Call Us at: 305-695-4021
Updated: Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Smarties Solve Winter Disasters With Your Home

Summer time is the right time to think about heading off winter disasters.

What? Are you crazy?

Why would anyone want to sit in the summer sunshine, cool drink in hand, and conjure up cold, nasty, expensive breakdowns or problems that are months, maybe years away?

Because the alternative is desperately struggling to discover last-minute solutions to emergency needs in the midst of your already too busy life. Under the gun, youll be attempting to avoid being forced into high-pressure deadlines, rushed decisions, and inflated costs that have significant impact, financially and otherwise. And, if you wait until trouble arises, youll only have self-serving, dodgy, or even dishonest "repair people" to provide guidance and protect your back.

Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, choosing when and how to make expensive home maintenance decisions is always right. Having the time and support to make sure these are confident decisions at reasonable prices, beats under-the-gun desperate buys every time.

Things that keep you awake worrying in the cold months can benefit from close examination under the summer sun. Theres little benefit to waiting for a crisis to hit before you start arranging to make the transition from your current almost-worn-out anything to the most suitable new efficient version:

1. Start with the most expensive or most urgent worry, based on your personal-worry meter and priorities.

2. Clarify and define the problem. Whats wrong or what could go wrong with what? Is that noisy 20-year-old furnace or odd-looking roof on its last legs? Gather details about the existing system, so you have a reference point. Do you have the original installation details and receipts? For furnaces, where size matters, measure what counts, including the furnace room, access doorways, and stairwells. When contemplating a new roof, get out the binoculars or ladder and count shingle layers. After two, everything must be stripped down to the sheathing before the new roof goes on.

3. Clarify the budget. Consider exactly how much cash on hand and monthly cost is comfortably yours to spend on an affordable solution. Whats the budget upper limit, that is, tight, but doable? Estimate how long youll continue to live in the house and what other big expenses lie ahead so you can set a practical budget. Once research and quotations are complete, you can fine tune the finances.

4. Explore alternatives. This is where youre back sitting in the sun with a cool drinkgo online and collect details on every solution you know about, those that have emerged recently, and those just coming to market.

  • For roofs , consider the range of materials available. What else can or should be done at the same time the roof is replaced, like adding roof vents, exhaust fan outlets, skylights, an antenna, gutters, leaf guards, de-icing coils, solar panels... Not that all of this will be done, but thinking ahead reduces "if only wed thought of..." regrets later.
  • For furnaces, initially consider the full range of heating options. What if you changed from oil to natural gas, or switched from a hot water system to solar-supplemented electrical? Would a heat pump make sense, financial and otherwise? Understand the pros and cons of different alternatives and youll learn what the key heating and cooling decisions are for the system you eventually settle on.
  • Back to the summer time research .... gently add your questions to conversations and youll discover what knowledge friends, guests, and neighbors have accumulated. Those that made solid informed decisions and those who reacted to disasters will have lots to share. Anyone with solar panels or other environmentally-friendly systems is usually ready to extol virtues. The goal is determining which features are musts for you and which will help keep the price down.

5. Create the brief or request for proposal. Distill what you have learned into a clear email-able, numbered list of what you need and want regarding all the features and details involved:

  • Send out the brief to ask for quotations from those on the list of names of heating suppliers or roofing contractors youve collected from research and summer chats.
  • Keep personal details out of email quotations. For instance, dont broadcast that your house is vacant all summer.
  • Include questions about deposit and payment schedules, how long the quote is good for, and work availability. Ask for at least three references. Check out contractors with local and state trade associations. Asking questions saves you headaches later.
  • You may not want the furnace replaced until the fall or the roof done before next spring, but an amazing price for replacing it sooner and ahead of the seasonal rush could be an incentive for you. Just listen to your "spidy" senses in case this "unbelievable price" is a come-on, gimmick, or scam.

Summer is the right time to think about heading off winter disaster. Even making a start on what keeps you awake on winter nights will pay off. The goal is to dodge some of the pressure and expense of last-minute decisions when the furnace, roof, or any major system let you down at the very worst, most expensive, inconvenient time.

Full Story >

Broker-Owned Escrows Need To Submit Activity Reports

It appears that the California Real Estate Commissioner is more than a tad annoyed with one segment of the real estate community. That portion would be the brokers who a operate an escrow company pursuant to their real estate license, and b have not timely filed escrow activity reports with the Bureau of Real Estate BRE.

The annoyance is justified. The numbers would suggest that many brokers that should have been filing have, in fact, not been doing so. Moreover, the Bureau has actively been soliciting them. For at least the past two years, at BRE forums held in conjunction with meetings of the California Association of REALTORSCAR, the Commissioner has made a special point of reminding members about the filing requirement. Now, earlier this month, the Bureau has issued a special alert, through its web presence, to address this issue.

Not every California Broker has an escrow division. Many own escrow companies that operate under the Department of Corporations. Many others simply have no ownership interest in any escrow operation. Then, there are those who operate a "broker controlled escrow", pursuant to their real estate brokers license. These escrows are restricted to transactions in which the >

Broker-controlled escrows are, then, significantly restricted as to their potential market when compared to the more common escrow company operating under the Department of Corporations. Nonetheless, broker escrows require less capitalization and can still bring a decent profit into a brokerage.

In October of 2011, Senate Bill 53 Calderon was signed into law adding section 10141.6 to the Business and Professions Code. It set forth filing requirements for broker-controlled escrows. If such operations conduct escrow activities for five or more transactions in a calendar year, or whose activities equal or exceed one million dollars in a calendar year, it is required that a report be filed within sixty days following the completion of the calendar year.

So, how has that been working out? In the first year the requirement went into effect, for calendar year 2013, 206 real estate brokers reported such broker escrow activities totaling 8.63 billion. In the next year, for calendar year 2014, 161 real estate brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 5.52 billion. For calendar year 2015, 143 brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 8.45 billion.

Thats right. The number of reporting brokers has declined each year since the reporting began. Moreover, there is little reason to believe that even the highest reporting number represented a majority of those brokers who should have been reporting. In its recent alert, the BRE said this:

"In spite of these reports of very large volumes of escrow activities statewide, the Bureau has reason to believe based on prior Audits, and complaints received and/or investigated regarding brokers or broker controlled escrows that hundreds of brokers who are required to report escrow activities have failed to do so. The Bureaus Audit Section will conduct audits of the activities of some of these brokers to determine if these brokers are in compliance with Bamp;P [Business and Professions Code] 10141.6 and are properly handling and accounting for the escrow trust funds."

Fines for failing to file a timely report can run up to 10,000. The cost of a BRE audit can also be substantial. Brokers who have escrows that meet the >

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

Full Story >

The Art Of Tree Pruning In Your HOA

Trees are living artwork that decorate the common area. They are beautiful and soothe the soul but are constantly changing. Like all living things, they need care and attention.

Trees are pruned to produce an effect in the landscape - thats the "art" side of pruning. Understanding and being able the trees growth and health response to pruning is the "science" side.

When done properly, pruning can improve a trees appearance as well as increase its life expectancy. Proper pruning opens the canopy of the tree to permit more air movement and sunlight penetration. Done improperly, pruning can decrease the trees life expectancy or even kill it. Because trees are living organisms, they can be profoundly affected by pruning practices.

The American National Standards Institutes criteria for tree pruning called "ANSI A300" was adopted in 1995. It should be followed in all pruning situations and geographic areas.

Making Cuts: Branches should be removed with thinning cuts. A thinning cut either removes a branch at its point of origin or shortens it back to a lateral branch that is large enough to assume the terminal role.

Branches should not be removed with heading or topping cuts. A heading cut is when a currently growing or one-year-old shoot is cut back to a bud, or when a larger limb is cut back to a stub or a lateral that is not big enough to assume the terminal role. Heading should not be used in shade and ornamental tree pruning, since it forces the growth of sprouts that are weakly attached to the parent stem. Drastic heading can kill the tree outright.

Branch Size: A minimum or maximum diameter size of branches to be removed should be specified in all pruning operations. This establishes how much pruning is to be done.

Pruning Objectives: Pruning objectives should be established prior to beginning any pruning operation. A300 provides two basic objectives:

Hazard Reduction Pruning: This is recommended when the primary objective is to reduce the danger to a specific target caused by visibly defined hazards in a tree. For example, hazard reduction pruning may be the primary objective if a tree had many dead limbs over a park bench.

Maintenance Pruning: This is recommended when the primary objective is to maintain or improve tree health and structure, and includes hazard-reduction pruning. An example here might be to perform a maintenance pruning operation on a front yard tree.

Pruning Types: Hazard reduction pruning and maintenance pruning should consist of one or more of the pruning types noted below.

  • Crown Cleaning consists of the selective removal of one or more of the following items: dead, dying, or diseased branches, weak branches and watersprouts.

  • Crown Thinning is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration, air movement, and reduce weight.

  • Crown raising consists of the removal of the lower branches of a tree to provide clearance.

  • Crown reduction, also called crown shaping, decreases the height and/or spread of a tree. Consideration should be given to the ability of a species to sustain this type of pruning.

  • Vista pruning is selective thinning of framework limbs or specific areas of the crown to allow a view of an object from a predetermined point.

  • Crown restoration pruning should improve the structure, form and appearance of trees which have been seve>

When you contract a company for tree care, you should obtain a written commitment that, "All pruning shall be done in accordance with the ANSI A300 standard for tree pruning." This means:

  • Proper cuts will be made.

  • Spikes wont be used to climb. Spikes are injurious to the living tree and should only be used in emergency situations or when the tree has very thick bark.

  • Not more than 1/4 of the foliage of the canopy or individual limbs should be removed in any one season.

  • When pruning is completed, at least of the foliage should remain evenly distributed in the lower 2/3 of the canopy.

Trees are one of a homeowner associations biggest assets and need to be treated with respect and care. Use only a trained arborist and budget in your reserve plan for recommended pruning.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

Full Story >

9 Reasons To Visit A Home At Night Before Buying

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who moved into what seemed like a perfectly great house on a perfectly nice street only to have a complete nightmare unfold. But the truth is that your neighbor doesnt have to be practicing Santeria on the front lawn for you to hate where you live. So many things can turn what seems like your dream home into a disaster. You may not be able to avoid every one of them, but doing your due diligence can help.

Step 1: Visit the homes you are considering at night. You may get a completely different perspective on the neighborhood once the streetlights go out - one that could change how you feel about living there. Need some concrete reasons to visit at night? How about:

1. To find out if your neighbors are weird

If you toured the house during a weekday or even on a weekend, you may not have gotten a true feel for who your neighbors could be. Come at night, and you might see the guy next door walking his pet iguana in the nude the guy, not the iguana, or see the shady couple from around the corner make their nightly pilgrimage to the elementary school to ride the swings in a very curiously happy state.


2. To figure out if its not active enough

Do you even have neighbors? You may not be too sure if they never emerge from their house. If youre looking for a social experience in your new neighborhood and the one your potential new house is in looks like a ghost town after 5, this might give you second thoughts.

3. To see if its too active

There can be too much of a good thing. If you swing by and see that everyone is out mixing, it may make you look further into how often this occurs. Does living there mean youll never have time to play a board game with the family or sit and watch your reality shows, or even prepare your own dinner or take a bath? That could be a deal breaker.

4. To gauge the noise level

Noise ordinances arent something homebuyers want to have to familiarize themselves with, but, for some, thats the reality of life in a loud neighborhood. You may not know that the dog across the street barks for 20 minutes every time the sun goes down - and then every time someone has the nerve to walk by the house - or that several teenagers on the street have formed a garage band and their practice schedule is not compatible with your childrens sleeping schedules until youre spent some time there at night.

5. To figure out the commute

Drive from work to your potential new house and make sure the commute is doable. Even if its around the same distance to work as your current home, traffic patterns could make the drive unbearable.

6. To make sure there are enough kids

Envisioning a neighborhood where the kids all play together on the street and ride their bikes and families are out walking with their dogs and strollers just not every minute of every day? Spend some time in the neighborhood before and after dinner. If you dont see much activity in the time before the sun goes down, there may not be much to see at all.


7. To make sure the mixed-use neighborhood isnt a little too mixed

The idea of being within walking distance to shops, cafes, and restaurants sounds great to many people. But have you thought about how the noise and traffic thats created in areas like this might affect your peace of mind at night?

8. To ensure its safe

A neighborhood can look fine during the day and transform to something a little iffy when the lights go out. Make sure you check out the park down the street to make sure it isnt a drug hang and that area businesses dont attract a questionable crowd in the evenings.

9. Because there could be a serial killer living next door

Are you going to find out in one night of sitting outside in your car or strolling down the street? No, but you may observe some odd behavior that gives you pause. Maybe its just a gut feeling you get spending time in the neighborhood at night. If youre trying to decide between a few homes, this may provide the tipping point you need to make the right choice.

Full Story >

Niche Staging For Your Home

You wont always know who your buyer is going to be when listing a home for sale. But, with many homes, you have a good idea of the general target group. While many homes for sale attempt to appeal to the largest number of buyers, niche staging may actually get a home sold sooner.

"Whether you are marketing your home to first-time home buyers, young families or empty nesters, all of them are looking for some of the same characteristics in a home - along with a few special preferences that meet their specific needs," said "Of course, home buyers are individuals, too, so the feature in your home that most appeals to one buyer - such as an extensive backyard with space for gardening - could have zero appeal for another buyer. As a seller, there are some things you may not be able to change easily about your home - but the more you know about what attracts buyers, the more you can emphasize those features in your marketing materials and by staging your home."

And the more your home is staged for a particular group, the better your chances of being able to influence who the buyer is.


Yes, millennials are buying houses. They may even be looking to buy your listingif it has what they need and appeals to them visually. Bankrates No. 1 tip for attracting millennials: "Dont make it look like Grandmas house."

Yes, thats a solid strategy, because, "Millennials... want a home thats move-in ready, modernized and furnished with all the colors and comforts of a Pottery Barn store," they said.

If your home for sale isnt quite there yet, a few tricks can help:

  • A fresh coat of paint: Keep it neutral but stay away from beige. This reads old and dated to millennials.
  • Fix whats broken: Millennials dont want fixer-uppers.
  • Swap out furniture: Forget the comfortable, cushy couch and heirloom sideboard. Think modern, clean lined, and glamorous. If thats the opposite of what the house has, pack it all up and hire a professional stager.
  • A sleek kitchen: It might be that your listing needs a new everything in the kitchen to attract buyers and get the price your buyer wants. Most of todays buyers are looking for solid surface countertops and stainless steel appliances. In lieu of a big redo, painted cabinets, updated lighting, and new fixtures can help distract from what hasnt been done.
  • New fixtures and accessories: "Shag carpeting, original light fixtures, heavy draperies, which just scream old, and mirror walls" need to go, Kathy Streib, a home stager at Room Service Home Staging in Delray Beach, Florida, told Bankrate. Inexpensive blinds or drapes and contemporary light fixtures can give an updated look without a large financial output.
  • Bedding: A fresh, new comforter in a graphic pattern can help transform an old, outdated bedroom into something a millennial could see himself living in.

Finally, think about the marketing. Does the listing talk only about the home? Think about including the things that are important to millennials: area entertainment, including bars, cafes, and popular restaurants; recreation and shopping; and major employers nearby. Emphasizing these factors as part of the listing may push it over the top.

Chicagoland Home Staging

Young families

If the home for sale is in an area that attracts a lot of home families, but the home is designed for a Hollywood bachelor, theres some work to do.

