Real EstateNews

Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2018

12 Ways Buying New Construction Is Better, Worse, And Way Different From Other Homes

Buying a new home isnt the same as buying an existing home. The more you know going in, the more prepared youll be to roll with the process - or run from the process.

Everything all bright, shiny, and new

No one elses taste, no one elses floorplan, no one elses germs. When you buy a brand - new home, its built for you and hasnt been lived in by anyone but you.

Decisions, decision, decisions

There are those who love the idea of selecting the flooring, the cabinets, the kitchen countertops, the finishes, and the myriad other choices that need to be made when building a new home - and then there are those who get the shakes just thinking about it. If youre the latter, perhaps an already - built home is a better option for you.

What you see is not what you get

Model homes are typically decked out with beautiful upgrades and multiple options, and those upgrades and options can cost big bucks. If you want your home to look like the model, be prepared to shell out far more money than what the base price of the house indicates.

Youll have a warranty

"Warranties for newly built homes generally offer limited coverage on workmanship and materials >

The duration of coverage varies depending on the component of the house. Coverage is provided for workmanship and materials on most components during the first year. For example, most warranties on new construction cover siding and stucco, doors and trim, and drywall and paint during the first year. Coverage for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems is generally two years. Some builders provide coverage for up to 10 years for lsquo;major structural defects, sometimes defined as problems that make a home unsafe and put the owner in danger. For example, a roof that could collapse is a lsquo;major structural defect.

Home warranties are typically extendable after that first year, although youll be responsible for the cost.

You may have to buy sight unseen

In some cases, model homes may not be built - or only a few of the floorplans will be featured as models - and you wont have an opportunity to walk through the homes to get a feel for how they live. You should have pictures and floorplans to view, and maybe even a virtual tour, but if youre the type that needs to be in it to get it, you may be disappointed.

The noise - and the dust

When considering which home to buy, the location of the lot is obviously important. But have you asked about how construction is going to roll out in the neighborhoods? It could be that your home is on a street that serves as a main artery for trucks and other construction traffic. Or perhaps youre in a location where construction is going to be going on all around you for months. Yes, the noise and dust will disappear - eventually. But how long are you willing to wait?

Dont expect a price reduction

You may be used to negotiating on the price of an existing home for sale, but new home prices arent typically negotiable. The builder or developer may be willing to throw in some upgrades as part of the negotiation, but, the hotter the community, the less likely you are to get anything for free.

You can still work with your real estate agent

Working with an agent who is savvy in new construction will help get you the home you want and any available extras. Keep in mind that many new - home communities today offer real estate agents a commission for bringing in a buyer, but they insist that the real estate agent register their buyer on the first visit. So dont show up alone to tour the community for the first time You could cost your agent money and then have to navigate the purchase on your own.

It might behoove you to work with their in - house lender

If youre already working with a lender, you obviously dont want to be disloyal. But, there may be financial benefits to working with the builder/developers in - house lender. Many times, they offer a lower rate overall, will buy down your rate, or will offer you a "teaser" rate that keeps your payments lower for the first year or first few years.

Get familiar with this term: Standing inventory

If builders have pre - built homes that are waiting to be sold, this is the one place you may have wiggle room room on price. Another advantage of standing inventory is there is no construction wait, and these homes are often nicely amenitized with upgrades.

You might not be able to buy the lot you want

New homes are typically >

Amenities might not be available or built right away

If a communitys amenities are a draw for you, be sure to ask about when they will be built. It could be that the pool and community park youre so excited about are years out from being realized.

Full Story >

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Media Room

Most households have a room where the main activity is watching television. Were well beyond needing simply an electrical outlet and a pair of rabbit ears to entertain ourselves at home -- now, game consoles, cables, satellites, computer networks, streaming systems and stereo components can all communicate with your television. Be prepared for new devices incorporating cable management and methods of communication that will become "standard" in the future. Whether youre renovating your media space, building a new one or considering a quick upgrade, here are the elements to consider so you can make the most of your media room.

Screen Space

The more invisible the technology, the more able you are to immerse yourself in the media experience, but the beauty of a media room is that you dont have to hide the TV. So, splurge on the screen that suits your fancy and feel free to make it the centerpiece of the room in this case. On the other hand, if you would like to create a space thats a little more understated, yet visually dramatic when viewing media, consider a projector with a retractable screen. The screen hardware mounts to the ceiling, and the screen rolls up when youre not watching. Be sure to get a TV system that will handle all your media interests--Internet access, gaming, DVD or Blu-ray, and the components of your particular home theater set-up.

Sounding It Out

Most of our clients who build media rooms enjoy their screen time so much that we recommend they invest in audio equipment thats on par with their video equipment. Technology has thankfully advanced enough that you dont have to fill the room with tiny speakers for a surround sound effect. Install them flush to the ceiling or walls so you can keep your attention focused where you want it. If you want speakers to be truly invisible, you can go wi>

Command Center

Finally, you need to create a space where you can house all of the electronic components of your new media center. Hard drives, DVR and cable equipment, gaming consoles and stereo equipment need a space to live that wont clutter up the room. The best solution for cable management is to have a small cabinet installed in the most convenient space to your equipment, yet is easily accessible. Youll need ventilation, but can easily install a media cabinet with a panel door thats ventilated.

Bringing It All Together

Now that youve got all your technology worked out, its time to bring in your people Consider the other functions the room will serve. If the room will function as more than a media room, break up the space to accommodate your other pastimes. Will you need a simple game table with seating for four, or a pool table that converts to a ping pong table and crafting station? Create those spaces behind the seating in your home theater so the whole family can spend time together without everyone having to watch "Rambo" again or rock out to some "Guitar Hero."


A sectional sofa is a versatile choice for a multipurpose space. They seat a lot of people comfortably, or just a few when folks want to sack out or snuggle up. If, however, your home theater is going to be dedicated solely to showing your favorite films, individual seating can really up the experience. Consider something that reclines -- recliners have come a long way in terms of attractive design. You can even get them with wi>

Color and Texture

For designers, this really is a case of saving the best for last. This space is your retreat from the world, and an indulgence youve earned. Make sure you love the way it looks. In terms of color, go deep and bold for the best cinematic effect. If you cant handle deep navy on all four walls, consider adding it as an accent color on the wall behind the screen for maximum viewing effect. Add some texture and theatrical flair with draperies that block the light and add to that sense of indulgence. If soundproofing is an issue, make those draperies wall to wall, and have some fun with the fabric. Remember, more than any other room in the house, this is room where you should feel free to make it your own.

Now, hit the lights and pass that popcorn

Full Story >

HOA Meetings By Design

Meetings are the venues wherein homeowner association business decisions are made. Since these meetings are usually infrequent, the importance of the decisions made cannot be understated. However, some HOAs are decision challenged because:

The meetings ra>

Discussions are endless and often inconclusive.

Issues decided at a previous meeting continue to be revisited.

Disagreements frequently turn ugly.

Meetings end when members are exhausted, not because they have completed the business at hand.

Many boards manage to conduct their business with a minimum of fuss and a measure of efficiency. These meetings dont happen by chance; they happen by design, and that design begins with an agenda.

If you dont have a destination in mind, any path will do. If a meeting lacks an agenda, it will go anywhere and everywhere and end up going nowhere. The agenda provides a road map for the meeting, identifying the issues to be discussed and establishing the order in which business will be transacted.

Knowing what is on the agenda allows board members to begin formulating their views before the meeting begins. It helps, of course, if board members actually review the agenda and any accompanying information in advance. But it takes more than advance preparation and an agenda to produce a successful meeting; boards also need a set of rules to guide their discussions.

