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Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2018

Renovation Reality: Actual Costs Of Four Popular Redos

So you want to redo your kitchen. Great Now you have to do is pick out your new appliances, countertops, backsplash material and other assorted finishes, figure out what to do with your cabinets, find a contractor, and get started. Phew Before you can do any of that, though, you have to set a budget. Yes, we said the "B word."

Lets face it: Budget is a bad word. Not just because it represents an amount of money you may not be enti>

If youre getting ready to do a remodel or make some updates, it behooves you to do the research before you get too excited about it. It just might turn out that what you think will be an easy and cheap little project isnt either. Weve broken down four of the most popular renovations by expected cost so that you can make a more informed decision.

Redoing kitchen cabinets

If youve never priced out renovations, you really have no point of reference. We personally experienced one of those perception-does-not-meet-reality situations recently when we started gathering information about the cost of painting our kitchen cabinets to take them from the traditional Cherry tone weve never liked to something a little more modern. True Story: We had laughingly agreed that we would pull the trigger if it was less than 1,000, only to come to find out that it was going to be triple that. So, never mind on that whole painting the kitchen cabinets thing, unless we decide its worth the hassle and stress and family strife of a DIY weekend.

When estimating the cost of your kitchen, contractors may calculate the cost per foot or by the number of cabinets you have, and your estimates may vary wildly due to a number of factors. Its important to beware of lowball estimates here. Repainting kitchen cabinets is no easy feat, and cutting corners can greatly impact the final product.

When comparing your estimates, look at what each includes; lower-cost jobs may not provide adequate protection for your floors, counters, and appliances, may not prep the cabinets properly, may not include the appropriate number of coats of paint, and may only include the outside of doors and drawers. Also pay attention to whether you are expected to provide paint and materials or if theyre included in the estimate.

Expected cost: 1,200 - 7,000

New flooring

The cost of having new flooring installed will also vary greatly depending on factors including the material chosen, the amount of square footage involved, and the condition of existing flooring. If youve never explored flooring options, you may not realize that installation is typically priced per square foot. Many contractors have set prices, while some adjust the price depending on the ease of the material being installed. There may also be geographical differences that affect the cost of installation. And dont forget to check with big box stores like Home Depot, who may have installation specials tied to specific flooring product purchases. In general, these are the going prices for professional installation:

Expected cost: 2 - 2.50 per square foot

Interior painting

Painting is one of those activities that can give you great bang for your buck, especially if you choose to do it yourself. But not all of us are great at finishing what weve started guilty or capable of painting challenging spaces, which makes outsourcing a smart move. Be sure to ask questions of potential contractors including whether or not they provide materials, any extra costs involved with taller ceilings, and steps they take to protect your home and furnishings - you dont want to end up with speckled everything. They should also be able to give you an estimate as to how many hours the job will take so there are no surprises at the end.

Expected cost: 24 - 45 per hour

New shower

Ever looked into redoing your shower? Would it surprise you to hear that a basic frameless shower door costs 1,500? Yes, what seems like a small job can quickly become a budget-buster, especially when you start to factor in the cost of materials. Get fancy with that tile, and youre really looking at an expensive renovation given the small amount of space involved.

But, if your shower is tired, not functional, or in need of a reno for other reasons, it can be well worth it. When comparing estimates, you want to look beyond the overall cost to examine what is involved. Is the contractor using the most modern and recommended materials behind the tile to ensure the area is water tight? Are there extra costs involved in installing the shower mechanisms and the drain? Are they updating the plumbing? Are they building out a tile floor or installing a shower pan?

Expect to pay: 1,200 - 2,500 for shower, 1,000 - 2,000 for frameless shower door
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Black Stainless Steel: Is It The Next Big Thing?

Stainless steel has ruled the appliance world for many years, with no serious contenders on its heels. But now, here comes black stainless steel, fighting for dominance in the kitchen.

Like any new finish, we wont know if it has true staying power until some time has passed. But if youre looking for the newest thing, if you know youre going to be in your home for a while, or if youre getting it ready to sell, black stainless is a great choice.

But first, what exactly is black stainless steel? "What major appliance manufacturers, such asnbsp;LG,nbsp;KitchenAidnbsp;andnbsp;Kenmore, are trumpeting as lsquo;black stainless is essentially traditional stainless steel coated in a sleek, dark finish," said the Washington Post. "The actual hue varies by brand."

If youre thinking about incorporating the look into your kitchen, here are a few things to consider.

Its sexy

Expect to hear some "oohs" and "ahhs" when people walk into your kitchen. Black stainless steel has that sleek look that gets attention, so if youre hoping to create a show stopping space, it may be an easy choice.

Its trending

But, in this case, that might not be a bad thing. While design experts warn clients against chasing trends, black stainless steel offers a way to be on the forefront of one.

"According to home improvement expertnbsp;Karl Champley, whose job includes traveling the world looking for the latest design trends, the move toward darker appliance finishes started in Europe and is slowly making its way westward," said the Washington Post. "Champley, winner of lsquo;Ellens Design Challenge and a spokesman for thenbsp;National Kitchen and Bath Association, says that although black stainless wont dethrone >

It gives off an inviting, high-end feel

Black stainless steel is an easy way to make your space look upscale while also creating a warmer feel. "Since black stainless steel appliancesnbsp;debuted several years ago, theyve been touted as a warmer alternative to the industrial look of regular stainless," said Consumer Reports.

It resists fingerprints

For many people, this is the No. 1 selling feature. Traditional stainless steel is great, but its always smudged in our house, anyway. "Manufacturers say that their black stainless steel appliances resistnbsp;smudges and fingerprints and that cleaning is easier," said Consumer Reports. Nancy Bock, senior vice president of education for the American Cleaning Institute, told them, "Black stainless doesnt require any special polishes to keep it looking good. Cleaning is generally simple and can be accomplished using warm water and a soft cloth."

The difference is a fingerprint-resistant finish that also resists water spots and streaking. But...

It scratches

No more and no less than how traditional stainless steel scratches, but still. Keep in mind that in busy households with kids and animals, it might be hard to keep a scratch-free surface forever.

Selection is still somewhat limited

As with any newer finish, manufacturers have not yet rolled out a ton of options - at least not when compared to traditional stainless steel. That being said, you will find options from Samsung, LG, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Frigidaire, and Bosch, which just introduced its first kitchen suite in black stainless.

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Boost Your Property Value: 4 Smart Features Worth Adding

Your home may be your castle ndash; but what that means for each person can be very different. Some people prefer light colors, some dark. Some want a location that lets them walk everywhere, while other people want to live far away from the hustle and bustle. However, there is one point that many homebuyers do agree upon: smart home technology. Adding smart home technology solutions doesnt just make your home more covetable ndash; it can increase the demand for and value of your home when you sell it.