Data has always supported that women are the decision makers when it comes to buying a home, and thats especially important to consider for this buyer group. MarketWatchs article titled "What moms look for when buying a house" touches on a few of the more obvious choices - "Open floor plans, a mud room, and an office so parents can keep tabs on their kids" - as well as tons of storage. If your listing doesnt tick these boxes, consider making changes. Bringing in a few smart storage items and, especially, setting up a play room where toys and books are all nicely put away, can do wonders.

Speaking of a play roomdoes the home have one? If not, families with young kids may not even come tour it. Staging an existing home office or guest room as a play room for young families or a game room for older families depending on what your market research indicates can help the home connect with these buyers.

Warm gathering spaces and open sightlines are key to creating the kind of home that will attract families. If the home has walls in all the wrong places, a little money spent knocking them down to create an open plan could pay off big on the back end. The same could be said about making sure the kids bedrooms are sufficient. If the owners are currently using bedrooms for a craft space, home office, or guest room while the kids are doubled-up, you turn off buyers, giving them the impression that the home doesnt have enough space for their family.

For marketing purposes, its also important to highlight neighborhood amenities that are important to this buyer. Creating a map that lists nearby shopping and family-friendly restaurants and activities is that something-extra that will resonate with buyers.

Important tip: Pay special attention to schools, making sure you have the right ones in the listing and highlighting good test scores and any other important factors. Buyers will look online at listings on sites like Zillow and Redfin, and often the schools listed are incorrect. Making sure you have the most up-to-date info about schools is critical for young families who may be looking for a specific district or elementary school.

Angies List

Retirees/empty nesters

Think your buyer might be a retiree or empty nester? Perhaps you need to rethink that game room or play room.

"Empty nesters are at a unique stage in their lives: They are free of child-rearing responsibilities, yet they remain young enough for an active life>

Staging to show off entertainment areas is key, as is making sure "multipurpose rooms appeal to childfree active adults." Have an extra bedroom? Think about turning it into a craft space or reading room.

When it comes to the main living areas, pay extra attention to the furniture arrangement. Having too much furniture in the rooms can not only make them look smaller, but may also be a hazard for those who arent as mobile as they used to be. A thoughtful space plan will make the room look better and can also make it safer.

Outside, simplifying the landscape where possible can also make a retiree feel better about the home. A small garden area may appeal to this target, but a large lawn and English garden that needs to be maintained regularly can seem overwhelming.

From a marketing standpoint, thinking about other aspects that make the home desirable to this group of buyers can also help it stand out. Does the home have walking trails or community amenities that would appeal to an active, older buyer? Local restaurants and cultural hotspots should also be included. How about the medical services nearby? A local map that points out points of interest will be helpful - and memorable.

Full Story >

4 U.S. Cities Best for New amp; Experienced REALTORS

A career in real estate can be immensely rewarding and challenging, while providing ample opportunities to grow and succeed. While many REALTORS start and end their careers in whichever city they currently reside, some would like to branch out a bit and test the real estate waters in other parts of the country.

Now that the real estate market is much healthier than it was several years ago, there are numerous cities across the United States that have recovered especially well and offer a great working environment for Realtors of all experience levels. With that in mind, check out four cities that are especially great for newbie Realtors who have just gotten into the industry, as well as more seasoned veterans of the real estate market.

Houston, Texas

a great place to start a career

Good Call lists the Houston metropolitan area as number seven on its Top 10 Places for Real Estate Agents list. The region, which includes The Woodlands and Sugar Land, offers a median salary of 56,390 and a housing affordability index of 24.34 percent. Homes remain on the market an average of 69 days and the sale-to-list price is an impressive 97.85 percent. ForRent confirms how booming the housing market in Houston is. In addition to homes for sale, the community offers plenty of apartments and condominiums. Young real estate agents who are starting their careers will find a lot of inventory, clients and great selling prices in the Houston area.

Eugene, Oregon

low competition ideal for new Realtors

Eugene, Oregon, is more than the home of the University of Oregon and its rabid group of Duck fans. It is also a perfect place for fledgling Realtors to test their wings Duck or otherwise. Although the region has a >

Rockford, Illinois

beckons industry veterans

Rockford, Illinois, is a vibrant community with plenty of jobs in the health and aerospace industries. Even though there is a >

Reno, Nevada

hot market with no signs of slowing down

According to the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors, everything about the Reno real estate market is red hot. The average sales price is 310,000, which is a 5 percent increase and the inventory is up as well. Realtors who have been in the business for some time will enjoy working in a competitive marketplace that is also a haven for retirees. With Realtors incomes typically coming from commissions, higher home values in Reno mean bigger paychecks, and the competitive market is perfect for seasoned Realtors who are knowledgeable about working in an active area with eager buyers ready to pounce on properties.

Full Story >

The Ps Of Community Living: Rules Enforcement

Question: We live in a nice community, but every so often someone breaks one of our rules. Sometimes the infraction is minor -- such as washing their car on the public street. Other times, the violation is more serious, such as yelling, arguing and even threatening people. The violators may be unit owners or tenants. Can you outline in general terms what our Board of Directors can do to curtail these various infractions?

Answer: In my years of representing community associations, I have developed a long list of "Ps" of community living, including pets, people, presidents, prostitutes, parking, pianos, pigs vietnamese, pools, psychiatrists, portals, plumbers, etc.

Lets address the most serious matters first. Whether the person creating the problem is a tenant or an owner, if criminal conduct is involved, call the police immediately. Neither the Board of Directors nor management is competent to handle such matters. More importantly, you do not want to be involved in obstructing the authorities in their investigation.

If the problem is not criminal, but involves an infraction of your association documents or your rules and regulations, we then have to determine if the alleged perpetrator is a unit owner or a tenant of an owner:

1. Owner: Here, the situation is >

Make sure the alleged conduct does in fact violate your rules or your associations documents. If you have any uncertainty, discuss the matter with your association attorney.

Once you are satisfied you have a strong case, advise the owner that the Board or an authorized committee will hold a hearing, for the purpose of giving the owner an opportunity to defend his or her position. The owner can be represented by counsel at the hearing if he or she so desires. The hearing is informal and can be held before a panel of board members or other owners selected and approved by the board.

If the Board or the committee determines the owner has violated the governing rules, the Board has a number of options at its disposal. It is important to note that these comments are general in nature; some association documents may not permit some of these options or may even have others:

  • fine the errant owner;
  • suspend voting;
  • sanctions, e.g., the owner cannot use the Association amenities -- the pool;
  • take the owner to court seeking declaratory or injunctive >
  • have the owner sign a statement an agreement to the effect that the problem will not happen again. Such statement should include language spelling out what happens should the situation occur again.

2. Tenant: Many associations over the years have adopted -- and implemented -- a requirement that each owner and each tenant sign a "lease addendum". Such a document allows the association to step into the shoes of the owner and take all appropriate legal action against the tenant if there are violations created or caused by the tenant. If your association does not have such a "lease addendum" policy, again, it is strongly recommended that you immediately adopt such policy.

On the other hand, if the tenant did not sign a lease addendum, you may find it more difficult to take legal action against him/her. However, you should follow the same procedures as discussed above concerning owners with the owner receiving copies of all the notices and documents mailed to the tenant. In some cases, the Board may need to explain to the tenant that this is a community association, and that everyone is expected to honor and follow certain rules and regulations. Often, I have found that tenants are not aware of the applicable rules, and welcome the opportunity to learn about them.

If the tenant shows no concern -- or indeed is hostile to your overtures -- advise the tenant and owner that the Board has to follow the rules and that legal action will be taken if the alleged violations do not cease.

Full Story >

7 Smart Renovations Under 500

If youre thinking about selling your home, you may be stressed out about all the things you need to do to get it market ready, and all the costs associated with those updates. Renovations dont have to cost you a fortune. By thinking smart about some of the updates that will have the greatest impact, you can minimize your spend and maximize your investment.

1. Give your kitchen some attention

If theres one spot that can make or break your home sale, its this. You could spend thousands on new countertops and cabinets - and your agent may advise you to do some of these larger updates depending on the age and condition of your current kitchen and the competitiveness of your local market. But, for many of us, attention to a few key areas can help detract from the negatives and highlight the positives.

"Naturally, there are limits to what you can do on a budget. But many home-remodeling experts stress that moderately handy homeowners with just a little cash to spend can make a big difference in their kitchen," said Bankrate. "And if the work looks good, youre adding equity to your home," Erin Davis, lead designer for Mosaik Design amp; Remodeling in Portland, Oregon, told them.

For under 500, you can paint your kitchen cabinets - use white for a >

Light in the Box

2. Get a new appliance

Its not likely that youll find a new appliance package for under 500, but you may be able to find a great deal on a new fridge or dishwasher if yours is a bit ratty by looking at scratch and dent items. Sometimes, the scratch is in a place that will be obscured by a wall, meaning you can save tons of money and not ever see the issue. If you can only afford one, think about the fact that you can take the refrigerator with you to your new place.

3. Bring in the light

One of the most important things you can do to prepare your home for sale is to fill it with natural light. That means opening drapes and pulling blinds for showingsand making sure your windows are clean behind them If your home doesnt offer a lot of natural light, careful placement of mirrors can help bounce whatever light there is around. Painting lighter colors can also keep the space airy, and is recommended by stagers as well.

Bringing in new light fixtures to replace anything that is outdated or builder grade can help give the home a modern feel for little financial output. Hanging two of these pendants over an island or peninsula captures one of the hottest trends in lighting today and will only set you back 104.

Lighting Direct

4. Refresh the bedrooms

Making sure the bedrooms have just the right amount of furniture - not too much, not too little - is key. Remove unnecessary pieces to emphasize the space and add key pieces like nightstands in a master if you dont currently have them to highlight function. You can pick up a pair at IKEA for under 30. >


5. Create some architectural interest

Crown molding can make a room look elegant and is also one of the features that can woo a picky buyer. Having a pro come in to install it can get expensive, but if you can use a saw and are somewhat adept at math, you can do it yourself. Materials should cost you abot 1.20 a foot at Home Depot. You can get some DIY tips here.

Creating interest in a space that needs it doesnt have to involve power tools. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is one of our favorite tools for dressing up a wall without the hassle of working with paste and now it comes in textured looks we love, llike this reclaimed wood version.


6. Create some curb appeal

Some of the most important things to do in the front of your house wont cost you a thing outside of elbow grease: mow, rake, and clean up. Next, lay down a new layer of mulch, which will cost you a couple bucks per bag, and plant some fresh flowers or bring some flowerpots close to the door.

If your front door has seen better days, a fresh coat of paint will keep buyers from wondering what else needs work on the inside.

7. Throw some accessories at it

You may not have money to make large changes to your home, but you can make it look freshened up with a little smart staging. Make sure furniture arrangements in living spaces make senseit costs you nothing to move stuff around or store an extra-large chair thats impeding the flow of traffic in the garage while the home is for sale.

Some fresh flowers, a few throw pillows, an inexpensive new rug to anchor the seating area, and maybe a few modern knickknacks scattered around can make the space feel inviting.

Full Story >

Historical Weather Patterns and Risk: What Homeowners Need to Know

Its only been about 60 years since the insurance industry has been calculating risk >

While calculating risk >

Factors that Impact Weather->

Number of Homeowners. One of the biggest changes to weather->

This influx of new property has changed the insurance game, and some areas have more exclusions and options when it comes to purchasing hail, wind or other natural disaster coverage. The best thing to do, when it comes to homeowners insurance and weather->

Living in a coastal state. Coastal states in the southeast - Mississippi, Florida, the Carolinas and the Gulf region of Texas and Louisiana - are clearly hotbeds for hurricanes and wind damage. These areas of the United States are known as wind-storm zones. Policies in this region have the option of excluding wind damage, because if the option wasnt available for homeowners, no policies would be sold.

If you exclude the coverage from your standard policy, this region has what is called a "wind storm pool," a state fund devoted specifically to wind damage. This is where homeowners in the southeast will want to purchase their wind coverage if they so desire. Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina and the coastal region of Texas all have wind-storm pools and the option for coverage; however, Florida does not have wind-storm coverage because the entire state is in a wind zone. Again, no policies would exist in Florida if wind coverage were an option.

Flood insurance. Flood insurance is also another disaster with its own pool in certain areas. However, the flood insurance program is in a state of flux, as they were upended by the overwhelming amount of flood damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Tornado Alley. Another major weather region in the U.S. to take into consideration is Tornado Alley. This is the area in the middle of the country, roughly expanding from North Texas to Kansas, which is susceptible to tornados in the spring and throughout the year. If you are purchasing coverage in this region, there are some options to consider that your agent will go over with you when purchasing insurance.

Preventative Measures

What about reducing damage and preventative measures? There are a handful of things homeowners and builders in certain regions can do and have done to preemptively reduce damage and thus not impact their coverage on the back end once disaster strikes.

Installing a metal roof. Roofing has come a long way in the past few decades, but purchasing a 30-year shingle to put on your roof doesnt necessarily mean the roof is going to last 30 years. This simply means that, if no severe weather impacts the roof like hail, then they will last 30 years. But where in the country will a roof not be affected by hail, or wind, or heavy rains, or snow and ice?

One alternative for shingle roofing is a metal roof. It may cost more on the front end, but metal roofs will sustain severe weather damage and last much longer. There may be cosmetic damage, which you can exclude from your policy, but the roof itself will not leak or tear away from the home.

Homebuilding improvements. Some preventative measures have also been taken when it comes to homebuilding. The placement and size of windows, the anchoring of the roof to the structure and the foundation anchoring have all been improved to help reduce damage. Certain areas of the country susceptible to wind damage have also moved away from sliding glass doors, Areas prone to flood damage have increased the elevation of their new structures. These are all things homeowners can take into consideration when shopping for a new house.

Overall, the best plan for homeowners when it comes to securing homeowners insurance is to try and reduce the number of exclusions and limitations in their policy, and get weather->

Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 12 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics


Full Story >

How To Renew Your Deck In 5 Easy Steps

Summer is here, which means you need to take a hard look at your deck. Given winters inclement conditions, theres a good chance your deck is in need of some attention. Here are some quick and easy steps for getting it in shape:

1 Clean your deck.

Regular cleaning prevents your deck from graying and looking worn down. You can employ a few different methods to keep it spotless:

Use a hose: Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to get rid of debris and dirt.
Pressure wash: High-pressure water can get between slats and take off any stubborn debris. The cost to pressure wash a deck is about 250.
Scrub it down: For really harsh debris, you might need to get down on your hands and knees to remove the buildup or stains.

2 Check for repairs.

Once the deck is clean, you can inspect for any potential damage points. Keep an eye out for:

  • Broken boards
  • Missing stain
  • Termite holes
  • Cracks

You can DIY most of these problems, but if you have termites infesting your deck, think about hiring a pest control service. Otherwise, consider replacing boards or restaining the surface.

3 Sand it down.

If your stain is stripped away, consider sanding the surface. If you dont want to spend all day sanding, you can rent a floor sander. After youve sanded your decking smooth, apply a finish.

4 Stain or seal your deck.

Once youve sanded down the surface, think about sealing or staining. Finishes help protect against water damage, mildew and inclement weather. Here are some considerations when determining whether to seal or stain a deck:

  • Seal: Seal your deck if you like a natural look. Sealing your deck will cost about 790 and you can choose from a variety of sealing products.
  • Stain: Staining will cost about 850, depending on the size of the deck. You can stain your deck in different colors and finishes.

5 Consider a brightener.

Use a brightener if your deck has stains or grey spots. You can apply brightener using a garden spray hose. A fresh coat of brightener will renew the appearance of your deck without expensive and time-consuming repairs.


