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Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Condo Renovations: Making The Most Of Your Space

In real estate, nothing ever stays the same. In Toronto, the types of condo buyers are constantly changing, says real estate agent Cynthia Goodchild of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, Johnston and Daniel Division.

Many buyers are now families or young couples with a baby on the way. They dont want to rent but cant afford to buy a house. Or some, regardless of age, dont have the time or inclination to maintain a home.

Condo suites are smaller than they used to be, so it pays to renovate to make the most of every inch and to make the space functional for everyday living and entertaining.

Designer Sabrina Bitton, an expert in all things space saving and clever, recently transformed her 825-square-foot suite into a showpiece of good, functional, flexible and space-efficient design. Her suite offers the clean-lined and less-is-more sensibilities todays buyers want.

She embraces European design, with a dash of Frank Lloyd Wright bringing the outdoors in while ensuring no space is wasted, she says.

Her original two-bedroom suite had large windows in the living room and master bedroom, the rooms side by side at the end of the suite. Bitton removed the master bedroom wall and incorporated the square footage and windows into the living space.

She sealed up the doors to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom and lined the walls with floor-to-ceiling custom millwork. Instead of extending the built-ins to the end of the living room wall, she added open solid walnut shelving to provide an airy feeling and to offer a place to display treasured items.

Walnut is used for several features throughout the suite, bringing a touch of nature and creating a sense of flow between rooms.

The kitchen includes walnut shelving and a walnut island. To create maximum storage space, Bitton took advantage of the nine-foot-high ceilings and extended the built-ins to the ceiling. The high space is ideal for storing large boxes of out-of-season clothing and seasonal items that dont need to be accessed on a regular basis.

Vents for heating and cooling are hidden behind cupboard doors and kick plates, with slits to keep the air circulating.

Storage space is always a challenge in condos, so finding creative ways of adding more makes the unit more functional. "I have so much storage space that some cupboards are actually empty," she says.

A clever "Bitton trick" is a bar-height island on wheels that fits over the existing kitchen island so it doesnt take up additional floor space.

When entertaining be it for a sit-down dinner for eight, a buffet or a large cocktail party, the bar-height island can be wheeled out to provide a separate table. Or it can be used as buffet space, a place to enjoy cocktails or additional work space.

Downsizers who arent ready to give up their sit-down eating space find this a particularly welcome idea, Bitton says.

She chose bar stools with lower backs so when theyre tucked under the bar, they dont obstruct the view from the kitchen. Bitton added a clear rectangular blown glass chandelier over the island to add drama without distracting from the view.

Seamless, clean-lined built-ins on another wall in the living/dining space include a fold-up desk, and a surprise. Instead of hard-to-reach cupboards at ceiling height, Bitton added pull-down rods so hanging clothes are easily accessible.

When renovating, figure out what you want, how to achieve and what you want to invest your money on. Bitton splurged on a comfortable sofa.

"Comfort is important. Also, since its a linear space, the curved couch adds a feeling of movement. You could also add an additional sleeping area by using a sofa bed."

In the second bedroom, which is beside the original master bedroom, a door was added to provide access to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom. More custom built-ins were added in the closet.

In the bedroom, the original closet doors were removed and the closet space was lined with walnut to create a headboard/nook for her bed. The window seat was extended from 18 to 24 inches to create a cosy sitting area. Custom built-ins were installed below the window seat and extended along the wall. An unused alcove space was filled with shelves and glass doors to create a fun display space for Bittons fancy shoes.

Light-coloured floors are used throughout, chosen over dark, which shows dust and visually closes in a space. Paint and window treatments are different tones of the same creamy neutral colour family. Doors are painted light grey to complete the Zen ambiance.

Before buying a new condo, Goodchild says its important to speak to the builder to find out what changes can be made. You may not want the kitchen thats there or would prefer to omit a wall, but the builder may not be able to accommodate your needs.

Few developers will allow preconstruction changes. In that case, choose the least expensive finishes for features you plan to remove, and then renovate with an eye to creating functional and multi-functional space, says Bitton, of Sabrina Bitton Interior Design. "Its all about creating smart condos."

Times have changed from 20 years ago, when condos were purchased primarily by retirees, Goodchild says. Now people in their 50s are buying too because they want less upkeep, more freedom and the ability to do more of what they want, including travel.

"Retirees still make up a large percentage of purchasers, but the under 35-year-olds find condo ownership appealing because they want to be downtown and be close to work. They want to have the ability to work, live and play in the same neighbourhood," Goodchild says. "Then they have children and sometimes stay."

Whoever the buyer, making the most of the space is key, says Bitton, who along with in-person service, offers Skype design consultation. A portion of her fee goes to charity.

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Earmarking Reserves In Your HOA

Most homeowner associations are entrusted with substantial common elements which must be maintained, replaced or renewed. All of this costs a lot of money. Borrowing said money is a very bad idea because it comes at a very high price in the way of interest and fees which must be repaid along with the principal. The cheapest and fairest way to pay for these expenses is to earmark a portion of the monthly, quarterly or annual fees and hold this money in reserve for future expenses. A properly done reserve study will inform the board how much the earmark should be so that all pay a fair share of a 30 year plan. If this is done, special assessments are never needed and the board has the money when needed.

But keep in mind that even the best reserve study has its limitations. While it predicts likely useful life spans and replacement costs, it cant guarantee either one. A reserve study is based on assumptions that change over time. The climate, weather, soil conditions, maintenance, design and construction quality play a role in the aging process, causing some components to age differently than expected. The financial climate is also variable. Investment earnings and the inflation change. To keep the reserve study accurate, industry experts recommend and state statutes often require that the reserve study be updated annually.

How Much Do You Need? The reserve study will estimate how much money is needed for future projects and when the funds will be needed. For the typical garden >Communicate with Owners. For HOAs that are not currently contributing enough to reserves, the solution is to start contributing more by increasing the monthly fees. Lenders shy away from HOAs which have little or no reserves but it negatively impacts a lenders collateral. Once the reserve study is completed, provide owners with a copy and encourage them to read it. Hold a special meeting and invite the reserve study provider to explain it. Make sure owners understand the reserve funding schedule and emphasize the >Dont Commingle Funds. Reserves should not be used to pay for ongoing preventive maintenance and repairs. Those should be paid out of the operating budget. Reserve funds should be segregated in a special bank account apart from operating funds. Typically, the portion of HOA fees earmarked for reserves is swept into this separate account monthly. Only reserve >Borrow Reserves Funds Carefully. Borrow from reserves only in an emergency or because of seasonal high expenses like an insurance premium that comes due early in the year and not enough fees have accumulated yet to pay it. If you must borrow, document the board vote approving that decision, establish a reasonable repayment plan and stick to the plan.

Develop a Reserve Investment Plan. Reserve funds are typically placed in FDIC insured savings accounts, money market accounts and Certificates of Deposit. Most state laws dont have specific reserve investment standards for homeowner associations. The governing documents usually give the board investment discretion. Boards should develop a written investment policy that defines the investment goals, establishes the objectives against which the investment performance will be measured, and identifies the boundaries within which investment selections will be made.

The investment policy should include:

  • Keep the reserves safe dont risk the principal.
  • Preserve earning power by choosing investments that match or exceed the inflation rate when possible.
  • Ensure that the funds are available when they are needed.

Other issues to consider include:

  • Consider working with an investment professional. This is particularly important when the reserve fund is large.
  • Remember that this is OPM Other Peoples Money. Tread carefully.
  • Document the investment decisions in meeting minutes.
  • Diversify the investments savings, CDs, etc.
  • Focus on liquidity. Industry experts recommend holding 5 of reserves in cash for emergencies, another 10-15 in short term six months or less securities and the rest spread among varied investments with varied maturities. The reserve study provides the schedule for work and projected cost for investment planning.
  • Review your investment strategies annually to make sure they still match near and long term goals. Dont let cyclical changes in the market alter the investment strategy which should remain long term.

Maintaining adequate reserves is a fundamental part of the boards fiduciary duty. Make sure to earmark the budget for reserves.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see
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Protecting Community Associations Against Money Loss

Qustion: I am the President of a 135 unit condominium association and have just read that a local Property Management company has been the victim of an embezzlement. I understand a lot of condominium money that was held by the Management Company may have been lost. What can our association do to protect ourselves against such events?

Answer: In my law practice, I have represented at least two property management companies that went out of business in this area, leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills and large losses from community associations reserve and operating accounts.

There are many ways in which to protect your association funds.

First, before you hire a property manager, make sure the firm is licensed in the jurisdiction where your property is located. However, not every state requires a license.

Second, check out the property manager carefully. Perhaps you should even obtain credit reports on the firm and the property manager who will be servicing your project; this will, of course, require the permission of the manager, but they should not object if they want your business.

Third, keep control of your funds. Generally speaking, there are two pools of moneys in community associations: operating accounts and reserve accounts.

Regarding the operating account, set a dollar figure above which the property manager will need the co-signature of at least one board member on all checks going out of that account. This will, of course, create a burden on both the property manager and the board member who has to sign checks. But, in my opinion, if you want to serve on the board, you should be willing to assume those responsibilities which will protect the funds belonging to the unit owners who elected you -- and yourself as well.

Clearly, there are routine checks that have to be paid on a monthly basis -- such as water bills, insurance, and trash collection. If you set a dollar limit such as 1,000, the property manager can write checks up to that amount without a second signature. But any checks over that limit must be co-signed by at least one board member. Your bank will give you signature cards and these requirements should be spelled out in those documents. Then, the bank will have to honor your request.

Regarding the reserve accounts, they should only be in the name of the association and only board members should be authorized to sign checks or transfer funds from those accounts. Community associations do not transfer moneys often from reserve accounts; it should not be a hardship on anyone to require that only board members be authorized to have access to those funds.

Fourth, make sure the property management company has adequate insurance covering your association in the event of embezzlement, fraud or other activities which may cause your association a loss. The insurance industry will write "third party coverage" bond insurance which will give you protection in the event of a loss. The amount of the policy will depend on the amount of the reserves you anticipate you will carry. Some associations have hundreds of thousands of dollars in reserve; clearly, third party coverage in the amount of 50,000, for example, is woefully inadequate for those associations.

Fifth, make sure that the management company has a fidelity bond in place covering any loss created by its employees.

Sixth, make sure that you and not the property manager hire an accounting firm to give you a full audit each and every year. Your association should give a letter of engagement to the accountant, and the accountant should report back to you -- and not the manager.

Seventh, and perhaps most importantly, insist that the property manager give you and your board members a monthly financial status report, which will include copies of the actual bank statements received by the management company. Review these carefully every month within five days from receipt. Keep in mind that every board member has a fiduciary >Most property managers are honest and hard-working. However, one dishonest manager will unfortunately cast a broad brush of distrust on the entire industry. I do not believe that property managers will object to the various suggestions I have made, and indeed may have more recommendations of their own.

Several years ago, the United States Attorney in New York indicted a large number of property managers there. Clearly, not all were involved in community association management. However, the lesson to be learned from New York and from the two incidents in the Washington area is quite clear: when there is money there will be greed and corruption. Community association board members have the power to control -- as best they can -- the financial security of association funds, and steps should be implemented immediately, while it is not too late.
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How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

Home alarm systems can be particularly hard to calculate into resale value or return on investment ROI because their job is to prevent loss rather than achieve gains. You purchase a home alarm system with the hope that you never need to use it.

The reality is that a burglary is reported to police every 14.5 seconds. But robbery isnt the only thing that alarms can save you from. Smart alarms can detect smoke and hazards.

More than ever, homeowners want to feel safe in their homes. A built-in alarm system may be just what it takes to get your house off the market.

1. Alarm Systems Arent as Expensive as They Used to Be

According to HomeAdvisors survey, most homeowners invest between 330-1,040 when purchasing and installing home alarm systems. However, with the advent of smart, connected technology, home security is more affordable than ever.

Products like the Nest Cam Outdoor monitor your home in 1080p high definition video that you can access from your smartphone 24/7. This monitor also has a two-way audio feature, meaning you can use your voice to scare off intruders or give live instructions to a delivery service. Smart products allow you to monitor your home yourself, which cuts down the cost of hiring a security company to do the monitoring for you.

Smart products send security alerts right to your phone, allowing you to act fast and take control. Monthly security subscriptions on smart products are usually a fraction of the cost of subscribing to a traditional security service.

2. Add Resale Value

Owning a safe and secure home is appealing to every home buyer, from frequent travelers to families. That means pre-installed cameras, smoke detectors, and smart locks can be huge selling points. The more convenient and easy-to-use the security, the better.

One of the most desired security features for homeowners is motion sensor lighting over the driveway. Not only does it scare away late-night intruders, it also helps homeowners navigate in the dark. Buyers want added safety and convenience in their everyday lives, and the right security system can provide both.

3. Home Security Lowers Neighborhood Crime

In 2016, Rutgers University >

Burglars are less likely to break into homes that are protected with home security, and that fact carries over when applied to entire neighborhoods. Safe neighborhoods are highly desirable to homeowners and can help your home sell faster and at a higher price.

4. Alarm Systems Can Reduce Your Homeowners Insurance

If you financed your home with a mortgage, you are most likely required to have home insurance. While the price of home insurance varies, most companies offer discounts to homes with security systems.

With a home monitoring system installed, you can save up to 20 on home insurance. Those savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per year or the cost of the security system all together.

5. They Save Money in the Long Run

Burglaries can cost you, not only in the possessions stolen from your home, but also in the damage that many homes incur during a burglary.

Most burglars enter homes through the front or back door or first-floor windows, usually breaking them in the process. The cost of fixing a broken window or kicked-in door can be even more expensive than the valuables taken.

It was found that when burglars enter homes with security systems, they are much more likely to leave quickly, taking fewer items with them.

While security systems arent foolproof, they do offer the benefit of safety and security. Whether youre installing a system for yourself or for future homeowners, the peace of mind it offers is the ultimate ROI.

Written By: Katy Caballeros
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The FAFSA And Real Estate: When To Buy And Refi To Get The Most Aid For College

Getting ready to fill out the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA? Its the form that strikes fear in parents of college students and college students-to-be who have been cautioned about the tedious process involved, and the disappointing results. And while there is a ton of advice out there about how to properly prepare, what you need, and what to expect, theres another layer of concern for homeowners and homebuyers: How does the FAFSA affect you if youre in the market, already own a home, have investment property, or are thinking about refinancing? Were breaking it down.

First, a little bit about the FAFSA for those who have not yet had the pleasure: "Based primarily on your familys income and assets, the Expected Family Contribution EFC qualifies students for federal grants, loans and work-study programs," said Bankrate. "The purpose of the FAFSA is to calculate your expected family contribution, or EFC - the amount the government believes your family can contribute for college that year."

The good news for homeowners getting ready to fill out the FAFSA is that a principal residence is not reported as an asset. But, other real estate holdings may count as assets and may reduce your financial aid award.

Rental income

If you have a small business that is both owned and controlled by your family and has fewer than 100 full-time or full-time equivalent employees, it is not a reportable asset. However, income from a rental property cannot be included as a small business.

"Rental properties are a popular tax and investment strategy among parents, but they do not qualify as a family controlled small business asset that can be excluded from the FAFSA," said Forbes. "Dont make the mistake of thinking that you can just throw your rental properties in an LLC and exclude the value as a small business on the FAFSA."

Real estate can be reported as an asset on the FAFSA as either investment real estate or business/farm assets. "For real estate to be considered a business asset, it must be used in the operation of the business, not incidental to it," said Fastweb. "Sub-regulatory guidance published by the US Department of Education indicates that, A rental property would have to be part of a formally recognized business to be reported as such, and it usually would provide additional services like regular cleaning, linen, or maid service. This is similar toIRSguidance concerning whether rental income from real estate must be reported on Schedule E or Schedule C ofIRSForm 1040."

If youre unsure of whether to report rental income as a business asset or investment asset, there are some rules of thumb that you can read about here, but the best course of action is to consult with your accountant or tax attorney. Keep in mind, though, that reporting real estate as a business or farm asset has "less of an impact on the students expected family contribution EFC than investment assets."

Shifting assets

Because your principal residence is not a reportable asset on the FAFSA, it doesnt matter how much equity you have in your home; whether the house is worth a mere 100 more than when you bought it or you have 300,000 worth of equity, it wont count against you.

Paying down the balance on your home prior to applying for the FAFSA is one of the strategies recommended by financial professionals for those who need to lower their cash on hand and savings. "To get the most financial aid, consider shifting some assets from reportable categories into nonreportable ones before you sit down to fill out your FAFSA," said TIME Money. "For example, you might use some money from reportable assets like bank accounts and mutual funds to pay down the mortgage on your home, which doesnt count as an asset on the FAFSA."


But, home equity can come in handy in another important way: tapping into it can be a smart move if youre low on funds and need to find a way to pay for college, especially if the interest rate is lower than a federal Parent Plus loan or a private education loan.

Refinancing, and, especially a cash-out refinance, can be especially tempting if you have an interest rate that is higher than what is currently being offered. A cash-out refi would readjust your rate hopefully to something lower than what you currently have and give you money that could be used to pay for college tuition. But, there are issues associated with this type of refinance that may make you think twice, like the upfront disbursement.

"This yields a lump sum in advance, years before the money is needed," said fastweb "The interest rate may be very low, but the borrower will pay interest on the loan for many years before the money is needed to pay for college bills. Interest begins accruing from the date of disbursement. Another problem with a cash-out refinance is that the money will be counted as a parent asset until it is used, reducing eligibility for need-based financial aid."

For this reason, a home equity line of credit HELOC is often the preferred refinancing method for those looking to use the funds for college.

"In a climate of lower housing interest rates, a home loan might seem like an attractive option for some parents to help shoulder the cost of paying forcollege," said US News. "A HELOC is a type of home equity loan that allows borrowers to borrow a line of credit against the value of their home - it operates almost like credit card and usually has a floating interest rate. A borrower can limit the amount to just whats needed under a HELOC compared with a home equity loan, which requires taking out a lump sum. The minimum amount for a home equity loan can range between 10,000 and 25,000 at lending institutions, home loan experts say."

Be aware, though, that, a HELOC may be counted toward yourEFC. Because of this, the timing of taking out the loan and filling out the FAFSA is critical. Waiting until after you file the FAFSA to take out the loan, or timing it so the proceeds of the HELOC do not hit your bank account until after you file, can protect these funds from being counted against you and having your need-based aid reduced.

Getting ready to buy a house

If youre in the market and wondering you to manage the timing of your home purchase and FAFSA filing, youll be pleased to know that buying now will likely help you when it comes to getting money for college. In determining your need-based aid, any money you currently have set aside for your down payment and closing costs would be used to reduce the amount of aid awarded. Putting it into a home improves your financial picture, at least in terms of the amount of help you can get for college.

The FAFSA has questions that "ask about how much cash students and parents have in savings and checking accounts atthe moment you are filling out the FAFSA," said TIME Money. "But notice that there are no questions on the FAFSA about your debts or bills."That means that sheltering your money in real estate, so long as that real estate is the only property you own and you intend to live in it, is a smart move.
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13 Decorations to Pair With Beautiful Dark Walls

Dark walls, from inky blue to charcoal and black, are refined and dramatic - but decorating around them without making your space feel too dark can be tricky. If youve been thinking of painting one or more walls a deep, dark hue, these ideas for color and decor pairings should help.

Natural wood. Natural wood, whether in a mirror frame, rustic tabletop or chair, helps lighten up dark walls while also emphasizing their richness. You cant go wrong with a driftwood or barn wood mirror, a farmhouse table or bentwood chairs.