Smart Home Technology

Almost two-thirds of new homebuyers say that smart home technology makes home life better and safer too, according to a survey from Better Homes and Garden. They see these new technologies as the ldquo;new normrdquo; and that fact is reflected in their home-buying preferences. A recent Houzz survey found that 28 percent of homeowners would consider smart technology integration important in any home renovation, while some 35 percent of first-time buyers prioritize smart technology. Moreover, people of all ages are willing to pay more for properties that include smart home technology.

Adding smart home technology to your home can increase the interest and value of the property, especially amongst smartphone users. According to J.P. Endres, a realtor based in Westchester County, New York, homebuyers will pay as much as five percent more for certain high-tech amenities.

Here are four smart home additions worth getting to boost your homersquo;s property value:

Smart Thermostat

The first thing to put on your smart home technology list is a smart thermostat. Not only will it let you or a new buyer control the temperature from your smartphone but smart thermostats also learn from you. Over time, they can automatically adjust settings to reflect the way you live and when you are home. The features are convenient but they also help you save money on home heating and cooling costs.

Connected Lights

Smart home lighting allows you to turn lights on or off, dim lights, or even put them on a schedule ndash; all from your phone. Inc reports that adding smart home lighting and a connected thermostat could help you reduce your energy bills by half.

Smart Locks

Adding smart locks can help you keep your home safer. You can program your door to unlock when you or a guest comes close using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on your Samsung Galaxy S7. Not only is this much more secure than a fake key under a plastic rock, it is also more convenient. No more making sure your neighbor has a key to water your plants or that you remember to give your dog-walking friend the key. You can unlock your home from wherever you are.


Having a home security system is a major burglar deterrent and a huge incentive for homebuyers of all ages. According to Redfin, roughly 9 out of 10 people say that home security is the primary reason they would choose a home with smart technology. If your home doesnrsquo;t have a security system, you could be limiting your homersquo;s demand and, by extension, its value.

Technology can have a profound effect on your daily life. Raise your property value and reduce your energy costs by adopting smart home technology in your home.

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What Is Real And What Is Pure PR About The Tesla Solar Roof?

Tesla rocked the solar power world when it acquired Solar City for 2 billion. The entire industry waited with baited breath to see what grand machination Tesla CEO Elon Musk had cooked up. They were not disappointed when he announced the creation of the Tesla Solar Roof, a line of photovoltaic solar shingles designed to mirror standard roofing tiles.

While solar shingles were not a new concept, Tesla appeared to have improved upon its predecessors. Whereas previous solar shingles adhered to standard asphalt roof tiles, the Tesla Solar Roof would actually replace traditional roofing tiles and last forever.

While there is much to be excited about whenever a new advancement is made in the solar industry, its important to understand what is fact and what is fiction. So, what are the true facts behind the Tesla Solar Roof, and what is pure PR?


The Tesla Solar Roof is Visually Beautiful

Tesla has managed to overcome one of the most common obstacles the solar industry encounters when trying to convince homeowners to install a system. Many people find solar panels ugly. Its true that solar panels have a tendency to stick out and could visually displease individuals who prefer the >Tesla has answered these concerns by creating a solar system that seamlessly blends in. These shingles dont just sit on a roof, they are the roof. Whats more, these tiles are designed to mimic some >The Tesla Solar Roof is More Durable Than Standard Roofing Tiles

When Musk first presented the Tesla Solar Roof, he showed off its ability to stand up to harsh elemental threats. These new tiles were pelted with two-inch balls of hail traveling at 100 MPH. The same test was also given to standard roofing panels. The Solar Roof withstood this icy attack while the roofing panels shattered like glass.

The Tesla Solar Roof Is Guaranteed to Last Forever

Tesla is standing by this product in perpetuity. The Tesla Solar Roof comes with what the tech giant is calling an "infinite tile warranty."

Basically, this is a roof you will never have to replace. This is especially useful for home owners when you consider that the average roof lasts anywhere from 10 to 50 years, and the average cost of a roof replacement is in excess of 25,000.


Teslas Solar Roof Provides More Protection Than Solar Panels

There is no doubting Teslas claim that the Solar Roof is more durable than standard roofing tiles. The proof was right there in Musks initial video presentation. However, many people are under the mistaken impression that this new product is more adept at shielding a home against the elements than a traditional solar panel. This is not true.

Solar Panels are extremely efficient against the elements, standing up to hazards such as hail with durability similar to that of the Solar Roof. One of the key benefits of having solar installed on your home is its ability to act as a shield for your roof against harsh weather conditions.

The Solar Roof Will Save You More Money Than Solar Panels

Another common misconception regarding this product is that because it is newer than standard PV solar panels it must be more efficient at producing energy and saving you money on your monthly utility bills. That is also not true, especially when the enormous cost of Solar Roof installation is added to the equation.

PowerScout estimates that the Solar Roof is 70 more expensive than installing solar panels on a roof that doesnt need to be replaced. Whats more, it is 35 cheaper to replace your existing roof and install a solar system on it than it is to install a Solar Roof. More on Solar Costs at

When you consider the time that it takes to pay back your installation costs, a traditional solar panel system starts saving you money far quicker than Teslas new product.

The Solar Roof also tends to produce less energy than traditional panels. In fact, the Solar Action Alliance estimates that the Solar Roof produces only 70 of the power generated by a traditional panel system of equal size.

Energy Production Will Last Forever

Teslas infinite tile warranty covers the panels themselves and their ability to provide a stable roof. But Forbes estimates that their solar cells ability to create sustainable energy will be obsolete within 30 years.

So, while the Tesla Solar Roof is a sturdy roof that will last the lifespan of your home, it will not continue to generate sustainable power forever. Anyone wanting to continue reaping the benefits of its power generation capabilities would have to replace the tiles after 30 years.

What Matters to You?

When it comes to whether or not the Tesla Solar Roof is a wise investment, it really boils down to what youre looking for. If you want an aesthetically pleasing solar panel alternative, then the Tesla Solar Roof would be perfect for your needs. If youre looking to save the most on your utility bills and generate the highest amount of solar power, then a traditional solar panel system is still the way to go.
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Can You Pass The Flipping Personality Test?

"Ummm, Im not sure about that countertop. Shouldnt they be hiring someone to do that? I would do such a better job on that flip."

Who hasnt said that? When it comes to flipping, we all think wed be naturals, right? Or at least more skilled than the novices who are fumbling through it on TV. But it takes more than big dreams and good intentions to execute a successful flip, and with so much money at stake, you want to make sure you do it right. Actually, you want to make sure youre right for flipping in the first place before you put your financial future on the line.

