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Updated: Saturday, February 28, 2015

Communication In Your Homeowner Association

Communication is essential for the harmony of your homeowner association. Do you have a regular newsletter that is informative and timely? Is it worth reading? More often then not, most newsletters are "throwaways". It doesnt need to be that way. With a bit of imagination, they could be both informative and fun to read.

First, what kinds of "boilerplate" information ought to be included?

Names of board members

Manager contact information

Current Income amp; Expense Statement

Committee Reports

Special Upcoming Projects

Selective rule reminders

Event Calendar

Another extremely important ingredient in a readable newsletter is the layout and design. There are many software programs available with standardized templates included. Microsoft Publisher is inexpensive and user friendly. There are others more or less complicated depending on your computer sophistication. Here are some of the basics to keep in mind:

Design amp; Layout

Design should be attractive, inviting and distinctive.

Consistent look. Choose a simple format and stick with it.

Use headlines and sub-headings. Its easier to read.

Avoid continuing articles on another page whenever possible.

Title page should describe the content and publisher.

Make the title distinctive.

Use only standard typefaces like Times Roman, Arial and Helvetica.

Use italics sparingly.

Body text should be 10 or 11 point. Main headlines should be 18 - 24 point and sub-headings should be 14 point.

Use bold type or italics to highlight names and important details. Underlining text these days indicates a hyperlink to an internet site or email address. If thats your intent, go for it.

Avoid using ALL CAPS.

Use graphics and clipart.

Use text boxes sparingly to reduce clutter.

An editors challenge is to include content and format that encourages readership. Put your imagination to work and make your news fit to print.

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Give Your Kitchen and Bath Cabinets New Life With Fresh Moulding

A kitchen remodel is one of the top 10 renovations for return on investment when updating a home for sale one recent survey places a minor kitchen remodel at 7 for ROI, behind items like a back-up power generator and a deck addition. But when updating kitchens, or bathrooms, many homeowners overlook small architectural details that also raise the homes value.

Crown moulding is architectural wood millwork that adds detail to the top or the crown of walls and upper cabinetry. It comes in a variety of profiles and design >

Take a look at these unique ways moulding can transform your kitchen or bathroom cabinetry.

Transforming your kitchen remodel with crown moulding

Whether you have decided to renovate your entire kitchen or just reface the cabinetry, the addition of crown moulding can add height and depth to the room. To choose the right moulding, look to the design >

On the contrary, kitchens and bathrooms that have ornate detailing like this cabinetry from kitchen designer Susan Serra show how curvilinear, gold, and intricate moulding details can coordinate with the rest of the kitchen.

Cabinetry moulding can be simple or ornate. Image via: Susan Serra

When searching for the right profile moulding >

In short, moulding, whether simple or complex, gives a more pronounced architectural presence to your cabinetry and interiors.

If youre not sure where to start, consult a kitchen designer or a carpenter who is skilled with woodworking and can help you choose the right crown molding profile for your cabinets.

Coordinating moulding with other kitchen millwork details

The beauty of woodworking is that custom details can coordinate throughout your kitchen or bath to give the entire room a consistent aesthetic. The same >

Inman suggests adding additional cabinet components that "can help refresh and add character to your kitchens >Image via: Susan Serra
Architectural details can be added to moulding like these >Using your ceiling height as a guide to when choosing moulding

Among my design clients, Im always surprised at how many homeowners dont know their ceiling height Every kitchen or bathroom ceiling is unique, and crown moulding should be taken all the way up to top with lower ceilings, to avoid creating a dust ledge or area above the cabinetry that will collect dust.

If the cabinets arent tall enough, "double stacked" crown molding is often used to fill the gap. Some homeowners who have a high vaulted or sloped ceiling may choose to stop the height of their moulding at a specific place to add a visual distinction between the cabinetry and the walls beyond.

In this image of a kitchen by designer Joanne Jakab, the modern cabinetry moulding in the dark espresso wood brings a distinction between the cabinets and the neutral walls.

This kitchen extends its cabinetry moulding to the ceiling for a finished look. Image via: Joann Jakab

Cabinetry moulding can transform your kitchen or bathroom, and using these tips can bring out the architectural details you love If you decide to do-it-yourself, visit your home improvement store moulding millwork area to see the different profiles that are available. Whether youre trying to add height to your cabinets or you just love the look of moulding, theres an option that will work for your home.

Home design expert Ronique Gibson provides tips on doors, windows moulding and millwork for The Home Depot. Ronique is the author of the ebook 111 Simple Tips for your Everyday Home. You can view a selection of moulding and millwork available at Home Depot online here.

