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Updated: Saturday, October 24, 2020

Ask the HOA Expert: Counting Ballots, Long-Standing Policies & Club House Remodels

Question: What is the most efficient way to count ballots at an Annual Meeting? Our group has a large membership and vote counting bogs down the meeting.

Answer: With many ballots to count, preparation is essential. The ballots should be preprinted with names of all candidates and a checkbox next to each. A couple of blanks should be left for nominations from the floor at the meeting. After the ballots have been completed, they should be collected by the election tellers none of whom should be running for election and divided into equal parts.

Using several teams of two, one reading the results and the other tallying, ballots can be counted simultaneously by the teams and the final tallies from each team can then be added together for the final results. A Head Teller should check the math, circle the names of the winners and hand the results to the president to announce. Using this technique should allow the process to be completed in 5-10 minutes during which other business can be handled. The counted ballots should then be batched and stapled to the tally sheets and retained in the annual meeting file should questions about the election arise.

Question: Can the board cite a "long-standing policy" to prohibit construction of an enclosed patio beyond a side privacy wall in my own back yard, although there is no written rule or regulation in the documents which would prohibit that?

Answer: In general, it is the HOAs right to dictate the exterior appearance of the homes. So, as a rule, an owner should always get approval of exterior modifications before proceeding. Even though the city may issue a permit, the HOA may have restrictions that override local zoning and building codes.

If the board has enacted broader architectural design restrictions than are found in the governing documents, these need to be documented in writing. It is not reasonable to expect owners to know these things by ESP. Also, such restrictions need to be reasonable. If your proposed enclosure is not visible from the street, what difference should it make to the board or the neighbors? Based on your description, this restriction does not seem reasonable and unless the board can produce an Architectural Design Policy that specifically prohibits it and the reasons for it, you should not be restrained from moving forward.

Question: Is it a problem if we are remodeling our clubhouse and a board member charges the materials to her personal credit card?

Answer: As a rule, HOA expenses should be billed or charged directly to the HOA so the record is clear about what was bought and why. It will also keep the record straight for warranties that are included with the purchases.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net.


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When Is “For Sale By Owner” The Right Option?

When you put your home on the market, one of the first decisions youll make is whether to hire an agent to represent the property or to go the for sale by owner route.

While a portion of homeowners initially goes into selling their home on their own, they end up ultimately hiring an agent.

Some of the big reasons homeowners decide to try and sell their home on their own are because they think it will save them money and time. Some homeowners also feel like they understand their home better than a real estate agent will.

So when is it the right option to try and sell your home on your own without an agent?

The Basics of For Sale By Owner FSBO

FSBO means that as a homeowner, you list your home for sale without a real estate agent, making you responsible for the process from start-to-finish. Some of the things youll have to do include pricing and listing your home, staging it, negotiating, and closing.

The standard real estate commission fee is around 6, and trying to save that is one of the primary motivators for people to go the FSBO route.

Along with avoiding the listing commission, there are other benefits of FSBO.

Youll have full control over the price at which you list your home.
You can schedule your open houses and showings, so youre not stuck at the last minute trying to leave the house.
Youre going to be motivated to get the highest possible amount for your home.
You know not just your home but also your neighborhood best.

What Are the Downsides of FSBO?

Some of the potential downsides of trying to sell your home on your own, aside from the commission youll pay, include:

A real estate agent understands how to properly price a home to sell based on fair market value. You may be emotionally attached to your home, which can be problematic. You may think your home is worth more than it is, or you might be offended if someone criticizes your home. A real estate agent doesnt have that emotional connection so they can be objective.
Real estate agents have access to local listing portals, the MLS, networks, and other agents.
Some agents wont show a home thats FSBO.
Real estate agents understand how to efficiently manage the procedural aspects of selling a home, such as the paperwork.

When Does It Make Sense To Sell Your Own Home?

In many circumstances, working with an experienced, professional real estate agent is best.

There are a few cases where it can make sense to opt for FSBO, however.

If you already have a qualified buyer whos interested in your home before it goes on the market, you may not need a listing agent. One of the big roles of an agent is marketing, and if you have someone who plans to buy your home, you wont need an agents expertise in that area. It is important to separate interested buyers from qualified buyers in this case.
Is there a lot of demand in your market? If youre in a high-growth market and inventory is limited, you may be able to sell your home quickly and for top-dollar without an agent.
Can you take your time? If youre in no real hurry to sell your house and you can wait, then you might be able to sell it on your own successfully.

If you do the research and think FSBO is best for you, remember to price it accordingly, based on market research rather than emotions.

Create a listing thats high-quality with professional photographs and an optimized description.

Finally, if you arent going to have a real estate agent, you should work with an experienced real estate attorney early on to protect you and help guide you through the process.


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Important Reasons To Keep Your Gutters Clean

A recent report from Prime Time Window Cleaning gives a clear picture of the damage that can be caused by failing to clean out your gutters each year.

They report that millions of dollar in damage are caused to Chicago area homes. The lesson to be learned can be applied across the nation. When Fall comes calling, homeowners must clean out their gutters.

One Prime Time Windows customer writes, "Naturally you might be thinking that this is one chore you would rather avoid this year especially with the busy holiday season rapidly approaching. Chances are you have ignored this time-consuming but vital home improvement chore in the past but if this winter is even half as destructive as the last, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in damage to your investment."

Whats wrong with clogged gutters?

The risks to skipping out on this task are easy enough to see. As leaves and debris build up in your guttering system there become blockages. Instead of watering flowing easily into downspouts, it backs up onto eaves, the roof, and other parts of your house eventually leading to rot.

This in turn can lead to interior home damage to walls and ceilings. Overly full gutters can also become extremely heavy. This can bend the gutters and their brackets, causing unsightly damage to the exterior of your home.

Fox news reports, "Even flooded basements and cracking foundations are other symptoms of clogged gutters. If water isnt drained away from the house and it pools around the foundation it will expand when frozen and cause cracks which lead to floods in your basement or crawl space."

Thats a lot of damage from some fallen leaves The first order of business is not procrastinating. If you wait until its miserably cold outside you may be tempted to skip this yearly task. If you wait even longer you may miss you opportunity as snow and ice fill your gutter systems.

Thankfully, all it takes is a few simple tools and some elbow grease

As you set out to complete this job, be sure to gather the correct tools. Youll need comfortable gloves, trash cans or bags, a ladder, garden trowel, and a hose.

Begin by scooping out the large debris and depositing it into your bag or can. Next, scrape any remaining deposits with your trowel. Finally, clean out the gutter with a steady stream of water from your home. If you find an area in a downspout, for example, that is clogged and cant be reached simply use a plumbing snake to push the blockage on through.

A little upkeep goes a long ways when it comes to gutters. Now you have a clean system that not only look good, but are also going to save you time and money in the future


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How Much Does Location Really Matter When Buying A Home?

The old saying, "Location, location, location" is more like a mantra when it comes to real estate. Buy in the wrong one and you could be setting yourself up for financial ruin. Or at least an unhappy experience. Right?

In some cases, yes. But also, maybe not so much. Lets get into it.

The argument for buying in the best location you can afford

You can change your home, adding, updating, and renovating down to the last square foot. What you cant change is where its located. Add in an inherent desire to build equity when you buy a home, and its not surprising that real estate experts often recommend buying not only in the best location you can afford, but, if given a choice, buying the worst house in the best neighborhood instead of the other way around.

"A home is an investment - and the best investments have the most room for improvement," said Realtor.com. "Ideally, youll be adding to the home during your ownership, building equity in hopes of a payoff when you eventually sell. Brendon DeSimone, author of "Next Generation Real Estate," told them. "You can add value on your own. If youre choosing between an awesome house in a crappy location or an awful house in a great location, I would choose the latter."

Multiple recent studies bolstered the idea of buying in the best location you can, but identified new factors for determining location-worthiness. Namely, you need to buy a home with a Starbucks nearby. Or a Target nearby. Ideally, both.

"Among homeowners who sold in 2015, those near a Target saw an average 27 percent increase in home price since they purchased their home, which equates to an average price gain of 65,569," said the Washington Post.

As for Starbucks, "Between 1997 and 2014, homes within walking distance, or one-quarter mile, of a Starbucks appreciated 96 percent," said Forbes. "Compared to the national average for the same time period, 65 percent, it seems having a barista close by is a smart real estate move."

Buying the house, not the neighborhood

Yes, buying in a neighborhood that seems to offer some cushion when it comes to values makes sense. But what if you fall in love with a house thats not in your preferred neighborhood? What if its not in anyones preferred neighborhood?

The opportunity to buy a more affordable home can tempt people to take a chance on an iffy location. But how iffy is too iffy? The potential for losing money on a home that may not ever appreciate because of the neighborhood is only the beginning. Buying into an area that has higher crime can be dangerous to more than your finances.

Not sure what youre getting yourself into? Here are a few ways to investigate the neighborhood:

Look at sales data - Beyond the safety issues, you want to know what youre in for in terms of your investment. Just because a home in a questionable area is priced low doesnt mean its a good value.
Check crime records - Youll obviously want to pay attention to murder and violent crime rates, but also property crimes including break-ins, home robberies, and car thefts.
Check the sexual predator registry - Thats a given for any move.
Talk to neighbors and area business owners - Sometimes, the people that live and work there can provide the most telling information.
Consider the type of businesses in the neighborhood. Remind yourself about the Starbucks and Target value conversation. Those arent around? Whats in their place?

The quality of the businesses in the area can be one of the main determining factors when considering a neighborhood. A story from attn: asked the question, "Do Certain Businesses Attract Crime?" Their findings: "The prospect of a new liquor store or marijuana dispensary can spark safety concerns in some neighborhoods. But while the idea that particular businesses are crime magnets holds up in some cases, its not always true, and peoples concerns can be based on real evidence or flawed perception."

However, they note that businesses like liquor stores, nightclubs, and pawn shops can be linked to higher crime trends. A careful examination of police reports can either put your mind at ease - or send you in another direction.

Perhaps toward a neighborhood with a strip club. Yes, the establishment once thought to be a neighborhood killer has actually been found to have little or no effect on home values. "A new study found that proximity to strip clubs doesnt put downward pressure on home prices, said Inman. In addition, "The research undercuts legal arguments that municipalities have used to justify placing zoning restrictions on strip clubs."

The new study was conducted in Seattle between 2010 and 2014, analyzing more than 300,000 home sales. "The basis for the study was as follows: The >

The upshot: "The study found no empirical evidence that strip clubs drive down home prices, as property values in Seattle neighborhoods near the opening or closing of an establishment did not change in value per the studys findings."

Buying in a transitional neighborhood

Transitional is code for "might be on its way up" which also translates to "might be a great investment." Many buyers seek out these changing neighborhoods when their ideal neighborhood is out of reach and/or to get more for their money and be on the "ground floor" as the area appreciates.

So how do you know if your neighborhood is transitioning? If theyre building a Whole Foods, a Trader Joes, or a caf on the corner, that a good sign. Forbes offered a few more tips:

Its Accessible, with "proximity to public transportation."
"Hot hoods border it - A neighborhood thats adjacent to a much-desired one is much more likely to gentrify than one thats surrounded by less prime areas."
Days on market are dropping - Your real estate agent will be able to pull data and show you trends.
"It Has an Art Scene. A large population of artists tends to mean galleries and restaurants will soon follow suit - which, in turn, attracts more residents and businesses."
"It Has Historic Architecture - Historically significant > Renovations are being made - "One of the most obvious signs of a turnaround neighborhood is homes that are in the process of renovation. Drive around and see if you spot construction trucks and dumpstersthen you know theres activity in the air."


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September Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "Mortgage rates set several record lows over the last few months and have remained low into September. While there is room for rates to decrease even more, higher home prices and low inventory could potentially stifle the high demand that weve been seeing."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.90 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending September 24, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.91 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.64 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.40 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.46 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.90 percent this week with an average 0.2 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.91 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.38 percent.


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Who Are Those Behind-the-Scenes People at Your Mortgage Company?

When you first begin thinking about mortgages, more than likely its your loan officer who you will have the most contact with. Your loan officer will prequalify you and quote interest rates and monthly payments along with an estimate of closing costs and the approval process in general. When you submit your loan application, the loan officer takes sort of a back seat as the file is prepared for processing. Not that the loan officer walks away and you never hear back, not in the least. Its just that there are so many other people working in the background that you may never know much less speak to.

Your loan processor however is one person who you will speak to after loan submission. Its the loan processors job to put the loan file together, order out various third party services and collect further documentation from you when needed. The loan officer will give you a list of what needs to be submitted along with your application.nbsp;

This list contains items such as your most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. The last two years of W2 forms and tax returns if self-employed. Bank statements will also be required to provide evidence there are enough funds to close on the transaction. The processor will order third party services and documents such as title insurance policies and property appraisals. Once the file is fully documented, it is handed over to the underwriter.

Your underwriter is the individual who will make sure the loan package that was submitted meets the guidelines for the selected program. The underwriter will review the initial decision provided by an automated underwriting system. This decision will itemize the things needed for a complete approval. If the list says there needs to be paystubs in the file covering a 30 day period and there is only one paycheck stub covering a 15 day period, the underwriter will send the file back to the processor to gather the additional items. You will not speak with the underwriter at all, but work with your processor to provide what is needed.

After the loan has been approved, the file moves to the closing department. The closing department will prepare the loan file for a digital delivery of the package to the settlement agent. The settlement agent is someone you will not only speak with but meet at your loan closing. Once the loan documents are signed, theyre returned to the lender for one more review.

At this stage, the lender has pulled funds from its credit line in order to fund the newly created mortgage. The individual who reviews the signed papers makes sure the settlement agent followed the lenders instructions properly. Once the determination the settlement agent did follow the instructions properly, the lender will provide the settlement agent a funding number which in essence is a digital key that unlocks the funds needed to create the new mortgage.


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Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Cooler weather ahead doesnt mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people dont tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. If you live in a condo, check regulations first.

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so youll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canadas Hot Market.nbsp;

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. Theyre not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for 500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.

Renovate

Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, dont cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwoods red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive. Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants keep the soil to act as an anchor and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squir>

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

Im seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.nbsp;

Activities for the whole family Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.


Full Story >


Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Cooler weather ahead doesnt mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people dont tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. If you live in a condo, check regulations first.

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so youll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canadas Hot Market.nbsp;

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. Theyre not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for 500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.

Renovate

Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, dont cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwoods red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive. Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants keep the soil to act as an anchor and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squir>

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

Im seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.nbsp;

Activities for the whole family Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.


Full Story >


A Short and Succinct Guide to Boosting Your Curb Appeal

Make no mistake; curb appeal can be a deal-breaker. The first glance at the exterior sets the foundations for someones feelings towards a property. People will often write a place off based on its immediate appearance, without even setting foot inside and rightly so, as more often than not, the exterior says a lot about what to expect from the interior.nbsp;nbsp;

Dont judge a book by its cover just isnt applicable in the property market which is why curb appeal is essential whatever the size, shape, or >

Whether youre putting your property on the market, sprucing up a home to show off to the neighbors, or looking to give a new lease of life to a long-neglected exterior, you will find the best ways to create a good first impression in our short but succinct guide on boosting curb appeal.

The First Impressionnbsp;

The importance of that first glance at a property cannot be overstated. If well kept, the exterior will entice potential buyers, make visiting friends and family feel comfortable, and even add value to your home. Before the external features are scrutinized, the general feel is absorbed in those first seconds: the design, the layout, the boundaries, the color, and the organization. These are the factors that shape that immediate inspection.nbsp;

The exterior needs to have a picture-perfect postcard look that comes from having a well-maintained and presentable layout. The first thing is setting clear boundaries to the property, so people know exactly what is in the picture. Ensure walls, fences, and surroundings clearly exhibit your propertys exterior space and show-off its organization and security.

Look at the appearance of these features. Make sure the paint is up to scratch, the gate is sturdy, and the fences and walls are well kept and easily observed. They may seem separate from your property, but walls or wooden fences cannot be neglected. A lick of paint on metalwork or a new coat of varnish on a fence can make all the difference and show a home is secure and protected from the elements.

The Natural Necessities: Graceful Greenery

In a world that becomes more artificial and digitally dictated with each day, everybody seeks more of a connection with nature. For that reason, greenery has a huge influence on curb appeal and how appealing people find a propertys exterior.

If a property has a front garden, it goes without saying this needs to be presentable. It doesnt take much to mow a lawn or trim a hedge. The greenery in front gardens whatever their size can be hugely influential on curb appeal and property value. But it needs to be inviting and attractive rather than disheveled and disorderly.nbsp;

A balance in external greenery can be one of the hardest things to get right. A verdant exterior adds vigor to the property but too many overflowing plants can present a burden rather than a benefit for potential buyers and can feel unwelcoming for visitors not to mention anybody who lives in the building.

Equally, a home without any greenery can lack vitality. If a property doesnt have a garden or lacks the space for hedges and a lawn, its not the end of the world. Some well-chosen pots and planters bring ample life to an exterior and can be used to organize spaces for those properties that dont have walls, gates, or fences.nbsp;

The Pristine Pathway: The Journey to Your Front Doornbsp;

Once the design, layout, boundaries, and greenery of a property have been absorbed, the journey from the curb to the front door is the focus. For obvious reasons, the pathway or driveway should be clear and void of obstacles, so entering a property is an enjoyable experience.

Garbage cans positioned on the driveway or outside the front of your house arent going to do you any favors. So if they cant be tucked away neatly around the side of your home or somewhere out of sight, it might be that a garbage storage shed is necessary.nbsp;

Ensure the driveway or pathway are deweeded, flat, and look neat. Sweep away leaves and replace cracked paving stones to improve both the look of your path and its safety. The journey to the door is extra important for those people with buggies, wheelchairs, or children, so the path or driveway should be as accessible as possible.nbsp;

If either your pathway or driveway is looking worse for wear due to dirt that cant be removed, a pressure wash can rejuvenate your driveway and breath a new lease of life back into your exterior. It takes a day and has an enormous impact.nbsp;

The driveway is a practical part of your property, but its often overlooked as a great feature in itself. As a feature of the exterior that directs your eyes towards the front door, the driveway must be kept attractive. Curved borders or patterned paving slab designs add a brilliant touch, as do pots or planters that flank the driveway.nbsp;

The Elegant Entryway: A Fresh and Updated Front Door

A front door is the most important part of a homes exterior. After the general details of the property have been absorbed, it is here the focus ends up. The front door speaks of the homes character and expresses more about the property than the rest of the exterior.nbsp;

The front door is also where people will wait, and you will enter and exit every day. So for everybodys benefit, it should be presentable, warm, and welcoming.nbsp;

Giving the door a fresh coat of paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve curb appeal. The gleam of a fresh coat removes any weather-beaten signs. It also gives the exterior a facelift and says a home is clean and comfortable. Black paint looks formal and professional, while blues, greens, reds, and yellows bring a bright and cheerful feel to your entryway. Greys and browns should be avoided for their meaning and mood associations, while whites will easily dirty and are hard to maintain.

Once youre satisfied with the door color and the state of the paintwork, the doors hardware and accessories should be spruced up next. Nobody likes a squeaky door or one that doesnt function properly, so make sure your doors hardware is doing what it is designed to do. Stick with brass, chrome, or another type of metal, get some sturdy door handles, new house numbers, and invest in a door knocker that means business.

As the focal point of the exterior and a feature that buyers will always subconsciously end up over-analyzing, the front door should be customized as best as possible. A canopy above the door adds elegance and stops rainwater falling on the front doorstep while a festive wreath adds charm and comfort.

The Limelight: Important Illumination

Last but not least is the lighting. Garden lighting is essential for those who have one, and the bigger the garden, the more essential it is. A dark, gloomy path up through shrubs and plants is not an inviting sight in the darkness. A property should be approachable day and night.nbsp;

The door should be the most well-illuminated of all with lanterns either above or beside it, so people feel safe and welcomed. A sensor light boosts security and saves on energy and bills. It is a great option in todays market; it makes a home feel functional and safe.

Wall lanterns or fisherman->

Property buyers might inspect a house at any point during their search, so curb appeal after dark must be considered too.nbsp;


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4 Fundamentals of Creating Successful Customer Relationships

If businesses exist, as the father of Business Management Peter Drucker proposed, "to create and keep a customer," then success is defined by the >

Give Undivided Attention

Attentive time is among the most limited of all resources. As we split time and attention in more ways than ever before, the amount available per person gets smaller and smaller. Reduce the likelihood that the other person feels youre not really "present" by putting away your devices and giving them your undivided attention. Not only does this demonstrate your professionalism, it shows you value their time as much as they value yours. Dont worry; those messages, texts, or tweets will all be there later.

Prioritize Face-Time

Think for a moment about the variety of ways we communicate with others today: in-person, phone calls, text messages, email, social networking platforms, video-conferencing. The list goes on. While its true that some of these methods give us more communicative context than others, nothing is a true replacement for meeting face-to-face. Spending time together in-person allows both parties to make the most intense emotional connection with each other. Fewer distractions. Fewer misunderstandings. Better communication.

Reciprocate in Kind

With the shift from one-to-one communication to the one-to-many stream of social networking, its no surprise that society as a whole has shifted to a "me-centric" one-way thinking. Lost is the common courtesy of reciprocating the considerate gestures of others. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have lessened expectations of responding to broadcasted messages. But the type of reciprocity that characterizes strong >

Consider the Need for Extra Consideration

As we connect in more distant ways - online or through mobile devices - we may find ourselves becoming less considerate of others without even realizing it. The scarcity of our available time also affects our ability to be considerate, in the sense that consideration means considering the needs, desires, or challenges of others. Considering their situation might take a little extra time, but it can save you a lot of time if youre focused on what you think they want or need rather than their actual want or need. Consideration is one gift that we dont necessarily know how to describe, but we recognize when we receive it. And most importantly, we know when we dont.

The success of any business comes from the ability to create and maintain meaningful >


CRM pioneer Mike Muhney, the co-creator of ACT software credited as the catalyst for the "customer >
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HOA Project Roll-Out

Winter and spring is the time of year that the Board should be arranging and reviewing proposals for fair weather renovation projects. Painting, fencing, pool replastering and roofing are but a few of the major items that fit the profile. There are several practical reasons for starting the process early:

Contractors are more available. Winter is a slow time for many contractors. This means they have the time to thoughtfully consider your work and produce a good proposal.

Better pricing.

Sometimes the work you want done can be performed during the winter months, even certain kinds of roofing. If you agree to start the project now, you just may save a significant amount of money. When work is slow, many contractors are willing to offer better pricing to "seal the deal."

Scheduling preference.

If you accept a contractors proposal now, you can generally dictate the scheduling. Set the date now. If you wait you may not make the schedule at all.

Arranging for money.

If you havent accumulated enough reserve funds, you will need several months to discuss, approve and collect a special assessment.

Coordination with residents.

If the project is extensive and disruptive, you will want to warn residents well in advance. This will give them the opportunity to work around or even plan vacations strategically.

Always get references and check them out. It is important to use only contractors that have a good track record. Make sure the references are for work that is comparable in size and complexity to yours. It is not uncommon for small contractors to get in over their head when trying to nail down work. Feel comfortable that they can deliver what they promise.

Always, always, always use contractors that are properly licensed, bonded and insured to do the work they are contracting to perform. If you have any question about requirements, contact the state licensing board. Use it.

Get named on their insurance. Insist on getting a current copy of the contractors liability insurance coverage directly from his insurance agent. If you accept the proposal, require that the HOA be included on this insurance as an "additional insured" and get an appropriate and current insurance certificate from the contractors insurance agent to prove it.

Make progress payments.

Do not make advance payments on the project work. This is often the sign of a contractor on a "shoe string" that may be using your money to pay other jobs labor or supply bills.

You could be left high and dry with uncompleted work. Instead, use progress payments that pay for work actually completed. Usually, make no more than one per month and be sure to inspect the work to verify completion.

Consider paying for a Performance Bond. For large and expensive projects, requiring a Performance Bond provides assurance that the contractor will perform, or, another contractor can be hired to finish the job. It costs extra but is often worth it.

Get Lien Waivers.

When making payments, have the contractor sign a Lien Waiver for the amount tendered. Your attorney can provide the appropriate form or ask the state contractors board for a sample. A Lien Waiver is the contractors promise that he has paid or will pay all labor, material and supply bills >

Its also appropriate to have all materials delivered directly to the job site and to pay for materials directly. You will need someone in charge of ordering the material and making sure its delivered and secured.

For any substantial construction, it is very important to involve an attorney who can draft or review the contract. Dont bypass this important step. Theres a lot riding on what the Board is obligating the HOA to.

There is much planning involved in rolling out a successful renovation project. Forget the leap of faith on this one. The safety net just may not be there when you land. Get a jump on your renovation projects and get a quality job done on schedule and at the best price.


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Understanding the Annual Percentage Rate

The Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, is a tool consumers can use to compare rates from one lender to the next. While the note rate on a mortgage, the rate used to calculate the monthly payment, is certainly important, just as important is the APR. Unfortunately, its a misunderstood number by many and even individual loan officers have trouble explaining what the APR is and what it isnt.nbsp;

The APR is prominently displayed with a lenders Cost Estimate, so much so that consumers who first review the loan disclosures think the APR is the note rate. Unless the loan officer clearly explains what the APR is at the outset, confusion can set in and its also very possible the consumer thinks its a bait and switch strategy. Someone can get a rate quote for, say, 3.00 and after disclosures are provided to the consumers, the APR might read 3.15. Its the note rate that determines the monthly payment, along with the loan term and loan amount. The APR is designed to let consumers easily compare loan offerings from one lender to the next.

Yet the APR sometimes confuses more than explains. Simply put, the APR is the cost of money borrowed expressed as an annual rate. Used properly, consumers can properly compare. A lender with higher loan costs will show a larger disparity between the note rate and APR. For instance, three lenders show a note rate of 3.00. Lender A also shows an APR of 3.10. Lender B 3.15 and Lender C 3.19. In this example, Lender A appears to have the better offering because the difference between the note rate and APR is >

The APR includes different loan fees, but the APR can also change based upon which day of the month the loan closes. How so? The APR also includes prepaid interest charges. Prepaid interest is the per diem amount from the day the loan closes to the first of the following month. If the loan closes on the 20th of the month, that would then mean 10 days of prepaid interest. Lenders will collect this amount along with other loan fees at the settlement table.nbsp;

If the loan closes on the 30th of the month, there would be just one day of prepaid interest. This is in essence the very first mortgage payment. Interest on mortgage loans is calculated in arrears. Its the opposite of rent. A rental payment is made to pay for the month youre about to live in whereas a mortgage payment calculates accumulated interest from the previous month. The mortgage payment on the 1st of the month is for accumulated interest from the previous month. Closing on the last day of the month the APR will be lower with just one day of interest included compared to 10.nbsp;

When comparing lenders, the closing costs are just as important as the rate. Someone can offer a 30 year fixed rate at 3.00 and 1,000 in fees. Another lender might also offer a 30 year fixed rate at 3.00 but with 5,000 in fees. In this way, its pretty clear which lender is quoting the more competitive loan terms. When explained in this manner, the differences in note rate and APR are made clear.nbsp;

Dont let a loan officer tell you that the APR isnt important. And as far as the monthly payment is concerned, that would be correct. What is important is to get a snapshot of lender fees along with the note rate. The APR does just that.


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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

With autumn here it is time to get your house in shape for the cooler months ahead. Fall is a great time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Getting ready for colder weather means checking, repairing, and prepping your home to withstand the upcoming rain, wind, and snow.

Here are some helpful tips that every homeowner should do before hibernating this winter.

1. Stow Your Mower

With the cooler months ahead, its time to start thinking about how you are going to stow your lawn mower. Before saying goodbye to your lawn mower for the winter season, there are a few things you should consider. First, it will be a good idea to sharpen the blade of your lawn mower to ensure that it is in tip-top shape for the spring. Youll also want to empty your gas tank before putting your lawn mower to rest. Taking simple steps like these before putting your lawn mower into storage will help increase the longevity of your equipment.

2. Perform an energy audit

Performing an energy audit is really important because it will tell you where heat is escaping, so you can correct the problem and save money on utilities. If you are doing an energy audit yourself, first make a list of all air leaks in your home by seeing where there are drafts. You can learn how to detect air leaks by following these simple steps. Seal the air leaks that you have identified by applying caulk or weatherstripping. Potential energy savings by detecting and fixing drafts can range from 5 to 30 and will make your home much more comfortable.

3. Replace Your Storm Windows

Before it gets too cold, replace your screen windows and doors with energy-efficient storm windows. Consider a proper storage space for your screen windows so they do not get damaged over the winter months. Youll want to give them a good cleaning, along with your storm windows, so that they are ready for the upcoming colder months

4. Check your Furnace

Home heating systems that arent properly maintained may be less than 50 percent efficient. A dirty filter will increase your heating costs and reduce the life of your equipment. For these reasons, it is important to check your filter once a month and replace or clean if necessary. Have a professional take a look and perform any adjustments to your furnace during this time if needed.

