U.S. Real Estate News

Real Estate News

Updated: Sunday, June 25, 2017

Relaxing Designs For Your Lakefront Backyard

According to Wallace J. Nichols, in his book "Blue Mind," our brains are hardwired to react positively to water. Our predisposition to embrace water might be the reason being near it can actually calm us.

But water lovers probably donrsquo;t need to be told how >

Create a Waterside Sitting Area

To maximize your time outdoors, create a waterside sitting area to >

Add an Oversized Hammock

No lakefront property is complete without an oversized hammock. You might even get inspired by the trends in cities like Minneapolis where locals are setting up hammocks in public parks and campuses for a short rest and >

Install a grand trunk double travel hammock for outdoor roughing it and camping right in your own backyard alongside the lake. A Folding Camp Hammock is also a great choice for something more temporary that you can take up and down and move around your yard as needed. Or curl up with your loved ones in a two-person DuraCord Cameo Rope Hammock for a more traditional look.

Include a Cozy Fire Pit

Embrace the evening moonlight and light up a fire pit with friends and family to roast marshmallows. Its also the perfect spot to warm up after a day of canoeing or waterskiing. Look for all shapes and sizes from small, round portable pits to grand monoliths that anchor your overall design. Keep in mind the fire pit you choose may require placing it on flat stone to prevent embers from getting out of control. In addition, disclosing a fire pit may be a requirement for your homeowners insurance policy or could be against your lakefront neighborhood rules.

Create an Outdoor Entertaining Space

If your lakefront backyard is large enough for a deck or large patio, considering turning it into an entertaining space. Set up a Tiki bar and outdoor furniture resembling a living room set to bring the comforts of home outside. An outdoor kitchen is perfect for lakefront cooking and dining with countertop space, grill and kitchen sink along with a wine fridge to serve guests. To give your outdoor space even more dimension, create fences and garden walls for extra privacy. A pergola with a string of lights intertwined overhead turns your lakefront backyard into a festive evening.

Indulge in a Vanishing Edge Pool

There may be nothing more indulgent than a swimming pool overlooking your lake property. Choose a vanishing edge pool that makes it look as if your pool drops right into the lake. Place it on a hill to overlook your lakefront backyard or add to a patio area for a heated dip on a cool night. Add floating candles and outdoor speakers for a >
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How Green Can You Go? Eco-friendly Solutions For Every Commitment Level

Its hard to ignore the influence of big oil in Texas. Thirty-five miles to the Southwest of Frisco, TX, this years second-fastest-growing city in the nation and home to thousands of suburban families like my own, whose electric bills climb up into the 300-plus range while cooling their 3,000-square-foot house, Irving-based Exxon is the biggest oil producer in the world - and thats just the tip of the oil well. Frisco is also among the Texas cities where deregulation among power options is still not a thing, BTW. Oh and theres also a fun Texas law that "allows builders to restrict solar-energy devices while a housing development is under construction," said the Dallas Morning News, and when they would be most convenient, and most cost-effective to install, in most cases.

This is not the place youd expect to see, oh, I dont know, a luxury community of eco-friendly homes with features including grass rooftops.

But thats precisely what is being proposed by architecture and design firms Stantec and Total Environment, who presented the concept "for anbsp;57-acre, single-family home development" with luxury homes featuringnbsp;low-energy, environmentally friendly products" to the Planning and Zoning Commission this week, said Frisco Community Impact. "These types of homes are popular in other countries such as India and Dubai, and, if approved, would be the first in the U.S., according to developers."


communityimpact.com

It begs the question: Did green living just move from the fringe to the forefront? If eco-friendly homes can come to oil-rich, fracking-loving Texas, are we talking game-changer? Could be.

Were still a long way from hiring landscapers to manage our rooftops en masse. But, in the meantime, its easier and more rewarding than ever to live a leaner, greener life. So it might be time to ask yourself: How green can you go?

Heres our breakdown of some of the best ways to incorporate a more eco-friendly way of life into your world, no matter your commitment level.

Green "lite"

You may already have thought of some of the easiest ways to go green, like recycling at home, watering plants early or late in the day when the sun is not at full strength, and doing laundry and dishes during the coolest part of the day to save your air conditioning from working overtime.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs CFL are probably already on your radar, which is a great thing, since, according to thenbsp;Environmental Protection Agency EPA, CFLs use as much as 75 less energy than those old incandescent bulbs and can also last up to 10x longer.

Here are a few easy changes you can make that you may not have considered:

Replace nonstick pans with cast-iron. "To create the slick surface of nonstick cookware, manufacturers apply chemicals callednbsp;fluoropolymers, which are >

Do your wash in cold water. Energy Star says that close to 90 percent of the energy used for laundry goes to water heating. Buy some cold-water detergent and youre good to go.

Set your TV picture to "normal" instead of the manufacturer setting. "Many flat screens are shipped from the manufacturer with a picture setting that makes it stand out in retail displays, but are brighter than you need at home and consume 10 to 20 more energy and cash at this setting, reports the NRDC," said Prevention.

Ditch your regular house cleaners. Many of them can include toxic ingredients that can harm the environment and are also potentially dangerous to members of your household. The only things you really need to clean just about everything in your house: baking soda, white vinegar, and lemon.


amazon.com

Trade your regular mulch for rubber. Mulch is great for your yard because it keeps moisture in and also makes it look nice and tidy. But rubber is a step up from the bark-like texture youre probably used to seeing. "Made from 100-percent recycled tires, rubber mulch is suitable to use on most landscapes," said HGTV. "It has several benefits: a safe play surface for children, prevents weeds, does not attract insects and water and air can easily flow through it."

Green medium

Looking to make a larger commitment to green living? There are changes you can make outside of daily efforts like watching your water and electricity usage and choosing products with a more eco-friendly profile for everyday use.

Seal it up. Sealing up any leaks can make a big difference in the heating and cooling loss thats driving up your bills - as much as a 20 percent difference, according to Energy Star. Its also a pretty DIY-friendly task, but to get the best results, you may want to hire a professionalnbsp;Home Energy Auditornbsp;who can give you the lowdown on where your home is deficient and recommend changes.

Start composting. "Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead," said the EPA. "Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and >

Replace your appliances. That old fridge is working hard to cool whats inside, and thats costing you - literally. It, and its friends the old dishwasher and washer and dryer, are sucking up energy and dollars. Swapping them out for newer, Energy Star versions, is good for the environment, and your bank account. Whether you get a new refrigerator or not, these tips from Prevention will help you save even more: "Keeping your fridge pushed tight up against the wall limits circulation and makes the unit work harder, increasing your energy use and costs. Keep it a few inches away from the wall, and follow the manufacturers instructions to safely keep the fridges coils clean. If youre one of the 25 of U.S. households using a second, older fridge, considering recycling it. Running an older - model fridge - ones commonly used in basements or garages - could cost your family up to 300 a year. Temperature makes a difference, too. Proper fridge temp should fall anywhere from 35 to 38 degrees - anything lower wastes energy."

Hardcore green

Window replacement falls here because it can be a big dollar commitment. "All-new vinyl windows for an average 2,450-square-foot house run about 15,000, according to the lsquo;Remodeling Impact Report from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORSreg;," said Houselogic. But, the good news is that youll save "126ndash;465 a year when replacing single-pane windows, according to Energy Star. And, "For average-quality vinyl windows, you can recoup 80 of the project cost in added home value, according to the lsquo;Remodeling Impact Report," said Houselogic. Based on the vinyl window replacement projects in the report, thats a value add of about 12,000 if you should decide to sell your house."