Sculptural shapes. Place anything colorful or white in front of a dark wall, and your eye will be immediately drawn to its contours. Try placing a group of pottery pieces on a console or mantel. Or highlight the shape of an unusual table or chair by positioning it in front of a deep, dark wall.

Photo by Ingrid Rasmussen Photography - Browse home design photos

Green plants. Potted plants and indoor trees look even lusher when placed in front of a dark wall. The dark color recedes into the background, creating the feeling of having a mini forest in the room instead of a few plants. Bonus >

Photo by Claire Stevens Interior Design - Browse entryway photos

Large artwork. A single piece of oversize art hung on a dark wall has the most impact - even more than a salon->

Photo by i3 design group - More bedroom photos

White. If you feel at all unsure about which direction to go in with the other elements in your dark painted room, choose white mdash; it always works. In this bedroom a charcoal wall is set off by a grouping of wall-mounted plants on white bases, white bedding and white window treatments.

Photo by Honey Bee Interiors - More bedroom photos

Pale, watery hues. Soft and ethereal, pale aqua, mint, champagne and silvery gray bring lightness to a room with dark walls. Try these watercolor-inspired hues in bedding, a throw or pillows for an elegant feel.

Photo by Louise de Miranda - Discover bedroom design inspiration

Rich mustard and teal. These hues complement deep blue, gray or even dark chocolate walls by bringing in the colors of fall. Just a small touch of mustard, teal or both hues will do mdash; try a throw, pillow covers or curtains.

Photo by Breeze Giannasio Interiors - Browse powder room photos

Wild card pairing: brights. A flash of hot pink, neon yellow or vibrant turquoise is daring - and exciting Brights work best with black or charcoal; adding these bold hues to a room painted another dark color like navy or forest green is riskier. Test out a fun color pairing with a low-cost addition like hand towels or a cluster of bright vases.

Mirrors. Dark walls in a room without much natural light run the risk of making it feel oppressive. Boost what light you have by adding mirrors - even small, decorative mirrors, like the ones shown here, can help lighten things up. If the room is very dark, add a larger mirror, either on the wall or leaning against it.

Photo by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design - Search bedroom pictures

Acrylic and glass. Like mirrors, clear materials, like acrylic and glass, can help a dark space feel a bit lighter. Swap out a wood piece, like a console, for a glass or acrylic version. Or add a large glass vase filled with greenery for a quick boost.

Photo by Tamara Magel Studio - More bedroom ideas
Photo by Rikki Snyder - Browse living room photos

In this living room, dark gray walls are lightened up with a glass coffee table, an acrylic TV stand, white trim and a light sofa and rug.

Photo by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design - Search family room design ideas

Rich texture. Dark walls call out for touchable textures, like velvet, silk, oiled wood and fluffy mohair. Consider a plush velvet sofa, velvet or silk accent pillows, or a mohair throw in a living room with dark walls.

Photo by Oak Hill Architects - Search dining room pictures

Oriental rugs. Rolling out an Oriental rug is a good way to marry a daringly dark wall color with a traditional home. These carpets tend to include a range of rich, deep colors, lending them well to dark walls in just about any hue.

Antiques. As with using traditional rugs, bringing in an antique piece or two is a wonderful way to take the edge off a strong wall color. In the room shown here, dark walls look refined alongside an eclectic mix of antiques and modern Lucite chairs.

Also See:

  • Why Golden Pothos Make the Best Indoor Plants
  • Add Little Pops of Color With These Beautiful Vases
  • Stylish Wall Mirrors to Lighten Up a Dark Room

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IKEA Just Announced A New Pet Collection And Well Take Two Of Everything

Admit it. IKEA is your guilty pleasure. For us, its a little like deacute;cor Disneyland, and we soak up all that Scandinavian goodness with a side of Swedish meatballs. An easy little dresser we can hack into something amazing here, an inexpensive set of pillows there. And dont even get us started on the kitchen gadget or lighting sections.

The one thing they have always been missing: stuff to make our pets as happy as their build-it-yourself everything makes us. Until now. IKEAs just-announced LURVIG collection offers pet products for dogs and cats, including beds, couch covers, scratching posts, and accessories.

"Have you ever felt like your cat or dog wasnt just a pet, but a member of the family? Its exactly that focus that led IKEA to make the comprehensive LURVIG pet product range," they said. "Created by pet loving designers with support from trained veterinarians, the range covers all the bases of our shared life with pets indoors and out, so you and your pet can enjoy your home together."nbsp;

LURVIG means "hairy" in Swedish, BTW. Appropriate, no? Check out some of our faves from the upcoming collection.

Forget that regular old dog bed. This one has a bona fide frame that raises it up from the floor and can also be used upside down for more height.

Then, choose from an array of different cushions to complement your deacute;cor. At 7.99 to 19.99 depending on the size, you can order a bunch.

Well also be going with the "cat/dog bed," because, who are we kidding? THATS AN ANIMAL FUTON Well take one for each room of the house.

The cat house is practical and cute, and slips right into the KALLAX shelf unit.

For the pooch that loves propping his head up on a pillow.

Same color story, different graphic pattern: This dog blanket will look great on your couch, and you and your guests will appreciate how it leaves the other cushions dog-hair-free.

Forget the ugly scratching post and protect your furniture at the same time by wrapping the legs with this LURVIG scratching mat. Even bettermdash;its only 5.99.

A kitty hangout thats also a chic side table? Yes, please. Its actually a cat house on legs, but were not telling anyone that.

Its not like you cant get a dog bowl at any pet store, home improvement store, Target, Walmart, and on and on. But the nicer ones can be pricey. These bowls are metal, and also have a non-slip bottom, for just 2.99

We also like IKEAs new collection of leashes, harnesses, and collars, which are affordable, come in a range of sizes, and are made of a reflective material.

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DIY Fall Decor Tricks

Who says you have to spend big bucks to give your home some fall flair? All you need is a little creativity. If you also have a few basic art or crafting items at home, you may not need to spend any money at all

This fun craft is something the whole family can do. Even little kids can help pick out leaves and other items and place them on the pumpkins. This is a no-carve craft; all you need to stick your stuff down is Mod Podge.

These more fanciful versions were made with leftover party napkins and glitter. Note that you can decoupage a real or craft pumpkin.

You dont need super DIY skills to create a warm welcome this season. For this great-looking wreath, you dont even need a wreath form Just go grab a wire hanger from your closet.

If you dont live in an area where you can readily find pinecones or or dont want to go foraging through nature, try using felt instead. The bonus: you can choose any color you want

Or, pick up a simple dropcloth to make this neutral, chic wreath that will certainly get noticed.

The great thing about faux, carvable pumpkins is that you can use them to create gorgeous centerpieces without worrying about the pumpkin going bad. We love this mix of florals, leaves, and filler. The best news is that you can cover and store it, and then take it out again next year

Theres a reason pinecones show up so often in fall deacute;cor. Not only do they exude the bounty of the season, but theyre also: free, or at least inexpensive if you dont live in an area where they fall from trees; and, they can be used in so many ways to create inviting deacute;cor. This centerpiece couldnt be easier, with a hurricane in the center of the big wooden bowl, surrounded by pinecones and mini pumpkins. You could also choose to just use the pumpkins, an array of mini gourds, or acorns. When it gets closer to the holiday, add in cranberries.

Your kids are going to love helping you make this one. "Faux leaves become pretty lightweight bowlsnbsp;with just a little DIY time," said Midwest Living. "Blow up a balloon the larger the balloon, the larger yournbsp;bowlnbsp;will be and rest in in anbsp;bowl. Cover the top of the balloon and the top sides of leaves with decoupage medium. Gently layer the leaves face down on the balloon, forming anbsp;bowl shape. Brush more decoupage medium on the backs of the leaves. Let dry, then poke a hole in the balloon and discard balloon.?nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Another fun way to use acorns will yield pretty, sparkly finishes that look great displayed through the holidays.

We love being able to use unconventional materials to create something special, and these mason jar lids fit the bill. Simply fasten them together and add any accoutrement you wish.


This great vase is actually a recycled oatmeal container wrapped in rope. pgt;

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California REALTORS Face Assessment To Fund Ballot Initiative

Recently the directors of the California Association of REALTORSreg; CAR voted to place a 100 assessment on each of the associations approximately 180,000 members. This vote took place at the directors annual fall meetings, held this year in San Diego, October 11 -- 14. The purpose of the assessment is to help fund a CAR-sponsored ballot initiative to be placed on the November, 2018 California ballot.

The initiative, if passed, would allow "individuals 55 years of age and older to transfer their property tax basis to any home in the state, to purchase any price home, and to transfer their basis as many times as they wish."

To appreciate the significance of this, it is necessary to have some idea of Californias property tax system. Property tax valuations are based on purchase price. You buy a house for 700,000, the assessor will value it at 700,000. After that, increases in property tax value are seve>If you have lived in the same home for 15 -- 20 years or more, you are probably enjoying >Californians sought to solve this problem in 1986 with the passage of Proposition 60. It allowed seniors to keep their property tax base assessment when they moved within the same county. However, in 1988, Proposition 90 was passed which allowed each individual county the option of participating in this tax base transfer by seniors who move from one county to another. This had great significance, because many retirees move to a different county e.g. in the mountains, or desert than the ones in which they had lived.

Only eleven of Californias 58 counties will allow a senior from another county to transfer his or her old property tax base to a newly-acquired home in that county.

Californias housing market is currently hampered by a lack of inventory. One of the causes is said to be the "log jam" created by the situation outlined above. It is claimed that large numbers of seniors are >Could a 100-per-member assessment result in such a beneficial effect? Hardly. That money just gets things started. According to background material supplied to the CAR directors, the assessment would only provide part of the funds needed. "The cost to circulate the initiative for signature gathering is 3 million, with the cost of the subsequent campaign ranging between 30 million and perhaps upward of 50 million, if the initiative is heavily contested. Funding would come from C.A.R. political action committees, reserves, NAR funds and a C.A.R. member assessment [i.e. the one now being discussed]."

Strong opposition to the ballot is expected. It would not be surprising if a supplementary assessment became necessary. And, of course, no matter how much funding is achieved, the voters could always reject it.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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Selling: Half The Winning Real Estate Strategy

Lets zero in on the family home to reveal room for improvement in ways this investment can be put to work when owners are intent on living full, active lives.

Traditionally, when the children were grown and gone, "empty-nester" homeowners/sellers were faced with two options regarding the family home:

Option 1. Sellers who did not intend to re-enter the real estate market put their profit to work in other investments or projects that meant a lot to them, or they lived off the proceeds. Historically, homeowners who sold the large family home slipped into a quieter, cheaper life>

Option 2. Sellers who used the proceeds of their sale mdash; "cashed in their nest egg" mdash; to purchase a smaller home remained in control of their lives and finances. The ideal downsizing scenario involved selling the large family home and buying a bungalow or condominium unit using less than half the proceeds of the home sale. The left-over capital was used to finance years of quiet, comfortable living on the edge of the mainstream or not mdash; sellers choice.

Currently, many seasoned homeowners are not interested in selling their family home only to settle for a lower standard of living, less control of their homes and lives, or disappearing from the mainstream. When traditional options are unattractive or unavailable, sellers often stay in homes and communities that no longer suit them and wait to see what will happen next:

  • When faced with the prospect of selling without netting the funds for their ideal next stage, many homeowners hunker down to wait out the real estate market. In many markets, this reaction accounts for lower numbers of available listings.
  • In hot sellers markets, sellers may be discouraged from cashing in their now-higher-priced homes because they would still not be able to afford their preference mdash; a smaller property in the same or a better area which is significantly less expensive, so theres a nest-egg leftover. The problem for many seasoned sellers is that competition with first-time buyers and builders drives up prices for smaller homes and this, in turn, stalls seller moves.

The full return from real estate ownership mdash; on top of the benefits gained by living in the property or renting it out mdash; comes from buying smart in the first place, selling smart, and putting the earned profit to work either to purchase more real estate or other investments. Long-time owners are usually able to sell for more than the original purchase price. However, sellers who invest time and effort only in selling, may miss out on earning even greater profits and returns by wisely using the proceeds of the sale.

In many markets, rising residential prices have meant bonuses for sellers and frustration for buyers. Since many sellers become buyers, sellers become winners and losers as described above.

Its way past time to step outside the box of traditional options. Even in tough markets, a range of housing alternatives should be explored. Imaginative approaches allow sellers to win on the sale of the family home and on the purchase of their next home.

In many real estate markets, sales are not equally brisk throughout the entire area nor through the entire price spectrum. For instance, homes in neighborhoods with popular schools may sell more quickly and at higher prices. Homes listed under 500,000 and over one million may be selling well while the middle market is stalled. Sellers in hot areas will do well when they sell. Those who buy in a stalled market may also gain on their purchase. However, sellers who buy a smaller home in a hot market may pay more than they wish for a lesser property since they are competing with first-time buyers and builders.

Different Seller Strategies Will Earn Different Rewards

Strategy 1. If they cant find a desirable lower-priced bungalow, sellers could spend more and buy a duplex, triplex, multiple-unit apartment building, or mixed-use commercial/residential building which would provide living space equivalent to a bungalow in the desired neighborhood plus income from the other units, tax deductions, and other financial benefits. An experienced real estate and financing professional will explain how to finance this transaction using the existing real estate and the income history of the revenue property, while keeping the potential for increased appreciation in mind.

Strategy 2: Sellers could explore the full range of community choices open to them beyond what they know about. With the help of an experienced real estate professional, they could search out a variety of locations where the type of housing they want to buy as their next step is available at the price theyd like to pay. The adventure involves expanding beyond what sellers have experienced so far. This is a big country. And then theres the world..

Strategy 3: Sellers could shift from passively waiting to see whats next to creating more value in their real estate that could also increase their flexibility with the next step. For instance, adding a self-contained rental suite or apartment mdash; if it is done correctly and to zoning bylaws mdash; can achieve four key results at once:

  • Increase property value
  • Attract more buyers
  • Provide extra income and tax advantages until its time to sell
  • Provide choice mdash; the seller could move into the smaller secondary unit and rent out the rest of the house for even more income and flexibility until a move makes sense.
  • Local municipalities and experienced real estate professionals know how adding a rental unit must be done. Armed with the correct information, sellers can engage the right contractor, with >

    Consciously shift from traditional, last-century thinking about your real estate. Design the 21st-Century Selling Strategy that works for you and your property.

    Resource: Savvy Seller Series:

    • Why Buyers Wont Buy Your Home"
    • Five Key Questions For Home Sellers"
    • Are You Prepared For Disaster?"

    To understand more about how buyers view the sales process, read our Savvy Buyer Series:

    • Buying: From Whose Perspective?"
    • Savvy Buyers Search Out Visual Disasters"
    • Home Buyer Regrets Are A Reality"

    For more about PJ Wades views on effective communication, visit Whats Your Point? Blog

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    Benjamin Moores 2018 Color Of The Year: A Modern Guide To Using Red In Your Home

    Neutrals, be gone If Benjamin Moore has its way, interiors will be going from soft and soothing to red hot next year. The paint companys Color of the Year for 2018 is Caliente, and the name is appropriate. The fiery red is "hot, passionate, and sexy," said Benjamin Moore. With a hint of orange,nbsp;calientenbsp;has lots of personality and is the perfect hue for you if you are drawn to the warmer tones of red.

    The companys Director of Strategic Design Intelligence, Ellen ONeill, weighed in by adding, "Strong, radiant and full of energy, Caliente AF-290 is total confidence. It is pleasing, passionate and makes people feel special, like red carpet treatment. "Whether used as one note or on four walls, the spirited personality of red turns heads signaling surprise and adventure. The eye cant help but follow its bold strokes."

    Indeed. Architectural Digest believes that, "This years choice will stop you in your tracks." Whether or not youre a fan of red, youre bound to notice it. Red can be a polarizing color, with some loving the energy it brings and others finding it a tad too bold for their space. The key to making it sing in your home is knowing where to use it, and how much.

    Feng Shui

    If the principles of feng shui are important to you, consider that red conjures fire and, "Fire represents the energy of sun and life," said The Spruce. "A balanced feng shui fire element in your home will bring joy, excitement, and strongnbsp;sexual desire. An imbalance of the same element will bring either fiery arguments, restlessness and even aggression too much Fire or a lack of energy and enthusiasm for life too little Fire."

    When it comes to the home, red "signifies richness, luck and luxury," they said. "If used too much, though, it can bring bursts of anger and over stimulation." That means a cautious hand may be best. Covering the walls in every room and oversaturating the spaces with furniture and deacute;cor pieces could just be a bit too caliente.

    Color Theory

    We know from the study of color theory that different colors can affect moods. If you apply that to the home, it makes sense that some spaces would be a better fit than others for a color called caliente.

    "Rednbsp;raises a rooms energy level. The most intense color, it pumps the adrenaline like no other hue," said Freshome. "It is a good choice when you want to stir up excitement, particularly at night. In the living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression." In the bedroom, it could mean a fiery sex lifehellip;but trying to sleep might be an issue.

    You may not be ready to take the bold hue through your whole kitchen, but careful placement can make a huge impact, like on this island.

    Juxtaposed against bright white, Caliente is a standout on the walls - especially in a room that flooded with natural light.

    Hows that for a warm welcome? The rich, red door is a beautiful complement to the neutral deacute;cor and adds another element of interest in a space with a wealth of architectural detail.

    Dont want to splash this color on your walls? One standout piece in the electric hue can energize the whole room.

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    Real Estate Cyberfraud Continues. Is It Time To Return To Paper?

    Cybercrime continues to thrive in the real estate brokerage environment. By this, I dont mean the kind of electronic skullduggery that results in stolen identity information or hacking into someones bank account. Rather, I refer to the business of fraudulently inducing a principal -- sometimes even an escrow officer -- into wiring funds to a bank account controlled by a hacker or someone in business with the hacker.

    Heres what can happen: the hacker gains access to the "network" of participants involved in a real estate transaction. His entry point may be through a real estate agents email account, or escrows, or any one of a number of affiliated services such as title or home warranty. Certainly, the hacking of an agents account seems the most likely. The hacker will monitor the transaction, learning all the names, phone numbers, and financial information involved. Then, at some point near closing, the hacker will send an email -- posing as one of the >More frequently, this kind of theft is occurring at the beginning of a transaction. One scenario is this: the hacker is monitoring electronic communication between the buyers agent and the sellers agent and between the agents and their principals. Shortly after a purchase is agreed upon, the hacker sends the buyer an email appearing to have come from his agent telling him where to wire the earnest money. That will be to an account controlled by the hacker.

    The scam at the beginning of a transaction doesnt generally yield as much money. It is deposit money, not a down payment. But it takes less time and saves watching an escrow that might fail anyway.

    California REALTORSreg; have available to them a useful one-page document entitled "Wire Fraud Advisory." We have discussed that in an earlier column July, 2016 and need not review it here. Instead, it is important to focus on the use of the form.

    Two things: 1 As the above scenario illustrates, the advisory -- read "warning" -- should be provided early on in the process. Just as agency >2 It should be given singular attention, not simply included in a pile of papers with "you should read these" instructions. The issue needs to be addressed.

    Some companies have their own version of the advisory, which is fine -- as long as they are provided in a timely and focused manner.

    Indeed, some companies are now advising their clients to use cashiers checks, rather than to trust the electronic handling of their funds. Is that just too impossibly retro for you? Well, it made sense to some of the people who recently attended the most recent meeting of the Directors of the California Association of Realtors CAR.

