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Updated: Monday, May 30, 2016

Tips For Selecting An Interior Door

Take a minute to count the number of doors in your house. Surprising, right? Consider then, the impact that a little attention to the doors can have on the overall >

Lets take a look at the options:


Prices for interior doors vary depending on what theyre made of. There are pros and cons associated with the materials themselves that are worth considering before you start thinking about the different >

Solid Wood: Believe it or not, most residential doors are not solid wood, but they offer such excellent soundproofing that they are a very popular upgrade. The weight of a solid wood door also lends a high-end feel when you swing it open or shut. Available in all kinds of wood, from exotic mahogany to the most common pine, solid wood gives you the option of staining to accentuate the beauty of the wood or painting to work with your decor.

Solid Core: These doors are actually constructed of medium-density fiberboard MDF, which is essentially an engineered hardwood that is available in wood-grain or smooth finishes. These, too, offer great sound proofing and that high-end heft, and are arguably the best value for your money.

Hollow Core: These are the most common and affordable doors available. Hollow-core doors are constructed with wood grain or smooth panels that cover a honeycomb-like center. Hollow-core doors are much lighter in weight and offer less soundproofing, but the upside is affordability.

Prehung or Slab: Finally, its important to consider whether you will hang the door in an existing door frame, or purchase a door that is prehung in its frame. Hanging a heavier door is a more delicate process, so we recommend homeowners interested in solid wood doors consider prehung options. A lighter, hollow-core door is simple to hang from existing hinges as it doesnt have much impact in terms of weight.


Once youve decided on the type of door that best fits your needs, its time to think about >

Panel: Panel doors offer a little detail and history. The panels are constructed of rails and stiles to create two-, four- or six-panel options. Rails and stiles can be straight or curved to match your design aesthetic. Straight lines tend to fade to the background, which is often the best option when youre upgrading several doors in one space. Panel doors work well in more traditional design >

Flush: Flush doors are just that: smooth, with no detailing. The lack of detail makes them a good choice in any decor, but especially if youre working with more contemporary >

French doors: French doors are a beautiful upgrade in the right spot. The detailing of the panesand the light they bringimprove the look of any space, and the value as well. Great for exterior doors, they can also help open up interior spaces while still offering boundaries, both visually and spatially.

Pocket doors: Pocket doors are problem solvers. They are the perfect solution in tight spaces, or as a way to add a little privacy within a larger space. They also add a custom flair. Installation requires wall space on one side of the door large enough to accommodate the door when its open. Dont forget that these are also available in flush and panel >

Specialty doors

Of course, there are a few door >

Barn doors are a beautiful way to add real visual interest and architectural flair, and are much simpler to install than you might guess. A simple track above the door holds the panels and allows them to slide open and closed. Choose rustic, natural wood tones and textures or more tailored and polished door panels.

Frosted glass inserts are a great way to let in the light and maintain privacy while adding a very custom, high-end look. Great for closet doors, they also work well in other interior and exterior situations.

Those are just a few of our favorites. Whats on your wish list for interior doors?

Kerrie Kelly is an award-winning interior designer and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in northern California. Kerrie writes on interior design topics for Home Depot. Many of the interior doors mentioned by Kerrie in the article can be viewed online at www.homedepot.com/b/Doors-Windows-Doors/N-5yc1vZas82.

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What To Do When Your Tax Appraisal Comes In High

Your house is worth how much more than it was last year? Hot damn You obviously made a smart buy. But while youre getting all excited about your great investment, you may not have thought about how it affects your property taxes... right up until that moment you open the mailbox and receive a notice that your rising equity means rising property taxes.


If your expenses just went up alongside the perceived value of your home, well, youre not alone. Appraisals all over the country, especially in states like Texas, have risen substantially over the past few years - a byproduct of having some of the strongest real estate markets in the country. According to the Dallas County Central Appraisal District DCAD, "Tax assessments are rising 1213 this year, said CBS, and, in other hot areas, theyre up as much as 40.

Thats the downside of appreciating real estate markets. But that doesnt mean you have to live with it.

"Good news for Americans facing eye-popping property taxes: You can fight city hall, or whichever government body sends you this annual economic albatross," said Bankrate.

The knowledge that "as many as 60 of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher amount than their current value, according to the National Taxpayers Union, said Kiplinger, should give homeowners some solace, or at least a little encouragement as they try to knock that appraisal down a bit or a bunch. If youre looking to lower those property taxes, here are a few things to try.

Understand what youre dealing with

Its important to note that while appraisals are generally based on a combination of local tax rates and assessed property value, they are not necessarily accurate on a house-by-house basis, Unless the government has a drone thats been spying on the inside of my house they dont, right?, Im quite sure they are unaware of how badly I need new floors. And a cooktop. And window coverings. In order to sell my home for what theyve appraised it for, I would need to do some updating and repairs. Most of us would, and that can help if youre planning to dispute your appraisal.

Request Your "Property Tax Card"

"Few homeowners realize they can go down to the town hall and request to view or receive a copy of their property tax cards from the local assessors office. The tax card provides the homeowner with information the town has gathered about the property over time," said Investopedia. Here youll find information about your lot size, exact room dimensions, fixtures, and details about any improvements that may have been made over time. Find any errors? You may have just discovered the key to lowering your taxes.

"As you review this card, note any discrepancies and then raise these issues with the tax assessor. The assessor will either make the correction and/or conduct a re-evaluation. This tip sounds laughably simple, but mistakes are common. If you can find them, the township has an obligation to correct them."

Fair Assessments

Hire a professional

For many, the surest bet when fighting increasing assessments is hiring a lawyer, property tax negotiator, or consultant. Keep in mind, though, that youll be paying for those servicesanywhere from one-third to one-half of the money saved if the taxes are lowered.

Fight it yourself

If you plan to do it on your own, you need to prepare yourself:

First, locate your assessors office. This will help you find out precisely how the property tax calculation is derived and get their criteria for home appraisals.

Fight it in person. According to experts, this is the most effective way to dispute your appraisal. Emails are often ignored or requests flat out refused. And make sure you "come armed and ready," said Banking My Way. Gathering comps from your real estate agent that outline recent sales for similar homes in your neighborhood is key. Taking pictures of areas of your home that need repair or arent in "selling shape" to illustrate why the higher appraisal number is inaccurate can also help.

Put Zillow to use for you. Weve talked at length about the inaccuracies of Zillows Zestimates. But in this case, that might help bolster your case. Zestimates for your home and similar homes in your area showing lower than the appraised amount? Print out those pages and add them to your file.

Network. If your communitys Nextdoor community is as lively as ours, its full of discussions and information about property taxes and appraisal disputes. Using social tools like this can help you get to know what your neighbors are up against and find common solutions specific to your neighborhood. It may also help you find someone to help guide your dispute.

Do some reconnaissance. Neighbors with the same floorplan across the street have a pool? Make sure to mention that in the file youre putting together. Know whos redone their kitchen? Note that as well. "What many individuals dont realize is that in many cases, information about other home assessments in the area is also available to the public," said Investopedia. "You can often find discrepancies that could lower your taxes. For example, lets say that you have a four-bedroom home with a one-car garage, and your home was assessed at 250,000. Your neighbor also owns a four-bedroom home, but this house sports a two-car garage, a 150-square-foot shed and a beautiful swimming pool. Despite this, your neighbors home was valued at 235,000. If an error is found, it pays to bring it to the assessors attention as soon as possible so that you can get a reassessment if necessary."

Pay attention to the timeframe

Filing an official protest has to be done within a certain timeframe. You dont want to miss out on savings because of a missed deadline. In Texas, property owners only have until May 31 to challenge their property tax assessments.

