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Updated: Monday, March 30, 2015

Sellers: Ramp Up Your Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is one of the most important factors in selling a home, and one of the most difficult to quantify, but one thing is certain -- homes sell for more money when they have it.

Its common knowledge that drive-up first impressions count. Buyers want to be charmed and excited about a property as a whole. A clean, tidy front yard, front walk swept of leaves and snow, pavers laid safely and evenly, and an attractive frame of landscaping set the tone for a positive buyer experience.

On closer inspection, buyers can see that the trim has been freshly painted and that youve put out a cheery new welcome mat by the front door. So how much more work do you need to do to win buyers over?

Since 2003, replacement costs have generated more value at resale than remodeling, according to the latest Remodeling Magazine 2014 Cost vs. Value report. Thats good news for sellers who want to ramp up their homes curb appeal.

In fact, the five projects with the best cost to value ratios were all directly >

Exterior projects such as these are crucial to any homes integrity, says the National Association of REALTORSNAR. "These projects also do not require expensive materials and they have the added bonus of instantly adding curb appeal," says the trade organization.

The quality of materials may also make a difference in resale. For example, a wood deck addition returns 80.5 percent of costs, while a composite deck addition returns only 68.0 percent. A steel entry door returns 101.8 percent of its cost, while a fiberglass replacement door returns only 72 percent of its cost.

While it may seem counterintuitive to pay 100 and only get 72 back at resale, updating is the best way to help a property maintain its appeal to future homebuyers.

"Resale value is just one factor among many that homeowners need to take into account when making a decision to remodel," advises the NAR. "The desirability and resale value of particular remodeling projects also varies by region and metropolitan area."

If youre planning to update your home for resale, ask your real estate professional for guidance. He or she can tell you which improvement projects will provide the most upon resale in your market.

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Home Design FAQs: Ask And We Shall Answer

DIY home design can be a fun activity, or it can be bloodsport. So many decisions to be made, so many details to consider. If youve got a question, weve got an answer. Here are a few popular FAQs.

How do I know if my updates will give me a good ROI?

Before spending a bunch of money to renovate, re-imagine, tear down, or add on, check out the Cost vs. Value Report, Remodeling magazines annual look at "36 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 102 U.S. markets." If youre not hiring a designer, make sure to familiarize yourself with todays modern trends so you make smart updates that appeal to your sense of >

Do I need to have matching flooring throughout my home?

Not necessarily. While different wood types and tones from room to room arent necessarily recommended, different types of flooring used intelligently in the home can add interest and texture.

"The link between the flooring types is color," said Home Guides. "Set your interiors color palette before shopping for flooring. Obey the rule of three, meaning you should only see up to three different types of flooring from any one point in your home.

Can I paint every room a different color?

"Good interior design includes a color scheme for the entire house," said Home Guides. However, the standards for developing that color scheme arent as black and white as they used to be pun intended. The hard and fast rule, said Better Homes and Gardens, is to determine how the sightlines from room to room are impacted by color.

"Linking rooms with color may not seem very important if your rooms can be separated by closing doors. If you can see from one room into another, however, the color >

Im making a few key swaps in my kitchen and there are so many choices my head is spinning. I picked my appliances pretty quickly but am hung up on the kitchen sink. Is there a trick to buying the right one?

If youre one who tends to leave a few dirty dishes around, consider a sink with a decent depth that will hide your sins. Stainless steel is still the king of materials for kitchens, but solid surface sinks can coordinate nicely with stone countertops. Another popular trend is the farmhouse or apron front sink that helps it stand out as a design element and not just a functional one.

Do my appliances need to match?

The best way to approach appliances is to keep them in the same brand and finish. But, stuff happens. If you need to replace a dishwasher or buy a new fridge and the model match for the old item is no longer available, OR you just want something different, its acceptable to mix and match brands as long as you stay within the same finishand as long as they arent directly next to each other.

I need to do some updates before I sell. Where is the best place to put my money?

The old saying goes that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, and that tends to be true. But dont overlook your curb appeal. You want that first impression to be a strong one. Rake the leaves, pull the weeds, and make a few easy updates like adding a new welcome mat and a pot full of flowers on either side of the door to make the home look inviting.

