Real EstateNews

Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ask The HOA Expert: Can The Board Modify Architectural Design Policy?

Answer: This kind of policy is generally amendable by the board when its in resolution form a separate document outside the recorded governing documents. If the policy is part of the governing documents, a vote of the members is needed. But even if the board has the authority to amend, it is strongly recommended that proposed amendments be circulated to the members for comment prior to voting to enact them. A 30 day review is not going to make much difference in the long run and members will be more likely to comply when theyve had a chance to be heard.

Question: Does a director of the board have the authority to give a power of attorney to another person to act on his/her behalf?

Answer: No. Directors are elected by the members and cannot give that authority to another person.

Question: We have a board member who argues that damage done to the interior of a condo unit from a roof leak is the responsibility of the homeowner association. I have been telling the board that the HOA is not responsible for the interior damage unless the board does not address the roof leak in a timely manner. Whos right?

Answer: Technically, this board member is correct. When HOAs purchase insurance for the structures, that insurance extends to the units themselves. However, the governing documents often has or the board can establish a requirement for unit owners to carry insurance for their individual units and be the primary insurance in the event of a claim, regardless of the source of the problem kitchen fire, toilet overflowing, flooding from the upstairs unit, sprinkler system leaks leaks through foundation, etc..

This kind of policy is necessary to protect the HOAs insurability. If every unit owner was allowed to file claims against the HOAs insurance, it would not be long before the HOAs insurance would be cancelled due to excessive claims or the premium increased beyond affordability. Spreading the risk out to unit owners keeps the HOAs insurability viable.

Question: What can be done about a board member that slanders another board member? He not only does it at meetings but spreads his accusations around the neighborhood.

Answer: It is inappropriate and divisive for a board member to engage in character assassination. The remaining directors should take action to rein him in in a diplomatic but firm way. The director with the best rapport with him should have a heart to heart with him and explain the damage that is being done. Insist that he keep such personal opinions to himself.

While the board doesnt have the authority to remove a rogue director from the board only the members do, the board can remove a director from his office President, Treasurer, Secretary if he has one. That may be necessary to make the point.

Question: Our HOA has many residents that leave trash receptacles out long after trash pick-up day. It makes the HOA look shoddy. What can we do?

Answer: Most HOAs have a requirement that trash receptacles are only allowed out on pick up day and need to be stored out of sight within 24 hours. This is both reasonable and desirable from a curb appeal standpoint.

Question: Our HOA has a member that is a chronic offender of rules. How should the board deal with this?

Answer: Three special "scofflaw" penalties come to mind: caning, tarring and feathering, and the stock and pillary. But seriously, rules that carry no penalties are useless. If you need a rule, it needs an effective enforcement mechanism in the form of a fine significant enough to get noticed. Scofflaws often refuse to pay fines so failure to pay them must be treated the same way as failure to pay regular HOA fees. Process them through the normal collection process. Eventually, even the most persistent scofflaw will come to understand the price of being a jerk.

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4 Home Security Features to Increase Safety and Peace of Mind

There are a million scenarios like this each year--in fact, 3.7 million of them. Of these 3.7 million homes with break-ins in the United States, only 17 had some sort of security system in place. How safe are you in your home? Do you have any security features in place to protect you and your family in case of a break-in or other emergency?

If you dont feel safe, and if you dont have any security features in your home, these are some features you might want to consider:

1. A security system.

Its been shown that as the number of home security systems increase in an area, the number of home invasions decrease--and not just for homes with systems, but for the whole neighborhood.

When you choose your security system, there are several types to choose from. But its best to purchase a state-of-the-art home security system service where the latest technology is used to allow you to monitor and control your home security from the convenience of your smartphone. A security system not only protects you when there are break-ins, but it also protects your family if there is a fire or medical emergency.

2. Smart locks.

Smart locks allow you keyless entry into your home, allowing you, your family members, and guests easy access when needed. With a phone or other authorized device such as a key fob, smart locks can be unlocked or locked remotely; and using smart home technology, access can be granted or denied for specific time periods.

This is a great security feature since smart locks take away the need to hide spare keys outside or leave a key with a neighbor. You can always look for a home security service that comes with a smart lock option and wholl install it for you. Youll love the convenience and added security of smart locks.

3. Smart lights.

Smart lights, same as with smart locks, can be managed virtually using similar smart home technology. There are several ways you can use your smart lights. One of the most important ways is to take advantage of the feature allowing lights to be turned on or off even when youre away, giving you added security when you cant be there.

Most break-ins occur when youre away from home, so being able to trick would-be-burglars into believing youre home by randomly turning on different lights and turning off others via your phone is a great way to keep your home safer. Its great when you can piggyback smart lights in with a security system that has this feature.

4. Security cameras.

Security cameras are important for several reasons: they help police solve crimes, they actually deter crimes, and they give you peace of mind.

Through smart home technology, you can strategically place security cameras to remotely view areas in and around your home and make sure everything is as it should be; you can even review old video footage when needed.

Security cameras are great features to add to any home, and security system services often have cameras available as part of their home security packages.

You probably know at least one person who has experienced a home invasion of some sort. It may have even been you. When these traumas hit close to home, we realize how important it is to make sure our homes are as secure and protected as they can be. Its better not to wait until something happens to our home, or worse, someone we know and love, before we take precautions. By getting a home security system, smart locks, smart lights, and security cameras, youll have that added peace of mind that youre doing all you can do to ensure the safety of your household.