Other "major commitments" include:

Use spray foam insulation. Give that old pink stuff the heave-ho. "An alternative to traditional fiberglass and cellulose insulation, spray foam traps more conditioned air within the home, allowing for significantly less leakage and consequently, reduced energy use year round," said CBS. "Containing rapidly renewable material, spray foam insulation does not produce harmful emissions and is also water and shrink proof, which translates into zero framing distortion over time -- a hugenbsp;constructionnbsp;plus. A study done on side-by-side homes, one with traditional insuation, and one with spray foam, "found that the use of spray foam to create an unvented attic Home CP2a lowers the HERS the industry standard by which a homes energy efficiency is measured score from 84 to 79, and results in a net annual energy savings of 16. When spray foam is used to provide an unvented attic and insulate the exterior walls Home CP3a, the HERS score is reduced from 84 to 78, and the annual energy savings increases to 22."

If youre building from scratch, consider the material. You already know that bamboo is a top choice because it is renewable. But have you thought about recycled steel? "Two out of every three tons of new steel are recycled fromnbsp;oldnbsp;steel, making it the most recycled material on the planet," said CBS. "According to thenbsp;Steel Recycling Institute, steel also uses lessnbsp;energynbsp;and emits fewer harmful CO2 emissions than many other building materials, making it an optimum green choice. You also cant beat steel for durability."

Choose sustainably harvested materials. You can get a natural wood look without the guilt by looking for eco-friendly options. "Put in formaldehyde-free cabinetry to avoid >


tesla.com

Go solar. Forget those ugly solar panels. Elon Musk and Tesla are in the process of upending the roofing industry with their Solar Roof glass tiles, which are "offered innbsp;four >

Reclaim your water. Water reclamation is an easy enough undertaking that it could go in the medium category above. But, for many, people, the idea of recycling water is slightly traumatizing, so its going here instead. The thing is, you dont have to recycle all the water in the home to reap the benefits from an eco-friendly perspective. If the idea of blackwater, which includes wastewater from toilets as well as dishwashers and garbage disposals,gives you the shivers, youre not alone. Companies are busy working on black water recycling systems, but, for now, you only need to concentrate on gray water, "which is tap water soiled by use in washing machines, tubs, showers and bathroom sinks," said How Stuff Works. "Gray water reclamation is the process by which households make use of gray waters potential instead of simply piping it into overburdened sewage systems with all the black water.

The advantages of gray water reclamation for your wallet include lower water and sewage bills. Additionally, reusing gray waters otherwise wasted nutrients from soap nitrogennbsp;and phosphorousnbsp;and food potassium can sustain plant life and recharge topsoil."nbsp;


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The Top-Three Considerations When Starting a Home-Based Business

If yoursquo;re considering starting a home-based business, youre in good company. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of all businesses are run out of the ownerrsquo;s home.

If yoursquo;ve already weighed the pros flexible life>

1. Setting Up Your Workspace

Setting up your home office is priority No. 1 for your home-based business. Without a doubt, having a dedicated office space equipped with everything you need to run your company efficiently and professionally will be key to your success.

Now, you donrsquo;t have to necessarily create a new office, but rather a workspace thats set up solely for business purposes, a setting where you feel comfortable working mdash; and thats >

Keep in mind you can deduct any expenses >

  • Office supplies. Setting up a home business from scratch can be a daunting task, and you dont want to spend several days or weeks buying supplies you didnt realize you would need. No one wants to bite more than they can chew, so visit the home office of a colleague or friend and make a list of supplies they use. Your best bet is to stock up on supplies like envelopes and stamps, printer paper, pens and file folders.
  • Appropriate technology. At a minimum, yoursquo;ll need a laptop or desktop computer for you and any employees as well as a printer/scanner and high-speed Internet connection. Think about other devices and software that would make your workday easier. This might include a headset and video camera for video conferencing or project management software to keep you and any employees or contractors on track.
  • Phone system. If you have customers or vendors who need to reach you by phone, you should invest in an office-only phone system. Consider the nature of your business and volume of incoming calls you expect. For many small businesses, investing in an interactive voice response system, which allows you to create automated prompts to more easily field customer calls and route calls to different departments, will save you time and money, while increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Backup plans. At some point, something will go wrong in your office mdash; your Internet or phone connection will go down or your computer will crash mdash; and youll need to have a contingency plan in place. Do you know of a nearby co-working space? Is your work backed up in cloud-based storage? Do you have a local IT professional on speed-dial? Think through the worst-case scenarios and plan how to keep your business running smoothly.
  • 2. Establishing Sound Budgeting Principles

    Developing a realistic budget for starting and running your home-based business is essential to its success. While youll no doubt save money on renting office space, youre still bound to incur a wealth of one-time and recurring expenses.

    With that in mind, research how much money yoursquo;ll need to set up your home office, market your business, secure licenses and permits, and pay any employees or contractors. Find accounting software you feel comfortable using. For small businesses, Business News Daily recommends QuickBooks Online and Zoho Books.

    3. Developing a Proper Marketing Strategy

    One of the biggest challenges for home-based businesses is marketing a product or service. This is one area where you dont want to cut corners, especially if you have plans for growth. By working from your home, yoursquo;ll need to work harder to market yourself as a professional and reputable business.

    At minimum, yoursquo;ll need a website, cohesive social media presence and professional business collateral business cards, brochures, fliers to get your name out there. Ideally, yoursquo;ll work with a marketing expert to create a comprehensive marketing plan mdash; an expense that will pay big dividends down the road.


    Full Story >


    Enforcing Long Unenforced Rules In Your HOA

    It may come as little surprise that quite a few homeowner association boards fail miserably in rule enforcement, especially in self managed HOAs. Lets face it, confrontation with neighbors is not something most people look forward to. So when certain members play fast and loose with the rules, these boards turn a blind eye or run for cover. If this failure to enforce goes long enough, a reform group often appears to run for election and make a change. Once elected, Big Questions arise like "How do we go about enforcing long unenforced rules?" and "How aggressive should we get?" Good questions.

    All rules are not created equal. Some are much more important than others. The board should focus on those that degrade curb appeal, market values and livability. In the case of planned communities, for example, a homeowners failure to maintain his roofing, paint, fences and landscaping has a direct impact on the market values of neighboring properties. So, issues that impact curb appeal and market value should be a high priority.

    Livability issues are important as well. Does the HOA have a problem with, say, uncontrolled pets or loud and rowdy residents? While the police are the answer to extreme behaviors, the HOA can control the less extreme through warnings, and if necessary, fines.

    To get a handle on the scope of rule issues, the board should make a list of violations by type and address and then prioritize by blatancy. While all violations should be addressed, focus attention on the big ones with a goal of getting compliance or compromise on all within a reasonable period of time.

    To establish the boards position and intent, a written notification should be sent to all members. Heres a suggested format which can be adapted to your use:

    Dear Members of Nottacare Condominium,

    The board of directors discussed Nottacare rules compliance at the last board meeting. In particular, there has been ongoing issues with parking, pets and architectural design issues. In years past, prior to the current board taking office, rule enforcement has been inconsistent. The board is charged with and given authority in the governing documents to enforce rules, regulations and policies for the benefit of all Nottacare members. These rules, regulations and policies are design to enhance the livability of Nottacare and help sustain all member home values.

