Real Estate News


Updated: Sunday, November 18, 2018


Dos And Donts For Painting Your Bathroom Cabinets

Do: Get a paint sprayer: A paint sprayer will give you the cleanest, most professional look. You can buy a pretty basic unit for under 100, but for about the same cost, you can rent one for the day and get a much better version.

Dont: Fret if a paint sprayer isnt going to work out. A foam roller and brush can give you a pretty clean finish.

Do: Buy several of them in different sizes and shapes. Theyre cheap, so stocking up wont cost much, and having a variety will help you to easily get into corners, nooks, and crannies.

Dont: Use a crappy product. The last thing you want is to walk into your bathroom every day and scowl at the poorly done bathroom cabinets - kind of the way you do now. One of our favorite DIYers from The Turquoise Home found a great product that we cant wait to try: "Aces amazing Cabinet, Door and Trim Paint. You can brush it on and it will level and not leave any brush strokes"

Behr Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel is another favorite for painting bathroom cabinets. "It basically performs like an oil-based paint but without the horrible smell and difficult clean up," said Provident Home Design.

Do: Take the time to sand. Weve tried the lazy girls version of painting right over other paint and it just doesnt work out well. Admittedly, sanding is a terrible, tedious process, especially if you have detailed panels that require you to get into lots of little corners, but its well worth it in the end.

Dont: Sand inside. Take it outside and put a mask on while youre at it. The dust you kick up is unkind, especially if anyone in the house has asthma.

Do: Clean the surfaces thoroughly. Youll want to use a degreasing product like "trisodium phosphate TSP cleaner and a scrubbing pad or sponge to thoroughly wash all surfaces to be painted," said Lowes. "Then rinse at least twice with fresh water and a sponge." And after sanding, youll also want to make sure you vacuum up all the dust and wipe down all the surfaces thoroughly so you dont get little pieces stuck in the paint.

Dont: Leave the doors and hardware on when you paint. You cant easily get every part of the door if you dont take everything off, and the paint you inevitably get on the hardware will make it look like a DIY job.

Dont: Forget to number your cabinet doors so you know how to put them back on when youre done. This is not a fun thing to figure out after the fact.

Do: Label the hardware, too. See above.

Dont: Paint with your animals in the room. Just trust on this one.

Do: "Let the paint settle for a couple of minutes and then look back over it for paint pooled in the corners or drips underneath the edges," said The Turquoise Home. "The paint will still be wet enough to clean up those areas and will still level and dry flat.

Dont: Quit after one coat. Youll probably be dying to be done after one, but remember: A little more effort here goes a long way.

Do: Prep, prep, prep. Tape stuff. Use dropcloths. Make sure everything you dont want covered in paint is nicely protected, or youll be scraping paint off of it FOR LIFE.

Dont: Use flat paint. Because its not washable, it wont hold up as well as another finish.


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How To Choose The Right Vanity To Kick Off Your Bathroom Remodel

"Its not always the most glamorous part of a bathroom remodel, but choosing the right vanity can make or break your bathrooms design," said Houzz. "If its placed awkwardly in a traffic route, uses poor or mismatched materials, or doesnt have enough storage, the rest of your bathroom will suffer."

The right >

Choosing a vanity can speak volumes about your design aesthetic. Lean toward traditional >

Maybe you love antiques. Finding an old sideboard or dresser and fashioning it into a vanity can bring interest and distinction to the space. Just remember to treat the wood properly to keep water away.


HGTV

Modern lines have been the trend for several years, and there is no shortage of vanities that bring some panache to the bathroom.


ALL MODERN

The right size

Having dual sinks is generally preferred in bathrooms, except for powder roomsmdash;in this space, using a decorative vanity thats not dependent on extensive storage space can give this room a lift. But a tight space may make it difficult to accommodate two sinks and any semblance of counter space in a bathroom that needs to function for family.

As HGTV says, "Often its the size of the room that dictates the size of the vanity." If youre redoing a bathroom, you might want to ask your real estate agent if installing a small dual-sink vanity like this one from IKEA is a better option than a one-sink vanity with more counter space.

One of the newest trends is floating vanities, which can give a bathroom some modern flair while also functioning well in a smaller space. This wall-mounted option creates an airy feel because of the open space below.

Modern Bathroom by Palo Alto Architects amp; Building Designers Maydan Architects, Inc.

Sometimes a custom vanity is whats needed. Choose one with open space like this option to create a stylish look; you can increase the storage space with baskets.


Housely

The right material

Traditionally, vanities are made of some kind of wood or wood product, whether theyre painted, lacquered, or kept in their natural state. But they dont have to be.

They also dont need to be a traditional shape or >

This vanity reflects its abode in a unique way. "When New York design firm Carrier and Company converted an old dairy barn into a guest cottage for a client, they saw big possibilities in this soapstone cow trough salvaged from the property," said DIY Network. "Owner Jesse Carrier and his team added custom hinged wood tops to create one of the most unusual and beautiful bathroom vanities youll ever see."


DIY Network

This upcycled bicycle vanity from artist Benjamin Bullins made him "a Pinterest phenomenon," said DIY Network.


DIY Network

If you really want to use wood for your vanity, REALLY use wood. This live edge vanity will su>


HOME DESIGNING


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Lifting the HOA Veil

Anything that could negatively impact the value or marketability of the property needs to be divulged before closing. While there are usually statutory disclosure requirements of single family house sellers, these same disclosures are generally not required of homeowner association home sellers. This is a huge problem and herersquo;s why:

Homeowner associations HOA impose substantial financial obligations to the members. So, while a buyer may purchase a condo in great condition and needing no repairs, that same buyer is also obligated to share the cost of certain repairs to all the condos, which may be in very bad condition. Since there is no specific legal requirements in most states to disclose these obligations, the buyer often finds out after closing when presented with a special assessment that can amount to many thousands of dollars.