5. Install Gutter Guards

Homeowners often overlook the importance of gutters, but they protect your home by diverting rain water safely away from your home. Gutter cleaning is a temporary solution to a permanent problem, but it is important to keep your gutters clear and clean in order to prevent home issues like foundation and structural issues.

If neglected long enough, these types of concerns can be serious and costly. One way to combat clogged gutters and eliminate gutter cleaning is to have gutter guards professionally installed to your home. Installing a micromesh gutter protection system, will help save you the time and hassle of cleaning your gutters when the leaves begin to fall.

6. Maintain your Homes Exterior

Trim back trees and branches that are hanging too close to your home. Fall and winter are known for unexpected weather conditions, so it is important to prevent any type of debris from falling on your home and producing serious damage. Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. For long term care of your home exterior, it is important to apply a layer of sealant to prevent weed growth, repel stains, and increase the longevity of these areas.

7. Chimney and Fireplace

Youll want to call in a professional to inspect and clean your chimney. Annual cleaning of your chimney is important to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Test your fireplace flue to ensure that it is tightly sealed when closed.

8. Test smoke/carbon dioxide detectors

This is a simple task for homeowners, but it is often forgotten about. Detectors should have a "test" button. If the alarm sounds -- youre good to go If not, try replacing the batteries and test again. If the alarm still doesnt fire, you may need a new detector. Testing these systems is a quick, but very important quarterly test to perform.

Taking these steps will not only lower your utility costs, but they will protect your largest investment, your home, from the unexpected weather conditions ahead.


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From The Abnormal To The Paranormal: Dealing With An Unusual Home

Thinking of buying a home with a story to tell? Or maybe your home is so unique youre worried it might be a hard sell. The average buyer may not embrace the idea of shacking up with a ghost or owning a home that is so out there it becomes a sideshow, but, you know what they sayit only takes one.

Something bad happened there

A house where someone died might make you quickly nix it from your list. And heres a sobering thought for the squeamish: "Many states do not require realtors to disclose whether or not a violent crime occurred on the property, which is whyif this type of thing matters to youyou should always do your own research," said Jezebel.

If the home was the scene of a grisly or famous murder, and the price is right, buyers may be able to overlook what happened there. In some cases, the homes past might actually make it more saleable, although looky-loos can make it hard to live in.

The LaBianca house, scene of some of the Manson murders, Nicole Brown Simpsons L.A. condo andnbsp;Jeffrey Dahmers childhoom home in Ohio where he killed his first victim and scattered the remains around the house as a teenager were all purchased post notoriety. Even by the standards of those who are fascinated by the murder genre, this one may be over the line.

The location is terrible

Were not talking about a house in a semi-iffy neighborhood. How about one that features a glorious viewof the freeway. You might think that would be a turnoff. But not to everyone.

The Houston home of University of Houston architecture professor Ronnie Self, "perched on the edge of 288with 20 lanes just belowsits as close to the freeway as Self could get it," said Swamplot.

It features a view of downtown in the background and one more obvious advantage: you can always tell what the traffic is like.

Location, part 2

What if the view out the window isnt so much about cars, but, rather, headstones.

Actually, people who can get past the whole "dead people out my window" thing might actually enjoy living close to a cemetery "because of the unobstructed views, the ease of parking and the, well, peace and quiet," said the Wall Street Journal.

If you can deal with the location and its the view thats getting to you, you can always disguise it using some of these creative solutions from Apartment Therapy and Houzz.

Ghosts

Are you seeing dead people?

"Nestled within sunny San Diegos Old Town is one of the worlds most enduring haunted house legends. Built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley, the brick house occupies the spot where Yankee Jim Robinson was publicly hanged years earlier," said Oddee. "Add to that the suicide of Violet Whaley in 1885 and other Whaley family deaths over the last century, and youve got a house so crowded with ghosts that it regularly appears on Most Haunted lists."

A real live haunted house might be interesting to tour, but do you want to live in it? And if you decide to sell your haunted house, do you have to disclose your ghost?

"Haunted properties fall within the category of stigmatized properties, or real estate that is not defective in any physical manner, but due to psychological or emotional factors may have a reduced value," said REALTOR Magazine. "About half of U.S. states have laws that deal with stigmatized properties, but most dont require sellers to disclose if they have a ghost."

In some cases, ghosts and ghouls may make the house more valuable, they added. "Some customers look for homes with an interesting history, as they feel it adds to a propertys character. Not everyone is bothered by the possibility of spirits hanging around."

The house is just plain weird

Unique is a >

"We noticed right away that there were hooks in the walls in this grand foyer and all kinds of bicycle parts everywhere. Also, the first floor was pretty much gutted. Hanging from the ceiling in the dining room was a swing made out of a plank of wood and white nylon rope. The only lighting in the room appeared to be icicle->

Turns out the house was not a meth lab, as the agent feared, but was rather in the process of being converted to run on vegetable oil. Really.


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Different Terms and Different Results

Your monthly payment is calculated using three different factors- the interest rate, the loan amount and the term of the loan. While were all familiar with the idea that the interest rate is responsible for the monthly payment, so too is the term of the loan. The most common loan term among residential mortgages is the standard 30 year fixed rate. The interest rate and loan amount are amortized over 30 years, or more precisely 360 months. As each monthly payment is made a portion is applied to the interest that is due and the other toward the outstanding loan balance. What many may not realize however is the term of the loan is also just as important when arriving at a monthly payment.

While the 30 year term is the most popular, the next most popular loan term is 15 years, or 180 months. Why choose a different loan term? The 30 year will provide the lowest monthly payment, and, in this example, the 15 year is the next most common choice. The 15 year loan term will result a higher monthly payment, but the amount of interest paid to the lender is dramatically reduced.nbsp;

For example, taking a 300,000 loan amount amortized over 30 years at 3.00 yields a monthly payment of 1,264. A 15 year term using the same loan amount and rate gives a monthly payment of 2,071. Over the life of each loan, there is about 82,000 less interest paid with the 15 year term. The shorter the term, the higher the payment but lower overall interest. Same loan amount, same rate but different results by switching loan terms.

Most consumers might generally agree that the sooner a loan is paid of the better. However, due to the somewhat market increase in monthly payment with a 15 year compared to a 30 year term, sometimes borrowers who want the 15 year term cant qualify because the monthly payments are too high. Yet there are tweeners that should be considered in such a situation.

Most lenders who advertise their rates will quote a 30 and 15 year term. What many may not know is there are other terms from which to select. These two are the 20 and 25 year terms. If a 15 year loan payment is too high but the amount of interest paid with a 30 year term is too much, a 20 or 25 year term might be the better option. When getting interest rate quotes from your lender and youre exploring your options, know that beyond the traditional 15 and 30 year terms are other options that might be an optimal choice. You should also compare the 20 and 25. Further, many loan programs can be amortized over 10 years, although the monthly payments will be higher still.nbsp;

When you call your loan officer and ask the ubiquitous question, What are your rates today? youll most likely hear about the 30 year loan term. Further query could result in the 15 year term but if you ask for the other available terms, youll get those too upon request. Your lender doesnt really care which loan term you decide to take as long as you can still fall into the affordability category.nbsp;

Because a 30 year loan is indeed amortized over 360 months, most of the initial payments will go toward interest, with very little left over to pay down the loan balance. With a 15 year loan, less goes toward interest early on compared to the 30. However, the 20 and 25 should not be overlooked. They can provide the balance between the desire to pay less interest over time along with getting a favorable and affordable monthly payment.


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Six Strategic Client Fresh-Starts

In these uncertain times, real estate professionals carry the compounded emotional load of their own concerns and fears plus those of prospects, clients, past clients, and colleagues. That means a lot of hoping things turn out which with, all the medical and social distractions swirling around, may lead to disappointment.

Human nature adds hope when uncertainties weigh heavy. Disappointment settles in when hope doesnt prove enough to transform wishes into reality,

Clients, communities, and those you work with will remember how you made them feel during the pandemic.

Hope has gotten many through the first six months of the pandemic. Now as the Covid-19 horizon stretches into 2021, hope may need to be bolstered by thoughtful fine-tuning and concrete improvements. Where you begin and what suits the individuals or families you work with may differ, but here are six suggestions which can be adapted to a variety of real estate goals and dreams.

Six Strategic Client Fresh-Starts

1. Renew Resolutions

When January 2020 began, most of us were full of positive resolutions for the months ahead. Now we need to let go of that past to start fresh with simple, super-achievable resolutions for the remainder of 2020.nbsp;

This shift to positive thinking, highly-actionable goal setting, and effective strategizing will help many visualize future certainty and check off a few went well 2020 achievements in spite of everything. Encourage a loose-grip on goal specifics since flexibility and resilience remain the 2020 operative words.

2. Unlearn to Rethink

Mastering life during the pandemic revolves around quickly unlearning and rethinking things taken for granted before Covid-19. Theres no longer a back to normal, but there is full steam ahead For instance, Covid opened many eyes to how impractical and exhausting living beyond financial means is. Pandemic realities have many of us embracing benefits tied to shifting from compulsive consumption and debt accumulation to flourishing through saving and investingexciting steps toward a future of choice.

Sharing professional knowledge and expertiseonline and offwill encourage those intent on reviving real estate dreams, on discovering how to keep more of what they earn, and on saving to achieve homeownership goals. Attract business by making it easy for buyers and sellers to fully understand how money and investment can work to their advantage. As well as grasping how this knowledge is a launching pad, theyll thank you for revealing how it feeds life>

3. WHY Your Way Out of Mental Roadblocks

By asking and answering a series of 5 WHY questions, mental barriers for prospects, buyers, or sellersor yourselfmay be removed. The 5 piercing queries dig deep, layer after layer, into a belief or standard that is holding thinking back, undermining decision making, or stalling enthusiasm.nbsp;

Select a specific intrusive belief or standard and ask WHYwhy is it clung to? Then dig into that answer by asking WHY number 2. This chain continues until the pared-down fourth iteration is dug into with the fifth WHY. By then, if not before, the mental roadblock should be dissected and cleared for action. Peeling back layers of habit, misunderstanding, bias, and dated values creates the resilience and flexibility necessary to thrive in times of change. Take the time to create 5-WHY examples specifically >

4. Be Unreasonable About Design

Society often describes a person who adapts to an inefficient or uncomfortable environment as a reasonable person. Instead of making the best of a bad situation by adapting to a less-than-productive environment, like a poor workspace, encourage prospects and clients to be unreasonable. Make it clear that they have two choices:

1 The unreasonable environmenttheir homecan be adapted to suit their needs and enhance their productivitythat is, redecorated or renovated. A professional interior designers eye on a residential space will usually reveal stylish, functional,nbsp; cost-effective adjustments to interiors to make living, working, and playing easier and more rewarding. Or,

2 Find a new reasonable spacemove to a new property. Our homes are not meant as containers for humans who must contend with inconvenient spaces. Real estate professionals know that homeowners often live with inconveniences, which are often >

Enlighten prospective buyers and sellers to the value of becoming unreasonable. Demonstrateperhaps case-study->

5. The Reality: Working From Home Is Work

Ask a commercial real estate professional what goes into designing productive work environments and youll learn about the required blending of architectural and interior-design expertise.

Plunking client business files and a notebook down on the dining-room table falls very short of creating a nurturing work environment. Even if theres a client cloud interface and a designated home office, the home itself is probably full of non-office distractions like children, pets, a spouse, pools, screens, and refrigerators.

Staying focused and engaged at home requires training in self-discipline and concentration combined with the cooperation of everyone else who lives and works there. Sharing approaches for adapting and clarifying office routines and work systems in uncertain times [ limk to rt ] and a new environment is a job in itselfone that many employees receive little help with or credit for from their employer. How can you support or encourage those braving this new home frontier and juggling it with educating children and caring for family? When is a move to gain productive workspace the right reason to move?

6. Happiness Course, Of Course

The internet is awash with courses and education programs, many of them free, so sharing a learning experience with prospects or past clients may strengthen >

Well-being topics include misconceptions about happiness, overcoming biases, and putting strategies into practice. Theres no heavy required reading, just conversation->

According to Yale News, enrollment for the first year of the >

Sign up for free here.nbsp;

Prospecting during a pandemic requires a fresh approach. The more in touch with clients and peers you are, the more they will appreciate your attempts to reach out and help them improve their situation.


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What to Know Before You Buy in a Hurricane Zone

Weve already had a pretty tumultuous hurricane season in 2020, and its certainly not over yet. Hurricanes can be scary for vacationers who have to flee when they approach, but even more so for property owners in these areas.

While living in a hurricane zone can, at times, be stressful, these areas are also often some of the most beautiful in the country. Hurricane zones are where many people purchase second homes, investment properties and retirement residences.

If youre thinking about buying in a hurricane zone, what should you know?

Hurricane Zones Are Expensive

When youre in an area thats likely to be affected by hurricanes, its expensive year-round and not just when youre dealing with damage. You have to pay for storm protection, flood insurance, and other types of insurance coverage.

When youre getting insurance in a hurricane-prone area, you can shop around and compare prices. Before you ever buy a property, you should probably start doing that. If your home is within anbsp; certain number of miles from the beach, you may pay more or less in insurance than a home very nearby. The closer to the beach a home is, the more expensive insurance will be.

While the oceanfront property might be ideal for you, if you go a bit more inland you can save a lot of money.

Your insurance prices are primarily based on the flood hazard locations outlined by the National Flood Insurance Programs Flood Insurance Rate Map.

A big mistake people make is thinking their homeowners insurance covers flooding. You will need separate flood insurance. You might also need a separate wind damage policy, depending on what your homeowners policy excludes.

The most important thing to do if you live in a home by the coast is to ensure that youre fully and appropriately covered in terms of insurance. You should talk to your insurance company before you buy a property and make sure you have everything in order.

How Much Will Insurance Cost?

The average cost of a homeowners insurance policy is around 2,000, and flood insurance can cost another 640. Rates can be well above this in hurricane-prone areas.

How Old Is the House?

If you have a house youre looking at buying, ask when it was built. Theres a reason for this. Building codes were significantly updated in the early 2000s in Florida, for example. Newer homes are built to higher standards as a result.

The Florida Building Code is also routinely updated every three years, as is often the case in other states.

When youre looking at property, you can have a licensed inspector work with you because theyll know what the home needs to reduce the damage that might occur if there is a hurricane.

Along with the general age of the home, ask about the age of the roof.

Look for specific safety upgrades that might be present in a property. Metal straps or clips in the attic can help a home stay stronger against storms because they connect the roof to the walls. Look for storm shutters and panels, and if they arent present, ask your insurance company if theyll provide you a discount for adding them.

Annual Maintenance Costs

Hurricane season in Florida and other states that get storms means that youre going to be spending more not just on insurance but also potentially maintenance. For example, youll want to make sure that your trees and trimmed, and your gutters are regularly cleaned.

You might also want to tack the price of a generator onto your home buying and maintenance costs, and youll need gasoline or propane to fuel a generator.

Living somewhere like Florida or anywhere on the coast can be an amazing life>
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The HOA Rule Game

The issue of rules in homeowner associations is one that can trigger a wide range of responses. While most HOAs require little rule enforcement, there are some that seem rule driven or inhabited by I-eat-rules-for-lunch residents. This combination is a formula for trouble. That said, there are some recommended approaches to effective rules compliance that every HOA should consider. Jim Comin of CDC Management in Seattle has come up with some examples of Good vs. Bad when it comes to rules compliance:

Good: Please contact me to discuss this matter and find a way to reconcile this.

Bad: Please contact me immediately to avoid a 100 fine.

Good: I realize that you are a new homeowner and that you may not be aware of the rules. For your convenience, I have enclosed a copy.

Bad: I recognize that you are a new homeowner, but you received a copy of the rules when you closed the sale of your unit so you should have known that this is against the rules.

And here are some indicators that your HOA rules are too strict:

nbsp;

Its easier to list all of the things that arent against the rules, rather than to list those things that are.

nbsp;

Your rules do allow for garage sales but only on the "Community Garage Sale Day" which is the 5th Saturday in every Leap Year.

nbsp;

Everyone at Acme Towing knows your first name.

nbsp;

The fine schedule is as follows: First Offense = 10 fine, Second Offense = 25 fine, Third Offense = 30 days in jail.

nbsp;

The HOAs speed limit is exactly the same as your limit on number of dogs per household.

nbsp;

A unit sale fails because the potential buyer has a goldfish.

nbsp;

Page 243 of your rules states that well, you get the picture.

nbsp;

You have 43 rules >

nbsp;

Instead of a "due process," the HOA has a "dont process."

nbsp;

Okay, you get the gist. The rules in a homeowner associations should be few and absolutely necessary. Tread respectfully when engaged in enforcement to gain cooperation and respect. A brutal approach only begets a brutal response.


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Why Are People Obsessed with Mid-Century Modern Design?

Mid-century modern design is one of the most popular design >

So, what exactly is mid-century modern design, and how can you make it work in your home?

Mid-Century Modern Basics

Mid-century modern design is based on architects work who moved from Germany to the U.S. after World War Two. These architects led the way in mid-century modern design, which emphasizes functionality and simplicity.

The period, while there is some disagreement on specifics, generally is considered to have lasted from the 1940s to the 1960s, but much of what we think of as mid-century modern now is from the 60s.

Mid-century modern design grew from the changes that were occurring post-war, and it reflected a sense of optimism.

These design concepts are focused on limited accessories, functionality and form, and sleek lines. In mid-century modern design, there is the use of different types of materials, including both traditional and non-traditional. For example, wood is often mixed with Lucite or metal.

Theres a lot of contrast in mid-century design, not just in materials but in other ways. For example, you might seek the very sleek lines that characterize the design >

The general idea behind mid-century design, above all else, is that pieces of furniture are like art in and of themselves, but they should take up as little space as possible. Theres nothing unnecessary in mid-century design.

There are many similarities between mid-century and Scandinavian design. Scandinavian design became more popular around the same time as mid-century in the 1950s. The two inevitably influenced one another as a result.

If youve ever been to Palm Springs or youve seen photos, its perhaps the capital of mid-century modern. The desert oasis became a resort town for celebrities from L.A. in the 1950s, and the homes and >

Architecture

Mid-century impacted architecture, as well. There were architects like Philip Johnson and Richard Neutra who ran with the >

Stone fireplaces, planked ceilings, and natural light were key in mid-century architecture and design.

Color Palettes

While mid-century is primarily about simplicity, there is one area where things get especially interesting which are the color palettes. nbsp;For example, the use of bold colors like orange or emerald green is common. In current, updated versions of mid-century >

How Can You Create a Mid-Century Space?

One of the first things you can do to capture the simple >

While you might want to stick with the clean lines and minimalism of mid-century consistently, that doesnt mean you cant also intermix other >

If you have large windows, keep them uncovered if possible, to ensure unobstructed natural light.

If you do need to use curtains, choose lightweight fabrics like linen that allow for the natural light to flow into a space.

Sculptural chandeliers can be a focal point in a mid-century modern room, and avoid oversized furniture. The idea is to appreciate negative space rather than trying to fill every square inch with furniture, which is common in more traditional design concepts. Along with making sure your furniture isnt too big, look for low profiles. nbsp;

Integrate elements of nature, whether thats natural wood furniture or potted plants.

As far as the actual furniture and other items you purchase, one option is to splurge for authentic pieces. If youre not ready to do that, you can still find replicas at a more budget-friendly price. Even much of what Ikea offers could be easily integrated into a mid-century design concept. There are also retailers with pricing thats considered middle-of-the-road such as Crate and Bar>
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Use Construction Loans to Adapt Your Business to the New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has modified the way businesses serve their clients. Drive-thru windows and delivery services are emerging as feasible solutions to comply with quarantine measures while avoiding a complete shutdown of the business activities.

But adapting to the new normal may require some renovations to comply with safety protocols. Thats when construction loans can help in securing the funding needed to perform them. Think about it A business that offers safety measures will attract more customers in, and thus, increase sales.

Which Renovations Do Businesses Require Under the New Normal?

It is still difficult to say for how long we will have to deal with the virus as a potentially life-threatening disease. The timeline provided by experts in terms of how long it will take to get a long-term solution varies from six months to as long as two or three years, so renovations as the following are very much needed.

Social distancing

According to the Centers for Disease Control, social distancing protocols can reduce the number of virus->

Given the impact of this prevention method, businesses should focus most of their efforts on redesigning their premises to enforce social distancing. This may include >

Meanwhile, stores and retail establishments may have to rethink their layouts so that customers follow a specific predefined path when shopping to prevent them from getting too close to each other.

Temperature checks and sanitization areas

Businesses can set up sanitization booths and checkpoints at the entrance of their establishment to prompt customers to soak their shoes in an antibacterial solution while getting their temperature checked and their hands cleaned with hand sanitizer.

It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by health authorities to set up these checkpoints adequately. If you need financing for these expanses, construction loans can help you in building and equipping these booths.

Production-area modifications

Whether it is a restaurant or an industrial facility, the premises in which workers produce the goods offered by the business have to be redesigned, at least temporarily, with social distancing in mind.

For example, specific machinery may have to be moved, and tables, shared spaces, and assembly lines may have to be >

Office space

Encouraging employees to get back to the office is perhaps one of the biggest challenges, as many still fear that the office space is an unsafe place to be.

In this regard, if working from home is not an alternative for the employer, the office space must be redesigned to comply with social distancing protocols by reducing the number of work stations. Offices will also have to set up sanitization booths and temperature checkpoints at the entrance, and all the equipment shared by the staff will have to be cleaned more regularly. It would be a good idea to buy additional printers and copiers.

Construction loans can finance these investments as part of a larger project to get offices ready to receive workers once again.

How Much Do These Renovations Cost?

The cost of renovating a business or a workspace varies depending on the extent of the project. Small changes made to a store may cost a few thousand dollars while renovating a factory could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Regardless of how much the cost of the project is, construction loans can provide the funds required to complete them.

Certain construction loans, such as those secured by the Small Business Administration SBA in the United States, can finance up to 5 million, with a repayment period of between 20 to 25 years. Others provided by financial services firms, such as Camino Financial, can provide up to 400,000, with the repayment period up to 18 months.

A helping handnbsp;

Now more than ever, creating a safe environment and ensuring peoples safeness when they visit, shop, or work at the companys premises has to be a priority for business owners. This has to be part of their strategy to survive the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus.nbsp;

But entrepreneurs are not alone. Construction loans can provide the funds needed to perform renovations at an affordable interest rate and with long-enough repayment periods to ensure these investments can result in higher sales and foot traffic.

If you are looking to acquire one of these loans, do your homework Investigate at least three institutions and compare their offerings before accepting one, taking into consideration the loan amount, interest rate, fees, time to pay, terms, and requirements.


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Marketing Tips for Agents During a Pandemic

Were many months into the coronavirus pandemic, and while its perhaps not something we expected to be still dealing with, thats the reality we have. As a real estate agent during this time, you want your marketing to be both sensitive and >

The real estate market is thriving despite the pandemic, and you want to be part of that.

How do you achieve each of these distinctive objectives?

Pivot How You Do BusinessAnd Advertise It

There are a lot of creative ways to work right now as an agent. Many of the new offerings real estate agents provide their clients are actually in line with buyer preferences, pandemic or not. For example, the use of virtual tours is becoming increasingly popular. Some buyers are doing everything digitally from start-to-finish.

Theres the social distancing contributing to these trends, but also the desire for convenience.

Think about how you can offer safe practices that allow for social distancing, and then use those to build your marketing campaigns.

With that being said, what you should never do is create marketing that makes it sound like coronavirus is a unique opportunity.nbsp; You could damage your brand by making the situation about making money when so many have gotten sick and died. Instead, focus on your understanding of the gravity of the situation and how youre willing to make the appropriate changes. It shows your potential clients that youre in the situation with them.

Be specific in how you plan to meet the changing needs of your clients, and how youll keep yourself and the community safe.

Develop Educational Videos

Many buyers are jumping into the market for the first time right now because the interest rates are low. You want to position yourself as someone who can help guide them through the process, so to facilitate that, consider developing educational videos.

Tech-savvy buyers and sellers will be able to learn from your expertise, and theyre more likely to consider you when hiring an agent.

Along with educational videos, now is just a good time, in general, to focus on your creative content because people are spending more time at home and potentially looking for information along the way.

When you create content, you position yourself as a trusted resource, and that can feel incredibly valuable to people right now.

Check-In

Whether its prospects, former clients, or just people you know in the community, take time to check-in and see how everyone is holding up. Even if someone isnt ready right now to buy or sell a home, knowing that you thought about them at a difficult time will stick with them.

Consider Whether or Not Your Website and Social Media Profiles Need a Revamp

Again, people are >

Your clients are more likely than ever before to connect with you on these platforms, so make your website and profiles great.

Think about your search engine optimization and whether or not youre using the right local keywords.

What do your website and social media convey about you?

Its challenging to market in an emotionally heightened time when people are sensitive and even afraid. Your marketing has to be aware of these factors, and your focus as a real estate agent right now should be on positioning yourself as an expert and a source of information and assurance. People do want to buy homes right now. The market has shown that. They, at the same time, want safety and a real estate agent whos cognizant of the environment were in. nbsp;

Now is a great time to perhaps rethink your digital marketing too, to be in line with what modern clients not just want but expect. nbsp;


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What To Expect When Visiting Chip And Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Market

Chip and Joanna Gaines havent just taken over the airwaves on their uber-popular HGTV program, Fixer Upper. Theyre taken over the city of Waco with their Magnolia Market at the Silos. Those of us who live in Texas within a few hours drive of Waco can get in the car and be at Magnolia easily to shop and soak in a little of that Gaines magic. But if youre planning a trip from farther away - and so many are - preparation is key. Knowing what to expect and heeding a few tips can help ensure your trip is a good one.

Bring your patience

Youre going to wait in line. Just accept it on arrival so youre not disappointed to see that you might have to wait awhile to get inside the store, or the super-busy Silos Baking Co, for that matter. But, there are some ways around it. According to the stores helpdesk, Magnolia "is busiest during the hoursnbsp;around lunch; particularlynbsp;on Saturdays, when we see thousands of people come through our doors. We suggest coming near opening or closingnbsp;hoursnbsp;to have the most peaceful shopping experience."

We got lucky on our visit, arriving in mid-afternoon and strolling right in, but these people did not.

Bring your wallet

If youre a fan of Chip and Joannas French country >

At the very least, youll probably have orders from friends and family to buy a bunch of Magnolia t-shirts and sweatshirts. If youre thinking you can just buy everything you like online, Popsugar cleared up that, "About 40 percent of the goods in their Magnolia Market store are available in their online shop, the other 60 percent can only be purchased at the physical location."

Bring your appetite, too

In addition to the Silos Baking Co, there is a rotating drove of food trucks lining the lawn where you can grab everything from mac n cheese to hot dogs to crepes to cold-pressed juice. After all that shopping, youll definitely want a snack. Bonus tip: Stake your claim on one of the covered tables for some shelter from the sun. Waco is HOT in the summer. Were not above a little table stalking when necessary.

Its ok to bring the kids

In fact, theyll probably have a blast, playing cornhole, kicking a ball around, and swinging on the swings. In the back of the property, where Magnolia Seed Supply, the Gaines outdoor mecca, is located, theres even a teepee.

Keep in mind, though, that the breakability factor inside the store is high.

Check the calendar ahead of time

Many disappointed families have arrived in Waco all set to shop, eat, and play, only to find out that Magnolia Market and the Silos Baking Co. are closed on Sunday. This may affect your trip. Youll also want to pay attention to their Facebook page, which lists upcoming events like ongoing Movie Nights at The Silos.

Make "just in case" plans for the rest of the day

One of the things that stood out to us is how different our expectations were from the reality of Magnolia in terms of the time we would spend there. We were done in a couple of hours, and that was with some food truck and lawn-lounging time. If you want to continue along the Fixer Upper Tour, head to Harp and Co Design. This is woodworking master Clint Harps nearby shop, where you can browse and buy before heading to JDH Iron Designs, Fixer Upper metal art designer Jimmy Dons shop, which is about a 25-minute drive through the countryside.

Stay in a Fixer Upper House

The Harps home that was fixed up on the show is right next door to their shop, and is now available as a vacation rental - and its not the only one. The historic Magnolia House is also available starting at at 795 a night, along with the stunning Hillcrest Estate, prices starting at 995 a night.

Get there in >

While parking is easy and free at Magnolia, you can add to the fun especially for the kids by taking the Silos District Trolley, which runs runs every 1520nbsp;minutes throughout the day and will stop anywhere along the route so you can hop on or off to browse the downtown area.

