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Updated: Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Hacking The RAST: 35 And a Million Ways To Make It Your Own

Everyone loves a bargain. And at a mere 35, IKEAs famous RAST three-drawer chest is most certainly that. Its also practical, functional, great for storage in practically any space, made of actual wood, and, best of all, easy to transform to match nearly any >

In fact, hacking the RAST is so popular among DIYers, interior designers, and everyone in between, its become a sort of sport with Pinterest boards and websites offering countless images, options, and tutorials.

In honor of cooler fall weather that makes us want to get outside and sand stuff, stain stuff, stud stuff and sexify stuff - without the dripping sweat - we present a few of our favorite things to do with the RAST. Wed rank them from most fave to least fave of all the fave faves, but, truth is, we just cant. Theres no Sophies Choice-ing the RAST.

We love the masculine, equestrian feel the medium stain and leather straps give this version from IKEA Hackers.

If you can stain, sand, stencil, and find the right shade of chalk paint, you can create this fun industrial version from IKEA Hackers. Youll also need to be able to use a jigsaw to create the hand pulls.

Stained black and prettied up with some stainless hardware, the RAST takes on a whole new feel in this creation from Oh Everything Handmade. Push two together, and you have a handsome sideboard.

Dont spend a grand on a modern nightstand. Create your own grand version for a fraction of a fraction using this tutorial from For Me For You.

This glamorous version demonstrated by The Abundant Abode uses yards of nailhead trim, glass pulls, and a slab of marble for the top. If the diamond pattern isnt your thing, go curvy and pull in a deco vibe.

Want a few more ideas for making the RAST your own? Check out IKEA Hackers, Apartment Therapy, and Addicted 2 Decorating.

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Going Exotic: Countertops With Personality

Granite, quartz, marble, concrete - there are so many >

Go exotic, and youll never be worried about someone coming over and pointing out that they have the exact same countertop in their bathroom. Make a smart choice, and even though your upfront cost may be greater, you just might get paid back in the end.

"Indeed, unique kitchen countertops add a wow factor to your home, and just might help increase its value," said HGTV.

Gemstones and geodes imbedded in your countertop are a growing trend and one of the hottest looks in high-end kitchen design.

"If you want to turn your cooking area into something spectacular and full of color, gemstone countertops are a good place to start," said Scottsdale Design Center. "Gemstone countertops are made from semiprecious stones like Hematite, Tigers-eye, and Amethyst embedded in a resin base."

You can choose a material that can be backlit like this onyx countertop from Houzz.

Semi-precious gemstones in earth tones like this agate geode countertop.

Or in a bolder hue that reflects your >

You can go super exotic with granite, but be prepared to pay exotic prices.

Speaking of exotic prices, neither gemstones nor granite nor any other material compares to the priciest one out there.

Pyrolave is a volcanic stone "that is extracted from a volcanic crater in central France," said This Old House. Its said to be both lightweight and durable and coated with a with a tough glass coating. Available in 32 colors, it is a whopping 370 per square foot.

Perhaps metal is a better option. Stainless steel counters have long been a favorite in the kitchen - especially for professional chefs. But today the trend is moving toward other metals, like this copper countertop that patinas naturally over time.

Or, choose recycled metal, a new trend among eco-friendly homeowners. A growing segment of the countertop market, recycled and earth-friendly materials can help create a unique and beautiful kitchen that is also respectful of the environment. These countertops are made from recycled glass.

And this stunning option from Freshome is reclaimed wood.

You can also stay eco-friendly with paper countertops.

"Paper countertops are often 100 post-consumer recycled cardboard and, as one of the biggest manufacturers, PaperStone, states, "[is] a petroleum-free resin that contains natural ingredients like cashew nut shell liquid," said Home Renovations. "Paper is the greenest of the green countertop materials."

You can get more information about exotic countertops here and more examples of semi-precious stone countertops here.

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Landlords Need To Take Measures Against Foreseeable Harm

Landlords have duties to tenants beyond that of providing habitable premises with working heating and plumbing systems, roofs that dont leak, etc. They also must take reasonable measures to protect tenants from foreseeable harm that might result from conditions on the premises. Such harm includes possible criminal acts.

A decision by Californias Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal includes an instructive discussion of these matters. The case Vasquez v. Residential Investments from which the discussion arises has facts that range from mundane to tragic.