"Most municipalities differ, with some towns stipulating that you only have 14 days from the time of your property tax assessment to appeal, and some may go as high as 60 days," said Banking My Way. "Your towns tax appraisal office will have the deadline information."

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5 Front Yard Landscaping Tips That Will Wow Buyers

Your front yard is the red carpet inviting buyers into the beauty that is your home. If its rugged, messy and unkempt, buyers will take one look and then keep on driving to the next property on their list. Dont let that happen by making your front yard luscious and as amazing as the inside of your home.

What areas should you focus on in your front yard? Where do you start? To help you break down the revitalization of your front yard, here are the steps you should take:

1. Cut the grass.

Buyers dont want to trudge through high grass as though they were in the Amazon or on a safari in Africa. This means the lawn mower needs to be out at least once a week if not every other week, keeping it trimmed and maintained. It also needs to be green so it looks alive and lush. Water so the sun doesnt dry out the lawn and turn it yellow or brown. A professional landscaper can help maintain a balance of trimming and growth so it looks just right for buyers.

2. Plant more shade trees.

One or two trees in the front yard are all right, but if you want to really add some shade, plant more. Shade trees will detract from the glare of the sun, and it can help decrease the temperature of the house if theyre placed close to windows. It also will help keep the lawn green with moisture. You can plant trees that are shorter and will grow by the time the new owner buys the home, but be sure theyre strong and can handle the climate.

3. Install outdoor lighting.

Outdoor lighting is a good way to both illuminate the house at night and accent parts of your yard. Depending on where you install the lights, your house will look very appealing at night to those buyers who might not have time to do their shopping during the day. Outdoor lighting also helps to illuminate a path like a sidewalk to get from the curb to your front door for easier navigation. It helps to accent the beauty of your landscaping which all together increases the beauty of your home.

4. Consider adding flowers for more color.

If your front yard has a lot of greenery, you should increase the yard appeal by adding more colors. Flowers are a great and simple way to do this, as well as shrubbery with different blooms. Perennials are the best for this because they last for more than a year, which means less maintenance for the seller and the new homeowner. They come in a wide variety of colors and types so the yard can be decorated with any number of them while still requiring less maintenance.

5. Keep everything clean

In addition to keeping the lawn trimmed, everything else should be clean. Anywhere that can build up dirt or grime - siding, porch, front door, driveway - should be cleaned on a regular basis. Buyers dont want to see a lot of dirt and mess, and it will detract from them wanting to walk into the house. So take a broom, a power washer and a few hours on the weekend to keep everything sparkling clean. Dont have a power washer? A professional power washing service can cost as little as 293.

Photos courtesy of DesignMine

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Ask the HOA Expert: Owner Not Paying Assessments

Question: We have an owner who has not paid an assessment for several years. The property is being used as rental property.

Answer: Your board needs to adopt a formal Collection Policy that provides for an "assignment of rents" provision. This provision allows the HOA to redirect rents to the HOA when a member fails to pay the HOA assessments. There is a sample Collection Policy at www.Regenesis.net in the Policy Samples section. Have the proposed Collection Policy reviewed by a knowledgeable HOA attorney to ensure it complies with the governing documents, federal and state statutes. The proposed Collection Policy should be circulated for comment to the members before enactment. Once enacted, start enforcing the provisions on any owner who is delinquent.

Question: Our HOA recently had a reserve study update which the board is evaluating to ensure that we are adequately funded. What is a proper funding level? I have heard numbers from "30 Funded" to "80 Funded".

Answer: 100 Funded should be the goal. For example, if you have a 30 year roof that costs 90,000 to replace, you should reserve 3,000/year to be 100 Funded. Reserving anything less will produce a lower level of funding that will have to be made up in the future by others that shouldnt have to pay it. Having a goal of 100 Funded insures that all members pay their fair share. Understand, however, that it is impossible to maintain 100 at all times since large expenditures can draw reserve down dramatically in any given year. The funding plan should anticipate these draw downs and adjust annual contributions to build up reserves again. The main issue is to avoid funding by special assessments which are unfair to most that have to pay them.

Question: Our governing documents have policies regarding tree cutting and clearing. From time to time, the board gets requests from lot owners asking permission to cut a tree because of fear that it will fall on the house. If there is no disease or damage, we deny such requests. It has been suggested recently that the HOA can be held liable for damage and injury from falling trees.

Answer: The HOA is certainly liable for failing to maintain trees in the common area and should have a regular tree maintenance program to keep trees trimmed, healthy and safe. Trees located on private lots is another matter. If an owner maintains a tree is in danger of falling, it should either be obvious to a casual observer or be documented by an arborist. The board should make prudent decisions based on >

There is also a fire hazard presented by trees that are closer that 30 feet to the structure, especially if they are highly flammable like pine trees. If an arborist believes they are a danger, they should be removed.

Question: Our HOA has extra parking spaces which are first come/first serve. There are several residents which park extra vehicles and boats there long term. This doesnt seem fair.

Answer: If the HOA has extra parking spaces, it should not allow any resident to commandeer them, especially for no cost. These are revenue generating assets which can be rented long term at market rate. In many urban settings, a reserved parking spot is worth 50 or more a month. The board should charge market rent on a yearly basis. This way, parking revenue benefits all HOA members by helping reduce HOA fees.

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

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Running For The Board Of Directors In Your HOA

Question: I want to run for election to our Communitys Board of Directors. What exactly does the Board do? What can it not do? Please advise.

Answer: If you really want to be on your Board of Directors, you must first do your homework. You must read your States statute dealing with community associations whether you live in a condominium or a homeowner association, and you must read -- and understand -- your associations legal documents.

There is a power source recognized in community association law. This means that when you seek guidance as to what a board can -- and cannot do -- you must first look to the applicable state statute. If there is a specific prohibition contained in that law, it will usually be the end of the discussion.

However, state laws are general in nature; they usually deter to the specific documentation >

The next level of this power source are your operational documents: first the declaration in a condominium or the Master Deed in a HOA. Next, we turn to the Bylaws, and finally the rules and regulations.

I am often guided by a legal opinion issued by the high Court in the State of Florida. In analyzing the role of a particular Board that was involved in litigation, the Court in effect said the following: If something is in the Bylaws, the Board can be unreasonable; if it is not in the Bylaws, the Board must be reasonable.

Service on a Board of Directors is an unpaid, thankless task. Yet, a major investment -- your home -- is at stake, which is why many owners make the difficult decision to serve their community.

Many community associations are big business -- with revenues often exceeding other businesses and even local governments -- although most unit owners and many Board members do not understand this. Budgets often exceed a Million Dollars annually. An Association Board must deal with a wide variety of issues -- such as pet and parking restrictions, crime on the common grounds, trash, tot lots, employment and tax issues.

Money issues:

Finance and budgetary matters are perhaps the most important function of a Board of Directors. The Board must establish an annual budget, so the amount of the owners assessments can be determined.

But it is important to remember that a Board of Directors establishes policies and procedures; the Board is not -- and should not -- be the manager. Many writers have likened community associations to a mini-government. In this context, consider the Board as the legislative arm of government, and your property manager as the executive branch.

Work closely with your property manager; dont fight him/her all the time. There has to be a team effort, and the team generally includes the property manager, the attorney, and the accountant. You probably do not have the expertise -- nor the experience -- to craft your own budget, but the buck stops with the Board of Directors. If next years budget is too low -- or if there are unforseen emergency expenditures -- you will have to pass a special assessment. Go tell that to your friends and neighbors

Rules and enforcement:

Another important function of the Board goes to the enforcement of the association documents, including but not limited to, architectural covenants. Boards in the past have often harshly and strictly attempted to enforce their rules; as the result, homeowners throughout this nation refer to their architectural control committees and Boards fondly as the "local KGB."

