Monday, November 19, 2012
By Carla Hill - Realty Times

The holiday season can be an incredibly busy time of year. Families are traveling across town, state, and country to visit loved ones. Children are home from school, bringing with them vacation schedules.


This can be a difficult time for many sellers. They must find a balance between family time, showings, and open houses.

If you are finding this holiday season particularly problematic, then keep reading.

Just as your time for showings is limited, so is the time potential buyers have for touring your home. This means that if you are serious about moving your home in this season's market you must be willing to be flexible with your time. Making your home readily available may mean more showings or a faster sale.

You must put the needs of your family and children first, of course, but there should be room for compromise. Consider allowing other family members to host large meals and functions to lighten the load on your home's schedule this year.

You can also plan fun activities for the whole family to participate in while your home is being shown. Take the kids to see the latest holiday movie. Go out for yogurt or ice cream. If the showing is during the evening hours you can take a tour of neighborhood lights!

Also, do not let listing your home for sale deter you from celebrating the holidays this season. Feel free to maintain family traditions, but consider the effect your decorations will have on buyers. While you should feel free to have a tree and lights, it would be wise to keep everything tasteful and in moderation.

You may come across the random buyer that hates the holidays, but most people are not offended by someone else's beliefs. You'll find buyers are tolerant of most everything ... except tacky overdone decorations!

If you are unsure what constitutes tacky, then refer to popular home decor magazines for pictures and examples of what is acceptable.

Selling a home is about about putting the best foot forward. So, in addition to making it available to buyers and decorating tastefully, it's important to consider how your home will appear in wintertime photography.

Great photography is key when posting pictures to the MLS. This is your home's first impression, but the snow, ice, and dreariness of winter months can be a little boring.

Take your time to stage the best pictures possible. Take advantage of sunny days glistening across snowy banks. Let the charm of your living room shine with a perfectly trimmed tree.

Buyers also love to see how your home looks throughout the seasons. Talk to your Realtor about including pictures of your home when your yard is bursting with Springtime blooms or when your pool is full of sparkling blue water.

The holidays can be a wonderful time for families, but with a few compromises you can also make a sale during this special time!

Published: November 19, 2012

Comments: 0

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
By Carla Hill

Homeowners looking to add value to their home should start in one of the most central rooms of the home -- the bathroom.


According to C.P. Hart, one of the UK's leading contemporary bathroom retailers and suppliers of bespoke bathrooms since 1937, a great bathroom can add real value to your property.

HouseLogic, supported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), reports that the top bathroom trends can even be real money savers.

First, take note of energy conservation. Low-flow toilets can use a fraction of the amount of water of standard versions. Low-flow shower heads and faucets can also conserve water, a prime consideration for homeowners all across the drought-ridden Midwest and beyond.

The next trend will tug at the heart of every tech geek. HouseLogic reports it's all about technological advances. "You'll be able to create a custom showering experience more affordably than ever. For $300 for simple controllers to $3,500 or more for a complete luxury installation, programmable let you digitally set your preferred water temperature, volume, and even massage settings before you step in. To achieve a personalized showering experience, you'll need a 120-volt power source, and a thermostatic valve and controller in addition to your standard shower head or heads. Luxury models may include a steam system, a wi-fi source for music, multiple body spray outlets, tankless water heater, and a secondary controller to start the system from another room."

Take it a step further with docking stations for your iPod and integrated television screens in your mirrors!

C.P. Hart say it goes beyond saving energy and geeking out, however. Bathrooms can have focal points and finishes that can be real show stoppers. "Fittings and accessories should never be ignored when furnishing your washroom. A key piece, such as a basin, can really enliven the look and bring a touch of luxury to any space. Glass Design create bespoke washbowls that are a great example of cutting-edge design meets decadence. Each piece is uniquely designed, using materials that capture the soul of the product, adding a new lease of life to your abode."

Today's bathroom designs are about clean lines and organized beauty. Less is more, letting the eye fall on the room's shining stars, such as travertine floors, marble sinks, and beautiful faucets.

It's time to go minimalist. "Enhancing your bathroom's shape and size through discrete storage, each piece is custom-made, maximizing surface space through multi-storage units. With a range of styles, colors and sizes to choose from, you won't be short of ideas to match existing bathroom features," C.P. Hart says.

Consider a beautiful freestanding tub, reminiscent of the claw-footed examples from yesteryear. There are a wide range of shapes and styles available from many large retailers. These baths can become the focal point of any space. "From traditional Victorian to industrial-inspired designs and Japanese influences, there is a great range of inspiring pieces to choose from," says C.P. Hart.

Finally, think about future use of a bathroom. There's an aging demographic of baby boomers in the United States that is trending bathrooms towards future functionality. HouseLogic reports, "Expect to see faux wood, linen, and uniquely-textured looks for tiled bathroom floors and walls in 2012. The texture adds both visual impact and better traction for wet feet."

And let's not forget accessible tubs. "The accessible tub is no longer limited to the high-walled, narrow-door format that dominated the market in the last decade. Newer models, such as Kohler's Elevance ($5,100), employ rising panels in front that give more of a traditional tub look with easier entry and exit. Others use standard hinged, sealed doors, but are increasing door width by several inches for better accessibility and appearance."

Today's bathroom trends are about modern functionality. Go green and clean.

Published: November 12, 2012

Comments: 0

Wednesday, November 07, 2012
By Richard Thompson - Realty Times

In common wall housing, unit flooding and damage can happen for a variety of reasons including roof leaks, water supply pipes leak, toilet/bathtub overflows and washer hose ruptures. Who is responsible for water damage, the HOA or unit owner?


First, determine the actual cause of the loss and whether any of the involved parties were negligent in their maintenance responsibilities (like, left the water running). Then, review the governing documents to determine what guidance there may be for maintenance and repairs. Pay special attention to the definitions of: unit, common element, limited common element, maintenance responsibilities of owners and the homeowner association, insurance responsibilities of owners and the homeowner association and enforcement procedures. These provisions often differ from HOA to HOA.

Generally, owners are responsible for maintaining anything they own or that lies within the unit boundaries, and the HOA is responsible for maintaining the common elements and limited common elements. However, limited common elements are usually allocated to the exclusive use of a unit owner and the unit owner may have the maintenance responsibility for repairs. An important principle to keep in mind is that the obligation to maintain a particular component does not necessarily mean that there is an obligation to repair damage to another unit if that component fails.

Say that the water heater in Unit A fails and damages Unit B. According to most governing documents, Unit A bears the expense for repairing the water heater and any damage to Unit A. There is no obligation for Unit A to pay for damage to Unit B unless the owner of Unit A was negligent in some way. For example, if Unit A owner knew the water heater was leaking slowly and steadily and let it continue to leak for long enough to damage Unit B, Unit A owner would be negligent. On the other hand, if the water heater tank ruptured spontaneously and flooded Unit B, it would not be negligence.

Barring negligence, each unit owner repairs his own unit. The same principle applies if there is a leaking roof which is maintained by the HOA. Roofs leak from time to time. If a unit owner does not inform the HOA when a leak occurs, how does the HOA know to fix it? It's like the old saying, "If a dog barks in the woods and there is no one there to hear him, is he still a bad dog?"

Now, if the HOA is informed of the leak, does nothing to stop it and the unit is damaged, that is negligence and the HOA should pay for the unit repairs. Some would argue that since the HOA's insurance is paid for by the members, unit damage should be paid for by the HOA in every case. Unfortunately, any HOA that does not carefully control the type and frequency of claims made will find itself without insurance or paying enormous premiums.

This is why it is critically important for the board to establish a clear policy on maintenance and insurance responsibility which will safeguard the HOA's insurability. This policy should identify all major building components and assign responsibility either to Owner or HOA that is consistent with the governing documents. Unit insurance agents should be provided this information so they know what their insured is responsible for. This is all about spreading risk around and saving the HOA insurance policy for the Big Claims as much as possible.

There is a sample Areas of Maintenance & Insurance Responsibilities policy available to Gold Subscribers of For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

Published: November 7, 2012

Comments: 0

Tuesday, November 06, 2012
By Carla Hill - Realty Times

Pending home sales remained mostly unchanged in September, but are holding higher than year ago levels.


According to the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), an indicator based on contract signings, there was just 0.3 percent upward movement for the month.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said pending home sales continue to hold a higher ground. "Home contract activity remains at an elevated level in contrast with recent years, but currently appears to be bouncing around in a narrow range," Yun said. "This means only minor movement is likely in near-term existing-home sales, but with positive underlying market fundamentals they should continue on an uptrend in 2013."

The market is still experiencing many contract cancellations due to appraisals coming in lower than contract prices and from buyers being unable to finalize on a mortgage due to tightened lending standards.

Regionally, the Midwest was the only area to post a decline, falling 5.8 percent for the month. It remains 19.3 percent above last year's contract signings.

The largest increase was seen in the West, which rose 4.3 percent in September to 106.9 on the PHSI. This was followed by the Northeast at 1.4 percent and the South at 1.0 percent. All regions are seeing pending sales rates higher than a year ago, although the West is only 0.8 percent above September 2011 levels.

For now, pending home sales have risen for 17 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"In September all regions were showing double-digit increases in contract activity from a year ago with the exception of the West, which is constrained by limited inventory," they report.

Existing-home sales -- those that have seen contracts through completion -- are up 9 percent and are projected to rise another 9 percent next year to 5.1 million units.

New home sales also posted a gain for the month of September, rising 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 389,000 units, according to HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) this is the quickest sales pace since April 2010 when first-time home buyers rushed to meet the tax credit deadline.

"Combined with consistent, positive reports on housing starts, permits, prices and builder confidence in recent months, today's data provides further confirmation that a gradual but steady housing recovery is underway across much of the nation," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "Consumers who have been on the sidelines during the past few years are deciding now is the time to go forward with a new-home purchase, assuming they can qualify for a good mortgage under today's exceedingly stringent guidelines."

