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Real Estate News Articles

Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is There Anything Left to Flip?

And therein lies the problem. With so many homes flipping and home flippers competing for the same properties, how does one even go about finding a place to buy these days?

We have some ideas.

Work with a savvy real estate agent

This is key because your exposure to distressed properties will be limited. Also, a savvy real estate agent may have connectionsmdash;the kind of connections that could find you a flip before it hits the market.

Keep your eye on really distressed properties

Pass by an eyesore on your way to work every day? Is there a house down the street with an unkempt lawn and noticeable deferred maintenance? You never know whatrsquo;s going on inside, but your Realtor may be able to find out. You could be in the right place at the right time to get a great deal and even help out someone who needs a hand by getting them out from under the home before itrsquo;s taken by the bank.

Go where the projected growth is

It may already be too late to score in a place thatrsquo;s on one of those fastest-growing cities lists. Prices may have appreciated past the point of potential profit on a flip, and inventory is likely low. Instead, pay attention to cities that are projected to be on the rise so you can get in before everyone else does.

Look for estate sales

"What they could do to make it easier is combine the two. You know, Mr. Kline died yesterday, leaving behind a wife, two children, and a spacious three-bedroom apartment with a wood-burning fireplace." mdash; Billy Crystalrsquo;s Harry on the difficulty of finding a place in NYC in When Harry Met Sally

Turns out Harry was on to something. If yoursquo;re looking for a house to flip, you have to get creative. Poring through the MLS for a house may yield a winner here and there, but the competition from other would-be flippers is gonna be fierce. That probably means that if you do find something flip-worthy, you may end up paying more because yoursquo;re bidding against other people, and that will reduce your potential profit. Does that mean checking the obits? Probably not. But estate saleshellip;now thatrsquo;s another story.

Check in with landlords

Are there any rentals in your neighborhood? Maybe one of the owners would be willing to unload an underperforming home. Maybe that same individual doesnrsquo;t want the hassle of getting it ready for sale.

Donrsquo;t be afraid of the city

Dingy downtown areas in many cities across the country have turned many a would-be real estate investor into a flipping pro. In many cases, these buyers took a chance on an area that many would have described as ldquo;iffy.rdquo; Investors often call these ldquo;transitioning areasrdquo; and some pros, like Christina El Moussa from Flip or Flop, go right ahead and call them bad neighborhoods. These areas can provide great bang for the buck if you choose right.

ldquo;It seems like one year a particular neighborhood will be really lsquo;badrsquo; with a lot of vacancies and a high crime rate,rdquo; said El Moussa on Real Estate Elevated. ldquo;The next year the crime rate will be a little lower, and therersquo;ll be fewer vacancies. The year after that, itrsquo;ll be an affordable neighborhood, and before you know it, people are paying a lot of money to get houses in the area.rdquo;
Donrsquo;t be afraid of the suburbs
Have you heard? The lsquo;burbs are hot, even with millennials, who many thought would always embrace the city life>

Watch for moving trucks

Therersquo;s a scene in the Sex and the City movie where Miranda, in searching of a new apartment in New York, runs into a building to inquire about a vacant apartment because she saw men loading up a moving truck out front Apparently, all of our best ideas for finding a flip should come from movies filmed in New York. While no one is recommending you go running into a home as someone is moving out, the moving truck is something to look out for in target neighborhoods. Someone whorsquo;s moving out under curious circumstancesmdash;no one in the neighborhood knew the home was for sale, itrsquo;s late at night, etc.mdash;is someone you may want to pay attention to. It could be a foreclosure situation or some other opportunity you want to take advantage of before someone else does.

Look at auctions and foreclosure listings

ldquo;The first step in successful fix-and-flipping is finding the profitable property in the first place. You can call it investorrsquo;s common sense to look for properties in the best areas selling at low prices,rdquo; said Do Hard Money. ldquo;However, many new real estate investors come up empty-handed month after month until they finally give up in frustration. This is because theyrsquo;re all doing the same thing: theyrsquo;re looking in the same place. Most of the new flippers look on the MLS for potential properties. Dare to do differently. Look for properties by lesser-known means, such as foreclosure listings, estate sales, short sales and real estate auctions.rdquo;

Check the schools

Donrsquo;t have kids? Doesnrsquo;t matter. Your buyer may, and that means the schools are important. And, in truth, even buyers who donrsquo;t now or may never have kids still seek out good schools because of their positive impact on home values. ldquo;If yoursquo;ve found an affordable home in a neighborhood thatrsquo;s on its way up, your next step is to research the local schools,rdquo; said Money Crashers. ldquo;Homes in good school systems sell faster, and command higher prices, than homes in mediocre or poor school systems. Use websites like GreatSchools, SchoolDigger, and Niche to see rankings and reviews of local schools.rdquo;

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Ask the HOA Expert: Dryer Vents, Noisy Neighbors and Yard Sales

Question: How frequently should dryer vents in common wall HOAs be cleaned and repaired?

Answer: Dryer vents are the source of fires and water damage leaks in the ceiling so should be checked and cleaned at least once a year or when alerted by residents. Surveying the exterior vent openings determines the scope of work since its easy to see evidence of lint buildup. Removing selected vent covers and using a shop vac with extended hose attachment to remove the lint usually does the trick although a snake with pipe brush attachment may be needed to remove heavy buildup. Be careful to use appropriate equipment based on whether you are cleaning solid metal or plastic pipe versus the more flimsy flexible plastic pipe. The wrong kind of snake will easily damage the flexible pipe.

Clean only those vent pipes that have an obvious need except in the cases where there is documented interior water damage. In those cases, cleaning is necessary to remove water from the vent pipe. It may also be necessary to open the ceiling to correct the vent pipe orientation since water leaks from laundry vents are usually caused by a flexible pipe that has bellied out.

Vents with broken exterior flappers should be replaced to prevent bird nesting. This should be done as necessary when alerted by residents, management or maintenance.

