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Updated: Saturday, December 10, 2016

Vacant Home Insurance: Keeping Your Unoccupied Home Safe

Although your homeowners insurance offers financial protection against property damage or destruction, your policy includes coverage exclusions if your residence is unoccupied. If you plan to leave your residence vacant for several months or years, youll need to insure your house accordingly.

There are many reasons why you may choose to vacate your residence for an extended period of time, including:

You own a rental property. If you own a rental property and are between tenants, you may leave the property vacant until you find a new tenant.

You moved to a new home. If you purchased a new residence but your previous house remains unsold, the latter residence may stay vacant until you sell it.

You are completing home renovations. If you embark on a massive home renovation project, you may need to vacate your home and find a temporary residence until the project is completed.

You are selling a house to close an estate. If you are the executor of a loved ones estate, you may leave the home vacant as you try to sell it.

Home insurance providers will use two questions to define a vacant residence:

  • Is anyone living at the residence?
  • Is there enough property inside of a home for someone to live there?
  • Ultimately, there are many risks for homeowners who choose not to insure a vacant residence, including:

    Water Damage: If a pipe freezes and bursts in winter, substantial water damage could occur. Meanwhile, a vacant homeowner may fail to identify and resolve this problem immediately, which could cause the issue to escalate.

    Vandalism and Mischief: An abandoned residence could become an "attractive nuisance," increasing the risk of vandalism and mischief. In addition, if an individual is injured on the property, a vacant homeowner could be liable.

    Squatting: An individual may "squat," i.e. claim the rights to a property based on occupation rather than ownership. In this scenario, a vacant homeowner could face a legal battle to evict the squatter.

    Theft: An unoccupied residence may be more susceptible to theft than others, which means any personal belongings or building elements like plumbing fixtures that are left behind could be in danger.

    A vacant residence raises numerous concerns for homeowners, but there are several things you can do to safeguard your house, including obtaining a vacancy permit endorsement or vacant home insurance.

    What Is a Vacancy Permit Endorsement?

    A vacancy permit endorsement extends coverage past the 30 or 60 days that a homeowners policy may give you for vacancy. It can also void vandalism, water damage, theft and other exclusions that commonly appear in a homeowners policy for a set amount of time.

    Obtaining a vacancy permit endorsement is paramount, and failure to do so could result in you paying for losses or a lapse in coverage. Fortunately, getting a vacancy permit endorsement can be simple, particularly for those who contact their insurance provider as soon as possible.

    If you intend to leave your house for 30 days or longer, getting in touch with your home insurer will enable you to find out if you can obtain a vacancy permit and if you need a vacancy permit endorsement. If your insurance company fails to provide this endorsement, you will have sufficient time to find and purchase vacant home insurance from another provider.

    What Is Vacant Home Insurance?

    Your home insurer may determine it is too risky to offer a vacancy permit endorsement for your unoccupied home. Therefore, you may need to purchase vacant home insurance to supplement your existing homeowners policy.

    Vacant home insurance safeguards your residence against vandalism, theft and other issues that may arise with a vacant home. It is an ideal choice if you know youll be away from your residence for many months or years and guarantees your unoccupied house will be protected against a broad range of risks.

    Like standard homeowners insurance, vacant home insurance includes costs that will vary based on several factors, such as:

    Your Homes Location: Insurance companies will look at where your home is located and the risk factors in that area to guarantee you can receive the right vacant home coverage.

    How Much Coverage You Want: Insurance providers may offer coverage recommendations for your vacant home, but the total cost of your vacant home insurance policy may increase or decrease based on your coverage preferences.

    Your Homes Risk Factors: The age and condition of your home may cause your vacant home insurance rates to rise or fall accordingly.

    When it comes to a vacant home, it is essential to get the necessary insurance to protect your residence even when youre not living there. With a vacancy permit endorsement or vacant home insurance, youll be able to safeguard your unoccupied residence at all times.

    About Ryan

    Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 10 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics.

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    4 Eco-Friendly Household Brands

    When you and your family are looking for household brands you can trust, look for companies that are safe for both your loved ones and the environment. Here are four household brands that are eco-friendly and have their eye toward sustainable practices.

    Continental Tires

    With the help of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology, Julius Kuehn- Institute and EKUSA, companies like Continental Tires are revolutionizing the future of tires. In particular, Continental has thought of a way to utilize the normally pesky dandelion as a key component in manufacturing eco-friendly tires. Within five to 10 years, Continental Tires plans to sell its tires with tread made totally out of polymer-based natural rubber versus rubber manufactured from the traditional "rubber belt" near the equator.

    With the demand for rubber projected to rise in the next 10 years, this idea will be utilized as an alternative source for natural rubber production, taking pressure off rubber trees. As a weed, dandelions can be grown in many places that most crops, including rubber trees, cant survive. But with the ability to grow its source of rubber next to its tire factories, Continental Tires will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, as the company no longer has to >

    Johnson amp; Johnson

    Since 1986, Johnson amp; Johnson and its operating companies have been supplying your home with brands like Tylenol, Listerine, Band-Aid, Pu>

    General Mills

    Since 1930, General Mills has been committed to sustainability with its recycled paperboard packaging and crop rotation practices. Since 2010, GM has been working aggressively to reach its environmental sustainability goals. The company plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by using renewable energy sources whenever possible.

    GM also plans to reduce its energy and water usage by 20 percent through various energy reduction processes and identify opportunities to target water conservation. GMs facilities, like the one in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are recycling nearly 90 percent of their output, which is a large increase compared to 48 percent in 2010. The company also plans to continue expanding its recycling program, which reduces its own landfill waste by almost 33 tons every month.


    Green Works Cleaners, from the Clorox company, is a line of cleaning products powerful enough to clean your home without the harsh chemical fumes that harm you and your loved ones. Its a perfect addition to your green and natural life>
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    7 Reasons You Should Buy Your Next Home Right Now

    Get off the fence. This might be the best time to buy a home youre going to see for a while. Heres why.

    Less competition for homes

    Tired of having to duke it out for available homes and then losing out to higher offers? Thats a reality in many of todays hot real estate markets, where bidding wars are the norm. In some micro-markets, all-cash offers are king. Its hard to compete in that kind of environment, which is what makes the holiday season attractive to home buyers. Less activity during this season diminishes the competition, and can also help you get a deal.

    "Since fewer people overall are looking to buy houses, you will have less competition for your preferred house -- and this gives you leverage," said moneytips. "Holiday home sellers often have to adjust their price downward or make other concessions if they want to sell. Keep this in mind as you search for homes. Bargains may be available, and listed prices may be more open to negotiation."

    Ben Carson

    President-elect Trumps nominee for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development HUD post has previously made a number of comments about the agency that could spell wide-sweeping changes for buyers, and not for the better.

    Carson referred to Fair Housing as "communism in a 2015 Washington Times op-ed, saying that fair housing policies "mandated social-engineering schemes" that repeated a pattern of "failed socialist experiments in this country," said the Wall Street Journal. That has housing insiders worried that affordable housing programs, and, specifically, low-rate mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may take a hit.

    Chaney Capital

    Privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would greatly limit available mortgages and have an especially detrimental effect on low-rate mortgages that many buyers depend on to get into the market. "Carsons appointment could also affecttaxpayer-supported subsidized housing, which primarily helps homeless, low-income, and even senior Americans", according to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Realtor.com.

    Interest rates are on their way up

    Even if youre not ready to pull the trigger right this second, get pre-approved to lock in that interest rate now. Thats because rates have already risen some since the election, and all indications are that theyll continue to rise after the new year.

    And, of course, getting pre-approved will allow you to move quickly when you find a home you love instead of being held up by the bank and risking losing the home when someone who is pre-approved swoops in.

    Because youre ready to get your Joanna Gaines on

    How badly do you want to rip out a kitchen and start over with something chic and pretty and chef-y in a place of your own? If youre currently living in an apartment, you may not even have permission to paint the walls, let alone update the kitchen.

    The good news about renovations, other than achieving a great new look, is that you can actually get loans to pay for them - and, the interest is a writeoff. "The IRS considers the interest on a home-improvement loan fully deductible, up to 100,000 in debt," said MarketWatch.