Take the house flip personality test to make sure youre a fit.

Are you smart?

No ones really going to answer, "No," to a question like this, but put it in the context of flipping. If you think its easy money and you arent really looking to put in the sweat equity or follow the basic rules of flipping, you might want to move along.

"Dont believe those late-night infomercials that say you can get into house flipping with no money," said U.S. News amp; World Report. "Nobody is going to hand you a house for free, and you cant go to Home Depot and theyll give you your supplies for free. If you are using credit cards and have no money, you can get into trouble quickly."

Are you savvy?

Smart and savvy are not the same thing. Knowing where to save and where to spend is one of the most important factors when flipping.

Are you geographically desirable?

Buying a home just because its affordable and in need of renovation is not a great strategy. People actually have to want to live in the area where the home is located. Paying attention to hot areas can help you pinpoint the right spot.

"The market with the biggest increase in flippers last year wasnbsp;Buffalo, NY,nbsp;which saw a 34 surge, according to a recent report from real estate data firm ATTOM Data Solutions," said The struggling upstate New York manufacturing town was followed bynbsp;New York City, at 29;nbsp;Dallas, at 23;nbsp;Louisville, KY,nbsp;at 22; andnbsp;Birmingham, AL, at 17."

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM, noted that, "These markets are not the primary markets that many people would think of [for] investing in real estate. "Theyre more off the beaten path, so theres less competition from other investors and theres more availability for deals."

You also need to pay attention to the homes proximity to your home. Trying to manage a flip from afar is hard even for the most experienced investors.

Do you make it personal?

You may have the greatest personal >

"Know whichnbsp;home improvements increase the homes value," said Money Crashers. "Focus on these projects first. Home improvements that increase the value of a home might include upgrading kitchen appliances, repainting the homes exteriors, installing additional closet storage space, upgrading the deck, and addingnbsp;green energy technologies. On the other hand, avoid home improvements that wont increase the selling price, like installing a pool, installing a whirlpool bath, or adding a sunroom to the house."

Can you roll with the punches?

Smart planning, extreme organization, and a great, trustworthy team are all crucial to a successful flip, obviously. But if youre the type that flips out literally if something changes, goes wrong, or looks like its all about to fall apart, this might not be for you. Flipping is a roller coaster, and there are going to be frustrations and setbacks along the way. Accept it, deal with it, and move on.

What are your goals?

Is this a get rich quick thing or are you thinking of flipping as a career? Are you interested in doing quality work or is it just about making the place look good and getting out? Being honest about your goals will help guide you throughout the process, but keep this in mind: cut corners and shoddy work may save you money upfront, but may impact your bottom line. And, if you plan to flip more than just one home, you dont want to earn a reputation for sketchy work.

Do you play well with others?

Even if youre the DIY King of North America, youre going to need help somewhere, at some time. The best flippers have a contractor they can count on and assorted other trusted professionals for plumbing and electrical, landscaping, appraisals, title insurance, and so on.

Are you rich?

Flipping is going to cost you, even if you find the magical lipstick on a pig house. And many people underestimate the potential costs, from the down payment to the carrying costs if it doesnt sell right away.

"To get a conventional investor mortgage, you often need at least 25 percent down, though a good mortgage broker might find other options, including a lower down payment or a loan thatnbsp;provides some money for repairs," said U.S. News amp; World Report. "Hard-money lenders will lend to nearly anybody, but interest rates are high. Another major key to success as a flipper is accurately estimating both cost and timeline. That doesnt mean there wont be surprises, but you want to calculate the true cost of getting the property ready for sale. When you buy a home, you dont always know whats behind the walls: mold, asbestos, water damage, antiquated electrical lines, foundation issues or crumbling plumbing pipes."

Full Story >

How To Build A Career In Real Estate Development

If youre looking to start a career as a real estate developer, there are all sorts of things that youll need to think about before you take the plunge and start out in this rewarding yet difficult industry. From deciding on the right college degree to maximize your chances of finding a job after graduating, to building the skill set needed to manage the problems and people youll come across once youre working, theres a lot to get sorted out. However, by doing your research and planning ahead, itll be easy to lay the groundwork and get your dream role lined up. Here are some top tips to follow to kick-start that real estate development career.

Start in the right place

As with any career, a working life in real estate requires you to begin in the correct place on the career ladder. Making a wrong choice as a young person starting out could haunt you for the rest of your life, so its a good idea to make it work from the outset. Remember, there are a whole host of things that youre going to need to learn about -- ranging from how mortgages work to how youll navigate the planning and development rules set out by local, state, and national governments. Getting a first job that teaches you these skills is vital, otherwise youll be at a lifelong disadvantage and may find that future employers consider your experience too specific.

Get educated about the sector

While historically it was common for real estate businesses to be family run and for people to learn on the job, its now increasingly more popular for young people entering the industry to get their degree in a >

Leave the office and get talking

In this business, its vital for people who want to make a success of themselves to ensure that they do all of the networking they need to find that dream job. There are all sorts of organizations and conferences across the country that are vital for you to attend if you want to advance quickly; these include national organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders, which is one of the USs largest trade organizations. If youre still in college, you may find that there are campus branches of >

Find a role model

Real estate is a complex business, and its likely that youre going to face some hurdles and challenges along the way while building your career. Thats why learning from those who have already been there and done it is a great move. Finding a role model doesnt have to be difficult; you could, for example, ask a tutor on your course if they know of anyone in the business willing to offer some practical help and advice. If that doesnt work, you could try speaking to local real estate development companies in your area. You never know, they may admire you for your courage, and even end up offering you a job somewhere down the line

Dont give up

From getting denied financing for your latest development to finding that the contractors you hired werent up to scratch, there are all sorts of problems that a career in real estate is going to throw at you. Giving up at the first hurdle will simply rule you out of the race to success -- but by carrying on and using your knowledge, problem-solving ability, and support network to find a way forward, youll soon find yourself back on track.

Real estate development is a great career choice for those who are enterprising, tenacious, and savvy when it comes to money and investment. While there are various pitfalls to look out for, including unscrupulous colleagues and suppliers or not keeping up with the latest trends and knowledge, theres no reason why you cant build a fun and well-paid career in this booming and fast-growing sector.

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Sellers Have Closing Costs Also

Question: I have recently become licensed as a Real Estate agent. The market is "hot", and many of my selling clients are asking what they will be charged for closing and settlement costs. Can you summarize these various costs?

Answer: Thats a very good question. In my opinion, when a seller signs a listing agreement with a Real Estate Broker or agent, authorizing that person to sell the house, in addition to all the other forms which sellers receive, the seller should be given a estimated settlement statement. This statement will project the bottom line to the seller, based on the listing price. When an offer is later presented to the seller, the settlement statement should be updated, to reflect the actual terms of the proposed contract. And of course, the lender will also summarize all of the appropriate selling costs.

