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Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016

Home Automation Evaluation: Will Automating Your Home Increase Its Value?

Many people are inundated with commercials and advertisements that try to sell home automation to them. For individuals who plan to stay in their houses for their entire lives, the decision to purchase a system depends solely upon their wants. However, people who want to sell their house need to decide if a home automation system is appropriate. Making the wrong decision can lead to the house staying on the market for a protracted period of time or to a lower sum of money offered for the property. Considering the benefits and drawbacks of home automation and house value is important.

Actual House Value

You must understand that the precise definition of value and the abstract definition of value are not the same. When you first consider home automation systems, you likely feel that they add a greater level of security to your home, which, in abstract terms, is added value. However, when appraisers come to your house, they are unlikely to add the home automation system in to the appraised cost. They may provide you with extra value for your security system. Therefore, in a literal sense, the system might not add value to your house.

Attachments and Costs

When you sell a house, anything that is physically attached to the house is included, unless your sales proposal and contract call for something else. Knowing that the home automation system will remain can help to draw buyers to the property. Also, they may be willing to spend more money because they want the system. On the other hand, that means youll need to purchase a new home automation system when you move to your new house. You have to weigh the costs of buying a new system in comparison to how much more money you will make from installing one in your current house. If you dont currently have one, you are essentially installing the system twice, so you need to make sure that you have the money to do so.

Monitoring and Safety

Most people searching for new homes do make safety a priority. They want to check to see what the surrounding community is like, but they are also concerned about the house itself. A home automation system absolutely adds a layer of security. People can monitor their houses from virtually wherever they are. For some, that is a benefit. However, others view constant monitoring as a drawback. They may have privacy concerns and wonder if anyone else has access to their personal lives. Also, they may feel uncomfortable that you were the previous owner of the system and question if your access is enti>

Aesthetic Appeal and First Impressions

When people first walk into a house in which they are interested, they immediately begin to make assumptions about it. Therefore, if an element of your home automation system greets them at the door, you are making a first impression that says your house is modern and up-to-date. Many buyers will enjoy that appeal, but that isnt true for everyone. Some people might actually see your use of the automation system as a ploy to make them ignore other problems that may exist in the house.

Your Target Buyers

You have to consider what makes your house appealing to you, but if you are selling, you also must think about what your target buyers want to see. Your target buyers are the people who are most likely to buy your house. For example, if you have a small two-bedroom house, your target buyers are likely singles, couples or couples with one child. No matter who the targeted group is, you must consider if a home automation system is what they want. Some people, for example, are more interested in butcher block countertops or brand new bathrooms than home automation systems. However, others are interested in if your home automation system can save them money on homeowners insurance or other security systems.

Money-saving Properties

A home automation system can also attract buyers and add value in terms of saving money. Make sure that prospective buyers know how a home automation system could help to save them money on energy bills. Buyers generally want to save money; however, you will have some buyers who are concerned about how much the home automation system costs to maintain and run.

Whether or not a home automation system adds value to your house varies. Each element has two sides to it, and getting to know the current market in your area can help you make the right decision.

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Why Get Involved In Your Community Association?

Question. I have lived in my community association for a number of years. Unlike the horror stories we occasionally read about regarding bad Boards or illogical enforcement of covenants, our community seems to be working fine. We have a good board of directors and a competent manager. One of our long time board members plans to resign for personal reasons, and a number of residents have encouraged me to "throw my hat into the ring." I am seriously considering this possibility, but seek your guidance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How The Internet Isnt Changing Real Estate

"This is going to change the way real estate is purchased forever" Thats a claim I hear about once a week at the real estate magazine that I edit. Usually its for a new app or website that provides a nifty way of doing something >

But does it change the industry? Not really. Yes, most buyers now do their real estate searches online and they use the Internet to gather mortgage information and maybe compare interest rates. Its not like the old days when only real estate agents had access to listings of homes for sale and only banks and mortgage brokers could explain the ins and outs of getting a mortgage.

But when it comes down to actually buying a house and arranging a mortgage, a large majority still turn to real live people to help with the transaction, rather than taking a do-it-yourself path.

When first-time buyers are looking for a real estate agent, half of them pick one based on a personal recommendation from family for friends, according to the 2016 Mortgage Consumer Survey by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC. The survey also found that family members and real estate agents have the most influence in consumers choice of which mortgage broker or lender they will use.

When looking for advice, 64 per cent of first-time buyers spoke to a real estate agent, the same number that asked family members for guidance. Others contacted for advice were lawyers, mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers.

For specific mortgage advice, a survey of adults under the age of 40 who dont currently own a home but plan to do so, conducted by Mortgage Professionals Canada, says that 66 per cent consulted with a bank first, followed by mortgage brokers 36 per cent, financial advisors 36 per cent and friends or family 33 per cent. Twenty-two per cent first went to a mortgage comparison website, while 20 per cent consulted other websites. The survey found 21 per cent asked their real estate agent for mortgage advice.

Entitled The Next Generation of Homebuyers, the survey found that despite the talk of real estate bubbles in Vancouver and Toronto, and much publicity about the high debt levels of Canadians, young people still want to buy a home.

"The majority believe in a recovering economy and feel that Canadian real estate is a good long-term investment," says survey author Kyle Davies. "Much like generations before them, most dream of homeownership."

The survey says 76 per cent of respondents think that real estate is a good long-term investment, and 72 per cent said mortgages are "good debt".

Davies says that historically, "Canadians have viewed mortgages as good debt compared to other forms of debt, which typically carry a range of negative emotions."

Why are Canadians so interested in buying a house? Again, the reasons are likely the same as their parents and grandparents cited: starting a family, getting a promotion or a raise, getting married and moving to a new job were the most common responses.

And like their parents, 80 per cent are hoping to live in a low-rise dwelling rather than a condominium. Fifty-nine per cent are looking for a detached home, 18 per cent a condo and 13 per cent are looking for a semi-detached property.

Davies says a nice neighbourhood and safety are the most important features the next generation of home buyers is seeking in a home. Next on the list are potential for resale value, type of home and a short commute.

"There are long-held beliefs in real estate concerning what buyers will pay a premium for when deciding on a home purchase," says Davies. "We decided to investigate this, and presented 26 features to respondents in an exercise to determine the must-haves as well as the nice-to-haves."

He found that neighbourhood, short commute, safety, type of home and potential for resale were most commonly cited as things for which the potential buyers would pay a premium. They were willing to sacrifice smart technology, rental units, finished basement, quality of schools and age of building if it was necessary to stay within their budgets and timelines.

