Updated: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Renovating With Your Kids: Projects You Can Do Together

But there are several tasks they can do with supervision, and a few they might be able to handle on their own, depending on their age and maturity level.

The first step is to properly explain the tasks at hand and identify any risks.

"Parents really need to talk to their kids who are old enough to understand and lay down ground rules for the renovation," says Eric Phillips, vice president and general manager at DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen of the Triangle in Apex, NC on Bob Vila.

"And once the rules are there, parents really have to have the discipline to enforce those rules with their kids."

Feeling good about their ability to help? Go renovate something together

Cleaning and chucking

Before any renovation can start, youll probably have some cleaning out to do. The traditional three-pile method of "keep, sell, donate" can work well for kids. Telling them they can keep whatever they make on the sale of their old things usually inspires a job well done.

Painting the walls

Your kids have probably been painting since before they could speak. With their fingers, anyway. They probably havent lost the love of covering surfaces in pretty colors, so set them up with a paintbrush and let them go Youll want to give them a basic tutorial that illustrates how to best get paint on the desired surface without dribbles. And dont forget to prepare the area with heavy-duty dropcloths, tape up baseboards, and move furniture and furnishings out of the way so they dont accidentally get splattered.


Use caution with electric sanders, or any power tool for that matter, when your kids are involved. But sandpaper or sanding sticks and a surface that needs to be stripped down could be a good way to bring some kids in on a renovation. Youll need to make sure they have a dust mask, eye protection, and a well-ventilated area. Sandpaper in tender hands might cause abrasions, so make sure there are gloves as well.

Creating new art

You probably already have a stack of your kids art showcased or stashed in your home. But directing them to create something new specifically for a showcase wall or tabletop is a great way to involve them in your renovation without worrying about them getting hurt. Choosing colors and materials together at an art store and show them ahead of time where their art is going to be displayed can get them excited about this new projectmdash;and maybe make them feel better about the fact that they dont get to handle the nail gun.


Doing your own kitchen backsplash is a >

Pulling up carpet

Kids who love to dismantle stuff read: all kids will love being able to help roll up carpet for removal. The box knife needed to slice it up is probably not the best tool to put in a kids hands, but taking up the tack strip? A handy child can use a pry bar and rubber mallet to handle this task. Just take proper precautions with gloves, eye protectors and the like. Those nails can be nasty.

Laying wood floors

Kids can be helpful gluing and placing wood planks and might even enjoy the process. Can you leave your five-year-old alone to handle the job? Probably not. But working side-by-side with your children laying out the wood pieces will make you all feel good every time you take a step.

Wallpaper removal

The tedious peeling away of old wallpaper might be the perfect task for your kids. Even if they dont finish the job, any wallpaper you dont have to peel off yourself is a bonus. Trust us.

Other demolition

An invitation to break stuff? Oh yeah Just remember to take all safety precautions goggles, closed-toe shoes, and gloves if needed and make sure the demo is appropriate for the age group i.e. you might not want to leave your five-year-old alone with a power saw..


If your renovation includes an outdoor element, youre in luck Kids love to get dirty. Depending on the age and inclination of your children, a bag of soil and a shovel might be considered a good time

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The Race to Build Canadas Best Real Estate Website

The race to build the best real estate listing website in Canada is now entering the final laps. Prompted by the end of a long legal battle between the federal governmentrsquo;s Competition Bureau and the Toronto Real Estate Board TREB over what data could be displayed on the boardrsquo;s member websites, now the market is wide open for whoever can produce the best consumer experience.

ldquo;Change is bubbling beneath the surface of Canadarsquo;s real estate industry, and big data is the catalyst,rdquo; wrote Christopher Alexander, EVP of Re/Max Integra, Ontario-Atlantic Region, in a recent op-ed in REM magazine.

ldquo;With the arrival of Zillow and Purplebricks in Canada, and most recently the public >

Many real estate sites in Canada, including those owned by brokerages and third-party companies, have access to the data feed of homes for sale on the countyrsquo;s MLS systems. But itrsquo;s how the data is packaged and what other features and information is offered that will determine which sites are used the most. The most popular site in Canada is currently Realtor.ca, which is owned by the Canadian Real Estate Association CREA. The association is putting many resources into improving and upgrading the site.

Recently CREA announced that it would soon provide sold data on its site. This is significant because for several years, CREA fought alongside TREB to keep sold and other disputed data off the public websites of its members.

A Competition Tribunal decision in 2016 found that by not including sold and other data in the listing feed to its member websites, TREB had engaged in anti-competitive acts. An appeal court upheld the decision and earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear TREBrsquo;s appeal.

The board is now supplying its members with all of the disputed data in its data feed.

ldquo;Change is often accompanied by fear, and in this case, the fear is that publicly available sold data will spell the end of the real estate industry as we know it,rdquo; says Alexander. ldquo;Instead of fighting the inevitable, I encourage agents and brokers to see this as an opportunity.rdquo;

TREB CEO John DiMichele says the complex case is not well understood by the public and that many people have contacted the real estate board in the belief that they can now have access to the entire MLS system.

In fact, clients must get the information by working with a Realtor and accessing the data on password-protected sites. The information must be displayed only ldquo;in the context of helping the client buy or sell the home,rdquo; says TREB, and the data cannot be provided or sold to a third party.

However, CREA announced that it would not require a password once the sold information is available on Realtor.ca. It will work with real estate boards and regulators across the country to ensure it complies with local laws and regulations.

DiMichele says TREBrsquo;s motivation in fighting the Competition Bureau was protecting clientsrsquo; privacy.

The Competition Tribunal order also requires TREB to make pending sold information available, which is a particularly sensitive issue for Realtors and clients, says DiMichele. ldquo;They are saying they donrsquo;t want that information out there, particularly when the transaction has not been completed,rdquo; he says. ldquo;Consumers have concerns about their privacy and confidential information.rdquo; Pending sold information will not be displayed on Realtor.ca.

Sold information has been available on websites in the United States for several years.

DiMichele says that providing the data on member websites ldquo;is a whole shift in the paradigmrdquo; for brokerages, so they will have to rethink their website and decide how to use the information going forward.