Abigail Ramirez and her infant daughter lived with Abigails parents in an apartment building owned by Residential Investments, Inc. When the family moved in, a glass pane was missing from an arrangement of glass panes on the top half of the door. A piece of cardboard covered the opening. The tenants made a number of requests that the pane be replaced. They felt that its absence created a security risk. After some length of time, Abigails brother replaced the cardboard with a piece of plywood that he affixed using finishing nails.

Some time later, Abigail, who had recently been living with her boyfriend the father of her daughter moved back into the apartment of her parents. Her boyfriend, Jesus Vasquez, who had heard that Abigail had been seeing someone else, came to the apartment armed with a knife. When he was refused entry, he pushed out the plywood piece, reached through the opening and opened the door from the inside. He then killed Abigail.

The lawsuit against Residential Investments was brought on behalf of the infant daughter. It alleged that the owners were negligent by not replacing the missing pane, and that the negligence was a direct and proximate cause of Abigails death. In defense, the apartment owners argued that property owners have no duty to take precautions against criminal activity that they had no reason to anticipate. The trial court ruled in favor of the defense and granted summary judgment, holding that the incident was not sufficiently foreseeable so as to give the owners a duty to prevent Vasquez from gaining entry to the apartment.

The appellate court reversed the trial courts decision, and sent the case back for trial. The appellate court did not say that the owners were, in fact, negligent; but it did say that it was a triable issue, one that a jury should decide on the basis of the facts of the case.

In its discussion the court noted that the law is clear on the point that there is "a duty by landowners to maintain property in their possession and control in a reasonably safe condition." But then the court went on to acknowledge that this is, at best, a general principle that gives no specific direction. The discussion points out that the determination of duty requires a balancing act in each particular case. A landlord has a duty to exercise reasonable care, but what is reasonable depends on the circumstances, "considering the foreseeability of the risk of harm balanced against the extent of the burden of eliminating or mitigating that risk."

The courts discussion reviewed a long list of landlord liability cases the legal landscape is, of course, littered with them. Of particular note was one in which a landlord had failed to fix a lock to a common hallway, thus making it possible for an intruder to enter and rape one of the tenants. Although rape had never before occurred on those premises, robbery had. The court held that, even though the foreseeability of a rape occurring might have been slight, the foreseeability of criminal activity was stronger. Moreover, the burden of repairing the lock was minimal. Hence, the landlord had a duty to do so; and the failure to do so constituted negligence. He did not have a duty to guarantee the safety of his tenants, but he certainly had a duty to maintain a "first line of defense."

In this decision a ruling from a Georgia court was approvingly quoted: "The landlord is no insurer of his or her tenants safety, but is certainly no bystander." The moral here for landlords -- fix the locks. And take care of other matters that constitute risks of foreseeable harm.

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

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9 Success Tips For Your Statement Door Make-over

Which change to the street face of your home can dramatically up its value while expressing your delight as a homeowner?

Make a statement with a new front entry door.

Take advantage of developments in materials and technology to redesign or restate your main entry and you can benefit on many levels: add value, decrease energy costs, increase security, make a unique creative statement, and more

Increase buyer traffic to increase the potential for a sale. When youre preparing your home for sale, your real estate professional may offer cost-effective advice on which specific front entry >

Buyers who realize that listings with a no-statement front entry may be overlooked by other purchasers can gain an edge in even competitive markets.

If selling is not an immediate concern, set a practical budget compatible with expected value appreciation. A few quotations may help pin down what makes financial sense.

Once youve decided on new door specifics, attend a home or design show where door sellers offer special show prices and you may save hundreds or even thousands.

Take time to explore all your options before you dive in. For practical statement ideas, check out new homes and slightly more up-scale areas than yours if "door make-overs" have not hit your neighborhood yet. Decide which features of your home to accentuate and which entry >

Youll be dealing with buyer-beware salespeople who want your business, but are often not connected to those who will actually install your door, so ask a lot of questions and get details in writing. To be sure that creating your statement entry door is a dream project and not a nightmare reno, keep the following 9 Success Tips for a Statement Entry Door in mind:

1. Location matters here, too.

South- and west-facing doors suffer sun and weather challenges which must be considered when selecting materials and finishes. For instance, storm doors can amplify heat and damage steel and fiberglass doors.