Most of those who plan to buy a home 73 per cent will use personal savings as the source of their down payment. Thirty-three per cent will use a loan, 33 per cent a TSFA and 29 per cent an RRSP. Although an estimated 750 billion is expected to be inherited by Canadians in the next 10 years, only 21 per cent expect to fund their down payment with a gift from family, with 15 per cent planning to use a loan from family.

When it comes time to renew a mortgage, the CMHC survey found that 81 per cent of respondents stay loyal to their current lender.

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7 Overlooked Traditional Methods To Generate More Business

Like most industries, real estate has been overtaken by digital marketing. Which is a good thing. A historic number of homes are now listed online, and the vast majority of homebuyers, including people born pre-internet, are discovering homes via Google and other web sources. All of these things only help the industry.

Perhaps the biggest proof of the webs influence is that youre reading this article, and your colleagues and competitors get a lot of information from sites like this. The consumer side is doing the same thing, literally "consuming" everything the web has to offer. The internet is mostly free, it conveniently travels in your pocket, and its full of valuable content.

Everything new eventually gets "less new"

Savvy agents know how to successfully leverage digital media to attract prospects. They take advantage of a vast array of proven real estate sales tools, such as lead generation apps, social media, email newsletters, and other methods. Theres no question that if you know what youre doing, these techniques work incredibly well.

Yet with all that said, once most people catch on to something, it loses some effectiveness. "New and innovative" doesnt work if millions of people are doing it. The first business to advertise on TV soap operas in the 1940s made a killing. Soon other businesses caught on, and it lost its impact. A more recent example is Google. Remember when their ads were still fresh and cutting-edge? In 1999, only the forward thinkers advertised with Google search ads, and they raked in the cash. Today, everyone and their grandmother has figured out that Google is the modern day yellow pages, making it way more competitive and less profitable.

Old-School methods still work

Ironically, now that agents are flocking to the online world, you can actually stand out from competitors by using traditional marketing methods. To be clear, Im not suggesting you reduce your digital marketing, social media, apps, or anything else. In fact, my company ScoreApprove has helped thousands of agents stand out from the crowd to boost their leads.

Rather, my point is that since most of your competitors have figured out how to use Zillow and Facebook, and many old school methods are as effective as ever, it seems like a no-brainer to supplement your new-school techniques by investing at least some time into the old brick and mortar approach.

  • Dont wait for inbounders to come to you. Marketing is about building connections, and it doesnt happen by itself. Strangers wont magically flock to you. You need to find them at local events, like family fun days, political rallies, carnivals, little league games, concerts, and other venues. Chat with young couples and smile at their kids, then hand them your business card. Theyre guaranteed to remember you, and not the faceless agent they discovered on Facebook.
  • Connect with local influencers. Despite all the nifty stuff out there, nothing trumps good old-fashioned word of mouth referrals. People may trust Google and Facebook, but they trust their local community leader a lot more. Hook up with local churches, neighborhood civic associations, newspaper editors, and other people in leadership positions, who will likely to recommend you to local residents looking to buy or sell a home.
  • Put your cell number and email address on every "For Sale" sign. This is a slam dunk, yet inexplicably, most agents neglect it. Buyers hate calling a strange office, and going through phone tree menus, pressing zero repeatedly until they get a hold of a live person. Your personal contact number and email is way more appealing. Want an even better response? Tell prospects to text you. Its unintimidating, making it everyones favorite to contact someone for the first time.
  • Sponsor educational events. Invite the community to an evening of expert lectures, teaching people how to qualify for a mortgage, repair their credit, refinance, remodel their home, or any other topic >
  • Remember these 3 things: Follow up, Follow up, Follow up. It seems obvious, yet most agents get busy and forget this one. Send an email, leave a voicemail. If youre worried about being intrusive, explain that youre just checking in to say hi, or better yet, think of a specific listing or information you want to share, and clearly explain that its for the CLIENTs benefit.
  • Network The oldest form of marketing, this still works like a charm. Speak to local business owners, mortgage brokers, contractors,
  • Post lots of flyers. Make them yourself, ESPECIALLY if you dont know Photoshop. Im serious. Believe it or not, people love the personal touch. The more homemade and hands-on your flyer looks, the more faith people will have in you, because youll seem like a regular caring person they can trust, not some "slickster" trying to make lots of sales.
  • If you want to generate more qualified leads, faster than ever, you need a combination of new and traditional marketing methods. One great digital tool is ScoreApprove, used by thousands of agents to get better leads by offering homebuyers their credit score, credit protection, score tracking, and many other amazing benefits.

    To learn more, visit ScoreApprove.com today.

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    Payment Of Referral Fees To Unlicensed Persons Is A Tricky Subject

    More than a few real estate agents are confused about the laws governing referral fees. Some dont even know that there are any laws governing referral fees. Some know, but dont care.

    Particularly problematic is the issue of paying referral fees to people who do not have a real estate license. An agents unlicensed brother in-law might ask for a sum of money in return for referring to him a person who intends to buy a house; and the agent very well might agree. Indeed, agents will sometimes solicit referrals from unlicensed persons. They may even advertise that they will pay a certain fee for the referral of buyers or sellers.

    Real estate transactions and the activities of real estate agents are subject to a variety of both state and federal laws. The fact that there are these two different authorities provides some explanation for the common confusion about referral fees.

    California real estate law permits the payment of referral fees to unlicensed persons. Other states may prohibit that. In California, the only restriction is that the recipient of the referral fee must not have any involvement in the transaction itself. Their sole role can only be to introduce the buyer or seller to the agent. They must not get involved in such things as valuing the property or trying to arrange financing.

    Federal law is different from California law in this regard. It allows the payment of referral fees from licensee to licensee; but it prohibits, in most cases, the payment of referral fees to unlicensed persons.

    The >

    There are a number of exceptions to the RESPA prohibition against referral fees. If the transaction is a residential building that is greater than four units, it is exempt. If it is commercial, or vacant land, it is exempt. The same goes for transactions that are for cash, or those that are seller-financed.

    Given the number of cash transactions occurring in the past few years, a lot are exempt from the RESPA prohibition against referral fees.

    Still, it is >

    Nor is this just a matter of interest for real estate agents. It is also of concern to those unlicensed persons who want to receive referral fees.

    12 USC Section 2607 a says, "No person shall give and no person shall receive any fee... [pursuant to a referral agreement]". My emphasis. Subsequently, Section c3 goes on to exempt referral fee arrangements between licensees. But it does not exempt referral fee arrangements between licensed and unlicensed persons. In short, if a referral fee is paid to an unlicensed person in a transaction covered by RESPA i.e. the vast majority of transactions, both the agent and the recipient will be guilty of a violation.