Question: We have had repeated noise problems from a neighboring resident. We have endured everything from the radio blaring first thing in the morning, to parties with his drinking buddies late at night, to being awakened in the middle of the night by his vacuuming and furniture assembly. Honestly, who needs to be hammering at 1:40 am? We have tried every nice way we can think of including notes and phone calls. What can we do?

Answer: Disturbing the peace is against the law. Youve done what any reasonable person could do. Remind your neighbor in writing one more time how many times you have requested his cooperation and inform him that the next time it happens, you will call the police. And DO it. If he insists on being inconsiderate, he should reap the consequences.

Question: I asked permission from the board for a yard sale. The board responded that yard sales were not permitted due to Aliability issues.

Answer: Life is fraught with risk but yard sales don=t generally come to mind as high risk activities. It sounds like the board has been terrorized by an attorney or insurance agent. Usually, the issue in HOA garage/yard sales is the additional traffic and parking they generate. Some HOAs have almost no extra parking or narrow streets so sales create a real problem. In those situations, sales are not appropriate. If this isnt the case, the board is overreacting.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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How Conforming Loan Limits Are Set Each Year

Here in just a couple of weeks, some important economic data will be reviewed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA. This new data will then impact the new conforming loan limits for 2019. Mortgages are considered either a ldquo;conformingrdquo; or ldquo;jumbordquo; based upon the amount borrowed. Conforming loans that are underwritten to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards are at or below 424,100 for 2018. Anything above that amount is considered a jumbo loan. One short caveat however, in areas deemed ldquo;high costrdquo; there is another category called high balance conforming but in most parts of the country, a loan is either conforming or jumbo.

Historically, conforming loans have slightly lower interest rates compared to a jumbo loan. Conforming loans also ask for a lower down payment. Jumbo loans typically ask for a down payment of anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of the sales price. So, who sets these limits and how? Each October, FHFA reviews the median home values for the United States, more specifically the Housing Price Index, or HPI, and compares that number with the previous yearrsquo;s data. If there is an increase in median home value from one year to the next, the conforming loan limit will be increased accordingly. For instance, if values increase by 5.0, the conforming loan limits will be increased by 5.0 for the following year. The new limits are announced in November of each year. If values fall, the previous yearrsquo;s loan limit will remain the same until the next evaluation.

Conventional conforming loans are by far the most popular choice among home owners and practically every single mortgage lender offers either a Fannie or Freddie loan. With such a large market share that also means more places to get a conforming loan which leads to more competition among mortgage companies. Lenders compete based upon service and rates and more competition keeps mortgage rates in check. Thatrsquo;s one of the reasons why interest rates from one lender to the next are very near one another.

We can anticipate higher conforming loan limits for 2019 as home values over much of the country have appreciated in value, we just donrsquo;t yet know by how much. But we will soon know once the HPI for 2018 is reviewed and >
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California Adopts Changes to Landlord-Tenant Notice Periods

Specifically, those notices are the ones known as i a three-day notice to pay or quit, ii a three-day notice to perform a covenant duty under the lease, and iii a five-day notice to file an answer to an unlawful detainer eviction suit. Crucial to such notices, as is the case with performance clauses in contracts, is defining how days are to be counted.

Under current California law, for the notices in question, the days to be counted begin with the first day after the notice is served. However, if the last day for performance is a weekend or holiday, it is excluded from the counting. California Code of Procedure sect;12.

Some examples:

1. If, on Monday, I am given a three-day notice to pay, then I must pay within the days Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
2. If I received the three-day notice on Wednesday, then Thursday and Friday are counted, but Saturday and Sunday are excluded from being performance days. The final day for performance would be Monday, provided it is not a holiday.
3. If I receive the notice on Friday, and Monday is a holiday, then my last day for performance would be Tuesday. Friday and Saturday, as well as the Monday holiday, are included in the counting, they just canrsquo;t be required as a performance day.

AB 2343 changes current law with respect to which days can be counted when a tenant is given notice. Now, not only are weekends and holidays not days when performance can be required, but also, they are not days to be included in the counting. The only days to be counted are so-called court days, i.e. Monday through Friday, provided that none is a holiday.

When the new law becomes effective, if I am served with a three-day notice on Friday, counting will not begin until Monday. My last day for performance, presuming no holidays are involved, would be Wednesday.

Does this make a big difference? It probably would if you only had Monday to deal with paperwork, perhaps secure a loan, or any of a number of easily-imagined scenarios. Proponents of the bill had stated ldquo;Legal services programs throughout the state report that they are visited by frustrated tenants every day who are able to resolve the situations leading to their eviction, but not within the extremely narrow time provided by California law.rdquo; This was a particular concern with the five-day notice to respond to an eviction filing.

As it is, the original version of AB 2343 sought considerably more than what survived through the amendment process. The original version had proposed that the three-day notice periods be extended to ten days, and that the five-day notice period be extended to fourteen.

The bill was co-sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the California Rural Legal Foundation. It also had the support of a variety of tenantsrsquo;-rights groups. The bill was opposed by, among others, the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtorsreg; CAR. After the amendments, CAR withdrew its opposition.

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Clever Ways To Give Your Small Bathroom Some Pop And Make It Look Larger

Cover those walls

The old-school wallcovering is back in a big way, and you dont need a big space to make it work. In fact, the right print and some complementary details can make a small bathroom the most impactful room in the home.

Consider the vanity

The floating vanity trend looks great in any type of space, but it was tailor-made for a small bathroom. Because it doesnt extend all the way to the floor, there is an airiness you wouldnt get with a traditional vanity. You can find versions with built-in storage, because who doesnt need a place to put a hair dryer?

Or, go for the vintage look one of the hottest trends in bathrooms today. This version mounts to the wall, taking up the least amount of space possible, but still offers a clean and crisp look.

Keep the color consistent

And, keep it light and bright. This bathroom packs a lot into a compact space, but the color palette keeps it feeling airy. And the upscale materials, with marble tiles used in contrasting shapes, add a glam feel.

