Updated: Saturday, May 27, 2017

4 Common Homeowner Association Security Errors to Avoid

Homeowners associations HOAs are more popular than ever. In 2015, 66.7 million Americans were members of a homeowners association, equivalent to 20 percent of the population, a Community Associations Institute study found. Unfortunately, the growth of homeowners associations has made them a more attractive target for burglars. Why? Seventy percent of HOAs are managed by elected volunteers, says HOA-USA.com, meaning that most HOA managers are amateurs at security. Here are four of the most common security mistakes homeowners associations make, and some tips on how to avoid them.

Failing to Conduct a Security Review

Many HOAs start off on the wrong foot by failing to conduct a security review, says SecurityNet.com. Without taking this basic step, you donrsquo;t know what vulnerabilities you have, so itrsquo;s impossible to take adequate counter-measures.

A thorough security review should begin with considering where you live mdash; different locations have different needs. For example, if your HOA occupies a high-rise or is spread out over a large area, you should probably have a professional conduct your review. A full review should be conducted at least every three years, but once a year is better. If you live in a high-crime area, you may need to do it as often as every six months, says HOALeader.com. Your HOArsquo;s security company will often give you a free review if theyrsquo;re your current provider.

Taking the Wrong Measures

Failing to conduct a security review can easily lead to taking the wrong security measures. After a high-profile crime incident, a common reaction is to panic and take measures that calm resident fears but donrsquo;t necessarily solve the problem. For instance, hiring a guard is a common response, but a guard only provides security in the particular area theyrsquo;re covering, which may leave other vulnerabilities unsecured.

A good rule of thumb is to use guards for situations where a human response is required to solve a security issue and to deploy technology where a human response is not required. When deploying technology, make sure to choose equipment thatrsquo;s up to the task. For instance, a cheap security camera may not be effective at capturing suspectsrsquo; identifying features, such as hair and eye color in low lighting. Be sure to choose a high-tech HD security camera system that can capture high-resolution detail even in low lighting.

Failing to Remove Landscaping Concealment Opportunities

Burglars depend on concealment, and allowing them opportunities to hide is another common mistake. Most homeowners associations remember to provide lighting, which is an important deterrent, but they often forget to remove bushes, hedges and low-hanging foliage that criminals can use for concealment, says Spectrum Association Management.

Make your landscaping less friendly to burglars by planting thorny shrub barriers at your HOArsquo;s main entrance and exit points, including the perimeters of parking lots and boundaries between neighboring communities. Keep shrubs narrow and low, and keep tree canopies trimmed. Flatten any vegetation that obstructs views of your HOArsquo;s parking lot.

Forgetting to Conduct Periodic Maintenance Checks

The best security equipment wonrsquo;t help you if itrsquo;s not working. Failing to establish a routine maintenance check procedure is another mistake HOAs often make. Assign responsibility for periodic maintenance checks to your HOA manager. Schedule regular checks of gates, lights, motion detectors, alarms, cameras, video recorders and any other security equipment. Lastly, its important to create an accountability mechanism to make sure these checks are conducted on schedule.

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How To Buy A House Without Going House Poor

How much house can you really afford? Is it the amount the bank tells you when preapproving your loan? Thats what most people go by, oftentimes spending up to their max approval amount to get as much house as possible - or to be able to afford something at all in tight markets.

The debt-to-income DTI ratio, along with your credit score, is what is used by lenders to determine your loan approval and amount. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus CFPB efforts to keep this number low notwithstanding, it has been rising to levels that are concerning to industry insiders who fear a widespread wave of homebuyers overextending themselves and becoming unable to support their mortgage payment and other obligations.

The CFPBs Qualified Mortgage QM Rule went into effect in 2014, intended to curb overleveraging by capping a borrowers debt-to-income DTI ratio at 43 percent. "This means that a borrowers total debt expense including total mortgage payment does not exceed 43 of their gross income before taxes are withheld," said the National Association of REALTORS NAR. The rub: Many loans Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration FHA, are exempt from the 43 percent DTI limit.

The impact higher DTIs are having on the market is clear; a new WalletHub report "analyzed data from 2,533 U.S. cities and ranked all of them on the basis of a lsquo;WalletHub Home Overleverage Score," said 24/7 Wall St, finding that, in many cities, overleveraging is becoming the norm. "The score was derived from a citys median mortgage debt, median house value, median income, mortgage debt-to-income ratio and mortgage debt-to-house value ratio." The top 10 are all well over the 43 percent threshold, with the top three - San Luis Obispo, California at 59.62; Williamsburg, Virginia at 58.76; and Brooksville, Florida at 57.44 pushing 60 percent.

Getting in over your head with a house, either from the get-go when first purchasing, or later on with a home equity line that increases your monthly payments, is a dangerous scenario for homeowners and for the market in general. So how do you keep yourself in check to make sure the house youre buying is one you can actually afford and that youre not in danger of becoming house poor?

Do your own calculations

The bank may be telling you that a 350,000 house is within your means, but are you OK with the monthly payment attached to that price? No one is more familiar with your spending habits than you. Are you really going to be able to cut 500 a month in discretionary spending eating out, movies, clothes shopping, morning lattes to comfortably make your new house payment?

Dont forget about the extra expenses

If youre buying your first home, you may not be estimating your new monthly expenses accurately. Did you include the HOA fee, if the community in which youre looking to buy has one? What about any special assessments, if there are any? And private mortgage insurance PMI if you have an FHA loan and are putting less than 20 percent down on your home. That couple hundred dollars could put you over the top.

Have you also considered your utilities? You may not be accustomed to paying gas and electricity and water and trash if youve been living in an apartment. There could also be an increase in the cost of electricity if you have more square footage to heat and cool.


Watch out for HELOCS

A home equity line of credit HELOC can seem harmless. I mean, its your money, right? And youre using it improve your home, which will only raise its value, right? But what seems like a great idea can also get you in trouble when you tap your home equity. You may be calculating the additional payment for now, but what happens later?