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Growing Wealth in the Vacation Rental Market: Advice for First-Time Investors

The Right Spot

First, think like a vacationer. You want a place in a beautiful and easily accessible natural setting, with lots to do and see. For many people, that means the beach. For others, it could be a mountainside cabin. Remember, people are looking for an unforgettable experience, a vacation theyll reminisce about for years. That makes the location an important factor.nbsp;

Do your research, as buying in an area where demand is low could leave you with high vacancy rates, which will certainly cut into your profits. When you find a place you like, consider spending a few days there to assess what the place has to offer. Youll want to be able to tell potential guests that theres lots to do and plenty of good places to eat.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

If youre located far away from your vacation home, you may not be able to handle routine maintenance and guest support. In this case, youll likely need to hire a property manager. Many property management companies offer online booking, hire maid services to clean your home in between guests, and provide 24/7 support.nbsp;

Assess Your Financial Situationnbsp;nbsp;

Review your financial picture, paying special attention to your income, debt-to-income DTI ratio, and credit score. Youre basically taking on a second mortgage, and that can be an overwhelming prospect for someone whos not well-positioned financially. Your credit and debt picture will have a lot to do with the kind of loan youre able to secure. A disadvantageous loan will ultimately work against your profit potential. And youll need an adequate cash reserve on hand in case you lose income due to job loss, illness or injury.

Best Loan Options

Conventional loans are often the best option for an investment property because theyre >

Show Lenders an Appealing Financial Picture

Having a plentiful supply of cash is one of the best ways to show lenders youre a good candidate for a loan. As with any real estate purchase, the more you can put down up front, the better the terms you can expect on your loan. An investment property mortgage will require at least a 20 percent down payment approximately half of all vacation property buyers made a down payment of at least 30 percent in 2017. Its an option well worth considering because paying at least 20 percent up front means youll avoid paying private mortgage insurance.nbsp;nbsp;

The Tax Factor

Even an inexperienced investor understands about property taxes and knows to factor it into expenses. However, if youre a first-timer, you may not be familiar with lodging taxes, which are required in many places. In such locations, its the landlords responsibility to collect lodging taxes on the rents they charge. As a landlord, you dont pay lodging tax yourself, but you do have to account for taxes from your guests, so be sure youre charging enough to account for it. A busy landlord may find it difficult to monitor and account for lodging taxes from each guest. Fortunately, there are tax management services that can help.nbsp;

A vacation rental property can be an excellent investment for a novice looking for ways to generate wealth. Growth in the short-term rental market and the desirability of a temporary vacation home rather than a hotel room make it a profitable investment.


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7 Affordable Decorating Ideas for A Lovely Patio

Try Vertical Gardening

There is no such rule that you can only use the grounds surface for planting. Why not add a t>

Use Fabric

The right use of fabric can give you privacy, sun protection, and soothing ambiance as well as the right amount of softness and drama. There are many choices of outdoor fabric available today ranging from flowy curtain types and drapery that is more structured.

Soothing Background Sounds

It can take some time before some birds call your garden their home so a small water feature can be a great addition for some soothing nature sounds. The water will also attract small creatures. If a water feature isnt your cup of tea, a wind chime can serve the same purpose and is particularly recommended for urban areas.

Inject Your Personality in Your Dcor

Are you a fan of stripes? Of tribal patterns? Or are you simply in love with pink? Go with what your heart desires. Personalize your outdoor space however you want. The key is to not go overboard and use your personal touch for accent only.

Take Advantage of String Lights

String lights range from whimsy firefly-like ones to bigger ones reminiscent of an outdoor summer fair. Whatever design you choose, adding some to your patio will su>

Switch Table Shapes

Rectangular and other angular table shapes can make your patio look a bit too stuffed. Go for a smaller round table or tables to add interest to your space as well as make your patio appear roomier.

Shop Your Stash

There is no need to head on to stores to shop for new additions to your outdoor space. Use what you already have by shopping your stash. Go over each room and see what unused item you have can have a new life outdoors. An old chair from a set you used to have can make a good accent chair in your patio. An unused candle holder can be the centerpiece of your outdoor table. Be creative


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Tips for Updating Your House in an Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

Exterior paint can also help your home stand out in the neighborhood, offering more foot traffic and curb appeal should you decide to list your house. Especially considering how inexpensive a few buckets of paint are, repainting parts of your home can give you a huge return on investment.

Remodel your bathroom

One of the most popular areas to remodel in any home is the bathroom, and for good reason. Its important to create a bathroom that feels nice and clean. Depending on the current state of your bathroom, a remodel could be as simple as changing the bathroom tile or purchasing a new vanity or medicine cabinet. You may also want to consider refinishing your bathtub or upgrading your shower head, too, as these can give your bathroom the allure of luxury at a >

Replace windows to increase cost savings

Replacing the windows in your home is both a functional and stylish choice. Window replacement can translate to energy savings in the cold and hot months of the year, which will benefit you if youre planning to stay in your home. Even if you are intending on selling your house, though, having new windows will be an attractive feature for any interested parties.

Make sure your sewage is up-to-code

As a homeowner, one of the least appealing tasks is to keep your sewage system up-to-code. That said, when you dont properly care for your sewage lines, you can be barking up a very costly tree. If you find a >

Remodel your kitchen

While sometimes expensive, remodeling your kitchen is a surefire way to increase your homes value. Adding new hardware and cabinetry can go a long way in improving your kitchens looks, especially when paired with a refinished floor in tile or hardwood. Another option for updating your kitchen is to upgrade its appliances. A brand-new, stainless steel refrigerator and updated oven and range with induction burners will appeal to the wannabe chef in every prospective buyer. Plus, if you dont plan on selling for a few years, you can enjoy these features, too

Dont forget the yard

Landscaping is another important feature of any home that often gets overlooked when renovators are too focused on the houses interior. Think about how often a well-designed rock wall, fire pit, or flower bed has contributed to the curb appeal of a home. Installing a porch or deck is a quick and easy way to add functionality and excitement to your yard and help make your home a little more special. While pu>
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How to Save Time, Ease Workload with Online CRE Management Platforms

Kladok is one of the newer online management platforms looking to shift this trend. Having one centralized platform tailor-made specifically for CRE professionals including brokers, property owners, lenders, investors, and insurers -- saves time and makes it easier for real estate professionals to juggle details on assets and deals.