    Loans to look for include the FHAs 203k program and Fannies Home>

    The FHA 203k can be easier to qualify for, as credit scores can be as low as 660. The Home>

    Tax savings

    Unless you find a house tomorrow and close much more quickly than is standard today, you wont be able to reap the tax benefits this year. But theres always next yearand every year after that. And tax savings can be substantial, amounting to thousands of dollars youre not saving now.

    Its probably still cheaper than renting

    The tax savings associated with homeownership isnt the only way to save money. "Itscheaper to ownrather than rentin all but eight states and Washington, D.C., according to aGOBankingRates.comstudy of rent and mortgage costs," said MSN.

    When calculating the difference between renting and owning, make sure you look at as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible. Oftentimes, when people are looking at rent, they fail to factor in renters insurance, security deposits, pet deposits, and annual rental increases. Those numbers can add up.

    Predictable payments

    Tired of that rent going up every year? Yeah, that stinks. If you live in Seattle, your rent is forecasted to rise another 7.2 this year, according to Business Insider. In Portland, its 6 and Denver 5.9. Those are the cities that are predicted to have the sharpest rises across the country.

    Unless you have an adjustable rate mortgage, which isnt popular in todays low-interest-rate, 30-year-fixed mortgage world, or you cash out your equity and raise your principle at some point, your mortgage payment will remain your mortgage payment through the life of your loan. With so many other unknowns and intangibles, its nice to know that whats probably your largest monthly payment is always the same.

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    A Homeowners Guide To Water Filtration

    Is a home water treatment system a luxury or a necessity? Based on surveys commissioned by the Water Quality Association an industry trade group, people who viewed water treatment as a luxury rose from 50 to 54 percent between 2013 and 2015.

    These nearly evenly split results indicate confusion and misinformation about home water treatment. When is home water treatment truly needed? Why is water filtration the environmentally friendly approach to obtaining clean, healthy drinking water? Finally, what options do homeowners have when selecting a home water treatment system?

    Why Would I Need a Water Filtration System?

    As water flows in lakes, rivers, streams and underground wells, it picks up a little bit of everything it touches. Some of it is good, some of it is bad and some of it is just unpleasant. A home water filtration system is sometimes the only way to counteract waters ability to act as a solvent. A filtration system can provide many benefits:

    1. A filtration system removes harmful contaminants. In enforcing the provisions of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA requires that water utilities limit the amount of 90 different contaminants that can lead to increased health risks. The list includes well-known dangers like arsenic and lead, but it also includes bacteria and organic and inorganic compounds that are less well known but nonetheless dangerous.

    It is up to the company that supplies your drinking water to remove these contaminants or at least get them down to what are considered safe levels. The majority do a good job, but sometimes a certain contaminant may spike and get through. There are also situations where some individuals may have a sensitivity to a contaminant at the EPA-approved level. In other words, the level that is considered safe for the general population may not be safe for certain people.

    In addition, once water leaves the water treatment facility, it must flow through pipes that could leach harmful contaminants, such as lead. A water filtration system acts as a second safeguard once the water reaches your home.

    2. A filtration system removes the material that sometimes makes drinking tap water unpleasant. In addition to harmful contaminants that may be in water, the EPA has developed a list of "Secondary Standards." These are contaminants that will not make you sick, but they affect the look, taste and smell of water. These contaminants can give water a chlorine or rotten egg smell or turn it cloudy or off-color. Some, while not harmful to humans, are corrosive and can damage pipes and appliances. Your water utility is not required to test for these contaminants.

    3. Home filtration is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than >. Plastic water bottles are petroleum-based products that >

    How Do I Find Out Whats in My Water?

    If you have traveled around the country, youve probably noticed that tap water in other places can taste different than water at home. The contaminants and materials water comes in contact with can affect the way it tastes, and the contaminants in your water can depend on where you live and where you get your water supply. If you are considering a water filtration system, it is best to find out what is in your water and what you want to filter out.

    Refer to the water quality report. Begin by consulting the "Consumer Confidence Report" CCR issued by your water utility. The report is sometimes called the "Water Quality Report." Part of the Clean Water Act requires municipal water facilities to test the water they supply to the public. The utility must then mail a copy of the report to its customers once a year, and it is a requirement for any water company that serves more than 25 people or 15 households.

    The report is tailored to each water company, but they all contain:

    • An explanation of where the company obtains its water.
    • Information on the level of contaminants in the water.
    • What the EPA considers to be safe levels of contaminants.
    • Other >

    If the CCR is one of those pieces of mail you transfer to the "circular file" as soon as you receive it, or if you live in an apartment building that is owned by someone else, you can get a copy from your water supplier. A list of contacts for municipal water suppliers can be found on the EPAs website.

    Hire a company to test your water. If you get your water from a private well, you can have your water tested by a company that is certified to test water. Mortgage companies may require well testing when you buy a house, and if you build your own home, building officials may require a clean bill of health for the well before issuing a Certificate of Occupancy. Other than that, most regulations on well testing are fairly lax. The EPA recommends annual testing.

    "It is a good idea to have well water tested every couple of years," says Joe Truini, a home improvement expert and writer. "The tests should check for bacteria but also identify the mineral and metal content of the water. The tests are also a good way to stay up-to-date with state regulations. For example, a test from 2012 showed the sodium level in my well to be borderline high, but a 2015 test showed the sodium level to be way below state limits, even though the actual sodium content had not changed that much. What had changed was the regulation. Thats important, because I was considering buying a filter to remove what I thought were high levels of sodium. Now I dont need to."

    At a minimum, the EPA recommends annual tests for the following:

    • Nitrates -- These can interfere with red blood cells ability to transport oxygen.
    • Coliform bacteria -- These are pathogens caused by fecal contamination.
    • Total dissolved solids -- High levels of minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions can make water unfit for consumption.
    • pH levels -- Imbalance can cause a variety of health issues like cardiovascular disease and bone fragility.

    Test the water more frequently if a test turns up a problem or if you suspect the well has been contaminated for some reason. "We had our well tested because there was local concern about crop dusting contaminating the ground water," points out home improvement expert Steve Willson.

    What Kind of Systems Are Available?

    If youve had your water tested or you have reviewed the CCR and you are concerned about the results, you have a few options. You can treat only the water you drink, or you can treat all the water that enters your house.

    Point-of-Use POU Systems

    These systems treat the water where it is used, usually in the kitchen. They include countertop products that treat the water one pitcher-full at a time, filters that attach directly to the faucet and under-sink units that hook into the cold-water line. Some units have a dedicated faucet that is installed in the sink deck.

    POU systems >

    Carbon Filters. Activated carbon filters are used in many filtering systems, including pitcher filters, countertop and under-sink products. Carbon does a good job of filtering out the byproducts of the water treatment process that can affect the taste of water. Some filters can remove harmful contaminants like lead and pesticides, but not all filters perform the same. In general, solid block carbon filters remove more contaminants than granular activated charcoal. Some under-sink systems use two or more filters in a series to increase the number of contaminants the system can remove. These systems often contain another filtering medium in addition to the carbon.

    Reverse Osmosis RO. These systems force water through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out a variety of contaminants, including certain metals and nitrates. RO systems usually consist of the membrane as well as carbon pre-filters to remove sediment and some contaminants, and they also contain post-filters that finish the job and remove the chlorine taste from water. These systems are effective, but the whole process takes some time, so RO systems usually include a storage tank so that clean water is ready when it is needed.

    Distillers. These systems heat water until it turns into a vapor and then condenses the vapor back into a liquid. Distillation can remove many contaminants, but they produce very little clean water in a day. They are often used in combination with carbon filters.

    Ultraviolet Light. Although not as popular as carbon filters and RO systems, under-sink units that use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms are available. Most cannot remove gases, heavy metals or particulates. Systems may work in conjunction with carbon filters.

    Point-of-Entry POE Systems

    These systems treat all the water that flows into your house. They are usually installed where the water line enters the house or near the pressurized tank if you draw water from a private well. They >

    Many POE systems include a water softener, which is a good choice if you live in an area with hard water. For more on water softeners see the, "Do I Need a Water Softener?" sidebar.

    How Do I Choose the Right System?

    There are several options when it comes time to select a filtration system. After identifying the contaminants you want to eliminate from your water, you probably have an idea of whether you want a POU system or a POE system. Here are some points to consider when making a purchasing decision.