Herersquo;s the key to uncloaking this problem: The board of directors controls the quality and quantity of disclosure information. The responsible board treats the HOA like the business that it is and keeps certain basic information available such as:

Governing Documents. Includes the Declaration, Bylaws, Rules amp; Regulations, Resolutions which are the specific obligations each member has.

Newsletters. Reveal events renovation, litigation, etc that could indicate a possible special assessment.

Meeting Minutes. Same as newsletter but with more specifics.

Annual Budgets for Last 3 Years. Could reveal expense trends and failure to adjust for inflation.

Financial Reports. Monthly reports comparing actual expenses to budget should be available to track income and expenses.

Collection Activity. How much of the assessments are overdue 30, 60 or 90 days? If some donrsquo;t pay, guess who gets to?

Litigation Activity. Are there any pending lawsuits that could trigger a special assessment?

Reserve Study. A 30 year plan to maintain components like roofs, painting, paving, etc. This is the biggest time bomb in the many homeowner associations that lack one. Failure to plan for predictable long range expenses often mirrors a lack of ongoing maintenance which causes spiraling property values.

Percentage of Rental Units. More than 50 rentals could directly affect financing options and saleability.

Key Contact Information. How to contact the board and manager.

This list of items is the same information that any informed buyer would want. Itrsquo;s the boardrsquo;s responsibility to make it available to owners so they, in turn, can provide proper disclosure to their buyers. If buyers are informed of their responsibilities, they will make better neighbors. Does the HOA really want members that donrsquo;t care how business is handled? Is your board prepared to lift the veil of on disclosure?

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


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Why Get Involved?

A. You have lived in your community for a long time, and are pleased with the way it is working. Do you know why? Most likely it is because there is a conscientious, hard-working board of directors, who are concerned about the welfare -- financial and otherwise -- of your association.

A community association does not function -- good, bad or otherwise -- without leadership. Often, as we all have read and heard,some boards of directors are on ego trips. Even though they may care about the welfare of the association, they are more interested in preserving and fostering their own personal agendas. Indeed, I know of one association in which the outgoing Board President seriously considered putting his picture in the social room, as a reminder of his long-term service to the Association.

But the great majority of board members are hard-working and honest. Service on the Board is not fun; the hours are long and the pay is zero. Budgets have to be planned to meet the needs of the association while at the same time satisfying the pocketbooks of the owners. Rules have to be adopted -- and then enforced. Delinquencies haveer to be addressed, and it is often difficult -- if not embarrassing -- to have to approach your neighbor or your friend to remind him/her that there is a delinquency.

I do not know how many owners are in your community. But regardless of size, boards must understand they are running a business -- and some of these businesses have budgets which are as large or largerthan corporations trading on the New York Stock exchange.

This is a serious responsibility, which cannot be taken lightly. Many years ago a Court ruled in the State of Maryland that Board members only have to exercise good business judgment in carrying out their board responsibilities. This means that unless someone can prove fraud, cheating or stealing, a court of law will not second guess the decisions of a board of directors -- even if their decision turns out to be the wrong one.

Despite this "good business judgment" rule, I still maintain that a member of the board has a fiduciary duty to the owners who elected him/her to the board. This means that a board member must act fairly, honestly, openly and -- of most importance -- use common sense in making decisions which impact on the entire community.

Many years ago, the President of a large association gave his "state of the community" speech at the annual meeting. I take the liberty of quoting some of his remarks:

For the past two years, I have served as your President. You have called me at all hours of the day and night; you have pushed me into the swimming pool, and have poured molasses into my gas tank. The hours are long, and the pay is zilch.

But, if I would not have served, you [expletive deleted] would have screwed it all up.

I cannot add much more to this erudite speech. You have an investment in your association, and service on the Board of Directors is a way -- perhaps the only way -- of preserving that investment.


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The Smartest Fall Renovations to Make if Youre Planning to Sell Your Home

While some trends carryover, there is some great info here for those who are looking to make some updates to enjoy now, while being able to reap the potential future financial benefits.

Matte appliances

These are a ldquo;hot trend of the moment,rdquo; said McGillivray. And while he says that he likes how they ldquo;lend a luxurious look to the kitchen, and how they look great when paired with neutral colored cabinets,rdquo; he still thinks stainless steel is your best bet if yoursquo;re looking to sell anytime soon. Itrsquo;s the ldquo;best choice for a long-term return on investment,rdquo; he said. While these matte finishes are great of-the-moment looks, I expect theyrsquo;ll look dated a few years down the road.rdquo;

Quartz counters in warm colors

We may be moving away from all that white or counters that look like Carrara marble only easier to care for. While quartz isnrsquo;t going anywhere, McGillivray is seeing a trend toward warmer shades. ldquo;Countertops that look like marble will always be in demand because theyrsquo;re >

Light floors

ldquo;Along with the light and airy trend comes a desire for lighter floors,rdquo; he said. ldquo;Dark walnut and cherry finishes are out, and lighter, blonder woods are in. Similar to kitchen counters, I think the trend will be toward warmer colors rather than cooler colors. But light is definitely the way to go trend-wise.rdquo;

Hands-free technology

Smart homes arenrsquo;t the way of the future. Theyrsquo;re here, now, and the smarter the home, the more attractive it may be to buyers. ldquo;This may seem like old news to the early adopters, but more and more people are starting to embrace hands-free and SMART technology,rdquo; he said. ldquo;This means that anything in your home that you can command with your voice is going to be super popular.rdquo;

Less Serious and More Fun Spaces

Itrsquo;s time to go a little wild with your homemdash;but within reason. ldquo;I predict that people are going to stop taking their homes too seriously and have a little bit more fun,rdquo; he said. ldquo;This means more colors, more patterns and less concern over whatrsquo;s lsquo;proper.rsquo; While smart return on investment design decisions should still be made for fixed items in your home, letrsquo;s all >


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Credit Inquiries: Why Lenders Care

FICO scores are calculated using an algorithm originally developed by The FICO Company. This algorithm considers five different characteristics of a credit file. Of course, payment history carries the most weight, contributing 35 to the total, three-digit score. The second most important >

How long someone has used credit is also a factor, making up 15 of the score and the final two of the five both contribute 10. Types of credit used and credit inquiries. Types of credit boosts scores when consumers responsibly use different types of credit and credit inquiries logs in the number of times someone has requested credit. But about that 10 for a credit inquiry, if it makes up such a small part of the total score, why do lenders care about this category?