    To that end, please be advised that the board will begin regular and consistent enforcement of rules, regulations and policies effective date. Written violation notices will be directed to the violator or landlord if the violation was done by a renter, a description of violation, the corrective action required, the penalty for failure to comply and a right of appeal.

    Deadlines for compliance are based on the type of violation. The deadline may be immediate as in the case of illegal parking or days as in the case of correcting an Architectural violation. See a copy of the rules, regulations and policies attached for the specifics.

    The board appreciates your understanding and attention to this matter. Our goal is to facilitate the best possible living conditions for all Nottacare residents by establishing reasonable standards. Your cooperation in this matter is appreciated. Please dont hesitate to direct your written comments and questions to email address or mail address. All feedback will be reviewed by and responded to by the board within 30 days. We also invite you to attend the next board meeting time on date at location to express your views on this communication.

    Since>I.M. Incharge
    Board President - Nottacare Condominium

    Rules in homeowner associations should be few and necessary. When reviving rule enforcement, focus on the ones that truly make a positive impact on value and livability. Treat your members with respect and understanding. Be prepared for compromise if its in the best interest of the HOA. Rule on

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to http://www.Regenesis.net
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    Tenants Rights During a Foreclosure

    Question: My wife and I and our two teen-age children have rented a nice house near the high-school for many years. We have >

    Answer: Pete, this unfortunately has become a common problem in the past few years. There is always the possibility that you will be asked to leave, but there are some things you should do -- and do immediately.

    You received a letter from the lenders attorney advising you about the pending foreclosure. You should call that lawyer, and ask several questions:

    1. when and where will the foreclosure sale take place?

    2. can you start making your rent payments to the lender, or putting it in escrow? I suspect your landlord has been collecting your monthly rent, but not paying the mortgage with those funds.

    3. if the lender purchases the property at the foreclosure sale, will they allow you to stay in the property? If so, for how long? At a foreclosure sale, it often happens that no one will purchase the property. Thus, the lender actually buys back the property and will own it. However, most lenders do not want to be in the real estate ownership business and will want to get rid of the property as soon as possible.

    Additionally, are you interested in purchasing the property? At foreclosure sales, it is possible to get a good deal if you are the successful bidder. However, before you go down this path, talk with your own attorney. You want to have a title search performed -- before the sale takes place. You want to know all about foreclosure sales, and what your rights and obligations will be. Too many people mistakenly believe they can get a super deal by buying properties at foreclosure sales. This "aint necessarily so".

    Finally, you should find out what your state law provides in these circumstances. In some jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia, if a lender forecloses on property, the owner must vacate the property. However, tenants have or may have stronger rights, and will be permitted to stay in the property for a period of time. Additionally, in most states in the United States, a tenant just cannot be thrown out on the street without a Court Order. This means that the new landlord -- the successful purchaser at the foreclosure sale -- will have to go to Court to seek an eviction Order. This will give you some more time before you have to move.

    As an ounce of precaution, however, you may want to start looking for another rental property. And I do not recommend you pay any more rent to your landlord. You should put your rent in escrow with your attorney. I strongly suspect that if your landlord is having financial problems, you probably will not get your security deposit back when you vacate. Thus, you want to protect yourself as soon as possible.

    Question: Regarding your column on deed in lieu being faster than a foreclosure in the case of a reverse mortgage. You dodged the implied issue of the owner no longer wanting to handle the cost of ownership for a property that is "underwater" while not opining on the moral implications of defaulting and walking away. I can assure you from my observation of the last financial crisis that the bank is in no rush to assume ownership and the >

    Answer: Howard, point well taken. You are absolutely correct that banks are not in a hurry to take over any property -- especially those under water. Yes, I did dodge the moral and ethical implications of just walking away.

    I know it happens all the time; we read about "zombie houses" all over the country. Many states are now enacting legislation putting the requirement on lenders to maintain those properties where the owner has just locked the door and walked away. In fact, in many cases, they dont even lock the door.

    I cannot recommend anyone to walk way. My concern has nothing to do with the lenders; I have no compassion for lenders that refuse to foreclose on a timely basis. My concern is for the neighborhood and the neighbors who are faced with decaying homes next door, grass not being cut, vagrants camping out, etc, etc. One neglected home in a community drags down the property values of surrounding homes, and unfortunately a downward spiral occurs.

    nbsp;


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    Real Estate Professional Dertrez Pressley Makes Third Generous Donation on Behalf of His Client with the Agent with Heart Program

    Las Vegas, NV June 20th, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dertrez Pressley of Simply Vegas Real Estate in Las Vegas, Nevada recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the Beyond the Dream Foundation on behalf of his client, Adrienne Richmond.

    "This is Dertrezs third donation with our Agent with Heart Program and we are very grateful for his impeccable kindness and generous spirit," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Our program was created to help assist nonprofits within the community by connecting them with local realtors and their clients, and Dertrez is a shining of example of our goal at work," continues Mr. Giaimo.

    "We look forward to seeing how Dertrezs generosity will continue to assist his community, and thank him for being a partner in our Agent with Heart Program," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dertrez Pressley who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Dertrez Pressley, please call 702-963-6424.
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    When Is A Listing Commission Earned?

    Of course, different listing contracts may contain unique or unusual conditions, but, for many years in many parts of the country, listing agreements have held that a commission had been earned if a buyer was procured who made an offer that matched the price and terms specified in the listing agreement, or on other price and terms the seller might find acceptable. A completed transaction was not a required condition for a commission to have been earned.

    But a 2012 California Appellate Court ruling RealPro, Inc. v. Smith Residual Company, Fourth Appellate District Court changed that understanding in the Golden State. In the RealPro situation, a buyer had made a full-price, per the listing, 17 million offer on terms that the seller found acceptable. However, the seller then increased the listing price to 19.5 million. The buyer declined the price increase; but, subsequently, the buyers broker, as a third-party beneficiary, sued for his commission.

    The trial court focused on the portion of the listing that set forth price and terms, which said "17,000,000 cash or such other price and terms acceptable to Sellers..." The courts view was that it would be a mistake to say that the listing was for 17 million. Rather, it "was for 17 million cash or such other price, plus terms acceptable to Sellers."

    The Appellate Court said, "we, like the trial court, conclude that the 17 million price was me>

    You cant fight them; so you might as well join them. The California Association of Realtors CAR changed its Residential Listing Agreement RLA the next year. It currently reads that a commission is due if anyone "hellip;procures a ready, willing, and able buyers whose offer to purchase the Property on any price and terms is accepted by Seller, provided the Buyer completes the transaction or is prevented from doing so by the Seller." [my emphasis]

    But wait Now a different California Appellate Court has come forth with an opinion Carol Gilbert, Inc. v. City of San Francisco Ellis-OFar>

    Carol Gilbert, Inc. CGI entered into a listing agreement with Ellis Parking to find a tenant for restaurant space in a parking garage that has retail space on the ground floor. The City of San Francisco owns the building and Ellis Parking has a master lease. The listing agreement said that "If a lease is entered into during the Term of this Agreement, or any extensions hereof, [Ellis Parking] will pay [CGI] a sum based on [a complex schedule in the agreement]... When Commission Due: Commissions shall be deemed one half due and payable upon the later Lease Execution or Removal of Contingencies, and one half on the earlier of Tenants Opening for Business or Commencement of Rent..."