Get artsy

Who says you can only display "bathroom->

Focus on the details

Keeping the palette bright white makes this space feel breezy and allows the snazzy details to stand out. A herringbone shape on the floor adds interest, and the modern brass fixtures would look amazing in any size bathroom.

Dont forget about storage

Creating a sleek and stylish bathroom in a small space is enough of a challenge without having to think about where youre going to put everything. But, if your bathroom isnt just a space for occasional guests or even if you just need a place to store the extra toilet paper, storage has to be a consideration. Whether its a vanity with drawers, baskets you put on open shelving, or a custom cabinet, there are a lot of options. Apartment Therapy has some great ideas here.

Make tile your friend

There are a number of tricks you can use with tile to make your bathroom feel more expansive. "Set floor tiles diagonally to increase the perceived size of the floor," said SF Gate. "Choose rectangular wall tiles and set them horizontally on the walls to increase the perceived width of the space. Use the same color of tiles on the floor and walls to reduce the difference between wall and floor. If possible, carry the floor tile up the wall behind the fixtures, right to the ceiling. This visually expands the wall height."

In thisnbsp;New York City bathroom, zig-zag tile runs "straight into the shower stall," said House Beautiful. The lack of interruption creates a larger feel.

The horizontal bands of mosaic tile in this shower dont only add interest, but also elongate the back wall, making the space look larger. The glass surround also creates a more open feel and unique touches like the countertop sink, distinctive mirror, and light fixtures add more jewelry to the room.

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Condo Renovations: Making The Most Of Your Space

Many buyers are now families or young couples with a baby on the way. They dont want to rent but cant afford to buy a house. Or some, regardless of age, dont have the time or inclination to maintain a home.

Condo suites are smaller than they used to be, so it pays to renovate to make the most of every inch and to make the space functional for everyday living and entertaining.

Designer Sabrina Bitton, an expert in all things space saving and clever, recently transformed her 825-square-foot suite into a showpiece of good, functional, flexible and space-efficient design. Her suite offers the clean-lined and less-is-more sensibilities todays buyers want.

She embraces European design, with a dash of Frank Lloyd Wright bringing the outdoors in while ensuring no space is wasted, she says.

Her original two-bedroom suite had large windows in the living room and master bedroom, the rooms side by side at the end of the suite. Bitton removed the master bedroom wall and incorporated the square footage and windows into the living space.

She sealed up the doors to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom and lined the walls with floor-to-ceiling custom millwork. Instead of extending the built-ins to the end of the living room wall, she added open solid walnut shelving to provide an airy feeling and to offer a place to display treasured items.

Walnut is used for several features throughout the suite, bringing a touch of nature and creating a sense of flow between rooms.

The kitchen includes walnut shelving and a walnut island. To create maximum storage space, Bitton took advantage of the nine-foot-high ceilings and extended the built-ins to the ceiling. The high space is ideal for storing large boxes of out-of-season clothing and seasonal items that dont need to be accessed on a regular basis.

Vents for heating and cooling are hidden behind cupboard doors and kick plates, with slits to keep the air circulating.

Storage space is always a challenge in condos, so finding creative ways of adding more makes the unit more functional. "I have so much storage space that some cupboards are actually empty," she says.

A clever "Bitton trick" is a bar-height island on wheels that fits over the existing kitchen island so it doesnt take up additional floor space.

When entertaining be it for a sit-down dinner for eight, a buffet or a large cocktail party, the bar-height island can be wheeled out to provide a separate table. Or it can be used as buffet space, a place to enjoy cocktails or additional work space.

Downsizers who arent ready to give up their sit-down eating space find this a particularly welcome idea, Bitton says.

She chose bar stools with lower backs so when theyre tucked under the bar, they dont obstruct the view from the kitchen. Bitton added a clear rectangular blown glass chandelier over the island to add drama without distracting from the view.

Seamless, clean-lined built-ins on another wall in the living/dining space include a fold-up desk, and a surprise. Instead of hard-to-reach cupboards at ceiling height, Bitton added pull-down rods so hanging clothes are easily accessible.

When renovating, figure out what you want, how to achieve and what you want to invest your money on. Bitton splurged on a comfortable sofa.

"Comfort is important. Also, since its a linear space, the curved couch adds a feeling of movement. You could also add an additional sleeping area by using a sofa bed."

In the second bedroom, which is beside the original master bedroom, a door was added to provide access to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom. More custom built-ins were added in the closet.

In the bedroom, the original closet doors were removed and the closet space was lined with walnut to create a headboard/nook for her bed. The window seat was extended from 18 to 24 inches to create a cosy sitting area. Custom built-ins were installed below the window seat and extended along the wall. An unused alcove space was filled with shelves and glass doors to create a fun display space for Bittons fancy shoes.

Light-coloured floors are used throughout, chosen over dark, which shows dust and visually closes in a space. Paint and window treatments are different tones of the same creamy neutral colour family. Doors are painted light grey to complete the Zen ambiance.

Before buying a new condo, Goodchild says its important to speak to the builder to find out what changes can be made. You may not want the kitchen thats there or would prefer to omit a wall, but the builder may not be able to accommodate your needs.

Few developers will allow preconstruction changes. In that case, choose the least expensive finishes for features you plan to remove, and then renovate with an eye to creating functional and multi-functional space, says Bitton, of Sabrina Bitton Interior Design. "Its all about creating smart condos."

Times have changed from 20 years ago, when condos were purchased primarily by retirees, Goodchild says. Now people in their 50s are buying too because they want less upkeep, more freedom and the ability to do more of what they want, including travel.

"Retirees still make up a large percentage of purchasers, but the under 35-year-olds find condo ownership appealing because they want to be downtown and be close to work. They want to have the ability to work, live and play in the same neighbourhood," Goodchild says. "Then they have children and sometimes stay."