For one, requests for credit over the past year or so wonrsquo;t hurt scores but making several requests for different credit accounts in a >

Each time a consumer makes a request for credit, that request is recorded in the credit file. Again, an occasional request is fine. What can cause a loan application to stop dead in its tracks is to see a recent credit inquiry on a credit report but no indication any account has been opened. It usually takes about 30 days. That can mean someone opened up a credit account or maybe bought a car and financed it but the amount borrowed and the terms havenrsquo;t yet made it to the credit bureaus. When a lender looks at a credit report with recent inquiries, there is no way the lender can properly determine a consumerrsquo;s new monthly payments. Someone with >

When this happens, the lender will request the borrower to explain the inquiry and verify that no account was opened and if an account was opened, to send in documentation regarding the terms of the new account. Thatrsquo;s why loan officers tell you that once you apply for a mortgage, just sit tight with any other credit requests until and after your loan is ultimately funded and closed.


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Making Canadian Suburbs More Age-Friendly

As the population ages and the life expectancy of Canadians increases, therersquo;s a lot of discussion about where older people are going to live and how to make their communities more age-friendly.

The baby boom generation is moving into their senior years, but most of them are not yet interested in downsizing to condominiums or moving from their current homes. In fact, they are still actively purchasing move-up homes and recreational properties.

But Statistics Canada says that as the boomers age, beginning in 2031 the share of the population aged 85 and older will increase rapidly. Almost one in four seniors in Canada will be 85 or older by 2051.

Thatrsquo;s going to put a lot of pressure on seniorsrsquo; residences and long-term care facilities. Currently about a third of those aged 85 and older lives in these types of residence.

Most seniors want to stay in their own homes for as long as they are physically and financially able to do so, but some homes and communities make that easier than others.

About two-thirds of Canadians live in suburban areas, built after the Second World War and filled with young families who enjoyed their single-family houses and roomy backyards. But if you live in the suburbs, you likely need a car to get to local amenities such as grocery stores, medical services or community centres.

A report by Glen Miller for the Institute for Research on Public Policy says that by 2036, 42 per cent of residents aged 75 and older will no longer have a driverrsquo;s licence, according to estimates by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Citing research by the Canadian Urban Institute CIU, Miller says, ldquo;As the design of subdivisions changed, the average size of single-detached dwellings increased from 850 square feet in the 1950s, to 2,000 square feet in the 1970s, to 2,000 to 3,000 square feet in the 1990s, to 3,500 square feet today, even though average household size has declined. The result is that many neighbourhoods lack the critical mass of population to support local services and amenities. Instead, residents of newer subdivisions >

Miller says, ldquo;Itrsquo;s fair to say that our current suburbs are no place to grow old.rdquo;

Without the ability to drive themselves because of physical or financial limitations, seniors can quickly become isolated in their communities. The problem has been recognized by municipalities for many years, Miller says, and in 2007 the concept of age-friendly communities AFC was introduced by the World Health Organization.

ldquo;More than 500 municipalities have since committed to becoming age-friendly,rdquo; writes Miller. ldquo;Despite the original enthusiasm, however, the AFC movement has led only to minor physical improvements, such as the addition of park benches, better lighting or clearer signage, and it has thus far failed to generate the scale of public policy intervention needed to bring about significant changes to the built environment.rdquo;

He says in most municipalities, the planning department doesnrsquo;t take AFC into consideration. A study by the CIU of 25 cities that committed to becoming age friendly found that none of them have incorporated the idea into their official plans. None of them modified their approvals process to reflect AFC goals or put the aging population as a priority when planning development.

Miller notes that the governmentrsquo;s health care policies support healthy aging and aging at home. ldquo;In order to capture the imagination of the older adults who stand to benefit from age-friendly development practices, municipal planners and their developer colleagues need to seek out and deliver compelling examples of age-friendly development that will benefit people, and customers, of all ages.rdquo;

He provides some recent examples of AFC. In Port Credit, part of the City of Mississauga, Ont., a brownfield site that was once the St. Lawrence Starch factory has been developed into a mixed-use community over 15 years. First townhomes and mid-rise condos were constructed, along with retail and other amenities on the ground floor. Then a retirement residence was added. The development is within walking distance of the commuter rail station.

Most of the buyers >

Another example is in Don Mills, Ont., which was touted as Canadarsquo;s first car-oriented suburban subdivision. A local plaza was turned into an indoor mall but later it was redeveloped with mid-rise condominiums and a new plaza with open community spaces.

Existing suburbs are a tougher challenge, but Miller points to two examples of streets near suburban areas that have become community hubs. Broadway, in the Kitsilano suburb of Vancouver, and a North Toronto neighbourhood around Yonge Street both have several mixed-used mid-rise developments.

ldquo;Although not explicitly planned as age-friendly projects, both focus on creating a high-quality public realm through zoning that encourages a mix of community-oriented uses and street grids that facilitate walking and easy access to public transit,rdquo; says Miller. ldquo;These two community hubs have proven attractive to empty nesters as well as young families who can afford to rent or own condos.rdquo;


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The Best Mobile Plans for Real Estate Agents

Find the coverage you need

It may seem obvious, but the most important part of a mobile plan is coverage. It doesnrsquo;t matter how much data or how many minutes you have if you canrsquo;t use them, and this is true not only on your home turf, but wherever youre likely to go. If you typically stay local, that makes the search easier. But if you travel regularly to real estate conferences or for out-of-town clients, make sure your coverage will be just as good when youre on the road.