    CGI procured an offer on behalf of Loris Diner, and in October of 2012, Ellis Parking signed a lease agreement with Loris Diner for a twenty-year sublease of the space. The sublease contained language saying that it was subject to the master lease which, among other things, required that the city of San Francisco would not unreasonably withhold consent.

    Whether reasonable or not, the city did withhold consent. Instead it renewed a lease with the existing tenant. Ellis parking declined to pay CGI any commission, so CGI sued for breach of contract. The frac12; commission owed, by the way, was 245,717.38

    The trial court held that "Because there was nothing in the Exclusive Listing and Sale Agreement which mentioned or referenced the Citys approval as being a contingency that needed to be removed in order for CGI to receive the commission, [CGI] is entitled to one half the commission."

    The Appellate Court agreed. Quoting an earlier case, they wrote "The brokers right to compensation lsquo;must be found within the four corners of the listing agreement, which will be lsquo;strictly enforced according to the lawful terms." The court acknowledged that, of course, some condition or contingency could limit or void the brokers right to a commission. But such language would have to be clearly stated within the listing agreement. In this case, it was not.

    The court wrote, "The only condition precedent to CGIs right to a commission under the listing agreement was that a lease be lsquo;entered into. A lease was lsquo;entered into when Ellis Parking and Loris Diner signed the sublease..."

    This case, and much of the reasoning in the opinion, could lend weight to the idea that maybe the "old way" -- in which a sale did not have to be completed for a commission to be earned -- could be revived. Right now, though, that would be premature. CGI v. Ellis Parking has not been published, and cannot be cited as law. That would have to be changed. There is a time period during which the court can be asked to publish its opinion. You can bet that there are interested parties working on such requests.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .


    Full Story >


    Are You Prepared for Coaching Success?

    Two demanding forces may be holding real estate professionals back by creating gaps that need attention:

    • If you invest most of each day concentrating on what your clients want, need, and aim to achieve, you can shortchange yourself by overlooking these same gaps in your own lifemdash;professionally and personally.
    • Technology enables you to pack more and more into a day, but this does not automatically make you more productive or successful. Professionals now >the desired charge to productivity and thinking.

    Interactionmdash;the correct human interactionmdash;can be a phenomenal accelerator to overcome the above two challenges. In this column, were explored many ways that professional communication is a "brain-to-brain dynamic" that can clarify thinking, enrich engagement, and enhance productivity. With coaching, your brain is in for a leap forward that it may not achieve alone. The coaching brain belongs to an experienced and highly-trained professional communicatormdash;a coach not to be confused with traditional sales trainers.

    Growing numbers of professionals in many industries >Thats where the right coach comes in.

    Todays professional coaches are intent on advancing their profession and the skills they bring to client engagements, as coaching sessions are called. Coaching industry events like the World Business and Executive Coaches Summit WBECS, which provides high-quality educational programming for its more than 20,000 attendees, is the largest online coaching event and community. Local chapters of coaching organizations are a good place to begin your search for the right coaching match.

    Are You Prepared For A Successful Coaching Experience?

    If you hire a coach or are considering this step, you know that the right match will help you charge ahead. One of the most overlooked aspects of hiring a coach is first deciding what you will contribute to ensure a successful coaching experience.

    Coaches are trained to help their clients overcome obstacles and roadblocks. However, clients can save themselves a lot of wasted time by committing to overcome three bad habits that do neither the coach or themselves any good:

    1. Not doing the learning exercises or "homework"

    Experiential learning, or completing seemingly-simple exercises to reveal the complexity behind ending negative behavior and embracing positive reactions, is essential to coaching. Talking is not enough. Coaches help clients find practical ways to incorporate these exercises into a packed schedule, but ultimately progress is ruled by client intent.

    2. Not listening to and absorbing the importance of coaching questions

    This shortcoming arises from the misconception that the coach is responsible for making the difference. In fact, the coach is trained to help the clientmdash;thats youmdash;take responsibility for making the difference. Coaches hone questions to address specific client needs, gaps in understanding, and goals. Thinking about what each question evokes is as important as honestly answering it.

    3. Not valuing what the coach does because you do not understand the significance of each thing the coach does to help you

    • During a recent WBECS webinar, Dr. Brian Underhill of Coach Source reviewed methods for client measurement of the effectiveness of coaching sessions. His research revealed that executive and CEO clients often subjectively undervalued coaches in clear contrast to measured return-on-investment coaching results. Underhill attributed this difference to executive coaching clients not completely understanding the coachs skills and impact because coaching finesse is not specifically pointed out to clients by coaches. Much the way, buyers and sellers undervalue real estate and > Make the effort to understand why your coach asks you specific questions, selects details to share, and provides specific exercises, and youll enhance resulting benefits and outcomes many fold.
    • In a different WBECS webinar, Senior Executive Coach Mark C. Thompson, quoting another well-known coach, explained that there is "deep frustration in getting our clients to really embrace what we have to offer." To illustrate coach frustration, he repeated familiar laments "Why wont they listen to us and our questions?" and "Why wont they pay attention in a way that could really benefit them?" Any of this sound familiar?

    Thompsons WBECS webinar dealt with "Super Powers of Highest-Paid Coaches." He explained that this title referred to the reactions of executive- coaching clients from The Incredibles-creator Pixar. They described the best coaches as "quick to serve, fast to adapt, drivers of change... like superheros."

    Thompson, known for his actionable, practical coaching on business essentials from leadership to sales growth, dissected one super power he called FUEL, as in "FUEL the power to deliver results," to demonstrate how subtle and effective coaching communication techniques can be. Heres a summary of his FUEL acronym points, which, with respect and in the spirit of our shared economy, I have extrapolated so real estate professionals can >

  • FOCUS mdash; Focus on what matters most to clients. Focus on a few things with the highest impact instead of trying to do it all at once.
  • URGENCY CARING mdash; Urgency about the clients priorities is essential. The context that dictates client priorities is the one that coaches must respond to first.
  • ENGAGEMENT mdash; Helping the client engage in terms of managing "up and down" with those who matter to the client. That is, assist the client to >LENGTH of time mdash; Think longer term from the first moment to create sustainable context for the client-coach >

    Real estate and >For more on coaching, WBECS, and
    Full Story >


    7 Top Design Tips for a Small Backyard

    Long to be a land baron, with acres of lush grounds to create the ultimate outdoor paradise? That may be a dream for another time. For now, a smaller space is your reality, but that doesnt mean it cant be amazing. These 7 tricks will help your small yard live large.

    Dont be scared of trees

    While a towering live oak may not be the right choice for your smaller yard, you dont have to give up on trees altogether just because you dont have acreage. Japanese maple and ornamental crabapple are just a few great options that will bring some color to your outdoor space. Our favorite: the crape myrtle, which maintains a manageable size and, "Its hard to beat the showy summer flowers, beautiful bark, and brilliant fall color," said Sunset.