Document your trip

Youll undoubtedly go to great lengths to do so, because social media and friends demand it Your family may look mostly ridiculous, but you wont care because you got a picture in front of the Magnolia sign. The strong sun can wreak havoc with your outdoor photos, but dont leave without snapping a pic under the MilestoMagnolia sign and uploading it to Instagram.


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Gifts Of Real Estate To Children – Not A Good Idea

Question: My husband and I own our house free and clear. We purchased it in the l960s for 30,000, and have added approximately 50,000 of improvements over the years. We are at the stage in our life when we can no longer take care of the house, and are planning to give the property to our only son, and then move into a retirement home.

We believe the property is worth 500,000. How do we go about transferring title to the house?

Answer: Transferring title is easy; the real question is whether you want to do it.

In order to transfer title, you -- or your attorney -- should prepare a deed, which would reflect that you and your husband conveyed the property to your son, for love and affection -- in other words, no consideration. You will have to include the legal description of the property in the deed, and in order to avoid any transfer and recordation tax, you will need an affidavit stating that this is a transfer to your son.

Generally speaking, and you need to review the specific rules in your jurisdiction, there will be no transfer and recordation tax owed when you transfer property to a son or a daughter. These documents must be notarized and recorded in the jurisdiction where your property is located. If you do not have an attorney, the local Recorder of Deeds office should be able to assist you in making the transfer valid.

However, before you take such action, you should give serious thought to the tax consequences of your proposed action. Although your property is worth approximately 500,000 today, for tax purposes your basis in the property is 80,000 the initial price of 30,000 plus the 50,000 in improvements.

The Internal Revenue Service computes capital gain on the following formula: Sales Price less certain selling expenses minus the original cost of the property plus improvements. The latter i.e. the cost of the property plus improvements is known as the "basis" of the property for tax purposes. It should be noted that if your property had been rented out, and you took depreciation over the years, your basis would be reduced by the amount of the depreciation.

In our example, your basis is 80,000. If you sell the property now for 500,000, and ignoring for the moment any real estate commissions or other selling expenses which would reduce the selling price, you will have made a profit of 420,000. Under current tax law, since you are married and most likely file a joint return, and have lived in the house for at least two years in the last five years before a sale, you can exclude up to 500,000 in profit and not pay any tax. Since your profit would be less than 500,000, you can walk away from a sale and keep all of the sales proceeds.

Now, lets consider the gift to your son.

Although the property is worth 500,000, tax law requires that the tax basis of the donor the person giving the gift becomes the tax basis of the donee the person receiving the gift. Thus, while in your mind you are giving your son a house which is worth 500,000, in reality you are giving him a house with a tax basis of 80,000.

Now you have moved out of the house into the retirement home. The first question to consider is whether you will have enough money to continue your life >

The second question is whether you are really doing your son a favor. When he receives the house, his basis will be only 80,000. If he should decide to sell the property -- and if he has not lived in the house for two out of the last five years before the sale -- he will have to pay a hefty capital gains tax. Under current tax laws, even if he only can sell the property for 500,000, he will owe the government 84,000 20 percent of the gain of 420,000.

Of course, there are two ways in which your son could avoid or postpone the tax.

First, he could move into the house and live there for two years. If he is not married, however, he will only be able to shelter 250,000 of gain. And this, of course, assumes that Congress will not change the favorable homeowner tax laws in the years to come.

Second, if your son treated the property as an investment, he can do a "like-kind" exchange under section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. This is a subject for another column.

However, for many reasons, I cannot recommend that you give the house to your son unless you thoroughly discuss all of the various issues with your attorney and your tax advisor. You should also understand that there is a tax concept called the "stepped up" basis. This means that upon your death, your son will inherit the property at the value of the property on the date of your death.

Lets explore this a little more. Obviously, while no one wants to discuss death, it is unfortunately a fact of life. If, for example, on the date of your death and assuming that your husband died before you the house is worth 500,000, your sons basis in the property for tax purposes will be 500,000. If he should immediately sell the property for that price, he will not have to pay any capital gains tax at all. Note: under the new tax law, this stepped up basis at death will be eliminated after year 2009, and clearly there will be different matters to consider after that year.

Thus, another factor which you and your financial advisor must consider is the difference between any estate tax which your estate may have to pay as compared to the capital gain savings based on this stepped up basis.

And finally, and most importantly, you should also understand that your gift to your son will trigger a gift-tax consequence. You and your husband are entitled to gift your son, each and every year, 10,000 per person or 20,000 in your case. If you give the house to your son, you will have to file a gift-tax return.

However, everyone has a lifetime gift and estate tax-exemption, and this year that amount is 675,000. The gift of 500,000 to your son will reduce your and your husbands exemption by this amount less the 20,000 allowable gift, and may impact on your ability to make additional gifts in the years to come.

As you can see, although this sounds simple, in reality it is a very complex issue -- which requires a lot of thought and examination before you sign over the deed to your son. What you consider to be a generous parental gesture may, in fact, become a financial nightmare for you, your husband and your son.


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What’s a ‘Drive-By’ Appraisal?

One of the more important documents a lender reviews when a loan application is first submitted is the property appraisal. In reality, once a loan application is turned in, there will actually be two separate approvals- one for the applicant and one for the property. The application is documented with a combination of borrower-provided paperwork along with various third party documentation such as title insurance and an appraisal. What many may not know however is the old-fashioned way of ordering a property appraisal is long gone. Instead, the lender is alerted to the type of appraisal needed based upon the results of an automated underwriting system report.

A full appraisal is one where the appraiser first performs some internal research based upon recent sales in the area of similar properties along with a copy of the subject propertys sales contract. The sales price is a starting point for the appraiser. These recent sales are listed in the local multiple listing service, or MLS. When an appraiser receives an appraisal order, the first thing that is done is perform this research.nbsp;

The appraiser will identify recent sales and then make a physical visit to the subject property. The appraiser does both an interior and exterior inspection of the property. Note, this is separate from a buyer-paid property inspection. The appraiser will make a general determination of the propertys condition based upon a visual inspection.nbsp; The appraiser will visit the property, make the inspections and take photos of the interior as well as exterior of the property. After gathering this information about the property, the appraiser will then provide a final value.nbsp;

There are however different degrees of an appraisal. A full appraisal with interior and exterior photos is the most thorough. But the AUS findings might indicate that a full appraisal with photos is unnecessary. The AUS might only need an appraisal with exterior photos. The appraiser completes the appraisal order but does not take interior photos.nbsp;

A drive by appraisal is actually very descriptive. The appraiser performs the initial research including recent sales of similar properties in the area. Yet the physical visit to the property is limited. There wont be any interior or exterior photos, much less an inspection of the general condition of the property. Instead, the appraiser will literally drive by the home and make a general comment about the condition of the home.

There is even a desk review which means the lenders underwriter will review a completed appraisal as a secondary approval requirement.

One final note, even though the AUS does not mention a full appraisal but instead just a drive-by, a lender can still override that condition and request an upgraded appraisal from a drive-by to a complete appraisal report. Its just the lender cant do the reverse and downgrade an appraisal requirement from a full report to a drive-by. Its okay to require more documentation but not okay to dismiss requested documents or downgrade an existing approval. The degree of appraisal is clearly marked on the AUS findings and must be followed.


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Want To Cut Down A Tree In Toronto? Good Luck With That

Recently the Arbor Day Foundation, one of the largest conservation foundations in the world, presented its Champion of Trees Award to the City of Toronto.

The award recognizes exemplary leadership to develop and implement new policies and practices for municipal tree planting and care, natural area stewardship or arboriculture.

Toronto has planted more than one million trees since 2005, investing 605.6 million in its urban forest.nbsp; A 2018 study by the city estimated that the citys tree canopy the area of the tree population as viewed from above at 28.4 to 31 per cent. The goal is to increase that canopy to 40 per cent.

In addition to planting new trees, the city has tough bylaws to protect existing ones including those on private property. Residents who want to cut down a tree on their land are often shocked to find out they cant do it. The city takes tree cutting so seriously that decisions on whether an individual tree can be cut down are often decided by the entire city council.

In a typical recent case, a homeowner wanted a Norway maple on his property removed because he said it could cause damage to his foundation wall, and because there was risk to an elderly neighbour who could slip on fallen leaves in autumn.

The citys Urban Forestry staff examined the tree and determined that it is botanically and structurally healthy. They also said there was no evidence the tree is associated with any leaking through or beneath the foundation wall. Tree roots are not physically capable of exerting the force required to lift or crack properly constructed and maintained foundation walls, said the Urban Forestry staff in a report. However, if property drainage has not been provided, heaving may occur as a result of freezing and thawing, creating space that tree roots may grow into.Waterproofing of the foundation, if not already done, would prevent roots from growing in any existing cracks or other openings in the foundation. The problem described here can typically be repaired without requiring tree removal.

As far as the slippery leaves were concerned, the report recommended that the homeowner rake them up. City council denied the request to remove the tree.

Another tricky application came from a family that wanted to remove a black walnut tree because the walnuts posed a risk of anaphylactic allergic reaction to the four-year-old child who lived there. A doctors note confirmed the seriousness of the allergy.

But the Urban Forestry staff denied the request, suggesting that physically collecting and removing the walnuts and educating those at risk would reduce the likelihood of exposure.

The decision was appealed and at city council, a motion was made to approve the removal despite the staff report. That vote resulted in an 11-11 tie, but since a majority was required, the motion failed. Council then voted to support the staff report and the walnut tree is still there.

Even when a request to cut down a tree is granted, its a costly process for the homeowners. Council recently agreed to let a homeowner cut down a city-owned tree on a city right of way to accommodate a new driveway entrance, but the property owner had to pay the city for the appraised value of the tree 3,809; pay the costs of removing the tree; and plant five replacement trees on the property, or pay cash-in-lieu of planting.

Why is Toronto so fixated on saving individual trees, when the city has more than 11.5 million of them? Despite the planting programs over the last decade, the 2018 report found that impervious land cover such as concrete or buildings increased by 1.4 per cent over the last decade.

The citys tree population has also taken some hits. An ice storm in 2013 took out many of them, and infections of the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer have also decimated the tree population in some areas.

Trees improve the quality of urban life and contribute greatly to our sense of community, says Urban Forestry in its reports. They help soften the hard lines of built form and surfaces in an urban setting.

Trees contribute to the overall character and quality of neighbourhoods. Studies suggest that social benefits such as crime reduction and neighbourhood cohesion can be attributed to the presence of trees.

From an economic standpoint, trees enhance property values. Mature trees can reduce the energy consumption of a home by lowering air conditioning costs in summer and protecting homes from the wind in winter.

The environmental benefits of trees include cleansing of air, noise and wind reduction and protection from ultraviolet radiation, says Urban Forestry. Trees reduce rainwater runoff thereby reducing soil erosion and lowering storm water management costs. They also contribute to moderation of temperature extremes and reduction of the urban heat island effect by providing shade during summer.

These benefits are worth an estimated 55 million per year.

Unlike grey infrastructure, the urban forest is always changing, growing, maturing and dying, says the report. Canopy cover and population size are not the whole story. Urban forest size, condition and distribution are factors in the canopy cover story; pest threats, natural mortality, invasive species impacts, development activities and climate change are realities effecting urban forest sustainability.


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What is a Short Sale?

The idea of purchasing a home at a deeply discounted price is appealing to most people, but these situations can come with strings attached. One way to get a deal on a property is to buy a short sale, but the transactions are complex and risky.

Short sales are transactions where a home is sold for a lower price than the debt thats owed. When a homeowner realizes they cant afford their mortgage anymore, they can start the short sale process with the lender. The owner has to apply, and the goal is to avoid foreclosure.

Lenders will often approve a short sale if the home is worth less than whats owed, and the seller has to demonstrate financial hardship. Short sales were incredibly common following the Great Recession in 2008, but have since become less so.

Short Sale vs. a Foreclosure

Sometimes buyers think a short sale and a foreclosure are the same, which theyre not. During a foreclosure, the bank repossesses the property. Then, the bank tries to sell it, often at a price well below market value, to cover their costs.

In both situations, financial hardships lead to the loss of the property for the homeowner, but the specifics vary.

In a short sale, the seller is voluntarily entering the process. A foreclosure is not voluntary for the seller.

For the seller, a foreclosure is much more damaging to their credit history, and they may end up having to file bankruptcy.

What Are the Benefits of a Short Sale?

For buyers, there are a few big benefits of buying a property in a short sale. The first is the lower price. A lender is very motivated to sell the property and cut their losses. Short sales may be less complex than traditional sales because there is likely to be less competition from other buyers. Your offer has a greater chance of being approved with less competition.

For sellers, the benefits of a short sale include preventing foreclosure and possible debt forgiveness. For a seller who goes through a short sale, they may qualify for a new mortgage after two years. Its much harder to get another mortgage after a foreclosure.

Are There Downsides of a Short Sale?

For buyers, one of the primary downsides of a short sale is that its time-consuming. These transactions can take much longer than a traditional transaction. Theres also an increased level of risk for buyers because theyre buying the home as-is.

Theres also the possibility the transaction wont go through, and the time will be wasted for the buyer.

Since the owners in a short sale are experiencing financial hardship, their homes may be in significantly worse condition than similar properties.

For sellers, there are quite a few pitfalls of a short sale too. Sellers dont have any power to negotiate the priceonly the lender can. The seller isnt going to receive any profits when they sell the home because its owed to the lender, and short sales damage the owners credit scores.

Short Sale Tips

If you understand the possible risks and still want to look for a property thats a short sale, make sure that you go into it prepared. While the property is sold as-is, you still need an inspection so you can figure out how much youll have to spend in repairs. Youll also have more negotiating power with the lender if you can prove significant repairs are needed.

Even though short sales are a way to get a deal, you still need to be realistic with your offer. Your offer can be turned down if its too low.

Its also a good idea to provide as much cash as you can because the lender will want to reduce their risk.

Finally, work with a real estate agent experienced in short sales because theyre


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How To Use Color To Boost Emotion And Well Being In Your Home

Having trouble sleeping? Or staying awake? Feeling down? Or stressed? Maybe you just need a new paint color.

Turns out that the colors you use in your home can impact more than just the way it looks.

"Home decor is often viewed as simply a matter of aesthetics - what looks attractive. But proponents of color psychology believe that the colors you use to decorate your home can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of you and your family," said WebMD.

So how does it work?

"While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning," said verywell. "Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference."

Which color is right for you?

Think a sunny, yellow room may brighten up your spirit? Give it careful consideration. Yes, "Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness. It is an excellent choice for kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms, where it is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming," said Freshome.

But, "Even though yellow although is a cheery color, it is not a good choice for main color schemes. Studies show that people are more likely to lose their temper in a yellow interior. Babies also seem to cry more in yellow rooms. In large amounts, this color tends to create feelings of frustration and anger."

And, of course, theres also a matter of personal taste. Its not important that a splash of yellow brightens up a dark bathroom if you despise the color so much it makes you irate every time you enter.

If you have a busy life and manage a lot of stress, blue might be a good answer for you. This color symbolizes serenity and "is said to bring down blood pressure and slow respiration and heart rate," said Freshome. "It is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms."

Other colors that work well in the bedroom: green, which also tends to have a >white, which keeps everything clean and calm.

White "conveys peace, simplicity, and spaciousness," said Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, on Professional Builder. Not to mention that, "used throughout a room, it can give the illusion that the space is bigger than its physical dimensions."

While red is a color that denotes passion, its not recommended for a bedroom because it can raise the blood pressure, heart rate, and energy level, and keep you awake. Instead, use it in a dining room, where it can help stimulate the appetite - and the conversation.

"Warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges, and earth tones like brown and beige often work well in both the living room and foyer, because theyre though to stimulate conversation," said WebMD.

Use orange in a game room or especially a home gym, and it may inspire just the right emotion and increase well-being. "This color is great for an exercise room; it will bring out all the emotions that you need >

Deep, rich like colors like purple, black, and emerald can impart a sense of luxury and sophistication, but, especially with black, you want to use a light hand. "Dont get carried away with it," said Zimmer. "Too much black can be depressing."

Choose the right hue

When considering the colors for different rooms, its also important to remember what certain hues can do to a space. "Light colors are expansive and airy, making rooms seem larger and brighter," said Freshome. "Dark colors are sophisticated and warm; they give large rooms a more intimate appearance."

"Bright yellowcan quickly move from cheerful to abrasive," said HGTV. "Rather than painting an entire room the color of McDonalds golden arches, choose a toned-down shade or use that vivid yellow as an accent against a neutral backdrop, like gray." Likewise, "A pastel blue that looks pretty on the paint chip can come across as unpleasantly chilly on the walls and furnishingsespecially in a room that receives little natural light," said Freshome.


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Can You Get a Mortgage with Bad Credit?

The real estate market remains hot right now, despite economic headwinds. Many people want to jump in and buy a home or upgrade their current home to a new one for good reason. Interest rates are incredibly low, so now could still be a buying opportunity, despite limited inventory and high prices in some locations.

If your credit isnt perfect, you may wonder if anyone will approve you for a mortgage. The short answer is maybe.

You arent alone if you dont have great credit. Around 15 of Americans have a credit score from 500 to 599, which is considered poor. Around 10 of people have credit in the range of 600 to 649, which is considered fair.

When youre applying for a mortgage, youre most likely to be approved with a score of at least 650, although even anywhere in the 600s can make it challenging. If your score is below 500, youre almost certainly not going to be approved for a mortgage, and beyond that, the following are key things to know.

Conventional Mortgages

Conventional mortgages tend to have the strictest requirements as far as your credit score. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are two companies offering conventional mortgages. Freddie Macs minimum credit score requirement is 660, with a down payment of 3. Fannie Maes minimum score for a 3 down payment is 620. If you make a down payment of at least 25, you may be eligible for a Freddie Mac conventional mortgage with a credit score as low as 620.

The majority of lenders follow similar requirements, because usually after your loan is closed, the lender will sell it to Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

You should be aware that in the eyes of your lender, theres a difference between having a low score because you dont have much credit history and having a low score because of bad credit history. Youre likely to be viewed more favorably with limited credit than with bad credit.

If youre close to the lending cut-off, you should be able to show that you have a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 36. You will probably also need to show that you have at least two months of cash reserves on hand.

What About an FHA Loan?

An FHA loan may be an option for someone with a very low credit score. You can be approved for these loans with a score as low as 500, but youll have to plan to put at least 10 down.

If you have a higher score, you may be able to put as little as 3.5 down.

Aside from VA loans, FHA loans have the least stringent approval guidelines.

As such, FHA loans are often used by people after a foreclosure or bankruptcy.

FHA lenders dont have to follow the above credit score requirements. They can require that your credit score is higher for approval. Many FHA borrowers have a score somewhere between 650 and 699.

VA Loans

For a VA loan, there is no minimum credit score, but you can only get this type of home loan if youre an eligible service member in the military, a veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran. While theres no a set minimum score, individual lenders can create their own guidelines.

Should You Focus on Improving Your Score?

If you have less-than-perfect credit right now, you might want to focus on building your score. It can take several months, but its very unlikely interest rates will go up anytime soon based on what the Fed has said so far. The Fed says they expect rates will stay around zero through 2021 and maybe 2022, although theres no guarantee.

If you can make even modest improvements in your credit score, not only are you likely to be approved, but you may also get better terms. Focus on paying down your high-balance credit cards, cleaning up any errors, and in the meantime, also try to save for a down payment. If you have at least 10 for a down payment, a lender will see you as less risky.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Shared Expenses, HOA Newsletters, Swayed Managers

Question: Our By-laws indicate that expenses are shared equally. We have one and two bedroom units that vary significantly in size. Dividing expenses equally seems unfair. Can we simply vote to change it? If so, how many need to vote in favor of it?

Answer: Occasionally, developers propose an expense allocation like the one you describe. Its easier to calculate but clearly overlooks disparity in size and value. When there is substantial difference in square footage, the norm is to allocate expenses according to a units square footage as a percentage of the total units square footage.

When developers ignore the unit size and value issue, the inequity usually becomes apparent after turnover when the new board focuses on the budget process. Members that feel they are carrying a bigger share than they should lobby to "fix it." The problem is, all members agreed to pay what the developer indicated was their share of HOA expenses, fair or not.

If a majority of the owners were allowed to change the expense allocation formula, theoretically 51 percent of the owners could pass an amendment that would force 49 percent of the owners to pay 100 percent of the expenses.

This cant possibly be right or equitable. So changing the expense allocation should be based on receiving the consent of those affected. However, since people are people, this is unlikely to happen.

Bottom line listen up developers, the expense allocation formula needs to be fair from the get-go. Dont set up the HOA for conflict that inevitably will be blamed on the developer.

Question: One of our homeowners wants to start an HOA newsletter. A few Board members object to this because people dont read the minutes as it is, the Board would need to review it and finding someone to do it consistently may be difficult. What say you?

Answer: Having a regular newsletter is not just a good idea, its a basic good management practice. To encourage readership, the newsletter should be worth reading and provide information that all members need to know. If certain members dont choose to read it, thats up to them. The HOA should not withhold information because of it.

The Board Secretary generally previews the newsletter for content and accuracy. This doesnt take much time for a two to four page newsletter more than ample for most HOAs.

Newsletters do not need to be long and involved, just timely and >

Question: I just read your article on sex offenders in HOAs. My experience with paroled sex offenders is that they ra>

Answer: While the answer to that question varies from location to location, national statistics do bear out that recidivism is a big problem with sex offenders. And statistics to the contrary are small consolation when you, or someone you know especially a child, is the victim of this crime.

However, in fairness, all sex offenses are not created equal. Some involve underage consent while others committed unspeakable acts. The Board should investigate the facts before unduly impugning a residents character.

That said, for the Board to keep silent about a known sex offender could be viewed as complicity. State laws allow disclosure and the Board should do so along state prescribed guidelines.

Question: Our professional manager is pandering to certain Board members and ignoring policies passed by the Board majority. How do you keep a manager from getting involved with Board politics?

Answer: The Board President should speak to the manager directly and plainly about this problem. Most managers are only trying to please or do their job. It may be a simple misunderstanding. If, however, there is conscious subterfuge and unwillingness to change, the matter should be addressed directly with the management company owner. If change isnt forthcoming, the President should recommend to the Board that there be a change in management company.

On the other hand, if the manager is kowtowing to the Board President, the remaining directors need to have a heart to heart with the President. All officers serve at the pleasure of the Board. If an officer is exceeding authority, the Board can remove and replace that person with another director who wont.


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Buyer vs. Seller’s Agent: How Do They Compare?

Sometimes we dont focus on distinguishing between a buyers agent and a sellers agent, but understanding the differences is important when youre choosing someone to work with. The terminology can also get a bit confusing.

A buyers agent is also called a selling agent because they help buyers find properties. A sellers agent is referred to a listing agent.

For purposes of comparing the two, well call them a buyer and sellers agent, because this references who they work for. A buyers agent represents buyers, and a sellers agent represents sellers.

If youre weighing whether or not you need an agent, when it comes to selling a home you can do it as an owner, but unless youre a great marketer and negotiator, you might not do as well as you could with a sellers agent. As a buyer, it can be even more important to have an agent representing you. Some sellers agents wont accept offers from buyers directly.

Beyond working out the terminology, the following are some differences between the two.

Compensation

When youre selling a home and you hire an agent, you usually have an exclusive representation listing. Thats an agreement between your agent and you as the seller. Then, once you sign this agreement, only the listing agent is entitled to receive a commission when your home sells. More specifically, the brokerage the sellers agent works for receives a commission and of that, the agent gets a percentage.

A buyers agent is compensated when they work with the sellers brokerage and theres a deal for their clients to buy a home.

Representing Different Interests

The primary difference between a buyer and a sellers agent is that theyre representing different interests. The buyers agent wants to make sure their client is getting the lowest possible price and most favorable deal when they decide to purchase a home. The sellers agent wants to make sure their client gets the most money for their home.

In some cases, the sellers agent can also represent the buyer, but this is illegal in some states.

Can An Agent Be Both?

Theres no reason an agent cant sometimes work for sellers and others for buyers. In fact, many agents do this. On the other hand, some agents find they just like dealing with one side of the transaction better, so they may specialize.

Responsibilities

A sellers agents responsibilities can include:

A sellers agent will see a property and do an initial walkthrough. During this time they might provide tips on how the seller can make the home more appealing to potential buyers.
The sellers agent might provide referrals for professionals who can make needed updates to a home, and they can help a seller stage the property.
Sellers agents work on marketing, which can include having professional photos taken.
Sellers agents work with the homeowner to price their home accordingly. There has to be a balance between getting the highest possible price and selling the property in a reasonable amount of time.
Other things sellers agents do include hosting tours and open houses, negotiating issues including inspection issues with the buyers agent, and helping with the closing process.

A buyers agents responsibilities include:

Helping buyers with the preapproval process if theyre getting a mortgage loan.
Finding properties they think will meet the criteria of their clients.
Taking buyers on appointments to view potential properties.
Helping buyers understand the value of a home as they work toward making an offer.
Coordination of communication between the mortgage lender, seller, buyer, and title officer.
Helping with the closing process.

Overall, while their roles are different, a buyer and a sellers agent have the same overall objectives. They want to represent their clients to the best of their ability and negotiate successful deals to closi


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What Online Dating Can Teach You About Selling Your Home

Online dating is a big business; according to eharmony, forty percent of Americans use online dating and twenty percent of all committed >

Be smart

When you create a dating profile, youre trying to capture the essence of your beauty and personality. Apply the same principle to your home for sale. If youre not certain what your homes best features are, your agent will su>

Spruce it up

You wouldnt go on a date wearing tattered or stained clothes, so dont show your house with tattered or stained furnishings. If your couch has seen better days, a throw rug and a few pillows may be all you need to disguise the damage.

Stained carpets? Try steam cleaning first. If that doesnt work, get an inexpensive area rug. Worn tables? Cover them with a stylish tablecloth.

Be a little coy

Dont be afraid to go for it with a bit of flirtation. Just like a dating profile that insists on lifelong celibacy or is aggressively chaste may not attract the right attention and the same certainly goes for those that go waaaaay beyond flirtation, a home that shows blah and boring probably wont garner much notice.

"Popular wisdom says that when you put your home up for sale, it should be made to appear as bland and beige as possible," said The Kansan. "Well, like a lot of popular wisdom, this idea is only partially true. A low-key look helps potential buyers to envision how their own possessions will fit into the house, but a dash of zest will help your property to stand out from the crowd...in a good way.

Take a sexy pool shot with the fountain going. Transform your boring bed into a hotel masterpiece with pillows and turned-down bedding. Add a little sparkle to your dining room table, your fireplace, your sideboard. And for open houses, appeal to the senses with a sparkling clean home, soothing music in the background, and chocolate chip cookies freshly made in the oven.

Dont let them judge a book by its cover

You know the old saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Its true whether youre meeting a date for the first time or touring a home. If the first impression of your home is one of patchy grass, piles of leaves, overgrown greenery, and chipping paint, there probably wont be an opportunity for a second impression. A little attention to curb appeal could pay big rewards.

Strut your stuff

You dont hide great hair under a hat or muscled arms under an oversized sweatshirtnot if you want to show your best assets. Use this same idea in your home. If your granite counters are hiding under cutting boards and bills and blenders and magazines and scented candles and vessels full of stirrers and wooden spoons and spatulas, well, then how can anyone see what youre working with? Clean up your stuff so people can fall in love with your homes best features.

Show yourself in your best light

In other words, take great pictures. You never want to misrepresent the condition of the home, but rather showcase the best bits. Dating profile pics focus in on key features: pretty eyes or a great smile. Pictures of your house should do the same. If your kitchen is updated, show it off. Same for a nice master bath or well-designed master bedroom. Large yard? By all means, add a few photos of this desirable space.

Clean yourself up

Youd hardly put pictures of yourself online surrounded by dirty clothes. It would seem like a given that sellers would apply the same logic when listing their home. But in some cases, you would be wrong.

Put on a happy face

On your dating profile, that means smile big. As it translates to your house, it means open up those blinds and let the light in. And it wouldnt hurt if you put out a vase of flowers or two.

Update your look

Old-fashioned hair and out of >

Be a good listener

Online dating is all about communication, so those who are participating are bound to get feedbackunwanted or not. Home sellers can also expect to get feedback. But if your agent, other agents who viewed the home, and everyone who came to tour it during an open house are all telling you the house is unkempt, in need of obvious repairs, or is way too pricey for the condition or neighborhood, you may want to listen. Just like a man whose profile is offensive to women will likely not get him dates, a home that is turning buyers away instead of turning them on is not likely to sell.