There is no question but that the rules and regulations must be enforced. The law is quite clear that arbitrary and selective enforcement will not stand the test of litigation. However, common sense -- and a bit of humanity and heart -- must be part of the enforcement process.

The Board has to adust to new and developing issues, such as the use of drones over the common elements, as well as the potential impact that such groups as AIRBNB may have on your community.

The Community Association Institute has a publication entitled "Be Reasonable." Permit me to quote from this material -- which should be read by every Board member of every community association in America:

"Its time for associations to write responsible rules and review existing restrictions. To eliminate restrictions that are outdated and illogical, and to address specific problems with clear, specific solutions. To realize that overzealous, unreasonable boards of directors can be more damaging to property values than the violations they so vigorously try to prevent. Its time to be reasonable."

And finally, lets get one thing straight: if you are on an ego trip, or me>
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Three Important Responsibilities Home Buyers Have

The American dream of owning a home is something everyone should have if they want it. You should be able to live where you want and enjoy the features of your environment that help you >

You can own a pet, build a treehouse, paint the walls your favorite color, and play music and videos as loud as you like without disturbing your neighbors. Thats the essence of the dream -- independence.

For most first-time buyers, its better to accept that for dreams to come true, you have to do the groundwork. Yes, you will be far more independent than you would as a renter, but you will still have some very real responsibilities to make homeownership work. Here are the top three responsibilities youll have as a homeowner.

Financial responsibilities

You owe your lender timely payments. Paying on time helps you build your credit. With great credit, you can take on more projects such as remodeling, or youll be able to buy furniture, cars or other things you want with lower interest on your payments.

Your debts should never be more than 40 percent of your income. If you get overextended, youll have problems meeting the minimum payments. Instead, limit the amount of credit you actively use and pay off balances every month. Dont add new charges until youve paid off your balances.

You should also be in a position to save money, which you can do several ways. You can put money in your 401K, you can pay extra on your principal every month, or you can buy bonds or invest in the stock market, according to your tolerance for risk. You can put money in a safety deposit box or under the mattress as long as you are saving rather than overspending.

Common wisdom is to build six months of cash so you can continue to make your house payments if you lose your job or become ill. You need savings for emergencies, large expenses such as student debt, and retirement.

Neighborhood responsibilities

When you buy a home, your household becomes part of the neighborhood. You can influence whether or not the neighborhood prospers or declines simply by the way you treat your neighbors and your home. Its up to you to uphold or to set a higher standard for the neighborhood by keeping your lawn and trees trimmed, your home freshly painted, and toys and trash picked up from the entry.

This is the way you can protect your investment and those of your neighbors. Its one of the reasons many neighborhoods have homeowners associations -- to protect values by standardizing safety and maintenance for the community.

To get the benefits the HOA provides such as higher and consistent home values, you have to pay your dues and obey the covenants. You can volunteer to help or youll have to abide by the decisions others make. Before you buy a home in a HOA-managed community, read the covenants so youll know what youre getting into. If not being able to use certain exterior paint colors bothers you, then dont buy the home. Find something else.

Household responsibilities

You owe yourself and the other members of your household the best life you can possibly provide. Buying a new home is a great time to step up your life>

Your home should help you be who you want to be. Thats the purpose of shaping your environment. You have control over whether you entertain like Martha Stewart, paint in your studio like the next Picasso, or grow a lawn as sleek as the Augusta fairways.

Choose a home that meets as many needs as you can within your means. Separate bedrooms for the kids may be doable, but you may have to compromise on a Jack and Jill shared bath. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your older children about prioritizing, delayed gratification, give and take and winning and losing gracefully.

Make sure the area you select offers amenities that your building doesnt have. If you dont have a yard for the kids and the dog, make sure theres a park and playground nearby.

Think about how far and how long it will take you to get to shopping, work, and other friends and family. Think about how a long commute will affect your family. Would you rather be sitting in traffic or attending your sons ball game?

You and your spouse may want the prestige of living in a certain area, but if your house-payment is too high, youll introduce problems into the >

Buy the best home you can thats within your means and it will see you through years of comfort.

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8 Common Email Marketing Mistakes

While Email Marketing is not as new as Social Media and other digital channels, its still one of the most powerful and lucrative ways for agents to generate leads, get listings, and close more sales. It may not sound as "sexy" as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but savvy agents who know what theyre doing can get great results. On average, over the past 3 years, every 1 spent on email marketing has brought in a return of over 30.

One reason behind emails massive success is that "inbox-checking" is as addictive as video games, and its very personal. If someone is waiting for an important business update, or to hear from a friend, it almost always comes via email, which is one of the main reasons people tend to be glued to their devices all day.

Whats the catch? As mentioned earlier, you just need to know what youre doing. Here are 8 common mistakes agents make when they create email content. If you avoid these and follow email marketing best practices, you can leverage your campaign for maximum results, including lead generation, new listings, and more:

1. They offer promotional content with no real value. Your emails main function may be to promote, but readers are wary of sales jargon. Instead of a hard sell, offer useful information that benefits their lives, like how to spruce up their yard, or an update on local real estate trends.

2. Generic or clich subject lines. Were bombarded with emails all day, and we delete almost all of them. To survive the "delete massacre", your email needs a subject line thats original, stands out, and builds curiosity. Try asking a question "Why are home sales up in June?", making a promise "Have a lush green front yard in January", or offering ultra-specific advice "3 Inexpensive ways to boost your homes value in under a week".

3. Not enough newsletter->. Many agents only send an email if theres a new listing to announce. Big mistake. You should also send a monthly newsletter about recent successes, like your agencys home sales over the past quarter. It will show what you can do for THEM, without a hard sell. And since homeowners like to know their homes value, they will want to read about current market trends.

4. Erratic, unpredictable schedule. People like consistency. If they dont hear from you in a few weeks, and then suddenly get bombarded with emails, they may not appreciate it. It may be once a week or even once a month, just have a schedule, and stick with it, so people know what to expect.

5. Theyre afraid of long emails. Contrary to conventional wisdom, longer emails are not less effective. Many long emails are devoured by readers. The ideal email length is the amount thats necessary to convey your message. Just dont be too wordy, and keep it neat and organized. People read content thats interesting and concise, as long as theres not too much fluff or unnecessary words.

6. They forget to be personal. Often overlooked, the "From" section can be really important. People want emails from PEOPLE, not COMPANIES. Instead of "Best Realty", it should say "Kate from Best Realty." Same thing at the end of your email.

7. They skip the "P.S." Believe it or not, many people read the end of your email before the middle, because its shorter and less intimidating. Be sure to end with a powerful "PS" message, and maybe even a call-to-action.

8. Weak or no call-to-action. Even an informational email needs to tell people what you want them to do. It can be as simple as "call for more information", or "reply to this email if you have a question." Just give specific instructions.

By following the advice of experts, you can leverage what many consider the most powerful digital marketing tool available. Use these strategies to get more listings and close more sales than your competitors who live in the Dark Ages.

Another digital marketing tool being leveraged by thousands of agents is ScoreApprove, a free home buying assessment service that can offer your clients huge credit benefits.

Want to generate more qualified leads, faster than ever? Now you can, by offering home buyers a free home buying assessment that combines both financial and credit data, with many other amazing services, all completely free. Click Here for more information.

To learn more, visit ScoreApprove.com today.

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Are You Responsive?