    Consider the scale

    That patio set at Costco might be great deal, but how are that huge glass-topped table and eight rocker chairs going to look on your mini deck? There are plenty of options for small-space patio sets, and if youre looking to create an outdoor living room, building in the seating in this yard creates a welcoming seating area and keeps the rest of the space open.


    lushhome

    Go diagonal

    Finding the right hardscape material is only the beginning. How you lay it can make a big difference in the overall impact in your yard. "Creating a view along the diagonal of the property creates the illusion that the space is bigger than it looks," said HGTV. "Here, the diagonal path with steps traces a zigzag line through the garden, providing areas to linger and enjoy the wide beds and colorful plantings."

    HGTV

    Go vertical

    Vertical gardens have been one of the top trends for outdoor spaces for a few years and are perfect for smaller spaces or yards where the floor space is limited. There are all kinds of fun planters you can use for a mix of greenery and flowers, or choose a climbing variety. "Liven up a plain patio wall with a sun-seeking climber, like bougainvillea," said Good Housekeeping. "A simple stake in the dirt is all the t>


    giardinaggio.com

    Divide it up

    You may think that the less you place in the yard, the larger it will seem. But think about how a house looks with no furniture; that emptiness doesnt always translate to roominess. Placing things randomly throughout the yard might not create the feel you want, so think strategically. "It may seem counterintuitive, but by dividing your yard into zones using garden beds and landscaping, you actually give the illusion of space," said Aussie Green Thumb. "Consider creating areas that are essentially a series of rooms, such as an outdoor paved area, a lawn section and then gardens of varying heights. This means when you look at the yard from any angle, you dont know what is around the corner and it could go on forever. Its about creating mystery and allure."

    Play with varying heights throughout

    The gardens are a great place to start, but you dont have to stop there. This multi-level deck creates so much interest that the size of the space becomes an afterthought.

    Create a container garden

    Container gardening makes even the smallest outdoor space game for some greenery. "No space? No problem You can grow flowers, herbs, and even vegetables in pots," said Rodales Organic Life. "Container gardening is ideal for those with little or no garden space. In addition to growing flowers, gardeners limited to a balcony,nbsp;small yard, or only a patch of sun on their driveway can produce a wide variety of vegetable crops in containers containers.nbsp;Basil,nbsp;chives,nbsp;thyme, and othernbsp;herbsnbsp;also are quite happy growing in pots, which can be set in a convenient spot right outside the kitchen door."


    seasonalcolorpots.com

    Full Story >


    What To Expect When Visiting Chip And Joanna Gaines Magnolia Market

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

    Bring your patience

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

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

    Bring your wallet

    If youre a fan of Chip and Joannas French country >


    magnoliamarket.com

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


    littlevintagenest.com

    Bring your appetite, too

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


    texashighways.com

    Its ok to bring the kids

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

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

    Check the calendar ahead of time

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

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

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


    hgtv.com

    Stay in a Fixer Upper House

    The Harps home that was fixed up on the show is right next door to their shop, and is now available for rent through Airbnb - and its not the only one. The historic Magnolia House is also on Airbnb, although its so popular, even at 695 a night, that its booked through 2017. Do a search for "Fixer Upper Airbnb" for more options.

    Get there in >

    While parking is easy and free at Magnolia, you can add to the fun especially for the kids by taking the Silos District Trolley, which runs runs every 15ndash;20nbsp;minutes throughout the day and will stop anywhere along the route so you can hop on or off to browse the downtown area.

    Document your trip

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


    Full Story >


    9 Dishwasher Placement Solutions for Your New Kitchen

    Although every kitchen layout is different, there are >

  • Place it next to the sink. As a kitchen designer, I usually recommend that a dishwasher be positioned next to the sink. There are two reasons for this: The first is that it will make plumbing much easier and less costly, and the second is behavioral. People generally use a "scrape, rinse, load" method to load their dishwasher. This involves scraping leftovers from dishes into the trash located to one side of, or under, your sink, then giving dishes a quick rinse before loading them into the dishwasher. Consequently, the best placement is on the opposite side of the sink from the scraping area.

    There are many dishwashers on the market that dont require dishes to be rinsed before theyre loaded.

    Choose a side. If you decide to position your dishwasher next to your sink, the next consideration should be whether to put it on the left or right. There is no correct answer; a right-handed person typically will hold a dish in the left hand and use the right hand to scrape or wash the dish, therefore making it easier to load dishes into a dishwasher positioned to the left of the sink. The opposite applies to a left-handed person.

    Photo by Carnells Design - More modern kitchen photos

    Having said that, people are often creatures of habit, so I sometimes find clients prefer to put the dishwasher on the same side of the sink that it was on in their old kitchen, regardless of whether they are left- or right-handed. The overall layout of the rest of the kitchen and the location of other appliances is also important to consider, so try not to become wedded to left or right at the expense of creating a poor layout in other respects.

    Photo by Designs Australia - Browse contemporary kitchen photos

    Ensure the dishwasher is close to drawers. Always make sure the drawers or cabinets where flatware, glasses and dishes are stored are close to your dishwasher. This kind of functionality and practicality is essential to any kitchen design. The location of all kitchen appliances in >

    Note the distance to nearby cabinets. Aim to have a maximum of one steps distance between your dishwasher and the storage areas where you are placing dishes and utensils. Your dishwasher can be adjacent to these cabinets and drawers or opposite them; it doesnt matter as long as you dont need to move far between them.

    Check movability within your space. Freedom of movement is an important consideration when designing a layout. This is especially >

    Photo by Art of Kitchens Pty Ltd - Search contemporary kitchen pictures

    When planning your kitchen, visualize yourself carrying out daily tasks such as loading and unloading your dishwasher. Try not to position your dishwasher in a location that will block off a main walkway when its open. It is also important to consider the location of other appliances, such as a cooktop, in >

    Having appliance or cabinet doors clash when they are opened is often unavoidable, particularly in an L- or U-shaped kitchen. However, its worth ensuring that your dish, cutlery and glassware drawers and doors can be fully opened at the same time as your dishwasher door is open to make unloading easy.

    If your dishwasher is beneath an island counter. In a kitchen with an island, you will probably find the island becomes the spot where dirty dishes are dropped as they are cleared away from outdoor entertaining areas, the dining table or the breakfast bar.

    Photo by Kitchen Capital WA - Look for traditional kitchen design inspiration

    For this reason, locating your dishwasher here is a good idea. Dishes can be quickly cleared from the island countertop, rinsed in the sink if preferred and then loaded into the dishwasher without having to move to another area of the kitchen.

    However, it may not always be possible to locate a dishwasher in the center of a room due to plumbing restrictions, particularly if a home is built on a concrete slab. It is worth speaking with your designer and plumber about this at the planning stage because it may be prohibitively expensive.

    Photo by ANA Building Group - Search contemporary kitchen design ideas

    Consider integrating your dishwasher. If you have an open-plan kitchen, you may want to think about concealing your dishwasher, particularly if it could be visible from your living area. In this instance, consider an integrated dishwasher - that is, one specially designed to sit behind a panel that matches the rest of your kitchen cabinetry.

    There are two main types of integrated dishwashers. One is a semi-integrated, as pictured here, where just the top control panel is visible, with the lower part covered by a cabinetry panel.

    The other option is a fully integrated dishwasher, as pictured here, giving the illusion that a cabinet or bank of drawers lies behind the cabinet front. In this case, the controls of the dishwasher are located along the top edge of the door and are only visible when its open.

