Vision Miami

Real Estate News

Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017

The Introverts Guide to Hosting Holiday Get-Togethers

So you somehow got roped into hosting a holiday get-together this year, which means dozens of family members will be descending upon your house, and... this is your basic nightmare. Introverts are so much better at going to other peoples houses for these types of things because you can arrive when you want, leave when you want, and play with the dog instead of trying to participate in awkward conversation, right?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Having people at your house actually gives introverts several distinct advantages over having to go to somebody elses house for the festivities. Here, well help you cope and prepare. And by "you," we mean "us." Introverts, unite

Prepare yourself for a long night or nights, as the case may be

As much as you might like for people to come, eat, and leave, the holidays tend to create a lingering situation. And, lets get real for a second. Youve never really been able to take off when you wanted to you from other peoples houses in years past, anyway. Its always cousin Linda who has one more story or your husbands Great Aunt Gracie who is always insisting you have one more piece of pie. If you can keep reminding yourself you got through it last year and the year before that and on and on, itll be easier to envision getting through it this year, even though the circumstances have changed.

Its okay to say no

Even if you have already said "Yes" to hosting, you dont have to take on the lions share of the hosting duties. The thought of all those before, during, and after tasks can bring on the anxiety.

"Saying yes to everything over the holidays can be overwhelming. A lot of obligations arise at this time of year, but it is okay to say no to some of them if you need time to yourself," said The Alternative Daily. "A study published inProcedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences2010 found a cor>That may mean asking friends and family attending to help out at home. And if that just raised your blood pressure because asking for help is not in the introvert handbook, you can always ask for help with asking for help. Your spouse, mom or dad, or closest sibling is probably already aware of your introvert-ness. Put one of them in charge of disseminating duties so you can split up the responsibilities.

Or, take on as much as you can

Us introverts like to busy ourselves with tasks so we dont have to interact. You could, conceivably, stay in the kitchen a good 90 of the time people are over. Of course, with todays open kitchens, youll have less privacy than you would have in a more compartmentalized home, but youll still have so much to do you can minimize interruptions and limit conversations that include you.

"If awkward pauses are the thing you dread, youre in luck because as the host you have so many excuses - filling drinks, clearing plates, etc. - to break away from a conversation to attend to things," said Huffington Post. "This is one main reason that hosting a party is better than attending one."

Limit other holiday activities

"The office party. The family party. The friendsmas party. Another family party.So many people. So much energy. Its an extroverts dream," said Verily. "But when it comes to introverts and alittle downtime? Nowthatsa party."

You dont have to attend them all. "During the holidays, youre bound to have more social engagements than usual. Be honest with yourself and know when to say no to an invite," said Pure Wow. "Remember that you dont have to go to everything, and take time to really think about how much you can or want to handle over the next several weeks. We give you full permission to call out sick from that friend-of-a-friends Secret Santa party."

When you do have to put a party on your calendar, bookending it with some "me time" can help you decompress.

Plan lots of activities

If you have lots of kids coming to your get-together, make sure there are crafts and coloring books. Theyll stay busy, and you can join in whenever you want to escape the adults. Some baking activities are also great because it means everybody will have something to do, and you can focus on tasks like completing a puzzle or decorating Christmas cookies.

Escape to a private spot

You may not have a place you can go at your brothers or your aunt Lucys house, but at your place you know exactly where to go if you need a moment to scream into a pillow.

"Dont feel bad if you need to take a small break," said Huffington Post."Take an extra-long trip to the bathroom or escape to your room for a few minutes. Sometimes thats enough to help an introvert get through the rest of the night. No one will notice.

Go to the store

Theres bound to be something you forgot to buy and just cant live without, right? Getting out of the house, even for a few minutes, can refocus your energy and give you the stamina to get through the rest of the night. Even better? Walk there if possible, given your location and the weather. Fresh air is a great equalizer.

Set an alarm

Just cant hear any more of Uncle Larrys angry political rants? That kitchen timer is your best friend. Set it before you sit down, or on the sly on your phone to build in an escape plan.

Seek out the extroverts

"The only thing extroverts love more than talking is a rapt audience," said TODAY. "Ask the center of attention for a piece of advice and watch them go. Hopefully youll be joined by others close enough to overhear and youll be part of a garrulous group."
Full Story >

Purple Power: How To Use Pantones 2018 Color Of The Year

Seeing a whole lot of purple recently? Its not an homage to Prince. Its Pantones Color of the Year for 2018, and its about to be everywhere.

Pantone, the worlds leading color authority, typically sets off trends with its annual color choice. So expect fashion and home deacute;cor to soon be wrapped in PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a color choice they call "a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade that communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future."

And you just thought it would look pretty in the bedroom.

"Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now," they said. "The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own."

In color theory, purple is recognized for its "mystic and royal qualities," and is a soothing color that inspires creativity and "calms the mind and nerves," said Sensational Color.

That makes it a good choice for just about any space in the house, especially if youre trying to stand out, since "enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance," said Pantone.

As designlike puts it, you can "use the psychological effects of color purple to create a luxurious and expensive environment to your home. "If it has a bluish shade, it can be serene and calm and gives an air of mystery. Reddish shades attract more attention and dominate the room. Purple color has a long reputation of royalty and power."

Architectural Digest called Ultra Violet "a sort of thematic continuation of Greenery, the 2017 selection meant to evoke ideas of revival and renewal," and said that Ultra Violet "symbolizes the sort of mindfulness and boundary-pushing that ultimately propels each of us - and the world at large - forward." They sought to learn more about the inspiration behind the color choice and how to use it at home from Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute.

It has an ability "to play nice with everything from grays and taupes to pastels and metallics depending on your tolerance for boldness," she said. "In addition to offering tranquil lighting hues, Ultra Violet will also work well alongside other purples within floral pieces, or in decorative dining accents like candles, plates, or glassware."

Here are some ideas to give you purple inspiration.

Go big

Why just stick to one purple hue? This living room will never get boring.

Do it in the bedroom

The same idea works wonderfully in an elegant yet bohemian bedroom. The boldness of purple plays well with neutrals, but look what it does with other bold colors The space is deep, rich, and luxurious, but also maintains a playfulness.

On the other side of the design coin, we have this bedroom, which is enti>


You may not be ready for this level of purple commitment, but wouldnt it be cool if you were?


Purple is a rich choice in the bathroom, providing a chic backdrop for glamorous finishes.

Your walls

Splash it on the walls and let the natural light provide contrast.

Or, pick a great piece of art that brings in the color and keeps your commitment ultra-low.

Dining table

You may not have ever thought about a deep purple dining room table, but you may now. Between the clean lines, the glossy finish, and the gorgeous color, this would certainly amp up your dinner parties.

Starting small

Of course, you dont have to go out and buy one of the most significant pieces of furniture in your home to incorporate the color into your space. The saturated purple of the chairs in this space offers the perfect accent to a room that already has a surprising color element: the black wall. All that white in the rest of the space keeps it light and bright despite the dark colors.


"This striking and glamorous piece will look good wherever you place it - whether its at the foot of your bed or in your entryway," said Real Simple. "It doesnt hurt that the velvet material is a trend of the moment, too." Or that it is just 150 at Target.

Full Story >

Why Chinese Real Estate Investors Are Still Flocking To Canada

Despite taxes on foreign real estate buyers in the Vancouver and Toronto areas, Chinese interest in Canadian real estate continues to have an impact in both regions. In B.C., where the tax was introduced in August 2016, property transfers involving foreign nationals have been steady increasing during the last year, with much investment coming from China.

Ontarios tax arrived in April 2017. The government says that foreign buyers accounted for 5.6 per cent of transactions in September, down from 7.2 per cent when the tax was introduced. Most analysts believe the trend in the Toronto area will follow what happened in Vancouver and that foreign investment will pick up again.

Oxford Properties, which owns 11 shopping centres in Canada, recently announced that Chinese visitors and recent immigrants can now use their WeChat Pay and Alipay mobile wallets in Oxfords shopping centres, affiliated hotels and travel partners. The apps have more than 1.2 billion active users.

"Our Chinese retail customers have told us that tourists, students and newcomers alike want access to their mobile wallets in-mall," says Brad Jones, head of retail at Oxford Property Group.

So, whats the big attraction thats bringing these Chinese visitors, immigrants and real estate buyers to Canada?

Property portal says education is a major draw. China is the top source of international students who are studying Canada -- there were 132,345 Chinese students enrolled in Canadian schools in 2016.

Juwai teamed with Sothebys International Realty Canada to find out why Chinese home buyers want to come to Canada. Juwai conducted a survey of more than 4,000 Chinese international property buyers in 2017.

It says the cities with the most Chinese buyer interest in the first half of 2017 were Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Victoria. Canada currently ranks fourth in Chinese buyer interest, behind the United States, Australia and Thailand.

"Education has long been a prime motivation for property investors from China to buy homes abroad and Canada is one of their perennial favourites, as its world->The report says Canadas government updated its visa system so that graduates of Canadian universities got extra points when studying for Canadian Permanent Residency. International graduates from B.C. universities who qualify for a post-graduate work permit can be exempt from the foreign buyers tax, says the report.

Tuition rates in Canada are also lower than in other countries. They were 42 per cent cheaper than in the U.S. in 2016, says the report.

The Sothebys/Juwai report cites other reasons why Chinese investment remains strong. First, follow the money.

"In spite of the strengthening of the Canadian dollar, interest from international buyers hasnt waned," says Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sothebys International Realty Canada. ">Seventy-nine per cent of Chinese home buyers surveyed cited low cost per square foot/value as a key criterion in their purchase.

"When we did this same research a year ago, safety was the top factor. This year, value has knocked safety out of the top spot," says Carrie Law, CEO of "This may be a result of the stepped-up enforcement of capital controls, which has caused some families to squeeze their budgets to reduce the amount they need for their down payment and ongoing costs."

Safety came in as the second most-important factor -- both as a safe haven for investments and for personal safety.

"China has >Sixty-nine per cent of survey respondents cited "convenient to shopping, entertainment, activities" as a key factor.

The report says the assumption that Chinese buyers are looking only for high-end real estate is incorrect. Most buyers are looking for properties at or below the average sale price of residential properties in the local neighbourhood. Only 17 per cent of survey respondents cited "prestige and exclusivity" as a factor of importance in their house-hunting.

Ranking next was "property rentability" followed by low maintenance cost, proximity to good schools, construction quality, yard/land size, community amenities parks, golf course and ethnicity of the community at 39 per cent.

Ranking at the bottom of the list with fewer than 20 per cent were multigenerational living, character/uniqueness of property, energy efficiency, property customizability and accessibility to friends/family.

The survey also says that Chinese purchasers prefer new construction homes to existing or remodeled homes.
Full Story >

REALTOR Analysis Of Tax Bill Is Worth Examining

It is no secret that the National, State, and Local Realtorreg; associations are strongly opposed to certain provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the current tax reform bills. The REALTORreg; concerns range from worry that changes to the present capital gain exclusion will result in a further decrease to for-sale inventory, to concern that proposals regarding mortgage interest and property-tax deductibility are liable to decrease home ownership rates and to drastically depress property values.

It is not my intention here to repeat those arguments or to analyze their validity. There simply isnt enough room for that. Rather, I would like to encourage readers to examine on their own some of the Realtorreg; organizations central arguments and, importantly, the facts and figures that undergird them.

Credit where its due: the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR has devoted a great deal of effort to collect and present the data on which its conclusions are based. Moreover, they are presented in a manner that is both accessible and >

Interested persons can examine the REALTORreg; analyses at the NAR website. They are available on the public pages; you dont have to be a member to access them.

Many commentators have observed that the real-estate >

Even looking at state-by-state impacts paints with too broad a brush, so the analysis is also carried out at the level of congressional districts. Hence, for Californias 49th District -- on the coast -- the projected typical loss of home value is approximately 58,000; whereas, in the less expensive inland area, Californias District 23 would be expected to see an average loss of just over 20,000.

Of course, the arguments arent just over home values. There are also discussions of ancillary economic activity generated by home sales, as well as the more intangible values that home ownership brings to neighborhoods.

Interested in the Realtorreg; analysis of possible impacts from the current tax proposals? Read about it Here. Think about it. And let your representatives know what you think, whichever side youre on.

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

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Repercussions When A Board Throws Out A Member Decision

Question: What are the possible repercussions when a board throws out a member decision voted on at the Annual Meeting?

Answer: If member approval is required to do what you describe, the board must follow the dictates of the vote. If the vote was advisory only, the board could go a different direction but that clearly would invite well deserved challenge from the member majority who expressed their preference. Smart boards would not do such a thing.

Question: Our HOA is half sold and is being managed by the developer who charges us for it. The outside maintenance is terrible. The sprinkler system doesnt work and weeds were out of control. Thoughts?

Answer: You need to review your governing documents to see if there is a deadline for the developer to turnover the HOA to a board of owners. There usually is a trigger based on number of units sold or a certain time that has passed, whichever comes first. If there is, you and other owners can demand turnover to the owners. Get an attorney to make the point if necessary. Once an owner board is in place, it can act on behalf of all owners.

If the developer is not yet required to turn over control, you are certainly within your rights to point out the developers management shortcomings. Youre paying for the service and failure to maintain the common area diminishes your property value.

Question: We have an upcoming election for directors and two of the candidates are not full time residents. They are from a troublemaker group and plan to participate in board meetings only by phone. Is there anything that the present board can do to prevent this from happening?

Answer: Candidates for the board are not required to be residents. And if all board meetings are handled by phone, no big deal. But if they are saying they wont attend in-person meetings, this is a big deal and such information needs to be conveyed to the voters. As to what you can do about it... You can encourage and nominate others that are willing to fulfill the board job as intended. If the dissidents dont get voted in to begin with, the rest of the board wont have the challenges of dealing with them.

Question: We are nearing completion of our HOA website and getting ready to launch. The board intends to use email for meeting notices, dues notices and event reminders. Right now our governing documents state notices must be sent by US Mail. Is this going to pose a big issue? Also, should we get each members written consent to communicate via email?

Answer: Since a high percentage of citizens now regularly use email and its free, fast and efficient, many HOAs are now communicating that way. However, since your governing documents require use of mail, the members need to vote to approve a change. I suggest holding a special meeting including distribution of proxies to ensure a quorum to handle this issue as soon as possible.

Yes, you should get written approval from each member to use email. Some dont have computers or ra>For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see
Full Story >

Using Your Homes quot;Deadquot; Equity

Question. Our house is free and clear. We have a 100,000 home equity line of credit, and the interest rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 percent. We itemize tax deductions and are in a high federal tax rate, and hoping that any new tax laws will reduce our taxes.

My question concerns using the home equity loan for investment. We are considering using 50,000 of the home equity line of credit and investing it in a growth stock for the next five years. Our accountant/tax advisor, however, is strongly in favor of having an unencumbered house especially as we are close to retirement.

Answer. It is my strong belief that homeowners -- of any age -- should make use of the equity they have gained from their real estate investments. As this column has suggested in the past, there are too many retired persons who are "house rich and cash poor." Hopefully, your house will appreciate in the future, and this appreciation will continue whether you have equity or not in the home. Thus, for all practical purposes, that equity is "dead equity."

There are, however, a number of parts to your question.

First, should you use the equity in your home for investment purposes? My answer is a qualified yes. Are you prepared to lose your investment if the stock market tumbles? Growth stocks may grow -- or they may not. If you are in any way concerned about risk, you should consider investing in government insured programs or tax free bonds. Of course, the higher rate of potential return will also carry a higher risk.

I am sure that readers will ask: why borrow money at 4 or 5 percent only to invest it in a security which has a 2 or 3 percent rate of return? Here, you have to do the numbers, and also look to your own future situation.

At first blush, it makes no sense to pay more interest than you are receiving from your investment -- especially if that investment has no or little growth capacity. But there is one important factor that must be considered, namely the liquidity of your investments. If you find at a later date that you need money for emergency purposes, if may be difficult -- if not impossible -- to tap into the equity of your home when you are retired and no longer employed. The investments you are considering -- whether stocks, mutual funds, or government securities -- do have immediate liquidity.

Second. If you decide to invest the equity in your home, what is the best route to take? You have indicated that your current home equity line of credit is around 7 percent. This seems rather high in todays market.

More importantly, most home equity loans fluctuate in rate; the rate of interest is pegged to some index -- such as "prime." If the prime rate rises or falls, so will the interest rate on your home equity loan.

Instead of using your home equity, you may want to consider refinancing your home, while interest rates are >How will you make the monthly mortgage payments when you are retired? If you do not have other sources of income -- such as a pension plan -- you still have the liquidity of your investments that should be able to carry you for a long period of time.

Additionally, if you decide to refinance your home, although the refinance funds will pay off your home equity loan, nevertheless, you definitely should keep the home equity loan available. As you know, a home equity loan is a line of credit; you only pay interest on the amount of the money you have actually borrowed. If you obtain a refinance mortgage, make sure that you can also keep the existing or obtain a new home equity loan. There are some logistical legal issues that your attorney can handle to make these arrangements.

Third. You must understand the tax implications of borrowing on your home equity. Interest deductions for tax purposes are based, in part, on what the IRS calls "acquisition indebtedness." In your case, this indebtedness is zero, since your house is free and clear. You will only be entitled to deduct interest on the first 100,000 that you borrow -- whether this money comes from a new first mortgage or a home equity loan. And this may all change if Congress enacts a new tax code.

These are difficult -- and clearly personal -- decisions that everyone must consider. Talk to your tax advisors, and "crunch the numbers."
Full Story >

How To Create Year-Round Home Curb Appeal

Exceptional curb appeal will add to the enjoyment and value of your property and home. Maintaining your curb appeal throughout each season may pose its challenges, but with these tips, you can ensure that your home and landscaping will look their very best throughout the year.

1 Clean It Up

A thorough power wash is essential for maintaining the cleanliness of your home, driveway and walkways. Many homeowners prefer to do this in the spring, but you might consider an additional wash in the fall as well. By keeping your landscape free of debris like broken branches and dead trees, you can better maintain the appearance of your property.