Whoever the buyer, making the most of the space is key, says Bitton, who along with in-person service, offers Skype design consultation. A portion of her fee goes to charity.

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Easy Architectural Details You Can Add To Your Home

"Nothing jump-starts design envy more than walking into a home with stunning architectural details like interesting ceilings, textured walls, charming stained glass and more," said Apartment Therapy. "Dont despair if you dont have any built-in architectural details in your home; there are some ideas you can try that just might give your space a similar feel as those bursting with architectural character and charm."


If you have a Spanish or Mediterranean home, or just want to make your home look and feel like one, adding an archway can help.

"Here, we transformed an ordinary rectangular cased opening into a beautiful elliptical archway featuring fluted columns, and an arched header with keystone accents," said This Old House. "We used a prefabricated 4-foot Model B poplar elliptical-archway kit from CurveMakers. On day one, we prepped the existing opening. On day two, we completed the installation and painted."

Crown molding

Crown molding can transform the look of a space, taking it from blah to beautiful. And it doesnt have to be traditional.

"The three-piece crown molding on this upper kitchen cabinet matches the >

Ceiling Beams

"Ceiling beams can be added to any ceiling and come in a wide variety of >

You can also paint your beams for a different look.

"Wood beams can give a rustic or antique looks but painted beams bring a different type of warmth and character," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Dont forget to look up when designing your space. In this kitchen, the box beams on the ceiling are a sunny shade of yellow to match the cabinets. Exposed ceiling beams make a space with a high ceiling feel more welcoming."

Better Homes and Gardens

Another popular option is faux wood beams that give you the look you want without the weight of real wood. You can get a step-by-step guide to installing beams yourself here. Keep in mind if youre doing it yourself, higher ceilings may require stilts or scaffolding. If you have an issue with heights or are a klutz, you may want to consider hiring a pro.

Panel moldings

Plain walls can easily be dressed up by creating panels with strips of molding. If you can miter a corner and use a paintbrush, you can create standout room like this one.

Better Homes and Gardens

Accentuating the architectural details you do have

"Think you dont have any architectural details at all? Well thats just not true Youve got windows...consider painting the window frame a bold, contrasting color," said Apartment Therapy.

Or, paint your doors or your ceiling, like this one. Who wouldve thought this emerald green would be so inviting.

Tin ceilings

Another way to accentuate the ceiling is by applying tin tiles. Tin ceilings date back to the "1880s as an affordable way for people to dress up a rooms fifth wall," said This Old House. "Tin was not only an aesthetic upgrade, meant to emulate high-end decorative plaster, it also offered a measure of fire protectionmdash;a big concern at a time when home cooking, lighting, and heating were largely done with open flames."

Today, theyre used in modern spaces as well, to add interest up top with linear metal looks, corrugated metal, and an array of stamped tiles.

Reclaimed Home

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Are Extended Warranties Worth the Cost?

You can argue the benefits both ways.

In the fast paced world of home electronics, by the time the extended warranty expires, future technology will far out> agrees. Their data concludes that the likelihood of most home appliances needing repairs in the first three years is less than one in five. And most defects will reveal themselves within the first year of use, while the manufacturers warranty is still good.

That said, extended warranties should be purchased for some items, including those that are difficult to repair or high-priced items that would be painful to replace. These include high ticket items like a 6000 Viking gas range or pricey hi-definition plasma TVs, suggests

Since extended warranties do make so much profit for retailers, they are very aggressive about selling them to customers. If youre tempted, follow this rule -- the cost of the warranty should be no more than 10 of the purchase price.

And if you decide to skip the warranty, be prepared to shoulder the cost for assessment service calls, repair time in labor plus parts and shipping. Though its more of a hassle, this can be the most cost-effective measure. If you have a warranty option of 250 and you experience only one instance in the life of your appliance where it needs 100 of work, you could save 150, or 60.

Ultimately the choice and risk are yours to assume. Extended warranties can be worth the cost in terms of peace of mind, but only if its for a product you dont intend to change for a few years.

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3 Tips for Getting Started with Your Smart Home

These simple steps will help you get up to speed, choose the basics for your smart home, and start enjoying the benefits ASAP.

1. Make Sure Your Internet Connection Is Up to Speed

Before diving into the deep end with smart home gear, check your internet and make sure itrsquo;s up to the task of powering a smart home. Yoursquo;re going to want a >

While a single smart device isnrsquo;t likely to require much bandwidth, as you add more, the total can add upmdash;especially if you stream video or do other intensive tasks at the same time.

2. Choose Your Voice Assistant

Before you start buying a bunch of gear for your house, decide whether you want a smart assistant to help control it all. Amazonrsquo;s Alexa, Applersquo;s Siri, and Googlersquo;s Assistant are all great in their own ways, but the smart devices they integrate with for voice control vary quite a bit. That means you may need to select your devices based on which assistant theyrsquo;re compatible with.


Alexa offers by far the most integrations of any of the assistants. So if voice control of your smart home is important, itrsquo;s probably your best bet. You can get Alexa on smartphones and the Amazon Echo line of devices.


Of the three voice assistants, Siri has the fewest integrations, is available on the lowest number of supported devices Apple only, and is generally considered the worst of the three as a voice assistant. Siri is best if yoursquo;re heavily invested in Applersquo;s systems already. Siri comes on iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and HomePod speakers.


Google Assistant sits at a middle ground between Alexa and Siri. It offers fewer integrations than Alexa, but itrsquo;s by far the best as a digital assistant for questions, thanks to Googlersquo;s amazing machine learning abilities. Assistant can be found on pretty much any platform, including the Google Home smart speakers.

3. Start Adding Your Devices

Once yoursquo;ve decided which assistant is right for you, start looking for compatible devices. Some of the most common devices for smart home beginners include smart thermostats, video doorbells, and smart lighting.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat provide several benefits:

They learn your preferences, so you donrsquo;t have to adjust them much.
They are very energy efficient. Typically, the Nest will pay for itself in energy savings after about two years. Beyond that itrsquo;s all extra money in your pocket.
You can control them from your smartphone and adjust the temperature before you get home.