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Rate Locks: What You Need to Know

If youre a homeowner and thinking of maybe refinancing or youre out shopping for a new home, certainly interest rates are part of the picture. Rates determine your monthly mortgage payment as well as determine affordability. In either case, its important to know that any rate you see advertised on the internet or a rate you get from your loan officer arent immediately available for you. Mortgage interest rates can change daily and, in some instances, when the markets are somewhat volatile, rates can even change from the morning to later in the day. Regardless, whatever rate you see isnt any good until you lock that rate in. How do you lock in a mortgage rate and what is the process?

First and perhaps foremost, dont expect to pick up the phone and call a mortgage company and request a rate lock. Lenders take rate locks just as seriously as you and wont lock in a rate from someone whos just placed a phone call. Lenders want a bit more commitment than that. To get to this important first step, it means you must at minimum submit a loan application and provide the requested documentation.nbsp;

Lenders can quote rates over the phone to give you a general idea of what the rate market is doing but there are different factors involved when lenders quote a specific rate to a client. FICO scores, occupancy, equity in the transaction matter. Some of this information wont be known until you apply for the mortgage and send in copies of your paycheck stubs, W2s and other requested documentation.

Once youve reached this stage, you might be in a position to lock. But maybe not. There are no universal guidelines lenders must adhere to as it >

Rate lock periods can vary but most rate locks can range from 10 to 60 days or more. The longer the rate lock period the higher the rate and/or fees will be. The strategy is to lock in your rate for the shortest period as possible while still meeting your settlement date or to give the lender enough time to approve your loan, deliver your loan papers to the settlement agent, sign the papers and return them to the lender for a final review.

Finally, if your rate lock expires while your loan is still in process, most lenders will >
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5 Tips for Staging Your Home

If youre in a tough sellers market or just looking to get top dollar for your home, you want to do any little thing you can to make your house stand out in a potential buyers mind. Staging is one of those things that can make the difference between a sold sign and a house that lingers on the market.

The National Association of Realtors suggests that staging has a real impact on home sales. In fact, a majority of realtors report that staging increases the sales price of a home anywhere between 1 and 10 percent. However, the real impact of staging seems to be how quickly a home is sold, with 39 percent of Realtors stating that it greatly decreases the time spent on the market. Buyers agents confirm the positive impact of staging, stating that 77 percent of buyers were better able to picture a home as their own when it was staged.

Of course, there is an art to staging a home, and a poorly staged home can have a negative impact on a potential sale. Here are five tips for staging your house that will have you putting up that SOLD sign in no time.

1. Declutter and Clean

Before thinking about decorations or furniture placement, the No. 1 suggestion of realtors is to declutter and deep clean. Clear countertops and other surfaces, and pack away anything that is not essential. Your goal is to remove anything that will distract buyers from seeing the positive aspects of your house, which is why realtors often suggest removing family photos and overly personalized decorations like your giant bobble head collection. Remember, decluttering includes removing excess furniture, which help make your rooms feel bigger.

2. Group Furniture

Once youve removed furniture that is unnecessary or too large for the space, group furniture into conversational groups away from the wall, instead of pushing sofas and chairs to the corners. You want there to be a flow to each room, and keeping the walls clear of big furniture will actually make the room feel bigger, says HGTV.

3. Accessories in Odd Numbers

Although youll need to declutter, you still want your space to feel like a lived-in home. Do this by decorating with groups of accessories like vases, books or plants. Staging professionals often recommend grouping similarly hued objects in odd number pairings of varying heights and shapes.

4. Add 1 or 2 Bold Accents

While you want to keep your staging dcor fairly neutral, adding one or two bold accent pieces will help highlight a particularly great feature of your home. Adding a dramatic chandelier that matches the >

5. Use Mirrors

Mirrors can help brighten a dark hallway, bring light into a room and make a room seem larger, says Forbes. For a big impact, get a cheap mirror and add a decorative frame, or group a lot of small mirrors in differing shapes and sizes. In a room with a window, place mirrors across from the window to reflect the sunlight.

Staging is all about helping potential buyers create an emotional connection with your home. Help buyers picture themselves living in the house by decluttering, grouping furniture and accessories, adding one or two bold accents and using mirrors. Now get ready for the offers to roll in.


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ULI & 3 Adaptability-Booster Perspectives

As the pandemic evolves, real estate professionals continue to adapt to changeboth for themselves and their clients.

Over the past months, I have been struck by repeated situations in the media and on social media that reminded me that professionals in all fields often overlook opportunities to improve adaptability while in the midst of change.

With more shifts on the pandemic horizon, why not take proactive steps to increase your adaptability by building up your powers of resourcefulness, flexibility, and resilience?

The pandemic is a health crisis not an economic crisis nor a global-scale natural disaster, so capital will be available when the crisis abates and the necessity for massive rebuilding will not delay recovery. Pandemic impact will be lessened, counterbalanced, and eventually ended by well-founded, improved, and sustained personal and societal confidence.

Once we are confident as individuals, families, and organizations that we will be safe from catching or spreading Covid-19, stand back. Individuals, businesses, communities, and countries will forge ahead when not constrained by fears of contagion.

Speakers and panelists at the virtual 2020 Urban Land Institute ULI Fall Meeting agree that the pandemic will not continue forever. Varying estimates of when it will end are linked to how quickly an effective vaccine can be developed and distributed. Uncertainty at the timing prevailed with some voicing certainty for next spring, others predicting next fall, and still others forecasting at least another year or so.

As you stay safe and keep others safe, consider reinforcing your professional expertise by incorporating:

Three Adaptability-Booster Perspectives

1. Not Unconscious But Conscious Effort

Widespread agreement that Covid has been an accelerator of trends leaves us with the knowledge that some pre-Covid hindsight may be useful in projecting into our post-Ccvid futures. The more conscious you are of what was really going on before the pandemic, the better youll be at predicting details and identifying opportunities associated with amplification of real estate trends >

Example: 18-hour cities, defined by ULI as less intense version[s] of some of the biggest global centers while still maintaining an international character and a vibrant urban core, continue to dominate The Top 10 Markets [list below] powered by strong growth, homebuilding outlook, affordability, and job prospects.

ULI and PwC US >

The Top 10 Markets in Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021

1. Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
2. Austin, Texas
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
5. Charlotte, N.C.
6. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Washington D.C./North Va.
9. Boston, Mass.
10. Long Island, N.Y.

2. Not Perpetuate But Shed

Progress involves risk and letting go. You cant achieve change while you cling to the way its always been. We cant embrace technology the way we have during the pandemic and hold on to the way weve always thought. Work and education are just two areas that technology has rapidly redesigned under social-distancing pressures. For digital transformation to be effective, the way we define work, learning, and, therefore, productivity must be transformed too. Until you shed bias and out-dated standards and reach out for fresh perspectives, progress is just talk.

Example: Our love affair with online tools and toys has led to consistently elevated expectations for technology. In a ULI session about the Networked Economy, Lisa Picard, CEO of EQ Office, said technology has heightened the speed at which we expect what we want: Everything. Everywhere. All the timeNot Work From Home but Work From Anywherenbsp; What is missing is that our standards and language lag behind. The pandemic has changed the nature of work and where we do it, but definitions of productivity must change as well. For example, instead of expressing intent as get the most out of workers think bring the best out in individuals.

3. Not Chance But Choice

The decisions you make, large and small, determine the present and shape the future. Even deciding not to decide is a decision. The more you leave to chance, the less certain the present and future. The more often you dig in to uncover choices for clients and yourself, the more often confident decisions emerge.

According to ULI: Social unrest and protests in cities across the country have also played a role in the reevaluation of presence in urban cores. 70 of respondents agree that the real estate industry can address and help end systemic racismfrom promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within the sector, to looking for ways to develop underserved communities. On a rating scale of social issues in real estate, income and racial inequality moved from little to moderate importance last year, to moderate to great importance.

Example: Onay Payne, Managing Director, Clarion Partners LLC shared a statistic to illustrate social inequity that also emphasizes that inequity will not be resolved by chance but by choice. Payne, an Emerging Trends general-session panelist, told reportedly 4,000 virtually-attending real estate professionals that, on the financial scale, the top 50 individual Americans possess as much net worth as the bottom 165 million Americans.

Has the dazzling speed at which Covid-19 changed everything proven to you that nothing is beyond change?nbsp;

Simply, commit to conscious effort, search for choice, and shed accumulated crap to achieve progress.

For more by PJ Wade, visit PJs blog: Whats Your Point?nbsp;


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What Should You Know About Buying Real Estate Overseas?

Owning real estate overseas is often a lifelong dream. It can look different for everyone. For example, maybe your goal is to retire in Tuscany, or perhaps you want to buy a second home but keep your primary residence in the U.S. You might want to purchase property now where youll live later, or you could want to move overseas full-time.

Regardless of your situation, many specifics vary depending on where you want to buy, but the following are some general considerations to keep in mind.

Buying Property Overseas Is Complex

No matter where you want to buy or when, you should go into it with an understanding that its complex. There are legal and financial issues, as well as travel->

To help streamline it, you should work with local professionals. First, a local lawyer can be extremely helpful when youre buying property as a foreigner. You should also use a buyers agent who specializes in international transactions.

There are very specific rules dictating who can buy what in most countries. For example, theres a rule in Mexico that if youre a foreigner, you cant own property on the coast, but there are ways to go around this by using a Mexican bank trust.

Some places wont let foreigners buy property altogether. For example, Switzerland has very strict restrictions on foreigners buying property. You can only buy property if youre an EU or EFTA national who has a Swiss residence permit and lives in Switzerland, or have a Swiss C permit.

Financing Foreign Property

In many cases, mortgages overseas arent available to U.S. buyers, and U.S. banks typically wont lend you money to buy something internationally. Even if you can find a location where you might be eligible for mortgage lending, youre probably going to have to make a down payment of anywhere from 30 to 50 and your terms arent going to be very favorable.

You may also have to get a life insurance policy that totals your mortgage, and the bank lending you money will have to be named the beneficiary. At the same time, depending on your age you may not be eligible for life insurance in some countries.

What this means is that you should have cash if you plan to buy overseas. You might be able to get developer financing, or you can use the proceeds of a self-directed IRA if you plan to use the property as a rental or investment only.

Tax Liability

If you buy property in a foreign country, you may be taxed both when you buy it and sell it. You may also have to make payments throughout the year, similar to property taxes in the U.S.

Finally, before you buy anything overseas you need to have an exit strategy you can turn to if necessary. You may think youll never sell, but unexpected life and financial situations can arise. What taxes would you owe if you did sell? Would you even be able to sell? What is the market like where youre buying and what is it likely to look like in the future?


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What is an FHA Loan and Is It Right for You?

The Federal Housing Administration insures what are called FHA loans. These mortgage loans provide opportunities for buyers with less-than-perfect credit or limited down payments to purchase homes, but they arent without potential pitfalls.

FHA loans are available to borrowers with a credit score of at least 580, and you have to make a minimum 3.5 down payment. Theyre a popular option for first-time home buyers.

Lenders such as banks and credit unions issue the mortgages, which are insured by the FHA. That protects the lender if the borrower defaults, which is why the terms are more favorable than a traditional mortgage.

Around eight million single-family homes have loans insured by the FHA.

What Can an FHA Loan be Used For?

You can use an FHA loan to refinance single-family houses, to buy a single-family home, to buy some multifamily homes and condos and certain mobile and manufactured homes. There are particular types of FHA loans that can be used to renovate an existing property or for new construction.

How is an FHA Loan Different from a Conventional Mortgage Loan?

The biggest differentiator between an FHA loan and a conventional mortgage is that its easier to qualify for an FHA loan. You may get a loan with a lower credit score than you would otherwise, and your mortgage insurance payments may be lower too.

There are also fewer restrictions as far as using gifts from family or donations for your down payment.

If you have a FICO score of at least 580, you have to make a 3.5 down payment. With a FICO score between 500 and 579, youre required to make a 10 down payment, and mortgage insurance is required. Your debt-to-income ratio needs to be less than 43 whereas with a conventional loan its usually 36. You do need to have proof of income and steady employment, as you would need with a conventional loan.

Are There FHA Loan Limits?

There are limits on the mortgage amount you can get with an FHA-guaranteed loan. The limits vary based on your county, and in 2020 these ranged from 331,760 to 765,600. The limit amounts are updated by the FHA each year based on fluctuations in home prices.

The Benefits of the FHA Loan

The primary benefits of an FHA loan are that buyers who wouldnt otherwise qualify may be able to own a home and for a lower down payment. Sometimes the FHA will help facilitate coverage of closing costs. If you have problems making payments on an FHA loan you may be eligible for a forbearance period if you qualify.

What Are the Downsides of an FHA Loan?

You will have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium with an FHA loan to protect the lender. The fee is due when you close and its 1.75 of your loan. You will also have to pay an annual mortgage insurance premium for the life of your loan. The amount can range between 0.45 and 1.05.

When you buy a home with an FHA loan, it has to meet strict standards in terms of health and safety.

Also, while there are set standards from the FHA, approved lenders can create their own requirements.

Applying for an FHA Loan

Youll have to first find an FHA-approved lender to get one of these home loans. Youll need some documents, including proof of U.S. citizenship, legal permanent residency, or eligibility to work in America. Youll need bank statements for at least the past 30 days, and youll probably need to show pay stubs.

Some of the information your lender may be able to obtain on your behalf, such as your credit reports, tax returns and employment records.

There are advantages to an FHA loan because it expands homeownership to more people than conventional loans. Its just important that if youre considering this loan you understand the costs and that youre not taking on more than youre financially prepared for because of the less stringent approval requirements.


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9 Ways Becoming A Homeowner Can Change Your Life

Homeownership. It shifts so many things. If youre coming from an apartment, you may experience conveniences like direct-access garages and walls that arent shared for the first time. If youve been renting a home, you will probably feel a new sense of security and peace of mind once the mortgage is in our name. Not to mention the itch to repaint, re-imagine, and redo at least a few dozen things.

Want to know just how becoming a homeowner can change your life? Read on.

1. Financial Security

"The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation," said Investopedia. "Price appreciation helps build home equity." Added Real Estate ABC: "The principle you pay on the mortgage is like putting money in the bank, in the form of equity."

2. Peace of mind

If you worry every time your lease comes up for renewal, those days are gladly over. Unless you refinance or take cash out once you have enough equity, your house payment is your house payment.

3. Pride of ownership

The feeling you get when you come home to your place - the place you scrimped and saved for and the place that represents a lifelong dream - well, theres just no substitute.

4. Stake in your neighborhood

Pride of ownership extends to the homes and area around your house as well. Whether or not you move to a neighborhood with a homeowners association, buying a house will undoubtedly make you more invested in whats going on around you. And that can mean increased property values if neighbors band together for common improvements.

5. Increased interest in HGTV. And DIY channel. And weekends at Home Depot.

Dont be surprised if you start quoting Drew and Jonathan Scott or using terms like "mitered corners" and "refaced cabinets." Which is good news, because the changes you make to your home wont just mean greater enjoyment while you live there, but also potentially greater profit when you go to sell.

"Home ownership means you have free rein in the aesthetics of the home. When renting, you do not have the advantage of changing your environment to please you," said Real Estate ABC. "You may be able to paint a room, but need to repaint back to the original color scheme when you move. Owning your own home means you can do whatever you please to make your environment both personalized and, in the process, add value to the home."

6. Your honey do list may increase

But so will your satisfaction.

7. Tax breaks

"The second largest financial benefit of owning a home is tax savings," said Investopedia. "The biggest of these is the ability to deduct the annual interest paid on a mortgage from income. Private mortgage insurance may also be a write off, on addition to fees paid at closing. If you have paid points, either discount or origination, you can deduct these as well."

8. Expert knowledge of interest rates, neighborhood home prices, and area sales trends

When youre in the process of buying and after you close escrow, youre more likely to be tuned into whats going on in the market and in your neighborhood. This can help you to make smart decisions about updates, upgrades, and refinancing, and can also make you a trusted resource among your friends who want to buy.

9. More financial responsibility in other parts of your life

With a home to take care of, you may be more clued in to other long-term investments and less wiling to spend frivolously.


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Enforcing "Nuisance" Provisions

"Nuisance" has been defined as "something that causes harm" and "a bit of a bother." Nuisances are a pretty common occurrence in homeowner associations since living in close proximity is bound to create friction from time to time. Most HOA governing documents include language like: "No resident shall engage in offensive activities which are a nuisance, or interfere with the quiet enjoyment of other residents."

These "nuisance" provisions trigger the need for the HOA to control certain resident behavior. The problem is there is a growing belief in the legal community that these provisions themselves may be a nuisance for the boards responsible for enforcing them.

One problem is simply defining the term "nuisance." The obvious goal of nuisance provisions is to prevent residents from making other residents miserable. But the broad wording of typical nuisance provisions leads to arguments of whether such provisions apply to almost any activity, or none of them. This ambiguity causes board members charged with enforcing them to echo former Supreme Court Justice Stewarts statement about the difficulty of defining obscenity: "[I cant define it], but I know it when I see it."

In the same vein, many HOA boards would agree that they recognize a nuisance when they see it. However, this approach has mixed results. Behavior that infuriates one person might go unnoticed or overlooked by another. Hyper-sensitive residents may deem all sounds as offensive, while others may refuse to recognize how their neighbors could find the most offensive behavior unacceptable.

The typical nuisance language in HOA documents doesnt offer much guidance to the boards who must mediate these disputes. One option is to list the activities or behaviors that will constitute a nuisance. Generally, the board has the authority to adopt resolutions "to clarify" the governing documents. A nuisance resolution could include:

nbsp;

Barking dogs at any time
Unsupervised pets in the common areas
Loud music, TV, singing. etc. between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Obnoxious odors
Use of chemicals or equipment that cause life or fire safety concerns
Tobacco or barbecue smoke that migrates between units
Housekeeping that causes fire safety or health conditions overly cluttered, attracts vermin, mold, etc.
Other activities that the Board deems to be a nuisance catch all provision

nbsp;

Is a nuisance a bit of a bother or something that causes harm? Good question. But this is an area in which the board needs to establish a policy that works most of the time and then focus on those special cases that require more thought or mediation.

Excerpts used with permission from an article from HindmanSanchez.com


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What Are the Differences in Mortgage Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval?

When youre considering buying a home, there are two terms youll hear, both of which are >

Understanding these terms is critical because theyre going to help you know what you can afford as you search for a home, and theyre also how youre going to demonstrate youre a serious buyer to a seller.

Both are similar in that they are steps along the way to get a mortgage, but if you have a preapproval, you dont necessarily need a prequalification.

What is Prequalification?

A mortgage prequalification means that you provide a lender with some general financial information. The goal is to help provide you an estimate of how much you can afford when youre buying a home.

The information you provide for prequalification is usually self-reported. Most of the time, it doesnt include verification of your credit report. You can get a prequalification without dinging your credit report with a hard pull.

When youre prequalified, you receive a letter that will show you can afford to buy. You can show it to your agent and sellers, and it may be helpful in the process, but not as much as a preapproval.

What is Preapproval?

A preapproval carries a lot more weight in the buying process. When youre preapproved, youve submitted your financial history and the lender has verified the information you provide by checking your credit report, your employment and income, and your assets and debts.

For a preapproval, youll have to submit information like your total monthly expenses, W2s, pay stubs, and if you already own property, your mortgage statement.

Once you submit all the necessary documents, you receive a preapproval letter. This letter will outline the amount youre approved for, and the type of mortgage a lender will give you as well as the terms.

A preapproval serves as an offer by the lender to you, and there is usually an expiration of the offer. For example, you might have 90 days to buy a home based on your preapproval.

How Do You Get a Mortgage Preapproval?

The following are steps to follow to get a mortgage preapproval:

Get your own credit score. The higher your score, not only the more likely you are to be approved but the better the terms youre likely to be offered. With most lenders, if you have at least a 740 credit score, youre likely to qualify for the most favorable terms.
When you check your credit score, go over your report and make sure there arent errors that need to be addressed.
Calculate your debt-to-income ratio. To buy a home, you should aim to have a ratio of 36 or less. Your DTI is a ratio of your gross monthly income that goes toward paying debt.
Gather the documents youre likely to need to submit, such as your tax forms, employment details, and banking and account information. If youre self-employed anticipate showing at least two years of income tax returns.

Finally, when youre applying for preapprovals, shop around and talk to multiple lenders. This will help you find the lender thats right for you so you increase your chances of getting approved, but also so that you can save money on interest with better terms.nbsp;


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The Differences Between Financing New Construction and an Existing Home

Financing for new construction as well as financing an existing home both involve getting a loan with real estate as the collateral. Theyre both the same in that manner but clearly different in others. Lets look at the differences between financing new construction and financing an existing property.

When someone decides to buy an existing home and take out a new mortgage, the options are nearly unlimited. First, there are fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgage options. Fixed rate programs simply mean the selected interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. This provides easier financial planning for those who intend to keep the property for the long term, knowing what their mortgage payment will be in say year 28. The payment will be exactly the same as in year 1. These loans can have terms ranging anywhere from 10 to 30 years, with some portfolio type mortgages being as long as 40 years.

An adjustable rate mortgage as the name implies can adjust but to do so the loan must follow very specific rules laid out in the note. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, can adjust based upon a selected index and then adding a margin to that index to arrive at the new mortgage rate until the next adjustment period. There are also consumer protections called caps that limit not only how much the rate can move at the new adjustment period but also how much the rate can adjust over the life of the loan. ARMs also can have various terms. In general, for both types of loans, the shorter the term, the higher the monthly payment but at the same time there is less overall interest paid over the life of the loan.

A construction loan is used to finance new construction. Mortgages used to finance an existing property cannot be used to finance new construction. Construction loans are issued only for as long as it takes to build the home. Once the home is completed, the construction lender sends out an inspector for one last inspection to make sure the home is finished and is ready for occupancy. When this determination is made, the construction loan must be replaced by a permanent mortgage, the same types of home loans used to finance an existing property.

When a construction lender provides financing for a new home, the loan amount is based upon the plans and specifications laid out by the builder. All the costs, both hard and soft are added up. These loans also typically ask for more initial equity from the borrower. While a home for an existing property can have very low down payments, sometimes zero, a construction loan might ask for a down payment of something like 20. If the borrowers already own the lot on which to build, the lot typically accounts for the initial 20 equity required. A loan for an existing home can be found at a mortgage company or through a buyers own bank, while a construction loan is usually provided only by a bank.


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What Should Your Credit Score Be to Buy a House?

What credit score do you need to get a home loan? While specifically, it can vary, there are certain things you should know before you apply for a mortgage to ensure youve put yourself in the best possible financial position.

Factors Impacting Your Credit Score

Before you explore specific loans, pull your credit report. You can look for errors that may need to be corrected and get a better idea of what you can do to improve it.

The factors that play a role in your credit score include:

Payment history: This is the main factor of a credit score, making up about 35 of your score. Your payment history is simply whether you pay your bills on time or not. Any creditors you have will report your activity every month to major credit bureaus. One or two late payments probably wont have a big impact, but a pattern of late payments will.
Debt: The amount of debt you owe across the board makes up around 30 of your score. Debt is also called your credit utilization ratio, and it looks at how much debt youre using versus whats available to you.
Credit age: Making up around 15 of your score is credit age. The longer you have accounts on your credit history the better, as long as theyre in good standing. If you have old accounts, keep them open if possible because this will affect your average credit age.

Other factors that are >

Your credit score is important not only because it determines whether you get financing for a home, but also the interest rate youre offered.

The following are typical ranges for credit scores:

Anything below 580 is considered very poor A fair score is one ranging from 580 to 669
A good credit score might range from 670 to 739
An excellent score is between 740 and 799
Anything 800 and above is considered exceptional

Conventional Loans

If youre applying for a conventional loan from a bank or a similar type of lender, you will usually need at least a 620 to qualify.

Conventional home loans follow Freddie Mac and Fannie Maes standards.

While 620 is the minimum, having that score doesnt mean youll be approved for a home loan. An excellent score is usually considered 740 and above, and with an excellent score youll likely not only qualify for a conventional home loan but youll also get a competitive interest rate and you may have a lower down payment requirement.

VA Loans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs insures VA loans. Theyre available to certain servicemembers and veterans of the U.S. Military, as well as spouses of military members who died while on active duty.

The minimum credit score for a VA loan is likely to be around 620, although this can vary, and theres no set minimum score.

FHA Loans

Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are less risky for lenders so you may find its easier to qualify. The minimum score for an FHA loan with a down payment of 3.5 is 580. If youre paying at least 10 for your down payment, theres no minimum required credit score.

If you have an FHA loan originated by a private lender, each will have its own minimum requirement for credit scores.

Other Factors Lenders Consider

Yes, your credit score determines whether your quality for a home loan and also what your interest rate will be, but other factors are >

Lenders will look at your income to ensure that you can afford your mortgage payments if you get a loan. Theyll also look at your existing debt in comparison to your income.

The more of a down payment you can make, the more likely youll qualify for a lower interest rate.

Lenders also want to know if you have savings if your income ends for a period of time. You should be able to show that you have enough money saved to cover at least two months of your mortgage payments.

Finally, employment history is >

If you have a low credit score, you could potentially still get a loan, but youre a riskier borrower.nbsp; Youll have to offset that risk, which means youll have to have a larger down payment, and youre also going to pay a higher interest rate.


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What Should You Know About Homeowners Associations?

If youre thinking about moving, there are a lot of factors to consider aside from the house itself.

Homeowners associations are one example. Living in a community with a homeowners association can have its benefits but also its downsides.

Its important to be well-aware of the implications of living in a community with a homeowners association before you make an offer on a house.

The Basics: What Is An HOA?

An HOA is a governing body in a community, and youll often find theyre present in gated neighborhoods, planned communities, and apartment and condo buildings. An HOA is funded and operated by residents, and theres a board of directors.

HOAs have meetings, create budgets, and are responsible for enforcing regulations and rules. The rules set by an HOA are legally enforceable.

A well-run HOA can improve property values because they work to make sure the community maintains a certain standard as far as how homes and lawns look. Poorly run HOAs can be expensive and make it difficult to own a home in the neighborhood because of the bureaucracy.

If youre a member of an HOA, you might pay dues monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

The dues are meant to go toward keeping up common areas like clubhouses, pools, walkways, and lighting.

Fees vary significantly depending on location and the neighborhood or building itself. HOA fees might be 50 a month to thousands of dollars a month. nbsp;

How Do the Rules of an HOA Work?

HOA rules are referred to as conditions and restrictions, or covenants. If there is an HOA in a community where youre thinking about buying a home, you need to understand them well.

The majority of HOA rules are going to be >

For example, you may be required to maintain your lawn in a certain way. You may only be able to paint your house in particular colors. In condos and apartments, the rules might be >

If you dont follow the rules of HOA, initially, youll be asked to comply. If you dont, you may have to pay fines, and then if it gets beyond that point you may face a lawsuit.

Additionally, if you dont pay HOA fees, the board can put a lien on your home or even require you to foreclose, depending on the state where you live.

What to Find Out About an HOA Before Buying

If youre looking at a home with an HOA, the following are things to find out or ask your real estate agent to find out for you:

Ask if you can attend an HOA meeting, or if thats not possible, request a copy of the most recent minutes. This will give you a feel for the behavior of the board members and whether their top priority is resident well-being.
Your HOA should be in good financial standing. Otherwise, you may be hit with an unexpected assessment that you have to pay if work needs to be done in the community.
Are there are a lot of issues between the board and homeowners?
Youll have to consider how well the HOAs rules will fit with your life> Go over, in detail, what HOA fees will include.

Finally, along with thinking about how HOA fees and rules will affect you now, you have to think about how its going to affect the resell value of a home you buy. There are a lot of buyers who simply dont want an HOA, and if you do want to sell your home, your pool of buyers may be limited.

Over time, as HOA fees go up, it may put living there out of many peoples price ranges, making it tough to sell your home.


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Before You Leap In…

The world may be on pandemic pause but real estate professionals continue to work hard whether they are in a hot real estate market or a very troubled one.

After a careerand, for many, a lifetimeof serving others, its going to take more than a pandemic to keep real estate professionals from finding a way to help home-buying prospects and clients connect with their real estate dreams.

Which of the current real estate trends describes your next dream step?

Less Expense amp; More >

Residents of crowded, expensive cities like New York City and San Francisco move into low-stress, less-costly areas, like a move from California to Idaho.

A recent survey revealed that 39 percent of urban Americans are considering a move to a less crowded, less expensive location as a result of the pandemic. Theres a lot to choose from since the median population density of Americas 324 largest cities with over 100,000 residents is just 3,419 per square mile, about 80 percent less crowded than New York City.

Less Flu amp; More Sun Trend

Those who fear Covid-19 and the also-dangerous flu during winter months when cold forces people inside together are moving to warm, less confining areas like Florida.