My 10-year-old washing machine just started acting funny. At what point is it best to just chuck it and get a new one?

According to U.S. News, this is the "life expectancy" of major appliances:

  • Gas range oven: 15 years
  • Refrigerator: 13 years
  • Trash compactor: six years
  • Dishwasher: nine years
  • Microwave oven: nine years
  • Washing machine: 10 years
  • Electric or gas dryer: 13 years
  • Food waste disposer: 12 years

That being said, if youre looking at spending a couple hundred dollars on a decade-old washing machine, you might want to consider putting that money toward a new one that offers updated technology and cleaning capabilities, not to mention energy efficiency and a warranty.

Does all my furniture need to be the same >

Matchy matchy can be boring boring. The most balanced spaces today often take a more eclectic approach with furniture and furnishings from many >

"A contrasting mix of elements make a room more interesting and unique," said The Inspired Room. "Incorporating what you already have and embracing a mixture of >

Have a question for us? Sound off in the comments and it might just make our next FAQ post.

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Housing Market Madness 2015: The Sweet Sixteen

Time for the results of our Market Madness Sweet Sixteen round, the third elimination round in our series, featured on RealtyTimes by JustRentToOwn. Find the results of the previous round here.

Safety and quality of life are things most people prioritize over all other factors when choosing where to buy a home. And where you live can have a big effect on your health and overall happiness, both physically with regards to activity as well as mentally. Studies show a direct cor>

Walk score, a popular way of understanding urban design and transit options, is connected to a higher quality of life according to several influential studies. A higher walk score means better neighborhood density and design, which leads to a variety of positive life-quality outcomes--lower obesity rates, higher price appreciation.

We also compared each city using NeighborhoodScouts crime rating, as safety is key to residents quality of life perhaps more so than any other factor. Because health is wealth and happiness is tied to a long, healthy life, we also factored in the CDC data on health outcomes tied to weight. Rather than use obesity rates, a common method of assessing public health, we flipped the script and compared the percentage of citizens in each city who are living at a healthy weight.

Click Here To Enlarge

Click Here To Enlarge

Lets go bracket by bracket and check out the best highlights:

Dallas 3 over Nashville 7: Nashville and Dallas are about equally safe, both coming in at an 8 on NeighborhoodScouts rating system. Both have comparable rates of healthy citizens, but the major difference is in the walkability: on a scale to 100 Dallas came in at a competitive 44, whereas Nashville scores at 26. When considered next to higher wages and lower unemployment, Dallas pulls away in the end--despite Nashvilles impressive rate of appreciation.

SF 4 over LA 1: A clash of Californias finest. With comparable appreciation rates and higher-than-average median wages, both markets are hot and getting hotter. Comparing quality of life metrics, San Francisco features a considerably higher walk score rating--beating LA by 20 points at 84. Los Angeles is considerably safer according to NeighborhoodScout however, coming in as the safest city listed in the sweet sixteen round. San Franciscos population is on large healthier, giving it the edge over its SoCal neighbor in the head to head. Whatever, we have better weather here in LA at least . . .

Denver 7 over San Jose 3: San Jose is by far the wealthiest on our list. Denver is the fastest appreciating housing market. In many ways, the two are fairly similar because of one key factor: tech. Denver is attracting the same type of tech startups that made San Jose famous, thanks to a wealth of clean air, natural beauty, and cheaper home prices. Both are safer than most other cities on the list--San Joses score being double that of Denver. In the end though, Denvers walkability and healthy citizens gave it the win in this round.

Houston 1 over Austin 4: The battle for Texas is upon us in the sixteen Featuring one of the fastest growing economies and largest cities in Houston against upstart Austin, famed home of SXSW and keeping it weird. The numbers stack up pretty well between the two: high wages, explosive growth, emerging tech sectors. Comparing major quality of life metrics, Houstons meh walk score of 44 edges out Austins even more meh 35 and ba>

ROUND THREE: Quality of Life Walk Score, Crime, Health

Portland 8 over Arlington 13
Dallas 3 over Nashville 7

SF 4 over LA 1
Pittsburgh 15 over Cinci 14

Chicago 1 over Columbus 4
Denver 7 over San Jose 3

Houston 1 over Austin 4
San Antonio 2 over Indianapolis 3

About Nicholas Brown: Based in Los Angeles, CA, Nicholas Brown has been writing since 2008. He holds a Master of Arts in English from Northeastern University. His professional interests include sustainable living, personal finance, real estate and investment trends. He writes for JustRentToOwn.com.

