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Updated: Thursday, December 9, 2021

11 Tips For Halloween Safety

Its just a few days until Halloween, and youre probably rushing to find the last Pokemon, Size Small in the state and find "the good" candy instead of the jawbreakers and Tootsie Rolls that seem to be the only thing left at Target. But while you fill your mind with costumes and sweets, dont forget to brush up on your Halloween safety. Here are 11 tips youll want to follow.

1. Let them glow

Glow sticks, necklaces, bracelets, and the like can help make it easier to see your kids on a dark street. You can find a number of different varieties at the Dollar Store. Glow in the Dark duct tape is another cool idea that could help with visibility.

"For an easy solution, have a roll or two of Glow-in-the-Dark Duct Tape on hand for the big night," said Red Tricycle. "You can tape up everyones buckets, shoes and costumes for a unique look thats easy to see from afar, and it even works on those wagons youll be using to tote the tiny trick-or-treaters from house to house."

The dark streets and sidewalks can make it hard to see your kids, let alone tell them apart from all the others. Head to the Dollar Store, where you can buy glow necklaces, bracelets, crowns, and various other varieties of light-up items that will help you keep track of them.

2. Discourage running

When kids get hurt on Halloween, its often because they tripped or fell. No big surprise there, what with all the running in the dark. The best way weve found to curtail it: Threaten to take away their candy. Seriously, it works.

3. Make safe costume choices

Back to the runningaccidents also happen because the childs costume is ill-fitting. Step on too-long pants and they could take a tumble down the porch stairs or off the curb into the street. The pants length can be adjusted without having to take them to a tailor because who has time for that?. Tuck them into socks or boots, use some masking or duct tape on the inside, or use Stitch Witchery, a fusable tape that allows you to create a hem by bonding it to the fabric with an iron.

Make sure all costumes marked "flame retardant," which is extra important on Halloween since they may be coming into contact with open flames in pumpkins. Well-fitting arms that are not too long are important for the same reason.

When it comes to masks, use your best judgement. If your childs vision is impaired, that could contribute to an injury or other unsafe situation. Masks can also compromise breathing, and may not be suitable for children with asthma.

A new wrinkle this year is anything clown->

4. Stop the props

The bonus to keeping props at home: You dont have to carry them three minutes after you leave the house.

Many of todays costumes come with accessories - a foam sword here, a princess wand there, and, this year, more Poke balls than you can imagine. Chances are, your kid will carry this prop for about three minutesjust enough for it to become a burden. Then its yours to deal with. If you already anticipate having to help carry your childrens heavy candy bags and pumpkins and you will, encouraging them to keep the props at home is a good idea.

5. Pick a good candy-carrying bag

Theres research that says ongoing use of a heavy backpack could injure a childs back. Will a few hours or less carrying a heavy pumpkin or bag filled with pounds of candy do the same? Probably not, but it could make for an unpleasant experience - for all of you. And, it could make the child unsteady and more prone to fall down. Look for a bag with a padded handle that wont dig into their hands or something that has a cross-body strap to better distribute the weight.

6. Dont forget about dinner

Halloween falls on a Monday this year, and that could make rushing home to get dinner together a challenge. This is the perfect time to get out that slow cooker. And make one of these Halloween slow-cooker recipes. Dont want to cook at all? Put in a pizza delivery order early in the day so youre in the system and dont get caught up in a long-wait situation with everyone who called at the last minute.

Full bellies will help your kids to keep their energy up - and their whining down.

7. Make sure you can find them

If you dont already have a locator app on your phone, nows the time to add one. If youre in a crowded area with lots of kids around, you want to make sure you can always find them.

"For a little peace of mind and a few bucks, there are some apps you can download prior to Halloween, so you can keep tabs on everyone in your trick-or-treating crew," said Red Tricycle. "Picniic, a family management dashboard, allows you to track your kids locations and helps the entire family stay in constant communication by checking in once arriving at a destination. With FamilySignal, this app not only tracks the location of your kids, but it also includes a panic button that will alert you as soon as your child has pushed it. If you know exactly where youre headed on Halloween, the Life360 appallows you to create favorite spots and anytime your child arrives at that location youll get an automatic notification."

8. Watch the weather

It never fails. Your kids pick out their favorite Halloween gear and then the night before Halloween, a cold front comes through, forcing them to wear a coat over their costumes. If its going to be frigid while theyre out trick-or-treating, some long underwear underneath their costume and a hat might be enough to keep them toasty.

Youll also want to pay attention to weather conditions that could impact their footwear choices. If its been raining, snowing, or the ground is slick, non-slip shoes will be a necessity.

9. Check their candy

Nobody wants to think about poison or other hazards in their kids Halloween candy, and documented events of poisoning or other tampering with candy are few. But, a few tipsto help you know what to look for can help you feel secure. The main takeaways: if its open, it goes in the trash. Unless you know the people giving out homemade treats and know specifically whats in them, it goes in the trash. Anything else that looks or smells suspicious goes in the trash.

10. Sort through and give away your candy

If youre anything like us, your Halloween haul is going to be impressive. And you probably wont want to keep all that candy in the house. There is a growing number of Halloween candy buyback programsthat will pay you per pound of candy turned in, with some donated to families and others sent to the troops overseas.

11. Watch for allergens

While youre sorting through that candy and, inevitably, putting aside your favorites, beware of allergens. If your child is allergic to peanuts or something else that can be dangerous, youre obviously aware of this. But do you know about teal pumpkins? Looking out for them could help your child get more enjoyment out of the holiday.

"Back in 2012, a Tennessee mom named Becky Basalone had an idea: What if Halloween could be made a little less tricky for kids with food allergies?," said the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Her idea became what is now the Teal Pumpkin Project, a nationwide effort to encourage families - whether their own kids have food restrictions or not - to offer up some non-food treats on Oct. 31. Participation is simple: You just put a teal-colored pumpkin or sign outside your door and offer trick-or-treaters glow sticks, spider rings, Halloween stickers or other non-food goodies, along with or instead of the traditional candies."


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Top 10 Haunted Homes – Would You Buy a Haunted Home?

Looking for a nicenbsp;haunted home to buy? Something that is a bit different than the two-story Colonial with the white picket fence? The Mid-century modern with floor-to-ceiling windows or the English Tudor like your parents had?nbsp; How about Buffalo Bills home fromnbsp;The Silence of the Lambs, recently on the market with a price that was cut to the bone at just 298,500, and is now an Airbnb where an entire family can try to stay all night for 595?nbsp; Or the most haunted house in I>

For anyone looking for a lot of space, how about an entire Colorado ghost town for 1 million?nbsp; Or a New York gilded-age mansion for 495,000 that was once one of the most beautiful homes in the United States, but now looks like something from a Freddy Krueger nightmare? Also currently on the market, British-musician Robbie Williams mansion on 72 acres that he purchased in 2009 for just over 11 million, but now believes is haunted.

Could it be evil spirits in the basement, a maniac in the attic, or something even worse? Could that dream home become a nightmare? No one ever said buying a home was easy. What difference could a few ghosts make?

The Spectacular Spooky Home of Robbie Williams

Thousand-year-old houses with good bones are much admired by manor hunters in the 21st century, who are so taken with the prestige of owning such an impressive pile, they fail to consider if any spirits are still sticking around.nbsp; Such was likely the case withnbsp;British-musician Robbie Williams and hisnbsp;American actress-wife,nbsp;Ayda, who purchased the stunning Compton Bassett House innbsp;Wiltshire, Englandnbsp;on 72 acres in 2009 for just over 11 million, where their children could run free over the land and where they could enjoy entertaining and daily living away from prying eyes.nbsp; Even though the couple bought it fromnbsp;the renowned architect-and-designer Sir Norman Foster, who had already applied his magic, they had it back on the market in 2010.nbsp; Why so soon?nbsp; Because it felt spooky.nbsp; This overwhelmingly gorgeous mansion with every conceivable amenity felt spooky.nbsp; However, having been around since King Canute was ravishing England and northern Europe, its walls, no matter how lavish today, must be oozing some pretty wild history.nbsp; Early on, Robbie zeroed in on high spookiness in his daughters bedroom and promptly moved her to another location.nbsp; However, one persons discomfort with the supernatural and hyperactive spirits is another persons opportunity to capitalize on the situation.nbsp; The Williams mansion is currently for sale, priced at 9.2 million, listed with Knight Frank U.K.

Yikes The Silence of the Lambs Home Is For Rent

The film that guaranteed a lifetime of nightmares about being skinned and trimmed to make a womans suit for Buffalo Bill in the Oscar-winning movienbsp;The Silence of the Lambsnbsp;had many tongue-swallowing scenes inside this Princess Anne home where Buffalo Bill lived in the movie.nbsp; Situated on almost two acres in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania and measuring 2,400 square feet with four bedrooms and one bath, it has beautiful craftsmanship throughout the home. An in-ground pool and a vintage caboose used as a pool house are just a few of the happy reasons why the home was worth the 298,500 asking price when it went on the market at Halloween in 2020 and sold just a few months later for 290,000. It is now an Airbnb where an entire family can try to stay all night for 595.nbsp;

The Devils Visit To I>

It might be the most haunted house in I>

L.A.s Black Dahlia Murder House

Tales of terror and tragedy ra>

The house was on the market in 2018 at 4.7 million and has been the backdrop for multiple Hollywood movies, TV shows such asnbsp;Ghost Huntersnbsp;andnbsp;Paranormal Americanbsp;and even an American Express commercial.nbsp; It was purchased by a man whose business is selling cannabis-infused pet products.

The Gardette-LePretre Haunted Mansion

The Gardette-LePretre Mansion, or more locally referred to as the Sultans House, has been photographed and heralded in articles from the time it was built in the 1830s. Having hosted the cream of New Orleans society from the beginning of its rich history, the home comes with a scary storynbsp; One morning as neighbors were walking by the Sultan House, they saw blood trickling from under the front door. The police were notified and had to break into the house only to find that all inhabitants had been murdered with swords or axes and the Sultan was found brutalized and buried alive in the backyard. It was always felt that the murders were executed by his brother, the real Sultan, as retribution for the theft of his fortune and many of his wives. How much is local lore and how much is true, we will never know for sure. This is, after all, New Orleans.

Only a block from Bourbon Street, the French Quarter->

Colorado Ghost Town

Tourists once flocked to Uptop, Colorado to ride on the railway, which the railroad company advertised as the "Railroad Above the Clouds."nbsp; Later, lumber companies moved in and in 1930 the Chapel-by-the-Wayside was built for that community.nbsp; The railroad brought many tourists through La Veta Pass to Uptop which was a depot at the top of the pass and what was then the highest railroad and depot in the world.nbsp; With the building of the depot, merchants moved to the location to cater to rail passengers and for entertainment, they built a large dance-hall saloon. It was a favorite stop for miners, railroad men and lumberjacks. The bar, known for its unique curved bar, served prohibition liquor made in a still behind the building that fueled many a raucous poker game.nbsp;

Unfortunately for Uptop, the railroad left in the early 1900s, and in the 1960s the new highway system bypassed the town leaving just a ghost town. Recently restored by two sisters from Boston, the entire town went on the market in 2014 for 2 million including the train depot, dance hall, saloon and chapel.nbsp; Still on the market, now priced at 1 million.

The Arizona Boulder People

During the construction of their new home next to a mysterious pile of ancient rocks in Arizona, a young couple from Washington discovered that they werent the first people to live in the boulders. Pottery shards and rock carvings were dated by experts back as far as one thousand years. Then they found something even more astonishing: a Stonehenge-type phenomenon that occurs on both the spring and fall equinoxes. A six-inch-wide beam of light that starts in the glass between two boulders and slowly works its way across the floor and up the wall to a 36 spiral petroglyph. When the sun hits its mark, the stone projections light up like diamonds.nbsp; What does it mean? Some people think it is a signal to the space creatures. A light that will guide their spaceships to the Arizona desert. Or, maybe it doesnt mean anything. Just a freak of nature. Whatever it might be, it started over a thousand years ago when the boulder people first began living there, about the same time that hard-shelled life forms first showed up on earth.

A dream home for archaeologists, historians, artists or mystery lovers, the Boulder House on nine acres with 4,380 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths and a great room with a massive fireplace was recently for sale at 4.2 million.nbsp; It was reportedly sold, not long after the listing, for almost 5 million.

Haunted New Orleans Magnolia Mansion

While most going businesses want to keep their ghosts in the closet so as not to frighten off clientele, the Magnolia Mansion has cleverly built its business around multiple ghosts and wish its ghosts would invite their friends Here the ghosts are friendly with a sense of humor, where ghostly children tease you by moving things around during the night to watch your reaction the next morning. There are reports of a ghostly maid who will tuck you in at night, a child who walks the halls and a bearded man who spends his time downstairsnbsp; A perfect place to hold your "Spooktacular Gatherings" and "Ghostly Galas"

The Greek Revival mansion of over 13,300 square feet and 13 bedrooms could be changed back into a single-family estate. It was sold at around 3 million and is an active Bamp;B, event location, and friendly hauntings near Halloween.

Thousand Islands Haunted Mansion - Needs Work

When it was built in 1895 for the president of Remington Arms and Typewriter Company, Carleton Manor was one of the grandest structures in all of New York. The solid-stone outer structure sits on an island of 6.9 acres and is surrounded by almost a thousand feet of waterfront. Today, it is an abandoned shell not fit for humans or ghosts. For a mere 495,000, the buyer willing to make this piece of history into a grand restoration project can turn this house from a nightmare into a dream home.nbsp; Then the spirits could come down from the ceiling and the chimneys for more cushy digs and have fun throwing the good china around after midnight.

Amityville Horror House

No longer on the market, the actual Amityville Horror home was for sale in 2016 reduced from 1.15 million down to 850,000. The New York home where Ronald DeFeo got up in the middle of the night in 1974 and brutally murdered his parents and four siblings with a rifle while they slept. The home was occupied just a year later by the Lutz family until they were forced to leave because of rampant paranormal activity.nbsp; The storied horror house on the Ocean Avenue waterfront is today an extensively remodeled home. The 5,000-square-foot home most recently sold in 2017 for just 605,000, and brave people are actually living there today.

For morenbsp;celebrity home newsnbsp;andnbsp;celebrity home video tours, visitnbsp;TopTenRealEstateDeals.com.


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10 Tips for Creating a Calmer, More Peaceful Home

Your home should be your sanctuary, but sometimes its hard to brush off the stress of the day and sink into the serenity. Thats especially true if your home is more chaos than calm. Use these tips to create a space thats soothing, so, no matter what the day holds, you always have an inviting place to come home to.

Add some greenery

Studies have shown that plants can make your home feel calmer and ease anxiety. Plants like jasmine and English ivy can improve sleep, lavender and rosemary can lower stress, and several other plants have been shown to improve air quality so you breathe easier.

Hide the electronics

Nobody wants to stare at a tangle of cords, said Houzz. Thankfully, we have more options than ever for keeping our tech devices hidden away. When possible, choose smaller, wi>

Get a dog

Or a cat, a bird, or a turtle, for that matter. Yes, having a pet can mean more noise and more mess. But, there are all kinds of studies that show that having a pet lowers stress. Researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients without pets, said AnimalSmart.org. Another study showsnbsp;that pet owners may also have increased odds of surviving for at least a year after having a heart attack.

Clear the clutter

Going all Marie Kondo on your home can have surprising effects on your mental state. Clutternbsp;can playnbsp;a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves, said psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter innbsp;Psychology Today. Messy homes andnbsp;work spacesnbsp;leave us feelingnbsp;anxious,nbsp;helpless, and overwhelmed.

Tone down the harsh colors

Theres something to be said for going bold, but soft colors can bring on a calming feeling. If you want a deeper color, consider shades of blues and greenstwo colors that are known to be more serene than, say bright yellow, orange, or red.

Clean up your entryway

Its the first place guests see, and while you probably dont pass by or through your front entry all that often if you park in the garage, it may not feel as welcoming as youd like when you do.

Soften the lighting

Harsh overhead lighting can make you feel like youre being interrogated, and can also be hard on your eyes. If you need to keep it because the space will be too dark otherwise, a dimmer can at least give you some control over just how bright it is, and allow you to create a mood with lower lighting as needed.

Limit the patterns

Opt for solids and subtle patterns, said Houzz.nbsp;Busy patterns have their place, but if youre aiming for calm, then solid fabrics are your friends. Dont be afraid to include subtle patterns, though: herringbone, tone-on-tone stripes, and tiny dots can add textural interest without competing for attention.

Buy some fresh flowers

According to a study by Rutgers, The presence of flowers trigger happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive way far beyond what was originally believed.

Make your master bedroom a zen zone

Getting good rest is key, and there are several ways you can create a soothing space. Keeping the colors serene is key, and so is a good mattress. Loading the bed up with soft textures can also help. The sensation of touch is often overlooked, but a powerful way to unwind, said Mass.gov.


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Technology Empowers Buyers To Expect More

Real estate is being digitally transformed. Buyer behavior, driven by the current online shopping boom and its technology, is changing the real estate marketfinally

Its no secret, real estate is one of the largest assets, if not the largest asset globallyfinance being right there behind it, said Moderator and ULI Icon Sponsor John Cecilian, CEO and Co-Founder of Cecilian Partners, as he introduced the Urban Land Institute ULI Fall 2021 Meeting Session Proptech Catchup: How Data, Technology, and People Are Changing the Face of Production Homes and Community Development, simultaneously held virtually and in Chicago during early October.

This notion of Fintech [financial technology]...and this concept of Proptech [property technology] coming together is why it has so much allure, so much excitement, and so much growth.

Technology provides home buyers with access to more knowledge and information than are available to them during the traditional buyer beware sales process.

The bottom line isand Covid has only accelerated thisour industry, the real estate industry, is not trusted, said Alan Klassen, Chief Experience Officer of Brookfield Properties, speaking to ULI-member real estate executives and professionals. Customers are demanding to be trusted first, before theyll trust us. Thats a paradigm shift.Our research is saying that you need to be able to be transparent...Authenticitythis is the top driver behind driving the customer.

It was cloak and dagger. Hide it, build it, and they will comethose days are gone...being transparent online, providing that kind of trust, being vulnerable is what customers are looking for.I cant wait for the [heated] market to go back downthis market, right now, is hiding what the [home-buying] consumer is actually demanding.

Laura Cole, Senior Vice President, LWR Communities, stated that, even though we are all shopping online now, in the community development sector, the consumer shift to widespread online shopping has been ignored.

We put so much emphasis on the human experience, said Cole explaining the mindset buyers encounter when they visit a traditional sales center. As a sales manager, I am going to give you the information I know you need to know and craft the message around what I think you need to know and not a whole lot more. Transparency was completely missing in the process.

Cole heads the residential arm of Florida-based Lakewood Ranch, overseeing a 16,000-lot residential portfolio under active development by 20 builders with 2,000 annual sales.

Cole stated that the shift in buying involves customers adopting technology to make better real estate decisions.

As a community developer, I see it as an opportunity to ask how will this person live in our community, said Cole. Our data sees into people and what they like. We look into this from a business perspective.

In the past, Cole explained that developers left as soon as the people moved in. Now, Lakewood is involved long term. At 27 years in, Cole feels they are not finished yet. She says the community is more like an economic development model, continually changing and evolving with new revenue streams emerging.

Panelists Cole and Klassen, with moderator Cecilian, peeled back the traditional sales process for selling production homes and life>

Referring to a recent McKinsey study, Cecilian demonstrated the dramatic shift in consumer online behavior during the pandemic with a significant statistic: 75 of online shoppers in 2020 literally engaged new brands for the first time. They did not step foot in a grocery store...they did not step foot to buy a new car. They bought, they experienced...75 of those surveyed said they want to have those brands be part of their life in 2021 and beyond.

New home buyers can expect to engage with increasing numbers of real estate companies with forward-thinkers who embrace the new transparency and control that consumers should experience as they buybut are not soldnew homes.

We dont want the skeptics of new home construction, production home building, and community development, said Cecilian. We dont want there to be any more laggards. Our worry, our fear, based on the very real market trend of how consumers engage with brands today across industry has to make us rethink about how we engage, how we talk to, how we create a sense of place for all those aspiring home buyers or future residents.

Home buyers are usually given attention as customers once the sales process reaches the contractual stage. Now, when prospective home buyers visit a real estate website they become customers and enter the customer experience. As buyers, you have the attention of the builder or developer much earlier in the process. What are you going to do with it?

The whole sales experience is being disrupted, said Klassen. Its becoming a buying experience.The customer is coming through with so much more information and so much more knowledge. Its really, really imperativecustomers that are knowledgeable do not want to be sold. They want to be helped, to be supported, to be understood. They want advocacy right from the very beginning. Our industry is archaic.Thats the big shift

When you go to a sales center or shop online for a new home, ask yourself, Am I in the right place?

How is my trust affected if there is an abrupt difference in communication between meeting the company online and actually visiting its model homes?

Am I being sold instead of having my questions answered specifically and transparently?

How do I balance construction quality with the buying experience I prefer?

Will I be distracted from the quality of my new home by the online buying experience and what is promised post-move-in?nbsp;

Will I ignore a new home opportunity if I am forced to buy through a traditional sales process?

Buyer beware remains the buying directive no matter how much fun you are having or how special you feel during the buying experience

Extra Resource to Broaden Your Real Estate Perspective:

Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2022" is a trends and forecast publication, now in its 43rd edition, produced jointly by PwC and the Urban Land Institute ULI to provide an outlook on real estate investment and development trends, real estate finance and capital markets, property sectors, metropolitan areas, and other real estate issues throughout the United States and Canada.


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Now That It’s Fall, Did You Miss the Home Selling Boat?

Worried you missed your window when it comes to selling your home this year? Its true that spring and summer are the hottest literally seasons of the year, with more buyers out there looking to purchase a home and get settled before school starts. Also, there is some recent data out there that says that October and December are two of the slowest months of the year for home sales.nbsp;

But that doesnt mean you cant offload your home now, or that you wont get a good price if you do. If you have to list now and you want to get your home in the best position to sell quickly and for a good number, heed these tips.nbsp;

Make sure your home is market ready

Buyers at this time of year tend to be serious. They may not be any more excited about buying right now than you are about selling, but theyre in the market because of a >

A home thats not in great shape is typically going to take longer to sell at any time of yearunless its a super bargain. When there are limited buyers out there and youve got competition from other area homes, your place has to show well.nbsp;

That doesnt necessarily mean you need expensive or extensive renovations. But a >

nbsp;Scour and tidy up
nbsp;Declutter
nbsp;Depersonalize

Your real estate agent may have some other suggestions to make your home more sellable.

Celebrate the season

A few pumpkins, a fall wreath, a couple of candles with an autumnal scent or a simmering pot of cinnamon stickstheyre little touches that can help your home feel more inviting and more fall-like for showings, without going overboard. Your Halloween dcor may be stellar, but real estate agents steer sellers away from over-decorating so buyers arent distracted or turned off.nbsp;

Put in a little extra effort for great photos

"According to one study done by a real estate photography company, top-notch photos cannbsp;make your house sell 32 fasternbsp;than a house with low quality or average pictures, said Homelight. Thats not just for million-dollar mansions, either. The study, conducted by VHT Studios, took houses of all values into account.