Make sure to keep your deck in shape with regular maintenance and cleaning. Most of these jobs you can do as DIY projects. But dont be afraid to call a deck professional when the situation is beyond your expertise.

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

Full Story >

Your Guide To Choosing The Right Drapes

Whether youre investing in drapes as your main window covering or simply looking to add a decorative element to frame out your windows, there are a few tips to getting it right.


Today, there is only one modern options when it comes to drapery length: your drapes have to be long enough to at least hit the floor instead of stopping short.

"Youll get the most current look if the fabric makes contact with the floor or sill or radiator," said Real Simple. "Too-short curtains can seem nerdy and off, like high-waters."

From there, several options allow you to customize the feel youre looking for.

Just hitting the floor - This look is ">

Photo by Debbie Basnett, Vintage Scout Interiors - Search eclectic living room design ideas

Breaking slightly at the floor - The most current trend in drapes is the one that has a few inches of give after hitting the floor. This look can be both elegant and casual, and is probably best suited for spaces where there isnt a ton of activity since the fabric could get caught in doors or easily get dirty and dusty.


Exaggerated pooling - Want to create old-school elegance in a formal space like a dining room? Six inches of fabric pooled on the floor "can look romantic," said Real Simple, "but is also high-maintenance; curtains need refluffing every time you vacuum or the cat lies on them."


When it comes to how high to hang drapes, conventional wisdom says: at the top of the window. But experts recommend raising the height - all the way to the ceiling, where possible - to create the illusion of high ceilings where needed.


If youre going to the fabric store to choose material for custom drapes, you may be overwhelmed by whats available. Color and pattern will probably drive your selection, but dont underestimate the importance of texture. Heavier fabrics may read heavy in your space, whereas sheers and other lightweight fabrics may not give you as much weight or light and temperature control as you need.

Is privacy a concern in the space? Dont forget to look for fully lined drapes if youre buying them ready-made, or add a layer of lining if youre going custom and if drapes will be your primary window covering.

Color and pattern

The options when it comes to color and pattern are endless, especially if youre doing custom drapes. But even with ready-made versions, the choices are vast.

Looking to go neutral and extend your wall color? Maybe youd rather introduce a secondary color for some punch. Either way, "Solid curtains give you many decorating options and leave considerable space for future modifications of accessories," said DCORLOVE. "They are a safe option when patterns have already been introduced as they provide the necessary balance."

The Shade Store

But drapes can also become the accessories with the right pattern. Weave in a graphic pattern to add a layer that will help the room feel complex and fully finished.

"Large, graphic prints are daring but can look really amazing when their color >


Have you thought about how youre going to hang your drapes? The hardware can make a huge impact or it can disappear, depending on what you choose. "Basic metal or plastic curtain rods work behind the scenes. Larger-diameter wood or metal poles, usually capped by decorative finials, assume more prominent roles in window treatments," said Better Homes and Gardens.

Home Design Ideas

And then you need to consider whether you want clips or grommets or some other decorative way to hang the drapes from the rod. Their Buying Guide can help break down the options.

Full Story >

Home Inspections Must Be Totally Independent

You are about to sign a contract to purchase an older home. The real estate agent has given you the name of a home inspector, and has advised you to use the "specific inspection contingency" clause in the contract instead of the "general inspection contingency" clause. There is a major difference between these two concepts and it may cost you a considerable amount of money if you use the wrong one.

When ever you purchase a house -- especially an older one -- it is imperative you have the house inspected by a professional -- and independent -- home inspector. While you certainly are free to use the inspector recommended by the real estate agent, you should make your own choice.

You should include an inspection contingency in your sales contract. This would read something like this:

This contract is completely contingent upon purchaser obtaining, at purchasers expense, a satisfactory home inspection, within ___ days from date of contract ratification.. If purchaser is not satisfied, for any reason, and advises seller in writing within said ___ days, this contract shall be null and void and purchasers deposit shall be immediately refunded to purchaser. If purchaser does not notify seller within said ___ days, this contingency shall automatically expire and the contract shall remain in full force and effect.

This is known as a "general inspection contingency". Basically, if the buyer -- for any reason -- does not like the results of the inspection, the buyer can terminate the contract and the earnest money deposit will be refunded to the buyer. Indeed, many buyers are adding language in their purchase and sales contract to the effect that their deposit will not be cashed until after the inspection contingency has been removed.

The contingency recommended by the broker -- referred to as a "specific inspection contingency" -- is much more limited. Although different contract forms contain different variations on the theme, the thrust of a specific contingency is that if the buyer finds defects in the house, the buyer will give the seller three days in which to agree to make the repairs. Once the seller responds, the buyer then has one or two additional days in which to decide whether to accept what the seller is prepared to do, or to terminate the contract.

I oppose the specific inspection contingency, since I believe it is unfavorable to both buyers and sellers. From the buyers point of view, if the house is structurally sound, but the roof, for example, has a short useful life, the buyer may not want to complete the transaction faced with a large expenditure two or three years down the road. However, since there are currently no defects, the buyer cannot get out from under the contract.

At first reading, the specific contingency appears to favor the seller, since it does not permit the buyer to terminate the contract for any reason. However, my experience is that when a buyer wants out of the contract at an early stage, it sometimes is better to terminate the contract at this early point in time rather than have continuous hassles all the way through to settlement.

Why should a home seller permit the buyer to inspect the house? While sellers may think that an inspection is not in their best interests, if you really stop and think about it for a moment, it should become obvious that even from the sellers point of view, it is advisable to let buyers have a short period of time in which to cancel their contract if they are not satisfied with the condition of the house.

Clearly, sellers would rather have their purchaser cancel the contract early in the process than wait until the very last minute and raise all sorts of problems on the day of settlement. From my own personal experience, this is a common problem at a real estate settlement where the buyers really do not want to complete the deal, but know they are legally obligated to do so.

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 house on the day of settlement. Often, I have heard sellers tell buyers, "You removed the inspection contingency, and if you have a problem with our house, look to your home inspector."

Full Story >

Americas Love Affair With Bedrooms and Bathrooms

We love our bedrooms and bathrooms.

In 2015, the share of new single-family homes sold that had at least four bedrooms and at least three bathrooms hit a more than three-decade high. And one expert suggests this bedroom and bathroom trend is being driven by a fundamental change in American living arrangements.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 53 percent of new single-family homes sold in 2015 had at least four bedrooms and 41 percent had at least three bathrooms. Back in 1978, just 27 percent of new single-family homes sold had at least four bedrooms and just 8 percent had at least three bathrooms.

Of course, in order to squeeze in more bedrooms and bathrooms, the average American home has grown bigger. In 1975, the average new single-family home took up 1,975 square feet, the Census Bureau says. Today, that number exceeds 2,600 square feet. Thats a four-decade jump of more than 30 percent.

Multigenerational Ownership

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, which specializes in housing data and analysis, says the trend toward larger homes featuring more bedroom and more bathrooms reflects the "increasing acceptance" of at least two generations of a family living under one roof.

"Part of this acceptance is brought about by cultural changes influenced by a higher percentage of foreign buyers who are open to multigenerational homeownership," Blomquist says, "as well as millennials who put more value on their social network than their personal space."

Blomquist says multigenerational homeownership is being spurred by the overall lack of affordability and inventory in the housing market. According to RealtyTrac data, up to 14 percent of home sales last year in the U.S. involved multigenerational buyers.

In 2012, a record 57 million Americans 18 percent of the U.S. population lived in multigenerational family households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That compares with 28 million in 1980 12 percent.

In this infographic, we examine the growing number of bedrooms and bathrooms in American homes a development being fueled in large part by the rise of multigenerational households.

This content is brought to you by LawnStarter

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Outdoor Furniture In The Common Area

Question: A resident puts her outdoor furniture in the common area adjacent to her unit, insisting she was given permission by the developer.

Answer: A claim that permission was granted by the developer is not valid since the developer has no right to grant some right to one that is not enjoyed by all. The board should advise the offending member the practice should cease.

Question: We have a resident that seems to be suffering from dementia or Alzheimers. He wanders the halls and forgets where he lives. Hes left the stove on several times and has set off the fire alarm. What can we do?

Answer: If this person has family, they should be notified as soon as possible of the danger posed to both the >

Question: Can payment of HOA fees be withheld if the payer feels the HOA is not doing its job like rule enforcement, repairs and landscape maintenance?

Answer: HOA fee payments cannot be withheld. Its simply too easy for someone that doesnt want to pay to find an excuse. The board and manager should be informed in writing of the specific repair request or other problem. However, in the case of an urgent repair request that the HOA has failed to perform like a leaking roof that is damaging the members unit, the member might order repairs, pay for them and seek reimbursement.

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.

As far as expansion is concerned, the board has no authority to approve a unit owner expanding 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, subscribe to

Full Story >

Flash Landlords Not Liable For Everything

Residential landlords are all too used to learning of new laws or court decisions that expand their liabilities and/or make life more difficult. It is a pleasure, then, to report on a California appellate decision that affirms a limit on landlord liability and rejects a claim as to landlord duty. Garcia v. Holt, Fourth Appellate District, Oct. 27, 2015

In October of 2005, the Mamertos Michelle Mamerto was Michel Holt at the time the complaint was filed leased their Escondido property to George Jakubec. The lease was for one year. At the end of the year, the lease became a month-to-month rental.

In 2005, the Mamertos hired Mario Garcia to maintain the landscaping of the subject property. He or his employees worked on the premises at least once every two weeks throughout the five years leading up to the incident that triggered this lawsuit.

According to the court record, "On November 18, 2010, Mario was injured when he walked over unstable explosive material on the backside of the Premises and the material exploded under him." Apparently, the tenant, Jakubec, had been creating and storing explosives on the property. Neither the owners, the Mamertos, nor Garcia and his employees were aware of this.

The Appellate Court summarized the proceedings that followed:

"The Garcias sued for premises liability alleging the Mamertos were negligent in the maintenance of the Premises by allowing explosive materials to be kept on the Premises. The Mamertos moved for summary judgment [essentially, dismissal] arguing they owed no duty to Mario because they had no actual or constructive knowledge of the explosive materials on the Premises, thus there was no foreseeable risk requiring an inspection.

"In opposition, the Garcias argued the Mamertos had a duty to exercise reasonable care to inspect the Premises periodically once the lease became a month-to-month tenancy. The Garcias further argued there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether the Mamertos breached that duty.

"The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Mamertos on the ground the Mamertos owed no duty to the Garcias absent actual knowledge of a dangerous condition on the Premises. The court ruled, before liability may be thrust on a landlord for a third partys injury due to a dangerous condition on the land, [a plaintiff] must show that the landlord had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition in question, plus the right and ability to cure the condition."

The Garcias appealed. They contended that when the lease became month-to-month then the Mamertos had a right to periodically enter the premises. With that right, they argued, the Mamertos has a corresponding duty to make "reasonable periodic inspections and they should have discovered the dangerous conditions."

The Appellate Court disagreed. They asserted that "the obligation to inspect arises only if [the landowner] had some reason to know there was a need for such action."

Moreover, the court stated, "Public policy precludes landlord liability for a dangerous condition of the premises which came into existence after possession has passed to a tenant." "This is based on the principle that the landlord has surrendered possession and control of the land to the tenant and has no right even to enter without permission."

"Where a landlord has >

In short: You want to sue someone? Sue the tenant.

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

Full Story >

How The Boomers Record Inheritance Will Impact Real Estate

About 10 years ago, a study suggested that baby boomers were about to inherit a trillion dollars. Many boomers have already received their inheritance and its one reason why the countrys real estate boom has lasted so long.

But a new report by Benjamin Tal at CIBC Economics, based on a survey by Angus Reid Forum, says that during the next decade there is still about 750 billion to be transferred to Canadians aged 50 to 75 in the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in Canadian history.

Tal says that guessing how much money will be inherited is tricky.

"Most estimates are based on forward-looking questions, asking potential beneficiaries what they expect to receive," he says. "We have decided to tackle the issue differently and asked Canadians about the inheritance they actually received as opposed to what they expect to receive."

The survey found that just over half of Canadians aged 50-75 have already received an inheritance, which averaged 180,000. The largest average inheritance was in British Columbia, "no doubt due to the elevated value of real estate in the province," followed by Quebec and Ontario, says Tal. For the rest of the country, the average was less than 100,000.

"Based on that information, and Statistics Canadas demographic projections, alongside conservative assumptions regarding wealth appreciation, we estimate that the coming decade will see close to 750 billion exchanging hands," says Tal. "That is almost 50 per cent more than the estimated amount of inheritance received over the past decade."

The study shows that much of that money will go to people who are already enjoying higher income brackets. The average inheritance for those who earn more than 100,000 a year is almost three times higher than among low-income Canadians, says Tal. "Simply put, if wealth is not evenly spread across society, then inheritance will repeat the pattern and exacerbate inequality."

Tal says the impact of the huge money transfer on the real estate market will be gradual. In Toronto and Vancouver, where there is a shortage of low-rise homes for sale because its tough for move-up buyers to find a home they can afford, the transfer may help increase the supply of homes for sale, he says.

But many homeowners are choosing to stay in their current homes and renovate them, rather than face the wild real estate markets in the Lower Mainland in B.C. and Southern Ontario. Tal says the home renovation market will also benefit from the inheritances.

Previous surveys have shown that some baby boomers who were expecting a large inheritance have received less than anticipated. A BMO Wealth Institute report in 2013 said that "both seniors and boomers indicated that they are planning on leaving an inheritance to someone other than their spouse/partner or child.

Moreover, seniors are more likely than boomers to plan on leaving an inheritance to a grandchild or to a charitable organization. Ultimately, this may reduce the size of the inheritance that will be distributed to each beneficiary."

The report says that its often "taboo" for parents of the boomers to discuss their estates or even to write a will. "The problem with this lack of dialogue is that it often leads to misgivings and financial insecurity in retirement for boomers and seniors." Upon the persons death, it can also lead to a large tax bill that that eats up much of the estate.

With rising house prices, Tal says more people may start giving away their money before they die, via inter-vivos gifts, "a factor that might have a positive impact on homeownership rates among younger Canadians," says Tal.

Vancouver mortgage broker Atrina Kouroshnia says getting a mortgage with help from friends or family has a few wrinkles that homebuyers need to understand.

"Mortgage lenders typically wont allow down payment gifts from friends or bosses or other non->

She says some lenders also require the gift-giver to share their banking history. "If your parents are wary of sharing their financial information with you, they may be able to communicate directly with your lender rather than using you as a middleman," Kouroshnia writes.

She also says, "If a couple is buying a home jointly, the gift-giver may want to specify in the letter that the gift is intended for their grandchild, child or niece," she says. "Otherwise, if the couple divorces, the down payment gift may be presumed to be for the benefit of both parties and split evenly between them."

If the buyer has an inheritance, "unless you are able or prepared to plunk down a very large down payment, you will have the same mortgage qualifications as everyone else. Lenders always want to see some sort of income on the books," says Kouroshnia. "The hard reality is that unless your inheritance can cover most of the cost of the house, you will need a co-signer in order to obtain a mortgage if your own income does not qualify for it."

Full Story >

How to Create a Pool Maintenance Schedule

Swimming pools provide hours of fun, but they do require a certain amount of attention to keep the water clean. Most maintenance is simply a matter of common sense. Just remember to do the little things on a regular basis to avoid big problems later. Heres a suggested maintenance schedule to help you along the way.

At Pool Opening

Even if you plan on maintaining the pool yourself, it is a good idea to have a pool service company open the pool at the start of the swimming season or have them do an annual checkup if your pool has been open all year. They will make sure all of the equipment is running correctly, test the water and suggest the treatments you will need to balance the water.