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What To Plant When Your Thumb Is More Brown Than Green

When spring arrives, we all get a little itchy to get outside and enjoy our surroundings. For many of us, that means hitting the local nursery or Home Depot and hauling home a car full of flowers and plants for the yard. But for those of us who lack a green thumb, spring may be a bit bittersweet. We want a pretty, colorful garden. We just dont want to waste our time planting stuff we know will die in two days.

"Many of us have trouble keeping plants alive in our garden, and have quite the "black thumb". Either we are too busy to maintain them, or our gardens have issues that make it difficult; hot, dry sites, poor soil or bad weather, said The Garden Glove. "Dont let that stop you from growing flowers There is hope for even the most murderous of gardeners you can grow flowers, and you can plant them today and trust they will still be there next year and the year after that."

Here are some plants and flowers that may be your spring salvation.


"The garden experts agree that sun-loving lantana is hard to beat, with a variety of colors and a low- maintenance profile that allows it to do well even next to hot pavement in spots like parking lots," said The Tennessean.


"Aloes are succulents hailing from South Africa, Arabia and Madagascar. Theyre >


"While most of you recognize this as a spice from the kitchen cupboard, there are many very ornamental varieties that can offer texture, color and scent in your garden," said The Garden Glove. "Oh, and did I mention they grow like weeds? In a good way, of course. Drought resistant and sun lovers, these plants come in creeping forms to tuck between pavers, and larger varieties that fit right into any garden bed. Flowers are usually white, pink or red, and cover the plants spring through fall. They are fragrant when crushed, make great filler for flower arrangements, and attract butterflies like crazy These plants come back every year, and yes, you can use them in the kitchen"


"If you have a t>


"This perennial blooms a long time throughout the season with spikes of bluish lavender flowers, and has gray-green foliage that is pretty even when not in bloom. "If you cut it back, itll even bloom a second time," said Yahoo. "Catmint makes a good filler plant for the front of a garden, since it doesnt get tall. It does best in sun, but doesnt require particularly fertile soil, and once theyre established, theyre fairly drought resistant."

Crepe Myrtle

"Often the street tree of choice in some council areas around Sydneybasically the new powdery mildew resistant cultivars can be planted and forgotten," said Home Life. "They like a hot, dry climate, and aside from the beautiful flowers from January to March, their bark makes them one of the most beautiful plants around."


"A tough and beautiful pick for any garden, Yarrow is an easy bet no matter how black your thumb may be. Flowers are tightly packed on flat heads, giving some architectural structure to your garden design," said The Tennessean. "This plant thrives on neglect, loves poor soil, and blooms right through the summer. Its most common color is yellow, but there are also varieties in pink, red, salmon and white.

The foliage is ferny and lower to the ground, but the flower stalks can be anywhere from twelve inches, to four feet off the ground Foliage can be anything from a deep green to a soft sagey gray depending on variety. It is attractive out of flower, starts early in the spring/summer, and keeps going through the fall."

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Solar Panels May Effect Your Homes Value, In Either Direction

There is no shortage of newspaper and magazine articles that extol both the virtue and the value of solar panels for residences. Curiously, there is a similar abundance of articles telling of buyer resistance to homes with solar panels and how the presence of solar panels has caused either price concessions or failed sales. Try googling: solar lease scaring buyers.

Actually, there is no contradiction here. We just have to read the fine print. In short, solar panels per se -- with no qualification regarding financing -- are generally perceived by buyers in a positive way. But, when the panels come along with a lease that may have 15-20 years to run, the reaction is somewhat different.