Nest isnrsquo;t the only maker on the market, but itrsquo;s probably the most talked about. It looks great, and it works great. What more can you ask for?

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells are becoming quite popular. You can see whorsquo;s there without having to get up, and even talk to them directlymdash;even if yoursquo;re not home. Theyrsquo;re also a nice deterrent to package theft, which is becoming more and more common. Ring makes a great video doorbell.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is another popular choice. Besides the usual smartphone control and automation, smart lighting like the Philips Hue comes in an array of colors. You can set the color and color temperature to pretty much anything you can imagine, which is amazing for setting the mood. The bulbs also last for years and use very little power, which is great for both your wallet and the environment.

There are many more smart home options to explore, and more are getting added all the time. But this list should get you off to a >

nbsp;Victoria Schmid enjoys writing about technology for the ldquo;everydayrdquo; person. She is a specialist in online business marketing and consumer technology. She has a background in broadcast journalism.

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Halloween Decorating and Marketing Tips For Selling Your House

There are mixed opinions on how much to decorate for Halloweenmdash;or if you should at allmdash;when selling your home. Can it actually help you sell a home if you turn the holiday into a marketing opportunity? Possibly. We took the temperate of the industry for some guidance.

When should you put up your decorations?

You may want to keep an eye on your neighbors for this one. If yoursquo;re the first house on the block to decorate, your home may stand out for the wrong reasons. If yoursquo;re still worried that your Halloween deacute;cor may distract from the home, follow Mass Realtyrsquo;s advice. ldquo;Overall, you wont want to put up spooky Halloween decorations until the night of Halloween and make sure to take them down the next morning,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Instead, its alright to put up seasonal decorations, such as pumpkins, bright leaves, or colorful corn cobs. That way, no one gets offended and you can keep them up for weeks to feel the spirit of the season.rdquo;

Should you continue your annual spooky theme?

You may be known for your elaborate displays that have a different theme Friday the 13th, Carrie each year, but perhaps itrsquo;s best to forgo that when trying to sell your home. ldquo;If Halloween is your holiday, it is best to take a break this year,rdquo; said Shorewest Realtors. ldquo;Over decorating will hide your home and turn off potential buyers. Instead think of how you will decorate your new homerdquo;

If you do want to add some Halloween-specific decorations, use common sense. ldquo;Experts say keep Halloween decorations neutral,rdquo; said Lyst House. ldquo;So what Halloween decorations should you avoid? Well for startershellip;clowns, dead children, blood and gore, and rotten pumpkins.rdquo;

Time your listing photos right

Be careful with your listing photos if you do decorate for Halloween. If your home is still for sale come Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Yearrsquo;s and even Valentinersquo;s Day, your photos will look extremely dated. This will likely turn off buyers, who may wonder whatrsquo;s wrong with you home because itrsquo;s been on the market a while. A good tip is to use spring photos, if possible, said Fortune Builders. ldquo;If you can, try to take property photos when the sun is shining and you can take advantage of all the great natural light that spring has to offer. It will help your property stand out in a cold and gloomy market.rdquo;

Dont miss a marketing opportunity

ldquo;If you must decorate for the holiday, hold a Halloween open house to attract buyers with children or those young at heart,rdquo; said Mass Realty. ldquo;Set the date for the weekend before the spooky holiday to bring in more potential buyers. Offer homemade cookies and a 10 gift certificate to an ice cream shop for the adult with the best costume who registers at the door. Take photos to compare costumes after the open house. Have your real estate agent contact the winner to pick up the prize, giving the agent time to discuss the home with all who registered.rdquo;

Turn it into a party

We love this idea from Opendoor, who threw Halloween Open Houses in three Arizona cities on Halloween night last year. ldquo;We greeted trick-or-treaters at three Opendoor houses in Glendale, Gilbert, and in North Central Phoenix,rdquo; they said. ldquo;We gave out more than 1,000 candy barshellip;as well as other tasty treats. We had games and activities for the whole family, including a fun real estate trivia game. The big hit, though, was the haunted GIF photo booth to capture the fabulous costumes of our visitorsmdash;we had lines at every house The event was a huge success. We saw more than 1,200 guests across all three homes and, more importantly, we brought our neighbors across the valley together on Halloween night.rdquo;

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Defining Who Owns What is Critical

Q. I am on the Board of Directors of our homeowner association, and as winter is around the corner, we know we will start getting calls from owners to make repairs to such things as the streets, our tot lot, and the community recreational facility. However, we often get requests to repair or replace such other areas as roofs, ice-damaged bushes, and the like. How do we know what is in our area of responsibility and what areas are under the control of the homeowners?

A. In every community association -- whether a condominium or a homeowner association HOA -- there are two basic elements of ownership: common elements called "common areas" in an HOA, and units referred to as "lots" in an HOA. Additionally, in a condominium association, there are limited common elements LCE.

Lets take a minute to define these three concepts:

1. Common elements areas are those areas which are under the control of the association. In reality, the association does not own the condominium common elements, but rather each owner owns his/her percentage interest in those elements.

Only the Board of Directors can make the decision as to whether to repair or replace common elements; however, some association documents put restrictions on the amount of money that a Board can spend to replace -- not repair -- and you must look at your documents each and every time you are planning to spend association funds.

2. Units lots are the apartments or houses that are owned in fee simple by the members of your association. Your documents -- and the recorded plats and plans -- will define these units.

Generally speaking, maintenance, repair and replacement of units is in the exclusive control of the unit home owner. In addition, with homeowner associations, the owner is responsible for his or her "Lot," which is shown on the subdivision plats.

3. A limited common element LCE is defined as "those common elements identified in the declaration or on the condominium plan as reserved for the exclusive use of one or more but not less than all of the unit owners."

A balcony or a patio and even a mailbox is often an LCE since not all members of the association have access to those areas.