It might be a little more challenging to get those photos in fall, however; Natural light is preferable for listing photos. Fall and winter photos run the risk of looking drab, but well-timed summer photos are bright, clean, warmreally everything you need to stand out to serious buyers. So take advantage of the seasons best days and include those photos in the listing when you go to sell in the fall, said Owners.com.

If good natural light is hard to come by at this time of year in your area, using a professional photographer is even more important. They will have tricks to help overcome the challenges.

Let There Be Light

Emphasizing the natural light in photos is one thing. You also want you home to look as light and bright as possible for showings and tours. Retract blinds, and widen curtains, so theres minimal window coverage, said HGTV.nbsp;

The windows will look bigger, and itll encourage daylight to flow into your space. Experiment with your lightbulbs to find the most flattering hues for your space. A bathroom looks great with daylight bulbs 5,000-6,500K and living spaces, such as bedrooms and living rooms, look best with soft white bulbs 2,700K. In general, your homes design and color palette will play a part in what looks most appealing. Go for cozy and bright. If youre upgrading bulbs in hard-wired fixtures, consider going all LED. Let the buyers know youre leaving the bulbs for them.

Be mindful of your curb appeal

Falling leaves are inevitable in autumn. You may not be able to rake or remove every single one of them in time for a surprise or last-minute showing, but making sure you take a walk around your house every day to address any areas that need clean-up can help you from having to make a big effort when an agent calls with an interested client.

You know what they say: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Rake dead leaves and debris in your lawn, said The Balance. Dont let overgrown vegetation block the windows or path to the entrance. Cutting bushes and tree limbs will let the sun inside and showcase the exterior of your home. Cutaway summer vines and cut down dead flowers. Make the most of the autumn weather in the fall real estate market.nbsp;

Adding a few fall flowers is another good idea that will up your curb appeal. The most popular autumn flowers are chrysanthemums or mums, and they bloom for a long time. Marigolds are another idea for fall. Both mums and marigolds are available in yellow, which is my number one home selling color. Plant them in pots. Place pots on the steps and along the sidewalk.

Key in on your target market

Your agent should be able to help you pinpoint who the most likely buyers are. Armed with that info, you can tailor your home to specific target markets.nbsp;

If you have a hunch your house may appeal to empty-nesters, heres how to play up that attraction: Emphasize multipurpose spacefor instance, stage one bedroom as a home office-cum-hobby roombecause empty-nesters crave flexibility for the future, said Bob Vila. Provide a map to points of interest within walking distance. To the extent possible, aging baby boomers wish to integrate exercise into their daily habits.nbsp;Showcase quality. Without teenagers around, empty-nesters can enjoy more delicate finishes and fine details, so give them something to brag about. They want to upgrade as they downsize.


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Tips to Check the Feng Shui of Your Home

In a way, it is quite easy to know if your house has good feng shui. Answering just one simple question Do you feel happy in your home? will already give a good indication of its energy, as well as how well you and your home are matched.

However, before going into this more advanced level of designing a good feng shui house for your personal energy, lets first look at some basic tips to know if your house has good feng shui. Here are some tips to help you understand the feng shui of your house.

A strong and healthy front door

In feng shui, houses are absorbing most of the needed energy nourishment via the front door, so the stronger your front door, the more good feng shui energy it can absorb. And the more good feng shui energy your door can absorb, the better energy there is to support you Having a strong feng shui front door is a bit like having a clear, strong voice and speaking up for yourself/letting yourself and your needs be known. Houses need to have a clear voice, too.

What makes a strong feng shui front door? A door that is proportionate to the size of the house, that opens easily and freely, enjoys beautiful paint in the right color and has good hardware. Other features include a door that is well-lit, has a good pathway leading to it, and opens up into an inviting main entry. In other words, a door that invites both respect and admiration, a door that looks good and feels good.

A main entry with inviting, self-contained energy

The main entry is very important in feng shui as this is the space that has to have the ability to draw in and further invite/direct the energy into your home. It has to have a quality of energy that is welcoming as well as self-contained, so that the energy can settle in. There should be no doors or windows directly facing the front door. When you have any door facing the front door be it a bathroom door or a back door the energy easily escapes without being able to nourish the house. The same scenario can be created by a big window facing the front door as this will promote a leakage of incoming energy.

A happy, active and nourishing kitchen

The kitchen is considered the heart of the home in many cultures for obvious reasons. In feng shui, the kitchen is also connected to the health and wealth energy, so it is very important to take good care of your kitchen.From best feng shui colors for your specific kitchen to creating and maintaining fresh and nourishing energy, any and all details matter in creating a good feng shui kitchen. There can be no good feng shui home if the energy in the kitchen is unhappy, stagnant or cold.

The bedroom as the most loved room in the house

You must have heard me many times saying that the bedroom is the most important room in the house. That is, in a good feng shui house, of course Instead of focusing most of our attention on grand living rooms and expensive dining to impress others, it would do the house and us so much good to create a good feng shui home by keeping our attention on the bedroom. Understand all the guidelines and basics that make a good feng shui bedroom, and then continue to bring lots of love energy into your bedroom.

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HOA's Board Code of Conduct

As a member of a volunteer homeowner association board, its important to codify the goals and behaviors an effective director should strive for. It not only serves as a constant reminder for those that are serving but can also help screen out director candidates with hidden agendas. Consider adopting something like this:

Act in the HOAs Interests. Directors will strive for the common good of the homeowner association, forgoing personal interests.

Lawful Actions. All board actions will comply with the governing documents and the law.

High Standards of Conduct. Conduct should be above reproach and avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Mutual Respect. Directors will address other directors and homeowners with respect, even when in disagreement.

Meeting Attendance. Directors will attend all board meetings unless there is a valid excuse.

Be Prepared. Directors will come prepared to meetings by reviewing the agenda and >

Confidentiality. Directors will maintain confidentiality of highly sensitive information and respect the privacy of all owners.

Positive Attitude. Directors will encourage employees, managers and contractors to promote better performance and teamwork.

Support and Loyalty. Directors will respect the authority of the Board by not undermining majority decisions.

Respect the Rules. Directors will obey the rules to set a positive example for others.

Pay Assessments. Directors will remain current in all fees owed to the HOA.

Promote Harmony. Directors will promote community harmony in act, word and deed.

A Board Code of Conduct controls caustic communications, curtails conflicts and calms cantankerous communities. Adopt one today


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Understanding Your Appraisal

What you think your home is worth may not be what your lender thinks your home is worth. Rather, what the appraiser tells your lender what its worth. The final word comes straight from the appraisal, not the lender. The lender simply reports to you what the appraiser determined. Heres how to interpret how the appraiser arrived at the value that it did. You can get the final appraised value but its also important to know how the final value turned out the way it did.

First, there are different types of appraisals. Theres a desk appraisal, a drive-by and a full appraisal. The determination which appraisal your lender uses is a result of whats required on the electronic findings various automated underwriting systems say. A desk appraisal is one where the appraiser goes online and looks at public records showing recent sales of similar properties in the area. A desk appraisal is typically the result of someone with a larger amount of equity, say at least 20-30 down and a stronger financial profile.

A drive-by appraisal is just thatthe appraiser first performs some online research and then literally drives by the property to make a visual inspection from the street of both the property as well as the neighborhood. Sometimes there are pictures taken and sometimes there are not. Again, whats needed in the appraisal is determined by the automated underwriting findings. A full-blown appraisal includes online research, a visual inspection and literal inspection of the property, typically with photos of both the exterior and interior of the home. A full appraisal is usually the result of both the type of loan being taken out as well as the amount of the initial down payment or equity position going into the loan.

Appraisals will compare the subject property with other similar type properties in the area. The sales prices of these comparable homes are reviewed and then compared with the subject. Most loan programs ask for at least three such sales in the area within a six to twelve month period along with an active listing. One of the pieces of data the appraiser looks for is the Days on Market number. This is literally how many days it took for a recent sale to commence from the initial listing to final sale. A 60 day DOM indicates a decent real estate market while a 30 day DOM would indicate a very hot, sometimes overheated real estate market. Longer DOMs would suggest a >

Finally, the appraiser will then make certain adjustments to the comparable sales. One comp might have an outdated kitchen compared to the subject property. Another property might have a pool in a neighborhood where pools are more prevalent whereas the subject does not. Lot size and the number of bedrooms are also adjustments. The age of the structure is also reviewed. All of this information is spelled out clearly in your appraisal. You just have to look for and understand it. All of these data bits are used to arrive at the number your lender uses when underwriting your loan file.


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Simple Ways To Make Your Rental Property More Homely

When you are renting a property, often you dont have much control when it comes to how you decorate it. Usually you will have to get written consent from your landlord to make any alterations and there is no guarantee they will be accepted So, we are here to introduce a few simple ways that you can make your rental property more homely without having to make any alterations. From adding plenty of greenery to ambient lighting, these are all affordable choices that will help you to feel at home.nbsp;

Choose Ambient Lighting

The first thing you can do to make your rental property more homely is to choose ambient lighting. You can simply go around your rented house or flat and swap out the bright white light bulbs for softer, warmer toned lighting. Also, you could change up the light shades if they are removable to really transform how the light is dispersed around the room.nbsp;

Make sure to speak to your landlord to see if theyd like to keep the lightbulbs and light shades you remove, or just keep everything in a box somewhere so that you dont get charged for anything later down the linenbsp;

Add Plenty of Greenery

The next tip is to add plenty of greenery throughout the rental property. There are so many benefits to having houseplants in your home, as they can help to reduce levels of stress, clear the air, improve productivity and improve your mood. Plus, they bring such a lovely lease of life to any room If you dont already have houseplants, youd be surprised at how much of a difference they really make.nbsp;

Snake plants, spider plants, peace lilies and jade plants are all great choices if you are a beginner. The general rule for these plants is to water them every 2 weeks in the summer, every 3 weeks in the winter and give them indirect sunlight if you can. However, they are all pretty resilient

Hang Wall Art Prints

Often in rental properties, the walls can be quite empty and you usually wouldnt be allowed to put anything in the walls to hang art. So, we have the perfect solution You can hang wall art prints throughout your home and as they are light, you dont need to have nails in the wall. You can use removable hanging strips so there is absolutely no damage after when you follow the instructions properly to remove them.nbsp;

You could have typography prints to bring your favourite quotes into your home, botanical wall art to go with your new houseplants or you could create a gallery wall with lots of different prints This is a quick, easy and affordable way to make your rental house or flat feel more like home.nbsp;

Soft Furnishings

Last but not least, we have soft furnishings. As you might not have much control over many decorative aspects in your rental home, using soft furnishings is a wonderful alternative. It allows you to add personality to the space with unique colours and textures. Also, this option is suited to any budget.nbsp;

If your flat comes furnished, then soft furnishings can add a whole new look to ordinary looking furniture. They also help to make any space so much more >

Final Thoughts

Even if you are only planning on staying in your rental property temporarily, it is so important that you make it feel like home. We all deserve to come back to our home and feel completely >
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The Best Celebrity Recipes for an Easy and Impressive Thanksgiving Dinner

So you dont have a degree from Le Cordon Bleu. Or a Michelin star. Or a 47,000 stove yes, they actually make a 47,000 stove. You can still cook Thanksgiving like a James Beard chef.

No, really, you can.

All you need is a little time, a lot of patience, and a menu that includes the best Thanksgiving dishes from the best celebrity chefs. These dishes also happen to be on the easy side of gourmet chef-ery. You can thank us later we only accept bribes that are pumpkin flavored.

Main Dish

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Why bother with a whole turkey when youre just going to end up with two-thirds of it left over? Instead, order a whole turkey breast from your grocer. Its much more easy to manage the cooking, and it wont end up packed to go for your guests and overflowing you dogs bowl at the end of the night.

Chef Ina Gartens herb-roasted turkey breast layers on the fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme for a tasty - and fragrant - main dish.

Side Dishes

Emeril Lagasses Spicy Sausage Dressing

When chef Emeril Lagasse spends years trying to "trying to replicate" his mothers dressing recipe and finally gives up and asks for it, you know it must be good. "It might be the best thing Ive ever eaten," he said. His version of stuffing uses Portuguese linguica or hot Italian sausage and milk-soaked bread. Sign us up.

Chef Michael Symons Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Mix potatoes with browned butter and crme frache and you have chef Michael Symons four-ingredient potatoesnbsp;that take the normal spud fare to a whole level of Thanksgiving yumminess.

Rachel Rays Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

As long as youre going to eat a meal packed with as many calories as youve had in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, you might as well throw in some bacon. This Rachel Ray recipe also adds in a fall veggie: brussel sprouts. If you just crinkled your face up at the thought of eating brussel sprouts at all, let alone on Thanksgiving, trust us. Bacon makes ANTHING better. And it does amazing things to brussel sprouts.

Chef Robert Irvines Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

Save the marshmallows for roasting by the fire. This from chef Robert Irvine impresses in a whole new way. And, frankly, when the recommended toppings include caramel or bourbon sauce, were in.

Paula Deens Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

She had us at pumpkin. And gooey. This decadent southern desert uses boxed cake, so you know its easy, and it has Deens trademark butter party, so you know its good.

So which recipes are you going to try your hand at this Thanksgiving?


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Architect, Designer or Contractor: Who to Hire for a Renovation?

If youre going to do a home renovation or remodeling project, you may want to work with professionals for several reasons. Working with a professional in the remodeling industry can help you avoid costly mistakes, can help you get organized, and can bring your vision to life.

There are three main types of professionals you might consider working with on a renovation.

These are an architect, a designer and a contractor.

Knowing what differentiates them from one another can help you make the right decision for your project.

The Role of a Designer

A designer can help you by coming up with ideas, creating plans and steering you in a direction based on your wants and needs. Of those, for many people, drawing the plans can be the most important role of a designer. A basic design plan might include a floor plan and built-in features, such as cabinets in your kitchen. A full-service designer might take the worker beyond that and help with fixtures and finishes. Designers arent typically project managers, however.

Designers can be costly. They can charge hundreds of dollars an hour, and they usually have a minimum project fee of anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000. Some estimates say that you should plan to budget from 8 to 12 of your total project cost for a designer.

If you have an idea of what you like and what you want, you might not need to hire a designer.

The Role of an Architect

An architect will come to your home and go over what you want from your renovation and budget. They will create a plan that will bring that to life. You may work with an architect only for the plan. Some people hire architects for full project management. In that case, the architect will choose contractors and will track their progress.

An architects services can cost anywhere from 50 to 200 an hour, or if theyre managing the project, it may be 5-20 of the total project cost.

If youre doing a renovation that involves taking out walls and changing your layout, you may need an architect.

The Role of a Contractor

A contractor is someone who serves as a project manager when you bring them on for a renovation. They will work with you on your expectations and then make sure those are met. Contractors can give you a complete budget breakdown for the project, and they can also design your project if you want them to.

Something valuable about hiring a contractor is that theyll then find your subcontractors such as electricians and plumbers. This makes your life easier because finding trustworthy subcontractors and then managing them can be a challenge.

Youll need a licensed contractor so they can pull the necessary permits for your project. Contractors usually charge on a cost-plus basis. That means they take the total amount they anticipate the project will cost and they add a markup.

Who Do You Need?

A contractor with experience is likely to be able to deal with a simple renovation as well as an architect, and you can save money. If your budget is tight, you might want to collaborate with your contractor on your design. If you want a bit of help and guidance, you might hire a designer who will offer a consultation.

Finally, if youre doing something like moving major walls for creating an open-concept layout, you might want to consult with an architect because of safety.


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What If You’re Priced Out of Buying a Home?

First-time homebuyers are facing a serious problem when it comes to buying a house. While the acceleration may be cooling somewhat, there are still record-breaking rises in home prices. Recent data shows for the first time in the U.S., median home prices surpassed 400,000.

Several factors are likely to continue this trend. There are a lot of motivated buyers, limited housing supply and low mortgage rates. Inflation is pushing prices up for essentially everything, including homes. Low mortgage rates allow buyers to buy more than they would be able to ordinarily, so they can get involved in heated bidding wars.

Sellers are also staying put because they dont want to jump into a highly competitive buying market, limiting the supply of available homes even more.

Homebuilders cant get the materials they need, and even if they can, theres a labor shortage.

Where does this leave first-time buyers or any buyer?

What Does It Mean to Be Priced Out?

If youre priced out in the real estate market, it means that you cant afford even an entry-level home. There are often a number of factors that can lead first-time buyers to be priced out, many of which are converging with one another right now.

If youre trying to buy a house right now, you probably notice the down payment you worked hard to save isnt going as far as you planned. If you saved 20 of the expected price you prepared to pay for a house, that might no longer be sufficient.

So, what can you do?

You might think automatically you should keep renting, but rent prices are going up because of inflation as well, while wages arent keeping up, so this isnt the ideal option.

There are a few things you can do, and none of them might feel ideal, but your options are limited when youre priced out.

Save More

If you live in a market thats not affordable for you right now, you may need to keep renting and adding to your savings. This does also allow you to wait out the market somewhat. You may need to be patient because it could be a couple of years before youre able to re-enter the marketing successfully.

As youre thinking about what you can afford, its better to base it on your monthly expenses rather than the sales price.

If you are setting more money aside and youre going to try and wait out the market a bit, dont just put it in a standard savings account. You may need to put at least some of your savings into riskier but more high-earning options like stocks.

Change Your Expectations

Another option you have available when youre otherwise priced out of the market is to change your expectations. With limited inventory and all the other factors going on in the market right now, you may have to give up a few things on your wish list, or maybe more than a few.

You could end up buying a fixer-upper thats more in line with your budget.

For first-time buyers, being humble is key to getting a home in the current environment.

Broaden Your Home Search Geographically

Just like you might need to give up on some of your wish list as far as home features, you might also want to broaden the area where youre looking geographically. There can be considerable differences in the price of homes from one neighborhood to the next or one suburb to the other.

Many people arent just moving out of urban areas to be able to afford a hometheyre changing cities altogether. For example, residents of expensive locations like New York and San Francisco are moving to more affordable cities like Austin and Atlanta.

Hire a Great Real Estate Agent

Finally, if you dont already have a great real estate agent on your side, it would be nearly impossible to navigate the current market as a first-time buyer without getting one. Even if you can find a home youre able to afford, you may be facing stiff competition.

Real estate professionals know about properties before they go on the market, so youll have an edge there. Theyll also be able to help you understand your local market so you can adjust your expectations as needed.

A real estate pro can negotiate on your behalf and cut some of the stress out of the experience for you.

Its not an easy time to buy a home, but that doesnt mean its impossible. You might wait it out, or you could shift your approach and strategy a bit.


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TikTok for Real Estate Professionals: What to Know

If youre a real estate professional, youre probably already using social media to grow your business, but have you branched out to TikTok yet? If not, it might be time to explore the highly popular platform.

TikToks Post-Pandemic Rise

At the pandemics start, everyone had to rethink how they did business and lived their daily lives. Thats when TikTok took off because so much moved online. While TikTok carried some through the isolation of stay-at-home orders, others started to explore its potential as a business tool.

For real estate agents, TikTok can be a great branding opportunity.

For example, Cash Jordan is an agent based in New York City. He now has more than 600,000 followers on TikTok and over 14.2 million likes. Jordan says hes shown everything from million-dollar townhomes to 2,500 two-bedroom units, and he wishes hed gotten on the platform sooner.

The idea of TikTok is short-form videos.

Agents who are finding success from TikTok shun the idea that its a platform for teens. While young people are the primary users, when you use it, you have more eyes viewing your content, and you also raise your chances of going viral.

So, how can you use TikTok in your own business?

Behind-the-Scenes

One easy way to get started creating videos on the wildly popular platform is to make behind-the-scenes videos. Just show people what its like to work in your real estate business. You can show what your mornings look like or what you might do to prepare for an open house. You dont have to put a lot of pressure on yourself. Instead, be natural and give viewers a glimpse of the world of real estate.

Property Highlights

Another >

You can also then use what you create for TikTok on your Instagram account.

If you have a luxury listing, that always tends to work well in the TikTok world. Even just one feature thats ultra-luxurious can be a standout in the short video format.

Tips and Tricks

If youre a real estate professional, you might have great insight and quick tips you can share with perhaps first-time buyers or other specific audiences, so why not do that on TikTok? Maybe you can also speak to new investors or anyone who might benefit from the advice you can provide.

DIY Projects

Everyone loves videos of simple DIY projects, and as a real estate professional, your videos can focus on things people can do around the house to make it more marketable, for example. Maybe you do a series of videos focused on improving curb appeal quickly or getting a house ready for showings.

You can also create videos showing some of the best home design trends on a budget or that you can do in a single weekend.

Other TikTok Tips

A few other things to know if youre a real estate agent:

Try to create evergreen content rather than trendy videos. That doesnt mean you cant mix some trendy things in there too, but evergreen content are those videos that will be valuable and beneficial to your audience for years.

While you dont necessarily want your video content to be driven by trends, it is a good idea to use your for you page so you can see what other creators are doing, particularly if you want inspiration.

On TikTok, your hashtags are very important.

Dont be intimidated to try something new. Whats interesting about TikTok is that theres often no rhyme or reason to whats a hit, and many creators see their videos unexpectedly go viral.

Think about the questions you frequently get from clients. You can answer those in your videos, and if you can find song lyrics that match well with the question, you can use those to lip-sync your answer. Its fun and informational.

The app has around 14 million active users a month in the U.S. alone, and approximately 50 of the users are between the ages of 18 and 34. Another 20 of users are between the ages of 35 and 44, which are prime homebuying ages. Thirty-seven percent of users say they have a household income of more than 100,000, so its perfect for seeking out your target demographic if youre a real estate pro.


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The Broken Promise: $100k Gone!

The other night I did anbsp;LIVESTREAM on Facebooknbsp;or Meta, whatever its called now that was a surprising story to even those who have known me for over 20 years and thought they knew every moment of the journey.

Heresnbsp;a story about losing 100,000 at a pivotal moment in my life, and with a coach who was really a con-artist, who really did me wrong.

What broken promises have significantly affected your career?

Share in the comments, or send me a private message.

When The Promise is broken to you, what can you do about it?

HINT: The Answer is You decide and commit to NEVER Break The Promise to others


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Ask the HOA Expert: Changing The Governing Documents

Question: Our homeowner association has 30 single family detached homes. Our governing documents were basically written for townhomes. One of the bothersome issues is that the governing documents state that the HOA is responsible for replacing roofs, painting, gutters and other things that are commonly done with condominiums. Many owners object to building up a reserve fund to pay for repairs that may be as much as 20 years or more down the road.

The covenants also state that the board cannot special assess for anything other than common area improvements. So that leaves us with pretty much the options of building up the reserve fund or changing the governing documents. Can you provide us some sample wording for a single family home HOA that would allow homeowners to pay for major repairs themselves but would allow the board architectural control of those repairs?