Recently Seattle-based Zillow announced that it would soon begin placing Canadian listings on its site. The company has signed agreements to receive direct listing feeds from several Canadian companies and brokerages, including Century 21 Canada and Exit Realty Corp. International.

Zillow says it operates more than two dozen real estate apps across all major platforms, and that it receives more than 100 million visits from non-U.S. users per year, with most coming from Canada, U.K., India, Germany, Mexico and China.

ldquo;The websites that offer more information will get more traffic and generate more leads,rdquo; says Alexander. ldquo;The real estate businesses that donrsquo;t give consumers what they want convenient, user-friendly and easy access will fall off the radar.rdquo;

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Architectural Control Committees Serve a Need

Our declaration of covenants requires advance approval before any such changes or additions can be made. Many people do not understand the concept of belonging to an association and when we try to explain, they become hostile.

How do we get homeowners to understand that this is not unique to our development?

A. Most community associations throughout the country have some form of architectural review committee. Although the scope of these committees varies, the general theme is that in order to keep some semblance of uniformity and balance within the association, unit owners must receive advance approval from a committee before any exterior work is done.

However, many owners -- whether in a condominium, planned unit development or homeowners association -- believe this requirement creates an unnecessary, time-consuming -- and often expensive -- burden. Many homeowners have also had negative experiences with their architectural control committees; we have all read of the cases where these committees acted arbitrarily and without any common sense.

However, design review within an association has at least two purposes: to establish and preserve a harmonious design for a community and to protect the value of the property.

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

One might disagree with the need for external uniformity, for example, but the fact remains that if the association documents require external uniformity, that is the law of the association and is binding on its members. You should read your association documents carefully ndash; preferably before you buy -- to learn the scope and purpose of the architectural review committee.

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

Courts that have addressed architectural review cases have made it clear that covenants are valid and enforceable so long as there are clear, written guidelines spelling out the overall standards. For example, it is not enough to say that owners may not make changes to the exterior without first obtaining the written approval of the architectural control committee.

If specific guidelines have not been developed, nor circulated to all homeowners, neither the unit owner nor the review board will have any objective standards by which to judge the proposed external change. And without such standards, even the most well-intentioned committee can be accused of being arbitrary.

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

You should also be aware that the following will be valid defenses by a unit owner when the committee tries to seek enforcement of the architectural standards:

bull; Arbitrary and capricious actions have been taken. The architectural standards must be applied fairly and consistently, and in good faith.and if something occurs in a unit such as a pipe bursts that only serves that unit the owner is obligated to pay the condo deductible, regardless of fault. Section 5

It is improper for the architectural review committee to pick and choose the enforcement of the covenants.

bull; Delays, or "laches," have occurred. This means that the committee has permitted a lengthy period of time to elapse before taking action against a unit owner. For example, one court ruled that a boards six-month delay in filing suit against an unauthorized fence barred the board from enforcing the covenants.
If a unit owner is in violation of the architectural standards, or at least the committee believes there is a violation, prompt action must be taken to assure compliance with the standards.
bull; A waiver has been granted. Basically, if the committee fails to enforce a covenant in the case of one homeowner in similar situations, it may be prohibited from enforcing those same standards against another homeowner.
bull; Often, the association documents require that the committee make a decision within a specified period of time for example 60 days from receiving the request or the request "will be deemed to have been approved." Since you are on the committee, make sure you read your documents and follow the language carefully. If you must act on an owners request within 60 days, it is not acceptable to reject the owner on the 62nd day.

All too often, architectural control committees have been accused of asserting dictatorial powers. Indeed, in one large local community, the architectural control committee has been referred to as the "KGB." According to one report, committee members were often seen "prowling around the neighborhood with their clipboards, looking for violations."

Often, architectural control committees become obsessed with minor, petty violations and lose sight of reality and common sense.

A considerable amount of money has been spent by both homeowners and boards of directors in litigation that should never have been brought.

Your committee must sit down with any homeowner who is alleged to have violated the architectural standards and try to work out an amicable resolution of the problem.

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

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Eye on Nashville: Why Music City is Now a Top Five Real Estate Spot

ldquo;Nashvilles real-estate market bounded ahead of Seattle, Los Angeles, and other major markets as the nations fifth-surest investment bet for 2019, according to one of the industrys most comprehensive and influential reports,rdquo; said The Tennessean. ldquo;In the study, Nashville rose from 9th to 5th place this year.rdquo;

Nashvillersquo;s reputation as a top music city may be largely responsible for its growth over the last few years, but, thatrsquo;s only the beginning of the draw today. "Its really a story about affordability, employment growth, population growth and employment stability," Mitch Roschelle, a PwC partner, said in The Tennessean. "One thing thats really important now is no state income taxes. Thats becoming a bigger and bigger factor when people start making choices about where they want to live."

If yoursquo;re considering a move to Nashville, or simply looking for a place to put down roots, this top five real estate market may be for you.

The music

Whether yoursquo;re an aspiring musician or simply love the idea of being in a musical city, Nashville could be for you. The Bluebird Cafe is ldquo;where greats such as Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift played before making it big,rdquo; said Bellhops. ldquo;You should also check out South Broadway Avenue, the veritable heart of country music. While Tootsiersquo;s Orchid Lounge is the most famous venue on this strip, you can walk into any honky-tonk at any time of day and hear live music. The Ryman Auditorium was originally a church built in the late 19th century. Now it is well-known as an historic, beautiful, and popular music venue that hosts shows of all genres.rdquo;

The affordability

Nashvillersquo;s home prices seem like a dream for those coming from pricier markets, although the reality is a little murkier for those coming from lower-cost areas, and, especially, long-time residents who have watched home prices rise steadily. ldquo;Nashvilles housing costs have jumped more than 70 percent in the past six years, as new residents flooded the city at a rate of about 100 people per day,rdquo; said the Tennessean. ldquo;The surging prices have shocked residents and rapidly displaced lower-income people outside the city center, creating an affordable-housing crisis. But the 250,000 median cost of a single-family home in the greater metropolitan area is still just below that of the overall U.S. market.rdquo;

To put that in perspective, SpareFoot notes that a 2017 study >

A bright spot for buyers: the new-home market, which led to Nashvillersquo;s No. 1 ranking for home-building markets in the ULI report.