    The topic of wire fraud received extensive discussion; and one group was formulating a request for the Standard Forms Committee to revise its treatment of earnest money deposit in the standard purchase contract Residential Purchase Agreement, RPA. As it is now, the default position in the RPA is that deposit funds will be provided by electronic transfer. One can still choose an option of personal check or cashiers check, or cash for that matter.

    Brokers initially loved the electronic transfer -- and probably most still do -- because it >Speaking of which, it emerged in other discussions that brokers need to do a thorough assessment of their risks in this regard. It turns out that more than a few insurance policies that have an electronic fraud provision dont, in fact, cover the kind of fraud and loss that has been discussed here.

    A topic for another day.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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    Tips For Decorating Rooms That Are Long And Narrow

    Distract attention away from an awkward room shape and create a pleasing design using these pro tips.

    When youre clicking through images of gorgeous rooms to gather inspiration for your home, does it sometimes seem as though the ideas will work only in large or pleasingly proportioned rooms? The truth is, when a room is well designed, we dont notice when its awkwardly shaped. Here, three interior designers share their tips for dealing with a common type of awkward space - a long, narrow room.

    "The challenge you face with a long, thin living space is to ensure the room feels welcoming, inviting and free flowing," says Letiche Black of Amberth. "You want to avoid it looking too static or formal."

    Make sure the seating area doesnt feel too far away from the TV and other necessities.

    "The biggest challenge will be not to feel obliged to push everything against the walls, because you will only emphasize the narrow shape and corners and be left with a slim walkway," she says. "The space will feel tight and cramped instead of open and light."


    Photo by Francesco Pierazzi Architects - Search living room pictures

    Diana Greenhalgh of My Bespoke Room suggests creating areas of color, as in this room. "These will draw the eye to certain points around the room to help break up the space," she says.

    Photo by Randell Design Group - Look for bedroom pictures

    Maximize space with >. Greenhalgh suggests making a feature of details that will maximize the feeling of space in a narrow room. "Space-saving solutions such as small shelves instead of bedside tables, and hanging pendant lights instead of bulky bedside lights, can help make the most of the available space, and also assist by creating an interesting focal point," she says.

    Photo by Amberth - Discover living room design inspiration

    Focus on lighting. In a long, thin living area, Black recommends putting seating areas near the main natural light source. "This will influence how you design the rest of the space and encourages a loose placement of other furniture," she says. "Position armchairs away from the wall, as this tricks the eye into believing the space is much wider."

    Photo by Alex Findlater Ltd - Discover living room design ideas

    Section it off. "Break a long room into sections by cleverly placing furniture," says Charlotte Ford of Cotton Tree Interiors. "Console tables are really useful when placed at the back of a sofa," she notes. "And if possible, get some floor-mounted sockets, so lamps can be put on them to bring in subtle lighting and create a soft divide." She also advises looking at the size of your furniture. You can buy slimmer sofas and other scaled-down pieces that will fit well in the space.

    Photo by Zephyr Interiors - More bedroom photos

    Take the textural route. Black suggests introducing plenty of texture into a thin room. "Create layers and warmth that will allow your senses to be met with an arrangement of smooth, rough and shiny surfaces, instead of lonely corners," she says. "Use mirrors too, as these will help the space to feel wider." In a bedroom, Greenhalgh advises considering the position of the bed with care, as it will probably be the focal point. Placing a bed at the end of a narrow space, as seen in this room, plays up the rooms shape in a stylish way.

    Photo by Sigmar - More bedroom photos

    Open up. In a narrow bedroom, Black says, choose colors that make the space feel wider and brighter. "It is important to be mindful of the space as a whole, ensuring one end doesnt get neglected or feel darker than the other," she says. "Dont be tempted to simply position your bed, desk and other furniture all down one wall, as you will only add emphasis to the long, narrow shape of the room." She suggests using warm, light grays, off-whites and whites. "These shades instantly create a brighter, more open space," she says.

    Photo by Inigo amp; Co. - Browse living room ideas

    Distract the eye. "Use neutral window treatments, as drawing attention to the boundaries at either end of the room only emphasizes its shape," Ford says. "Use pattern, texture and color on occasional chairs, cushions, lampshades and art and also carefully positioned wallpaper, all of which take the focus off the shape of the room and direct it on to the more interesting objects."

    Photo by Cotton Tree Interiors - Search home design pictures

    Find your focal point. One of the difficulties in decorating a narrow room is deciding where the focus of the space should be, Ford says. If you are working with a builder, ask to create subtle room dividers. "Full-length narrow columns break up the room, giving a natural finishing point when using different wallpapers and paint colors," she says.

    Photo by bulthaup by Kitchen Architecture - Look for living room design inspiration

    Dont be afraid of the dark. "If the room is dark due to lack of windows," Greenhalgh says, "go with it and embrace a dark color palette to make the space cozy, rather than trying to fight it."

    Photo by Henry Woide - Look for bedroom design inspiration

    Go round. Choosing accessories in shapes that go against the linear nature of a long room mdash; such as circular forms mdash; is another trick to visually widen a space. "Avoid stripes, as these will only enhance the long, thin feel," Greenhalgh says.

    Photo by My Bespoke Room Ltd - Search living room pictures

    Avoid the "corridor effect". "Choose items that can be positioned to break up the feeling of a long, thin room, such as small coffee tables, side tables or armchairs," Greenhalgh says. "Break up the corridor effect by positioning pieces of furniture in clusters, instead of in a row." This tricks the eye into seeing a wider space. "For example, pick different seating options and arrange them together, instead of having just one long sofa against the long wall," she says. And dont be afraid to use bold furnishings, fixtures and fittings, Black advises, noting that they will add visual interest.

    Photo by TLA Studio - Discover bedroom design inspiration

    Light it right. Bedroom lighting needs to be well considered in a narrow space, as there often isnt sufficient surface area for table lamps. Ford suggests installing downlights, as they spread the light across the room. Then, if you have the luxury of enough space, "have a softer, secondary lighting plan with a combination of bedside lamps, reading lamps and table lamps," she advises. Wall-mounted reading lights can also help to declutter bedside surfaces where space is tight.

    Photo by TG-Studio - Browse bedroom photos

    Get horizontal. When deciding on the position of the bed in a narrow room, if space allows, "break up the space by positioning the bed across the width of the space instead of up against the length of one," Black says. Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to position the bed going with the length of the room and facing the door. And there are benefits to that. "It feels welcoming and will take your eye off the shape of the room," she says. "Especially if you use lots of pillows to add comfort and warmth."

    Also See:

    • Space-Saving Table Lamps for the Bedroom
    • Use a Floor Mirror to Visually Elongate Any Space
    • Bookmark These Trending Living Room Ideas
    • Decorating 101: How to Shop for Furniture
    • Ask an Expert: How to Decorate a Small Spare Room

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    Halloween Decor Trends For An Elegant Interior

    Halloween stores are popping up all over the place as the countdown to candy collecting begins. Halloween dcor is big business today, too, and while some OK, a lot of it can look cheap and childish, there are many options for pumpkin dcor that allow you to be festive without veering away from your sense of >Pretty pastels

    Who says your pumpkins have to be orange or that your fall dcor cant be fun and fresh? This six-piece pastel pumpkin mini mix from Etsy is handmade from white craft pumpkins, meaning you could DIY it if you wanted to. But when they look this great...


    These galvanized metal lanterns from World Market offer anther unique way to dress up your home for Halloween, but with an unexpected elegance. Even better - theyre on sale for 6.99 to 10.49.

    World Market offers a treasure trove of items for Halloween. We also love these black iron candelabras, that just may be elegant enough to use all-year-round. If Day of the Dead is more your speed, youll love this 19.99 los muertos ceramic candy bowl that depicts four highly detailed calavera skulls.


    Feeling artistic? All you need to create a pumpkin masterpiece is a little paint and a flick of the wrist. These splatter paint pumpkins have a chic >


    Dont want a face on your pumpkins but still want some time knife time? These patterned pumpkins are next-level carving and create unique methods for mood lighting. "Turn standard grocery store pumpkins into decorative votive holders that are embellished with polka-dot cutouts," said Southern Living.

    Break out those crayons

    Your kids will love watching the crayons melt over the pumpkins, and youll love the outcome of this easy DIY project that produce oh-so-stylish Halloween dcor.



    Mercury glass

    You can buy pumpkins that look like mercury glass, but theyre fragile and can also be expensive. This easy trick gives you the look without the hassle. First, spray paint them white and then use a "looking glass" spray to get the mercury effect.


    Texture is all the rage in home dcor and fashion, and it hasnt escaped Halloween dcor. These velvet pumpkins are one of the hottest items this year, and theyre all over the board in terms of cost. We saw one for almost 100 at a posh boutique Save yourself some money, and a whole lot of hassle since this is not one of the easier DIY-friendly crafts unless youre very experienced and very patient, and head to Target. This three-piece collection is just 18, and theres no orange in sight

    Full Story >

    Home Foundations And Why Material Matters

    The typical single-family home can weigh anywhere from 80,000 to 160,000 pounds. Foundations provide a solid base for a homes weight, help to ensure the house stays level and provides anbsp;base for construction to take place. Foundations matter, and so does the material that theyre made of. Heres a closer look at both, starting with materials and why they matter.

    Before buying or constructing your dream home, its important to be familiar with foundations to help you better understand how to prevent damage or make necessary repairs. Lets start with materials and why they matter.

    Foundation Materials:


    The most common material used to create a homes foundation is concretemdash;by far. Typically poured or constructed with a series of cinder blocks, concrete is fairly inexpensive, easy to find and produce, and strong. Although poured concrete is prone to cracking, these repairs are often affordable and easy to have done, especially if it is being done from the interior.

    Drawbacks of concrete vary based on the type of foundation. Cinder blocks may buckle over time and can involve expensive repairs. Poured concrete requires a mixer on site to perform installation. This meansnbsp;installation costs can escalate if a concrete facility isnt close by.

    Pre-Built Walls

    Pre-built walls typically consist of studded wall construction thats been coated in a concrete layer. It installs quickly, is always level and makes discovering problems easier. However, pre-built walls are more expensive than other types of foundations.

    Stone and Brick

    Laid stone and brick are two other foundation types commonly found in older homes. Stone foundation usually isntnbsp;equipped with the right type of drainage systems. Brick foundations, though typically thick andnbsp;adequate, tend to degrade over time and are also prone to mortar issues.

    Foundation Types

    Foundations dont just come in many materials, they take different shapes. Lets take a look at the three most popular foundation types -- slabs, crawlspaces and basements:


    Cold weather climates are the most popular location for basement installation. This is because the foundation of the home needs to exist beneath the frost level in order to sufficiently support it. Theyrenbsp;typically made of poured concrete, and many also serve as a place where home appliances are located i.e., hot water tanks, furnaces, washing machines, etc.. Occupants often take advantage of the extended headroom to turn the area into additional living space.

    Prone to flooding, fully underground basements can be costly if your yard doesnt quickly absorb or drain rainfall. Basement walls and floors are also susceptible to cracking, which require repair to keep moisture out and maintain structural integrity.


    A slab is nothing more than poured concrete that exists on a grade of land. This type of foundationnbsp;is particularly popular in warmnbsp;weather climates, where water tables are higher. Its installed about a foot underground and usually reinforced with steel.

    Slabs are a cheaper type of foundation and, unlike a basement, reduce flooding risk. However, slabs are prone to cracking and can also provide difficulties for incorporating heating and cooling ducts into the home.


    Crawlspaces are foundations that exist beneath a home with limited headroom. Though headroom is at a premium, itsnbsp;typically enough to store certain appliances, piping, ductwork and more. The majority dont permit the additional living space of a basement because theyre approximately two to four feet high.

    Installing a crawlspace is cheaper than a basement, but more expensive -- yet more functional -- than a slab. Other big disadvantages include susceptibilitynbsp;to moisture issues and serving as a favorite place for pests and rodents to seek shelter in. The good news is, you can waterproof your crawlspace.

    Worried that your foundation may be in need of repair? According to this article on HomeAdvisor, signs that your foundation needs attention include misaligned exterior doors and windows, cracks in stonework, sheetrock, and floors, bulges in the floor, or interior doors sticking or jamming. Consult a professional if you think your foundation is in trouble.

    Full Story >

    Taking A Tax Loss On Your Principal Residence

    Question. When my wife died several years ago, I sold the large house we were living in and bought a smaller house.. That purchase was at the top of the local real estate market. I have just purchased a retirement home and would like to sell my current property. However, after real estate commissions and sales expenses, I am facing a sizable loss -- and my accountant tells me this loss is not tax deductible. Can you suggest any solutions so that I do not lose my long-term investment?

    Answer. Your accountant is correct. Current tax law permits a tax loss deduction for investment property but not for a principal residence. Although it appears that some day in the foreseeable future Congress will provide similar tax >You do, however, have a few options.

    First, to the extent you can make projections, try to analyze the future marketability of your house. Will the house come back up in value, or will it continue to deteriorate? If you keep the house for a longer period of time, will you have to make a number of costly repairs and thus be throwing good money after bad? In other words, does it make sense to "take your loss and run?"

    Second, if you decide it makes sense not to sell now, rent the house out for a year or two. Abandon the house as your principal residence; pay taxes where your retirement home is located, get a new drivers license and new voter registration card at a different address. Let your friends and >A year or two from now, depending on your financial and personal needs, you can then sell the property. Since it will then be investment real estate, you may be able to deduct some of your tax loss on your income tax return although you should confirm the amount with your accountant.

    If you do not need the money -- or the tax loss -- and if the rental income from the house is worthwhile, you can continue to rent out the house.

    Third, once you have converted the property to that of an investment rather than your principal residence, you might want to consider swapping the house under the "like-kind" Starker exchange. Such an exchange would permit you to obtain alternative real estate, without currently having to pay tax on any profit. Obviously, however, if you have no gain, there is no need to consider a Starker exchange. The rules for such an exchange are complex, and have been discussed in earlier columns.

    Finally, if you have children, why not consider keeping the real estate until your death. Under current tax law, which may change in the current Congress your children will inherit the property at what is known as the "stepped-up" basis. Oversimplified, this means that the childrens tax basis is the value of the property at the date of your death -- and not your tax basis. Your tax advisors should be asked to analyze all of these various options.

    Your question also raised a very important issue facing many older homeowners-- and one that is often overlooked or forgotten. Many homeowners purchased their first home many years ago at low prices. Over the years -- especially in the l970s and l980s -- real estate appreciated rapidly. Many homeowners moved from one house to another, and took advantage of the roll-over. Now, when they want to sell their last house -- or purchase down in price as you are considering -- the tax issues become very important.

    Let us look at the following example. Assume that in 1970, you and your wife purchased your first house for 30,000. Over the years, you added 20,000 in improvements, and thus the basis for tax purposes purchase price plus improvements for you and your wife was 25,000 each. In 1987, you sold the house for 200,000, thus generating what you probably believed was a paper profit of 150,000.

    However, since your wife died before you sold the first house, your basis is increased by virtue of the "stepped up" basis. At the time of your wifes death, the property was worth 200,000. Under the tax laws, you inherited your wifes basis as of the date of her death; in our example, her basis was 100,000. Thus, for tax purposes, the basis of your first house when you sold it was 125,000 25,000 plus 100,000.

    Your house was sold for 200,000, and thus your profit was 75,000. But since you purchased your current house within two years from the time the first house was sold, you qualified for the roll-over, and this profit was used to reduce the basis of the Alexandria house. Accordingly, although you paid 300,000 for the new property, in reality its basis is 225,000.

    If you sell the house now for 220,000, even after paying real estate commissions and other expenses, your paper loss will not be as great as you think.

    However, this is tax talk; you are looking at an actual loss of 80,000, since you purchased the house at 300,000 and now can only sell it for 220,000. There are a lot of people who purchased real estate at the peak of the market, -- and despite significant increases in value -- many homeowners are still unfortunately under water.

    And the rollover has long been replaced by the up-to-250,000/500,000 exclusion of gain.
    Full Story >

    Is Your Millennial Real Estate Game Lacking?

    Maybe its time to adjust your strategy.

    "They have to give up their coffee three times a week."

    "They need to keep their car until its paid off and then continue to drive it for years."

    "If they really want to buy a house, they need to change their life>

    These are just a few of the comments overheard on a recent day as two presumably hungry mortgage professionals met over lunch within earshot of our table at a local restaurant. Curiously, they both seemed to agree that these strategies were key to turning millennials into homeowners.

    The strategies dont seem out of line, really... unless you actually know some millennials and are in touch with how they act, who they are, what they like, what they want, and what they respond to. Theres an obvious grain of salt here, as were about to speak in pretty broad generalities about millennials. But, its clearly an important topic given the sheer number of them out there and the hope that at least some will transition from renting or living at mom and dads house to a place of their own.

    There are countless articles out there geared toward helping the real estate agent and mortgage professional reach the millennial market. Not surprisingly, many of them are focused on social media proficiency as a means for message delivery. But what about the message itself?

    The fact that specific messaging is largely not being tailored to this critical market is concerning. It further illustrates the disconnect between millennials and the real estate industry as a whole. Are millennials unrealistic in their expectations - in both thinking that the market will come to them when theyre ready or giving up the idea of homeownership altogether? Or, are real estate and mortgage professionals simply not approaching and talking to millennials in a way that makes sense to them?

    Its a combination of both, really, but for the sake of this article, were going to focus on the latter. Reaching buyers is all about knowing your target. Do you wonder why so many industry professionals are using such a traditional, old-school approach? We do, too.

    The avocado toast argument

    Australian real estate mogul Tim Gurner caused a major debate earlier this year when he went on the Australian news program 60 Minutes and famously told millennials to stop buying avocado toast if they wanted to become homeowners. "When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasnt buying smashed avocado for 19 and four coffees at 4 each," he said. "Were at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day, they want to travel to Europe every year.nbsp;The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it, saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder."

    Leaving some of the more negative generalizations and characterizations aside, millennials have, indeed, proven how much they value their leisure pursuits. That means that ordering a latte in a cafeacute; or avocado toast in a restaurant isnt so much about the drink or the meal as it is sitting in the cafeacute; or restaurant with a friend or loved one, enjoying the experience.

    Will millennials forgo the things - or, more appropriately, the experiences - they love to buy a house? Some will. For the rest, it may just be up to the real estate and mortgage folks to adjust their tactics in order to coax these potential buyers into the market.

    Do millennials even want to buy homes?

    This has been a matter of much debate. According to the 2017 homebuyer Insights Report from Bank of America, the answer is a resounding "Yes."

    "If theres one thing to take away from our report this year, its that forward-thinking millennials are buying homes - and theyre happy with their choice," the report said. "This growing group of millennials is seeing the value of getting into a home. In fact, nearly 80 percent who bought homes report that homeownership has had a positive long-term impact on their financial picture. Clearly, the millennial generation is coming of age and realizing it might not make sense to wait anymore to purchase their first home."

    But, what are they willing to give up to get there? Might you be able to convince a millennial that paying off their car and not trading it in for a new one, as suggested by one of the restaurant mortgage pros, is the smart move if a millennial wants to buy a home? Possibly. But there are two inherent problems with that idea tied to a lack of understanding of millennials in general:

    1. It assumes that a millennial has a car they can pay off, and not a lease, which is far more likely. "One-third of millennial car buyers chose a lease last year, which helped push auto lease volume to a record of 4.3 million and 31 percent of all new auto purchases, according to market research by," said the Dallas Morning News.

    2. It assumes that millennials will act in a way that is opposite their nature for the sake of becoming a homeowner. Yes, were back to coffee and avocado toast, but it also applies to new cars. "Younger buyers in particular are more likely to view cars as technology that needs to be continually upgraded," Jessica Caldwell, executive director of strategic analytics at told the Dallas Morning News.