The 2020 Miami Report states that roughly 950 people a day move to Florida and many come from cold Northern cities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Less Cost amp; More Security Trend

Adult children move in with parents or >

A recent analysis of government data by Zillow stated that there were 32 million adults living with their parents or grandparents in April 2020, the highest number on record. More than 80 percent of those who recently moved back in with their parents are Gen Zers who pay an estimated 726 million in rent each month. Those payments to landlordsabout 1.4 of the total rental marketcould be at risk if moving home becomes permanent.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Less Location amp; More Work Flexibility Trend

Employers have allowed employees to work from home to protect them during the pandemic.

We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time, said Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. About another 33 percent are not workinga testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession...So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Working from anywhere has become a reality. That means no longer paying premiums to live near work. Real estate anywhere would be a great workplace and a hot market

These trends and more are evolving in our change-a-minute pandemic world. Micro-local trends, like moving within a neighborhood to improve access to a pool or other amenities, pop up in local markets. All this creates a whirl of confusion that can distract buyers and sellers from what makes good sense. This frenzy of options superimposed on social-distancing limbo and pandemic-driven stress may catalyze inadvisable decisions and action in some when wait and see or take a long cool look may be better strategies as economic shifts appear.

We are followers not leaders. Trends are reflections of what people are actually doing, not what is best or smart for you to do in the long run. Following friends, social media, or any other group behavior may not always, or perhaps ever, be the best move for youpresent and future.

Buyers and sellers are free to reach out to real estate professionals for answers, even when buyers or sellers are not quite sure what the right questions are.

Originally, people said were all in this together. Now, its clear that we are all experiencing the pandemic, but how varies greatly with individuals and families. For instance, in many areas natural disasters including wildfires and hurricane flooding are exacerbating pandemic effects and ramping up stress for everyone concerned.

Real estate professionals are experiencing extremes, personally and professionally, as much as others. Some are in hot Covid-escape markets while others work in areas hard hit by industry layoffs and shutdowns or even full-on natural disasters. Regardless of market conditions and in spite of continued up-rooting change, real estate professionals remain intent on buyers and sellers making confident decisions they can live with now and once the pandemic subsides.

Before you leap in as a buyer or a seller, your real estate professional has questions theyd like you to consider:

How Solid Is Your Decision?

Solid, confident, well-examined decisions move life forward. Avoid impulsive swings, emotional shifts, or a plunge into panic which can undermine everything you hope to achieve. Learn to control your emotions so you dont jump in before first considering key implications and ramifications.

How Reversible Is Your Decision?

When the driving need for change suddenly ends, would you want to revert to your original life>

How Many Other Options Do You Have?

Dont limit yourself to the options you know. Ask your real estate professional to call on their expertise to help you discover alternatives. Learn how to always be prepared with a new plan when things change unexpectedly.

What Is The Worst That Can Happen?

The Worst must be what you consider devastating, not what others might insist cannot possibly happen. Dig deep to decide what loss would be irreversible and how it could be avoided.

Ask your real estate professional about alternatives that allow you to leap in and restart or refresh your real estate dreams.


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Real Estate Attorneys: A Benefit in Home Purchases

The costs associated with buying or selling a home can add up quickly. Many buyers and sellers opt not to retain an attorney to save the several hundred dollars it costs to have one review the contract, deed and title, respond to inspection issues, and make sure the contract is performed according to its terms.

But the cost of an attorney is one that should not be eliminated in an effort to save money, in the end the lack of legal representation in the sale or purchase of a home could cost you much more than the money you saved.

It is common in some areas not to have an attorney involved in a real estate transaction, but consider the legal education or experience the closing or title agent, real estate agent or brokerage has >

nbsp;

Retain an attorney who specializes in residential real estate.

You might know an attorney who is a friend or >

nbsp;

Acquire a blank copy of the local real estate contract and review before you sign one.

Most local real estate boards have a form contract that has blanks for contract price, terms and conditions. You will feel more confident if you review a real estate contract long before you are asked to sign one. Ask your real estate agent for a blank contract after your first meeting. If you have questions about the contract ask your attorney to review it with you.

nbsp;

Have your attorney review all real estate contracts that you sign.

After both parties have executed a real estate contract, deliver a legible copy to your attorney promptly. Most contracts allow for a attorney review period of at least five business days. During this time your attorney can review and request certain changes to the contract or if need be void the contract.

nbsp;

Request a title insurance policy.

Your attorney will request a title insurance policy from the property seller. This policy insures you against any prior clouds on the title. The chain or history of title will be provided and will be reviewed by both sides attorneys to look for any possible irregularities before the title insurance is delivered. The buyers attorney can request that questionable items be removed or insured over by the title insurance provider.

nbsp;

Confirm and update legal descriptions on your property.

This is one of the most important reasons to retain an attorney. Legal descriptions that are recorded in title and deed government records should accurately state the current and updated legal description of your property. These descriptions are difficult for lay people to read and take an experienced legal eye to catch mistakes which could impact the property your buying or selling.

nbsp;

Review property survey.

Your attorney should receive and review the property survey before closing or escrow to check for encroachments when an adjoining property intrudes on yours, easements the limited right of another to use your property and verify parcel or lot dimensions.

nbsp;

Require your attorney to attend closing or escrow. From contract to closing is a marathon and the closing is the finish line. Your attorney should attend the closing or escrow to verify the smooth transfer of your property. Last minute glitches with possession, final throughs and mortgages need the finesse of an experienced real estate attorney.

nbsp;

Review post-closing documents.

Most attorneys want to review all recorded documents >

nbsp;

Administrate and evaluate problems in contract to closing period.

The time between contract and closing can include some problems that only an experienced real estate attorney can respond to adequately. Unreasonable requests after a property inspection, weak mortgage ability of the buyer, missed earnest money payments and quite a few additional issues can bog down a contract after acceptance. An attorney that has handled and most likely seen it all in real estate contracts, is your best asset when a contract get bogged down.

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How Lenders View Installment vs Revolving Debt

One of the more important functions a mortgage lender performs is determining affordability. Primarily, this is accomplished by comparing monthly credit obligations with gross monthly income. Dividing debt by income results in a percentage, or a ratio. Debt ratios fall into two basic categories, a housing ratio and a total debt ratio. The housing ratio is the total monthly mortgage payment which includes the principal and interest payment and a monthly allotment for property taxes and insurance. Mortgage insurance is also figured into this number when needed.

Debt ratios are typically not hard and fast rules, although some loan programs do prescribe a maximum debt ratio in order to qualify for the loan program. If for example the recommended housing ratio is 33, then a house payment or 3,300 would be 33 of a gross monthly income of 10,000. If a total debt ratio is 43, then the housing payment of 3,300 plus other obligations are included to arrive at that number.nbsp;

What types of debt are included in the total debt ratio? Pretty much anything that appears on a credit report, for starters. These other obligations include credit cards, student loans and auto loans. However, when these debts are paid off to a zero balance, mortgage lenders treat such a move differently depending upon the type of debt.

Most debts fall into either an installment or revolving category. With an installment loan, the monthly payments are set each month and do not change throughout the life of the loan. When the loan is paid off, the monthly amounts are no longer considered in the debt ratio calculation. Further, if there are less than 10 months remaining on an installment account, lenders can ignore the amount when calculating debt ratios knowing the monthly payments will soon vanish. When a car loan is paid off there are no monthly payments and the owner keeps the car.

Revolving debt on the other hand is treated differently. Revolving debt is where the balance can rise and fall when credit is used and when payments are made. Your credit card is a >

Consumers can pay down monthly debt in order to help qualify for most loan programs. However, when the balance is paid down, it might take up to 30 days for the new balance to be reported to the credit agencies. The consumer would have to keep a paper trail of the payments and new balance and work with the lender or credit agency directly to update the report with the new information.nbsp;


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Less Stress – Managing Your Cash Flow As A Real Estate Agent

2020 hasnt been the best year for property sales. The market has experienced its biggest decline in almost a decade, slashing agents earnings dramatically. For many, this has led to cash flow issues as income has dropped or dried up altogether.nbsp;

The role that commission plays in the real estate industry means that you need to prepare for unexpected dips. The best way to do this is to take a proactive stance on money matters so that future downturns dont dent your pocket.nbsp;

Draw Up A Plan and Budget

A cash flow plan and a budget are two essential tools for managing income and expenses. Your plan and budget must cover 12 months, and rather than making it a once-off exercise, revisit those documents regularly, adjusting them as required.

When drawing up your budget, include cash contingency plans that offer some >

Be Realistic

Income, expenditure, and cash flow forecasts are not an exact science, but that doesnt mean you should give in to fantasy. You may be tempted to predict property sales will increase by 70 during the year. Even though this may be possible in theory, its highly unlikely.

Its important to be as realistic as possible about yourself and your real estate agencys current and future positions. The best approach is to be conservative in your predictions and projections. If you find yourself with surplus funds, you can use them for extras that are surplus-dependent or put it toward cash contingency plans.

Keep Track Of Income and Expenses

As a real estate agent, good financial management requires that you keep track of income and expenditure meticulously. Take note of everything, no matter how small or trivial some expenses may seem.

You need to stick to your budget if you want to realize your cash flow plan. If you dont keep an accurate record of how much money comes in and goes out, budgeting correctly will be impossible.

Review your budget monthly, and when doing so, pay close attention to fixed costs and overheads. You may be able to find ways to save money on at least some of them.

Plan For The Best - and The Worst

When forecasting and planning, put the extra time and effort into drawing up plans for best- and worst-case scenarios. This way, you can try to cover all your bases.

Create your best-case and worst-case plans when you have completed your cash flow plan. Using the plan as a guide, take the best case to be approximately 25 higher than the most likely scenario. Calculate the worst case at 25 lower than the main plan.

Stay On Top Of Taxes

Remember to include taxes in your financial plans. This will help you manage your money and ensure you never fall foul of the IRS or incur penalties.nbsp;

A smart business strategy to apply here is to pay tax every three months rather than once a year. Theres less paperwork to deal with, and the tax amounts should be manageable. Another way is to put a percentage of your commission into an account thats dedicated to taxes. Alternatively, you can combine these approaches.

Prepare For Cycles

Like many industries, real estate works in cycles. There are times when the property market is hot, and when its not. While these trends arent always predictable, estate agents need to develop the habit of being ready for them at any time.nbsp;

One way to prepare for a downswing is to purchase a few short-term certificates of deposit. You cannot touch the money you invest until those CDs mature. When theyre ready, youll get more out than would be possible with a regular savings account.nbsp;

Another option would be to set up a savings account that you can access at any time, but you add to monthly. If your commission for a month is higher than usual, you can save a larger amount. This way, youll have extra capital for the leaner times, and your cash flow wont be stunted.nbsp;

As you can see, managing your finances as a real estate agent requires foresight and dedication. By applying those qualities to the tips above, you can put yourself on the path to good cash flow management.


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Disaster Preparation To Keep You Safe In a Catastrophic Storm

A natural disaster can happen anywhere, at any time. Whether you live in earthquake country, tornado alley, or in a hurricane zone, there are important steps you can take.

Get an inspection

Its a given when buying a house, but you can schedule one in your current home, too. An inspection can turn up items that need fixing or replacing, which can save you money and also eliminate dangers from your home that could prove dangerous in a powerful storm.

Hire an engineer

A Texas-based engineer touring tornado damage found "examples of horrific construction in tornado wreckage," said the Dallas Morning News. Timothy Marshall, "a forensic engineer and meteorologist who volunteered as part of a damage survey team created by the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service" following deadly Texas tornados, "says he saw rampant irresponsibleness in the way many homes and buildings were constructed."

That included "improper attachment of the walls to the foundations, which just made walls fall either in or out," in numerous structures, including Donald T. Shields Elementary in Glenn Heights, shown below. An engineer can help identify structural issues that could affect your home in a powerful storm.

Get prepared

The Texas tornadoes hit in the middle of the night, when vision was compromised. Earthquakes hit with no warning, whatsoever. No matter what type of storm is likely to hit your area, proper preparation is key.

Develop an emergency plan for your family

Bob Vilas tips for creating an emergency plan at home include:

Have an escape plan - "Decide on reunion spots via foot or car, depending on the type of disaster. If it is an emergency isolated to your house or block, choose a nearby rallying point that will allow a headcount. If the emergency involves a larger area, decide on a destination further away - perhaps a > Learn evacuation routes - Doing a few "practice drills" will get the family familiar with exit routes, when needed.
Establish an emergency place to stay with friends or family - And learn the locations and rules of local public emergency shelters.
Make a plan with neighbors - "If a flood occurs or a tornado hits when you are not at home, have a plan with neighbors, sitters, or > Bone up on first aid skills - Its a good time to take a CPR >

Know your disaster

Its not always easy to predict what kind of storm may hit your area - flooding can happen almost anywhere. But knowing the basics of storms that are common to your city and recommendations for what to do in an emergency can help keep you safe.

In an earthquake:

According to Earthquake Country, "In MOST situations, you will reduce your chance of injury if you:

DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquakes knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
COVER your head and neck with both arms, clasping your neck with your hands. If a study desk or table is nearby, crawl beneath it while keeping one arm over your head. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that wont fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
HOLD ON to your shelter or to your head and neck until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around."

Experts warn that the most substantial danger to people in an earthquake is from falling objects. This is a great time to secure bookcases or any other items that could fall or be catapulted off of a wall or shelf. "Secure top heavy furniture to walls with flexible straps. Use earthquake putty or Velcro fasteners for objects on tables, shelves, or other furniture," they said. "Install safety latches on cabinets to keep them closed." Get more info here.

In a tornado:

"The best shelter from a tornado is a basement or storm cellar. If neither one is available, go to an inside room without windows on the lowest level of the building," said News 9. "Cover yourself with something, such as pillows, a mattress or blankets. Place as many walls between you and the outside as possible."

Other tips include:

Avoiding structures like mobile homes if at all possible
Staying away from windows
If a tornado is approaching while youre in a car, "get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. If there is not a building nearby, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands... and do not get under an overpass or bridge" they said.
Use a weather radio or local news station app to keep track of the storm and warnings in your area.

You can get information on safe rooms on the FEMA website and learn about storm shelters in your area on the National Storm Shelter Associations site.

In a hurricane:

In addition to checking your insurance coverage, said MNN, youll want to "protect your property by installing the following items in your home:

Hurricane shutters or keep inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
Head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
A safe room that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping; diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds.

An evacuation plan is also key, as is an emergency supply kit with food; water; medications; pet supplies; items like toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste; a basic first-aid kit; flashlights with extra batteries; and blankets and pillows.

In a flood:

Flood waters can rise quickly. According to FloodSmart.gov, you can stay safe during a flood by:

Getting to higher ground and "avoid areas subject to flooding."
Staying away from flowing streams and flooded roadways.
Escaping rising water in your home by gong to the top floor, attic, or roof.
Listening to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
Turning off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
If youve come in contact with floodwaters, washing your hands with soap and disinfected water."

If youre suffered a flood, learn the steps to take toward recovery here.


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HOA Project Roll-Out

Winter is the time of year that a homeowner association board should be soliciting and reviewing proposals for fair weather renovation projects like painting, fencing, pool replastering, asphalt sealing and roofing. There are several practical reasons for starting the process early:

Contractors are more available. Winter is a slow time for many contractors. This means they have the time to thoughtfully consider your work and produce a good proposal.

Better pricing. Sometimes the work you want done can be performed during the winter months, even certain kinds of roofing. If you agree to start the project now, you just may save a significant amount of money. When work is slow, many contractors are willing to offer better pricing to "seal the deal."

Scheduling preference. If you accept a contractors proposal now, you can generally dictate the scheduling. Set the date now. If you wait you may not make the schedule at all.

Arranging for money. If you havent accumulated enough reserve funds, you will need several months to discuss, approve and collect a special assessment.

Coordination with residents. If the project is extensive and disruptive, you will want to warn residents well in advance. This will give them the opportunity to work around or even plan vacations strategically.

Always get references and check them out. It is important to use only contractors that have a good track record. Make sure the references are for work that is comparable in size and complexity to yours. It is not uncommon for small contractors to get in over their head when trying to nail down work. Feel comfortable that they can deliver what they promise.

Always, always, always use contractors that are properly licensed, bonded and insured to do the work they are contracting to perform. If you have any question about requirements, contact the state licensing board. Use it.

Get named on their insurance. Insist on getting a current copy of the contractors liability insurance coverage directly from his insurance agent. If you accept the proposal, require that the HOA be included on this insurance as an "additional insured" and get an appropriate and current insurance certificate from the contractors insurance agent to prove it.

Make progress payments. Do not make advance payments on the project work. This is often the sign of a contractor on a "shoe string" that may be using your money to pay other jobs labor or supply bills. You could be left high and dry with uncompleted work. Instead, use progress payments that pay for work actually completed. Usually, make no more than one per month and be sure to inspect the work to verify completion.

Consider paying for a Performance Bond. For large and expensive projects, requiring a Performance Bond provides assurance that the contractor will perform, or, another contractor can be hired to finish the job. It costs extra but is often worth it.

Get Lien Waivers. When making payments, have the contractor sign a Lien Waiver for the amount tendered. Your attorney can provide the appropriate form or ask the state contractors board for a sample. A Lien Waiver is the contractors promise that he has paid or will pay all labor, material and supply bills >

Its also appropriate to have all materials delivered directly to the job site and to pay for materials directly. You will need someone in charge of ordering the material and making sure its delivered and secured.

For any substantial construction, it is very important to involve an attorney who can draft or review the contract. Dont bypass this important step. Theres a lot riding on what the Board is obligating the HOA to.


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Move Over She-Shed, Make Room for the Backyard Office

March ushered in a new way of life for many people due to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the first things that happened in many states was workers were asked to telecommute from home whenever possible.

Now, even though shutdowns are technically over in many places, it seems to be a trend thats sticking around.

A lot of companies arent calling employees back to the office anytime soon.

Working from home has had big implications for real estate. For example, after spending an increasing amount of time at home, many people are opting to move from cities and into the suburbs where they can have outdoor space and square footage.

Theres also a demand for home offices, but if you dont have space for one, you can get creative.

One option is the backyard office.

Benefits of a Backyard Office

A backyard office can be a shed that you transform into a workspace. The benefits include privacy as well as natural light. You might even have a bit of a view from your outdoor office.

For a lot of people, theyve found working from home leads to no work-life balance, but having a dedicated space separate from their living areas can help with the distinction. Its easier to not only separate work and home life with a differentiated space, but you may find it helps you focus when youre working.

Do You Need a Building Permit?

If youre thinking about an office-shed, one of the first things youll have to determine is whether or not youll need a permit.

Where you live and the size of the structure you plan on building or putting on your property are the main determinants of whether or not youll need a permit.

If applicable, you may also need to check with your Homeowners Association and get their approval.

If you go the prefabricated route, meaning you buy a shed or shed kit from a company, some are marketed as being small enough that youre unlikely to need a permit.

Placement

When you scope out your backyard for a location for your office shed, look for somewhere flat with good drainage.

If you arent sure or your backyard needs clearing or cleaning up before you can place your shed, you might want to work with a landscaper who can help you with planning.

Prefab or Custom-Build?

Many companies are now offering prefabricated office sheds. You can find them as kits, meaning all the pieces come to your home and youre responsible for putting them together. You might also find an office shed thats already built and arrives at your home almost ready to go.

When you choose a prefab shed, it may be more expensive than building your own, but also more convenient.

Theyre available in different >

Some kits include doors, windows, insulation and flooring, and others dont, so read the fine print.

Building Your Own Office Shed

There are other options that may be less expensive than a prefeb shed.

One is converting an existing shed into an office. In that case, your focus might be primarily on making an old shed into a comfortable, stylish place to work and perhaps adding power.

You can also find plans online and build your own shed.

Design Tips

Regardless of the route you go, you want your outdoor office to be someplace you feel comfortable and content.

Try to create an office with plenty of natural light.

Add comfortable furnishings, and surround yourself with things you find visually appealing. Add a rug to warm the space up.

Consider whether or not youll have meetings in your office, and if so, how you can have a space where guests feel comfortable.

Youll need to ensure you have electricity in your office, and also Wi-Fi.

Finally, create a landscaped path leading from your home to your office.

A shed-office is one of the biggest trends when it comes to working-from-home design. It can give you a space thats separate from your home and family so you can remain productive and focused, and also maintain a work-life balance.

Creating a separate area thats detached from your home doesnt just work as an office. Its also something homeowners are looking to so they can have a home gym, a guest room, or even a learning area for their kids.

Its one more representation of the move toward spending more time at home thats impacting all of us.


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Should You Go Solar at Home?

Installing roof solar panels has become an increasingly popular option among homeowners in the United States. Solar panels will convert sunlight into energy, and then you can use that energy to power your home.

While the cost of solar panels has gone down over the years, and increasingly people are installing them, its still a significant investment. Theres a lot to consider and both pros and cons to weigh.

Is Your Home a Good Fit for Solar Panels?

Solar panels can work in any climate, but your roof may not be suitable for installation. Tree coverage or age could be two factors making your roof unsuitable.

For example, if trees shade your roof too much, rooftop panels may not be optimal.

In most cases, solar panels work best on south-facing roofs, with a slope up to 40 degrees.

If your roof is old and nearing the time for replacement, this may also make your home unsuitable for solar.

There are alternatives if your roof doesnt make you a viable candidate for solar panels, including ground-mounted panels or a community solar garden.

When Do You Plan to Move?

If you plan to move in the near-term, solar panels are probably not a good investment.

First, since they are an investment, it can take time to see a return. It usually takes around seven to eight years to pay off the cost of solar panels. If youre going to move any time soon, not only will this investment not yet have paid itself off, but you may limit your pool of interested buyers when you hit the market.

When your solar system is installed, it is almost impossible to move it to a new location.

How Much Do You Pay for Electricity?

If you dont pay a lot for electricity each month, then youre not going to save much with solar panels.

Residents of some states pay more than others for electricity and therefore may find solar panels have more financial benefits for them.

Whats the Weather Like Where You Live?

Weather and, in particular, the sun are the most important things with solar panels. If you live somewhere theres a lot of cloudy weather or rain, youre not going to get as many benefits from going solar. If you have long or harsh winters, your solar system is also going to be less productive.

Will You Qualify For Financing?

There are flexible options to help consumers afford the initial, upfront costs of solar panels.

There are financing options, and there are also state and federal tax credits and incentives available.

You should explore what you qualify for. Otherwise, youre going to pay a lot out-of-pocket upfront and you may not have the cash sitting aside to do that.

Many of the solar financing programs are state-based loans. There are also power purchase agreements and leases available.

Are There Quality Installers Where You Live?

If you live in a bigger city or near a metro, finding solar panel installation professionals may not be a challenge.

However, finding a reputable company can be more challenging in certain parts of the country.

Youll have to do the research and find a company with a strong background, and also one thats not going to try pushy sales tactics to lock you into a long-term contract that you might not want.

The Benefits of Solar Panels

While the above are questions to ask yourself, there are benefits of solar panels including:

Reduced electric bills are one of the biggest reasons homeowners opt to install solar panels. Over 20 years, you could save anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000, depending on where you live and the size of your home.
Solar panels allow you to be energy independent.
You can reduce your carbon footprint when you go solar.
Solar panels are almost enti>

Solar panels certainly have pros and cons. While they dont work for every family or home, they can have big advantages in some cases, making them a worthwhile consideration.


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Must-Know Real Estate Photography Tips

When youre trying to sell a home, whether youre an owner, or youre a Realtor, the imagery you convey is one of the most important aspects of marketing. People are inherently visual, and if your photos online arent high-quality and visually appealing, youre not likely to garner interest in your property.

Even if youre a photographer who wants to branch into real estate photos, there can be a learning curve, and its different from some other genres.

The following are specific, must-known photography tips to get beautiful pictures of a home.

Use a Wide-Angle Lens

Choose a high-quality and versatile wide-angle lens for real estate photography. It will provide you with focus and sharpness.

A wide-angle lens is meant to take pictures of large areas or objects, so when you use one in real estate photography, it helps you get the entire structure in your shot.

It can also help make a space look larger or even more luxurious.

You can use a wide-angle lens for both interior and exterior real estate photography.

A wide-angle lens can also help you best capture tighter spaces.

Take Pictures with a Tripod

You can buy an inexpensive tripod, and it can make a world of difference in the quality of your real estate photos.

A tripod helps with shooting long exposures because it provides stability and reduces any blurriness.

Tripods are also good for perspective so you can set it at the same height throughout a home, then youll have images that are the same height. Consistency is important in real estate photography.

Know the Pivotal Shots

Of course, every real estate photo shoot is going to be unique, but there are some standard shots you should plan on taking.

You should have two wide-angle shots of each bedroom, the living room, and the kitchen.

Make sure you have at least one photo of the bathroom, and anywhere from one to three photos of the backyard at a minimum.

Youll need one or two front-of-the-home shots, and one shot of all the other features like the pantry and the closets, if theyre compelling and organized.

If youre a real estate agent doing your own photography, youre likely going to have a better idea of whats most important and what to prioritize in your photos.

Declutter

Before taking a real estate photo, decluttering is important. Small pieces of clutter that you might not even otherwise notice are going to appear prominent in photos.

All surfaces need to be clean, and if there are any decorative accessories, keep them to a minimum.

Aside from generally clearing clutter from a shot, remember to wipe off the counters, so they look polished, and add something like a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter.

In bathrooms, put the seats down and clear off surfaces.

Consider the Weather

For real estate photos, natural light is a must-have, especially when youre shooting the homes exterior.

Aim for a clear, sunny day or a partly cloudy day.

When you take photos against daytime light, your colors are going to be bright and saturated.

If the weather is too cloudy, its best to reschedule and take your photos at a different time.

You also want the sun to be behind the house.

Since natural light is so important for real estate photography, the blinds and curtains should be open.

Consider Lightroom Presets

Finally, if youre new to real estate photography, or even if youre not, you can save yourself a lot of time in editing with Lightroom presets.

With Lightroom presets, youre using editing presets. You use Adobe Lightroom while editing your photos and then you use controls which are called sliders to change certain settings such as brightness and contrast.

Once you get a combination you like, you can save it, and that then becomes your preset.

You can apply that preset to all of your photos, and then all of your settings are automatically adjusted.

Along with making your own presets, you can also purchase them. When you purchase them, it gives your photos a certain look and sense of consistency.

Having Lightroom presets will speed-up your editing overall, and give you a more polished final product. Buying presets is especially useful if you dont have a lot of photography experience because they can help you with the editing learning curve.

Finally, if you have a large property or a particularly beautiful yard youre working with, think about using drone technology to add something unique to the listing photos.


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What’s an AKA Letter?

An AKA, or Also Known As letter is one where the individual confirms a name variation has been used in the past. Lenders need to know exactly who theyre providing a loan for and during the course of receiving a loan application and reviewing a credit report, there can be more than one name listed on the report. How is that so? Its really very simple. Over the years, someone who has applied for credit somewhere signs the application. An authorization form is also signed which gives the lender permission to do some research about the background of the applicant.

A credit reports contains a surprising amount of information collected over the years. Besides the payment history, balances and a list of accounts, there is more information. Where the person has lived will be included in the report. This can mean a first apartment rental. Later, a first house. Still later, another home. Each time the individual applies for credit, the address at the time of application is included in the credit file.

Heres how it works. Robert Smith filled out a lease application while in school. Upon delivering the application, the landlord pulls a credit report using the name Robert Smith. That would be the first name entry in the credit report. Later, when Robert graduated, he applied for a new car loan when he got his first job. His application read Bob Smith, because thats the name he goes by. Robert is too formal, he thinks. At this stage, the report has two names listed, Robert Smith and Bob Smith. After a few months, he applies for his first credit card and when doing so he lists his full name, Robert James Smith. Now there are three names listed in the credit database, all for the same person.

Women who marry and take on their husbands name can also have more than one name listed in a credit report. Jane Smith marries John Doe and takes on the husbands last name. She now goes by Jane Doe. This is a little different than Bob Smiths situation. Bob keeps the same last name and is consistent throughout. Jane however, takes Doe for her last name and now her credit report shows Jane Smith and Jane Doe. Sometimes she applies for a credit account and uses her full name before and after marriage. You can already tell it can be a bit confusing making sure the applicant listed on the loan application is the real one.nbsp;

When there is more than one name variant on a credit report, the mortgage lender will ask for an AKA letter. The letter is fairly straightforward. Bob will state that he has gone by other names in the past, those that are listed on the credit report. Jane will fill out a similar letter. This is nothing more than validating the identity of the applicant.

Finally, there can also be names on the report that do not belong to the applicant. This happens more often with more common names, such as Robert and Jane. Perhaps the name Bob Jones appears on Bob Smiths report. If thats not our Bob, the letter will state that he has no idea who Bob Jones is and thats not him. The letter will identify the right Bob. An AKA letter is nothing more than the lender making sure the thousands of dollars about to be wired to fund the mortgage is going to the right person.