Vibrant neighborhoods

Downtown Nashville is a dynamic spot within walking distance of Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium, and Broadway Ave. the main strip in Nashville, while Bellhops calls The Gulch ldquo;the fastest-growing neighborhood in Nashville. Located just a few blocks from downtown, this area boasts easy access to the interstate and some of the best new restaurants and bars in town. A word of caution: the cost of living continues to rise as The Gulch becomes more popular. For reference, though, it remains somewhat cheaper than downtown at the moment.rdquo;

Music Row is ultra-convenient to numerous recording studios, if thatrsquo;s your thing, but is also heavy on the rentals and college students. East Nashville ldquo;includes popular neighborhoods such as McFerrin Park, Greenwood, Lockeland Springs, Maxwell, and Eastwood. Through neighborhood revitalization, the focus of East Nashville has become more community-centered. Musicians, artists, and creatives have flocked to this neighborhood, which is now a haven for arts and culture.rdquo; Brentwood is 15ndash;20 minutes from downtown, meaning itrsquo;s still convenient for those who work in the city center but offers a more suburban-type environment with larger, single-family homes with yardsmdash;popular with young families and professionals.

The economy

According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nashville ldquo;had the lowest unemployment ratemdash;2.7mdash;of any metropolitan area in the US with over one million people as of February 2018. Nashville even beats out the metropolitan area of San Francisco, the US mecca of economic vitality,rdquo; said Quartz.

Bridgestone Tires and Vanguard Industries both have their headquarters in Nashville, and startups and tech companies like Emma and Cicayda are also abundant.

So much other stuff to do

ldquo;If theres one thing that Nashville, Tennessee is known for, its probably the country music. But yoursquo;d be pleasantly surprised to learn how much music city has to offer even if you donrsquo;t have a single country bone in your body,rdquo; said Bellhops. Have a picnic or watch a concert in Centennial Park, or stroll along the Cumberland River walkway, working up an appetite for the famous hot chicken. The cityrsquo;s abundant restaurants and breweries cater to just about anything you have a craving for. ldquo;Nashville cements its lsquo;It Cityrsquo; status with eclectic and fine dining establishments, such as City House and the Catbird Seat,rdquo; said Livability in its look at ldquo;8 Reasons to move to Tennessee."

The sports

Whether or not a city has its own professional sports teams can and does drive migration to the area. So many of those who are moving to Nashville love the fact that they can support the local NFL team, the Tennessee Titans, and the NHLrsquo;s 2017 Stanley Cup finalists, the Nashville Predators.

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Are You Torturing Your Trees?

Whether you inherited trees when you bought your current real estate or yoursquo;ve planted trees yourself, their value to your property, your life>

Yet in spite of loving your greenery, are you unknowingly torturing your trees?

ldquo;What me?rdquo; you say in shock. Do you recognize yourself or your neighbors in the behaviors listed below?

Compaction Suffocates Trees

Is the soil around your trees so compact, that adequate oxygen and water do not reach tree roots? No, you say, but did you recently have landscaping equipment or construction vehicles on or near your property? Even many people walking around a tree can compress soil when moisture levels are high and soil is soft. Soil compression by machinery or foot traffic reduces soil pore size and restricts oxygen and water availability for tree roots. If the surrounding soilmdash;up to three times the diameter of the leaf canopymdash;is significantly covered with patio stones or pavement right up to the tree trunk, the tree may be suffering. This hard surface results in reduction of available oxygen and water for tree roots which can restrict tree growth or eventually kill the tree.

Remedies: Enlarge Tree Protection Zones, which should be set-up before construction begins, to reduce compaction. Do not park cars or other vehicles under a tree canopy or on the root zone of a tree. Depaving projectsnbsp;to free hard-surface-bound sidewalk and playground trees remove suffocating pavement and let soil and tree roots breath again. Contact a professional arborist before working under a tree or when compaction may have occurred.

Not Heal, But Seal

Have you weed-whacked or mowed around a tree trunk and scratched the bark or taken a chunk out of the trunk in the process? Broken a branch off lately? Dug through a root or two? Fastened anbsp;slacklinenbsp;to a tree and damagednbsp;the bark or strained the tree with your weight? ldquo;No problem, the tree will healrdquo; may have been your reaction, but yoursquo;re dead wrong. Trees do not heal. No bandaids for them. Trees can only compartmentalize or ldquo;wall-offrdquo; an injurymdash;that is, slowly grow a ldquo;boxrdquo; around the damage and seal if off. Because this is not a quick reaction, bacteria, fungi, or pests may invade the weakened area and make matters worse before the tree can complete the seal. Your quick, perhaps thoughtless, actions may cause damage that the tree can not seal itself off from leading to its death.

Remedies: Be cautious when you weed-whack, mow, play, construct, or dig near trees. Warn others to do the same. Consult an arborist beforehand. Prevention of damage is the only effective remedy when it comes to trees.

Mulch May Cause Problems

Which works? Donts L or Volcanos R? Donuts, not volcanosmdash;thatrsquo;s the correct application of mulch that will not damage tree trunks. Mulch, or organic material like wood chips or straw, improves moisture levels and suppresses weeds. However, pile mulch up against a tree trunk and moisture will build up and make it easier for pests, bacteria, and fungi to damage the trunk and undermine the treersquo;s health.

Remedies: Mulch in a donut shape that is away from the trunk like the attached photo. Avoid dyed varieties of wood chips and stick to natural.

Wrong Tree or Wrong Place

Planting the right tree in the right place sounds like an obvious decision, but enthusiastic gardeners donrsquo;t always search out the professional input they need to successfully make this choice. Whatrsquo;s best for the tree is best for the property owner. The wrong location for a particular species will weaken the tree making it more susceptible to disease or pest attacks. The tree suffers unnecessarily and the owner stares at an expensive, unsightly dying tree. Growing healthy, beautiful trees, in the right type of soil and at the right moisture level, avoids problems, reduces maintenance, and celebrates the beauty of nature.