I have analyzed a number of real estate transactions, and the following charges are generally made to the seller:

Real estate commission: The seller should be informed of the dollar amount to be paid out of settlement for the commission. The broker should also make it clear that the commission is earned only if closing settlement or escrow takes place.

Mortgage payoff: Most sellers have at least one mortgage outstanding on the property. The sellers lender will be able to assist you in obtaining an approximate payoff figure, if you give them a tentative settlement date. Dont forget to add a daily interest charge until the lender receives the full mortgage payout. You should also inquire whether there will be any prepayment penalty. Some older loans still require the borrower in this case the seller to pay a percentage of the loan if it is paid off in full prior to the full expiration of the mortgage term. In some instances, the prepayment penalty can be avoided, or waived by the lender, and you should inquire as to the policy of the particular lending institution.

Points: This is perhaps one of the least understood areas of real estate financing. Sellers often question why they have to pay points to enable the buyer to get their loan. A point is one percent of the loan. For a number of years, no one paid points, especially since interest rates were very low. However, I have recently seen a revival of points being paid, either by buyer or seller or both.

Some loans, such an FHA or VA, put limitations on the amount which the buyer can pay for closing costs. Many buyers who will be obtaining conventional financing also want the seller to pick up some of these settlement charges -- including points paid to the lender.

Seller paid points are still deductible for tax purposes by the buyer, but the buyer must confirm this with his/her own attorney or financial advisor. Thus, while sellers want to get the most dollars from their house, there are often negotiation advantages if a seller offers to split points with the buyer. Such an arrangement may be the clue to closing the deal.

Termite: Most buyers require that a termite inspection be performed, at the sellers expense. Normally, the fee for this service runs between 50 to 75. But I have seen too many instances where the seller is "hit" with a sizeable repair bill, due to termites and damage being discovered by the termite company.

Ask the seller if they have a current contract with a termite company. If so, that company should be willing to give the required letter for no cost or at most a nominal charge. Finally, when you make arrangements with the termite company to do their inspection, make sure they will not do any repair work without informing you in advance. Since the seller is paying for these charges, the seller should have the option to shop around for another company.

Water escrow: In Maryland and the District of Columbia, water is the only utility that creates a lien on the property. In order for the title attorney to give free and clear title to the buyer, all liens must be paid and satisfied. Thus, it is standard practice for the settlement attorney or company to escrow some money to cover the final water bill. Usually, the office conducting settlement will make arrangements to obtain a final water reading, pay the bill, and refund the balance of the escrowed funds, if any, to the seller.

>: When the seller obtained mortgage financing, it usually was in the form of a deed of trust. This is similar to a mortgage, but the property is deeded "in trust" to independent trustees who are authorized to sell the property if a default occurs. When the mortgage is paid in full, the trustees are entitled to a nominal "trustees fee" and there is a small governmental charge to record the trustees >Other government charges: In the Washington metropolitan area, each jurisdiction imposes a tax called Grantors tax in Virginia, and Recordation and Transfer tax in Maryland and the District of Columbia. In Virginia, the seller customarily pays the Grantors tax. In the other jurisdictions, payment of this tax is negotiable between buyer and seller, although often the tax is split between the parties.

Settlement charge: Some settlement offices will impose a nominal charge on the seller for "settlement."

Many sellers are often surprised when they learn, for the first time at the settlement office, that they will not be getting as much from the sale of their house as they had anticipated. In my opinion, it is incumbent on you -- as the sellers agent -- to advise your principal as accurately as possible what all of these miscellaneous charges will be.
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Five Common Excuses HOA Members Use Who Pay Their Assessments Late

Homeowner association members who pay their assessments late or not at all sometimes come up with some interesting excuses. Here are five common ones:

Excuse 1: "I didnt get what I paid for so am withholding payment." Members have a right to require the board to perform its duties but withholding assessments is not the way to do it. The obligation to pay HOA fees has nothing to do with the HOAs obligations to provide maintenance and service. A member that withholds payment becomes delinquent and should incur all penalties provided for in the HOAs collection policy.

Excuse 2: "You didnt bill me." The requirement to provide invoices is ra>

Excuse 3: "The HOA has no right to make me pay for common area upkeep." Actually, the board not only has the right, it has a duty to collect assessments. This authority is established in the governing documents and state statutes. When people buy into a homeowner association, they agree to abide by those documents and that includes paying assessments.

Excuse 4: "I never use the recreational facilities and shouldnt have to pay for them." Admittedly, recreational facilities are expensive to operate and for some HOAs represent a large part of the budget. Nevertheless, the obligation to pay for a common amenity has nothing to do with the level of usage. Many move into an HOA specifically for the recreational amenities. Theyre willing to pay for them because they take full advantage of the opportunities they provide. Even if youre not using some of the amenities, they make the HOA more desirable and the homes more valuable. Those that dont use the facilities should consider whether an HOA without amenities might work better. If so, it might be time to move.

Excuse 5: "The HOA fees are too high." HOA fees reflect the cost of maintaining the common elements. All have to pay their fair share. If the HOA fees are too high, where can money be saved? The board should be open to ideas on reasonable ways to cut costs. But simply lowering fees because someone wants to pay less is not reasonable.

Excuse excuses. Many try to cash them at the HOA Bank. Like a bum check, the HOA should refuse to accept them.

For more innovative HOA management strategies, see

Full Story >

Trends Cost Sellers Money

Every new and widely-adopted trend changes whats considered "standard." When this happens in real estate mdash; inside or out mdash; a sellers non-trend or off-trend house or condominium unit may become "substandard" in buyers eyes.

Sellers who expect top dollar for their property must ensure it makes an on-trend impression with homebuyers, especially millennials.

In interior design, the trend toward ensuite bathrooms combined with the trend to "spa-like" bathrooms has put expensive-renovation pressure on sellers existing bathrooms. No matter how nice they are to use, if bathrooms dont have the magazine-look buyers lust after, their "this is a gut job" reaction means renovation cost and inconvenience to buyers and the home gets a "too dated to love" mark against it.

To understand what buyers expect, sellers benefit from taking a long hard look at their main rooms after spending a few hours binging on home-renovation shows or pouring over home-decor magazines. Get it?

If the resale house or condominium unit doesnt have spa-like bathrooms, an oasis->

Buyers may dramatically under-value your house or condo or ignore it altogether. Ask local real estate professionals about the type of buyers who would be interested in the delayed gratification of paying for your "slightly dated" homes location and then undertaking extensive renovations themselves. Will they pay you top-dollar?