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Building a Backyard Hockey Rink

Homeowners are looking for ways to keep fit and keep their kids busy this winter, so its not surprising that thoughts are already turning to the backyard hockey rink.

The nice thing is that there are options regardless of budget, from the handyman lumber frame rink, to easy-to-assemble kits, to full-blown NHL-size rinks and synthetic ice rinks.

Twelve years ago, two dads were talking about backyard rinks, and before long they decided to manufacture a product that would make building a rink easy. They were pleasantly surprised when hundreds of people bought their rink kit.

Business has grown significantly since. But this year, Guelph, Ont.-based RinkMaster www.RinkMaster.com is busier than ever, earlier in the year than ever before, says president Chas Birkett. He says he expects sales to double compared to last year. People are focussing on their backyards for recreation with COVID issues, including limited minor hockey this year.

Ice time is limited and hockey parents want to ensure their kids keep skating despite COVID. Other parents just want to keep their kids busy this winter.

RinkMasters kit is an easy way to do that. It includes everything you need. A 15x26-foot kit can be assembled in 30 minutes by an adult and child, Birkett says.

We advise people to set up the rink and fill it with water only when they see a cold spell of at least a few days, with nighttime temperatures well below -5 C and daytime highs at freezing or below, he says.

The bulk of RinkMasters business is liners regardless of the type of rink, you need a new liner every year. They sell thousands each year. The liners, which are six mil thick durable yet not too heavy for shipping come in 100 sizes.

Other products include a 12-inch-high pond hockey net made of one piece of welded steel. Its a beautiful thing, Birkett says, because they encourage players not to shoot pucks high.

To create a smooth ice surface, the company developed FloodMaster, an aluminium tool with a cloth spreader.

Kits are available in 17 sizes, starting at 250. RinkMaster, which sells across Canada and the U.S., can usually ship in a day or two, he says.

Those with bigger budgets may want to extend the skating season by purchasing a rink with a refrigeration unit.

Custom Ice www.customicerinks.com in Burlington, Ont. offers a 24x50-foot portable DIY rink that comes with a refrigeration unit, a wood frame, a liner and cooler pipe for about 30,000 says Glenn Winder, vice president, sales and marketing.

The company manufactures portable and permanent concrete rinks.

An NHL-size concrete rink will set you back about 1 million. Custom Ice also has combination tennis court/rinks, as well as full sports courts that offer a variety of action-packed uses year-round.

The newest product is a combination ice rink/splash pad with a computer-controlled spray jet. Its popular with people who want a water feature but not a pool, Winder says.

For those with backyard space issues, a flat level structure can be built on top of an inground pool, and a portable rink placed on top.

But if you have a permanent spot, 350,000 will buy you a concrete package with a 50x120-foot rink with refrigeration pipes embedded in concrete. In summer, a sports floor can be added on top.

Concrete rinks require site preparation. Keep in mind that concrete work stops with the first frost, so for this year, youre looking at planning/design now and work to begin in spring.

Winder says its important to make sure you have enough power to run a chiller in the backyard. The system is hard-wired and requires 100 amps.

The cost to operate a 24x50-foot rink is about 35 to 55 cents per square foot per month. Rinks are thermostat controlled, so when the weather is cold, the system doesnt run and theres no cost.

When he arrives at a home, Winder says dads are usually on board and excited about a backyard rink. Usually, moms not so much. Winder tells them, In the spring youll thank me. The kids will have been outside, active, off the computer and healthier for it.

In spring, he says moms call and tell him, Youre right. Its the best thing.

Another option is a synthetic ice rink, which can be used inside and out.nbsp;

Many people use the surface in their basements in winter then move it to the deck in summer so kids can get some fresh air. Others set them up permanently in an extra garage bay, says Synthetic Ice Solutions of Canada www.syntheticicesolutions.com owner Wayman Harten.

The Brampton, Ont. company recently shipped one of the largest residential synthetic ice rinks 55.5 by 111 feet to be installed on top of a tennis court in Nashville, Tenn.

After erecting arena panels around the inside perimeter of the tennis court, the owner and friends installed the click-in-place surface in five days. For more typical residential basement projects, the polyethylene arena panels are mounted over drywall, then the half-inch-thick synthetic surface is clicked into place on the floor. The nice thing is that Harten designed his product so that its easy to add to. You can increase the rinks size as children grow.

Harten has been in the plastics industry for 35 years and developed his own brand of synthetic ice, which is not available anywhere else. The half-inch-thick sheets weigh about 75 to 80 pounds and are double-sided. They last between 10 to 15 years per side.

Maintenance includes damp mopping and sweeping.

The systems are not designed to be placed on soft surfaces such as lawns, but are ideal for regular deck systems, patios or a bed of pea gravel thats level and doesnt allow water to pool on top or underneath.

A 12x16 rink costs 1,900 plus HST. It takes four to five business days to create the surface and rinks are shipped worldwide.


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Smart Home Improvement Tips To Save You Time, Money, And Aggravation

Fixing up your house can bring great joy, and also personal satisfaction when you pitch in and DIY some of the tasks. But proper preparation is key to getting things done right. Take a short cut and youll likely end up with a project that that takes longer, costs more, looks like it was DIYd and hurts more than your bank balance along the way.

Measure thrice, cut once

Its the oldest tip in the book when it comes to renovation and its every bit as important as you think it is to make sure you have the right measurements before you start up that power saw. In fairness, the rule is typically, "Measure twice." But lets face it: Some of us need a little more assurance. If youre not super skilled at using power tools, if you have tricky cuts to make, or if youre doing anything with mitered corners or involving angles, do yourself a favor and take one more look before you slice away.

Buy more materials than you actually need

It can be incredibly tempting to buy only what you think you need when it comes to flooring materials, backsplash tile, or wall coverings, in an effort to save money. But problems can arise for a variety of reasons - some of the tiles are cracked, you cut some of the wallpaper incorrectly, some of the wood for the floors is warped, you didnt account for all the cuts you have to make when measuring the space - and soon you dont have enough materials to finish the job.

You can always order more, but now youre behind schedule. And, you may run into additional problems with your flooring if the new pieces dont precisely match the existing ones because theyre not from the same batch. Thats why experts recommend that when you purchase your materials, you add 20 to the actual measurements. It may add a few bucks to your bottom line, but it will save your butt in the long run.

Invest in some quality tools

Youre an adult now. You can have a real hammer and a drill and a pair of needle nose pliers. If youre just setting out on your own or its time to do a little tool upgrade, This Old House has some good tips for what tools to buy.

Try it before you install it

The well-meaning contractor who installed this faucet forgot about one thing: The space needed to actually wash your hands. Installing the faucet too close to the sink left insufficient space, so hand-washing is reduced to an awkward placement and cupping/pouring exercise. Before you drill those holes, give it a test run

Buy the right ladder, and use it properly

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors InterNACHI, there are "more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders." In addition, "Falls from laddersnbsp;are the leading cause of deaths on construction sites, and, "The number of people who have died from fallsnbsp;from ladders has tripled" over the last decade.

If youre thinking those falls must have been from a roof or tall commercial building site, heres more sobering news: "Most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less."

You can check the InterNACHI site for basic ladder safety tips, but the most important thing to remember is this: Use your common sense. Use the ladder properly, dont balance on the paint tray, dont overextend the weight limit, make sure its in proper working order - you know, the basics.

Glove up, glasses on

While were talking safety, there are other measures youll want to take to protect yourself. The last thing you need is a nail through your hand or your eye or anywhere else, for that matter. Gloves and goggles are basic go-tos. And if youre doing your floors, think like a soccer player and get out those knee pads.

Hanging art

Between picture hangers and specialty nails and screws and laser levels, there are so many tools available to help you hang art that we should all have it nailed pun intended, right? Yet picture hanging remains one of the most frustrating tasks.

There are numerous tricks and tips that aim to help, but these are a few of our faves:

"Use a little bit of toothpaste yes, toothpaste," said Quick and Dirty Tips. "Place a dab of toothpaste on the back of the frame on the hook or string whatever will touch the nail. Then hold the frame up to the wall, position it carefully, and press it against the wall. The toothpaste will leave a mark that you can hammer a nail through, then wipe away."
"Instead of moving the photos up and down, place the photos on the floor and line up some tape from hanging point to hanging point," said Diply.com. "Then mark each point with a dot. Next, put the tape on the wall and use a level to make sure its straight. Then use those dots to put in your screws, and hang"nbsp;

Keep the mess away

We love this easy tip for keeping the site clean when hanging photos or drilling/hammering into walls for any other reason. If you hate having to clean up afterwardsdont. A sticky note is all you need.


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10 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Home Sale

When youre selling your home, you need every advantage you can get. And there are few homes that are magically market ready without a little help. If your home needs a touch more than a little help, its time to get focused. After all, listing your home when its not in the right condition to sell will probably only end in frustration. And, in this case, frustration means: your home sitting on the market for months with no offers or the errant, offensive, lowball.

If you want to make sure you get home sold quickly and for the right price, youll want to avoid listing it with the following:

1. Excessive damage

Maybe the home youre selling was used as a rental and trashed by frat boy tenants, or maybe you just havent kept it up as you should. Either way, those holes in the wall that look like the living room was used as a boxing gym, the scratched-up wood floors on which dinosaurs have clearly been racing, and the yard thats barren except for those two-foot-tall patches of weeds are not what buyers are looking for. Unless youre planning to offer your house for a price that will make buyers emphasize the good and ignore the bad and the ugly, its going to need some attention.

2. Carpet in the bathroom

Its just gross. And everyone who walks into that bathroom is thinking one of two things: 1 Theres gotta be mold under there; 2 Theres gotta be pee on the floor around that toilet. This is one update youll want to do before you list. Or, if youre already listed and your homes not selling.

3. Big, nasty stains

A buyer shouldnt know where your dog likes to mark or where your kids spilled the entire bowl of holiday punch. If the stains on your carpet are that bad, potential buyers will stroll in and run right back out. No one wants to buy a pigsty. Invest a few bucks in new carpet. Youll make the money back since you wont have to drop your sales price.

4. Pet smells

Speaking of petsthey smell. You probably dont notice since you live with them everyday, but buyers will, and it might be enough to turn them off. Deep clean the carpets and the upholstery, invest in some air fresheners, and remove cat boxes from the house for showings. The last thing you want is a potential buyer referring to your house as "the stinky one."

5. Loud dogs who bark every time someone approaches the home

One last word on pets. Barking happens, whether its your dog or one that belongs to a neighbor. But you dont need that on the day of your open house. Offering to pay for doggie day care for a neighbors pooch can eliminate the issue and help create the serene setting buyers want.

6. Your dead lawn

Lack of curb appeal wont necessarily kill a deal. In many cases, you wont even get potential buyers to get out of the car. If the front yard is a mess, buyers will naturally think the mess continues inside.

7. A bad agent

Face it. Not all of them are winners. If your agent is: rude, uninformed, lazy, uncommunicative, belligerent, or unwilling to take your opinions into consideration, get a new one. An agent who isnt giving their client the right type of attention probably isnt going to get the job done.

8. Your sloppiness

Those drawers and cabinets you shoved everything into when you cleaned off your kitchen and bathroom cabinets could be a deal breaker for picky buyers. We all know buyers open stuff. They look in drawers, they open cabinets, they examine closets. If these spaces are messy and overstuffed, they may assume theres not enough storage space.

9. Unreasonable sellers

Big problems in your house can be deal killers, but they can also be deal sealers, if you are reasonable. If your inspection uncovers plumbing, electrical, or roofing problems or all three and youre unwilling to negotiate, you can kiss that sale goodbye.

10. Bad Taste

Your poor decorating choices and failure to keep up with trends from this yearor centurymay haunt you when its time to sell. If its true that many buyers have no visionand all you have to do is watch House Hunters and observe a buyer getting hung up on a paint color to know thats truethen you are really in for it with your crowded house full of ugly, outdated crap. A few simple updates can help it to look fresh and give buyers something to fall in love with.nbsp;


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The Real Estate Market: Not “It” But “Them”

The real estate market is not an it but a them.

Nation-wide or state-wide reports and forecasts along with pundit projections about the real estate market make this it sound homogeneous and large-scale. In reality, the wide-horizon perspective does not tell you exactly what is happening and will happen in your neighborhood or to your real estate.

To begin with, each real estate property is unique.

What happens locally around and to each property uniquely defines its market value as well as the buying and selling trends > Each property has its own market just as each neighborhood has.
This means the real estate market is a mosaic of individual property-value projections overlaid with neighborhood markets and countless layers that reflect each state and the country. Thats the them finesse of the real estate market.

Where do you and your real estate dreams fit in?

Sweeping national financial and social events like the Covid-19 Pandemic can have widespread influence on real estate across the country. How each property is affected may be dramatically different.

For instance, the working-from-home pandemic trend applies to some properties as if they were designed for the stay home life>

Covid infection varies greatly across each state and over time. During outbreaks, real estate activity may temporarily slow or effectively stop to respect isolation and social distancing requirements. This pattern may not always be predictable.

Buyers and sellers make good decisions regarding their present and future real estate plans when they are aware of what is happening and could happen in their preferred neighborhoods.

The professionals, services, and organizations involved in real estate are also unique in their own right:

Each real estate agent in the United States is licensed to help buyers and sellers purchase, sell, or lease commercial or residential real estate. Each state sets requirements, including education standards, for becoming a licensed real estate salesperson in that state and for maintaining this privilege.

The designation Realtor is a registered trademark referring to a professional who is an active member of the National Association of Realtors NAR, Americas largest trade association, representing 1.4 million members. Not all Realtors are real estate agents. Home appraisers, property managers, real estate counselors, and real estate brokers are also NAR members entitled to work as Realtors.

Each of the about 600 Multiple Listing Services MLS is unique and intensely local. A MLS is a database of real estate listings and the software real estate professionals and brokerages use to access it. MLS are organizations offering professional services, which >

Invest time and effort to locate the local, experienced real estate professional who will be the best match for your real estate project.

All this uniqueness adds up to a lot of transactions every month and each year. As of August 27:

nbsp;Pending home sales in July 2020 achieved another month of positive contract activity, marking three consecutive months of growth, according to the National Association of Realtors.

nbsp;Each of the four major regions reported gains in both month-over-month and year-over-year pending home sales transactions.

Where do you fit in?

Conversations with real estate professionals will enlighten you as to how the Pandemic is influencing real estate values and transactions locally. Real estate professionals monitor local Public Health requirements and Pandemic patterns to ensure safe delivery of their services and minimize disruption of real estate transactions. These discussions should center on what is >

What real estate and other professionals observe can provide valuable insight if their observations are >

Interest rates are not absolute.

The borrowing power of buyers is reflected in the interest rates they qualify for. This in turn is a reflection of their income, debt management, employment history, and the appraised value of their unique real estate. Real estate professionals are expert at matching buyers and their real estate purchase with the most receptive local lenders.

The actions and inaction of other buyers and sellers influence your real estate choices.

For instance, NARs chief economist Lawrence Yun recently said, Anecdotally, Realtors are telling me there is no shortage of clients or home seekers, but that scarce inventory remains a problem. If 20 more homes were on the market, we would have 20 more sales, because demand is that high.


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All About Lender Fees

During a phone conversation with a mortgage loan officer for the first time, invariably the question of fees comes up. Yes, rates are at the top of the curious list but so too are lender fees. In addition to the interest rate, lenders can charge loan fees to help offset the cost of origination, processing and other items. But lets take a closer look at these fees, what they are and what you can do to help minimize or otherwise offset lender fees altogether.

First, not all lenders charge the same set of fees. There are no guidelines that lenders must follow with regard to the type of fee charged. Lenders come up with their own. Yet there are some common ones that lenders do charge on each and every mortgage loan. Further, lenders arent allowed to charge one borrower one type of fee and not charge it to another. That is in the same set of circumstances. Doing so could be considered discrimination by giving one client a break and not the other, or all for that matter.

One of the more common fees is called the Processing Fee. This fee is collected to pay for the overhead generated when processing the mortgage application. From the initial submission to ordering closing papers, all loans go through a process which can include several steps. Processing is performed by the Loan Processor within the mortgage company. Mortgage brokers also have loan processors and they too can charge fees. As long as the fees are universal and not selective. Once youve submitted your application, its the loan processor who youll interact with the most.

Origination fee is also a common one. An origination fee is listed as a percentage of the loan amount. If the loan amount is 200,000 and the origination fee is 1, that works out to 2,000. Origination fees are also charged to offset the costs of originating, or finding and bringing the loan in-house, the application.nbsp;

Another nearly universal charge is a Document Preparation fee. As the name implies, the amount is used to offset the personnel cost of preparing and delivering your closing papers to the settlement agent. Documents are drawn after the loan has been completely approved by the lenders underwriter.

An appraisal fee is typically collected upfront when the loan application is first submitted. This fee is collected by the lender but is not paid to the lender. Instead, the lender uses this amount to order the property appraisal from an Appraisal Management Company, or AMC. Appraisal charges can vary based upon different factors but primarily due to the property type, proximity and sales price.

The underwriter is the individual within the mortgage company that makes sure the documented loan file meets the guidelines for the selected loan program. An underwriting fee is often charged to pay for the lenders underwriter. Loan documents cannot be ordered without them being completely approved by the underwriter.

A Funding Fee is a fee reserved for VA loans. A funding fee is also expressed as a percentage of the loan amount and is used to finance the VAs loan guarantee. With a VA loan, should the loan ever go into default, the lender is compensated for the loss. This compensation is financed with the funding fee.

With a purchase transaction, these fees must be paid for at settlement and out of pocket with the exception of the funding fee. When refinancing, these same fees can be present but given sufficient equity they can be rolled into the loan amount instead of paying at the settlement table.

Finally, one quick note about how to offset some of these fees. A no closing cost loan doesnt literally mean there are no loan costs, but the lender adjusts the interest rate upward and provides a lender credit at your closing.nbsp;


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Ask the HOA Expert: Conservative Board, Emailing Board Members, Past Due Protocol

Question: Our Board is considering hiring a resident member to be a resident manager. The candidate is retired and needs extra income. Is this a good idea?

Answer: It is generally a very bad idea to hire a member to act as manager. It has been tried many times and I have never seen it work well. There are a number of reasons:

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  • They ra>nbsp;

  • The board may be doing this to avoid paying taxes and other required withholding. This exposes all members to significant penalties from state and federal authorities.

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  • If the member does not pay taxes as required, again, the members have personal exposure.

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  • There is an undeniable conflict of interest. How can a member/employee be impartial when getting maintenance work done?

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  • A resident manager is basically on call 24/7 and compensation ra>nbsp;

  • Hiring someone because "he needs the money" should never drive a boards decision; getting quality work at a reasonable price should be the goal.

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  • If things dont work out often the case, the board will have to fire a neighbor who will likely be resentful and antagonistic.

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To avoid obvious pitfalls, the board should look outside the community for a professional that carries the proper credentials.

Question: Our board is conservative and slow to change. One area where this is particularly true is with architectural and design requests. The committee the board appointed denies many applications simply because they dont conform to color, roof and siding standards that have been in place for over twenty years. There is nothing particularly outrageous about the requests, they just reflect modern standards. Opinion?

Answer: While maintaining standards is important, over time those standards should consider new, improved or contemporary materials, designs and colors. To stay stuck in the past causes home values to fall. The committee is not appointed to block change, but to guide the process to a reasonable outcome. The board should appoint committee members with a balanced views. Committee decisions should always allow for appeal to the board who also should represent a balanced view.

Question: We have always had the management company count the votes for the election of officers. To prevent any hint of conflict of interest, we are having the count audited by our accountant. How do other HOAs do it?

Answer: Have several HOA members that are not running for office do the vote count. Retain the proxies, ballots and tally sheet until the next election. The accountant is overkill.

Question: I serve on the board and have been informed we should not communicate with each other directly via e-mail because it potentially constitutes a board meeting. Is this true?

Answer: The issue of the board using email generally involves how it is being used. Communicating by email on routine HOA business and settled policy is not prohibited any more than picking up the phone or exchanging information in the parking lot. The board needs to communicate to direct normal business.

Such communications, however, may sometimes wander into topics that should be discussed in open meetings. The board needs to be aware when that line has been crossed. This is particularly true of controversial issues like spending significant money outside the approved operating budget or reserve study. The members have the right to audit such discussions and it simply isnt possible outside a physical meeting. That said, email is a terrific way to communicate meeting minutes, newsletters and other information to the members. It speeds up communications, their frequency and reduces costs. Win-win-win.

Question: At the last board meeting, some members requested the names of people who have not yet paid their HOA fees. The board announced the names of past due accounts. Is this correct protocol?

Answer: No. Besides the humiliation and libel aspect, there may be extenuating circumstances like a death, disability or unemployment. Not all delinquencies are created equal. At the end of the day, HOAs are made up of neighbors and the board should be sensitive and careful whose names it smears. To be safe, discuss amounts owing, but not the names of those that owe them.


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Improving Home Appeal: Herb Gardens

Having an herb garden can help demonstrate to potential buyers that your home is one in which to put down "roots." Though an herb garden may be a >

When beginning the planning of your herb garden it is important to consider two things:

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What are your needs when it comes to cooking, displaying, and your general usage of herbs?

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What is the condition of your soil sandy, clay, dry, shady, sunny?

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Choosing your herbs

So consider for a moment what you use and would use herbs for. If you mostly use herbs for cooking, consider planting rosemary for use in chicken dishes, dill for use in seafood dishes, parsley for garnishing, and mint for use in iced teas.

If you are interested in using herbs for home remedies you may consider planting:

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Clary sage salvia sclarea -- can be dried and used in teas for aiding in >

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nbsp; Comfrey symphytum officinale -- effective for use on animals. May help in arthritis and rheumatism in dogs. Also good as a salve on bruises.

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Oreganonbsp;origanum vulgare -- can be used to ease respiratory issues.

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Chamomile matricaria chamomilla -- another great herb to dry and use in teas. You can also used the dried white flowers in a bath to calm irritated skin.

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Dont limit yourself when it comes to using the herbs you grow in your garden. They may be used fresh to flavor foods and garnish dishes. You can dry them to use as seasonings year round. Many herbs can be made into salves or all natural medicinal treatments.

Soil Condition

There are several factors to consider when analyzing your soil. The most important of these is drainage. You do not want water to stand, or pool, around your plants. This can cause mold to begin growing on your plants or may even kill them.

Another important factor is the amount of sunlight your herbs will receive. Most herbs enjoy full sunlight, though they will require regular watering if they are in direct sun for the entire day.

If you think that even after preparing the soil for planting that it still wont be sufficient for growing your herbs, then I recommend buying some good potting soil and planting your herbs in 12" or 18" pots. This would also be ideal for individuals who live in condos or residences where digging in the yard is not an option. By having your herbs in pots, you will be able to have them inside during winter months. Herbs all year round

You should find that cultivating an herb garden is >

There are simple ways that you can increase the appeal of your home, whether you are planning to sell or planning to stay for years to come. By including an herb garden in the plans for your backyard landscaping you can ensure that certain touches of "home" will go further than just the dinner plate.


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How Much House Can You Reasonably Afford?

Theres a term called house poor, and its something you absolutely want to avoid.

When you hear someone saying theyre house poor, it means theyre spending a significant portion of their income on all-things >

Being smart when you buy a home and knowing what you can realistically afford can help you avoid being house poor.

There are a few mistakes people commonly make in their home search that increases the likelihood they may feel house poor. One is simply being overly ambitious during the homebuying process and taking on a loan thats too big. Another big mistake is thinking only about mortgage payments and not anticipating the other expenses that go into homeownership.

The following are ways to get a home you can reasonably afford and lower your risk of being house poor.

Crunch the Numbers

Before you ever start the actual process of shopping for homes, look at the numbers.

Youll need to take into account how much you earn every month, as well as your partners earnings if applicable.

Then, outline all of the housing costs, which include:

The down payment
Property taxes
Homeowners insurance
Utilities and maintenance

Tally up all of the expenses that you currently have and have to pay out each month. Then, look at your discretionary spending and include that as well. Including that discretionary spending is important and sometimes overlooked. Its those extras that you want to be able to continue to pay for, even when you buy a home.

Follow the 28/36 Rule

Many financial professionals advise that you spend no more than 28 of your gross monthly income on your housing expenses. You should also plan to spend no more than 36 on your total debt, including not just your home loan but your credit cards, car loan, and student loans.

Affordability Considerations

Some of the things that you should think about beyond your income and expenses include:

How much savings do you have set aside? You want to have a reserve of cash in case something happens, and if your down payment or mortgage costs are going to dip into your savings, its problematic. Your mortgage may also affect how much you can set aside in savings or retirement, so this is something to think about.
How much of a down payment can you afford? The traditional wisdom is that you put 20 down, but there are loans with options to put as little as 3 down. Thats going to raise your payment, however.
Is there a different type of mortgage outside of a traditional bank loan that you might qualify for? For example, FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and you may qualify with a lower credit score and down payment compared to a traditional loan.

Take Steps to Get a Competitive Interest Rate

Interest rates are historically low right now, which is likely why the real estate market has been strong despite the economic fallout of the coronavirus. Even with rates low, you should take the time to put yourself in a position to get the most competitive possible rate.

Your credit score is going to either help you or hurt you as far as getting a low interest rate.

Before you buy a home, look at your credit report, and clean it up if necessary.

Try to minimize how much debt you have compared to your income. You also want to lower the ratio of credit utilized to credit available.. nbsp;

Err on the Side of Caution

When you start looking at homes, you should always err on the side of caution. Keep your house hunt focused on the lower end of what you can technically afford.

If youre a first-time buyer, it can be tempting to want to go all-in with the belief that youre buying your forever home. Your life can change over the years, and your first home is probably not your forever home.

Focus on a starter home that works for your current needs to protect yourself from being house poor.

You cant just think about your current income either. Think about what might happen if you lost your job or your partner lost their income. How would that change the equation?

Finally, one option that can help you better stay within your budget is buying a fixer-upper. You can find a great deal, and then you have the option to gradually create the home of your dreams as your budget allows, rather than having to go all-in right away.


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How Can You Get a Mortgage If You’re a Freelancer?

Being a freelancer, contract worker, gig worker, or anyone self-employed is more common and popular than ever right now. There are downsides, such as the lack of benefits like health insurance. At the same time, there are more upsides for many professionals who choose to work this way.

Upsides include freedom and flexibility to make your own schedule, unlimited earning potential, and the ability to have the work-life balance that allows you to create your own life>

There is an issue that can arise if youre a freelancer or contractor, though.

How do you get a mortgage?

When you apply for a mortgage as a traditional employee, youll probably show your proof of income through your job, but it can be a bit trickier if you dont have a traditional employer. Youre also going to face more scrutiny from lenders.

Keep Up with >

Over the years, its easy to be disorganized as far as how you keep up with your earnings and expenditures, but come time to apply for a mortgage that can be problematic.

As a freelancer or anyone whos self-employed, its normal that your income is going to fluctuate, and youll have up and down periods.

What you want to be able to show a lender is your long-term earning average.

You should be able to calm the fears of your lender by showing them at least several years worth of documents highlighting your earnings.

You need to be able to demonstrate a pattern of earning. If you arent able to do that just yet, you might have to hold off on buying a home.

Even better than showing steady earnings is being able to show upward trends.

Another noteif youre self-employed, you likely try to write off as many of your business expenses as you can at tax time. This is understandable, but you also want to show as high an income as possible, so if youre thinking about buying a home anytime in the future, keep that in mind with your deductions.

Be prepared to show at least two years of tax returns, which will likely be your 1099s instead of your W2s.

Beyond your tax returns, you may want to be able to show your bank statements, and any profit and loss statements. You can also provide letters from clients showing that you have a stable >

Income Calculation

Your income is calculated differently if youre a freelancer. Your lender will calculate an average monthly income by dividing the past two years of your adjusted gross income by 24.

Save As Much As You Can

You should aim to save at least 20 of the purchase price of a home because this will let you avoid paying for private mortgage insurance. You also want to be able to show your >

Clean Up Your Finances

You can face more headwinds if youre trying to buy a home and youre self-employed in any capacity. You are inevitably going to be held to a higher financial standard, so prepare yourself for that.

You should aim to get your credit score up to at least 740, and the higher, the better.

Start working toward paying off debt, including your credit cards. Credit utilization is a big component of your score and also the willingness of a lender to offer you a mortgage. Try to have the amount of credit youre using below 30.

Before you ever start trying to apply for a home loan, look at your credit report.

This will allow you to see where you need to make improvements, and also spot any potential errors. There are errors on credit reports more often than we think.

Dont open any new accounts or lines of credit before youre going to start applying for home loans, because thats going to impact your credit score negatively.