Thats the conundrum thousands are facing right now, as "HELOCs are resetting higher rates and overleveraging homeowners," said Inman. "An analysis bynbsp;Black Knight Financialnbsp;shows that 1.5 million home equity lines of credit will see interest-only draw periods end this year with outstanding unpaid principal balances that average 62,500 per HELOC. The data reveals that average borrowers whose lines of credit reset will face an additional cost of 250 per month, more than double the current average payment."

Keep an open mind

Finding a house you can afford may be challenging - especially for first-time buyers and those in competitive markets that push the affordability index. If you have tight parameters for your house hunt that are making it hard to find something within your budget, consider:

  • Extending your area search. You may not be aware of but your Realtor probably is adjacent cities or communities that offer a similar life>
  • Buying a condo or townhome instead of a single-family home. Some buyers have an automatic aversion to condos and townhomes because they dont like the idea of living attached. But your real estate agent may know of properties that are end units, that have private yards, and that are two-story units with no one above or below you. It may be that this is your best bet for homeownership you can really afford at this point, and you may find you like it far more than you expected - especially because so many of these communities come with great amenities like a pool and gym, plus front-yard landscaping that is taken care of, saving you time and money.
  • Looking at fixer-uppers. A little-known loan called an FHA 203k mortgage may be your "in" to a home you can afford and make your own. The bonus is that its also great for borrowers who may not have the credit and/or down payment to qualify for conventional loans. "The FHA requires a credit score of at least 580 if you want to make the minimum down payment; if you have 10 down, your score can be as low as 500," said Interest.com. "You can borrow more than the home is worth, as long as the repairs will increase its appraised value. The most you can borrow is 110 of what an appraiser estimates it will be worth after renovations, or the cost of the home plus the estimated renovation cost, whichever is less, minus your down payment. The minimum down payment on an FHA loan is 3.5."

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Landscaping to Improve Resale: 9 Projects That Fit Within Your Desired Price Point

As the weather starts to heat up each Spring, so too does the housing market. Spring is an optimal time to get your house ready to sell. The first thing that potential buyers will see of your home is the landscaping, so make a great first impression with beautiful outdoor spaces. An investment in landscaping can help sell your home faster and for more money. There are simple projects at every price point that can help you achieve great curb-appeal.


1. Keep the Lawn Well-Manicured

The easiest and most obvious landscape project when hoping to sell your home is to get your lawn looking its best. Spring is a great season to try to sell because your lawn is helped by Mother Nature. Wet, mild Spring weather will help the lawn stay green with less effort. To show off that green lawn, make sure to mow and edge it often.

2. Keep Your Yard Weed Free

It may not cost much, but it will require some time and effort to control the weeds around your property. Spray or pull weeds in flowerbeds, on property borders, and along the driveway. A weed-free yard will help potential buyers feel confident that the home is well cared for, which can create an overall positive impression of your home.

3. Add Flower Pots Near Your Front Door

A splash of color in the yard is a great way to highlight your home. If you are looking to sell quickly, it might be too late to do major yard improvements since new flowers and plants will not have adequate time to grow and mature, but a few beautiful pots of flowers strategically placed near your front door can have a similar effect without requiring a lot of time and maintenance.


4. Add Outdoor lighting

Outdoor lighting has become a trendy feature that buyers have embraced. Lighting can add interest to your yard, highlight areas of beautiful landscaping, and make your home stand out at all times of the day. Solar lights are particularly easy to use because they will recharge during the day and automatically come on in the evening to illuminate your home.

5. Install Curbing/Edging

If you have a little extra money to spend, consider adding curbing or edging around your yard. It helps the landscaping appear crisp and clean, and makes the lawn easier to mow and trim. Savvy buyers will appreciate the ease of maintenance and the defined spaces that curbing creates.

6. Hire a Lawn or Pest Control Company

It is important when selling a home to make sure that their arent any obvious problems. If your lawn is dead or patchy or you have pest problems like spiders, mice, etc, you will need to get those under control. Some of these projects are beyond the scope of what an individual without training can quickly achieve and should be left to professionals. Lawn care companies and exterminators can assess the issues you may have and recommend treatments. This may even be limited to a one time visit that can quickly improve the chances of selling your home.


7. Create Outdoor Living Areas

If you have money to invest in your home, high-end landscaping projects can increase your bottom-line and draw attention from buyers looking for upgrades. Extra living area outside of your home is a huge attention grabber that attracts buyers. This could range from simple patios staged with outdoor furniture, to screened in porches, to full outdoor kitchen areas. Depending on your location, these upgrades may or may not be worth the investment, so do your research before proceeding.

8. Replace or Update Fencing

Fences provide a safe place for children and pets and also give homeowners a feeling of privacy, so they are highly sought after. Fencing is also one of the first things people see when coming to your home. If your fence is an eyesore, it will be worth it to make the effort to have it replaced or fixed up. A new fence is quite an investment, so first determine if your fence can be spruced up with some nails and a new coat of paint.

9. Hire a Professional Landscaper

If you are serious about creating a stunning yard, a professional landscaper can add massive amounts of curb appeal to make your home one of a kind. A landscaper can help you add impressive things like paving stone walkways, decorative retaining walls, and water features. Outdoor improvements definitely increase house values, but it is always good to know what the market will support in your area before moving forward.

No matter how much money you have to invest in your homes landscaping, there are projects you can do this Spring to improve your homes curb appeal and get it noticed by buyers.
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Buyers Remourse: The Legal Ties That Bind

Question: We are both in our upper sixties and retired. Last October, we put money down on a condominium apartment that is to be completed around September of this year. We put down ten percent of the price in cash and the money is earning a modest amount of interest until settlement. We have some savings, but the balance would be paid in cash from the proceeds of the sale of our present home.

Although we believe the price of the condominium has gone up slightly since we signed the contract, we now have serious thoughts about apartment living and about putting most of our resources into this transaction because of some new and serious health concerns.

Is there any way we can cancel our agreement and not lose the down payment?