With more and more people searching real estate listings online, the quality of your net presence is makes a vital statement. What message do real estate professionals deliver when their website is not responsive?

Google recommended Responsive Web Design is the most common method of achieving mobile-friendly web pages configured to look great on the small screens of smartphones and other mobile devices. Responsive uses computer code that responds differently to different screen sizes, but ensures page displays remain similar and readable on any mobile device.

Asking buyers and sellers to use non-responsive real estate websites is equivalent to real estate professionals choosing to sell unstaged, even handyman->

In April 2015, Google announced search changes that favor mobile devices. With this and subsequent edicts, responsive switched from a target-driven alternative to a business essential. Smartphone internet use and mobile computing continues to dominate.

The internet is increasingly being defined by the rising mass of mobile computing devices. Mobile phones have replaced desktop and laptop computers on many levelsfrom what people are buying, to what they use to search the net. Websites and blogs that do not cater to small-screen mobile devices, particularly smartphones and other hand-helds, are increasingly ignored. Significant internet usage continues to shift away from non-responsive sites and blogs.

Websites designed and coded for these larger screens do not automatically make a graceful transition to small screens. Your beautifully-designed non-responsive website can look hideous on a smartphone. Potential viewers must do so much pinching, scrolling, zooming, and squinting at tiny fonts they may give up and click on a competitors website, which is designed to look great on screens of any size.

To go responsive or not? The time, expertise, and expense required for transition to responsive may be daunting for some site owners. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Prioritize. Traffic, lead generation, and e-commerce are among the key reasons for investing time and money to go responsive. For example, suppose you have a blog and a website, and your blog draws significantly more target traffic. Start with the blog and overhaul the website later. Expanding the blog and phasing out the website may be an alternative.
  • Allocation of time and resources. Create an efficient sequence for continuous updating and modernizing just as you suggest sellers do with their assets. Responsive design may be the latest overhaul, but it will not be the last that technology dictates.
  • Analyze Dont Just Assume. Switching to mobile friendly may not instantly create dramatic shifts in traffic or usage statistics since so many factors are involved. Reduced bounce rates may indicate phone users find it easier to stay and read, but >
  • >If content is not top-notch and video excellent, mobile-friendly design alone will not be enough to increase traffic and usage.

Is your website or blog or the competitions responsive? Check the following three simple tests to determine whether your web design is responsive or not:

Test 1. Visit your website or blog on your desktop or laptop. Using your browser, go to the responsive test mode. For example, on Mozillas Firefox, click on Tools on the navigation bar top left; then, click on Web Developer. Then, click on Responsive Design View. If you prefer to use keys, the shortcut is pushing ControlShiftM. On the right-side of your screen, a vertical double bar or arrow appears. Click on it and move the right vertical border toward the left. You can approximate smartphone, tablet, and other handheld-device screens. If the design is responsive, the website page will remain readable and lovely to look at. If not, a jumbled mess may appear. Google also has a Mobile-Friendly Test.

Test 2. Using your mobile device, go to your website or blog. If the web pages are responsive...well, you know the drill.

Test 3. Ask mobile-addicted prospects and clients what they think of your website or blog. If you hear complaints about what a pain it is, the site is non-responsive. "No complaints" may be worse since it may mean users have bounced off to competitors.

If you present yourself as a tech-savvy professional or a social-media natural intent on engaging prospects and clients on their terms, transforming your website and blog into mobile-friendly territory is essential. Take time to decide the best strategy that is compatible with your short- and long-tem goals:

  • Nowhere Fast: Those who find little or no business comes to them over the internet may decide there is no need to redesign. There may be a very good business case for going responsive and optimizing the site to gain traffic, leads, and referrals, but thats another article, for another time.
  • Halfway There: Blogs are not automatically responsive. For instance, popular WordPress WP accounts for almost 25 of internet activity and powers many blogs. Earlier WP blog templates or themes were not responsive. Even now, new bloggers do not have to choose responsive themes. Transforming non-responsive WordPress blogs and websites may me>
  • All the Way: The process of transforming a website to responsive is not as simple as switching templates. Coding changes are just the beginning. Designincluding layout, fonts, images, and site navigationwill need modification to optimize smaller reading "windows." Then, theres Search Engine Optimization SEO to consider. Although this may be an opportune time for a full-site overhaul of content, navigation, and all >

Are you responsive? Weve been talking about communicating your value and intentions using technology. "Responsive" means much more. In both the technical and >

Resource: Whats Your Point?

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Designing Your Home Like A Pro In 10 Steps

Pulling together a flawless home isnt easy. But you dont need to be an expert or hire one to create an inviting space - you just need to follow a few expert rules.

Heed these designer tips to get a designer look that Freshome says is "fabulous and functional, all at the same time," in your home.

1. Pick the perfect paint color

Paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a room, but choosing the right hue can be challenging. Staging pro Meridith Baer had a few suggestions on Elle Dcor to make it easier. "When you go to pick paint, either go for a perfect shade of white, a color that flatters every skin tone, or go for bold in a dark shade of red of brown or even black," she said. "Ceilings painted white or cream tend to make the room feel larger."

2. Decide your rooms purpose

If you have a great room, it may serve several different needs. But in other spaces, choosing a single purpose is key. "If youve got the space, try to narrow things down and let the rooms real purpose decide the dcor," said designer Katie Leavy of Capital Design in Washington, D.C. on HGTV. "Decide, for example, if your room will be a living room that youll entertain in on just a few occasions or a family room youre going to use every day. A rooms purpose should be one of the strongest cues for the decor."

Photo by Phil Kean Design Group - Search traditional kitchen design ideas

3. Pay attention to lighting

Have you ever noticed how well-lit the rooms are when you tour a model home? Thats - literally - by design. Different types of lighting are layered into spaces to create an ambient feel. If your rooms are too dark or youre not accentuating focus areas, give your lighting plan another look. And dont forget to put everything on dimmers. Being able to adjust the amount of lighting is key

4. Add in some texture

"Equally as important to color, is texture. A room at first glance can seem like a single color scheme, but if you look closely you will notice shades within the same color and plenty of texture via fabrics/textiles," said Freshome. "An all-white room may have linen draperies, a plush velvet chair, shiny silk cushions, rattan chairs and woven baskets, and a nubby cotton sofa with a faux fur blanket tossed on the side. All of these elements add texture and please the eye, creating a warm, rich environment."


5. Raise the roof

High ceilings are a much-desired feature, but if your home hasnt been blessed with them, you can still fake it with a few clever tricks. "If your ceilings are on the low side, paint them white to make the room feel less claustrophobic," said This Old House. Hanging curtains at a taller height than the windows "can trick your eye into thinking the room is taller. Love patterned panels? Try vertical stripes; the lines visually elongate your walls. Leaning a large mirror against a wall can also make a room seem taller."

Katie Detherage

6. Focus on your coffee table

If the coffee table in your living room is simply a utilitarian piece to rest a drink or a pair of tired feet, you may not have thought about how you can >

"When designing the top of your coffee table, start with something large and wonderful in the middle: a floral in an interesting pot, a huge bowl maybe filled with sea urchins or something else interesting," said Elle Decor. "Then build out from that: stacks of art books, candles, sculpture or pottery. Make it interesting and change it regularly."

7. Make a good first impression

Getting the outside of your home right can also be tricky, and a big spend on landscaping may not be your priority. But one simple step can make a big difference, and make you smile every time you drive by. "If you want your house to make a great first impression, paint the front door a fun, glossy hue," said This Old House. "Red is a lucky color in many cultures," Lara Allen-Brett, a New Jersey-based stager, told them. "A red door meant welcome to weary travelers in early America, and on churches it represents a safe haven. Two other hues gaining favor: orange and yellow, according to San Francisco-based stager Christopher Breining," they said.