    Mortgage options

    Of note is the fact that, during the overheard, hour-plus conversation between the two mortgage professionals, only FHA and conventional loans were discussed. So much of working with buyers today, and, especially millennials, is about being creative, which is why there are so many other loans out there worthy of investigation.

    In addition to FHA, which would allow millennials to put down just 3.5 with more lenient credit scores than many conventional loans, there are Fannie and Freddie loans out there that require just 3 down. There are also "lender-branded specialty mortgages" with a minimum of 3 down that have "strong appeal to millennials," said "Several lenders are offering loans with a 3 percent down payment requirement to offset the burden of saving for a down payment. For instance, Chases DreaMaker mortgage is directed at low-to-moderate income buyers, as well as those with less-than-perfect credit."

    Lennar also just introduced a new loan program through its subsidiary called the Eagle Home Mortgages Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program in which borrowers "can direct up to 3 of the purchase price to pay their student loans when they buy a new home from Lennar," according to the builders news >

    And 13,000 buys a lot of avocado toast and coffee. Maybe even a couple trips to Europe.

    Full Story >

    Why Buyers Wont Buy Your Home

    Theres no list of reasons mdash; no top ten or even top three reasons mdash; why buyers wont buy a specific listed property like your home.

    Theres just one reason.

    When buyers wont buy listed real estate, or even put in an offer close to asking price, theres just one reason why mdash; its the list price

    List price must communicate value and opportunity to buyers for whom the listed real estate represents what they want and need. Individual buyers have individual home-buying wants, needs, and goals which range from solid financial investment to discovering their dream home, or both.

    • When the list price on a specific property communicates value and opportunity to buyers who are ideally suited to recognize high value and great opportunity, these buyers want to act. They are compelled to put in an offer before someone else snaps up their dream home/ideal investment.
    • When list price does not accurately communicate value and opportunity mdash; usually because it is unrealistically high for the current real estate market, location, ownership benefits, and property condition mdash; buyers not only wont make an offer, they may not even want to view the property.

    The list which is vital for sellers to consider is the list of reasons why listing price can be a barrier to the successful sale of their real estate. Heres four of many reasons why list price can turn buyers off and leave the unsold real estate sitting on the market:

    1. Listing "Home" Not Real Estate: Sellers may start out intent on selling their home. However, they will find the selling process challenging until they realize exactly what they are actually selling. Not their home, but real estate mdash; bricks and mortar, land, and >2. Value vs Cost: Seller improvements do not hold equivalent dollar-value for buyers. For example, a seller who recently paid thousands to modernize windows and replace the roof, may expect list price to reflect this out-of-pocket cost. Some buyers may attribute move-in-ready value to these property improvements, but the actual dollars attached to these seller expenditures may fall short of seller costs.

    3. The Market Now: Economics can change quickly. The current real estate market is the one buyers are shopping in. For instance, the higher priced market last year, last month, or even last week means nothing to buyers once economic conditions change. Sellers who hang on to a now-historic selling price that they missed out on and who refuse to adjust to market-dictated price down-grades, can create a listing barrier by sticking with the out-dated higher list price. The listing message may be interpreted as "stubborn seller here," which does not attract buyers. Letting go of missed opportunity can be a challenge for sellers, but this does not help the property "shout" opportunity to buyers.

    4. Selling: Only Half The Winning Real Estate Strategy Sellers who expect their real estate win to come exclusively from the sale of their real estate, miss the point of real estate as an investment. The full return from real estate ownership mdash; on top of the benefits gained by living in the property or renting it out mdash; comes from selling the property and putting the earned profit to work either to purchase more real estate or to invest the funds in other ways. Sellers who only spend time and effort on selling, may miss out on even greater returns from putting their sales profits to work. Selling or cashing-in real estate is only half the winning strategy More on this topic in my next column.

    Real estate professionals are trained to understand the economic and financial complexities of establishing market value and list price for the real estate held by their clients. Ideally, list price is established by the seller based on information, selling strategy, and market data provided by the listing professional and on seller goals. Select the right professional for the correct expertise to get the list price right.

    List price is based on market value which is more accurately represented by a range than an absolute figure. Depending on the marketing strategy that matches seller needs and wants mdash; including seller time constraints and moving criteria mdash; the list price may be set on the optimistic side or with a practical slant.

    What value and opportunity will your list price communicate to buyers?

    This is the third in our Savvy Seller Series:

    • Five Key Questions For Home Sellers
    • Are You Prepared For Disaster?

    To understand more about how buyers view the sales process, read our

    Savvy Buyer Series:

    • Buying: From Whose Perspective?
    • Savvy Buyers Search Out Visual Disasters
    • Home Buyer Regrets Are A Reality

    For more on PJ Wades views on communication, visit Whats Your Point? blog
    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Proper Funding Levels

    Question: Our HOA recently had a reserve study update which the board is evaluating to ensure that we are adequately funded. What is a proper funding level? I have heard numbers from "30 Funded" to "80 Funded".

    Answer: 100 Funded is the most fair to all members and should be the goal. For example, if you have a 30 year roof that costs 90,000 to replace, you should reserve 3,000/year to be 100 Funded. Reserving anything less will produce a lower level of funding that will have to be made up in the future by others that shouldnt have to pay it. Being 100 Funded all the time insures that all members pay their fair share.

    If you are currently, say, 40 funded, you should institute a plan to increase the level of funding to 100 over a period of years if possible. The board could also special assess to bring it up to 100 this year, although that might be a hard sell unless there is an urgent need, like that 30 year old roof is now 35 years old and leaking like a sieve. Sometimes special assessments are unavoidable because of inadequate funding in the past. But striving for 100 Funding today will eliminate the need for special assessments in the future.

    Question: Our governing documents have policies regarding tree cutting and clearing. From time to time, the board gets requests from lot owners asking permission to cut a tree because of fear that it will fall on the house. If there is no disease or damage, we deny such requests. It has been suggested recently that the HOA can be held liable for damage and injury from falling trees.

    Answer: The HOA is certainly liable for failing to maintain trees in the common area and should have a regular tree maintenance program to keep trees trimmed, healthy and safe. Trees located on private lots is another matter. If an owner maintains a tree is in danger of falling, it should either be obvious to a casual observer or be documented by an arborist. The board should make prudent decisions based on >There is also a fire hazard presented by trees that are closer that 30 feet to the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees or in areas prone to drought and wildfires. If an arborist believes they are a danger, the tree should be removed.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see
    Full Story >

    4 Cheap And Chic Window Treatment Ideas That Arent Drapes

    The wrong window treatment can call attention to a poor view, mask a good one, and make a room look overall drab. Add in the right window treatments, though, and you could end up with just the right finishing touches to make your home look stylish and feel inviting.

    The problem is that window treatments can be expensive, and if youre just buying your first home or putting all your money into your next home, youre probably not looking for more ways to spend money - especially if you need furniture This is why many people end up with paper shades for an extended period of time; at least they provide some privacy from nosy neighbors, right?

    Thankfully, there are a few unexpected and creative ways to make your windows look amazing without emptying whats left of your bank account.

    Roller shades

    "With a variety of price points to fit nearly any budget, roller shades can help realize your vision of custom designed window fashions," said 3 Day Blinds."From over-the-top elegance to casual chic, roller shades come in a variety of beautiful fabrics to transform the look of your space. They are often made of poly blend fabrics that are not only gorgeous to look at but also clean-friendly and low maintenance."

    These roller shades keep it simple with modern lines and a no-frills look thats perfect for contemporary interiors. The blackout material keeps the light out - great for using in a bedroom - and the cost is just 29 at blindsgalore for a 24" x 36" shade.

    If you prefer to DIY it, you can always get a super inexpensive version of a roller shade, like this 9 vinyl version from Walmart, and then use contact paper, peel-and-stick wallpaper, fabric, vinyl decals, or even paint to transform it into something that looks amazing - and expensive.

    Contact paper window treatment

    You may think of contact paper as something you use to line your pantry shelves, but have you ever thought about applying it to your windows?

    This cool solution that only cost the DIYer 8 involved tracing and hand-cutting each of the shapes before applying them to the window, but you can make it much easier on yourself by buying a roll in a cool pattern and applying it in one piece. A cool pattern, you say? Yes, today there are tons of them out there, like this reclaimed wood pattern, and this super chic vintage magnolia floral.

    Make your own Roman shades

    Roman shades are a >

    Bamboo blinds

    The rich, textured look of bamboo blinds always looks chic, but this semi-private window covering is also trending again. The good news is that, while it looks expensive, bamboo blinds are affordable and easy to find, whether you purchase online or head into Home Depot or Lowes. Either way, be sure to measure your windows carefully so you dont end up with something thats too wide or too narrow.

    At Home Depot, this 23" x 48" blind is just 11.77, with prices increasing with the size. There are also several tutorials online that show you how to make your own bamboo blinds from outdoor fencing for as little as 10.
    Full Story >

    BRE: Whats In A Name? Apparently, A Lot

    In 2013, what was then the California Department of Real Estate DRE became the California Bureau of Real Estate BRE. Many people who have been in the business for a while have still not become used to the change, and find themselves referring to the Department. Their inability to adapt may have been prescient.

    Depending on what the Governor does, the Bureau may become the Department again. This would be because of California Senate Bill 173 Dodd. Senate Bill 173 passed both Assembly and the Senate with no opposing votes. It was sent to the Governor on September 22. The Governor has until October 15 to veto, sign and approve, or simply let it pass into law.

    Of course, SB 173 doesnt address just a name change. It moves the Bureau/Department out of the Department of Consumer Affairs DCA and places it within the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency BCSH.

    It is not just a slam dunk that the Governor will approve this. That is because it would undo a part of one of his pet projects -- the 2013 reorganization of the Executive Branch of state government known as the Governors Reorganization Plan 2, or GRP 2. That plan created the BCSH agency, which oversees the DCA and other departments. An aim of GRP 2 was to bring entities that regulate or licenses industries, business activities, or professionals under one agency.

    According to a letter from the Governor about the plan, consolidating under one agency would "improve service, consistency, and efficiency by facilitating shared administrative functions and expertise in areas such as automated systems, investigative practices, and licensing and legal processes."

    Unfortunately, at least as far as the real estate agency was concerned, things didnt work out so well.

    According to the author of SB 173, "although many elements of GRP 2 have worked as intended, the abolition of DRE and concurrent establishment of [the Bureau] have not. Since [the Bureau] was moved under DCA, the cost to administer the Real Estate and Subdivided Lands Laws has increased by several million dollars annually." [my emphasis]

    And thats not all. In 2016, the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development and the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions, conducted hearings on the reorganization and transition. In their background paper with respect to the Bureau of Real Estate, they noted that "since GRP 2, key services like human resources support and management direction seem to be lacking and that the Bureau noted that purchase orders, information technology orders, contract payments, employee reimbursement, and miscellaneous human resources requests have been skipped or have not been processed since the DRE became the Bureau." The background notes that the Bureau explained that it informed DCA about issues, but does not always receive timely responses.

    According to the Senates legislative analyst, "In addition, the hearing found that DCA had failed to provide consistent, on-time payment for utility bills. This led a San Diego utility provider to shut off electricity as a license examination center on January 15, 2015."

    Finally, we note what was said in the analysis for the Assembly Committee on Appropriations: "Like all board and bureaus within DCE, the Bureau of Real Estate pays a pro rata charge to DCA each year to pay for administrative functions provided to the Bureau and for general operation of DCA." That yearly charge has risen dramatically. It was 1.8 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year. It had gone up to 5,094,000 in the recently ended 2016-17 fiscal year, and is projected to be 5.6 million next year. In part, those costs are attributed to DCA implementing a new licensing technology, which is not used by the BRE.

    Senate Bill 173 was sponsored by the California Association of Realtors. Inasmuch as the Bureau obtains its funds through licensing and processing fees -- not the states general fund -- it is understandable that the people it charges are interested in its ability to contain costs.

    Now, it is up to the Governor.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
    Full Story >

    How to Design Your Kitchen Cabinets With Comfort in Mind

    Make your kitchen cabinets a joy to use with these ideas for depth, height and door >

    Those of you building or renovating a kitchen face countless decisions. Just for the cabinetry you have to select the material, frame type, door >

    I hate to add to your list of selections to make, but there are a few details to think about when it comes to ergonomics, too; how you configure your cabinetry can make your kitchen a comfortable and efficient workspace for you and your family.

    1. Minimize uppers. Wall cabinets can be a stretch for many to access - or altogether out of reach for some - so consider removing wall cabinets and putting in a bank of windows instead. This is an especially smart move if doing this will give you a nice view.

    2. Be shallow. Instead of wall cabinets, I like to install shallow floor-to-ceiling pantries. Theyre an efficient use of an interior wall, where you cant have a window anyway. By limiting the depth to just 6 to 9 inches, you are forced to line up your dry goods in a single row, making everything easier to find.

    Photo by Kenzer Furniture - More kitchen photos

    3. Go for open shelves. If you really need wall-mounted storage, try installing a few open shelves. Theyre a more efficient way to store items, because you and your guests can see where everything is, and you dont have to open and close cabinet doors to access things. Limit the stored items to those you use often so they are less likely to collect dust.

    Photo by - More kitchen photos

    4. Lift up, not out. For those who want closed wall cabinet storage, take a look at horizontal cabinets. Theres only one door you need to open to see everything in the cabinet, and you dont have to step out of the way as you open and close it.

    Photo by Barker Wagoner Architects - Search kitchen pictures

    5. Install drawers. When it comes to base cabinets, I cant recommend drawers over doors strongly enough. Deep drawers can hold almost anything you need to store in a base cabinet. Plus, its much more efficient to just pull the drawer out and have all the contents on view right in front of you than having to open two doors and root around for what you need.

    Photo by Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS - Discover kitchen design ideas

    6. Avoid corners. If you can design your kitchen to not have corner cabinets, do so. Corners tend to cause traffic jams in kitchens, and corner cabinets can be awkward to use.

    Photo by Gary Lee Partners - Discover kitchen design ideas

    7. Or make the best of your corners. If you cant avoid corner cabinets, then at least make them as functional and easy to use as possible with fully rotating lazy Susans or clever corner drawers.

    Photo by The Woodshop of Avon - Look for kitchen design inspiration

    8. Upgrade cabinetry. Soft-close door hinges and drawer glides are more must-haves. It is totally worth the small extra charge for these features, which allow you to shut doors and drawers with one efficient push and no slamming.

    Photo by Trueline Woodworks, Inc. - Discover kitchen design ideas

    9. Vary countertop heights. While the standard kitchen countertop height is 36 inches, there are many tasks that are more comfortably performed on a lower or higher surface. This is especially true for those who are taller or shorter than average.

    Typically you want your forearms to be at or near level when youre working at the countertop. But for us tall folks, thatd require a surface height of 42 inches or more mdash; a difficult height for kids or shorter members of the household to use.

    The solution is to set up areas with differing countertop heights to accommodate the various statures of the users and their tasks. Extra storage room in the cabinet underneath is an additional upside to taller work surfaces.

    Photo by Parkyn Design - Browse kitchen photos

    Also See:

    • Ergonomic Cabinet Hardware for Sale
    • Pick the Right-Size Kitchen Storage Solution for You
    • Trend Alert: White Kitchen Designs and How to Get the Look

    Full Story >

    Nine House Cleaning Tasks That Give You A Great Workout

    House cleaning is a drag. That comes as a surprise to no one. But, there is a great side benefit to having a tidy home. Well, there are many, but were not talking about the psychological advantages of living in a clean home or even the fact that a clean house just plain looks good. Were talking about working up a sweat. Go ahead and skip the gym. Grab the broom or the vacuum cleaner instead. Turns out the simple acts of sweeping, vacuuming, and so many more housecleaning tasks can give you a great workout.

    "You probably know that the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week to maintain good health," said Weight Watchers. "But did you know that any kind of physical activity counts, including housework? Believe it or not, dusting, sweeping, mopping, making beds and carrying laundry all add up to a lot of lsquo;incidental activity - the type some health experts view as potentially more beneficial than lsquo;official workouts, such as calisthenics."

    So how many calories are we talking here? "According to Health Status, a 150-lb. individual would burn 99 calories doing 30 minutes of housework," said LIVESTRONG. But the calorie burn varies depending on the activity - and your body weight; consider that the more you weigh, the more calories you burn.


    Dusting can burn 80 calories in 30 minutes, and give you a good arm and shoulder workout. Want to burn even more? Add weights to wrists and/or ankles for this and any other task. "Thenbsp;American Council on Exercisenbsp;promotes the use of weights to increase exercise benefit," said Health magazine. "You can add this to your everyday life by using ankle or wrist weights. Just adding weights can burn 25-50 more calories during your everyday activities - no gym required"

    Washing dishes

    "Some activities are more vigorous than others. A 150-lb. person washing dishes for 30 minutes would burn approximately 77 calories, according to Health Status," said LIVESTRONG.

    Cleaning your windows

    Improve your view and get a good arm workout at the same time. Washing your windows for a half hour can burn 100 calories.


    Few of us enjoy the task of doing laundry, but, while youre putting clothes in the washer, moving them to the dryer, sorting, folding, and hanging, think about this: an hours worth of these tasks can burn 68 calories. Its not as much as hitting the bike at cycling >


    "A 30-minute dance with the broom will burn off 136 calories," said SHAPE.


    Between all the walking, turning, twisting, and bending, vacuuming can burn 170 calories in an hour.


    Have a lot of hard surface floors in your home instead of carpet? Grab that mop. An hours worth of mopping can burn 170 calories, too.

    Washing floors

    "Extra dirty" floors may be a good thing in this case. "If your floors require a little extra elbow grease, you can shed as many as 187 calories in just 30 minutes," said Shape.

    Rearranging your closet

    Whether its time to swap out summer duds for winter sweaters or you just need to clean out a closet thats overstuffed, this task can burn about 85 calories.

    Mowing the lawn

    How about taking your tidying tasks outdoor? If your lawn is in need of some manicuring, youll love the fact that this type of home improvement activity can burn a whopping 300 calories in an hour. If it only takes you 20 minutes, you "can burn more calories than a power walk," said Health. "But theres a catch: you have to mow with a push mower. You may feel like youre living on the frontier, but a push mower will turn your backyard into a boot camp"

    Full Story >

    4 Gadgets To Techify Your Home

    The value and usefulness of your home goes beyond its foundation, walls and roof in 2017. Automated home assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, and smart thermostats like the Nest are just a few of the electronics transforming modern homes into livable computers.

    Whether its to increase your homes value and sellability or just get with the times of a modern home, these are four gadgets that will help bring you and your house into the 21st century.

    Nest Protect

    Most people are familiar with the Nest thermostat, that smart device to control your homes temperature and reduce energy costs, but the Nest Protect could save more than dollars off your utility bill mdash; it could save your life.

    The Protect is the next evolution in the same old smoke detector which, lets be honest, hasnt changed much in the last 50 years. The smart detector picks up both smoke and carbon monoxide and sends alerts to your phones, whether youre home or away, to let you know something is wrong. The Nest Protect also carries other nifty features like differentiating steam and smoke and knowing not to bug your about a low battery at two in the morning.

    Goal Zero Yeti Generator

    Speaking of technology from the past, most people dont need gas-powered generators in 2017. Theyre obnoxiously loud, cant be used indoors and you must have gasoline on-hand for them to be any use. Goal Zero solar-powered generators are the backup power source of the 21st century.