Tips:

Look at the coverage map for your carrier so you wonrsquo;t be surprised by gaps in coverage.
Search for online reviews of your carrier in geographic areas you frequent.
Dont forget international coverage, if thats part of your business needs.

All about the data

Today, most mobile plans beyond prepaid plans have unlimited talk and text, but data is still a large variable. Data needs vary from person to person based on their office setup, work >

Office bound
Do you spend a significant amount of time in the office, with sporadic journeys out for showings and closings? Is your phone largely for communicating and browsing simple listings, reading contracts, or researching? If so, consider a smaller data plan or a pay-by-the-gig plan. Basic Web browsing and using your navigation app wont use much data, and therersquo;s no need to pay for more than you need. Pay-as-you-go plans are particularly flexible, giving you access to as much data as you need at a reasonable price, without wasting money.

Road warrior
Are you a realtor who lives in the car? While yoursquo;re out of the office, are you catching up on listings, watching video walkthroughs, updating images on your site, and sending files? You may get by with a pay-by-the-gig plan, or you may want to go full-out on an unlimited option.

If you can, look through your data usage for the past few months. If its more than 3-4 GB/month per line, its time to upgrade. If youre not sure if you need unlimited data, start with a flexible data plan and upgrade if you find yourself buying a lot more.

Office manager
If you have several agents on one plan for a collective or small office, you may want to jump right into the unlimited plan, especially if your team trends more toward road warriors than office bound. If your data use justifies it, this can help lower tensions that can crop up when one person is using more data than someone else.

Saving money

If the cost of data is a concern, you can save money with a little effort and creativity, especially if you work in urban or heavily settled areas. Scope out coffee shops, libraries, and other local businesses with free WiFi and move your work out of your car. Also, take a closer look at your mobile plan. You may find that they also offer WiFi hotspots that their customers can use rather than burning through data.

Keeping track

Once youve picked the best plan for your location and use, you will still want to keep track of your account to make sure youre not leaving money and unused data on the table. Most carriers have an app for tracking data usage and billing. Keep an eye on your data use and adjust your plan as needed.

With so many options available today, choosing the right mobile plan can be a challenge. But armed with the right questions, you can weed out those that donrsquo;t meet your data and financial needs, and find the perfect plan for you and your business. That way, you can focus your efforts on building your business and matching clients with their perfect properties.


Christy Matte is a die-hard techie and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. Shes a Boston-based writer who has been covering tech for the past decade or so, and enjoys video games, surfing the Web, and any gadget she can get her hands on.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Limited Common Elements, Quorum Rules

Answer: Common elements available to one or several members instead of all are referred to as "limited common elements". This means they are common but limited to exclusive use of one member as in the case of a unit deck or designated members as in the case of a private street.

These limited common elements are typically identified on the legal plat and cannot be expanded without encroaching on common areas which belong to all owners in an undivided interest. So, the board has no authority to allow such requests. Changing this requires a vote of members which may be up to 100.

Question: At our recent annual meeting, an issue was brought up and a motion was made on something that was not on the agenda for the meeting. The president allowed the motion to be made, seconded and voted upon. But, there were not enough members represented to constitute a quorum. Was this an illegal vote?

Answer: The vote was illegal due to lack of quorum even if it had appeared on the Meeting Agenda. Without a legal quorum, no business may be transacted or elections held. You might have a lively discussion but nothing official can take place.

Lack of quorum is an all too common scenario than can be cured by proxies. A proxy is the written authorization by one member given to someone to act on their behalf at the Annual Meeting. Proxies must be distributed well in advance of the meeting and collected before the meeting to ensure a legal quorum. Getting folks to return their proxies can be challenging and multiple requests may have to be made, including going door to door to collect them if necessary. There is a sample Proxy in the Meetings section of www.Regenesis.net

Question: We recently had our unit chimneys cleaned. A board member accompanied the contractor and opened and secured units upon exiting. As a result of this process, it was discovered that one of the units was jammed with stacks of newspapers, garbage, furniture blocking hallways, piles of clothing and cases of cans. The resident is clearly suffering from a hoarding problem.

Should the board get involved in this situation? No neighbors have complained of any noxious smell. The area outside her condo is tidy. She keeps to herself, is pleasant to the staff and not a smoker.

Answer: Turning a blind eye to a hazardous situation is not the way to go. A letter to the resident and landlord if applicable is in order. When garbage isnrsquo;t being disposed of regularly, it is only a matter of time before there is vermin problem. The fire hazard potential sounds great as well so the letter should include a request to remove or store flammables.

Question: Can the board offer discounts to members that prepay a special assessment rather than participate in a payment plan?

Answer: No discounts should be offered since they would cause a shortfall. It is appropriate, however, to charge late fees to those that donrsquo;t pay as agreed.

However, it is a bad idea for HOAs to finance special assessments at all because of the increased administrative costs and the likelihood of dealing with delinquent payments. For example, If you have a 30 unit condo and allow 24 monthly special payments, you have 720 payments to track and 720 potential collection problems. Instead, require each member to provide special assessment funds from whatever source they have available. Some have cash, some has an equity line of credit or credit card. The HOA should not finance the special assessment or borrow the money.