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Escrow Agent Cannot Unilaterally Release Funds

Question: I am a real estate agent and need some advice. A couple of years ago, I represented a buyer who went to settlement. However, certain repairs which the seller had agreed to do were not completed by the settlement date, so 7,500 was held in escrow by the title attorney. I sent several faxes and e-mails to sellers broker the listing agent requesting that the repairs either be promptly completed or that the escrow funds be >

Answer: This is, indeed, a bizarre situation. Without casting any blame on anyone at this point in time, I suggest that you advise the title attorney that you have located the seller, and demand that the attorney follow up on this. While technically, it may be considered unethical for you to contact the seller directly, since you were the selling agent, there is nothing to stop the attorney from making the call.

In fact, I suspect that the attorney did not focus on the escrow issue when settlement took place. Traditionally, escrow agents will have the buyer and the seller enter into an escrow agreement, and include a time limit as to when the escrowed funds should be >

If there is no such time limit, the escrow agent is prohibited by law to >

You should also contact the listing agent and his/her manager, in writing, to advise them that the seller has been located. You should request that they immediately contact the seller in order to resolve this matter.

You have suggested that the listing agent may have misrepresented the facts, but I would not rush so fast to judgment. What did they gain by withholding vital information from you as to the whereabouts of the Seller? Unless there was some unwritten agreement between the seller and the agent that these funds would ultimately be >

I am also surprised that despite the long period of time since the escrow was created, the title attorney took no action to resolve the matter. There is a process in law called an Interpleader Action. The attorney would file a lawsuit against both the buyer and the seller, put the funds into the Court registry, and basically ask the Court to >

It clearly is a mystery, but now that you have located the Seller, I believe the matter will be quickly resolved.

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Five Tips for Beautiful Granite Countertops

The interior design industry has been trying for years to break homeowners addiction to granite counters. Theyve introduced stainless, concrete, glass, quartz, wood, marble and other ideas to wean people away, but the alternative surfaces just dont have the luxury look that granite does.

If youre getting granite countertops for the first time, here are five things you need to know:

Choose the right stone. Granite is a general term that describes a type of granular igneous rock formed by cooled magma and indigenous minerals. Depending on where the granite is quarried, it can be stunning with streaks of gray, pink, red, green, blue or gold. The rarity of the vein of granite can drive up the price considerably, as well as the thickness and the type of fabrication you choose.

When you shop for granite, dont choose from a sample. Youre basically buying the whole slab so thats how you should shop. Look only at whole slabs, as the fabricators will use as much as possible to match sections and to minimize waste. Sometimes its possible to buy two or more slabs from the same lot. They are sliced just like pieces of toast so they can accommodate large kitchens. If theyre put back to back, they form butterfly or mirror images of each other.

The beauty of granite is the movement of color and the pattern of streaks and dapples, so choose wisely. A strong graphic pattern will be highly energizing, while a softer color and pattern will be calming.

Hold the Dumb End of the Tape. Granite is sold by the square foot. You can get an idea of the number of square feet you need by multiplying length by width for each section of the kitchen, such as countertops, backsplash, and an island. Then add the square feet of each section together.

But thats not all there is to measuring. Theres an edge allowance, seam allowance, sinks and other things to consider. You can tell your salesperson how many square feet you think youll need, and he or she can direct you to slabs and lots that are large enough to fulfill your order. Once you choose, the salesperson will "hold" the slab with a deposit, until the fabricator can come out to measure exactly.

Meanwhile, your cabinets should be installed before the fabricator comes out. Most appliances fit under the countertops, but if youre installing a new sink or cooktop, the fabricator will need those measurements, too. Let the fabricator take the measurements. That way the fit is guaranteed.

Be aware of slab thickness. Not all granite slabs are sliced the same, so expect to pay more for a three-inch thickness than a one-inch thickness. If you choose a thick granite, make sure your cabinets can support that much weight.

Next, youll choose an edge that is bullnose, ogee or beveled, or raw-edged. The finish can also change the look of the granite. Polished granite is glossy and reflective. Honed granite is a smooth matte finish. Leather is a textured finish.

Ask for as few seams as possible. If youre doing a large area like a kitchen, you want to use as few seams as possible so that the flow of the granite pattern and color is less interrupted. A seamless slab in a kitchen looks beautiful and holds more value than seamed pieces because its like a work of art. Ask the fabricator if any parts of the job can be done without a seam. Sometimes its very possible, depending on the design of your kitchen.

To save money, you can choose granite tiles, which is like a tile, so there will be no seams, but they add little value to your home. You can also order from scraps the dealer may have leftover from other jobs, but theyre only be suitable for small jobs where you dont have to match another granite, such as a powder bath or laundry.

Granite requires care. Granite is fairly heat-resistant and easy to clean, but you should keep in mind that its also porous. It can crack, chip, stain and show scratches.

Dont put hot pans directly on the surface; use a trivet or hot pad. Use only granite-safe cleansers. Dont use bleach, ammonia products, scouring pads, or anything acidic such as lemon or vinegar to clean. Dont use dish soap to clean as it can leave a dulling film on the surface. Spills of wine, juice and tomato sauce should be cleaned up quickly.

Some finishes such as polish act as more of a seal, but you can also purchase granite sealers at your local market. Just wipe it on once a year or so to keep your countertops looking their best.

If youre wondering whether your countertop needs sealing, spill some clean water or the surface and cover it with a paper towel. If it leaves a stain, it will go away eventually, but youll know its time for sealant.

Also See:

  • The Top 8 Ways To Save a Buck When Adding Granite Countertops
  • Kitchen Countertops: The Art of Stone
  • Countertops 101: Todays Kitchen Trends

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Top 6 Home Selling Tips In The Winter

1 Keep the house warm.

While you dont have to keep the heat on all the time, keep the house warm during showings. You dont want people shivering while they look through the house. Set the thermostat to at least 70 degrees -- whether youll be in the house or not.

2 Trim the outdoor foliage.

Remove snow from shrubs and trees so that potential buyers dont get wet as they walk up the sidewalk to your home. Brush off snow, prune the tree limbs and trim the hedges as needed. You can even hire a tree service to do this for you if youre strapped for time.

While your lawn is dormant this time of year, you can at the very least make it look well maintained to give buyers a sense of what it looks like during the spring and summer. You can also display photos in your entryway of how your home looks outside during the greener months.

3 Handle winter conditions.

If you have ice and snow on your driveway and sidewalk, you need to take care of it way in advance of showings. Clear ice and snow with shovels and salt, so that your exterior looks nice and safe to buyers. It will also increase the aesthetic quality of your home to buyers and keep you from getting sued by a buyer who falls or slips. If you have particular trouble with ice and snow, you can call a snow removal service to do it for you.

Winter driveway photo courtesy of Provino Architecture, LLC

4 Show off the fireplace.

If you have a fireplace, you should showcase it as part of your homes aesthetic appeal. A gas fireplace is easy to turn on before a showing, and it adds natural beauty to your home -- not to mention warmth. A wood-burning fireplace is a bit harder to maintain, because you can run out of firewood. So you need to time the lighting just right before the showing. You also need to make sure the chimney is in good condition, so have it cleaned and checked by a fireplace professional ahead of a showing to avoid any problems.

Fireplace photo courtesy of Pinnacle Development Group, Inc.

5 Add comfort to your home.

There are other steps you can take to make your home more comfortable and inviting during the winter months. Focus on small improvements to your home like:

  • Adding blankets to your couch
  • Turning back the comforter on the bed
  • Baking a pie or cookies for the smell
  • Lighting some candles
  • Turning on some >

Interior Lighting photo courtesy of Red Rabbit Construction.

6 Make sure your home is well lit.

Since winter takes away a lot of sunshine, you need to utilize light bulbs and other forms of lighting. Outside lights, security lights, candles, LED lighting -- every bit of lighting is crucial in the interior and exterior. You want all lights on when buyers are walking through your home -- dont focus on your electricity bill right now. You also want to make as much use of natural lighting as possible. Open your window treatments during the day showings.

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

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Five Smart Homebuyer Strategies

The National Association of REALTORS has announced that theres a housing supply shortage. Homes are selling quickly and home prices are starting to inch up again. Its becoming a sellers market in many areas.

Any time the market changes, its time to change strategies. During a buyers market, buyers have the upper hand and can make more demands to sellers over their homes price and condition. During a sellers market, buyers concede the upper hand to sellers and are more willing to accept higher prices and terms.

When homes are in short supply, buyers dont have the luxury of taking their time, teasing sellers with lowball offers, demanding that every little thing be fixed, and shopping for homes with multiple real estate agents. Do these five steps instead.

Make a good first impression. Not only do you need to impress sellers, you need to impress real estate agents. Hire one agent and let him or her profile your needs to the marketplace. Be specific about your must-haves so you dont waste your agents and your time viewing homes that lack what you want most. When you find the home you want, send the seller a letter along with your offer outlining why you love the home.

Get preapproved by a lender. Not only will you know how much home you can buy, youll be ready to make an offer quickly. Your real estate agent can include the fact that youre financially preapproved by your lender in with the offer, which will carry weight with the seller.

Shop within your price range. In a sellers market, its wise to shop for homes within or slightly below your price range. This will give you more room to make full-price offers or above in case the home you want is in a bidding war with other buyers. Youll be able to pay your own closing costs. Trying to buy a home out of your reach during a sellers market will only cause you and your agent frustration.

Be flexible. No home is perfect. To get more home for your money, you might shop for an older home that needs renovation. Try to look past ugly wallpaper and stained carpet and visualize the home with more attractive finishes. You may be able to get more living space in an established neighborhood than with a newer home that is priced higher for similar square footage.

Be ready. Be ready to see a new listing at a moments notice. Be ready to make an offer when you believe this is the right home for your household. Once a seller has accepted your offer, proceed as if youre in a normal market. Set a reasonable closing date that accommodates the seller as much as possible. Confirm the offer with your lender. Schedule the inspections youll need and dont nitpick the seller over small things.

Whether youre in a buyers market or a sellers market, you should feel good about the home you choose, the deal you make, and the courteous way you treated all parties to the transaction.

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Are The Suburbs Going Out Of Style?

Are you out of >

At least thats what a new report from Portland, Oregon-based think tank City Observatory said.

People have typically moved out to the suburbs for a few key reasons: more house for the money; the possibility of better public schools; a more family-focused environment; a yard for the dog. The tradeoff is more time spent commuting, less time at home. For many, its worth it. But that might be changing.

"Downtown is coming back. Just look at Charlotte, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee>

Compelling data

While the conversation is nothing new and the death of the suburbs may have been exaggerated, the data is compelling. The report cites the surge in job opportunities in city centers as a driving force behind the increase in city living. "City Observatory measured the urban core as an area within three miles of the central business district. It then took a before and after snapshot of the job market in the 51 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas in two different time periods," which showed a marked increase in several cities.

The 2013 TIME magazine article "The End of the Suburbs" stated that, "A major change is underway in where and how we are choosing to live. In 2011, for the first time in nearly a hundred years, the rate of urban population growth outpaced suburban growth, reversing a trend that held steady for every decade since the invention of the automobile."

The article also noted that, "In several metropolitan areas, building activity that was once concentrated in the suburban fringe has now shifted to what planners call the urban core, while demand for large single-family homes that characterize our modern suburbs is dwindling."

Their takeaway: Americans dont want to live in the suburbs anymore, which they likened to the idea of "tranquil, tree-lined streets, soccer leagues and center hall colonialsbeing replaced by "endless sprawl, a punishing commute, and McMansions."

Improved economic conditions and city migration by two key demographics is largely responsible for the reversal of the "suburban exodus," as The Wire calls it.

"More Americans are moving to cities in the wake of the slight uptick in the economy in recent years, reversing the decades-long trend of settling in the suburbs," they said. "The trend in city living is driven primarily by two groups: young professionals and Baby Boomers, who are retiring and moving back to the cities they left when they started families."

All melding into one

The Atlantics CityLab has a slightly different take, pointing out in "The Fading Distinction Between City and Suburb" that people may be returning to urban neighborhoods, but theyre bringing "much of their suburban life>

"A recent Canadian study indicated that the traditional suburban life>

Of course, the >

"Richer people, the researchers found, tend to own single-family homes and drive cars even when they live in highly urbanized neighborhoods. As the rich move back to cities, they take their preferences for and abilities to purchase larger home or condos and private cars."

At the heart of suburban sprawl

Affordability has long been a main driver for those heading out to the suburbs. In cities like Los Angeles, the suburbs continue to attract those who are priced out of the city or who would prefer to spend their money on a large family home with a yard and no private school tuition instead of a cramped city condo. In the northern suburb of Valencia, a booming local economy heavy on hi-tech and film and TV production employ many local residents. However, many thousands of others commute up to three to four hours per day to the Westside, downtown L.A. and other large employment centers. The price they have to pay for suburban life? Literally.

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Updated: Saturday, February 28, 2015

Five Tips for Beautiful Granite Countertops

The interior design industry has been trying for years to break homeowners addiction to gran...
> Full Story

Top 6 Home Selling Tips In The Winter

1 Keep the house warm.While you dont have to keep the heat on all th...
> Full Story

Five Smart Homebuyer Strategies

The National Association of REALTORS has announced that theres a housing supply shortage. Ho...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2015 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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