Answer: The lawyer in me says that a contract is a legally binding document that must be upheld. The humanitarian in me suggests that, at the very least, you should try to get out of the contract, especially with the facts you have described.

First, review the terms of the contract very carefully to determine your rights and responsibilities. Are there any contingencies in that contract, such as your ability to obtain financing or the necessity to sell your house? If any of these contingencies legitimately cannot be met, it is possible you have the legal right to declare the contract null and void.

Next, determine whether the contract can be assigned. Although most developer contracts are not assignable, it may very well be that you have the right to sell your contract to someone else. And even if you do not have that right, it never hurts to ask the developer.

For example, if the contract is for 100,000 and the market value now is 110,000, if you have the right to assign that contract, you may find someone who would purchase your contract for the contract price -- or even a few thousand dollars above the contract price.

The person who buys your contract would be obligated to follow through on all of the terms of your contract. In effect, the buyer would be stepping into your shoes, assuming all the rights and responsibilities you presently have.

As I have indicated, although most developer contracts do not permit such assignment, it is worth looking at this aspect of your contract.

Next, do not hesitate to discuss this matter with both the real estate firm representing the seller and try to speak directly with the seller. Explain your situation. They may be sympathetic. If the market for your condominium is anticipated to be strong, the seller-developer may be able to make more money by reselling the property to someone else.

Finally, you may want to consider buying the property and then trying to sell it yourself. Unfortunately, this is risky because there never is any guarantee you will find a buyer quickly and the duplicate settlement costs, financing charges and other settlement->You may also have to pay a real estate commission for that second sale. Realize that until the developer has sold most, if not all of the condominium units, you are competing against the house. And as we know, the dealer always wins.

You indicated you have put down a deposit of ten percent and you do not want to lose the money. However, there are times when a buyer would prefer to walk away from a transaction, lose the money and avoid subsequent aggravation.

Peace of mind sometimes cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Although I cannot recommend forfeiting your deposit, if this is an option you are willing to consider, make sure you discuss the situation with the seller before deciding. Sign a >Basically, if a buyer defaults on a real estate contract, the seller has three options available:

o Suing for specific performance, in effect, asking the court to require you go ahead with the transaction.

o Suing for damages if there are substantial monetary damages involved as a result of your failure to live up to your part of the contract. For example, if the seller has to resell the property at a lower price than your contract price, this would be the measure of damages.

o Electing to retain the deposit as the only remedy. Remember, if you decide to forfeit, make sure the seller agrees, in writing, that the only remedy will be the forfeiture of the deposit. This may also be spelled out in the form contract you signed.

Although I recognize that conditions often change and new circumstances often arise after a contract is entered into, it must be pointed out that, in most cases, the time to decide whether you want to purchase property is before you sign a contract.

After your signature is on the contract and you have given some money down as a deposit, you are legally bound to comply with all the terms and conditions of that document. Your fate basically depends on how the developer reacts to your situation.
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Ask the HOA Expert: Conflicts Of Interest On The Board

Question: Concerning the possible conflict of interest that develops with managers who are hired by HOA developers: In our HOA, the manager is the developer. We now have a number of construction >

Answer: This developer has an indisputable conflict of interest in serving as manager. The good news is the board has the authority to hire and fire management. Considering the likelihood of continued conflicts of interest, the sooner management is changed, the better. While its fairly common for developers to manage the HOA during the marketing phase of the development, once the authority is turned over to a board of homeowners, it is time to get an independent management company to do the work. Even a developer with the best of intentions cannot fairly serve two masters.

Question: If the governing documents state that maintenance of the common area is the responsibility of the homeowner association, can the board enact a policy that allows homeowners to plant flowers around their unit and mandate that homeowners maintain that area?

Answer: The board has no authority to enact a policy that contradicts the governing documents. Amending the governing documents requires an appropriate vote of the members "appropriate" means the percentage of members required in the governing documents.

Question: What are my options as an owner if the board and management company refuse to enforce one of the rules. Ive filed an official complaint and they refuse to act. Its a board member in violation.

Answer: "One of the rules" is a bit vague. Not all rules are created equal nor carry the same importance of enforcement. But assuming the rule in question is a flagrant violation like parking an illegal vehicle, harboring a killer pitbull or adding an unapproved addition to his house or condo, then you indeed have the right to question what is going on. A board member who thinks that rules only apply to others should not remain on the board for obvious reasons. Foxes guarding the henhouse seldom serve the chickens.

Your next move might include a petition signed by a significant number of owners 5-10 who agree with you. The petition should describe the specific violation and the need to correct or cease and desist. If that does not have the desired effect, a letter from an attorney might do the trick. Board members have personal liability for their HOA actions and some have been subject to sizeable fines for failure to heed that fact. Lastly, you have the right to run for the board to start making a difference. Its often easier to make changes from within than without.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net
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Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Continues Giving Spirit with Another Generous Donation to the St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital on Behalf of Her Client with the Agent with Heart Program

Las Vegas, NV May 22th, 2017 PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital on behalf of her client, Mikki Tran.

"Dana is proving to be an incredible asset within her community as she makes her fifth donation with the Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program is aimed to connect local realtors to nonprofits within the community with hopes of aiding in the growth of local communities nation-wide.

"We are grateful for the continued giving spirit Dana Roberts demonstrates with each donation, and look forward to seeing how her incredible generosity will continue to assist her community going forward. I would personally like to thank Dana for being a valued member of our Agent with Heart Program and for exemplifying the spirit in which our program was created," concludes Mr.Giaimo.

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit her website www.DanaRobertsRealEstate.com.
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Three Things Home Buyers Should Never Do

Talk to a home buyer who just lost out in yet another bidding war and youll hear genuine disappointment and frustration.

Listen to a buyer who found the perfect starter home, then asked probing questions only to discover undisclosed deal-breaker problems like UFFI, a significant foundation crack or both. Youll learn how anger and discouragement can go hand in hand.