Whenever you have a question as to who owns what, you must refer to your association legal documents and the plats. And that leads to a very important question: do you have a current set of the actual recorded documents and plats?

In our practice of law, we have encountered too many situations where the Board of Directors is functioning without the correct documents. Indeed, on a couple of occasions, I have witnessed Board members having different sets of materials.

How does this happen? Very simply: the developer hands out the required disclosure documents to prospective purchasers, including the then-current set of documents. However, before the first unit is sold, the developer makes changes to these documents -- either because a lender or a governmental authority insists on such change, or because the developer wants to improve sales within the complex.

However, all too often these changes amendments are not furnished to all unit owners. They then become Board members, and begin to function with the wrong set of legal documents.

What should you do? Your management company should be instructed to obtain -- either from the online recorder of deeds in the jurisdiction where the property is located or from associationrsquo;s legal counsel -- a complete set of the actual recorded association documents, including the plats and plans.

Each Board member must have complete copy for his/her use. Keep it handy and read it thoroughly at least once a year while you are on the Board.

These documents should give you the answer as to who owns what. Unfortunately, all too often the language is written in legalese, and you may have to ask the association attorney for guidance.

Thus, when a unit or homeowner ask the Board to make certain repairs, check your documents and plats first. Is this really within your responsibility? Is the homeowner trying to pass the cost of the repairs onto the association? Or is the area in question owned by the association or the County -- such as the streets or the storm water management systems.

Speaking of streets, I have just read a case which will be of interest to our readers. A Missouri homeowner association consisting of 44 homes had a provision covenant in its legal documents prohibiting pick-up trucks weighing more than one-half ton from parking on association parking spaces or streets. The association brought legal action against a homeowner who admitted violating the covenants. The homeowners sole defense was that the association lacked authority to enforce the covenants, because the streets had been dedicated to the city in which the association was located.

The Missouri Court of Appeals dismissed the homeowners arguments, and upheld the authority of the Board. According to the Court, the covenant was a contract between the owner and the association; when the homeowner purchased a house in that association, he became a party to that contract. Accordingly, the Court upheld the authority of the association to obtain an injunction against the owner.

Who owns what is perhaps the most asked question. The answer will be found in your own documents and plats. Read them carefully -- and often.

Full Story >

How to Choose a Roofer

ldquo;Installing a new roof is one of the most important, and expensive, home improvement projects yoursquo;ll run into as a homeowner,rdquo; said HomeAdvisor. ldquo;Considering this, and since your roof is the first line of defense for your home against the elements, itrsquo;s important that you hire the best roofing company possible. Roofing contractors are a dime a dozen, so itrsquo;s important to follow a few basic rules when finding, choosing, and hiring a roofing contractor.rdquo;

These tips will help you make the best decision.

Donrsquo;t go with the first offer you get

ldquo;You should talk to several roofing companies so you can gauge an honest and reasonable price range. You probably donrsquo;t want to make your final hiring decision on a couple hundred dollars for a project that costs several thousand dollars, but you should be wary of any remarkably low or excessively high bids,rdquo; said HomeAdvisor. ldquo;Of course, this will also help give you plenty of opportunity to build rapport and trust and to adhere to the other rules for hiring a roof contractor.rdquo;

Donrsquo;t go with the lowballer

Yeah, that low bid sounds too good to be true, right? It probably is. ldquo;The cheapest bid probably isnrsquo;t your best bet,rdquo; said Bob Vila. ldquo;Of course, the estimates issued are a factor to consider. But more important is your level of confidence in a given rooferrsquo;s ability to do an outstanding job. If yoursquo;re impressed by a company that isnrsquo;t the cheapest, ask yourself, lsquo;How much is peace of mind worth to me?rsquo; For many homeowners, itrsquo;s worth quite a lot.rdquo;

Check their credentials

Yoursquo;ll want to see a rooferrsquo;s BBB rating, read any online reviews, and also ask how long they have been in business. Longevity is important ldquo;If a roofing company has been around for a while, it is a good sign they will provide quality service,rdquo; said Mr. Roof. ldquo;That kind of commitment shows the company is dedicated to their work and respects the people for whom they work. Substandard contractors have a hard time keeping business going for a long time.rdquo;

Go with a local company

ldquo;Use a roofing company thatrsquo;s lsquo;local,rsquo; especially after a bad storm. A quality roofer thatrsquo;s familiar with your area will get the right permits,rdquo; said Ernie Smith amp; Sons. ldquo;Theyrsquo;ll be familiar with local roofing installation codes and procedures. And theyrsquo;ll also know about local trends in roof >

Make sure theyrsquo;ll work within your homeownerrsquo;s association rules HOA

You may encounter a roofer who insists that therersquo;s no need to get signoff from your HOA because the color of the new roof matches whatrsquo;s already in the neighborhood. Thatrsquo;s a good way to anger your HOA to the point of getting fined and maybe even receiving a demand that you remove the roof and start over with approved materials. In many neighborhoods that have HOAs, you need official permission before you begin, even if yoursquo;re putting up the exact same roof that you already have. Waiting for the thumbs up may delay the installation a bit, but its better than the alternative. Unless your roof situation is emergent and your HOA is not acting expediently, this is generally not an ldquo;ask for forgiveness, not permissionrdquo; situation.

Be wary of storm chasers

Stories abound of people door-knocking in neighborhoods that have been impacted by storms, trying to drum up business. ldquo;Also known as roofing gypsies, these roofers travel around the country following the paths of storms, looking for homeowners to exploit,rdquo; said Angiersquo;s List. The chasers ldquo;know how the insurance companies work, and based on the square footage of the roof, they can figure out how much it will cost to put on a cheap new roof. The homeowner gets burned because the storm chaser only does the bare minimum to replace the roof, but doesnrsquo;t address any other problems, or restore the roof to its original condition. The homeowner is then left with a poorly constructed roof, and the fraudulent company that was once so ready to help has vanished.rdquo;

Donrsquo;t work with someone who demand the entire balance upfront

This is a red flag, and may well end up in you getting ripped off. ldquo;You donrsquo;t get your paycheck until after yoursquo;ve punched the clock, so why pay a roofer before any work gets done? A roofer has no incentive to follow through with the work once the cash is already in his pocket,rdquo; said Absolute Roofers. ldquo;Make sure you sign a contract first, stating that hersquo;ll get paid once the work is done. If he still tries to get you to pay up front, itrsquo;s time to tell him to hit the highway.rdquo;

Full Story >

Buy Real Estate Now

I will have an entire series on this subject soon if there is an interest. We call it "Syndication" and it may be your key to financial freedom and a successful real estate business.

Considerations When Purchasing Property With Others

Whenever you consider owning property jointly, there are long-term considerations to bear in mind. We have highlighted a few important points to clarify before going to contract:

1. Look at the >

2. Provisions on an agreement might need to address additional persons one or the other of the owners may want to bring into the jointly owned property. If buyer 1 brings in another person to live with, that makes buyer 2 crazy, then it is better to have some kind of provision for settlement prearranged for possible problems or complications.

3. Decide how the title will be held prior to purchase. As joint tenants, if one party dies, the other party enjoys the right of survivorship. However, if the title is held in a tenancy in common, one party can dispose of their share to whomever they choose, leaving the other divisional owner at a possible disadvantage depending on the circumstances.

4. Outline a set of guidelines for repairs in advance. If one party wants to put on a new roof, and the other party doesnt want to invest the money, what happens? Delineating specific points of repair or replacement can make improvements an easier subject to deal with. Keeping track of which owner has contributed the investment/improvement dollars can make reimbursement at the time of sale easier and clearer.

These are just a handful of the questions you may want to ask yourself before investing with others in the homeownership/real estate investment game.

Full Story >

Scary New Trend: Lying About Income on a Mortgage Application

With high home prices and rents, rising mortgage rates, and heavy competition for available properties, potential buyers are feeling more pressure to own a place than ever. ldquo;As a result, an increasing number of buyers are lying and cheating,rdquo; they said. Co>

The property data and analysis company found that fraud >

Theyrsquo;re accomplishing this through Internet sites that help borrowers fudge their income and even provide a confirmation service on cross-check. ldquo;A casual search will result in any number of online services that will not only generate fake pay stubs, but will also answer phone calls and lsquo;confirmrsquo; income verbally, all for a fee,rdquo; said CNBC. Another scam involves borrowers who claim to have received an interest-free down payment gift from a >

The Washington Post also noted that, ldquo;Fannie Mae recently warned lenders via several alerts about a loan-fraud technique in which applicants claim to work for specific companies and provide income and employment information that appears to be bulletproof but turns out to be totally bogus. Applicants frequently claim to have been students immediately before their current employment. This makes it difficult or impossible for lenders to pull tax transcripts from the Internal Revenue Service for the year spent as a lsquo;student.rsquo;rdquo;

The risk is high all around

Borrowers may think of padding their income as a harmless white lie that has little downside if theyrsquo;re able to meet their goal of buying a home, however mortgage fraud carries with it some serious risks. ldquo;What are the possible consequences? Getting turned down for the mortgage is the least of them,rdquo; said ldquo;If your falsehood is discovered after you get the loan, your lender could boost your interest rate or even demand immediate repayment in full. Tax->

And then therersquo;s the risk to the housing industry if this current fraud trend is at all responsible for causing another crash; Co>
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Buying a Rental Property? Heres What You Can Expect

Real estate investors can often find themselves quitting their current job and buying and renting real estate full time. Real estate is an asset that can both appreciate in value while at the same time providing a monthly cash flow. Yoursquo;d be hard pressed to think of any other physical asset that can do that. So why is not uncommon to meet someone who owns several rentals? It might very well be due to qualifying for a mortgage to buy and finance an investment property.

Conventional financing will ask for a down payment of at least 20 percent of the sales price and with a 25 percent down payment the terms get a little better. Interest rates for rentals are slightly higher compared to an owner occupied property. Investors have the choice of both fixed and adjustable rate mortgages ranging in terms from 10 to 30 years. But with the first rental being purchased, the buyers donrsquo;t benefit from the income derived from the rental when qualifying. Instead, the buyers must qualify based upon the new mortgage payment, including property taxes and insurance, without adding rental income into the mix. This is in addition to any current mortgage payment. But all that changes with the next property.

Subsequent purchases of investment real estate do in fact use the income from the rental to help qualify. Investors want to cash flow on their investments each month and if the rents received from a potential investment arenrsquo;t enough to cover the new mortgage payment, the investor will likely pass. This means the next rental property is no longer an expense but instead generates monthly income. Who wouldnrsquo;t want that type of investment? Yes, property values rise and fall but in time values do rise, contributing to the ownerrsquo;s equity position. One caveat, yoursquo;ll need to own the first rental for at least two years showing you can both manage the property and the unit provided regular income.

Speaking of managing the property, when you become a landlord, yoursquo;ll have the occasional tenant issue. Remember when you first rented and the sink disposal went out? Did you go to the appliance store and buy a new one? No. You called the landlord. You can expect the same when you buy your first rental. But when you buy your next one and the next one you might want to think about hiring a property manager to take care of these issues for you.

You can think of your first rental as a learning experience. But once yoursquo;ve owned that first rental for a couple of years, donrsquo;t be surprised if you start shopping for your second.

Full Story >

New and Revised California Forms are in the Works

In the scheduled >

1. Pre-Occupancy Storage Addendum. This form addresses a situation that has been around for years. The house in escrow may be substantially or completely vacant. The buyer is already or about to be out of his previous accommodation. Comes the request: ldquo;May we store an amount of our belongings in your now-empty garage or some other parts of the property? If the answer is lsquo;yesrsquo;, the new form provides a way of spelling it out.

bull; It lists a period of time for the storage, and provides for a time extension if there is mutual agreement.
bull; It provides for monetary consideration.
bull; It specifies the areas where items may be stored.
bull; It specifies that the buyerrsquo;s property is not insured by the seller.
bull; And, perhaps most importantly, it spells out in bold print that the brokers do not recommend this, and that the parties should seek advice from legal counsel.