2 Planting for Seasonal Interest

Its helpful to plant with each season in mind to ensure that your landscape looks great year-round. Spring bulbs and flowering trees add visual interest to your landscape at the start of the growing season. A lush lawn and pots of colorful annuals can provide eye-catching appeal in the summer. Think about late summer perennials and deciduous trees or shrubs that boast spectacular fall colors. Evergreens are >3 Vertical Interest

To avoid flat looking landscaping, be sure to include vertical interest. Arches, even when bare during the winter season, will add visual interest to your front yard. Hanging plants, vines, climbing plants, t>4 Hardscaping

Plants arent the only method of achieving excellent curb appeal. Consider replacing a worn-out front walkway with elegant cobblestone or brick pavers. Replace mulch with stone or encircle trees and shrubs to achieve a more formal look for your property. Boulders can be strategically placed to draw the eye and provide further visual interest for your setting.

5 Tackle Problem Areas

If you have a slope thats difficult to mow or a sunken section of landscaping that always seems to flood, consider a solution. A low-maintenance, terraced garden is ideal for sloping sections of land that are difficult to mow. On the other hand, there are no-mow grasses that can replace a traditional lawn. Installing adequate drainage for low-lying areas of your landscape can help reduce the flooding that occurs during stormy seasons.

6 House Appeal

You can increase the year-round curb appeal of your home by maintaining its outward appearance. A pleasing door, elegant fixtures, contemporary railings, eye-catching shutters and stylized window boxes will go a long way to boost your curb appeal. For an additional wow factor, consider expanding your porch or replacing worn siding to improve the appearance of your home.


Great curb appeal begins with assessing your current setting. When you do install new features, its important to consider how they will appear during each season.

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

Full Story >

Why The Next Two Weeks May Be The Best Time To Buy New Construction All Year

If youre looking to buy a home and you would really like to get something in escrow before the end of the year, you might be facing a "slim pickins" situation. Inventory issues have plagued the market for several years, and despite a positive real estate outlook, the lack of homes has kept many buyers out of the game.

Thats one of the reasons home buyers have been choosing new U.S. homes. They jumped last month to the highest level since October 2007, ldquo;a sign that Americans mdash; unable to find existing homes mdash; are turning to new construction,rdquo; said USA Today. ldquo;New home sales leapt 18.9 in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 667,000, the most in a decade. Sales rose in all regions including the South, where they increased nearly 26.rdquo;

Existing home inventory isnt expected to get better until at least the last half of 2018. So, if a brand new home is something youd consider, think about this: the next two weeks could be the best time to buy all year.

Builders are especially motivated to move their homes this time of year so they can get them off the books. Be sure to ask in the sales office about "featured" plans or homes, which may mean the builder is willing to work with buyers to get these particular homes sold. While that may not mean a discount on the price, builders will often throw in upgrades that make them more attractive.

"A lot of the national builders are publicly traded companies. They need to meet sales goals and answer to the shareholders of that company," said Inman. "For that reason, toward the end of a quarter, builders tend to be more aggressive with their incentives in order to meet these sales goals. The December holiday season is another great time to buy. Most of the country is out shopping and traveling to see family. Very few people shop for homes this time of the year. For that reason, tis the season to find some great incentives to purchase a new home."

Additional incentives

Many builders also offer thousands of dollars in incentives to buyers who choose to get their loan through the builders preferred lender. Those incentives mean "it actually may be less expensive to buy anbsp;new homenbsp;than a resale," Ron Sozio, builder client >

Those builder incentives can include closing costs and/or a buy-down of your interest rate, and can be as much as two or three percent of either the sales price or the loan amount - be sure to ask which one so you have a clear understanding of what youre paying.

Want more reasons to look at a new construction home? How about the fact that its brand new, never been lived in, and reflects your needs, taste, and >

If you are going to go look for new construction homes, make sure you bring your real estate agent to ensure you get the best deal. "Some buyers dont feel anbsp;real estate agentnbsp;is necessary whennbsp;building a new home. They think that because there is a sales agent on-site they dont need to bring in anyone else, right? Wrong," said The Goodhart Group.

"This mistake could cost you. That on-site person works for and represents the seller. A real estate agent will work on your behalf. A good one will know what questions to ask that can get you a sizable closing cost credit from the seller. Not to mention -- a seasoned agent will know how to negotiate the contract for upgrades and finishes that dont come standard with the home. Perhaps most important is the fact that you dont pay for the real estate agents service. "The builder pays YOUR agents commission so it costs you nothing to have someone represent you during the new construction process."

Full Story >

How to Keep Your Mortgage Approval Approved

You know how tough it is to qualify for a mortgage.

Proof youve got a long-term job with ample income. A credit score to the moon. Your lifes savings as a down payment. More cash stashed away. A debt-to-income ratio to die for. For some, tax returns for the last two years.

Youve been there, done that. For weeks now. Maybe a month or more.

Youve fought the good fight, youve run the gauntlet of mortgage qualifications and you have your signature-tired hands on that coveted home loan approval.

Now, all you have to do is not blow it.

For goodness sake, dont make any surprise financial moves that could cost you your home loan.

Your mortgage approval is primarily based on documenting your income and assets, your equity stake or down payment, your credit and the cash youll have left over after the deal is done.

Once you have a mortgage approval, if you change the profile of any one of those qualifiers, you could have to kiss your mortgage goodbye.

Lenders today dont just check your qualifying information once or even twice. Three, four or more checks, of one document or another, arent out of the question in todays tight lending market.

Avoid big purchases - If you buy a new car, change the lease, or acquire another large possession, it could show up on your credit report or bank statement.

The lender could think youve gone beyond the risk the lender is willing to accept on your mortgage - especially if you qualified by a hair.

If the new loan or purchase amount upsets the debt-to-income ratio the lender used to approve your home loan, your mortgage could go "poof."

No new credit - Likewise, dont open new credit cards, even for a zero interest rate. Those credit card offers will come streaming in after you close your mortgage. Just wait. The lender didnt approve you based on the additional card or extra loan.

Pay your bills - Also, pay your bills on time, even if theres a dispute. Stop paying a bill and the blotch on your credit report can block your mortgage.

Keep your job - Be kind to your boss and dont get fired. Also, dont go looking for new work right now, unless its a second job to make more money.

Certain job changes also can affect how the lender rates your creditworthiness.

That includes a job change between industries, a job change to start a new company and changing from a job with a salary to a job that pays by commission.

On the other hand, get a promotion and a raise and you should be fine.

Dont cash out - Leave your stashes of cash alone. Dont transfer large sums of money between bank accounts. Dont make random, undocumented deposits to or withdrawals from your bank account.

Dont be stupid It should go without saying, but criminal activity, trying to buy a second home and trying to add a co-signer or name to the loan, after approval, could all also get your mortgage canned.

Remember, stuff happens. There are events beyond your control that could cost you your mortgage. A pink slip. A divorce. Hospitalization. The co-signer bails.

However, once your mortgage is approved, do keep tight reigns on what you can control.
Full Story >

What To Do When Your Home Isnt Selling

When sellers start the home-selling process, no one wants to think "What would happen if my home doesnt sell?" But before you panic, recognize that there are many things that you can do so you dont wind up in that position.

Tip 1: Understanding the real estate market and the value of your home will help you avoid this dilemma. The first key point is to get educated about the market. Read your newspapers, online real estate sites, and consult with the best experts in real estate for your area to determine the sales price.

While all that may seem basic, youd be surprised how many sellers >Tip 2: Fix up your home. Most buyers dont want to purchase a big list of must-do fixes in order to live in the home they just bought. Yet, some sellers think that its a waste to spend money on a home that theyre moving out of soon. Thats quite a predicament. Both sides have valid points except one side-buyers-might be in a stronger position. The seller wants out and if the home is a mess, many buyers will simply move on to the next best house.

Yet, if a buyer wants it badly enough, he/she might agree to purchase your home but its guaranteed youll take a financial hit as the buyer will want to discount the price for the problems that need fixing. In the end, you might have to fix the issues before the sale anyway. So, starting with a house that is in >Tip 3: If you need to sell your home, dont pull it off the market because you think the season isnt right. Buyers who need to buy a home will keep hunting through all the seasons. There may be some slow times but if people need a house, theyll keep looking even in the unlikely times.

Tip 4: Consider incentives. Yes, you can make your home more appealing by tossing in some incentives. Its best to speak with your REALTORreg; about which incentives are best for you to offer. Even practical incentives can help get buyers to your home to view it. These incentives can help encourage the buyer to move forward, especially if other challenges arise.

Tip 5: Stage your home. This is not the same thing as fixing up your home. Fixing up your home includes daily maintenance and repairs. Staging your home involves using experts to make your home showroom-readylike a model home. I know you might say that all your friends tell you that you have fantastic taste but, trust me, if youre serious about selling your home, then its worth at least having a consultation with an expert in the industry.

Heres why: They are trained to stay on top of the trends that have mass appeal. They also offer a fresh set of eyes on your home. They might easily point out something that you never saw before because youve been living in your home for a long time. They will look at your home from an outsiders perspective and thats exactly what you need.

Taking the time to, at least consult with experts, allows you to gain knowledge and information about your home and the market place. What you do with that is up to you, but it may just be the difference between a For Sale sign and a Sold sign hanging outside your home.
Full Story >

What To Expect from Your Solar Energy This Winter

What happens when you >

Preparing for Winter

Winter is known for drastic changes in temperatures above and below freezing. It is important to inspect your panels and roof before winter weather arrives. Hiring a pro is the safest option when it comes to inspecting roof-mounted solar panels according to HomeAdvisor. Making sure your roof is in good shape and that there is no damage to the panels will allow them to reach their highest electrical output in the winter months.

Functionality in Cold amp; Darkness

Many think that overcast, winter days have a negative impact on their solar panel performance. However, cold weather can improve the performance of your panels. Though the hours of sunlight in winter are shorter, the cold weather allows for a higher absorption capacity. Electronics often run more efficiently in cooler temperatures, and as solar panels get warmer they produce less power with the same amount of sunlight. The highly-reflective white snow can also improve the performance of your solar panels.

Snow Accumulation amp; Removal

A dusting of snow will have little impact on power performance because wind will blow it off. If you live in an area that gets more than two inches of accumulating snow at a time, you will need to remove any accumulation to ensure the panels are receiving enough sunlight to generate electricity. Panel efficiency begins to be effected when light cannot penetrate through the snow. Performance is all dependent on how quickly you remove accumulated snow. If light cannot reach your panels for one hour due to snowfall that is one hour missed of electricity generation.

Solar panels are rated with impact and pressure tests so that they can withstand the weight of snow.nbsp; Your contractor will inform you how much your panels can withstand. The safest option is to remove snow as it begins to accumulate.

Because panels are mounted at an angle, snow is likely to slide off eventually. There are tools such as a snow rake specially designed to safely remove snow from solar panels. The average cost for a solar snow removal rake is 40 to 115. Hiring a pro to remove snow from solar panels is always recommended.

Angle Affects Efficiency

The sun is lower in the sky during the winter months. This means that changing the angle can greatly improve the performance of your cells. By adjusting your cells to face south and increasing the tilt of the panels your cells will be able to create more electricity. By changing the tilt of a panel from 0 to 20 or 30 degrees you can increase the output by up to 20. Calling a professional to adjust your panels is the best option. They will be able to calculate the optimal angle required based on the exact location of your home.

Blizzard Conditions

If you are in an area that has a high accumulation of snow you might consider some power storage options. For those in homes that are run completely on solar power,nbsp; ice and fast-falling snow may be difficult to remove in harsh conditions, so a battery is recommended. A battery will store electricity from the cells and use it when the cells have below optimal outputs. Installing a battery can cost about 5,000 to 7,000, and may be a good option for those off-grid.

Effects of Ice and Freezing Rain

Ice and freezing rain are often overlooked. The accumulation of ice on your panels is less likely to cause interference than snow. The fact that ice is more translucent than snow allows your panels to absorb sunlight. This translucence will also make melting time faster so you will not have to scrape anything off of the panels.

This winter may be cold, but your home will be warm with your new or pre-existing solar power system keeping the lights on.

Full Story >

Get The Look: Transitional-Style Kitchen

Transitional >The Basics: Mixing Old and New

Fundamentally, transitional >

Often this means taking evocative traditional shapes and applying a contemporary finish to them. For example, take a look at this beautiful bridge faucet. Its a very traditional >

Photo by Titus Built, LLC - More kitchen ideas

Essential: Shaker Cabinets

Perhaps the best example of this balancing of traditional and contemporary elements is the Shaker >These cabinet doors and drawers typically have a flat panel in the middle with a raised flat border at the edges and no "profiling" i.e., no fancy curved molding. This gives a bit more richness than a minimalist flat-front cabinet without feeling fussy.

Photo by Titus Built, LLC - Search kitchen design ideas

Cabinets in this >

Photo by Coastal Cabinet Works - Look for kitchen design inspiration

The Palette: White and Gray with Neutrals

White Shaker cabinets are not seen in every transitional kitchen, but they are certainly a popular pick. This is likely because the freshness of white instantly makes any space feel more spacious.

Again, transitional kitchens are not strictly minimalist either, so the white is usually mixed with grays, woods, enticing metallics and other neutrals and textural elements for a friendly palette.

Photo by SINGLEPOINT DESIGN BUILD INC. - More kitchen photos

Dark and charcoal grays are quite popular as well, either instead of white cabinets or added alongside white for a tuxedo effect. Deep, true-neutral grays feel >For a fun twist, a dark gray chalkboard paint gives a room a sense of levity that keeps the mood from being too somber.

For those who prefer a bit more color, blue and blue-grays make a perfect hue for fixed elements like cabinets or floor tiles. This sort of color makes white porcelain and polished stone appear even more fresh, and it will work with changing accent hues in future years.

Photo by Fireclay Tile - Look for kitchen design inspiration

Essential: Rich Woods

Mixing these broad strokes of crisp paint with wood brings in much needed texture, so its very common to see transitional kitchens with wood floors, wood bar stools and butcher block counters.

Photo by Dan Macdonald/ Craftsman Kitchens - More kitchen photos

Flooring planks in a herringbone layout bring additional richness, playing up the positives of traditional parquet floors in a way that doesnt feel stuck in the past.

Photo by Miralis - Look for kitchen design inspiration

Sometimes the best way to use wood is unexpectedly, like as an accent on a vertical surface like the side panels of a wall cabinet or even on the ceiling. This brings in natural texture in a way that definitely wont leave your space feeling as if its outdated.

Photo by Cloth Stone Designs - Look for home design design inspiration

Essential: Sparkling Stone

For quite a time, dark granite was widely seen as the top choice for countertops. But for a coveted transitional >

Photo by Bailow Architects - More kitchen photos

Essential: Subway Tile

While were talking hard surfaces, heres another key transitional >Slab Backsplashes

That isnt to say that subway tile is the only option, of course. Another very popular choice is to simply continue the counter material up the wall. This leans toward a more contemporary look, turning the counter and backsplash into a singular dramatic statement.

Photo by My Bespoke Room - Discover kitchen design inspiration

Mosaic Backsplashes

If you prefer the look of a mosaic backsplash, consider choosing one in a neutral palette in a rich, >

Photo by Space Harmony - Discover kitchen design inspiration

Essential: Stainless Steel

Stainless steel appliances are highly coveted but especially so in transitional kitchens, where they bring a chefs-kitchen appeal and help integrate modern features into a somewhat traditional setting. Plus, adding some strong elements of crisp metal offsets the organic character of wood floors and stone counters. If you dont currently have the budget or the desire to use stainless steel appliances throughout, consider using this finish for just one appliance like the range or through other accents like cabinet hardware.

Photo by Simply Beautiful Eating - Discover kitchen design ideas


Brass has recently been a very popular finish for transitional kitchen accents. It brings some golden glamour and warmth to a space but in a more subdued tone than true gold.

Feel free to mix it in beside stainless steel and other cool silvery metals. It makes for great knobs and pulls, lights or even fixtures.

Photo by Titus Built, LLC - Search kitchen pictures

Essential: Modern Furnishings

If you stick to just traditional trappings, you might end up with a kitchen that slides from transitional to just traditional overall. This is where some great modern furniture pieces come in, such as high-tech extruded dining chairs, midcentury bent metal barstools, cool industrial accent lights or a minimalist dining table.

Photo by Battres Construction - Search kitchen pictures

Splurge: Statement Pendants

Your lighting is a great place to splurge, as it always makes for a natural center of attention. In transitional >

Photo by South Hill Interiors - Search kitchen pictures

Humble schoolhouse, dome or cone shapes are popular, as are glass globes or lantern->You can use the lights as an opportunity to introduce a new accent material or color, such as a hint of red or copper, or match them to another finish in the space. These cone pendants pair nicely with the base of the stools.

Photo by LB Design - Search kitchen design ideas

Finishing Touch: Traditional Rug

As a tailor-made finish to your transitional space, a warm, colorful traditional rug will make sure it doesnt feel too staid, bringing a splash of personality and sense of >

Photo by Zephyr Ventilation - Discover kitchen design inspiration

Also See:

  • A Must-Have Essential: Shaker >Why White Marble Is a Popular Choice for Countertops
  • Accent With These Stylish Cabinet Pulls

Full Story >

Innovative Rent-To-Own Program Could Be The Answer To Your Down Payment Dilemma

Strapped for cash and desperate to buy a home? We hear ya. While todays homeownership rate is trending back up after reaching its lowest level since 1965 last year, there are still thousands upon thousands of people who would love to become homeowners but who are stymied by the lack of a down payment.

Yes, loans you can get through the Federal Housing Administration FHA require as little as 3.5 down, and some other loans out there drop that minimum down payment even lower. But rents that just continue to rise across the country can keep cash-strapped folks from being able to get together the savings required to get in the door - literally.

Rent-to-own company Home Partners of America may have an answer. Yes, rent-to-own.

Before you scrunch up your face at the idea of something that sounds too good to be true or something that brings back memories of "old school" arrangements that could prove costly for potential buyers in more ways than one, its important to know that there are some key differences here. What Home Partners is offering is unique, with features that benefit the renter/buyer. Thats not necessarily so with some other rent-to-own options like owner-occupied homes and companies who buy distressed homes through bulk foreclosures with the intent to rent them out and potentially sell them to tenants. Some of these other options have resulted in tenants who are locked into contracts that require them to pay hefty upfront deposits - deposits that could sometimes approach what they would need for a down payment in some areas

"Rent-to-own companies have a poor reputation in the housing industry for taking nonrefundable deposits from tenants who clearly wont ever be able to qualify for a mortgage or afford a home," said "Home Partners doesnt take a nonrefundable deposit, so if the homes value declines or they decide not to buy for any other reason renters can simply walk away."