    This being the great country that it is, there are always those with a creative solution. "We dont call it a referral fee. We say it is a finders fee." The response, however is: No, it still quacks like a duck.

    Violations of Section 2607 are punishable by fines of up to 10,000 and a maximum of one year in prison. Its something to think about.

    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 .

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    Is The Gray Hardwood Floor Trend Right For You?

    Gray floors starting popping up as a trend a few years ago, and theyve grown in popularity and desirability alongside gray walls and gray kitchens and gray everything else. But you dont have to have gray in every part of your home to embrace this trend. Cool and sophisticated, gray hardwood provides a solid foundation upon which an array of dcor >

    Lumber Liquidators called gray "the new neutral," and they hit on what has connected so strongly with consumers and designers: banishing the brown and bringing in the gray introduces a new perspective and a modern feel.

    "Already a fashionable look for walls, furnishings, and home accessories, gray has also emerged as the must-have stain for floors," they said. "And its no surprise. This versatile hue provides a stylish and modern look that works well in casual and coastal settings. Gray flooring will give your home a fresh new look that is both timely and timeless."

    Gray hues are endless and make picking the right shade an adventure when painting your walls, and the options for gray hardwood floors are vast. Choose from wide plank or narrow, sleek and shiny or weathered, light or dark finish, or even painted. And then theres the huge array of wood-look tiles that gives the feel of wood with other advantages including lower maintenance and durability.

    "Different shades and hues of gray blend well with a variety of colors, and understanding the undertones in your floor color is necessary before you surround it with complementary colors," said Home Guides. "Gray is subtle, sets the tone for a room, and quietly adds depth to its surroundings."

    Check out these options to see if gray hardwood floors click with you.

    "Weathered wood floors grayed from years of wear go so well with the ubiquitous reclaimed wood and industrial furniture in todays market," said Bob Vila. You can also get that look by finishing or refinishing floors using a product called Monocoat.

    Photo by Perpetua Wood Floors - Search eclectic home design design ideas

    This version is Vintage French Oak Alaska, an engineered and prefinished product thats perfect for a modern, chic living room.

    Photo by Unique Wood Floors - Browse modern living room ideas

    Some of todays gray wood floors are really more of a gray-brown hybrid, which makes those who still may be having a hard time leaving traditional flooring hues behind feel a little more comfortable.

    Coats Homes

    This barnwood look in light gray is cool and contemporary with a touch of rusticity.


    Dark, wide planks bring a sleek look perfect for any modern space.

    Wide Plank Flooring

    This floor may resemble petrified wood, but its actually glazed porcelain.

    Daily Press

    Using gray as a base and building in beachy colors gives this wood-look floor a seaside feel perfect for its setting.

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    The Ps Of Community Living: Rules Enforcement

    Question: We live in a nice community, but every so often someone breaks one of our rules. Sometimes the infraction is minor -- such as washing their car on the public street. Other times, the violation is more serious, such as yelling, arguing and even threatening people. The violators may be unit owners or tenants. Can you outline in general terms what our Board of Directors can do to curtail these various infractions?

    Answer: In my years of representing community associations, I have developed a long list of "Ps" of community living, including pets, people, presidents, prostitutes, parking, pianos, pigs vietnamese, pools, psychiatrists, portals, plumbers, etc.

    Lets address the most serious matters first. Whether the person creating the problem is a tenant or an owner, if criminal conduct is involved, call the police immediately. Neither the Board of Directors nor management is competent to handle such matters. More importantly, you do not want to be involved in obstructing the authorities in their investigation.

    If the problem is not criminal, but involves an infraction of your association documents or your rules and regulations, we then have to determine if the alleged perpetrator is a unit owner or a tenant of an owner:

    1. Owner: Here, the situation is >

    Make sure the alleged conduct does in fact violate your rules or your associations documents. If you have any uncertainty, discuss the matter with your association attorney.

    Once you are satisfied you have a strong case, advise the owner that the Board or an authorized committee will hold a hearing, for the purpose of giving the owner an opportunity to defend his or her position. The owner can be represented by counsel at the hearing if he or she so desires. The hearing is informal and can be held before a panel of board members or other owners selected and approved by the board.

    If the Board or the committee determines the owner has violated the governing rules, the Board has a number of options at its disposal. It is important to note that these comments are general in nature; some association documents may not permit some of these options or may even have others:

    • fine the errant owner;
    • suspend voting;
    • sanctions, e.g., the owner cannot use the Association amenities -- the pool;
    • take the owner to court seeking declaratory or injunctive >
    • have the owner sign a statement an agreement to the effect that the problem will not happen again. Such statement should include language spelling out what happens should the situation occur again.

    2. Tenant: Many associations over the years have adopted -- and implemented -- a requirement that each owner and each tenant sign a "lease addendum". Such a document allows the association to step into the shoes of the owner and take all appropriate legal action against the tenant if there are violations created or caused by the tenant. If your association does not have such a "lease addendum" policy, again, it is strongly recommended that you immediately adopt such policy.

    On the other hand, if the tenant did not sign a lease addendum, you may find it more difficult to take legal action against him/her. However, you should follow the same procedures as discussed above concerning owners with the owner receiving copies of all the notices and documents mailed to the tenant. In some cases, the Board may need to explain to the tenant that this is a community association, and that everyone is expected to honor and follow certain rules and regulations. Often, I have found that tenants are not aware of the applicable rules, and welcome the opportunity to learn about them.

    If the tenant shows no concern -- or indeed is hostile to your overtures -- advise the tenant and owner that the Board has to follow the rules and that legal action will be taken if the alleged violations do not cease.

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    4 U.S. Cities Best for New amp; Experienced REALTORS

    A career in real estate can be immensely rewarding and challenging, while providing ample opportunities to grow and succeed. While many REALTORS start and end their careers in whichever city they currently reside, some would like to branch out a bit and test the real estate waters in other parts of the country.

    Now that the real estate market is much healthier than it was several years ago, there are numerous cities across the United States that have recovered especially well and offer a great working environment for Realtors of all experience levels. With that in mind, check out four cities that are especially great for newbie Realtors who have just gotten into the industry, as well as more seasoned veterans of the real estate market.

    Houston, Texas

    a great place to start a career

    Good Call lists the Houston metropolitan area as number seven on its Top 10 Places for Real Estate Agents list. The region, which includes The Woodlands and Sugar Land, offers a median salary of 56,390 and a housing affordability index of 24.34 percent. Homes remain on the market an average of 69 days and the sale-to-list price is an impressive 97.85 percent. ForRent confirms how booming the housing market in Houston is. In addition to homes for sale, the community offers plenty of apartments and condominiums. Young real estate agents who are starting their careers will find a lot of inventory, clients and great selling prices in the Houston area.