Portfolio and asset management are key parts of CRE companies workload. Organizing financial information along with various property details can be challenging to keep in a simple format. For instance, with various spreadsheets within one Excel document, it can be easy to place a number in the wrong location.nbsp;

Further, various versions of the same Excel spreadsheet are often necessary, which can be confusing. With multiple people typically working on each CRE project, all users must be well-versed on how items are being labeled in order to keep the spreadsheets accurate.

New online management platforms created for CRE professionals make their work more efficient, provide seamless communication across team members and reduce the chances of inaccuracies.

Further, innovative online management systems such as Kladok are easy to operate, while understanding the most advanced versions of Excel might require taking a course on the topic to master the tools.

Kladok is a CRE-specific online management platform that can consolidate several disconnected spreadsheets into one cloud-based location accessible from anywhere. This organized unit gives companies the ability to conduct portfolio-wide analysis or rapidly garner individual property details.

Moving portfolio details onto a technologically advanced management platform can allow a team of CRE executives to view real-time data, eliminating the need to schedule meetings for specific updates on a project which can be frequent. It also can prevent possible project delays due to factors such as a lag in inputting information, incomplete data or details placed in the wrong spreadsheet location.

Along with speeding the workflow, allowing rapid input of data into a central platform can boost transparency, allowing managers to rapidly access all information.

Additionally, some online management platforms offer a task manager. This can ease any uncertainty among team members about when a specific job should be done and who is assigned to handle it.

Accessing financing and commercial insurance products also are available via portfolio and asset data input into CRE management platform Kladok.

Beyond managing data, Kladok is also a platform that offers a network of CRE professionals who can share information, benefiting from each others expertise.

Collaborating with colleagues, organizing data, better managing information and easing workflow are just some of the benefits of an online management platform for CRE executives. Kladok is an easy-to-use platform that creates a centralized workspace. This can save time by consolidating information and removing the need to manually input data in various spreadsheet locations.


Ryan Letzeiser is the Co-Founder and CEO of Obie, a portfolio management platform for commercial and multi-family real estate recently named a Top 100 Finalist for the 2019 Chicago Innovation Awards. Obie also offers tailored and competitive property insurance products.nbsp;nbsp;


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“Mattress Money” and Mortgages

One of the more important things lenders look at when evaluating a home loan application is how much money is available for the transaction. There needs to be funds showing enough money for the required down payment, if any, closing costs and some extra funds left over after closing called cash reserves. Cash reserves are counted as the number of months worth of house payments are left after the loan has closed. If the total mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, is 2,000 and the cash reserve requirement is three months, there should be an additional 6,000 available. This is on top of the down payment and closing costs. But these funds have to be verified as yours.

Verification is done by reviewing recent copies of bank statements. If your savings account shows 20,000 and the checking account statements show regular deposits on the 1st and 15th, the lender will begin to tally the total amount available and when enough funds are verified, the loan application continues through the approval process.nbsp;

But in this scenario, the funds are short by 5,000. The down payment, closing costs and reserves needed add up to 30,000. Thats okay though, because at home in the vault, there is 7,000 in cash ready for you to use any way you wish. You take out the 7,000 and deposit it in your checking account. Yet theres still a problem. Even though youve saved up those funds over the past year or so, you may not be able to use them. At least, the lender wont count them as yours. This is called mattress money. Loosely meaning the cash is stuffed in your mattress at home. Its frustrating because you know the funds are yours and yours alone, but the lender is ignoring them.

The issue here is there is no way to source where those funds came from. Are the funds a personal loan? If so, at some point the loan will need to be paid back. Will there monthly be monthly payments and if so, how much? In both instances it can affect the ability to repay the mortgage.

If its cash saved up and you know youre going to buy a home in the future, pull the cash out of the vault and into your bank account. This will let the funds season over time and the lender will not question where the funds came from. How long does it take to season funds? Theres no universal guideline but in general funds may be considered yours after two or three months.

If the funds are from the sale of a car, provide a copy of the bill of sale, copy of the check and copy of the deposit into your bank account. If the funds are a gift from a family member or qualified donor, again provide a paper trail. But if its cash at home, mattress money, put it in the bank as soon as able.nbsp;


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Moving Down: Eight Things You Need to Know

You might need to downsize your furniture, too.

Whats one of the first things we say when we tour a new home: Our furniture would fit perfectly in here. But if youre downsizing, that might not be the case. You may have fewer rooms to furnish, and the proportions of the rooms you do have may be smaller.nbsp;

If youre looking for a smaller place for financial reasons, youre probably not keen on spending money on new furniture. Be sure to measure your large pieces and take those measurements with you when touring homes. If it comes down to a couple of homes youre considering, maybe the one with the larger living room that can accommodate your sectional gets the edge.

You may have to compromise less with new construction.

New homes today are built to feel more open and maximize storage. If youre worried about going smaller, look to new construction.nbsp;

Your bills may go down.

If youre trying to save money, the fact that a smaller home will presumably not only cost you less for your mortgage but also your ongoing bills is great news. If you can get a handle on how much your utilities will be This is a good thing to ask your real estate agent, who can then reach out to the sellers agent, you might even be able to use the presumed savings to boost your buying poweror to sock money away every month.

You may also save time.

Less square footage means less to clean and maintain If you also have a smaller outdoor area, mowing and yard work will also be easier, allowing you to spend that leftover time pursuing other activities and interests.nbsp;

You may have some tough decisions to make.

City or suburbs. Attached or single-family. Long commute or not. When your homebuying plans are dictated by budget, the decision-making process can be challenging. Written pro-con lists can be tremendously helpful in helping you sort out your feelings. But make sure to be brutally honest with yourself. If youre leaning toward a move to the suburbs and youve written off how grueling a long commute can be, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Other people may have to compromise, too.

No room for guests: Hosting a huge holiday dinner might be out of the question in a smaller home, said The Balance. Out-of-town guests might need to stay at a hotel when they come to visit.

There may be a mourning period.

People often tend to embrace the IDEA of moving down before they really embrace the reality. The idea of less square footage might be acceptable if it saves you moneybut the reality of less space often feels like a loss.