Answer: While its unusual for a single family HOAs to do exterior maintenance, repairs and replacements, its not unheard of. I doubt that the developer made a mistake on this since its a huge issue. And its doubtful that you can muster the votes to change this which may take 100 of the owners to approve it including their mortgagees. You need to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to determine the requirements. If it is possible, the attorney can assist the board with the proper wording of the amendment.

So barring you pulling off a major governing documents amendment, yes, you need a reserve plan that includes a funding plan to collect money systematically from each owner every year. The 20-years-down-the-road thinking is flawed. While a reserve event like a roof may take place 20 years down the road, the reserve plan will only charge each owner a share of the future cost directly proportional to the benefit received. For example, if a particular owner owns for five years and sells, he would only pay 5/20ths of the future roof cost. He only pays for the benefit received and not a penny more. This is the fairest way to fund future costs.

Question: Our board is being badgered by a delinquent owner because his account was turned over to collection. In hard economic times, should the board back off of collections?

Answer: As long as the board is enforcing collections uniformly, consistently and fairly, it is the boards responsibility to enforce the Collection Policy regardless of circumstance or economic climate. There is no government bail-out for HOAs.

Question: Is there an average that HOA management companies charge for managing a homeowner association? How do they base their fees...by size, number of units, expectations, etc.? Do they usually charge a flat fee or percentage? How do they charge for maintenance...as a flat fee, by the job?

Answer: Percentages are not used to determine HOA management fees. Commonly, the management fee is expressed as the cost "per door". But behind the per door concept is an analysis of how much time it takes the management company to execute the routine duties described in the Management Agreement. This can vary a lot from HOA to HOA. And within the fee structure, there is usually several levels and costs of service included in the routine duties like management, accounting and administrative mailing, making copies, etc..

Maintenance and repairs are charged over and above the basic duties on an hourly or bid basis. So, for a management company to make a profit, an annual estimate of all the levels of service multiplied by their hourly charges multiplied by the number of hours for each plus a profit margin equals the annual cost of management. Keep in mind, however, that most Management Agreements provide for extra charges for non-routine tasks like assisting in insurance claims, arranging contractor bids, overseeing larger renovation projects and performing special tasks requested by the board.


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Deferred Maintenance: What You Need to Know

Weve talked a lot lately about appraisals but what we havent mentioned is an observation the appraiser makes when performing an on-site property inspection. This observation is explicitly deemed, Deferred Maintenance and if its so noted on your appraisal report, it can stop your loan application dead in its tracks. What is it and why is it so important?

Technically it means there are things wrong with the house and in need of repair, but the owners have yet to fix them. To a lender, it can stop the entire loan approval process until the issues are addressed and resolved. What are some of these items?nbsp;

Cracked or broken windows. Lawns that have not been taken care of and full of weeds. Carpets seve>

Many times the sellers will refuse to make the needed repairs and hold out for someone that will acknowledge the needed repairs and pay cash for the home in lieu of financing. But this strategy can seve>

This is why so-called preventative maintenance is so important for homeowners. Addressing an issue that pops up very early and fixed can save time and money. When maintenance issues are ignored, they can fester and get worse over time. Even to the point the issue is officially a deferred maintenance item. Even if the buyers accept the notion theyll need make needed repairs after they buy and own the home, the lender will indeed step in.

Another option to address deferred maintenance issues is to establish an escrow holdback. A holdback is an amount set aside that will go toward fixing the needed repairs during the approval process. An inspection is made of the problems and an estimate is made about how much those repairs will cost. In this fashion, the appraised value will be based upon those issues being repaired. Its an as repaired notation made on the appraisal.nbsp;

The repairs will then be made and when completed, an inspector will be sent back to the home to verify the needed repairs were made. Once the inspection report has been completed and sent to the lender, the loan approval process will then proceed.

Bargain hunters and real estate investors alike look for these types of properties with eyes wide open knowing repairs will be needed. Minor repairs wont hold anything back other than perhaps some additional negotiations between the buyers and sellers. Maybe a light fixture doesnt work or a light switch doesnt work. These are minor issues. But if there are indeed bona fide deferred maintenance issues, know in advance there will be some bumps in the road to loan approval.


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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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Can You Use Home Equity to Buy Another Property?

When you have equity in your home, you can tap into that and, if youre strategic, use it as a way to build long-term wealth.

There are a lot of ways you can capture equity to build wealth. For example, you can pay off higher-interest debt or make home improvements that ultimately increase the value of your house. You can start a business or you can even invest in the stock market where returns might be significantly more than the interest you pay on your loan.

Another question people commonly have is whether or not they can use their homes equity to purchase another property, which we discuss below.

Can You Use a Home Equity Loan to Buy a House?

In short, yes. You can use a home equity loan to buy a house, but that doesnt mean its always the right decision in every situation. Using home equity can be a way to buy a second home or an investment property with caveats.

A home equity loan is a second mortgage, giving you a way to access the equity youve built in your home. Home equity refers to the difference between what you owe and what your home is worth.

The Upsides

If youre thinking about using your homes equity to buy another house, theres a distinction you need to first make. Are you buying a second home or an investment?

If youre planning to buy an investment property, using a home equity loan can give you more liquidity and make it less expensive. Benefits of using equity to buy an investment property include:

You can put more toward your down payment. A home equity loan is something you receive as a lump sum payment so that cash can go directly toward a down payment. Youll be a more competitive buyer, which is essential in the current market, and youll get lower interest rates and monthly payments.

It can be harder to finance a second property because there are more stringent down payment requirements, so a home equity loan can be a more affordable solution and also one thats more convenient.

A home equity loan is secured with collateral, which is your current home. As a result, you get the benefit of lower interest rates.

If youre buying an investment property, using your home equity can be a good wealth-building strategy. If youre buying a second home, you have to consider that its not going to bring in income like an investment. That means that youre going to be tying your home up in a loan and then taking on another loan, so you need to be in a solid financial position to make this work.

The Downsides

The downsides of using equity to buy an investment property do exist. These include:

Youre swapping an asset for a debt. Youre taking the part of your home that you own, and then youre putting it into a loan. Ultimately, no matter the specifics, you will have higher debt, so is that what you want?

Youre vulnerable to housing market shifts, even more so when you own two properties instead of one. Youre doubling your risk if something happens in the housing market. For example, if the value of either of your properties goes down, you might owe more on your home equity loan and your mortgage, overextending you.

If you were to default on your loan, you could lose both properties.

You might end up having three mortgages but only two homes. Most home equity loans are second mortgages, so you have to combine this with the loan youll need for your second home, meaning three mortgages.

Another downside youll have to weigh is the fact that interest payments on your home equity loan will probably not be tax-deductible because of 2018 changes in tax codes.

The big takeaway here is that, yes, using home equity to buy a second home is an option and sometimes a very good one. At the same time, there are risks and its not always the right decision, so you need to go over the details in your specific situation carefully.


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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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Avoid FIVE Real Estate Regrets

Can you tell good real estate advice from bad?

Unfortunately, for buyers and sellers the answer is usually, Yes, in hindsight That is, after they have bought or sold.

After buyers move in or sellers move out, many things become clear. Buyers and sellers begin to discover whether the advice they followedfrom family, friends, social media, how-toswas the best advice to act on.

I have always believed that a type of stress-driven temporary insanity can descend on buyers and sellers. This is especially true if they put extra pressure on themselves by searching for a dream or forever home.

Clear thinking, capable individuals become frazzled. They are caught in a high-pressure vortex of unfamiliar real estate decisions, most of which must be made quickly and often without knowing or understanding all the implications:

This is particularly true for sellers who are attempting to decide whether to let go of the home they love and at what price, often without knowing exactly what will be next for them.

Buyers, especially first-timers, are frantically trying to project their lives into someone elses home, under time pressures and without really understanding all thats involved.

The most common hindsight regret and disappointment for buyers is the one that got awaythe real estate they could have bought but didnt.

These unmade decisions haunt some people for decades. Avoid hindsight regrets with foresight:nbsp;

The 5 Most Common Hindsight Regrets

Regret 1. That we didnt buy the house beside or behind ours, or both.

Wed have had an undisturbed view, privacy, and an amazing pool-sized backyard. The resulting large real estate holding could have set us up financially. Instead, we have a huge new house towering over oursthis is often the result when new neighbors renovate. If only wed regrets are no solution to not acting when opportunities arise.

Regret 2. That we began the search for a seasonal home, then got distracted, and nothing happened.

We keep kicking ourselves for not following through and buying that wonderful get-a-way. Now, vacation properties have climbed in value and may be out of reach. Hesitation undermines many buyers.

Regret 3. That we compromised on permanent, physical real estate characteristics to buy a property for its trendy, cosmetic features.

Letting go of a dream, like buying a detached home or a preferred location, cannot be reversed. Choosing a property because of must have fashionable decor features like open concept or a dream kitchen can represent short-term thinking. These features will wear out and go out of >

Regret 4. That we got swept away in a bidding contest and paid more than we intended.

That extra money could have bought us a different property which would have put us in a better home or a better neighborhood. Now that regret has materialized as a larger mortgage.

Regret 5. That we waited for prices to drop back to normal when, in our ever-changing world, that normal is now history.

When sellers become buyers, they may end up with similar regrets. If they dont apply forethought based on evaluating the success of their last purchase, they may find additional history repeats itself regrets in their next purchase.

Sellers can have selling regrets

Some sellers may get swept up in a hot market, without much thought about where theyll live next. This same hot market can turn on them, so they dont have as much purchasing power as they expected. They may regret they sold if they have to settle for less in their next home. Buying before you sell can make sense when listings are scarce and you have specific demands.

Not taking the time to calculate what youll net out of the sale, after all expenses, including real estate commission and legal fees, can be a big regret. This is especially true if the seller zeros in on price and picks the highest sale price out of the multiple offers. Fixation on sale price can lead to regrets about expenses >

Regrets at turning down an OK offerperhaps the only one receivedbecause the seller and the buyer were a few thousand apart. Sellers may regret that they did not encourage their or the other real estate professional to find a way to make it happen. A seller may regret they had not been asked to hold a no- or low-interest second mortgage a VTB or vendor-take-back mortgage for the buyer. This would have closed the financial gap so the home sold at the sellers price. This mortgage may be sold later to give the seller cash in hand.

Regrets are a waste of time and money

Your real estate professionals job is not to tell you what to buy nor to tell you when to sell.nbsp;

Their function is to provide accurate real estate information, dispel misinformation, access available real estate listings and data, and follow your instructions.

Professionals are there to explain the real estate transaction, expedite the buying or selling process, and help you achieve your desired results or get as close to them as the market and location allow.

They can help you clarify your thinking, consider new alternatives, and confirm your priorities.

Its up to you to take full advantage of this support to avoid regrets and achieve a real estate outcome you can live with.


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What is an Escalation Clause?

With the limited inventory of homes, low interest rates, and generally competitive market in housing, the idea of an escalation clause is particularly >

An Overview of an Escalation Clause

An escalation clause is something you can include in your offer if youre attempting to buy a home. This clause is one way to win a home when theres a bidding war or competition for it.

An escalation clause is something you might include in your offer that guarantees youll increase your agreed-upon price if theres a specific factor determined. In real estate offers, an escalation clause will state that if another offer is made on the property, your bid will automatically go up by a certain amount so that your offer will remain the highest.

An escalation clause can state that initially as a buyer, youre willing to pay a particular price. Then, youll go up to a pre-determined limit if competing offers are received.

You might add this clause if youre pretty sure a property will receive multiple offers, which your real estate agent should be able to offer you guidance on.

With that being said, even if you have an escalation clause, theres no guarantee you will be the successful bidder.

How Does It Work?

If you find the perfect home for you and you make an offer of 300,000, but you suspect that the house will receive at least one other offer, you put in the escalation clause, theoretically. You might, as an example, say that if youre outbid, youll go up 10,000 over any other offers. You can say that your highest bid will be 310,000.

Most of these clauses are set up to gradually and incrementally increase your offer at set amounts whenever someone outbids you.

The ceiling is an integral part of this so that you dont spend more than you can afford. Also, if someone puts in an offer thats above your ceiling, youre outbid.

In a sellers market, which were in right now, an escalation clause can be beneficial.

If youre going to put in an escalation clause, you need to consult with a professional first, whether a real estate agent or an attorney. Theyll help you figure out whether your situation calls for it, as well as what your amount should be and your ceiling.

For an escalation clause to go into effect, the seller must prove the competing offer. Sellers cant use your escalation clause to get you to pay more for the home.

Are There Risks?

Escalation clauses can be helpful when youre in a competitive market, but a downside to consider is that you have to lay it all on the line from the start. Youre telling a seller right away how much youre willing to pay for the house. That means their counteroffer can be your ceiling price. You also dont necessarily have any way of knowing whether the offer competing with yours was legitimate or not.

Additionally, not all sellers prioritize the highest price when accepting an offer.

Tips for Using Escalation Clauses

If youre thinking about making yourself a more competitive buyer with an escalation clause, you need to be realistic. Base your price ceiling on your financial situation and your preapproval letter. You also have to remind yourself that you can still be outbid.

Dont use an escalation clause on every house. Use it strategically and when youre genuinely in love with a home.

You might also want to include an appraisal contingency if youre going to add the escalation clause. With an appraisal contingency, once the home is appraised, it has to meet the agreed-upon purchase price. You dont want to end up paying more than the market value for the home.


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Six Creative Ways to Drum up Interest in Your Home

A perfectly updated home at the right price in a highly coveted neighborhood may sell right away, but what about the rest of the homes that hit the market? You should be able to depend on a well-connected, experienced real estate agent to create a solid marketing plan, network with fellow agents, and hold open houses. But is there something you might be able to do to help get your home sold? There sure is.

Organize a block party

If you live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other, fantastic Get everyone together on the street and offer to serve drinks or dessert in your house so you can make sure everyone comes on in. If youre not super friendly with them, a block party is a great way to get to know the neighbors youll soon be leavingand maybe uncover someone whos interesting in finding a new place in the same neighborhood.

Have an estate sale

A garage sale may attract mainly ultra-bargain shoppers, but an estate salethats another story. Not only do you have an opportunity to sell some of the items you dont intend to take with you to your next home, but you may find a potential buyer, too. If you dont have enough items to sell, enlist a few neighbors. They might be more than willing to haul over their old sideboard and china set for a chance to get it sold with minimal effort.

Show off the goods

Have a newly renovated kitchen you want to show off? Ninenbsp;out of 10 property purchases are decided by women, so invite the neighborhood moms over for wine and hors doeuvres. You never know who will fall in love with your kitchen island and decide they need to move.

Let your neighbors know on Nextdoor

Depending on how your neighborhood Nextdoor is run, your post may be flagged and taken down. But, before that happens, you just might be able to zero in on a prospect or twobefore you even list your home for sale

Rent a gaming truck

For a couple hundred bucks, you can rent a gaming truck to park in your neighborhood. Invite all the moms to hang out inside with you, where they can ooh and ahh over your home while the kids are occupied and having fun in the truck.

Ask your neighbors to put the word out

Turning your neighbors into an extension of your real estate agents marketing team is easy. After all, they care about who their future neighbor will be, right?


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What Real Estate Agents Wish They Could Tell Their Clients

Its not always easy to work in real estate. Home prices continue to rise throughout most of the country, interest rates are low and inventory is tight. Its a prime market for sellers and not so much for buyers. Theres a lot of anxiety and frustration for buyers and their agents, particularly with the prevalence of bidding wars.

Regardless of which end of the transaction you might be onbuyer or sellerworking with an agent whos knowledgeable and experienced is one of the best things you can do to navigate this complex market.

With that being said, as frustrated as you could be about certain things, there are likely things your agent wish you knew, or they could tell you as well.

Dont Contact Any Other Agents Once Youve Started Working With Someone

Once you start working with an agent to buy a home or sell yours, youre usually entering a contract with them. Its an exclusive buyer or seller representation agreement. Dont call the real estate agent on the sign if you see a house you like. Call your agent and tell them.

Your realtor is your representative for any purchase or sale.

Theyre meant to carry you through the legal and financial steps of buying or selling.

While youre obviously concerned with your needs, its good to think about things from the perspective of your agent too. If you go to another agent and end up writing a contract, lets say, then your agent doesnt receive any money for the time or effort they spent working with you. If you decide that you arent ready to buy or sell or something changes, let your agent know right away.

If Youre a Seller, Make It Easy to Sell Your Home

Even the best agent isnt going to have an easy time selling your home if youre not upholding your end of things. That means you try and keep your home as presentable as possible, including very clean, while its on the market. You should also try and work around your agent and the buyers schedules as much as possible.

Try to avoid being onsite during showings, and ensure your pets are put away and taken care of before a showing.

Your Expectations Might Be Unreasonable

If you were in a buyers market, you could get away with having higher standards, but in the current environment, youre very likely to have to lower your standards.

Things may gradually change over the next couple of years, but for the time being, your agent probably wishes they could directly tell you that its time to take some things off your wish list and be a little less picky.

If you want a home that needs zero work, youre going to pay a premium. Even fixer-uppers may not be extremely cheap right now.

Real Estate Agents Arent Experts in Everything

There are a lot of things your agent is going to be great at helping you with. They know the market, and they can help you with things like pricing and negotiations. You also have to realize there are limitations to their expertise. For example, your agent probably cant tell you if something is built to code or what it might cost you to take on a large-scale project.

They might have an idea, but its not what they specialize in.

Rather than thinking your agent will have every answer, you can expect that they can refer you to great experts in the areas where you need help.

Dont Say Youre a Motivated Buyer If You Arent

If you talk to any real estate agent, theyre going to have at least one and often many more stories about situations where theyve worked with buyers and then ultimately, they had no intention of making a purchase.

There are legitimate reasons you might take a long time to buy something or things can change, but if youre just killing time by looking at houses, its disrespectful to the agent whos taking their time to work with you.

Stop Lowballing Just Because

Finally, some buyers are deadest on not paying the listing price. No one wants to pay more than a house is worth, and thats normal, but you also have to understand the market and realize that sometimes you have to pay the market value of a home if you want it.


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Energy Efficiency In Your HOA

While there is continuing debate about the reasons driving climate change, most agree on the need for better stewardship of the Earth. While governments often move at a glacial pace to enact green policies, self help is readily available today. What better place to start than at the homeowner association? HOAs often control a variety of systems, processes, equipment, designs and materials. There are opportunities to improve energy efficiency which often produce economic benefits as well. This is a win-win: doing well by doing good Here are some ways an HOA can be ecologically friendly:

Eco-landscaping involves a combination of careful plant and tree selection, turf reduction, eliminating chemical fertilizers and improving water management. The days of broad green spaces are making way for a myriad of options that are more earth friendly. Selecting pest resistant and drought tolerant native species saves on maintenance, water and pest control. Fitting sprinkler systems with rain override sensors reduces water. Reducing turf areas reduces mowing and the pollution generated by gas powered equipment.

Donate It. Many areas have building product and material recycling centers which will accept lumber, doors, windows, cabinets, sinks, carpet and appliances. If you are renovating your clubhouse and have an option to donate used material and equipment instead of dumping, do it. Craigslist.com offers a free way to dispose of building materials.

Offer Recycling. Some jurisdictions have mandated recycling as part of the trash collection process. When recyclables are separated from trash, the trash load is reduced and trash collection costs less. With less trash, the landfill load is reduced as is the contamination of soil and ground water. Even where recycling is provided, compliance lags due to consumer laziness. The HOA can remind residents of their civic duty in this regard and the obvious benefit of lower trash collection costs.

Where government recycling requirements are absent, the HOA can create its own system by establishing a centralized recycling station for glass, metal, paper and recyclable plastics that is serviced by a contractor or committee. While individuals can haul their own recycling, the easier and cheaper it is to do, the greater the compliance. Centralize and economize.

Manage Energy Better. Take full advantage of power and water saving devices. LED bulbs use small amounts of energy. Add solar activated exterior light controls so lights burn only when needed. Replace high flow plumbing fixtures with low flow models. Insulate water pipes and heat ducts.nbsp;

Recycled Paint. Leftover latex paint is screened and blended into a popular pallette of colors and resold at a reduced price. For options, Google "[your state] recycled paint".

Go Solar. Many states offer incentives for adding solar power generation or solar hot water systems. If your buildings have flat roofs or good southern exposure, consult with local solar system providers for options. For HOAs with pools, solar water heating can often pay for itself quickly and significantly lower energy consumption.nbsp;

The HOA should remind all residents of ways they can help the HOA be more ecologically friendly by supporting HOA green programs and by individual effort. There are numerous free resources available on the internet such as:

Consumer Recycling Guide. There are numerous types of products and materials that fall outside the typical recycling service and need special handling. For these items, the HOA can empower its residents with information.

Packaging Reduction. This is an often overlooked strategy in reducing waste. Packaging can range from none like buying food in bulk to Fort Knox like hard shell plastic wrapped around electronics to reduce theft. Consumers generally have a range of packaging choices in many products. Opting for the one with less packaging is a conscious decision to help green the world.

Make it Fun The intriguing thing about going green is there are so many ways to pull it off. The HOA can encourage the process by offering prizes for effort and creativity. Those that step up are often willing to help recruit and encourage others. The news media loves to run stories about grass root green efforts. Make your HOA a standout and get recognized While it does take some effort, there are more incentives and resources today than ever. Make it your HOAs routine to be seen as green.


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6 Questions Your Loan Officer is Going to Ask

Even if its not your very first home purchase, you need to be prepared to provide your loan officer with what is required. Experienced home buyers may also have forgotten all the things provided and questions asked. For this audience, here are some questions you can bet your loan officer will be asking before you get too far into the process.

Is This Your First Home?

There may be special loan programs available in your area designed specifically for first time buyers. These programs might come from a local or statewide agency that helps first time buyers in a variety of ways, not to mention some down payment assistance. Its also important to recognize that most loan programs designate first time buyer status to those who have not owned a home in the past three years.nbsp;

Are You Self-Employed?

This is another question that might seem a bit out of the blue but its an important one. Theres some additional paperwork and process needed for someone who is self-employed or otherwise receives income other than an employer. For instance, you might need to provide a year-to-date profit and loss statement, something that an employee wouldnt have. Income for self-employed needs to be documented with the last two years of business income tax returns. This is a requirement because most such programs require a minimum self-employment period of two years.

How Is Your Credit?

Some might have had a recent late payment on an otherwise pristine credit report and automatically think their credit has been damaged. Be forthcoming and if there are any instances that might need some attention, explain them upfront and your loan officer will take it from there. There can sometimes be some misunderstanding of how lenders view credit so dont take it upon yourself to make a personal determination. If theres been a foreclosure or bankruptcy in the past, thats something the lender needs to know in advance.nbsp;

How Much Do You Make Each Month?

This is a >

How Much Money Do You Have Available For the Transaction?