2. Size matters

Single or double doors? Will you need one or two sidelites? Details matter when enlarging the door opening for a taller door or to add sidelites. Check carefully before demolishing anything, so youre not stuck with an opening too large or too small for existing standard options like single doors at 36 or 38 inches wide and 80 inches or 8 feet tall. If you start with a particular idea in mind, verify which sizes and finishes are available from local suppliers to avoid expensive customization. Replacement options for older homes, with 30-inch widths or heights under 80 inches, may be more limited as door industry product lines shift to accommodate new high ceilinged homes with tall doors.

3. Door system, not just door.

The door known as the slab is an vital component, but there is more to consider. The door requires a frame to support it and a threshold for you to step across, plus hinges, hardware, and trim on the outside called brickmould and on the inside called casing. Every element may involve color, >

4. Whats it made of?

Wood, steel, or fiberglass? Cost, appearance, size availability, and your maintenance tolerance are a few key factors in this choice. Ask for details about quality of construction, i.e. gauge of steel, density of interior insulation foam, worse-case problems. Low-maintenance steel doors are the least costly and come in a huge range of colors. Wood doors can be expensive and require regular refinishing maintenance. Fiberglass doors are less expensive than wood, require lower maintenance, and are available in smooth and woodgrain finishes. Technology advances have made increasingly-realistic woodgrain fiberglass a popular durable alternative for high-maintenance wood doors in many upscale installations.

5. Let there be lite

Glass in doors, referred to as lites or lights, can represent the no or low insulation area, so keep lites smaller when energy saving is a prime objective. Door catalogues concentrate on the >

6. Measurements matter

Many door companies cut or shim the opening in your home to fit their door system, then patch gouges and cuts with brick molding and caulking. Ideally, the reverse should happen: the opening should be carefully measured and a door system created to fit with little or no damage to the door or your home on installation. Discuss details on how your "custom" door will be created. For instance, energy-saving sweeps are factory-installed in the bottom of a door for maximum efficiency. When openings are not standard sizes and/or budget is an issue, the result is cut-down slabs with surface-mounted sweeps bucket sweeps attached at the bottom, leaving a plastic ridge instead of the smooth door edge. This may lead to problems. Some door companies exclusively provide cut-down doors with the latter >

7. What matches what?

Do you want both sides of the door the same color? Should the frame an brickmould match the door or contrast? Do you want lite frames white, or painted or stained to match door color? Factory-applied paint finishes for steel and smooth or textured fiberglass are more durable than paint you apply. Do you want hinges and sill to match door hardware? Make no assumptions; confirm the color of every element; check colors outdoors in all light levels. Ask questions about how durable paint or stain finishes are, and how easy and effective surface repairs are to make.

8. Who are you dealing with?

My door disaster began when I signed on with an internationally-regarded door company, chosen because I was attracted by their >

9. Document for protection

Read contracts carefully before you sign. Dont be shy about asking questions. Dont pay the entire amount in advance or youll have no leveraging power if things go wrong. Take pictures as insurance: "before" interior and exterior photos of your door and walls, key shots during installation, and, if problems arise a season or year or so later, document the issue. If everything goes smoothly and stays that way til the warranty runs out, great. If not, you can post photos to back up your concerns regarding the door and the door company.

Understand what statement you want to make and what you are paying for.

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Buyers Advice: Hire Your Own Professional

Approximately 85 percent of home sellers use a real estate professional to sell their homes. But did you know that buyers who are represented are also more likely to have a successful transaction?

Getting a purchase closed in todays market is complex. Buyers face many more hurdles including stricter financing and a confusing marketplace of listed homes, for-sale-by-owner homes, foreclosures and short sales.

Your area may be in a buyers market with lots of inventory available and falling prices, or you may be in a sellers market with homes selling out from under you before you can write an offer. Either way, youll be better off navigating the market with an experienced guide.

To take advantage of todays near-record low interest rates, attractive inventory levels, and price rollbacks from decade highs, you need a sales professional to help you close the deal.

A good real estate professional understands the current market. He or she has house-by-house neighborhood experience and help you obtain the right house at the best price and terms. Professionals share their knowledge of homes coming on to the market, through the multiple listings service and through networking.