Question: Our homeowner association is made up of condominiums built in a townhouse >

Answer: Itrsquo;s a very bad idea to allow individual unit owners to do or pay for this kind of work directly because of:

1. Quality Control. Is the person doing the work experienced? Is the material being used of good or superior quality?
2. Risk Management. Is the person doing the work properly insured for injury and liability?
3. Owner Still Financially Responsible. Doing this kind of work does not >

Question: What kind of expectations or working >

Answer: The board should:

1. Support the managers decisions unless a clear mistake has been made.
2. Not undermine the managers actions in rules enforcement and collections.
3. Carefully consider the managers advice since it comes from experience and training.
4. Be respectful of the managers busy schedule.
5. Allow the manager to execute the terms of the management agreement without micro-managing.
6. Remember that the manager works for the board.

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


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Student Loans Proving a Barrier to Homeownership. We Have Solutions.

ldquo;Among buyers rejected for a mortgage from a lender, 40 percent had college debt, the NAR found.rdquo; Per the same study, 80 percent of millennials donrsquo;t own a home, and 83 of those non-homeowners said student loan debt was a barrier to buying.

The NAR found that ldquo;Two in five buyers, like Jodi Meyers, cut out luxury or nonessential items to save up for a home,rdquo; said USA Today. Her family, in the midst of paying off Meyersrsquo; 55,000 in student debt, cut out all necessities and purchased outside of their preferred area to be able to afford a 249,000, four-bedroom home in Lakeland, Florida. The upshot: ldquo;Itrsquo;s not my dream home, but it got my foot in the door, and now Irsquo;m building equity,rdquo; she told them.

Of course, compromise is nothing new when it comes to buying a home, especially if itrsquo;s your first. Few of us can go out there and purchase the waterfront mansion of our dreams, but that doesnt mean we donrsquo;t aspire to do so someday from our starter home in the lsquo;burbs.

Check out a site like Student Loan Hero and yoursquo;re going to read about things like front-end ratios and back-end ratios and it can all get very confusing. And, the truth is, the average person doesnrsquo;t need to know the nitty-gritty. The important takeaway is that, in your lenderrsquo;s eyes, your income needs to be sufficient to cover a mortgage and all associated expenses when all your debts are taken into account. Having student loans in the hundreds of dollars per month can make it harder to qualify.

So what CAN you do if yoursquo;re looking to budget and buy a home, but student loans are holding you back? There are options.

Amass a higher down payment.

ldquo;If you can save a 20 percent down payment, your student loans are far less likely to affect your loan process,rdquo; said Student Loan Hero. Your lender should be able to give you details of what loans allow your down payment to come from gift funds from a family member.

Pay off your debts.

Talk to your lender about this. You may be surprised that a scenario in which you redirect some of your down payment funds to smaller debts that can be cleared out could make it easier to qualify for a mortgage. ldquo;Paying down that high-interest credit card balance, for example, is a great place to start,rdquo; said Dave Mele, president of Homes.com on Bankrate.

Get a side hustle.

If you canrsquo;t negotiate a raise, find other ways to make more money so you can add to your down payment or use it to pay down your student loans. ldquo;If education debt is making your debt-to-income ratio too high, consider looking for ways to pay off your student loans faster. Therersquo;s no penalty for prepaying student loans, so you can make extra payments anytime,rdquo; said Student Loan Hero.

Switch to an income-driven repayment plan on your student loans to make payments more affordable.

ldquo;An income-driven repayment plan sets your monthly student loan payment at an amount that is intended to be affordable based on your income and family size,rdquo; said Federal Student Aid. Fannie Mae changed underwriting rules around income-driven repayment plans last year, making it easier for those on these plans to qualify for a mortgage. ldquo;Depending upon the plan, your monthly payment could be capped as low as 10 of your discretionary income,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;And if your discretionary income is low enough, your monthly payment could be as low as 0.rdquo;

Get creative with your loan type.

While many first-time buyers opt for an FHA loan because of the low down payment as low as 3.5 and generous credit score requirements as low as 580, there are other options. ldquo;The Fannie Mae HomeReadytrade; mortgage is another loan available to borrowers with student loans,rdquo; said The Mortgage Reports. ldquo;Via HomeReadytrade;, buyers can show a debt-to-income of up to 50, with certain off-setting factors; and a down payment of just three percent is allowed. The minimum credit score to get approved for a HomeReadytrade; home loan is 620.rdquo;


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Will the New Congress Compromise on Flood Insurance or Are We All Going Under?

Part of the issue that has led the bill to ldquo;languish in the Senate since late last yearrdquo; is, not surprising: Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides. ldquo;The GOP-led House voted in favor of the bill 237-189 despite significant opposition from coastal Democrats, who believe premiums on high-risk properties could skyrocket under the reform initiative,rdquo; they said.

So whatrsquo;s really at stake? A lot, potentially.

Premiumsmdash;If the ldquo;21st Century Flood Reform Actrdquo; passed as is, ldquo;premiums, which on average cost homeowners 650 annually but can spin out of control in coastal regions, would be capped at 10,000,rdquo; said Inman.

A lapsemdash;If the program lapses without signoff by November 30, the National Flood Insurance Program wouldnrsquo;t be able to sell or renew flood insurance policies. ldquo;Right now our financial position is okay ndash; but we wouldnrsquo;t be able to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to pay claims for our existing policies,rdquo; said David Maurstad, chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program, on the Texas Standard.

Even more people could end up without flood insurancemdash;Despite the risks associated with having a home in a coastal area, many people still opt to forgo flood insurance in places where it is not required by law. ldquo;One recent study suggested about two-thirds of people in areas that have a 1 percent chance of flooding in a given year do not have flood insurance,rdquo; said the Citizen-Times.