Only the accounts used for the transaction are important. This accounts will be used for not just the down payment and closing costs involved but also some money left over referred to as cash reserves. Lenders want to make sure you have some money left over when all is said and done and not zero out your accounts.

When Do You Want to Close?

For purchase transactions the close date is listed on the sales contract. That is if youve already made an accepted offer. It also lets the loan officer know how much time is available to meet the contract date. Many escrow periods are for 30 days and there is a property picked out. This information lets the loan officer know when to begin ordering third party documentation be done but be ready to supply absolutely everything asked for in order to meet this deadline.


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What to Consider Before Starting a Kitchen Remodel

Your kitchen may be the place where your family spends the vast majority of their time. Thats common, and as such, we often want our kitchens to reflect our >

With that being said, a kitchen remodel is a huge undertaking, financially, and just in terms of logistics. Rather than jumping in, you need to prepare yourself for what to expect and make sure its something your family is ready for.

Can You Live Without a Kitchen?

Before you make any plans, think about your life>

There are minor upgrades you can make to your kitchen to refresh the >

If you have young kids at home and youre going through renovations, safety becomes an issue.

Many people are also working from home right now, so will you be able to continue doing that with construction going on around you?

Are You Prepared for the Costs?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a kitchen remodel is just over 25,300, which comes out to around 150 per square foot. The total cost varies depending on the size of your kitchen, whether or not you change the layout and the materials you choose.

You could do a minor remodel including refacing cabinets, upgrading your sink and adding a new backsplash for around 10,000. A much larger renovation costing upwards of 30,000 may include custom cabinetry, new flooring and countertops and high-end appliances.

Do you have the money to spend, and if so, is this how you want to spend it? If youd have to finance the project, how will those added monthly debt payments affect your budget and life?

If youre planning to sell your home soon, the project could pay for itself but you need to ensure you design a kitchen that will appeal to a wide set of tastes and dont make it too personal to your family.

Inevitably if you set a budget for a kitchen remodel, youre going to go over, so give yourself padding with that in mind.

Do You Need to Change the Layout?

If the layout of your kitchen isnt functional and you think it needs to be changed, its going to be more time-consuming and expensive than primarily aesthetic changes. You will need to work with a contractor, even if you plan to do some of the work independently.

Its important to understand which walls are load-bearing.

You will also need to talk to a professional to understand how to move plumbing, venting, and electrical components if youre changing the layout.

If you think you can do all the work in your kitchen on your own to save money, what can ultimately happen is that you make mistakes along the way. Then, you pay more to fix them. Sometimes its a better option to find a >

You might also want to hire a designer or at least consult with one if youre changing the layout. A designer can help you understand how layout changes will impact the flow of the kitchen, and they can help you with an optimal placement that will work for not just your family but potential buyers if you sell in the future.

A kitchen remodel is a huge undertaking. If youre considering it, prepare yourself for how itll affect your day to day life and finances.


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Does Hardwood Flooring Increase Property Values?

Hardwood flooring is valued for its beauty and charm as well as its overall durability. Wood floors are also hygienic and easy to clean, making them an excellent choice for those bothered by dust and other irritants that tend to get trapped in carpet fibers.

While there is an endless list of reasons to choose hardwood floors, some homeowners might wonder if timber flooring increases their homes overall value. While only a real estate agent can tell you if any changes to your home will increase its value and by how much, note some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to installing hardwood floors in a home that you might put on the market in a few years.

Hardwood Floors Sell Homes With a Neutral Look

Many real estate agents advise their clients to keep their homes decor as neutral as possible when putting that house on the market. Prospective home buyers often have a difficult time imagining their own color choices and personal belongings in a home with an eclectic or unusual look, so a simple but warm decor often appeals to more homebuyers.

Hardwood floors sell homes with a neutral look that appeals to a wide range of buyers. For example, a prospective buyer who prefers a modern >

Hardwood Flooring, Durable for Years

People in the market for a new home dont like to think of moving into a house and having to immediately make extensive or even minor repairs or updates. No matter their other features and even a homes price, buyers tend to overlook houses with sagging wood window sills, a dilapidated roof, outdated plumbing and electrical features, and other materials in poor repair, in favor of homes in good condition.

This is true for a homes interior floors; old and worn carpeting inside your house can cause a prospective buyer to move on to another property rather quickly. However, hardwood flooring is durable for years Even if its a few years old, wood flooring is likely to be in good condition when youre ready to put your home on the market, ensuring that you dont lose any prospective buyers simply because of the condition or appearance of your homes floors.

The Most Durable Wood Floors Withstand Wear and Tear

The most durable wood floors will appeal to a wide range of buyers who are looking for a turn key home, meaning one in good condition, as said. However, many prospective homebuyers want a flooring material that will remain in good condition long after theyve moved in as well

Even if a house has >

The Ease of Cleaning Hardwood Floors

While carpet fibers are softer underfoot than wood floor tiles, those fibers are also notorious for trapping dirt, dust, mud, pet hair and dander, human hair and shed skin cells, insect droppings, cigarette ash, pollen, and a list of other irritants Regular vacuuming and consistent shampooing or steam cleaning by a professional is cumbersome and expensive but typically the only way to keep a homes carpets clean and hygienic.

Prospective homebuyers know that the density of solid hardwood floors makes them much more hygienic overall and easier to keep clean on a daily basis. Solid wood floors wont trap dirt and dust and typically need nothing more than a light dust mopping to stay clean. For prospective buyers who demand a clean flooring surface and dont appreciate lugging a heavy vacuum around every day, hardwood flooring makes your home much more valuable in their eyes

Can You Paint Solid or Engineered Hardwood?

Another great selling point when it comes to hardwood floors is that you can paint or stain solid or engineered hardwood. The wood floor experts at Kansas City Flooring Pros note that a professional flooring contractor should first sand the floors properly before recoating, to create a surface that will hold paint or stain properly without removing so much timber that you damage the floor slats or create grooves and swirl patterns along the floor.

However, if left in the hands of a professional, painting solid or engineered hardwood floors allows you to change their appearance as often as you want, going from a light whitewash to a dark walnut stain and everything in between While you can dye carpeting, this process is not as versatile as painting or staining hardwood when it comes to giving your homes interior a fresh new look. Prospective homebuyers might appreciate the option of changing the appearance of a homes floor somewhat easily over time, making your home more appealing to them.

Hardwood is a Floor Option for All Seasons

If your home is located in an area with extremes in weather, hardwood floor tiles are an excellent option and one that many prospective homebuyers might appreciate. In colder climates, a dark paint or stain color will keep the homes interior warm. In tropical climates or areas with long, hot summers, a gray or whitewash floor color keeps a home cool and comfortable.

Prospective homebuyers might also appreciate that they can place a thick area rug over wood floors during cold weather and then remove that rug during summertime, to keep the homes floors comfortable no matter the weather. Changing the appearance of a homes floor this way is also an option if a homeowner tends to change a rooms decor throughout the year, as they can also change the area rugs and their new homes flooring will always coordinate perfectly with the overall appearance of its surroundings.


nbsp;Dustin Miller is the owner of Kansas City Flooring Pros and has been flipping properties and renovating homes for over 10 years. His team of experts know exactly how to increase home values and what the best renovation projects are to increase your home value when you are getting close to selling.


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How Lenders View Tip Income

When tips play a big part in someones take-home pay, it can be used to help qualify for a mortgage. The kicker is that many dont report all of the tip income or simply lose track of the amount. Tips are issued to the recipient directly either in cash or added onto the credit slip. Either way, it must be accounted for.nbsp;

Its the recipients job to not only keep track of the daily amounts as well as report the income when filing income tax returns. And here is where things can sometimes get a little off track. Most such jobs pay a minimum wage and its the tip income that really matters. But when it comes time to qualify for a home loan, that tip income must be accounted for.nbsp; Accounting for tips means depositing the funds into a bank account on a regular basis. It also means keeping a personal, written record of tip income.nbsp;

When someone gets paid from their employer, its common for income to be paid out on the 1st and 15th. The bank account statements will then show these deposits from the employer using direct pay. But what the employer wont show is how much tip income was distributed. In fact, the employer might have a general idea but there isnt any way for the employer to get an exact number on the amount of tips. Its important to also deposit tips in a regular manner. Someone might deposit last weeks tip income on a Monday, for example. Weekly, consistent deposits that are verified by bank statements and even deposit slips may be counted.

However, as we recently mentioned, all income must have a history and tip income is no different. Income in general must be documented to having been received for at least the last two years. This provides the lender with enough confidence the income will continue well into the future, typically for at least three years. Verifying a consistent, two year history helps lenders make this determination. Tip income must also be shown being received for at least two years. The income reported to the IRS is the amount of tip income lenders will use when qualifying. Thats the final verification lenders need in order to use tip income when qualifying for a mortgage and probably the most important. If this income doesnt show up on your tax returns, thats going to be a problem. Even if you keep solid personal records.

If youre planning on buying a home in the future and your tips play an important part, make sure we speak together about how to document this important piece of your financial profile before you get too much further. In essence, its just like any other income as it >
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Buying a Home as an Unmarried Couple: What to Know

Its increasingly common for people to live together but not be married. For example, in the past 20 years, the number of unmarried couples living together has almost tripled. You might be planning to wait to get married, or maybe youre not going to at all, but what if you want to buy a home together?

Its possible to buy a home as an unmarried couple, but it can be a little more complex than it is for a married couple. nbsp;

The following are some considerations to proactively think about before you start the process.

Whos Going To Apply for the Mortgage?

When you arent married, but you want to buy a home together, one of the first things youll have to think about is whos applying for the mortgage. The person in the >

When you arent married, you have to apply as individuals typically.

Go over financial factors like credit scores, incomes, debt-to-income ratios, employment status, and assets to figure out who has the stronger financial standing. Not only will that person have a better likelihood of approval, but theyll also qualify for better terms like lower interest rates.

Some lenders may let you apply for a mortgage together, although its not extremely common. If you apply together, it can help or hurt you. The benefit is that you may qualify for a larger mortgage since you have a combination of two incomes. The downside might be if your partner has a lower credit score, and the lender could base their decision on that.

How Will You Hold the Title?

The title of a home is proof of ownership. There are a few options here:

Joint tenancy is one option in which both you and your partner will have equal shares of your property. This will include the right of survivorship, meaning that if one of you passes away, the survivor will receive the deceaseds half of the property.

Another way to deal with the title is called tenants in common. Under this arrangement, youre co-owners with equal rights to the property. Its different from joint tenancy because you hold titles individually for your share of the property. You can dispose of your individual ownership. There isnt a right of survivorship and the other partner doesnt receive the decedents property share if they pass away. Instead, the property would go to the heirs of the person who passed away.

A living trust of real property is a way to set up the arrangement also. The trustee holds the title for the beneficiary who has all of the management responsibilities and rights.

What About a Cohabitation Property Agreement?

Whether youre married or not, when you buy a property together, youre going to accumulate equity. However, youre not going to have the same level of property protection as a married couple, meaning you might want to go further to protect yourself.

One way to do this is to have an attorney create whats called a cohabitation property agreement, outlining who owns what. This is something youll fall back on if you separate.

A cohabitation agreement should outline how youll share expenses >

Other Considerations

There are a few other things to think about in addition to whats above.

First, if your name is on a mortgage and your partner stops contributing to payments for any reason, youre both equally liable. If you cant make the payments without their financial contribution, you may be faced with foreclosure.

If you get a joint loan, your name will stay on the mortgage unless you refinance.

Finally, only one of you is eligible for the mortgage interest tax deduction since unmarried couples file taxes separately.

The best thing to do before buying a house as an unmarried couple is sit down and carefully go through your finances, and make sure youre on the same page before you proceed with anything.


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Five Seasonal Strategies to Keep Property Managers Sane

The holidays mean one thing is on every property managers mind: managing the package delivery chaos. UPS estimated it delivered 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2018 and that number is sure to rise this year. For the week of December 2 alone this year, Package Concierge had over 716,000 package transactions - thats a 42 increase from the week prior. As more and more Americans do their retail shopping online, multifamily properties will need solutions that can help manage the madness during the holidays and beyond.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by holiday package management, but with a little advanced planning and the addition of the ever-increasing available property technology, managers can face the busy season head-on. With the busiest shipping season of the year in full force, here are a few tips to help property managers prepare:

1. Supplement Staffing

With fewer shipping days in the 2019 holiday season, be prepared to efficiently handle the late spike in deliveries by ensuring enough staff and/or automated solutions are on hand to manage it all. Consider hiring seasonal employees and adding automated lockers and package rooms to help fill in the gaps. Investing in the right tech can pay serious long term dividends.

2. Make it Secure

Carriers are staffing up for the holidays too, which means new faces may be added on your route. Tighten up security for delivery personnel and all the added packages by reviewing your buildings entry procedures and access points for package drop-off and pick-up. Determine if seasonal staff, automated locks, extra security cameras and/or entry codes need to be adjusted or added to ensure residents and packages remain safe and secure.

3. Clearly Communicate

Whether the property management office will have extended holiday hours or be closed for entire portions of the holiday season, make sure both your residents and delivery carriers are well informed ahead of time especially since this short season will be extremely busy. This is also the time to outline your propertys policies for return packages, package pick-up procedures, guest check-ins and any policies >

4. Plan the Parking Lot

The increase in visitors and delivery vehicles during this busy time may place a strain on parking for your residents. Make sure visitor parking policies are clearly communicated and that proper signage is in place. Consider temporarily designating package delivery drop-off locations that are close to entrances and provide enough space for package carts without blocking traffic.

5. Keep it Clean

Adding extra building cleanings will not only ensure it has a seasonal sparkle but will also help keep everyone healthy; especially since all the extra foot traffic, boxes and waste create more dust and clutter. Have cleaning crews pay extra special attention to high-traffic common areas, sanitizing doors and handles from the front lobby entrance to the mail and package room.nbsp;nbsp;

A bit of extra planning now, will help finish this years shortened holiday season with ease. Its never too early or too late to enhance your property with technology solutions that increase efficiency for the holiday season and beyond.


Georgianna W. Oliver is the Founder of Package Concierge, the trusted provider of automated locker solutions.


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A Guide To HOA Board Responsibilities

Serving on the board of a homeowner association is a high calling. Well meaning volunteers are elected to roles that are critical to the well being of the HOA. But what exactly is a board member supposed to do to fulfill this charge? Heres a handy guide:

Officer Responsibilities

President:

  • Prepares meeting agenda
  • Presides at all board, annual and special meetings
  • Appoints and supervises all committees
  • Supervises the manager
  • Trains directors for future leadership positions
  • Sets positive example

Vice President:

  • Keep current on HOA business
  • Fills in for president when necessary
  • In training for future presidency only a "heartbeat" away

Secretary:

  • Records minutes at all meetings
  • Maintains book of minutes and resolutions
  • Posts meeting notices
  • Attests to the authenticity of corporate documents
  • Certifies all meeting notices and election results
  • Responsible for all official communications with members

Treasurer:

  • Responsible for collection and expenditure of assessments
  • Reviews and summarizes financial statements
  • Approves/signs all checks
  • Monitors reserve investments
  • Monitors delinquencies

All Board Members:

  • Come to meetings prepared
  • Maintain a professional demeanor
  • Put personal agendas aside
  • Encourage participation
  • Be open and fair
  • Maintain confidentiality when appropriate

nbsp;

Use this handy checklist for board training and retraining purposes when the board gets off-track.


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How To Choose The Best Refi: It’s Not Just About The Rates

As mortgage rates continue their freefall, more and more homeowners are opting to refinance. With the recent dips, experts are saying that even those who refinanced in 2019 should take a look to see if they can save money.nbsp;nbsp;

Millions of homeowners could benefit by refinancing their mortgages, even if they bought or refinanced as recently as May 2019, said NerdWallet. A typical refinance could save more than 150 a month.

But the rates are just one of the considerations. If youre thinking about looking into a new loan, here are some other things to consider.nbsp;

How much is it going to cost you?

Yes, refinancing to lower your rate and your payment is typically a good idea. But refinancing isnt free, and the fees you pay can add up. Make sure you take a good look at all of the fees, negotiate where you can, and figure out how long its going to take you to break even.

Estimate your break-even period: the time it takes for the accumulated monthly savings to exceed the loan fees, said NerdWallet. For example, if you pay 3,600 in fees to save 100 a month, it will take 36 months to break even 3,600 divided by 100 equals 36. If you believe youll stay in the house beyond the break-even period, it might be worthwhile to refinance.

Think about the terms

Who says you need to stick with a 30-year loan? With rates this low, it might be time to look at a 15-year term. Maybe you want to consider an adjustable rate. Perhaps its time to refinance out of your FHA loan into a conventional loan to get rid of that private mortgage insurance PMI, which will save you even more money per month. Be sure to look at all of your options, and not just the one that seems the most obvious.

Hows the service?

On the service side, getting your questions answered in a timely and accurate way is an important element of the process, said Investopedia. Getting a loan requires quite a bit of paperwork, as well as the collection and dissemination of a significant amount of personal information. Having a single, >

A conventional loan isnt your only option.nbsp;

One of the lesser known refinancing options is called an FHA streamline. The benefit of this type of refinance is that you dont have to jump through many of the typical lender hoops. If you currently have an FHA mortgage, the FHA Streamline Refinance is the easiest way to get a lower rate and monthly payment, said The Mortgage Reports. The FHA Streamline is a low-doc refinance with limited paperwork required; the lender doesnt have to verify your income or credit, and theres no home appraisal. That means a Streamline Refinance closes faster than other loans and has slightly cheaper closing costs.nbsp;

This type of refi is also available through the VA and USDA.

Did you get a second opinion?

Even if you go back to your current mortgage lender for your refinance, shop at least a couple of other lenders to see hownbsp;interest ratesnbsp;and terms compare, said NerdWallet. You might believe that going to your existing lender will save you time and hassle. They know us, theyve already got all of our paperwork, you may think. If only that were true. Its a new loan for them, just like its a new loan for any lender. The paperwork will be the same. When lenders know youre shopping around, they are more likely to compete.


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Sure-Fire Ways to Enhance the Value of Your Home

As a homeowner, any investment in your home should be one that enhances its overall value. There are many different ways to improve the value of any home. The trick is to choose those features which will bring you the most return on your investment and satisfaction for your everyday living environment. Here are our best suggestions for areas to improve the value of your home.

Landscaping

The curb appeal of your home is in straight connection with the perceived value of the home. Its important to remember that the value of your home will be determined by the buying market. For this reason, youll want to ensure that your home looks amazing. Curb appeal is an area that you simply cant ignore. The outside of your home is the first glimpse that people get of your house from a listing and when driving up for a showing. You want to impress them at first sight. Investing your money in different landscaping features can provide a great return on your investment. Features can include trees, shrubs, flowers, fountains, fences, benches, ambient lighting, and so forth.

Energy-Efficient Features

Aside from the mortgage payment, one of the most expensive parts of owning a home is paying the electricity bill. This holds especially true in the dead of winter and drought of summer. To help keep energy levels low, there are various energy-efficient features that can be installed throughout your home. Solar panels tend to be some of the first features that most people think of when they hear about cutting energy costs. By producing your own energy, you can avoid the high costs of paying your utility company each month. Heat pumps are another great way to majorly reduce your heating and cooling costs. Even adding energy-efficient kitchen appliances can be a great idea to help lower the electric bill each month.

Replace Old Windows

Older windows in your home can be a big avoidance of potential homebuyers. They know that windows can be somewhat costly to fix and will avoid buying homes that will need a lot of windows replaced. You can fix this problem by installing new windows in your home. These newer windows will be more energy-efficient and make your energy bills much cheaper. According to EnergyStar, the average homeowner can enjoy savings of up to 500 per year in energy costs just by installing new windows. Also, by installing new windows, it can modernize the look of the home which is a big plus for potential buyers.

Convert Extra Space Into Rooms

One of the biggest ways to improve the value of a home is to add another bathroom or bedroom. While not all homeowners have the space to do so, it can be advantageous for those who do. Look for those spare rooms that can be converted. Even an attic space that is tall enough to be converted into a bedroom can drastically improve the value of your home. If you have a lot of open basement space, consider installing a downstairs bathroom and bedroom. The more bedrooms and bathrooms you can install, the higher the value increase for your home.

Update The Kitchen

The two most popular rooms in a home are the bathroom and the kitchen. The kitchen is one that is highly desired to be modernized. This includes new appliances, beautiful countertops, and more modern features. If youre going to be investing your money in updating any room of your home, you should opt for the kitchen first. This will bring you the biggest return on your investment.

Increasing the value of your home can be done through many different methods. The above are just some of the most popular methods that are used by homeowners. Its always a good idea to consider the return on investment that youll get from any home improvement that you intend to do. This will ensure that you get your money back when you go to resell your home in the future.


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5 Roof Options to Consider in 2022

Your roof plays a more important part of your property than you may realize. Roofs create a significant part of your homes curb appeal - and therefore value. They also protect your home from the elements and play a role in your homes energy efficiency and energy costs.

While a few roofing materials are capable of lasting for decades or even hundreds of years, most eventually reach the end of their usefulness and their lifespans. If your roof has been leaking, has cracks, missing shingles, or significant algae growth, it may be time to look into getting a new one. And with so many new and innovative materials on the market today, you may find that youre able to get a roof that can not only improve on your existing one, but that can improve things like your energy efficiency and overall performance as well.nbsp;

Well outline five of the newest and hottest roofing technologies and materials below, so you can learn more about what might be a good fit for your home.

Storm Resistant Roofing

Storms are one of the biggest causes of roof damage. Hailstones can break and bruise roofing shingles, while cracking tiles and denting metal panels. High winds can rip many types of roofing right off the top of a home. With climate change increasing the number of storms in recent years, this has led to the need to re-roof a number of homes.

By investing in roofing that is designed to resist hailstones and high winds, you can better protect your home and prevent the need for reroofing after the next storm. Many luxury types of architectural shingles and some types of concrete and metal roofing are now able to withstand the worst that mother nature can bring.nbsp;Expect costs to start around 15 a square foot installed for these materials, around 30,000 for a 2,000 sq.ft. roof, which compared to the average cost to replace a roof 7,000 - 12,000 is significantly higher, but youll be much less likely to need to re-roof any time soon.

Solar Roofing

Most people have heard about solar panels and know the benefits that they can offer. But did you also know that in addition to large, heavy and unsightly panels, there are also several types of solar roofing as well?

Solar roofing installs just like regular roofing material in the form of shingles or metal roof panels. They contain solar cells, however, just like standard solar panels. This means that while your roof is sitting in the sun all day, it will also be producing energy to help power your home.

Its important to note that individual solar shingles and roofing panels do not produce as much energy as full-sized solar panels. However, by covering your entire roof in them, you are likely able to get the same results. Compared to the average cost to install solar panels -between 15,000 and 21,000 - the cost of solar roofing is high - 60,000 to 70,000 on average. However, this system will work as a roof and will also help pay for itself over time in lowered energy costs.

