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Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ten Reasons Not To Move To Texas

For the last several years many news sources have reported that Texas is THE STATE with the most and best of everything, however Realty Times has come up with 10 great reasons people may want to reconsider moving to Texas.

1. There are no State income taxes. This means less government employees and retirement dollars for their pensions. If you are the civil service type, this state is not for you.

2. There is a lot of open spaces and clean air. If you are worried about UVA rays, you will obviously want to stay where there is smog to block out the sun.

3. There are over 50 billionaires in Texas. How can any one moving here become a "big-dog" in a state with that many billionaires.

4. The economy is doing very well. If you are a negative person those Texans will drive you crazy. Positive people everywhere. Yikes

5. Texas is, of course, known for its gun-friendly laws. Texans love their guns. Texas has castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws which allow a person to use deadly force against anyone forcibly and unlawfully entering or attempting to enter their home. The person using self-defense does not have a duty to retreat.

If your moving to Texas and think there are more people to rob because of the robust economy, then think again.

6. OIL OIL OIL. If you are a serious tree-hugger, Texas is not for you. It will drive you nuts Forget all those wide open spaces, beaches and canyons, its still an oil state. Your kids will probably marry in to an oil family. Your worst nightmare.....Oil in-laws

7. Cute Cute Cute. The State capital, Austin is known to have some of the prettiest women in America. If you are a woman moving here the competition will be fierce.

8. Many of the roads are privately funded by Texas Toll road companies. Some of these roads can now be traveled at 80 miles per hour If you are the type that gets work done in traffic then your production will su>

9. Texas leads the country in business >. This can only mean Texas must currently have the worst businesses. Why else would all those new businesses move there? Who wants to move to a place with that many bad businesses.

10. Sean Hannity might be moving to Texas. All of those FOX News haters su>

And finally - Cattle, John Wayne, and The Alamo - If you dont like "westerns", stay where you are.

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Best Renovation To Add Value? Income Suites

Whats the best renovation project if you want to add resale value to your home? Most of us would say improving the kitchen or bathroom, but the correct answer is adding an income suite, says Scott McGillivray, a real estate investor, contractor and the host of Income Property on HGTV Canada.

McGillivray was recently the guest speaker at a media event held by Moen Canada to introduce its newest line of faucets and accessories. While McGillivray acknowledged that kitchens and bathrooms are also money in the bank when renovated, he says adding an income suite to a home can offer the greatest returns.

A recent report by Scotiabank says renovation spending has been the fastest growing segment of the housing market in Canada. "Fuelled by rising home prices, tight resale market conditions, attractive financing costs and government tax credits, real renovation outlays increased at an average annual rate of over six per cent from 2000 to 2012," says the report. "This is double the three-per-cent average annual increase in new construction."

The report says Canadas housing market is likely to slow down in the next couple of years, which will also cool the renovation market somewhat.

"Renovation spending tracks sale transactions, given >

Moen Canada, which conducts research on the changing market twice a year, has no concerns that the renovation market is slowing. Garry Scott, the companys vice-president, wholesale marketing and brand development, says 84 per cent of Canadian homeowners say they did some kind of renovation work in the last 12 months, and 66 per cent replaced a faucet.

"The renovation market is not slowing," says Scott. "Its going to continue to stay strong or even pick up. Seventy-six per cent of those we surveyed say they are planning a renovation in the next six months."

Moens research also says that 58 per cent of homeowners say they will "never move" out of their current homes, although many of them will. The research also says that most homeowners say they renovate to improve their life>

Even if you are not selling your home immediately, adding an income suite allows you to increase your equity while using rent from the suite to help pay off the mortgage. Many homeowners are also using the suites to create space for their multi-generational families. McGillivray says the number of multi-generational households has increased by 20 per cent during the last 20 years.

Kitchens are second on McGillivrays list of best renovations to add to the value of your home, with bathrooms a close number three.

"The kitchen will make or break a house sale for many people," he says. For those on a budget, he says refacing kitchen cabinets and replacing the fixtures are a way to add value without spending a lot of money. For those with more cash to spend, the trend to open-concept kitchens is "only getting more popular," he says.