Two studies looked at the effects that solar panels have had on sale prices. One was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research "Understanding the Solar Home Price Premium". It looked at utility data, sales records of single family homes and building permit data in San Diego County and Sacramento County Calif. from 2003 through year-end 2010. For the average installation, the authors found that solar panels added a 20,194 premium to the sale price of a home in the mid-500,000 range, based on repeat sales data.

Another study, >

For the most part, though, these studies looked at homes that had panels installed prior to the advent of solar panel leasing programs. In June of 2014 a Bloomberg report said this: "Leasing is driving a boom in solar sales because most require no money upfront [Leasing has] made solar affordable for more people, helping spur a 38 percent jump in U.S. residential installations in the past year."

To date there have been no voluminous studies of the sales effect of leased solar panels. The evidence is only anecdotal. But stories have been surfacing all around the country, and have been reported in a variety of news outlets and internet posts.

The issue is that many buyers are resistant to assuming the solar panel lease, which might have 15 years or so left to run.

Some argue that the leases are too long commonly twenty years at the outset for an item that may be technologically obsolete well before the lease term is up. Others are concerned about the long-term viability of the companies that provide the panels. Will they be there to provide service for the life of the lease?

Even those who are ok with a lease have to face the fact that they will be taking on new debt at the same time they are trying to qualify for a mortgage. Most people who can qualify for a mortgage will meet the credit standards for assuming the lease. But, taking over the lease will, in many cases, lower the amount of mortgage for which the home buyer can qualify.

Of course there are many ways to skin this cat. The considerations involved in selling a home with leased solar panels are certainly not insurmountable. Sellers of such homes are well advised to do some homework in preparing to go to market. Find out about the lease-assumption process from the company doing the financing. Investigate buy-out provisions as well. Most of all do the math on the energy cost savings. Have records available.

You might even want to have some information on those studies that show the price premiums that panels can add.

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Spring Home Prep and Maintenance Inside and Out

The spring real estate market is picking up. Is your home ready for the many buyers who will see it in the coming days? Its imperative that your home stands out among all of the others so youll get the best offer possible. Dont leave one stone unturned -- inside or out -- when it comes to spring home maintenance and preparation. Heres a checklist to help you prepare:

Home exterior courtesy of Roof Real Clean

On the outside:

Lawn: Clean up the lawn following the frigid winter. To prevent weeds, lay down an herbicide. Check that your in-ground sprinkler system is still working.

Decks/patios: Sweep off the deck and patio to remove any debris. Clean, stain and reseal your deck. Hose down your patio to get back to the original layer.

Exterior wall: Look for trouble areas following the cold winter months and climate conditions. Water stains mean your gutters arent handling runoff well, for example. Look for holes, cracks and other issues and repair as needed.

Roof: Any cracked or missing shingles? How is your roof deck performing following any ice dams? Address any issues to keep your roof in top shape.

Chimney: If you have a stone chimney, check to see how the bricks are doing. Look for efflorescence, a white calcium deposit that means your chimney is absorbing water. Reseal chimney if needed.

Gutters and downspouts: Clean the gutters and make sure downspouts are in the right position so they direct water away from your house. You can hire a professional to clean your gutters for between 100 and 200 to avoid injury.

Home interior courtesy of JFC Real Estate Development, LLC

Inside the house:

Windows: Check caulking and weather stripping and replace as needed.

Leaks: Check for leaky faucets, clogged drains and broken pipes. Look for any puddles around the dishwasher. Call a plumber to perform repairs if needed.

Attics: Search for pests and mold and repair as necessary. Proper insulation and good ventilation will prevent more problems, so you might add a new layer around the attic floor.

Air conditioning unit: Change the filter, check for leaks around the house and make sure the drain pan is working correctly. Vacuum all the dust away and have an air conditioning professional perform any necessary repairs.

"Spring" cleaning: Your house should be in tip-top shape to welcome the new season. To get out the last of the cold and welcome the warmth, you should:

  • Dust window frames, wood furniture, ceiling fans and areas above the cabinetry.
  • Vacuum furniture and carpet; steam clean if needed.
  • Wash cabinets and walls.
  • Clean tile and repair any missing grout.