    These battery-powered and very portable generators connect to solar panels to recharge or can power up right from your wall outlet. They offer tons of output options to charge all your devices and are used from everything from tailgating to a power outage. Theres no hiding the fact that these generators arent cheap, but theyre sold at major outdoor retailers such as Cabelas. So you could likely find a deal on one during their enormous Black Friday sale coming up quick.

    Logitech Harmony Elite

    The list of electronic devices in the home is growing rapidly mdash; TV, streaming box, cable, surround sound, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Sonos speaker systems, even that Nest Protect mentioned above. Many of them come with their own remotes and managing all those clickers can be a huge pain in the subwoofer.

    Thats why Logitech, which is been making the best universal remotes for years, has the perfect solution in the Harmony Elite. It connects seamlessly to 270,000 entertainment and smart devices to create one remote to rule them all. This makes controlling your devices more convenient and cleans up your living room look.

    Smart Lock

    Runners will love this one. Never sure what to do with your keys when you hit the pavement? Now you can leave them inside and lock the door at the same time. The August Smart Lock goes over your doors dead bolt lock and uses Wi-Fi to connect to your smartphone to lock and unlock.

    Ever leave the house and youre not sure if the door is locked or not? August will tell you via your smartphone. You can give lock access to friends and family with the app and even set the door to auto-lock when you leave for the day.

    Full Story >

    Moving To A 55 and Older Community: Is It Right For You?

    For a lot of people a 55 and older community can mean spending your retirement living with people your own age, being active, and exploring new hobbies right in your own neighborhood. It sounds a little like the social life of college without the studying. And who wouldnt want that? What should you know before you buy?

    Social club

    One of the benefits of a 55 and older community is the social aspect. Not only is it easy to meet people your age, but most communities also have planned events ranging from golf to art. We always talk about why location matters in real estate. And this is no different. Think about what you want to spend your days doing? If you love skiing, Florida probably isnt the best location for you.


    Most 55 and older communities are gated and have private security. Find out exactly what kind of security your community will offer. If this is going to be your second home, the extra security can bring big peace of mind when youre away.

    No one under 55 allowed

    This one is a given. If youre thinking about a 55 and older community, you probably consider this a pro. But it can quickly turn into a con. You might not realize how much you enjoyed the sound of kids playing in the street until you dont hear it anymore. And if theres a family emergency, it might mean that your adult kids or grandkids couldnt live with you. There might also be restrictions on how long younger visitors can stay. And that might mean the end of Camp Grandma during the summer.

    The old neighborhood

    Dont underestimate the connection you feel with your old neighborhood, especially if its where you raised your family. If thats the case, it might be worth it to keep both homes for now and work your first home into your estate planning. That way it can stay in the family.


    All those activities and amenities come a at a price, homeowners association fees. Like any home with a homeowners association, theremight be strict rules about things like what color you paint your home, how many and what type of pets you can have, and what you can plant in your yard. That might be a fair tradeoff for you, but if youre used to making home improvements on a whim, you might want to think twice.

    This article was originally published on
    Full Story >

    Hey Millennials, Lennar Will Help Pay Your Student Loans

    A new loan from national homebuilder Lennar is raising hopes for millennials, and raising eyebrows from some in the real estate industry. The loan seeks to make homebuying a reality for millennials who might otherwise think they have to wait until their student loans are paid off.

    The idea is this: Homebuyers use Eagle Home Mortgages Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program; Eagle Home Mortgage is a subsidiary of Lennar. Through this program, borrowers "can direct up to 3 of the purchase price to pay their student loans when they buy a new home from Lennar," said the builder in a news >

    Sounds like a great deal for millennials. But is it a fix-all?

    "Financial planning and student loan experts caution that the plan unveiled last week by Lennar just swaps student debt for mortgage debt," said CNBC. "Jason Delisle, a student loan expert at the think tank American Enterprise Institute, said Lennars student loan payments struck him as a price cut marketed toward debt-laden millennialism," they added. "Why not just give them a discount on the house?" Delisle asked.

    Theres also a question about where the money is coming from and what the long-term implications could be. "Theres no free lunch," Allan Roth of Wealth Logic, a financial planning firm in Colorado Springs, told them. "If a for-profit company wanted to make a charitable contribution, then they would make a charitable contribution. This money has to come from somewhere."

    CNBC floated the idea that the price of the home could be increased to cover the cost, however, Lennar clearly stated in its news >

    Of course, for millennials who have been looking for their way in to the market, the response may just be, "Who cares?" According to the New York Federal Reserve, the average outstanding student loan balance is 26,700. "Thats one of the reasons that millennials are buying homes in lower numbers than young people have in previous decades," said the South Florida Business Journal.

    And when you also consider that the down payments under this program can be as low as 3 percent, and "buyers may also be eligible" for additional programs, like those that can help with closing costs, it sure seems like a millennial win.

    "Americans are more burdened than ever by student loans, withnbsp;1.3 trillionnbsp;in outstanding student loans spread out among 42 million borrowers," saidnbsp;Jimmy Timmons, President of Eagle Home Mortgage. "Particularly with millennial buyers, people who want to buy a home of their own are not feeling as though they can move forward. Our program is designed to >

    Buyers have to meet credit and income requirements to qualify for the Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program, and the maximum loan amount isnbsp;424,100, which covers dozens and dozens of attached and single-family options across the country from Lennar.

    Most of them, not surprisingly, are in the suburbs. But is that an issue for millennials, who conventional wisdom and many industry experts have said is off millennials radar? Not so fast.

    "Americans aged about 18 to 34 have become the largest group of homebuyers, and almost half live in the suburbs," said Bloomberg. "The shift to suburbia may surprise those whove chided millennials for being more interested in priceynbsp;avocado toastnbsp;than in saving for a home. Much of the generation delayed marriage, childbearing and home ownership after graduating with heaping student-loan debt and entering a weak job market. As more millennials overcome this, many want the life of their baby-boomer parents - the kids, the house in the burbs and the beefy SUV."

    In fact, if you look closely at millennial homeownership numbers, youll see that, while "theres beennbsp;an increase in the number of young adults in urban areas" over the last 10 years, its "largely due to a 32 increase in births between 1978 and 1990, according to Dowell Myers, professor of demography at the University ofnbsp;Southernnbsp;California," said TIME. "He says that upswing has led people to believe that theres been a real change in millennials preferences, when really there were just a lot more young people born 25 years ago.

    A Harvard study by its Joint Center for Housing Studies - "which used data from the census and the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as its own analysis mdash; found most stereotypes associated with millennial home buyers were not true," said the Los Angeles Times. And key to those findings were millennials geographical preferences. "The evidence suggestshellip;that homeownership decisions by younger households have much more to do with affordability than location and life>
    Full Story >

    Times Are Changing: Smoking In Your Condo

    Smokers, beware "The times, they are a-changing." And with more and more marijuana use, this is now a hot-button topic.

    If your next door neighbor in your condominium association cooks his native food which creates an objectionable odor, will your condo board of directors be required to take any action against that neighbor? Probably not. Perhaps the board or the property manager will discuss the situation with the neighbor, with a view toward trying to reach a happy solution, but generally this would be a matter to be decided exclusively between the two owners.

    But what if your neighbor is a smoker and her smoke filters its way into your apartment. Is the association under any obligation to do anything about this?

    A case was brought by an owner claiming that Greenbelt Homes -- a Prince Georges Maryland Cooperative Association -- had a duty to enforce the "nuisance clause" in the Cooperative Legal documents. The Circuit Court judge did not agree that the second hand smoke was a "nuisance". According to the Judge, "it is a decision, in my view, thats going to have to be made by the legislature."

    And anti-smoking legislation has been enacted all over the country which prohibits smoking in public areas, such as restaurants, public buildings or sports arenas. In fact, the Montgomery County Council -- sitting as the Board of Health -- adopted Regulation 17-210 which prohibits smoking in common areas of multi-family residential dwellings, including condominiums. "No Smoking" signs must be posted in such areas a lobbies, halls, laundry rooms and even playgrounds.

    However, the law does not apply to smoking in individual units.

    Can a condominium association prohibit smoking in the units? Is the unit your castle? Not really. A >Simply stated, every condominium unit owner is legally bound by the existing legal documents as they exist when the unit was initially purchased and as they may be legally adopted from time to time.

    What are these legal documents? In condominium law, there is a hierarchy that must be followed by the board of directors and -- if there is litigation -- by a Judge. The highest priority is the condominium act of the state. These condominium laws are designed to provide some flexibility for associations to adopt their own rules to adapt to their particular situations. As time moves on, the associations need the right to periodically change their rules and procedures.

    Next, there is the "Declaration", which is a document recorded among the land records in the county or city where the property is located. That document tells the world that the property is "declared" to be a condominium, and spells out some basic issues such as what constitutes a common element versus a unit and a limited common element.

    Next in line are the Bylaws -- oversimplified the bible of the association. And finally, there are rules and regulations adopted by the board of directors. The board has great latitude to enact reasonable rules and regs, but their authority to do so must come from the hierarchy above.

    For example, if the Bylaws state "no pets", the board cannot change that. However, if the Bylaws allow pets, the board can enact rules such as requiring vaccination, or keeping dogs on a leash while on common property.

    To my knowledge, smoking pro or con is not mentioned in any of the condo documents that were enacted in the 1980s, 90s, or even in those enacted in the early 2000s. I suspect, however, that with the heavy emphasis on "going green", more and more new or converted condominiums will be - or are now -- smoke free.

    What can the Board do? A condominium consists of three parts: common elements -- such as the roof or the elevators; limited common elements -- such as a balcony that cannot be used by everyone, and units.Clearly, it can prohibit smoking in both common and limited common elements. Boards have fairly broad authority to manage and operate the building. But what about banning smoking in individual units.

    The board has no authority me>The key is to amend the Bylaws or the Declaration; that always requires a super majority vote of either two thirds or even three fourths of the owners. Since the Declaration has a higher level of priority, my preference is also to amend that legal document.

    Every condominium document spells out the amendment procedure. The Board on its own initiative -- or by a petition from owners representing a percentage spelled out in the document -- can put a proposal to the membership. Every owner must be provided the language of the proposal, and a specific date on which the vote will take place. Owners may vote in person or by proxy.

    Amending condo documents is not easy. The legislators who enacted the condo laws wanted to make sure that a small minority or even a slim majority could not change certain basic issues -- issues that impact directly on all owners.

    Proponents and opponents of the proposed smoking ban will mount a campaign -- very similar to Presidential political campaigns. One method many associations use to convince >To my knowledge, only one court case has addressed the issue where a small condominium association amended its declaration to ban smoking in the entire building, including the units. A Colorado court in 2006 upheld the validity of the amendment, primarily because "it was reasonably investigated, drafted and passed by three out of four owners after years of trying to address the problem by other means".

    The US Supreme Court weighed in on the smoking debate when it held, in 1973, that the act of smoking is not a fundamental right.

    We are now seeing more and more smoking bans being enacted in condominium associations.
    Full Story >

    A Guide To HOA Board Responsibilities

    Serving on the board of a homeowner association is a high calling. Well meaning volunteers are elected to roles that are critical to the well being of the HOA. But what exactly is a board member supposed to do to fulfill this charge? Heres a handy guide:

    Officer Responsibilities


    • Prepares meeting agenda
    • Presides at all board, annual and special meetings
    • Appoints and supervises all committees
    • Supervises the manager
    • Trains directors for future leadership positions
    • Sets positive example

    Vice President:

    • Keep current on HOA business
    • Fills in for president when necessary
    • In training for future presidency only a "heartbeat" away


    • Records minutes at all meetings
    • Maintains book of minutes and resolutions
    • Posts meeting notices
    • Attests to the authenticity of corporate documents
    • Certifies all meeting notices and election results
    • Responsible for all official communications with members


    • Responsible for collection and expenditure of assessments
    • Reviews and summarizes financial statements
    • Approves/signs all checks
    • Monitors reserve investments
    • Monitors delinquencies

    All Board Members:

    • Come to meetings prepared
    • Maintain a professional demeanor
    • Put personal agendas aside
    • Encourage participation
    • Be open and fair
    • Maintain confidentiality when appropriate

    Use this handy checklist for board training and retraining purposes when the board gets off-track.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

    Full Story >

    California Bureau Of Real Estate Opens Its Books

    The California Real Estate Commissioner, Wayne Bell, believes in transparency and he practices it. To that end, the recently->

    We applaud the Commissioners efforts to make the information available; and, knowing that more than a few readers of this publication may not have seen the Bulletin, we reproduce some of the reports highlights here.

    The Bureau maintains 5 district offices: Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego. It has 332 employees. Its FY 2016-17 was 52,639,000. Revenue totaled 52,128,255 and expenditures were 51,639,000.

    The Bureau of Real Estate is one of those special arms of government, like the Department of Fish and Wildlife, that does not >Income from licensing and examination activities is, not surprisingly, influenced by market conditions, although there tends to be some lag. Salespersons exam applications increase about 10 in FY 2016-17 from the year before. License renewals have remained steady with 81 for salespersons and 89 for brokers.

    The total license population at the end of FY 2016-17 was 415,458. That is approximately one licensee per 94 Californians.

    Another way to look at the number of licensees is to keep in mind that, as the report says, "Each section of the California Bureau of Real Estate CalBRE -- although performing separate functions -- has the common goal of consumer protection." Remember, the Bureau reported 332 employees. That divides up to 1,251 licensees per Bureau employee. A lot to keep track of

    One of the most significant consumer protection activities of the Bureau is the conduct of audits. The audits most focus on the handling of trust funds -- whether or not licensees are properly handling funds that actually belong to their clients and customers. There are two kinds of audits: investigative which either arises from a complaint or from a previous investigation; and routine which is proactive and often directed towards firms that handle a high volume of trust funds.

    In the 2016 -- 17 fiscal year, the department closed 364 investigative audits and 234 routine ones. Of those 598 audits, 28.6 171 uncovered shortages where the account did not contain as much of the clients money as it should have. The total dollar amount of shortages found? 10,250,906

    Undoubtedly, the activities of the Bureau that concern most licensees are those of the enforcement and legal division. From a statistical perspective, however, it is quite unlikely for a licensee to receive either a citation which is typically for a minor violation or a referral for a legal action.

    In FY 2016-17, 4,282 complaints were received. 714 resulted in citations being issued, 1,265 were referred for legal action, and 1,394 were referred for investigation.

    Investigations and legal actions are time-consuming processes, likely to spread out over more than one fiscal year. Many actions that were concluded in FY 2016-17 were begun in earlier years. They included: 350 license revocations, 160 suspensions, 142 desist and refrain orders, and 232 license denials.

    So, there is a glimpse of what CalBRE has been doing. It is good and refreshing of them to make the information so readily available. Its a two-way street as well. If you have a suggestion for the Bureau, let them know at

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
    Full Story >

    The New Definition Of The Community Park

    It boosts property values, helps the environment, improves public health and brings together people of all ages and cultures. Its free to visit anytime.

    Its your local neighbourhood park and its starting to get more attention from urban planners across the country.

    "Parks are more than just parks today. Green, open space has to do double, triple and even quadruple duty. They have to be the traditional park, but theyre also cultural institutions, botanical gardens and providers of social services. Its a new definition of parks," says Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line in New York. Hammond recently took part in the TD Common Ground Project, which polled Canadians attitudes about parks.

    The survey says 95 per cent of Canadians agree that access to community green space will be important to their quality of life in the future. Six out of 10 people say they visit their local parks at least once a week.

    "The old thinking was that we went to green spaces to connect with nature or take your dog for a walk," says Andrea Barrack, a vice president at TD Bank Group. "Today parks are really punching above their weight in terms of the goals theyre able to achieve, like improving community safety, enhancing a sense of belonging and reducing isolation. People are now seeing these benefits coming from parks."

    Ninety-seven per cent of respondents say that public picnic and eating areas are important for their parks, but the survey found that the top three reasons why Canadians use parks is to get away from it all.

    ">Having playgrounds in parks is important to Canadians, according to the survey. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents say their kids spend less time outdoors than they did at their age.

    "We tend to think of parks as playgrounds with artificial play structures but we should think more of theenjoyment for children in having more natural elements: climbing trees; picking up logs looking for insects; wading through brush," says Marc Cadotte, professor of Urban Forest Conservation and Biology at the University of Toronto.

    Adam Bienenstock, founder and principal designer with Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds in Dundas, Ont., says, "Living in urban centres, its a question of whats missing -- and right now, whats missing is a full sensory experience. Whats missing from many peoples health and immune systems is all of those positive microbes, all of those bacteria, all those microbiota that make up their immune system. And you dont get that unless you touch a biodiverse environment before youre eight-years-old. Were missing that in our cities. We forgot that and didnt design for it."

    Close proximity to community green space is the third-most important factor when people select a neighbourhood in which to live, says the survey. "Proximity to good schools" at 23 per cent and "easy access to public transit" at 19 per cent ranked just above access to a park at 18 per cent. It was ranked as more important than "walkable neighbourhood" at 15 per cent, "nearby amenities" at 14 per cent and "safety/low crime" at 11 per cent.

    Bringing technology to green space, such as Wi-Fi and electronic device charging stations, wasnt a priority for most people surveyed. The most popular suggested enhancements were more public picnic areas, natural playgrounds and solar lighting. Most respondents say that parks must be inclusive and include benefits for families with young children, seniors and people with disabilities.

    The respondents were asked what land uses they would be willing to sacrifice, if necessary, to preserve more green space. Forty per cent said commercial development, 24 per cent residential development and just 20 per cent said parking.

    Eighty per cent said that government should take a leading role in funding green spaces, while 36 per cent said private enterprise could also get involved.

    "Were really asking a lot from our parks. Theres a great opportunity for corporations to participate in building the social and programming elements around parks," says Dave Harvey, executive director of Park People, an independent charity. "As weve seen an evolution in the ways parks are used, were seeing some evolution from parks departments on being open to working with corporations in different ways."

    Park Peoples Sparking Change report identified many benefits of local parks, including:

    Environmental: They help clean the air, keep cities cool in summer, preserve natural ecosystems and absorb storm water runoff.

    Public Health: Having access to green spaces is associated with higher levels of physical activity and encourages people of all ages to have a healthier life>Economic: "Parks make neighbourhoods desirable places to live, work and visit. They draw in residents, businesses, investors and tourists alike, giving an economic boost to the community," says Park People. Parks also boost property values by five to 20 per cent, says the organization.

    Social Value: "Parks are social spaces where we can get to know our neighbours, build a sense of belonging and learn to understand each other better," says Park People. "Since they are free, open and accessible, parks offer potential as community hubs where people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities can come together."
    Full Story >

    Hamp;Ms Kitchen Collection Is Cheap, Chic, And Full Of Must-Haves

    If you already love Hamp;M for their European-inspired, fashion-forward clothes, yoursquo;re going to love their new kitchen collection. Amongst their other home collections for the living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kidsrsquo; rooms, this ldquo;kitchen assortmentrdquo; offers the Hamp;M flair at Hamp;M prices. Here are a few of our - and soon to be your - favorite pieces.

    These porcelain bowls look chic in matte black and are a great shape for salad and cereal, so they can easily be used for everyday and for fancier pursuits. They also come in white and dark grey, with coordinating plates and mugs.

    We love the graphic pattern on these 9.99 plates, and the gold rimming that brings a touch of glam. They also have coordinating mugs for 5.99 apiece.

    Bring in some more flash with this small metal bowl, which has a cool hammered finish and costs just 5.99. Scatter a few on the table to bring out the gold rimming on the painted plates. Theyre also available in silver.