Meetings dont have to be rigid or overly formal, but they do have to be orderly. Some boards use a simplified version of Roberts Rules of Order which includes such concepts like:

  • When a topic is brought up, a formal motion is required before it is discussed. This will ensure that more than one person thinks the issue is worth discussing.
  • Only one person is recognized to speak at a time by the chair.
  • Standards of civility no personal attacks or interrupting.

A time limit for the meeting and for each speaker on each issue. Otherwise, boards end up spending too much time on >

A reasonable agenda, advance preparation and rules of order provide the foundation for an effective meeting, like the tracks on which a train runs. But like a train, a meeting needs a steady hand on the throttle to keep it moving forward. Conducting both a train and a meeting require a certain amount of skill. The person in charge needs to control with a firm but not a heavy hand. In HOA meetings, this means giving all board members a chance to express their views, but also requiring them to stick to the topic and the time limits.

Some owners think they have an absolute right to participate in board meetings and some boards think it is best to hold their meetings behind closed doors. Both are wrong. Many states have specific requirements for most board meetings to be open to members to audit not participate. Some have exceptions for "executive session", or a closed door session, which may exclude members which include:

  • Employment issues
  • Contract negotiations
  • Consultation with counsel or review of information provided by counsel.
  • Constitutionally or legally protected topics such as medical records and attorney-client privileged information
  • Privacy issues
  • If a board discussion item does not fall under one of these exceptions, it must be discussed at an open board meeting.

    As far as member participation in board meetings, state laws vary. However, regardless of state statute, its good policy to set aside time for an open forum so members can ask questions and express their views.

    Homeowner associations are required to hold annual meetings, but many governing documents are silent on how often the board must meet. The board is generally free to meet as often as it chooses. The size and complexity of the community and the personal commitments of board members will typically dictate the meeting schedule. Another consideration is that managers typically charge for their time to attend board meetings. Since its important for the manager to be present at board meetings, the board needs to weigh the cost and benefit of more or fewer meetings.

    When properly organized, smaller HOAs can usually suffice with quarterly board meetings while larger ones may need bi-monthly or monthly meetings. The more the meetings, the more important it is to have those meeting organized and efficiently executed. Volunteer time can only be stretched so far.

    What happens after board meetings can be almost as important as what happens during the meetings. Some board members take votes against their proposals personally rather than of the suggestions they have made. They sometimes take their disappointment and anger outside of the meeting room, complaining publicly about the decision and even encouraging owners to overturn it. This behavior undermines the decision-making process, exacerbates tension, and erodes trust. As long as the board action is legal and in compliance with the governing documents, board members should accept that "majority rules" applies to votes they dont like as well as to those with which they agree.

    All board decisions wont be unanimous, nor should they be. Honest differences of opinion are healthy, encouraging an exchange of ideas that improves the decision-making process and contributes to the successful meetings boards want to have. While board meetings wont always produce good decisions, they will almost certainly reduce the number of bad ones. To produce the likelihood of more good decisions, design your meetings for success.

    Excerpts from an article by For more on effective meetings, see

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    Condominium Mailing Lists Are Public Documents

    Question. I live in a large condominium complex. Many of the owners are becoming increasingly upset with the practices and the conduct of our Board of Directors. Our annual meeting is coming up in about three months, at which time we will be able to elect several new Board members. We have asked our management company for a copy of the mailing list of all unit owners, so we can send a position paper to everyone. However, we have just been informed that our Board has instructed management not to make this list available to anyone. What can we do?

    Answer. Whenever a condominium owner has a legal question regarding the operations of the Association, you must first look to your basic legal documents. In most associations throughout the country, there are generally four sets of documents governing a condominium association, although in some states, they have different names.

    The "Declaration" is the document that actually created declared the condominium. This document is recorded among the land records where the condominium is located. The Declaration, among lots of other things,defines what constitutes common and limited elements, as compared to units. The Declaration also spells out the percentage interests and voting rigohts that each unit owner holds within the Association.

    The "Bylaws" of the condominium outline the basic operating procedures as to how the Association functions. In effect, it is the "bible" of the association. For example, Bylaws generally define such matters as the number and role of the Board of Directors, what constitutes a quorum for voting at annual or special meetings, and what unit owners can and cannot do within their specific unit.

    The third set of documents are the "plats and plans" of the complex. If they were prepared properly and by a licensed architect, they are very valuable because the define and show -- right on the appropriate location on the plans -- what is a common element, and what is a limited common element. This is extremely important to give guidance as to whether ndash;for example -- the condo or the unit owner is responsible and has to pay for certain repairs, such as a pipe burst.

    The last set of documents are the "Rules and Regulations" of the Association. These are promulgated by the Board of Directors, and should be circulated to all owners prior to final implementation. Usually, these Rules deal with such issues as trash collection, keeping pets, use of the swimming pool and health club, and similar housekeeping matters.

    There is a legal heirarchy in connection with these legal condominium documents. Absolute priority must be given to the condominium law in your jurisdiction. Every state has a separate condominium law. Although most of the laws are substantially the same, there are some differences which must be carefully looked at when considering a legal issue.

    The next level of priority goes to the Declaration. If there is something specifically spelled out in that document, it must be followed, unless the Condominium law states otherwise. It takes a very large majority of the owners to amend the Declaration.

    The third level of priority is found in the Bylaws, which also requires amendment by a large majority, usually 66 2/3 of the percentage interests. Finally, we get to the lowest priority level -- namely the Rules and Regulations.

    The specific answer to your question probably lies in your Bylaws. Of all of the various condominium documents which I have reviewed, I cannot recall a single condominium association that does not contain language permitting unit owners and their mortgage lenders access to the books and records of the Association. Clearly, the mailing list of unit owners falls within the category of "books and records."

    The Board of Directors -- or the management company -- may charge you for copying this information. This is, in my opinion, fair and equitable, and you should be prepared to pay a reasonable copying fee. However, if the Board refuses to give you the current names and addresses of all the owners, you should bring this matter to the attention of the full membership at the next annual meeting.

    You should also consult your attorney -- as well as contact the attorney for the Condominium Association. You have the legal right to this information, and the Courts will enforce this right if you ultimately have to bring a lawsuit against your Association.

    There is, of course, a privacy issue involved. Clearly, unit owners do not want their names and addresses circulated for commercial or solicitation purposes. I do not think it appropriate for the mailing list to be used for such purposes. All too often, unit owners -- under the ruse of condominium business -- will obtain these mailing lists, only to use them for their own personal or professional reasons. Although living in a condominium subjects the unit owner to the concepts of democracy, the concept of privacy is -- or should be -- an important aspect of this democracy. Thus, if an owner does not wish to have his or her telephone number >

    However, the name and address of each unit owner is a matter of public record in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds for the jurisdiction in which the property is situated. Since this is public information -- and since the law the highest priority as well as your legal documents allows each owner access to all books and records -- there is no excuse for not giving you this important information.

    Often, however, in order to preserve privacy, on behalf of client association, I have negotiated with owners seeking the mailing list that if they submit in a closed envelope the information they want to circulate, and submit enough envelopes for all owners, and if they pay the mailing costs, the board ndash;through managementndash; will address the envelopes and mail them. I believe this is an appropriate solution.

    Full Story >

    No Such Thing As Real Estate Ethics?

    A delightful little book by John Maxwell is provocatively titled, Theres No Such Thing as Business Ethics. Now some might simply think, "no kidding." But for the curious, or those inclined to disagree, Maxwells book makes an interesting argument. His point is not that all of business is unethical. Rather, he disagrees with the point of view that the operative ethical principles of business are somehow specialized and different from occasionally, contrary to the ethical principles that govern our everyday lives.

    According to Maxwell, the test of what is ethically acceptable or unacceptable in the business context is exactly the same as that which applies in our everyday, non-work circumstances. For him, it is all summed up in one principle, The Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you follow that, your behavior will be ethical; if you depart from it, it wont be. At work or at home, in the office or in the neighborhood.

    I believe that Maxwell is correct that ethics in the context of business is simply an extension of ethics in general. There arent special exceptions for business. Its as wrong to lie to your competitor as it is to lie to your neighbor. All of us, of course, have encountered different attitudes. We have heard "But this is business" said as if it meant "Anything goes". Certainly, some people feel that way. People who would never cheat in a neighborhood card game can be perfectly content to deceive their customers or rip off their suppliers. But this doesnt show that such people are operating according to a special "business ethic"; rather, it simply reveals that, in the context of business, they have made the decision to be unethical.

    If it is true that ethics in business and ethics in everyday life are the same, it is legitimate to ask, why are codes of professional ethics sometimes so complicated?

    The National Association of REALTORSreg; is rightfully proud of its Code of Ethics, a document first formulated in 1913, and amended at more that 30 different national conventions since then. With 17 articles, supplemented by over 70 Standards of Practice and more than 140 official Case Interpretations, it presents a complex set of documents.

    Nor is the NARreg; Code of Ethics a unique phenomenon. There are hundreds of professional and trade group codes of ethics. Physicians, lawyers, funeral directors, and wedding planners -- to name just a few -- all have professional codes of ethics. So also do many individual companies and corporations. They vary, of course, in range and complexity. How is it that professional codes can become so complicated? People need to understand that there are various purposes served by professional codes, although not every code serves them all.

    1They bring to our attention and provide direction with respect to issues that might not otherwise even have been identified as matters for an ethical concern. While ethical principles may remain the same, frequently the circumstances encountered in business are quite different than anything we experience in the non-business world. A professional code can help us to decipher those situations.

    2 In many situations they provide us with the wisdom and insight of those who have preceded us. Quite simply, they save us the trouble of reinventing the wheel.

    3 Professional ethics codes sometimes also cover matters that are not so much ethical as they are issues of professional etiquette or proper procedure. They help to keep professionals "on the same page" when they are interacting with each other.

    4 Professional ethical codes are also sometimes used for the purposes of "drawing lines" in order to remove any unclarity about what may be considered acceptable or unacceptable. They help to remove the "shades of grey" that can be found in so many situations.

    Professional codes, such as that of the Realtors, are based on everyday ethical principles. Their value resides in the fact that they show us how those principles apply to specific business contexts that well may not be "everyday".
    Full Story >

    Canadian Mortgages Under Scrutiny As Stress Test Kicks In

    Canadas new mortgage stress test requires anyone who is getting a mortgage from a federally regulated financial institution to qualify at two percentage points above the Bank of Canada posted rate or the actual contracted rate. The new rule was implemented because of concern over rising household debt and overheated real estate markets in Southern Ontario and B.C.

    It has focused attention on Canadian mortgages and prompted suggestions for how mortgage rules could be tweaked to better serve both home buyers and lenders.

    Mortgage Brokers Canada, in a discussion paper authored by Will Dunning and Samuel Duncan, says the much-referenced "posted mortgage rate" from the Bank of Canada "misrepresents actual conditions and is potentially misinforming participants and policy makers.

    "Publication of the date may be doing more harm than good," say the authors.

    The paper argues that actual contracted mortgage rates are far less than the posted rates. Mortgage Brokers Canada tracked the difference over 10 years from 2006 to 2016, finding that the average gap was 1.38 points in the fall of 2006, rising to 1.94 points by 2016.

    "If posted rates provided an indication of what actual rates might be in future, then the data would be useful to borrowers, so that they could calculate how their payments might change in future and they could assess their ability to afford their future costs," say the authors. "But, there is no evidence that actual contracted mortgage rates do tend to move towards the posted rates."

    The stress test anticipates that in five years when most mortgages come due, interest rates will be two per cent higher. "However, at current interest rates, in five years approximately 15 per cent of principal will have been repaid, and more importantly income will have increased likely by 10 per cent," says the Mortgage Brokers Canada paper. "As designed now, the stress tests take neither of these events into consideration.

    "By using the two-point increment today, the stress test is unduly restrictive and unnecessarily impairs the housing market and the broader economy."

    Dunning and Duncan argue that using an interest rate that is 0.75 points higher than the actual mortgage interest rate would accomplish the stress goal and take repayment of principal and rising income into consideration.

    "While this may be more complicated to communicate to the consumer, it is a market-based measure that can protect consumers in the wake of rising rates, while not unduly restricting mortgage financing to borrowers who are able to afford their initial obligation as well as their likely future obligations," say the authors.

    Another discussion paper by Michael Feldman of the C.D. Howe Institute says the government should allow longer amortization rates for residential mortgages. He says it would give consumers more choice, while increasing competition in the mortgage market and removing some mortgage risk from the federal government.

    Currently, most mortgages come with five-year terms and 25-year amortization periods. At the end of the term, homeowners still owe a large amount on the mortgage, known as a balloon payment. Feldman says there is a mismatch between mortgage term and amortization, which means homebuyers must refinance or renew the outstanding balloon payments every five years.

    "This creates a risk to both investors in mortgages and borrowers, if the lender is unable to renew the loan at maturity and the borrower is unable to find a new lender," he says. "If the federal government could facilitate a shift to longer mortgage maturities, borrowers and investors would be better protected from mortgage lenders that become insolvent."

    He proposes a mortgage product that matures when it is fully amortized. It would include an interest rate reset and penalty-free right of redemption at least every five years. "However, in the absence of agreement on an interest rate reset and the failure of the borrower to fully repay the mortgage at that time, the mortgage would become a floating rate mortgage until it matures or is repaid, or until a new rate is set by agreement," proposes Feldman.

    Such a product would help develop the market for residential mortgage-backed securities for uninsured mortgages, where an institutional investor would invest directly in a pool of mortgages without any government backing for repayment, he suggests.

    HSBC Canada says a recent global survey found that Canadians are among the least likely to shop around for a better mortgage. Only half of Canadian mortgage-holders reported they shopped around to get a better interest rate or terms, compared the global average of 61 per cent. The most likely homebuyers to shop for a mortgage are in France 79 per cent, Malaysia 74 per cent and China 69 per cent.

    With mortgage rates beginning to climb in Canada after a long period of historically low rates, 78 per cent of Canadian mortgage holders said they had never seen a rate increase on their current mortgage. But "like vinyl records and barber shops, higher interest rates may be making a comeback," says HSBC.

    A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. survey conducted in the fall found that 82 per cent of current homeowners say they feel confident that they have the tools and information they need to handle their debt load.
    Full Story >

    Renovation Reality: Actual Costs Of Four Popular Redos

    So you want to redo your kitchen. Great Now you have to do is pick out your new appliances, countertops, backsplash material and other assorted finishes, figure out what to do with your cabinets, find a contractor, and get started. Phew Before you can do any of that, though, you have to set a budget. Yes, we said the "B word."

    Lets face it: Budget is a bad word. Not just because it represents an amount of money you may not be enti>

    If youre getting ready to do a remodel or make some updates, it behooves you to do the research before you get too excited about it. It just might turn out that what you think will be an easy and cheap little project isnt either. Weve broken down four of the most popular renovations by expected cost so that you can make a more informed decision.

    Redoing kitchen cabinets

    If youve never priced out renovations, you really have no point of reference. We personally experienced one of those perception-does-not-meet-reality situations recently when we started gathering information about the cost of painting our kitchen cabinets to take them from the traditional Cherry tone weve never liked to something a little more modern. True Story: We had laughingly agreed that we would pull the trigger if it was less than 1,000, only to come to find out that it was going to be triple that. So, never mind on that whole painting the kitchen cabinets thing, unless we decide its worth the hassle and stress and family strife of a DIY weekend.

    When estimating the cost of your kitchen, contractors may calculate the cost per foot or by the number of cabinets you have, and your estimates may vary wildly due to a number of factors. Its important to beware of lowball estimates here. Repainting kitchen cabinets is no easy feat, and cutting corners can greatly impact the final product.

    When comparing your estimates, look at what each includes; lower-cost jobs may not provide adequate protection for your floors, counters, and appliances, may not prep the cabinets properly, may not include the appropriate number of coats of paint, and may only include the outside of doors and drawers. Also pay attention to whether you are expected to provide paint and materials or if theyre included in the estimate.

    Expected cost: 1,200 - 7,000

    New flooring

    The cost of having new flooring installed will also vary greatly depending on factors including the material chosen, the amount of square footage involved, and the condition of existing flooring. If youve never explored flooring options, you may not realize that installation is typically priced per square foot. Many contractors have set prices, while some adjust the price depending on the ease of the material being installed. There may also be geographical differences that affect the cost of installation. And dont forget to check with big box stores like Home Depot, who may have installation specials tied to specific flooring product purchases. In general, these are the going prices for professional installation:

    Expected cost: 2 - 2.50 per square foot

    Interior painting

    Painting is one of those activities that can give you great bang for your buck, especially if you choose to do it yourself. But not all of us are great at finishing what weve started guilty or capable of painting challenging spaces, which makes outsourcing a smart move. Be sure to ask questions of potential contractors including whether or not they provide materials, any extra costs involved with taller ceilings, and steps they take to protect your home and furnishings - you dont want to end up with speckled everything. They should also be able to give you an estimate as to how many hours the job will take so there are no surprises at the end.

    Expected cost: 24 - 45 per hour

    New shower

    Ever looked into redoing your shower? Would it surprise you to hear that a basic frameless shower door costs 1,500? Yes, what seems like a small job can quickly become a budget-buster, especially when you start to factor in the cost of materials. Get fancy with that tile, and youre really looking at an expensive renovation given the small amount of space involved.

    But, if your shower is tired, not functional, or in need of a reno for other reasons, it can be well worth it. When comparing estimates, you want to look beyond the overall cost to examine what is involved. Is the contractor using the most modern and recommended materials behind the tile to ensure the area is water tight? Are there extra costs involved in installing the shower mechanisms and the drain? Are they updating the plumbing? Are they building out a tile floor or installing a shower pan?

    Expect to pay: 1,200 - 2,500 for shower, 1,000 - 2,000 for frameless shower door
    Full Story >

    Black Stainless Steel: Is It The Next Big Thing?

    Stainless steel has ruled the appliance world for many years, with no serious contenders on its heels. But now, here comes black stainless steel, fighting for dominance in the kitchen.

    Like any new finish, we wont know if it has true staying power until some time has passed. But if youre looking for the newest thing, if you know youre going to be in your home for a while, or if youre getting it ready to sell, black stainless is a great choice.

    But first, what exactly is black stainless steel? "What major appliance manufacturers, such asnbsp;LG,nbsp;KitchenAidnbsp;andnbsp;Kenmore, are trumpeting as lsquo;black stainless is essentially traditional stainless steel coated in a sleek, dark finish," said the Washington Post. "The actual hue varies by brand."

    If youre thinking about incorporating the look into your kitchen, here are a few things to consider.

    Its sexy

    Expect to hear some "oohs" and "ahhs" when people walk into your kitchen. Black stainless steel has that sleek look that gets attention, so if youre hoping to create a show stopping space, it may be an easy choice.

    Its trending

    But, in this case, that might not be a bad thing. While design experts warn clients against chasing trends, black stainless steel offers a way to be on the forefront of one.

    "According to home improvement expertnbsp;Karl Champley, whose job includes traveling the world looking for the latest design trends, the move toward darker appliance finishes started in Europe and is slowly making its way westward," said the Washington Post. "Champley, winner of lsquo;Ellens Design Challenge and a spokesman for thenbsp;National Kitchen and Bath Association, says that although black stainless wont dethrone >

    It gives off an inviting, high-end feel

    Black stainless steel is an easy way to make your space look upscale while also creating a warmer feel. "Since black stainless steel appliancesnbsp;debuted several years ago, theyve been touted as a warmer alternative to the industrial look of regular stainless," said Consumer Reports.

    It resists fingerprints

    For many people, this is the No. 1 selling feature. Traditional stainless steel is great, but its always smudged in our house, anyway. "Manufacturers say that their black stainless steel appliances resistnbsp;smudges and fingerprints and that cleaning is easier," said Consumer Reports. Nancy Bock, senior vice president of education for the American Cleaning Institute, told them, "Black stainless doesnt require any special polishes to keep it looking good. Cleaning is generally simple and can be accomplished using warm water and a soft cloth."

    The difference is a fingerprint-resistant finish that also resists water spots and streaking. But...

    It scratches

    No more and no less than how traditional stainless steel scratches, but still. Keep in mind that in busy households with kids and animals, it might be hard to keep a scratch-free surface forever.

    Selection is still somewhat limited

    As with any newer finish, manufacturers have not yet rolled out a ton of options - at least not when compared to traditional stainless steel. That being said, you will find options from Samsung, LG, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Frigidaire, and Bosch, which just introduced its first kitchen suite in black stainless.

    Full Story >

    Boost Your Property Value: 4 Smart Features Worth Adding

    Your home may be your castle ndash; but what that means for each person can be very different. Some people prefer light colors, some dark. Some want a location that lets them walk everywhere, while other people want to live far away from the hustle and bustle. However, there is one point that many homebuyers do agree upon: smart home technology. Adding smart home technology solutions doesnt just make your home more covetable ndash; it can increase the demand for and value of your home when you sell it.

    Smart Home Technology

    Almost two-thirds of new homebuyers say that smart home technology makes home life better and safer too, according to a survey from Better Homes and Garden. They see these new technologies as the ldquo;new normrdquo; and that fact is reflected in their home-buying preferences. A recent Houzz survey found that 28 percent of homeowners would consider smart technology integration important in any home renovation, while some 35 percent of first-time buyers prioritize smart technology. Moreover, people of all ages are willing to pay more for properties that include smart home technology.

    Adding smart home technology to your home can increase the interest and value of the property, especially amongst smartphone users. According to J.P. Endres, a realtor based in Westchester County, New York, homebuyers will pay as much as five percent more for certain high-tech amenities.

    Here are four smart home additions worth getting to boost your homersquo;s property value:

    Smart Thermostat

    The first thing to put on your smart home technology list is a smart thermostat. Not only will it let you or a new buyer control the temperature from your smartphone but smart thermostats also learn from you. Over time, they can automatically adjust settings to reflect the way you live and when you are home. The features are convenient but they also help you save money on home heating and cooling costs.

    Connected Lights

    Smart home lighting allows you to turn lights on or off, dim lights, or even put them on a schedule ndash; all from your phone. Inc reports that adding smart home lighting and a connected thermostat could help you reduce your energy bills by half.

    Smart Locks

    Adding smart locks can help you keep your home safer. You can program your door to unlock when you or a guest comes close using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on your Samsung Galaxy S7. Not only is this much more secure than a fake key under a plastic rock, it is also more convenient. No more making sure your neighbor has a key to water your plants or that you remember to give your dog-walking friend the key. You can unlock your home from wherever you are.


    Having a home security system is a major burglar deterrent and a huge incentive for homebuyers of all ages. According to Redfin, roughly 9 out of 10 people say that home security is the primary reason they would choose a home with smart technology. If your home doesnrsquo;t have a security system, you could be limiting your homersquo;s demand and, by extension, its value.

    Technology can have a profound effect on your daily life. Raise your property value and reduce your energy costs by adopting smart home technology in your home.

    Full Story >

    What Is Real And What Is Pure PR About The Tesla Solar Roof?

    Tesla rocked the solar power world when it acquired Solar City for 2 billion. The entire industry waited with baited breath to see what grand machination Tesla CEO Elon Musk had cooked up. They were not disappointed when he announced the creation of the Tesla Solar Roof, a line of photovoltaic solar shingles designed to mirror standard roofing tiles.

    While solar shingles were not a new concept, Tesla appeared to have improved upon its predecessors. Whereas previous solar shingles adhered to standard asphalt roof tiles, the Tesla Solar Roof would actually replace traditional roofing tiles and last forever.

    While there is much to be excited about whenever a new advancement is made in the solar industry, its important to understand what is fact and what is fiction. So, what are the true facts behind the Tesla Solar Roof, and what is pure PR?


    The Tesla Solar Roof is Visually Beautiful

    Tesla has managed to overcome one of the most common obstacles the solar industry encounters when trying to convince homeowners to install a system. Many people find solar panels ugly. Its true that solar panels have a tendency to stick out and could visually displease individuals who prefer the >Tesla has answered these concerns by creating a solar system that seamlessly blends in. These shingles dont just sit on a roof, they are the roof. Whats more, these tiles are designed to mimic some >The Tesla Solar Roof is More Durable Than Standard Roofing Tiles

    When Musk first presented the Tesla Solar Roof, he showed off its ability to stand up to harsh elemental threats. These new tiles were pelted with two-inch balls of hail traveling at 100 MPH. The same test was also given to standard roofing panels. The Solar Roof withstood this icy attack while the roofing panels shattered like glass.

    The Tesla Solar Roof Is Guaranteed to Last Forever

    Tesla is standing by this product in perpetuity. The Tesla Solar Roof comes with what the tech giant is calling an "infinite tile warranty."

    Basically, this is a roof you will never have to replace. This is especially useful for home owners when you consider that the average roof lasts anywhere from 10 to 50 years, and the average cost of a roof replacement is in excess of 25,000.


    Teslas Solar Roof Provides More Protection Than Solar Panels

    There is no doubting Teslas claim that the Solar Roof is more durable than standard roofing tiles. The proof was right there in Musks initial video presentation. However, many people are under the mistaken impression that this new product is more adept at shielding a home against the elements than a traditional solar panel. This is not true.

    Solar Panels are extremely efficient against the elements, standing up to hazards such as hail with durability similar to that of the Solar Roof. One of the key benefits of having solar installed on your home is its ability to act as a shield for your roof against harsh weather conditions.

    The Solar Roof Will Save You More Money Than Solar Panels

    Another common misconception regarding this product is that because it is newer than standard PV solar panels it must be more efficient at producing energy and saving you money on your monthly utility bills. That is also not true, especially when the enormous cost of Solar Roof installation is added to the equation.

    PowerScout estimates that the Solar Roof is 70 more expensive than installing solar panels on a roof that doesnt need to be replaced. Whats more, it is 35 cheaper to replace your existing roof and install a solar system on it than it is to install a Solar Roof. More on Solar Costs at

    When you consider the time that it takes to pay back your installation costs, a traditional solar panel system starts saving you money far quicker than Teslas new product.

    The Solar Roof also tends to produce less energy than traditional panels. In fact, the Solar Action Alliance estimates that the Solar Roof produces only 70 of the power generated by a traditional panel system of equal size.

    Energy Production Will Last Forever

    Teslas infinite tile warranty covers the panels themselves and their ability to provide a stable roof. But Forbes estimates that their solar cells ability to create sustainable energy will be obsolete within 30 years.

    So, while the Tesla Solar Roof is a sturdy roof that will last the lifespan of your home, it will not continue to generate sustainable power forever. Anyone wanting to continue reaping the benefits of its power generation capabilities would have to replace the tiles after 30 years.

    What Matters to You?

    When it comes to whether or not the Tesla Solar Roof is a wise investment, it really boils down to what youre looking for. If you want an aesthetically pleasing solar panel alternative, then the Tesla Solar Roof would be perfect for your needs. If youre looking to save the most on your utility bills and generate the highest amount of solar power, then a traditional solar panel system is still the way to go.
    Full Story >

    Can You Pass The Flipping Personality Test?

    "Ummm, Im not sure about that countertop. Shouldnt they be hiring someone to do that? I would do such a better job on that flip."

    Who hasnt said that? When it comes to flipping, we all think wed be naturals, right? Or at least more skilled than the novices who are fumbling through it on TV. But it takes more than big dreams and good intentions to execute a successful flip, and with so much money at stake, you want to make sure you do it right. Actually, you want to make sure youre right for flipping in the first place before you put your financial future on the line.

    Take the house flip personality test to make sure youre a fit.

    Are you smart?

    No ones really going to answer, "No," to a question like this, but put it in the context of flipping. If you think its easy money and you arent really looking to put in the sweat equity or follow the basic rules of flipping, you might want to move along.

    "Dont believe those late-night infomercials that say you can get into house flipping with no money," said U.S. News amp; World Report. "Nobody is going to hand you a house for free, and you cant go to Home Depot and theyll give you your supplies for free. If you are using credit cards and have no money, you can get into trouble quickly."

    Are you savvy?

    Smart and savvy are not the same thing. Knowing where to save and where to spend is one of the most important factors when flipping.

    Are you geographically desirable?

    Buying a home just because its affordable and in need of renovation is not a great strategy. People actually have to want to live in the area where the home is located. Paying attention to hot areas can help you pinpoint the right spot.

    "The market with the biggest increase in flippers last year wasnbsp;Buffalo, NY,nbsp;which saw a 34 surge, according to a recent report from real estate data firm ATTOM Data Solutions," said The struggling upstate New York manufacturing town was followed bynbsp;New York City, at 29;nbsp;Dallas, at 23;nbsp;Louisville, KY,nbsp;at 22; andnbsp;Birmingham, AL, at 17."

    Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM, noted that, "These markets are not the primary markets that many people would think of [for] investing in real estate. "Theyre more off the beaten path, so theres less competition from other investors and theres more availability for deals."

    You also need to pay attention to the homes proximity to your home. Trying to manage a flip from afar is hard even for the most experienced investors.

    Do you make it personal?

    You may have the greatest personal >

    "Know whichnbsp;home improvements increase the homes value," said Money Crashers. "Focus on these projects first. Home improvements that increase the value of a home might include upgrading kitchen appliances, repainting the homes exteriors, installing additional closet storage space, upgrading the deck, and addingnbsp;green energy technologies. On the other hand, avoid home improvements that wont increase the selling price, like installing a pool, installing a whirlpool bath, or adding a sunroom to the house."

    Can you roll with the punches?

    Smart planning, extreme organization, and a great, trustworthy team are all crucial to a successful flip, obviously. But if youre the type that flips out literally if something changes, goes wrong, or looks like its all about to fall apart, this might not be for you. Flipping is a roller coaster, and there are going to be frustrations and setbacks along the way. Accept it, deal with it, and move on.

    What are your goals?

    Is this a get rich quick thing or are you thinking of flipping as a career? Are you interested in doing quality work or is it just about making the place look good and getting out? Being honest about your goals will help guide you throughout the process, but keep this in mind: cut corners and shoddy work may save you money upfront, but may impact your bottom line. And, if you plan to flip more than just one home, you dont want to earn a reputation for sketchy work.

    Do you play well with others?

    Even if youre the DIY King of North America, youre going to need help somewhere, at some time. The best flippers have a contractor they can count on and assorted other trusted professionals for plumbing and electrical, landscaping, appraisals, title insurance, and so on.

    Are you rich?

    Flipping is going to cost you, even if you find the magical lipstick on a pig house. And many people underestimate the potential costs, from the down payment to the carrying costs if it doesnt sell right away.