The rent-to-own program through Home Partners keys in on desirable locations, making the idea more viable from both a financial and desirability standpoint. Instead of searching for a needle-in-a-haystack home for rent with the option to buy, "Home Partners of America works with prospective homebuyers... to identify and purchase properties that the consumers select, but cant buy themselves," according to Moodys, said HousingWire.

"The prospective homeowner chooses a property that he would like to eventually buy, and if the property fits HPAs criteria and the tenant qualifies, HPA buys the property and the tenant enters into a lease and Right to Purchase Agreement that allows the tenant to buy the property at a pre-determined price during the term of the lease, which is typically between three to five years. The purchase price typically increases by 3.5-5 per year throughout the term of the lease."

Additionally, this mortgage product "applies some of the appreciation in their homes value during the time they have lived there toward reducing the down payment," said "In areas with even modest home-price appreciation, that could reduce the down payment requirement to almost nothing. If the home fails to appreciate or if the tenant opts not to purchase, they can simply walk away."

The program has been around for five years, and Home Partners has purchased about 8,000 homes in more than 50 cities so far. As rents continue upward, growing the affordability gap for many homebuyers, its not surprising to see this programs popularity growing in lockstep. Loans for the program go through Pennsylvania-based lender New Penn Financial and are backed by mortgage companynbsp;Fannie Mae.

"Not unlike a traditional house hunting process, youll be working alongside a real estate agent to view listings that fit your budget, life>
Full Story >

Drones Make An Impression With A Birds Eye View Of The Neighborhood

Technology is changing the way real estate agents sell their listings; from putting the very first digital pin on a map to detail the exact location of a home, to offering video tours online, technology is continuously advancing and its important that real estate agents are keeping up with the times to bring the very best to their clients.

Today, drone technology is quickly becoming a go-to tool for real estate agents to market their listings, but often the cost is so expensive that entire marketing budgets can be easily blown with just one video.

Realty Times is proud to share that we have partnered with DroneView to offer our real estate agents the very best in drone technology to beautifully market their listings in a cost-effective way that will bring something fresh and exciting to clients while seducing potential buyers, allowing agents to separate themselves from the rest.

While most real estate drone videos focus on featuring the home itself, DroneView sets listings apart by featuring the neighborhood of a home, allowing potential buyers to explore the community of a listing through a crisp and clean high-definition, 360 degree graphic shot 100ft above the home.

An FAA approved drone pilot shoots each DroneView with 100 covered liability. Best of all, the realtor nor the homeowners need be present; because the focus of the DroneView is the listings community and surrounding neighborhood, the pilot can get the shots they need without having to enter the home.

Agents already love this innovative way to feature their listings and are finding that DroneView gives them a competitive edge in the market. "Separating myself from the lsquo;field of agents going after the same listings has become increasingly difficult. It has become very competitive and if you are an agent that is not keeping up with technology, you might as well quit the business," says REALTORreg; Geri DeVille of RE/MAX Top Producers in Brea, California.

"Having a drone video image is a new way of capturing the neighborhood so potential buyers can get a better idea of the type of neighbors they might have. Sellers love showing off what they have to offer and a drone view is another way to do that."

After delighting a previous client with a past DroneView listing, Geri was so pleased with the product that she has already purchased another for her latest listing. "I love the drone viewshellip;When I told my most recent client that I would be ordering a DroneView for their home, they said, lsquo;Oh really? Wow That is pretty cool I think its important to make every client feel special and that you would do everything you could to put their home in the best light and separate them from the field of listings."

Continuing on the importance of showing dedication to clients, Geri adds, "Clients want to see how their home is going to get marketed and know that they will be at the top billing in as many ways as possible. They want as much exposure as possible, and a DroneView is a bonus, especially when they are not expecting ithellip;as drones become more and more popular I visualize this as just another part of doing business and as an expectation."

Exclusive to Realty Times, each DroneView listing will be featured directly on the website through a unique webpage for the lifetime of the listing. Each webpage will include the HD 360 degree DroneView graphic as well as additional HD exterior shots of the home, a map to detail the listing location, agent info, and a link to the listing page. Only DroneView listings will be featured on Realty Times, allowing for optimal reach and link clicks back to your listing.

One DroneView listing is included under the newly revitalized Agent Publicity Package, however DroneView listings can also be purchased separately. DroneView upgrades are also available for those who would like an even more in-depth drone experience for their listing. A great agent-to-agent gift idea, DroneView gift cards are available To learn more, please visit or email .

Full Story >

Picture Perfect HOA Reserves

A reserve study identifies a homeowner associations future repairs and replacements like a snapshot in time. Imagine that you could picture the buildings and grounds as they would be in five, ten, even thirty years. A reserve study acts just like that by estimating the useful life of the common elements and the cost to replace them in the future based on current cost adjusted by inflation.

A reserve study uses a component inventory analysis of the HOAs common elements having useful lives of between 2 and 30 years to project scheduling coupled with a funding plan. Those components consist of the obvious, like roofing, painting, paving, fencing and the not-so-obvious like treework, landscape renovation and inspections elevator, fire sprinklers and alarms, tripping hazards.

Even the smallest HOAs have at least 15 items that should be included. Large HOAs can have hundreds. For a list, go to the Reserve Planning section of

Common elements deteriorate over time and as do the underlying assumptions of the reserve study. Reserve studies can be affected by new labor-saving techniques, building designs and materials that reduce projected costs or extend useful lives. As these changes take place, so should your reserve study.

Annual review and update of the reserve study confirm that the schedule and costs are still accurate. And its not always bad news that affects the review. Age, condition and rate of deterioration can be positively impacted by preventive maintenance implemented by the association which increases useful lives. Changes in area inflation and the actual interest earned from invested reserves need to be revised as well.

The good news is the annual review is a snap compared to the initial reserve study which requires significant field work to compile data.

Now that youre focused on reserves, its time to load the film and start shooting. Snapshot by snapshot, the results will develop picture perfect.

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

Real Estate Disclosure Laws Vary From State To State

Question: I believe my house is haunted. Periodically, a door will slam or windows will mysteriously open when no one else is home. I plan to sell; do I have to disclose? Mary.

Answer: Dear Mary: For purposes of my response, I will accept your statement that your house is haunted. Frankly, I am a skeptic, and do not believe in such ghost stories.

But if thats what you believe, you have to find out whether your state has a law on this topic. To my knowledge, in most of the states you would not have to disclose. In Florida, for example, there is a specific statute that protects home sellers and their real estate agents from liability by not disclosing.

In New York, however, if a home has a reputation of being haunted, it must be disclosed. Apparently, that law came out of a case where the home had significant media coverage about it being haunted.

So, if there has been no media coverage -- or your house does not have the reputation of having ghosts -- depending on your state law, you do not have to disclose.

Your buyers may be upset, but if you dont have to disclose you are legaly protected.

Question: I have a business I run from my home and use part of the recreation room for keeping records and filling orders from customers. Can I claim a home office deduction? Terrance.

Answer: Depends on the facts. The law allows you to claim the deduction if the office space is used "regularly and exclusively" for your business. If there is other use in that room such as watching TV -- you will not qualify. You can, however, isolate a space in that room even though others may be watching the television -- so long as it is "exclusive".

There is a formula the IRS has authorized to simplify how to calculate the deduction and it is explained in IRS publication 587, "Business Use of Your Home". It is available free on line from

Question: I am the Treasurer on my large 100 unit condo association board. Our management company has been managing the complex since the units were built in the late 1980s. The management contract, which took me forever to get a copy of, renews every three years automatically if no changes are made. It is next up for renewal in April of 2019.

As a board, what steps do we need to do to open this up to bid to other property management companies? Obviously we have no experience in this, as weve never changed companies. Is this something the board should do independently of the current management company? Were concerned that if we dont dot every "i" and cross every "t", our current firm will use that as an excuse to void any agreement we might make with a new property management company. Mike.

Answer: Mike, selecting a management company should not be any different than selecting a landscaper, or a contractor for a large job. Typically, the managing company will solicit two or three bids and then make a recommendation for the Board to decide. However, if you pass this task on to your management company, even if they do an honest search, there will always be the perception that they dont want to lose the job.

So, the board should create a three-member management committee -- could be from board members only or other interested owners -- to solicit bids. If you dont have a current list of property managers in your area, contact the Community Association Institute for such a listing.

Prepare a letter spelling out who you are, how many units, what you are looking and ask for a bid response. You should list a contact person because most management companies will want to inspect the property first.

Give them a four week deadline. I would also send it to your current manager and ask them to submit their response. Once you get some responses, review them carefully, talk with other associations they manage, and then make your decision.

Caution: do not decide on price along. Remember the old saying: "you only get what you pay for".
Full Story >

Ethics In The Real Estate Business

Its no secret that real estate salespeople do not, by and large, enjoy a very good reputation. Indeed, the true professionals in the business are discomforted by the fact that opinion polls regularly show that the public ranks real estate sales pretty low on the list of occupations whose practitioners are to be admired.

More particularly there are common perceptions that, in the course of their business, many real estate people cannot be depended on to tell the truth, and that they do not hesitate to manipulate others for their own self interest.

Yet the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR, and its state and local affiliated organizations, persistently claim that accountability to a Code of Ethics is a central and predominant fact of membership.

Whats wrong with this picture?

One wrong answer should be laid to rest immediately. It is not the case that the unethical real estate people are predominantly those licensees who dont belong to NAR, whereas those who are members can almost always be depended upon to be pure and good.

Anyone who has been around the Realtorreg; associations for a while is aware of the fact that it is a perennial complaint from within the organization that ethical standards are not sufficiently adhered to, and that "something ought to be donehellip;"

Nor is the point that the Code of Ethics itself needs fixing. The REALTORSreg; Code of Ethics along with its supplementary Standards of Practice is both comprehensive and >

The Realtorreg; organization has a >

One possible answer is ignorance. Perhaps there is insufficient knowledge among real estate salespeople as to what they should and should not do. In certain cases there is some plausibility to this. Certainly, there are, so to speak, finer points of some ethical matters where one just doesnt know what the right course of action might be. But, clearly, this does not apply to the vast majority of cases where right or wrong may be determined by central and well-known principles.

More plausible is the claim that the disparity between behavior and the Code of Ethics is a result of the fact that the Code is not sufficiently enforced. No doubt there is some truth to this. Realtorreg; organizations do not have an ethics police. Although there is a fairly elaborate quasi-judicial system for dealing with violations of the Code of Ethics, that whole system only comes into play when complaints are filed. And, frankly, the filing and pursuit of an ethics complaint is a time-consuming and not particularly pleasant process for the person who has been wronged. Most people would prefer simply to move on.

For reasons of cumbersome process alone, it is unlikely that enforcement at the organization level will ever have much influence on the inclination of practitioners to adhere to the Code of Ethics.

Moreover, if one thinks about it, the point of enforcement in ethics is not to get people to behave in a certain way because they fear punishment. Think of training a child. The point is to demonstrate that the principles are taken seriously; and the aim is that the learner will internalize the values

The ethical behavior of real estate salespeople will improve only when salespeople are shown that their peers, and most importantly, their trainers and employers, take ethical principles seriously. That kind of demonstration cannot be done by the Realtorreg; association. It can only occur at the level of individual companies and offices.

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

Full Story >

Five No Regrets Real Estate Buying Strategies To Avoid Missing-Out

In real estate, "the one that got away" stories get told and retold, usually with little satisfaction to the teller.

The real estate you didnt buy, but still wish you had, can weigh heavily on your mind and may even top your "Big Regrets List."

Every piece of real estate, vacant or otherwise, is unique. Once a property is sold, searching for its exact match is fruitless. Compromise becomes key.

Heres Five No-Regrets Buyer Strategies to spare you dreaming about a property you missed out on:

1. View When You Can Buy: Theres a whole group out there who casually visited an open house for a number of reasons but who were not ready to buy. When the property proved to be "it" mdash; their dream home mdash; and they could not buy it, missing out haunted future home searches. View homes when your finances are in place and you can put in an offer, just in case the open house you visit is the "one."

2. Buy Before The Market Turns: When real estate prices are down or stalled, jump in. Your purchasing power goes further. Those who wait to see whether the market will come back or that a neighborhood will catch on can find themselves squeezed out of properties they could have afforded during the slump. Real estate professionals have been tracking prices and value longer than you have, so talk to them about where opportunity lies for you now.

3. Buy The Abutting Condo Unit: If noise is an issue, buying the unit over yours can mean quieter living while expanding your home into a two-level delight. If youd like to widen your terrace and add interior space in the process, consider purchasing an abutting unit. Before you select a condominium complex, check out rules on combining units to be sure you know your options. Contractors can tell you which approach makes sense and project costs. Keep an eye on what happens around you.

4. Buy The Abutting Property: Keep in touch with the neighbors whose properties surround yours, so you act quickly when someone decides to sell. Protect your view by buying the vacant lot across the street; protect the mature trees edging your property by buying that land; protect your mutual driveway or other access by purchasing that abutting property; protect your solar rights before a new owner builds a sunshine-blocking monster home. Anticipation is a key talent in real estate ownership. Its not only whats happening now that should occupy owners thoughts, but what could happen next to upset their current use and peace of mind.

5. Investigate That Amazing Property: Do you have a special lot or recreational property that you have always admired? Is there a house or condominium unit that you feel would suit you and your family beautifully? If the property you love is suddenly listed, act just as quickly to get your real estate professional working for you. You may have even put this expert on notice in case that property comes on the market. If you have your eye on a property thats not listed, tell your real estate professional and theyll approach the owner and get the ball rolling for you. Sometimes, this proactive approach nets buyers a dream home without having to search the market.

The ultimate strategy to ensure you get the real estate you want is to put in an offer

Thats the crucial task that real estate professionals take responsibility for by asking a buyer to put in an offer when they show interest in a property.

If you dont make it to the offer stage, that real estate may be a property that was never within your grasp in the first place.
Full Story >

Modern Exterior Decor To Update Your Holiday Home

Perhaps youve had the same holiday deacute;cor for decades and are ready to modernize your look. Maybe you just moved into a new home and decided this was a great time to start fresh. Either way, you probably want to make sure your new holiday deacute;cor reflects modern trends. Weve got ideas.

White on white

It doesnt get any more elegant than white lights along the architectural lines of your home. This >

Add some sparkle

If you do want to add to the basic look, try this Everglow 2980-22 100 Clear White Wire Light Set, 9 on Amazon, which was voted best white lights by The Spruce. "The Holiday Wonderland light sets are ideal for indoor and outdoor use," they said. "These mini-incandescent bulbs hold up remarkably well to the elements and dont overheat, making them a safe bet for decorating the Christmas tree, the mantle, or anywhere outdoors. Reviewers love the set for thenbsp;simplicity, warm light it gives off and low cost."nbsp;

Let interior design be your guide

These round, clear balls are in touch with interior design trends over the past few years and will make your homes exterior look just as stylish. The Globe String Lights With Clear Bulbs are available for 14 on Amazon.


LED lights have been growing in popularity every year and have recently surpassed incandescent lights. They may still be a bit more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, but they use only about 10 percent of the electricity, are less of a fire risk, and last two to three times longer.

Amazon users love these TaoTronics Dimmable lights, which "give you ultimate control with 10 settings to adjust brightness and lighting modes like a strobe function, flashing, fade and more," said The Spruce. "They come in warm white or our favorite pick, thenbsp;multi-colored set. Featuring 33 ft. of easily adjustable, bendable, sealed copper wiring, this set allows you to wrap and illuminate any holiday decorating project." The 100-light set comes with a remote control and costs 15 on Amazon.

C9 Bulbs

After many years of small bulbs dominating the market, larger C9 bulbs have made a resurgence. You can choose from white bulbs, twinkling versions, multi-colored, and ceramic, which "have the traditional colors that look like the bulbs have been dipped in latex paint," said These ceramic C9 replacement lamps are prefect if you are looking for a >

Pre-lit garland

Garland is not a revolutionary idea, but if your garland dates back to the days when you had to use your own strands of lights to get some sparkle, youll love how simple and elegant these pre-lit versions are. "Save yourself the hassle of wrangling string lightsnbsp;around swaths of evergreens and opt for these natural-looking strands instead," said Good Housekeeping. "Twist them around porch poles and bannisters, or frame the front door usingnbsp;Command hooks."nbsp;

Rope lights

You can always wrap your trees with traditional lights, however these make installation super simple and also may be less attractive to rabbits and other cord-eaters. You can also "use these waterproof lights to wrap pillars or fences," said HomeBNC. "Made out of flexible material, these lights can bend and shape to fit any decoration idea you may have."

Full Story >

CASA and St. Vincent de Paul Society Receive Generous Donations Through the Innovative Agent with Heart Program.

Erica Seigred of Surterre Properties in Newport Beach, CA has made a donation to the Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA on behalf of her clients, Andrew Garrison and Emily McEwan.

Terri Repetto of Realty One Group in San Diego, CA has made a donation to the St. Vincent de Paul Society on behalf of her client, Rika.

ldquo;Wersquo;d like to extend a special thank you to Erica and Terri for their generous contributions theyrsquo;ve made through the Agent with Heart Program,rdquo; said Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. ldquo;For Erica, this is her first Agent with Heart donation and we are very grateful to be able to include her among our real estate partners in giving.rdquo;

ldquo;Thanks to the generosity of real estate agents like Erica and Terri, our program is able to assist communities nationally by providing donations to local nonprofits with each real estate transaction. We commend Erica and Terri on their dedication to giving back, and look forward to a continued partnership in making a difference.rdquo;

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

To contact Erica Seigred, please call 949-230-4416 or visit her website at

To contact Terri Repetto, please call 619-348-5122 or visit

Full Story >

Slaying That Credit Score - New Tips For A New Year

Getting ready to buy a house or just thinking about it? Where to buy, what to buy, and how youll afford it are probably top of mind. But if youre not also concentrating on your credit score - and by concentrating on, we mean actively trying to raise your scores as much as possible - youre not looking at the whole homebuying picture.

Not only can does your credit score factor greatly into what youll pay for your house, it can keep you from being able to buy one, period. "Yourcredithistory determines what loans you will qualify for and the interest rate you will pay," said eloan. "A credit score provides an easy way for lenders to numerically judge your credit at a point in time. It gauges how likely you are to repay your loan in a timely manner. The better your history appears, the more attractive you become as a loan customer."