    Eugene, Oregon

    low competition ideal for new Realtors

    Eugene, Oregon, is more than the home of the University of Oregon and its rabid group of Duck fans. It is also a perfect place for fledgling Realtors to test their wings Duck or otherwise. Although the region has a >

    Rockford, Illinois

    beckons industry veterans

    Rockford, Illinois, is a vibrant community with plenty of jobs in the health and aerospace industries. Even though there is a >

    Reno, Nevada

    hot market with no signs of slowing down

    According to the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors, everything about the Reno real estate market is red hot. The average sales price is 310,000, which is a 5 percent increase and the inventory is up as well. Realtors who have been in the business for some time will enjoy working in a competitive marketplace that is also a haven for retirees. With Realtors incomes typically coming from commissions, higher home values in Reno mean bigger paychecks, and the competitive market is perfect for seasoned Realtors who are knowledgeable about working in an active area with eager buyers ready to pounce on properties.

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    9 Reasons To Visit A Home At Night Before Buying

    Everyone knows someone who knows someone who moved into what seemed like a perfectly great house on a perfectly nice street only to have a complete nightmare unfold. But the truth is that your neighbor doesnt have to be practicing Santeria on the front lawn for you to hate where you live. So many things can turn what seems like your dream home into a disaster. You may not be able to avoid every one of them, but doing your due diligence can help.

    Step 1: Visit the homes you are considering at night. You may get a completely different perspective on the neighborhood once the streetlights go out - one that could change how you feel about living there. Need some concrete reasons to visit at night? How about:

    1. To find out if your neighbors are weird

    If you toured the house during a weekday or even on a weekend, you may not have gotten a true feel for who your neighbors could be. Come at night, and you might see the guy next door walking his pet iguana in the nude the guy, not the iguana, or see the shady couple from around the corner make their nightly pilgrimage to the elementary school to ride the swings in a very curiously happy state.


    2. To figure out if its not active enough

    Do you even have neighbors? You may not be too sure if they never emerge from their house. If youre looking for a social experience in your new neighborhood and the one your potential new house is in looks like a ghost town after 5, this might give you second thoughts.

    3. To see if its too active

    There can be too much of a good thing. If you swing by and see that everyone is out mixing, it may make you look further into how often this occurs. Does living there mean youll never have time to play a board game with the family or sit and watch your reality shows, or even prepare your own dinner or take a bath? That could be a deal breaker.

    4. To gauge the noise level

    Noise ordinances arent something homebuyers want to have to familiarize themselves with, but, for some, thats the reality of life in a loud neighborhood. You may not know that the dog across the street barks for 20 minutes every time the sun goes down - and then every time someone has the nerve to walk by the house - or that several teenagers on the street have formed a garage band and their practice schedule is not compatible with your childrens sleeping schedules until youre spent some time there at night.

    5. To figure out the commute

    Drive from work to your potential new house and make sure the commute is doable. Even if its around the same distance to work as your current home, traffic patterns could make the drive unbearable.

    6. To make sure there are enough kids

    Envisioning a neighborhood where the kids all play together on the street and ride their bikes and families are out walking with their dogs and strollers just not every minute of every day? Spend some time in the neighborhood before and after dinner. If you dont see much activity in the time before the sun goes down, there may not be much to see at all.


    7. To make sure the mixed-use neighborhood isnt a little too mixed

    The idea of being within walking distance to shops, cafes, and restaurants sounds great to many people. But have you thought about how the noise and traffic thats created in areas like this might affect your peace of mind at night?

    8. To ensure its safe

    A neighborhood can look fine during the day and transform to something a little iffy when the lights go out. Make sure you check out the park down the street to make sure it isnt a drug hang and that area businesses dont attract a questionable crowd in the evenings.

    9. Because there could be a serial killer living next door

    Are you going to find out in one night of sitting outside in your car or strolling down the street? No, but you may observe some odd behavior that gives you pause. Maybe its just a gut feeling you get spending time in the neighborhood at night. If youre trying to decide between a few homes, this may provide the tipping point you need to make the right choice.

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    Niche Staging For Your Home

    You wont always know who your buyer is going to be when listing a home for sale. But, with many homes, you have a good idea of the general target group. While many homes for sale attempt to appeal to the largest number of buyers, niche staging may actually get a home sold sooner.

    "Whether you are marketing your home to first-time home buyers, young families or empty nesters, all of them are looking for some of the same characteristics in a home - along with a few special preferences that meet their specific needs," said Realtor.com. "Of course, home buyers are individuals, too, so the feature in your home that most appeals to one buyer - such as an extensive backyard with space for gardening - could have zero appeal for another buyer. As a seller, there are some things you may not be able to change easily about your home - but the more you know about what attracts buyers, the more you can emphasize those features in your marketing materials and by staging your home."

    And the more your home is staged for a particular group, the better your chances of being able to influence who the buyer is.


    Yes, millennials are buying houses. They may even be looking to buy your listingif it has what they need and appeals to them visually. Bankrates No. 1 tip for attracting millennials: "Dont make it look like Grandmas house."

    Yes, thats a solid strategy, because, "Millennials... want a home thats move-in ready, modernized and furnished with all the colors and comforts of a Pottery Barn store," they said.

    If your home for sale isnt quite there yet, a few tricks can help:

    • A fresh coat of paint: Keep it neutral but stay away from beige. This reads old and dated to millennials.
    • Fix whats broken: Millennials dont want fixer-uppers.
    • Swap out furniture: Forget the comfortable, cushy couch and heirloom sideboard. Think modern, clean lined, and glamorous. If thats the opposite of what the house has, pack it all up and hire a professional stager.
    • A sleek kitchen: It might be that your listing needs a new everything in the kitchen to attract buyers and get the price your buyer wants. Most of todays buyers are looking for solid surface countertops and stainless steel appliances. In lieu of a big redo, painted cabinets, updated lighting, and new fixtures can help distract from what hasnt been done.
    • New fixtures and accessories: "Shag carpeting, original light fixtures, heavy draperies, which just scream old, and mirror walls" need to go, Kathy Streib, a home stager at Room Service Home Staging in Delray Beach, Florida, told Bankrate. Inexpensive blinds or drapes and contemporary light fixtures can give an updated look without a large financial output.
    • Bedding: A fresh, new comforter in a graphic pattern can help transform an old, outdated bedroom into something a millennial could see himself living in.