Balanced water means that things like the pH level of the water, the alkalinity, dissolved solids, calcium levels and the like are all within comfortable ranges. Balanced water is crystal clear and has a pleasant feel on the skin. If you do decide to open the pool yourself, at least take a water sample to a pool supply company for testing.

Daily Maintenance

  • Use a long-handle skimmer to remove any floating debris from the pool.
  • Clean out the pool skimmer baskets. When the pools pump is turned on, it pulls water from the pool into the skimmers and then on to the filtration system. If you have leaves, grass clippings or other debris floating in the pool, chances are that some of it ended up in the skimmer basket.
  • Check the water level. Pools lose water through evaporation and normal splashing and swimming. The water should be above the skimmer level, or you could burn out the pump.
  • For above ground pools that use a daily chlorine tablet for sanitation, add chlorine.

Weekly Maintenance

  • Use a home test kit to test the water for pH and sanitizer, such as chlorine. Follow the manufacturers instructions, but in general, rinse testing materials with the pool water you are going to test, not tap water. You should also run the circulation system for about 15 minutes before testing the water.
  • Remove debris from the pump basket.
  • Vacuum the pool. You can find vacuums for both in ground and above ground pools. In ground pool owners usually >
  • Clean off any dirt and scum that may have accumulated at the water line using a brush designed to clean pools. This keeps dirt out of the filtration system and helps to remove algae before it takes hold.
  • Hose down the pool deck.
  • Check the pools filter. There are three types of pool filters: sand, cartridge and diatomaceous earth DE, which is fossilized skeletons of plankton. They all require regular maintenance. Basically, they all need to be cleaned when the operating pressure rises about 10 pounds per square inch psi above the normal operating pressure. Normal pressure will vary, but usually it is around 9 to 12 psi. The rise in pressure means that dirt is beginning to clog the filter medium. Once you know the regular pressure of your filter, write it on the unit in permanent marker as a reminder.
    • Sand and DE filters need to be backwashed, which means you turn a dial and water runs through the filtering medium backwards. The backwashed water exits through a waste port. Be careful where the water drains, because chlorine in the water can harm any surrounding plants.
    • DE filters tend to be trickier to maintain than sand filters, because you must replace the DE that is lost during backwashing. Follow the filters manufacturers instructions carefully.
    • To clean cartridge filters, remove the cartridge and hose it down.
    • If you notice that the filters pressure is below the normal operating pressure, it means there may be a clog or obstruction somewhere in the line.

Monthly Maintenance

Take a water sample to a pool supply company that does water testing. As mentioned above, the company tests for a wider range of variables than you can at home. It is a good way to make sure that your pool water stays balanced. In many cases, the test is free.

Special Circumstances

The most rigorous maintenance plan can be upended by a few days of heavy rain or a heavier-than- normal bathing load. In those cases, the water will contain a large amount of organic matter that throws the water balance out of whack. To set things right, you will need to "shock," or superchlorinate, the water. Some experts believe that weekly shock treatments are necessary, which may be true for pools that get a lot of use, but in general the frequency will depend on the bathing load. If you are unsure, have the water tested and ask for advice at the pool supply company.

If you do add shock chemicals, be sure to read the instructions carefully. With many shocks, you should stay out of the water for 12 to 24 hours to give the chlorine levels time to return to normal.

Closing the Pool

As mentioned above, even if you plan on performing the maintenance yourself, it is a good idea to have a professional pool service open and close the pool. A pool closing involves these steps:

  • Give the pool a final cleaning and shock the water one last time.
  • Lower the water level to about 18 in. below the skimmer. Dont empty the pool enti>
  • Drain all of the piping. Follow the pump, filter and heater manufacturers recommendations for closing down the equipment.
  • Cover the pool. All covers will keep debris out of the water. A safety cover that meets specific requirements can support the weight of a child to prevent accidental drowning. It is also a good idea to check the condition of gates and fences that surround the pool to make sure they are in proper repair.

If your pool maintenance routine is vigorous and well-planned, youll reap the rewards all season long. To read more about pool safety, you can view AHSs Pool Safety Guide here.

Home-improvement author Fran Donegan is the author of the book Pools and Spas and writes on outdoor activities around the home for The Home Depot. Fran has also written the book Paint Your Home. To research maintenance and other above-ground pool materials discussed by Fran, you can visit the Home Depot website here.

Full Story >

9 Creative Ways To Make Your Ceiling A Focal Point

Interior design is looking up. Up to the ceiling that is, with creative, clever, and colorful ceiling treatments that add another decorative element to a space.

"When decorating the home, many people ignore the ceiling," said Livinator. "Think of the ceiling as an extension of the walls and give it a special treatment. By using architectural elements, moldings, paint, fabric, wallpaper and tiles, a ceiling becomes an integral feature of a room."

Youve seen a herringbone pattern on the floor. But have you ever seen it overhead? Its a great way to create interest, especially when youre limited in what you can do on the outside.

"Restrained by local building code, architect Michael OSullivan forwent a flashy facade on this new Auckland, New Zealand, home, saving the fireworks for the interior," said Dwell.


These high ceilings are accented by wood and steel trusses that perform a real function: holding the roof up. "They also act as a scaffolding for lighting and put the room on a human scale," said Houzz.

Photo by Jennifer Robin Interiors - Search transitional living room pictures

Love the look of those cement tiles that are so in >

Serenity in Design

You can keep the walls neutral while still injecting bold color into the room by splashing it up on the ceiling. The pink overhead makes the ceiling a focal point instead of an afterthought.


Wrapping a room in the same color on walls and ceiling and island, in the case of this home makes it feel fresh.


For something a little different, play with the sheen. "There are several directions you can go with a high gloss ceiling in a successful home design and a couple of things to keep in mind," said FOREST GLOVER DESIGN. "The higher the sheen the more mirror-like the refection will be. The ceiling will be much more impactful if the other painted surfaces are kept matte."


Define your space with a unique architectural element used in an unexpected way. In this room, reclaimed brick on the ceiling creates a showstopper.


Coffered ceilings can bring elegance and richness. In aqua with hand-painted, gold-accented panels, they also bring distinction and glam.


Have a little more organic material in mind? Do what the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium did and use bugs. The incredible green ceiling in the Mirror Room was made from 1.6 million beetles, said Bubble Pinch.

Full Story >

Enabling Parents: The Real Reason Millennials Arent Buying Homes

True story:

I took my last final on a Thursday, drove home from college on a Friday and started work on Monday. My intention was to move back in with my parents for several months while I shored up enough money to get my own apartment and ensured that my new job was viable beyond the first few post-college weeks. Typical, right?

Then, one day, just three weeks into my stay, my mom came home, surveyed the living room, and sternly requested I take my shoes up to my room. I started apartment hunting later that day and moved out a week later.

This would never happen today. A more likely scenario: the adult child develops no real plan to move out, let alone to buy a home of their own at any point in the future. And those shoes on the floor? They su>

And thats the problem.

"If millennials are self-absorbed little monsters who expect the world to come to them and for their parents to clean up their rooms well into their 20s, weve got no one to blame but ourselves - especially the moms and dads among us," said Time.

This epidemic has created a staggering trend of millennials living at home well into adult age. According to a new Goldman Sachs Report, "There are three million more young adults living at home than at the peak of the housing bubble nine years ago," said Money magazine. "Parents, you might want to hold off on those plans to renovate the basement: Your kids not moving out any time soon," they said. "Although the job market is better and the economy is improving, parents still cant get their young adult children to leave the nest. Thats not going to change any time soon, even though the economy would really benefit from more millennials moving out on their own, forming households, and buying homes."


Some millennials are buying homes. Just not in the numbers that were once expected. Will that change at any point in the future? "As the oldest members of this generation turn 30 this year and the economy continues to recover, that demand should begin to emerge more strongly," said the National Association of Realtors NAR in their Field Guide to Millennial Home Buyers. But, "Sidelined by high unemployment, student loan debts, and tight credit, millennials have a different outlook on home ownership and long-term investment than previous generations," they said.

Did buying a home cease being the American dream sometime between the Gen X and Y and Millennial years? Doesnt the idea of owning something thats all yours sound like the absolute best thing that could ever happen to you ever for all time? Are grown people really OK with someone else putting their shoes away?

NBC News

Failure to launch

Remember the 2006 movie, Failure To Launch? The frustrated parents of Matthew McConaugheys "Tripp," a 35-year-old perennial bachelor whos still living at home, hire Sarah Jessica Parkers "Paula," a "professional interventionist" to get him to move out and move on with his life. The filmmakers were definitely onto something here. Who knew this fun little romp would be so foretelling?

Today, its a failure to launch world.

When it comes to work, millennials get a bad rap for being entitled, unwilling to work their way up, and/or disrespectful or dismissive of elders and of protocol and of hierarchies. Is it true? For some, certainly.

And those same stereotypes about millennials in the workplace may be extending to the real estate market for those who are interested in buying... someday.

"Three-quarters of first-time home buyers would rather hold out for a place that will meet their future needs than buy a house they can afford now, according to a new Homebuyer Insights Report," said Time. "Most prospective buyers - 56 - are holding off because they dont think they can afford the type of home theyd want to live in."

This ties in to the underemployment and heavy student loan debt that are counted as primary barriers to millennial homebuying. Today, those who cant afford to buy a great place of their own, dont. Especially when it means giving up free dinner and laundry service. But is the effort really being made to get that job that would mean a nice salary and the opportunity to make it in the "real world?"

Or are mommy and daddy making it a little too cushy at home?

"Millennials dont seem keen to fight a war of personal autonomy on the home front, with three-quarters of those who have moved home during the Great Recession expressing satisfaction with their living arrangements," said Forbes.

Which means its up to the parents to make the first move. If youre looking for a way to break the habit and a girlfriend-for-hire scheme is not feasible, Huffington Posts "9 Hilarious Ways Parents Have Tried To Get Their Kids To Move Out" will give you some great ideas. Our favorites: buy them their own kitchenware and move their stuff out for them.

Or, make good on what millennials already expect: that theyll get financial help from parents when its time to buy. The Homebuyers Insights Report also found that: "Plenty of millennials expect at least some support from their parents. Almost one in five are expecting Mom and Dad to chip in for the down payment, while 15 think they will get help with their monthly mortgage payments.".

If youre not keen to lay out all that money, just think about how much youll save on groceries once your child moves out. And laundry detergent.

Full Story >

Websites Need to Accommodate People With Disabilities

"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 come from a recent article in online Realtor 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, 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 Hamp;R Block. The complaint alleged that Hamp;R 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 Hamp;R 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 Hamp;R Block website but were unable to do so.

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

The Hamp;R 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 Hamp;R 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. On April 29 of this 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 right of individuals with disabilities."

Salomone points 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 urges the DOJ to publish rules as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, real estate firms are well-advised to be looking at their websites from an ADA compliance perspective. 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 Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

Full Story >

DIY or Expert Edition: 4 Home Reno Projects and Who Should Handle Them

As summer rolls around and the days grow longer and hotter, the kids are finally out of school and the pool water should be approaching an ideal temperature. Right now, home improvement projects are probably the last thing on your mind. But as it turns out, the warmest months are actually the perfect time to take a good look around your property and get to tackling some of those plans you have been putting off.

Many projects are even less costly in the summer, considering that labor is more readily available and many folks wont schedule renovations with children home from school, while others would rather avoid conflicts with family vacations.

So which projects are right for summer renovations? Maybe more importantly: Do you pick up your toolbox and get to work, or pick up the phone and call in the experts?

Patio Bar Remake

You cant get much more summery than cocktails outdoors, so if your property includes a standard patio, sunroom or sizable deck, this might just be the year you finally add that window bar. Creating a patio bar will allow you to open up the living space inside and enjoy the perks of an outdoor kitchen, but without the need for new outdoor plumbing.

Anyone cooking inside will be able to enjoy the summer air and be part of the activities, while still benefiting from the conveniences of the interior kitchen.

Expert or DIY?

Since the patio window will require some serious carpentry skills, this project would be best left to the pros. Even for the handiest of DIYers, mistakes could prove very costly, so let someone who is licensed and bonded make the important calls and decisions.

Upgrade Your Security System

A home feature you may forgotten about or taken for granted during the year is your home security system. With technology advancing by the day, even a system less than five years old can be antiquated and due for an upgrade. Particularly in the summer, when you may be away, or when your kids will be home, a home security camera system would allow you to keep an eye on whats going on when youre not around.

Expert or DIY?

Believe it or not, youve got this one. With the purchase of a high-quality security camera system, you can an find easy-to-follow guide to install your new security cameras online.

Repave the Driveway

If your driveway is sprouting grass through four- or five-inch-long gaps in the surface, then its time for a facelift. Asphalt driveways, in particular, are popular projects in the summer because working with asphalt is actually simpler if it is done in higher temperatures. When the weather is hot, asphalt is less likely to harden too soon, so laying asphalt in summer means smooth asphalt surfaces.

The lower the temperature dips, the less time contractors will have to evenly spread the asphalt to form a level surface. Otherwise, you may be left with an irregular surface with bumps and valleys.

Expert or DIY?

Though this may seem like fairly straightforward work hey, youre just mixing and spreading there is actually a little bit of art to it. A seasoned pro will know how to manipulate the temperamental asphalt. Go pro your back will thank you for it.

Gutter Repairs

Making sure your gutters are clean and secure has become a summer ritual to many Americans. Throughout the year, leaves, stagnant water and sometimes even vermin accumulate in the gutters. The joints need to be checked for leaks, and the panels checked for holes.

Expert or DIY?

This one is a personal call. Gutter repairs are usually simple and quick, but its important to understand this type of work frequently ends in injury, so know your limits. There are specialists who will arrive with specific equipment in hand to take care of gutter issues efficiently. So, whatever you decide, remember safety first.

Summer is a great time to cross off a few home renovations from your list and an even better time to sit back and enjoy the improvements, either made by you or a pro, once theyre completed.

Full Story >

The Homebuying Checklist That Could Keep You From Buying The Wrong Home

If youre in the process of buying a house or are getting ready to, you may be overwhelmed by all the possibilities - and all the details. It can be easy to lose sight of some of the things that are important to you when youre seduced by pretty countertops or kids playing out on the street. Making a checklist of those must-haves will help keep you on track.

Is the bedroom count and general floorplan workable? You may be tempted by a house thats nicely staged and has that elegant-yet-warm feel you want. But look beyond the furnishings to make sure what you need is what the house has.

Is there a place for your dogs to hang out? And is there a place for the dog bowls to go? This only seems like a little thing until youre moved in and are constantly tripping over their food. When the dogs are part of your life, youll want the house to accommodate them, and you.

Is there a place for your kitchen garbage can? See above. This "little thing" will drive you crazy. Is it enough to keep you out of the home? Probably not, but its worth noting for situations where you cant decide between a couple of homes. It might be the little things that make the difference.

What direction does the house face? Facing west is great when it means you get to watch the sunset every day. Its not so great when it means your electric bill costs as much as your mortgage from May to September because your air conditioning is running 247.

Coastal So Cal Homes

Where are the structural walls? If youre planning an extensive renovation, it might be a good idea to bring in an engineer to make sure the walls you want to remove wont bring the house down.

Is there enough pantry space? A poor kitchen layout, and one that isnt easily remedied by a renovation, is a deal killer for many people.

What shape is the floor in? Look carefully. Replacing floors can be a big and expensive undertaking. Even if you have an inspection and the floors are in decent condition, they may not match your >

Wheres the nearest Target? If location is important to you and the house youre looking at is over the mountain and through the woods, think hard about what youre willing to compromise. It might be that you start to hate being so far removed from amenities once the shine of a new house has worn off.