    These embossed cat plates are so cute and super affordable at 6.99 each, youll want at least two full sets, but dont botherhellip;were buying all of them. Ditto on the cat mugs and cat bowls. Oh, and they also come in millennial pink.

    Speaking of millennial pink, youll want to keep this 9.99 porcelain dotted bowl on your countertop or clustered in the middle of your dining table so you can look at it every day.

    Its not often you get excited about a wooden utensil set but this one that includes a ladle, spoon, and fork has that rustic touch we love. And, it also comes in black, which has a bit of a sleeker look.

    Were pretty MEH when it comes to tableclothsmdash;why hide your great-looking table? But, some occasions do call for a cover, and this one knocks us out. The charcoal gray, linen-blend tablecloth has a cute ruffled edge with a raw finish, which is what makes it feel fresh and new. It also comes in and beige and is priced at 29.99.

    More millennial pink, this time for your tush. These velvet seat cushions are only 12.99 also in gray and yellow. They also come in a cotton velvet floral pattern we love.

    This stoneware pitcher looks like an expensive collectible, but its only 24.99.

    Full Story >

    7 Under-The-Radar Design Shows To Watch While You Mourn Fixer Upper

    The announcement this week that "Fixer Upper" is going to wrap after the coming season has many a design show enthusiast in tears. But, fear not. There is still plenty of great design TV out there, although much of it is under the radar. Here are 7 shows youll want to check to out fill the Chip and Joanna Gaines void.

    My Lottery Dream Home

    Original HGTV Design Star winner David Bromstad has gone on to a successful on-camera career since he was crowned the champ in 2006. His original show, "Color Splash," ran for several seasons, and now hes back with "My Lottery Dream Home." While most of the episodes take place in the middle of the country and on the lower end of the lottery winner spectrumwere just waiting for some crazy jackpot winner to come along and request a 100 million beachfront pad in Malibuits still an interesting peek behind the lottery winner curtain, not to mention what a great pleasure it is to watch Bromstad do his thing on TV again. You can catch My Lottery Dream Home on HGTV or

    Good Bones

    The mother-daughter duo of Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak on this newish HGTV program has skills, and an incredibly enviable >

    The Vanilla Ice Project

    You mean, "Ice Ice Baby" Vanilla Ice? Yes, one in the same. The famous rapper/pop icon has built up a nice post-music life for himself in Florida, where hes been flipping houses in his special Vanilla Ice >

    Amazing Space

    Amazing Space host Eric Griffin is a "found space expert," and, seriously, we think were in love. The show is in its first season and based in Connecticut, where he renovates homes by finding space in an attic, basement, breezeway, or wherever he can glean some square footage. Its an idea not being explored elsewhere, and hes both attractive and talented, so theres that. Episodes air on DIY Network on Friday mornings, so youll likely have to set a DVR, but its well worth it. Maybe with enough viewers, his show can be moved to a real time slot.

    House Hunters Renovation

    Everybodys seen "House Hunters," and everybodys made or shared a meme about the hilarious jobs held by the buyers of these homes this year Because, of course a goat herder and a bubble gum taster can afford a million-dollar lake house. You probably roll your eyes and watch it anyway, because the show is that addictive. But if you havent seen its offshoot, "House Hunters Renovation," YOU HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT NOW

    Face it: Some of these houses are gross. And you know youre sitting there thinking about all the things you would do to it if you were the buyer. You get to see the home be brought into this century on "House Hunters Renovation," and its glorious. Its similarly formulaic to the channels other shows In this case, they see three options, just like on "House Hunters," choose one, undertake a renovation, and bring in a designer to redo the kitchen pretty much every single time, which is fine, because the kitchens are typically heinous.. The whole thing is very satisfying. Check HGTV for episode times.

    Grand Designs

    Unless youre British or obsessive about finding home design shows and know where to look on YouTube, you may never have heard of this program. So let us introduce you by way of the Los Angeles Times:

    "Listen, we all love HGTV. But do you ever find yourself four or five hours into a marathon of Fixer Upper, feeling a little unsatisfied? Do you get bored by all those vintage mirrors and wall quotes? Do you wish the Property Brothers used words like overweening? Do you long for a home show where the outcomes are less canned, the problems more catastrophic, the designs more ambitious and the hosts less, well, Canadian? Do you like nice coats? If the answer to any of these question is yes, then allow me to introduce you to Grand Designs, one of the most popular and longest running property shows in the U.K."

    Youre dying to watch it now, right? You finally can. "Until recently, Grand Designs was only available to watch in the U.S. via dubious YouTube accountsit is now available to stream on Netflix. But only two seasons, so pace yourself, though you may not want to."

    Nate Jeremiah by Design

    You may know Nate Berkus for his many Oprah guest appearances or his chic home decor lines at Target, and now the famous interior designer has his own show with husband and fellow designer Jeremiah Brent. You can catch the first season in reruns on TLC, where youll see their fun banter, their adorable daughter Poppy, and their gorgeous designs, in which they take a homeowner from disaster to downright amazing in each episode.

    Full Story >

    8 Paint Colors for a Standout Front Door?

    Extend a standout greeting with a memorable hue at your homes entry

    Decisions, decisions. For your front door, do you go for >

    Think pink. Get the neighbors talking with an unusual but lovely shade of pink. Not shocking but not shy and retiring either, this salmon shade works particularly well with the surrounding painted gray woodwork.

    Photo by - Look for entryway pictures

    Make a match. A more mellow hello is offered by this pale door, which perfectly matches the gentle tone of the stone walls. And it proves that you dont need to shout to get noticed. Mini olive trees in terra-cotta pots on either side of the door break up the color block and add to the rustic feel.

    Photo by Farrow amp; Ball - Look for entryway pictures

    Go back to black. Its hardly the wildest front-door option, but black remains incredibly popular for a reason. It looks super smart, it never goes out of >

    Photo by Boscolo Interior Design - More entryway ideas

    Join the navy. A deep indigo is a bright alternative to black or gray, and its different enough to turn heads. The owners of this house went for a matte finish to give their period cottage a modern edge.

    Photo by gda architecture - Discover entryway design ideas

    Transform with yellow. Theres no number on the door, and why would there need to be? The owner simply has to tell everyone, "You cant miss it mdash; its the house with the yellow door." The painted white brickwork and gray-framed windows add to the standout modern look.

    Photo by ARCHEA Ltd - Browse entryway ideas

    Go green. To ensure theres no color clash with the greenery in your front yard, you could opt for a soft woodland green like this one for the door.

    Photo by The London Door Company - Search home design pictures

    Rock the red look. Matching the >

    Photo by Locate Estate Agents - More entryway photos

    Be bold. In the "notice me" department, a vibrant shade of orange is hard to beat. And if you ever get tired of it, a whole new look is just a paint can away.

    Photo by Roundabout Studio Inc. - Search exterior home pictures

    Meet halfway. Want a color thats cheerful but you cant see yourself embracing an ultra-bright shade? For a softer approach, this duck-egg blue could be just right - and it works just as well against a white exterior as it does with this red brick.

    Photo by Designerpaint - Search entryway pictures

    Spread the love. If you love the color youve chosen for your front door, why not use it on the window frames too? Of course, if youve gone for orange see above its probably best to use it just on the door.

    The bright blue here, however, suits the coastal feel of the house and works well with the gray siding and white wall.

    Photo by The Bazeley Partnership - Look for exterior home pictures

    Also See:

    • Unique House Numbers to Match a New Door
    • Start Painting Your Door With Help From a Professional
    • Try Turquoise for a Soothing and Cheerful Vibe

    Full Story >

    American Red Cross and St. Jude Childrens Hospital Receive Assistance From Real-Estate Driven Donations Through the Agent with Heart Program

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that two of their esteemed real estate professionals each made donations on behalf of their clients to the nonprofits of their clients choice.

    Kristina Vanderpool of Century 21 Fairway in Apple Valley, CA has made a donation to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey >

    Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, CA has made a donation to the St. Jude Childrens Hospital on behalf of her client, Wendy Froshay.

    "Thanks to the kindness of realtors like Kristina and Dana, our program is able to assist communities everywhere," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "With each donation made through our Agent with Hearttrade; Program, we are one step closer toward accomplishing our goal of making communities around the country a better place for everyone."

    "Id like to personally thank Kristina and Dana, who are two realtors that hold our mission of giving back in their hearts as strongly as all of us at PinRaise do. We count ourselves very lucky to be doing such wonderful work alongside such caring agents as them, and I thank them for their continued commitment to giving back," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

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

    To contact Kristina Vanderpool, please call 760-617-8026.

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

    Full Story >

    Dont Fight The Home Inspection

    Question: We are selling our house and have just received an offer to purchase. The offer contains a contingency for the buyer to obtain a home inspection report.

    The buyer is asking for a general inspection contingency, but our real estate broker is advising us to use the specific inspection contingency. Can you explain the difference and give us some assistance?

    Answer: In my opinion, it is imperative for a homebuyer to obtain a home inspection after the contract for sale is signed by all parties.

    Buyers often purchase real estate based on emotions rather than facts, and a good home inspection is important to satisfy the purchaser that the property is substantially in sound condition.

    A buyer should always include in a sales contract a contingency to the effect that the contract is contingent on the purchaser obtaining, at purchasers expense, a satisfactory home inspection within three or five business days after the real estate contract is ratified.

    Sellers may think, at first blush, that an inspection is not in their best interests. However, if the seller stops and thinks about it for a moment, it becomes very clear that even from the sellers point of view, it is advisable to let the buyers have a short contingency to back out of the contract if they are not satisfied with the condition of the house.

    I would rather have a purchaser back away early in the process than wait until the very last minute and raise all sorts of problems and concerns on the day of settlement.

    Of equal importance, if the purchaser has obtained a satisfactory home inspection report, that same purchaser will be hard-pressed to raise issues about the condition of the house on the day of settlement. Often, I have heard sellers tell buyers "you removed the home inspection contingency; if you have a problem with our house, look to your own home inspector. You could have backed out of the contract based on the inspection contingency."

    As you have indicated, there are two basic inspection contingency arrangements. The first is known as a general contingency, which gives the buyers the absolute right to back out, if for any reason whatsoever, they are dissatisfied with the inspection report. In practical terms, however, buyers often tell sellers that the contingency will be removed if the seller makes certain repairs.

    The other contingency is known as the "specific contingency," which works likes this: After the buyer has completed the inspection, the buyer must submit a list of items to be repaired or corrected to the seller. The seller has a couple of days to advise the buyer whether they will do any or all of the items on the list. The buyer then has one additional day after receiving the sellers response in which to determine whether to buy the property or to declare the contract null and void.

    Obviously, from a buyers point of view, the general contingency is much preferred. Basically, the buyer can walk away from the house for any reason whatsoever, even if he/she does not like the color of the paper on which the inspection report is written. On the other hand, the specific contingency is clearly much better for the seller, since it narrows down the issues, and gives the seller the opportunity to correct certain defects, rather than lose the buyer.

    Needless to say, from your point of view as the seller, the specific contingency is in your best interests. However, from a psychological and a marketing point of view, if the buyer is demanding the general contingenc, you might be suspect as to why you are insisting on the specific contingency. Keep in mind, your buyer does not know the house at all, and if they feel you are trying to hide something from them, they may become very hesitant to go forward with the purchase of your property.

    My own suggestion is to >You have indicated, however, there is no time limit on the contingency. This is not acceptable. If you do not have any time limitation, then the buyer literally can back away from the sale on the date of settlement by producing an inspection report that is unsatisfactory. You should limit the inspection contingency to a period not to exceed three or five days after the sales contract is signed.

    You should also insist, however, as a seller, to obtain a copy of the entire inspection report, whether or not the buyer raises any objections based on that report. After all, if the buyer raises problems later at the settlement table, it would be very helpful to have a copy of that report in your possession.
    Full Story >

    Financial Donts When Getting Ready To Buy A Home

    If youre in the process of buying a home, youve probably already met with a lender who advised you on what to do and what not to do during the escrow process. But if youre just getting ready to buy or plan on doing so in the near future, following a few financial tips can mean the difference between qualifying...and not, and also getting a decent rate. These are a few universal "donts" that will help you stay on track, even before you get a lender involved.

    Dont take out more credit

    If youre thinking youre going to buy a house in a matter of a few months, forget that new laptop on the Best Buy card, forget that new car, and forget that Old Navy card. Sure, its only a 30 pair of pants. But, taking out more credit can harm your debt-to-income ratios, which can make you look like a credit risk. And thats not worth it, no matter how cute the pants are.

    Dont pay off all your current credit cards

    Your lender will tell you specifically what you should pay down and what you should leave alone, but banks tend to like responsible credit management. In some cases, that may mean carrying a small balance on one or more cards.

    Dont charge up all your cards to the limit

    "Responsible credit management" does not mean running every available card up to the limit and/or only making minimum monthly payments. Banks will not look kindly on this when you go to get approved for a loan.

    Be careful with old debts

    You may think that in order to qualify for a mortgage or get the best possible rate you have to pull your credit and go back through every single entry to identify and take care of anything negative. Youre right about the first part. Pulling your credit so you know what youre working with is critical, and financial experts recommend doing it annually, regardless of what youre planning or not planning to buy. But be careful with old debts. It doesnt hurt to ask a lender what should and should not be taken care of. But, in general, youll want to:

    Pay in full instead of making settlement arrangements - Its not uncommon for debt collection companies to send out settlement offers that allow you to settle debts for less than the total amount. While this can sound tempting, it likely wont yield the results youre looking for. Yes, itll stop the harassing phone calls and persistent letters. But if your goal is to get the debt to disappear from your credit report, youll be disappointed.

    "When you settle your debt, the activity usually shows up on your credit report as lsquo;debt settled or lsquo;partial payment or lsquo;paid in settlement. You can talk to the settlement company about the specific language they use, but the bottom line is: this is a red flag on your report," said clearpoint. "FICO doesnt reveal how much your score will drop, exactly, and your report doesnt indicate how much of the original debt was forgiven; it simply shows you settled. Either way, it still points to the fact that you may be a credit risk."

    Stick to newer debts - Older debts that are getting close to falling off your report should be the last thing you pay. "You also want to consider the statute of limitations on your debt," they said. "Most past debts remain on your credit report for seven years, so if youre close to the time frame whennbsp;the debt falls off, settling it may not make much of a difference. Theres an ethical argument to be made here, but practically, you might just be settling a debt that was about to disappear anyway."

    Be careful with debt consolidation

    If you have a lot of outstanding debt, are in over your head with credit cards and store cards, and can only manage the minimum monthly payment on all your existing loans, youre likely going to have a hard time qualifying for a mortgage. You may be tempted to lump your debt together into one payment through a credit consolidation company, but beware the consequences. There may be startup fees, interest rates on the consolidation loan could skyrocket after an initial teaser rate expires, and, in some cases, an improvement in credit is years away.

    Dont get lax with your payments

    Your lender will reinforce this, but it bears repeating that even after youve been prequalified, you need to keep your payments current on your car, your Visa, etc. Your lender will do a recheck before closing just to make sure nothing has changed in your credit report, and if you have new issues, it could impact your loan.

    Dont move money around

    "We know a story of one homebuyer who almost lost his home because he had stated on his application that the down payment was coming from a mutual fund account. Then, two days before closing, he decided to sell a baseball card collection instead," said "The loan had to be underwritten all over, his ownership of the collection, its value and its sale had to be verified, the closing was delayed and the fees increased."

    Dont change jobs before you buy your home

    This is a big no-no dont if youre in the process of buying a home or are about to. Among all the other financial information your lender will be collecting in consideration of your loan, they will also be asking about your employment history. Youre obviously less likely to be approved if youre unemployed unless youre independently wealthy, and, in that case, Congratulations. A recent job change may also be problematic if the bank is feeling jumpy about your job security.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Can Governing Documents Be Amended?

    Question: Can HOA governing documents be amended to allow compensation to directors for their services as board members? It stands to reason that they could be held more accountable if they received compensation for performance.

    Answer: Most governing document stipulate that board members serve without compensation. There is a very good reason for this. Boards are comprised of elected members who ra>Also, the board has an unavoidable conflict of interest. Since contracts and other expenditures are approved by the board, so would board compensation. The board is elected to safeguard the interests of all members. Its best done when the directors serve as unpaid and unconflicted volunteers.

    Question: Our board is in the process of drafting an Architectural Design Policy. We are thinking about recording the policy with the county.

    Answer: Architectural design standards can be complex and subject to change as taste and technology change. It is appropriate for the governing documents to state that an Architectural Design Policy exists, that construction and renovation must conform to it. The specific policy should not be recorded but be easily available upon request or posted on the HOAs website. As with any policy, the board should have it reviewed for comment by the members and by a knowledgeable attorney prior to implementation. A sample Architectural Design Policy is available at in the Policy Samples section.

    Question: A unit owner has requested permission to rebuild her deck and expand the size. What issues should the board consider?

    Answer: Having unit owners repair and replace their decks is often a problem because those decks are typically attached to the structure which is an HOA responsibility to maintain. So, the unit owner should also be held responsible for any damage caused by the deck to the structure, like dryrot. This agreement should be in writing, dated, signed, notarized and recorded against the unit title to advise future owners of this responsibility. You should use an attorney to put the agreement in proper recordable form.

    Will the new deck match the look, design and material of the original installation? Conformity in common wall housing reinforces market value. The new deck should look like the old unless the board has adopted a new standard.

    The board has no authority to allow a unit owner to expand into common area or to enjoy exclusive use of a common area. This must be approved by a vote of the members which may be 100.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see
    Full Story >

    8 Seductive Shades for Your Living Room

    The shade you choose to paint your living room walls really comes down to the atmosphere youre hoping to create. Whether you want a bright, cheerful space, a tranquil haven or a moody and intimate chill-out zone, these gorgeous rooms offer some inspiration.

    Embrace gray. Gray is such a popular shade, and this room illustrates why we continue to love it - its chic and >

    Be bold. If you love brights and their energizing qualities, there are ways to embrace them without overwhelming a space. Here, for instance, the bright coral is tempered by the neighboring pale pink wall and the wall of white storage. The designers also made the look work by opting for mainly black and white accessories, then adding just a few complementary zingy colors via the artwork and pillows.

    Photo by Chris Snook - More eclectic living room ideas

    Add a wall of sunshine. Another way to nail the bold look is with the tried-and-true fireplace-wall tactic. In this room, sunshine yellow brings the feel-good factor. Although the yellow makes a huge impact, the adjacent white walls keep things light and airy.

    Photo by Mailen Design - Browse scandinavian living room ideas

    Stick to neutrals. This inviting space has been given a warm glow with a combination of plywood cabinetry and off-white walls. The room is quite open with glass on either side, but the warm caramel tones throughout the space help it feel snug and inviting.

    Accents of black and gray work well in the modern space, as they help balance out the pale brown hues.

    Photo by designjunction - More living room photos

    Get the moody blues. Dark blue walls are a great choice for a living room, as they make a space feel more intimate and also form a dramatic backdrop for artwork and furniture. The room here is open and vast, but the deep blue walls create a snug atmosphere. The sleek lines and light colors of the furniture stand out beautifully in front of such a contrasting shade. Want to up the cozy factor? Consider painting the ceiling the same color.

    Photo by Clarke amp; Clarke - More asian living room ideas

    Paint it black. Black walls in a living room might seem like a bizarre idea, but this space shows how it can work. Here, the far wall is a matte charcoal, and the cabinetry behind the sofa is an even darker shade. The colors work because theyre teamed with natural brick and wood, as well as soft red patterned fabrics, all of which add layers of texture and warmth to the matte.