    System Effectiveness. The system should extract the contaminants you want removed. The manufacturers literature may make statements like, "Removes 99 percent of lead," or, "Removes 100 percent of bacteria," but the average shopper has no way to verify such claims. Fortunately, NSF International, an independent testing and certification company, and the Water Quality Association certify water treatment products. You can visit the Water Quality Association at wqa.org to search for certified products. At the NSF site, you can match a water treatment technology with specific contaminants to find certified products. For example, if you want a reverse osmosis system that removes lead, you can find a list of companies and products here.

    Flow Rates. Water treatment systems take time to clean the water. Each product will list its flow rate in gallons per minute GPM. For POU systems, such as one installed in the kitchen cabinet, you will find rates that range from about .5 GPM to 1.5 GPM and higher. Because reverse osmosis systems use storage tanks, they are rated in the number of gallons they produce in a day. The flow rate is more important when deciding on a POE system. These systems must be able to handle enough water to provide drinking water, as well as wash clothes, supply showers and tubs, and flush toilets. They typically supply water at the rate of 15 to 40 GPM. Discuss your needs with an installer or a dealer to find the size that is best for your households needs.

    Ease of Maintenance. Water treatment systems require some maintenance, so examine the manufacturers literature to see what needs to be done and how often. Some POU carbon filters can last about six months before they need to be changed. Larger POE systems may only require annual replacement.

    Accessories. The dedicated faucet on POU systems should fit in with the rest of the kitchen design. Companies offer the faucets in a variety of >

    Costs. What you will pay depends on several factors. Here are some ranges for different types of systems

    • Countertop pitcher: About 30
    • Filter attached to a faucet: 2050
    • Under-sink systems: 100600 uninstalled
    • Whole-house systems: 4002,500 uninstalled

    What Should I Know about Installation and Maintenance?

    A reasonably handy homeowner can install most POU systems. For under-sink systems, however, the space is very cramped. The systems contain everything you will need to complete the installation, and there is no soldering as the systems use compression fittings. Basically, you will turn off the cold-water supply at the sink.

  • Disconnect the supply line that runs from the shutoff valve to the faucet, and install a fitting that diverts water to the filtration system.
  • From there, connect tubing that runs to the inlet side of the filtration system and then tubing that runs from the outlet side to the dedicated faucet.
  • Place the faucet in the sink deck.
  • The filter or group of filters usually attaches to the inside wall of the cabinet. For a reverse osmosis system, the outlet tubing runs to a storage tank. There is also a drain line that removes impurities captured by the reverse osmosis membrane. The line connects to your sink drain.

    POE systems involve cutting into the main water line that enters the home. These installations are best left to a professional plumber.

    The fine points of maintenance will vary from product to product, so it is important to consult the product literature. All filters will eventually need to be changed. Manufacturers have made this process easier. Some filters on POU systems >


    Armed with the information in this guide, you now have the tools to determine if you need home water treatment and choose the filtration system that works best for you. Whether you decide on a faucet-mounted point-of-use system or a whole-house system, the right water treatment ensures the health and drinkability of your home water supply for you and those you love.

    Do I Need a Water Softener?

    You do need a water softener if your water has a high mineral content, especially high levels of calcium and magnesium. Water with high dissolved mineral content is called hard water. Its not unhealthy, but hard water can lead to problems:

    • Soaps dont lather as they should, so you end up using more. Rinsing also takes longer. Hard water can affect personal grooming and the washing of clothes.
    • Scale caused by hard water can clog pipes and force some appliances, like water heaters, to work harder, making them less energy efficient. Scale can also cause staining on faucets.
    • Hard water can lead to stains in sinks as well as on dishes and glasses.

    It is estimated that about 85 percent of the country has some level of hard water. The water treatment industry measures hard water in grains per gallon GPG. Here are some established guidelines.

    Consult the Consumer Confidence Report or Water Quality Report from your municipal water utility to determine the level of hardness in your water. You can also test your water. Hard water tests are >

    There is no reason to use a certified testing company unless you are testing for other contaminants. Some companies in the water treatment business will send you test strips for free.

    Softening the Water

    Water softeners remove the minerals from the water before the water circulates throughout your house. Heres the process in broad strokes: Incoming water flows into a tank containing a softening resin, which resemble plastic beads. The beads have a negative charge which attracts the positive ions in the minerals. This causes the minerals to attach themselves to the beads. Eventually, the beads cannot hold additional minerals and must be regenerated. Next to the tank holding the beads is a tank containing a salt brine. The brine flows over the beads, removing the minerals and flushing them into a drain. The beads are ready to start the softening process again.

    The regenerating process is automatic. Some softeners use a timer to regenerate the resin, but other models use sensors to determine when regeneration should take place.

    Water softeners come in a variety of sizes. To match the softener to your needs, multiply the number of people in the house by 75 gallons per day by the water hardness number you determined from testing. For example, four people 75 gallons per day 8 as an example of water hardness = 2,400 grains per day.

    A water treatment professional can help you match the system to your needs, but the sample equation is a good place to start.

    About Fran Donegan

    Fran Donegan writes on home and plumbing >
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    Ask The HOA Expert: Unauthorized Maintenance

    Question: One of our board member performs unauthorized maintenance and pesters unit owner about minor rule infractions. What can we do?

    Answer: Communicate with him directly, clearly and specifically. Explain that performing unauthorized maintenance undermines the budget and the system for addressing maintenance. Provide him details about specific complaints by owners. Explain that his independent actions undermine board authority.

    Question: We have two board members that plan projects outside of the board meetings. When the rest of the board finally finds about them, they are already in process. This is creating unnecessary tension or friction.

    Answer: Board members can research anything they want outside a board meeting. But if it is something that requires board approval, that approval needs to happen. If a majority do not approve the proposal, it dies on the vine like any other. However, sometimes a project is in keeping with the budget and can be approved by the board president. Speak to the individuals in private and insist that all projects need to be at least run by the president. If the president feels the board needs to weigh in, the project will need to wait until the board convenes.

    Question: We have a unit owner who is over a year delinquent. Our property manager took it upon herself to set up a payment plan to include the dues plus 50 extra per month. It will take over three years to pay off the late assessments Is it typical for managers to make this kind of decision without input from the board?

    Answer: No, the manager should not have made any deal unless the board authorized it. If the manager was not authorized, the board can rescind the offer and tender a demand for payment in full.

    Has your board adopted a formal Collection Policy? That policy should call for aggressive measures like filing liens against the unit, garnishing wages and foreclosure if allowed in your state. The policy should allow the use of an attorney to collect rather than a collection agency. The attorney will press for full payment of the delinquency, late fees, attorney fees and >

    this urgent matter. Collections are of prime importance.

    Question: Our current HOA fees have been the same amount for seven years. The proposed budget is calling for a 30 increase with an additional 500 special assessment. I understand the importance of maintaining the property and providing adequate reserves for future capital projects. However, at what point do high HOA fees have a negative impact on unit market values?

    Answer: Your board is finally addressing a long overdue reality: HOA fees that dont keep pace with increasing costs and inflation will prevent the board from paying for adequate maintenance, repairs and services. Over seven years, inflation alone would cause a 30 increase in prices. Boards that fail to increase HOA fees each year usually pay for cost increases by starving or stealing from reserves. Over time, though, reserve projects like painting and fencing can no longer be avoided and the board is forced to address the deficit by increased fees, special assessments or both.

    While the HOA needs to be competitive with similar HOAs, keeping HOA fees low is not how to do it. Too many HOAs keep their fees artificially low by ignoring the need for reserves. Because of this, future owners will be forced to pay for expenses that should have been partially subsidized by current owners. As a general rule, 25-35 of HOA fees should be dedicated to reserves which are only used to pay for major renovation work like painting, roofing and paving. A professionally done reserve study will produce a funding plan specific to your HOAs reserve needs. See www.apra-usa.com for a list of qualified reserve study providers. The balance of the HOA fee should be adequate to pay for operating expenses management, landscaping, pool, etc. without stealing from reserves. That means that HOA fees should increase a minimum of the current inflation rate each year, currently around 2 .

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

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    Four Holiday Lists To Avoid

    December is a busy month for so many reasons, not the least of which are the holidays. With a lot of fun to be had and so much that must be done during the month or at least by months end, "to do" lists and lists of lists abound.

    To help you reduce stress, have fun, and contribute to the joy of the season, here are four lists to avoid during the holidays:

    List 1: Avoid being added to the "must buy a gift for" list of friends and family who aim to buy real estate in 2017 or who are struggling to afford the real estate they own.

    The best gift you can give a wanna-be homeowner or a financially-stressed property owner is to stop them from spending hard-earned cash or incurring credit card debt to buy you a gift you probably dont need. Debt reduces the borrowing power of home buyers and puts unnecessary financial pressure on already struggling owners. Intercept friends and family before they hit the mall or online shopping sites. Suggest that, instead of buying gifts, you exchange no-cost promises or experiences:

    Sharing Promises: Enlist their help in achieving a goal that youre struggling with and offer to do the same for them. For instance, if youre trying to stop smoking or want to start visiting the gym, and they are attempting to cut back on eating out, make written promises to each other for a two-week stretch this month or next. During the two weeks, you can keep in touch in any way that would help each other stick to their promise and develop a good habit to carry into 2017. Sharing a step toward achievement of a goal is a wonderful gift to give and to receive. Use your imagination to apply this idea to a situation that would suit your family.

    Sharing Experiences: Suggest they accompany you somewhere you or they have always wanted to go, preferably a free event or local natural wonder. Select a time that makes sense in December or January and exchange cards or calendar posts to confirm. Time is a most precious gift.

    List 2: Avoid being added to holiday party lists without an exit strategy.

    Before you accept invitations to parties, dinners, or events, decide how you are going to get home safely. If you wont abstain from drinking or using intoxicants, bring a designated driver as your plus-one, book a two-way trip with a for-hire car service, or sign up for a ride home with the local designated driver service to get you and your car home safely.

    List 3: Avoid making lists of extravagances to buy or go further in debt for if you need to start 2017 with less debt or at least the same amount of debt that you have right now.

    Media continues with spend-spend-spend hype, but put your personal goals and finance realities ahead of someone elses marketing. DIY gifts - kitchen specialties, photos, wood art, fabric treats - are on trend, so get creative. Shared experiences or traded skills are also great gifts. Offer to show a friend how to do something theyve always been fascinated by. Donate your time or skills to a local charity in the name of someone youd like to gift. Give a family member something special of yours that they have always loved. What else can you think of that takes thought, caring, and sincerity but is not simply more debt. Listen to the chat about unappreciated gift cards and "must be returned" presents to inspire your new gifting >

    List 4: Avoid making a New Years Resolution List.

    Why start the year listing many things you should do but probably wont? Instead, zero in on one thing - big or small, to do or to end, one-time or a habitthat you really believe will make a difference in 2017 and do it Have fun in December deciding on that amazing action, so youre cheerfully ready to jump in and make 2017 dynamite

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    Architectural Control Committees Are Needed

    Question: I live in a new town house development and am on the architectural control committee. Some of the homeowners do not feel the need to go through our committee for approval before they make any exterior changes. Our declaration of covenants specifies that approval is required before any such changes can be made. . Many people do not understand the meaning of belonging to an association and when we try to explain, they become hostile.

    Can you address this issue so homeowners can understand this is not peculiar to our development but to associations in general?

    Answer: Most community associations have some form of architectural review committee.

    Often, an owner -- whether in a condominium, planned unit development or homeowners association -- wants to make exterior changes to his or her own unit and feels it is a burden to have to obtain prior approval from an architectural control committee.

    However, these design reviews have at least two purposes: to establish and preserve a harmonious design for a community and to protect the value of the property.

    When one buys into a community association, one must understand it is community living. Decisions cannot be unilaterally made, nor can the rules and regulations of the association be unilaterally ignored.

    One can disagree with the need for uniformity, for example, but the fact remains that if the association documents require external uniformity, that is the law of the association and is binding on its members.

    Having discussed the function and purpose of architectural controls, however, boards of directors of community associations must also recognize that the architectural control committee cannot be a dictator, arbitrarily rendering decisions.

    The courts that have addressed architectural review cases have made it clear that covenants are valid and enforceable provided there are clear policy guidelines establishing the overall standards. For example, it is not

    enough to say that owners may not make changes to the exterior without first obtaining the written approval of the board or the architectural control committee.

    If no specific guidelines have been developed, neither the unit owner nor the review board will have any objective standards by which to judge the proposed external change.

    Boards of directors must establish fairly specific guidelines, and if those rules are not already in association documents, they should be approved by a majority of the homeowners.

    The directors should be aware that the following will be valid defenses by a unit owner when the board tries to seek enforcement of the architectural standards:

    Arbitrary and capricious actions have been taken. The architectural standards must be applied fairly and consistently, and in good faith. It is improper for a board or its architectural review committee to pick and choose in the enforcement of the covenants.

    Delays, or "laches," have occurred. This means that the board has permitted a lengthy period of time to elapse before taking action against a unit owner. For example, one court ruled that a six-month delay in filing suit against an unauthorized fence barred the board from enforcing the covenants.

    If a unit owner is in violation of the architectural standards, or at least the board believes there is a violation, the board must begin prompt action to assure compliance of the standards.

    A waiver has been granted. Basically, if the board fails to enforce a covenant in the case of one homeowner in similar situations, it may be prohibited from enforcing the same standards against another homeowner.

    Because this is community living, there has to be a give and take not only by the homeowner, but by the board as well.

    All too often, architectural control boards have been accused of asserting dictatorial powers. Indeed, in one large local community, the architectural control committee is publicly referred to as the "KGB." Often, boards or their architectural control committees become obsessed with minor, petty violations and often lose sight of reality and the need for harmony.

    A considerable amount of money has been spent by both homeowners and boards of directors in litigation that should never have been brought. Boards must sit down with the homeowner who is alleged to have violated the architectural standards and try to work out an amicable resolution of the problem.

    In the final analysis, boards and their architectural control committees must be firm but must also be reasonable and flexible.

    Full Story >

    Replacement And Disclosure Of Plumbing Fixtures Required

    If they havent done so already, California owners of single-family residences have slightly less than thirty days to replace any noncompliant plumbing fixtures on their property with water-conserving ones.

    This requirement is the result of a state Senate bill SB 407, Padilla that was signed into law in 2009. The bill spelled out a number of requirements and restrictions going forward from the time of its passage until its last mandate -- dealing with multi-family and commercial property -- that takes effect January 1, 2019.

    So, what are the noncompliant plumbing fixtures that need to be replaced? That is spelled out in section 1101.3c of the California Civil Code.

    "c Noncompliant plumbing fixture means any of the following:
    1 Any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
    2 Any urinal manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush.
    3 Any showerhead manufactured to have a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
    4 Any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute.

    Of course, many homes are already compliant. Federal law has required such fixtures be sold since 1992.

    SB 407 also contained a disclosure requirement that comes into effect January 1, 2017. It is stated at section 1101.4c of the Civil Code. "On and after January 1, 2017, a seller or transferor of single-family residential real property shall disclose in writing to the prospective purchaser or transferee the requirements of subdivision b [that all noncompliant fixtures be replaced] and whether the real property includes any noncompliant fixtures."

    The required disclosure has two parts. First, the seller -- not the agent -- must tell the buyer that the law requires that the property have compliant plumbing fixtures. Secondly, the seller must tell the buyer whether the property has any noncompliant fixtures.

    Currently, there is some potential for confusion and/or uncertainty here.

    Probably the most important matter has to do with point-of-sale requirement. That is to say, "Does the law mean that escrow cannot close unless all noncompliant fixtures are first replaced with compliant ones?" No. As a 2012 article Water-Conserving Plumbing Fixtures provided by the California Association of REALTORSCAR states, "There is nothing in the law that requires the installation of water-conserving fixtures as a condition of sale."

    Note, though, that some local jurisdictions counties or cities may have their own ordinances dealing with these matters.

    More than a few people have noted that the existing statutory disclosure document the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement, or, commonly, TDS already contains a question regarding Water-Conserving Plumbing Fixtures. It is the last "check box question" in the three column array at Section II A. of the TDS. The box is to be checked if the subject property has water-conserving plumbing fixtures. Does checking the box suffice to meet the new disclosure requirement at Civil Code 1101.4c? No.

    For one thing, the TDS check box format does not meet the requirement that the seller inform the buyer of the law requiring compliant fixtures. Secondly, it does not inform the buyer of the existence of any noncompliant fixtures. Suppose you had a low-flush toilet, but not a water-conserving shower head. How would that information be conveyed via the check box format?

    At this point, CAR, through its Standard Forms Advisory Committee has proposed to add a question to its commonly used, but not legally mandated, Seller Property Questionnaire SPQ. This would ask the seller, in a yes-or-no format, if he or she is aware of "Plumbing fixtures on the Property that are non-compliant plumbing fixtures as defined by Civil Code Section 1101.3."

    While this would satisfy part of the new disclosure requirement, it would not comply with the requirement that the purchaser be told that the law mandates that all such fixtures be replaced.

    To do a proper job of making the required disclosure, it is probably going to be necessary for brokerages, and perhaps local REALTOR associations, to craft a separate disclosure form.

    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 >

    6 Great Holiday Decor Ideas To Amp Up Your Curb Appeal

    Stumped about how to make your home stand out at the holidays for all the right reasons?

    You dont have to clean out Home Depots inflatable character aisle to make it festive. A few tips can take it from plain to just plain amazing.

    1. Highlight your architecture

    Have some great architecture to work with?

    "Edging the roof, windows and doors makes your homes own charming features stand out big time," said House Beautiful.

    House Beautiful

    2. Take advantage of your landscaping

    Net lights make decorating so easy your little kids can do it, and when laid out over hedges, they bring a festive look with minimal effort and expense. If you have trees in your front yard, wrapping the trunks in net lights brings the beauty without the pain of having to weave lights around individual branches. Hanging icicle lights or snowflakes from random branches is a great finishing touch.

    American Sale

    3. Spread the love

    Gates, fences, front porches, and walkways are great opportunities to extend your dcor and call attention to the propertys features.

    House Beautiful

    4. Dont forget about your front door

    A simple wreath is an easy way to set a welcoming holiday tone, and the choices are endless, whether you go with store-bought or decide to make your own. But, its just the beginning of the inspired ideas for your front door.

    "Giveyour front door the city glam you loveby filling lanterns with shiny ornaments, and adorning with a black and white polka dot ribbon how very Kate Spade of you, as in this outdoorvignette from Dimples amp; Tangles," said Elle Dcor.

    Elle Decor

    5. Christmas trees arent just for indoors

    How about bringing a Christmas tree up to your front door...and then leaving it there. Just be sure to use weather-proof ornaments.

    Elle Decor

    If you dont have room for a full-size tree, this mini-version - replete with wrapped gifts wrap empty boxes if youre worried about theft creates a charming vignette, especially when paired with the ribbon-wrapped garland surrounding the door.


    6. Have a ball

    How fun are these lighted chicken wire balls? Theyre a surefire way to make your home stand out at the holidays. "Placing various size balls of light across the lawn is an innovative Christmas yard decoration idea everyone loves," said Christmas Lights Etc. "By wrapping Christmas lights around chicken wire balls, you can create a whimsical scene in your yard that leaves everyones jaws dropping. All you need for this DIY Christmas decoration is chicken wire,strings of LED mini lights, and wire cutters. HGTV has an easy DIY tutorial so you can make them yourself.

    DIY Home World

    Full Story >

    A Quick Downsizing Quiz For The Undecided

    On the fence about downsizing? We help you decide whether that fencing should encircle a mansion or a mini trailer.

    We all consider downsizing for different reasons. Maybe were sick and tired of the maintenance and upkeep of a large home. It could be that were weary of the financial burden, or of being tied to a house and yard. Perhaps we want a smaller footprint for greener living. But is downsizing really for you?

    If your circumstances make downsizing a necessity, go for it and decide to love it. But if you have a choice in the matter, take a few minutes with what I call the Knee-Jerk Reaction Test to see if downsizing is really for you. Gather a pencil and paper, look at each picture below and write down the number next to the response that most closely matches your own.

    Ready? Here we go.

    Photo by Siemasko Verbridge - Browse beach >

    1. This is my dream home
    2. Lots of roof there to maintain.
    3. All I see is time and .

    Photo by Bonterra Build
    Full Story >

    The End Of The Line For The Hot Real Estate Market?

    Rising rates, looming Ben Carson HUD appointment create murky reality

    Is real estates nice little ride over? The combination of rising rates and fear around new housing leadership has some experts worried. Lets break it down.

    Mortgage Rates

    Nobody was under the illusion that historically low rates could last forever, but the sharp rise since the election have some people worried. A few years of super-low rates helped the market recover and thrive; now, "The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 4.02 percent, up 6 basis points over the last week," said Bankrate. "A month ago, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was lower, at 3.34 percent."

    Going from the threes to the fours crosses two important barriers - financial, and psychological, potentially hampering a real estate market in its most vulnerable time of the year.

    "For those with more of a financial cushion, the increase in monthly payments is just frustrating; for those on the edge of ownership, it can mean no deal," said CNBC. Although no one that we know of can accurately predict the future, experts expect rates to climb further, especially if the Federal Reserve raises the "benchmark short-term rate again next month - with more hikes to follow next year," said the Los Angeles Times.

    Michigan Mortgage Loan

    Risingrates "could slow homepurchases, pinching "Americans with added costs as they borrow money, they said. "Even a slight increase in rates could disrupt the pace of borrowing, partly because the low rates had enabled many Americans to qualify for loans that otherwise would have been out of reach, Scott McGann, a finance lecturer at San Diego State Universitys business school, told them. Agreed Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moodys Analytics: "If youre in the market to buy a home, its not so good."

    Ben Carson

    President-elect Trumps November 22 tweet fueled speculation that retired neurosurgeon and former Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson would be appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development HUD. "I am seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson as the head of HUD," he said. "Ive gotten to know him well - hes a greatly talented person who loves people"

    A formal acceptance is forthcoming, but, in the meantime, there has been rampant discussion about the appointment that Housingwire says is a done deal, much of which surrounds concern that "liking people" does not equip one to run a federal agency that oversees an annual budget of approximately 50 billion. Fodder about Carsons rejection of the secretary of Health and Human Services position - which he explained by saying he was "unqualified" - despite the fact that medicine, not housing, was his chosen field - only further underscores the concern.

    "If he accepts the spot, Carson will have a key role incrafting and ushering through policies that could affectthe housing market long beyond the next four years of President-electDonald Trumps administration," said Realtor.com. "And those policies will also play a role in determining the futures of the millions of Americans who depend on HUD, ranging fromthe poorest Americans seeking subsidized housing to first-time buyers shopping for mortgages."

    While the past two HUD secretaries had significant housing and urban renewal experience, its not unheard of to tap a housing outsider for the job. Steve Preston, who held the post in 20082009, came from a finance background as the administrator of the government-run Small Business Administration. Still, Carsons lack of >

    Washington Times

    Whats perhaps most troubling to experts are the comments Carson has made thus far about the agency and his overall take on housing issues, which foretell some sweeping changes ahead.

    The Daily Beast notes that Carson once referred to Fair Housing as "communism." In the same 2015 op-edpublished in The Washington Times, he called fair housing policies "mandated social-engineering schemes" that repeated a pattern of "failed socialist experiments in this country," said the Wall Street Journal.

    Carsons beef with the rules seems to center on over-regulation, but concern from housing insiders surrounds two key issues: affordable housing and anti-discrimination. "I am astounded at the suggestion that Ben Carson would be nominated to serve as HUD secretary," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, toldCityLab. "HUD is among the most important federal agencies tasked with ensuring compliance with the Fair Housing Act, and creating affordable and inclusive communities."

    As distressing as that may be, there are other potential policy changes that are worrisome to housing experts, including: the possibility that home mortgage interest deductions could be eliminatedCarson pledged to do so while running for president; "scaling back and eliminating various federal programs he deemed wasteful, inefficient or unnecessary in asix-page documentoutlining his positions during the race," said Realtor.com, and privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would "seve>

    Looking for a silver lining? Those with the most skin in the game - namely the 1 weve heard so much about - will likely loudly oppose the elimination of mortgage interest. And then theres this from Housingwire: "Being famous does not translate into great leadership, and more followers on social media is no way to select the future leader of HUD. But what this does bring is a chance for people to start talking about housing in a way that hasnt been done in a long time."

    Well file that under the "all press is good press" theory.

    Full Story >

    Lease-Option Agreement Should Be Carefully Drawn

    Question. Eighteen months ago, when we were having great difficulty selling our house, we entered into a lease option. Our prospective purchaser agreed to move in, pay rent for 18 months and then have the right to buy the property at the end of that term.

    It now appears our buyer will not be able to carry through with his option. What happens then? Does the buyer lose the deposit and the lease payments?

    Answer. That is a good question. It highlights one of the most important elements in all real estate transactions -- all terms should be negotiated in advance, and then put into a written document, signed by all parties.

    You have entered into a lease with an option to purchase and your buyer is to exercise that option within 18 months of the date of the transaction. If you or your lawyer were on the ball when you entered into the agreement, you would have covered these points in the contract lease. I assume you did enter into a written lease with an option, and that all of the important terms were spelled out in that document.

    As a seller who enters into a lease option, I would want a sizable down payment and a monthly rental income that would not be credited for the purchase price. In the event my tenant did not go to settlement, my preference would be to declare the entire deposit to be forfeited in my favor.

    The theory behind this strategy is that I am taking my house off the market for a period of time, and I am contracting to sell my house in the future at todays prices.

    If I were the tenant who enters into such a lease option, I would, of course, want different terms. I would attempt to negotiate for all or part of the monthly rental payments to be credited toward the purchase price. In addition, if I were unable to go to settlement at the expiration of the lease, I would not want to lose any of my deposit.

    You will need good negotiating skills to get a document favorable under your terms. Of course, market and financial conditions will play a significant role in how the agreement will end up. Since your tenant will be living in your house for a period of time in accordance with the terms of the agreement, it should be carefully considered before you sign it.

    In the absence of language covering the situation you have described, I suspect that unless you can reach an amicable resolution, you may both end up in court. You probably will take the position that the deposit is forfeited; the tenant will no doubt contend that the money was me>

    I suspect, however, that if the transaction is in fact a lease with an option to purchase, the court will side with the seller.

    You may also want to consider adding the following language to any such lease-option arrangement: "Any dispute arising out of this agreement will be decided by an arbitrator, in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association."

    If you have an arbitration clause and a dispute does arise, the matter will probably be resolved more quickly -- and typically less expensive -- than if you have to go to court. However, a lot of attorneys myself included prefer litigation. A Judge -- rather than an arbitrator -- will analyze the facts and apply applicable law. From my experience, many arbitrators just "split the baby in half".

    But whether you go to court or arbitration, heres another clause to be included in the agreement: "The Court or the Arbitrator will award legal fees and costs to the prevailing party." Here in the United States, we follow what is known as the "American Rule on Legal Fees". Each side pays its own lawyer unless there is a statute such as the consumer protection laws or a provision in a real estate contract that gives the winning party legal fees. In England, the winner gets her legal fees paid.

    So, in your case, to make sure the American Rule will not apply, put that language in your written agreement.

    Full Story >

    Seven 2017 Home Trends Youre Going To Want Now

    We know what youre thinking: New year, new >

    Get colorful

    Could gray be on its way out? The go-to color for walls and more walls and also kitchens and flooring and furnishings and everything else for several years running may have hit its peak. Paint companies like Sherwin-Williams have a few gray hues in their 2017 Color Forecast, mixed among bold jewel tones, global shades, and confident pastels. Industry insiders are embracing the rich colors, especially when juxtaposed against white.

    "Color, color, color. Those boring grays are on their way out," said Gates Interior Design. Instead, theyre seeing "fresh whites with pops of color...along with rich colors for walls." Their top five colors are: Navy, pink, coral, teal, and emerald green.

    Elle Decor

    Rose gold

    Now that weve cycled through most of the other metal options in the past few years, its rose golds turn. "One of the biggest fashion trends over the past year or so has been rose gold," said PURSUITIST. "The pinky hue has become popular not just in jewelry and watches but also in clothing, shoes, and beauty products. Its even been spotted on phones and sunglasses."

    And what happens in fashion often comes to interiors, which were seeing in everything from fixtures to lighting to textiles. "No offense to silver, yellow gold, and brass, but theres just something special about rose golda warmth and uniqueness you dont get with other metallic," said Glamour. "Bring instant luster to a boring kitchen with industrial bar chairs in a high-gloss finish."


    Donnbracht has >


    You can even DIY the finish on "surfaces including metal, ceramic, wood, and glass" with rose gold spray paint.

    Furry accents

    Texture is a great way to add layered interest to a space, and you can expect this trend to take your look next-level. "Its official: Furniture with fur accents will be huge in 2017. Weve noticed sheepskin and Mongolian fur chairs in the latest fall collections, said MY DOMAINE. "Faux-fur chairs saw the most dramatic increase in searches this year, with a 487 uplift. Our word of warning? Tread carefully when trying this trend at home. Invest in one statement piece to take center stage in your apartment, and look for quality materials."


    Industrial dcor

    "Industrial dcor is here to stay," said MY DOMAINE, so why not use it in a standout way, like on these gorgeous bathroom lights.


    The faux look

    Love the look of marble countertops but dont want the upkeep? Theres great news x two: Quartz materials are more realistic than ever, allowing you to get the appearance of marble with a practically indestructible finish, and faux looks are in.

    "Luxury homeowners are warming to fake marble, faux barn wood and other imitators, which are often less expensive and easier to install than the real deal," said the Wall Street Journal.

    According to designerNicole Gibbons, "clients love the timeless look of Carrara marble, but may not be able tomaintain the countertops, which cant get acidic foods on them, in their own homes," said Elle Dcor. "People arent coming to me and saying, I want fake marble," Gibbons says. "Theyre saying, I really like the look of marble, but its too high maintenance, or, I cook too much for that to be able to hold up. What do you recommend as an alternative?"

    Elle Decor

    Black and white stripes

    Its a new graphic pattern to obsess over, and in a >

    Elle Decor

    Cork walls

    Goodbye, reclaimed wood, hello cork. "Sustainability and practicality are popping up in home decor all over the place," said BRIT CO. "Cork walls are not only a visually compelling choice, but theyre awesome when it comes to blocking out sound and posting to-dos on the go."


    Full Story >

    Total Board Recall In Your HOA

    The natives are restless. The smell of tar wafts through the night air and somewhere a chicken loses its feathers. The board prepares for impending doom.

    Board recalls dont happen out of the blue. Like Mount St. Helens, they give off warning signs. Theres rumbling and venting going on. Disgruntled phone calls, rants at board meetings, terse letters tacked on the door. The issues include such >

    1. That amp; special assessment

    2. Those blankety blank rules

    3. My tree didnt get pruned

    4. Why did your unit get painted first?

    5. Time for the Gang of Five to go

    Recalls can sometime happen for legitimate reasons:

    1. Embezzling or getting reimbursed by the HOA for unauthorized perks like meals, trips, etc.

    2. Engaged in fraud or conflicts of interest like accepting vendor kickbacks or steering a contract to your brother in law.

    3. Failing fiduciary duties like performing adequate maintenance and repairs of the common elements, lack of rules enforcement and aggressive collection on delinquencies.

    4. Substantial inaction dont gitter done.

    But the underlying reason is usually that the members feel they are not being heard. While the board is elected to get things done, it is also supremely important for the board to listen to the membership. Sometimes these folks say things the board doesnt like to hear. They can be critical and they can be obnoxious and sometimes 100 wrong. But allowing the members to vent and participate is one of the smartest things a board can do.

    If the board doesnt provide a forum for member communications and feedback, the members will develop their own like gossip, rumors and online blogs. Here are some board strategies to head off these self help methods:

    1. Open Forum. Add a 15-30 minute Open Forum to every board meeting. Allow up to five minutes per member to let them rant, rave, opine and inquire. This is not a time to transact HOA business but to clarify positions and provide information. If a member wants to address the board for business, put them on the regular meeting Agenda.

    2. Get it in Writing. Talk is cheap. If a member has a passionate issue or complaint, request they put their thoughts in writing so the board can consider all the ramifications. Writing takes effort and most wont do it unless it is important. But its a great way to determine how deeply felt the issue is. Once put in writing, the board should respond in writing. This mechanism provides a clear record of board actions to member issues. Its okay to direct the solution to someone else. If its not yours, dont accept it. Hand it back or hand it off.

    3. Appoint a Committee. The board is handed a task by a member who has a "great idea" such as adding a shared garden. Problem is, these great ideas are often undeveloped, require research and funding. Rather than the board taking on a great idea, appoint the person proposing it to chair an ad hoc committee to investigate further.

    4. Become a Diplomat. One of the greatest joys and greatest frustrations is the differences between people. Successful marriages usually have two opposites which balance and supplement each other making the sum greater than its parts. All of your HOA members have qualities and strengths. Using diplomacy will encourage them to use their talents for the common good. Rather than let them criticize from the sidelines, ask them to join the game because they have value to contribute. Remind them that, "were all in the same boat". Its true and often wins over adversaries.

    Recalling the board is the final straw of a frustrated electorate. But once the board is given the boot, a new board has to fill the void. Where were these people at the last election when the call for candidates went out? A new board only provides new grist for a the recall mill. Avoid total recall by giving the membership more input and control.

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

    Full Story >

    Horiike Decision Brings A Sigh Of Relief

    A collective sigh of >

    Dual agency is treated differently in different states. I render no opinion as to which one is best. In California, dual agency is legal provided that it is properly disclosed and consented to.

    Disclosure is accomplished by provision of a statutory form Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency >

    It also spells out that, "In representing both Seller and Buyer, the agent may not, without the express permission of the respective party, disclose to the other party that the Seller will accept a price less than the listing price or that the Buyer will pay a price greater than the price offered."

    We note, then, that the legislation that created this scheme Civil Code 2079 et seq. "carved out" behavior which, if engaged in by a single agent, would be deemed perfectly acceptable. Hence, in a typical non-dual agent setting, if a buyers agent learned from a third party that the seller was willing to accept an offer considerably below the listed price, he could certainly communicate that to the buyer. But he couldnt if he were the agent of both parties.

    In the Horiike case, the agency duty had to do with disclosure about the property. Horiike, the buyer, had been working with a Coldwell Banker CB agent Namba from the CB office in Beverly Hills. In the course of their property search, he and his agent saw a property listed by an agent Cortazzo from the CB office in Malibu. Horiike purchased the property 12.25 million with CB acting as a dual agent. All was properly disclosed and consented to.

    Subsequently, Horiike discovered substantial discrepancies between the square footage represented in marketing materials and as it was indicated on the building permit. He sued CB and the listing agent, Cortazzo, for, among other things, breach of fiduciary duty. He did not sue Namba, the agent who had worked with him in the buying process. Apparently, he liked her.

    According to the court record, Cortazzo had provided Horiike, through Namba, "a copy of the residences building permit and a form advisory stating: only an appraiser can >

    The jury found that both Cortazzo, the listing agent, and CB were not liable for intentional or negligent misrepresentation or intentional concealment. As to the breach of fiduciary duty, the trial court granted non-suit regarding Cortazzo, "ruling that Cortazzo exclusively represented the seller in the transaction and therefore did not owe a fiduciary duty to Horiike." It also "instructed the jury that, in order to find Coldwell Banker liable for breach of fiduciary duty, the jury had to find that an agent of Coldwell Banker other than Cortazzo or Namba [who had been excluded from the suit] had breached a fiduciary duty to Horiike." Of course there were no other such agents, so CB was exonerated.

    Naturally, Horiike appealed; and the Appellate Court reversed on the issue of Cortazzos fiduciary duty to Horiike. It ruled that "Cortazzo, as a salesperson working under Coldwell Bankers license, owed a duty to Horiike equivalent to the duty owed to him by Coldwell Banker." It concluded that "a properly instructed jury could find that Cortazzo breached his fiduciary duty by failing to communicate all of the material information he knew about the square footage."

    CB and Cortazzo then appealed to the California Supreme Court which took the case, framing the issue in this way: "The sole question before us is whether Cortazzo, as an associate licensee representing Coldwell Banker in the sale of the Malibu residence, owed a duty to Horiike to take certain measures to inform him about the residences square footage."

    That this could have been an issue arises from the fact that, under California law, it is the broker -- in this case, CB -- and not the individual licensee who is the agent of the principal. The individuals here Cortazzo and Namba are "associate licensees" and they are agents of the broker. However, the Supreme Court found ample reason to support the view that "An associate licensee owes a duty to each party in a real property transaction which is equivalent to the duty owed each party by the broker under whom the associate licensee is licensed."

    In this particular case, though, the Court noted that "The fiduciary duty of disclosure that Horiike alleges Cortazzo breached is, in fact, strikingly similar to the nonfiduciary duty of disclosure that Cortazzo would have owed Horiike in any event." Moreover, "the critical point is only that to disclose such information, or to alert Horiike that his representations [of square footage] were unverified, would not have required Cortazzo to reveal any confidential information he had obtained from the [seller]"

    The Court was sensitive to the concerns expressed by the real estate community and in amicus briefs that a ruling finding at the agent level -- not just at that of the company -- fiduciary duties to both parties could lead to untenable situations where an agent could have a duty to divulge confidential information about one party to the other.

    In this regard the Court acknowledged the issue and practically invited organized real estate such as the California Association of REALTORS to seek a legislative fix -- as it had done before with respect to revealing the price points of buyer and seller.

    Thus it wrote, "To the extent there is any uncertainty about the scope of a dual agents fiduciary duties in other contexts [i.e. other than disclosure of property conditions], the Legislature certainly could enact defendants preferred solution to the problem by, for example, adopting legislation to uncouple associate licensees duties from the brokers they represent."

    The Horiike case will now go back to trial on the issue of whether or not Cortazzo breached his disclosure duty. The real estate industry, having breathed it sigh of >

    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 >

    Selling Your Home Soon? Use Holiday Sales To Make Smart, Inexpensive Updates

    If youre thinking about selling your house, or if its just in need of a little love, taking advantage of sales throughout the holiday season can help you add a little pizazz or make it more attractive to the potential next owner. Knowing what to look for and what to stay away from this season can help you make smart buys.

    Patio furniture

    When the weather turns cold, retailers who have remaining summer furniture stock on hand need to get rid of it. That makes now a great time to buy a new outdoor dining set or lounge seating. It may not top your list of "must-haves" right now, especially if youre looking to sell your home soon. But a well-staged outdoor area can be a huge selling point for buyers.

    Fire pit

    While youre looking at outdoor furniture, be sure to check out the fire pits. Even if you live in a climate where outdoor enjoyment is limited in the winter, setting the scene for potential buyers who will undoubtedly look in the yard regardless of the temperature can help make an emotional connection that has a better chance of leading to a sale.



    Old, ratty, or timeworn furniture could be a turnoff to buyers. A few key updates can make your house more appealing simply by making it look well-cared-for and updated. Furniture actually made Kiplingers list of the "15 Worst things to buy during the holidays," but thats because they think you should wait until just after Christmas which technically still qualifies for the holiday season, as far as were concerned.

    For the best overall buys, "Wait until after Christmas, when furniture stores hold clearance sales to make room for new >


    We all know the importance of an updated kitchen when trying to sell your home. It can make your sale, or kill it. But that doesnt mean you need to redo the whole thing. New appliances can distract from other areas that might need some attention, and, the good news is, December is a great time to buy major appliances, according to Consumer Reports. Weve already seen some deep discounts on refrigerators, ranges, ovens, and dishwashers at Lowes, Home Depot, and Sears, with many sales expected to continue through the end of December.



    Buyers probably wont be any more or less convinced to buy your home if they look in your cabinet and see a shiny new set of pots and pans. But a nice piece of enamel wear filled with a fragrant holiday mix simmering on your stove can infuse your home with a rich scent and show potential buyers you have good taste.

    The holiday season is a great time to buy new cookware, according to The Balance. Their recommendations: "Before buying a whole set, also consider your actual needs; many people end up only using a few pieces of their set. It can be significantly easier to buy what you know youll use regularly, such as a sauce pan or frying pan."