8. Mix and match different >


The Covetable

9. Add in some art

Focus on your walls to take a good space and make it great. "Art is a great go-to for giving your space a more luxurious, unique feel," said HGTV. "A lot of people are intimidated by art because it can be so expensive. But you dont necessarily have to spend a fortune on art." Online sites like Art.com, flea markets, or even places like IKEA and World Market can be treasure troves for great art pieces.

Dont forget to also hang that art at the right height. "Galleries and museums hang artwork so that the midline center of each piece is 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor," said Houzz. "The average human eye level is 57 inches. And you should do the same."

Photo by STEPHEN FLETCHER ARCHITECTS - Search transitional living room design ideas

10. Add in a little bit of you

If you play by the rules, you may end up with a nicely pulled together space, but it can also be boring. Dont forget to add in a little bit of you so the home reflects your >

"Personality is what makes a space great. Make your own statement and have fun. The more you try, the more you will begin to see what works and what doesnt," said Houzz. "Incorporate unexpected elements for drama. The unconventional ottoman seats, library->

But, while youre being bold, remember not to go too far. Going crazy with a theme or displaying an inordinate amount of collectibles can make a space look crowded or overworked.

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5 Basement Renovations That Pay Off

With homeowners using their basements for laundry, exercise and storage, aesthetics are usually a secondary concern. How can you update the looks of your basement? Here are a few ideas worth exploring:

1 Enhance the Floor

Floors in busy areas eventually end up in bad shape. A new floor will tremendously enhance the appeal of your basement. The costs of a new floor are less expensive than most homeowners assume. Vinyl floors are affordable, tough and require little upkeep. Apply an epoxy coating for an even cheaper flooring option. Several coats of epoxy make even the roughest floors look new.

2 Add Shelves

Clutter undermines the look of any basement. Adding shelves to your basement walls will help organize clutter and contribute tremendously to its overall look. Varnished wood shelves add an additional shot of >

3 Utilize Waterproofing Strategies

The presence of water in your basement causes rotting wood and corroded plumbing fixtures. Cracks in your basement wall can also expand, potentially damaging your foundation. Call a waterproofing professional if you notice leaks in your basement. Failure to address a leak can result in major damage and costly repairs to your home.

4 Improve the Stairs

Change the look of your basement staircase for a dramatic improvement in looks. If the stairway is enclosed, knock down the wall to create an open staircase. Replace the old stairs with newer wood and install a decorative banister for an added shot of >

5 Build a Small Kitchen

A basement has water, electrical and gas lines that are useful in a kitchen remodel. Generally, a kitchen by itself would seem odd in a basement. But, if your basement is already designed as an entertainment room, the addition of a kitchen makes perfect sense. A stove and a refrigerator will cut down on going upstairs for snacks.


All of these basement improvements will make your space more livable and boost your propertys value.

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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Ditch The Makeup-Free Selfie When It Comes To Selling Your Home

Makeup-free selfies are all the rage, with celebrities and starlets snapping shots of their fresh, cosmetic-free faces.

Its a bold move for many whose fame and bank accounts depend on putting forth a perfect image, and its a trend that has garnered a lot of attention in an age when extreme photoshopping is the norm and body images issues are affecting younger and younger kids.

Everyone from Cameron Diaz to Sharon Stone to Sofia Vergara to Beyonce, and, most recently, Gwen Stefani, have shown their stuff - their real stuff - without any help from concealer and contour, and have been embraced for their efforts.

So should home sellers be applying this trend to their homes? Not so fast.

ET Online

An occupied home

A home without a little help is going to be blah, at best. And a blah home isnt going to excite buyers, which is why a little staging can make such a huge difference.

"Plastic surgery might improve ones looks. But so might a little makeup. When it comes to making your house more attractive to prospective buyers, home staging is definitely in the makeup category," said MarketWatch. "Just like makeup, its an on-the-surface solution. Staging can help your place look its best during the sales period without the cost or expense of a renovation."

Preparing a home for sale is all about helping to accentuate certain features and de-emphasize others, just like makeup. Have an oddly shaped room? The right furniture placement can make all the difference. Not enough counter space in the kitchen? Clearing them off and removing all the clutter is the obvious first step. That includes small appliances, which can be taking up valuable real estate and which can easily be stored elsewhere while the home is listed.

A vacant home

If you translate the makeup-free selfie to a vacant house, its obvious why its not a great idea to go bare. Vacant homes have been proven to be harder to sell and take longer. Buyers may assume that theres no intense hurry to buy a home that has already been abandoned by the owner. But the larger issue may be that potential buyers cant picture themselves in the home.

Century 21

"While home staging is in part about showing a property in its best possible light, it can also help potential buyers imagine themselves in the space. Particularly after a move-out, or before a property has ever been occupied, many buyers like to see what a room really looks like, how it lives, said MarketWatch. "Buyers have a hard time envisioning themselves if its empty," Scott Leverette of McGuire Real Estate in Berkeley, Calif told them. "I think also a home looks smaller if its empty."

The bottom line is vision. When it comes to a home, you simply cant expect the average person to have it. A buyer may not be able to picture where the seating area would go in a living room with no furniture to serve as an example. In the empty master bedroom, they might not realize that, yes, their king-size bed will fit.


New homes

This need for a little makeup help is not limited to older homes. Several years ago there was a new home builder in California that insisted on showcasing one of the model homes with "standard" items, in stark contrast to the other models, which were decked out with all the upgrades and options. The idea was to show one plan "as is" so buyers would understand what they were getting for the sales price. That meant basic flooring, white tile countertops and no window coverings.

Not surprisingly, buyers were not impressed. This particular model sat while the others sold, and, in the end, buyer incentives were needed to get it moving.

It just goes to show how important it is to set the scene for buyers, even when it means a higher focus on design - or some nicer stuff - than may be your norm.

"There is really no nice way to say it: We all have a few ugly bits in our homes, and its best to face the facts early on. The good news: There are plenty of quick fixes for your homes trouble spots," said Houzz.

A few quick-fix ideas from New Jersey-based home stager Kelley Gardner on Houzz: "White towels and a white waffle-weave shower curtain can do wonders to a dated bath. If you have oak kitchen cabinets, paint them white and add quartz or stone counters to help update. Remove dated wallpaper and paint. Take down dusty, dated window treatments. Inexpensive updates can include changing out light fixtures, throw pillows and bed linens."

Call it the lipstick and mascara version of home staging. When it comes to fresh homes, every little bit helps.

Full Story >

Ten Fears That Keep REALTORS from Showing New Homes

In a recent new homes seminar, fifty-three REALTORS were asked how many had heard of a new home internet advisor or concierge. Four hands, 8, went up. Internet advisor services have been around for ten years or longer.

"Knowing that I have a team of internet advisors helping me find new homes inventory on demand changed the way I do business," Orlando Realtor Mary Carpousis said,

"A year ago I had never sold a new home, and since overcoming the fear of finding the right inventory, I have sold five new homes, including three prebuilds."

When asked in a survey what these Realtors would do if they had a home shopper who preregistered and/or pre-visited the builders sales office without the Realtor, only one out of two would do the right thing. Call the onsite sales consultant and confirm that if they brought the prospect back for a second visit and the prospect purchased a home, the agent would be paid.

Twenty-one percent said they would tell the prospect that he would not receive a commission unless the prospect insisted the agent be paid. Twenty-six percent did not respond, which in the authors opinion, they were not sure what to do.