Finally, before you start the mortgage application process, separate your business and personal bank accounts. You shouldnt use a personal bank account for anything >

As a freelancer, getting a mortgage is certainly possible but also more challenging. The more you can prepare yourself for that, the better off youre likely to be in the process.


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Financing a Rental Property: What to Know

With interest rates flirting again with historic lows over the past couple of months, many are looking to invest in real estate. Rates are low and as such the situation offers the opportunity for monthly cash flow as well as long term appreciation. If youre looking to expand your portfolio and get beyond stocks, bonds and mutual funds, adding real estate might be an option. When financing a rental, there are some things you need to know about before moving much further along.

The first is how much cash youll need at the closing table. Conventional loan programs ask for a minimum of 20 for a down payment and can offer slightly better terms with a 25 down payment. Owner-occupied loan programs can ask for a minimum down payment of 5, with certain targeted areas qualifying for a 3 down option. One of the drivers behind the difference in down payment requirements for the same type of property is private mortgage insurance, or PMI. Down payments of less than 20 of the sales price require PMI but PMI is not available for rental properties.

Next, interest rates for non-owner occupied homes will be slightly higher compared to owner-occupied properties. How much higher? Depending on the program, you can expect a traditional 30 year fixed loan for a rental to be anywhere from 0.375 to 1.00 higher. This obviously impacts qualifying because higher rates equate to higher monthly payments.

Another important item to note is the income generated from the unit. Lenders will factor in a vacancy rate of around 25. This means the property will be unoccupied and not generating any income as tenants come and go. When someone moves out of a rental, the landlord will begin preparing the property for the next round of renters. Repairs are made, paint, maybe updating the appliancesall take a bit of time. It can take some time to properly market the property for rent. Depending upon the area and the real estate market, it might take a couple of months to find and qualify new tenants.

And speaking of income, savvy real estate investors typically only look at properties that provide a positive cash flow each month. Otherwise, the asset turns into a monthly expense instead of monthly income. Its >

And finally, in order to use that income, there needs to be a record of at least two years of owning investment real estate. Lenders want to make sure the new owners can responsibly manage the rental property over an extended period of time. Even though the unit may be generating cash each and every month, while the lender recognizes the cash coming in, it cant be used to help qualify for the new home. This obviously means qualifying with at least two mortgage payments along with associated property taxes, insurance and maintenance.nbsp;

However, once that two year milestone has been reached, subsequent purchases can use the generated income each month to offset the new monthly payments. For this reason, its not uncommon for real estate investors to own multiple properties and not just one or two. The new mortgage payments are no longer an expense, but an asset that appreciates over time and pays the owner a monthly salary.


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Low Commissions: Don't Give Up

One hundred percent of people who go into the real estate business have good intentions and high expectations. It is easy to see why. Real estate is a lucrative profession offering great rewards to those agents that know what they are doing.

The problem though is that not every agent is good at it. Here is a sobering thought. Roughly seventy percent of all real estate agents quit during their first year in business. They dont always leave right away, though. Sometimes they hang around in a state of "quit" for years before they finally clean out their desk and walk out the door. Some people even get part time jobs before they leave real estate for good.

But will quitting solve your problems? You didnt get into real estate sales to fail. My guess is that you got into real estate sales as a means to an end, to make your and your familys life better. If your commissions arent paying your bills, dont get out of the real estate business, get into it

My first year in real estate I sold five homes -- and two of those fell through. I wanted to succeed so much that I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. At the end of this first year I looked back and realized that whatever it was that I was doing wasnt working.

After a year under a broker who gave little instruction -- I found another broker to work under and learn from. This guy told me what to do and I did it. The result? I sold 91 homes my second year in real estate and averaged 86 homes a year for seven consecutive years. As a manager, my office of nine collectively listed one house a day for four straight years.

I was not more talented than the next real estate agent and not more educated either. The only thing I did differently was to follow the direction of my teacher. We dont need to reinvent the wheel folks, just do what successful agents already do.

When you are starting out: copy, mimic, imitate. Those are the keys. The top producers I know are more than happy to share their knowledge because they know, just like I know, the secret to true success. You get by giving. I dont know of a successful real estate agent today that wouldnt give you the shirt off their back.
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Five Tips for Indoor-Outdoor Living

Indoor/outdoor living used to be the kind of thing we expected to see in luxury resorts, where ocean breezes and views could trickle into open-air huts, with nary a door or window to keep the tropical beauty out. Then we thought of them as strictly a west coast thing, with living areas that could transform through sliding doors that disappeared into a wall or folded away, literally erasing the separation between the house and the ocean view. Today, the idea of indoor-outdoor living is not just for beach-dwellers anymore. And its not just for the moneyed either.

Want to create an indoor-outdoor experience or a more resort->

1. Let the light in

And if you have a view, by all means, let that in too. If you keep your blinds drawn for privacy reasons or because you dont want to let the heat in, there are ways to deal with this. Try solar shades, which can help with both of those problems. These are exterior screens that are custom fitted to your window and that can filter out the harsh rays. They are also said to save you as much as 30 percent on your electric bills

Other ways to bring in the light without the heat:

Add a pergola or an outdoor patio. Not only will these give you a private covered area - very resort living - but if positioned correctly, they can also deflect sunlight away from your home. Pre-fabricated structures in a variety of materials at stores like Target, Lowes, and Costco can also do the trick for those who want a quick fix without a big expense.

You can also consider building a taller fence or planting tall trees to block out some sun.

2. Erase the barriers

Go beyond open drapes and even open windows. If you really want to take full advantage of the indoor-outdoor living, break down the walls. Its easier than you think. "You might incorporate French doors or large accordion doors into your home. This allows you to really open up your space and let the warm breezes blow in," said Kohler.nbsp;

2. Create an inviting space that brings the eye - and the rest of the body - out.

Sometimes making sure the yard is well used is all about making a few small changes. Like a hanging swing, said This Old House. "Have a humdrum porch? A basic patio or a neglected deck? Some simple additions - a hanging swing, mood lighting, a vintage find or two - are all it takes to transform an ordinary outdoor space into an open-air living room that adds value and comfort to your home year-round."

3. Make it useful

Why cook in the kitchen all the time? If you have the space and the climate to support it, build an outdoor kitchen. "In parts of the country where its sunny year round, outdoor kitchens... are quite popular," said Kohler. "If youre limited with outdoor living spaces to certain months of the year, you might opt for something like a screened porch with a fireplace or a covered outdoor kitchen."

4. Make it fanciful

Why just stick to "normal" spaces. If you love the indoor-outdoor life>

5. Cheat your environment

Dont live on the ocean but want to make it seem like you do? Some well-thought-out landscaping can help. Bring in some palm trees and make sure you place them where they can be seen from inside too. A well-placed fountain can also give the impression of a tranquil, tropical environment while helping to drown out traffic noise.


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2020s Most Tax-Friendly States

Retirees are often who we think of as moving from higher-tax states to states considered tax-friendly. For example, its common to see retirees moving from the Northeast, which is an expensive region not just in terms of taxes but also things like real estate and general cost-of-living, to the more affordable areas of Florida and the Southeast.

Now, the coronavirus pandemic has led younger people, many of whom are in their prime career years, to also look for low-cost places to >

The following are some of the countrys most tax-friendly states right now, regardless of why youre >

Wyoming

Wyoming has a strong mineral and energy extraction industry, and thats one of the reasons the state can keep taxes low for residents.

Theres no state income tax in Wyoming, and the average state and local sales tax is just over 5.3. The average property taxes are 635 per 100,000 in home value.

The gas tax is also well below the national average.

Nevada

There is no income tax in Nevada, and the average property tax in the state is 693 per 100,000 in home value. The tax-friendly nature of Nevada may be one reason theres an influx of California residents into the state and particular into the Lake Tahoe area.

The average state and local sales tax in Nevada is a bit on the higher side, at 8.14.

Nevada receives over a billion dollars each year thanks to the casino and tourism industry, which helps them avoid a state income tax, although the coronavirus pandemic is likely to impact this.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, theres a limited state income tax, which is 2 on interest and dividends.

The first 1,250 for individual filers of their taxable income is also exempt. The tax will be enti>

Property taxes are pretty low too. You would pay around 3,072 per year for a home with a value of 400,000.

With that being said, the state and local sales tax rate is one of the highest in the country at nearly 9.47, and Texas also has one of the highest beer taxes in the U.S. too.

Florida

Floridas another state with no state income tax, but property taxes tend to hover around the national average.

The state and local sales tax rate is also somewhere around average for the country at 7.05 combined.

The gas tax is high too, but for the nearly year-round sunshine and warm weather, many people find it worth it, plus overall Florida is still considered pretty tax-friendly.

Alaska

Alaska may not provide you with sunshine and beaches, but it could be an economically sound decision.

Alaska residents pay neither state income taxes nor state sales tax. Certain municipalities in Alaska might impose sales taxes that are as high as 7.5, but even so the average sales tax hovers around 1.76.

Theres also something in Alaska called the Permanent Fund Dividend, which is paid to every resident of the state whos lived there for a full year.

South Dakota

Finally, another tax-friendly option is South Dakota, with no state income tax and an average state and local combined sales tax of only 6.4. Food and prescription drugs are also exempt from sales tax. Property taxes, however, are above average compared to the rest of the country.

What about the least tax-friendly states?

California has the highest individual state income tax rate in the nation. Other high-tax states include Oregon, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.


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Mortgages, Divorce and Separation

Okay, so lets say a couple meet, start dating and later on down the road they decide its best to tie the knot and live happily ever after. Yet unfortunately, many such unions dont make it all the way. Sometimes the couple decides to maybe take a breather from the partnership and live separately. Just to think things through with a clear head. When this decision is made, many times they decide to separate before nulling the marriage enti>

First, note here there is a legal definition of a separation. A couple who independently decide to take up different residences doesnt let one party off the hook for the mortgage payment. After all, if it took two incomes to qualify for the existing mortgage, a lender will want to know if anything substantial changes. They both signed the note at the outset and they both obligate themselves to pay the mortgage each and every month. Many such situations have one spouse staying in the purchased home while the other moves out and finds another place to live. It may also be that one party declares responsibility for the mortgage payment. So far, this is nothing more than an agreed-to arrangement.nbsp;

But that can present a problem for the individual moving out of the home and looking to buy another. Its quite possible that when trying to qualify for a mortgage to buy another property, that person cant qualify because of the outstanding mortgage payment. Even if the couple decides between themselves who is paying for the mortgage and who is not, the lender is not involved in those discussions. An in-person agreement does not remove one partys responsibility for making the mortgage payment each month.nbsp;

A legal separation might carry a bit more weight. A legal separation spells out in the court documents who is responsible for what. The document is signed by a judge and recorded in public records. If the document states one party is going to be making the payments, that might help offset the debt. But probably not. The lender doesnt really care if the marriage is on the rocks. It cares that its mortgage might be on the rocks. The obligation will typically still remain on both parties credit report, even if the separation agreement spells out who is paying for what.

A divorce works in a similar manner. The divorce decree also spells out who gets what asset and who is responsible for a variety of matters accumulated over time. If one party assumes the mortgage, the lender can remove the monthly debt from one party but in order to completely remove one party from the transaction, not only will the occupying spouse need to refinance the existing mortgage into his or her name, but also to quit claim ownership from one party to the next. Both the mortgage and title need to be taken into consideration. Still, the lender will have a say.

Some lenders want to see the monthly payments be made in a timely manner over a specific period, say for twelve months. Once its been demonstrated the payments have been made, there can be a case for removing the non-occupying person from any future obligation.nbsp;

If a marriage doesnt work out, getting one party off the note legally is a process, not just a marital agreement.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Collection Policies, Financial Statements, Board Member Responsibilities

Question: Our collection policy states that if an owner is 30 days past due, the management company sends a pre-lien notice letter. Several board members think the board members should be notified when these letters are sent.

Answer: When a collection process is implemented, the board should be kept apprised of the progress. It is easily and cheaply done by email to all board members. It is standard procedure for the management company to keep the client informed of significant events like this.

Question: We are having a difficult time with our management company providing accurate, complete and timely financial statements. Month after month, the same problems. Weve written them letters and met with them in person yet no improvement. Weve had it and want to terminate the contract but fear they wont >

Answer: Providing accurate and timely financial reports is an HOA management companys highest priority since money is an essential component of the HOAs operation. An occasional error is to be expected but ongoing errors is another matter. Either the management company is doing it correctly or not. Numbers dont lie except at Enron.

Management contracts cut both ways. If one party is not living up to its end of the bargain, it has no right to continue. The board or HOAs attorney should advise the management company of the specific breaches that are the basis for termination. If the facts are true, there should be no argument.

Question: Our board of directors recently passed the following resolutions. Be it resolved that:nbsp;

Board members shall be on signature cards of all bank accounts.
Management company may not sign any checks without the approval of the board.
Management company shall produce true and accurate financial statements.
The HOA will not be responsible for any late fees incurred due to failure by management company to make timely payments.
Management company must develop a system to pay HOA bills on time and correctly.

Answer: Clearly the board has many issues with the current management company which need to be resolved, and soon. Observations based on your numbered resolutions:

Both the President and Treasurer are usually signers on the HOAs bank accounts. This should be done as soon as possible. If the management company interferes, get a new management company.
The management company should be authorized to pay itself for normal monthly charges authorized by the management agreement. Special billings should receive prior approval from the Board President. It should only be necessary to get the whole board to approve a payment when its outside the approved budget.
The management company should normally produce a monthly income and expense statement and reconciled bank statements by no later than the 15th of the following month.
This is reasonable. The HOA should not pay for late fees caused by the management company.
Many HOA management companies pay bills twice a month to avoid unnecessarily delaying payment or incurring late fees. The HOA, of course, must have the money available to pay the bills.

Question: Do board members have a legal responsibility to follow the reserve study recommendations?

Answer: The board should be careful about deviating from reserve study recommendations. Most reserve studies recommend a funding plan that steers the HOA away from special assessments. If the board decides to fund reserves less, the risk of special assessment grows.

If a special assessment is called for due to under funding, a case could be made that the board did not fulfill its fiduciary duty and be held personally liable. And just as importantly, past owners who have sold will not have paid their fair share. Unless there is a compelling reason to deviate, the board should follow the recommendations.


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Canadian Homebuyers Not Deterred By The Pandemic – Yet

After the shock of COVID-19 wiped out the traditionally busy spring real estate market across Canada, buyers made up for it during the summer months. July saw record sales as buyers made up for lost time, but the question of whether the sales boom is sustainable is a hot topic.

On the one side is the real estate industry, which has produced several studies and surveys to prove that consumers wont let the pandemic slow down their real estate dreams. On the other side is Canada Mortgage Housing and Corporation CMHC and specifically its president and CEO Evan Siddall, who has taken a combative stance ra>

Siddall has been critical of rosy forecasts and outlooks from the real estate and mortgage industries. In a letter to lenders, he wrote, We continue to believe house prices will fall, even in the face of recent activity, which appears to be the result of very low interest rates and a sharp reduction in new listings/supply vs underlying demand. Our projections always anticipated a delayed impact: weakening in late 2020 and 2021 once government income supports unwind, bankruptcies increase and unemployment starts to bite. Weakness in oil-producing regions and sharp reductions in immigration will add further pressure. The economic cost of COVID-19 has been postponed by effective government intervention; it has not been avoided.

Not surprisingly, the real estate industry doesnt agree with that assessment. The outlook for the B.C. housing market is much brighter following a surprisingly strong recovery, says Brendon Ogmundson, chief economist for the British Columbia Real Estate Association. We expect home sales will sustain this momentum into 2021, aided by record-low mortgage rates and a recovering economy.

The association is forecasting that prices in the province will finish this year up by 7.7 per cent and increase a further 3.7 per cent in 2021.nbsp;

A recent report by Re/Max is also calling for a strong finish to 2020 across the country, with sale prices increasing by 4.6 per cent. Looking ahead, government financial aid programs may be coming to an end in September, which could potentially impact future activity, says Christopher Alexander, EVP of Re/Max of Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

However, the pent-up demand and low inventory dynamic may keep prices steady and bolster activity for the remainder of 2020. Overall, we are very confident in the long-term durability of the market.

Robert Hogue, senior economist with RBC Economics, says that pent-up demand will keep the market humming in August and possibly September.

We see little that can stop the appreciation in property values near term. If anything, many markets are likely to experience further acceleration, says Hogue. That said, we continue to believe the eventual shift to a lower demand baseline later this year will have a cooling effect on prices most likely by the early stages of 2021. We expect lower immigration and increased condo supply in core urban areas to concentrate any weakness on the high-rise condo segment.

Shaun Cathcart, senior economist for the Canadian Real Estate Association, says: Recall that before the lockdown, we were heading into the tightest spring market in almost 20 years. Things may have gone quiet for a few months, but ultimately the market were seeing right now is mostly the same one we were heading into back in March. That said, there are some new factors at play as well. There are listings that will come to the market because of COVID-19, but many properties are also not being listed right now due to the virus, as evidenced by inventories that are currently at a 16-year low. Some purchases will no doubt be delayed, but the new-found importance of home, lack of a daily commute for many, a desire for more outdoor and personal space, room for a home office, etc. will certainly also spur activity that otherwise would not have happened in a non-COVID-19 world.

That desire for more space is reflected in a survey conducted for the Ontario Real Estate Association by Nano Research, which found that close to 60 per cent of those who are active in the real estate market say that living in a rural area is now more appealing to them than it was before the pandemic. More say the same about living in the suburbs.

The survey also says that more renters are interested in buying a home than they were pre-pandemic.

Similar results were reported in a survey by Mortgage Professionals Canada. We were surprised by responses that show higher expectations about buying homes in the near future, says Will Dunning, the associations chief economist. Among non-homeowners, the expectation of buying in the next year has doubled from seven per cent at the end of last year to the current 14 per cent. There has also been a rise in expectations about buying for people who already own their home.

The report also found that homeowners have not become more worried about their ability to weather a downturn in the housing market, and that there is still a high degree of confidence that real estate is a good long-term investment.

But Siddall is still concerned. Responding to a story recently that quoted several industry sources, Siddall tweeted: Do I detect another cor>

Siddall is due to leave his post at CMHC at the end of the year, and by then we may have a better idea which side had a more accurate forecast.


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How to Destress Downsizing

There are a lot of reasons you might feel like its time to downsize and move into a smaller home.

If youre now an empty-nester, thats one good reason. Even families who still have children at home often opt to downsize to save money on their mortgage and to have less upkeep and maintenance.

If you spend all of your free time maintaining a larger home than what you need, you have less time to enjoy your life.

When you downsize to a smaller home, you can declutter and enjoy lower utility bills.

Living in a smaller home requires you to think about your priorities and get rid of things that arent needed.

If you plan to downsize, decluttering and preparing can be intimidating, and the following are some tips to take some of the stress out of it.

Be Strategic

Youll probably start thinking about the big items in your current home first, as you plan to downsize.

With furniture and large items, dont waste your time trying to guess what will fit and what wont.

Instead, create a floor chart of your new home, and then you can map out a grid of your furnishings to figure out what will fit and how it will fit.

There are apps that you can use that will make it incredibly easy to do this.

Youll feel more confident in your decisions as far as what you keep and throw away if you measure first.

If there are rooms in your current home that you wont have at all in your new home, get rid of everything from those if you can. For example, if youre not going to have a guestroom, start eliminating the items in your current guestroom first.

Take Inventory

If youre moving to a smaller home, youre inevitably going to have to get rid of things. This is one of the benefits of downsizingreducing clutter and simplifying your living space.

Start by taking inventory of what you have versus what you need.

You can begin weeding out the things youre certain you want to get rid of, such as duplicate items.

Start Small

Create a downsizing plan, and start small. Dont overwhelm yourself with the most challenging parts of your house first.

For example, begin with your laundry room or perhaps a small closet. Dont start with your garage or your basement firstthose can be the biggest projects to take on.

Start Clearing Things Out

Once you have a general idea of how much space you have in your new home and your possessions, begin the process of clearing things out.

Create four piles. There should be no maybe piledont give yourself the option.

The first pile will be giveaways. These are the things youre going to give to family and friends but dont save too many items in these piles. You may be overestimating how useful or valuable loved ones might find many of the things you plan to give them.

The next pile will be donations. If something is in bad shape, dont put it in the donate pile because it probably wont be accepted.

Your third pile can be more valuable items that you plan to sell.

Finally, your fourth pile heads to the dump.

Find Help

You should look for someone to help you with the process who doesnt have the emotional attachment to the things that you do. You have to take the emotionality out of downsizing, and a third-party can guide you in that direction.

If youre struggling with getting rid of things, perhaps you should have someone help you. If so, resist the urge to micromanage what they give away or throw away.

Finally, try to make downsizing as fast a process as you can. You dont want to give yourself too much time to think on things because you might come up with some reason for keeping items that you really shouldnt.

Get it done and move the items out as soon as possible.

Downsizing can be very emotional for many reasons, but create a plan for yourself and stick to it. Change is hard for most people but can bring wonderful benefits at the same time so focus on that rather than focusing on the feeling of giving something up.


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Why Car Lease Payments Are Treated Differently

Affordability is one of the key elements in the mortgage loan approval process. If lenders want to approve a marketable loan, making sure the new mortgage payments fall into a comfort zone for the borrowers. This is accomplished by comparing monthly debt payments to qualifying gross monthly income. Qualifying debt payments are those associated with a credit account such as credit card payments or a monthly payment for a car loan.nbsp;

Other monthly payments counted include spousal or child support. Monthly installments for property taxes and insurance are in the mix as well. When the comparison is made, the result is a percentage, or a ratio. Other debt not included in this ratio are things such as daily living expenses, utilities, health insurance, groceries, etc.

If monthly debt is 3,000 and gross monthly income is 10,000, the debt ratio is then 30. This ratio is for the principal and interest payment, taxes, insurance and monthly mortgage insurance when needed. Common qualifying housing ratios for most loan programs are around 30-33. Note, these are guidelines only. A loan might be approved for someone whose debt ratios are closer to 40. Higher acceptable debt ratios are typically the result of other positive factors in the loan file. Higher credit scores or a larger down payment are such factors.

In addition to the housing payment calculation, there is a secondary ratio that includes the house payment along with other monthly qualifying credit obligations. Most debt falls into either an installment or revolving category. An example of revolving debt is a credit card. Each month, the card holder charges on the card and also makes a monthly payment against those charges. There is a credit limit assigned but the balance will rise and fall during the course of use.nbsp;

Installment debt is counted but with most loan programs when the loan is nearing the end of its term, lenders will ignore the debt. Typically the timeline for not counting an installment payment is when the end of term is less than 10 months away. If a car loan payment is 500 but the credit report shows the debt has only eight payments remaining, the 500 amount is ignored when establishing affordability. The lender knows the payment will soon be gone and wont affect long term affordability.

But not if the car is leased.nbsp;

Why, you ask? When someone buys a car and finances it with a traditional car loan, at the end of the loan term, the owners keep the asset the car. Someone might have a car loan that lasts for three years but after three years the car is paid for and owned outright. With a lease, thats a different story.

A lease is likened to anbsp; rental payment. When renting a car, a daily rate accumulates and at the end of the rental period the car is turned back in. The rental agency owns the car, not the renter. Similar with a lease. A lease means the borrowers dont own the car. The leasing company does. So, at the end of the lease period, there needs to be some decisions made.

One, is it better to return the car once the lease is over? If so, a mortgage lender will want to know what your plans are. After all, you need a car to get to work or go to school or to take you wherever you want to go. But if the car is turned in, how do you get to work, school, or wherever? The lender assumes youll take out another lease or make arrangements to buynbsp; the car outright at the end of the lease period. Buying the car with cash is an option but many decide to finance the car instead with an installment loan. This is the information the lender will want to know. If there is a lease and it is soon to expire, what are the plans for transportation? This is why lenders treat a lease differently compared to an outright purchase.


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Creating an Optimal Virtual Learning Space

Children around the U.S. are learning virtually this school year. Some districts are enti>

Parents are wondering how they can facilitate the best possible experience for their kids when theyre learning virtually. A lot of that has to do with creating a good environment thats conducive to learning.

Choose a Space Separate From Living Areas.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a learning space is that it needs to be quiet and separate from the main living and traffic areas of the home. You want your kids to not only be able to focus but also to be able to separate the time theyre learning from the time theyre doing other things.

Transforming a guestroom can be an ideal option, but you may not have the space for that.

Look at creative options.

You may be able to design a learning space in your garage, in a nook under a set of stairs, or even in a closet. You could also think about designing a learning space in a separate shed or building if you have one. Thats also something a lot of people are doing for their home office.

You want a separate space not only so its quiet, but also so that kids know when they go to that space, its time to get in the mindset of learning.

Organize It

Clutter is not conducive to learning, and it can be confusing and distracting for kids.

Start brainstorming about the different things youll have to organize throughout the semester and give everything its own space with a label.

This might include items like pencils and markers in one area, homework papers in another, and books that can be organized on a shelf.

Provide a checklist your child can follow when the school day is done to make sure everything gets back to its designated area.

Implement an Ergonomic Setup

Your child shouldnt be participating in school lying on their bed or the sofa.

They need a place where they can sit upright to maintain good habits and also to help with their writing skills.

Choose a size-appropriate desk or table where your child can sit, and the desk will be just at their elbow height or slightly below. Kids feet should be planted on the floor as well.

Keep the Design Simple

In the learning space, keep the colors and the dcor simple. You dont want the space to be too distracting. The focus needs to be primarily on learning.

Its easy to get carried away with the aesthetics when youre carving out a learning area, but the real focus should be on what your child needs and its utilitarian purpose.

When youre choosing colors, bright colors tend to work well for younger kids. Bright colors are stimulating. For older kids, you might want cooler colors that are calming and can help boost focus.

Lighting

A learning area needs to be well-lit, and natural light is best. If the lighting is too dim, it can impact sleep cycles and your childs attention. Natural light can, on the other hand, improve achievement and overall health.

Add a mirror across from the windows to reflect more natural light into the room or space where your child is learning.

Ask For Your Childs Input

Every child is different and learns in their own way. If your child is old enough, ask for their input and what they prefer and would like to see in their learning area.

Finally, at the end of each school day, after organizing and putting away supplies, your child should completely leave their learning space. They shouldnt play games there or chat with friends. It should be exclusively dedicated to education.


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What Do I Need to Know about the Plumbing?

As a home inspector I am often asked, "What do I need to know about the plumbing?" The answer can be rather long and rather complex, but in the simplest of terms, the plumbing of a home consists of two major parts:

nbsp;

Supply System - the plumbing that brings fresh water into the home, a connection of sealed pipe sections and valves under pressure, which are intended to bring a continuous flow upon demand

nbsp;

Drainage System - the plumbing that safely removes used water and waste products from within the home through a series of vented pipe sections which flow downward to allow discharge via gravity

nbsp;

Well, that is about as simple as the explanation gets, water in, and waste out. But there is much more to the story, such as the types of piping used, "are the pipes made of plastic, copper, or galvanized steel"?

And, "what types of connectors are used, brass fittings, soldered connectors, or adhesive materials?" And then, "what other types of fixtures or accessories are found within the system; are there well pumps, storage tanks, pressure regulators, treatment systems, water heaters, and so on?"

And, "what types of traps or clean-outs are provided for the toilets, sinks, and tub/showers"? Wow, so many things to cover, and so many locations for possible leaks. After all, plumbing systems in good service are those that deliver the inbound potable water upon demand, and then take the contaminated waste water outbound, and without any leakage along the way

Lets talk about the supply piping first. Prior to the early 1960s, most homes built in the last century used inbound water pipes made of galvanized steel, galvanizing being a process of coating raw steel pipes through a corrosion resistant chemical process. Galvanizing worked well, but typically this coating material began to breakdown over time, which then left the steel piping exposed to water which in turn began the process of decay.

Usually galvanized piping had a life expectancy of approximately 40 years, maybe a bit longer depending upon their use, maintenance, or original installation methods. If the home you are purchasing has galvanized piping, it may be getting up in age and therefore this system may need to be replaced at some future point in time. Signs of corrosion or visible signs of rust detected during an inspection may suggest that the system has areas of decay, and that further evaluation may be advised.

Some other older supply systems to watch out for are various forms of flexible plastics. Only a few types of plastic piping are recommended for use within supply systems by the International Residential Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code, and these uses are very specific in nature. If you have any plastic supply piping, this should be given special attention as these are not common, and some plastic systems have been prone to have problems. Expert advice should be sought under these conditions.

Now fast forward in time just a bit. After the 1960s construction methods began using copper piping almost exclusively. With the exception of some weaker versions of the first copper pipes there are various grades K,L,M, extruded copper plumbing has become the gold standard. Almost all supply piping installed today in residential construction is made of copper. This type of material is largely resistant to corrosion from water, is easier to install and/or repair than steel products, and in most cases copper has become the most cost effective material overall.