    Or hide it away in a walk-in pantry. Walk-in and butlers, or working, pantries are becoming more popular in kitchens, particularly in new homes. As a kitchen designer, I get regular requests from clients that their dishwasher and a second sink be located in their pantry. This is so that all dirty dishes can be taken straight there after a meal, and all large pots and pans can be washed there, leaving the main kitchen neat and tidy and the sink empty to rinse glasses or wash hands.

    Photo by kitchens by peter gill - More contemporary kitchen ideas

    Busy families and larger households might consider having two dishwashers, one in the kitchen for everyday use, and one in the butlers pantry for extra dishes or on those occasions when guests come over.

    Think about elevating it. If you dislike bending down to load and unload your dishwasher, this may be the solution for you. Building your dishwasher into a taller cabinet mdash; similar to how you would with an eye-level oven mdash; will be easier on your back.

    Photo by Seacute;verine Kalensky Architecte d Inteacute;rieur - Discover modern kitchen design ideas

    Incorporate a drawer that can be used to store anything from dishwasher tablets to plates or chopping boards below the dishwasher, to make use of the extra space. You can finish the height of the cabinet at the top of the dishwasher or continue it to a higher level with additional storage mdash; or even a microwave space mdash; above the dishwasher. Ensure that the dishwasher is installed correctly and fixed into place to avoid any movement.

    Also See:


    Full Story >


    5 Tips to Clean and Prepare Your Air Conditioner for Summer

    Making it through the summer without a working air conditioning system isnt feasible in some parts of the country. Even if you live in a temperate climate, your AC system will make you and your family much more comfortable at home.

    So before the weather really gets hot, take the time to clean and prepare your air conditioner. Use these 5 tips for getting your air conditioner ready for its busy season.

    1. Perform a Visual Inspection

    As a homeowner, you wont know everything there is to know about your air conditioning system. That doesnt mean you cant spot something thats obviously wrong or out of place.

    Before summer begins, take the time to visually inspect your outdoor air conditioning unit. Look for signs of physical damage to the unit that may have occurred during the winter months like missing or poorly aligned panels. If the panel that covers the electrical system is out of place this is a fix that you should leave to the pros for safety reasons.

    You should also take the time to check that your refrigerant lines have proper insulation that hasnt been damaged over the winter.

    2. Check Your Electrical

    Before you turn your air conditioner on you should inspect any power and electrical cords around your outdoor unit. If these are frayed or damaged, getting a service professional to make the necessary repairs is essential.

    Youll also want to check your circuit breaker to make sure the proper electrical connections are powered on. Breakers may have flipped during the winter without you knowing it.

    3. Clear Debris

    Its common to find debris covering your outdoor air conditioning units housing and around the condenser coil that makes the unit work. Using a cover for your air conditioner in the fall and winter can help with this in the future, but if debris is a concern now, it should be cleared before you turn the unit on.

    Removing debris is a simple job - just avoid damaging your unit with gardening tools like rakes and shovels. Heavy gloves are your best bet for clearing debris around your condenser coil.

    4. Change Your Air Filter

    Changing the air filter that makes sure you get clean air inside your home might seem obvious, but many people forget to do it around this time of year. Even if your air filter hasnt been in use for the allotted time recommended by the manufacturer, a change is a smart idea between seasons.

    If there are any issues with your air conditioning unit that youre not aware of a dirty air filter will only exacerbate the problem.

    5. Call the Professionals

    Taking the time to clean and prepare your air conditioner on your own is a wise move, but not every problem is one that can be spotted by the average homeowner. Even if youre diligent in your efforts, youre not a professional who deals with air conditioner systems every single day.

    When the seasons change, getting a quick inspection from a professional service provider you trust is a wise choice. They can provide a deeper inspection and let you know if there are any concerns with your air conditioning unit. Your air conditioner might also get a clean bill of health, giving you a little peace of mind for the summer season.

    Following these tips to get your air conditioner ready for use. Basic maintenance tasks shouldnt take you more than a few hours and performing them could save you hundereds in repairs.

    References:

    How to Prep Your A/C for Spring and Summer

    Clean Your Air Conditioner Condenser Unit

    11 Steps to Follow Before You Turn On Your AC

    5 Secrets for Getting Your A/C Ready for Summer
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    Real Estate Professional Jason Isley Makes His Agent with Heart Donation Debut with Two Very Generous Donations on Behalf of His Clients

    Las Vegas, NV June 14th, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Jason Isley of Seven Gables Real Estate in Tustin, California recently closed two transactions and made special donations to the Assistance League of Santa Ana on behalf of his clients, Jane Martinez, Judy Fine and Steve Tancredi.

    "This is Jasons first set of donations with the Agent with Heart Program and we couldnt be more grateful for his generosity," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program was created with the goal of assisting in the growth of local communities nation-wide by connecting local realtors to nonprofits within the community.

    "As members of the Assistance League of Santa Ana themselves, Jasons clients chose their organization because it is one that is clearly near to their hearts. Knowing that our program is helping to grow theirs thanks to Jasons incredibly generous donations brings a smile to all of our faces here at PinRaise. Jasons dedication to giving back to his community is inspiring to all of us, and we look forward to seeing how he will further impact his community, and the communities of his clients, in the future," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit http://www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Jason Isley, please call 714-478-6750 or visit his website at www.JasonIsley.com.


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    The Dos And Donts Of Tapping Your Rising Home Equity

    If you bought a home recently, it may already have increased in value. Equity growth goes hand-in-hand with pride of ownership and fun stuff like tax breaks when it comes to homebuyer goals, so say a big, "Yay"

    "Nearly 91,000 homeowners regained equity in the first quarter of 2017, according to real estate data firm Co>But, before you go making plans for all that equity, either by doing a cash-out refinance if possible and prudent or getting a home equity loan, take a pause. That money may be best left right where it is. If you still want to tap that equity, here are some of best - and worst - ways to use it.

    Home renovations

    When your home has equity, it can be tempting to use it for home renovations, which, presumably, will further raise your home value - or at least make your home prettier or more functional. Knowing which renovations pay you back is key to making smart choices. Review Remodeling magazines Cost vs. Value Report, which "compares average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets." You can then take your research further, viewing data for your regional area. This will help you decide if that 50,000 kitchen is a good investment, or if that attic renovation you were considering will be a bust from an ROI standpoint.


    HGTV

    A new car

    That fancy new car is calling your name, right? Does it make sense to use some of your home equity to finance or buy it outright? Ask yourself this: Is this a car you cant afford without using your home equity? Can you afford to pay the difference in your current monthly payment and what will be your new payment - plus the monthly cost of the car?

    "During the housing bubble, consumers used home equity borrowing to pay for everything from boats and gambling junkets clearly bad to cars and kitchen renovations not so bad, said Interest.com. "The problems these homeowners experienced during the financial crisis and recession taught us that even some not so bad spending should be scratched from our list of acceptable uses. So, while we used to say that financing a car with a HELOC was OK, we no longer believe that. Besides,auto loansare now one of the few types of consumer loans that are cheaper than home equity loans or lines of credit."


    pinterest

    Additions

    Adding on to a home can be a great way to make it more livable, especially if the space is inadequate for your family. The Cost vs. Value Report can be useful here, too. You might be surprised to learn that a midrange bathroom addition typically only pays back an average of 53.9. But, if you bought an older home that only has one bathroom, adding another could have a much higher ROI that makes the addition worth it.