    Finally, think about the marketing. Does the listing talk only about the home? Think about including the things that are important to millennials: area entertainment, including bars, cafes, and popular restaurants; recreation and shopping; and major employers nearby. Emphasizing these factors as part of the listing may push it over the top.

    Chicagoland Home Staging

    Young families

    If the home for sale is in an area that attracts a lot of home families, but the home is designed for a Hollywood bachelor, theres some work to do.

    Data has always supported that women are the decision makers when it comes to buying a home, and thats especially important to consider for this buyer group. MarketWatchs article titled "What moms look for when buying a house" touches on a few of the more obvious choices - "Open floor plans, a mud room, and an office so parents can keep tabs on their kids" - as well as tons of storage. If your listing doesnt tick these boxes, consider making changes. Bringing in a few smart storage items and, especially, setting up a play room where toys and books are all nicely put away, can do wonders.

    Speaking of a play roomdoes the home have one? If not, families with young kids may not even come tour it. Staging an existing home office or guest room as a play room for young families or a game room for older families depending on what your market research indicates can help the home connect with these buyers.

    Warm gathering spaces and open sightlines are key to creating the kind of home that will attract families. If the home has walls in all the wrong places, a little money spent knocking them down to create an open plan could pay off big on the back end. The same could be said about making sure the kids bedrooms are sufficient. If the owners are currently using bedrooms for a craft space, home office, or guest room while the kids are doubled-up, you turn off buyers, giving them the impression that the home doesnt have enough space for their family.

    For marketing purposes, its also important to highlight neighborhood amenities that are important to this buyer. Creating a map that lists nearby shopping and family-friendly restaurants and activities is that something-extra that will resonate with buyers.

    Important tip: Pay special attention to schools, making sure you have the right ones in the listing and highlighting good test scores and any other important factors. Buyers will look online at listings on sites like Zillow and Redfin, and often the schools listed are incorrect. Making sure you have the most up-to-date info about schools is critical for young families who may be looking for a specific district or elementary school.

    Angies List

    Retirees/empty nesters

    Think your buyer might be a retiree or empty nester? Perhaps you need to rethink that game room or play room.

    "Empty nesters are at a unique stage in their lives: They are free of child-rearing responsibilities, yet they remain young enough for an active life>

    Staging to show off entertainment areas is key, as is making sure "multipurpose rooms appeal to childfree active adults." Have an extra bedroom? Think about turning it into a craft space or reading room.

    When it comes to the main living areas, pay extra attention to the furniture arrangement. Having too much furniture in the rooms can not only make them look smaller, but may also be a hazard for those who arent as mobile as they used to be. A thoughtful space plan will make the room look better and can also make it safer.

    Outside, simplifying the landscape where possible can also make a retiree feel better about the home. A small garden area may appeal to this target, but a large lawn and English garden that needs to be maintained regularly can seem overwhelming.

    From a marketing standpoint, thinking about other aspects that make the home desirable to this group of buyers can also help it stand out. Does the home have walking trails or community amenities that would appeal to an active, older buyer? Local restaurants and cultural hotspots should also be included. How about the medical services nearby? A local map that points out points of interest will be helpful - and memorable.

    Full Story >

    The Art Of Tree Pruning In Your HOA

    Trees are living artwork that decorate the common area. They are beautiful and soothe the soul but are constantly changing. Like all living things, they need care and attention.

    Trees are pruned to produce an effect in the landscape - thats the "art" side of pruning. Understanding and being able the trees growth and health response to pruning is the "science" side.

    When done properly, pruning can improve a trees appearance as well as increase its life expectancy. Proper pruning opens the canopy of the tree to permit more air movement and sunlight penetration. Done improperly, pruning can decrease the trees life expectancy or even kill it. Because trees are living organisms, they can be profoundly affected by pruning practices.

    The American National Standards Institutes criteria for tree pruning called "ANSI A300" was adopted in 1995. It should be followed in all pruning situations and geographic areas.

    Making Cuts: Branches should be removed with thinning cuts. A thinning cut either removes a branch at its point of origin or shortens it back to a lateral branch that is large enough to assume the terminal role.

    Branches should not be removed with heading or topping cuts. A heading cut is when a currently growing or one-year-old shoot is cut back to a bud, or when a larger limb is cut back to a stub or a lateral that is not big enough to assume the terminal role. Heading should not be used in shade and ornamental tree pruning, since it forces the growth of sprouts that are weakly attached to the parent stem. Drastic heading can kill the tree outright.

    Branch Size: A minimum or maximum diameter size of branches to be removed should be specified in all pruning operations. This establishes how much pruning is to be done.

    Pruning Objectives: Pruning objectives should be established prior to beginning any pruning operation. A300 provides two basic objectives:

    Hazard Reduction Pruning: This is recommended when the primary objective is to reduce the danger to a specific target caused by visibly defined hazards in a tree. For example, hazard reduction pruning may be the primary objective if a tree had many dead limbs over a park bench.

    Maintenance Pruning: This is recommended when the primary objective is to maintain or improve tree health and structure, and includes hazard-reduction pruning. An example here might be to perform a maintenance pruning operation on a front yard tree.

    Pruning Types: Hazard reduction pruning and maintenance pruning should consist of one or more of the pruning types noted below.

    • Crown Cleaning consists of the selective removal of one or more of the following items: dead, dying, or diseased branches, weak branches and watersprouts.

    • Crown Thinning is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration, air movement, and reduce weight.

    • Crown raising consists of the removal of the lower branches of a tree to provide clearance.

    • Crown reduction, also called crown shaping, decreases the height and/or spread of a tree. Consideration should be given to the ability of a species to sustain this type of pruning.

    • Vista pruning is selective thinning of framework limbs or specific areas of the crown to allow a view of an object from a predetermined point.

    • Crown restoration pruning should improve the structure, form and appearance of trees which have been seve>

    When you contract a company for tree care, you should obtain a written commitment that, "All pruning shall be done in accordance with the ANSI A300 standard for tree pruning." This means:

    • Proper cuts will be made.

    • Spikes wont be used to climb. Spikes are injurious to the living tree and should only be used in emergency situations or when the tree has very thick bark.

    • Not more than 1/4 of the foliage of the canopy or individual limbs should be removed in any one season.

    • When pruning is completed, at least of the foliage should remain evenly distributed in the lower 2/3 of the canopy.

    Trees are one of a homeowner associations biggest assets and need to be treated with respect and care. Use only a trained arborist and budget in your reserve plan for recommended pruning.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see Regenesis.net.

    Full Story >

    Broker-Owned Escrows Need To Submit Activity Reports

    It appears that the California Real Estate Commissioner is more than a tad annoyed with one segment of the real estate community. That portion would be the brokers who a operate an escrow company pursuant to their real estate license, and b have not timely filed escrow activity reports with the Bureau of Real Estate BRE.