    Photo by Mark Hazeldine Photography - Discover traditional living room design inspiration

    Keep calm with green. For a super tranquil living room, consider painting the walls a soft pale green. The walls here give the space a soothing feel and seem to merge with the view of the backyard. The pink tones of the pillows and armchair add to the >

    Photo by Hillarys - Look for modern living room design inspiration

    Think pink. Its a tricky one to get right, but if you choose the right shade, a pink living room can be chic and sophisticated and not at all sweet or girlie. The key is to go for a very pale tone that almost works as a neutral. Here, the soft pink wall is a lovely backdrop to a palette of grays and corals. The colors combine for a cool, contemporary look.

    Also See:

    • A Range of Neutral Colors for thenbsp;Livingnbsp;Room
    • Wall Lights to Illuminatenbsp;Yournbsp;Colornbsp;Palette
    • Designer Coffee Table Sets That Complementnbsp;Yournbsp;>

    Full Story >

    Serving Alcohol At A Open House

    Every now and again someone will come up with the idea that a good way to promote a listing would be to have an open house and to serve alcohol at the event. This could be the agents idea or it might come from the seller. It could be a twilight open house or it might be Mimosas in the morning. Etc.

    We dont automatically reject such an idea, nor do we unhesitatingly endorse it. We do know that it is fraught with caveats and concerns. We also know that many of the issues will vary from state to state. California REALTORSreg; are fortunate that the legal department of the California Association of REALTORSreg; CAR has prepared a question-and-answer memo on the topic. It is instructive; and I shall draw upon it here, reminding readers that the laws of another state may be different.

    First -- and this applies in every state -- an agent should seek the specific permission of his or her broker to conduct such an event. In fact, it is probably the case that every broker should have some written policy, which could be as minimal as saying "permission must be granted". To have no policy and to leave it to agent discretion would not pass a broker-supervision test. Moreover, it just might be that the brokers insurance EO or Professional Liability might have something specific to say about such events.

    Well, fine, lets say its OK with the broker,as long as its all legal. What will that entail?

    First of all, is any kind of license required? The answer to that is no, provided that certain conditions are met. They are: 1 There is no sale of alcohol. 2 The event is not open to the general public at the time alcoholic beverages are served or being consumed. 3 The premises are not generally maintained for the purpose of keeping, serving, consuming, or disposing of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic Beverage Control Act 23399.1

    This is sometimes called the "private party" exception. To be considered a "private party" the host must have the names of the invited guests beforehand. If any person not on the list is admitted to the event, the event is considered "open to the public", and the host must have the appropriate licenses for serving alcohol.

    If the open house does not meet the "private party" exception -- and most wont, because they allow attendees whose names are not on a previously-determined guest list -- then it will be necessary to have a licensed professional serving the alcohol. Both an On-Sale License and a Type 58 Catering Permit, issued by the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control are required. If additional professional servers are needed, "The servers should require identification from guests and should be able to properly identify how intoxicated guests are and to avoid serving alcohol to minors or intoxicated guests."

    Among other conservative precautions, the CAR memo advises: 1 Make sure no minors are present. 2 Impose a drink limit for guests. For example, each guest may be provided with two 2 tickets redeemable for an alcoholic beverage. 3 Include a variety of alternative, non-alcoholic beverages.

    The topic of serving alcohol often raises questions about liability. Surprisingly, perhaps, California law provides for only limited liability. Business and Professions Code 1714c says that:

    Except as provided in subdivision d, no social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.

    The exception? Any adult "who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person whom he or she knows, or should have known, to be under 21 years of age"

    So, you want to serve alcoholic beverages at an open house? Go ahead. Just be careful, very careful, to abide by all the rules. Id drink to that.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
    Full Story >

    Are You Prepared For Disaster?

    How prepared are you if natural disaster descends on your home?

    Natural disasters surround us. TV and online video bring home the devastation: forest fires, floods, hurricanes, storm surges, tornados, earthquakes, heat waves, mud slides...

    Our first reaction is to pitch in and help...donations of food, clothing, daily basics, building materials, hands-on assistance, and cash are essential and welcome. Hundreds continue to roll up their sleeves mdash; real and virtual mdash; and pitch in to rebuild lives, homes, and communities.

    After taking time to give thanks that your family and home were spared, why not take the demonstrated lessons of hardship to heart and make sure youre as prepared as possible should natural disaster strike.

    Our Seven Disaster Management Strategies for your real estate may shift the odds in your favor if trouble strikes:

    1.nbsp; Insurance: Do you know exactly what your property insurance covers and what it does not?

    Most policy holders do not understand their home insurance or other insurance for that matter. This is not surprising since policies are not written in plain language designed to clarify details for those who pay the premiums. Talk to your insurance broker mdash; and to a few other insurance companies mdash; to clarify whether the coverage you have is all that you need. If you live near water mdash; a reservoir, river, lake or the ocean mdash; find out about flood insurance, your level of disaster risk, and alternatives. Pay attention to how FEMA and other agencies support flood and other victims to decide what makes sense for your family home.

    2.nbsp; Irreplaceable: How safe are your most valued possessions?

    Most people include family photos, personal memorabilia, jewelry, art, and collectibles as their treasured belongings. The trend toward finished basements has placed irreplaceables kept there in jeopardy. This lower level is usually the first to flood for any one of a number of reasons. Have you made digital copies of photos and documents and taken videos of each room to assist with insurance claims mdash; all of which should be kept in a safe place off site?

    3.nbsp; Grading and Landscaping: Is your lot properly graded to move water away from your home and/or landscaped to provide separation from wildfire?

    The lands slant or grade is an essential first step toward keeping water mdash; rainwater or flood water mdash; out of your home. If you live near forest or grassland, landscaping that protects your home from wildfire is vital. For instance, plant new trees away from your home. This way, when they are full grown, trees will not transfer fire to your home or fall on your house.

    4.nbsp; Building Codes: Is your home designed and built to take advantage of modern building materials and techniques which will better withstand common types of local natural disasters?

    Building codes and fire-safety standards are government regulations that raise construction standards to reduce maintenance costs, improve safety, and minimize damage during natural disasters typical for the area. When building in an area with no or low-level codes, set your own higher standards.

    Document what youve done and why to increase property value. These improvements may also lower insurance cost.

    5.nbsp; Disaster Plans: Does your family have a fire escape plan and a disaster plan for regrouping if you get separated off-site?

    When was the last time you considered fire safety features, drew up family escape plans, or had a family fire drill? How could you escape from the room you are currently in if fire cut off the usual exit? If fire starts, how would your children and other family members safely exit your home from any of the other rooms? Does every room have functional exit alternatives? Dont wait for wildfire, flood, or storms to talk with your family about how to regroup and stay safe should disaster strike while they are at school or work. Cell phones are great, but they are often knocked out in a storm. Have at least one non-cell Plan B in place.

    6. Their Disaster Plans: Do you know the details of local and state comprehensive disaster plans?

    Which disaster management strategies does your community and state have in place to protect their residents and minimize property damage? Hoping for federal bail-out is not a disaster management strategy. Check with local government and elected representatives to learn what has been decided and what is under discussion. Are you satisfied that their efforts represent all that can be done for your neighborhood?

    7. Stock Up: How long could you be safe and self-sufficient if disaster struck your community?

    Youve watched news footage of people making frantic last minute dashes for food, water, and batteries when disaster is imminent. Do you have supplies of canned and dried foods, bottled water 72 hours worth is a good start, batteries, and other essentials diapers, medications, etc. on hand just in case? Governments and >

    Hoping that disaster never strikes you is not a disaster management strategy.

    For more on proactive home safety: "Seven Essentials for Buying a Safe Home"

    Full Story >

    4 Things You Absolutely Must Get Rid Of Before You Move

    So youre moving, and on your verrrrrry long moving->

    First, use this advice from as an overall rule of thumb: "For one, if its damaged, it should be thrown away, no exceptions. Also, if its spent more than six months unused, you likely wont miss it if you get rid of it. For clothes, if you havent worn a garment in over a year, it should be donated that way you dont get rid of seasonal clothes you may need in a few months."

    Now, lets break down the specifics.


    If youve got boxes and boxes of old receipts and taxes and printed emails dating back to the turn of the century, its time to dive in. "Keep everything for seven years" is ingrained in many of our brains, but, according to financial expert Suze Orman, thats not necessary. She says the only thing that needs to be kept for seven years are records of satisfied loans. Income tax returns only need to be kept for three years can we get a Hallelujah?. But, there are some reasons to keep them longer, depending on your withholdings. You can see all her recommendations here.

    Mementos and heirlooms

    It can get sticky when it comes to things youve been willed or handed down. If you feel like you need to hold on to that old antique dresser thats been in your family for two generations - and thats sitting in the garage because its not your >Clothes

    Getting rid of clothes can be overwhelming. No one is saying you have to pare down to a weeks worth of outfits and shoes, but if youre moving to a smaller space or just want to be more organized when you move, the closet is a great place to start.

    Most experts recommend getting rid of anything you havent worn in a year, but if the thought of purging that many items is giving you anxiety, start by asking yourself a few questions, said The Spruce:

    • Do I love it?
    • Do I wear it?
    • Does it project the image I want to project?
    • Does it itch or scratch?
    • Does it pinch my toes? Are the heels too high to walk in?
    • Is it moldy? Smelly? Stained?
    • Does it fit?"

    When you get to No. 7, take a deep breath. Many people have clothes in a couple of sizes to accommodate things like post-pizza-pigout days, but if youre holding on to 15 pairs of pants that havent fit you since 2002, maybe its time to ditch them.

    Broken, scratched or tired furniture

    Old, boring, broken, or otherwise undesirable pieces youve been living with in your current home may not be so tolerable once you move. Your shiny new place deserves some shiny new stuff, right? If youre not in a position to shell out a bunch of money after buying your new home, wait a bit. Youll undoubtedly be receiving credit card offers after you close escrow; sift through them and set aside those offering 0 interest from furniture stores like Rooms to Go.

    These can make big purchases easier - if you are good at managing your credit. Miss a payment or fail to pay off your balance within the allotted time and youll have interest accrued going back to the date of purchase plus a whopping interest rate, which can put payments out of reach. You may also receive 0 interest offers from places like Lowes and Home Depot, which can be a great way to update appliances, flooring, or countertops, and Best Buy for your electronic needs.
    Full Story >

    6 Surprising Benefits Of Buying Or Selling Your Home In The Fall

    Seeing fewer for-sale signs now that summer is over? That can be great news for buyers who are looking to score a new home and buyers who want to get rid of their place and buy a new one. If you think you missed the boat on making your move this year, were here to tell you why buying and selling in the fall can work for you.

    Less competition

    Yes, there may be fewer homes on the market, but there are also fewer buyers out there competing for the same home you want. That gives buyers an important edge. "Families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture," said Forbes. "Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale - and in some cases, theres just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer."

    The benefit to sellers is that those buyers who are out there tend to be more serious, which means your REALTORreg; can key in on the real buyers without having to sift through the riffraff.

    Tax breaks

    If youre a buyer who closes escrow before December 31, and you may get a nice write off on your taxes. "Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole years worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December," David Hryck, a New York, NY tax adviser, lawyer, and personal finance expert told "Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year."

    There are also potential tax breaks for home sellers. "You can include all sorts of selling expenses in thenbsp;cost basisnbsp;of your house," said The Balance. "Increasing your adjusted cost basis decreases your capital gain because this is whats subtracted from the sales price to determine how much of a gain - or loss in some cases - youve realized. If you have less of a gain, youre more likely to fall within the exclusion limit, and if youre gain isnt excluded, youll pay taxes on less." And thats just the beginning. Closing costs and home improvements may also be write offs for sellers. Check out the full list here.

    Home for the holidays

    Buy or sell early in the fall and you could be nicely situated in your new home in time for the holidays and before winter weather hits. Moving during a calmer time of year also means you may have better access to movers and other necessary resources than during the busier spring and summer seasons.

    The right price

    Did you list in the spring or summer with an exorbitant number that you thought youd have no trouble getting because it was a hot market? Thats pretty common these days. Whether youve had a revelation about the price you should be asking or have made updates to your home to justify a higher price, youre probably in better shape to get your realistic asking price in the fall. If youre a seller and you establish a smart pricing strategy, you could find your home standing out in the crowd and selling while others sit on the market under a blanket of snow.

    Buyers also may have a better time getting a home thats within their budget because when there is less competition for homes, there is less chance of bidding wars and over-asking-price sales.

    Fall may be safer for buyers and sellers

    Heres something you may not have thought of. "Did you know that burglars have peak seasons? They do, Sarah Brown, a home safety expert for, told Forbes. "July and August are prime months for burglaries to take place. Waiting until the fall [to buy] gives you an advantage when learning about a home and the neighborhood. Youll be settled in your home and can take precautionsmdash;like setting up that new alarm systemmdash;before the next burglary season rolls around.

    For sellers, less competition for your home can be a good thing if it means your home is safer from theft.

    Great deals on stuff to fix up your home

    Coordinate the timing right, and those items you need to fix up your home for sale in the fall or update and upgrade after a purchase might be priced to your advantage. Check Consumer Reports for a full list of the best times of year to buy everything, and keep in mind holiday and Black Friday sales. You could score some great deals at this time of year.

    Full Story >

    11 Design Tricks for Defining Your Open-Plan Dining Space

    An open-plan living space gives your home a light and airy feel, but that doesnt mean it needs to be one sprawlingly large room. Check out these ideas to zone off your dining area and create an intimate space in which to share dinner with friends and family.

    1. Zone the floor. You can separate your dining space by marking out the area on the floor. Here, an unusual hexagonal pattern stands out beneath the table and instantly closes the space. You also could use floor paint to mark out simple lines or create your own more elaborate design.

    Photo by Cris Sega Designs - Browse contemporary dining room ideas

    2. Add a rug. A simple way to zone the floor is to position a rug under the table. It will create a cozy area and feel wonderfully soft underfoot. To counteract food debris, go for something lightweight, so it can be easily picked up and shaken out.

    Photo by BetterSpace: The Floor Plan Experts - Look for rustic dining room pictures

    3. Use natural materials. You can add warmth to a space by introducing natural materials such as wood, plants, woven elements and fabrics. This solid wood table and the lovely textures surrounding it have created a snug spot in the center of the white room. The dining space looks comfortable and welcoming.

    Photo by Xul Architecture - Search transitional dining room design ideas

    4. Frame your viewpoint. The modern white table here sits in the middle of a concrete floor and is surrounded by white walls. Its prevented from feeling lost or clinical by the clever placing of two bright pictures. These colorful artworks root the table to its spot and allow other elements to fall into place around it. It feels cheerful and cozy.

    Photo by Mike Taylor Bespoke Kitchens - Search scandinavian dining room design ideas

    5. Have everything close at hand. Create a comfortable space by bringing in practicality. The wall-to-wall sideboard in this dining area has plenty of room for glasses and tableware, which makes the area an easy place to be. The owners and their guests can quickly get at everything, so if someone needs an extra glass, its right there. The functionality of the space should help to create a >

    Photo by Banda Property - Browse industrial dining room photos

    6. Break up spaces. You can make your open-plan space feel cozier by dividing zones with furniture. This large cabinet helps to separate the living room from the dining area to create a more intimate feel. It also has the added benefit of providing vast amounts of storage.

    If your budget doesnt stretch to a custom cabinet, try placing a large sideboard or shelving unit between the two spaces. Any kind of barrier will help to break up the space and make it feel snug.

    Photo by Hannah Brown - More dining room photos

    7. Build in a bench seat. Cushioned benches are comfortable and flexible. Make the most of an open-plan space by building one next to other elements in the room. Here, the bench rests against the kitchen countertop, creating a snug and sociable spot where guests can gather while the cook prepares food in the kitchen.

    Photo by House of Sylphina - Look for eclectic dining room pictures

    8. Soften the lines. Isolate your dining space from any sharp edges in the rest of the room by choosing a curvy table. The dark, industrial kitchen here provides a moody backdrop to the soft, white dining table and chairs. The angled light fixture puts a spotlight on the dining area and highlights it as a oasis in the center of the room.

    Also See:

    • Shop Statement-Making Area Rugs for the Dining Room
    • The Best Low-Maintenance Indoor Plants
    • Add Warmth to Your Dining Space With the Right Upholstery Fabric

    Full Story >

    5 Popular Home Trends by Region

    Growth in home renovations and remodels has been steady since 2012, and the Residential Remodeling Index predicts continued growth into the future. Many renovations are trending from coast to coast, such as installations to increase energy efficiency, sustainability and security. There are some, however, which are more popular in specific regions.

    Indoor/Outdoor Living on the West Coast

    Indoor/outdoor living areas are trending across the nation, but the West Coast carries the torch. The regions climate practically begs you to incorporate the outdoors into your everyday activities.

    • An Open Wall - Remove the barrier between your yard and home by replacing an entire wall with glass doors, which can be opened and shut as-needed. You will find glass walls like this off of kitchens, family rooms and even bedrooms
    • A Table Outside - Move your kitchen and dining area outside, right outside the home and covered for use in any weather. With an outdoor kitchen, you can enjoy nature and a fresh breeze while you cook, rather than being confined.

    Basement Remodels in the Mountains

    In the mountain region, more and more people are turning their basements into livable spaces. This is a fantastic way to add useful space, as well as value.

    • Family Den - Create a downstairs family area, complete with a bathroom, couches and a television for video gaming and movie nights.
    • Home Office - Shut yourself away from dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor and attention-hoarding animals.
    • Guest Living - Give your in-laws a space of their own when they visit so that you can all have your privacy, without tripping over air mattresses.

    Accessibility in the South

    In the south, homeowners are making modifications which will help them to age-in-place. When people think of accessibility renovations, they dont often envision anything glamorous. However, your adaptations dont have to be boring. The changes you make can enhance the aesthetic of your home if you thoughtfully choose materials and design.

    • Easy Navigation - Widen doorways and remove steps between rooms and at entryways, so that access is flat and easily navigated.
    • Easy Access - Install a bathroom right by the entryway and retrofit the kitchen and bathrooms for wheelchair or walker access.
    • A Touch of Luxury - Build a tiled walk-in shower with recessed shelves, a bench, ambient lighting and spa-like fixtures.

      Deck Additions in the Northeast

      In the Northeast, deck additions have one of the greatest returns on investment, and the residents have taken note. Having a deck can make your home more competitive in the market. If youre renovating for yourself, its a great way to create an outdoor area for family gatherings and >

      • Entertain - Build your deck off the kitchen and outfit it with a table and chairs, to make hosting more seamless.
      • Unwind - Put your deck in a shaded corner and furnish it with comfy, weatherproof chairs for lounging. Consider installing an outdoor fireplace and a television.

      Bathroom Upgrades in the Midwest

      Midwesterners are remodeling their bathrooms, even though the return on investment isnt as high as with many other projects. Bathroom renovations are often homeowners treat to themselves, as they turn their house into their dream home.

      • Mirror, Mirror - Choose a theme that reflects your personality. Trending >
      • The Works - Install a spa tub or shower jets, and splurge on heated flooring.

      These are some of the most popular remodels happening across the nation, as people craft their perfect home or prepare it to sell. Making renovations isnt as simple as picking a project, however. You may be wondering how your neighbors have the resources to pursue such lofty endeavors. HomeAdvisor put out a True Cost Report which outlines several aspects of home improvement in 2017, including financing, which is a great resource on the years trends.

    Full Story >

    How to Choose Hardwood Flooring That Will Get Your House Noticed

    As a house flipper, ensuring my renovated properties look great is very important to me. I love walking into homes with hardwood floors. From bamboo to cork to parquet, oak, pine, and mahogany, wood floors give an immediate feeling of quality and luxury. There are seemingly endless varieties, >

    If youre thinking of selling your home in the next few years or simply want to love where your feet fall, hardwood flooring can add value and give your home the design boost it needs.