Updating a bathroom to add value can be a one-day job if you install a new vanity and accessories to update the look, he says. Second bathrooms can be created in small spaces, but not all renovations are a good idea.

"Ive seen a shower unit placed right in the middle of a bedroom. That is not adding value."

McGillivray says reglazing or replacing a bathtub is a good way to add value. Free-standing bathtubs have also made a comeback. In Moens latest offerings there is a collection of freestanding tub-filler faucets. Scott says the tub fillers are designed to be "considerably more secure than others on the market, eliminating that wobble that often accompanies floor-mounted units."

Adding fixtures is number four on McGillivrays list of best ways to add value to the home. "It can be simple, like changing door hardware or a faucet or a light fixture."

He says when potential buyers are touring a home, what they touch and smell in the home is important. They will notice if they have to touch a grungy faucet or open a door with a loose handle.

"When do-it-yourselfers want to know what they can do on a budget, I tell them that changing out the fixtures and accessories can make all the difference." He says a great renovation can turn people off if "theres a 24-cent light switch cover with paint all over it." Potential buyers may wonder what other parts of the renovation have been finished in a sloppy manner.

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The Effects Of A Death On Your Title

Question: My mother died a couple of months ago, and my dad wants to make sure that title to his house is in his name. How do we determine the status of title? Dad wants to make sure that upon his death, his three children will not have any problems regarding the house.

Answer: First, while I am sure that your motives are pure, you have to remember that the decision on where to distribute your dads assets when he dies is his -- and his alone -- to make.

The answer to your question depends on how your parents held title. You can ask an attorney to do a title search or you may be able to go to the website of the local recorder of deeds in the county or city where the property is located and get a copy of the original deed to the house.

There are several ways that property can be owned:

Sole owner. This is obvious; you own the property in your own name.

Tenants in common. Here, two or more people own property together. Under a tenant in common arrangement, each owner has a divisible interest in the property. Although most tenant in common ownerships are split equally i.e. 50-50 ownership, there is no legal requirement that it has to be this way. Often, there are financial or other considerations which dictate a different ownership split -- for example 90- 10, or 75-25. For example, parents may buy a house with their children and split up ownership in accordance with a formula they decide upon.

In this arrangement, on the death of one owner, his/her percentage ownership is part of the decedents estate -- and the estate must be probated. The property interest does not transfer to the surviving owner. If there is a Will, that portion of the property will be distributed in accordance with its instructions. If the person dies without a Will called "intestacy" the laws of the jurisdiction where the person was domiciled will control the distribution.

Joint tenants: here, the parties jointly own the property. Although some states require language to the effect that the property is held as joint tenants "with right of survivorship", the majority of the States will consider the property as being jointly held even if this magic language is not included in the deed.

Under a joint tenancy arrangement, on the death of one owner, the property will automatically be transferred to the surviving joint tenant. Probate is not necessary. This is called a transfer "by operation of law". Lets look at this example: A and B own property as "joint tenants with right of survivorship". A dies with a Will which specifically gives As share of the property to C, his child.

However, since the property is jointly held, B will end up with full ownership. C has no claim to the property, and the Will -- as it >

A joint tenancy ownership can, however, be unilaterally separated by one of the joint tenants. Lets go back to our example. While A is alive, he decides that on his death, his share of the property should go to C. He prepares a Last Will and Testament memorializing his intentions. But he also asks his attorney to prepare a deed, changing title to reflect that A and B will now hold title as "tenants in common". Although B should be informed -- as a matter of courtesy -- of this transaction, B has no control over what A does with his share of the property. Now, when A dies, his interest will be distributed to his child C, in accordance with the terms of the Will. Since they now own the property as tenants in common, probate will be required.

It should be noted that some states allow joint tenants to own the property in unequal shares, but in the Washington metropolitan area, property must be held in equal shares.

Tenants by the entireties: this is title reserved exclusively for husbands and wives. Although some married couples will hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the more common arrangement is to take title as tenants by the entireties. This means that on the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse automatically by operation of law becomes the owner of the entire property. Probate is not required.