Cool Roofs

If you live in a hot climate, then youre well aware of what can happen to your roof after a day in the sun. The sun heats the roofing shingles, which transfer that heat to the attic. The attic transfers that heat to your living area, and youre running the A/C at ever higher rates to cool down. Not to mention all of that heat can cause your roofing materials to deteriorate even faster, so you need to replace your roof more often.

Enter cool roofs. Cool roofs look like any other asphalt, architectural shingle, or composite roof. But, they contain materials that help them reflect the suns rays, rather than absorbing them. This keeps your roof cooler, which keeps your attic cooler, and in turn means that you can stay more comfortable without the extra A/C. These roofs are not a good fit for homes in cool climates, but can work exceptionally well in hot areas. They cost about the same as other, non-cooling roof materials of the same time, meaning that a 1,500sq.ft. roof would cost around 10,000 on average.

Plastic Shingles

When you think about the material to roof your home with, you likely dont think about plastic shingles. But plastic roofing has a lot of benefits. This low cost material is also extremely durable and lightweight. It resembles the look of more expensive materials like cedar or slate, but at a fraction of the cost. Best of all, you dont need to reinforce your roof deck to install it.

Plastic shingles also resist storms and hail damage, while lasting upwards of 50 years. Look for brands that use post-consumer material in their production, and you can even get a more sustainable roof at the same time. Plastic roofing costs around 8,000 to 12,000 for a 2,000sq.ft. roof that resembles slate, which is a lot less than the 30,000 you would pay for real slate roofing.nbsp;

Green Roofs

If your home has a flat roof or a low-slope roof, you may want to consider a green or living roof. Green roofs use plants, earth, and container systems to cover your roof in a layer of insulating, live material. This has many benefits. Green roofs can last for decades while helping to enhance the energy efficiency of your home and help reduce the overall temperature in cities. They can also help manage rainwater and prevent issues from run off. The thick layer of material insulates your home, so you stay more comfortable year round.nbsp;

Green roofs come in three different levels, which can influence the type, layout, and cost. Many roofs are eligible and once you get them established, they dont take as much maintenance as you may imagine. The cost of a green roof is about 22,000 for a variety of plants - which is at the high end of the average cost to roof a home - 7,000 to 24,0000 - but which can outlast many other materials, while offering plenty of benefits at the same time.nbsp;

Bring Your Roof Up-to-Date

If your roof is old, in poor condition, or just isnt serving its purpose any longer, consider updating your roof with one of these newer materials. Todays roofs do more than sit on your home; they really enhance your homes appearance and its performance long term. No matter where you live, what your climate, or your budget, youre sure to find an ideal roof to fit your needs.


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Could Your Garage Get Your Home Sold?

Youve made updates to your kitchen. Made sure your bathrooms look fresh and clean. Decluttered EVERYTHING. Even dropped your price. But your house still isnt selling. Could your garage make the difference?

It just might.nbsp;

When prospective buyers visit your for-sale home, theyre going to inspect every room in the houseeven the garage, said Sara Reese of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida on RISMedia. Its not exactly a glamorous space, but if your garage is a mess, its going to send a bad signal and turn off visitors. Therefore, its helpful to spend a little time in your garage and make it look its best.

Here are a few tips to get your garage in great shape.

Replacing your garage door

If your garage door works perfectly fine, replacing it may not be a high priority. But consider it curb appeal. Garage doors are large items, and they take up a lot of eye space. Especially if your garage faces the street, a dented, chipped, or dingy door could be stealing focus from the rest of your otherwise-put-together house.nbsp;

Remodeling Magazinenbsp;found in its 2019 Cost vs. Value study that an upscale garage door replacement can actually net you anbsp;return of 97.5, said HomeLight. A new garage door will run younbsp;between 300 to 1,500, depending upon the size and >

If the garage makes a loud or creaky sound when it opens, spending a few hundred dollars to replace the garage door opener is a no-brainer.

Finishing out the garage

Finishing out your garage isnt recommended if youre looking for the best return on investment ROI. While this type of upgrade may appeal to a niche buyer, most arent going to pay extra for it, and you likely wont recoup your costs.nbsp;

Just adding epoxy to the floor can cost between 1,400 and 3,000. You could do it yourself for about 100, but the process can be tricky and the results may reflect your novice status.nbsp;

If you dont want to go to the trouble and expense of epoxying the floors, make sure you get them nice and clean. If your garage floors are cracked and covered in oil stains from cars gone by, its a good idea to give the floor a good pressure washing and repair those cracks depending on how big or noticeable they are, said Nexx. According to homewyse, power washing the garage floor will cost around 200.nbsp;

Adding storage

After giving the garage a good cleaning, this is the No. 1 must-do to get the space in good shape. According to Kiplinger, 85 of buyers said they want garage storage.nbsp;

You can easily spend thousands on dedicated garage storage systems that make the space look pristine, but creating spaces to neatly stash your stuff doesnt have to be costly. A few large metal shelving units placed side by side will only cost you a few hundred dollars. These freestanding units are popular with buyers because the doors hide messes. And, when you put a few of them together, you can turn the top into a work surface.

Adding a garage

If you dont have a garage and youre in an area where most homes do, adding one might be on your mind. Your real estate agent should be able to advise you on whether or not this is a smart move, especially given the expense and expected ROI. At a national level, home sellers can expect to recover close to 64.8 of their initial garage addition costs, said Clever. Lets say that you invest 27,000 in adding a garage to your home, you may recover about 17,496 when you sell your home.

Doing a garage conversion

Perhaps youre thinking of converting your garage to living space. It is less expensive than adding on; According to Realtor.com, a garage renovation comes in atnbsp;11,000 on average.

While a conversion isnt necessarily a recommended strategy if youre looking to get your home sold right away because of the expense and the time involved, there are some instances where this might be a good move.nbsp;

Nearly 30 of shoppers rate a garage as one of the most important home features, just ahead of an updated kitchen and open floor plan. But a well-done garage conversion to living space can give you up to an 80 ROI.nbsp;

The decision of whether to go this route largely hinges on that expense, but also on the specific area in which your home is located. Its best to talk with your real estate agent before dropping the hammer on your garage conversion. It could be that homes without garage in your area just dont sell. Or, perhaps there is a growing trend toward multi-generational living locally that could inform your renovation and make your home especially desirable.nbsp;


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Is It a Trend or a Fad? How to Know the Difference When Updating Your Home

When fixing up your home, especially if youre doing so to get it in shape to put it on the market, you want to make sure it looks updated. And that means including current trends. But theres a fine line between trends and fads.

In a macro sense, Anbsp;fadnbsp;is a short-lived phenomenon, fading in a >

As it >

How can you tell between a fad and a trend?

Take the barn door. It started out looking like a fad, merged into a trend, and then became so oversaturated Try finding a flip or renovation on HGTV that didnt have one over the last couple of years that people became tired of them.nbsp;

If youre making changes to your home with the intent of selling, knowing the difference between fads and trends can help inform your design choices.

Paint color

Gray has been the color dujour for, well, more than a jour. If your home needs a fresh coat before you list it, a neutral is the way to go. You just want to make sure you dont go overboard.nbsp;nbsp;

Gray floors, gray walls, gray kitchen cabinets Treating gray as a neutral is something thats starting to feel predictable, Samira Tapia, a Los Angeles-based Realtor with Compass, told Apartment Therapy.nbsp; I specifically have buyers asking me not to send them any all-gray listings.

You also want to be careful about going too bold. You may love blood red or a shade of yellow thats brighter than the sun, but unusual or unpredictable shades may make your home memorable for the wrong reason.nbsp;

Wallpaper

Thanks to Instagram and Pinterest, busy, bold wallpaper is back in a big way, said HomeLight. Online searches for bold print wallpaper have increased bynbsp;401 in the past year. But heres the thing about wallpaper, dont add it to your home. It can add visual clutter, Janice Rosenberg, anbsp;top performing real estate agent in Raleigh, NC, told them. Buyers are doing their searches on the Internet, and theyre looking at the photos and when they see wallpaper that they dont like in their minds, theyre thinking its going to cost a lot of money and time to get rid of it.

Flooring

If you are replacing your flooring prior to listing your home, think carefully about what to use. Hardwood can actually help you sell your home, and for a higher price than other materials, but you still wont get every dollar you spend back in most cases. Before you commit to spending thousands of dollars, its a good idea to consult your real estate agent. An experienced agent should be able to guide you to the best options for your flooring and then counsel you on the best colors, plank width, and brands of you do choose to add hardwood.nbsp;

Kitchen finishes

Watch HGTV for more than a few minutes these days and youre probably going to see some fancy gold or brass finishes in the kitchen, and possibly the bathrooms as well. Were filing this under fad, because, even though this type of finish has grown in popularity, youre still unlikely to find them in the majority of homesespecially in more suburban areas. If you live in a hip city with a large, design-savvy millennial buyer base, going with the latest finishes could be a good move. For everyone else, sticking to finishes with more widespread appeal is smart.nbsp;

Kitchen shelving is another important feature to consider. In recent years, open shelving has become quite popular on design shows. But, in real life, it can lack function and create clutterespecially when there is too much of it. Open shelving looks great when done right, but too many open shelves can look unorganized, said Family Handyman.nbsp;Stick to a couple well-organized open shelves mixed in with cabinets.

Bathrooms

Outside of finishes, its important to consider the main features of your bathroom. Are you fixing up an outdated space? You might be seeing a number of owners renovating their master bathrooms to include a large walk-in shower, which requires them to ditch the bath. Is this a fad or a trend? Either way, it can be a move that hurts the homes value.nbsp;

Consider your potential buyer before making such a drastic change. If there are a lot of young families in the neighborhood and thats your target buyer, removing the tub in the master bath may end up costing you a sale.


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How Does Inflation Affect Home Prices and Real Estate?

If youve followed the news lately, youve probably seen quite a bit about inflation. In September, there was another surge in consumer prices, which matched a 13-year high. The price increase was the largest since 2008, up 5.4 from a year ago.

Some of the categories seeing the most significant increases included new cars, gas, food and restaurants meals. Core inflation was up 0.2 in September and there was a 4 increase from last year.

COVID-19 has contributed to some of the issues because for example, the pandemic continues to close factories in Asia and slow operations at U.S. ports. There are significant bottlenecks in the supply chain and high demand, meaning inflation will stay up for a while.

So, how does all of this affect the real estate market?

The Inventory Issue

Interest rates have been kept low for so long its created a bubble for everything and not just the housing market. Theres also inflationary pressure on the housing market because of limited inventory. Limited inventory stems from a myriad of problems in the industry.

First, many homeowners arent putting their houses on the market. This is due to factors like lockdowns, but also the fear they wont be able to find a new one to buy.

There are construction delays due to supply chain bottlenecks as well.

Buyers are often having to put in bids well above ask to get properties, creating a frustrating situation, to say the least.

Other Inflationary Effects On Real Estate

Along with the situations above, there are some other ways inflation can influence how much you pay for a home.

First, inflation is a reference to a rise in the price of everyday goods. Those everyday goods are used to build homes. If the price of things like lumber and appliances go up, then the builder will pass those additional costs onto the buyer in the form of higher prices.

In some cases, however, inflation can have oppositional effects on real estate. If inflation rises, then theoretically, money should become more expensive to borrow. People borrow less of it, so there are fewer home purchases and that can lead to lower economic growth. Right now, thats not happening however, because as mentioned, interest rates remain low.

When the Central Bank increases the money supply into the economy, which is a primary driver of inflation, home prices tend to automatically go up as a result.

Real Estate Can Protect You Against Inflation

While real estate can be negatively affected by inflation in the form of higher prices, it can also protect you from its effects.

As home prices go up over time, youre lowering the loan-to-value of your debt. Youre simultaneously increasing your equity, but your fixed-rate mortgage payments will stay the same.

If youre a real estate investor earning income from rental properties, then youre likely going to be able to charge higher rent when inflation is up. You can adjust the rent while the mortgage stays the same.

Finally, in general, home prices do also tend to go up steadily over time. The homes that hit bottom prices during the real estate bubble burst of 2008 were back up to pre-crash prices in less than ten years in most cases.

The >
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Are You Ready for Disaster?

Are You Ready for Disaster?nbsp;

No matter where you live in this great nation, youre susceptible to natural disastersfrom hurricanes, tornados, or storm surge to wildfires or flooding.

What can you do when disaster strikes?

Put your pre-disaster plans and precautions in action

Without forethought, you, your family, and your home can be at the mercy of the elements:

Flooding can happen anywherenbsp;

The recent overwhelming atmospheric rivernbsp; drenched Washington State and British Columbia with torrential rain and storms. The resulting flooding, mud slides, power outages, evacuations, and wet everything drove people from their homes and caused human and animal loss of life. Destruction on a terrifying scale Flooding, the most common natural disaster, can also result from snow melt, storm surge, and dam overflow.

Fires and droughts are seasonal normsnbsp;

Lingering drought and heat islands hit many regions hard each year. Wildfires explode in these dry areas. Blazing wildfires sweep across forests, wilderness, and communities with devastating loss of life and with overwhelming property destruction.

Disaster realities exceed past climate experiencenbsp;

These massive natural disasters continue as frightening examples of how our experience with local weather may not prepare us for what is coming next. Experts warn that the extreme weather hitting us now will seem mild in comparison with what lies ahead as climate change rolls on.

Foresight beats regretting in hindsight. Emergency preparedness can save lives and reduce damage.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

You dont have to figure out emergency preparedness alone. Many community and government agencies and organizations have invested a lot of time and creativity to make it easy for you to be prepared. For example, the national public service campaign READY.gov, and its Spanish language version LISTO, are designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. To assist you in making a family emergency plan and supply kit and sharing your efforts with friends, READY offers 18 Social Media Disaster Preparedness Toolkits to choose from, including the Flood Toolkit, Wildfire Toolkit, and Winter Weather Toolkit.

Ten Preparedness Steps to Take Now

1. Anticipate Your Flood Risk

Your risk involves previous flood patterns and projections of flooding based on changing weather patterns. Where will the water go if nearby lakes or rivers overflow or if the ground becomes too saturated to absorb more water? Investigate FEMAs Flood Map Service Center, the Emergency Alert System, and NOAA Weather Radio to learn what support is offered. Sign up for the local warning system. Pay attention to the weather.

2. Flood insurance

Flood insurance coverage is not automatically part of your homeowners policy, so ask your insurance agent about it. In high-risk areas, homes and businesses with government-backed mortgages must have flood insurance. FEMAs National Flood Insurance Program NFIP is available through a network of over 50 insurance companies.

3. Keep Water Away From Your Home

  • Regularly walk all the way around your foundation to ensure grading, or the slant of the land, is taking water away from your home.
  • Also walk the property line. Neighbors may be building, paving, or disrupting drainage, so that more water ends up on your property. My neighbor added an elevated artificial lawn to their rear garden and my patio became a pond when it rained.
  • Regularly clear gutters and downspouts to keep water at least 3 to 6 feet away from foundation walls.
  • If you have a sump pump, check it regularly to be sure it will work when you need it. Does the sump pump have battery back-up if the power dies?

4. Whats Precious?

Other than the living beings who share your home, what really matters to you? Family photos are high on most peoples Treasures List. Dont store precious things in the basement where the risk of water damage is highest.

5. Waterproof Protection

Store important papers, photographs, and documents in waterproof containers. Also make a digital copy of everything vital and store that information in a secure online location and on a memory stick somewhere off the property.

6. Create a Family Escape Plan

Where will you meet if disaster strikes and you are separated from family and your home? Be practical. If roads are flooded and power is out, how will everyone get there? Cell phone service may be down, so have the family practice possible routes to your meet-up location in advance.

7. Who needs what?

  • Prepare for the specific needs, including medication, of each family member and pet. If you have farm animals, how will they be kept safe?
  • Cell phones and important equipment require batteries and specific chargers.
  • In case disaster becomes widespread, prepare your family to fend for itself for the first 72 hours. Pack 72-hours worth of food, water, and additional supplies in your Emergency Kit.nbsp;

8. Expect your Phone to Fail You

List all the things on your phone that you cannot manage without and create a paper version as back-up. For instance, a paper ideally waterproof map, essential phone numbers you do not have committed to memory, prescriptions, identification, banking information. Back-up vital information regularly in case your phone becomes waterlogged or lost. >

9. Your Car As An Emergency Shelter

If you have to flee the flood, could you survive in your car or truck for a day or two? In cold weather? In the car, keep a phone charger, an appropriate 72-hour kit, blankets, candles for light and heat, matches, emergency signaling devices, writing materials, playing cards.

10. Stay Smart

  • No barbequing in the covered porch, house, or garage. Every year, people who do this indoors die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not drive on flooded roads or bridges. Flooding can make them unsafe.
  • Do not unnecessarily put first responders, emergency workers, and community volunteers at risk.
  • Emergency preparation is a year-round, 365-7-24 concern. Adopt the tried-and-true motto, Be prepared

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When Does It Make Sense to Use Your Home’s Equity?

Housing prices continue to rise significantly, with median home prices soaring past 400,000 for the first time. Housing prices have been going up for eight years. This means if youre a current homeowner, you might have a significant chunk of equity in your home.

When does it make sense to use that equity and put it to work, particularly since interest rates remain low?

The Benefits of Using Equity Now

There are some economic factors outside of your personal situation that could make now a good time to use your homes equity.

Mortgage rates are historically low, meaning its cheap to borrow money right now. You could end up taking equity out and then earning a lot more than you would pay in interest on a mortgage. Since rates are low and you can lock in your rate for an extended period, you might not see your mortgage rates increase, if at all.

Inflation is going up at near-record paces, and that makes the idea of fixed-rate debt pretty appealing. If you get a fixed-rate mortgage for 30 years, your payments will be cheaper in real dollars.

When you have borrowed equity, the interest is tax-deductible, and its tax-free.

If you use the equity in your home, youll have liquidity, so you can take advantage of opportunities as they might arise.

Are There Risks?

Some risks can come with taking the equity out of your home as well.

For example, if you already have a high debt-to-income ratio, taking on more debt is never wise. If your income is at risk, you should avoid taking on new debt as well.

How Do You Know Where to Invest?

If you want to take equity out of your home, the goal is that youre earning more than the interest rate on your loan. There are a lot of ways you can do this.

For example, you could invest in the stock market or a real estate investment trust REIT.

Other financially wise ways to invest the equity in your home include:

To secure a stronger financial future, you might consider tapping into your homes equity to pay off high-interest-rate debt. For example, if you have a credit card with a 16 interest rate, and you get a loan with a 3.5 interest rate, youre going to get yourself out of debt faster, and youre going to reduce what youre paying in interest significantly.

Investing in real estate can be a smart way to use your homes equity. For example, you might use the money from your home equity to then put a down payment on a rental property.

Starting a business is a way to invest in your future, although its risky.

The goal, if youre considering now as the optimal time to tap into your equity, is to invest in something thats going to generate income. You want to pay back your loan with income so that you grow your wealth for the future.


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November Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "

Despite the noise around the economy, inflation, and monetary policy, mortgage rate volatility has been low. For most of 2021, mortgage rates have stayed within half a percentage point, which is a smaller range than in past years."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.1 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending November 24th, 2021, down from last month when it averaged 3.14 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.72 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.42 percent with an average 0.7 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.37 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.28 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.47 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.56 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.16 percent.


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What to Know Before You Change Your Home’s Layout

When youre planning a home renovation project, there is one of two categories its likely to fall into. The first is a simple cosmetic refresh. For example, maybe youre going to reface your cabinets and change out the light fixtures, but theres no major work to be done. Changing floors is another example of a cosmetic project.

Then, there are those large-scale projects that involve taking out walls and changing the layout of your home.

Big projects involving layout can be intimidating, so what should you know?

Is Reconfiguration the Right Choice?

Before you start hiring or knocking down walls, are you sure that reconfiguration is the right choice?

Think about what your current limitations are with your layout and think about if youre better off with an addition, a change in floorplan, or maybe both. As youre weighing the decision, dont start thinking about finishes and furniture just yet. Those are largely superficial elements of home design. You need to get the logistics right first, and then the other things come later.

Think about what challenges you currently face and the solutions most likely to address those.

Opening Up Your Floorplan

One of the primary reasons to change a homes layout is to open up the main living areas. For example, you might want an open-concept kitchen, living area, and dining area.

If youre going to open up a floorplan, youre likely going to be taking out at least one wall. If so, you should talk to an architect to figure out which walls are load-bearing and what you can do to make up for the loss of those. For example, you might use beams or pillars. Maybe you need both. Youll also probably need a permit if youre changing a load-bearing wall and plumbing or electrical work that might be required.

If youre planning to create an open floor plan, the cost is usually anywhere from 8 to 15 per square foot of affected space, and you might be able to get a return on your investment of anywhere from 54 to 60.

What About Making Rooms from Open Spaces?

While most people prefer open concepts, some people want to go in the opposite direction. They want to create more enclosed rooms out of open spaces. For example, maybe you want to create a formal dining room.

Adding a wall will also probably require you to get permits, especially if the changes will involve electrical work. Youll probably work with a contractor, but not necessarily an architect if youre adding rooms.

Creating a Master Bedroom

If you have a master bedroom now thats small and you want to expand into another bedroom, for example, you will again need an architect if you plan to take out walls. What a lot of homeowners will do is reduce the size of a connecting bedroom and then add a master bathroom suite and perhaps a large closet.

In a project like this, a general contractor can be valuable because they can keep your workflows moving along efficiently, and they can manage subcontractors so you dont have to.

Adding a Bathroom

Finally, if you want to add a bathroom, you may choose to either use space thats already connected to an existing bedroom. You might also turn a bedroom, back-to-back closets, storage area, or walk-in closet into a bathroom.

As with the circumstances above, you will need full permits. You also will want to hire a general contractor. It will be more expensive, time-consuming, and generally a larger headache if you try to hire everyone on your own unless you already have people you know and trust such as a carpenter, electrician and plumber.


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Three Ways to Successfully Negotiate Realtor Commission

Selling a home is an exciting venture. Youre finally ready to see some cash on the investment youve been building for years.nbsp;

But then you realize that 5-6 of the sale price is going to go away before your money ever gets to you.nbsp;

Real estate agents are vital to the sale process. Depending on the circumstances, they can get an average 30 higher sale price than trying to sell your home yourself. Obviously, this makes their help worth it, but if you could pay less for the same service that would be ideal. After all, 6 on a 300,000 home is 18,000 no small chunk of change

The good news is that its possible to successfully negotiate realtor commission and save. Check out three ways here.

Know the Market

Like most things in real estate transactions, realtor commission is negotiable. In fact, by law agents cant say that commission is a set X-amount in their market. However, about 6 is the average industry standard and what most people end up paying.

However, if you know the market well and understand that it is a sellers market, you may have some bargaining power.nbsp;

A sellers market means that there are proportionately more buyers than inventory, making it very easy to sell homes. In fact, in strong sellers markets, its possible to get an offer within days or even hours of putting the home on the market. You may even enjoy the sellers dream of having several buyers competing for the home.nbsp;

In that case, its easy to sell the home and the agent wont have to put as much effort into the sale. You can use this to your advantage when negotiating the commission. The agent knows it will be an easy sale and may have no problem accepting a reduced commission.