The only concerns with copper piping are with respect to its softer material which is subject to puncture if struck, by a nail for example, or it may rupture if bent by accident or not supported properly. Copper piping is also subject to galvanic oxidization if connected to galvanized steel piping. Meaning that if a steel connector or section of galvanized steel pipe is attached to a copper pipe, a corrosive reaction develops slowly, usually at the point where the two sections meet.

And remember, corrosion then ultimately leads to decay and leakage. If you have copper piping, keep the entire system made of copper and all will be fine brass fittings may also be used with copper piping as an alternative material. There are special dielectric connectors that may also be used if a steel pipe is to be connected to a copper pipe.

Okay, we are getting a bit beyond the simple explanations we promised. Just remember:

nbsp;

copper = good, this is the most common material used today

nbsp;

galvanized steel = fine, but regular inspection advised due to older materials

nbsp;

plastic = okay, but for specific uses only in supply systems

nbsp;

Now before we leave the supply piping discussion we need to revisit "what does corrosion on piping really mean?" Corrosion is a process whereby external materials or very small amounts of water are making their way to the surface. Put another way, this could mean that the threads or connections where two sections of piping come together are not completely sealed tight, and therefore tiny amounts of water can get through any small gaps, thus making their way to the outside of the connection. Remember these supply water pipes are under pressure, so any weakness will give water a place to escape.

Now in this example of threaded piping, if the threads are not damaged, cleaning them with a wire brush and then adding Teflon-tape or other piping compounds to the threads might be all that is required to stop further corrosion or leakage. Repairs are not always this simple, but the point here is that corrosion is the first indication that something is not right, so any mention of corrosion on pipes/connectors or fixtures should be taken seriously as this is the plumbing systems "early warning" that repairs are needed. Left unattended, corrosion becomes a leak, and although this process may take months or weeks before a leak appears, it WILL lead to a leak at some point in time. So like most things, the sooner the problem is addressed the better

Now let us talk about the waste or outbound drainage plumbing systems. Before the 1960s most residential applications were of clay tiles or cast iron piping and a few less common uses of lead, brass, etc. Clay tiles didnt last very long, only 25-40 years typically, so any clay piping still in use would be suspect to cracks and leakage. Cast iron on the other hand could last up to 80-100 years by some estimates, but also noting that there have been reports of cast piping failures as early as 40-60 years of use.

Since most of a homes waste plumbing may be buried under a floor/slab or within the soil, it is hard to really know the true condition of the entire waste system. That being said, an inspection of the visible sections is a great placed to start, and this visual inspection can provide an indication of how the rest of the system may be functioning. Additionally, in the case of concealed areas within the soil for example, visual inspections for wet areas can also be an indication of an active leak.

Or if the water flow out from toilets/tub/showers appears to be slower than usual, this could be an indication of a break or blockages within the waste lines. If problems such as these are evident, further evaluation by a licensed plumber might be recommended, whereby these professionals could send a camera scope through the waste lines to visually inspect then from the inside out. As previously stated, the aim of any initial inspection is to detect possible warning signs, to give a general assessments, and then to recommend next steps accordingly.

If we look beyond early waste systems of clay tiles and cast iron, we move to todays almost exclusive use of ABS plastic piping Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene schedule 40, typically black in color. Okay, that was a mouthful, but one word to remember: "Plastics."

Unlike supply systems, for waste systems the use of plastics has appeared to have been a huge success ABS plastic is smooth unlike the sand-paper texture of cast iron so clogs due paper getting caught inside the waste lines have been drastically reduced. Plastic is also rigid, meaning that unlike clay pipes that crack if struck or squeezed by tree roots, plastic piping is more likely to withstand these external forces. And did we mention that installing or repairing ABS plastic waste lines is much easier and less costly than the other materials.

Now no discussion of waste systems would be complete without a brief mention of the many connections and fixtures used. Remember that every connecting point is an opportunity for leaks. Every toilet, sink, shower, and water-using appliance should be thoroughly checked. This starts with a visual inspection to determine if the parts were assembled properly. Then further assessments are taken to look for corrosion, stains, and leaks these steps all begin the process of "early warning" and detection And then of course, running water through the system can be a final measure of the waste systems current condition.

A standard inspection process may look at literally hundreds of connection points in an average home. And in addition to determining the types of materials installed, the inspection process will try to weed-out any potential problem areas. Remember, no matter what type of system you have, the key is to keep a watch out for the signs of corrosion or leakage Plumbing system problems can be serious and costly concerns, but the home inspection can help make the process of detection and analysis a little less of a concern.

And that completes todays course of Plumbing 101.


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August Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "This year has been anything but normal and as the uncertainty lingers, mortgage rates remain near record lows. These rates continue to incentivize potential buyers and the home buying season, which shifted from spring to summer, will likely continue into the fall."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.91 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending August 27, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.99 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.58 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.46 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.51 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.06 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.91 percent this week with an average 0.2 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.94 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.31 percent.


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UBTI and Mortgage Debt Funds

According to Investopedia, Un>

UBTI greater than 1,000 is subject to taxation. For 2019, the highest tax rate was 37.

Most forms of passive income, such as dividends, interest income, and capital gains from the sale of capital assets, are not treated as UBTI.

Many investors use their IRAs to invest in Mortgage Debt Funds [MDF]. MDF lend money similar to a bank where they take a deed of trust as collateral for the loans they make to borrowers. Typically, income derived from MDF are not subject to UBTI even though the income derived at the MDF level is not passive in and by itself. The IRA investor, however, is a passive investor; consequently, it is not usually subject to UBTI. There are times, however, when this is not so.

Ways that UBTI can be triggered for the investor in a MDF can involve a few different scenarios; if the IRA borrows on margin to purchase the MDF; if the MDF borrows within itself to generate income [called a leveraged MDF], or if the MDF ends up foreclosing on too many assets and the IRS treats the MDF as a dealer in real estate. [This last risk is >

Most MDFs that use leverage usually center around attempting to enhance its yield to investors. If the MDF can borrow from a bank at 5 and lend it out at 8, there is a 3 arbitrage in favor of the MDF; however, this may possibly put undue risk in its portfolio - depending on how much leverage is used and the bank covenants required to obtain this leverage. In addition, for those investors in the MDF who use their IRAs [or 401ks, pension, or profit-sharing plans], this leverage may subject the income derived to create UBTI.

Certain key factors for the investors IRA are; how much the IRA has invested in the MDF [because the first 1,000 of UBTI is not taxable to the IRA, the income derived by the MDF, and how much leverage was used to produce that income. In addition, it is important the length of time that leverage was used, as the UBTI will be calculated using a formula.

For example, Chart 1 shows an IRA investor having 100,000 in a MDF generating a rate of return of 6.5 [without leverage] will not have its 6,500 income subject to UBTI as no leverage was used. If the MDF chooses to leverage the Fund 50 [50 investor funds and 50 bank funds] for the entire year and can borrow at 5 and invest that portion at 8, the net income to the IRA [after subtracting the bank interest expense and UBTI tax ] would be 8,760.

Many IRA investors may not feel that the extra 2,760 earned in this example is worth the risk. When a real estate syndication goes bad, it is usually only for one reason leverage. If no leverage is used, then, usually, the only way for a real estate investor to lose substantially most or all of his/her investment in these types of investments [be they REITS, Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, etc.] is if the real estate taxes associated with the underlying real estate are not paid. When leverage is used, the banks have first priority over the assets. Simply, the more leverage that is used, the riskier the investment.nbsp;

It is important for those investors using their retirement savings to invest in assets that can produce UBTI to ask the manager how much debt/leverage is used in the investment. A small amount of leverage is not usually taking on undue risk, especially if that leverage is used sparingly. Mark Hanf, president of Pacific Private Money, says that he likes to use a small amount of leverage, and on a very short term basis for his MDF for specific reasons; mostly, to help fund short term loans in his Fund when he is expecting payoffs on other loans or anticipated investor money flowing in. As soon as payoffs or investor money comes in, he immediately pays down line of credit [leverage]. This creates the benefit of having the ability to close deals that he might not otherwise have been able. The short-term nature of this leverage does not usually create enough UBTI income to concern the retirement investor. In addition, the short duration of the leverage puts his Fund at minimal risk; however, since the rate of interest to obtain the leverage is less than the income derived from it, his Fund still benefits from a small amount of positive arbitrage.

The retirement investor would be wise to look for Funds that conservatively use leverage in their MDF to avoid UBTI as well as undue risk. In addition, the investor should calculate the anticipated UBTI ahead of time to determine how much should be invested, as only the first 1,000 of UBTI income is tax free; The investor can then decide the risk reward of investing in a MDF that uses leverage.


nbsp;Edwardnbsp;Brownnbsp;is in the Investor >
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10 Easy Ways To Make You Love Your Home Again

We all fall into a rut sometimes. When that rut is otherwise known as our ugly living room, our cluttered kitchen, or our outdated everything, it can make us cranky. And lazy. And possibly looking to move.

But before you throw in the ugly, old, and outdated towel on you home, take a step back and consider some easy changes that might help change more than your homes mojo. They might also change the way you feel about living there. Here are 10 easy ways to make you love your home again.

1. Rearrange your furniture.

Seems simple, right? And it is, but the impact can be huge. Sometimes, all a tired living room needs is a little refresher, and that can often be achieved without spending a dime. Check out HGTV for some tips.

2. Clear up the clutter.

Home organizers the world over not to mention quite a few therapists will tell you that de-cluttering your home can make a huge differencenot just in how you feel about your home, but also how you feel about your life. Organizing can help to bring order to your space and your mind, reducing messes and stresses.

3. Get a new TV.

If youre still sporting the big back, its timefor a flat screen. Hanging one over your fireplace or orienting your room around a new entertainment hub will make you love the space all over again. And a good-size screen can be found today for not much more than youll pay for your electric bill this summer. Check out these affordable options.

4. Pick one room to overhaul per quarter.

Then, schedule a weekend scrubbing, swapping out linens, painting, changing light bulbs or whatever else is needed for an easy and cheap update. Making and sticking to a plan will give you a new resolve, and a fresh new home.

5. Use your spare change.

Change out your throw rug, window coverings, or accessories. Designating a special spot to collect leftover coins at the end of the day will give your family purpose, and before you know it youll have a "Freshen Up Fund."

6. Change out your art.

Dont have the funds to start that Monet collection? Frame some black and white pictures or employ your kids to create a few masterpieces for a unique collection with a personal touch.

7. Clean it up.

Organize the gang on a Saturday morning to clean the baseboards, light fixtures, and ceiling fans. Sprucing up these often-dusty and grimy areas can really freshen up a space. A little tip: Were not above using ice cream bribes for kids who dont want to participate.

8. Take care of little issues that youve been ignoring.

Fix little issues like toilet paper holders that have come out of the wall and crooked pictures that raise your ire every time you walk by them. Take a good look at your whole house and make a list of the things youve been overlooking we see your giveaway box in the corner

9. Paint your old kitchen cabinets.

Is it time intensive? Yes. Is it something youll regret halfway through when you have a panic attack about how many more cabinet doors are left? Su>

10. Call a REALTOR

Nothing will make you want to stick it out in your lived-in and well-loved home than hearing an honest assessment from a professional who knows you have a good 50k in updates to do if you want to get any money out of your house.


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The Rising Popularity of “Wellness Architecture”

The idea of wellness architecture or wellness-centric home design isnt enti>

What Is Wellness Architecture?

Wellness architecture is an approach to home design centered on improving healththis can include mental and physical health. Millennials tend to be health-conscious and, in some cases, even obsessed, and Baby Boomers are also driving the trend.

Baby Boomers are considering their own goals to age-in-place, and they want to ensure their homes are going to facilitate this.

With wellness architecture, you design your home with the idea in mind that it influences your health on a holistic level.

You might include things in your home that help you stay physically healthierfor example, adding a home gym.

You might set aside a bathroom thats geared toward >

It sounds like an expensive trend, but that doesnt necessarily have to be the case.

There are simple things you can do to ensure your home promotes your wellness and the wellness of your family.

Design Utilitarian Spaces

If you want a home centered on wellness, think about how youre most going to use spaces. In the past, the goal was to have as many bedrooms as possible in a home, and thats often what buyers were most looking for.

Now, families are having fewer children and spending more time at home, so they want spaces that reflect that.

If youre buying a new home or youre redesigning your current one, think about what youll realistically use.

For example, will you use a home gym or a yoga studio?

Maybe youre most likely to use a spa-like bathroom, or perhaps a large kitchen where you can prepare healthy foods.

Mood Boosters

If youre like most Americans you may be working from home right now, educating your children there, and doing most of your leisure activities at home. What you surround yourself with during these times can have a significant effect on your mood, so keep that in mind.

Things that you can improve your mood in your home include live plants and natural light.

Integrate dcor that you find aesthetically pleasing, whether thats art, or rich, textured fabrics as examples.

Give yourself time to reflect on what makes you feel your best when youre designing your home. Theres no one right answer as to what will work for everyone.

Removing Toxicity

Another way to design your home for wellness involves reducing your exposure to toxins.

Some of the ways to do this include:

Use an air-purifying system to remove pollens and dust particles.
If youre renovating your home, try to use low-VOC products.
Remove carpet and replace it with hard flooring.
Consider using color temperature light bulbs as part of your smart home system. You can program them to match your bodys natural circadian rhythm, which can help your mood and productivity, and also help you wind down each night and sleep better.

Take It Outdoors

Finally, if you have outdoor space, maximize it. Getting outside, even if just for a few minutes a day can have positive effects on your mental health as well as your physical health. For example, were increasingly finding out about the importance of vitamin D to prevent chronic illnesses.

Create an outdoor space thats going to be usable for you and meets the needs of your family. Maybe you focus your outdoor area on dining or entertaining, or perhaps its a place where your children can play while you soak up the sunlight.

Furnish your outdoor area as you would the indoors of your home in terms of comfort and functionality, to encourage you to get outside as much as possible.


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Ask The HOA Expert: What Is The Difference Between The CC&R's And The Rules And Regulations?

Question: What is the difference between the CCamp;Rs and the rules and regulations? Even if the rules and regulations were never filed on the public record, would they hold up in a court of law?

Answer: CCamp;Rs stands for "Covenants, Conditions amp; Restrictions." CCamp;Rs include the Declaration, Bylaws, Rules, Regulations, Policies and Resolutions.

As far as standing up in court, no one can predict the outcome of a judge or jury decision. But the HOA has a responsibility to make sure all rules, regulations and policies are in writing, distributed to all owners and residents and easily accessible when needed website recommended for 24/7 access. If the HOAs rules are fair and uniformly enforced, most judges will rule for the Board.

Question: I am an HOA Treasurer and have been attempting to implement spending controls. We have two Board members who regularly purchase items for the HOA and want to be reimbursed. My concern is that expenditures are unpredictable and hard to track. What do you think is a reasonable policy?

Answer: Your HOA sounds like it has had a long history of directors spending money as they saw fit. The first question that comes to mind is: Has the old routine caused budget overruns? If yes, you have a sound basis for your controls. If no, you may be making much ado about nothing.

That said, it is not common for random directors to routinely spend the HOAs money. In self managed HOAs, the President and Treasurer generally handle payments, occasionally reimbursing a director for an HOA expense that cant wait for the normal payment process. Ideally, if you have a hired manager, all expenditures should be routed through the manager. It is much easier to hold an employee or contract manager accountable than a fellow director.

Your biggest obstacle doesnt seem to be opposition to good financial management practices, but perception that such is not needed. Getting a barge to change course takes time. Continue to press for change. The Board has a fiduciary duty to run HOA business in a business-like way.

Question: I recently took over professional management of an HOA which, I just discovered, has over 70,000 of unpaid water bills. The water department has threatened to shut off service within 48 hours. The Board directed me to impose a special assessment of 1000 per unit without a meeting or member vote. Can an emergency special assessment be imposed without member approval?

Answer: You need to read the governing documents to see what authority the Board has to raise special assessments. Even if the Board has authority to do so, proper and reasonable notice must be given to the members and time to raise the cash.

If a special assessment requires approval of the members, a member meeting needs to be called with advanced written notice. The meeting must have a legal quorum and a legal majority vote as defined by the governing documents. You may be able to pull this off by mail in ballot if your governing documents allow it. But none of this could possibly take place within 48 hours.

The Board needs to make immediate and adequate payment arrangements for the water bill, perhaps by getting a short term loan from the bank and quick. Or, you might be able to get the water department to leave the water on if money is on the way special assessment or loan. But they will, no doubt, want to see the written evidence letter from bank, copy of special assessment notice, etc..

The bigger question is, if this HOA has allowed things to get so bad that basic utilities cant get paid, what other fires are you going to find that they want you to put out? This crisis didnt happen overnight and the Board likely has others waiting in the wings. Unless you are getting paid extra to deal with these special circumstances, you need to seriously evaluate whether this is an account worth your time.


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Tips to Break Up with Your Real Estate Agent

No one likes a breakup, but what if you want to end things with your real estate agent? There are legal considerations to keep in mind, plus if you want to change agents there could be some emotions involved. You want to ensure youre covering your bases in terms of both.

Signs You Should Consider a New Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home can be a challenging time. You may be going through other changes in your life, and there are a lot of considerations in either situation. That means you might unfairly take some of those emotions out on your agent, or perhaps blame them for things that really arent their fault.

In other situations, there may be a real issue that can only be adequately addressed by finding a new agent.

Signs you should consider a new agent include:

Your agent doesnt convey the idea that theyre working for you. Some agents may have a bit more of an ego than youd like, and you may feel more like youre working for that person.
If youre selling your home and other properties in the neighborhood have sold much faster than yours, you might think about whether or not it has something to do with the agent or the advice theyre providing you.
When you go online, you cant find your home there. If you do find it, the images, videos, and other content used to market your home dont seem to be the same quality as other similar properties.
You spend a lot of time waiting for your agent to respond to you. Of course, everyone is busy, but your agent should have good, consistent communication with you. Thats a big part of what they do.
As a buyer, you might want to find someone new if your agent doesnt seem to take the initiative or offer you any real guidance.

In some cases, even if you cant pinpoint any particular thing your agent is or isnt doing, but youre not seeing activity, then you might want to make a switch as well.

Can You Change Agents?

First and foremost, if youre a seller and you havent yet signed a brokers agreement, you can legally change agents when you want. If you have signed an agreement, there may be a few steps you have to take before you can change.

Go over your contract.

Some will include a cancellation clause, which outlines how you can legally break up with your agent before the expiration of the contract.

There may be additional terms that you have to meet if you want to do that, so read the fine print.

Sometimes these additional terms can be pretty simple. As an example, your agreement may say that you need to give 48 hours notice.

If your broker failed to uphold their duties and you can show that, then it may be easier to get out of even a fairly tight contract.

Regardless of the specifics, you should plan to send a letter of termination to your agent.

Be aware that an agent may be entitled to a commission if theyve done work on your behalf as the seller. This could include marketing the home, preparing it, or contacting potential buyers. The whole concept of listing agreements is based on agents being compensated for the work they do before they sell a home.

The sooner you can let an agent know, the better for them and also for you.

How Can You Navigate It Tactfully?

Unless youre in a full-blown war with your current agent, you want to handle things as tactfully as you can.

Try to be honest with the issues youre having, but remain professional.

You may find that your agent agrees with you, and depending on the specifics, your old agent may have a list of other professionals they can recommend to you.

Again, you will need to write a formal letter because this can help protect you financially and legally if any issues come up later on.

You dont have to explain why you want to part waysits not required, but you might want to anyway.

If theres any chance you can salvage your >

If thats not the case and you dont feel comfortable moving forward, try to be as kind as you can during the break-up, while also considering any possible legal implications.

Once you find a new agent, go over the cancellation clause, particularly if you feel that you werent in a great position with the previous one. Your agent needs to protect themselves, of course, but be clear on the situations under your new contract in which they may be entitled to a commission.


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The Best Places to Buy Rental Properties Right Now

If youre considering buying an investment property, some locations are faring better than others right now. Of course, were in an unprecedented time because of coronavirus, but people who are still financially secure may be looking for investment opportunities.

Big cities and metropolitan areas arent ideal to buy rental properties right now. Many of these areas were hit hard by the pandemic, and a lot of residents are considering leaving. There was a sense during pandemic lockdowns that urban dwellers started to want more space and outdoor areas, as they were spending more time at home. nbsp;

Beyond that, certain factors can make one city better than another in terms of investing in a rental property.

First, you want to think about the home value index.

You have to be able to afford whatever rental property youre considering, and as an investor, you may be priced out of locations like New York or San Francisco.

Youll want to think about how home values are increasing in areas youre considering, and then you can think about the rent index and year-over-year rent growth. Unemployment rate, job growth rate, and median age are all other factors to eye as an investor.

Right now, some of the cities you might want to look at if youre an investor include:

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is known as one of the most business-friendly cities in the country. From an investment standpoint, a lot of young professionals move there for jobs in banking and finance, as well as to start their own businesses.

The gross rent multiplier has gone up in the city, as home prices have as well.

Charlotte is a >

Orlando, Florida

While the Sunbelt states have seen headwinds in terms of coronavirus infection numbers throughout July, these states still remain high on many peoples >

Orlandos home values were rising significantly before the pandemic, but there is an expected drop in home prices in Orlando in the coming months which may make it affordable to buy in.

A lot of Orlandos residents choose to rent for one reason or another, and PwC and Forbes have both ranked the city as one of the best places to buy a rental property over the past few years.

Dallas, Texas

The Dallas real estate market is appealing for homebuyers and investors because the prices tend to be somewhat lower than what you find in other cities that have similar job prospects. Dallas and Texas as a whole are considered highly business-friendly, and there are a low cost of living and taxes.

Popular areas of Dallas for investors to look in if they plan on renting out a property include the West End Historic District and the Arts District.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is a culturally diverse city that has a lot to offer investors. Atlanta has seen quite a bit of growth in both employment and population, both of which tend to signify a strong real estate market.

Georgia is considered one of the most productive states in the country when looking at contributions to GDP, and you can find good investment properties for as low as 70,000. Theres a lot of opportunities to purchase older properties and rehab them for renters.

The median rent per month in Atlanta is 1,500, and 500 people move to the city every day.

Denver, Colorado

Finally, Denver is one of the best places to invest, according to many analysts because there are a strong economy and good job creation. Tourism is also a big industry in Denver, and jobs are the main reason people move to the city.

The population has been consistently growing in Denver, and a third of people in the metro area are renters.


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Updated: Saturday, October 24, 2020


The Differences Between Financing New Construction and an Existing Home

Financing for new construction as well as financing an existing home both involve getting a loan with real estate as the collateral. Theyre both the same in that manner but clearly different in others. Lets look at the differences between financing new construction and financing an existing property.

When someone decides to buy an existing home and take out a new mortgage, the options are nearly unlimited. First, there are fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgage options. Fixed rate programs simply mean the selected interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. This provides easier financial planning for those who intend to keep the property for the long term, knowing what their mortgage payment will be in say year 28. The payment will be exactly the same as in year 1. These loans can have terms ranging anywhere from 10 to 30 years, with some portfolio type mortgages being as long as 40 years.

An adjustable rate mortgage as the name implies can adjust but to do so the loan must follow very specific rules laid out in the note. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, can adjust based upon a selected index and then adding a margin to that index to arrive at the new mortgage rate until the next adjustment period. There are also consumer protections called caps that limit not only how much the rate can move at the new adjustment period but also how much the rate can adjust over the life of the loan. ARMs also can have various terms. In general, for both types of loans, the shorter the term, the higher the monthly payment but at the same time there is less overall interest paid over the life of the loan.

A construction loan is used to finance new construction. Mortgages used to finance an existing property cannot be used to finance new construction. Construction loans are issued only for as long as it takes to build the home. Once the home is completed, the construction lender sends out an inspector for one last inspection to make sure the home is finished and is ready for occupancy. When this determination is made, the construction loan must be replaced by a permanent mortgage, the same types of home loans used to finance an existing property.

When a construction lender provides financing for a new home, the loan amount is based upon the plans and specifications laid out by the builder. All the costs, both hard and soft are added up. These loans also typically ask for more initial equity from the borrower. While a home for an existing property can have very low down payments, sometimes zero, a construction loan might ask for a down payment of something like 20. If the borrowers already own the lot on which to build, the lot typically accounts for the initial 20 equity required. A loan for an existing home can be found at a mortgage company or through a buyers own bank, while a construction loan is usually provided only by a bank.


> Full Story

What Are the Differences in Mortgage Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval?

When youre considering buying a home, there are two terms youll hear, both of which are >

Understanding these terms is critical because theyre going to help you know what you can afford as you search for a home, and theyre also how youre going to demonstrate youre a serious buyer to a seller.

Both are similar in that they are steps along the way to get a mortgage, but if you have a preapproval, you dont necessarily need a prequalification.

What is Prequalification?

A mortgage prequalification means that you provide a lender with some general financial information. The goal is to help provide you an estimate of how much you can afford when youre buying a home.

The information you provide for prequalification is usually self-reported. Most of the time, it doesnt include verification of your credit report. You can get a prequalification without dinging your credit report with a hard pull.

When youre prequalified, you receive a letter that will show you can afford to buy. You can show it to your agent and sellers, and it may be helpful in the process, but not as much as a preapproval.

What is Preapproval?

A preapproval carries a lot more weight in the buying process. When youre preapproved, youve submitted your financial history and the lender has verified the information you provide by checking your credit report, your employment and income, and your assets and debts.

For a preapproval, youll have to submit information like your total monthly expenses, W2s, pay stubs, and if you already own property, your mortgage statement.

Once you submit all the necessary documents, you receive a preapproval letter. This letter will outline the amount youre approved for, and the type of mortgage a lender will give you as well as the terms.

A preapproval serves as an offer by the lender to you, and there is usually an expiration of the offer. For example, you might have 90 days to buy a home based on your preapproval.

How Do You Get a Mortgage Preapproval?

The following are steps to follow to get a mortgage preapproval:

Get your own credit score. The higher your score, not only the more likely you are to be approved but the better the terms youre likely to be offered. With most lenders, if you have at least a 740 credit score, youre likely to qualify for the most favorable terms.
When you check your credit score, go over your report and make sure there arent errors that need to be addressed.
Calculate your debt-to-income ratio. To buy a home, you should aim to have a ratio of 36 or less. Your DTI is a ratio of your gross monthly income that goes toward paying debt.
Gather the documents youre likely to need to submit, such as your tax forms, employment details, and banking and account information. If youre self-employed anticipate showing at least two years of income tax returns.

Finally, when youre applying for preapprovals, shop around and talk to multiple lenders. This will help you find the lender thats right for you so you increase your chances of getting approved, but also so that you can save money on interest with better terms.nbsp;


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Enforcing "Nuisance" Provisions

"Nuisance" has been defined as "something that causes harm" and "a bit of a bother." Nuisances are a pretty common occurrence in homeowner associations since living in close proximity is bound to create friction from time to time. Most HOA governing documents include language like: "No resident shall engage in offensive activities which are a nuisance, or interfere with the quiet enjoyment of other residents."

These "nuisance" provisions trigger the need for the HOA to control certain resident behavior. The problem is there is a growing belief in the legal community that these provisions themselves may be a nuisance for the boards responsible for enforcing them.

One problem is simply defining the term "nuisance." The obvious goal of nuisance provisions is to prevent residents from making other residents miserable. But the broad wording of typical nuisance provisions leads to arguments of whether such provisions apply to almost any activity, or none of them. This ambiguity causes board members charged with enforcing them to echo former Supreme Court Justice Stewarts statement about the difficulty of defining obscenity: "[I cant define it], but I know it when I see it."

In the same vein, many HOA boards would agree that they recognize a nuisance when they see it. However, this approach has mixed results. Behavior that infuriates one person might go unnoticed or overlooked by another. Hyper-sensitive residents may deem all sounds as offensive, while others may refuse to recognize how their neighbors could find the most offensive behavior unacceptable.

The typical nuisance language in HOA documents doesnt offer much guidance to the boards who must mediate these disputes. One option is to list the activities or behaviors that will constitute a nuisance. Generally, the board has the authority to adopt resolutions "to clarify" the governing documents. A nuisance resolution could include:

nbsp;

Barking dogs at any time
Unsupervised pets in the common areas
Loud music, TV, singing. etc. between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Obnoxious odors
Use of chemicals or equipment that cause life or fire safety concerns
Tobacco or barbecue smoke that migrates between units
Housekeeping that causes fire safety or health conditions overly cluttered, attracts vermin, mold, etc.
Other activities that the Board deems to be a nuisance catch all provision

nbsp;

Is a nuisance a bit of a bother or something that causes harm? Good question. But this is an area in which the board needs to establish a policy that works most of the time and then focus on those special cases that require more thought or mediation.

Excerpts used with permission from an article from HindmanSanchez.com


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