Title ownership is important in life as well as in death. If, for example, there is a creditor who holds a judgment against one of the joint tenant owners, that creditor can force the sale of the property in order to satisfy the judgment. Let us assume that the judgment creditor is owed 25,000 by one of the joint tenants, and the jointly held house is worth 400,000, with a 200,000 mortgage. The judgment creditor can get a Court Order requiring that the house be sold. The first mortgage lender will get its 200,000, and the remaining sales proceeds after commissions and closing costs are deducted will be divided as follows: the joint tenant who did not owe any money will get half of the balance but the judgement debtors share will be deducted in order to pay off the 25,000 debt.

However, when husband and wife hold title as tenants by the entireties, a judgment creditor of only one of the parties cannot force a sale to satisfy the debt. This can only be done if both husband and wife owe the money.

Some married couples decide -- for tax or estate purposes -- that the house will only be titled in one of the parties. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, and legal and financial advice must be obtained before going this route.

Thus, the way title is owned can be important -- whether you are living or are dead.

Assuming that your parents held the property as tenants by the entireties, your father is now the sole owner. The land records, however, will still show ownership in both names. While it is not critical to have the title placed solely in the name of your father, it is not an expensive process to update the records, and it may solve problems which could arise in later years.

Your father will need a certified copy of your mothers death certificate. This means that the certificate will have an imprinted Seal from the government office which issues such certificates. He will then have to record a document -- called a "confirmatory deed" -- in the office of the Recorder of Deeds in the jurisdiction where the property is located. There should be no recordation or transfer tax, and the filing fee should be nominal, perhaps 20 or 30.

Some local jurisdictions may require some additional documentation -- such as an affidavit of exemption from tax.

Why should your father make sure that title is in his name? Peace of mind is perhaps the most important factor. Additionally, many years later, should the need arise to sell or refinance the property, you may not be able to locate your mothers death certificate. The title company or attorney handling the transaction will require proof that your mother died.

Finally, a number of states have enacted the Transfer on Death Deed. Check with your attorney; it your state has that law, it is something that your dad may be interested in. Oversimplified, you prepare a deed that does not become effective until you die. Its not that simple, however, and you need legal counsel to assist you with this.

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Home Decor On The Cheap This Week

Do you have that itch to redecorate? It must be in the air, because were feeling it too. Thankfully, there are some great home dcor deals amp; steals to be had out there, whether youre looking to update your yard, your living room, or your lighting. Weve taken a good look at the sales this week and rounded up some stuff youll definitely want to go get.

A cool rug can ground a space, establish a color palette or give it a pop. And you dont have to spend your whole paycheck to find one. This Artistic Weavers Annu5 Ivory 5 ft. x 8 ft. Flatweave Area Rug does everything you want a rug to do: softens the ground under foot and looks great while doing it.

Its on sale for 130.00, down from 260. You can save 50 percent on a whole bunch of different rugs this week by clicking here.

Its the perfect time to get your backyard ready for summer, and if you have little kids that means a playset. This Gorilla Playsets Rambler might be the answer. Its on sale this week for 1098, down from 1,898. Thats a savings of 42 percent

While youre outside, how about a surprising good deal on a snazzy patio set, like this Hampton Bay Cedarvale 7-Piece Patio Dining Set with Nutmeg Cushions? Its just 539.40 for the set, down from 899. Four cushy chairs, two swivel chairs and a large table AND 40 percent savings? Done.

Whens the best time to think about upgrading the lighting in your home? When you can get a screaming deal on a super glam chandelier, like this Eglo Diadema 5-Light Hanging Chrome Light, on sale this week for 169.20, down from 376. You save 206 or 55 percent

The powder bath is one of those places that can easily look dated and dowdy. But you can make a quick, easy, and affordable update with this Belle Foret Vanity. Hurry for savings of 30 percent on this vanity that used to be 529 and is now just 370.30.

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RESPA Applies To More Than Just The Major Settlement Service Providers

Our recent discussion of RESPA, like similar discussions before it, prompts more questions than answers. Perhaps it will always be so. When talk of RESPA enforcement arises, it seems there is always someone who can figure out an exception or some way to work around the rules as they have been understood.

A recent U.S. District Court ruling Henson and Turner v. Fidelity National Financial, Inc., United States District Court Central District of California, March 21, 2014 moves the ball forward toward achieving understanding regarding two issues: 1 What sorts of entities are covered by RESPA regulations? and 2 can payments be considered referrals even if they are not tied to particular transactions?

We remind ourselves that RESPA does not prohibit referrals per se. Rather, it prohibits certain people from getting paid, or paying, for referrals where the referral is for "business incident to or a part of a real estate settlement service involving a federally >

So, to whom does RESPA apply? It is clear that real estate agents and brokerages, title companies, escrow companies, and mortgage lenders are covered; but questions have been raised about providers of services that seemed less central. In 2010, HUD responded to a request from the National Association of REALTORS NAR asking for clarification regarding referral compensation being paid to agents and brokers by home warranty companies. HUDs position was that the provision of a home warranty policy is a settlement service, and it would, therefore, be illegal under RESPA to receive payment for referring such business. A subsequent attempt, in 2012, to have Congress declare that home warranty companies were not covered settlement service providers passed the House as H.R. 2446, but died in the Senate.

In the case at hand, plaintiffs contended that the defendants subsidiaries title company escrows were receiving prohibited kickbacks from delivery services UPS, Federal Express, and OnTrac. In its motion to dismiss, defendant Fidelity argued that " it would produce absurd results to subject companies like Kinkos and Staples to RESPA regulation for tangential services they might provide in real-estate settlements."

But the Court said, "There is no serious dispute that the overnight delivery services were provided in connection with a real estate settlement" Moreover, it went on to assert, "Neither would it be absurd to subject companies like the Delivery Companies, Staples, and Kinkos to RESPA regulations. Congress has not exempted delivery and office-supply companies from the prohibition against kickbacks and unearned fee-splitting. It is therefore not up to the courts to engraft such an exemption onto the statute."

The defendants also argued that the fees it received were not referrals but, rather, were marketing fees. However, the plaintiffs had argued that the periodic fees received by the defendant fluctuated and were based on the volume of business referred.

The Court agreed with plaintiffs that "a prohibited referral agreement need not be connected to a particular transaction..." It said, " when a thing of value is received repeatedly and is connected in any way with the volume or value of the business referred, the receipt of the thing of value is evidence that it is made pursuant to an agreement or understanding for the referral of business." "[T]he prohibited referral agreement need not be linked to each particular real-estate settlement"

The points made in Henson and Turner v. Fidelity wont settle all the questions about RESPA; but they have provided more clarity than we had before.

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

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No Mow Blow amp; Go For Your Homeowners Association

Ahhhhh Spring Thoughts of lovers turn to love and those of landscaper contractors turn to growing things, like the lawn. Its time to weed, fertilize, remove moss and reseed to get it up and growing again. For homeowner associations, this usually means the landscape contractor has also been busy for weeks firing up the irrigation system, thatching, doing drainage corrections, removing and replacing dead plants, sweeping, blowing and mowing. Theres a lot to do. And theres a lot to know about how to do it right.

Its important to recognize the difference between your "mow and blow artists" aka "lawnscalpers" and true landscape contract professionals. Mow and blow is basically a guy with minimal tools and experience. He usually does a passable job lawn mowing but ra>

A true landscape professional has an artists eye, a horticulturists training and managers organization to ensure that your landscaping thrives through good weather and bad. Each season brings its own challenges: Whether its too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold, the landscape professional has sophisticated ways to keep it looking its best. Here are some helpful landscape contractor screening tips:

1. Determine capabilities. Besides the usual services, some install hardscapes like retaining walls, drainage and irrigation systems which could be important to the overall job.

2. Check credentials. Individuals should have either an education in Ornamental Horticulture or several years on-the-job training. The company is usually a member in national or state landscape associations which indicates a desire for excellence. Ask for a list of references and professional affiliations.

3. Confirm licensing and certification. If required by state law, the company should be licensed or certified. Licensing provides higher accountability and ensures the level of competence required by state exams.

4. Level of maintenance. Do you have low maintenance landscape or a high impact design with seasonal color, intricate pruning and pest control needs? The budget can vary a lot depending on the level of service.

5. Check insurance. Require proof of insurance for workers compensation, liability and vehicles. Check for limits and policy expiration.

6. Visit a similar job. Do a random site check of some current clients to verify work quality.

7. Review the contract. Your landscape maintenance contract should have a detailed annual schedule to handle all aspects of the work. Some tasks are done more or less frequently according to season and the schedule should reflect it.

8. Share the work. Some HOAs have volunteers that like to do certain aspects of landscape maintenance which can reduce costs. Discuss options with the contractor.

So whats it going to be, landscape professional or lawnscalper? The first ensures a vibrant and healthy landscape while the second will skin your landscape alive. Your choice. For more on hiring professional landscape contractors, see Professional Landcare Network:

Several Landscape Specification samples are available to Gold Subscribers of

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Why You Should Consider Challenging Your Property Tax Assessment

You may well be paying too much in property taxes.

Your city, school district and county property taxes are supposed to be based on current market values. When you buy a home, the tax base resets at the value you paid, whether its higher or lower than the previous owners tax bill.

Local laws put a cap on how much property taxes can be raised each year, regardless of market values. Most municipalities dont have the manpower or the resources to assess each and every property individually, so taxes can be assessed based on general averages, drive-by appraisals or automatic increases based on your homes sales price.

Many areas dont assess annually, so your homes values can be overvalued in a cool market or undervalued in a hot market. Which means you could be paying too much in property taxes.

You may recieve your property value assessement and tax bill soon. If you dont think the assessment is fair, its your right to appeal.

Represent Yourself

The appeal process doesnt have to be intimidating. The appraisers and appeal boards are well aware that the appraisal system isnt perfect, so they are prepared for challenges.

Depending upon your municipalitys appeals process, you can represent yourself. You dont need your CPA, attorney or real estate professional. All you need to do is simply make an appointment for a review of your property. Call early, as the time for appeal appointments is usually limited to a specific time frame.

Print out a full copy of your propertys tax appraisal from your city/county website. Check it over carefully for errors in square footage, number of bedrooms, baths, stories, parking spaces, lot size, and other details. Your neighbors appraisals will also be accessible as public information so you can double check their assesssments to find comparisons. Be sure the comparable homes that you find are very close by and as identical as possible to your home in size and amenities.

Take pictures of your exterior and be sure to include anything that can lower the value of the property such as a busy street, telephone poles, looming water towers, peeling paint, sagging roof, etc. In the interior, photograph dated kitchens or baths, and any damage to floors, windows, walls and ceilings. Condition matters in appraisals.

City appraisers use the same Multiple Listing Service that real estate professionals do, so if you know an agent or broker who can get recent comparables for you, bring those to the appraisal appointment. Some agents may charge a fee for this service, but if youve been a client, they may be willing to print a comparable analysis at no charge for you.

During your appointment, youll be meeting with an individual appraiser or perhaps an appraisal board comprised of volunteers, real estate professionals, appraisers, or city officials.

Dont be intimidated -- youre not on trial. Its a hearing that youve requested.

Your appraiser will show you the values of nearby comparable homes to illustrate why the district arrived at your appraisal price. Bring a map so you can illustrate zoning changes, construction, road expansion that may affect the areas value, as well as your home. Courteously present your case and documentation that supports your claim. Just in case, bring a map so you can illustrate zoning changes, construction, road expansion that may affect the areas value, as well as your home.

Your data will be compared with the findings of the reviewer. You may need to defend your appraisal several times throughout the appeal, so know your neighborhood well.

Usually, the answer will be immediate. If the tax assessor agrees with you, he or she will adjust your appraisal right on screen right in front of you and print out a new assessment for you to take home.

If the assessment stands as it is, you havent lost anything but a little time.

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Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Home Decor On The Cheap This Week

Do you have that itch to redecorate? It must be in the air, because were feeling it too. Tha...
> Full Story

RESPA Applies To More Than Just The Major Settlement Service Providers

Our recent discussion of RESPA, like similar discussions before it, prompts more questions t...
> Full Story

No Mow Blow amp; Go For Your Homeowners Association

Ahhhhh Spring Thoughts of lovers turn to love and those of landscaper contractors turn to gr...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2014 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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