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most expensive rooms to renovate, so its annoying to sellers that these are the only rooms that add value to a home. These key rooms may even decide whether a property sells at all.

The last renovation may seem a recent memory to sellers, but they must check the calendar. If it was more than 5 or even 10 years ago, this time lag puts sellers out of phase with millennial buyers mdash; your home reminds them of their parents or grandparents place. Not a way to add value or evoke a "dream home" atmosphere.

  • If the last renovation was fairly recent, on-trend paint and other cosmetic staging touch-ups may be all thats necessary for great return on this investment.
  • If your home decor pays homage to the 20th Century, discuss 21st-Century renovations options with real estate, construction, and staging professionals.

Hone down what needs to be done to an effective cosmetic minimum after any necessary repairs. Usually sellers aim for the best potential short-term return on decor investment, not on long-term construction returns.

As well as kitchen overhauls, here are a few common "out dated" problems:

  • Paint color trends now change every year in sync with fashion. The "shades of grey" look is out and color is back. If you have older beige or pink-green color schemes, buyers may discount your homes value dramatically.
  • Wallpaper is in again, but if you dont have current wallpaper >
  • Stainless steel appliances and brushed nickle finishes were mandatory for years, but they are beginning to fade in popularity. Gold is the new hot metal color even though it hasnt made it to appliances yet. Buyers want new, matching, preferably high-end appliances. How do yours rate?
  • Floating bathroom vanities or at least vanities with slender, exposed legs are the new norm. Old chunky cabinets, especially those without double sinks, will generate expensive "gut job" reactions from buyers.
  • Solar panels and gas fireplaces have come down in price and so have increased in popularity in many locations. Skip these trends and your home may be considered "out dated" even though you have a new furnace and a >

Staging can add cosmetic cleverness, but there still may be a few renovation projects necessary. Staging distracts from negatives and enhances positives with strategic furniture placement, scaled-down furniture, wanna-have pieces, and refreshing repaints. These elements can do a lot to enhance market value, but they cant overshadow a seriously out-of-date kitchen or a poorly-maintained exterior.

A real estate professionals thorough evaluation of market value for your property should include a list of simple and more-complex up-dates that may add to your bottom line.

Remember, sellers should concentrate on what target buyers want in their "dream home," not on what sellers have been comfortable living with for years.

Full Story >

Everyone Can Lose When Theres No Contractors License

Spring is almost upon us and many homeowners are eagerly awaiting a return to weather that will allow them to undertake construction projects ranging from repairing damage caused by winter storms to engaging in projects to remodel, enlarge, and otherwise improve.

If the work is to be hired out, as opposed to being done by the homeowner, attention should be paid to determine whether or not the person doing the work is required to have a contractors license.

California Business and Professions Code 7028a states, "It is a misdemeanor for any person to engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor within this state without having a license therefor, unless such person is particularly exempted from the provisions of this chapter. Note: All the references here are to California law; but many states have similar regulations. What exempts a person from the license requirement? The same code at section 7048a says, "This chapter does not apply to any work or operation on one undertaking or project by one or more contracts, the aggregate contract price which for labor, materials, and all other items is less than five hundred dollars 500..."[my emphasis]

A project whose price totals less than 500 is considered " of casual, minor, or inconsequential nature," and can be performed by a non-licensed person, often referred to as a handyman.

Good old American ingenuity being what it is, numerous schemes have been devised in attempts to skirt the 500 limit. Some will attempt to avoid the license requirement by breaking a jobs billing up into components, e.g. labor 300 and materials 300. This doesnt work because the legislation clearly states that the >Another ruse is to attempt to segregate the job into smaller components. "Ill do the north side of the roof for 450, the south side for 450, etc." This will not work either, as the code states that the exemption does not apply for a job, " which a division of the operation is made in contracts of amounts less than five hundred dollars 500 for the purpose of evasion of this chapter..."

Even if the particular job e.g. tearing out a wall is less than 500, it is not exempt if it is, "part of a larger or major operation [e.g. remodeling the house], whether undertaken by the same or a different contractor" [my emphasis] Also, even if the job is less than 500, the exemption does not apply if the handyman has, through cards or advertising, held himself out to be a contractor.

Hiring someone without a license to do a large job poses risks for the homeowner. If the handyman has hired others to work on the project, they may be considered employees of the homeowner. If the job results in damage to some third party, the homeowner may be liable. Moreover, a "contractor" without a license is not going to have workmans compensation. If a worker, hired by the unlicensed person, is injured, guess who will be held financially responsible?

Moreover, the homeowner is not the only one at risk. Unlicensed "contractors" need to know that the homeowner cannot be compelled to pay them for their work. A recent ruling from the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court makes this crystal clear. People v. Michael Kerr Walker, BR 052772, November 16, 2016

In March of 2013, Michael Walker, acting without a contractors license, entered into a written agreement with Sharon Curto for the painting of her house and installation of windows. By November 2013, although Curto had paid Walker over 61,000, he demanded another 7,768. She refused to pay and he filed a suit against her. She then hired an attorney to defend her and to countersue for the recovery of the monies previously paid.

The Superior Court "determined it lacked authority to order restitution of monies paid by Curto unless the work performed by defendant was substandard or defective." Curto appealed and the Appellate court agreed with her. It is important to note here that the issue was not that the work done was substandard or defective in some way.

Defendant Walker argued that "to the extent Curto benefitted from his unlicensed work in the form of labor and materials provided, she would be unjustly enriched and receive a windfall if he were ordered to reimburse the entire sum paid by Curto. In other contexts, it has been held that restitution may not be ordered when a windfall would be the result."

But, the Appellate Court observed, "in cases involving an unlicensed contractor, the Legislature has determined that full recoupment of payment is required, even if a person who employs such a contractor is benefited or enriched thereby, and that such a rule is necessary to strongly deter unlicensed contracting work."

Thus, even though the work was not defective, Walker was ordered to reimburse the homeowner the full 61,428, plus interest, plus attorney fees.

An unlicensed contractor doing work for which a license is required? Not a good idea for either party.
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Merging the Gap Between Real Estate Agents and Social Responsibility, the Agent with Heart Program is Good for the Community and Great for Business

While often associated exclusively with larger corporations, the importance of implementing some form of social responsibility extends well beyond that and is just as important, if not more so, for the success of smaller brands and businesses, including real estate agents. In fact, the research found that businesses that are not socially responsible may be jeopardizing their customer base, proving that a dedication to philanthropy is no longer simply considered a kind gesture, but has now become an expectation by the consumer.