    The annoyance is justified. The numbers would suggest that many brokers that should have been filing have, in fact, not been doing so. Moreover, the Bureau has actively been soliciting them. For at least the past two years, at BRE forums held in conjunction with meetings of the California Association of REALTORSCAR, the Commissioner has made a special point of reminding members about the filing requirement. Now, earlier this month, the Bureau has issued a special alert, through its web presence, to address this issue.

    Not every California Broker has an escrow division. Many own escrow companies that operate under the Department of Corporations. Many others simply have no ownership interest in any escrow operation. Then, there are those who operate a "broker controlled escrow", pursuant to their real estate brokers license. These escrows are restricted to transactions in which the >

    Broker-controlled escrows are, then, significantly restricted as to their potential market when compared to the more common escrow company operating under the Department of Corporations. Nonetheless, broker escrows require less capitalization and can still bring a decent profit into a brokerage.

    In October of 2011, Senate Bill 53 Calderon was signed into law adding section 10141.6 to the Business and Professions Code. It set forth filing requirements for broker-controlled escrows. If such operations conduct escrow activities for five or more transactions in a calendar year, or whose activities equal or exceed one million dollars in a calendar year, it is required that a report be filed within sixty days following the completion of the calendar year.

    So, how has that been working out? In the first year the requirement went into effect, for calendar year 2013, 206 real estate brokers reported such broker escrow activities totaling 8.63 billion. In the next year, for calendar year 2014, 161 real estate brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 5.52 billion. For calendar year 2015, 143 brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 8.45 billion.

    Thats right. The number of reporting brokers has declined each year since the reporting began. Moreover, there is little reason to believe that even the highest reporting number represented a majority of those brokers who should have been reporting. In its recent alert, the BRE said this:

    "In spite of these reports of very large volumes of escrow activities statewide, the Bureau has reason to believe based on prior Audits, and complaints received and/or investigated regarding brokers or broker controlled escrows that hundreds of brokers who are required to report escrow activities have failed to do so. The Bureaus Audit Section will conduct audits of the activities of some of these brokers to determine if these brokers are in compliance with Bamp;P [Business and Professions Code] 10141.6 and are properly handling and accounting for the escrow trust funds."

    Fines for failing to file a timely report can run up to 10,000. The cost of a BRE audit can also be substantial. Brokers who have escrows that meet the >

    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 >

    Summer Smarties Solve Winter Disasters With Your Home

    Summer time is the right time to think about heading off winter disasters.

    What? Are you crazy?

    Why would anyone want to sit in the summer sunshine, cool drink in hand, and conjure up cold, nasty, expensive breakdowns or problems that are months, maybe years away?

    Because the alternative is desperately struggling to discover last-minute solutions to emergency needs in the midst of your already too busy life. Under the gun, youll be attempting to avoid being forced into high-pressure deadlines, rushed decisions, and inflated costs that have significant impact, financially and otherwise. And, if you wait until trouble arises, youll only have self-serving, dodgy, or even dishonest "repair people" to provide guidance and protect your back.

    Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, choosing when and how to make expensive home maintenance decisions is always right. Having the time and support to make sure these are confident decisions at reasonable prices, beats under-the-gun desperate buys every time.

    Things that keep you awake worrying in the cold months can benefit from close examination under the summer sun. Theres little benefit to waiting for a crisis to hit before you start arranging to make the transition from your current almost-worn-out anything to the most suitable new efficient version:

    1. Start with the most expensive or most urgent worry, based on your personal-worry meter and priorities.

    2. Clarify and define the problem. Whats wrong or what could go wrong with what? Is that noisy 20-year-old furnace or odd-looking roof on its last legs? Gather details about the existing system, so you have a reference point. Do you have the original installation details and receipts? For furnaces, where size matters, measure what counts, including the furnace room, access doorways, and stairwells. When contemplating a new roof, get out the binoculars or ladder and count shingle layers. After two, everything must be stripped down to the sheathing before the new roof goes on.

    3. Clarify the budget. Consider exactly how much cash on hand and monthly cost is comfortably yours to spend on an affordable solution. Whats the budget upper limit, that is, tight, but doable? Estimate how long youll continue to live in the house and what other big expenses lie ahead so you can set a practical budget. Once research and quotations are complete, you can fine tune the finances.

    4. Explore alternatives. This is where youre back sitting in the sun with a cool drinkgo online and collect details on every solution you know about, those that have emerged recently, and those just coming to market.

    • For roofs , consider the range of materials available. What else can or should be done at the same time the roof is replaced, like adding roof vents, exhaust fan outlets, skylights, an antenna, gutters, leaf guards, de-icing coils, solar panels... Not that all of this will be done, but thinking ahead reduces "if only wed thought of..." regrets later.
    • For furnaces, initially consider the full range of heating options. What if you changed from oil to natural gas, or switched from a hot water system to solar-supplemented electrical? Would a heat pump make sense, financial and otherwise? Understand the pros and cons of different alternatives and youll learn what the key heating and cooling decisions are for the system you eventually settle on.
    • Back to the summer time research .... gently add your questions to conversations and youll discover what knowledge friends, guests, and neighbors have accumulated. Those that made solid informed decisions and those who reacted to disasters will have lots to share. Anyone with solar panels or other environmentally-friendly systems is usually ready to extol virtues. The goal is determining which features are musts for you and which will help keep the price down.

    5. Create the brief or request for proposal. Distill what you have learned into a clear email-able, numbered list of what you need and want regarding all the features and details involved:

    • Send out the brief to ask for quotations from those on the list of names of heating suppliers or roofing contractors youve collected from research and summer chats.
    • Keep personal details out of email quotations. For instance, dont broadcast that your house is vacant all summer.
    • Include questions about deposit and payment schedules, how long the quote is good for, and work availability. Ask for at least three references. Check out contractors with local and state trade associations. Asking questions saves you headaches later.
    • You may not want the furnace replaced until the fall or the roof done before next spring, but an amazing price for replacing it sooner and ahead of the seasonal rush could be an incentive for you. Just listen to your "spidy" senses in case this "unbelievable price" is a come-on, gimmick, or scam.

    Summer is the right time to think about heading off winter disaster. Even making a start on what keeps you awake on winter nights will pay off. The goal is to dodge some of the pressure and expense of last-minute decisions when the furnace, roof, or any major system let you down at the very worst, most expensive, inconvenient time.