Youll never hear me respond to these buyers with platitudes like "It wasnt meant to be." I encourage buyers to understand exactly why things didnt work out in their favor. Buyers determined to act in their own best interest must understand whats going on so they can make confident decisions.

Misunderstandings, problems, or shortcomings in the buying process many need correction to end negative results. This is not about blame, but learning how to proceed constructively:

  • Buyers who begin homeownership out of their financial depth are not on the path to success or happiness. Sticking to your budget is not losing out, but progressing sanely.
  • Research-savvy buyers, who ask questions and uncover deal-breaker property weaknesses will not end up as extremely-disappointed property owners faced with expensive problems to correct or law suits to fight.

Home buyers will be rewarded by remembering that there are three things never to forget when buying real estate:

1: Never quit: Real estate values continue to rise mdash; ra>

  • Most sellers care about who buys their home and will make new memories there. Personalize your offer with a video or unique offer. One enterprising chef offered to come and cook dinner for the owners once the offer was accepted. A couples short, punchy video showed what they had gone through to find that house and what they dreamed about doing there... all with magazine pictures cut out by their kids. You may not be creative, but be sincere with a letter or short video less than a minute or two that your real estate professional can use to introduce you and your offer to purchase.
  • The real estate market may change as you continue shopping. If prices rise, you may end up in the wrong price range. Explore other locations and types of housing. Buying a two- or three-unit income property may give you the financial leverage you need for the area you prefer.
  • Your >

2: Never >: Verbal assurances from sellers, home inspectors, or real estate professionals are worth the paper they are printed on In real estate, its whats on paper that counts[amp;mdash]what you can rove indisputably in a disagreement or in court.

  • Sellers may say theyll leave all the appliances, playground equipment, or anything else. If you really want something, include it in the offer with a description that precludes substitution with lesser models.
  • The real estate professional may assure you about many things the sellers will do or not do before closing. If something matters to you, make sure it is written into the offer, so there is no doubt what will be done, to what standards, when, and at whos cost. Repairing the roof, finishing the bathroom renovation, cutting deadwood out of tall treeshellip;all in writing in the offer.
  • If theres something of specific value to you on the property, make sure it will remain intact. For instance, a stand of trees was assumed by one buyer to be a permanent fixture. The sellers thought that, since theyd grown the trees, they could harvest the trees as firewood as part of packing to move. What did the offer say on the subject?
  • The builders sales staff want to expedite your new home sale, but they may not have the power to make binding promises, warranties, or guarantees. Be sure you get the home you expect, by having details that matter to you written into the offer. Read the entire offer[mdash;]yes all the small print. If you cant follow the clauses, ask your real estate professional. Translating legalese for clients is a prime function for these professionals. Check important issues and clauses with your real estate lawyer. If you only want the house if it has a three-car garage, not a two-car, its vital to get that commitment from the builder into the offer in the correct way to overcome any sidestepping made allowable by the small print.

3: Never think the work is over once the offer is accepted: Having your offer to purchase accepted is terrific Hurrah However, until closing, the house belongs to the seller and a lot can happen.

  • The seller is responsible for insuring the property and keeping it in good repair until closing.
  • Will the lender have all the mortgage funds ready for you on closing?
  • Both sides of the transaction need their lawyers tidying up loose ends. Youll be busy with movers and perhaps school transfers.

Things can go wrong. Im not trying to stress you out, but keep in touch with your real estate professional to be sure they are in touch with those finalizing the many details that must be resolved before closing. Thats not calling everyday in a panic. Clarify what details must be taken care of before closing. Then check off that list with your real estate professional, so nothing is left to the last minute. Once you get the keys and move in there may be carryover issues. Remain calm. Document the issues. Never quit until issues are completely resolved. Never >
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Arbitration Clause Removed From California Listing Agreement

A few weeks from now the California Association of REALTORSreg; CAR will >

Among those to be >Why would CAR remove the optional arbitration agreement? The official explanation is this: "The arbitration clause was removed from the listing agreements because some attorneys for sellers were using it to draw listing agents into contract disputes between buyers and sellers."

To understand this explanation fully, we need to realize an important difference between the optional arbitration agreements in the CAR listing agreements and the ones in the CAR purchase contracts. The difference is this: the arbitration agreements in the purchase contracts are between the principals -- buyers and sellers -- whereas the agreement in the listing agreement is between the agent and the principal -- the listing office and the seller.

If both principals buyer and seller have signed the optional arbitration agreement in the purchase contract, then, if a dispute arises between them and should mediation fail, they will be required to submit to arbitration. Going to court is not an option. Not being a party to the contract, neither broker would be required to join that arbitration proceeding; though either could if they so choose.

One can see, then, why an attorney might want to use the listing arbitration agreement "to draw listing agents into contract disputes between buyers and sellers."

There is, however, another reason that many listing brokers will be pleased to see the optional arbitration agreement removed from the listing agreement.

When arbitration agreements were first introduced into the various CAR contracts, many -- probably most -- California brokers welcomed that as one of the greatest cultural improvements since the catchers mitt, or sliced bread. They welcomed the notion of having disputes settled outside of the judicial process with all of its time-consuming frustrations and expenses.

But, over the years, brokers came to discover how badly they can fare in arbitration which can often be, well, arbitrary. Arbitrators do not have to follow the law. They can choose an outcome that they may perceive to be fair, even if it is not the one the law would provide. Many brokers have reached the conclusion that they are more likely to obtain a just decision in a court of law rather than in an arbitration. Moreover, an arbitrators decision is not subject to appeal, except in extreme cases of bias.

In short, over the years, many brokers have come to the conclusion that, should they become involved in a dispute with a principal, they are far more likely to get a fair shake in court than at the hands of an arbitrator.