A second survey asked the agents to write what they felt was the most important thing learned about working with onsite consultants. These are some new things they learned:

"How much help they could be."
"They take a lot of the stress out of the buying process"
"They know how to show the homes and I need to stay quiet."
Give them time to showcase their property."
"They help us protect our commission."

One agent said he learned that for 16 years he had been doing it wrong

Based on this unscientific study, here are the top ten fears that keep Realtors away from showing new homes.

  • Not knowing how to find new homes inventory on demand
  • Not knowing how to set up the introduction to the new home consultant
  • Not knowing how to add value to their service, if they cannot negotiate price
  • Not knowing where to add a new home in their showing schedule
  • Not being paid if they dont take the prospect to the sales office on the first visit
  • Not knowing what to expect from the onsite agent
  • Not being treated professionally by the onsite consultant
  • Not understanding how to qualify resale buyers for new homes
  • Not understanding how their commission is protected by the builder
  • Not trust the onsite agent to treat the agent professionally
  • These are not training issues, really. They have to do with education. But where is it?

    Somewhere along the line a builder convinced Realtors they needed to learn construction, which is about as far away from the money as the agent can get.

    Realtors need to stop expecting homebuilders to do their training for them. Why? Because understandably, the training comes from the builders perspective, when in fact it needs to be done from the Realtors perspective. And only a Realtor can address the fears listed above.

    So why arent Realtors encouraging their agents to farm for new home buyers and show more new construction at the outset of their careers?

    An opinion: Because they fear that their agents will not list and sell resales, which is in too many cases the most unsaleable inventory on todays market.

    Is it possible a new home showing might light a fire under a new agent struggling to make her first sale?

    Like this Realtor for example: She spent weeks with a >

    But she remembered something she had learned about helping her prospects understand the money. She suggested that her prospects visit the new home sales office of a builder selling homes around the same price point as their bids just to see what they could actually get for their money.

    Her prospects visited one builders model, purchased an inventory home in two days, and closed in 30 days, which left this this Realtor wondering why nobody told me about this showing strategy.

    She did not know construction or the first thing about working with onsite sales consultants. She did not need to. She needed to help her prospect understand what they could get for their money.

    What made this so special? It was this newly licensed agents first sale.

    But the fact remains, Realtors resist showing new homes, and are not encouraged or trained to do so by their brokers.

    As one can see from the survey, it is not the benefit of new homes vs resales that needs addressing.

    What needs addressing is the devastating effect fear of the unknown has on the agents ability to produce not lose- sales they could be making.

    What say you?

    Full Story >

    SCIN: A Potential Family Real Estate Tool?

    SCIN. No, its not the stuff that covers our body. Its a highly complex legal and financial transaction that may be of interest to elderly homeowners.

    SCIN stands for "self cancelling installment note". Lets take this example:

    Your parents own their house but their financial situation makes it difficult to maintain. You are prepared to buy the house and rent it back to your parents, but because you currently have your own house, you are unable to qualify for another mortgage loan.

    Your parents purchased the house back in the 1960s for 30,000, and it is now worth 600,000. Over the years, they have made approximately 100,000 in improvements. They are eligible for the up-to-500,000 exclusion of gain, because they file a joint tax return and have owned and lived in the house for a very long time. When they sell the house -- to you or anyone -- they will not have to pay any capital gains tax. 600,000 - 130,000 = 470,000.

    Since the house is free and clear of any mortgage, your parents are prepared to take back the entire sales price. You sign a promissory note for 600,000, and the note is secured by a deed of trust the mortgage which is recorded among the land records in the jurisdiction where the property is located. The note carries an interest rate of 4.25 percent, which you understand is what commercial banks are currently charging for similar mortgage loans.

    You go to closing and take title to the property. Your parents sign a lease whereby they agree to pay you a monthly rental and you pay them the monthly mortgage payment. While this is income to you, it will most likely be offset by the various tax deductions you can get -- such as depreciation, mortgage interest, real estate tax, insurance and maintenance of the house.

    Although this sounds like a routine real estate transaction, there is one unique feature. The promissory note you signed in favor of your parents contains the following language:

    In the event of the death of both of the lenders i.e. the parents prior to the final payment of principal and interest, the unpaid principal and interest shall be deemed cancelled and extinguished as though paid upon the death of the last lender. This is a SCIN -- a self cancelling installment note. Why is this such an important tool? When a person dies, estate tax must be paid on the value of the decedents adjusted taxable gifts. If your parents made gifts to you that exceeded the yearly gift-tax exclusion currently 14,000 per parent, you should discuss this with your own accountant to get a clear picture of the estate tax consequences.

    A bona fide SCIN cancels the remaining obligation upon the death of the lender, so there is nothing left to be included in that decedents gross estate, and thus no tax is owed on that cancelled debt.

    Note that I used the word "bona fide". Thats Latin legalese, which Blacks Law Dictionary defines as "in or with good faith... without deceit or fraud".

    The Internal Revenue Service is constantly challenging the bona fides of these SCIN transactions, claiming they are not done in good faith but are designed to avoid having the pay the estate tax.

    A SCIN signed by family members is presumed to be a gift and not a bona fide transaction. But according to one Federal Court, "this presumption may be rebutted by an affirmative showing that there existed at the time of the transaction a real expectation of repayment and intent to enforce the collection of the indebtedness." Costanza v IRS, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, decided February 19, 2003.

    Space in this column does not permit me to recite all of the facts upon which the Sixth Circuit overturned the tax court and held that the SCIN was, in fact, legitimate.

    Here, however, are some suggestions to assist you in rebutting the presumption:

    The note must be secured by a valid and enforceable deed of trust, which is recorded in the appropriate land records office. The borrower would want this anyway, because mortgage interest cannot be deducted unless the mortgage deed of trust is recorded;

    Go to the internet and find out from the mortality tables what the life expectancy is for your parents. The promissory note should come due prior to that expected death. For example, if your mothers life expectancy is 22 years based on her current age and the mortality tables the loan should mature no later than 20 years from the date it is entered into.

    The sales price must be market value or higher. Otherwise, even if the SCIN is held to be valid i.e. bona fide the IRS has the right to assess a gift tax on the difference between the sales price and the fair market price at the time the sale took place. In fact, to avoid having the IRS claim this was really a gift, you should either increase the sales price above the market value, or increase the amount of the mortgage interest rate, so as to show there was consideration for the cancellation provision. After all, if this was not a family transaction, the lender would not want the note to be cancelled without getting some premium for that.

    Treat the entire transactions as if the parties were strangers. Have a lawyer prepare the legal documents, and go to a title attorneys office for the settlement.

    Finally, have your parents document in writing their need and desire to have the monthly payments for their retirement years.

    A SCIN can be a valuable family tool, if done properly. Otherwise, the amount of the cancellation will be considered part of the estate and will have taxable consequences. There can be taxable consequences to the note holders estate when the note is cancelled. Thus, before you proceed down this path, please make sure that you have consulted with a tax professional.

    Full Story >

    No News Is Bad News In Your HOA

    Homeowner association newsletters are a great way to enlighten, inform, remind and encourage. Inviting the membership to HOA events and meetings helps neighbors meet neighbors. Frequent reminders of important rules or architectural policies helps build a friendlier and more harmonious community. Recognizing volunteer efforts encourages others to step up. Newsletters neednt be long and involved, just >

    Here are some tips to make your newsletters good news:

    Focus on Building Community. Get HOA members to become participants rather than observers. Offer opportunities to do that on committees and social events.

    Understand Your Audience. How old are they? What is their financial status? How do they like to spend their time? Find out by getting feedback from your readers with a questionnaire.