Thankfully, your credit score is not static; it can and does change all the time, and there are all kinds of ways to improve it, some better than others. Were running down the smartest options to boost your score in the new year.

Shoot for perfection

850 is the best score you can possibly get, and, while it may seem completely out of reach, there are people who actually crest that credit mountain and reach the top. "Its the Holy Grail of all credit scores: 850. On the widely used FICO credit score scale, approximately one in every 200 people achieves perfection, at least as of a 2010 estimate by theFair Isaac Corporation," said The Motley Fool. Careful budgeting and detailed attention to every aspect of their financial picture are the umb>Or, shoot for 750

If 850 is out of reach within a reasonable timeframe reasonable being the maximum amount of time you want to wait before buying a home, try for 750. This is the magic number for many lenders and creditors. "It puts the ball completely in the corner of the consumer rather than the lender, said The Motley Fool. "Youll often have lenders fighting for your business, and in nearly all instances, youll be offered the best interest rate by lenders, meaning youll have the lowest possible long-term mortgage and loan costs of any consumer."

Talking to your lender about the items on your credit report that have the best chance of raising your score is key. You may think that paying off that old unpaid account from six years ago is an easy way to get a score bump, but is it about to fall off of your report on its own?

Set up automatic payments

According to, a good 35 percent of your credit score is taken from your payment history. You may have missed payments in the past that you need to deal with now, but you certainly dont want to make another mistake while youre trying to get homebuyer-ready. Almost every creditor, from your utilities to your car payment to any outstanding student loans you may have, offers the option of automatic payments. This is the easiest way to ensure you never miss a payment because you got busy or spaced on the due date.

But, just remember to make sure there is enough cash in your account to cover the payments on the day the money will be coming out. If you have been busy moving funds into savings for your down payment, youll want to set a reminder to put money back into whatever account your auto payments are attached to.

Ask before you shut down credit cards

The amount of credit you have is a factor in qualifying - or not - for a mortgage. Too much debt is a bad thing. But, long-term credit use that has been managed properly can be helpful to your score. If your lender does recommend getting rid of some of your available credit, it likely wont be older cards. "Length of credit history is considered when determining your score - so the longer youve had a credit card, the better," said CNN Money.

Also beware that closing any card triggers a change in your "utilization," and that might not be a positive. Be sure to consult with your lender first.

Watch your credit limits

Banks dont look kindly on those who have used all of their available credit because it gives the appearance that youre not living within your means. "The amount of available credit you use is the second most important factor in your score," said NerdWallet. "Experts recommend you keep your balance on each cardbelow 30 of your limit if your limit is 5,000, your balance should be under 1,500."

Of course, even lower is better. Get to 20 or even 10, and youll be in great shape. But dont go below that. While it may seem like a zero balance would indicate that you are financially savvy, banks like to see responsible credit management. That means using your cards and paying down the balance to a reasonable level every month.

Pay down your debtbut check with your lender first

If youre trying to weigh the best tactics for improving your credit and you dont have the funds to take care of every outstanding wrinkle on your credit report and pay down your existing debt at the same time, you definitely want to check with your lender before you make any move. Every dollar is important, and while NerdWallet notes that your credit score will "soar" as you "pay off your debtas aggressively as possible without acquiring more," it could be that your lender has a strategy that places more importance on other credit issues in your report, or has structured your credit repair according to a different timeline.

This underscores the importance of working with a lender who is skilled and experienced in credit repair. Using the tools our lender gave us, we were able to improve our score by almost 100 points in four months, allowing us to qualify for the home we wanted and get a great interest rate.

Dont be afraid to refinance

You may end up buying a home before you get your credit score exactly where you want it to be. If youre in an appreciating market, which much of the country is, and your score continues to rise after you close escrow, you might be in a position to refinance sooner than you think. Especially if you buy your home with an FHA loan, their streamline refinance program can potentially lower your rate without an appraisal, a credit check, or job/income verification.
Full Story >

5 Easy Design Tips For A Zen Bedroom

A good nightrsquo;s sleep is a much-coveted dream of many, and for good reason. Research from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute shows that sleep is vital for emotional well-being, decision-making, physical health and creativity. And yet 45 percent of Americans report that poor sleep negatively affects their life at least one day a week, the National Sleep Foundation says. Luckily, there are some proven strategies to rediscover dreamland, and they all start with a zen bedroom. From design decisions to color choices, here are five easy ways to transform your bedroom into a calm, peaceful environment so you can >

1. Choose a Natural Color Palette

Neutrals like white, gray and warm brown provide a timeless backdrop that evokes the calmness of nature and matches any accent color for an ordered space. A dresser, bed frame and nightstands in a natural wood stain look great against misty gray walls and crisp white window trim and baseboards.

For walls, try a light and airy paint color like Sherwin-WiIliams Passive with the buttery-smooth Cashmere finish. If you want to try a more colorful accent wall, opt for a light shade of blue which is associated with >

2. Invest in a Great Bed

A substantial and comfortable bed promotes a good nights sleep. If space allows, opt for a king-size mattress with a dense memory foam core. This provides the maximum support on pressure points like hips and shoulders while keeping the spine aligned. The larger size will also minimize any disruptions from a partnerrsquo;s movements during the night.

When arranging the furniture, position the bed against the wall farthest from the door, suggests. This helps achieve a sense of safety and allows for foot traffic to flow through the room. Also, consider anchoring the bed with a heavy wooden, leather or upholstered headboard, or even a dark accent wall to create a sense of being enveloped or cocooned.

3. Display Beautiful Art

Choose art that is pleasing to look at and calming in its effect. Black-and-white photographs, landscapes or abstract prints of water or foliage work well. Whatever the >

When hanging artwork above the bed, ensure that it feels connected to the bed rather than floating above it. To accomplish this, measure eight to 10 inches above the headboard mdash; thatrsquo;s where the bottom of the artworkrsquo;s frame should be.

4. Pay Special Attention to Lighting

One of the most annoying ways to lose sleep is glaring sunlight flooding your space. To create a nurturing and intimate sleep space, cover windows with light-blocking roller shades framed by beautiful linen drapes.

To give the room a romantic glow at night, frame the bed on either side with table lamps or wall-mounted reading lamps. Soft indirect light, rather than the harsh brightness of overhead light, will help to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

5. Layer on the Natural Textiles

From wool rugs to cotton bedding, go overboard on high-quality natural textiles. The softness of the material will cushion sound and make comfort and calm a priority.

For large area rugs, look for 100 percent wool since the synthetic blends donrsquo;t hold up as well to traffic and vacuuming. When shopping for bed sheets, choose 100 percent cotton with longer fibers such as Egyptian, pima and supima.

Now yoursquo;re ready to create your own zen bedroom. Go forth with calmness, serenity and balance.

Full Story >

The Best Holiday Gifts For Those Hard-To-Buy-For Types

Gift-giving is fun, its satisfying, but its not always a breeze. Especially if you have a large list filled with people who are notoriously difficult, demanding, have expensive taste, or who just dont give much of an indication about what they might want, you may be searching for ideas for unique gifts. We have curated a list that can help with all those hard-to-buy-for types, and most of them are super affordable, too.

After all, finding inexpensive gifts... that dont look like inexpensive gifts... is one of the biggest challenges of the holiday season. "While you might want to gift everyone fromnbsp;your momnbsp;tonbsp;your sisternbsp;tonbsp;your bestienbsp;a 60 Diptique candle, odds are its just not realistic for your budget," said MyDomaine. "But believe it or not, it is possible to find gifts for under 10 for everyone on your list without looking like youre skimping."

For the Fashionista

Bring some legendary Italian design into your giftees home with these gorgeous Giacomo Towels By Missoni Home, from Amusespot. They come in three color combinations featuring the >

For the cosmetics queen

Forget the mood ring. This is mood nail polish At just 6 at Urban Outfitters, its a great little stocking stuffer, or buy one in each of the available colors for your babysitter or teenage daughter.

For the health-obsessed

Buy a pillow for a friend or family member? Sure, when its this one. "Covered in mineral-infused fibers that absorb your bodys energy and then recycle it back into your body, promoting faster workout recovery and better sleep, sounds too good to be true, but clinical tests proved it really works," said Architectural Digest. The Body Chemistry Comfy Hybrid pillow is 80 from PureCare.nbsp;

For the obsessive-compulsive cleaner

The iRobot Bravaa Jet is a robotic cleaning machine for hard surfaces. Hello, bathroom floor Its on the pricier side at 200, but theyll never have to get down on their hands and knees to scrub that tile again, and youll be a hero. Win-win.

For the foodie

This Himalayan Salt amp; Grater by Rivsalt will be a hit far beyond its 24 price tag.

For the political junkie in your life

"We all have those loved ones who, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, arenbsp;hardcorenbsp;when it comes to politics," said Refinery29. "They talk about it over dinner, post about it on social media, and will drive you crazy when theyre praising their faves or condemning people in power whom they dont like."

So what do you buy for someone whos so passionate about politics? They curated a great list of options with books, t-shirts, mugs, and, perhaps our favorite because it suits anyone regardless of political affiliation: this collectible edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Even better: Its just 7.98 atnbsp;Barnes amp; Noble.

For the kid you dont know very well

We all have a child on our list that we have to buy something for and are flummoxed because we dont spend enough time together to really be able to get personal. This adorable 25 balloon dog nightlight from Uncommon Goods will delight any child and, quite family we want one, too.

For the techie

Buying gifts for the tech-lover in your life can be challenging, especially if you are on a budget. The new Roku Streaming Stick might be your answer. "We already loved this little 50 video streamer, which turns any HDMI-equipped TV into a gateway to online entertainment bliss: Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, HBO Now and literally hundreds of other streaming channels," said cnet. "And now it gets better for 2017, with a new voice-activated remote that can also control your TVs power and volume."

For your teen or tween

The idea of picking out gifts for your teen or tween can send you running right to the gift card aisle. But before you load up on cards, take a look at these great gift ideas from Good Housekeeping.

This 30 Splash-Proof Mini Portable Bluetooth Speaker provides "up to fivenbsp;hours of non-stop music from any device," and encourages showering, which is another plus. We also love this 3-Port USB Car Charger that allows your kids and all their friends to charge up their phones at the same time. Its just 15 from Shop On Market.

Full Story >

Find The Right Interior Doors For Your Home

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 panesmdash;and the light they bringmdash;improve 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 >

Ask the HOA Expert: Governing Document Provisions

Question: Our governing documents have a provision that limits rental agreements to 12 months except for extenuating situations approved by the board. Since the HOA has not been turned over yet by the developer, is the developer the "board" and does this give him the power to change the rules for his own benefit? For example, the developer rented several units for 18 months.

Answer: Yes, prior to turnover, the developer controls the board and can grant himself an "extenuating circumstance" although this would be a clear conflict of interest. Since the developer controls the board, it puts a lot of responsibility on the developer to govern equitably meaning he should not grant himself special favors. But developers want and need to sell units and sometimes bend the rules when necessary to make a sale. It often comes in the form of granting a buyer some special right for example, like installing a fence that is prohibited in the governing documents. In most cases, these are verbal agreements since the developers know it will come back to haunt them if they put it in writing.

Usually, the rules developers bend are minor since major ones could have some nasty consequences when the turnover board takes over. If a developer is grossly out of line during his control period, the new board can hold him legally and financially accountable.

That said, during down real estate markets, developers are forced to do things they did not plan to do, like rent units, until the market recovers. Failing to take measures like these would likely force the developer into bankruptcy or foreclosure by the bank. Banks are generally not good substitutes for the developer so it may behoove the current owners to be somewhat flexible with the developer if he is struggling but doing his best to fulfill his developer obligations.

Question: Must all HOA business be discussed, debated, and voted on at board meetings open to the members? We have a group of dissidents that routinely disrupt and interfere with the board discussions. Its hard to get business done.

Answer: The board should deal with most HOA business except legal matters, contract negotiations, private collection matters and a few other topics at open board meetings. Part of the disruption issue may be >Regardless of the seating arrangement, if the board president is not effective in restraining members of the audience that interrupt, the problem will persist. The issue can be handled tactfully in a short statement preceding the opening of every board meeting where there is an audience by simply stating "Please remember that this is a board meeting, and that guests are not to interrupt unless asked to speak by the Chair." The Chair, of course, must quickly seize control if an interruption happens and ask the person to leave if they do not cease and desist. If your Chair is not up to this task, someone that is should run the meeting.

Question: Our board president has many wonderful qualities, however, lacks level headedness when confronted by irate members at meetings. Being aware of his own shortcomings, he has delegated the act of chair to the vice president whom is well versed in parliamentary procedure. Is this against any rule? Our documents state that the president presides over meetings.

Answer: Dealing with confrontation at board meetings is a basic duty of the president. A vice president should only assume this duty if the president is absent. The president cannot transfer his authority to someone else. It has nothing to do with parliamentary procedure. The president needs to maintain control over civility and the tone of the discussion. If he is not up to the job, he should step down and the board should appoint someone else, like the VP, who is.

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

All Cash Offers May Be Questionable In Real Estate Transactions

Question: I often see advertisements offering "all cash for your house or condo." Some of these ads offer to give monthly payments for equity. What type of guarantee is the seller offered so as to insure that he/she gets the full amount. Suppose the company goes bankrupt? How can these companies offer such benefits as "three times your equity"? Your response would be helpful.

Answer: The moral of this column can best be summed up with the old adage "caveat emptor -- let the buyer beware."

As with any transactions among strangers, most are legitimate, but many are fraught with problems, including fraud. You have sent me a newspaper clipping, whereby a promoter offers to buy any house -- often sight unseen -- and pay the seller on a monthly basis any equity that exists in the house.

At first blush, this may be a good deal. You -- as seller -- will be able to sell your house, and take payments on an installment basis.

Furthermore, by selling your house, you will be >But this is theory; in practice, there can be many problems.

Let us look at some of the possible pitfalls:

1. Buyer goes into bankruptcy. You raise the question of the possible bankruptcy of the purchaser. If the proper protections are taken at the time of settlement, the filing of bankruptcy will create a delay, but should not pose a major problem for you. If you take back a first deed of trust from your buyer for the amount of the equity you are lending, and if this deed of trust mortgage is properly recorded in the land records where your property is located, you will be a secured creditor. In the worst case, you will ultimately get the house back.

But, if you already have a first mortgage on the property, and your buyer does not pay that off in full, you will only be able to obtain a second trust from your buyer. In this second-place position, you will be at greater risk. If the buyer does not pay you, I suspect the buyer will also not pay the first trust lender. The first trust lender can foreclose on the property and your second deed of trust may be wiped out.

2. Due on Sale clause. Most mortgages contain what is known as a "due on sale" clause. This means that upon the sale of your property to a third party, your existing lender can call the entire unpaid balance of the mortgage due. While lenders do not often assert these clauses, the possibility remains. This is too great a risk, and I cannot recommend you enter into such a sale without first obtaining your lenders approval of the transaction.

3. Additional encumbrances. Even if you own your home free and clear, there is nothing to stop your buyer from taking out a new mortgage on "your" home after settlement. If that new lender does not receive the monthly payments on time, it can foreclose. This can cause you a lot of aggravation, as well as uncertainly and legal fees.

4. Financial status of your buyer. Before entering into this kind of transaction, you must learn more about your buyer. Are there any tax liens against the buyer that could become a super-priority lien ahead of your deed of trust? Is your buyer judgment-proof -- i.e., you will not receive any money even after you successfully obtain a court judgment.

5. Sales Price. What price are you willing to accept from this buyer? Clearly, that buyer is not a charitable organization; there is a profit motive behind the transaction. Why should this buyer offer you market price for your house, since when the house is ultimately resold, your buyer will not make any profit.

6. Guarantees. You ask what guarantees your buyer can give that you will ultimately receive payment in full. The short answer is none. Unless your buyer pays you all cash, you face a serious risk -- on a monthly basis -- that you may not get paid in full. After all, you are dealing with a stranger -- and one who presumably is in the business of buying and selling houses. If there are any tricks -- and if the buyer is not completely reputable -- they will use every trick in the book to take advantage of you.

My bottom line is to stay away from these types of transactions. While they appear attractive, there are too many pitfalls.

If you are desperate -- and still want to go ahead with such a transaction -- please consult your legal and tax advisors before signing anything.
Full Story >

Is Now The Right Time For A Kitchen Remodel?

Its totally normal for those kitchen remodeling pangs to go crazy during the holidays. If youve spent time at a friend or family members house that has a freshly updated kitchen, you may be feeling a little envious. If you hosted over the holidays, your kitchens shortcomings may be top of mind. But is this the best time of year to finally go ahead with that remodel? It may just be.

"Many people think spring and summer are the best times to do a remodel because the temperature is warm and can be beneficial for the work crew especially if they have to work outside," said C. Haynes Construction. "The best time to remodel is not necessarily a when but a what. Its best to remodel when your budget and hassle will be at a minimum."

About that budget

Say you set a 20,000 budget for your remodel - just under 22,000 is a national average for a mid-range kitchen remodel. That number may be solely based on what you can afford, but not necessarily enough to cover what you want. Working closely with a designer and/or contractor to establish your budget based on needs and wants is step 1.

Things like walls being taken down, whether or not your cabinets need to be replaced or if they can be refaced or painted instead, the quality of new appliances you want, and the cost of other materials will help determine the cost. And, you may be able to get a better deal on some of what you need at certain times of the year.

"This principle ofnbsp;supply and demandnbsp;can determine how much we pay for items. For example, December 26thnbsp;is a great day to pick up Christmas decorations for next year," said C. Haynes Construction. "Why? The holiday is over and theyre on sale. The same can be said for home improvement items. Large appliances like refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers are pretty cheap before the holiday season kicks in. Another example is flooring. Flooring is often affected by the price of oil for shipping and production. During the winter, the cost of crude oil is cheaper so you may want to buy the flooring then. Its also a good time to buy in the late winter and very early spring because new flooring lines are coming out and there are deals on lines being discontinued or upgraded."

Indeed, flooring, as well as items like backsplash tile and faucets have been among the Black Friday deals weve been seeing at big box stores this year. Home Depot and Lowes have both been running 40 off appliance specials that go through November 30 and which can save you thousands of dollars. Even if youre not planning to remodel right away, purchasing appliances now may be a good idea.