Where is the nearest Starbucks? Not a coffee drinker? Doesnt matter. The "Starbucks Effect" means higher home appreciation if you live within proximity.

Is there an HOA? This is important to know if youre looking to paint your home purple and display your collection of flamingos on the lawn.

How are the schools? Even if you dont have kids and never plan to, a good school district is important to home values. Pay special attention to the possibility of being rezoned. This happens quite often in growing areas, and, while you wont always know whats going to happen in the future, impacted schools and districts and chatter about coming changes might give you reason to pause.

What are the acoustics like? If theres a ridiculous echo coming from the upstairs bonus room, think about what thats going to sound like with two young kids playing.

Is the wiring what you need? If you need your home to accommodate all the latest technology, you may have some extensive rewiring to do. Checking it out before you buy will help you feel confident you can achieve your goals.

Hows the yard space? Too little, or too much, space can make the day-to-day living less than ideal.


Whats the neighborhood makeup? Seeing a lot of young couples on the street? Or maybe its mainly older couples youre seeing. Spending a little time in your neighborhood youre considering can tell you a lot about who your neighbors could be, and whether youll fit in.

Are there sex offenders nearby? Unfortunately, checking to make sure the people around you are decent is a reality today. Family Watchdog allows you to enter an address and see if there are any sex offenders in the area.

Did you schedule an inspection? You may be tempted to buy a home as is, especially in a hot market, but if you forgo an inspection, youll be on the hook for any issues that arise with the home down the line.

Full Story >

10 Ways To Quickly Up Your Home Value For A Summer Sale

Planning to sell your home this summer? You may have a little - or a lot - to do in order to get your home market ready. But you dont need a huge budget. These 10 tips can help you get it looking great with little effort, and cash.

1. Paint

Crisp white walls are great in a 1920s Spanish. For most other homes, a splash of color is an easy way to warm up the space, make it look more updated, and banish fingerprints and stains. Use a soft neutral like one of these favorite gray shades for a modern look.

2. Address your front door

A fresh coat of paint on your front door is a quick fix that pops with potential. Use a bright color like red or yellow to differentiate your home from others and make it shine from the street.

If your door really cant be salvaged by painting it, youll be happy to know that replacing it with a new steel door has been shown to return between 75 and 100 of your investment. "Its also a >


3. Quick curb appeal

Aside from your door, a few easy tasks can make the front of your home look great - important when youre looking to sell your home since poor curb appeal can keep potential buyers from even coming inside. A new layer of mulch has been called the easiest and quickest way to add curb appeal. Pulling noticeable weeds, giving the lawn a quick mow, and bringing in fresh flowers - if you cant plant, put a few pots near the front doorcan make all the difference.

4. New appliances

Even if the rest of your kitchen needs work, new stainless steel appliances can tempt buyers. This package from US Appliance is just 1,749.

US Appliance

If you end up with a fancy new fridge you dont want to leave behind, make sure to let your real estate agent know so its stipulated in the contract.

5. Quickie bathroom updates

A new or painted vanity, hardware, fixtures, and lighting can make a tired bathroom look fresh again. Dont forget the little things - a fluffy set of towels, a nice rug, a modern shower curtain, and sleek accessories can make the space look good, even if its really in need of a gut job.

6. New bedding

Youd be surprised how new bedding can transform the look of your bedroom for next to nothing. There are two schools of thought here: get a cheap bed-in-a-bag set that looks nice but probably doesnt have the thread count you want for everyday use, or spend a little more for something that has the looks and the luxe.

7. Create a guest room

Have a room thats currently an undefined space? A blowup bed covered in some chic bedding can help buyers envision how theyll use the room. This is a top tip from stagers, who say that "multipurpose" rooms can confuse buyers, leaving them unsure if a home will work for them.

8. Set the scene outdoors

Everybody is into indoor-outdoor living the days. A few tricks outside can make your place look inviting.

Create a seating area with some inexpensive outdoor furniture. Scour garage sales or catch a sale at Home Depot or Target. Put up an umb>

Polywood Furniture

9. Steal a few staging tips

Hire a professional stager and it can set you back a couple thousand dollars. But you can steal a few of their most important tricks for free. Cleaning like youve never cleaned before, decluttering, and paring down your furniture to create inviting seating areas will allow buyers to see the space instead of your stuff or your mess.

10. Window coverings

If your window coverings are ugly, old, and not doing your house justice, or if theyre keeping too much light from streaming into the home, consider taking them down. Natural light is high on almost every buyers must-have list. You can purchase inexpensive drapes at any big box store that you can use to frame the windows - but remember to keep them open at showings, and to clean your windows first

Full Story >

Conducting Proper Community Association Meetings

Question. I am on the Board of Directors of a small condominium association. The annual meeting is scheduled for August, but we would like to begin preparing for that meeting as soon as possible. None of us have any real experience, and would like your comments on how to conduct a proper and efficient condominium meeting.

Answer. First , if you are legally able to change the date of your meeting, I would suggest that you change it to mid or late September. It is always hard to get enough owners to attend these meetings and you need a quorum in order to conduct business. August is typically vacation month, so a number of owners may not be in town. While it is true that you can get proxies so as to have the quorum, I prefer that owners physically attend so they can be personally informed of the activities of their association.

There are three kinds of meetings generally conducted by condominium and cooperative associations. There are Board meetings -- where the Board periodically meets to conduct the day to day affairs of the association. There are special meetings -- which can be called either by the Board of Directors itself or by a specific number of unit owners. A special meeting can only discuss and vote on the issues raised in the call for that special meeting. For example, if several unit owners are concerned about expenditures, and do not want the Board to authorize such expenditures, the membership can request that the Board schedule a special meeting for the limited purpose of discussing and voting on those expenditures.

Finally, there is an annual meeting, and the purpose of this meeting is to inform all of the unit owners of the events that transpired during the previous year, discuss future plans, and -- most importantly -- elect Board members for the next year.

Any discussion of the annual meeting starts with your condominium documents. Generally, the Bylaws of a community association will spell out when the meeting must be held, the purpose of the meeting, and how many Board members will be elected at that meeting. Quorum requirements must also be met, so you must make sure that there are sufficient people present -- in person or by proxy -- in order to conduct your annual meeting.

Proxies are an important aspect of any community association. Some condominium Bylaws restrict the number of proxies that any one unit owner can hold, although generally the property manager will have the right to use an unlimited number of proxies, so that a quorum can be obtained. But note: the property manager should not be allowed to vote on any issues; that is reserved for owners.

At the end of your Declaration, there will be a list of percentage interests. Generally, in each condominium association, every unit owner has a percentage interest in the entire condominium association. The percentage interest should equal 100. Contrary to popular belief, voting in a condominium association is usuallly by percentage interest, and not units. Thus, if unit owner "A" has a percentage interest of .35 and unit owner "B" has a percentage interest of .41, you must have a calculator present at the meeting so as to carefully compute the votes. There are some associations where it is "one unit, one vote".

The Bylaws should also spell out the procedure for conducting a meeting. Generally, this includes:

  • Roll call;
  • Proof of notice of meeting;
  • Reading of minutes of proceeding meeting;
  • Nomination and election of officers;
  • Unfinished business; and
  • New business.

The meeting should be conducted formally, but you should keep in mind that this is perhaps the only time during the year unit owners get to participate in the decision making of their association. Thus, do not try to stifle debate, although obviously if someone gets out of hand -- or becomes unruly -- the President or the Sergeant at Arms can rule that person out of order. It is recommended that at the beginning of the meeting, the President appoint one person to be the Sergeant at Arms, and that same person can also be appointed as parliamentarian. You should obtain a copy of the current issue of Roberts Rules of Order, and that should be the guidelines under which the meeting will proceed. However, most of us do not fully understand Roberts Rules of Order, and you want to make sure that those rules are not used to thwart the ability of the members to speak, or the ability of the association to get business done.

Indeed, in one annual meeting that I recently attended, the membership voted to temporarily abandon >

I also recommend the annual meeting be used as a forum to give helpful information to the unit owners. For example, your lawyer, your insurance agent, a fire marshal, or even a local politician could be invited to address the group on issues of concern to the entire community.

You may also want to be a little creative -- especially if you believe you may have problems obtaining a quorum -- and have a small social event scheduled immediately after the conclusion of the annual meeting. Some associations have raffles, whereby door prizes or other awards are given to one of the unit owners present at the meeting through a lottery arrangement.

Indeed, one community association Board became so frustrated with the lack of attendance at the annual meeting, that they proposed to pay themselves a large salary for serving on the Board of Directors, and announced the vote would be taken at the annual meeting. Needless to say, this drew a large crowd who properly voted that proposal down. However, it did serve the desired effect of having more people show up at the meeting.

Minutes of the meeting should be kept, but as the name implies, minutes should be short; they are not hours or days. The Secretary to the condominium should only record some basic information including:

  • The date, time and place of the meeting;
  • The number and percentage votes of those attending, including a statement as to whether a quorum was obtained;
  • The number of positions to be elected, and who ultimately was elected to serve on the Board of Directors; and
  • A report on any motions made, and the votes on those motions.
  • To the extent possible, minutes should be no more than 2 or 3 pages in length.

    Finally, you must begin to address the very important question as to how you nominate prospective Board members. Can anyone volunteer at the annual meeting to serve on the Board of Directors? This is one approach, but generally is not practicable, since proxies may not reflect that individuals participation. I strongly recommend the Board create a nomination committee, and have the nominations be closed at least a week or two before the annual meeting. The nominating committees function should me>

    The annual meeting must not be taken lightly. It is perhaps the most important function that any condominium association undertakes, and should be given careful planning. The fact that you are starting now for a scheduled August meeting makes a lot of sense. You can also contact the Community Associations Institute 703-750-3644 or for additional guidance and information.

    Full Story >

    Home Sellers: Create a Millennial Magnet

    Sellers whose homes are ideal first-time-buyer starter homes may count on attracting millennial buyers to purchase this real estate. If so, sellers benefit from learning how to look at their homes from the millennial point of view since this group does not represent the force that it has in the past.

    With more than 83 million millennials a larger group than boomers needing a roof over their head, millennial home buyers should represent very significant proportions of the real estate purchasers in many markets but they dont.

    According to the National Association of Realtors 2015 2015 annual home buyers and sellers survey, the percentage of buyers who were first-timers was down to an almost historic low of 32. Only one-third of these first-timers are millennials, where traditionally this group represented the majority of buyers. The thirty-something millennial segment that is buying has the income, borrowing clout, dual income status, and parental-boosted down payment to afford home ownership, where their millennial colleagues are renting or living with their parents.

    "Millennial" is a popular label replacing Generation Y and Echo Boomers that business gurus and authors apply to those born in years ranging from the early 1980s to the first years of the 21st Century thats the Millennium connection. The millennial label has no absolute definition. The defining range of years is usually chosen to prove the users point. Popular start years are 1980 or 1982 while wrap years run from 1992 to 2004.

    As more millennials reach traditional home buying age, buyer ranks will swell since the age 23 cohort is currently the largest in the overall population. Until then, sellers intent on attracting millennial singles and couples and other first time buyers will benefit from understanding how to transform their home into a "millennial magnet."

    Five Seller Perspectives Create a "Millennial Magnet"

    1. New Functionality amp; Cool Design Matter

    To millennials, many rooms have new functions and, therefore, should look very new and different from the decor many sellers preserve from their move-in decades ago. TV rooms are now media rooms; bedrooms are now sanctuaries; bathrooms are spas; recreation rooms are man caves; garages are studios; closets are to die for. Keep in mind that rooms themselves are on the out. Open concept is the preferred "dream home" configuration. Sellers must disregard how they have used and enjoyed specific rooms to concentrate on transforming old rooms look to like the right new space. Hot real estate markets have millennials feeling that they are settling for less than they want. Give them something to be excited about when they prepare a an offer to buy your property.

    2. Fun-Filled Low Maintenance Yards Are Mandatory

    "High maintenance" is out everywhere in, on, and around a house and especially in the garden. Temperamental roses, shrubs that demand pruning, bulbs that must be dug up each fall, plants that must be watered, lawns that need mowing, and anything that adds to millennials "To Do" lists does not add value according to their appraisal of the property. Environmentally-friendly, low maintenance landscaping along with anything fun, like hammocks, earn "wows" and add value for buyers. Fire pits, outdoor kitchens, and party zones display more value that high-maintenance fish ponds and fountains. Real estate professionals know when swimming pools are a plus or are considered a work zone by buyers.

    3. Storage Plus

    Millennials are moving from their family home or a rental condominium, neither providing enough storage. Adding storage is equivalent to adding space you can never add too much storage.

    4. Walkability Is Key

    Whats in the neighborhood can hold more value than whats in the house. Proximity to cool places and hot spots represents big value to buyers. Millennials think of their dream home as the center of a universe of fun and convenience. Sellers need to switch from evaluating the area from their own point of view and consider it the way thirty-somethings do.

    5. Bearable Trade-Offs

    Urban life>
    Full Story >

    Many Real Estatte Disputes Processed In Small Claims Court

    For a variety of reasons, one of the attractive features of small claims court is that no attorneys are allowed. This is a major factor in keeping down the costs of small claims cases, and it is no doubt one of the reasons that so many real-estate >

    To be sure, small claims actions are not the real estate cases that make the news, but they do encompass a great bulk of disputes over such matters as security deposits, damages to property, encroachment issues, and even commission agreements. In California, claims up to 10,000 will be heard. Some other states have higher limits and many have lower. Often, aggrieved parties will decide it is better to press in small claims for less than they think they actually deserve, simply in order to get the matter over with at a cost that is not prohibitive.

    In Californias small claims system, a defendant may appeal the outcome, but not the plaintiff. If there is an appeal, attorneys may provide representation at that level. But, unlike many legal proceedings, attorney involvement in a small claims appeal cannot wind up with attorney fees consuming as much as, or even more than, the award itself. A recent decision from Californias Fourth Appellate District Dorsey v. Superior Court, October 22, 2015 confirms this.

    In October of 2012, Jeffrey and Rebekah Crosier tenants entered into a lease agreement for a condominium owned by Michael Dorsey trustee of the Dorsey Trust. The lease contained a provision that, in the event of a legal action, the prevailing party would be entitled to attorney fees. After the lease terminated, disputes arose between the parties.

    In March of 2014 the Crosiers filed a small claims court action against landlord Dorsey. They sought 10,000 for alleged breach of the rental agreement, breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, wrongful retention of security deposit, retaliation, and constructive eviction. They also asked for an additional 850 as reasonable attorney fees.

    Dorsey then filed a "Defendants Claim" in the small claims court. He alleged that the Crosiers were liable for holdover rent and other damages. He sought attorney fees of 2,000.

    The small claims court entered judgment in favor of the Crosiers for 3,200 on their claim and 1,153 in favor of Dorsey, leaving a net judgment in the tenants favor for 2,047. Dorsey appealed, and both sides were represented by counsel on the appeal. On the appeal, the superior court found that Dorsey had breached the lease by not returning 1,560 of the security deposit, and it found that the tenants had not breached the lease at all.

    Now we get to the part about attorney fees. The Crosiers were the prevailing party, so, according to the attorney fee provision on the lease, they or their attorney were entitled to attorney fees.

    Their attorney filed a motion for 11,497.50 in fees.

    That didnt look so good to Dorsey, and he filed a motion in opposition. His opposition was based on Section 116.780c of the Code of Civil Procedure. There, it is specified that a cap of 150 applies to all attorney fee awards in small claims court appeals.