Common reasons laid out by the publication include: homebuyers ldquo;dont recognize the riskrdquo; because they donrsquo;t understand ldquo;flood maps and may never inquire whether they have anything to worry about; Banks and mortgage companies dont always require it; theres a myth that the governments going to bail you out; and they think their homeowners insurance will cover flood damage. Almost all policies exclude claims from flooding.rdquo;

Flood insurance may ultimately have to look to privatizationmdash;Some say this is a much better answer, anyway. ldquo;The National Flood Insurance Programrsquo;s NFIP financial woes stem from the fact that it consistently fails to charge program participants rates that cover the full risk of flooding to their properties,rdquo; said Inside Sources. ldquo;As a result, the NFIPrsquo;s revenues from premiums donrsquo;t even cover its claims during an average year. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the program is bleeding 1.4 billion annually. In years of catastrophic flooding, the NFIP has needed to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to honor its commitments to policyholders. Its debt now stands at about 20.5 billion, and thatrsquo;s after Congress forgave 16 billion of the programrsquo;s debts last fall. Unless action is taken, the NFIPrsquo;s finances will only deteriorate in the wake of the 2018 hurricane season and with each passing year.rdquo;


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2018 Homebuyer Survey Contains Valuable Information for Agents and Sellers

This is the 37th year that NAR has conducted an annual survey of those who have purchased and sold homes. The most recent version 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers became available in November of this year. The information is based on answers to a 129-question survey mailed to a random sample of 155,250 consumers who purchased a home between July 2017 and June 2018. Names and addresses were provided by Experian, a company that maintains an extensive database of recent homebuyers that is derived from county records. After accounting for undeliverable surveys, there was a 4.6 response rate.

In 2017, first-time homebuyers constituted 34 of the market. This year, 2018, the first-time buyer rate was 33. Geographically, the highest percentage of first-time buyers was in the northeast at 45; the lowest was in the west at 29. Over the years the historic norms for the country have been in the 40 range. As interest rates continue to crank up, it may be a while until we see such numbers again.

The most useful information for sellers and their agents is to be found in the section on the home search process. While the survey results are not significantly different from those of recent years, the trends continue. For example, this year 83 of buyers said that they used the internet frequently during the search process. In 2003 that number was only 42. This past year 57 of buyers said that they frequently used a mobile or tablet application. That is a newer and growing phenomenon three years ago, it was 41. 63 of buyers said that they frequently >

44 of buyers went to the internet as the first step in the home search process. 17 contacted a real estate agent first, and 6 began by driving through neighborhoods looking for homes for sale. How can driving around be an option? Half the homes purchased were within 15 miles of the buyersrsquo; previous residence. Interestingly, 7 of home buyers began the process by going to a bank or mortgage company.

Buyers use multiple sources of information in the process of looking for a home. Far and away the most used sources are on-line websites 93 and real estate agents 86. Mobile or tablet applications 73 have replaced yard signs as the third most used source of information. Still though, 46 of buyers indicate that yard signs are one of their sources of information. Only 13 of buyers indicate that they used newspaper ads as an information source. A mere 3 said that they garnered information from television.

While there are a lot of intriguing data about the sources of information used by prospective homebuyers, certainly the most >. This year the information source that was highest in that category 50 was the internet. Agents are second at 28. Note that this is not to say that buyers bought their home through the internet. The typical scenario would be that a consumer sees the home on the internet, and then contacts his or her agent. 89 of those who used the internet to search purchased their home through an agent.

The differences in a little more than a decade are fascinating. In 2001, 48 of buyers learned about their home through a real estate agent, and only 8 found their home on the internet. The times they have changed.

Some things, though, remain persistently the same ndash; or close to it. In 2001, a yard sign was the third most likely source of information leading to the home that was purchased 15. And this year? It is still the third leading source at 7, but this is now the sixth consecutive year in the survey history that it has been lower than double digits. Print media may not be dead, but it has shrunk to insignificance in this arena. In 2001, 7 of homebuyers found the home they ultimately purchased through a newspaper ad; in 2018, it was only 1. It has been that way for seven years now. As has been the case for the past ten years, fewer than 1 found their home through a home book or magazine.

The 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows what works. It is a valuable resource.


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Credit Inquiries: Why Lenders Care

FICO scores are calculated using an algorithm originally developed by The FICO Company. This algorithm considers five different characteristics of a credit file. Of course, payment history carries the most weight, contributing 35 to the total, three-digit score. The second most important >

How long someone has used credit is also a factor, making up 15 of the score and the final two of the five both contribute 10. Types of credit used and credit inquiries. Types of credit boosts scores when consumers responsibly use different types of credit and credit inquiries logs in the number of times someone has requested credit. But about that 10 for a credit inquiry, if it makes up such a small part of the total score, why do lenders care about this category?

For one, requests for credit over the past year or so wonrsquo;t hurt scores but making several requests for different credit accounts in a >

Each time a consumer makes a request for credit, that request is recorded in the credit file. Again, an occasional request is fine. What can cause a loan application to stop dead in its tracks is to see a recent credit inquiry on a credit report but no indication any account has been opened. It usually takes about 30 days. That can mean someone opened up a credit account or maybe bought a car and financed it but the amount borrowed and the terms havenrsquo;t yet made it to the credit bureaus. When a lender looks at a credit report with recent inquiries, there is no way the lender can properly determine a consumerrsquo;s new monthly payments. Someone with >

When this happens, the lender will request the borrower to explain the inquiry and verify that no account was opened and if an account was opened, to send in documentation regarding the terms of the new account. Thatrsquo;s why loan officers tell you that once you apply for a mortgage, just sit tight with any other credit requests until and after your loan is ultimately funded and closed.


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Essential Garage Equipment for Car Enthusiasts

Garage Space

First, you need a garage with adequate space. A small garage might provide enough space to park your car, but if you want room to work, you may prefer something bigger. Chicago architect Allan J. Grant recommends that a single-car garage should be a minimum of 10 feet wide, and a two-car garage should be at least 20 feet wide, with 24 feet being optimal. For a car enthusiast, a two-car garage provides better working space.