This is only a portion of the spring checklist you might have for your home, but it focuses on the major areas that may need work following a frigid winter. You never know how much damage snow and ice may have caused to your roof or attic, and you dont want your air conditioning system to fail halfway through the warm months ahead. Tackle the problem areas now as spring begins. Then you can work to update and stage rooms for the spring market ahead.

Photos courtesy of DesignMine
Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

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Five Realities about Parental Input When Buying Your Dream Home

While juggling the complexities of buying your dream home, how can you keep both your emotions and your parents in check, so you dont gain a home and lose the close connection with your parents? PJ Wade shares Five Realities about Parental Input - Wanted and Otherwise - with buyers.

Your parents may be more excited than you are about your plans to buy your first home. How do you curb their enthusiastic interference without offending them?

Parents Perspective: Experience makes parents certain they can save you money and disappointment, now and down the road.

When things dont work out youve always turned to them for advice and helpeven a bailoutso you cant blame parents for wanting to head off potential problems that they, as experienced property owners, know can be part of buying real estate.

Parents also know your "bad" habits and how those quirks have gotten you into trouble in the past.

Most important, they genuinely want to save you time and money that could be lost if you insist in "learning the hard way" through buying the wrong property or ending up over your head financially.

Your Perspective: Even with less real estate experience, you are certain youre ready to take the plunge into home ownership that so many of your friends have successfully taken.

These two sets of certainties can collide to materialize as frustrating stubbornness from the parents viewpoint and annoying parental interference from your perspective. This can leave all of you both right and wrong, and unnecessarily upset.

While juggling the complexities of buying your dream home, how can you keep both your emotions and your parents in check, so you dont end up gaining a home and losing the close connection with your parents?

Here are Five Realities about Parental Input - Wanted amp; Otherwise - When Buying:

1. Friends who told you they went solo lied

If your friends have parents, the parents chipped in suggestions, warnings, and maybe cash or connections. Whether this was helpful or not, your friends want to be seen as confident grown-up buyers, so youll probably never know what really happened during the buy. Understand that savvy buyers want to gather all the "if only wed known" insights they can from friends and family before signing on the dotted line.

2. If you listen, youll learn

You may have lived in the family home most if not all of your life, but you probably know little about the problems and solutions your parents have lived through. Ask them to give you a tour of the house and property pointing out the problems, so you get a feel for what to look for when you tour listings. Take notes as practice for keeping track of the differences between the 3 or 53 properties youll view and as a signal to your parents that youre listening, so youll not need to be continually reminded. Having shared their experiences, your parents will feel they have contributed. They can now >

3. If moneys involved, learn the terms before you need the dough.

Parents are often generous enough to contribute funds for the downpayment and other expenses, but find out before you start viewing homes what their terms will be. Will they me>

4. Its who you know that can make the difference.

Your parents may have close, real-estate-savvy friends who will go out of their way to help you. Acquaintances or less-than-the-best connections may hold you back. Its up to you to discover whos who. Take time to learn how professional knowledge and experience can benefit you as you build your buying support team. Youll then make good decisions, not guilt-driven choices, regarding whom to place your - not your parents - trust in.

5. Even the most knowledgeable parents cant know all that a real estate professional knows.

If youre close to your parents, you might decide to involve them in your search for professional support; however, the final choice should be a professional who suits your needs and compliments your >
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New Home Inventory Is A Bid-Free Sales Solution

Renovation bids are too high. Multiple bids for resales are too low. Deal killers, morale busters both. Could this be why bid-free, no renovation bids are driving resale buyers to new homes?"

All the standard reasons to buy new homes still apply, but, according the National Association of REALTORS, forty percent of all new homes bought by Realtor-generated buyers in 2014, were purchased mostlyas an option to renovating a resale.

General agents do not sell new homes. They introduce their prospects to onsite agents who do the showing and the selling. Therefore, there is no need for an agent to learn construction. What general agents need to learn is how to qualify resale prospects for new homes and how to find new homes fast, beyond MLS searches.

According to a study by Builder Homesite Inc., a builder consortium formed in 2000 bythirty twoof the largest homebuilders in the United States, thirty-five percent of the home shopping market will look at both new homes and resales. I have written about this game changer marketing study for the last two years, because it changed the way builders look at Realtors and themselves.