    At first, the superior court issued a ruling stating that the 150 cap applied; but subsequently it ruled otherwise, stating "There is no indication that section 116.780 overrides the ability to contract for a larger award." Thus, based on the attorney fee provision in the lease, the superior court awarded the tenants attorney fees of 10, 447.50.

    Of course, Dorsey appealed.

    In their decision, the Fourth District Appellate court engaged in a lengthy discussion of the history and intent of the legislation that created the small claims court system. The court observed "From the outset, the Legislature and courts have acted to make small claims court cost effective for litigants -- so litigants may bring these claims to court without spending more money on attorneys fees and court expenses than the claims were worth"

    Thus, the court wrote "... our task is to interpret section 116.780c to give effect to the Legislatures clearly stated intent to create an expeditious and inexpensive method of resolving disputes and to avoid the complexity and delay of ordinary litigation. This intent can be effectuated only if section 116.780c overrides any conflicting contractual attorney fee provision."

    The superior court was ordered to vacate its order granting attorney fees in the amount of 10,373 and to enter a new order granting the Crosiers attorney fees in the amount of 150.

    The lesson: Yes, you can be represented by an attorney in an appeal of a small claims ruling. But the most the attorney is going to be awarded is 150. Good luck finding one.

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

    Full Story >

    4 Tips to Maintain Your New Homes Value

    Unfortunately, you cant just expect to buy a home and have its value automatically rise along with inflation and the home market as a whole - Unless you live in downtown Manhattan

    Maintaining the value of your home is all about making sensible improvements and getting into the habit of smart maintenance.

    Weve put together 4 simple tips and points of consideration to make sure you dont overlook the key areas of your new home that may have a serious implication on its overall value.

    1. Regular Maintenance

    Its essential to perform regular maintenance around the house if you want to maintain the value. Two key but lesser known areas of maintenance are your air-conditioning system and your furnace heating system.

    Your furnace is sometimes connected to your HVAC unit, but most of us ra>

    Aside from swapping air filters, you should be oiling the motor on older units. Never store hazardous chemicals near the furnace and if your unit is quite old five plus years then we strongly recommend having a professional come over to inspect it.

    You can find some more detailed advice on residential air filters on this Government website.

    2. Fix Heat Leakers

    We all know theres little drafts around the house that we can feel during those cold and windy months, but many of us simply wont do anything about it. Small cracks in doorways and windows are the 1 culprit, and theyll slowly but su>

    They also have a knock on effect - These annoyances will sap your furnace and AC systems too, forcing them to work even harder.

    Avoiding the long term implications of the above is key. This wont directly raise your property value, but it will maintain and extend the value, avoiding any unpleasant suprises down the line.

    3. Landscaping amp; Gardening


    Many experts suggest investing as much as 10 of your homes overall value into landscaping if youre considering a sale, with homeowners expecting at least 150 return on their investment. Such is the high value that buyers place on an immaculate garden.

    4. Do Major Repairs The Right Way

    If you need to take care of major high ticket repairs or improvements - New furnace, windows, insulation, solar energy or even a home extension, then please never sacrifice on quality These are all major selling factors when you come to sell your home, and they will be significantly noted and appreciated by your estate agent. Theres nothing worse than seeing a home extension built to low-quality standards which isnt in-keeping with the rest of the home. If youre making major repairs or improvements, do it the right way

    This article was written by Melissa Kennedy, on behalf of YourFilterConnection.Com - Americas leading furnace and air filter supplier, with every size filter imaginable

    Full Story >

    5 Great Reasons to Relocate to Texas

    When you think of the term "state pride," whats the the state that comes to mind first? If you thought of Texas, youre not alone Texans are the most likely of all U.S. citizens to say that their state is "the very best place to live," and with all of the songs and mottos Texans use to sing their states praises, its no wonder Texas has come to be known as one of the states with the most pride.

    As it turns out, residents of the Lone Star State may not be far off in their assessment. From the highly liveable cities to the amazing natural scenery, and from the unique food scene to the low costs of living, here are 5 great reasons why you should think about >

    Theres something for everyone.

    No matter what your needs and wants are when it comes to finding a new place to live, Texas can deliver. Looking to experience some big city living? Not only is Houston the fourth largest city in the U.S., its also the most racially and ethnically diverse metro area in the nation, is considered one of the countrys "most exciting places to eat," and has an abundance of world->

    Or, perhaps youre interested in a more >

    Texas is foodie heaven.

    From tender barbecued brisket to spicy and authentic Tex-Mex, the Lone Star State is easily one of the top U.S. states for food lovers. There are plenty of regional favorites like kolaches, chili, and BBQ, but Texas also knows how to do international cuisine exceptionally well fun fact: Houston has more than 11,000 restaurants.

    Texas is also considered one of the top states for craft breweries, and the local beer selection includes favorites such as St. Arnolds, Shiner Bock, and Lone Star. You can eat and drink your way through all of Texas and never get bored

    Theres an abundance of natural wonders.

    Think Texas is all flat plains and tumbleweeds? Think again From the Rio Grande Valleys endless beaches and lush wetlands to the vast deserts of West Texas, the Lone Star State is amazingly diverse in terms of geography and landscapes. See the night skies and rugged mountains of Big Bend State Park, explore the second-largest canyon in the U.S. at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, follow the scenic Texas Wine Trail in the Hill Country, and tube along the clear blue waters of the San Marcos River.

    Whatever kind of outdoor adventures youre seeking, Texas is sure to delight and surprise you.

    Say goodbye to state income taxes.

    Need a way to get more of your paycheck into your own pockets? Thanks to Texass lack of state income taxes, youll see more of your money each and every time you get paid. Factor that in with the states overall low cost of living, and itll feel easier than ever to stretch your dollar further than ever before when you make your move to Texas.

    Texas has a thriving real estate market.

    Speaking of stretching your dollar, Texas is considered to be one of the best states for investing in real estate. The states housing market is one of the strongest in the nation, and took only a mild hit after the 2008 recession unlike most other U.S. real estate markets. In addition to the robust housing market, Texas also boasts affordable home prices, as well as strong population and job growth.

    A great place to live and promising investment opportunities? Sounds like a win-win

    Full Story >

    5 Steps to Find Perfect Furniture for Your New Home

    Congratulations on your new home This is an opportunity to think holistically about the interior design and decoration of your home. Have you ever been in a house where nothing seems to go with anything else? A house with stylistic clashes in its furniture and decor can feel like a conversation in which no one is listening to anyone else. Follow these steps for a smooth decorating transition to your new home.

    1. Planning

    The first step is to survey the territory. Start by listing any furniture or decorative element a rug or framed art you are keeping from your prior home. Also consider design aspects such as wall color, textures and lighting. Some of these you can choose and others you will need to take into consideration as you plan.

    Do you have a family heirloom piece of furniture that is coming with you to the new house? Your subsequent purchases will need to work well with the heirloom. Always take a moment and ask yourself why you are keeping a piece. If you dont love it, theres no shame in letting it go to a home where it will be loved.

    2. Preparing

    The perfect time to paint is before the furniture goes in. Dont make your paint purchases without thinking about the rest of the interior. For example, have you always wanted a bright red sofa? If you are going to pick a bold color for a major item of furniture, think neutral for the walls.

    Another common preparation is refinishing wood floors. Take into consideration the color of the floors and moldings and how they will interact visually with the rest of your interior.

    3. Prioritizing

    You may be able to acquire all of your furniture before you move in. But that isnt always possible. Prioritize your furniture purchases around your familys needs. Especially if you have children, your first wish may be a dining or kitchen table and chairs. The table is a gathering place for the whole family, and being able to eat together will make the house feel like home quickly. Make sure the kids have a say in what their rooms will look like seeking their input can help ease their moving blues.

    If you are a couple without children, you might find it an adventure to picnic on the floor for the first few weeks, and the bedroom might be the first room you want to furnish.

    4. Purchasing

    Consider buying all the major pieces in each room from one furniture line. These pieces are designed to go together, and once you find a piece you really love, see what else is available from that designer.

    Celebrity brand lines of furniture are not mere gimmicks to capitalize on the stars name recognition. Rather, such brands are designed to evoke the mood and emotion most associated with that celebrity. A lot of work goes into the line to create a cohesive and evocative >

    5. Getting Help

    You dont need to hire an interior decorator. However, if you need some help, you can find many online tutorials on interior decorating and design, some of which are free.

    Full Story >

    Chic Nurseries Without A Pink Frill Or Dump Truck In Sight

    Forget about duckies and bunnies and trucks and baseballs. Babys rooms today dont have to be typical in theme or in color. In fact, theyre increasingly every bit as chic as their adult counterparts - and even more so, judging by some of the rooms were seeing today.

    "Just because youre decorating for a little one doesnt mean you need to sacrifice >

    If youre getting ready to bring home baby, youll want to see these ideas for creating a standout nursery.

    Mixing patterns is a favorite way to create interest in other areas of the home, so why not in your nursery? The fun, graphic pattern on the walls will inspire creativity for years to come.


    Have an awkward space youre turning into your nursery? This room shows how an angled wall can help create a cozy, nook feel while still remaining fashion-forward.

    Best Baby Decoration

    This wall treatment provides an interesting textural element that serves as a unique backdrop to a room filled with bold color choices.

    Project Nursery

    A babys room is the perfect pace to experiment with fun color combinations that go beyond pink and blue. The gray and yellow here bring a modern touch, especially when combined with the clean lines of the furniture, while the stripes are fun and fresh without being too "babyish."


    Or, take your love of color up a notch with a deep hue on the walls that sets off a natural mural and a unique palette for the rest of the space.

    Parent Society

    Love the idea of bringing lots of color into your nursery but want to think beyond the walls and upholstery. We love this cantaloupe-hued crib.


    In this sweet room, the ceiling is the star, giving baby bold stripes to gaze at as hes drifting off to sleep.

    Cute Baby Pictures

    Not all chic baby rooms have to be modern, and they dont have to feature a collection of brand-new items either. If your >;

    Sometimes, you just have to go all princess on your baby room. With ornate moldings, bold fabric choices, and fun accessories, this is a room any little girl would love.


    Full Story >

    Are New Loans Opening Up Doors For Buyers Or Foretelling Another Crash?

    Theres a famous scene in the 2015 Oscar-nominated film The Big Short where Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling, tries to explain the pending real estate market crash and the ensuing EXTREME money-making opportunity for those who foretold it by playing Jenga.

    It perfectly encapsulated how the housing bubble burst, and how a few astute, yet decidedly morose, investors became filthy rich, by playing the "Dont pass" bar. Vennetts most convincing line: Im standing in front of a burning house, and Im offering you fire insurance on it"

    The whole idea that the real estate market was built on such shaky ground was hard for many to understand, which is why only a few benefitted financially by betting against the market while so many others went under.

    But are we at risk of repeating the same mistakes that led to the market crash in the first place? Is the house on fireagain? It wouldnt be all that surprising. Whether you believe the crisis was created by greedy banks, greedy borrowers, Wall Street incompetence in combination with greed, all of the above, or other factors enti>

    Current market conditions

    Overall, the real estate market remains strong, although there are signs that some of the fastest-appreciating markets over the past few years, like San Francisco, may be starting to crest "Home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area were down 1.8 on a year-over-year basis in March, the first such drop in four years," said MarketWatch.

    DS News noted the mortgage default rate "was creeping up" at the end of last year - not enough to sound the alarm, but definitely worth noting, especially in the context of where we were before the market crash a decade ago.

    "The first mortgage default index - one of four indices that make up the composite - ticked up by two basis points from 0.82 percent up to 0.84 percent. December marked the third consecutive month with an increase for the first mortgage default rate, which climbed by one basis point in November and five basis points in October," they said. But, "Even after the three straight months of increases, Decembers first mortgage default rate was still down by 18 basis points from December 2014s rate of 1.02 percent."

    How Foreclosures Work

    "Iffy" loan packages

    "The wave of foreclosures starting in 2007 that dragged the economy into recession and triggered a global financial crisis was driven in large part by a collapse in underwriting standards," said the New York Times. "Lenders offered mortgages to people with wildly inadequate incomes or down payments or documentation. Lending standards are much tighter now."

    Presumably, thats still true. But a few new products and programs aimed squa>

    And which side of the homebuying equation youre on.

    For buyers, the new Affordable Loan Solution Mortgage from Bank of America is a blessing. This new loan product offers a down payment lower than FHA at three percent, and without Private Mortgage Insurance PMI.

    "The program, a partnership between Bank of America, Freddie Mac, and non-profit Self-Help Ventures Fund, is targeted towards low - and moderate - income borrowers," said The Street. "To qualify, borrowers cant make more than the HUD area median income and must have a credit score of 660 or higher. As an example, for 2016, New York City-based borrowers with a household of one would need an income below 65,200 to qualify for the program. The median income threshold could rule out a lot of potential borrowers. Even still, Bank of America expects to originate 500 million of loans under the program this year."

    Thats A LOT of loans to buyers who, if they default, offer zero protection for BofA. And its not the only new loan targeting millennials with low down payments and no PMI.

    "SoFi, an online lender initially focused on offering a student loan refinancing product, now originates mortgages in 25 states and Washington D.C. SoFis mortgages allow borrowers to put down as little as 10 without requiring PMI," they said.

    PMI is a nuisance for borrowers, for sure. Adding a couple hundred dollars to your monthly payment when youre already struggling to make monthly payments is a drag. But thats, quite literally, the price you pay for not being better qualified or having more money to put down. Right?

    Even more concerning: "While traditional lenders may have firm debt-to-income limits generally up to 45, SoFi has more fluid debt-to-income limits, which may allow borrowers to ultimately qualify for more financing, up to a maximum of 3 million.

    Streamlining it

    The Streamline Refinance is another program that may need a little more oversight - or an overhaul - down the line if the default rate rises to an uncomfortable level.

    "The FHA Streamline is a refinance mortgage loan available to homeowners with existing FHA mortgages," said The Mortgage Reports. "The program simplifies home refinancing by waiving the documentation typically required by a bank, including income and employment verification, bank account and credit score verification, and an appraisal of the home."

    The Streamline Refi does take into account a borrowers payment history. But all that other stuff that banks require to judge the worthiness of a buyer and a purchase are gone. Again, great for a borrower. Maybe not so much for the institution doing the lending. You could be a broke, jobless mess living in a house that youve trashed, but as long as you havent been late on any of your house payments yet, you can refinance, which will lower your payment but raise what you owe. Better hope values dont take a hit in your neighborhood.

    The return of the ARM

    For many, even the mention of an ARM is enough to give them foreclosure flashbacks. Brace yourself: they appear to be making a comeback.

    "Adjustable rate mortgages, the bane of consumer advocates, and the trap door for hundreds of thousands of homeowners who saw their mortgage payments rise in the heat of the Great Recession, are staging a comeback," said The Street. Michael Moskowitz, president of Equity Now, a direct mortgage lender in New York, told them: "Now there are signs that adjustable rate mortgages, which faded out of sight a few years ago, may be achieving a new life of sorts," says. "Some borrowers see them as a way to save money and to make it easier to qualify for a mortgage."

    So what does this all mean in bubble terms? Not surprisingly, no one knows for sure. And, as far we we know, Vennett isnt waiting around with a Jenga game for round two. But, the combination of iffy loans and rising rates - theyve already gone up once this year and chatter is theyre rising again this month - is worth paying attention to.

    "Right now interest rates are still low," said Investopedia. "That means that mortgages are still cheap, and people have access to them." But, with rising rates, "The demand will shrink, and thus the housing prices will level off or drop."

    If the job market also takes a hit or other economic conditions transpire, we could have another problem on our hands.