    Inspire Your Readers. Make sure events, activities and volunteer opportunities are well publicized. Create headlines to grab the readers attention.

    Be Consistent in Layout and Content. If you have a "Rules amp; Regs Corner" which highlights a particular HOA rule or policy, publish it in every issue.

    Archive Your Newsletters and Articles. Many articles bear repeating and as time passes will have new eyes that see them for the first time. Repeat seasonal reminders. Create folders on your computer for the months that you publish the newsletter and put article files in the months they fit best. In time, you can build a reservoir of content to draw upon that will make newsletter writing much simpler and quicker.

    Lead With Your Strong Suit. Organize the strongest points of an article before you write it. Put the most important information up front.

    Keep Articles Short. If an article is long or complicated, readers will move on. If there is simply too much good content to abbreviate, break the article into several articles.

    Give Credit amp; Contact Information. Include the newsletter committee, writer and editor names and contact information as well as board and management contact information.

    Be Positive amp; Uplifting. While criticism has its place, too much of it is a downer and chases most readers away. Strive for the positive. Be upbeat.

    Proofread. Editing is a rewording experience. Carefully review your work for grammatical and spelling mistakes or get a detailed oriented person to do it for you. Make sure your facts are straight.

    Reprint with Permission. Search the internet for content that would be of interest to your readers. If you find an article that includes author and contact information, be sure to get permission before reprinting and give credit where credit is due. For an archive of over 1800 HOA >

    Have Fun With It. Give them a giggle or two. The internet is full of jokes, puns and cartoons.

    Include Pictures. Folks love to see themselves in the paper. Share event pictures, photos of board members, the manager, committee members, new residents and volunteers.

    PDF It. Programs like Adobe Acrobat make it possible to convert newsletters into Portable Document Format PDF which can be posted on the HOA website or emailed to those that do email. PDF was designed with HOAs in mind since it can save printing, supplies and postage costs plus countless hours required to process paper newsletters.

    Get Advertisers. If your HOA is large and newsletter distribution monthly, it may attract advertisers like real estate agents, insurance agents, painters, remodelers, etc. and help pay for itself.

    Newsletters are a wonderful way to bind your HOA in a custom way. Keep your residents and owners in the know at least four times a year. No news is bad news.

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

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    REALTORS Offer Companion Animal Bill

    This year the California Association of REALTORS CAR is sponsoring Assembly Bill 2760, a bill "to statutorily distinguish between a medically necessary companion or support animal and other animals kept as pets."

    By way of background, it is noted that service animals are clearly defined in the law, whereas companion animals, support animals, and therapy animals are not. Service animals are defined under federal law, as any dog or housebroken miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Guide dogs and signal dogs are examples. Federal regulations also make clear that comfort, emotional support, and companionship animals are not service animals.

    Unlike service animals, companion or support animals have no special training or skill set. Rather, it is by their simple presence that they are perceived as having a beneficial -- even therapeutic -- effect on a particular person who is beset by some mental or emotional condition whose effects are serious enough to rise to the level of a disability. In such cases, both state and federal fair housing laws require that landlords be willing to make reasonable accommodations for such animals, should they be needed by a tenant with a corresponding disability. This would be required even if the landlord has a general "no pets" policy. Service and support animals are not, under the law, considered to be pets.

    In a landmark California fair housing case Auburn Woods I Homeowners Association v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission the Court recognized that it was not necessary for an animal to be specifically trained in order for it to have a beneficial effect on its owners who were, among other things, suffering from debilitating depression. Thus it wrote, "Pooky [the name of the dog] did not need special skills to help ameliorate the effects of the Elebiaris disabilities. Rather, it was the innate qualities of a dog, in particular a dogs friendliness and ability to interact with humans, that made it therapeutic here."

    Still, because there is no clear definition for support animals such as Pooky, CAR argues the need for legislation. "The vagueness in state law allows individuals without a legitimate need to game the system and claim a status for pets that is not deserved. Unfortunately, the backlash against fake service animals may prevent some individuals with legitimate support needs from being able to access housing. In other instances, it may expose property owners to unwarranted litigation when they try to enforce a no pets rule."

    Thus, the CAR-sponsored bill proposes the following:

    "Support animal" means a support dog, companion animal, emotional support animal, or assistive animal that is prescribed by a California licensed physician or licensed mental health professional in order to treat a mental or emotional illness or mental or emotional disability. [my emphasis]

    This would provide a major change. As it is now, no such "prescription" is required. Moreover, there is actually no specific requirement that a person certifying the existence of a disability and the need for a particular support animal have any kind of licensing or a particular field of expertise. As one exasperated attorney suggested, perhaps it would be sufficient for your yoga instructor to cite the need for an emotional support animal.

    One organization opposing the bill, The National Housing Law Project, has written that the proposed definition would be out of step with existing Federal rules and procedures:

    "HUD provides that non-medical service providers, peer support group members, or other >

    Moreover, the Judiciary Committees Legislative Analyst whose analysis reads more like an attack has commented that "...limiting verification to a licensed mental health care professional is unnecessarily restrictive, contrary to established federal law and HUD guidance, and may even have an adverse impact on low-income people with disabilities..."

    AB 2760 faces an uphill battle in Sacramento. While almost everyone acknowledges that the current vagueness surrounding what counts as a companion, support, or therapy animal leads to disputes, inconvenience, and sometimes monetary losses, theres not much agreement on how to fix it.

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

    Full Story >

    Taming Vancouvers Wild Real Estate Market

    It hasnt been a very good year for the reputation of Vancouvers real estate agents so far. After a series of stories in the Globe and Mail about the questionable conduct of some real estate agents, B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the province would take action on "real estate agentconduct, conflict of interest and housing affordability".

    An independent advisory group has been set up to make recommendations on these issues, such as in a dual agency representation where one agents acts for both the buyer and seller in a transaction.

    But the government decided not to wait for the advisory group report when it came to the practice of real estate contract assignment -- so-called "shadow flipping." It has introduced new rules that came into effect in May.

    An assignment clause allows the buyer of a home to sell the property before they take possession of it. In the red-hot Vancouver market, stories emerged of houses that were purchased by buyers -- and sometimes real estate agents -- and then resold before anyone took possession, sometimes several times, for more money. The profit from the subsequent sales went to the middle-man, not the original homeowner.

    "In a hot housing market, we have to make sure there is no room for shady operators who take advantage of people," said Clark. "What we see happening in Vancouver is not right. It is not fair."

    Now clauses in real estate contracts must state that the contract cannot be assigned without the written consent of the seller. Any profit from an assignment will go to the initial seller.

    Assignment sales are legal in B.C. and in the rest of Canada.

    "When done properly, assignments are legal and can be a useful tool for buyers and sellers," says the Real Estate Council of Ontario RECO. "An example of this would be where a buyers financial or personal situation changes before closing. Assigning allows them to pass along the contract to another buyer, without backing out of the deal with the seller.

    "For instance, someone could buy a condo that is still under construction and might not be ready for a couple of years. The buyers work or family situation could change during that time, causing them to change their mind about living in the condo they purchased. Another example may be where a buyer runs into financial difficulties to close on an existing house and wants to find another buyer rather than risk the financial penalties that might come with having to back out of the deal."

    RECO says the issue of assignments appears to be a localized issue "and we havent seen evidence of it being prevalent in Ontario. However, we are monitoring closely."

    The British Columbia Real Estate Association BCREA has updated the residential and commercial Contracts of Purchase and Sale to include the new clause.