    When it comes to larger undertakings, "Studies show thatnearly all of the cost of a mid-range two-story addition may be recoveredat thetime of sale," said The Spruce. "The key here is may be recovered, as there is no predicting the real estate market years in advance. While this might seem like a no-brainer, it needs to be mentioned. More space means higherheating and cooling costs, more windows to wash and gutters to clean, increasedproperty taxes, and more house to clean. Even though additions offer the potential for higher cost-value ratios than other renovation projects, you still may not recover the full cost of the addition when you actually sell."

    Vacation

    That European cruise or trip to Machu Picchu sounds like a great idea, especially because youve got some cash to pay for it with the rising equity in your home. But consider this: You may be paying back the money you spend on that vacation long after you return home.


    nbpure.us

    "The first mistake is using your home equity line of credit to live above your means," said Fidelity. "That can be paying for a vacation, using it to support going out to eat, buying luxury goods, or more generally, spending what you dont have. This risk is very similar to the risk of running up too much credit card debt, except that making this mistake with your home equity line of credit affects more than just your credit rating: It puts your home at risk."

    More real estate

    Leveraging one property for another is a tricky proposition. Whether youre thinking about flipping a house for the first time or already have some experience under your belt, youll want to weigh the pros and cons - and costs - involved in buying and owning two properties.

    "Unlocking some of your homes value to pay for a second home has its advantages - but it has some big drawbacks too," Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com, told CNN Money. "Lenders tend to give more favorable terms to those who tap their homes equity to pay for a second home because they have more skin in the game. Buyers who take out a separate mortgage on a second home are more likely to stop making payments if they run into financial trouble and default. To offset the increased risk, banks charge higher rates and require larger down payments of these borrowers. The costs of borrowing, especially on home equity loans, can be lower as well, since these loans dont involve paying for title searches or insurance and other transactional costs of new mortgages."

    Now for the negatives: "By tapping your homes equityyoull be increasing your monthly mortgage payments and increasing the risk of losing your primary home to foreclosure.

    Also, by buying another home youre tying up a lot of your money into one type of asset. Youre putting a lot of eggs in the real estate basket."

    College

    With the cost of college continuing to rise and mortgage rates reaming near historic lows, homeowners are increasingly looking to their home equity to offset some of the costs of education. Heres why it may be a good idea: "With a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, the two biggest positives are that home equity loans may be cheaper than other loans, plus the interest paid on a home equity loan is tax deductible," said HSH.com. The most important downside: Youre using your home as collateral. And then theres this: "These loans dont typically offer flexibility during periods of financial hardship," they said. "But those who borrow with federal student loans can readily obtain loan deferments, forbearance, and sometimes even loan forgiveness."
    Full Story >


    The Homeowners Summer Maintenance Checklist

    New season. New tasks. As summer approaches, make sure your home is set with this home maintenance checklist.

    Inspect Your Air Conditioner

    As temperatures warm, yoursquo;ll want to stay cool. And in order to enjoy the benefits of cooled-air yoursquo;ll need to make sure that your air conditioner is running properly. Throughout the winter and spring months it is common for your air conditionerrsquo;s condensing coils to get filled up with dust, lint, grass clippings and other debris. This can impair the units function. If you have debris, itrsquo;s an easy fix. In most cases the debris can be cleared with a high-pressure spray down from a water house. Itrsquo;s also important to clear the area around your air conditioner unit. This means no overgrowing vines or shrubbery that can hamper its ability to operate.

    Clean Up Your Grill

    Thinking about hosting a few cookouts this season? Not before you clean the grill. If you donrsquo;t already have a grill cover, invest in one to keep it protected from the elements throughout the other seasons. Your first task includes scrubbing your grill grate with a wire brush. This should also be done every time you grill, but letrsquo;s face it, sometimes itrsquo;s overlooked. Next, remove and wash your burner protectors. These can be removed easily. Toss them in a soap-filled five-gallon bucket and get to scrubbing. After that, wipe up the grime from your burners and clean the plates underneath with a wire brush. The plates are also removable. Finally, remove the bottom tray that serves as a collect-all, give it a wash and put all of your pieces back in order. Then, yoursquo;ll be ready to throw some steaks on the fire.

    Check for Pests

    Many types of pests thrive in the summer months. Due to summer temperatures, which affects behavior and development of common pests, ample food sources and increased daylight, many house and yard pests thrive throughout these months. But homeowners can prevent pests. First, check moist areas around your home and yard, like the gutters, for example, as these moist areas are hotspots for pest activity. Take a hard look at your home and inspect the outside of your house for cracks, crevices and holes, as these can be used as access points for unwanted pests, large and small. While you may be able to treat and prevent a number of pests, some pests, including wildlife, require special removal. If you suspect an infestation it is wise to contact a specialist or professional, as these trained experts have the skills necessary to properly remove wildlife nuisances.

    Wash Your Windows

    Take advantage of the warm weather, get outside and wash the windows. Ideally, your homersquo;s windows should be washed twice per year. This task can be simplified and expedited with a squeegee. Instead of rubbing the dust and dirt around in a circular motion, opt for a strip applicator and use a solution of warm water and dishwashing soap. Next, wipe the window clean with a squeegee and clean up your window corners with a dry rag. For multi-pane windows you can customize a squeegee to fit the area by trimming it down with a hacksaw. Itrsquo;s a simple solution for clean, streak-free windows.


    Full Story >


    Losing Your Earnest Money
    Question: The contract I just signed to purchaser a house contained the following language: "If the buyer defaults, the earnest money will be forfeited to the seller. This is to be considered liquidated damages and not as a penalty". Can you please explain what this means? Beth.

    Answer: Shame on you, Beth, for signing a contract without fully understanding what it means. It could have required that your car and your current pension plans be given to the seller if you did not go to closing escrow. Just kidding, but stranger things have happened when people sign something they dont understand.

    In your case, should you not be able to finalize the deal, you will have to forfeit ie lose the earnest money you posted when you initially signed the sales contract. But the law is clear that if the amount you are forfeiting is not consistent with what the seller may have lost because you did not go to closing -- but instead is really a penalty -- the law will not allow you to lose your deposit.

    So lawyers put in the language you question about to protect the sellers.

    However, that does not mean you will lose your deposit, if you can prove that the money is disproportionate to the actual loss that your seller may face.

    Oversimplified, the damages will be accepted as "liquidated" if the seller cannot really anticipate what the losses will be should you default. Accordingly, it is typical for that language to appear in real estate contracts.

    So, for my buyer readers, try to post as little of a deposit as possible; and for my seller clients, try to get as large a deposit as possible.

    Hopefully, you will eventually split the difference. And of course, this is completely academic if the buyer closes the deal.

    Question: I am a teacher and I live in a co-op. I paid 200,000 cash for my apartment in 2003. In 2008, I took out a HELOC loan on my equity. I now owe 75, 000 on it. When I signed the papers, I was told that if I did not sell my home before principal and interest payment kick in March 2017 I would just need to apply for refinancing. I did that a few months ago while rates were low and everything was set within a week. My FICO score hovers at 800 and I only owe a monthly plan for a new air conditioner on which I pay more each month than the monthly requirement. At the last minute I was called by the bank to say "sorry, we no longer finance co-ops as we did when you got yours." My payment will go up about 450 for an grand total of 640 a month. As a teacher who has not had a raise in a long time, I can not afford this payment. I have never been late on any payment for anything and dont live beyond my means. I can not find an instance where my co-op had a problem with a bank. In checking around, I have not been able to find any local banks who finance co-ops, especially for such a low amount.