    "We are putting a lot of buyers into homes who have very little skin in the game," said the Claremont Courier. "This works fine as long as people keep their jobs and the market keeps moving upward, but what happens when the economy turns around for other reasons? When lenders used to require 20 percent down, borrowers had enough built-in equity that they could often weather the storm if prices declined. They had enough equity to likely prevent them from being "underwater" on their mortgage. But what happens when prices trend downward, the real estate market turns and people find themselves needing to sell their homes, and they only had 3.5 or 5 percent equity to start with? This could cause another large string of defaults on homeowners mortgages."

    If theres one thing we know for sure: buying a home is no game. And there are few winners - when people start losing them.

    Full Story >

    Do You Allow Renters Into Your Vacation Rental Without A Background Check?

    Vacation home owners: You have a vacation home that you rent out to many leisu>

    Because most of your guests are respectful and are simply looking for a place to >

    Although most sharing websites like these verify profiles through social media platforms and through submitting government-issued IDs, there is no process to vet users through background checks to make sure they do not have a criminal history. A user with bad intentions can easily portray to be someone else and submit another individuals likeness, create social media pages in a matter of minutes, and produce fraudulent documents.

    The entire process is done online. How do they distinguish false identity documents from real ones? How do they know that the person claiming to be Jill Smith is in fact Jill Smith? A picture, Facebook profile and scans of a passport or a drivers license are not enough.

    Running a background check on your vacation renter enables you to make a more informed decision on who to allow in your home for a few nights, perhaps weeks. It is easy, takes less than 5 minutes and can be very reasonably priced. Tenant screening reports provide detailed information such as a National Criminal Records Search, credit report amp; score, and even incident reporting. An incident report will allow you to view any past lease violations from rental properties the individual has occupied.

    If youre an owner of multifamily property, then you are aware of the amount of influence a background check has on your decision on whether to accept or reject a vacation renter. Taking care of your investment by screening renters will pay dividends in the long run. Screening renters mean less maintenance, repair and home insurance costs.

    You will have peace of mind because your assets will be in better hands. Many of these users are often paying upwards of 300 per night for accommodation, however, this does not give them license to disrespect your home.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Why Board Business Should Only Be Done At Board Meetings

    Question: Our board president likes to conduct business by email. The board hasnt met face to face for almost a year.

    Answer: Board business should be done at board meetings unless there is an emergency. The reasons are several:

    1. Open discussion of the issues pro and con

    2. Members can monitor how the board does business.

    3. Proposals are enacted by motion, second and majority vote.

    4. Actions are recorded in the minutes so all members know how and when it took place.

    The exception to these rules is when items have already been approved in the annual budget and the board president or manager are me>

    Remind your board president of how HOA business needs to be transacted and that owners are entitled to an orderly process, open meetings, etc. If he is bent on doing business secretly email, phone, door to door, run for the board and encourage other like minded owners to do the same with the objective of making a change.

    Question: We have a problem with residents letting their pets wander or not cleaning up after them.

    Answer: Monitoring pet activity is extremely difficult. While some residents allow their dogs to roam, cat owners are often the most frequent offenders. And roaming animals can come from other properties as well. Frequent reminders via newsletters are important. If there are quite a few resident pets and large grounds, you might consider installing pet waste stations that provide bags and disposal containers. Some cities have companies that will actually restock and pick up the waste on a regular schedule. Or the landscape contractor could include it in his list of duties.

    Question: Our HOA requires board approval for structural modifications and alterations. The term "structural" is not defined within the CCamp;Rs. A homeowner has applied to the board for approval to remove a rear closet wall non-weight bearing, thereby utilizing the former hallway closet space to enlarge his kitchen area. We believe that the definition of "structural" is critical to understanding whether or not the boards authorization is actually required in this situation.

    Answer: "Structural" means weight bearing modifications or anything that modifies exterior appearance. But for safetys sake, the board should have an architect or engineer review all plans for wall removal and not assume that an owner knows which ones are structural or not.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

    Full Story >

    How To Make The Most Of Your Small Backyard

    Small backyards can sometimes seem limiting in terms of what you can add to them. Dont be deterred though, as there is a plethora of ways to decorate it. Small backyards have many landscaping options to make them beautiful and open. Here are some ideas to help.

    1. Install a deck.

    Adding a deck is a quick, efficient and natural way to add onto a small backyard. It will also cost less than the national average if you have a small backyard. They are also good for adding two levels, which can be good if you want to have one for dining and another for plants. Its also a way to separate the yard from another type of space without taking up a lot of room. Pro tip: deck boards should be laid diagonally, not straight to optimize yard square footage.

    2. Hang potted plants and boxed gardens.

    If you want to save more ground space in the yard and still enjoy many flowers and shrubs, you can optimize the walls, roofs and windows of your home. By installing wooden shelves or hooks, you can hang flower boxes or potted plants. This will leave plenty of room in your garden for trees, a dining space, water features or other installations that might have been more difficult to fit in otherwise.

    Hanging plants Photo courtesy of Stuber Land Design, Inc.

    3. Use smaller furniture.

    If you arent planning to hold huge parties in the backyard, then you should buy smaller furniture. Instead of couches, buy loveseats and chairs and rather than a long rectangular chair, you might consider a circular table. By having smaller furniture on your deck, patio or in the backyard, there will be more space available for movement and other decor. You might also consider having an awning over the furniture, whether its a simple fabric awning or an extension of your roof, so you can enjoy the furniture during inclement weather.

    Small furniture Photo courtesy of Saunders Designs

    4. Keep it simple and clean.

    While youre limited in square footage, this does not mean you should try and fit every single flower, shrub and tree you can. Otherwise there will be overgrowth, and maintenance will be difficult. Instead, you should keep the landscape design simple. Focus on the essentials of the backyard: grass, some shrubs and flowers artfully placed throughout. You can organize it better by installing flower beds and potted plants for easier management.

    Clean yard Photo courtesy of Able Landscaping

    5. Go bold on the color scheme.

    Although you have to be simple with what investments you make in the landscape, you can still be bold with the colors. Reds, blues, purples, oranges, yellows--the color scheme is endless. You want your small backyard to jump out to visitors and you when walking out the back door. By having a rainbow of colors, the small backyard will look and feel like a heavenly garden even if its not the biggest one in the neighborhood.

    Colors Photo courtesy of Design Green Landscapes

    6. Erect fencing thats visual rather than private.

    If you want to make your small backyard feel bigger without the square footage, then install a fence thats not private. Choose a design thats visual like lattice, picket or chain link with sunlight showing through to accent the yard. You might also consider materials like wood or vinyl to add onto the natural appearance of the small yard. Local fencing contractors will be able to recommend the best materials and height for your needs.

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

    Full Story >

    Ontarios Growth Plan Would Increase Densification, Protect Environment

    Ontarios proposed growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe GGH area is being hailed by some as the pathway to "a better quality of life for residents" but slammed by others who say it "means less housing choice and higher prices for home buyers."

    The GGH includes the cities of Toronto and Hamilton. It extends south to Niagara, east to Waterloo, north to Orillia and east to Peterborough. The province says the area will grow by four million people during the next 25 years, to a population of 13.5 million, working in 6.3 million jobs.

    The proposed growth plan incorporates changes to four existing land use plans that have been developed over the years. They include protection of the environmentally sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. It also includes the Greenbelt Plan, which was implemented in 2005 to halt urban sprawl and protect agricultural lands.

    Some key elements of the proposal:

    Increase densification targets in existing built-up areas to 60 per cent from 40 per cent

    Increase densification in other areas excluding natural heritage features such as wetlands and woodlands, rights of way for infrastructure and prime employment areas to 80 residents and jobs per hectare from 50

    Require zoning along transit corridors to provide adequate density to support transit

    Add the lands within 21 major urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands to the Greenbelt

    Preserve farmland by setting "strict requirements for the expansion of urban areas and allowing more flexibility for agricultural use in the Greenbelt"

    Require municipalities to integrate climate change policies into their official plans and to conduct climate change vulnerability risk assessments when planning or replacing infrastructure.

    "Ontario recognizes the myriad problems created by sprawl, from residents stuck in cars for hours to rising carbon emissions to municipal debts due to the higher costs of servicing sprawl developments," says Tim Gray, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Environmental Defence. In an editorial published by the Toronto Star, Gray writes, "If implemented property, this plan will bring more efficient land use, more climate-friendly communities, a greater variety of housing options and better quality of life for residents."

    Ontarios home builders have a different view.

    "This announcement means that youre going to see more intensification, more condos, less choice and higher prices," says Brian Tuckey, president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association. "The residential construction industry will adapt, as it has in the past -- its going to be the residents and new home buyers that are going to pay the price."

    The builders note that housing prices in the Greater Toronto Area have seen huge increases in the last 10 years. The average price of a detached home in the GTA was 459,000 in 2006 and is more than 1 million today, while condo apartments have gone from an average of less than 300,000 in 2006 to 459,000 in 2016. The average new condo is also smaller than it was 10 years ago.

    Gray says there is no evidence that the Greenbelt policies are responsible for the jump in housing prices. "Sprawl-hungry developers perpetrate the myth because they want to continue their outdated pattern of paving over some of the best farmland to build car-dependent, low-density housing," he wrote. "Toronto housing prices are primarily increasing because people want to live in urban areas with a mix of housing options that are served by public transit and have high walk-scores, jobs and green spaces."

    The builders say they support the move to have density along transit lines, but that congestion is already a serious problem throughout the Toronto and Hamilton areas, "and more intensification will make it worse unless there are massive public investments in infrastructure. The current financing system disproportionately places the brunt of paying for these infrastructure projects on new home buyers."

    They also say that increasing density in existing communities is a bad idea because these areas "do not have the necessary infrastructure in place transit, schools, hospitals, roads to support these density targets."

    Ontario Home Builders Association president Joe Vaccaro says the organization supports adding river valleys and wetlands to the Greenbelt, but says, "We need to build new communities where residents have housing choice with access to green space, good public transit and jobs."

    The government is looking for feedback on the proposals until Sept. 30, 2016. Comments can be posted online.

    Full Story >

    Insurance And Animal Bites In Your HOA

    Question: My condominium association is overrun with dogs. We are concerned that someone will be injured, and we will be sued because we did not impose the proper precautions. What should we do? Anne.

    Answer: Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention CDC almost half were children. And 1 out of 5 bites become infected, with such diseases as rabies, MRSA -- a type of Staph infection, or different types of bacteria such as capnocytophaga or pasteu>

    In fairness to dog owners, the CDC reported that during the early part of this century, more cats than dogs were determined to be rabid. "The majority of these cases were associated with spillover infection from raccoons in the Eastern United States," CDC said, "and the larger number of rabied-infected cats might be attributed to fewer cat vaccination laws, fewer leash laws and the roaming habits of cats."

    Typically when a person is bitten -- and is infected or seve>

    Because of the volume of claims, many insurance companies are now refusing to insure homeowners or community associations where certain brands of dogs are present. Dogs such as pit bulls, rottweilers, akitas and chow-chows are often labeled as "dangerous" and insurance companies will either exclude injuries from these dogs or significantly increase the annual premium. You should immediately confirm with your insurance agent whether your policy covers dog bites, and from all kinds of dogs.

    For years, the law around the country was called the "one-bite rule". Owners -- regardless of the kind of animal -- would only be held responsible and liable for injuries caused if the owner knew or should have known the dog has dangerous propensities abnormal to its >

    Virginia still follows this rule. However, the owner may face criminal penalties if a "dangerous dog" causes injury or death. And all of the surrounding counties have some form of "leash law", requiring a dog to be on a leash at all times when outside of the home environment.

    Additionally, all dogs over four months old must be properly registered with the local county.

    In the District of Columbia, dogs must be leashed, vaccinated and registered. The Mayor -- acting through one of her agencies -- has the power to impound a dangerous animal, defined as an animal that because of specific training or demonstrated behavior threatens the health or safety of the public. The "one-bite" rule does not apply; if a dog injures a person while at large, lack of knowledge of the dogs vicious propensity will not necessarily be a defense; the court will look at all of the facts in order to determine if the owner was negligent.

    Maryland has an interesting dog law history. In 2012, the highest court in the state ruled that pit bulls are "inherently dangerous"and such a dog owner could be held to strict liability in the event of a dog bite. According to the court, "it is not necessary that the pit bulls owner have actual knowledge that the specific pit bull involved is dangerous".

    Pit bull owners -- and many other dog lovers -- rose up in arms, claiming this law unfairly singled out specific breeds. Accordingly, the Maryland legislature enacted a law that in essence repealed the high court ruling, thereby adopting a strict liability approach for any dangerous animal. According to the new law, dangerous dog is one, that without provocation, has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person. The law does, however, allow the dog owner to claim the defense of contributory negligence; the plaintiff cannot win if he contributed in any way to the dog bite.

    Maryland is unique in that the state law governs the specific licensing and other regulations certain counties may adopt or enforce. And many of the local counties, have, in fact, determined certain dogs as "dangerous.

    What can your association do? Adopt a rule that all dogs must be leashed when outside of the homeowners property, and require that all dogs register with the association, and show proof that the dog has been properly vaccinated. Furthermore, the rule should state that if any one is bitten by a dog, regardless of whether it was on a leash, the owner will be subject to a hearing and a possible fine. Furthermore, if any more incidents occur, unless the dog owner agrees to muzzle the dog when outside, the dog can be permanently removed from the area. In some cases, legal action may be necessary.

    And most importantly, the Board should confirm that the association has the necessary insurance coverage. People sleep better knowing there is insurance.

    In Maryland, the state dog is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever; the American Foxhound is the Virginia state dog. There is no such "State" dog in the District of Columbia.

    Full Story >

    What To Do When Your Tax Appraisal Comes In High

    Your house is worth how much more than it was last year? Hot damn You obviously made a smart buy. But while youre getting all excited about your great investment, you may not have thought about how it affects your property taxes... right up until that moment you open the mailbox and receive a notice that your rising equity means rising property taxes.


    If your expenses just went up alongside the perceived value of your home, well, youre not alone. Appraisals all over the country, especially in states like Texas, have risen substantially over the past few years - a byproduct of having some of the strongest real estate markets in the country. According to the Dallas County Central Appraisal District DCAD, "Tax assessments are rising 1213 this year, said CBS, and, in other hot areas, theyre up as much as 40.

    Thats the downside of appreciating real estate markets. But that doesnt mean you have to live with it.

    "Good news for Americans facing eye-popping property taxes: You can fight city hall, or whichever government body sends you this annual economic albatross," said Bankrate.

    The knowledge that "as many as 60 of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher amount than their current value, according to the National Taxpayers Union, said Kiplinger, should give homeowners some solace, or at least a little encouragement as they try to knock that appraisal down a bit or a bunch. If youre looking to lower those property taxes, here are a few things to try.

    Understand what youre dealing with

    Its important to note that while appraisals are generally based on a combination of local tax rates and assessed property value, they are not necessarily accurate on a house-by-house basis, Unless the government has a drone thats been spying on the inside of my house they dont, right?, Im quite sure they are unaware of how badly I need new floors. And a cooktop. And window coverings. In order to sell my home for what theyve appraised it for, I would need to do some updating and repairs. Most of us would, and that can help if youre planning to dispute your appraisal.

    Request Your "Property Tax Card"

    "Few homeowners realize they can go down to the town hall and request to view or receive a copy of their property tax cards from the local assessors office. The tax card provides the homeowner with information the town has gathered about the property over time," said Investopedia. Here youll find information about your lot size, exact room dimensions, fixtures, and details about any improvements that may have been made over time. Find any errors? You may have just discovered the key to lowering your taxes.