New homes consultants are in an awkward place because they see the numbers. They know that according to the National Association of Realtors sixty seven percent of all new homes sold are through their co-broker networks.

Yet, you ra>


Because everybody knows that if homebuilders could cut out the cobroker commission, they could make more money on the house. In the past, when markets become as strong as the one we are now experiencing, homebuilders would cut broker commissions, creating more confusion within the Realtor community, resulting in Realtors staying away from new home training.

Not so today. Production homebuilders are competing for co-broker business like never before and are providing all transaction services plus presale services via their internet advisors.

The above is addressed to help Realtors understand that the builder/Realtor commission issues are practically non existent.

Just look around in your market. We are in a sellers market in most markets yet homebuilder marketing programs are as aggressive as ever. They need Realtors and Realtors need their inventory.

Homebuilders reach out to Realtors because Realtors have the qualified buyers in their car, and the homebuilders via their own studies know that thirty-five percent of them will consider a new home. they also know that the vast percentage of walk in traffic is either not qualified, motivated or both.

By the way, according to the BHI study, nineteen percent will purchase new and not consider resales. If your agents are not marketing to new homes buyers, they are in effect ignoring one out of five homebuyer prospects, some of whom will purchase a resale, of course, and will have homes to list.

Which brings us to the reason new homes training cannot be separated from resale training. New homes inventory should be positioned as saleable inventory options for home shoppers looking for resales at the price point of new homes or above.

So, how do you, a trainer, squeeze a new homes training program into your current training system and making it part of your resales and listing training, which it should be. What do you include in the training?


1. Understand your market. What is the new home price point in your market? Do you know? If the new homes price point is 250,000 and your agents are working with a resale prospect in the 250,000 range or higher, would it not make sense for the agent to show the new home as a matter of establishing a baseline price showing the prospect what they can buy for their money? It will help sell more resales, because the new home visit gives the home shopper a fixed price example of what can be purchased for the money.

2. Include how easy it is to find new homes inventory on short notice, for those fun times when the agent gets blind-sided with a request to see new homes while we are looking at resales. Hint: call one of the internet advisors your agents you train them to place in their contact system.

3. Keep it short. Offer it online eventually. No management. No time taken from resale training.

4. Always remember: it is not the general agents job to sell a new home. It is the agents job to help the home shopper find the home they want to buy, be it resale or new home.

So, in reality, agents dont need a How To Sell New Homes course. They need to learn to show saleable inventory to qualified buyers who can afford what they cannot only see, but purchase without bidding and move in without renovating, be it resale or new a new home.

Whats your opinion?

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The Home Possible Advantage Mortgage

Freddie Mac recently launched a new affordable mortgage option that allows a down payment as low as 3 percent. The Home Possible Advantagesm mortgage is ideal for low and moderate-income borrowers with limited savings, including first-time homebuyers.

The loan can then be sold to the secondary market as a conforming loan, offering borrowers with good credit and the ability to pay closing costs the ability to chase the American Dream without saving for years and years to pay 20 percent down.

Closing costs vary widely depending on where you live, but they average 2,539 for a 200,000 home. With the Home Possible Advantage, borrowers can use gifts from parents, grants, savings and other sources to provide the 3 percent down payment.

Required credit scores depend on the type of loan product you want and whether or not youre buying a single unit or up to four units in the same building, but you can count on at least a minimum of 660 to 680 for single occupancy.

You can also count on paying private mortgage insurance for any loan with less than 20 percent down. PMI is an insurance policy that protects the lender should you default, and the cost is based on your loan-to-value ratio and credit scores. Expect to pay 40 to 80 per month for every 100,000 you borrow. Once youve built equity of at least 20 percent in your home, you can contact the lender to review your loan against how much youve paid down and get your PMI canceled.

Home Possible Advantage mortgages can be used for a "no cash out" refinance of an existing mortgage. That means you take no money for the proceeds for remodeling or repairs. Available products are in 15-, 20-, and 30-year fixed-rate terms.

Some borrowers may be nervous about getting into a low-down-payment loan, but Freddie Mac assures lenders and consumers that the product is designed with the appropriate credit underwriting requirements for todays market.

