with new ideas to fit home electronics into the design of a room. She likes to share her expertise for The Home Depot on topics like managing your cable clutter and making speakers inconspicuous. Visit for a full line of cable management products.

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    What To Consider Before You Buy A Condo

    Condos were once thought of as homes that attracted singles or couples, often without children. But today, condos are growing in popularity and attracting families of all sizes.

    Condos can be an excellent choice for the right buyers. Here are a few things that should considered before purchasing a condo. Most buyers start with the condo itself. That may be a good place to begin but, before they buy, buyers should also consider other factors outside of the condo.

    Some developers are building condos that have a look and feel like single-family homes. These modern condos have great rooms and open, flowing floor plans that look and feel like a single-family home rather than an apartment or condo.

    One of the major attractions of condos is the low maintenance. The community area is maintained by an association funded by the dues that homeowners pay into it.

    Thats why buyers first consideration should be to explore the development and make sure they like the look and feel of the complex and surrounding community. There are codes and restrictions, often referred to as CCamp;Rs covenants, codes, and restrictions that buyers will have to abide by once they purchase a condo. Buyers should ask to review them before making an offer to purchase a condo. These regulations help ensure that the community maintains its general appearance and any necessary repairs of the external areas.

    Review the associations budget. It may be necessary to get the seller to provide this information because it may not be >

    Find out how many owners in the development are delinquent on their dues. A condo complex that has a high level of delinquencies can cause problems for buyers when it comes time to get a loan or sell the condo. Some loans are not approved if delinquency rates are higher than 15 percent.

    Review the minutes from the associations board meetings. They will reveal the day-to-day issues that occur each month and give an indication of how the development is run. For instance, lots of complaints and filings about noisy residents, loud parties, or dog droppings on the lawn reveal potential problems with neighbors. The minutes will also reveal if the development is engaged in any lawsuits.

    Understand what your responsibilities are for the upkeep of the condo. Find out what the association takes care of and what the homeowners have to maintain. Look at the associations property management team and see how many times the association has changed management companies. Find out why. This will may reveal how responsive the association will be should residents need its assistance.

    Ultimately, buyers need to ensure that when they purchase a condo theyre not buying into any legal battles the association is in the middle of and that they will be able to live in their condo the way they want. Study the CCamp;Rs and do due diligence before buying.

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    10 DIY Peel-And-Stick Tiles To Quickly Take Your Backsplash From Meh To Magnificent

    Adding a flashy backsplash is one of the best ways to help transform your kitchen, and, especially, to take the emphasis off of countertops that might need updating or cabinets in need of an overhaul. It could also inspire you to make those other needed changes. But the hassle of working with tile and stone and dealing with messy thinset and grout - or paying someone to do it for you - often wins out over going for it.

    But theres another solution to slopping adhesive on the wall. Peel-and-stick tiles Yes, you actually peel off the backing and stick them to your wall, or even to existing tile. And they stay there, until you want to peel them off and put something else up. If you can place a sticker, you can tile your kitchen.

    "Removable, peel-and-stick subway tile. The kind you can install over your existing tile in an afternoon, without any special tools or tricks," said Apartment Therapy. It sounds like the stuff legends are made of, doesnt it? But its real."

    Now, peel-and-stick tiles arent enti>

    1. White subway tile

    Love the look of subway tile but cant imagine the installation nightmare? These Smart Tiles use a "gel component called Gel-O which gives it its 3-dimensional effect."


    2. Color and texture in a subway tile

    You dont have to stick to white. This peel-and-stick subway tile brings a little added interest with color, and the glass texture.


    3. Luxurious marble

    Subway Marbella gives the look of rich marble in the subway shape thats so popular.


    4. Go herringbone

    Herringbone brings instant >


    5. Metallic mania

    Or take on the metallic trend with these Salerno Mosaic peel-and-stick tiles. They come in a variety of metallic finishes and shapes.


    6. Rustic looks

    Want a more rustic look? This splitface slate peel-and-stick tile brings in a cabin or resort vibe.


    7. Go gray

    The splitface tile also comes in gray tones, offering a mix of contemporary hues and rustic texture.


    8. Bring in stone

    This Aspect Frosted Quartz Peel and Stick Stone gives you the look of real stone with great texture and metallic accents, and comes in a variety of colors.


    9. Put a hex on it

    Its one of the hottest shapes in backsplash tile today, and now its easier than ever to install.


    10. A beautiful reflection

    Mother-of-pearl peel and stick tile is perfect for dark areas like kitchens with minimal light. The reflective surface bounces light around the room, helping the space to look larger.


    It also comes in shell tones.

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    Updated: Monday, August 29, 2016

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