    "To get a conventional investor mortgage, you often need at least 25 percent down, though a good mortgage broker might find other options, including a lower down payment or a loan thatnbsp;provides some money for repairs," said U.S. News amp; World Report. "Hard-money lenders will lend to nearly anybody, but interest rates are high. Another major key to success as a flipper is accurately estimating both cost and timeline. That doesnt mean there wont be surprises, but you want to calculate the true cost of getting the property ready for sale. When you buy a home, you dont always know whats behind the walls: mold, asbestos, water damage, antiquated electrical lines, foundation issues or crumbling plumbing pipes."

    Full Story >

    How To Build A Career In Real Estate Development

    If youre looking to start a career as a real estate developer, there are all sorts of things that youll need to think about before you take the plunge and start out in this rewarding yet difficult industry. From deciding on the right college degree to maximize your chances of finding a job after graduating, to building the skill set needed to manage the problems and people youll come across once youre working, theres a lot to get sorted out. However, by doing your research and planning ahead, itll be easy to lay the groundwork and get your dream role lined up. Here are some top tips to follow to kick-start that real estate development career.

    Start in the right place

    As with any career, a working life in real estate requires you to begin in the correct place on the career ladder. Making a wrong choice as a young person starting out could haunt you for the rest of your life, so its a good idea to make it work from the outset. Remember, there are a whole host of things that youre going to need to learn about -- ranging from how mortgages work to how youll navigate the planning and development rules set out by local, state, and national governments. Getting a first job that teaches you these skills is vital, otherwise youll be at a lifelong disadvantage and may find that future employers consider your experience too specific.

    Get educated about the sector

    While historically it was common for real estate businesses to be family run and for people to learn on the job, its now increasingly more popular for young people entering the industry to get their degree in a >

    Leave the office and get talking

    In this business, its vital for people who want to make a success of themselves to ensure that they do all of the networking they need to find that dream job. There are all sorts of organizations and conferences across the country that are vital for you to attend if you want to advance quickly; these include national organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders, which is one of the USs largest trade organizations. If youre still in college, you may find that there are campus branches of >

    Find a role model

    Real estate is a complex business, and its likely that youre going to face some hurdles and challenges along the way while building your career. Thats why learning from those who have already been there and done it is a great move. Finding a role model doesnt have to be difficult; you could, for example, ask a tutor on your course if they know of anyone in the business willing to offer some practical help and advice. If that doesnt work, you could try speaking to local real estate development companies in your area. You never know, they may admire you for your courage, and even end up offering you a job somewhere down the line

    Dont give up

    From getting denied financing for your latest development to finding that the contractors you hired werent up to scratch, there are all sorts of problems that a career in real estate is going to throw at you. Giving up at the first hurdle will simply rule you out of the race to success -- but by carrying on and using your knowledge, problem-solving ability, and support network to find a way forward, youll soon find yourself back on track.

    Real estate development is a great career choice for those who are enterprising, tenacious, and savvy when it comes to money and investment. While there are various pitfalls to look out for, including unscrupulous colleagues and suppliers or not keeping up with the latest trends and knowledge, theres no reason why you cant build a fun and well-paid career in this booming and fast-growing sector.

    Full Story >

    Sellers Have Closing Costs Also

    Question: I have recently become licensed as a Real Estate agent. The market is "hot", and many of my selling clients are asking what they will be charged for closing and settlement costs. Can you summarize these various costs?

    Answer: Thats a very good question. In my opinion, when a seller signs a listing agreement with a Real Estate Broker or agent, authorizing that person to sell the house, in addition to all the other forms which sellers receive, the seller should be given a estimated settlement statement. This statement will project the bottom line to the seller, based on the listing price. When an offer is later presented to the seller, the settlement statement should be updated, to reflect the actual terms of the proposed contract. And of course, the lender will also summarize all of the appropriate selling costs.

    I have analyzed a number of real estate transactions, and the following charges are generally made to the seller:

    Real estate commission: The seller should be informed of the dollar amount to be paid out of settlement for the commission. The broker should also make it clear that the commission is earned only if closing settlement or escrow takes place.

    Mortgage payoff: Most sellers have at least one mortgage outstanding on the property. The sellers lender will be able to assist you in obtaining an approximate payoff figure, if you give them a tentative settlement date. Dont forget to add a daily interest charge until the lender receives the full mortgage payout. You should also inquire whether there will be any prepayment penalty. Some older loans still require the borrower in this case the seller to pay a percentage of the loan if it is paid off in full prior to the full expiration of the mortgage term. In some instances, the prepayment penalty can be avoided, or waived by the lender, and you should inquire as to the policy of the particular lending institution.

    Points: This is perhaps one of the least understood areas of real estate financing. Sellers often question why they have to pay points to enable the buyer to get their loan. A point is one percent of the loan. For a number of years, no one paid points, especially since interest rates were very low. However, I have recently seen a revival of points being paid, either by buyer or seller or both.

    Some loans, such an FHA or VA, put limitations on the amount which the buyer can pay for closing costs. Many buyers who will be obtaining conventional financing also want the seller to pick up some of these settlement charges -- including points paid to the lender.

    Seller paid points are still deductible for tax purposes by the buyer, but the buyer must confirm this with his/her own attorney or financial advisor. Thus, while sellers want to get the most dollars from their house, there are often negotiation advantages if a seller offers to split points with the buyer. Such an arrangement may be the clue to closing the deal.

    Termite: Most buyers require that a termite inspection be performed, at the sellers expense. Normally, the fee for this service runs between 50 to 75. But I have seen too many instances where the seller is "hit" with a sizeable repair bill, due to termites and damage being discovered by the termite company.

    Ask the seller if they have a current contract with a termite company. If so, that company should be willing to give the required letter for no cost or at most a nominal charge. Finally, when you make arrangements with the termite company to do their inspection, make sure they will not do any repair work without informing you in advance. Since the seller is paying for these charges, the seller should have the option to shop around for another company.

    Water escrow: In Maryland and the District of Columbia, water is the only utility that creates a lien on the property. In order for the title attorney to give free and clear title to the buyer, all liens must be paid and satisfied. Thus, it is standard practice for the settlement attorney or company to escrow some money to cover the final water bill. Usually, the office conducting settlement will make arrangements to obtain a final water reading, pay the bill, and refund the balance of the escrowed funds, if any, to the seller.

    >: When the seller obtained mortgage financing, it usually was in the form of a deed of trust. This is similar to a mortgage, but the property is deeded "in trust" to independent trustees who are authorized to sell the property if a default occurs. When the mortgage is paid in full, the trustees are entitled to a nominal "trustees fee" and there is a small governmental charge to record the trustees >Other government charges: In the Washington metropolitan area, each jurisdiction imposes a tax called Grantors tax in Virginia, and Recordation and Transfer tax in Maryland and the District of Columbia. In Virginia, the seller customarily pays the Grantors tax. In the other jurisdictions, payment of this tax is negotiable between buyer and seller, although often the tax is split between the parties.

    Settlement charge: Some settlement offices will impose a nominal charge on the seller for "settlement."

    Many sellers are often surprised when they learn, for the first time at the settlement office, that they will not be getting as much from the sale of their house as they had anticipated. In my opinion, it is incumbent on you -- as the sellers agent -- to advise your principal as accurately as possible what all of these miscellaneous charges will be.
    Full Story >

    Five Common Excuses HOA Members Use Who Pay Their Assessments Late

    Homeowner association members who pay their assessments late or not at all sometimes come up with some interesting excuses. Here are five common ones:

    Excuse 1: "I didnt get what I paid for so am withholding payment." Members have a right to require the board to perform its duties but withholding assessments is not the way to do it. The obligation to pay HOA fees has nothing to do with the HOAs obligations to provide maintenance and service. A member that withholds payment becomes delinquent and should incur all penalties provided for in the HOAs collection policy.

    Excuse 2: "You didnt bill me." The requirement to provide invoices is ra>

    Excuse 3: "The HOA has no right to make me pay for common area upkeep." Actually, the board not only has the right, it has a duty to collect assessments. This authority is established in the governing documents and state statutes. When people buy into a homeowner association, they agree to abide by those documents and that includes paying assessments.

    Excuse 4: "I never use the recreational facilities and shouldnt have to pay for them." Admittedly, recreational facilities are expensive to operate and for some HOAs represent a large part of the budget. Nevertheless, the obligation to pay for a common amenity has nothing to do with the level of usage. Many move into an HOA specifically for the recreational amenities. Theyre willing to pay for them because they take full advantage of the opportunities they provide. Even if youre not using some of the amenities, they make the HOA more desirable and the homes more valuable. Those that dont use the facilities should consider whether an HOA without amenities might work better. If so, it might be time to move.

    Excuse 5: "The HOA fees are too high." HOA fees reflect the cost of maintaining the common elements. All have to pay their fair share. If the HOA fees are too high, where can money be saved? The board should be open to ideas on reasonable ways to cut costs. But simply lowering fees because someone wants to pay less is not reasonable.

    Excuse excuses. Many try to cash them at the HOA Bank. Like a bum check, the HOA should refuse to accept them.

    For more innovative HOA management strategies, see

    Full Story >

    Trends Cost Sellers Money

    Every new and widely-adopted trend changes whats considered "standard." When this happens in real estate mdash; inside or out mdash; a sellers non-trend or off-trend house or condominium unit may become "substandard" in buyers eyes.

    Sellers who expect top dollar for their property must ensure it makes an on-trend impression with homebuyers, especially millennials.

    In interior design, the trend toward ensuite bathrooms combined with the trend to "spa-like" bathrooms has put expensive-renovation pressure on sellers existing bathrooms. No matter how nice they are to use, if bathrooms dont have the magazine-look buyers lust after, their "this is a gut job" reaction means renovation cost and inconvenience to buyers and the home gets a "too dated to love" mark against it.

    To understand what buyers expect, sellers benefit from taking a long hard look at their main rooms after spending a few hours binging on home-renovation shows or pouring over home-decor magazines. Get it?

    If the resale house or condominium unit doesnt have spa-like bathrooms, an oasis->

    Buyers may dramatically under-value your house or condo or ignore it altogether. Ask local real estate professionals about the type of buyers who would be interested in the delayed gratification of paying for your "slightly dated" homes location and then undertaking extensive renovations themselves. Will they pay you top-dollar?

    Kitchens and bathrooms are the most expensive rooms to renovate, so its annoying to sellers that these are the only rooms that add value to a home. These key rooms may even decide whether a property sells at all.

    The last renovation may seem a recent memory to sellers, but they must check the calendar. If it was more than 5 or even 10 years ago, this time lag puts sellers out of phase with millennial buyers mdash; your home reminds them of their parents or grandparents place. Not a way to add value or evoke a "dream home" atmosphere.

    • If the last renovation was fairly recent, on-trend paint and other cosmetic staging touch-ups may be all thats necessary for great return on this investment.
    • If your home decor pays homage to the 20th Century, discuss 21st-Century renovations options with real estate, construction, and staging professionals.

    Hone down what needs to be done to an effective cosmetic minimum after any necessary repairs. Usually sellers aim for the best potential short-term return on decor investment, not on long-term construction returns.

    As well as kitchen overhauls, here are a few common "out dated" problems:

    • Paint color trends now change every year in sync with fashion. The "shades of grey" look is out and color is back. If you have older beige or pink-green color schemes, buyers may discount your homes value dramatically.
    • Wallpaper is in again, but if you dont have current wallpaper >
    • Stainless steel appliances and brushed nickle finishes were mandatory for years, but they are beginning to fade in popularity. Gold is the new hot metal color even though it hasnt made it to appliances yet. Buyers want new, matching, preferably high-end appliances. How do yours rate?
    • Floating bathroom vanities or at least vanities with slender, exposed legs are the new norm. Old chunky cabinets, especially those without double sinks, will generate expensive "gut job" reactions from buyers.
    • Solar panels and gas fireplaces have come down in price and so have increased in popularity in many locations. Skip these trends and your home may be considered "out dated" even though you have a new furnace and a >

    Staging can add cosmetic cleverness, but there still may be a few renovation projects necessary. Staging distracts from negatives and enhances positives with strategic furniture placement, scaled-down furniture, wanna-have pieces, and refreshing repaints. These elements can do a lot to enhance market value, but they cant overshadow a seriously out-of-date kitchen or a poorly-maintained exterior.

    A real estate professionals thorough evaluation of market value for your property should include a list of simple and more-complex up-dates that may add to your bottom line.

    Remember, sellers should concentrate on what target buyers want in their "dream home," not on what sellers have been comfortable living with for years.

    Full Story >

    Everyone Can Lose When Theres No Contractors License

    Spring is almost upon us and many homeowners are eagerly awaiting a return to weather that will allow them to undertake construction projects ranging from repairing damage caused by winter storms to engaging in projects to remodel, enlarge, and otherwise improve.

    If the work is to be hired out, as opposed to being done by the homeowner, attention should be paid to determine whether or not the person doing the work is required to have a contractors license.

    California Business and Professions Code 7028a states, "It is a misdemeanor for any person to engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor within this state without having a license therefor, unless such person is particularly exempted from the provisions of this chapter. Note: All the references here are to California law; but many states have similar regulations. What exempts a person from the license requirement? The same code at section 7048a says, "This chapter does not apply to any work or operation on one undertaking or project by one or more contracts, the aggregate contract price which for labor, materials, and all other items is less than five hundred dollars 500..."[my emphasis]

    A project whose price totals less than 500 is considered " of casual, minor, or inconsequential nature," and can be performed by a non-licensed person, often referred to as a handyman.

    Good old American ingenuity being what it is, numerous schemes have been devised in attempts to skirt the 500 limit. Some will attempt to avoid the license requirement by breaking a jobs billing up into components, e.g. labor 300 and materials 300. This doesnt work because the legislation clearly states that the >Another ruse is to attempt to segregate the job into smaller components. "Ill do the north side of the roof for 450, the south side for 450, etc." This will not work either, as the code states that the exemption does not apply for a job, " which a division of the operation is made in contracts of amounts less than five hundred dollars 500 for the purpose of evasion of this chapter..."

    Even if the particular job e.g. tearing out a wall is less than 500, it is not exempt if it is, "part of a larger or major operation [e.g. remodeling the house], whether undertaken by the same or a different contractor" [my emphasis] Also, even if the job is less than 500, the exemption does not apply if the handyman has, through cards or advertising, held himself out to be a contractor.

    Hiring someone without a license to do a large job poses risks for the homeowner. If the handyman has hired others to work on the project, they may be considered employees of the homeowner. If the job results in damage to some third party, the homeowner may be liable. Moreover, a "contractor" without a license is not going to have workmans compensation. If a worker, hired by the unlicensed person, is injured, guess who will be held financially responsible?

    Moreover, the homeowner is not the only one at risk. Unlicensed "contractors" need to know that the homeowner cannot be compelled to pay them for their work. A recent ruling from the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court makes this crystal clear. People v. Michael Kerr Walker, BR 052772, November 16, 2016

    In March of 2013, Michael Walker, acting without a contractors license, entered into a written agreement with Sharon Curto for the painting of her house and installation of windows. By November 2013, although Curto had paid Walker over 61,000, he demanded another 7,768. She refused to pay and he filed a suit against her. She then hired an attorney to defend her and to countersue for the recovery of the monies previously paid.

    The Superior Court "determined it lacked authority to order restitution of monies paid by Curto unless the work performed by defendant was substandard or defective." Curto appealed and the Appellate court agreed with her. It is important to note here that the issue was not that the work done was substandard or defective in some way.