Workbench

A good workbench is the first piece of essential equipment, says Popular Mechanics. You can build your own workbench inexpensively or purchase one from the store.

There are several ways to design your own workbench. The simplest is to use a pair of sawhorses to support a solid-core door or a plank of medium-density fiberboard. You can also find many designs online for building workbenches out of simple materials such as 2 x 4s and 4 x 4s. Bob Villa offers five different DIY designs for workbenches you can build in a weekend.

To speed things up, kits for building your own workbench are also available from suppliers such as the Simpson Strong-Tie Company and Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation with its 2x4 Basics product line. If youd prefer to buy a pre-made workbench, modular workbenches from manufacturers such as Craftsman and Gladiator provide the flexibility to customize your workspace.

Vises

To use your workbench, you will want a good bench vise. A bench vise holds your projects in place, provides extra force and stabilizes items while glue dries. Avoid cheap vises, and invest in a quality vise from a manufacturer such as Craftsman.

Lighting

Adequate lighting is essential for working on your car. The easiest way to improve the quality of your overhead lighting is by installing ceiling-mounted fluorescent light fixtures. Four-foot instant-on T8 bulb fixtures with wide reflectors or diffusers are a good start.

However, to get lighting in hard-to-reach places, youll want more than overhead lighting. Mercedes mechanic Kent Bergsma recommends avoiding clip lights and halogen-type shop lights and instead using stage and movie lighting equipment, such as an LED video lights with barn doors.

Storage

The more tools you own, the more storage space you need. For general storage, a pegboard is the most affordable way to store individual tools and other pieces of equipment, and a tool chest provides organized storage.

To store your off-season tires, it puts less stress on tires to store them upright than to stack them. You can hang tires on hooks if theyre mounted on the rims, but never hang unmounted tires because this will distort and damage them.

Ramps, Jack Stands, Lifts and Hoists

Its also essential to have equipment to elevate your car. An auto ramp set is great for working under your car. Jack stands with safety pins will come in handy to change tires. If you can afford it, a vehicle lift will really make your garage look like a car shop. An engine hoist with a stand is also useful.


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7 Rules for Choosing The Right Area Rug

There are so many questions: Should the furniture be placed on or off the rug? Does the rug go underneath or next to the bed? How big should a dining room rug really be? It can seem overwhelming, but here are seven simple tips to help you choose wisely. After all, a good rug is an investment, and you dont want to make any costly mistakes.

Rule 1: Always Go Big

Too big is always better than too small. A rug thats too small not only looks skimpy, but seems like an afterthought. However, you also dont want to go overboard. Pick a rug thats the size of your seating area rather than the size of the room.

Rule 2: Keep Your Furniture on Your Rug

An area rug should anchor your seating arrangement, so place rugs underneath sofas and chairs. Ideally, your rug should fit enti>

Rule 3: Try Layering

Consider layering your area rug over wall-to-wall carpeting. Most people seem to think that this is a decorating "dont," but nothing could be further from the truth. An area rug over carpeting adds texture and color to a room. In this case, the area rug can be a little smaller than usual - just make sure its placed right up to the edge of the sofa/chairs. And make sure your area rug and carpeting are compatible: a too-thin area rug over plush carpeting will never lay flat and may slide around.

Rule 4: Use Color

Dont be afraid of pattern, color and texture An area rug can be the focal point of the room. If your furniture upholstery is neutral, choose a colorful or patterned rug. It doesnt have to match perfectly, but it should coordinate with the other colors and fabric in the room.

Rule 5: Your Rug Should Be Bigger than Your Bed

Think big when choosing a rug for your bedroom. Your area rug should be big enough to extend two or three feet beyond the edge of the bed. After all, you want to step onto a cozy, warm rug when you get up in the morning

Rule 6: Your Dining Chairs Must Fit Completely

Chairs should sit perfectly and completely on an area rug in your dining roommdash;that means all four legs on the rug even when theyre pushed away from the table. Never have the front legs of the dining chair on the rug and the back ones off. Not only does it look funny, but its dangerous, as your chairs are unbalanced and more prone to tipping over. You can easily estimate the size rug youll need by adding 24 to 36 inches to each side of your table. If your table has extension leaves that you use often, choose a rug size to accommodate the table with the leaves in. In terms of shape, a rectangular table needs a rectangular rug. A round table can support either a round or square rug.

Rule 7: Think Outside Standard Sizing

Area rugs tend to come in standard sizes, usually including:

  • 3 x 5 feet
  • 5 x 8 feet
  • 8 x 10 feet
  • 9 x 12 feet

If you need an odd size rug, you can always have one custom-made. It might sound expensive, but it may be more affordable than you think. Simply purchase regular wall-to-wall carpeting, have a carpet installer cut it to your desired size, and finish the edges with binding or serging to get a custom rug without the custom price tag.

Now you can avoid the stress of buying a brand new rug only to find its the wrong size. Just follow these rules to make sure your new area rug fits perfectly in your home, so you can enjoy your beautiful, cozy new space.

As a Wisconsin interior designer, Merri Cvetan of MEC Design Studio has lots of experience fitting a rug to your space. She gives great tips on sizing, color and patterns to help you make the right rug choice for your room. To gather more info and see a large selection of area rugs, visit homedepot.com.


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The Ultimate Contractors: Real Estate Agents as Independent Contractors

It is this tenacity that warrants our attentionmdash;and deserves our praisemdash;because each agent is an icon unto him- or herself. Each agent is responsible for how he represents himself to the public, regardless of his association with a firm of solid repute or a strong foundation.

Pardon the construction metaphors, as they constitute a descriptionmdash;they are a construct, pun intendedmdash;for the many ways in which real estate agents try to appeal to clients. This attempt is, first and foremost, an exercise in building an identity. It includes symbols that speak for themselves without the need for a single word, in addition to collateral materials that complement a message by their appearance alone. All of these things, and more, are the building blocks of success.