2. Summary of Offer This form borrows from the well-received recent form that allows for comparisons of offers. On one page, in a simple and clear format, the salient terms of an offer may be conveniently summarized. It is clear on the form that this is a summary; it is not the offer itself.

3. Seller Common Interest and Homeowners Association HOA Questionnaire. This is something like the now-familiar Seller Property Questionnaire, except that its questions are confined to items >In its current draft form, this questionnaire is four pages in length. It will not be something that most sellers could just breeze through. And itrsquo;s certainly not something that the agent should volunteer to do.

California Realtorsreg; can take a look at these draft forms on the CAR website. Comments and suggestions will be taken until 12 pm, Thursday, October 11. Questions may be directed to Cecilia Matias, REBS Real Estate Business Services Coordinator, at .

Full Story >

Achieving an HOA Meeting Quorum

This is an all too frequent scenario for HOA annual meetings. Many members simply aren=t interested or available to attend. Its like pulling teeth to get them to respond at all. Yet, annual meetings are required at every HOA so those in charge of organizing them must do their best to compile the necessary quorum.

Here are the basic things that can be done by making a to do list and becoming pro active:

1. If the governing documents require the notice to be mailed out at least 21 days but no more than 30 days prior to the date of the meeting, send out Notice of Meeting 30 days in advance.

2. From this point on, always ask every homeowner that calls the office "Have you turned in your proxy yet?" If they have not, offer to email them a new one so they can send it right back.

3. Fifteen days prior - send an email to all owners with a copy of the notice and proxy form attached, encouraging owners to print the proxy, sign and return ASAP. Make them as comfortable replying as possible. To alleviate any fears that they are giving away their vote, provide an option to check that states that the proxy is to be used for quorum purposes only.

4. During the last two weeks prior to the meeting, dont pass up a face to face opportunity to collect a proxy. If your property has a facility that owners frequent throughout the day, you should too.

5. Six working days prior - Begin making phone calls to all homeowners that have not yet returned a proxy. This is where the rubber meets the road If you can catch them at the office, you can suggest sending them a proxy form via email. This is good for two reasons: First, about one in-five that say that they will actually do. Secondly, it gives you license to call back those that have not done so within 24 hours. Continue to make phone calls as needed for the next few days.

6. Enlist the help of several members that are not running for election who can go door to door. Even better, create an elections committee charged with the responsibility of doing everything on this list

Now for the fun stuff:

bull; Door prizes in the form of fast food restaurant or coffee shop gift cards work well. A 10 value will do. Some of these sources may even donate some cards to promote their business. Winners need not be present to win. The prizes can be used as an incentive to return their proxy toward making quorum. In this case, you can offer an entry for the drawing to the first so many owners to return a valid proxy. The number of owners would be based on whatever represents quorum. For example if 25 of 400 units was needed the first one hundred to return a valid proxy would be eligible for the drawings. If you use this option, make sure that you present it as a marketing campaign. Include the details about the prizes in the meeting notice, newsletter, emails and signage.

bull; Logo wear with the community logo for coffee mugs, tee shirts, grocery bags and baseball caps work well. This can provide for the awarding of prizes to 10-15 of those in attendance for only 100-150.

bull; Provide food and non-alcoholic drinks. Its easier to achieve a quorum when there will be tasty morsels waiting.

bull; Invite an interesting or controversial person to speak at the meeting. Possibilities range from local, state or federal government officials and elected representatives to attorneys, general contractors and engineers who can focus on a maintenance or construction issues.

bull; Make the event a celebration of the HOAs birthday, with the annual meeting a brief but necessary digression.

Achieving quorum can be fun Try it

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

Full Story >

Double up Stylish Solutions For Shared Bedroom Spaces

The obvious choice with multiple kids and beds is often a traditional side-by-side approach. But if youre looking for a more interesting or unique layout that has all the function with a little more flair, thats only the beginning.


How about putting the beds next to each other? Head to head probably wont foster an easy sleeping environment, but foot to foot might. This layout is also great for a smaller space because the placement of the beds along the wall leaves the rest of the room open.

"Gaining in popularity, this layout allows for more open space in the room for playing," said Apartment Therapy.

If the idea of bunk beds brings to mind ugly framing with zero flair, you havent seen some of todays more modern options. This room with four built-in bunks can work as a full-time solution or a vacation home, giving each sleeper a private space with their own light control and storage.


Beachy-chic >

Elle Deacute;cor

Building in two bunks on either side of the room allows the area in the middle to become a chic, shared gathering space. The fir-paneled walls, custom built-ins, chandeliers, and luxe fabrics amp up the >


Dont want to build in your bunks? This bunk bed improves on the typical store version with a modern and minimalist look.

Its Murphy bed meets European train car with this smart solution.


Cool and compact but still with a bit of whimsy, this built-in maximizes space and gives kids their own fun little nook to love.nbsp;Dont have the space to spread them out? Stack lsquo;em up.

Housing two kids of the opposite gender can prove difficult if you want to give them their own space and still maintain some >

You can achieve a similar idea by splitting the room in half and using a bookcase as a separator.

Theme Rooms

If the rooms size or layout makes it difficult to avoid side-by-side beds, placing a softer barrier in between them and adding in color and texture can help make the space feel luxurious and more private.

"This shared kids room design begins with a black and white base in the form of a huge geometric rug and forest themed wallpaper," said Home Designing. "On top of the monochromatic base scheme, small bursts of glorious color cover the two kids beds and matching desk chairs. The twin beds are connected by a shared couch that provides a perfect perching place for the siblings soft toy collection."

Home Designing

Full Story >

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Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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