    "Like many other provisions in the contract, buyers and sellers have the option of keeping the new paragraph, changing it or striking it out completely -- but at least the conversation is more likely to happen now," says BCREA president Denna Horn.

    BCREA says that assignments are important tools for the development process. "A builder or developer often signs contracts to buy land in a holding company or joint venture, which means they do not have to incur the expense before actually having a project," says the association. "The rights to the property are then assigned to the partnership at closing. Restricting assignments would slow the ability of the private sector to increase the supply of homes."

    The association says that assignments have been a very small part of the real estate market in B.C. "It is only in the recent unusual market, and in certain limited areas, that the number of assignments has apparently increased."

    The association says most of the real estate boards in the province allow assignments to be advertised on their Multiple Listing Service systems, "providing the original seller gives their explicit, written consent. Since 2012, six real estate boards, including the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, report only 1,013 assignments on their MLS systems."

    But many of the sales took place outside of the MLS system. Before the new regulations came into force, the Globe and Mail reported that dozens of assignment listings were posted on Craigslist.

    The B.C. provincial government also announced that it will soon begin collecting citizenship data of real estate owners, though the Property Tax Transfer Form. Theres a lot of concern about how foreign ownership is driving up real estate prices.

    "The objective here is to get beyond the theory, get beyond the conjecture and the speculation and actually have hard data," said B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

    Full Story >

    Spring Gardening: Pretty Plants That Can Also Be Pretty Dangerous

    While youre spring planting, you may have your eye on the stuff that brings the most coverage or color. Who doesnt want big, bright, beautiful blooms all over the yard?

    But, some plants can also bring unintended consequences. That gorgeous bush with the deep purple flowers that would make for such a lovely view right outside your kitchen window might not seem so great when you hear about what it can do to your kids, your dogs, or both.

    "Your garden may be a >


    Rhododendrons bold flowers that bloom from winter through summer are tempting. The problem? The entire plant is deadly.

    "Swallow any part of this plant, and youre going to look as bad as you feel," said This Old House. "While drooling from the mouth and teary-eyed, youll begin vomiting violently, just as your pulse slows down and low blood pressure sets in. Death can occur shortly after falling into a coma or during a violent seizure."



    Who doesnt love the way hydrangeas look, with their dreamy clusters of lush flowers? Unfortunately, the dream can turn into a nightmare if swallowed. Hydrangeas can cause "stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, lethargy and, in severe cases, more serious problems like labored breathing, convulsions and coma," said dengarden.

    diy network


    Stalks of layered, brightly colored, bell-shaped flowers make gardeners want to run out and plant Foxglove in droves. But foxglove is also one of the more dangerous plants to have around if you have kids and pets. "Foxglove, also called Digitalis purpurea, is a common biennial garden plant that contains digitoxin, digoxin, and other cardiac glycosides, said Encyclopedia.com. "These are chemicals that affect the heart. Digitalis is poisonous; it can be fatal even in small doses."

    Flower Info


    Pleasing to the eye and low maintenance? No wonder larkspur is favorite of gardeners looking for clusters of color in a range of colors from white to purple/blue. The rub is that Larkspur can be deadly, causing stomach problems initially, leading to a slowed heartbeat. "Seek treatment right away," said This Old House, "because six hours is all it takes for this flower to become lethal."



    As beautiful as it is fragrant, oleander is a popular choice for those looking for decorative shrubs. Its also "one of the most toxic, commonly grown garden plants in the world," said Mother Nature Network. "Ingesting any part of this plant can be deadly, especially for children. Even smoke from burning oleander can be fatal."

    And the death wont be an easy one, either. "Like other poisonous plans, ingesting it first affects the digestive system with vomiting and diarrhea, then poisoning progresses into life-threatening circulatory problems," said This Old House. "If your hearts still ticking after that trauma, oleander can also deal a fatal blow to your central nervous system, causing seizures, tremors, and coma that can lead to death."

    Angels Trumpet

    The unique shape of the Angels trumpet - like a bell hanging from a vine - makes it a popular choice in gardens across the country. "The catch is that all parts of these plants contain dangerous levels of poison and may be fatal if ingested by humans or animals," said Mother Nature Network. "Angels trumpets have occasionally been used to create a recreation drug, but the risk of overdose is so high that these uses often have deadly consequences."

    Living Color Garden Center

    Lily of the Valley

    It smells so sweet and it looks so delicate and yet lily of the valley is highly poisonous. Ingestion can cause symptoms ranging from blurred vision to gastrointestinal issues to irregular heartbeat to nervous system consequences including mental confusion.

    Bee-friendly plants

    Bees are important as pollinators, and many of the same plants that attract them also bring butterflies to your yard. But if your kids are scared of bees or if anyone in the house is allergic, you might want to avoid catmint, calendula, lavender, and heliotrope. You can get more information about plants that attract bees here.

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    Foolproof Ways To Choose Your Neighborhood And Up Your Value

    Deciding where to buy a home can be one of the most difficult decisions to make. If you have a built-in reason to choose one area over another its close to work; its where you grew up and youre emotionally tied to it; theres a rumor about a professional football team coming soon, it can be easier. But for the rest of us, a multitude of factors can make the choice challenging.

    So how do you know where to buy if youve got value in mind? Here are a couple schools of thought.

    Go where the rich go.

    A recent feature in CNN Money noted that "The United States is the top destination for those worth more than 30 million buying residential property valued at a million or more, according to a report from Wealth-X and Sothebys International Reality."

    New York is the leading city worldwide for wealthy residences, they said. Los Angeles and San Francisco are also in the top five. Within those cities, individual neighborhoods cater to moneyed buyers. So what do you do if you cant afford those premium neighborhoods? You live closeby.

    "Theres a neighborhood in Southern California called Coto de Caza that was popularized on Real Housewives of Orange County and is one of the most desirable places to live anywhere in the states," said real estate advisor Sara David. "Several years ago, a developer came in and built a community of substantially smaller but still very attractive production homes just outside the gates and marketed the property as Coto de Caza adjacent. It was a huge draw for buyers, who have seen their home values explode over the years. Its not a unique situation. There is a long history of adjacent neighborhoods gaining in reputation and value simply because of what they are next to."

    Go where Starbucks goes

    "Confirmation that Starbucks is boosting more than your productivity," said Apartment Therapy. "Higher home prices actually follow Starbucks, rather than the other way around."

    Yes, call it "The Starbucks effect," said TIME magazine. "Proximity to a local coffee shop has a very real, and positive, effect on home values," with data over 17 years showing that "homes adjacent to the local Starbucks almost doubled in value, up by 96. Those further out appreciated by 65 over the same period."

    Go where the schools are

    Its an obvious choice to look for good schools for homebuyers that have a family or are planning for one. In fact, in some cases, buyers are willing to forgo other amenities to be in a top school district.

    "Homebuyers are willing to pay more and give up certain home features for a home located in their district of choice," said AOL. "They are especially willing to give up accessibility to shopping and nearby parks and trails among other amenities, to reside within school district boundaries of choice."

    But being near acclaimed schools is important even for childless couples.

    "Living near a high-scoring school can increase your homes value by over 200,000, according to the Brookings Institution," said AOL. "Thats not chump change. There are plenty of attractive advantages that come with proximity to a school, including increased police protection, personal use of school facilities and living in a Drug-Free School Zone.

    "Even those couples who dont have kids yet but are planning to are worried about the quality of schools in the neighborhoods where they are considering buying," said Stacie Staub of Live Urban Real Estate. "High-scoring or popular schools do raise property values and demand for homes, no question."

    How did you choose your neighborhood?

    Full Story >

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    Today's Real Estate News and Advice Updated: Monday, May 30, 2016

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