What, then, does success look like? As the image that accompanies this column shows, it looks customizable; which is to say it looks familiarmdash;it is familiarmdash;because familiarity breeds comfort, not contempt. It breeds confidence, not concern.

According to Janil Jean, Director of Overseas Operations for LogoDesign.net, real estate agents should embrace the familiar. She says: ldquo;Familiar is not a synonym for generic. For example: A house may have a particular >

I agree with that statement, based on my exposure to failed marketing experiments in which >

I also agree that real estate agents can inspire us to be better marketers in general. Their work is a study in perseverance and a profile in the steadfastness necessary to succeed. They work by staging homes and taking clients on tours of various homes. They home in on the things that make a home, so to speak; the accoutrements and accessories; the decorations and designs; the symbols and signposts that adorn the streets and sidewalks along the byways of America.

Let us celebrate their work ethicmdash;and emulate it, too.

Let us put real estate agents at the forefront of a movement, whose progress advances our common interests.

Let us do so with passion and integrity, in tribute to a profession defined by excellence and driven by exceptional people.

Let us transform the real estate industry.


Full Article >


Updating an HOA Reserve Study

1. Component cost changes that happen frequently can dramatically change the reserve study projections.

2. Rate of Inflation. Changes every year and directly affects future dollar needs.

3. Return on Invested Reserves. Changes every year and directly affects future owner contributions.

4. Balance of money in reserves. Changes every year and impacts funding recommendations.

5. Component Useful Lives. Can change for some components and affect the renovation schedule. Site inspections are recommended at least every three years for accurate useful life projections. When a reserve study is originally performed, each component is assigned a life expectancy based on current condition, quality of installation, preventive maintenance and affects of weather.

6. Cost of Renovation. Could change for some components and impact future dollar needs.

7. Changes to state statute can affect how the reserve study is done.

8. Lenders require a current reserve study. FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac underwrite the majority of homeowner association loans. As a condition of loan approval, they require a reserve study current within 12 months. If the board cannot provide it, members run the risk of having their refinance or buyer loans denied.

Some boards may be tempted to do annual reserve study updates to save money. This can possibly work if there is a board member that specializes in construction cost estimating. However, for the vast majority, the results will be shooting in the dark since very few boards have the expertise to perform an in-house reserve study. In most cases, the reserve study should be done by a qualified professional like a Professional Reserve Analyst PRA member of the Association of Professional Reserve Analysts. See www.apra-usa.com for a list of members. The costs are reasonably priced and the results are professional, informed and accurate. Why would the board not want to take advantage of a service provided by a qualified professional?

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


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What to Look for When Signing Your First Lease

1. Do Your Research

Treat your commitment to renting a property in the same way you would carefully consider buying an expensive appliance or a new car: do your research. Look for online reviews from previous renters attached to the property profile in Google or on other social media platforms like Facebook. Search under either the landlordrsquo;s name or the name of the property company or apartment complex to find reviews in Yelp. You can even dig up complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.

2. Read the Lease

This seems like an obvious piece of advice, but itrsquo;s worth repeating. Read the lease and then read it again. Ask for advice from someone you trust who has the >

bull; Length of the lease
bull; When rent is due and how to pay it
bull; Security deposit rules and refunds
bull; Lease termination and penalties
bull; Rules about roommates or subletting
bull; Whether pets are allowed or prohibited

3. Get It in Writing

If you donrsquo;t see a topic or rule specified in writing, request to get it added to the lease. Even if it seems minor, it should be clearly outlined in the legal agreement between you and the landlord. Look for language about who handles the utilities and rules for personalizing your space. Fleshing out the details in the lease protects both you and the landlord from future misunderstandings and financial headaches.

4. Be Clear about Maintenance Responsibilities

Understand and document what your responsibilities are in terms of maintenance and who you should call in case of an emergency. When you move in, the landlord should document the condition of the propertymdash;if there is preexisting damage, insist that itrsquo;s recorded accurately before you accept the keys. Check all the appliances, door locks, and plumbing, and if anything needs attention, require that it be addressed now so you donrsquo;t end up paying for it later.

If your landlord doesnrsquo;t supply a checklist to verify the current condition of the property when you sign the lease, supply one yourself. There are several free templates online that you can use to document the condition of the property and ask your landlord to co-sign.

5. Check Out the Security

Check with the landlord or property manager to determine the security measures in place for your rental. If you are moving into a complex, make sure all areas are well lit and measures like security cameras are in place. If the apartment or home isnrsquo;t outfitted with security safeguards, ask the landlord if they allow tenants to install their own security systems. Some DIY systems cater to rentals for 15ndash;25 a month, meaning you still have security options if the property doesnrsquo;t have them already.

You can also research the surrounding area to see if they have a Neighborhood Watch program in place, and you can ask local law enforcement if the area has any crime trends.

6. Donrsquo;t Forget about Parking

This may be one of the last things on your mind when yoursquo;re signing the actual lease, but itrsquo;s crucial that you understand where you can and cannot park. Whether itrsquo;s off-street or on-street parking, covered or out in the open, the parking arrangement may end up being a pretty large hassle depending on the weather and the safety of the neighborhood. Request clarification about the parking situation if it isnrsquo;t clearly outlined in the lease.

7. Consider Renters Insurance

Insurance probably isnrsquo;t a priority when yoursquo;re still apartment or house hunting, but it should be something you consider getting before moving in. In addition to protecting you from property loss, renters insurance can sometimes help with damage caused by poor maintenance that wouldnrsquo;t be covered by your landlordrsquo;s insurance policy.

Once yoursquo;ve thoroughly reviewed the lease and checked off all these boxes, you can feel more confident about signing on the dotted line.


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


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Updated: Sunday, November 18, 2018

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