Hand in hand with positive philanthropic acts comes the good PR that follows and the ability to build a brand around that good will. For real estate agents, however, therersquo;s a very fine line between branding oneself as philanthropic within the community while also maintaining humility when publicizing it. Understanding the delicate nature of this situation, PinRaise, Inc. has developed their Agent with Hearttrade; program exclusively for real estate agents to not only make their mark in the realm of social responsibility, but to also be individually recognized for it.

Through Agent with Heart, realtors donate a portion of their commission to their clientrsquo;s chosen nonprofit at the close of escrow. With each donation an agent makes, PinRaise launches a round of social media marketing across all major social sites in recognition of the donation. Donation amounts are always decided by the realtor and are never made public.

The publicity that Agent with Heart offers their agents with each donation is key to the success of realtors seeking to make an impact within the community because it assists them in building a brand around being philanthropic, while also generating a buzz about their individual generosity online. Because much of the business realtors generate comes from referrals and recommendations, the positive PR that follows a donation is of the utmost importance.

Additionally, a credible third party source like PinRaise sharing news of an agentrsquo;s philanthropic gestures across outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram not only assists in spreading the word about an agentrsquo;s good will, but also creates a ripple effect where those posts can now be shared by that agent, their followers, etc., further strengthening an agentrsquo;s brand. Being able to develop a reputation of giving back within the community leads to building a strong network of people who will speak highly of an agent because of their goodwill, helping them to stand out from the competition in a positive light, all while attracting new clients.

The Agent with Heart program also gears its agent publicity toward capturing the eye of one social responsibility advocacy group in particular, millennials. According to the Cone Communications research, millennials cor>

Through the Agent with Heart program, agents are able to uniquely appeal to the millennial generation of homebuyers by individually branding themselves as an agent willing to ldquo;pay it forwardrdquo; and give a donation to the local community. Agent with Heart also understands the research-driven tactics behind the purchasing decisions of millennials, and acknowledges the value in each individual donation promotion across all social platforms; the more visibility an agent receives for the generosity of their donations, the greater the appeal to the millennial market.

In an ever-changing time when consumers are actively seeking businesses to do more for the community, itrsquo;s important for real estate agents to step up to this call to action. Branding oneself as an agent who makes a positive impact within the community isnrsquo;t just good for the community itself, itrsquo;s also good for business, and the Agent with Heart program has perfectly mastered the art of combining philanthropy with good PR.

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How To Handle The Stress Of Selling Your Home

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes ... and undue stress caused by moving. Whether or not you use the services of a REALTORreg; to help you wade through the uncertain waters of the buy-and-sell process, moving is stressful, period. And theres not much you can do to avoid it. And were not just talking about packing and paperwork. Moving is an emotional process. If youre not calming down your nervous children, youre trying to reassure yourself that youll meet people in your new neighborhood, that you bought the best house within your means, and that your kids new schools will measure up.

Its easy to forget while were dealing with all of these jitters that moving actually can represent an exciting adventure, a growth opportunity and the prospect of new beginnings. Once the dust settles after your move, youre entering one of the most memorable times of your life. With any luck, youve recruited a REALTORreg; whos familiar with the obvious stresses as well as the insidious and subsequently more detrimental ones. Depending upon your >

Its important to remember throughout the entire selling and buying process, however, to reserve time for yourself and your family. Its not a waste of time, but rather an insurance policy for your sanity and continued happiness. Stress is sneaky, as weve all discovered. It can eat away at us during what are supposed to be the happiest of times, because after all, any major change in life is stressful. If its supressed, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically and spread throughout the family. And theres nothing worse than moving a grumpy family across the country. For the sake of your continued family unity, keep in mind the following stress->

First, remember that its perfect normal to feel unsure of your decision right now. Youve just made a major commitment, and all of us experience those last-second "What on earth did I just do" worries after signing contracts and making life-changing decisions. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with "what ifs" and dread, reframe this decision as a prime opportunity to begin your lives in a new environment. The old saying "When one door closes, another one opens" definitely applies here. Trust that your Realtor is looking out for your best interests, ask as many questions as you need to throughout the entire process thats part of what your Realtor is paid for, and look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of you.

If you can, keep an emergency fund in case you run into any unexpected costs. One example: If your buyer comes forward after a home inspection is completed and requests a series of repairs prior to move-in, youll be prepared. Chances are good that you wont necessarily agree with the buyers requests, but at least you wont face the additional stress of being short the money for repairs if you plan ahead and save some extra cash no set amount -- just as much as you can handle. A goal you might try to shoot for would be in the range of 2,500. Its probably in your best interests not to try to guess what the buyer will want to repair, and then fix it ahead of time. Thats because buyers have a habit of isolating areas of your home that you never considered having repaired, and not even noticing the ones you expected them to pinpoint. So save yourself any expenses until youve determined their requests.

And while were on the subject of finances, try to anticipate and prepare for the initial expenses youll face upon move-in. Resign yourself to the fact that during the moving process, youre going to feel as if youre holding your wallet upside down, and everyone -- movers, contractors, buyer, etc. -- is sitting underneath, catching the windfall and demanding a larger share. Keep in mind that this is an investment for the good of your family, and that these costs are a one-time inevitability.

Remind yourself of why youre moving in the first place. A job transfer, or is it a voluntary choice? Obviously, whether or not you had some degree of control over the decision will affect your outlook. Regardless of your answer to that question, round up as much information as you can about your new hometown. What kinds of cultural offerings does the town/city offer? What are its landmarks and natural attractions? Research some possible day trips you might take with the family once youre settled. Is your new hometown near state borders, giving you the opportunity to explore different regions of the country without much effort?

Envision your new home. Where will you place the furniture? Remind yourself of the homes primary selling points. Will you have more space? More closets? A large backyard and/or swimming pool? What does your new street look like? Do a lot of young families reside there? If so, your children are likely to be reassured by that knowledge. As often as possible, try to picture yourself and your family fully adapted to your new environment.

Remember to have a little fun occasionally. Youre still allowed, even if you feel as if you dont have a penny left to your name. Take the family out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic -- anything that gets all of you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. Keep a regular "date" to get out together -- for example, every Friday night leading up to the move. Take your mind off your stress for a few hours, and remind yourself that your family members are experiencing many of the same emotions. Like misery, stress often loves company, so enjoy your time together and remember that this stress wont last forever. Regardless of what youre feeling now, the move will happen and everything will eventually fall into place. Journeying into the unknown is what makes life rewarding, so trust in your Realtors expertise and in your familys resilience, and look forward to the journey ahead.

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How To Make Your Small Kitchen More Appealing

Many people complain about small kitchens but tiny spaces arent always to be dreaded. If youre selling your home and your kitchen is, well, compact, know that you can find ways to achieve big appeal with a little creativity.