Just remember, youre pitting yourself against a master negotiator. Be sure to read up on how to negotiate before you begin that conversation.

Discuss Your Needs

What if your market isnt a strong sellers market at the moment? Will you be stuck paying full price?nbsp;

Well, how good are your negotiating skills?

This is a great tactic if you have a bit of real estate experience yourself. You may not require all of the agents skills. For example, you may be willing to handle buyer walkthroughs yourself or you can write the marketing materials. Perhaps you already have a buyer, which is a huge part of the agents job, and you just need help navigating the rest of the transaction.nbsp;

If you ask them for it, many agents will provide you with a list of services they offer. If you dont need everything they offer, they may be willing to amend their service package and drop their price to accommodate.

Established Real Estate Referral Network

Hands down the easiest and most efficient way of saving on realtor commission is by using an established real estate referral network. These networks have already done all the hard work for you.nbsp;

A big part of an agents job is finding new clients. Unless they are investors, most people dont make frequent real estate purchases. Agents are lucky to get a handful of repeat clients.

By streamlining and handling marketing services for thousands of agents, a referral network makes it possible for the agents to spend more time selling homes. Without all the extra marketing work on their plate, the agent can provide the same full real estate services to their clients for a reduced price.nbsp;

Find your agent through one of these companies and you could save thousands on your home sale. As a bonus, you also dont have to worry about investigating the agent beforehand. The referral network has taken care of that for you too. They dont work with agents who dont perform well and that includes offering top-notch customer service.

Just be sure to pick a reputable network. Some companies offer this type of service at rock bottom prices because the agents provide subpar work.nbsp;nbsp;

Why Pay More Than You Have To?

Selling a home is expensive enough, why pay more in realtor fees than you have to? Check out one of these ways to successfully negotiate realtor commission before you put your home on the market. You have nothing to lose and thousands of dollars to gain.


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Are Home Improvements Tax Deductible?

There are tax implications of making home improvements, but only in specific situations. When it comes to your taxes, a home improvement might include any work done that increases the value of your home substantially, improve the useful life of the property, or creates new uses.

Well get more into what that means specifically below.

Home Improvements vs. Repairs

First, the money you spend on your home in terms of taxes can be divided into improvements and repairs.

The cost of capital improvements can be added to your tax basis in your house. Tax basis is whats subtracted from the sales price to figure out how much your profit is. With that in mind, you can only take advantage of this if youre selling your home.

A capital improvement in this context is what was mentioned aboveanything that adds value, adapts a home to new uses, or prolongs its life. Something that you could include as a capital improvement might be a new roof or central air-conditioning.

Capital improvements dont have to be big purchases eithersomething like storm windows counts or a home security system.

Repairs cant be added to your basis. Repairs might include painting your home or fixing your gutters.

If you make improvements to your home, make sure you keep records of everything so youll have them if you do sell.

Tax Deductions for a Home Office

One way you could save on your taxes and improve your home at the same time is to build a home office. You get a small deduction on improvements you make to your home if youre using one of the rooms exclusively as your work area, which many people are doing now.

Any repairs benefiting your home can also be deducted, based on the percentage amount of your home used as an office.

Similarly, if you rent out a part of your home, you might be able to deduct what you make in improvements to that area. If you were to, just to give you an example, add a bathroom to the area of your home you rent, you might be able to write that off in its entirety.

Medical Modifications

If a health care provider suggests modifications to your home to help you or to allow you to provide care for your family member, such as an aging parent, the expenses of these updates may be deductible. Examples include adding a wheelchair ramp or modifying your doorways. If the improvement adds value to your home, on the other hand, its not deductible.

Upgraded Energy Systems

The IRS has residential energy-efficient property credits. Qualifying properties according to their guidelines updated in April 2021 include solar electric, solar water heaters, fuel cell property and small wind turbines. Also included are geothermal heat pumps.

Improvements qualifying for a residential energy property credit include adding energy-efficient exterior windows and doors and skylights and roofs that are metal or asphalt. Insulation updates are included, and so are upgrades to heating and air systems to make them energy-efficient.

There are some ways to save on your taxes by upgrading your home, but limitations also exist. If youre unsure of anything, its best to talk to a tax professional because guidelines can change from year to year.


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Safety Tips for Showing Your Home

Showing your home is an integral part of the overall process to ultimately sell it. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were concerns about being safe when strangers came to look at your home. Now, with the pandemic continuing, homeowners are even more cautious.

With that in mind, the following are some general safety tips when you show your home, but also some >

Avoid An Open House

If youre a seller, you might want to talk to your agent and tell them you dont want to have any open houses. A lot of real estate agents dont think theyre beneficial anyway. During an open house, youre taking a more significant risk than you are if you have scheduled private showings.

During an open house, its not only more likely that someone could target your valuables or look around to come back to your home later, but you also have more exposure to people who might be sick.

Have Your Agent Meet with Prospective Buyers First

If youre feeling nervous and unsure about showings, talk to your agent about potentially meeting with prospective buyers outside of your home in a neutral setting before having an in-home showing. From the perspective of your real estate agent, it might add more work to their job, but at the end of the day, safety is critical.

When you do have showings, you want to make sure, regardless of whether or not your real estate agent met with them beforehand that theyre qualified buyers. You certainly dont want people coming during a pandemic because theyre window-shopping or theyre just curious or being nosy.

You only want people who are serious about buying a home.

To find qualified buyers, there are various ways to screen them. For example, you or your agent can screen them using only appointments and asking buyers to do a virtual tour before an in-person showing.

Your agent can request a pre-qualification letter before setting a showing date.

Set Up Your Home For Contactless Showing

As far as COVID-19 concerns, if youre a seller you might request that your real estate agent sets up your home for contactless showings. To do that, your agent might have their own strategies, but recommendations include opening all the doors and cabinets and turning on all the lights. Your agent can also pull all shades so that buyers can see everything without coming in contact with high-touch surfaces.

You can also do these things as a homeowner. Think about the touchpoints throughout your home and how you can help people avoid them when they look at your home.

Sanitize After Showings

Its a good rule of thumb even outside of COVID-19 to sanitize your home after showings because its not the only infectious disease out there. You should wipe surfaces with a disinfecting wipe and do a quick clean.

Put Certain Items Away

There are some items you dont want to have on display during showings. Your valuables and heirlooms are more obvious, but there are less obvious things to put away. Prescription pain medications are one example. Your mail and bills are other things to put away in preparation for a home showing.

Use Smart Home Technology

Finally, you might consider using smart home security while your home is on the market because this is when its especially vulnerable to various threats. Plus, if you add some safety and security features, it can make your home more appealing to buyers. At a minimum, using a smart lockbox is a good idea because it gives you control over who comes into your home no matter where you are.


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3 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Agents

In every realty company, leaders want the best from their employees. And they want them to succeed just as much as the company does. As a leader, its part of your responsibilities to help motivate and inspire your agents to give and do their best so that the real estate company can continue to succeed. When employees are doing their best, they are more efficient and productive. Knowing how to inspire your employees to do good work can sometimes feel tricky, especially when you have so much more to do as a manager. There is no perfect tried-and-true method, but weve found three business tips that will help you get the most out of your employees.

1. Acknowledge Good Work

Showing your employees that you appreciate their hard workcan lead to, yep, more hard work. Take the time to find a reward platform or appreciation platform that you can easily use on a monthly, weekly, daily basis so your agents know that you appreciate good work and that their efforts dont go unnoticed. Not only that but so that their efforts are beneficial to your business. Some of the most successful companies use more than just great benefits and perks to show their employees how much their good work affects the business.nbsp;

If you dont know where to reward or recognize, start with being attentive to the growth and output of your employees as this will show you exactly where the work is affecting your bottom line. This will allow you to give them the proper recognition. Reward platforms can also help you brainstorm creative ways to acknowledge and reward your employees in more ways than just a simple pat on the back or bonus. Sometimes a simple thank you can get old-hat and your agents may not feel like you really are noticing everything they are doing. Find special ways to not only say thank you to them but also show the rest of the company that this is what you expect and appreciate from your employees. This can then incite more of your agents to strive to try harder themselves.

2. Challenge Your Agents

Surveys have shown that employees of realty companies tend to be happier with their jobs and stay longer with a business when they feel challenged. This is because they feel like they have a future with the business and also that management cares about their career path and helping them further educate themselves. Although autonomy is important, without guidance or opportunities to push themselves, people may become complacent or unhappy in their positions. Provide your employees with things like the budget to attend conferences that could further their skills, or change their job description to give them more responsibilities if they feel like theyre twiddling their thumbs most days.

Help your employees recognize why theyre doing a specific task or why a certain project is needed. Push them to ask what else they could be doing, what more could they take on. Help your employees see that they can do what they may not think they could do. Youll find that the more you do this, the longer your employees will stay with you and the harder theyll strive to bring success not only to their positions but also to the realty company as a whole.

3. Recognize Differences

Not every person works in the same way. The hours of the day that you feel most productive or enthusiastic about your work, may not be the same ones that your coworker or VP does. You may be a morning person, while 20 other people are more early evening people. Acknowledging the different mods and work cycles that your employees have--and doing something about it--is one of the best ways to get the most out of your employees. Theres a large chance that not everyone in your business works at their best at a large table with 10 other people around it. Give your employees spaces where they can go off to work alone or in smaller groups.

Even better, change up the hours. If youre not sure how to approach this, consider a results-focused work environment where you have policies that allow your workers to work from home if being in the office is distracting with constant pop-ins from other employees. Or if they can hunker down in a coffee shop and bust out a solid four hours of work without interruption--let them Recognizing the differences among your employees will give them the space to work during the times and in the places that work better for them. This kind of approach will guarantee more efficient and better productivity in your employees, ultimately resulting in better success for your real estate business.

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What is An All-Cash Offer When Buying a Home?

If youve ever watched a real estate show, particularly one that centers on the luxury market, youve probably heard quite a few references to all-cash offers. In the current market with low inventory and bidding wars, all-cash offers are a popular way for buyers to compete.

You may find yourself wondering what that means.

Theres a secret to an all-cash offer you may not be aware ofyou can still get a mortgage.

The Basics of An All-Cash Offer

An all-cash offer means that a buyer plans to pay cash for the home theyre putting an offer on. The key here is that the buyer, in doing so, can prove they have the money in the bank to do that. A cash offer is appealing for a seller because it makes for a faster process with fewer chances for something to go wrong along the way.

If a buyer plans to get a mortgage, theyre riskier for a seller. The less financing has to be involved in a deal, the better from the sellers perspective.

If someone buys a home without financing, theyll either use a cashiers check or transfer the funds electronically.

Since no lender is involved, the closing time with cash purchases tends to be much faster. These deals can close in just two weeks if necessary. Those two weeks are just enough time to clear any liens, prepare the paperwork and provide insurance.

For a financed purchase where the buyer is getting a mortgage, the closing time is, on average, at least 30 days. It can be as long as 45 to 60 days to closing.

The Process for Buying a House All-Cash

If someones going to buy a house all-cash, the following are the steps that usually occur in the process:

  • The first step is for a seller to accept the buyers offer, and then a Purchase and Sale Agreement is completed. This is also known as going under contract.
  • From there, the next step is the verification of proof of funds. You need to make sure, if youre the seller, that your buyer actually has the cash they say they do. You may ask for earnest money, which is usually 1-2 of the sales price. Then, you may request proof of funds as bank or investment statements. A real estate agent will help you with this.
  • Youll have to hire a title and escrow company or the buyer might be responsible for this, depending on the state youre in. The title company makes sure there are no liens to be addressed, and theyll handle title insurance. On closing day, a title company makes sure the ownership of the property changes hands appropriately. The escrow company deals with closing documents and the transfer of funds. Theyre also responsible for completing legal paperwork.
  • Buyers may submit their offer with an inspection contingency, which then means they could have an option to renegotiate the sale price or request repairs, depending on whats found during the inspection.
  • Then, its time to review and sign the closing documents. Even with an all-cash transaction, you can expect a fair amount of paperwork.

Can You Compete If You Need a Mortgage?

Yes, buyers indeed tend to prefer all-cash buyers, especially right now in a sellers market. There are ways you can be considered an all-cash offer while still using a loan.

For example, some lenders have whats called decision-now approval. Its not exactly cash, but in the eyes of a seller, it may have the same benefits because it has a preapproval thats underwritten. That means the loan is already funded, and the lender verifies that the remaining amount of the sales price is officially accounted for.

Then a buyer can take financing contingencies out of their offer without worrying about losing their earnest money because theyve already secured a mortgage.

Doing something like this, depending on what your lender offers, can make you a strong buyer thats almost as good as all-cash.

Finally, if youre interested in that approach, youll have to shop around to find a lender offering upfront underwriting because not all do.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Enforcing Architectural and Design Restrictions

Question: For many years, the board has not enforced architectural and design restrictions. Consequently, many unit owners have installed storm doors and/or changed the exterior light fixtures on their units. There is now little or no conformity regarding those additions or changes. Our recent reserve study shows that we are woefully underfunded, so conformity is the least of our worries Should the board ignore reserving for these items and move forward until we are financially solvent? Will the non-conformity affect property values? Is a little individuality such a bad thing in an HOA?

Answer: Yes, your board should reserve for these items for a number of reasons:

1. The HOA is responsible for doing so since it affects the common elements.

2. Non-conformity does reduce property values in common wall housing since the additions vary in quality and, frankly, some additions look awful no accounting for taste.

3. Individuality should be limited to the unit interior. That is what the governing documents allow and if adhered to, no one will object other than guests.

4. The board has no authority to allow owner changes to the common area. Doing so does not legitimize the action, it only complicates enforcement for future boards and exposes the directors who approved such to personal legal liability for exceeding their authority.

Question: A homeowner at our HOA recently presented a written work order to the landscape maintenance company. The contractor performed the unauthorized task which also happened to be beyond the scope of their contract. Can the HOA be held responsible for payment of unauthorized work? Should the owners be held responsible for directives given to contractors who have been hired by the HOA?

Answer: The homeowner ordered the work, the homeowner pays the contractors bill. If the work impacts the common area and is not in compliance, the board should have it corrected, if possible, and bill the homeowner. Advise the homeowner that no further communication should take place directly with the landscape contractor. The board should also inform the landscape contractor that the HOA will pay for no work unless it is approved in writing by an authorized HOA representative.

Question: I recently became a board member. Previous boards for over ten years have failed to plan and properly budget so we have no reserves. The board decided to have a special assessment of 1000/unit to boost the balance in reserves. We are also in the process of having a reserve study done. We are already getting blowback from members on the special assessment. One member questions whether we need to continue operating the swimming pool since it is lightly used. Another suggests selling off the clubhouse to raise money. How should the board respond?

Answer: There are several issues here.

1. Special Assessments. Its best to have the reserve study done first to determine how much money is needed and how soon. The board wouldnt want to have to do two special assessments close together.

2. Closing the Pool. Operating a pool is one of an HOAs biggest expenses. If a majority of the owners no longer want to pay for it, it may be time to discuss other options. Of course, you need to read your governing documents to see what the process may be, if any, for discontinuing an amenity. Shutting down an amenity may require the consent of the mortgagees. If only a vote of the members is necessary, it may be possible.

3. Selling the Property. This is a much more complicated issue that needs to involve an attorney. It may require 100 agreement of all the owners and their mortgagees.

Just because a member comes up with a bright idea doesnt mean the board needs to spend time and money chasing down all the details. Put these members to work investigating the feasibility of their suggestions. First, a petition should be circulated to the members to see if there is significant support for closing the pool or selling the clubhouse. If a significant number are in favor, say at least 25-35, its reasonable to schedule a special meeting to discuss the topics. Be sure to discuss the process with the HOAs attorney to make sure it conforms with applicable state statutes and the governing documents.

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Rolling Credit Card Balances Into a Cash-Out Refinance: Worth It?

Theres certainly no shortage of articles about when and how to refinance. Its true in this column as well. Whether or not to refinance a mortgage is a good thing or not is less about the actual interest rate and more about the monthly savings compared to the closing costs associated with getting the new mortgage to replace the existing one. When you hear advertisements on the radio or watch a TV commercial, mortgage companies talk about how low rates are and if you currently have a mortgage you should think about refinancing. Fact is that rates have been in their current range for so long that many who could benefit from a refinance have already done so.

But many of these same advertisements talk about rolling in high interest card debt into a new mortgage when refinancing. This transaction is called a cash out refinance. The pitch sounds attractive. The average interest rate on all types of credit cards hovers near 20 while the average mortgage rate might be close to 2.5. Its promoted as a no brainer and its easy to see why. 20 is more than 2.5. But its also important to dissect the possible benefits of a cash out refinance which you can do by speaking with your loan officer.

Lets look at some numbers together. Lets take an existing 250,000 mortgage with a 30 year fixed rate of 4.00. If current 30 year rates are 2.5, that works out to a pretty good savings, especially so if the existing note is >

But lets say you did the math and refinancing from 4.0 to 2.5 is in your best interest. No pun intended. On a new 30 year mortgage and 250,000 at 2.5 the monthly payment drops to 987. Now, what about refinancing that credit card balance of 15,000, completely paying off the card. Interest on this card is 20 and now youre essentially replacing that 20 with 2.5. If you roll 15,000 into 250,000, the new mortgage is then 265,000. 265,000 at 2.5 yields a payment of 1,047, with an increase of 60 per month. Thats much lower than the minimum current credit card payment.

Heres the thing to look out for. Yes, the total minimum payment is lower than the mortgage and credit when viewed separately. But youre also extending the term of the card payment out to 30 years. The 15,000 balance turns into 21,600. If you roll in an automobile loan and other outstanding credit balances the difference will be much greater. 40,000 in credit card debt in the same scenario means a new monthly payment of 1,145. Ill let you do the numbers on this one, if you want.

One final note, if you transfer credit card balances into a new mortgage and then run up the card balance once again, youve really not accomplished as much as you might have initially thought. If reducing credit payments each month is your goal, after transferring the balance you might think of cancelling the credit card account altogether.


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Do You Need Perfect Credit For A Refi?

Those sub-3 mortgage rates sure look enticing. But, can you get your hands on one? If you dont have excellent credit, the best rates might not be on the table. But that doesnt mean you cant refinance.

Minimum credit score

A score above 700 is generally considered to be excellent and will open up your refinance options. But, contrary to what you may think, you can have a lower credit score and still qualify.

Credit requirements vary by lender and type of mortgage. In general, youll need a credit score of 620 or higher for a conventional mortgage refinance, said Experian. Certain government programs require a credit score of 580, however, or have no minimum at all. As is true for other types of loans, the higher your credit score, the more likely anbsp;mortgage refinancenbsp;lender will be to work with you. Not only are your chances of approval higher, but youll typically receive a lower interest rate and more favorable loan terms than qualifying borrowers with lower scores.

Going with a higher rate

Even if you dont qualify for the lowest available rate, any drop will save you money on a monthly basis, and also over time. This refinance calculator shows how a .25 reduction in rate can save you almost 100 a month on your mortgage. Of course, youll want to weigh those savings against the cost of that refi and also consider how long it will take you to recoup those costs.

Buying down your rate

If you dont qualify for the lowest rate and you want to go lower, you can buy down the rate. Mortgage points are one way for homeowners to lower their interest rate, said Bankrate. When you pay for points on a mortgage, you are actually paying interest right now for the loan. In return, the homeowner can lock in a lower and discounted rate. The rate depends on how many points are purchased. Your mortgage rate will drop more if you purchase more points.

Typically, one point means a .25 discount in the mortgage rate, and this will cost you 1 of the total mortgage loan amount. If you were looking at a 300,000 mortgage, it would cost you 3,000 to lower your rate by a quarter point. Homeowners can buy more than one point, depending on their financial situation.


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Seven Ways to Ace a Minimalist Home DĂ©cor

Youd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasnt heard of minimalism. What started in the early 1960s as an art movement has since become a popular life>

Minimalism in interior design is all about emphasizing utility. A minimalist home is intentional, with muted colors and limited objects. The end goal is to showcase the essentials in a chic and organized atmosphere.nbsp;

Does this sound easy enough? Think again. Acing the minimalist dcor isnt a cakewalk. Youll need quite a bit of brainwork to pick items that are both eye-catching and functional. Add to that the stress of decluttering your entire home, and you have yourself a redecorating nightmare.nbsp;nbsp;

That said, creating a minimalist home isnt impossible. If a minimalist space has been on your wishlist for long, here are seven ways you can do it justice.nbsp;nbsp;

1. Starting with Furniturenbsp;nbsp;

Choosing minimalist furniture is tricky because you have fewer pieces to work with. So, you need to weigh your options carefully before adding anything to your living space.nbsp;

As a rule of thumb, look for items that are timeless and interesting. Simplistic furniture with clean, hard lines is ideal for minimalist homes.nbsp;nbsp;

While were on the subject, cabinets are a must-have in minimalist dcor. They provide more concealed space for you to stow away stuff, ensuring clutter control. Think pristine white Shaker cabinets with little to no design.nbsp;nbsp;

The choices dont end there. In case you want something with a little more character, you can always opt for customized cabinet arrangements tailored to your requirements.nbsp;

2. Experimenting with Negative Spacenbsp;

Not every inch of your home needs furnishing. Leaving empty spaces in a room can make it breathable, airy, and light, generating an overall sense of tranquility.nbsp;nbsp;

Try this on for size by starting with one large clear flat surface such as your kitchen countertop, one bare wall, and clean floors. Sit in the space and see how it feels. Remember that the more you experiment, the easier itll be for you to find the right look for your home.nbsp;

If you feel the need to decorate your negative space, add simple touches like indoor plants or framed artwork. This should amplify the coziness while still maintaining an understated aesthetic.nbsp;nbsp;

3. Adding Accent Decorationsnbsp;

Switching to a minimalist dcor does not mean you cannot have fun with colors. Using accent shades, furniture, or artwork can help you keep the place dynamic without overwhelming your home.nbsp;

As the name implies, an accent is anything that stands out against the rest of the dcor. For example, a brightly colored table in the middle of an all-white living room is an accent piece. Likewise, a large portrait on a bare wall serves as an accent.nbsp;

When picking accents for your home, try sticking to one or two pieces per room. You want to draw attention to the space without jeopardizing its serenity. From a minimalist point of view, a single large item is far better than multiple smaller pieces.nbsp;nbsp;

4. Playing with Neutral Colorsnbsp;

Although you may have a splash of color in a minimalist room, a major part of the space should still be plain and muted. But why are minimalists so obsessed with light colors?nbsp;

For starters, pastel/neutral hues can make any space look bigger. They also reflect more light, creating a brighter environment.nbsp;nbsp;

While white is by far the color of choice for most minimalists, you also have shades like grey and beige to pick from.nbsp;

A smart way to make the colors in your room flow is to pick a solid base color and build on it. Make sure that all other colors complement the base shade. For example, for elegant white walls, you can go with marble countertops and pearl-white upholstery, among other things.nbsp;nbsp;

5. Minding the Lightingnbsp;nbsp;

Theres a fine line between an elegant minimalist home and a bleak, uncharacteristic one. You can avoid falling into the second category by paying attention to your lighting choices.nbsp;nbsp;

Fortunately, modern light fixtures come in a ton of fun shapes and sizes. Get hold of a statement chandelier or pendant lamp to jazz up the place. Dont be afraid to select something a little more out-of-the-ordinary for your dining room or kitchen area.nbsp;

For concrete ceilings, use drop-down lighting panels for that all-around soft, natural glow. LED cover lights should do the trick just as well.nbsp;nbsp;

6. Adding Patterns Wiselynbsp;

Most minimalists do away with patterns altogether. In case you decide on keeping them, go with something thats tone-to-tone, unobtrusive, and simple. Also, try to use patterns on a smaller scale.nbsp;nbsp;

A few patterned throw pillows and curtains can break the monotony of your room, but be sure to balance them out with a lot of empty space. Moreover, you can hardly go wrong with a patterned carpet for the center of your room. nbsp;

7. Committing to Declutteringnbsp;

Decluttering is probably the most important step to achieving a minimalist home. Since minimalism advocates the less is more mindset, you need to get rid of items that dont serve a purpose. If you have two of the same things, toss one out. If theres an outfit you havent worn in years, give it away. Sure, its tough to let go of stuff, but the whole point of minimalism is to live with less.nbsp;nbsp;

Once youre done cleaning out your home, its time to think about storage. In this regard, everything can act as storage space if youre creative enough. Invest in an ottoman for your dresser to hide smaller items. Install some tasteful shelves on a bare wall to display a few books. The possibilities are endlessnbsp;

Wrapping Upnbsp;

Minimalist dcor can work wonders for your mental well-being. Its the easiest way to create a stress-free space to help you unwind after a hard day. Hopefully, these seven tips will help you bring your dream minimalist home alive in no timenbsp;


Riley Swanson is a life>
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How Do Student Loans Affect Your Ability to Buy a Home?