Its OK to see it that way. Anytime theres a big life change, we need time to adjust. Give yourself time to mourn the loss of the home youre leaving. It may make the transition easier.

See the upside.nbsp;nbsp;

While your home life>
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Five Valuable Think-Ahead Home Projects

Buyer tip: If youre shopping for a home now, consider a realistic time frame for must have changes and required maintenance.

The best time to make plans for a season is during that season in the previous year or at least two seasons ahead of that season.

That is, this winter decide what has to be up-dated or renovated to make your home safe, fun, and comfortable next winter.
Now is the time to think about how you want to enjoy the yard and house or recreational property during the coming summer or next fall.

If you wait until youre in a season to arrange improvements, you may spend more on materials and labor because youll be in peak season. Youll probably also discover all the best professionals are completely booked

Here are Five Valuable Think-Ahead Home Projects That Can Add To Your Enjoyment of Your Real Estate:

1: Add a Pool

Pool time may be a distant dream right now, but the warm months will be on you and over all too quickly if you arent ready for construction action as soon as winter weather breaks. Pools dont always add value to real estate, but build on-trend and with quality products so youve got a better chance of improving your enjoyment of the property and its eventual saleability. Fortunately, costly elaborate excessive creations and large rectangular pools, which dominate the yard, have fallen out of favor. Elegant, simple designs are in. Longer, narrower pools set in retreat->

2. Upgrade Landscaping

Garden overhauls should begin while snow covers the ground. Then theres time to carefully consider which trees, shrubs, and plants will thrive in your climate and in your yards sunlight levels. Is it your intent to shift to a native-plant garden which will attract bees and butterflies or do you have a different end-point in mind? Talk to suppliers to be sure where to find what you want and at the best prices. How should your budget be allocated for the greatest impact? Dont be satisfied with only what you can conjure up; landscapers and landscape architects have a wealth of knowledge to impart.

Buying larger tree specimens can be transformative, but you have to commit to a consistent-care regime to ensure they thrive. What effect do you want to create?
In wildfire areas, landscaping must also be considered for the danger it represents and that it can address. For instance, trees and shrubs set away from the house present less threat of spreading flames.
Where drought is an issue, drought-tolerant plants, or those able to thrive with limited amounts of water, provide greenery that is self-sustaining. This environment-friendly landscaping can take a wide range of intriguing forms. At least 30 states experience droughtranging from abnormally dry conditions in Florida and Massachusetts to the exceptional drought present in California and Nevada. To check on your state, use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA Drought Monitor.
When youre intent on increasing accessibility, introduce raised flower beds, increased seating, and removal of trip hazards, but dont compromise aesthetics or viewpoints.
If your condominium unit is in a high rise, you may decide to reduce preventable bird deaths by advocating bird-friendly design and lighting. Ornithologists estimate that up to one billion birdsoften including threatened species from the annual four billion bird migrationdie in preventable building collisions in the United States.

3. Drainage Matters

Flooding is a growing threat in many areas. How vulnerable is your home? How far away is the nearest river, stream, or lake? Is your property graded or leveled, so that rainwater and run-off are guided away from your home and out-buildings? Gutters, foundation-weeping tiles, and other drainage systems need regular inspection, maintenance, and upgrading, especially since many areas are experiencing greater rainfall than ever before. Excessive rain may cause persistent settling and flooding, which in turn damages buildings and decking. Get outside in bad weather to discover exactly whats happening to the water around your house.

4. Improve Heating/Cooling

If you dont have your heating and cooling systems inspected and maintained each year, youre setting yourself up for a heating or cooling failure during the season warmth is wanted or disliked. What was the recommended life of the heating and cooling systems you installed or inherited? If a twenty-year limit is fast approaching, time to start researching what type of heating or cooling system will best suit your home and your needs now versus why that system was chosen years ago. You may decide to supplement existing systems with solar- or wind-powered equipment. Which fuel types do you have to choose from? How much renovation or improvement to the ducts, insulation, or wiring will be required to improve efficiency? Decide whether renting or owning the new equipment is the best financial move. Are there any subsidies, grants, or payment plans available to manage costs?

5. Minimize Construction Impact

If a house will be built near yours or a major construction project is planned in your neighborhood, youd be wise to take videos of your house and garage, inside and out, floor and ceiling shots, so you can prove your buildings were crack-free before the heavy work began. This documentation is a good idea if weather conditions are becoming extreme and theres more damage done with each storm.

Suggestion: Think ahead a few years to consider how easy it will be to buy parts for any equipment or systems you buy.

Think-ahead projects, like the five above, also allow you time to be creative or innovative with your solutions, rather than making do with what you can pull together in an emergency repair:

Visit home shows and > Inspiration abounds online and in social media, but dont be too gullible. If solutions or suggestions sound too good to be true, they probably are. Watch out for scams and fraud among the you wont believe how easy this is pitches.
Ask friends and family what theyve done and which suppliers and installers theyve used. Theyll often volunteer if wed started differently... or if only wed known... advice.


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February Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "This weeks mortgage rates were the second lowest in three years, supporting homebuyer demand and leading to higher refinancing activity. Borrowers who take advantage of these low rates can improve their cash flow by lowering their monthly mortgage payments, giving them more money to spend or save."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.51 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending January 30, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.74 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.46 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 3.00 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it also averaged 3.19 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.89 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.24 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, down from last month when it averaged 3.45 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.96 percent.


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Jeff Bezos Didn’t Use an Agent to Buy His $165 Million Estate. Here’s Eight Reasons Not to Be Like Jeff

The property is, admittedly, stunning. Geffen reportedly auctioned off about 11 million worth of original furnishings, which he deemed too musty and museum-like, after he purchased the property, said The Los Angeles Times. But he did keep an imported wood floor"said to be the one upon which Napoleon proposed to Josephineas well as the paneled walls supposedly carved by a Chippendale.