    Defendant Walker argued that "to the extent Curto benefitted from his unlicensed work in the form of labor and materials provided, she would be unjustly enriched and receive a windfall if he were ordered to reimburse the entire sum paid by Curto. In other contexts, it has been held that restitution may not be ordered when a windfall would be the result."

    But, the Appellate Court observed, "in cases involving an unlicensed contractor, the Legislature has determined that full recoupment of payment is required, even if a person who employs such a contractor is benefited or enriched thereby, and that such a rule is necessary to strongly deter unlicensed contracting work."

    Thus, even though the work was not defective, Walker was ordered to reimburse the homeowner the full 61,428, plus interest, plus attorney fees.

    An unlicensed contractor doing work for which a license is required? Not a good idea for either party.
    Full Story >

    Merging the Gap Between Real Estate Agents and Social Responsibility, the Agent with Heart Program is Good for the Community and Great for Business

    While often associated exclusively with larger corporations, the importance of implementing some form of social responsibility extends well beyond that and is just as important, if not more so, for the success of smaller brands and businesses, including real estate agents. In fact, the research found that businesses that are not socially responsible may be jeopardizing their customer base, proving that a dedication to philanthropy is no longer simply considered a kind gesture, but has now become an expectation by the consumer.

    Hand in hand with positive philanthropic acts comes the good PR that follows and the ability to build a brand around that good will. For real estate agents, however, therersquo;s a very fine line between branding oneself as philanthropic within the community while also maintaining humility when publicizing it. Understanding the delicate nature of this situation, PinRaise, Inc. has developed their Agent with Hearttrade; program exclusively for real estate agents to not only make their mark in the realm of social responsibility, but to also be individually recognized for it.

    Through Agent with Heart, realtors donate a portion of their commission to their clientrsquo;s chosen nonprofit at the close of escrow. With each donation an agent makes, PinRaise launches a round of social media marketing across all major social sites in recognition of the donation. Donation amounts are always decided by the realtor and are never made public.

    The publicity that Agent with Heart offers their agents with each donation is key to the success of realtors seeking to make an impact within the community because it assists them in building a brand around being philanthropic, while also generating a buzz about their individual generosity online. Because much of the business realtors generate comes from referrals and recommendations, the positive PR that follows a donation is of the utmost importance.

    Additionally, a credible third party source like PinRaise sharing news of an agentrsquo;s philanthropic gestures across outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram not only assists in spreading the word about an agentrsquo;s good will, but also creates a ripple effect where those posts can now be shared by that agent, their followers, etc., further strengthening an agentrsquo;s brand. Being able to develop a reputation of giving back within the community leads to building a strong network of people who will speak highly of an agent because of their goodwill, helping them to stand out from the competition in a positive light, all while attracting new clients.

    The Agent with Heart program also gears its agent publicity toward capturing the eye of one social responsibility advocacy group in particular, millennials. According to the Cone Communications research, millennials cor>

    Through the Agent with Heart program, agents are able to uniquely appeal to the millennial generation of homebuyers by individually branding themselves as an agent willing to ldquo;pay it forwardrdquo; and give a donation to the local community. Agent with Heart also understands the research-driven tactics behind the purchasing decisions of millennials, and acknowledges the value in each individual donation promotion across all social platforms; the more visibility an agent receives for the generosity of their donations, the greater the appeal to the millennial market.

    In an ever-changing time when consumers are actively seeking businesses to do more for the community, itrsquo;s important for real estate agents to step up to this call to action. Branding oneself as an agent who makes a positive impact within the community isnrsquo;t just good for the community itself, itrsquo;s also good for business, and the Agent with Heart program has perfectly mastered the art of combining philanthropy with good PR.

    Full Story >

    How To Handle The Stress Of Selling Your Home

    Three things are certain in life: death, taxes ... and undue stress caused by moving. Whether or not you use the services of a REALTORreg; to help you wade through the uncertain waters of the buy-and-sell process, moving is stressful, period. And theres not much you can do to avoid it. And were not just talking about packing and paperwork. Moving is an emotional process. If youre not calming down your nervous children, youre trying to reassure yourself that youll meet people in your new neighborhood, that you bought the best house within your means, and that your kids new schools will measure up.

    Its easy to forget while were dealing with all of these jitters that moving actually can represent an exciting adventure, a growth opportunity and the prospect of new beginnings. Once the dust settles after your move, youre entering one of the most memorable times of your life. With any luck, youve recruited a REALTORreg; whos familiar with the obvious stresses as well as the insidious and subsequently more detrimental ones. Depending upon your >

    Its important to remember throughout the entire selling and buying process, however, to reserve time for yourself and your family. Its not a waste of time, but rather an insurance policy for your sanity and continued happiness. Stress is sneaky, as weve all discovered. It can eat away at us during what are supposed to be the happiest of times, because after all, any major change in life is stressful. If its supressed, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically and spread throughout the family. And theres nothing worse than moving a grumpy family across the country. For the sake of your continued family unity, keep in mind the following stress->

    First, remember that its perfect normal to feel unsure of your decision right now. Youve just made a major commitment, and all of us experience those last-second "What on earth did I just do" worries after signing contracts and making life-changing decisions. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with "what ifs" and dread, reframe this decision as a prime opportunity to begin your lives in a new environment. The old saying "When one door closes, another one opens" definitely applies here. Trust that your Realtor is looking out for your best interests, ask as many questions as you need to throughout the entire process thats part of what your Realtor is paid for, and look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of you.

    If you can, keep an emergency fund in case you run into any unexpected costs. One example: If your buyer comes forward after a home inspection is completed and requests a series of repairs prior to move-in, youll be prepared. Chances are good that you wont necessarily agree with the buyers requests, but at least you wont face the additional stress of being short the money for repairs if you plan ahead and save some extra cash no set amount -- just as much as you can handle. A goal you might try to shoot for would be in the range of 2,500. Its probably in your best interests not to try to guess what the buyer will want to repair, and then fix it ahead of time. Thats because buyers have a habit of isolating areas of your home that you never considered having repaired, and not even noticing the ones you expected them to pinpoint. So save yourself any expenses until youve determined their requests.

    And while were on the subject of finances, try to anticipate and prepare for the initial expenses youll face upon move-in. Resign yourself to the fact that during the moving process, youre going to feel as if youre holding your wallet upside down, and everyone -- movers, contractors, buyer, etc. -- is sitting underneath, catching the windfall and demanding a larger share. Keep in mind that this is an investment for the good of your family, and that these costs are a one-time inevitability.

    Remind yourself of why youre moving in the first place. A job transfer, or is it a voluntary choice? Obviously, whether or not you had some degree of control over the decision will affect your outlook. Regardless of your answer to that question, round up as much information as you can about your new hometown. What kinds of cultural offerings does the town/city offer? What are its landmarks and natural attractions? Research some possible day trips you might take with the family once youre settled. Is your new hometown near state borders, giving you the opportunity to explore different regions of the country without much effort?

    Envision your new home. Where will you place the furniture? Remind yourself of the homes primary selling points. Will you have more space? More closets? A large backyard and/or swimming pool? What does your new street look like? Do a lot of young families reside there? If so, your children are likely to be reassured by that knowledge. As often as possible, try to picture yourself and your family fully adapted to your new environment.

    Remember to have a little fun occasionally. Youre still allowed, even if you feel as if you dont have a penny left to your name. Take the family out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic -- anything that gets all of you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. Keep a regular "date" to get out together -- for example, every Friday night leading up to the move. Take your mind off your stress for a few hours, and remind yourself that your family members are experiencing many of the same emotions. Like misery, stress often loves company, so enjoy your time together and remember that this stress wont last forever. Regardless of what youre feeling now, the move will happen and everything will eventually fall into place. Journeying into the unknown is what makes life rewarding, so trust in your Realtors expertise and in your familys resilience, and look forward to the journey ahead.

    Full Story >

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