    Carpet and flooring

    If your floors need some work, this may be the perfect time to get them redone. The holiday season is the perfect time to check out flooring options like carpet, said Carpet Captain. "Kids are out on break. Many people are traveling. Money is tight after buying Christmas and Hanukah presents. People are stressed out and decorating to have family and friends over; the last thing they want to do is clear out their home to have carpet installed. Some salesman may be desperately looking for a Christmas bonus from commission on your sale. This is when the biggest savings happen. Best time to strike: December 21 to January 14."


    House plants

    Adding a little greenery to your house can, quite literally, give it life. Houseplants have been shown to have positive psychological impacts on those in the space. They can also have positive physical effects that could improve the lives of your family long after your house is sold, presuming you take the plants with you. "According to studies by NASA, certain plants can filter dangerous compounds commonly found in homes that are associated with respiratory illnesses, cancer, and more," said Popsugar. For a list of the best houseplants that can improve your health, click here.

    Full Story >

    Make Decorating Choices That Are Kinder To Animals

    Animal lovers will be happy to know theres another way to be kinder to their furry friends. And it all starts at home.

    Many people arent aware that they can opt for cruelty-free products when decorating their homes, says Sasha Josipovicz, creative director of Studio Pyramid in Toronto.

    You can start by simply choosing manmade, cruelty-free options instead of wool, fur, leather, down and exotic skins, he says. And were not talking polyester -- manmade fabrics have come a long way since the 1960s. French and Italian companies are creating fabrics that look like the real thing and offer extra benefits as well.

    For example, silk is expensive and disintegrates in the sun. Manmade silks, on the other hand, dont break down in the sun, says Josipovicz, adding that he cant remember the last time he used real silk in a project. Faux suede and leather require less maintenance, are more durable and come in larger sizes than their animal counterparts. Its the same with manmade wool, which is just as pleasing to the eye but comes in wider widths and is less expensive. The wider widths make it more practical for interior design uses, because items such as drapes for large windows can be made with fewer seams, he says.

    Many furniture manufacturers, both low and high end, are offering alternatives to animal skins and hides, including faux leather couches and canvas chairs.

    The Compassionate Closet has a cruelty-free fabric guide that can help when selecting materials.

    For some people, like real estate agent Eva Szczepanek of Re/Max Realty Specialists in Mississauga, Ont., being vegan is a way of life. She decorates her home with vegan products but also carries her belief to her work world. When she has clients homes staged, she says she insists that only vegan materials -- "no feathers, wool or leather, no animal materials -- are used, and I dont use faux fur because it promotes the use of real fur."

    Even working on a tight timeline, she ensures homes are staged with vegan products because it "brings a good energy into the home."

    The best way to find vegan products is to read labels to ensure that they do not contain animal products or are not tested on animals. Sometimes it can be tricky, says Josipovicz. He once designed an entire home with cruelty-free products. Then he went with the client to a china shop and suggested she buy fine bone china. The client was outraged. Josipovicz said it took him a few minutes before the "ah-ha" moment. He had always thought of "fine bone china" as almost a brand name, not realizing the china contains ground animal bones. It was a lesson learned.

    But as long as youre honest and open minded, and try your best, theres no harm done, he says.

    The winning entry from the Cruelty-Free Home of the
    Year Contest. Photo by Mary Summers Photography

    People dont have to start big and throw all of their possessions away. Start small and when you replace items, buy cruelty-free products, Josipovicz says. "People feel good when they can make even a small contribution. If you give them the option, the majority will say, lets try. Every little effort is recognized and applauded. Its a reasonable approach."

    You can start small with decorative items such as a selection of super cute pillows from Velvet Moustache in Montreal or vegan candles from Two Blooms in Victoria.

    In an effort to spread the word about cruelty-free decorating, Josipovicz came up with the idea for a Cruelty-Free Home of the Year Contest. Interior design magazine Objekt International of which Josipovicz is the honorary editor-in-chief Objekt USA-Canada and PETA People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals teamed up to launch the competition and recently announced its winner: the peaceful home of life>

    To be eligible, homes had to be 100-per-cent vegan, meaning no wool, fur, leather, down or exotic skins were used in the designs. Interiors could be enhanced by faux fur, canvas, linen and other cruelty-free fabrics.

    Tuttles entry stood out, Josipovicz says. "It met all my esthetic thresholds of visuals and practicality. Its an eye-popping house done on a not serious budget."

    The principles of good design -- layout, colours, materials and practicality were met, with the added restriction that everything had to be cruelty-free a kinder choice, he says."The real highlight of her vegan life>
    Full Story >

    The Super-Quick, Really Easy, Last-Minute Guide To Making Your House Guest Ready For The Holidays

    It never fails. You have weeks, or even months, to get your house in order before family arrives to celebrate the holidays. But now its days, or even hours, before their arrival, and well, youre nowhere near ready. Heed a few tips to get your house in great shape before the family descends on you.

    Know where to go

    You dont need to deep-clean every inch of your house. There are lots of places your guests will probably never venture, and you can always close the doors to rooms you dont plan on using.

    "Stick to the bathroom your guests will use, along with the kitchen and dining or entertaining area where your guests will spend most of their time," said Angies List. "Skip areas of the house or rooms your guests wont see, such as second-floor hallways, bedrooms and your home office."

    Make your cleaning products work for you

    Maximize your time by spraying your toilets, baths, showers, and sinks and then leave to do something else. Come back after a few minutes and wipe clean.


    Pick up your stuff

    "The first thing you want to do is go through your entire home and pick up everything that is on the floor and not in its proper place," said CBS. You probably have an extra box somewhere that can act as a catch-all for that stuff that seems to multiply in your house. If not, a laundry basket will do in a pinch.


    Now its time to figure out where to put all that stuff. Your favorite spots for >

    Clean off those countertops

    Assuming youre going to be cooking over the holidays, youre going to need space to do it. Time to pare down the accessories. Think like a home stager and pack away the non-essentials. Not only will it give you the work space you want, but also a cleaner look in your kitchen.


    Put socks on everyone in the house

    While youre running around frantically, youre doing double duty by picking up the dust on the floor.

    Socks on hands works, too

    Your kids may want to help, but their help may not actually be so helpful. Finding tasks they can do that will keep them out of your way is key. When those tasks actually make a difference - even better. Socks on little hands make great dusters. Send them toward surfaces that need work and dont have breakables. They can also swipe along baseboards and blinds. A non-toxic cleaning product for older kids or just plain water for the little ones is even more effective.

    Put out fresh bedding

    If you havent had time to make the guest bed, throw a clean comforter down and let your guests know the sheets are in the wash and then get the sheets in the wash. Didnt and dont have time to get new bedding, like youd hoped? Do the best with what youve got. If your bedding is the nicest in the house, which it should be, and its the same size as your guest bed, use your extra sheets for your guests. If you have a king and your guest bed is a queen, you can still make it work. Order same day shipping from Amazon on these sheet suspenders to turn a king bottom sheet into something that will work on a smaller size mattress.

    Get some fresh flowers

    Right. Flowers are probably the last thing on your mind with so much else to do. But if you have to run to the market at some point anyway and you know you do, pick up a couple of bunches of fresh flowers for the houseone for an entry table and one for the side table in your guest room. At least there will be something pretty to look at, and, even better if they smell good, too.


    "Even a single stem on the nightstand, dresser, or bathroom vanity will do. In the winter, clip a branch from an evergreen for holiday cheer," said Houzz. "Extra touches like this will make your guests feel special."

    Speaking of smells...

    Nothing can dampen the hospitality your guests experience like a houseful of questionable odors. If you have pets, or kids, or both, you may want to freshen up the house. And, you may not even realize there are odor issues if you live what them every day, Tackle the obvious offenders, like cat litter boxes and athletic shoes turning them upside down is a quick way to cut the smell, but it might be best to take them into the garage for a few days. Invite a trusted neighbor who will be honest with you on this touchy issue to do a walk-through. Remaining smells that are lingering can be taken care of with Febreze and plug-in air fresheners. Wise Bread has tips on the best ones to buy.

    Full Story >

    Copyright©2016 Realty Times®.All Rights Reserved

    Today's Real Estate News and Advice Updated: Saturday, December 10, 2016

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