Other impressive features, according to Architectural Digest, include a George III>

But 165 million isA LOT. Some real estate leaders have wondered aloud whether he overpaid. Others have mused that you cant put a price on a veritable museum. But what stands out for us is that Bezos and Geffen made the deal without involving real estate agents on either side. Before you start thinking, Well if its good enough for one of the worlds richest men, its good enough for me, check out these xx reasons you should definitely use an agent on your next purchase.

Because you dont have Bezos money

Part of what a good buyers agent does in advising clients is: Find you a home you love, but also one you can comfortably live in and afford. No one wants to be house poor.nbsp;

Theres no worry of that with Bezos, despite the exorbitant price tag. The 165 million is approximately one-eighth of one percent of his 130 billion net worth. A measly little 165 million isnt going to break him. Asnbsp;The Vergenbsp;pointed out, If you make 60,000 a year, thats like spending 75 on a house.

Also, its not the only property he has purchased recently. In addition to the Warner Estate, Bezos recently purchased a 90 million plot of undeveloped Los Angeles land, which he is considering an investment, a source told thenbsp;Wall Street Journal. And last summer, the Amazon chief made headlines when henbsp;purchasednbsp;not one but three Manhattan apartments overlooking Madison Square Park for some 80 million.

Bezos also reportedly owns several condos that overlook NYCs Madison Square Park, a 30,000-acre estate in Medina, WA, a huge ranch in west Texas, and two additional properties in Washington, D.C.

But what happens if you buy too much house? When you dont have billions of dollars as a safety net, you need to know youre in good hands with a professional who has your best interest at heart.

Because you dont have that 165 million in cash

There hasnt been any word on whether Bezos intends to mortgage his new manse, but we doubt it. Not surprisingly, his past purchases have been rumored to be all-cash deals.nbsp;

But it reminds us of a story we love. After L.A.s 924 Bel Air Road sold for 94 million in October 2019a huge cut from the original 250 millionnbsp;list pricethe anonymous buyer turned around and took out anbsp;58.2 million, 10-year loan from HSBC Bank USA, according to property records, said The Business Times. That would make the monthly mortgage payment about 650,000

Carry the nine, multiply that by xand, yeah, the possible mortgage payment on a 165 million home makes our collective heads hurt.

All-cash deals are on the rise among luxury homes, which is hard to comprehend for us regular folks who are just doing the best we can to cobble together a minimum down payment. When your money is on the line, you want to do everything you can to protect yourself. A real estate agent acts as a fiduciary of sorts, with training and expertise that can help give you peace of mind, whether youre spending 165,000 or 165 million.nbsp;

Because you dont have a yacht

I mean, arent all real estate deals made on a 590 million superyacht? Jeff Bezos and David Geffen hammered out the Amazon chiefs record-setting 165 million purchase of Geffens Beverly Hills estate while socializing on the former music moguls famous yacht, the Rising Sun, said The Real Deal.nbsp;

Because you dont want to do your own negotiating

Really, you dont. Check out this article from Inc. that called Bezos and Amazons search for its new HQ2 a master >

Bezos competitiveness and business savvy are legendary. Not that were saying yours dont comparebut, lets be honest. Unless youre a real estate agent or an attorneyor some other type of professional who gets paid to negotiate and/or argue for a living, its just best to leave this to the professionals.nbsp;

Because you dont know what you dont know

You might be far out of your element when it comes to reviewing and understanding the multiple documents involved in a real estate deal, and you should have a thorough understanding of what youre getting into regardless of whether youre buying or selling, said The Balance. Purchase agreements alone can top 10 pages in 2019, not to mention federal, state, and local document requirements.nbsp;

Home buyers may be tempted to purchase without using their own agent in certain circumstances, like if they happen into an open house and talk to the sellers agent or if they are buying new construction. But there are important reasons to work with your own agent in either case.nbsp;

Yes, a sellers agent might be able to work both sides of a deal, but having your own agent better ensures that you have someone in your corner whose priority is getting you the deal you want.nbsp;

Buyers are sometimes unaware that they can work with their own real estate agent when buying a new home. Each development has its own rules, but, in general, the agent must accompany you on your first visit to the community or they will forfeit any available commission. That commission may also be lower than what the agent is accustomed to; this will generally be advertised as a broker co-op or broker participation, with a percentage set by the builder or development.nbsp;

Working with a real estate agent on a new construction home may not yield you a better price; builders are typically >

Because thats just too much house

Seriously, who needs 13,600 square feet on nine acres, with expansive terraces and gardens, two guesthouses, nursery and three hothouses, tennis court, swimming pool, nine-hole golf course and motor court complete with its own service garage and gas pumps, as Architectural Digest puts it. No one. No one NEEDS this. But, clearly, this purchase wasnt about need.

A good real estate agent will su>
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The Sneaky, Costly Little Secret of FHA Loans

First, a little primer on mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects lenders from losing money if you default on the loan, said NerdWallet. Most lenders require private mortgage insurance PMI for conventional loansnbsp;when the home buyer makes a down payment of less than 20. All FHA loans have mortgage insurance, regardless of down payment amount.

Mortgage insurance can cost homebuyers hundreds of dollars per month. The average annual PMI premium typically ranges from .55 percent to 2.25 percent of the original loan amount each year, according to data from Ginnie Mae and the Urban Institute, said Bankrate. With these rates, it means that for a 200,000 mortgage, your PMI can cost between 1,100 and 4,500 each year, or around 91.66 to 375 per month.

In addition, PMI can be cancelled once the home appreciates to a certain level. But FHA mortgage insurance usually remains for the life of the loan.

Getting rid of PMI

So, here youve been paying down your mortgage every month, and you also happen to live in an area where homes are appreciating nicely. Sure would be nice if you could get rid of that PMI. But, short of refinancing to another loan, thats not going to happen.nbsp;

Alternative loans

There are a number of different ways to borrow money without mortgage insurance. The first and most obvious answer is to make a 20 down payment on whatever loan you get. Many loans allow you to use gift or grant funds for your down payment, which could be a solution to getting that 20 together if need be.