Labor Costs

Remodeling your kitchen during the winter, which can be the slow season for many, may also save you money on labor costs because youre not paying a premium for subcontractors and skilled labor.

"If were talking seasons, winter is ideal for deals," said Build Direct. "Among cold weathers natural benefits, such as curing paint faster, is that it traditionally represents a time when contractors are hungry for work."

Look for openings in your contractors schedule

Even top contractors and designers may have a light time, and its probably right now. While some remodeling projects may not be best to undertake in the winter like building a pool in a snowy climate, perhaps, hacking away at your kitchen in December or January may be a great way to get what you want quickly, and for less money out of pocket.

"With some early planning and a little flexibility, you might be able to get your project in motion well before the main rush, allowing you to finish a little earlier and allowing your contractor to work more efficiently, as he or she wont have any other projects to contend with," said Home Advisor. "Since youll be providing work for your contractor when little is available, you are likely to get excellent service. Since the mistakes and backtracking are likely to be greatly reduced, the lsquo;slightly off-season is one of the best times to remodel"

Full Story >

California Law Will Standardize Real Estate Advertising Rules

Effective January 1, 2018, California real estate agents and brokers will be subject to a new and different set of rules covering their advertising. The new rules were spelled out in Assembly Bill 1650, which was signed into law by the Governor on August 19, 2016. Thats not a typo; the law was passed a little over a year ago. The long delay in making it effective was an accommodation in recognition of the costs, planning, and physical changes that would be required. More than a years time was given. Now, there is slightly more than a month left. Its time to start thinking about this

AB 1650 came about in response to what, over the years, had become a hodgepodge of rules covering real estate advertising. Although no actual conflicts existed, different rules covering different types of ads and solicitations had led to confusion. Hence the 2016 legislation, which became known as the "uniform advertising standards."

In what follows, we will offer a summary of the changes which become effective January 1, 2018. It should be noted, though, that specific requirements that apply to mortgage loan originators are not discussed here.

  • A licensee must include his or her name, license identification number, and their responsible brokers identity on all solicitations intended to be a first point of contact with consumers.
  • For the purposes of this section, "solicitation materials" includes:

a Business cards, stationery, and advertising brochures or flyers
b Advertisements on television, in print, or electronic media
c "for sale", "for rent", "for lease", "open house", and directional signs, unless an exception applies

The exception that applies to the type of signs referenced in c, above, is that no agent identification is required for those types of signs if either 1 the responsible brokers identity is included on the sign, or 2 there is no identification at all on the sign.

Suppose, for example, that a directional or "for sale" sign had the company name responsible broker identification on it. e.g. an arrow that contained the following: Open House, ABC Realty That sign would not also require the name and identification number of an agent. Though, of course, an agents name and number could be on it.

Conversely, suppose the directional sign said only "open house". Again, no agent identification would be required.

What you cant have is a sign with the agents name and/or number, but without the responsible brokers identification. If the agents name is there, the brokers must be also.

While an agents name must be accompanied by his/her identification number, that is not the case for the responsible broker or firm. Including the brokers id. number is optional.

Other items to keep in mind:

  • The font size of the id. number can be no smaller than the smallest size of any other type used in the material.
  • If the name of more than one licensee appears in the material, the license id. number of each must appear also.
  • If team names or nick names are used, the rules that were in place for those cases still apply.

This discussion refers to state regulations. Under the REALTORreg; Code of Ethics, there are additional rules that apply to advertising.

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

Canadas Controversial New Mortgage Rules

Canadas banking regulators think that home buyers are spending too much money and taking on too much debt. Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, it will be tougher for anyone taking out a new mortgage from a federally regulated lender to qualify for a mortgage. That includes people who want to renew a mortgage from a different lender than their current provider.

To qualify, borrowers must be able to pass a "stress test" and prove that they could afford to pay the current mortgage rate plus two percentage points. The rule applies to federally regulated lenders, which includes the major banks. Those who are renewing an existing mortgage are exempt from the stress-test provision if they dont switch lenders, but if they want to shop around for a new rate theyll have to pass the test for the new provider.

Another option is to go to lenders that are not governed by the federal regulator, such as credit unions and private lenders.

"The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions OSFI is keenly aware of the potential risks caused by high household indebtedness across Canada and by high real estate prices in some markets," said superintendent Jeremy Rudin in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada.

"We are not waiting to see those risks crystalize in rising arrears and defaults before we act. Rather, we are adapting our standards to new developments."

Benjamin Tal of CIBC Capital Markets says the change "reduces the purchasing power of typical buyers by close to 20 per cent, and we estimate that no less than 10 to 15 per cent of mortgage originations will be impacted."

Scotiabanks Adrienne Warren also estimates that 10 per cent "of current loan applications would no longer qualify under the new rules. The overall impact on sales, however, is likely to be smaller, as some potential buyers could choose to purchase a lower-priced home, while others may be able to extend their amortization period or opt for a lower variable mortgage rate in order to extend their buying power."

The OSFI decisions have come under heavy criticism from the real estate and mortgage industries, as well as other economists.

Jim MacGee, a fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute, wrote in a memo to Finance Minister Bill Morneau that the new rules unduly limit competition among lenders. "In response to concerns that simply adding two percentage points to the quoted mortgage rate would encourage borrowers to shift from five-year fixed mortgages to shorter-term mortgages with variable rates, OSFI requires lenders to use the higher of the rate offered by the lender plus two per cent or the average five-year fixed rate posted by the six largest banks. This lowers the incentives for a lender to offer a low interest rate to help a borrower qualify for a mortgage."

He says that "borrowers with high debt-to-income ratios may find that they can only qualify for a renewal with their existing lender. This removes the option to shop for a better rate and limits borrowers bargaining power on renewal. This is likely to result in higher rates for borrowers who already face high debt payments >As many as one in six people renewing their mortgage "could be trapped at their existing bank because they cant pass the stress test at another lender. And if a bank knows you cant leave, you can bet your boots theyll use that as leverage to serve up subpar renewal rates," wrote founder Robert McLister in a column for the Globe Mail.

The Fraser Institute points out that the rate of residential mortgage arrears in Canada, where the borrower is more than 90 days behind in payments, is "virtually unchanged from 2002 and hasnt exceeded 0.45 per cent, even during the 2009 financial crisis, when the U.S. rate of arrears neared five per cent."

Neil Mohindra, public policy consultant at the Fraser Institute, says the "stress test for financially sound home buyers is unnecessary and will do more harm than good -- Canadian home buyers will pay the price."

His study on the regulations concludes that homebuyers may need to settle for less desirable homes than the ones they prefer, and that they "may seek out less-regulated mortgage finance companies, which are funded by private investors and charge higher interest rates."

It may also prompt people to choose shorter-term variable loans, which are more vulnerable to rate fluctuations than longer-term fixed-rate mortgages.

"It is one thing to act before a problem emerges and another to search for a problem where it does not exist," write Sean Spear and Jane Londerville in a paper for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. "This is regulation-making in search of a problem."

They say the policy "also conflicts with the intent of other policies, such as the current governments pledge to significantly increase the Home Buyers Plan and make it more flexible for first-time buyers." The plan allows buyers to borrow funds from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan.

"This is the type of policy incoherence that we see across federal housing policy," write Spear and Londerville.
Full Story >

10 Tiny Changes to Refresh Your Home For Fall

As winter approaches, its time to snuggle down and make the most of being at home. Although it can be hard to motivate ourselves to make major interior changes as temperatures drop, there are plenty of little tweaks that will make a surprisingly big difference. So ring in the new season with these small but enticing changes.

Trade pillows. If pretty florals are starting to feel all wrong, embrace the new season with something fluffier. Most of us are happy to switch our wardrobes from summer to winter, so why not our home accessories too?

Try swapping your current pillows for cozier and more tactile ones in winter whites, oranges or browns to mirror the seasonal hues - and switch light cottons for sheepskin, velvet, wool and felt. The shaggy numbers here make a pair of compact armchairs feel much more inviting on longer evenings.

Photo by John Lewis - Browse living room ideas

Lay a jewel-bright rug. Gray has its place, but theres nothing like a colorful rug to give a living room a warm, inviting feel, especially now that the seasons are turning. It will also keep chilly toes warmer on hard flooring. If youre worried about rugs slipping and sliding around on hard floors, use double-sided carpet tape to keep them in place. Alternatively, use felt, rubber or vinyl nonslip rug pads. You can often cut them to fit though watch out for cheap pads that leave a sticky residue on floors.

Photo by Chris Snook - More bedroom photos

Sprinkle some fairy dust. Fairy lights definitely arent just for Christmas. They add a lovely twinkly feel to rooms, which is especially welcome now that were heading into autumn and winter. Hang them on a window to add an extra warm glow on those dark, cold mornings or to cheer you up at the end of the day as the light fades. They also look lovely coiled in a fireplace, hung on a mirror or picture frame, or arranged across a closet door.

Photo by LOVE INTERIORS - Search living room pictures

Mix in metallics. Coppery and golden tones were made for autumn. They add a touch of warm luxury but also seem to fit with the colors and low light of the season. You dont need to make a big change mdash; one or two lampshades, a side lamp or a vase can make a huge difference to rooms. Copper tones also go beautifully with a neutral palette of grays, whites and beiges, which so many of us have in our rooms these days.

Display evergreen foliage. You dont need to spend a fortune on expensive bouquets to cheer up your rooms. Spring and summer flowers such as daffodils and tulips may be behind us now, but you can celebrate the change of seasons with evergreen foliage or even a display of autumnal leaves.

Pop branches, cuttings and sprigs of autumn berries in tall, colorful vases to add natural beauty to the dining table. Head to your garden for ideas, but be careful not to collect poisonous berries if you have young children or pets.

Photo by 1st Option - Discover dining room design ideas

Illuminate kitchen cabinets. Undercabinet lighting makes kitchens look more appealing at night, as it creates soft pools of illumination. Its also practical for cooking and prepping, especially in gloomy corners, when natural light is at a inevitable as the seasons turn.

No need to despair if you dont want the fuss and expense of getting lights wired in. Instead, look for simple stick-on, battery-operated lighting that can be secured in place using sticky tabs and operated at the switch of a button. Puck lights are compact and often feature energy-saving LED bulbs.

Photo by louisa jane interiors - More kitchen photos

Try a wall light. Similarly, if you like the practicality of wired-in bedside or office lights but your walls are already plastered and painted, then try this trick: an angled plug-in light that has the look of a wired-in number. With visible wires being very on-trend, this can easily be >

Photo by Making Spaces - More home office ideas

Glam up your grout. If your grout is in need of a quick cleanup and lets face it, whose isnt?, consider a grout pen. This nifty device can tidy up grubby grout in a flash. Although it may not be a long-term solution, or look quite as good as replacing it properly, it can tide you over, covering up stained and cracked patches.

Simply choose the color that matches your grout mdash; or, if you want a change, choose another color and draw over the top. Most are antibacterial too, so they should help keep mold from sprouting.

Light a candle or two. Whether you refer to it as hygge or something else, theres no doubt that, as the evenings start to draw in, were more likely to light a candle and hunker down, maybe with a mug of cocoa or something a little stronger.

If you already have an assortment of tea light holders and candlesticks stashed in your drawers and cabinets, why not turn them into a flickering display on a low shelf or table? Just always be safe and never leave open flames unattended. Ordinary glass bottles and jars can also work well if you dont have anything else at hand.

Photo by jonathan gooch photography - Browse living room photos

Add a bright blanket. Now that its cold outside, its time to take out your blankets. But dont view these just as functional accessories mdash; they can be part of your design and give tired bedrooms a seasonal refresh.

Go outside your comfort zone and choose something with a bold design or shade to change the feel of your room. Replace summer pastels with rich colors that add a mellow autumnal atmosphere, for instance. This cozy mustard number ties in with the pillows and brings the neutral bedroom to life.

Photo by Woodford Architecture and Interiors - More bedroom ideas

Also See:

  • Shop Gorgeous Rugs in Every >
  • Create a Soft Glow With the Right Undercabinet Lighting
  • More Home Interiors Transformed for Fall

Full Story >

Black Friday Who? Get Ready For Cyber Monday

Think you missed the boat on the best holiday deals if you skipped the Black Friday madness? Not by a longshot. Get ready for Cyber Monday, which is expected to be a blockbuster day for online shopping.

"Cyber Monday is forecast to be the largest online shopping day in U.S. history. Not bad for a made-up holiday that has its roots in the painful slowness of dial-up modems," said USA Today. "This year, Americans are expected to spendnbsp;6.6 billion online the Monday following Thanksgiving vs. 5 billion online on Black Friday, according to Adobe Analytics. Thats despite ubiquitous smartphones and broadband, andnbsp;plenty of online deals starting Thursday."

While many retailers have not >

Amazon Cyber Monday deals

"Never mind Black Friday. The retail giant will offer savings on even more gadgets, hit video games, toys from brands such as Lego, Nerf and more," said c
Full Story >

How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

Becoming a first-time homeowner takes a lot more than a desire to buy a house. It takes a lot of effort on your part to save up a down payment mdash; which is usually a pretty good sized chunk of change mdash; research neighborhoods, get pre-approved for a loan and other steps. Fortunately, it is quite possible to say goodbye to renting and hello to homeownership, especially when homeowners-to-be consider the following tips:

Focus on the Down Payment

In order to leave the land of rent, you are going to need a down payment mdash; plain and simple. While it is common to put down 20 percent, some lenders now allow a much smaller amount, and first-time home buyer programs may go as low as 3 percent. While a smaller down payment may sound enticing, a 5 percent down payment on a 200K home is still 10,000 mdash; not exactly a small sum. If saving money does not come naturally for you, donrsquo;t worry. With some >

Avoid Identity Theft

Unfortunately, the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft increase when you are buying and moving into a new home. The stacks of documents that are part of buying a home and that are filled with your personal information may accidentally fall into the wrong hands, and once you move, mail may not be routed correctly and thieves may steal your mail and your identity from your old mailbox. Prevent this situation from happening by purchasing an identity theft protection program; find a trusted company that will help safeguard your personal data. In addition to letting you know when a bank pulls your credit report and asking if you have authorized this inquiry, certain services will monitor your financial activity and alert you if anything is amiss.

Check Your Credit Report

When you start the pre-approval process for a loan and then move on to the Big Kahuna of applying for an actual mortgage, your credit report will be pulled numerous times. Your credit score will then be used to determine if you are approved for a loan, and what type of interest rate you will get. Please do not wait until you have the down payment saved and you are champing at the bit to go look at houses to check your FICO score mdash; check your credit as early in the process as you can. If you have a credit card that has been issued through your bank, give them a call and see if they can run your report for you for free; in the cases of some credit cards, they also offer a free monthly FICO score check. Read through the report and check for any errors; this includes credit lines you never opened and delinquent payments that you know were made on time. Dispute any mistakes that you find and look for ways to boost your credit score, like paying down credit card bills and setting up automatic bill pay so you are never late with your payments.

Full Story >

The 10 Best Commutes In California, By County

The average Californian spends about 50 minutes commuting per day. That might sound like a lot, but as residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco will tell you, its just the tip of the iceberg. If youre planning on moving to California but dont feel like spending that much time in traffic, theres good news: California is a big state with a lot of possibilities, and many of its cities offer significantly shorter commute times.

Here are 10 great California cities with commute times at under 25 minutes Commute times are drawn from a study by Ob>

10. Woodland

Average commute time: 22 minutes

Major industries: healthcare, agriculture, distribution, education, local government

You should live there because: As if the quaint, homey downtown wasnt enough of a selling point, its close proximity to Sacramento makes for a simple commute. Plus, its a just a couple of hours away from Sonoma County, which means cheese and wine tasting is just a day-trip away.

9. Palm Desert

Average commute time: 21 minutes

Major industries: education, healthcare

You should live there because: Fourteen miles from Palm Springs and nestled in Coachella Valley, the scenery is tough to beat. Plus, its bustling with shops, restaurants and culture. Add that to a fairly quick commute time? Sounds like paradise.

8. Coalinga

Commute time: Just under 19 minutes

Major Industries: agriculture, corrections, health care, education

You should live there because: Just about an hour or so from Fresno, Coalinga is chock-full of trails, hot springs and other natural attractions.

7. Redding

Commute time: 18.6 minutes

Major Industries: healthcare, manufacturing, admin

You should live there because: Its quaint downtown is walkable and bikeable, loaded with good food and craft beer mdash; plus, about an hour away, there are hiking trails filled with caves and waterfalls.

6. Santa Barbara

Commute time: 18.5 minutes

Major Industries: education, media, admin

You should live there because: It has its own airport. And with five colleges, it also boasts a highly educated population mdash; about twice the national average In fact, 82 of Santa Barbara residents work in white-collar jobs, with many who work in design, arts or other media.

5. Chico

Commute time: 18.4 minutes

Major Industries: sales, admin

You should live there because: A notoriously green city, Chico is known for its parks and greenways, plus bike paths that make emission-free commuting even easier. Its a diverse city with a thriving culture, thanks in part to its proximity to Chico State.

4. South Lake Tahoe

Commute time: 17.8 minutes

Major Industries: food service, admin, sales

You should live there because: Do we really have to sell you on Tahoe? Aside from the beauty of the surrounding nature, theres the great transit system, tons of art and culture, and a million outdoor things to do all year round.

3. Monterey

Commute time: 17.3 minutes

Major Industries: military, accommodations, education

You should live there because: This is another scenic spot that practically sells itself, Monterey is a scenic, historic town with clean air, efficient public transportation and its own university.

2. Ukiah

Commute time: 17 minutes

Major Industries: sales, admin, food service

You should live there because: Surrounded by beautiful nature and with plentiful biking and walking initiatives, 67 of Ukians boast that their commute time is under 15 minutes Thats a good reason to celebrate by having a drink at one of Ukiahs many wineries or breweries.

1. San Luis Obispo

Commute time: 16.8 minutes

Major Industries: admin, food service, sales

You should live there because: Aside from being breathtakingly beautiful, San Luis Obispo has been called "the happiest city in America." Great transit, a thriving culture from the local university and a renowned beachfront contribute to this namesake - not to mention that almost nonexistent commute time.

Of course, were just scratching the surface. The Golden State is filled with so many great cities, so youre bound to find one that matches your career, interests and desired commute time.