    Any suggestions? I do not want to sell my house and renting is astronomical. Kim.

    Answer: Dear Kim: Assuming your cooperative apartment did not dramatically go down in value since you bought it some 14 years ago, you clearly have considerable equity. I know that not every lender is prepared -- or even understands -- how cooperative funding works, but clearly there are lenders out there that can assist.

    First, is there a teachers credit union near you? From my experience, many credit unions will make you a loan based primarily on your credit standing. They need to take the ownership certificate often called "sha>Another source of lending is the National Cooperative Bank. Although its main office is in Arlington, Virginia, they make loans all over the United States. www.ncb.coop.

    Question: My husband and I plan to buy an investment property, and want to make sure our other assets are protected. What is the best way for us to take title? Emily.

    Answer: Dear Emily: as I just wrote to another reader, I cannot provide specific legal advice. However, in general, there are three ways in which title can be held.

    First, individually, in the names of you and your husband. That provides the least protection. Even if you have more than adequate insurance -- including umb>Next, you can take title in the name of a corporation. Talk with your financial advisors about this approach; from my experience, there is too much paper work and corporate filings required to make this a favorable option.

    Next, you can take title in the name of a limited liability company LLC. Although I dont normally make recommendations, this is what I generally suggest to my investor clients. The LLC provides the same protection as if it were a corporation but with less complications and less paperwork. Oversimplified, it is called a "pass through" entity; the LLC files an information tax return but the profits or losses are "passed through" and you include those numbers on your individual tax returns.

    Every project is different; review these alternative but discuss with your financial and legal advisors. And the recent tax proposals submitted to Congress by the President seem to favor "pass-through legal entities, as we all know, Congress has the final say.
    Full Story >


    Ask the HOA Expert: HOA Volunteers

    Question: Volunteers are an important part of HOA living. But how does a board deal with owners who are totally negative, derail attempts to reach agreement, disrupt meetings and yet want to serve on committees?

    Answer: HOAs are designed to work like a representative democracy. That means that the board is elected and given authority to make decisions. The fact that some members dont like how the board runs things is no surprise. Welcome to America. The board should respond to their challenges within reason but not waste time trying to placate them. That can be a full time job and waste of time considering they are ra>

    The board is under no obligation to appoint anyone that wants to serve to a committee. Committee appointments should make sense and the board typically wants members that will help, not hinder, the boards work. For more on this topic, see Regenesis.net in the Committees section.

    The board does not need to tolerate disruptions at meetings. Meetings should be structured so that members have a right to speak during a member forum but not otherwise unless the board president asks for their opinion. If they disrupt a board meeting, they should be asked to leave. If they refuse, the president should adjourn the meeting and refuse to admit them at future board meetings until they promise to behave. For more on this topic, see Regenesis.net in the Meetings section.

    If these folks are going door to door trying to stir discontent, the board should do periodic informational newsletters and flyers to set the record straight. There are some irritating aspects about free speech but truth is truth and lies are lies and most people can tell the difference. Take heart.

    Question: Our HOA recently established a reserve account which is earning interest income. The board doesnt want the HOA to pay tax on the interest income, so each owner was issued a Form 1099 for a portion of the interest income with instructions to report the interest on their individual returns. The actual interest remains in the reserve account in the HOAs name. Is this proper?

    Answer: If the reserve funds belong to the HOA usually the case, taxes on interest income cannot be passed through to individual members. The HOA is responsible for recognizing and paying the resulting tax.

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


    Designing Condos For Kids

    The idea that cities are no place to bring up children -- that somehow every kid should grow up on a farm or in a suburban home with a huge backyard -- has always been challenged by City of Toronto planners. More than 100 years ago, the city developed the Playground Movement to build inner-city playgrounds for children.

    By 2011, 30 per cent of families with children lived in mid and highrise buildings.

    But in recent years the explosion of condos hasnt been so friendly to children. From 2006 to 2015, more than 80 per cent of the new dwelling units in the city were in buildings higher than five storeys, but 50 to 70 per cent of them were bachelor or one-bedroom units. Many of the two- and three-bedroom units were considered too small for a family to live in.

    A City of Toronto staff report, which will go before City Council in July, says, "This trend towards highrise accommodation of housing need will continue. Given that 39 per cent of households in the City of Toronto include three or more people, it is important to ensure our future housing stock accommodates a variety of household types at different life stages."

    The city has developed a study, Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities that includes draft guidelines for developing highrise communities that are family friendly.

    "In vertical communities, planning for children is predicated on the understanding that the public realm and community amenities become extensions of the home," says the study. "Families >The study guidelines cover neighbourhoods, buildings and individual highrise units.

    "The guidelines reflect what we heard during the consultation process and recognize that in many cases families living in vertical communities >Developers should be encouraged to provide flexible and diverse retail space on the ground floor of buildings, along with "a sense of joy and playfulness by incorporating whimsy in public art, building design, streetscapes, street furniture and open space features."

    The study recommends that each building provide a minimum of 25 per cent of large units in buildings that have 20 units or more 15 per cent two bedrooms and 10 per cent three bedrooms and that these units be located in the lower portions of the building. Being on the lower floor reduces dependence on the elevator and provides easier access to the outdoors. It also could allow units to overlook outdoor playgrounds or public spaces to allow informal supervision, as well as "take advantage of deeper floor plates to provide wider common corridor space, enable layout flexibility and maximize unit size for laundry rooms, entrances and storage areas."

    Some current condo buildings reportedly dont allow strollers to enter via the front lobby -- they must come in the building through a service entrance.

    Buildings should also provide indoor and outdoor amenity spaces that are flexible and support a variety of activities and age groups, say the guidelines.

    A few Toronto condo buildings have already introduced day care spaces in their buildings, as well as amenities such as games and crafts rooms, indoor and outdoor playgrounds and splash pools.

    "While these projects do not meet the proposed Growing Up guidelines >Buildings should "become future-proof and allow for alterations, such as adding or removing partitions," says the study. The guidelines call for flexible building designs that use columns rather than shear walls and provide a 3m to 5m "demisable" partition near the corridor if shear walls are unavoidable. "Alternative construction systems are encouraged as they can easily be repurposed, such as wood-frame construction up to six storeys," say the guidelines.

    Hallways could be designed like indoor streets with natural light, encouraging people to stop and chat. Where possible, doorways to units should be staggered to maximize privacy and "indented within hallways to create more space, like a front porch."

    The guidelines say the ideal two-bedroom unit is 969 square feet and the ideal three bedroom is 1,140 square feet.

    "While overall unit sizes are recommended to ensure that a familys needs are met comfortably and efficiently, there is flexibility in how designers can arrange unit elements, resulting in a variety of unit sizes, depending on the layout and the efficiency of the connecting spaces such as corridors," says the study.

    "Appropriately sized bedrooms can adapt to various configurations and can comfortably accommodate two people."

    City staff recommend that the guidelines be considered when development proposals are evaluated and that feedback from a voluntary online survey of developers and architects will be evaluated. Modifications will be presented in 2018, with a goal of implementing the final guidelines for a two-year period starting in 2019.
    Full Story >




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    Updated: Sunday, June 25, 2017

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