Short of a generous benefactor, look into these other loans, which allow you to make a small down payment without paying monthly mortgage insurance.

Bank of Americas Affordable Loan Solution mortgage

This home loan requires just a 3 down payment with no mortgage insurance. Other features include:

Income and loan amount limits, which vary depending on the location of the home
Up to 97 loan-to-value
Loan amounts capped at 510,400 with 3 down payment; You can also make a 5 down payment for a loan amount up to 765,600 with 5 in high-cost areas
Homebuyer education may be required

Flagstar Banks Professional Loan

These loans are for individuals who are very likely to have high earning potential, but have just started in their careers, said The Mortgage Reports. Think doctors, dentists, and lawyers with their own practices. The loan requires no PMI, and very low down payments. As a bonus, student loans could be excluded from debt ratios.nbsp;

In addition to low down payments and no mortgage insurance, details include:

Loan amounts up to 1.5 million
Fixed and adjustable rate options

Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America NACA Best in America Mortgage

The NACA loan is for low-to-moderate income individuals or buyers in underserved communities. In addition to no mortgage interest, this loan offers:

No down payment
No closing costs
Below-market rates
Flexible credit score requirement
Homeownership program required

SoFi 10 down loan

Dont have 20 for a down payment but think you might be able to cobble together 10? This loan might be the answer. SoFis 10 down loan offers:

Loan amounts up to 3 million
PMI required on conforming home loans with a loan-to-value LTV greater than 80, but not on any jumbo home loans
Great credit required

Citis HomeRun Mortgage

This mortgage requires just 3 down and no mortgage insurance, with flexible credit guidelines. In addition, loans are available up to 510,400, and 765,600 in high-cost areas.

Other features of these loans include:

Fixed rates
Interest rates comparable to conventional loan rates
Homeownership education and counseling required


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Promoting Safety and Preventing Property Damage

Regardless of what the law requires, the real estate industry needs to be at the forefront of safety.

Regardless of what the law says about assumption of risk, real estate agents owe it to themselves to do what is right.

They owe it to themselves to maintain the trust they enjoy, the honor they possess, and the referrals they continue to receive. Because all of these things can collapse, because all of these things will collapsewith the speed and finality of a controlled demolitionunless real estate agents and property owners make safety their top priority.

According to Howard P. Lesnik, an injury law expert and member of the New Jersey Association of Justice, the real estate industry can set an example or be an example.nbsp;

That is to say, the industry can lead a campaign for safety or isolate itself as a holdout amidst a campaign to improve safety.

That the choice is obvious does not mean every industry will choose wisely. But I know and work with enough real estate professionals to know this: Real estate agents and developers and property owners are too smart not to take Mr. Lesniks advice. They are too savvy not to listen to a lawyer whose counsel is sound, whose reputation is strong, whose record is solid.

I write these words with the benefit of personal experience, as I also have a law degree.

I write these words with the hope that the real estate industry will advance the cause of safety.

The rewards of this effort would exceed the cost of retrofitting this building or renovating that property, because an industry that protects its clients is an industry that attracts more clients.

People value businesses that defend certain values, despite the lowering of expectations, the erosion of expectations, or a lack of expectations on behalf of the pubic.

If cynicism plagues the public, if the public is cynical about how businesses behave, if businesses do nothing to change the publics attitude toward business in general, safety will worsen and distrust will harden into bedrock.

Such will be the foundation that governs society.

The real estate industry cannot afford to do business in such a society. No business can survive in such a society, where accidents are commonplace and leadership is so uncommon as to seem accidental; an aberration rather than an act of assurance.

Let the real estate industry do the right thing.nbsp;

Let it embrace safety, thereby proving that common sense has more currency than dollars and cents.

Let it put morals ahead of money, and succeed beyond what any accountant can calculate or any chief financial officer can tabulate.


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How Much Will New Home Upgrades Cost?

If youre thinking of buying a new home, understanding and considering these extra costs is important. Many buyers fall in love with a model home and are disappointed to see that the real home they are buying is full of builder basics, like unimpressive flooring and countertops, and no fancy backsplash or tiled shower. There may not be any grass or landscaping in the backyard or window coverings at all either.nbsp;

Heres what you need to know.

What is included in the base price?

Whats the first thing you do when you get to a new-home community? You tour the model homes, right? And now youre all in love and imagining your furniture sitting atop the wide-plank wood floors in the living room and your kids cozying up to the quartz-covered breakfast bar. Thats when you get hit with a big shock of reality: The model costs 200,000 more than the base price of the house.nbsp;

Can you upgrade for less?

Of course. You may want to replicate that model down to the very last knob and pull, but picking and choosing where to put your money can help you stay within a reasonable budget.

So how much are we talking?

Could be a little, could be a lot. It enti>

In general, everything you add or change will cost you. Individual prices will vary depending on the builder, the home, and the specific finishes they offer, but here are some examples of what to expect:

Wood flooring throughout the entire house could cost between 20,000 and 40,000, depending on the brand and quality.
Upgrading a kitchen could bust your budget. Depending on the builder and community, you could add better appliances, more expensive countertops, a fancy backsplash, and a nicer grade of cabinets. Before you know it, youre looking at the cost of a luxury car.
Adding another bedroom could cost 15,000.
Raising the ceilings? This could be a 10,000 upgrade.
Bathroom upgrades can get also get costly quickly. Want an expanded shower, freestanding tub, and upgraded flooring? Youre likely well over five figures.

Where should I start with my upgrades?

In the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the home, the spot where you will spend the majority of your time and make the most memories, said New Home Source. It can never be overly well equipped. Pay special attention to cabinets and appliances, as this is what future buyers will focus on, as well as the tools you will use every day.

Do any builders include upgrades in the base price?

Some do. For example, Lennars Everythings Included EI program includes some of the most popular amenities, such as GE or Electrolux stainless steel, energy-efficient appliances, upgraded polished granite or quartz countertops, and upgraded cabinets and flooring, in the price of the home.nbsp;

Other things you need to know about new-home upgrades:

Youre going to have decisions to make.