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe says that new home sales this year have risen above year-ago levels and have held steady throughout each quarter. The low inventory of new homes for sale -- at an all time low and the tightest month's supply since October 2005, is an indication of builders having a hard time procuring credit, despite a demand for new housing.

The NAHB reports, "Three out of four regions registered substantial gains in new-home sales this September, including the Northeast's 16.7 percent increase, the South's 16.8 percent increase and the West's 3.9 percent increase. The Midwest was the exception to the rule, with a 37.3 percent decline."

Published: November 5, 2012

Comments: 0

Monday, November 05, 2012
By Carla Hill - Realty Times

Low inventory levels are bringing a faster turnaround for today's sellers. From 1987 through 2011, analysis of the NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers series showed the typical time on market was 6.9 weeks, while the existing-home sales series showed an average supply of 7.0 months, just above the high end for a balanced market.


Today's median time for a home to remain on the market is 69 days (July 2012). This is down nearly 30 percent from the 98 days seen in July 2011. The NAR reports that during periods which see close to a 6-month supply, such a now, homes have a median selling time of 6 weeks.

Inventory levels remain low, with a 6.4-month supply of homes on the market in July. This is down 31.2 percent from a year ago. Last July saw a 9.3-month supply of homes on the market.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is a clear relationship between inventory supply and time on market. "As inventory has tightened, homes have been selling more quickly," he said. "A notable shortening of time on market began this spring, and this has created a general balance between home buyers and sellers in much of the country. This equilibrium is supporting sustained price growth, and homes that are correctly priced tend to sell quickly, while those that aren't often languish on the market."

"Our current forecast is for the median existing home price to rise 4.5 to 5 percent this year and about 5 percent in 2013, which is somewhat stronger than historic norms because of the inventory shortfall that is most pronounced in the low price ranges," Yun said. CPI growth is projected at 2.1 percent for 2012 and 2.3 percent next year.

There's a new measure today from the NAR for days on market, which is showing a longer selling time than historic findings -- which measured traditional sellers of non-distressed homes. The new measure includes short sales, a significant part of today's marketplace.

"Factoring out short sales, the median time on market for traditional sellers appears to be in the balanced range of six to seven weeks," Yun explained.

How do today's numbers compare to the peak of the housing boom? Between 2004 and 2005, when inventory levels were historically low, the median selling time was 4 weeks. Prices rose in response -- at an annual rate of 10.3 percent, historically higher than the 3.1 percent average growth in CPI during the period.

In the economic downturn, time on market for non-distressed sellers peaked at 10 weeks in 2009 with a 10.0-month annualized supply. The median price fell 12.9 percent that year, which was the biggest annual decline on record.

"Ironically, if housing construction doesn't pick up to normal levels within two years, supply shortages could be sustained for an extended period and lead to above average appreciation," Yun said. "Therefore, any unnecessary hindrance to housing starts, such as excessive local zoning regulations or stringent bank capital rules for construction loans, should be carefully re-examined."

Published: November 2, 2012

Comments: 0

Thursday, November 01, 2012

By Carla Hill

Buyers all across the nation are making their dreams come true. They’re signing on the dotted line and grabbing hold of the keys to a family home.


Despite record low interest rates and enticing pricing, many potential buyers are delaying the decision to buy.

What’s keeping you on the sidelines?

Let’s take a look at the top reasons to own a home.


  • Building equity. Writing a check to the landlord is equivalent to lining their pocket with your potential equity. It is money you never get back. You’re paying for a finite amount of time -- one month, one year, etc. Owning your own home means building equity. Each and every mortgage payment is going towards paying down a principal. The worth of your home, however, should continue to gain. The difference between what you owe and the value of your home is equity.


  • Predictability. Gas and grocery prices may rise, especially in the midst of this Summer’s tremendous drought in the American heartland, but a fixed rate mortgage is as predictable as they come. Your mortgage payment will be X amount for the life of the loan.


  • Tax Breaks. Uncle Sam likes homeowners! Did you know that you can deduct the interest you pay each year on your home loan? You can deduct the cost of your property taxes. Even making energy-efficient upgrades can be tax deductible.


  • Appreciation. Home prices are once again on the rise, up nearly 10 percent over 2011 prices. This means a home bought for $100,000 in 2011 could now be worth around $110,000! Over the years (real estate is a long-term investment) your home should gain value. If you decide to sell, you would be looking at a healthy profit! According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), "The number of U.S. households is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing."


  • Social Benefits. We’ve talked about the financial benefits of owning a home, but did you know that homeowners generally rate themselves as happier and healthier than their renting counterparts. Part of this is thanks to the stability that homeownership brings. Neighbors are more permanent fixtures in your life, meaning friendships that last for years to come. Children of homeowners are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to experience teen pregnancy. It’s all about creating a stable environment for the whole family.

    Homeownership can be a great way to secure future financial security and freedom. So, what’s stopping you from getting into the market? This big purchase comes with lots of perks and there’s never been a better time to buy.

Published: October 31, 2012

Comments: 0

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