Vannya Kristich is director of product management at Esurance, overseeing profit and growth of personal lines insurance products for the western region of the U.S., including California.nbsp; Vannya has over 17 years of industry experience, holding product management roles for several major insurance carriers.

Full Story >

Selling Your Home For The Holidays? Dont Be A Curb Appeal Scrooge

Thanksgiving means turkey and all the trimmings and family get-togethers and football and the Macys parade and eating until you cant breathe. It also means youre going to be seeing your neighbors up on ladders in the next few days putting up their holiday lights. If your house is currently for sale or if youre considering listing it, you may be wondering whether you should bother at all with holiday decorations this year. In a word: yes. But theres more to it than that. Theres a long way between Scrooge and The Griswolds.

"Its hard to argue with the fact that glitter lights and colorful accents make a home look more cheerful and inviting," said;"But you also probably know that if youre trying to sell your home, buyers need to have annbsp;easy time imagining themselvesnbsp;and theirnbsp;own holiday traditions in your home."

These tips will help you strike just the right balance.

Go ahead and put up lights

Being the only house on the street that isnt decorated could leave potential buyers feeling uninspired and unmotivated to purchase - or even come inside. If putting up holiday lights this year means heading to Target to buy new stuff, youll have numerous options: white lights, colored lights, snowflake shapes, icicles. Think clean, simple, and elegant to best accentuate your home.

Dont overdo the lights

Putting up lights doesnt mean you have to create a spectacle. Plastering every horizontal surface and wrapping every tree and bush with lights may read festive, but people who are out home shopping at this time of year are likely serious about buying. And they want to see your house, not how many lights you own.

"You want them to be impressed with your house, not distracted by decorations," said Forbes. "So keep it simple this year. If minimizing the lsquo;ho ho ho cramps your >

Consider LEDs

Another thing to consider if youre buying new lights this year is what type of bulb to get. If you have had your existing lights for many years, you may not even realize how many LED options are available now. The benefit to LED bulbs is that they save energy, and therefore, money. They may cost a little more upfront, but if you are making an investment in lights you plan to use for years to come, its worth it.

Travel Leisure

Go ahead and pack up the inflatables

Keeping it simple definitely doesnt include that big, inflatable Santa or The Grinch family or an entire lawn full of holiday-themed Peanuts characters.

"One mans lsquo;merry is another mans lsquo;tacky, so tone down any garish light displays while your home is on the market," said HGTV. "No, your neighbors didnt pay us to say that. Instead, use simple string lighting to play up your homes architecture or draw attention to the gorgeous fir tree in your front yard."

Address your entry

You dont have to have a sweeping front porch to establish a warm welcome. Place a festive mini tree or cluster of poinsettias next to the door or hang a wreath to add a little holiday interest.


Go ahead and put up that tree

Putting up the tree may seem like a hassle when youre focused on decluttering and keeping everything in your home extra clean this year, but think of it as staging. A well-placed and well-decorated tree will make the home feel nice and inviting at holiday time. Placing it in a window that allows it to show through to the street creates that Norman Rockwell feel that will tug at your buyers heartstrings.

Full Story >

CondoGate: Is there a Scandal in your Community Association?

Question. I own a unit in a condominium association. It is managed by a property management company. The wife of the President of the Board of Directors has been employed by that management company. The President has monopolized the other Board members and keeps increasing our condominium fee every year since he became President. The management fees have also increased. Management is working for the President and not for the entire Board and our members. What the President says, management does. I would not even be surprised if there was some sort of "kick-back" between management and the President. What can I do as a unit owner?

Answer. Scandals and swindles make good newspaper headlines; they also make or break politicians. But you must be prepared to document your case before making any formal allegations, or you could be sued for libel.

Most Board members and property managers are honest, hard working and dedicated. Service on a Board of Directors of a community association is a thankless -- "payless" -- task. But it is an obligation that someone has to perform. And once in a while, we do learn of such scandals, which I would call "condogate".

My first answer to all these issues is that you should try to get elected to the Board of Directors. However, this is not always easy, especially if incumbent Board members have access to mailing lists and hold a large number of proxies.

You must treat an election to your Board as if you were running for a state or national elective office. Arrange a campaign committee, a fund-raising committee and start knocking on your neighbors doors to advise them you are running for the Board of Directors.

You should also obtain the current mailing list of unit owners from your management company, and send every owner an announcement, advising them of your candidacy and your platform -- what you stand for. Generally, the mailing list contains private information and unless unit owners give their permission, management should not >You also should obtain the most current accounting statements. Most state laws requires that an audit of the Association books and records be conducted at least once a year, if at least five percent of the unit owners make such a request. If no audit has been performed, get a petition signed by the required number of owners, and formally demand that the audit be done.

In some states, Boards of Directors have a "fiduciary duty" to the owners who elected them to serve on the Board. In other states, such as in Maryland and now in the District of Columbia, the standard by which a Board of Director is held is the "business judgment rule." Under this rule, the courts will not involve themselves in the internal affairs of the association. However, as was stated in a 1992 Court case handed down by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, "the business judgment rule.... precludes judicial review of a legitimate business decision of an organization, absent fraud or bad faith." emphasis added.

But under either standard, it is clear from the case law throughout the country that members of a Board of Directors cannot operate in bad faith.

What is bad faith? Clearly, when a Director personally receives financial gain from his or her service on a Board of Directors -- especially if there is no disclosure of these gains to the membership -- this cannot be considered "operating in good faith." And, in my opinion, even if the Board member fully discloses the potential gain he or she may derive, the potential conflict of interest is still great. This standard would also apply to a situation where the wife of the President receives financial benefits by virtue of her husbands position.

It must be noted, however, that even under the fiduciary duty concept, this does not preclude a Director or the Board itself from making an honest mistake. Service on a Community Association Board of Directors is a voluntary job. No one would serve on the Board if they can be held personally accountable for every decision made by that Board.

But there is a clear difference between serving in good faith and serving for personal, selfish reasons.

You asked what you can do if these practices are objectionable. In addition to trying to get elected, another solution is to mount a recall campaign and "throw the rascals" out. Read your condominium documents carefully, and you will find provisions spelling out the procedure to remove Board members. Circulate a newsletter to all owners, and call a special meeting solely for the purpose of voting on the removal petition. You must, in fairness, give the challenged member an opportunity to defend his or her position. It is also advisable to discuss your concerns first -- directly and privately -- with that Board member, if you are not uncomfortable in approaching him.

Finally, since you live in Montgomery County, you have one additional remedy that is not available to homeowners outside of that jurisdiction. Several years ago, the County Council created the Commission on Common Ownership Communities. The purpose of this Commission is to attempt to resolve disputes between homeowners and their associations. This is a form of "alternate dispute resolution" and you can get more information about this process by contacting the Commission 301 217 3636.

In the final analysis, you should send a loud and clear message to Board members: if you want to serve on the Board of Directors, do so because you are concerned with the operation of the Association and not for personal gain. You must avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Full Story >

Going Green and Making Green: A Property Management Solution

Technology may be essential to the real estate industry, but customization is the key to excellence. It is the means by which building owners and property managers, as well as tenants, can use technology -- the way they can use customized technology -- to increase efficiency, improve service and enjoy better peace of mind.

To achieve these goals, there must be an emphasis on mobility, automation and communication. This solution must be, first and foremost, accessible to all devices; it must be available to iOS and Android devices, so users can maximize the smartphone or tablet of their choice.

Automation must also be, well, automatic. In other words, there is no need for filling out paper forms -- technology renders that process obsolete -- so building owners and/or property managers can get real-time alerts from tenants about issues ranging from issues of ordinary repair and maintenance to emergencies that require immediate action. Gone, therefore, is the submission of documents -- gone, too, is the need to call someone in vain -- when everything is a touch, tap or click from completion.

These strengths enhance communication between tenants and managers, so there is no ambiguity about one persons expectations and anothers assumptions.

Such are the benefits of a tool like GreenApps, which is as invaluable to building owners as it is indispensable to real estate professionals in general. Indeed, the latter can help the former -- the two can help each other -- by leveraging the latest technology for the greatest good.

That ambition begins with customization, because a generic application cannot solve the specific needs of a specific number of tenants in a specific building. In contrast, the chance to customize an application for a property or a series of properties -- the chance to brand it by making it your own, by featuring your logo and showcasing certain features -- is the chance to make technology more >

This quartet of advantages, from mobility to automation to communication to customization, is a model for modernizing property management. It is also proof that the real estate industry keeps pace with -- and in some cases, stays ahead of -- developments within the business world as a whole. That fact can increase occupancy rates for a particular property, while retaining tenants and strengthening loyalty among these residents.

A solution for commercial and residential managers alike, this application shows how something so simple can be so disruptive -- in a good way -- for so many people.

This approach can be a source for further innovation, delivering services that the current system can neither match nor make affordable.

This approach is, in the end, the only approach that matters. It is the sole approach to eliminating a costly and cumbersome system, a system so old that it >

Let technology lead the real estate industry to greater heights and a more consistent record of success.

Let that journey begin now.

Lewis Fein is a writer and commentator about the real estate industry. Based in Los Angeles, younbsp;may contact him atnbsp;.

Full Story >

Disruption and Accelerated Change In Real Estate

In this time of celebrated disruption and accelerated change, the context for everything, including home buying and selling, is facing disruption and change, globally and locally.

Corporations and governments are struggling to anticipate impact and benefits from disruptive technology while they try to manage change on many fronts at once. How successful they are in your area and in the industries that employ you and your neighbors will determine how sustainable your community, life>

The question that demands an answer is, "Whats that got to do with me and my real estate - my present and future home?"

The recent Toronto Global Forum mdash; the 11th organized by the International Economic Forum of the Americas mdash; hosted representatives from 54 countries, including 130 expert speakers and more than 2700 participants. Many were high-profile leaders from governments, academia, public and private sectors, and civil society. The Forum focused on major issues >Redefining Globalization in reaction to significant political and economic volatility around the world.

Redefining globalization involves transformation of the concept to "promote an atmosphere of shared prosperity," according to opening remarks by Louis Audet, President and CEO of Cogeco. Many Forum speakers provided insight into leaders responsibility to ensure the economy works globally and benefits all.

"If you do not think technology is affecting your business, youre dead," said Mark Wiseman, Senior Managing Director at BlackRock Inc., during a panel discussion titled Global Economic Outlook: The Search for Growth. "[Technology] is affecting business around the world."

Wiseman illustrated his point by >

"The value in the bicycle is not in the bikes or in the value in environmental pressure off mass transit," explained Wiseman. "The value is in data as owners know where every [bicycle] is ridden and by whom. Investors and marketers are willing to pay a lot for that data. Owners are not in the bicycle business, but in the data business."

The Forum, a meeting of ingenious, globally-focused minds, proved that if we are not receptive as individuals, little or no progress will be made as this new industrial revolution rolls over us all.

Speaker and participant discussions at The Forum revealed 5 challenges mdash; problems and opportunities mdash; for corporations and governments facing technology-induced transformational change that can be mirrored in our lives:

1. Redefining Context Jim Barber, President of UPS International, explained that UPS now has 450,000 employees and automation has not hit their sector yet. "If we rest for more than a minute, we would be dead."

To illustrate the disruptive effect of technology, another speaker used the example of the 40,000 elevator operators in New York City who were displaced by push-button automation in 1915. Then, he posed a key question, "As corporation and political leaders, how will we treat those who will be left behind?"

  • How prepared are you for Automated Intelligence AI and machine intelligence changes in your industry and workplace?
  • How sustainable is your income?
  • How could you use your real estate as a financial partner if your income were disrupted?

2. Redefining Risk Originally, the benefits of globalization "took for granted the world would come closer together." The key risk for the economy was Wall Street as was evident from the financial collapse of 2008. Now, Brexit and similar geopolitical events represent risk. Many still perceive risk in an archaic way, but risk is now arising "from behavior and geopolitical reaction." The world always faced disruption, but only in one sector at a time, like the textile revolution. Now, there is disruption in every sector at once. Unprecedented disruptions are changing the way we work, live, play, dreamhellip;.

Which risks would threaten real estate ownership, either present or future, for you?

3. Redefining Change "Change is 10X faster than in the Industrial Revolution, 300X the scale, and 3000X the impact of the industrial revolution," reported Patricia Meredith, Fellow at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. "These trends are gaining magnitude and impact to create monumental change. Combine this with climate change...and this is a truly complex and uncertain environment."

One suggestion for harnessing technology lies in being courageous, innovative, and curious.

If this unprecedented change is forcing corporations and governments to make decisions in spite of significant uncertainty, dont be surprised that individuals will share the same fate.

  • What decisions might this change force on you?
  • What role or roles could your real estate play in solutions and opportunities for sustaining your chosen life>

4. Redefining Corporate Thinking Corporate thinking is notoriously short-term while that of consumers and other investors can be the opposite. Wiseman shared a corporate decision-making study which reported that "55 of CEOs would forgo a project if it meant they would miss their quarterly stock value by 1 cent."

The cost to society of corporate short-term thinking is estimated at a trillion dollars. A shift to long-term thinking would have significant impact.

"The issue is systemic... Short term behavior caused the economic collapse, but in the decade since, thinking is more short-term," said Wiseman who explained that the neglected long-term thinking includes issues regarding the environment and the future of displaced employees.

Are you a short-term thinker when it comes to real estate? Real estate buyers who concentrate on the fleeting-glory of decor over the long-term benefits of location and quality of construction are short-term thinkers.

5. Redefining Paradigms During the "Navigating a World of Disruption" panel, Jonathan Crane, Chief Commercial Officer of Ipsoft, attributed the escalated, expansive growth of mega companies like Google and Amazon to the fact that they "did not do paradigm shifts, but paradigm leaps"

Cranes perspective on AI is that it will remove drudgery and monotony from the workplace, but not jobs. Work and careers will be transformed, expanded, or elevated. Disagreeing with the stated figure of "47 of jobs being at risk to technology," Crane stressed that transformation will hit 100 of jobs.

  • If your job were transformed by technology would you still be qualified to receive that income?
  • Real estate location has long been valued based on its proximity to "the best schools." That trend continues, but now "best" means forward-thinking, technology-based education that creates valued talent. When you buy real estate mdash; even if you dont have school-aged children mdash; do you seek out property near the best schools to take advantage of their market-value boost?

Holly Benson, Managing Partner, Infosys Consulting Inc. discussed the tendency to "rush to automation and deal with people later." She shared two insights that ring true in even the most intense vortex of change:

  • "Never attribute to malice what can be attributed, in the full sense of the word, to ignorance."
  • "Never assume that people automatically know what to do just because they have a title."

Ongoing Resources:

  • In future columns, well continue to explore technology, disruption, and much more to discover what this all has to do with you and your real estate - present and future.
  • Check out the 2016 Global Forum: "Explore New Markets At a Global Forum"

Full Story >

Dealing With Difficult People In Your Homeowners Association

Living in a homeowner association, there is likelihood of running into someone that is, how should we say it, less than happy. We all have to deal with difficult people at some point. Some focus on what they dont like about a person loudmouth, condescending tone, etc and then hope they will change. Not surprisingly, this ra>

For many, personal experience with conflict creates a recurring cycle. This cycle can be positive or negative depending on the beliefs about conflict that we developed at an early age. What someone says or does can spark an automatic response based on those beliefs. This, in turn, triggers a consequence that usually reinforces our behavior pattern.

The key to dealing with a difficult person is to change your >

  • Taking the responsibility to examine your own thoughts and feelings about the difficult person.
  • Understanding what kind of >
  • Taking notice of the behavior rather than making assumptions about what that behavior means, and
  • Examining your approach to communicating with that person.

The next time you are confronted by a difficult person, what do you see them doing that causes you to react negatively? Consider the following:

  • Facial expressions
  • Eye contact or lack of eye contact
  • Gestures
  • Tone of their voice
  • Screaming or whining
  • Words and/or the meaning of the words

Pay close attention to their behavior patterns. What is working and what is not? Have you made assumptions about what these actions mean?

Next, pay attention to your behavior. What is working and what is not? What do others do that works better? If you dont set aside your assumptions, you may never realize what are you are responding to.

Now, take the time to consider how your actions may affect the other person. Consider the message you may be sending them. Finally, decide what you would like the >

Treat every interaction with a difficult person as an opportunity to improve your >

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

Full Story >

DIY Solutions To Your Flooring Problems

True story. The wood in our living room is scratched and worn, the dark tile in the kitchen imparts a sort of cave-like feel, and theres unfinished concrete in several of the bedrooms thanks to foundation repair that was done shortly after we bought the house. We could have had the four burly men that peeled away the 10-year-old carpet to jackhammer into the floor lay it back down, but, instead, we took that opportunity to rid ourselves of the it and thanked the guys for sparing us the cost of a dumpster. The idea was to get new floors in soon after, and, well, three years laterhellip;here we are. Still considering our options.

Add to that picture a couple of bathrooms that were tiled in 2004 when textured beige-y brown tiles were popular they were, right?, and we are facing multiple rooms that need new floors. The entire first floor needs new floors, if were being honest.

And while we have examined many, many really, it seems like hundreds of options over the last couple of years, nothing has stuck well enough to actually get to it. Part of the issue is that we dont want to hand over the installation to someone else. While that would probably be the most practical option, its not the most economical, and we tend to like to do things by ourselves. You, too? Then come with us on this journey to find the best DIY solution to our and your flooring dilemmas.

Painted wood

Frankly, anything that starts with "Sand surface" is an immediate turnoff. If they ever made a National Lampoons Renovation Vacation movie, there would undoubtedly be a scene where Chevy Chases Rusty Griswold lost control of the electric sander and major havoc ensued. Thats pretty much what we envision happening around here if a big, hulking sander is involved. That notwithstanding, painted wood floors do look pretty cool.

SF Gate has a good tutorial for painting heavily trafficked wood floors that involves really good preparation so if youre a step-skipper, maybe not for you and high-quality primer, but, honestly, were skeptical about smooth floors that look like the above.

But, were loving the rustic beachy-ness of this look. Our shabby floors are already part of the way there, and if the dogs scratch the surface, it just adds more texture, right?

Painted tile

We first saw blogger Remington Avenues tutorial for painted floors in 2015, which should tell you how long weve been tossing around ideas for our floors. She crafted a stunning painted tile floor using chalk paint and a stencil that created a trendy Moroccan cement tile look.

Stencils have become more readily available and in greater variety since then, and her new tutorial is even more interesting because she used luster epoxy paint, like you would use to paint a garage floor. That spells greater durability, and since multiple children and multiple dogs live in this house, finishes that cant endure kid feet and dog paws are a NO GO.

Should we do it? This would be a jackpot for that cave-like kitchen floor and beige-y brown bathroom tile floors that look just like her "before" floors, ironically.

Floating floor

First, lets get This Old Houses take: "Its hard to imagine a house being cozy without the warmth of wood flooring. The quickest way to get new wood underfoot is to install a floating floor. Unlike traditional solid-wood strips, a floating floor isnt nailed down. Instead, the planks are either glued or snapped together. The planks go down fast, over virtually any material - concrete, plywood, sheet vinyl, even ceramic tile. They have a complete tutorial here.

Now, our thoughts: The advantage to using a floating floor is that its definitely DIY-friendly in comparison to numerous other options because it requires no demolition other than removing baseboards - something we wouldnt have to do if we were painting the existing surfaces, BTW. We would have to put down plywood on the concrete surfaces to make everything flush, but thats not a big deal. The continuity that would be created by laying down one surface throughout the first floor of the house would be a dream given how broken up it currently is. The downside: its a pricier solution than paint, and the price, not surprisingly, goes up with the quality. Whether you are looking at using luxury vinyl planks, laminate, or engineered wood, its an investment.

Carpet tiles

We just havent been able to get rid of the idea of a soft, cushy carpeted surface in the bedrooms, but were not about to try to put in wall-to-wall carpet on our own. "I wouldnt recommend any homeowner try to install their own wall-to-wall carpeting," said Popular Mechanics. "First, just getting the carpeting into the room is a huge job. Second, precisely cutting it to size takes experience - one wrong cut can ruin the entire piece."

The potential answer: carpet tiles. Oh, we know. We say "carpet tiles," you say "ugly office building," right? Fortunately, carpet tiles have come a long way in terms of design. The carpet tiles below from Flor and these that are are our favorite newer >

The best part: theyre super easy to install. "One 3-inch-diameter dot is placed at each corner of a carpet square, with the sticky side up," they said. "The next square is set in place tight against the first square, and then its pressed down onto the adhesive dots. In the end, the result is a floating floor of carpet squares all stuck together at the corners by adhesive dots."

Actually, this may be the best part: Remember those previously mentioned kids and dogs? They make stains. Lots of stains. If one area of your wall-to-wall carpet gets stained beyond repair, youre out of luck. If the same thing happens to a carpet tile, you rip it up and set another one down. Tempting. Very tempting.

Full Story >

2017 NAR Profile Can Help Agents Find Buyers And Sellers

We have noted that The 2017 National Association of REALTORSreg; Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers contains valuable information for sellers and their agents as to how buyers find the homes that they ultimately buy. The profile also contains valuable and interesting information as to how both buyers and sellers find the agents that they ultimately use. 87 of buyers used an agent in purchasing their home. That number has increased steadily since 2001 when the figure was 69. 7 of buyers purchased directly from a builder, and 6 bought directly from an owner. Of the 87, how did they find their agent?

Not a lot of "agent shopping" takes place among buyers. 70 interviewed only one agent, 17 interviewed two. So how do you get to be on the interview list? Referrals are far and away the dominant factor. 42 of buyers chose to work with an agent who was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or >This might seem like discouraging news for new agents. "What chance do I have of connecting with a buyer if I havent already built a referral base and a list of past clients?" Here, a new agent wants to remember that "friends, neighbors, or > Moreover, there are, just as there always have been, other ways of coming into contact with buyers who may choose to work with you. Some ways work better than others.

6 of buyers found the agent they used as a result of an open house. Another 9 found their agent through a web site. Interestingly, only 2 found the agent that they worked with as a result of walking into or calling an office and meeting the agent who was on duty at the time. In general, "floor time" is not very productive.

Agents who do want to get connected with buyers can prepare themselves so that a contact is more likely to lead to a >Sellers are just as likely as buyers to work with an agent. 90 of sellers had their home listed on MLS. But sellers, too, dont do much "agent shopping." Similar to buyers, 74 interviewed only one agent; just 15 interviewed two. Again, referrals and past business >Other seller contact sources drop into single digits. Interestingly, compared to buyers at 9, only 5 of sellers found their agent through a web site. Again, there are venues that agents who lack a referral or past client list might want to think about. Open houses account for 4 of the contacts that eventuate into a working >Would-be listing agents would do well to note that the most important factor -- 34 -- in choosing a sellers agent was reputation. Sure, its nice to have a track record of sales activity, but there are other aspects to reputation as well. 18 of sellers said that honesty and trustworthiness were the most important factors in considering an agent. Things like attitude and integrity are also components of ones reputation. Agents who want to build a business should pay attention to such things. Word gets around.

Also See: 2017 Homebuyer Survey Contains Valuable Information For Agents And Sellers
Full Story >

House Hunting? How Good Manners Can Help Get The Home You Want

As most people know, the real estate market shifts between a buyers or sellers market, depending on supply and demand. However, regardless of which market were currently in, buyer etiquette can help you get the home you want with the least amount of stress.

It may sound odd to some, especially first-time homebuyers, but manners matter when it comes to the real estate transaction. Im not talking about "Please" and "Thank you." So, what exactly does this mean?

Buyer etiquette is not only about doing the things that are vital to helping sales go through but its also about general manners like being on time for your viewing of a home, being prepared with your financial documents, and being responsive when requests for documents, signatures, or answers are needed from your real estate professionals.

This isnt about lecturing buyers about minding their manners; rather, think of this as the inside tips to helping land the home you really want. For instance, sometimes, being late for a viewing of a listing could cause you to lose that particular home. In a really hot real estate market, if youre late or you dont show up for the listing, you might not get a second chance - the home could be sold.

Another consideration is to be aware of how much time you need to view a home. If you try to see too many homes in one day, chances are youre not going to treat each home with the same respect. The first homes might get lots of attention by you in terms of time and what you notice. However, by the time youre on, say, 15th home of the day, you might be so tired that you blaze through it ba>

One of the most important etiquette tips is to make sure that youve been pre-approved and are a serious buyer, ready to take action should you find the right home. Shopping for homes is serious business. Its likely the largest monetary transaction youll make; being financially and emotionally prepared is good etiquette and will help expedite the process.

When viewing a home, if the sellers are present sometimes this happens, dont share your likes or dislikes about the home with them. Be courteous and keep the conversation to a minimum with the sellers. You want to make sure you leave the negotiation process to your experienced real estate agent. If you have questions about the home, be sure to take good notes and consult with your agent. Your agent is the liaison for good reason. The agent is experienced and knows how to find out the information you need without undermining your bargaining position. Polite conversation with the sellers is appropriate if the opportunity occurs. And, if the house isnt right for you from the moment you set foot in it, at least give it a quick walk-through, just to be absolutely certain.

Good manners when house hunting is about more than just having people like you. It could be the potential development of a successful real estate transaction. Good will during that process helps keep things moving along at a steady pace and possibly with a better outcome than if the sellers were selling to a buyer they really didnt like.

Full Story >

Holiday Splurges And Saves To Make Hosting Easier

If youre hosting for the holidays, there is undoubtedly a lot to do and a lot to buy. You probably have a budget youre looking to stick to, but then you make the mistake of wandering in to Williams Sonomaand there goes your bottom line There are places to save a few bucks so you can make a few worthy splurges. Heres a guide that will help.

Splurge: Good cookware

The quality of your cookware can have a big impact on the quality of your food. If your pots and pans have seen better days, its a good time to splurge on a few high-end items, like this Swiss Diamond 10-piece set, made of cast aluminum with a PFOA-free nonstick coating. Consumer Reports rated the set the "best pots and pans for your holiday feasts."

Their lab kitchen evaluated "cooking evenness and how well nonstick surfaces >The Swiss Diamond set includes 8-inch and 9-inch frypans, 1.4-quart and 2.2- quart saucepans, 3.2-quart saute pan, 8.5-quart stockpot, and glass lids.

Save: Good cookware

The Consumer Reports article shows how, with a little research, you can find high-quality products without spending high dollars. Their top choice for nonstick frying pans? This 100 Zwilling J.A. Henckels version in stainless steel with an aluminum core. But in second place: A 20 Red Copper nonstick pan from Amazon.

Splurge: Amazon Prime

This is a splurge thats really a save, if you think about it. The service that costs 99 for a year ends up saving you money on all those last-minute gifts and things you forgot to buy and dont have time to get to the store for because there are rooms to set up and closets to clean out and food to prepare. Amazon Prime also includes free two-day shipping on more than 50 million items, plus you get access to tons of movies, TV shows, songs, and Kindle e-books.

Save: A trip to Costco

Yes, its going to be crazy. Yes, youre going to have to wait in line. But the stuff you cant find elsewhere or at least all in one place will be worth it. Top of our list: Masterpiece plastic plates and Reflections Silverware. Theyre nicer than your average disposable stuff and youll be grateful when you dont have to do dishes 12 times a day. And dont forget to buy lots of toilet paper, paper towels, and Chunky Artichoke parmesan Dip seriously, youll be happy you did.

Splurge: A cleaning crew

It may feel like an extravagance to hire a cleaning crew to come before your guests arrive or after they leave - or, who are we kidding: both But its an extravagance that will save you time and peace of mind, which is always important, and especially so when family is in town

Save: Your kids

The children may think holiday breaks are for catching up on sleep or TV, but you know better, right? Homes that have to be prepared for holiday guests needs lots of hands to clean out closets and organize pantries.

Splurge: A good set of knives

Or at least one good multipurpose knife. With all that cutting and chopping youre about to do between now and the New Year, its time to get a real knife. Food and Wines best knife is this MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-inch Chefs Knife with Dimples, which is 145 on Amazon. They praise its "hard, super-sharp blade" and "simple wooden handle thats extremely comfortable and feels secure in the hand." Their best value knife is the Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Forged Chefs Knife, 38 on Amazon, if youre only looking for a mini-splurge.

Save: Cutting board

Yes, it would be lovely to have a giant two-inch-thick butcher board and it would make for nice Instagram pics. But you dont have to spend gobs of money - this Walnut cutting board from Williams Sonoma is 155399 depending on size - to get the function you need. The Spruce broke down the best cutting boards of 2017 and found this 10.5" by 14.5" inch OXO Plastic board to be its best overall choice. The price: 15 at Amazon.

This plastic board from OXO "is a true workhorse," they said. "It is just the right sizea bit larger than a piece of letter size paper - so its ideal for most chopping tasks. The soft, tapered handles on two edges make it easy to grip and carry from your counter to the stove, and because it can go in the dishwasher its ideal for cutting up raw meat and fish." If youd rather have wood, they have several options listed, including a 36 butcher block.
Full Story >

6 Ideas For Selling Your Home In The Winter

1 Keep the house warm.

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

2 Trim the outdoor foliage.

Remove snow from shrubs and trees so that potential buyers dont get wet as they walk up the sidewalk to your home. Brush off snow, prune the tree limbs and trim the hedges as needed. You can even hire a tree service to do this for you if youre strapped for time. While your lawn is dormant this time of year, you can at the very least make it look well maintained to give buyers a sense of what it looks like during the spring and summer. You can also display photos in your entryway of how your home looks outside during the greener months.

3 Handle winter conditions.

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

Winter driveway photo courtesy of Provino Architecture, LLC

4 Show off the fireplace.

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

Fireplace photo courtesy of Pinnacle Development Group, Inc.

5 Add comfort to your home.

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

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

    Interior Lighting photo courtesy of Red Rabbit Construction.

    6 Make sure your home is well lit.

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

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

    Full Story >

    9 Ways You Can Score Great Deals For Your Home On Black Friday

    For many of us, Black Friday shopping is key to a successful holiday gift-buying strategy for friends and family. But have you taken a look around your home lately? Maybe you need to put it on your list this year.

    There are some great deals out there this Black Friday that can help you fix up, fancy up, update, and upgrade the place you call home. Here are nine ways to go about scoring the best deals.

    Home improvement

    One of the most exciting sale items weve seen for home this year is at Lowes. Wood-look tile is one of todays hottest trends for flooring, and on Black Friday, the home improvement store has it starting at just 99 cents per foot, down from 2.02 per foot.

    Lowes also has some great deals on tools and home improvement items in their Black Friday ad. If you can get past the ho-hum-ness of buying yourself tools at this time of year, youll love the prices on this Kobalt 227-piece tool set with case and 39 Shop-Vac Vacuum.


    Smart home

    Bring the smart home craze to your front door. This Kwikset SmartCode Satin Nickel-Single Cylinder Motorized Electronic Entry Door Deadbolt with Keypad is just 39 on Black Friday, down from 69.


    Head to Lowes for this Samsung 4.5 cu. ft. ENERGY STAR High Efficiency Top Load washer and 7.4 cu. Ft. Electric Dryer are 499 each, a savings of 600 for the pair.

    This Samsung Energy Star reg; 26 cu. ft. 36" Wide 3-Door French Door Refrigerator with Filtered Ice Makernbsp;is regularly priced at 1,999 and will drop to 995 at JC Penny on Black Friday. Other appliances are on sale for up to 40 off at both Home Depot and Lowes.

    Also for the kitchen

    Looking to do some renovations in your kitchen? This brushed nickel pull-down kitchen faucet is just 59 on Black Friday, down from 109, at Lowes.

    Those who love to bake swear by KitchenAid mixers, and the must-have item is typically attractively priced over the holidays. The best price weve seen so far is 249 for the KitchenAidreg; Ultra Power Plus 4.5 Qt Tilt-Head Stand Mixer at Target. Its currently prices at 279, down from 349. You can also get the KitchenAidreg; >


    Also for your gourmet kitchen needs, Target has two great deals on Ninja products for Black Friday. Both the Coffee Brewer and the Professional Kitchen System are being offered as doorbusters for 99 - thats half off Perhaps no single Black Friday deal will make home cooks happier than this one: Walmart has the insanely popular Instant Pot, regularly 100, for 50 on Black Friday.

    Home Assistants

    Google Home is predicted to be one of the hottest items this year, and Walmarts Black Friday sale has it at 79 - a savings of 50. The 49 Google Home Mini Smart Speaker, which offers "hands-free help in any room" and is powered by the Google Assistant, goes on sale for 29 with a 10 gift card at Target. At that price, youll want to buy one for yourself and a few for gifts. If youd rather ask Alexa, head to Target for this Amazon Echo Dot, which will drop from 49 to 29.


    TVs are a staple of Black Friday shopping. Personally, we have images of stampeding shoppers hoisting flat-screen boxes over their heads seared in our collective brain forever, but that wont stop us from trying to slide in there for a screaming deal. Forbes calls Best Buys Sharp 50-inch LED 2160p Smart 4K Ultra HD Roku TV for 179.99 - a savings of 320 - possibly "the best deal during the entirety of Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017." nbsp;


    Television accessories

    Once you buy that flat screen, youll need a sound bar. Walmart has a 37" RCA Bluetooth version for just 29 currently priced at 49. Or, pick up this VIZIO 32" 5.1 Soundbar System package, which includes a wi>

    And dont forget a mounting system. This one has tilt and fits TVs ranging from 47-80", Black Friday priced at just 19 currently on sale for 59.


    A vacuum may not seem like the most exciting thing to buy on Black Friday, but you may change your mind when you see the price of this Dyson DC59 Animal Cordless Vacuum Cleaner at Walmart. We did Regularly priced at 369, it goes on sale on Black Friday for just 189


    Walmarts high-thread-count hotel sheets are famous to smart Black Friday shoppers and are one of the most anticipated and quickest-selling items. Used to be you had to buy them in store, but theyre now online. If you want a set or four, heres a tip: get them in your cart ASAP when sales kick off, because theyll be gone in a flash. 24 per set. Macys has a worthy alternative with their Devon 4-Pc King Sheet Set, 900-Thread Count, regularly priced at 59; on Black Friday, they will be 29.


    Another great sale item thatll make you say, "One for you, one for me," Targets chenille and sherpa throws are just 10 on Black Friday.

    Full Story >

    Choosing The Best Hardwood Floors For Your Home

    The rich patina of wood floors adds beauty and elegance to any home.

    Older homes were once routinely constructed with hardwood floors, but that practice was abandoned in the 1950s, when new technologies made wall-to-wall carpeting available. Builders were able to build more homes faster, for the post-war baby boom, and save money on labor.

    But today, many homeowners prefer hardwoods to carpet. Hardwoods help give the impression that your home is well-built with quality materials. Hardwoods are easy to maintain and improve with wear, unlike carpet that eventually needs to be replaced.

    Hardwoods add value to your home, says the National Wood Flooring Association NWFA. In a recent survey of participating real estate agents, the trade association found that real estate agents said that a house with wood floors would sell faster than a carpeted house, by a margin of three to one. About 58 percent said a house with wood floors would bring a higher price.

    If you have hardwoods under carpet, its easy and inexpensive to tear the carpet out and refinish your floors. Or, you can choose to install hardwoods if theres only sub-floor underneath the carpet.

    You have several options:

    Solid hardwoods -- Solid hardwoods are the most expensive option. They come in planks of various lengths and are typically 3/4 thick. The floors are installed as raw wood and sanded down and stained on site. The advantage is that your floors can be refinished often over the years. Solid hardwoods are not recommended over concrete slab foundations. Disadvantages are that hardwoods cannot be washed with water, water leaks can cause them to bow, and direct sunlight can cause stained finishes to bleach.

    Engineered hardwoods -- Composed of layers or plies of wood that are glued together and finished with a laminate, engineered hardwoods are finished with a final layer of hardwood that is generally between " and " thick. The advantage of engineered hardwoods is that they are suitable for any foundation. Drawbacks are that laminated floors usually cannot be refinished.

    Engineered hardwoods come in a variety of >Stains and finishes

    If your floor comes unfinished, you need to know what kind of wood its made of in order to select a stain, as different woods can make stain colors change tone. A good way to choose is to ask the installer for samples, or you can go to a local paint and home improvement store and view stain colors. Sherman Williams "Wood >Keep in mind that unfinished floors must be sanded, stained and sealed on site, which is labor intensive, time consuming and messy as you wait for each layer to dry. Factory finished floors are usually warrantied, they can be installed immediately which saves time and labor, and only the glue to the subfloor has to dry.