Many, many, MANY decisions. Youll need to choose products and colors and finishes for every room and nearly every surface. Sometimes, there will be multiple decisions that need to be made at once. Just selecting your cabinets from among the standard options and colors can be an adventure.nbsp;

Thankfully, many new-home builders today have design centers that are staffed with professionals who can provide guidance.

Upgrades can often be rolled into your mortgage.nbsp;

This makes them seem painless since you dont have to come out of pocket for those wood floors. But it will raise your monthly payment. And, if youre already at the limit of what youre qualified for, or what you feel you can afford, that increase may be problematic.

Its important to consider the value.nbsp;

Are you making smart upgrades that will add value to your home? Obviously, you have to weigh the importance of your personal wants and needs against what the general public might want when its time to sell. Your real estate agent should be able to provide important insight into items that willor will notmake the home attractive to future buyers.

You also want to think about whether you are over-improving for the neighborhood. If you put 100,000 in upgrades into the home, will you ever be able to get that money back out of the home? If your improvements make the home more expensive than any of the other homes in the neighborhood, you may end up losing money down the line.nbsp;


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Divorce, Separation and Home Loans

When two or more people apply for a mortgage to buy a home, each person who will live in the home and on the application agree to be responsible for the mortgage payments. The legal documents signed at the closing table have language that obligates each individual and what can happen if they stop paying. Essentially, non-payment means the lender has the right to take back the home via foreclosure and sell the property to settle the outstanding balance.

Lets look at a scenario where a couple gets married, applies for a mortgage and takes title as joint tenants. They live there, happily, for a few years and then later on the marriage begins to crumble. There are two types of crumbling, a separation and a divorce. There are also two types of separation, a legal and a verbal agreement. Lets consider the verbal agreement first.

As it >

In the meantime, the husband wants to buy another home and get financing on his own. Yet because theres an outstanding mortgage on the first home, his debt ratios are too high to qualify. He explains to the lender that he and his wife are separated and have agreed to split the mortgage payment. Unfortunately for him, that doesnt matter. The mortgage appears on his credit report and he originally agreed to pay it. There are also other debts jointly owned such as a car loan and some credit card debt. Those debts are also legally his. Not just half of them, but all of them.

Now lets look at a legal separation. This is a legal document signed by a judge that lays out who pays for what. Within the document, it clearly states that the wife is responsible for the entire mortgage payment while they will split the additional consumer debt. The husband applies for a mortgage and is told there are some other debts on the credit report that push his debt ratios too high. He provides a copy of his legal separation agreement that states the wife is responsible for the mortgage, not him. But the lender wasnt consulted about such an arrangement and wont let him off the note.nbsp;

A divorce runs much the same manner in most cases. The lender doesnt have any control about someones love life but does have some interest in getting paid each month. The divorce decree clearly states the wife is solely responsible for the mortgage payment, even though the mortgage still appears on his credit report. He is still not >

The wife agrees to pay the entire mortgage each month, but after a while shes having trouble keeping up with the payments. Soon, one of the payments is listed as more than 30 days past the due date. This late payment will also appear on the husbands credit report, even though their agreement states hes not responsible for the mortgage. Again, the lender isnt concerned about the marriage, just getting paid back. The only way to remove the husband from this responsibility is to get him off the note enti>

With real estate and marriage troubles, obviously legal counsel is involved. Just know that unless one party is completely removed from the existing note via a sale or refinance, theres still an obligation to pay.


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3 Tips for Buying a House That Will Support Your Lifestyle

You need a home that will conveniently fit your routines, hobbies, and expectations. Whether thats a ranch in the country or a small city townhouse, its up to you to decide if the home will support your life>

Here are three important aspects to consider when determining if a house is a good fit for the life you and your loved ones lead.nbsp;

1. Consider How Your Daily Routine Will Worknbsp;

When you first tour a house thats for sale, what are you thinking about? Are you dreaming of the house parties you could throw and the furniture that would fit perfectly, even if you cant afford it?nbsp;

Try flipping your mindset to a more realistic setting. The majority of the time youre in that house, youll be going about life normally: getting up for work, taking care of kids or pets, cooking, cleaning, and just living.nbsp;

Therefore, the visions you have when preparing to buy a new home should really be about how your average routine will function inside this particular house.nbsp;

Is the house close to the businesses, doctors, offices, and schools youll frequently be visiting? Research has shown that people with short-distance commutes are more >

Do you hate getting up at the crack of dawn to take your lovable pup outside? Make sure your dream house has a fence and perhaps a doggy door - this will make an impact on your everyday life and enjoyment.nbsp;

What about the kids? What do they do on an average day, and how will their activities and necessities be met in the house youre considering? Will they be closed to the things that they do every day, like parks, schools, and friends houses?nbsp;

A house can be beautiful, spacious, and a good price, but if it doesnt have features that will contribute to the ease of your everyday life, it might not be a good overall fit for your family.nbsp;

2. Think About Incorporating Your Hobbiesnbsp;

Speaking of daily activities, it never hurts to think about how your most important hobbies will fit into a new house. Many hobbies take up space, so before you make any commitments, think about where your workshop, exercise room, or arts and crafts area could fit.nbsp;

If youre into woodworking, youll need a safe area with great ventilation and lockable doors if you plan on using sharp tools for your projects. Consult a woodworking guide to get all the details on the tools, process and safety practices you need to know before starting with woodworking.nbsp;

Similarly, if you like to paint, work on cars, or create a real mess, where will your hobby fit into this new house? These arent hobbies you can do just anywhere.nbsp;

Maybe youll decide you need a separate room or shed for your hobby, or perhaps you want to convert half of the garage into a workshop. Regardless, these are things you need to think about while home shopping - not after youve already made the move.nbsp;

Hobbies should be just as much of a priority as the number of bathrooms or the color of the carpet.nbsp;

In the rise of workaholism in America, its more important than ever to actively search for ways to keep hobbies involved in your home life. Hobbies exercise a part of our brain we dont typically use and improve our cognitive functions - dont brush them off when thinking about how a house fits your life>

3. Remember: Your Happiness Doesnt Come from a Homenbsp;

The American Dream would often have us believe that a good job, a content family, and a house with a white picket fence are the necessary ingredients for a happy life - but thats not always true. Owning a McMansion you cant really afford or living in a cramped space to be in a cool city isnt always the right path to a happy life>

Know what the real ingredients to a happy life>

A sense of community and frequent community celebrations
Close friends and family, especially for children
Access and commitment to frequent exercise
Less emphasis on consumerism a big happiness suppressant
The chance to actively help people for about 100 hours a yearnbsp;

Notice that none of those ingredients have anything to do with the size of the house. However, many of them do influence where you live and how you can access support groups, community, activity, and charity.nbsp;

Want to know what actually detracts from your happiness?nbsp;

Paying too much for your living accommodations
Isolation from friends and family
Feeling out of control when it comes to your life> Making choices to impress others, not yourselfnbsp;

As you shop for your dream house, think about aesthetics and design. Consider what you feel about the actual building. Then, before you pull any triggers, ask yourself:

Will this house bring me happiness?
Does it pair well with the real ingredients that will make me and my family feel satisfied?

To Wrap It Upnbsp;

Many Americans about 40 percent say that buying a new home is THE most stressful event in modern life. There are so many aspects to consider - the entire process can be overwhelming and confusing.nbsp;

To make the process easier, focus less on the specifics of the houses youre evaluating and more on the life youll be able to lead once you move into the home you choose. Everything from your commute to your space for hobbies and proximity to friends, family, and community can seriously impact your happiness - dont let those factors be overshadowed by a pretty exterior or five awesome bedrooms.nbsp;

nbsp;


Riley Swanson is a life>
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Home Restoration vs Home Renovation: Their Stark Differences and Their Best Uses

Well, the words home restoration and home renovation are kind of like that in terms of how easy it is to mistake one for the other and even worse, interchange them when you really mean the other word.

In the real estate sector, its common knowledge that different homes require different types of work. There are many aspects that work encompasses. Age, the type of materials to be used, the colors of the house, and even the personal preferences of whomever is getting work done on the house are all factors to consider.

But, as part of common sense, you need to know what you want, and you need to know how to communicate what you want as accurately as possible. Now, when should you ask for a home restoration and when should you ask for a home renovation? Here are some of the key differences:

Home Restoration

To restore a home means to return it to its original state or condition at a particular time period. This is often preferred by homeowners who have a love for the houses history and who seek to retain the original design as much as possible, whether its to pay homage to a time long past, or out of respect for traditions. This is strict in the sense that whichever materials, paints and designs were incorporated in the original structure are going to be used.

Some examples of home restoration projects include, but are not limited to:

Door and window repair

Cabinet restoration

Floor refinishing

Repainting with original color

Home Renovation

On the other hand, a home renovation is performed with the purpose of making the home feel like new. This often means that the existing materials and fixtures are often replaced with new ones, without the restriction that they stick to the houses original design. One may even have a home updated to modern trends if one so chooses.

Some examples of home renovation projects include:

Door and window replacement

Floor redesign or refinishing with different color or texture

Updating or even replacing old rooms

Repainting with a different color

When A Dilemma Isnt Even a Dilemma

Now, you may be wondering which between these two options suits your needs better. Well, Im glad to tell you that theres no dilemma to be had here. It really depends on what you or your house, rather needs. Old houses often need renovations to keep up-to-date with modern trends, while houses that arent exactly in bad shape may only need a restoration. The point here is that it all depends on what the house really needs.


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Save Big by Going Green With These Sustainability Tips

Practicing Sustainable Laundry Habits

When it comes to trimming the electric bills or finding more effective ways to minimize the utility costs, the laundry room is the perfect place to start. Washing with cold water, hanging clothes up to dry rather than using a dryer and making other small changes can often make a big difference. Households that are constantly doing laundry have much to gain by adjusting their habits and finding more sustainable ways to wash their next load.

Upgrading Older Appliances

Curbing utility costs is all about finding devices that are using more power than may be needed in order to get the job done. Outdated appliances are frequently some of the biggest sources of wasted electricity. Swapping out existing appliances for high-efficiency models or replacing older equipment that may be suffering from impaired performance can be well worth the time, effort or cost involved. The installation of roof solar panels or a rainwater collection system may also be beneficial and is an option that those planning an energy audit or home renovation would be wise to consider.

Tracking Down Water Leaks

Tracking down and fixing any leaks within the homes plumbing system is another way that homeowners may be able to reduce their bills. The slow drip of a facet, toilet tanks that constantly refill themselves and other minor issues could all result in water bills that are placing undue stress on the household budget. While extensive repairs and costly installation purchases and installation services may be required to deal with major problems, many minor issues can be resolved using nothing more complicated than a simple screwdriver and a wrench.

Gardening and Growing Fresh Produce

A backyard great way to save on grocery costs while ensuring that fresh produce is never in short supply. Lessening the environmental impact caused by industrial agricultural operations or the emissions created when bringing fresh foods to market may be as simple as setting up an area to garden within the backyard. In addition to being thrifty, gardening can be an enjoyable hobby in its own right, one that can make it much easier for households to enjoy fresh foods without having to worry about the use of pesticides or other chemicals that might otherwise be used during the growing process. Other landscaping additions that may produce some much-needed savings may include xeriscaping to help minimize irrigation or using shrubs and trees to shade the home in order to reduce cooling costs.

Creating a More Sustainable and Cost-effective Home

Unlike other home upgrades that may require no more than an installation, sustainability is an ongoing effort. Homeowners should keep an eye out for any new resources that may allow them to curb their water and energy usage as well as the new technologies and products that can be used to create a more sustainable home without requiring major changes to an established life>
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