Remedies: Ask an arborist or professionals at nurseries, tree maintenance companies, or tree-planting nonprofits which tree species works best for your soil type, moisture levels, light conditions, and general location. Theyrsquo;ll also help you avoid local invasive trees. Take a look at whatrsquo;s thriving near your property and ask about those species. Native trees will do best.

Trees Wrongly Take The Rap

Trees provide benefits, therersquo;s no doubt about that, but they get blamed for two misunderstood headaches that property owners often complain about:

1. Leave Leaves Raking leaves can be a backbreaking task for property owners. The current intelligence on this issue tells us to leave leaves on the garden. Leave them on over winter to protect plants and to provide habitat fornbsp;local ground-dwelling bee species, which are usually more important pollinators than imported honey-bees. The leaves will breakdown over winter. Even oak leaves are easier to handle in the spring. Lawn-lovers are encouraged to mulch leaves or go over them with a mower.

2. Roots Donrsquo;t Deserve The Blame Most tree roots are contained in the top two feet of soil. They radiate out from the trunk, largely in search of water, nutrients, and oxygen, extending as much as three times the width of the leaf canopy. If there is a crackmdash;tiny or otherwisemdash;in a pipe, drain, foundation wall, patio, or driveway within this root zone, the tiny fibrous root tips will be attracted to leaking or accumulated water and to higher oxygen levels. Over time, theyrsquo;ll work their way into the drain, pipe, foundation wall, or driveway cracks and grow larger. Tree roots do not cause the initial problem, but they are attracted to the accumulation of water and oxygen that may result from it and wrongly end up with the blame.

Want to easily learn more about your trees and the tree canopy?nbsp;

bull; Is your town a Tree City USA Community? Find out now. The Tree City USA program has ldquo;greened uprdquo; more than 3,400 communities across America since 1976.
bull; Whatrsquo;s your carbon footprint? If everyone lived like you, how many planets would we need? Try the Carbon Dioxide and Planetary Footprint Calculator to learn where you stand for trees.
bull; Volunteernbsp;as a tree tender or in many other ways to enhance and protect your forests. I just completed a Tree Tender course where I learned all the above and more. Amazing experience. The US Forest Servicenbsp;provides details for managing trees, evaluating worth, and selecting species to grow. For an insider look at the world of trees, check out the Forest Servicersquo;s free 128-page PDF ldquo;Landscape Stewardship Guide.rdquo;
bull; Start celebrating Arbor Day now, so yoursquo;ll be more than ready whennbsp;nbsp;April 26, 2019nbsp;arrives.nbsp;

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Layering on the Luxe: Jewel Tones for Fall and Winter

ldquo;After years of taking our collective home decor in a more neutral direction were looking at you, inoffensive beige, gray, and granite color schemes, were finally branching out and allowing some color back into our homes,rdquo; said Realtor.com. ldquo;These bold huesmdash;deep sapphire blues, vibrant emerald greens, and intense, regal purplesmdash;can transform a room from a boring, vanilla box into a lusciously rich and cozy space you never want to leave.rdquo;

Here are five ways to incorporate jewel tones into your deacute;cor.

Pay attention to the details

You donrsquo;t have to be so bold as to layer an entire room in jewel tones But wersquo;d love it if you did. With jewel tones, the right placement is everything. ldquo;When applied to everything from paint to upholstery, jewel tones can transform any room into a sumptuous refuge or a light-filled bijou box depending on the shade,rdquo; said Architectural Digest. We love how the sapphire blue stands out against the muted walls in this Manhattan living room, where ldquo;walls and shelves brim with beloved art, books, and objects. The artist worked with designer Fernando Santangelo to create rooms that call to mind a timeless New York >

Create the right combinations

Creating harmony in your interior isnrsquo;t about choosing the right color. Itrsquo;s about choosing the right color story. That means all the colors in your space need to work together. When it comes to developing that story, you can easily use a few pops of jewel tone boldness in a neutral palette, which will allow your space to blend in this fall and winter home trend without going too far over the edge. Feeling a little braver? Good. ldquo;Pair bold with bold: Jewel-tone colors work best when they have the ability to play off another bold color,rdquo; said Freshome. ldquo;Rather than only using one shade in a room, choose two or three to create a strong sense of contrast. Just check the color wheel first to make sure that the colors you choose go together well enough.rdquo;

Go metallic

Jewel tones create a luxe look, and thats especially true when you add in a little metallic. ldquo;Yoursquo;ve no doubt noticed how good gold bracelets or silver necklaces look when combined with jewel tones,rdquo; said DreamCasa. "Metallics are the perfect complement to saturated ruby, sapphire, and emerald-colored hues if you want a space thatrsquo;s cozy yet fancy. Nothing grounds a space better than a richly colored rug. Finding one with jewel tone colors and a gorgeous design you love is the perfect place to start when redecorating a room. By using the rugrsquo;s color palette, yoursquo;ll have an easier time figuring out which items and colors will work best when introduced to the space.rdquo;

The power of paint

Jewel tones donrsquo;t have to be >

One of our favorite ways to use paint, especially in the beautiful shades of the moment, is on cabinetry and built-ins. You may not be ready to paint your kitchen cabinets fuchsia, but how much do you love these vivid built-ins?

Tempt with textiles

Silk and velvet take jewel tones to another level, providing a plush feel that suits the rich hues. Velvet is the textile of the moment, so the choices are vast. You can create a luxurious and >
Full Story >

Is There Anything Left to Flip?

And therein lies the problem. With so many homes flipping and home flippers competing for the same properties, how does one even go about finding a place to buy these days?

We have some ideas.

Work with a savvy real estate agent

This is key because your exposure to distressed properties will be limited. Also, a savvy real estate agent may have connectionsmdash;the kind of connections that could find you a flip before it hits the market.