    "As you review this card, note any discrepancies and then raise these issues with the tax assessor. The assessor will either make the correction and/or conduct a re-evaluation. This tip sounds laughably simple, but mistakes are common. If you can find them, the township has an obligation to correct them."

    Fair Assessments

    Hire a professional

    For many, the surest bet when fighting increasing assessments is hiring a lawyer, property tax negotiator, or consultant. Keep in mind, though, that youll be paying for those servicesanywhere from one-third to one-half of the money saved if the taxes are lowered.

    Fight it yourself

    If you plan to do it on your own, you need to prepare yourself:

    First, locate your assessors office. This will help you find out precisely how the property tax calculation is derived and get their criteria for home appraisals.

    Fight it in person. According to experts, this is the most effective way to dispute your appraisal. Emails are often ignored or requests flat out refused. And make sure you "come armed and ready," said Banking My Way. Gathering comps from your real estate agent that outline recent sales for similar homes in your neighborhood is key. Taking pictures of areas of your home that need repair or arent in "selling shape" to illustrate why the higher appraisal number is inaccurate can also help.

    Put Zillow to use for you. Weve talked at length about the inaccuracies of Zillows Zestimates. But in this case, that might help bolster your case. Zestimates for your home and similar homes in your area showing lower than the appraised amount? Print out those pages and add them to your file.

    Network. If your communitys Nextdoor community is as lively as ours, its full of discussions and information about property taxes and appraisal disputes. Using social tools like this can help you get to know what your neighbors are up against and find common solutions specific to your neighborhood. It may also help you find someone to help guide your dispute.

    Do some reconnaissance. Neighbors with the same floorplan across the street have a pool? Make sure to mention that in the file youre putting together. Know whos redone their kitchen? Note that as well. "What many individuals dont realize is that in many cases, information about other home assessments in the area is also available to the public," said Investopedia. "You can often find discrepancies that could lower your taxes. For example, lets say that you have a four-bedroom home with a one-car garage, and your home was assessed at 250,000. Your neighbor also owns a four-bedroom home, but this house sports a two-car garage, a 150-square-foot shed and a beautiful swimming pool. Despite this, your neighbors home was valued at 235,000. If an error is found, it pays to bring it to the assessors attention as soon as possible so that you can get a reassessment if necessary."

    Pay attention to the timeframe

    Filing an official protest has to be done within a certain timeframe. You dont want to miss out on savings because of a missed deadline. In Texas, property owners only have until May 31 to challenge their property tax assessments.

    "Most municipalities differ, with some towns stipulating that you only have 14 days from the time of your property tax assessment to appeal, and some may go as high as 60 days," said Banking My Way. "Your towns tax appraisal office will have the deadline information."

    Full Story >

    Effectively Staging Your Home For Sale

    Youve accepted the job offer, met with the Realtor, and are starting to get bids from moving companies.

    Its officialyou really are selling your home and moving away

    As anybody who has ever sold a home knows quite well, it takes a lot more than sticking a For Sale sign in the front yard and hoping that potential buyers will love it as much as you did. In order to get the best price for your home and pique the interest and bidding power of buyers, you need to take some time to stage your home so that it looks and smellsyes, smellsterrific, inviting, and worth every dollar of your asking price.

    The following four tips can help home sellers effectively and attractively stage their home:

    1. Consider new window treatments

    Take a look at the various window coverings in your home and ask yourself if they look new, clean, and in excellent condition. If the answer to any of these questions is an honest no, then consider getting some new window treatments. Home window treatments are available in a variety of textures and colors, and can make a huge difference in the quality of light that enters a room.

    Photo by via Flickr

    2. Upgrade your tile with paint

    As HGTV notes, bathrooms have been known to help sell a home, but old and shabby tile will definitely steer potential buyers away faster than you can say avocado and almond tile. Because replacing tile can be on the costly side, sellers can repaint them. After coating the tiles with a primer be sure you purchase one that is marked high adhesion, paint the tiles with a ceramic epoxy coating. This >

    Photo by jbj via Flickr

    3. Tone down an old fireplace

    Sure, that brick fireplace in the living or family room looks great during the holidays when its festooned with stockings and the various trimmings of the season, but the rest of the year it really doesnt do much for the look of the room. To lessen its visual impact, try adding a thin coat of paint to the bricks. In order to avoid the mortar, you do have to paint one brick at a time, which can be time-consuming. But the pay-off of painting your fireplace is well worth your patience when you have a new neutral focal point in your room. One additional tip: to make sure the fireplace blends in as much as possible, choose a color that closely matches the surrounding walls.

    Photo by dusty via Flickr

    4. Simmer some apples

    Nothing will turn off home buyers faster than a musty, moldy, smoky, and/or any other type of undesirable smell. Even the cleanest home can often benefit from the addition of a nice aroma. Shortly before your open house, place some sliced apples and cinnamon sticks in a sauce pan on the stove, and let them simmer. The delicious smell will be sure to tempt potential buyers to spend even more timeand hopefully moneyon your home.

    Full Story >

    Tips For Selecting An Interior Door

    Take a minute to count the number of doors in your house. Surprising, right? Consider then, the impact that a little attention to the doors can have on the overall >

    Lets take a look at the options:


    Prices for interior doors vary depending on what theyre made of. There are pros and cons associated with the materials themselves that are worth considering before you start thinking about the different >

    Solid Wood: Believe it or not, most residential doors are not solid wood, but they offer such excellent soundproofing that they are a very popular upgrade. The weight of a solid wood door also lends a high-end feel when you swing it open or shut. Available in all kinds of wood, from exotic mahogany to the most common pine, solid wood gives you the option of staining to accentuate the beauty of the wood or painting to work with your decor.

    Solid Core: These doors are actually constructed of medium-density fiberboard MDF, which is essentially an engineered hardwood that is available in wood-grain or smooth finishes. These, too, offer great sound proofing and that high-end heft, and are arguably the best value for your money.

    Hollow Core: These are the most common and affordable doors available. Hollow-core doors are constructed with wood grain or smooth panels that cover a honeycomb-like center. Hollow-core doors are much lighter in weight and offer less soundproofing, but the upside is affordability.

    Prehung or Slab: Finally, its important to consider whether you will hang the door in an existing door frame, or purchase a door that is prehung in its frame. Hanging a heavier door is a more delicate process, so we recommend homeowners interested in solid wood doors consider prehung options. A lighter, hollow-core door is simple to hang from existing hinges as it doesnt have much impact in terms of weight.


    Once youve decided on the type of door that best fits your needs, its time to think about >

    Panel: Panel doors offer a little detail and history. The panels are constructed of rails and stiles to create two-, four- or six-panel options. Rails and stiles can be straight or curved to match your design aesthetic. Straight lines tend to fade to the background, which is often the best option when youre upgrading several doors in one space. Panel doors work well in more traditional design >

    Flush: Flush doors are just that: smooth, with no detailing. The lack of detail makes them a good choice in any decor, but especially if youre working with more contemporary >

    French doors: French doors are a beautiful upgrade in the right spot. The detailing of the panesand the light they bringimprove the look of any space, and the value as well. Great for exterior doors, they can also help open up interior spaces while still offering boundaries, both visually and spatially.

    Pocket doors: Pocket doors are problem solvers. They are the perfect solution in tight spaces, or as a way to add a little privacy within a larger space. They also add a custom flair. Installation requires wall space on one side of the door large enough to accommodate the door when its open. Dont forget that these are also available in flush and panel >

    Specialty doors

    Of course, there are a few door >

    Barn doors are a beautiful way to add real visual interest and architectural flair, and are much simpler to install than you might guess. A simple track above the door holds the panels and allows them to slide open and closed. Choose rustic, natural wood tones and textures or more tailored and polished door panels.

    Frosted glass inserts are a great way to let in the light and maintain privacy while adding a very custom, high-end look. Great for closet doors, they also work well in other interior and exterior situations.

    Those are just a few of our favorites. Whats on your wish list for interior doors?

    Kerrie Kelly is an award-winning interior designer and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in northern California. Kerrie writes on interior design topics for Home Depot. Many of the interior doors mentioned by Kerrie in the article can be viewed online at

    Full Story >

    Living Like Royalty: Castles You Can Really Own

    That old saying, "Your home is your castle?" Its true for some who actually LIVE IN A CASTLE. And you could be one of them.

    For many of todays grand castles, you have to move to Europe like this 17 million, 16-acre French chateau. But if youre looking to live like Downton Abbey while staying stateside, you still have plenty of options.

    "If you think only kings and queens live in castles, youre royally wrong," said Today. "The U.S. real estate market has no shortage of grand estates for sale, but lording over your own manor doesnt come cheaply."

    You dont have to live in the French countryside. Just live in a home that was created in its image, like this 14,000-square-foot custom estate that was "inspired by Frances Chateau de Chambord," said Business Insider. The home is located just outside of Washington, DC in McLean, VA, is buffered by more than two acres of National Forest, and features "a gourmet outdoor kitchen, wine grotto, pool, and a 5-car garage." It could be all yours for 12,900,000.


    This private family estate named Highlands Castle is located in Bolton Landing upstate New York, sitting at the top of a mountain, overlooking Lake George and the Queen of American lakes, with the Adirondack Mountains all around. Youll feel like the King or Queen of the world in this private oasis, which offers 12,000 square feet of living space on 8.66 acres, along with a "grand entrance with romantic Romeo amp; Juliet stained glass doors, separate Gatehouse with living quarters, full bathroom, and two bedrooms, separate Guest House with living quarters, full bathroom, and two bedrooms," said Prestige Property. So whatll it run you for such royal grandeur? A mere 12,800,000.

    Prestige Property

    With eight bedrooms, seven baths and and more than 22,000 square feet, youll have plenty of room to host lavish parties on this 75-acre property.

    Known as "The Chateau," this architectural estate is situated on 2.74 acres in the exclusive waterfront community of Costa Bella in Austin, TX. With 13,600 square feet, the home boasts seven bedrooms, nine baths, two pools, and a massive gourmet country French kitchen, along with a 1,600-bottle wine room, a hi-def 3D theater, and a private boat dock. Its currently for sale for 9,988,000.


    Known as Chrismark Castle, this fortress in Woodstock, Connecticut has eight bedrooms and comes with 75 acres of land, plus its own lake. Its "owned by Christopher Mark, the great-grandson of Chicago steel tycoon Clayton Mark Senior. Mark caused quite a fuss when he bought the parcel and began building his 20-room castle back in 2003," said The Chive. "According to Connecticut Magazine, it took 7 years and 4.1 million to build. In total, Chrismark Castle has 20 rooms, 12 fireplaces, a maids room, library, pool, and massage rooms," and is for sale for 32 million.

    The Chive

    A little too rich for your blood? How about Tiffany Castle in Kansas City, Missouri, which can be yours for 599,900. "This home, built in 1909, is definitely the best deal in our roundup," said Huffington Post. "For just shy of 600,000, the future owner will get to lord over five bedrooms, four baths, a grand staircase and a faux lookout tower."

    According to Fox 4, the castle measures 4,200 square feet, is located in the Historic Northeast neighborhood of KC, and is for sale for "only the eighth time in 100 years."

    Tiffany Castle Facebook

    This historic mansion in Cleveland Heights, Ohio has a pedigree, having been designed in 1910 by respected architect Frank Meade, and, its a movie star, having appeared in "Captain America: The Winter Solider." The Elizabethan Tudor known as Harcourt Manor offers more than 8,000 square feet, with eight eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms plus eight fireplaces. Even better: its only 650,000.

    Full Story >

    8 Easy And Cheap Things You Can Do To Transform Your Bathroom

    Cringing every time you walk into your bathroom? You dont need to rip the whole thing out. "Reviving a tired washroom neednt require a total overhaul," said This Old House.

    Indeed, small changes can help make it feel new again, and many of them are easy enough for you to do by yourself. Careful attention to the right materials can also keep these updates super affordable.

    1. Paint

    Choose a neutral color if you want a soothing backdrop for pops of color in your accessories, or a bolder shade that can create a glam space.

    Or, "Create a striking monochromatic effect by painting walls to match your floors, as was done in this sunny space," said This Old House.

    This Old House

    2. Forget the walls; paint your vanity instead

    A painted vanity can take your bathroom from blah to beautiful in an instant. Adding some bold hardware and matching fixtures is the extra touch that your bathroom needs to really shine. Here, the golden hues play beautifully off of the turquoise and white, but chrome would work equally well.

    dcor pad

    3. Replace your vanity

    If your vanitys not worth salvaging, it might be time for a new one. The DIY Network calls a vanity replacement an "easy bathroom makeover" and provides step-by-step instructions. When it comes to what to replace the old one with, you can scour stores like Lowes and Home Depot for sales or check out places like Second and Surplus. This 24-inch, soft close vanity with undermount sink is only 299.

    Seconds and Surplus

    4. Address your floors

    If your bathroom floors are grungy or grimy, a good scrubbing with a heavy-duty product is step one. But if your tile is old and ugly or you have vinyl thats seen better days, it might just be time to replace it. Laying new flooring might not be a DIY job depending what you have We tried to do our own tile once, and we wont be repeating that mistake anytime soon..

    Our easy answer for ugly floors were not ready to replace: a good throw rug. Its an easy and cheap, albeit temporary solution that can help distract you from a poor floor. Tip: get the biggest size you can find, which may mean buying a rug thats not necessarily intended for the bathroom. Be sure to ask the sales associate if the material is water resistant or you could end up with a mold problem.

    Timberline Custom Homes

    5. Create a spa shower

    You dont need thousands to create a shower that feels like youre in a resort. The Dreamspa Temperature Sensitive LED Combination Shower Head is under 80, and gives you a three-way water diverter, 30 water flow patterns, and even changes colors depending on the water temperature.

    Prefer a rainhead? "Theyre softer and less grating, making each shower feel like a special occasion, not an obligation," said Elle Decor. "It doesnt have to be a big investment, either: This highly-rated rainfall->

    6. Add shelving

    Whether you lack storage or just want to add a focal point to your walls, open shelving may be your answer.


    7. Cover up problem walls

    Walls not looking so great? In many older homes, the texture can be uneven or problematic, and paint may not do the trick. Installing beadboard is an easy solution you can do on your own.

    "Thriftier than most wall tile and less maintenance than wood, beadboard paneling made from cellular PVC stands up to sloshing and never needs to be painted," said This Old House. If white is too traditional for you, thats nothing a can of paint cant fix.


    8. Change out your lighting

    Youd be surprised how big an impact a new light fixture can make in your bathroom. Not only will it bring a fresh, new focal point, but the light it gives off may also improve the entire look of the room. This easy DIY job can be done in a jif- the hardest part will probably picking out your new fixture


    Full Story >



    Copyright© 2016 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved
    Featured Properties
    Featured Property
    Currently Unavailable.
    South Beach Condos
    Follow us on Facebook
    Follow us on twitter
    Visit our Mobile Website
    Updated: Saturday, June 25, 2016

    9 Reasons To Visit A Home At Night Before Buying

    Everyone knows someone who knows someone who moved into what seemed like a perfectly great h...
    > Full Story

    The Art Of Tree Pruning In Your HOA

    Trees are living artwork that decorate the common area. They are beautiful and soothe the so...
    > Full Story

    Broker-Owned Escrows Need To Submit Activity Reports

    It appears that the California Real Estate Commissioner is more than a tad annoyed with one ...
    > Full Story

    Copyright © 2016 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

    ©2016 TiransMaxx Real Estate

    2520 SW 22 Street, Suite 345 Miami, FL 33145  |  Tel1: (786) 262-6182  |  Fax: (305) 675-6472  |