As of August 2021, student loan debt in the U.S. totals 1.73 trillion, and its growing at a rate six times faster than the countrys economy. There are more than 43 million student borrowers in debt, and they have an average debt load of 39,351 each.

There are a lot of negative ways carrying student loan debt can impact your life. One of those is affecting your ability to get a mortgage and buy a home. The following are more specific things you should know about your student loan debt and its effects on your borrowing ability.

Does Student Loan Debt Affect Your Ability to Buy a Home Directly?

Mortgage rates continue to hover at lows, so you might want to consider buying a home, especially if youre currently a renter. Student loan debt can affect whether you qualify for a mortgage and your interest rate.

With that being said, it doesnt affect your ability to get a mortgage any differently than other types of debt.

For example, if you had credit card debt, it would affect you the same way as the student loan debt more or less, in that its still something you have to repay. A lender, when reviewing mortgage applications, considers all of the current monthly payments youre obligated to make. Theyll then determine whether or not they think you could take on another payment.

If you qualify under the lenders standards, theyll decide on an interest rate.

Having student loan debt doesnt automatically disqualify you from getting a mortgage, but it can.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

The critical issue with student loan debt or any other financial obligation is how it factors into the debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio assesses whether youd be able to keep up with your current payments and make a new one for a home loan.

The calculation is made by adding up your current debt payments and your anticipated mortgage. Then, that number is divided by your gross monthly income. Gross monthly income is the amount you earn before deductions and taxes.

If your debt-to-income ratio is over 43, most lenders wont approve you for a mortgage. The ideal spot is at or below 36. The maximum for monthly payments >

What matters isnt your overall amount of debt in this calculation but rather what youre responsible for paying every month.

Flexibility in Payments

With the above in mind, if you want to qualify for a mortgage with student loan debt, one option might be changing your student loan repayment plan, especially if you have federal student loans. You could opt for a graduated or extended repayment plan. You still have to pay the same principal amount, and it will take you longer to pay the loans off, but a lower payment may reduce your debt-to-income ratio.

FHA Changes

If youre considering an FHA loan, in the summer of 2021 it was announced there would be a change in the way student loan debt is calculated as part of the debt-to-income ratio. The change makes it easier for some homebuyers who have student loan debt to get an FHA loan.

Previously, before the changes, an FHA lender had to calculate your monthly student loan payment at 1 of the outstanding balance. Now, the monthly payment amount used in calculating debt-to-income is the same as a homebuyers actual student loan payment, which tends to be lower.

Effects on Credit Scores

One other thing to note is that if you have student loan debt, it may not just affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage because of your debt-to-income ratio. Your existing debt affects your credit score, which then, in turn, is used by mortgage lenders.

For someone with a low credit score, an FHA loan might be an option. FHA loans may be available if your score is as low as 500 to afford a 10 down payment.

Overall, student loans dont inherently affect your ability to get a mortgage, but in multiple indirect ways, they can and do.


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“If” Buyers Can Keep Their Heads…

In the midst of uncertain times, watch out for what you react to if youre serious about buying a home.

This is an especially important caution if you are a first-time or a first-time-in-a-long-time home buyer.

We live in a quicksand time of shifting realities and emerging uncertainties. The pandemic overlay adds an unsettling craziness about environmental, political, financial, and personal crises.

First-time buyers are nervous enough about spending all their savings and becoming deeply in debt for decades. Add pandemic angst, inflation fervor, supply-chain shortages, holiday hype, and even the most confident home buyer may feel they are on shaky ground.

Buyers can work themselves into a frenzy of insecurity and self-doubt as they frantically search for THE ANSWER or for that perfect list of 10 Things Home Buyers Must Do. Too often, they learn nothing new.

Remember, too much online content is marketing. Enticing headlines and must-have content are designed to attract and engage online trafficyounot to educate.

Stop and think.

What new advice are you searching for?

Havent you had advice from everyonefrom parents and friends to social-media followers, from streaming series and endless Google searches to your real estate professional to?

That may be the problem, or at least part of it

Feeling inundated with do this and dont do this advice rehashed on all platforms, all screens, all the time? Real estate snippets and factoids pop-up everywhere these days. Compulsive searching and analysis paralysis set in and decisions become overwhelming

At the same time, as a group, Millennial home buyers are taking the rap for eating up real estate inventory and driving up real estate prices.

Its time for action, not indecision

Something familiar came to mind when I considered todays often-besieged first-time home buyers:

If you can keep your head when all about younbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

If you can trust yourself when all men [sic] doubt you

Thought-provoking words that I had not thought about for a while, but words that fit today. Not my words, but those of Nobel-prize-winning British writer Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, who wrote those words in 1895 in his poem If.

A lot has changed since 1895and since last week, for that matterbut Kipling captured the essence of self-discipline and determination that transcends time. Thats the mindset that buyers most benefit from during the process of making a real estate commitment.

Where do your words of encouragement and decisiveness come from?

In the poem If, Kipling speaks to a young boy explaining the attributes that will make him a Man, my son. We know now that self-discipline, maturity, resolve, and all that go with them are not gender dependent. Its not my intent here to slide into poetry analysis or a discussion of the many topics that arise out of this thought-provoking poem.

My point: Not feeling absolutely 100 sure when faced with a new experience, a new decision frontier, is natural and normalespecially when youre spending more money than you have and arranging a mortgage which lasts decades.

More sure than unsure may be your starting place. Certainty will come when you and your real estate professional find the specific property that fits.

The If stanzas presented here may help you wade through the sea of Buyer Advice.

Review what you have learned so far. Slow-down and think. Focus on exactly what you want to accomplish and dive in. What have you investigated in detail? What do you expect to do and react to during your property search, each viewing, offer preparation, and negotiation?

Open the lines of communication with your real estate professional, who has been through all of this hundreds of times. Share your fears and concerns. Clarify your goals.

If you can dreamand not make dreams your master;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

If you can thinkand not make thoughts your aim;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the samenbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

The last two lines are posted over the players entrance at Centre Court Wimbledon in England: If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same

Havent we watched Wimbledon Tennis Star Serena Williams repeatedly do just that?

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run,nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it,nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Andwhich is moreyoull be

nbsp; a successful real estate buyer

Yes, home buying may be tough in these tough times. The search may be exhausting, even when everything goes perfectly from the first minute to the last, which it ra>

The If poem inspires what Victorians called stoicism or the British stiff upper lip attitude. We are moving away from that approach in many aspects of society and our lives, but in home buying it can come in handy.

Start by searching out a real estate professional who brings out the decisive best in you. Oopsknowing all the good that lies ahead for you, its hard to stop with the advice

More of If on my blog Whats Your Point?


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Who Qualifies for an FHA Home Loan?

A mortgage the Federal Housing Administration backs is known as an FHA loan. FHA loans are unique from other mortgages and home loans. Theyre often helpful for first-time homeowners because they offer a combination of a lower down payment requirement and lower credit score standards.

The following are some of the critical factors when it comes to qualifying for an FHA loan.

Credit Score Requirements

The minimum credit score for an FHA loan approval is 500. Thats lower and often significantly lower than lender requirements for traditional mortgages. The lower credit score requirements are a big reason this is an appealing program for first-time buyers.

While the FHA has guidelines for credit score minimums, that doesnt automatically mean a lender wont have higher requirements. FHA loans arent from the government directly.

Instead, theyre insured by the FHA on behalf of the lender.

Even though lenders risk is minimized because they have that backup, they may reduce their risk by having higher credit minimums. Just as you would with any other type of mortgage, its still important to shop around and compare FHA lenders to make sure youre getting the best terms.

Also, even if you find a lender who follows the 500 minimum credit score, that doesnt mean you wont get lower interest rates and a better term if your score is higher than that.

Minimum Down Payment

The minimum down payment if you get an FHA loan depends on your credit score. If you have a score of at least 580, then your minimum down payment requirement is just 3.5. If you have a score between 500 and 579, your minimum down payment is 10.

Theres a term you may hear, which is the Minimum Requirements Investment or the MRI. Thats just another way to refer to your down payment.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

When youre applying for a mortgage, any lender will consider whats called your debt-to-income ratio. It doesnt matter the actual type of mortgage, but one difference with an FHA loan is that a lender looks at two ratios.

The first ratio is what the FHA calls the Total Mortgage Payment to Effective Income Ratio or PTI. This measure is the ratio of the potential monthly mortgage payments you might make compared to your monthly income. Your PTI can be up 40 with a credit score of at least 580.

Your debt-to-income ratio or DTI looks at a measure of your income before taxes that you spend on your debt payments every month. These debt payments can include your rent and mortgage, student loans, and credit cards. The highest DTI youll be allowed for approval of an FHA loan is 50, and thats only if your credit score is at least 580. Youll also have to meet other qualifications.

Income Requirements

Theres not any particular salary that blocks you from getting an FHA loan or qualifies you automatically. You do have to have a few things, however:

  • You need at least two credit accounts established. This could be something like your car loan and one credit card, as examples.

nbsp;

You cant have any delinquent federal debt or judgments, including tax->

nbsp;

If youre getting cash gifts from friends or family to help with your down payment, or youre getting money from anywhere else, you have to be able to account for them. The gifts need to be verified and signed by the person giving them to you.

Required Documentation

Documentations you need to apply for an FHA loan include a valid government-issued ID such as a drivers license.

Youll need proof of a Social Security number and up to two years of pay stubs, tax returns, or W2 forms. Additionally, as was mentioned, if you receive any gift funds for your down payment, youll need signed documentation of those.

Property Requirements

A property has to meet certain requirements as do you, for an FHA loan.

First, the loan has to be for your primary residence, and one borrower has to occupy the property within 60 days of closing. The home can be single-family, multifamily with up to four units if you occupy one, or a manufactured home as long as its on a permanent foundation.

You cant use an FHA loan for an investment property unless its a multiunit property and youre going to live in a unit.

The home cant be a flip, which means you cant buy it within 90 days of it previously selling.

Finally, you dont have to be a first-time buyer to qualify for an FHA loan, even though many people who use this loan are. If you are a first-time buyer, there might be an advantage in that you could also get down payment or closing cost help through a state-based first-time buyer program.


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Getting Help with a Down Payment

A down payment is something youre likely going to need to get a mortgage to buy a home unless youre using a Veterans Affairs VA loan. Saving up for a down payment is one of the more significant barriers for many people that prevents them from achieving homeownership.

A down payment is an initial payment you make when you buy a house. Down payments are usually calculated as a percentage of the purchase price. The amount can be as little as 3, but conventional mortgages are generally around 20.

The specifics of a down payment requirement depend on the type of mortgage youre applying for, the kind of property youre buying, and your financial situation.

If you can make a larger down payment, you might be able to get a lower interest rate or buy a more expensive house. Large down payments can also mean youre responsible for smaller monthly mortgage payments.

Lenders require down payments because it helps reduce their risk exposure. Youre investing in the home, so if you were to stop making your mortgage payments, youd be walking away from a lot of money. Down payments also reduce how much a lender has to give you to make the purchase.

Not everyone has a large chunk of cash sitting aside to use to buy a house, however. There are down payment assistance programs available, some of which are detailed below.

The Basics of Down Payment Assistance Programs

Down payment assistance programs usually come from state housing finance agencies. Sometimes these programs are also managed and offered by cities and counties and nonprofit organizations.

Types of assistance might include:

Grants, which are a gift of money that doesnt need to be repaid.

Forgivable, zero-interest loans, which dont have to be repaid as long as the borrower still owns the home and lives in it after whatever the period isusually somewhere around five years.

Deferred payment, zero-interest loans, often require no payments until the home is sold, the mortgage reaches the end of its term or the mortgage is refinanced.

Low-interest loans are available and have to be repaid over a certain period of time. These help homeowners spread their down payment and closing costs over a more extended period rather than having to come up with the money all at once.

Who Can Access Down Payment Assistance?

Most programs offering down payment assistance are geared toward first-time buyers, but not all.

Even if youve already owned a home and a program says its for first-time buyers, often the program will define a first-time buyer as someone who hasnt owned a home in the past three years.

There are also programs for specific demographics, like teachers or first responders.

Most down payment assistance programs will require that you complete specific steps, which vary depending on the program itself. For example, you might have to meet income limits or take a homebuyer education course. You could be required to buy in a particular location or stay below a certain maximum purchase price. Sometimes youll have to contribute your own money to your down payment too.

How Can You Find a Program?

If youre interested in learning more about down payment assistance programs, you can contact the housing finance authority in your state or your local city or county government. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD also has state-specific information.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a tool that will link you to housing counselors where you live.

If you are going to apply for a mortgage and use down payment assistance, youll have to find a list of mortgage lenders who are approved to work with that particular program. Often, the local agencies and programs assisting can connect you with experienced loan officers.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Proper Funding Levels

Question: Our HOA recently had a reserve study update which the board is evaluating to ensure that we are adequately funded. What is a proper funding level? I have heard numbers from "30 Funded" to "80 Funded".

Answer: 100 Funded is the most fair to all members and should be the goal. For example, if you have a 30 year roof that costs 90,000 to replace, you should reserve 3,000/year to be 100 Funded. Reserving anything less will produce a lower level of funding that will have to be made up in the future by others that shouldnt have to pay it. Being 100 Funded all the time insures that all members pay their fair share.

If you are currently, say, 40 funded, you should institute a plan to increase the level of funding to 100 over a period of years if possible. The board could also special assess to bring it up to 100 this year, although that might be a hard sell unless there is an urgent need, like that 30 year old roof is now 35 years old and leaking like a sieve. Sometimes special assessments are unavoidable because of inadequate funding in the past. But striving for 100 Funding today will eliminate the need for special assessments in the future.

Question: Our governing documents have policies regarding tree cutting and clearing. From time to time, the board gets requests from lot owners asking permission to cut a tree because of fear that it will fall on the house. If there is no disease or damage, we deny such requests. It has been suggested recently that the HOA can be held liable for damage and injury from falling trees.

Answer: The HOA is certainly liable for failing to maintain trees in the common area and should have a regular tree maintenance program to keep trees trimmed, healthy and safe. Trees located on private lots is another matter. If an owner maintains a tree is in danger of falling, it should either be obvious to a casual observer or be documented by an arborist. The board should make prudent decisions based on >

There is also a fire hazard presented by trees that are closer that 30 feet to the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees or in areas prone to drought and wildfires. If an arborist believes they are a danger, the tree should be removed.


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Should You Escrow/Impound for Taxes and Insurance?

In some regions theyre called escrow accounts while in others theyre referred to as impound accounts. Either way, theyre essentially one and the same. An impound or escrow account is an account set up to regularly deposit a portion of the annual or semi-annual property tax bill and for renewal of an insurance policy. A mortgage payment includes an amount that goes toward the outstanding loan balance, or principle, while the remainder goes toward interest due the lender. Over time, the loan balance is paid off.nbsp;

For those who also want to escrow for taxes and insurance, 1/12th of the annual tax bill is paid and held by the lenders servicer. Each month, that amount increases and when the tax bill comes due, the lender pays the tax bill on behalf of the borrower. The same goes for an insurance policy. If an annual insurance policy is 1,200, then each month the monthly amount is 120. When its time for the annual renewal, the lender then renews the policy using the funds paid each month. The borrower needs to do nothing other than making the monthly payment. Should you create and escrow account to have the lender automatically pay your property taxes and insurance?

The first answer depends upon the amount of your initial down payment or equity position. For loan balances that exceed 80 of the value of the property, homeowners dont have a choice. Lenders require escrow accounts when the loan balance surpasses this 80 level. This is an automatic when it applies to government-backed loans.nbsp;

These loans are those guaranteed by the VA, FHA and USDA. VA and USDA loans dont require a down payment and in so doing escrow accounts are a must. FHA loans, with a typical minimum down payment of 3.5 also require escrow accounts. With these loans, taxes are paid and insurance renewed automatically when due. Borrowers do nothing other than establishing a new escrow account. Some lenders require an initial deposit when creating a new escrow account, such as one or two months of payment.

Okay, so what if the down payment is more than 20? Its at this stage where the homeowners do indeed have the option of creating an escrow account. But, given the choice, should you? This is a personal choice. Some borrowers like the convenience of having their property taxes and insurance paid for automatically. Doing so means not having to come up with a large annual payment at the end of the year but instead the taxes and insurance are paid for via the escrow account.

Still others prefer to make their tax and insurance payments on their own. Homeowners may want to tap into their bank account when its time to pay the tax bill and insurance premium, keeping their money in the bank or in an investment account. But really, its nothing more than a preference. Personally I had always set up an escrow account when I bought a home, even with a good amount of equity in the property in the form of a down payment. Its a convenience factor knowing the taxes and insurance are paid for automatically.


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From Frustration to Lasting Success

Carol Cried

When we started to work together Carol cried every time that we had a coaching call.nbsp;

She was struggling despite making a decent income in Real Estate in addition to the modest salary that her husband earned as a manager of an auto parts store. Four young adult children with tuitions, travel, weddings, showers, enjoyment, and helping them get started; was expensive. His income was fixed. She knew that it was up to her to raise their income.nbsp;

Carols story is, unfortunately a common one.nbsp;

Real Estate Agents learn the basics of the business, begin to enjoy the commissions and the freedom. After just a few years they plateau. They get stuck at an unsatisfactory level of income. Still knowing that there is so much more potential and they are capable of achieving it. Yet, it eludes them.

There is a Way Out of the Real Estate Production Plateau

Maria Sharapova, the Champion Tennis Player and Entrepreneur wrote in her booknbsp;Unstoppable:

Repetition creates discipline. Just repeating a thing, perhaps inconsistently at first, then with more consistency creates a feeling of the repetition that leads to discipline.

Steven was an Agent with a wife, three children with a fourth child on the way. He told me that he wasnt earning enough to afford his life. He said that what stood in his way was a lack of discipline.nbsp;

I explained to Steven that discipline is a learned skill. Discipline is learned through repetition. Everyone can become more disciplined with simple repetition.nbsp;

Three years later Steven had two more children yes, that is six in total and a Real Estate Sales income that provides his family with the life he wishes for them. That learned discipline added hundreds of thousands of dollars to his income each year.

Doing the right things correctly and consistently is the key to income breakthrough for Real Estate Agents. Any Agent can develop discipline, through repetition, by doing the right things, that work, consistently.nbsp;

The things you do consistently have to achieve results in attitude, confidence, and quality of life in addition to significantly more income. The key is to know and do those specific, correct things that quickly produce results.nbsp;

What are those few simple, smart things that Carol, Steven, and many other Agents are doing to quickly produce results?

Four Simple, Uncommon Habits That Quickly Produce Results for Real Estate Agents

Below is the system we refer to atnbsp;Real Estate Grad Schoolnbsp;and you may have heard on our podcast as The Income Breakthrough Daily Routine.

1. Start each workday with 10 minutes of structured planning
2. Set Goals and Track the 4 KPIs Key Performance Indicators for Real Estate Agents
3. Be completely conscientious with lead and past Client follow up using your CRM
4. Create and complete all the items on a simple Marketing Calendar

Winning Ugly is Still Winning

Kevin hired me to coach him when we met at my speaking presentations at the NAR convention in 2007.nbsp;At that point, he was selling between 40 and 50 houses per year with an administrative assistant. We have coached together ever since.

Today, Kevin is an extremely successful Agent in a small city in the Midwest. Last year he sold over 470 properties and a massively successful team.

The first year as he was putting the Income Breakthrough Systems in place, they were far from perfect. Despite thatnbsp;his income increased by more than 50. When an Agent is working on the right discipline and routine, they see significant results from the beginning.nbsp;

That is inspiring and it inspired him to continue to review and apply the Income Breakthrough Routine each day.nbsp;nbsp;

The following year he became more consistent in implementing daily structured planning, tracking progress toward his goals. being very conscientious with his CRM, and following through on his Marketing Calendar.nbsp;

His income increased, again the second year, by more than 50.nbsp;

The following year he sold over 100 homes for the first time.nbsp;He began to build a team and led them to follow the Income Breakthrough Routine.nbsp;

Today, Kevin is the top Agent in his market and one of the best in his State.nbsp;

How to Achieve Your Income Breakthrough as a Real Estate Agent

1. Start every day with 10 minutes of structured planning. If you would like to receive the structure for Daily Planning that is so successful for the Agents thatnbsp;coach with us, justnbsp;contact us and asknbsp;for the Daily Income Breakthrough Checklist.
2. Set goalsannual and monthly goals in Sales Volume Under Contract and Listings Taken. Set weekly goals in New Client Appointments. Watch anticipated and received income monthly and year to date.
3. Conscientiouslynbsp;use your CRMto convert your leads and stay in touch with your Past Clientsnbsp;with the goal of 100 Lead Follow-up. That means that you never lose a desirable lead.
4. Create yoursimplenbsp;Marketing Calendarnbsp;that includes your Sphere, Farm, and Online marketing campaigns. Also,nbsp;ask usnbsp;for a sample Marketing Calendar

Carol Doesnt Cry Anymore

Today, Carol is out of debt, financially stable, and beginning to feel financially secure. She increases her income every year.nbsp;

Carol made this breakthrough by creating discipline through repetition of the four simple and smart things that create discipline and lead to Income Breakthrough.nbsp;

Its Possible for You

Your dreams can come true. Your dreams about the income that you can earn can happen.nbsp;It is possible to have the life that you imagine with your Real Estate career. It is possible for you to live a life you love. Those dreams are within your reach.nbsp;

They are much closer to you than you might possibly imagine.nbsp;


For over 2 decades the Real Estate Agents that coach with Rich have achieved financial stability, wealth, and personal happiness. His work is unique and exceptionally effective.nbsp;

Rich welcomes your comments and questions. If you have any questions about this article or to discuss your business with Rich Levin contact him at or 585-244-2700.


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Why Fall Is the Best Time for Planting

Spring is often thought of as the best time for planting, but do you know that plating in fall offers some significant advantages for your garden? In fact, marketing ploys aside, fall is the best time for planting and starting a garden

Below are some reasons why fall is the best time for planting perennials, trees, and shrubs in your garden:

The Weather is Perfect for Planting

The cooler weather in fall is easier for the plants and gardeners alike. The ground isnt semi frozen and not too dry and the weather isnt too warm or cold. The plants wont get too stressed because they wont be subjected to extremes in weather and hence can recover faster after planting.

You Wont Have to Plant Right After Buying Plants

There is no need to plant right away because you wont have to worry about plants drying up or the ground being too hot. As for trees, planting them when theyve lost their leaves is actually better because they wont have to exert energy growing leaves and can focus on growing roots. This is the biggest fall advantage, helping the plant grow better roots so that theyll have energy to display gorgeous foliage and blooms come spring time. The fall to spring transition is quicker than waiting for a full year before getting to see the results of your handiwork.

Lower Maintenance Effort

You wont have to water as much in fall, so thats less maintenance effort from your part. You will also not have to baby sit new plants and fret about whether they will survive or not because of the overall milder weather.

A good tip for planting in fall is to water the plants in their pots a few hours before you transport them to their new homes. This lets them soak up water and be better prepared for planting. Water the hole theyll be placed in too before planting.

It is Easier to See Where to Plant Best

Fall allows you to see sparse areas of your garden that need more plants. It is the best time to plan out next years garden and start planting it. Youll know exactly how the other plants look like and how much space they take when they got foliage and blooms, allowing you to add pops of colour where you know you need it.

Bargains in Gardening Supplies

Gardening supplies are typically at their peak prices in spring but are cheaper in fall when some shops even close their business for the winter. Shop for non-perishable supplies, seeds, and maybe some bulbs in fall. You can probably get gardening tools at discounted prices and perhaps some fertilizers, netting, pebbles, and similar things. Watch out for sale in pots too


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Should You Sell to an Investor?

Theres been a lot of news recently centering around investors buying homes. If you have the opportunity to sell to an investor, should you? There are pros and cons to both selling this way and selling on the open market.

The following are some things to know about what it might mean to sell to an investor and what you should consider before doing so.

Buyer Intent

The difference between selling your home to lets say a family and selling it to an investor is what each intends to do with it after they purchase it. A family or individual is buying the home so they can move in. An investor wants to make money from it themselves, although there are different ways to do that.

For example, an investor might want to rent it out or flip the house and resell it shortly after buying it.

Many Wall-Street backed institutions are investing in properties and even buying entire neighborhoods around the country right now.

nbsp;If an investor is going to buy-and-hold, meaning they might keep the investment for the long-term and theyre counting on perhaps rental income and property appreciation, theyll usually target single-family homes or maybe condos. A buy-and-hold investor will often want a property thats already in good shape.

A house flipper will go for a house in poor condition, and theyll expect to get it at a price reflecting that.

Theres also a >

What Are the Benefits of Selling to an Investor?

If an investor approaches you and wants to buy your home, there are some upsides to this. These include:

  • No concerns about financing delays. The vast majority of buyers finance the purchase of a home. That makes a transaction more complex and time-consuming. Financing issues are one of the most frequent reasons deals fall through. When someone is buying a house with a loan, it takes an average of around 45 days to close. A real estate investor is likely to pay cash, and you might be able to close in days rather than months.
  • Investors will buy homes as-is. Some investors target homes that need work, and otherwise, you might not be able to sell your home without making repairs and putting money into it that you might not have.
  • When you sell to an investor, you dont have to do a lot of prep work. Basically, you can sell it to an investor before it hits the market, so there are no staging, open houses, or showings to deal with.

Are There Downsides?

The biggest downside that comes with selling a home to an investor is the potential that youre going to get less money in many cases than you would on the open market. The key driver for an investor is profitability. Theyre going to want to maximize their profits as much as possible. On the open market, buyers want to find a house they see as their home, and they might form an emotional connection to your property. That emotional connection can push them to pay a premium that an investor isnt going to be compelled to.

You might also personally not prefer to sell to an investor because youd like to see your home go to someone who will love and appreciate it as you do.

What to Consider

If youre debating whether or not selling to an investor is right for you, think about the following:

  • Do you need to sell your house quickly? If youre on a tight timeline and faster is better, an investor is more likely to facilitate that than an individual buyer.
  • Is your home in good condition? Does it need work or repairs? If it does need work, selling to an investor whos going to flip it might end up being one of your only options. Flippers want as-is properties that they can get a deal on. If your home is in good condition, iBuyers might be interested.
  • Do you have the cash on hand to do repairs? If your home needs expensive repairs that you cant afford to make, its going to be harder to find a traditional buyer.

nbsp;

Finally, what are your plans? Do you have a property youre hoping to buy already? If so, you may need the proceeds from the sale of your current home to make that happen.

Theres no correct answer as to whether or not you should sell to an investor. Its really all about your situation and whats right for you.


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What Are the Property Requirements for an FHA Loan?

Popular among first-time homebuyers but available to other consumers are home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration FHA. FHA loans are mortgages insured by the FHA and subsequently issued by an approved lender. These loans are geared toward low-to-moderate income borrowers.

An FHA loan requires a significantly lower down payment than a traditional mortgage and comes with lower credit score requirements. In 2020, you were able to borrow up to 96.5 of the value of a home with one of these loans, and you needed a credit score of just 580 to make a down payment of 3.5. With a 10 down payment, you might get approved with a credit score between 500 and 579.

If youre financing a home purchase with an FHA loan, you might not be able to buy a particular property if it doesnt meet the requirements. The FHA has minimum property standards as a way to protect lenders.

Why Minimum Property Standards?

If youre getting a mortgage as a homebuyer, the property itself is your loan collateral. If you stop making your payments, the lender will foreclose on it eventually, taking possession. Then, the lender sells the house to try and recoup as much of the money owed on the loan as they can.

When a property is required to meet specific standards, the lender has a higher level of protection. The idea here is that it should be easier to sell and get more money if the home meets said standards.

Theres also a protective element if youre the borrower. For example, youre less likely to face unexpected repair expenses right away.

FHA Home Appraisals

If you want an FHA-backed mortgage, then the house youre trying to buy must have an appraisal meeting specific standards. A home appraisal is an estimate of the propertys market value performed by a neutral third party. Most mortgages require an appraisal. The market value assesses the loan-to-value ratio of a mortgage.

An FHA appraisal requires two steps. The first is a site visit where an FHA appraiser will visit the home personally, taking photos and notes. Then, the second step requires the appraiser do market research to look at comparable homes that recently sold in the area. From there, they can estimate a value.

Minimum Property Standards

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD, when the FHA finances with its loan products, there have to be three general standards met. The first is safety. The property should maintain the safety and health of the occupants.

The second is security, and the third is soundness. That means the property shouldnt have any conditions or deficiencies impacting the structural integrity.

If youre going to buy a single-family, detached home, the appraiser uses whats called a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. The form goes over the basic elements of the house, such as the year it was built and the square footage. On the form, the appraiser also has to describe the propertys condition, including any repairs that may be needed or adverse conditions that could impact livability or structural integrity.

If youre planning to buy a condo, the form is similar, but there are questions specific to the property type like the number of owner-occupied units and the common areas.

If problems are minor or cosmetic, they dont need to be repaired, according to the FHA. Examples of whats considered minor in this context include missing handrails, minor plumbing leaks, or worn-out countertops.

Health and Safety Hazards

Some of the things that do need to be repaired for a sale to close include:

  • Electrical issues like exposed or frayed wires
  • Roofing is not expected to last for at least two more years
  • Water heaters that dont meet local building codes
  • Excessive noise
  • Construction dampness
  • Termite damage
  • Asbestos

nbsp;

If youre a home buyer and have your heart set on a home with potential problems, you have options. For example, you can ask the seller to make the repairs. If they cant, maybe as a buyer you request a lower price to make up for it. If the seller is a bank, theyre not likely to make repairs so youre probably going to have to find another property or try and get approval through a different loan product.


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What to Know About Debt-to-Income Ratio

When youre planning to buy a home, youre likely to apply with a lender to get a mortgage. The mortgage approval process can be somewhat lengthy, and every lender will have its own requirements.

One thing that any lender will, however, look at is your debt-to-income ratio or DTI.

DTI is a measure of personal finance comparing the debt you owe to your total income. Its not just mortgage lenders who look at DTIany time youre seeking financing, this ratio is likely going to be a consideration.

Why is DTI Important to a Lender?

A lender will look at your DTI before extending financing to see how likely it is that youll be able to manage the additional payment each month from your mortgage, in addition to the financial obligations you already have. The idea is that when you have a low debt-to-income ratio, theres a balance between your debt and income.

The lower your percentage, the more likely youll be approved for a mortgage.

With a high debt-to-income ratio, it can show a lender you have too much debt compared to your income. Lenders might see this as a reason not to extend any more financing because you might not be able to afford additional obligations.

Calculating Debt-to-Income Ratio

If youre thinking about buying a home, its helpful to go ahead and calculate your DTI so you have a good idea of how youre going into the lending process. You can add up all of your monthly obligations to start.

These include your student loans, car loans, credit card payments, an existing mortgage if >

Does DTI Affect Your Credit Score?

Your DTI doesnt directly affect your credit score. The reason is that credit reporting agencies dont typically know your earnings, so theres no way for them to have the information to make this calculation.

What a credit reporting agency will look at is your credit utilization ratio. This is also known as your debt-to-credit ratio. This is a comparison between your credit card balances to the total amount of credit available to you.

How Does Your DTI Affect Your Ability to Get a Mortgage?

When you apply for a mortgage, your financial picture is considered, which includes your DTI. Looking at DTI helps a lender figure out whether or not you can afford to buy a house, and if so, how much home you can afford.

Most lenders want to see that you have a debt-to-income ratio of less than 36. They typically want no more than 28 of said debt to go toward your mortgage.

A lender will usually not want to have a borrower with a ratio of any more than 43. If your DTI is higher than that, your lenders probably going to deny your application. Your expenses and debts would be too high as far as theyre concerned, compared to your income.

How Can You Lower your DTI Ratio?

If you want to get a mortgage and need to lower your DTI ratio, you only have two main options. You can reduce your monthly recurring debt, or you can increase your gross monthly income. You can also do both, of course.

The easiest of the two options is to pay off as much debt as you can.

Sometimes, if you have a high DTI ratio, a lender might accept a co-signer. For example, if you apply for an FHA loan, you can have a >

Overall, if you have a high DTI the best course of action might be stepping back from trying to get a mortgage, sorting out your finances, and then trying again when youre ready.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Can Governing Documents Be Amended?

Question: Can HOA governing documents be amended to allow compensation to directors for their services as board members? It stands to reason that they could be held more accountable if they received compensation for performance.

Answer: Most governing document stipulate that board members serve without compensation. There is a very good reason for this. Boards are comprised of elected members who ra>

Also, the board has an unavoidable conflict of interest. Since contracts and other expenditures are approved by the board, so would board compensation. The board is elected to safeguard the interests of all members. Its best done when the directors serve as unpaid and unconflicted volunteers.

Question: Our board is in the process of drafting an Architectural Design Policy. We are thinking about recording the policy with the county.

Answer: Architectural design standards can be complex and subject to change as taste and technology change. It is appropriate for the governing documents to state that an Architectural Design Policy exists, that construction and renovation must conform to it. The specific policy should not be recorded but be easily available upon request or posted on the HOAs website. As with any policy, the board should have it reviewed for comment by the members and by a knowledgeable attorney prior to implementation. A sample Architectural Design Policy is available at www.Regenesis.net in the Policy Samples section.

Question: A unit owner has requested permission to rebuild her deck and expand the size. What issues should the board consider?

Answer: Having unit owners repair and replace their decks is often a problem because those decks are typically attached to the structure which is an HOA responsibility to maintain. So, the unit owner should also be held responsible for any damage caused by the deck to the structure, like dryrot. This agreement should be in writing, dated, signed, notarized and recorded against the unit title to advise future owners of this responsibility. You should use an attorney to put the agreement in proper recordable form.

Will the new deck match the look, design and material of the original installation? Conformity in common wall housing reinforces market value. The new deck should look like the old unless the board has adopted a new standard.

The board has no authority to allow a unit owner to expand into common area or to enjoy exclusive use of a common area. This must be approved by a vote of the members which may be 100.


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When Refinancing, Are You Just Starting All Over?

When refinancing a mortgage, its usually because rates have dropped but there are other reasons as well. You might want to change the term of your loan, say switching from a 30 year loan to a 15. Or, maybe theres a balloon payment coming up soon that you want to avoid. Maybe there are some marital matters to take care of and theres a need to get someone completely off the current note. Whatever the reason, some may ask if refinancing is simply starting all over with a brand new loan. The answer is no, but there needs to be some other issues addressed.

For example, someone who took out a 30-year fixed rate loan a few years ago and decides to refinance to a lower rate, but still keep the original 30 year term might not enjoy the full benefits of refinancing. For example, someone who is five years into a 30 year term and refinances directly into a brand new 30 year term is effectively taking on a 35 year term. So with this example someone is in fact starting all over. But it doesnt have to be this way. There are other choices that avoid starting all over. This entails choosing the right term during a refinance.

Say someone is five years into a 30 year mortgage. Instead of taking out a brand new 30 year loan, there is an option for a 25 year term. In this example, while there will be a brand new mortgage, the initial 30 year term is left alone and replaced. The very same can be said with a 20, 15 or 10 year term. These are all some scenarios you need to talk discuss with your loan officer.

Okay, but what about someone who is 12 years into a 30 year loan? There are also lenders who will put you into an 18 year loan term instead of a 10, 15, 20 or 25 year. Whatever the remaining term of the loan, a lender can craft a new loan term to match your scenario. Youll get the lower rate without having to start all over again.

One important thing to note, and again is something to discuss with your loan officer, the reason the 30 year term is by far the most popular when taking out a new mortgage is it provides the lowest monthly payment among traditional home loans. On the flip side, due to the longer term and lower payments, more interest is paid on the 30 year term compared to others. In addition, shortening the loan term will work in the opposite way. The monthly payment will go up, not down. Even if the new rate is lower than the existing one.

Finally, youll need to consider all the closing costs associated with getting a new mortgage. Remember, there really isnt a no closing cost mortgage, its simply an adjustment in the rate. You might be able to come to the closing table with less cash to close, but over time the higher payments will negate the advantage of the no closing cost feature.


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October Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has been trending up due to the decline in new COVID cases, increasing consumer optimism, as well as broadening inflation and persistent shortages. Mortgage rates are also rising, but purchase demand remains firm, showing that latent purchase demand exists among consumers."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.14 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending October 28, 2021, up from last month when it averaged 3.01 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.81 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.37 percent with an average 0.6 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.28 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.32 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.56 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.48 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.88 percent.


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Updated: Thursday, December 9, 2021


November Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "

Despite the noise around the economy, inflation, and monetary policy, mortgage rate volatility has been low. For most of 2021, mortgage rates have stayed within half a percentage point, which is a smaller range than in past years."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.1 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending November 24th, 2021, down from last month when it averaged 3.14 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.72 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.42 percent with an average 0.7 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.37 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.28 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.47 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.56 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.16 percent.


> Full Story

When Does It Make Sense to Use Your Home’s Equity?

Housing prices continue to rise significantly, with median home prices soaring past 400,000 for the first time. Housing prices have been going up for eight years. This means if youre a current homeowner, you might have a significant chunk of equity in your home.

When does it make sense to use that equity and put it to work, particularly since interest rates remain low?

The Benefits of Using Equity Now

There are some economic factors outside of your personal situation that could make now a good time to use your homes equity.

Mortgage rates are historically low, meaning its cheap to borrow money right now. You could end up taking equity out and then earning a lot more than you would pay in interest on a mortgage. Since rates are low and you can lock in your rate for an extended period, you might not see your mortgage rates increase, if at all.

Inflation is going up at near-record paces, and that makes the idea of fixed-rate debt pretty appealing. If you get a fixed-rate mortgage for 30 years, your payments will be cheaper in real dollars.

When you have borrowed equity, the interest is tax-deductible, and its tax-free.

If you use the equity in your home, youll have liquidity, so you can take advantage of opportunities as they might arise.

Are There Risks?

Some risks can come with taking the equity out of your home as well.

For example, if you already have a high debt-to-income ratio, taking on more debt is never wise. If your income is at risk, you should avoid taking on new debt as well.

How Do You Know Where to Invest?

If you want to take equity out of your home, the goal is that youre earning more than the interest rate on your loan. There are a lot of ways you can do this.

For example, you could invest in the stock market or a real estate investment trust REIT.

Other financially wise ways to invest the equity in your home include:

To secure a stronger financial future, you might consider tapping into your homes equity to pay off high-interest-rate debt. For example, if you have a credit card with a 16 interest rate, and you get a loan with a 3.5 interest rate, youre going to get yourself out of debt faster, and youre going to reduce what youre paying in interest significantly.

Investing in real estate can be a smart way to use your homes equity. For example, you might use the money from your home equity to then put a down payment on a rental property.

Starting a business is a way to invest in your future, although its risky.

The goal, if youre considering now as the optimal time to tap into your equity, is to invest in something thats going to generate income. You want to pay back your loan with income so that you grow your wealth for the future.


> Full Story

Are You Ready for Disaster?

Are You Ready for Disaster?nbsp;

No matter where you live in this great nation, youre susceptible to natural disastersfrom hurricanes, tornados, or storm surge to wildfires or flooding.

What can you do when disaster strikes?

Put your pre-disaster plans and precautions in action

Without forethought, you, your family, and your home can be at the mercy of the elements:

Flooding can happen anywherenbsp;

The recent overwhelming atmospheric rivernbsp; drenched Washington State and British Columbia with torrential rain and storms. The resulting flooding, mud slides, power outages, evacuations, and wet everything drove people from their homes and caused human and animal loss of life. Destruction on a terrifying scale Flooding, the most common natural disaster, can also result from snow melt, storm surge, and dam overflow.

Fires and droughts are seasonal normsnbsp;

Lingering drought and heat islands hit many regions hard each year. Wildfires explode in these dry areas. Blazing wildfires sweep across forests, wilderness, and communities with devastating loss of life and with overwhelming property destruction.

Disaster realities exceed past climate experiencenbsp;

These massive natural disasters continue as frightening examples of how our experience with local weather may not prepare us for what is coming next. Experts warn that the extreme weather hitting us now will seem mild in comparison with what lies ahead as climate change rolls on.

Foresight beats regretting in hindsight. Emergency preparedness can save lives and reduce damage.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

You dont have to figure out emergency preparedness alone. Many community and government agencies and organizations have invested a lot of time and creativity to make it easy for you to be prepared. For example, the national public service campaign READY.gov, and its Spanish language version LISTO, are designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. To assist you in making a family emergency plan and supply kit and sharing your efforts with friends, READY offers 18 Social Media Disaster Preparedness Toolkits to choose from, including the Flood Toolkit, Wildfire Toolkit, and Winter Weather Toolkit.

Ten Preparedness Steps to Take Now

1. Anticipate Your Flood Risk

Your risk involves previous flood patterns and projections of flooding based on changing weather patterns. Where will the water go if nearby lakes or rivers overflow or if the ground becomes too saturated to absorb more water? Investigate FEMAs Flood Map Service Center, the Emergency Alert System, and NOAA Weather Radio to learn what support is offered. Sign up for the local warning system. Pay attention to the weather.

2. Flood insurance

Flood insurance coverage is not automatically part of your homeowners policy, so ask your insurance agent about it. In high-risk areas, homes and businesses with government-backed mortgages must have flood insurance. FEMAs National Flood Insurance Program NFIP is available through a network of over 50 insurance companies.

3. Keep Water Away From Your Home

  • Regularly walk all the way around your foundation to ensure grading, or the slant of the land, is taking water away from your home.
  • Also walk the property line. Neighbors may be building, paving, or disrupting drainage, so that more water ends up on your property. My neighbor added an elevated artificial lawn to their rear garden and my patio became a pond when it rained.
  • Regularly clear gutters and downspouts to keep water at least 3 to 6 feet away from foundation walls.
  • If you have a sump pump, check it regularly to be sure it will work when you need it. Does the sump pump have battery back-up if the power dies?

4. Whats Precious?

Other than the living beings who share your home, what really matters to you? Family photos are high on most peoples Treasures List. Dont store precious things in the basement where the risk of water damage is highest.

5. Waterproof Protection

Store important papers, photographs, and documents in waterproof containers. Also make a digital copy of everything vital and store that information in a secure online location and on a memory stick somewhere off the property.

6. Create a Family Escape Plan

Where will you meet if disaster strikes and you are separated from family and your home? Be practical. If roads are flooded and power is out, how will everyone get there? Cell phone service may be down, so have the family practice possible routes to your meet-up location in advance.

7. Who needs what?

  • Prepare for the specific needs, including medication, of each family member and pet. If you have farm animals, how will they be kept safe?
  • Cell phones and important equipment require batteries and specific chargers.
  • In case disaster becomes widespread, prepare your family to fend for itself for the first 72 hours. Pack 72-hours worth of food, water, and additional supplies in your Emergency Kit.nbsp;

8. Expect your Phone to Fail You

List all the things on your phone that you cannot manage without and create a paper version as back-up. For instance, a paper ideally waterproof map, essential phone numbers you do not have committed to memory, prescriptions, identification, banking information. Back-up vital information regularly in case your phone becomes waterlogged or lost. >

9. Your Car As An Emergency Shelter

If you have to flee the flood, could you survive in your car or truck for a day or two? In cold weather? In the car, keep a phone charger, an appropriate 72-hour kit, blankets, candles for light and heat, matches, emergency signaling devices, writing materials, playing cards.

10. Stay Smart

  • No barbequing in the covered porch, house, or garage. Every year, people who do this indoors die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not drive on flooded roads or bridges. Flooding can make them unsafe.
  • Do not unnecessarily put first responders, emergency workers, and community volunteers at risk.
  • Emergency preparation is a year-round, 365-7-24 concern. Adopt the tried-and-true motto, Be prepared

> Full Story



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