    Full Story >

    Historical Weather Patterns and Risk: What Homeowners Need to Know

    Its only been about 60 years since the insurance industry has been calculating risk >

    While calculating risk >

    Factors that Impact Weather->

    Number of Homeowners. One of the biggest changes to weather->

    This influx of new property has changed the insurance game, and some areas have more exclusions and options when it comes to purchasing hail, wind or other natural disaster coverage. The best thing to do, when it comes to homeowners insurance and weather->

    Living in a coastal state. Coastal states in the southeast - Mississippi, Florida, the Carolinas and the Gulf region of Texas and Louisiana - are clearly hotbeds for hurricanes and wind damage. These areas of the United States are known as wind-storm zones. Policies in this region have the option of excluding wind damage, because if the option wasnt available for homeowners, no policies would be sold.

    If you exclude the coverage from your standard policy, this region has what is called a "wind storm pool," a state fund devoted specifically to wind damage. This is where homeowners in the southeast will want to purchase their wind coverage if they so desire. Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina and the coastal region of Texas all have wind-storm pools and the option for coverage; however, Florida does not have wind-storm coverage because the entire state is in a wind zone. Again, no policies would exist in Florida if wind coverage were an option.

    Flood insurance. Flood insurance is also another disaster with its own pool in certain areas. However, the flood insurance program is in a state of flux, as they were upended by the overwhelming amount of flood damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    Tornado Alley. Another major weather region in the U.S. to take into consideration is Tornado Alley. This is the area in the middle of the country, roughly expanding from North Texas to Kansas, which is susceptible to tornados in the spring and throughout the year. If you are purchasing coverage in this region, there are some options to consider that your agent will go over with you when purchasing insurance.

    Preventative Measures

    What about reducing damage and preventative measures? There are a handful of things homeowners and builders in certain regions can do and have done to preemptively reduce damage and thus not impact their coverage on the back end once disaster strikes.

    Installing a metal roof. Roofing has come a long way in the past few decades, but purchasing a 30-year shingle to put on your roof doesnt necessarily mean the roof is going to last 30 years. This simply means that, if no severe weather impacts the roof like hail, then they will last 30 years. But where in the country will a roof not be affected by hail, or wind, or heavy rains, or snow and ice?

    One alternative for shingle roofing is a metal roof. It may cost more on the front end, but metal roofs will sustain severe weather damage and last much longer. There may be cosmetic damage, which you can exclude from your policy, but the roof itself will not leak or tear away from the home.

    Homebuilding improvements. Some preventative measures have also been taken when it comes to homebuilding. The placement and size of windows, the anchoring of the roof to the structure and the foundation anchoring have all been improved to help reduce damage. Certain areas of the country susceptible to wind damage have also moved away from sliding glass doors, Areas prone to flood damage have increased the elevation of their new structures. These are all things homeowners can take into consideration when shopping for a new house.

    Overall, the best plan for homeowners when it comes to securing homeowners insurance is to try and reduce the number of exclusions and limitations in their policy, and get weather->

    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 12 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics


    Full Story >

    7 Smart Renovations Under 500

    If youre thinking about selling your home, you may be stressed out about all the things you need to do to get it market ready, and all the costs associated with those updates. Renovations dont have to cost you a fortune. By thinking smart about some of the updates that will have the greatest impact, you can minimize your spend and maximize your investment.

    1. Give your kitchen some attention

    If theres one spot that can make or break your home sale, its this. You could spend thousands on new countertops and cabinets - and your agent may advise you to do some of these larger updates depending on the age and condition of your current kitchen and the competitiveness of your local market. But, for many of us, attention to a few key areas can help detract from the negatives and highlight the positives.

    "Naturally, there are limits to what you can do on a budget. But many home-remodeling experts stress that moderately handy homeowners with just a little cash to spend can make a big difference in their kitchen," said Bankrate. "And if the work looks good, youre adding equity to your home," Erin Davis, lead designer for Mosaik Design amp; Remodeling in Portland, Oregon, told them.

    For under 500, you can paint your kitchen cabinets - use white for a >

    Light in the Box

    2. Get a new appliance

    Its not likely that youll find a new appliance package for under 500, but you may be able to find a great deal on a new fridge or dishwasher if yours is a bit ratty by looking at scratch and dent items. Sometimes, the scratch is in a place that will be obscured by a wall, meaning you can save tons of money and not ever see the issue. If you can only afford one, think about the fact that you can take the refrigerator with you to your new place.

    3. Bring in the light

    One of the most important things you can do to prepare your home for sale is to fill it with natural light. That means opening drapes and pulling blinds for showingsand making sure your windows are clean behind them If your home doesnt offer a lot of natural light, careful placement of mirrors can help bounce whatever light there is around. Painting lighter colors can also keep the space airy, and is recommended by stagers as well.

    Bringing in new light fixtures to replace anything that is outdated or builder grade can help give the home a modern feel for little financial output. Hanging two of these pendants over an island or peninsula captures one of the hottest trends in lighting today and will only set you back 104.

    Lighting Direct

    4. Refresh the bedrooms

    Making sure the bedrooms have just the right amount of furniture - not too much, not too little - is key. Remove unnecessary pieces to emphasize the space and add key pieces like nightstands in a master if you dont currently have them to highlight function. You can pick up a pair at IKEA for under 30. >


    5. Create some architectural interest

    Crown molding can make a room look elegant and is also one of the features that can woo a picky buyer. Having a pro come in to install it can get expensive, but if you can use a saw and are somewhat adept at math, you can do it yourself. Materials should cost you abot 1.20 a foot at Home Depot. You can get some DIY tips here.

    Creating interest in a space that needs it doesnt have to involve power tools. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is one of our favorite tools for dressing up a wall without the hassle of working with paste and now it comes in textured looks we love, llike this reclaimed wood version.


    6. Create some curb appeal

    Some of the most important things to do in the front of your house wont cost you a thing outside of elbow grease: mow, rake, and clean up. Next, lay down a new layer of mulch, which will cost you a couple bucks per bag, and plant some fresh flowers or bring some flowerpots close to the door.

    If your front door has seen better days, a fresh coat of paint will keep buyers from wondering what else needs work on the inside.

    7. Throw some accessories at it

    You may not have money to make large changes to your home, but you can make it look freshened up with a little smart staging. Make sure furniture arrangements in living spaces make senseit costs you nothing to move stuff around or store an extra-large chair thats impeding the flow of traffic in the garage while the home is for sale.

    Some fresh flowers, a few throw pillows, an inexpensive new rug to anchor the seating area, and maybe a few modern knickknacks scattered around can make the space feel inviting.

    Full Story >

    Your Guide To Choosing The Right Drapes

    Whether youre investing in drapes as your main window covering or simply looking to add a decorative element to frame out your windows, there are a few tips to getting it right.


    Today, there is only one modern options when it comes to drapery length: your drapes have to be long enough to at least hit the floor instead of stopping short.

    "Youll get the most current look if the fabric makes contact with the floor or sill or radiator," said Real Simple. "Too-short curtains can seem nerdy and off, like high-waters."

    From there, several options allow you to customize the feel youre looking for.

    Just hitting the floor - This look is ">

    Photo by Debbie Basnett, Vintage Scout Interiors - Search eclectic living room design ideas

    Breaking slightly at the floor - The most current trend in drapes is the one that has a few inches of give after hitting the floor. This look can be both elegant and casual, and is probably best suited for spaces where there isnt a ton of activity since the fabric could get caught in doors or easily get dirty and dusty.


    Exaggerated pooling - Want to create old-school elegance in a formal space like a dining room? Six inches of fabric pooled on the floor "can look romantic," said Real Simple, "but is also high-maintenance; curtains need refluffing every time you vacuum or the cat lies on them."


    When it comes to how high to hang drapes, conventional wisdom says: at the top of the window. But experts recommend raising the height - all the way to the ceiling, where possible - to create the illusion of high ceilings where needed.


    If youre going to the fabric store to choose material for custom drapes, you may be overwhelmed by whats available. Color and pattern will probably drive your selection, but dont underestimate the importance of texture. Heavier fabrics may read heavy in your space, whereas sheers and other lightweight fabrics may not give you as much weight or light and temperature control as you need.

    Is privacy a concern in the space? Dont forget to look for fully lined drapes if youre buying them ready-made, or add a layer of lining if youre going custom and if drapes will be your primary window covering.

    Color and pattern

    The options when it comes to color and pattern are endless, especially if youre doing custom drapes. But even with ready-made versions, the choices are vast.

    Looking to go neutral and extend your wall color? Maybe youd rather introduce a secondary color for some punch. Either way, "Solid curtains give you many decorating options and leave considerable space for future modifications of accessories," said DCORLOVE. "They are a safe option when patterns have already been introduced as they provide the necessary balance."

    The Shade Store

    But drapes can also become the accessories with the right pattern. Weave in a graphic pattern to add a layer that will help the room feel complex and fully finished.

    "Large, graphic prints are daring but can look really amazing when their color >


    Have you thought about how youre going to hang your drapes? The hardware can make a huge impact or it can disappear, depending on what you choose. "Basic metal or plastic curtain rods work behind the scenes. Larger-diameter wood or metal poles, usually capped by decorative finials, assume more prominent roles in window treatments," said Better Homes and Gardens.

    Home Design Ideas

    And then you need to consider whether you want clips or grommets or some other decorative way to hang the drapes from the rod. Their Buying Guide can help break down the options.

    Full Story >

    How To Renew Your Deck In 5 Easy Steps

    Summer is here, which means you need to take a hard look at your deck. Given winters inclement conditions, theres a good chance your deck is in need of some attention. Here are some quick and easy steps for getting it in shape:

    1 Clean your deck.

    Regular cleaning prevents your deck from graying and looking worn down. You can employ a few different methods to keep it spotless:

    Use a hose: Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to get rid of debris and dirt.
    Pressure wash: High-pressure water can get between slats and take off any stubborn debris. The cost to pressure wash a deck is about 250.
    Scrub it down: For really harsh debris, you might need to get down on your hands and knees to remove the buildup or stains.

    2 Check for repairs.

    Once the deck is clean, you can inspect for any potential damage points. Keep an eye out for:

    • Broken boards
    • Missing stain
    • Termite holes
    • Cracks

    You can DIY most of these problems, but if you have termites infesting your deck, think about hiring a pest control service. Otherwise, consider replacing boards or restaining the surface.

    3 Sand it down.

    If your stain is stripped away, consider sanding the surface. If you dont want to spend all day sanding, you can rent a floor sander. After youve sanded your decking smooth, apply a finish.

    4 Stain or seal your deck.

    Once youve sanded down the surface, think about sealing or staining. Finishes help protect against water damage, mildew and inclement weather. Here are some considerations when determining whether to seal or stain a deck:

    • Seal: Seal your deck if you like a natural look. Sealing your deck will cost about 790 and you can choose from a variety of sealing products.
    • Stain: Staining will cost about 850, depending on the size of the deck. You can stain your deck in different colors and finishes.

    5 Consider a brightener.

    Use a brightener if your deck has stains or grey spots. You can apply brightener using a garden spray hose. A fresh coat of brightener will renew the appearance of your deck without expensive and time-consuming repairs.


    Make sure to keep your deck in shape with regular maintenance and cleaning. Most of these jobs you can do as DIY projects. But dont be afraid to call a deck professional when the situation is beyond your expertise.

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

    Full Story >

    Americas Love Affair With Bedrooms and Bathrooms

    We love our bedrooms and bathrooms.

    In 2015, the share of new single-family homes sold that had at least four bedrooms and at least three bathrooms hit a more than three-decade high. And one expert suggests this bedroom and bathroom trend is being driven by a fundamental change in American living arrangements.

    Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 53 percent of new single-family homes sold in 2015 had at least four bedrooms and 41 percent had at least three bathrooms. Back in 1978, just 27 percent of new single-family homes sold had at least four bedrooms and just 8 percent had at least three bathrooms.

    Of course, in order to squeeze in more bedrooms and bathrooms, the average American home has grown bigger. In 1975, the average new single-family home took up 1,975 square feet, the Census Bureau says. Today, that number exceeds 2,600 square feet. Thats a four-decade jump of more than 30 percent.

    Multigenerational Ownership

    Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, which specializes in housing data and analysis, says the trend toward larger homes featuring more bedroom and more bathrooms reflects the "increasing acceptance" of at least two generations of a family living under one roof.

    "Part of this acceptance is brought about by cultural changes influenced by a higher percentage of foreign buyers who are open to multigenerational homeownership," Blomquist says, "as well as millennials who put more value on their social network than their personal space."


    Blomquist says multigenerational homeownership is being spurred by the overall lack of affordability and inventory in the housing market. According to RealtyTrac data, up to 14 percent of home sales last year in the U.S. involved multigenerational buyers.

    In 2012, a record 57 million Americans 18 percent of the U.S. population lived in multigenerational family households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That compares with 28 million in 1980 12 percent.

    In this infographic, we examine the growing number of bedrooms and bathrooms in American homes a development being fueled in large part by the rise of multigenerational households.

    This content is brought to you by LawnStarter

    Full Story >

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    Today's Real Estate News and Advice Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016

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