You can search for homes online, but do you know about the homes coming onto the market? Your real estate professional will tell others about you to make sure you learn about upcoming homes for sale before they hit the online sites. Many homes are bought and sold this way, without a sign ever going into the yard.

Real estate professionals work primarily on commission. If the deal of the century is about to come on the market, who do you think your agent will tell? The buyer who thinks hell get a better deal by working every agent, or the buyer who is loyal?

Here are some tips on how to work with your own agent:

  • If you want great service, show appreciation and commitment. Get prequalified with a lender by sharing your financial records so you know exactly how much home you can buy.
  • Work with only one agent. If its customary in your area, sign a buyers representation agreement.
  • Stay in contact. If you want to look at open houses or builder homes, invite your agent to come along. If shes not available, show your loyalty by telling the salespeople you meet that you are already represented.
  • Dont hide pertinent information from your agent, or she will be in the dark about key issues that could impact your transaction negatively.

Once you find the house you want, the work really begins. Youll need help navigating negotiations, loan approval, sellers disclosures, inspections, repairs, and much more. Your agent will share your risk, and will make sure you go into any home purchase with your eyes wide open.

Take advantage of the greatest homebuying resource available - a real estate professional.

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Should You Consider Owner Financing?

With over 90 of mortgage loans owned or guaranteed by the U.S. government, lending requirements have tightened to the point that many otherwise qualified borrowers are unable to buy a home, especially with higher credit score and down payment requirements as well as private mortgage insurance. FHA loans, for example, require mortgage insurance on every loan.

Home sales due to tight lending have been held back as much as 15, estimates the National Association of REALTORS. Thats left many homeowners and homebuyers frustrated.

Owner financing could be the answer for many. If the parties protect themselves by adhering to state regulations and use reputable sources to help navigate the transaction safely, including their real estate professionals and attorneys, it could be the ideal alternative to bank financing.

What is Owner Financing?

Owner financing simply means that the homes owner carries most or all of the buyers note. In a volatile real estate market, owner financing can get homes sold that otherwise wouldnt sell, which benefits both sellers and buyers. All it takes is a legal binding agreement that spells out the terms of the loan.

Benefits to sellers

When the seller carries the note, he or she takes the place of the bank, assuming the risks such as defaults and damage to the property, and the rewards such as receiving market value plus monthly interest payments on the note.

A seller can sell a home without having to meet the repair and integrity standards set by FHA and conventional loan lenders.

A popular scenario is that the seller may require that the buyer pay rent-to-own until they accumulate enough for a conventional down-payment. A portion of the money is kept by the seller, and a portion goes into a trust so when the balloon portion of the note is due, the buyer can refinance with a conventional bank loan that pays the seller off.

Benefits to homebuyers

Buyers who have trouble meeting conventional loan standards for any reason are most likely to benefit from buying a home with owner financing. Because the seller collects a monthly interest payment and retains ownership of the home until the terms of financing are met, buyers can typically buy a seller-financed home with little or no money down. But, they can expect to pay higher interest rates for the privilege. The buyer can immediately start enjoying the benefits of homeownership, including rising equity and tax benefits.

Owner financing isnt just for buyers with low credit scores. It can also benefit buyers who want to buy a home but perhaps cant meet the 20 down-payment requirements of a conventional loan.

The Risks in Owner Financing

As in any transaction, there are risks. For the seller, it would be that the buyer stops making payments and loots or destroys the property. But in the case of a default, you take back the property with whatever the buyer has paid forfeited to you.

For the buyer, the risk is that the seller doesnt have clear title to the property, or that the owner-financed loan is tied to the sellers adjustable rate loan, which can be more expensive, some years, than the buyer can afford.

Your real estate agent may be negative about your selling the home this way, because agents are used to the formalities of banks. However, any problems that arise can be managed with proper protections for both sides. Consult a real estate attorney and your real estate professional for more information.

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Updated: Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Landlords Need To Take Measures Against Foreseeable Harm

Landlords have duties to tenants beyond that of providing habitable premises with working he...
> Full Story

9 Success Tips For Your Statement Door Make-over

Which change to the street face of your home can dramatically up its value while expressing ...
> Full Story

Buyers Advice: Hire Your Own Professional

Approximately 85 percent of home sellers use a real estate professional to sell their homes....
> Full Story

Copyright © 2014 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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