But, some might ask, why remove the arbitration clause from the listing agreement? After all, its optional. Yes, it is optional; but, remember, the overwhelming majority of listing agreements are negotiated between sellers and individual agents who are representatives of the broker. Few agents have the faintest idea where their broker stands on arbitration and shame on the broker for that. Fewer still, even if they did know the broker doesnt want to commit to arbitration, would be comfortable telling their client that the broker doesnt want to sign the arbitration clause. Better to take it out, and leave that conversation for another day. Or no day at all.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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The End Of The All-White Kitchen? The Case For Natural Wood

A funny thing happened while everyone was obsessing over white kitchens: Natural wood snuck back in, creating some of the chicest spaces around.

For many, natural wood evokes a country feel. Or perhaps something ultra-traditional. But todays natural wood kitchens are modern showplaces that mimic the newest trends weve been seeing in wood floors.

"We predicted that natural materials and warmer finishes would rule the kitchen in 2017. One way were seeing this natural-material trend play out, thanks in part to the popularity of minimalism, is with unpainted, unfinished wooden cabinets," said Apartment Therapy. "The casual look combines the sleek >

Sound hard to pull off and still get the sleek look you desire? You might be surprised...

You know when youre watching House Hunters Renovations and the couple looking for a home to buy and redo always has diametrically opposed >

Is that... pine? With the right design, any type of natural wood cabinetry can look fresh and new.


With the stone walls, this kitchen could go full Tuscan, or full country French. But, the use of materials, with the natural wood, quartz, and stainless steel, and the clean lines everywhere else, keeps the kitchen looking fresh.


For a minimalist, modern look, why not run the wood right up the backsplash?


Like the integrated look but want a splash of natural materials? The color palette and materials here look amazing with the indoor-outdoor appeal of this space, and wrapping the island with a waterfall edge provides some contrast so the kitchen doesnt read "all wood."


The mismatched look has been hot for some time, and this kitchen shows you how to do it with natural wood. The texture on the bottom cabinets is the perfect way to show them off.


Natural wood in a mid-tone brown is also a great counterpoint to an all-white kitchen if youre not ready to take the plunge all over. Notice how the island has more traditional lines, juxtaposed against the modern white cabinetry.


Full Story >

Five Have-To-Have-It Summer Home Decor Trends

When summer rolls around, its not usual to walk into your favorite home goods store and be bombarded by beachy items. Its shells, and sand, and coral galore. But, this year, summer deacute;cor trends have veered in a few fun, new directions. If you havent yet started feeling like you HAVE TO HAVE PALM PRINT EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, you will soon. Its just one of the hot trends that will turn your home into a summer showplace.

Palm prints

The aforementioned palm prints are everywhere right now, from clothes to walls to window deacute;cor - part of the overall tropical print trend that Vogue says were going to see more "in wallpaper and designer fabrics." These drapes make a serious impact, especially against the black-and-white-striped rug. If you like the look but not in such a bold placement, try scattering a few palm print throw pillows or hit Hamp;M for what is sure to be one of the hottest tropical collections of the summer.

Or, you can go full "jungalow," embracing the trend that The Telegraph describes as, "exotic prints patterned with large-fronded ferns, and whimsical wallpapers bursting with big cats, crocodiles and mischievous monkeys, this season its all about Palm Springs-meets-Ibiza eclectism -- perfect for those looking for some exotic escapism."



Also hot for spring: flamingos. But were not talking about the hot lawn ornaments. No, the wading bird is showing up this season in some other surprising places, like on the walls. "While flamingo-themednbsp;partiesnbsp;are technically what has Pinterest tickled pink, we also expect to see the unabashedly fun motif have legs in the coastal design world, like in this fabulous wallpaper," said Coastal Living.



Rattan is, not surprisingly, part of the tropical trend, but the lsquo;70s throwback has a fresh new look. "Remember rattan? You saw it everywhere in the 70s: rattan chairs, rattan baskets, rattan patio furniture, and other wicker items," said Country Living. "Most often, rattan was confined to porches and the outdoors itnbsp;doesnbsp;make great weather-resistant furniture, but today, the trend is popping up inside, too. Also known as manila, manau, or malacca, the natural material and beautiful woven technique adds texture and richness to rooms and can suit many >



Florals are nothing new, especially at this time of the year. But the way theyre being presented is. Two hot trends to follow include:

  • lsquo;60s throwback prints. "Along with midcentury furniture and >
  • Bold floral prints, taking cues from runway looks from Prada and Chloe, like on this 3,352 Marcel Wanders Nest sofa by Moooi.


Paint colors

Summer is the ideal time to introduce a new color or two to your home and freshen up your space. Two of the most popular options every year at this time are pastel hues and citrus infusions, and that holds true for this year as well. A few of HGTVs recommendations include exotic orange, seaworthy coral, refreshing lime, and waters edge blue, a favorite choice because, "Nothing is as inviting as a cool body of water on a summer day," they said. "Get the same feeling in your living areas by immersing the room in this cool shade. For a dramatic effect, use the color on upholstered pieces, drapery panels and accessories."

Coastal Living

But its not only about vibrant citrus colors and soft, beachy vibes this summer. One of the hottest colors out there right now is navy blue, and when it comes to summer deacute;cor, this dramatic hue provides a worthy pop. "Though black has long been a decorating darling, designers are now enlisting Navy blue for their go-to dramatic hue. "When paired with pops of white, red, or yellow it has an especially beachy vibe," said Coastal Living.

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To Toss or Not to Toss - Your Guide to Organizing Your Keepsakes

Do you know how much space your keepsakes take up? If you had to leave your home quickly, could you locate your most treasured nonliving possessions within a few minutes? And what about the family members who will one day inherit all of this stuff: Will it feel like a blessing to them or a burden?

If you have a basement, a garage or an attic and perhaps a storage unit, too filled with boxes of stuff, you are not alone. Its easier to hold on to something than let it go. But the reality is, things have to go sometime mdash; why not start making those decisions now, before a fire, a flood or future >

Here youll learn how to confidently decide what is worth keeping for all time and what is not.

Begin box by box. Its emotionally draining work sorting through keepsakes, so dont push yourself to take on more than you can handle. This is not the same thing as going on a clutter-busting spree - some of the items you will be looking at may call up memories of people and experiences you havent thought about for many years. You may cry, get angry or get the urge to call up an old friend. In other words, dont march down to your storage unit bright and early on Saturday morning and expect to go through the entire thing by the end of the weekend. Pick up one box and go through it piece by piece, at your leisure. When its done and only then, go get another.

I find it helps to pick several categories of stuff that you can commit to completely doing away with. This saves a lot of painful, piece-by-piece decision making that can really bog you down. Following are a few categories to consider tossing.

What to Let Go

Other peoples memories

. The program from your sisters high school graduation, favors from your friends wedding, a pressed flower from your nieces baptism. >

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Short-term saves. Some things, like birthday cards, event programs and invitations, are nice to keep around for a while. Looking at your cards lined up on the mantel or pinned to your bulletin board after a birthday dinner can be a pleasant reminder of the people who love you, and a friends pretty wedding invite can look lovely on your bulletin board. But you dont need to keep them all forever.

Freebies. Swag from conferences, wedding favors and workplace giveaways have no business taking up valuable space alongside true keepsakes. Make a mental note to kindly turn down freebies the next time they are offered to you, unless you really want them. So often we take something just because it is free

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Once you move beyond these first categories of stuff other peoples memories, short-term saves, freebies, it gets a little more complicated. At any point in the process, if you are really having a hard time letting go of something that you want to let go of, put it in a separate bin or pile.

Dont worry too much about how big this pile gets; these are tough decisions to make, and you cant get something back once its gone. The goal is not just to get rid of stuff but to feel good about your decisions. You will be dealing with this pile, so its not a cop-out; its just buying you some time.

What to Consider Letting Go Next

Oversize mementos

. Sports trophies and giant school projects come to mind, but perhaps you have some other bulky items taking up space in your storage area. If something is too big to fit in a file box, give some serious thought as to whether it is worth keeping. A photograph of the sports event, awards ceremony or science fair will take up far less room, and will probably feel more meaningful down the road anyway.

Negative keepsakes. Some journal writing is really just venting - its the process of doing it thats important; you dont need to keep the work itself for posterity. As the author and editor of your life story, you get to make the call on what is included. This goes for photos as well as diaries: If looking at pictures of that old boyfriend who dumped you makes you feel crummy all over again, toss it out, for goodness sake

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Inherited stuff. Oh, this one is tough. I think it can help to think of the loved one whose belongings you now have as they were mdash; in other words, as a person struggling with editing their own possessions, just as you are right now.

Grams certainly wouldnt want you feeling weighed down by her china set, would she? Be honest about your feelings about the stuff you have inherited. Are you ever going to use it? Do you love it for what it is, or do you love it and hold on to it only because you loved the person who gave it to you?

My advice is to honor your feelings but respect your space. This might mean keeping a single soup tureen the one you remember from all those Sunday dinners and passing the rest along to another >

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Things that have not, or will not, age well. Some objects are just not meant to last. Give crumbling flowers, ancient pasta sculptures and badly damaged photos the heave-ho, and be aware of an items potential longevity before you save it the next time.

For instance, consider taking a photo of your son holding that Thanksgiving centerpiece mdash; you can still save the piece itself for a few years, and enjoy bringing it out as a table decoration, but when it begins to fall apart you can let it go without feeling bad.

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Remember, the fewer things you keep, the more special they will become to you mdash; and to those you love. Begin to think of yourself as the editor of your life story. When someone peeks into your boxes of treasures, what story will the photos, papers and objects tell? It is up to you to define the arc of your lifes tale. To highlight the best times, the things that have been most meaningful to you, and to let the less important details fall out of focus.

What to Keep

Reminders of triumph over adversity

. Remember how I said to toss photos of your no-good ex-boyfriend? Well, do that if you havent yet. But if you have a photo of you on that awesome postbreakup road trip with your best friend, put that puppy in a frame The most compelling stories include hardship; the key is to focus on how you have grown because of your challenging experiences.

Reminders of positive experiences. Your wedding day, a fabulous birthday party, a special trip with your mom - one of the main reasons we keep mementos is for their ability to bring up memories we enjoy >

The best representative example. You may cherish the memory of your wedding day, but you do not need to keep all 50 extra programs, every outtake the photographer sent you and an uneaten favor bag of Jordan almonds. Your favorite photographs and a few key mementos will hold more emotional power over the years than a giant boxful of wedding stuff. If you took 50 photos at a single birthday party, whittle them down to a handful that best capture the crowd and a few key moments.

The most loved. The teddy bear that went with your child everywhere, the little corduroy overalls that turned velvety from being worn and washed so many times, the toy with the most teeth marks - these are the sorts of things worth saving.

And this applies to grown-up stuff, too If there is a special piece of clothing that instantly brings to mind a delicious time in your life, go ahead and keep it, even if you know you will never wear it again.

One of my own most treasured keepsakes is my grandfathers hat. In so many of my memories of him, he is wearing this hat. I have a picture of myself as a little girl wearing the hat. And it still smells like his pipe tobacco - thats something a photograph just cant do.

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Finishing up and moving forward. As you get further into the process of editing your keepsakes, choose a special container to house the keepers. This container should be small enough for you to carry easily and sturdy enough to protect its treasured contents from mildew and critters. Keep your special box in the main part of your house, somewhere it can be quickly and easily located if you ever needed to evacuate.

As you work your way through all of your stuff, ask yourself of each item, Does this deserve a spot in The Box?

I urge you not to wiggle on this point. Dont make it two or three boxes. Just one box. Go ahead and keep a larger bunch of not-quite-so-important keepsakes in a different location, if you must, but when it comes to The Box, be ruthless. Over time you may come to realize that the stuff not in the box doesnt really need to be taking up all of that valuable real estate, and when you are ready, you can move on from it.

But having a single box of most treasured belongings is something wonderful in itself. If the rest of it disappeared, you would know it would be OK - that if this one box were left, it would be enough to be your legacy.

Also See

  • Display Some of Your Favorite Memories Up On a Shelf
  • Repurpose a Toy Organizer to Be Your Box of Keepsakes
  • Feeling Motivated? Tackle the Bathroom Next With Bathroom Sets

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Hey Millennial, Go Buy a House 9 Reasons to Stop Paying Rent Today

Still unsure about whether or not you should buy a house? Its a big commitment, obviously, and not just from a financial standpoint. But the rewards generally far outweigh any potential downsides for those who take the plunge. Need more convincing? How about the fact that:

Youre already paying a mortgage

That money that comes out of your account every month? Its going right into someone elses account. Doesnt that make you just a little bit mad?

To be clear, that someone else is making money off you

How about now, when you think about the fact that real estate continues to appreciate and youre not getting to appreciate that appreciation. "The national median existing single-family home price in the first quarter was 232,100, which is up 6.9 percent from the first quarter of 2016 217,200 and the fastest growth since the second quarter of 2015 8.2 percent," said the National Association of REALTORS NAR.Arent you tired of watching someone else make money while you sit in the place they own and try to figure out how to get ahead?

You need to express yourself

Not being able to put a coat of paint on the walls or hang some wallpaper or enjoy the countertops, cabinets, or flooring you picked out because your landlord wont let you make any changes is not cool. Sure, there are some temporary solutions to make your place look better, but nothing compares to having the freedom to do what you want, when you want, with your space.

It doesnt cost as much as you think it does

In fact, you may be paying more in rent right now than you would be for a house payment. A new NerdWallet analysis "showed that a majority of millennials would prefer owning to renting, but they appear to be postponing homeownership because of real and perceived difficulties in affording it." But, a report from Investors Business Daily shows that, "Paying a mortgage is cheaper than renting in 42 states." Is yours one of them?


Hardly anyone pays a 20 percent down payment anymore

Were you under the impression that you had to come up with a huge stack of cash to buy a house? Federal Housing Administration FHA loans are among the most popular options for all homebuyers, and for first-timers, they make a lot of sense. First, because the credit requirements are less stringent than other loans - in many cases, you can have as low as a 620 score. Also, you can qualify with as low as 3.5 percent down. On a 250,000 house, thats only 8,750.

"For home buyers, FHA mortgages require a 3.5 percent down payment with the fewest strings attached," said The Mortgage Reports. "This makes the FHA mortgage one of the most lenient mortgage types available nationwide. There are very few credit restrictions with the FHA loan and the agency allows your 3.5 down payment to comes as a gift from a family member, employer, charitable organization or government home-buyer program."

Rates are still ear their lowest point ever

Yes, theyve gone up a bit recently and are currently sitting a bit above four percent. But when you think about the fact that a decade ago they were over six percent and in the 1980s they were almost 18 percent, four percent looks a lot better, no?

Dogs are cool

Living in an apartment that doesnt allow animals? Thats pretty common. Trying to find a rental with a generous pet policy is near impossible. If you do find one, you can usually expect to pay a hefty pet deposit and monthly pet rent.


Your student loan debt isnt as much of a big deal as you think

Yeah, it stinks to have to be saddled with that debt just because you decided you should expand your education, get a degree, and make yourself more hirable. But jut because its a reality doesnt mean you cant improve your standing.

If you have student debt, mortgage investor Fannie Mays new rule changes "should make it easier for you to purchase a first home," said the Chicago Tribune. The rules include:

  • A change in how student loan affects debt-to-income DTI ratio calculations if you had payments reduced through an "income-based repayment" plan. "If your payments were originally supposed to be 500 a month but youve had them reduced to 100, only the 100 will be added to your monthly debts for DTI purposes," they said. "Previously lenders were required to factor in 1 percent of your student loan balance as your monthly payment on the student loan, even though you were actually paying a fraction of that. As a result, many borrowers debt ratios were pushed beyond most lenders underwriting limits."
  • Debt ratios can also improve if you have other outstanding debts that are being paid by someone else. "Say, your parents pay your monthly credit card balances - these no longer will be included in your DTI computation, provided the payments have been made steadily for 12 months. This should improve the debt ratios of young buyers who are still getting a little help on their cash flows from Mom and Dad."

Everyones doing it

Are your millennial friends starting to buy houses? Theyre part of a sweeping national trend. "Get ready to see more first-time home buyer clients. In the first quarter of 2017, the number of new-owner households was double the number of new-renter households," said the National Association of Realtors NAR in the most recent edition of their Realtor magazine.

There were about 854,000 "new-owner households" during the first three months of this year, which is more than double the 365,000 "new-renter households in that period, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Whats more, its the first time in a decade that new buyers outpaced new renters."

First-time buyers also account for 42 percent of homebuyers this year, up dramatically from 31 percent in 2011, which was the lowest point recorded by Fannie Mae.
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The Top Car-Friendly Cities to Consider When Looking For A New Home

What constitutes a car-friendly city may differ from person to person. For instance, if youre in the market for a new home and collision frequency is a concern, you might peruse the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations Fatality Accident Reporting System. If youre more worried about vandalism, the National Insurance Crime Bureaus vehicle theft rate list is worth a look.

If, however, youre keen on studies that use more texturized data, or youre mostly apprehensive about finding a parking spot in a big city, then youre in luck.

Best Cities for Drivers Based on a Variety of Flavors

Two lists from NerdWallet and WalletHub weave together a rich tabulation of metrics, digging deeper than the most obvious driving headaches - such as long commutes and delays, both of which figure prominently among the worst cities. But while the two indices metrics are >

NerdWallets list focuses on major cities, comparing them across seven key metrics. Delays and accident rate are weighted heaviest, followed evenly by congestion, weather, parking availability, insurance premiums and gas prices. Its top 10 best driving cities are as follows:

  • Omaha, NE
  • Kansas City, MO
  • El Paso, TX
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Richmond, VA
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Even more texturized is WalletHubs roster, which compares the 100 most populated cities along 21 metrics. Like NerdWallet, delays are weighted toward the top, but the heaviest attribute is gas prices. On top of aforementioned factors like weather, commute time, parking and accident rate, WalletHub also computes accident fatality, larceny rates, DUI law stringency, quality of roads and bridges, and number of dealerships per capita, to name a few. Its list of top cities include:

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Mesa, AZ
  • Chandler, AZ
  • Reno, NV
  • Laredo, TX
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Tampa, FL
  • Although more elaborate, WalletHubs list may be a tad skewed by the slew of less weighted variables, like dealership availability and DUI "harshness" - especially if you already own a car and have a contingency plan for nights on the town. It does, however, break its list down into sub-categories lowest accident likelihood, lowest car-theft rate, etc.. This allows you to pinpoint criteria that are of highest priority.

    How Metrics Come Hand-in-Hand

    As denoted by an asterisk , you may have noticed that Tucson ranks on both lists. In fact, the top cities on both lists are predominantly in the Southwest, where climates are drier and roads more forgiving. Its therefore not so surprising that an Arizona city appeared multiple times. This also alludes to other important cor>

    Take, for example, the list of cities with the longest commute times by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm. Of its top seven cities, three appeared on WalletHubs "Highest Accident Likelihood" sub-category, from which three cities, in turn, earned top 14 spots on another NerdWallet study - most expensive cities for car insurance. In fact, between WalletHub and NerdWallets lists, theres another cor>

    How commute times sync up with accident rates may not be a shocker. More interesting, perhaps, are the ways in which high auto accident and car theft rates cor>

    Individual insurance premiums are determined, in part, by accident rates and vandalism in the policyholders region. This is why cities with higher rates of auto theft or collisions may also have higher premiums for those who live there. Likewise, poor highway infrastructure and/or high population density are more apt to have longer commute times and thus greater incidents of collisions. So, if a city has, say, high population density and a substandard highway system, theres a decent chance other variables will be impacted, such as driving safety and insurance.

    If Big City Parking is the Biggest Concern

    Is your next move to the big city? Commuting and traffic accidents aside, one of the biggest travails of moving to a bustling metro is parking - not only finding it, but also having to pay for it. And for potential buyers, scarce parking and high parking prices can be a deal-breaker.

    Thats why if youre moving to a major city like San Francisco or one of New Yorks five boroughs, the app Parknav may prove hugely beneficial. Using a color-coded system much like Google Maps does for traffic, this app allows drivers to find parking-friendly streets. Plus, their website allows users to search real-time parking conditions in over 70 cities in the U.S. and Germany to get a gauge of parking conditions in a given neighborhood.

    Additionally, back in the beginning of 2016, ParkNav partnered with Trulia to identify the best and worst places to park in seven major cities, including New York Manhattan and Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland Oregon and Washington, D.C. Parking scores ranged from 0 to 100. Although the study was mainly focused on renters, prospective homeowners can also benefit from their list of ample-parking neighborhoods and hone in on promising new digs.

    While there may be no exhaustive register of car-friendly cities, these lists do offer a starting point, whether based on your personal concerns or those you may not have considered beforemdash;like the number of auto repair shops, or the average cost of new cars, in the area. If driving is your passion, it may be best to steer clear of densely populated cities and head for the suburbs. At least there you can be close to the excitement and bustle without always being deadlocked in the thicket of it.

    Jeffrey Ill is the Vice President of Product at Esurance where he leads the homeowner insurance program.

    Full Story >

    Through the Agent with Heart Program, Real Estate Professional Dertrez Pressley Donates to Support Our Kids Foundation on Behalf of His Clients

    Las Vegas, NV May 16th, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dertrez Pressley of Simply Vegas Real Estate in Las Vegas, Nevada recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the Support Our Kids Foundation on behalf of their clients, Todd and Gia Schultz.

    "We are excited to announce Dertrez Pressleys first donation with the Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Dertrezs eagerness to assist his community by giving back to the nonprofit of his clients choice with each transaction is inspiring, and we thank him for his generosity."

    "Efforts to assist local communities like those from agents like Dertrez are incredibly valued by all of us at PinRaise as well as, Im sure, by the communities themselves. We appreciate Dertrezs dedication to giving back and look forward to seeing his generosity continue to help his community in the future," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dertrez Pressley who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Dertrez Pressley, please call 702-963-6424.

    Full Story >

    Defining Domicile

    Question: Can you please explain "domicile"? I plan to move from one state to another, and want to make sure I dont have to pay any tax in the state from which I moved? Harry.

    Answer: The dictionary definition is easy: "a persons fixed, permanent and principal home for legal purposes". But interpreting this is not at all easy.

    You can have numerous residences, but only one domicile. Many people live in the North during the summer and go South in the winter. The southerners call them "snowbirds". They own two or more houses residences, but where is their domicile?

    State taxing officials like to find domicile, since then the homeowner will have to pay tax in that state. So even if I own real estate in New York -- where I would have to pay income tax -- my preference is to claim my domicile in Florida or Texas, where there is no such income tax requirement. Other states with no requirement are Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

    How do I prove my domicile? There are many ways, but the best evidence: show where you vote, where your drivers license is, where you pay your utilities and what address you use when you file your federal income tax return.

    A novel approach, recently approved by the New York Tax Appeal court, involves your dog. Mr. Blatt moved from New York to Texas to get a new job. He had an apartment in New York, which he kept even after the move. The New York taxing authority claimed he lived in their state for more than 183 days per year, and thus had to pay a sizable amount of state tax.

    On appeal, Mr. Blatt presented a lot of evidence and documents to show that his intent ws to >humidity of Dallas.

    Petitioner waited until the timing was appropriate. In reviewing the factors of a change in domicile, historically, the move of items near and dear tend to demonstrate a persons intention. As borne out by the evidence in this case, petitioners dog was his near and dear item which reflected his ultimate change in domicile to Dallas."

    So, Harry, keep that in mind when you move. A dog might just be the answer; not sure about your pet goldfish, however.
    Full Story >

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