The Home Possible Advantage has tougher credit standards than low down payment mortgages of the past, including lower debt-to-income ratios, no variable rate terms and it requires full documentation of employment and rental histories, plus its only for owner-occupants who complete housing counseling online from approved vendors.

There are other programs available from Freddie Mac that allow you to purchase up to a four-unit property with landlord education required online.

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Listing Photo Dos and Donts: Taxidermy, Dead Bodies, and Phallic Windows, Oh My

A toilet seat left up in a filthy bathroom. A room that looks like it belongs in the sequel to Deliverance. Poor angles that accentuate phallic window shapes yes, really Theyre just a few of the bizarre, poorly executed, and possibly illegal listing photos out there. Cause nothing sells your house like making people think its a murder scene.

"In a survey by the National Association of Realtors, homebuyers rated photos as the feature they use most when searching for a home on the web," said FrontDoor. "Online listings with bad pictures--or worse, no pictures at all--can cause buyers to overlook your home from the get-go.

Yes, listing photos are the great equalizer when it comes to selling a home. And theyre more important than ever, but that doesnt mean everyones doing them right.

Here are a few tips for taking great listing photography some are more obvious than others:

Clean up Dirty clothes on the floor, bathrooms that look like they need to be drenched in Clorox, and dishes in the sink are big no-nos. Standard stuff, yes, but given some of the listing photos out there, it bears repeating.

Do a secondary tidying. "Clear out distracting items like toys, refrigerator magnets and the like before taking photos," said FrontDoor.

Show all the homes best attributes. Dont leave out a well-designed powder bath because you think its ir>

Natural light is your friend. Actually, any light is your friend. You want the space to show light and bright, so open the windows and flip all the switches. Whether youre shooting inside or out, do it without a flash. "Even basic point-and-shoot cameras are getting better at low-light situations, and your cameras flash will never be able to light a room well," said Houzz.

"Consider the angles. "The best way to show off a room is to shoot from a corner or doorway to include as much of the room as possible," said FrontDoor. This provides context and makes the room look more spacious than a tight shot does. When photographing your homes exterior, stand at an angle to the home rather than straight-on, allowing buyers to see the homes depth."

Consider the height. "One really important compositional consideration is how high the camera is off the ground," said Houzz. They like to shoot with the camera about 40 inches off the floor to get impactful low shots. "When your camera sits lower than eye level, your photos will look more like those you see in magazines."

Get out of the photo. A surprising number of individuals show up in listing photos, either purposely or accidentally as the result of a reflection in a bathroom mirror. Either way, its best to avoid distracting potential homebuyers who will inevitably focus on the person, and not the space.

Use a professional. We all have a smart phone and the quality of the photos they take is better than ever. But photos taken by a professional photographer with a professional camera are still preferable, especially for high-end listings.

And here are a few things NOT to do:

If you have so many plants you cant see the actual room, time to pare down. And maybe consider moving to the Amazon.

Perhaps consider window shape at the construction stage? And when listing the house, be smart about potential buyers. Marketed to a porn company, this angle works perfectly.

Multi-purpose rooms are great, but...

OMG is that an outline of a dead body in the photo from Curbed?

Maybe cover up evidence of a murder scene before you take your listing photos? "One reader questioned why there appears to be a trail of bloody footprints across the floor in an otherwise perfectly normal-looking house in Minnesota, said Hooked on Houses.

Great for Extreme Taxidermy magazine. As a listing photo, not so much...

Live animals arent always better. At least this was an equestrian listing, reports Hooked On Houses.

Peekaboo, we shouldnt see you in this listing photos featured on Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos.

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Copyright©2015 Realty Times®.All Rights Reserved

Today's Real Estate News and Advice Updated: Monday, March 30, 2015

Five Realities about Parental Input When Buying Your Dream Home
While juggling the complexities of buying your dream home, how can you keep both your emotions ...
> Full Story

Spring Home Prep and Maintenance Inside and Out
The spring real estate market is picking up. Is your home ready for the many buyers who will se...
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Solar Panels May Effect Your Homes Value, In Either Direction
There is no shortage of newspaper and magazine articles that extol both the virtue and the valu...
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