Keep your eye on really distressed properties

Pass by an eyesore on your way to work every day? Is there a house down the street with an unkempt lawn and noticeable deferred maintenance? You never know whatrsquo;s going on inside, but your Realtor may be able to find out. You could be in the right place at the right time to get a great deal and even help out someone who needs a hand by getting them out from under the home before itrsquo;s taken by the bank.

Go where the projected growth is

It may already be too late to score in a place thatrsquo;s on one of those fastest-growing cities lists. Prices may have appreciated past the point of potential profit on a flip, and inventory is likely low. Instead, pay attention to cities that are projected to be on the rise so you can get in before everyone else does.

Look for estate sales

"What they could do to make it easier is combine the two. You know, Mr. Kline died yesterday, leaving behind a wife, two children, and a spacious three-bedroom apartment with a wood-burning fireplace." mdash; Billy Crystalrsquo;s Harry on the difficulty of finding a place in NYC in When Harry Met Sally

Turns out Harry was on to something. If yoursquo;re looking for a house to flip, you have to get creative. Poring through the MLS for a house may yield a winner here and there, but the competition from other would-be flippers is gonna be fierce. That probably means that if you do find something flip-worthy, you may end up paying more because yoursquo;re bidding against other people, and that will reduce your potential profit. Does that mean checking the obits? Probably not. But estate saleshellip;now thatrsquo;s another story.

Check in with landlords

Are there any rentals in your neighborhood? Maybe one of the owners would be willing to unload an underperforming home. Maybe that same individual doesnrsquo;t want the hassle of getting it ready for sale.

Donrsquo;t be afraid of the city

Dingy downtown areas in many cities across the country have turned many a would-be real estate investor into a flipping pro. In many cases, these buyers took a chance on an area that many would have described as ldquo;iffy.rdquo; Investors often call these ldquo;transitioning areasrdquo; and some pros, like Christina El Moussa from Flip or Flop, go right ahead and call them bad neighborhoods. These areas can provide great bang for the buck if you choose right.

ldquo;It seems like one year a particular neighborhood will be really lsquo;badrsquo; with a lot of vacancies and a high crime rate,rdquo; said El Moussa on Real Estate Elevated. ldquo;The next year the crime rate will be a little lower, and therersquo;ll be fewer vacancies. The year after that, itrsquo;ll be an affordable neighborhood, and before you know it, people are paying a lot of money to get houses in the area.rdquo;
Donrsquo;t be afraid of the suburbs
Have you heard? The lsquo;burbs are hot, even with millennials, who many thought would always embrace the city life>

Watch for moving trucks

Therersquo;s a scene in the Sex and the City movie where Miranda, in searching of a new apartment in New York, runs into a building to inquire about a vacant apartment because she saw men loading up a moving truck out front Apparently, all of our best ideas for finding a flip should come from movies filmed in New York. While no one is recommending you go running into a home as someone is moving out, the moving truck is something to look out for in target neighborhoods. Someone whorsquo;s moving out under curious circumstancesmdash;no one in the neighborhood knew the home was for sale, itrsquo;s late at night, etc.mdash;is someone you may want to pay attention to. It could be a foreclosure situation or some other opportunity you want to take advantage of before someone else does.

Look at auctions and foreclosure listings

ldquo;The first step in successful fix-and-flipping is finding the profitable property in the first place. You can call it investorrsquo;s common sense to look for properties in the best areas selling at low prices,rdquo; said Do Hard Money. ldquo;However, many new real estate investors come up empty-handed month after month until they finally give up in frustration. This is because theyrsquo;re all doing the same thing: theyrsquo;re looking in the same place. Most of the new flippers look on the MLS for potential properties. Dare to do differently. Look for properties by lesser-known means, such as foreclosure listings, estate sales, short sales and real estate auctions.rdquo;

Check the schools

Donrsquo;t have kids? Doesnrsquo;t matter. Your buyer may, and that means the schools are important. And, in truth, even buyers who donrsquo;t now or may never have kids still seek out good schools because of their positive impact on home values. ldquo;If yoursquo;ve found an affordable home in a neighborhood thatrsquo;s on its way up, your next step is to research the local schools,rdquo; said Money Crashers. ldquo;Homes in good school systems sell faster, and command higher prices, than homes in mediocre or poor school systems. Use websites like GreatSchools, SchoolDigger, and Niche to see rankings and reviews of local schools.rdquo;

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Dryer Vents, Noisy Neighbors and Yard Sales

Question: How frequently should dryer vents in common wall HOAs be cleaned and repaired?

Answer: Dryer vents are the source of fires and water damage leaks in the ceiling so should be checked and cleaned at least once a year or when alerted by residents. Surveying the exterior vent openings determines the scope of work since its easy to see evidence of lint buildup. Removing selected vent covers and using a shop vac with extended hose attachment to remove the lint usually does the trick although a snake with pipe brush attachment may be needed to remove heavy buildup. Be careful to use appropriate equipment based on whether you are cleaning solid metal or plastic pipe versus the more flimsy flexible plastic pipe. The wrong kind of snake will easily damage the flexible pipe.

Clean only those vent pipes that have an obvious need except in the cases where there is documented interior water damage. In those cases, cleaning is necessary to remove water from the vent pipe. It may also be necessary to open the ceiling to correct the vent pipe orientation since water leaks from laundry vents are usually caused by a flexible pipe that has bellied out.

Vents with broken exterior flappers should be replaced to prevent bird nesting. This should be done as necessary when alerted by residents, management or maintenance.

Question: We have had repeated noise problems from a neighboring resident. We have endured everything from the radio blaring first thing in the morning, to parties with his drinking buddies late at night, to being awakened in the middle of the night by his vacuuming and furniture assembly. Honestly, who needs to be hammering at 1:40 am? We have tried every nice way we can think of including notes and phone calls. What can we do?

Answer: Disturbing the peace is against the law. Youve done what any reasonable person could do. Remind your neighbor in writing one more time how many times you have requested his cooperation and inform him that the next time it happens, you will call the police. And DO it. If he insists on being inconsiderate, he should reap the consequences.

Question: I asked permission from the board for a yard sale. The board responded that yard sales were not permitted due to Aliability issues.

Answer: Life is fraught with risk but yard sales don=t generally come to mind as high risk activities. It sounds like the board has been terrorized by an attorney or insurance agent. Usually, the issue in HOA garage/yard sales is the additional traffic and parking they generate. Some HOAs have almost no extra parking or narrow streets so sales create a real problem. In those situations, sales are not appropriate. If this isnt the case, the board is overreacting.

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How Conforming Loan Limits Are Set Each Year

Here in just a couple of weeks, some important economic data will be reviewed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA. This new data will then impact the new conforming loan limits for 2019. Mortgages are considered either a ldquo;conformingrdquo; or ldquo;jumbordquo; based upon the amount borrowed. Conforming loans that are underwritten to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards are at or below 424,100 for 2018. Anything above that amount is considered a jumbo loan. One short caveat however, in areas deemed ldquo;high costrdquo; there is another category called high balance conforming but in most parts of the country, a loan is either conforming or jumbo.

Historically, conforming loans have slightly lower interest rates compared to a jumbo loan. Conforming loans also ask for a lower down payment. Jumbo loans typically ask for a down payment of anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of the sales price. So, who sets these limits and how? Each October, FHFA reviews the median home values for the United States, more specifically the Housing Price Index, or HPI, and compares that number with the previous yearrsquo;s data. If there is an increase in median home value from one year to the next, the conforming loan limit will be increased accordingly. For instance, if values increase by 5.0, the conforming loan limits will be increased by 5.0 for the following year. The new limits are announced in November of each year. If values fall, the previous yearrsquo;s loan limit will remain the same until the next evaluation.

Conventional conforming loans are by far the most popular choice among home owners and practically every single mortgage lender offers either a Fannie or Freddie loan. With such a large market share that also means more places to get a conforming loan which leads to more competition among mortgage companies. Lenders compete based upon service and rates and more competition keeps mortgage rates in check. Thatrsquo;s one of the reasons why interest rates from one lender to the next are very near one another.

We can anticipate higher conforming loan limits for 2019 as home values over much of the country have appreciated in value, we just donrsquo;t yet know by how much. But we will soon know once the HPI for 2018 is reviewed and >
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California Adopts Changes to Landlord-Tenant Notice Periods

Specifically, those notices are the ones known as i a three-day notice to pay or quit, ii a three-day notice to perform a covenant duty under the lease, and iii a five-day notice to file an answer to an unlawful detainer eviction suit. Crucial to such notices, as is the case with performance clauses in contracts, is defining how days are to be counted.

Under current California law, for the notices in question, the days to be counted begin with the first day after the notice is served. However, if the last day for performance is a weekend or holiday, it is excluded from the counting. California Code of Procedure sect;12.

Some examples:

1. If, on Monday, I am given a three-day notice to pay, then I must pay within the days Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
2. If I received the three-day notice on Wednesday, then Thursday and Friday are counted, but Saturday and Sunday are excluded from being performance days. The final day for performance would be Monday, provided it is not a holiday.
3. If I receive the notice on Friday, and Monday is a holiday, then my last day for performance would be Tuesday. Friday and Saturday, as well as the Monday holiday, are included in the counting, they just canrsquo;t be required as a performance day.

AB 2343 changes current law with respect to which days can be counted when a tenant is given notice. Now, not only are weekends and holidays not days when performance can be required, but also, they are not days to be included in the counting. The only days to be counted are so-called court days, i.e. Monday through Friday, provided that none is a holiday.

When the new law becomes effective, if I am served with a three-day notice on Friday, counting will not begin until Monday. My last day for performance, presuming no holidays are involved, would be Wednesday.

Does this make a big difference? It probably would if you only had Monday to deal with paperwork, perhaps secure a loan, or any of a number of easily-imagined scenarios. Proponents of the bill had stated ldquo;Legal services programs throughout the state report that they are visited by frustrated tenants every day who are able to resolve the situations leading to their eviction, but not within the extremely narrow time provided by California law.rdquo; This was a particular concern with the five-day notice to respond to an eviction filing.

As it is, the original version of AB 2343 sought considerably more than what survived through the amendment process. The original version had proposed that the three-day notice periods be extended to ten days, and that the five-day notice period be extended to fourteen.

The bill was co-sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the California Rural Legal Foundation. It also had the support of a variety of tenantsrsquo;-rights groups. The bill was opposed by, among others, the California Apartment Association and the California Association of Realtorsreg; CAR. After the amendments, CAR withdrew its opposition.

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Clever Ways To Give Your Small Bathroom Some Pop And Make It Look Larger

Cover those walls

The old-school wallcovering is back in a big way, and you dont need a big space to make it work. In fact, the right print and some complementary details can make a small bathroom the most impactful room in the home.

Consider the vanity

The floating vanity trend looks great in any type of space, but it was tailor-made for a small bathroom. Because it doesnt extend all the way to the floor, there is an airiness you wouldnt get with a traditional vanity. You can find versions with built-in storage, because who doesnt need a place to put a hair dryer?


Or, go for the vintage look one of the hottest trends in bathrooms today. This version mounts to the wall, taking up the least amount of space possible, but still offers a clean and crisp look.


Keep the color consistent

And, keep it light and bright. This bathroom packs a lot into a compact space, but the color palette keeps it feeling airy. And the upscale materials, with marble tiles used in contrasting shapes, add a glam feel.


Get artsy

Who says you can only display "bathroom->


Focus on the details

Keeping the palette bright white makes this space feel breezy and allows the snazzy details to stand out. A herringbone shape on the floor adds interest, and the modern brass fixtures would look amazing in any size bathroom.


Dont forget about storage

Creating a sleek and stylish bathroom in a small space is enough of a challenge without having to think about where youre going to put everything. But, if your bathroom isnt just a space for occasional guests or even if you just need a place to store the extra toilet paper, storage has to be a consideration. Whether its a vanity with drawers, baskets you put on open shelving, or a custom cabinet, there are a lot of options. Apartment Therapy has some great ideas here.

Make tile your friend

There are a number of tricks you can use with tile to make your bathroom feel more expansive. "Set floor tiles diagonally to increase the perceived size of the floor," said SF Gate. "Choose rectangular wall tiles and set them horizontally on the walls to increase the perceived width of the space. Use the same color of tiles on the floor and walls to reduce the difference between wall and floor. If possible, carry the floor tile up the wall behind the fixtures, right to the ceiling. This visually expands the wall height."

In thisnbsp;New York City bathroom, zig-zag tile runs "straight into the shower stall," said House Beautiful. The lack of interruption creates a larger feel.


The horizontal bands of mosaic tile in this shower dont only add interest, but also elongate the back wall, making the space look larger. The glass surround also creates a more open feel and unique touches like the countertop sink, distinctive mirror, and light fixtures add more jewelry to the room.


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Condo Renovations: Making The Most Of Your Space

Many buyers are now families or young couples with a baby on the way. They dont want to rent but cant afford to buy a house. Or some, regardless of age, dont have the time or inclination to maintain a home.

Condo suites are smaller than they used to be, so it pays to renovate to make the most of every inch and to make the space functional for everyday living and entertaining.

Designer Sabrina Bitton, an expert in all things space saving and clever, recently transformed her 825-square-foot suite into a showpiece of good, functional, flexible and space-efficient design. Her suite offers the clean-lined and less-is-more sensibilities todays buyers want.

She embraces European design, with a dash of Frank Lloyd Wright bringing the outdoors in while ensuring no space is wasted, she says.

Her original two-bedroom suite had large windows in the living room and master bedroom, the rooms side by side at the end of the suite. Bitton removed the master bedroom wall and incorporated the square footage and windows into the living space.

She sealed up the doors to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom and lined the walls with floor-to-ceiling custom millwork. Instead of extending the built-ins to the end of the living room wall, she added open solid walnut shelving to provide an airy feeling and to offer a place to display treasured items.

Walnut is used for several features throughout the suite, bringing a touch of nature and creating a sense of flow between rooms.

The kitchen includes walnut shelving and a walnut island. To create maximum storage space, Bitton took advantage of the nine-foot-high ceilings and extended the built-ins to the ceiling. The high space is ideal for storing large boxes of out-of-season clothing and seasonal items that dont need to be accessed on a regular basis.

Vents for heating and cooling are hidden behind cupboard doors and kick plates, with slits to keep the air circulating.

Storage space is always a challenge in condos, so finding creative ways of adding more makes the unit more functional. "I have so much storage space that some cupboards are actually empty," she says.

A clever "Bitton trick" is a bar-height island on wheels that fits over the existing kitchen island so it doesnt take up additional floor space.

When entertaining be it for a sit-down dinner for eight, a buffet or a large cocktail party, the bar-height island can be wheeled out to provide a separate table. Or it can be used as buffet space, a place to enjoy cocktails or additional work space.

Downsizers who arent ready to give up their sit-down eating space find this a particularly welcome idea, Bitton says.

She chose bar stools with lower backs so when theyre tucked under the bar, they dont obstruct the view from the kitchen. Bitton added a clear rectangular blown glass chandelier over the island to add drama without distracting from the view.

Seamless, clean-lined built-ins on another wall in the living/dining space include a fold-up desk, and a surprise. Instead of hard-to-reach cupboards at ceiling height, Bitton added pull-down rods so hanging clothes are easily accessible.

When renovating, figure out what you want, how to achieve and what you want to invest your money on. Bitton splurged on a comfortable sofa.

"Comfort is important. Also, since its a linear space, the curved couch adds a feeling of movement. You could also add an additional sleeping area by using a sofa bed."

In the second bedroom, which is beside the original master bedroom, a door was added to provide access to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom. More custom built-ins were added in the closet.

In the bedroom, the original closet doors were removed and the closet space was lined with walnut to create a headboard/nook for her bed. The window seat was extended from 18 to 24 inches to create a cosy sitting area. Custom built-ins were installed below the window seat and extended along the wall. An unused alcove space was filled with shelves and glass doors to create a fun display space for Bittons fancy shoes.

Light-coloured floors are used throughout, chosen over dark, which shows dust and visually closes in a space. Paint and window treatments are different tones of the same creamy neutral colour family. Doors are painted light grey to complete the Zen ambiance.

Before buying a new condo, Goodchild says its important to speak to the builder to find out what changes can be made. You may not want the kitchen thats there or would prefer to omit a wall, but the builder may not be able to accommodate your needs.

Few developers will allow preconstruction changes. In that case, choose the least expensive finishes for features you plan to remove, and then renovate with an eye to creating functional and multi-functional space, says Bitton, of Sabrina Bitton Interior Design. "Its all about creating smart condos."

Times have changed from 20 years ago, when condos were purchased primarily by retirees, Goodchild says. Now people in their 50s are buying too because they want less upkeep, more freedom and the ability to do more of what they want, including travel.

"Retirees still make up a large percentage of purchasers, but the under 35-year-olds find condo ownership appealing because they want to be downtown and be close to work. They want to have the ability to work, live and play in the same neighbourhood," Goodchild says. "Then they have children and sometimes stay."

Whoever the buyer, making the most of the space is key, says Bitton, who along with in-person service, offers Skype design consultation. A portion of her fee goes to charity.

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Easy Architectural Details You Can Add To Your Home

"Nothing jump-starts design envy more than walking into a home with stunning architectural details like interesting ceilings, textured walls, charming stained glass and more," said Apartment Therapy. "Dont despair if you dont have any built-in architectural details in your home; there are some ideas you can try that just might give your space a similar feel as those bursting with architectural character and charm."


If you have a Spanish or Mediterranean home, or just want to make your home look and feel like one, adding an archway can help.

"Here, we transformed an ordinary rectangular cased opening into a beautiful elliptical archway featuring fluted columns, and an arched header with keystone accents," said This Old House. "We used a prefabricated 4-foot Model B poplar elliptical-archway kit from CurveMakers. On day one, we prepped the existing opening. On day two, we completed the installation and painted."

Crown molding

Crown molding can transform the look of a space, taking it from blah to beautiful. And it doesnt have to be traditional.

"The three-piece crown molding on this upper kitchen cabinet matches the >

Ceiling Beams

"Ceiling beams can be added to any ceiling and come in a wide variety of >

You can also paint your beams for a different look.

"Wood beams can give a rustic or antique looks but painted beams bring a different type of warmth and character," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Dont forget to look up when designing your space. In this kitchen, the box beams on the ceiling are a sunny shade of yellow to match the cabinets. Exposed ceiling beams make a space with a high ceiling feel more welcoming."

Better Homes and Gardens

Another popular option is faux wood beams that give you the look you want without the weight of real wood. You can get a step-by-step guide to installing beams yourself here. Keep in mind if youre doing it yourself, higher ceilings may require stilts or scaffolding. If you have an issue with heights or are a klutz, you may want to consider hiring a pro.

Panel moldings

Plain walls can easily be dressed up by creating panels with strips of molding. If you can miter a corner and use a paintbrush, you can create standout room like this one.

Better Homes and Gardens

Accentuating the architectural details you do have

"Think you dont have any architectural details at all? Well thats just not true Youve got windows...consider painting the window frame a bold, contrasting color," said Apartment Therapy.

Or, paint your doors or your ceiling, like this one. Who wouldve thought this emerald green would be so inviting.

Tin ceilings

Another way to accentuate the ceiling is by applying tin tiles. Tin ceilings date back to the "1880s as an affordable way for people to dress up a rooms fifth wall," said This Old House. "Tin was not only an aesthetic upgrade, meant to emulate high-end decorative plaster, it also offered a measure of fire protectionmdash;a big concern at a time when home cooking, lighting, and heating were largely done with open flames."

Today, theyre used in modern spaces as well, to add interest up top with linear metal looks, corrugated metal, and an array of stamped tiles.

Reclaimed Home

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Are Extended Warranties Worth the Cost?

You can argue the benefits both ways.

In the fast paced world of home electronics, by the time the extended warranty expires, future technology will far out>

Consumerreports.com agrees. Their data concludes that the likelihood of most home appliances needing repairs in the first three years is less than one in five. And most defects will reveal themselves within the first year of use, while the manufacturers warranty is still good.

That said, extended warranties should be purchased for some items, including those that are difficult to repair or high-priced items that would be painful to replace. These include high ticket items like a 6000 Viking gas range or pricey hi-definition plasma TVs, suggests smartmoney.com

Since extended warranties do make so much profit for retailers, they are very aggressive about selling them to customers. If youre tempted, follow this rule -- the cost of the warranty should be no more than 10 of the purchase price.

And if you decide to skip the warranty, be prepared to shoulder the cost for assessment service calls, repair time in labor plus parts and shipping. Though its more of a hassle, this can be the most cost-effective measure. If you have a warranty option of 250 and you experience only one instance in the life of your appliance where it needs 100 of work, you could save 150, or 60.

Ultimately the choice and risk are yours to assume. Extended warranties can be worth the cost in terms of peace of mind, but only if its for a product you dont intend to change for a few years.

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3 Tips for Getting Started with Your Smart Home

These simple steps will help you get up to speed, choose the basics for your smart home, and start enjoying the benefits ASAP.

1. Make Sure Your Internet Connection Is Up to Speed

Before diving into the deep end with smart home gear, check your internet and make sure itrsquo;s up to the task of powering a smart home. Yoursquo;re going to want a >

While a single smart device isnrsquo;t likely to require much bandwidth, as you add more, the total can add upmdash;especially if you stream video or do other intensive tasks at the same time.

2. Choose Your Voice Assistant

Before you start buying a bunch of gear for your house, decide whether you want a smart assistant to help control it all. Amazonrsquo;s Alexa, Applersquo;s Siri, and Googlersquo;s Assistant are all great in their own ways, but the smart devices they integrate with for voice control vary quite a bit. That means you may need to select your devices based on which assistant theyrsquo;re compatible with.


Alexa offers by far the most integrations of any of the assistants. So if voice control of your smart home is important, itrsquo;s probably your best bet. You can get Alexa on smartphones and the Amazon Echo line of devices.


Of the three voice assistants, Siri has the fewest integrations, is available on the lowest number of supported devices Apple only, and is generally considered the worst of the three as a voice assistant. Siri is best if yoursquo;re heavily invested in Applersquo;s systems already. Siri comes on iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and HomePod speakers.


Google Assistant sits at a middle ground between Alexa and Siri. It offers fewer integrations than Alexa, but itrsquo;s by far the best as a digital assistant for questions, thanks to Googlersquo;s amazing machine learning abilities. Assistant can be found on pretty much any platform, including the Google Home smart speakers.

3. Start Adding Your Devices

Once yoursquo;ve decided which assistant is right for you, start looking for compatible devices. Some of the most common devices for smart home beginners include smart thermostats, video doorbells, and smart lighting.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat provide several benefits:

They learn your preferences, so you donrsquo;t have to adjust them much.
They are very energy efficient. Typically, the Nest will pay for itself in energy savings after about two years. Beyond that itrsquo;s all extra money in your pocket.
You can control them from your smartphone and adjust the temperature before you get home.

Nest isnrsquo;t the only maker on the market, but itrsquo;s probably the most talked about. It looks great, and it works great. What more can you ask for?

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells are becoming quite popular. You can see whorsquo;s there without having to get up, and even talk to them directlymdash;even if yoursquo;re not home. Theyrsquo;re also a nice deterrent to package theft, which is becoming more and more common. Ring makes a great video doorbell.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is another popular choice. Besides the usual smartphone control and automation, smart lighting like the Philips Hue comes in an array of colors. You can set the color and color temperature to pretty much anything you can imagine, which is amazing for setting the mood. The bulbs also last for years and use very little power, which is great for both your wallet and the environment.

There are many more smart home options to explore, and more are getting added all the time. But this list should get you off to a >

nbsp;Victoria Schmid enjoys writing about technology for the ldquo;everydayrdquo; person. She is a specialist in online business marketing and consumer technology. She has a background in broadcast journalism.

Full Story >

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