    Finishes are important to choose because they dictate how you will care for your floor. If your floor has a penetrating seal, you will have to wax it to keep it burnished. If the floor is sealed with a urethane, polyurethane or other polymer coat, its water resistant and easy to clean with a mop.

    Types of wood

    The most common woods for floors are species of oak, pine, walnut, pecan, birch, beech, ash, cherry, maple, cypress and Douglas fir.

    Wood for floors can be exotic, and are prized for their unusual grains and colors. Exotic woods include mahogany, teak, and Brazilian cherry.

    One of the most popular flooring options is actually a grass, not a wood. Bamboo is a quick-growing resource that is easily replenished, making it a good choice for green-building. Bamboo can be cut and finished like any hardwood, and is more durable in some cases.

    To learn more about wood floors, visit
    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Who Is Supposed To Fix And Maintain What?

    Question: Our board has a running battle with various unit owners about who is supposed to fix and maintain what. As a result, the board has paid for repairs that were probably the unit owners responsibility. How do we get this under control?

    Answer:The board should adopt a Maintenance Insurance Areas of Responsibility Policy which defines responsibilities HOA vs Owner. The idea is to break down the buildings and grounds into component parts and then describe who is responsible. Always review and use the governing documents as a guideline if direction is provided. While the Areas of Responsibility Policy can be subject to interpretation under certain circumstances, it usually provides clear guidance to both the board and unit owners. Moreover, it provides the board with the basis for consistent handling of maintenance issues. Another benefit is it clarifies for the HOAs and unit owners insurance carriers what things the HOA is responsible for and eliminates claim disputes. This is a "must have" policy in any common wall community. There is a sample of this policy in the Policy Samples section of

    Question: We have a resident we routinely have to call the police on for disturbing the peace, verbally assaulting and stalking neighbors and threatening them with physical harm. This resident is essentially psychotic and totally unpredictable. This has gone on for years and weve reached our limit. This situation is now affecting sales What can we do?

    Answer: Have you been in contact with this persons >

    Question: I am researching HOA pool liability. Recently, the board enacted pool hours which dont seem safe: 8am to 11pm. Im concerned about allowing people to swim after dark. The pool has no lighting.

    Answer: Since daylight hours change daily, either longer or shorter, it makes sense to tie pool hour closing to dusk or 10 pm whichever comes first. Due to noise concerns, the pool needs to close at a reasonable hour unless the location of the pool doesnt create a noise issue. For the same reason, establish a pool opening schedule to avoid disturbing people who may still be sleeping. Of course in Alaska, the Land of the Midnight Sun, all bets are off. But the pool is probably frozen anyway.

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

    The Real Estate Contracts Kick-Out Clause

    Question: We are selling our house and have found a nice couple who have expressed interest. Unfortunately, they cannot afford to buy our house unless they sell their house first. We would like to work something out with this couple, but are concerned about taking our house off the market for an indefinite period while the buyers try to sell their house. How do you resolve this dilemma?

    Answer: While no one likes to sign contracts which are contingent on the purchasers ability to sell their own house, unfortunately it is a fact of life that must be recognized by every buyer and seller. With house prices having increased dramatically over the years, and with the tightening of lender requirements, more and more buyers find that they can qualify to buy a more expensive house only if they first sell their current residence.

    Generally speaking, when buyers present an offer to purchase, they can include a contingency for the sale of their house. This is known as a "contingent contract." In simple English, this means that if the specified event does not occur -- in this case the buyers do not sell their house -- then the contract to purchase the new property becomes null and void and the purchasers are entitled to a full refund of any earnest money deposit.

    Needless to say, as you have suggested, sellers do not want to take their house off the market for an indefinite period.

    Accordingly, a compromise has been developed, known as a "kick-out" clause. Under this arrangement, the sellers state in the contract that while they are willing to accept a contingency contract, the sellers will continue to market the house. If another qualified buyer is found, the seller will give the current purchaser a certain amount of time -- usually 72 hours -- in which to remove the contingency keep the contract alive or exercise the contingency and decide not to purchase the new property.

    This kick-out clause has to be carefully drafted. If the potential purchasers are confronted with the 72 hour kick-out period, and decide to delete the sale contingency, they may still be able to get out of the original contract if they cannot get financing. Keep in mind that most standard sales contracts also contain another contingency, namely the ability of the purchaser to obtain the necessary financing.

    This creates a dilemma for both parties. If the purchasers remove the sale contingency but still have the financing contingency in the contract, it is probable that a lender will not give a binding loan commitment to the purchasers unless they sell their house first. Thus, the mere removal of the sale contingency does not meet the sellers needs. The purchaser can still find an excuse to back out of the contract, based on another contingency in the contract.

    Thus, sellers should include at the very least the following language in the 72 hour kick-out clause:

    The parties agree that sellers property shall remain on the market during the above contingency period. If the purchaser does not remove the above contingency and provide evidence satisfactory to seller in their sole discretion of ability to perform under the terms herein within a specific number of hours after receipt of written notice that seller has accepted a secondary contract, purchasers deposit shall be promptly returned in full.

    Under this contractual arrangement, the potential purchaser has the right to delete the contingency and go forward with the purchase. But the purchasers also have to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the seller, they are financially able to qualify for the loan. In many instances, the purchasers will not be able to satisfy the seller, because they obviously do not have the funds to permit them to go forward with the purchase.

    From the sellers point of view, this is an acceptable arrangement. Although the sellers have signed a contract, in effect they are keeping the house on the market. The sellers have the right to continue to show it to other potential purchasers, and have the right to take back-up contracts if possible.

    If you are dealing with a real estate agent, insist that the agent continue to market your house even after you have signed the first contract.

    From the buyers point of view, the 72 hour kick-out is also an acceptable compromise -- but obviously is subject to abuse. The buyer can understand that a seller is >The 72 hour kick-out clause is a compromise for both parties, and has become an acceptable practice in the real estate arena.

    However, the sellers should also insist that the buyer immediately begin to market their own property -- whether it be through a real estate firm or on their own. Specific language should be included in the contract that if the purchaser does not begin to market the property within a reasonable period of time -- for example 5 days -- then the seller has the right to void the contract and look for another buyer.
    Full Story >

    The Missing Middle: Situation Dire In Toronto; Optimistic In Vancouver

    In the Greater Toronto Area, 45 per cent of housing units are single-detached homes, 35 per cent are apartment buildings and just 20 per cent are known as the "missing middle" -- including townhouses, triplexes and low-rise buildings.

    But soon, demographics suggest that two fast-growing age groups -- those in the 35 to 44 age bracket and those who are 65 -- will both be looking for the same kind of housing in that missing middle. A report from the Ryerson City Building Institute and Urbanation says that few of these projects are underway and there wont be enough to satisfy demand.

    The report says that condo development in Toronto reached its highest level ever this year, but that most of the new homes in the pipeline are in buildings that are more than five-storeys tall.

    "As millennials get older and seek larger spaces, and baby boomers downsize from detached houses, we need housing units that meet the needs and economic realities of these important demographic cohorts," says the report. "Given the current housing affordability context and projected population increases, the GTA will require more family-oriented housing units in mid-rise and low-rise buildings in comparison to the stock built during the last several years."

    "Housing options for people living in the GTA have been either large expensive low-rise dwellings or smaller high-rise condos," says Bryan Tuckey, CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association.

    "The GTA is in danger of becoming the next London, Hong Kong or New York City -- highly desirable cities, but unaffordable for most people."

    The report says there are 105,000 condo apartments under development in the GTA, of which 94 per cent are pre-sold. At least half are owned by investors and will end up serving the rental market.

    The price gap between detached houses and condos has tripled since 2007, from about 200,000 to 600,000. The average condo apartment in the GTA is currently selling for about 500,000, while the average detached home is around 1.1 million.

    "Growth in the 35-44 age cohort will be higher than it has been in decades," says the report. "With an average first-time buyer age of 36, the 35-44 age bracket is one in which many individuals both move into homeownership and begin to seek larger, more family-friendly housing." In addition, more seniors will be looking for options "with enough space and bedrooms to accommodate their life>But the report says just three per cent of all condo apartments that will come on the market during the next five years are missing middle homes, especially in the downtown core of Toronto where the need is the greatest.

    "The proportion of condo units with two or more bedrooms has been declining over time through the GTA -- a troubling trend given the surge of households that will be seeking family-friendly housing over the next 10 years. Only 41 per cent of units currently under construction or in preconstruction have at least two bedrooms, down from 67 per cent in buildings completed during the 1990s," says the report.

    Tuckey blames the situation on "complicated and restrictive government policies, already lengthy yet still worsening approval processes, a shortage of shovel-ready and approved land on which to build, escalating land prices and the growing issue of NIMBYism Not In My Backyard."

    The Ryerson/Urbanation report says, "If these construction trends continue, the proportion of family-appropriate housing available in location-efficient neighbourhoods close to transit, employments, school and services will decrease and affordability will further erode.

    "This increasing demand for family-sized units means that young families will have to drive to qualify for any type of unit, not just detached housing. This may also contribute to pressure on greenfield lands and urban sprawl."

    But theres a better story in other Canadian cities. Tuckey says Montreal "has embraced the power of this missing middle -- developers are building low-rise dwellings, mostly three-storey flats and mid-rise apartment buildings within the city and in the suburbs."

    In Vancouver, like Toronto, "Strong economic growth has created rising labour demand and consumer confidence side effects, while net migration and a wave of millennials entering their household-forming years have rounded out a perfect storm of demand-side momentum," says a report by the British Columbia Real Estate Association BCREA. "The supply of resale homes has plunged to decade lows. This has led to continuing upward pressure on home prices" because supply has not kept up with demand.

    But the report says multi-family starts in Metro Vancouver have recently surged, up to 55 per cent above the 10-year average. There are an estimated 19,700 multi-family starts expected this year and another 19,000 units forecast in 2019.

    Although these are mostly not missing middle projects, BCREA says they will have a positive impact on housing availability and affordability because of three key reasons: renters will transfer into homeownership, increasing the rental supply; move-up or downsizing buyers will increase housing supply when they put their homes on the market; and more investors will buy and increase the condo rental supply.

    "The aggregate increase in the housing stock can also help dilute the impact of migrants, non-income seeking investors and first-time buyers/renters on the cost of housing," says BCREA. "This surge in multi-family completions isnt the only solution for housing affordability in Metro Vancouver. However, a marked increase in aggregate supply can move the needle toward market balance and help slow the pace of housing price/rent growth in the region."
    Full Story >

    2017 Homebuyer Survey Contains Valuable Information For Agents And Sellers

    One of the most useful research projects of the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR is the annual survey of homebuyers and sellers. It is particularly useful because it shows sellers and their agents what works and what sources buyers use to find their new homes.

    This is the 36th year that NAR has conducted an annual survey of those who have purchased and sold homes. The most recent version 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers became available in November of this year. The information is based on answers to a 131-question survey mailed to a random sample of 145,800 consumers who purchased a home between July 2016 and June 2017. Names and addresses were provided by Experian, a company that maintains an extensive database of recent homebuyers that is derived from county records. After accounting for undeliverable surveys, there was a 5.6 percent response rate.

    In 2016, first-time homebuyers constituted 32 percent of the market. That was the lowest participation rate by first-time buyers since 1987 30. This year, 2017, the first-time buyer rate was 34. Geographically, the highest percentage of first-time buyers was in the northeast 43. Over the years the historic norms for the country have been in the 40 range. As more low-downpayment mortgage programs come into the market, there may be a good chance of returning to those norms.

    The most useful information for sellers and their agents is to be found in the section on the home search process. While the survey results are not significantly different from those of recent years, the trends continue. For example, this year 86 percent of buyers said that they used the internet frequently during the search process. In 2003 that number was only 42. This past year 55 of buyers said that they frequently used a mobile or tablet application. That is a newer and growing phenomenon. Two years ago it was 41 . 68 of buyers said that they frequently >Forty-two percent of buyers went to the internet as the first step in the home search process. 17 contacted a real estate agent first, and 6 began by driving through neighborhoods looking for homes for sale. How can driving around be an option? Half the homes purchased were within 15 miles of the buyers previous residence. Interestingly, 8 of home buyers began the process by going to a bank or mortgage company.

    Buyers use multiple sources of information in the process of looking for a home. Far and away the most used sources are on-line websites 95 and real estate agents 89. Mobile or tablet applications 74 have replaced yard signs as the third most used source of information. Still though, 48 of buyers indicate that yard signs are one of their sources of information. Only 15 of buyers indicate that they used newspaper ads as an information source. A mere 2 said that they garnered information from television.

    While there are a lot of intriguing data about the sources of information used by prospective homebuyers, certainly the most > This year the information source that was highest in that category 49 was the internet. Agents are second at 31. Note that this is not to say that buyers bought their home through the internet. The typical scenario would be that a consumer sees the home on the internet, and then contacts his or her agent. 88 of those who used the internet to search purchased their home through an agent.

    The differences in a little more than a decade are fascinating. In 2001, 48 percent of buyers learned about their home through a real estate agent, and only 8 percent found their home on the internet. The times they have changed.

    Some things, though, remain persistently the same -- or close to it. In 2001, a yard sign was the third most likely source of information leading to the home that was purchased 15. And this year? It is still the third leading source at 7, but this is now the fourth time in the survey history that it has been lower than double digits. Print media may not be dead, but it has shrunk to insignificance in this arena. In 2001, 7 of homebuyers found the home they ultimately purchased through a newspaper ad; in 2017, it was only 1. It has been that way for five years now. Fewer than 1 found their home through a home book or magazine.

    The 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows what works. It is a valuable resource.
    Full Story >

    Stylish Trends For Modern Holiday Dcor

    If your idea of holiday decor still centers around popcorn on a string and ornaments that have seen better days, it may be time for an upgrade. Todays hottest holiday decor trends offer modern hues and >

    Unique fabrics

    Unless were talking about red-based plaid or your Great-Great-Grandmas Gingerbread Man comforter - may not necessarily impact a holiday feel. But rich fabrics like the velvet and faux fur being shown by West Elm this season bring the luxe, helping transform your space into a winter wonderland. "The retailer declared velvet lsquo;this seasons lust-have, offering quilts, duvets, throw pillows, and blankets in the textured fabric. And who could ignore their gorgeous newnbsp;faux-fur throws," asks MyDomaine.


    This hot color is another surprising yet ultra-chic choice for your holiday house. "Twas the year of blush pink. Unsurprisingly, trendy galsnbsp;are swapping their red ribbons, buntings and blooms for something something rosier... and much less expected," said PureWow. All you need is some silk ribbon tied around some greenery to achieve a special look for your stairway.

    Glittery white trees

    Frosted branches, mercury glass ornaments, and twinkling lights create a glowing centerpiece to your holiday deacute;cor. Keeping everything light and bright and effervescent makes for a show-stopping look that is both brilliant and calming.

    If thats a little too sedate for you, try this tip from Elle Deacute;cor and "make white your base color" with pops of red.

    Blue Christmas

    Is the traditional red and green color scheme on its way out? Never. But, this year a festive blue hue is making a strong argument for holiday domination. "Its all about the blue," said MyDomaine of West Elms luxurious take on this years holiday trends. "While red and green made an appearance in the form of an evergreen tree, ornament, or flower arrangement, almost every page featured a deep jewel-tone blue. Think dining chairs, pillows, and even dinnerware."

    Black and white

    Another color combination is bringing more interest to the holiday home. "One of the hottest 2017 holiday decoration trends is black and white," said Connecticut in >

    We love how black and white brings beautiful >


    Unique ornaments

    Make your tree a focal point with these modern shapes and metallic hues.

    But dont stop there Ornaments look great in other places throughout the home, too, like over the dining room table. "Dont restrict magnificent baubles and sparkly snowflakes to the tree when it comes to your Christmas decor ideas," said Real Simple. "Accentuate overhead lighting with shimmery decorations and stick to a fresh winter palette like pale blue and silver. Finish it off with an elegant satin ribbon gently dangling from the chandelier."

    Full Story >

    Technology for the Betterment of the Real Estate Industry

    Far from being a threat, technology is an asset for the real estate industry. Specific services and applications can enable agents to better serve their clients, be they landlords, tenants, employers or employees. That ability, thanks to the resources agents can leverage, can ease an otherwise stressful process; a process that has too much uncertainty and too little >

I refer to traditional methods of listing space for rent, as well as the way people search for roommates. Agents can be very helpful on both fronts, provided they have access to a site that eliminates the guesswork of renting or sharing space with someone. Agents can offer their expertise regarding a potential match between two prospective roommates, in addition to doing something similar for corporate clients.

In this situation, technology makes a real estate agent more >

How, then, can real estate agents add value to this process?

In a word, experience; meaning they can screen these candidates for an individual or a company, where an extra set of eyes can focus with greater intensity on nuances others might miss or not know to review in the first place.

According to Steven Yos, Founder of WeRoomies:

"Real estate agents are important advisors, ones we should not overlook when using a tool that matches users based on similar interests and compatibility in general. Agents respect a commodity such as transparency -- they seek to ensure people can learn more about one another before entering into a rental agreement -- because that advantage is indispensable to improving quality of life. It is crucial to empowering individuals to live well without living expensively."

"By offering a social network of this kind, in which users may chat on a one-to-one basis or join a group chat or create their own, accuracy becomes the priority it must be. Accuracy of outcome, where roommates are more than people who share the same physical space, is critical to establishing domestic tranquility."

I agree with that sentiment, and I second those remarks, because technology is a tool. It is a tool that experts can use with an intensity all their own; applying their knowledge to something that they alone can analyze for the good of a site or a community of individuals.

We need to welcome technology, lest we ignore its benefits or fail to benefit the needs of the very people real estate agents serve.

The solution Yos speaks of, which is free to use and easy to navigate, promises to revolutionize a multitude of industries.

Real estate professionals can lead this movement.

Lewis Fein is a writer and commentator about the real estate industry. Based in Los Angeles, you may contact him at .

Full Story >

Today's Real Estate News and Advice
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017

What To Do When Your Home Isnt...
When sellers start the home-selling process, no one wants to think "What would happen if my ...

How to Keep Your Mortgage Appr...
You know how tough it is to qualify for a mortgage.Proof youve got a long-term job with a...

Why The Next Two Weeks May Be ...
If youre looking to buy a home and you would really like to get something in escrow before t...

How To Create Year-Round Home ...
Exceptional curb appeal will add to the enjoyment and value of your property and home. Maint...

Contact Us