Bring in the light. Sometimes small kitchens can be dark, making them feel even smaller. But if you remove the curtains from any windows in your small kitchen, itll let light in and open up the area. Instead of curtains, you can use small blinds that are recessed inside the frame of the window. These are easy to clean and still provide some privacy even when the blinds are open.

De-Clutter the counter tops and the walls. Most people have a tendency to let kitchen clutter build up on the counter tops and walls. Removing items from the counters, kitchen table, and even off the walls will make the space feel bigger. Yes, I know these items on the counters are useful but when youre selling your home, a little inconvenience may help you receive a higher offer and youll probably agree, thats worth it Take the appliances and either store them in the kitchen cabinets or, if there isnt enough room, pack them up. Youre moving soon, anyway.

Clearing off photos and miscellaneous papers that are stuck on your refrigerator door or kitchen walls will also help make your kitchen look bigger. If youre tight for space, mounted storage units can be added to your kitchen walls to free up limited counter-top space. But again, too many storage units, even the decorative kind, will give people a feeling like the walls are closing in on them. The same goes for hanging pot racks from the ceiling. Be sure to leave some open wall space and to use storage units that arent completely solid. The open units, if the shelves arent stuffed, will give a less closed-in feeling.

Photo by Big Girls Small Kitchen - Search transitional kitchen pictures

Opt for lighter and brighter wall color. Going with lighter colors tends to open up a room. Light and bright colors are also very inviting and friendly, making them a perfect choice for the kitchen. You can use a darker accent trim to create some contrast. You can also use decorations including floral arrangements or even some colorful kitchen appliances to add spice to the kitchen.

Wall-mounted appliances and reduced counter-top depth. Wall-mounted or under-the-cabinets-mounted appliances can save valuable kitchen counter-top space. You might even have a way to wall-mount your kitchen faucet. In one small home design, the faucet was mounted to the wall, creating a very distinctive look. The counter-top was a standard 24 inches deep but elsewhere the counter-top was reduced just slightly down to 21 inchesndash;very subtle and hardly noticeable but it allowed more floor space in a tiny kitchen.

Small kitchens dont have to be an eyesore. Some even prefer less space because theres less to clean. If you know the audience youre marketing your home to, you can play up the homes best featuresndash;including, perhaps, a small, quaint, and simple kitchen.

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What You Should Know Before Deciding To Buy A Condo

Condos were once thought of as homes that attracted singles or couples, often without children. But today, condos are growing in popularity and attracting families of all sizes.

Condos can be an excellent choice for the right buyers. Here are a few things that should be considered before purchasing a condo. Most buyers start with the condo itself. That may be a good place to begin but, before they buy, buyers should also consider other factors outside of the condo.

Some developers are building condos that have a look and feel like single-family homes. These modern condos have great rooms and open, flowing floor plans that look and feel like a single-family home rather than an apartment or condo.

One of the major attractions of condos is the low maintenance. The community area is maintained by an association funded by the dues that homeowners pay into it.

Thats why buyers first consideration should be to explore the development and make sure they like the look and feel of the complex and surrounding community. There are codes and restrictions, often referred to as CCamp;Rs covenants, codes, and restrictions that buyers will have to abide by once they purchase a condo. Buyers should ask to review them before making an offer to purchase a condo. These regulations help ensure that the community maintains its general appearance and any necessary repairs of the external areas.

Review the associations budget. It may be necessary to get the seller to provide this information because it may not be >

Find out how many owners in the development are delinquent on their dues. A condo complex that has a high level of delinquencies can cause problems for buyers when it comes time to get a loan or sell the condo. Some loans are not approved if delinquency rates are higher than 15 percent.

Review the minutes from the associations board meetings. They will reveal the day-to-day issues that occur each month and give an indication of how the development is run. For instance, lots of complaints and filings about noisy residents, loud parties, or dog droppings on the lawn reveal potential problems with neighbors. The minutes will also reveal if the development is engaged in any lawsuits.

Understand what your responsibilities are for the upkeep of the condo. Find out what the association takes care of and what the homeowners have to maintain. Look at the associations property management team and see how many times the association has changed management companies. Find out why. This will may reveal how responsive the association will be should residents need its assistance.

Ultimately, buyers need to ensure that when they purchase a condo theyre not buying into any legal battles the association is in the middle of and that they will be able to live in their condo the way they want. Study the CCamp;Rs and do due diligence before buying.

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5 Tips To Refresh Your Home For Spring Time

It may still be snowing in some parts of the country, but spring is almost here. Before the flowers start budding outside, refresh the inside of your home to give your interior spaces that springtime glow.

Bring the outdoors inside

Adding fresh plants or flowers to an otherwise ho-hum space can spice things up in the blink of an eye. Even if you dont have a garden full of fresh flowers to choose from, greens make a lovely addition to your living room, or even an eye-catching centerpiece for your dining room table. Better Homes and Gardens suggests gathering a few fresh fern fronds for dramatic texture and rich color.

Dont be afraid to add color

One of the easiest ways to perk up your space is to invest in a gallon of paint, call in reinforcements to help you out, and go to town with brushes and rollers. If youre not incredibly adventurous when it comes to color choices but still want a pick-me-up, try going with a warmer, creamier version of the neutrals you already have; a creamy ba>

You could even paint an accent wall a bold, fun color and use that space to showcase some of your favorite art or family portraits for your own personal art gallery. suggests incorporating bright colors in a breakfast nook or one of the smaller spaces of your home or apartment. Its less of a risk than painting your entire kitchen or living room, but still packs a punch.

Reorganize your bookshelves

If youve got a fantastic library, now is a great time to take everything off the shelves, blow the dust off the covers, and reorganize. You might even consider artfully stacking books in different directions, some horizontal and some upright. Apartment Therapy reports some pretty impressive results simply by arranging books by color for a uniquely eye-catching display.

Photo by Craig Conley via Wikimedia Commons

Update window treatments

Spring is a great time to trade in your richly-textured drapes for lighter, breezier, more summery colors. If privacy isnt a huge issue in a space, try adding light, breezy sheer curtains on a thin, minimalist rod. Youll love how much the change automatically brightens your space. You might also consider substituting your ordinary blinds with Roman Shades. Theyre a >

Make your entryway welcoming

Upgrade or thoroughly clean your front-door mats and add a wreath to your front door. This could be a fun DIY project for the entire family. Make sure you have an efficient landing spot just inside your front door mdash; a place to drop keys and hang up a coat or jacket before coming inside. This is also a great place for a fun mirror and a flower arrangement. Your homes entryway often gives guests their very first impression of your home, so make it shine with your familys personality and a touch of >

Photo by The McClouds via Wikimedia Commons

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Tips To Keep Your Home Show-Ready At All Times

Once your home goes on the market, real estate agents may call to show your home anytime, day or evening. Keeping your home "showtime" ready can be challenging, especially if you have children and pets.