    Solid Wood vs. Engineered Hardwoods

    With so many options available nowadays, making the right decision can be difficult. Consider these key differences when evaluating flooring for your home.

    Solid Wood Flooring is milled from trees, and each plank is composed of natural wood. Within the realm of solid wood, there are varying degrees of hardness. The Janka Hardness Scale rates the hardness of wood and can help you choose the right flooring for your home.

    Engineered Wood is made up of pieces of wood and composite materials that are layered to create each plank.

    There are pros and cons to each option. Solid wood flooring can swell and retract based on humidity and climate, requiring proper installation to limit the chances of these occurrences. In most instances, hardwood flooring means paying a premium in the cost. On the other hand, engineered wood flooring doesnt react like solid wood to humidity, but it cant be refinished multiple times if it gets deep scratches.

    Visual interest, floor to ceiling.
    Photo credit: Jacqueline Falla

    Installation and Other Considerations

    Engineered floors come prefinished, which saves a step or two in the process of completing your flooring project. They can be installed quickly, in as little as one day, and are ready for immediate move-in. Hardwood requires several additional steps in the process: installation and cleaning, and staining often several times prior to adding a final coat of varnish.

    Weather conditions matter as well. High humidity requires a longer drying time between coats, and stepping on floors that have not cured properly is out of the question. Those with sensitivity to strong odors will want to wait until the smell disappears before returning home.

    Color and Pattern Choices


    Photo credit: Jacqueline Falla
    Ready for the beach.

    Durable, Practical and Stylish

    Installing hardwood flooring is one of those rare instances in life where the practical choice doesnt leave you feeling like youve made a series of compromises to arrive at a responsible decision. Hardwood is beauty and brains wrapped in one tough package. The main choice to be made, really, is whether to install natural or engineered hardwoods.

    Because each type has different properties, where you plan to put the flooring could supply you with the quickest answer to the type of hardwood you should select. Due to the expansion and retraction qualities of solid hardwood, its best to keep it out of spaces that have a lot of moisture, like the bathroom or kitchen, or in spaces where the flooring would be laid directly on top of a concrete slab. For this reason, basements and bathrooms are great places to use engineered wood flooring instead.

    Rental Property Considerations

    If your home is an investment property for rent, you may want to opt for solid hardwood over engineered. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished up to 10 times before they need to be replaced. This will allow you to refinish the floors between tenants. Conversely, engineered hardwood, while very durable, has a useful life that does not extend beyond one or two sandings.

    Hardwood is a smart choice for pet owners.

    Pet-Friendly Flooring

    Hardwood flooring is a practical choice for pet owners as its >

    Noise Reduction

    If you prefer that the pitter patter of little feet - or big feet, for that matter - be muffled, cork flooring has sound-absorbing properties to keep your home quiet. Its leathery look and comfort underfoot make it an attractive option. Cork is also an eco-friendly product because its derived from the bark of the cork tree and doesnt require constant replanting.

    Cork floors help stifle sound transfer.

    Whether youre a DIYer or need a little help, there is a flooring selection for every >

    As an avid DIYer, Jaquelinenbsp;Fallanbsp; is constantly flipping houses.nbsp;She writes for The Home Depot about the projects that provide the biggest return on investment.nbsp;She loves adding hardwood floors - or refinishing existing ones - for a quick visual lift to get a house ready for sale.Visit The Home Depot to see a selection of hardwood flooring options to update your home.

    This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request, and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

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    How The Equifax Hack Affects Homebuyers And How You Can Protect Yourself

    Half of the country is freaking out. Thats about how many people are potentially affected by the unprecedented Equifax hack. If youre the average person whos afraid of having your data stolen - and by data, we mean your name, Social Security number, birth date, addresses, credit card numbers, and drivers license number that were reportedly involved in this breach - you may have already taken some steps to limit the damage. But what if youre in the process of buying a home or are getting ready to do so? How does this hack affect you, and what can you do to make sure you are protected?

    Potential fallout for homebuyers

    "Take this scenario: Say your Equifax file was looted but youve done little or nothing to detect fraudulent activity on one or more of your credit accounts. You sign a contract to buy a house, and you apply for a mortgage. The lender pulls your credit and confronts you with shocking news: Your FICO credit score is too low for you to qualify for the loan because youve been running up too much debt on one or more accounts. Your lsquo;utilization ratio on your available credit is too high, and that has depressed your score," said the Washington Post.

    "Or theres a newly established account in your files that has put you deep in debt, even though you had nothing to do with it. It turns out that financial thieves have been racking up thousands of dollars in debts at your expense, and now - smack in the middle of a major lifetime investment - youre stuck with having to get the file corrected, which takes time and can be a pain. In the meantime, what happens to your purchase contract? Will the sellers bear with you, essentially putting off the transaction indefinitely and possibly blowing up their own plans to move into another house on a specific date? It could all get really messy."

    Those who are already in escrow could also be derailed when the lender runs your credit before the loan closes and discovers fraudulent new accounts or charges that raise the debt-to-income ratio beyond what is allowed. "At the very least, whatever rate locks you had could be blown as you scramble to get your files corrected," they said. "Or your entire loan transaction could be jeopardized if the process takes too long."

    Steps to take now

    Have you still not checked to see if you were potentially impacted by the hack that affected as many as 143 million people? Not having dealt directly with Equifax doesnt guarantee your safety. "You may have never used Equifax yourself, or even heard of it," said CNN. "Either way, the credit reporting agency could still havenbsp;a lotnbsp;of your personal information. To find out if your data was compromised by the hack, gonbsp;here."

    Keep in mind that youll have to enter your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number to check. Regardless of whether or not they believe you were impacted, youll be prompted to enroll in their TrustID Premier credit monitoring service, which will be free for a year. Despite earlier concerns, "Equifax has confirmed that signing up for TrustID Premier willnbsp;notnbsp;prevent you from joining a >

    Armed with this information, you can go about taking further steps to protect your credit and prevent thieves from stealing your identity. Pull your credit reports for free once a year at Look them over carefully to make sure there are not any fraudulent accounts and/or charges. If you see anything, get on the phone with the creditor right away and start the dispute process. If youre in the process of applying for a home loan or are under contract, youll also want to call your lender immediately to alert them to what you found.

    To freeze or not to freeze

    There has been quite a bit of discussion about credit freezes since news of the breach broke, with some consumers concerned that "turning off" their credit could potentially damage their score or negatively impact them in some other way, especially during the homebuying process. The fact is that a credit freeze is "the most extreme method, but its also the most effective" at preventing your information from being stolen and used to open new accounts, credit expert Barry Paperno, who blogs at Speaking of Credit, told NerdWallet. And, it can be turned on and off as needed for, say, a mortgage application or credit re-check before a closing.

    "There are no downsides to this: You can still use your credit cards with the freezes on," said "But no one will be able to check credit scores and personal information without yournbsp;permissionmdash;so no bad apples can open up fraudulent new cards or getnbsp;loans under yournbsp;name. And younbsp;can undo the freezes at any time - typically for a smallnbsp;fee."

    That fee varies depending on the state, and Equifax has said it will offer free freezes for 30 days, but the need for freezing will extend long after that is over. "Because a freeze can prevent fraud, its better than a credit monitoring service, which only alerts you that fraud might havenbsp;happened," said NerdWallet.nbsp;"Its the difference between using a deadbolt to keep thieves out rather than a security camera to catch them after the fact."

    You can easily request a freeze online for the three credit unions: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

    Fraud alerts

    "If you dont want to lock out all creditors - perhaps youre in the middle of mortgage shopping or refinancing - you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit," they added. "Thisnbsp;tells potential creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name." A fraud alert is a good idea whether or not you freeze your credit. In this day and age, when hacks are more frequent and more damaging to more people, ongoing monitoring just makes sense.

    "The biggest fears of identity theft "center around identity theft on an epic scale. It isnt tough to conjure upnbsp;worst-case scenarios," said "Think about it: Bad guys with all of someones information could, at least theoretically,nbsp;trynbsp;to buy a home under that personsnbsp;name. Its more likely, though, they would use those stolen credit card numbers - or use SSNsnbsp;to open up new credit cards - and rack up lots ofnbsp;debt in that unsuspecting victims name. And that damage could make it much harder for someone to qualify for a mortgage or refinance annbsp;existing mortgage."

    Consumers have largely been turning to ID theft protection company LifeLock, who the Los Angeles Times said could be "one of the big winners from the big data breach suffered by Equifax." Not surprisingly, the firm has upped its advertising outreach in the wake of the breach. The result: "An executive of Symantec, LifeLocks parent company, told Bloomberg that since the Equifax breach was reported,nbsp;LifeLocks Web traffic has increased sixfoldnbsp;and enrollments per hour are running 10 times ahead of the pre-Equifax era."

    But, theres a rub: "Heres what LifeLock isnt advertising so widely: When you buy its protection, youre signing up for credit reporting and monitoring services provided by, yes,nbsp;Equifax. LifeLock signednbsp;a four-year contract with Equifaxnbsp;in December 2015," and the >

    If any or all of that makes you queasy, there are alternatives to LifeLock you may want to consider.

    Full Story >

    Recruiting Directors In Your HOA

    From time to time, it is necessary or desirable to recruit new directors. It may due to a vacancy or an upcoming election. Often volunteers are >To All Members of Nottacare Condominium,

    At the Annual Meeting, two positions for director of the board will be voted on. Anyone that is a owner in good standing current in HOA payments and no outstanding violations is eligible to run in this election.

    Overview of Director Duties. The board has the authority to direct business including maintenance and financial oversight, rules enforcement and architectural design approval. The board has the authority to hire and oversee the professional management company.

    The board meets four times a year for two hours to review business and to make decisions and enact policy. Between those meetings, there may be an occasion special meeting to deal with an urgent matter that cant wait for a regularly scheduled board meeting. The President has the authority to act on behalf of the board between meetings as long as the matter is authorized by the governing documents or in line with the approved budget.

    Serving on the board gives you direct impact and influence on how HOA business is handled. While a management, financial or construction background is helpful, no special training is required other than the willingness and availability to serve. The office of director carries a term of three years.

    All members have an obligation to serve in some capacity. We hope you will consider running for the board. You may be nominated by another owner or by yourself. If you are interested in being nominated, please email that desire and your contact information to or mail to Nottacare Condominum, 123 Easy St, Anytown USA by no later than April 1st. Please contact me if you have any questions.

    Ima Daboss

    President - Nottacare Condominum
    Phone 666.666.6666

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

    Full Story >

    Ideas for Saving Energy with Your Smart Home

    You may feel safe inside on a hot, smoggy day, but hidden dangers could be damaging your health right in your own home. In fact, according to the World Health Organization WHO, 4.3 million people a year die from exposure to household air pollution. Poorly ventilated dwellings, smoking around the home and fine particles can all negatively impact your health.

    Although you can try to improve your homersquo;s health by regularly changing filters and opening the windows to let in some fresh air, you need some smart home technology to help save energy. That will ultimately help you go green by cutting down on your energy consumption. As an added benefit, saving energy can also trim your energy bills and save some money in the process. Get started with these five smart home ideas for saving energy.

    Control Your Smart Home Automation

    Before you start your smart home journey, look at how you can control the automation process from the start. For example, smart appliances can help reduce your energy consumption, but you need a way to control everything from turning your lights on and off to adjusting your thermostat.

    Automation can be controlled right from your smartphone or tablet. Its also best to get a smartphone that works in tandem with a >

    Use Smart Climate Control

    You can go beyond controlling the temperature of your home and actually control its entire indoor climate. The Nest thermostat doesnt need to be programmed, and instead learns your habits and adapts the climate of your home to your life. The Nest can automatically adjust itself based on your life>

    After using Nest for a week, it can program itself and significantly reduce your energy consumption so yoursquo;re saving more on your electric bill. Youll also get an alert from Nest to your smartphone app if something is wrong like the temperature is dropping low enough to make your pipes burst or the furnace is acting up.

    Switch to Purifying Floors

    You may already know that your home contains pollutants based on poor air quality and ventilation. But the materials your home was built with, or even its furnishings, can continuously emit toxic contaminants including formaldehyde.

    Pure Genius flooring is made without solvents, volatile organic compounds or formaldehyde. It also uses light-activated and air-purifying agents made of titanium dioxide in its Titanium floor finish line. You can ultimately help purify your air, and reduce the energy needed to run fans and ventilating systems to freshen up your home. Another option for floors with an eye on energy efficiency is radiant floors with embedded tubing inside concrete to improve more efficient heating and cooling.

    Update Your Appliances

    You may have heard of energy-efficient appliances already, but may not have heard about smart home appliances that can save both energy and time. Smart appliances allow you to remotely program your washer or dryer to operate in the middle of the night to reduce the strain on the electrical grid. Meanwhile, an energy-efficient smart fridge like LGrsquo;s smart fridge can tell you that youre out of milk and save you energy at the same time.

    Full Story >

    Real Estate Websites Need To Be ADA Compliant

    "Is your website accessible? Thats an important question, since the U.S. Department of Justice has made it clear public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites. That means content on your website should accommodate people with vision, hearing, and other impairments."

    Those arent my words. They came from an article in online Realtorreg;Mag Website Accessibility: Not Just About the Law; May 12, 2016. "Now, wait a minute," a sincere, but confused, agent or broker might say, "I get the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act applying to things like a lack or ramps or special parking places, but websites? How does that work?"

    Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals in any place of public accommodation. To comply, a public accommodation must "furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication" and "remove architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities where readily achievable." Clearly, when the Act was written in 1990, no one had websites in mind. They didnt yet exist. But, the Department of Justice DOJ and others have argued, with plausibility, that the ADA regulations should be interpreted so as to keep pace with developing technologies.

    Federal Judicial districts are currently split over in what sense, or if at all, websites are "places of public accommodation" within the meaning, and subject to the terms, of the Act. Nonetheless, the DOJ has taken the position that they are, and the DOJ is the one with the big enforcement stick.

    In 2010, the DOJ issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and solicited public comments regarding what standards the agency should adopt for website accessibility under Titles II and III of the ADA. More than 400 comments were received. To date, no rules have been forthcoming. It is now expected that rules will be adopted and made public by 2018.

    The lack of clear publicly-known rules has not deterred the DOJ from pressing forward with complaints and enforcement actions. Who says government agencies lack initiative? In large part, the DOJ has >In December of 2013, the DOJ filed a complaint in intervention essentially, joined in in the lawsuit National Federation of the Blind NFB et. al. v. HRB Digital LLC to enforce Title III of the ADA. HRB Digital is a division of HR Block. The complaint alleged that HR Block failed to code its website in a manner that would make it accessible to individuals who have vision, hearing and physical disabilities. The complaint noted that "individuals with disabilities use various assistive technologies to access the Internet, including screen reader software, refreshable Braille displays, keyboard navigation and captioning, among others that are not currently compatible with HR Blocks website. These technologies have been widely used for decades and are freely available to help companies ensure that individuals with disabilities can fully and equally enjoy their web-based goods and services." Two plaintiffs in the case alleged that they tried to complete their 2012 tax returns on the HR Block website but were unable to do so.

    A settlement and consent decree was announced by the DOJ on March 6, 2014.

    The HR Block case is instructive as to what website accessibility is all about. Brick and mortar places of public accommodations restaurants, retail stores arent expected to supply the technology, such as wheelchairs, that enables mobility-impaired customers to get around. But they are expected to provide an environment ramps, wide doors where that technology can be used.

    The argument in a case such as that of HR Block is said to be similar. A website where business is conducted and ads can be read is expected to provide an environment where the applicable assistive technologies, such as screen readers, can work.

    Still, it would be nice to know exactly what the rules are. Last year, NAR President, Tom Salomone, wrote to Assistant Attorney General, Vanita Gupta. He observed the current "uncertain state of the law", and noted the following: "A number of demand letters, which include the threat of litigation, have been sent to NAR members alleging that their real estate websites violate the civil rights of individuals with disabilities."

    Salomone pointed out that the lack of clear regulations "has encouraged these lawsuits and left our members confused about how to mitigate legal risks in this area" He urged the DOJ to publish rules as soon as possible.

    Well, the rules still havent been published. A recent posting on discusses the case of Robles v. Dominos Pizza United States District Court, Central District of California, March 20, 1917. There, the plaintiff sued on the grounds that "Defendants website,, does not permit a user to complete purchases using a particular screen-reading software program, Job Access with Speech JAWS."

    The case was dismissed because the rules have not yet been finalized. Looking at an earlier case, the court noted "The Ninth Circuit stated that the failure to issue final rules left in-house counsel [and] others to read correctly legislative tea leaves and requiring compliance with unknown standards constituted a denial of due process."

    Nonetheless, real estate firms are well-advised to be looking at their websites from an ADA compliance perspective. Sooner or later there will be published rules, and compliance will not be optional. A number of firms exist that can provide assistance in this. For more background, go to and search for "website accessibility."

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
    Full Story >

    Slowing Ontario Market May Produce Mild Hangover For Economy

    The real estate market in Southern Ontario has enjoyed a decade of growth, taking only a short breather in 2008. But the provincial government changed all that in April when it introduced a 16-point plan to slow down the market. Since then, sales and prices have dropped.

    Interest rates have started to rise and the federal government may implement additional measures to make it even more challenging for would-be home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.

    What impact will the real estate slowdown have on the economy?

    A report by RBC economist Laura Cooper in May says that, "When home sales fell by 30 per cent in 1990, activity generated by new home construction began to decline in the following quarters and subsequently fell by just over 30 per cent. This shaved nearly 10 billion off the economy with the home-building share of GDP falling from four per cent to just over two per cent by mid-1991."

    Cooper says in the current market, "the direct >A report by DBRS says that housing booms in British Columbia and Ontario "have spilled over into the local job markets, with employment in housing->But the report says "the extent of labour misallocation does not appear acute, particularly when compared to some U.S. states during the U.S. housing boom. In the context of solid economic growth and steady population gains, the labour markets in both provinces are likely able to absorb a potential home-price correction without major disruption."

    In B.C., the provincial government introduced a foreign buyers tax in the Vancouver area in August 2016. It slowed the roaring market, with sales and prices dropping to the end of the year. Since then, the market has picked up and by this summer, average prices were above last years levels.

    Most analysts believe that Toronto-area sales and prices will soon rebound as well.

    "Population increases and economic growth create a healthy demand for housing and thereby boost the number of jobs in housing->"Population growth combined with a robust economic expansion has contributed to strong job growth across economic sectors."

    The report defines housing->"Housing->During the last three years as housing prices rose sharply in the two provinces, the pace of housing->The RBC report says that other non-housing sectors would also be impacted by a housing downturn.

    "Rising housing wealth amongst households likely contributed to the record levels of car sales in Canada and an insatiable appetite for renovations in the recent housing upswing," says RBCs Cooper. "Vehicle purchases, eating out at restaurants and spending on recreation, cultural events and financial services all have a tendency to slow somewhat against a backdrop of declining home sales, but tends to occur over a period of six to nine months following the beginning signs of a housing downturn."

    Cooper says that "tallying up the contributions of everything from the building of new homes to the costs of maintaining and running a home, housing->"We dont expect a downturn similar to that recorded in the early 1990s or even in the United States leading up to the financial crisis," says Cooper. "But after Canadas years-long housing-market party, a mild hangover is likely to follow, with important implications for Canadas economy."
    Full Story >



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    Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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