What you need to stay organized is a handy checklist so you can be ready to show at any time. When you get the call that buyers are on their way, give everyone in the household a basket and assign them each to a room to pick up clutter quickly. Set a timer and tell everyone to grab up any toys on the floor, clear tabletops and countertops of junk, and quickly Swiffer-sweep the floors. Check for hazards like dog chews on the floor.

Turn on all the lights, and get ready to skedaddle. You have to let buyers have privacy so they can assess your home honestly. Take the kids for an outing. Put pets in daycare, sleep cages or take them with you:

Keep your home show-ready with these nine tips:

Eliminate clutter: Not only is clutter unattractive, its time-consuming to sort through and expensive for you to move. If you have a lot of stuff, collections, and family mementoes, you would be better off renting a small storage unit for a few months.

Keep, donate, throw away: Go through your belongings and put them into one of these three baskets. Youll receive more in tax benefits for your donations than pennies on the dollar at a garage sale. Its faster, more efficient and youll help more people.

Remove temptations: Take valuable jewelry and collectibles to a safety deposit box, a safe, or store them in a secure location.

Remove breakables: Figurines, china, crystal and other breakables should be packed and put away in the garage or storage.

Be hospitable: You want your home to look like a home. Stage it to show the possibilities, perhaps set the table, or put a throw on the chair by the fireplace with a bookmarked book on the table.

Have a family plan of action: Sometimes showings arent convenient. You can always refuse a showing, but do you really want to? If you have a showing with little notice, get the family engaged. Everyone has a basket and picks up glasses, plates, newspapers, or anything left lying about.

Remove prescription medicines: Despite qualifying by the buyers agent, some buyers have other intentions than buying your home. Its also a good idea to lock your personal papers such as checkbooks away. Do not leave mail out on your desk.

Get in the habit: Wash dishes immediately after meals. Clean off countertops. Make beds in the morning. Keep pet toys and beds washed and smelling fresh.

Clean out the garage and attic: Buyers want to see what kind of storage there is.

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No Perfect Home Exists: What You Should Know About Home Inspections

For many first-time buyers, buying a home can be a scary experience. They know theyll be maintaining or improving a home with little to no maintenance experience, so the solution is to buy a home in perfect condition. So they hire a home inspector to point out all the flaws.

The problem is -- no perfect home exists. Air conditioners break, plumbing pipes leak, and roof tiles blow off in the wind.

If youre buying a home, start with a reasonable expectation of what home inspectors can do. Their job is to inform you about the integrity and condition of what youre buying, good and bad.

A home inspection should take several hours, long enough to cover all built-in appliances, all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, the roof, foundation, gutters, exterior skins, windows and doors.

An inspector doesnt test for pests or sample the septic tank. For those, you need industry-specific inspectors.

Heres what else you need to do.

1. Make sure the inspector you hire is licensed. The responsibilities of home inspectors vary according to state law and their areas of expertise.

2. Ask what the inspection covers. Some inspection companies have extensive divisions that can provide environmental for radon and lead paint. Be prepared to hire and schedule several inspectors according to your lenders requirements and to pay several hundred dollars for each type of inspection.

3. Some inspection reports only cover the main house, not other buildings on the property. For specialty inspections such as termites, make sure the inspection covers all buildings on the property including guest houses, detached garages, storage buildings, etc.

4. Attend the inspection and follow along with the inspectors. Seeing problems for yourself will help you understand whats serious, what needs replacement now or later, and whats not important.

5. Dont expect the seller to repair or replace every negative found on the report. If youre getting a VA or FHA-guaranteed loan, some items arent negotiable. The seller must address them, but otherwise, pick your battles with the seller carefully.

A home inspection points out problems, they also point out whats working well. It can help you make your final decision about the home - to ask the seller to make repairs or to offer a little less, to buy as is or not to buy at all.

Full Story >

Want To Buy A House? Heres How To Save For A Down Payment

Thinking about buying a house within the next 3 years? Or a bit farther down the road? Timing is everything and it turns out that simple question makes a difference.

According to Zillow, the median home value in Diamond Bar is 697,000. So how much of that should you put down? Down payments vary depending on the loan type, but in general they are:

0 for VA loans
3.5 for FHA loans
20 for conventional loans
Or use this handy down payment calculator to help you.

20 is the recommended down payment on a house.

You may have heard this before, but well say it again. Try to put at least 20 down. Why? If you finance more than 80 of the home value, you will have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance PMI. But if you can take out a VA loan, PMI is not required.

Even just 3.5 or 24,395 on a home in Diamond Bar, CA is a good chunk of money. And whether youre fighting the good fight as a small business owner, still paying back those student loans, or just trying to save a bit each month like all of us, its hard to know what to do with that money you have managed to save. Which brings us to hellip;

When are you looking to purchase a home?

1. I want to buy a home within 3 years.

If youre looking to buy sooner rather than later, consider keeping your money in a cash account, like a savings account or something similar. Remember that savings accounts will yield greater interest than a regular checking account. You dont want to invest this money for such a short period because of market volatility. Just think:

Imagine youve built up a decent amount for a down payment and you invested this money in the stock market. A recession comes and you take a 30 hit on your balance. That will likely prevent you from buying your home within your three-year goal.

2. I want to wait at least 4 years before buying a home.

If youre not in a big rush, investing in the market might be a better option for you. Should you invest, do so with caution and dont be too aggressive. Be smart, calculated, and balanced with your portfolio picks. Make sure you have a healthy mix of stocks and bonds. And keep in mind that youll want to rebalance your portfolio at least once a year. Why?

Imagine that you have a portfolio of 10 different stock and bond ETFs, or Exchange-traded funds. Each ETF is invested at a fixed percentage of your overall portfolio. As the year goes on, the allocations will wander from their targets. Those doing well will become a larger part of your portfolio. Those not doing so well will become a smaller part of your portfolio. When you rebalance, you bring things back in line with your target percentages, so youre selling high and buying low.

Also keep in mind dollar-cost averaging, or investing a certain fixed amount on a regular schedule. Basically, you buy a larger number of shares when the markets are down and everything is at a lower price, and fewer shares when prices are high. This is recommended over making large, infrequent, lump sum contributions because it will bring the average cost per share down over time.

If these investing ideas are a bit daunting to you, youre not alone Speak with a financial planner to help you evaluate your options and navigate these uncertain waters. An advisor can be just the direction you need to reach your goal and buy a house.

David Yu, CFPreg; is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERtrade; with over 10 years of industry experience helping people make smart, lasting financial decisions. Visit for more information.

Full Story >

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Today's Real Estate News and Advice Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2018

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Copyright © 2018 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved