Real Estate News Articles




Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Staged Property: Buyers Beware

Would you like to unload your house faster and for more than you expect? That, in rough terms, is what home stagers promise.

All the Homes a Stage

My farmhouse house, I will disclose, is as backstage as it gets. Books fill the bookcases. This is a big no-no in the staging profession. A vice grip is as likely to be on the dining room table as a floral centerpiece. A vice-grip is not a character flaw. My idea of decluttering is to straighten the pile of reading newspapers by the couch.

Now I find nothing wrong with a seller doing clean up, paint up and fix up before offering a property for sale. I would not be the first to do any of those activities, but I endorse putting onersquo;s best foot forward, given the alternative, with which I have had more experience.

Staging property is like set design in the theater. It leads the audience to look at focal points in ways that lead to certain feelings about the play. Good sets invite the audience to them by invoking emotional responses.

House stagers do the same. They use props like plants, smells, visual accents, space, angles, lights, colors, textures, airiness, and furniture to lead a buyer to imagine living in this set.

They deploy tactical rental furniture and art in empty houses to create the imaginative magic of theater. Staged properties are clean, clutter-free, spruced up and depersonalized. Staging is intended to draw the buyer into its pretend world.

The object of this mind-tweak is to get buyers to become emotionally invested in a staged house, then make a spontaneous offer, then pay more than they should.

A Growing Industry

Staging is now an industry that describes itself as ldquo;self-regulating.rdquo; Stagers can become trained, accredited and join a professional group, such as the Real Estate Staging Assn. At the Real Estate Staging Association, hundreds of thousands of real-estate agents and others have been trained.

Staging is sophisticated, customized marketing. It works. Itrsquo;s not dishonest in the sense of pulling a rug over termite damage in hardwood floors.

But it is intentionally manipulative. Stagers orchestrate the presentation of space to twiddle with a buyerrsquo;s mind so that he does something that he might not otherwise do. Admittedly, our way of doing business with each other often tries to convince buyers that the sellerrsquo;s deal is better than it is.

So how can buyers defend against a Martha Stewartly correct Ficus Benjamina in the entrance, a potted tree so disgustingly symmetrical and repulsively tasteful that sunbeams dance in marching-band formation on its just-spritzed leaves?

Educate yourself about staging, its purpose and how itrsquo;s done. An Internet search will lead buyers to informative articles. Stagers have written books. An agent working for the buyer should be asked to ring a staging alarm when entering a magic kingdom.

Identify stage props as a way to strip them of their persuasive power. Note fluffy bath towels, linens, greenery, wildflowers in dark rooms they suggest sunlight, yellow roses on a dining-room table, compulsive decluttering, clean-plate closets, new furniture, non-casually tossed toss pillows, items arranged in threes, cleared-off counter tops, furniture angles that draw you into a room, a bowl of limes and lemons and other focal points that thrum ldquo;Look at merdquo; using a low C in a harprsquo;s bass clef.

Outside note fresh paint, recently whacked shrubs, new shutters, fancy grill, ceramic yard frogs, rope hammock, an antique-looking weathervane and a new picnic table. The last five vanish at closing, if not before.

The Power of the Prop

The power in these props is that, together, they represent the life>

The stager scrubs away dirt and traces of the current occupants. The stager wants the buyer to think of the sellerrsquo;s house with all props in place, not empty and not full of the buyerrsquo;s stuff.

Once a buyer recognizes staging, it becomes transparent and funny. ldquo;My, my, what a fetching woven rug with bulging knots Is it pre-Columbian? The limes, the limes. [Kiss your fingertips.] Quel limesrdquo;

Consider not looking at staged properties. Stagers boast that their properties get three to ten percent more than unstaged properties. I believe them. On property that is worth 500,000, staging puts an extra 15,000 to 50,000 of buyer money in a sellerrsquo;s pocket. Some of that extra might go for paint and shrubs, things that convey to the buyerrsquo;s benefit.

But the buyer pays most of this staging premium for looking at props like candlesticks and couch pillows that will disappear like a traveling peep show. Staging succeeds in getting buyers to pay for something that often amounts to nothing.

Since all of us are equally vulnerable to the stagerrsquo;s skills, perhaps a buyer should tell agents to eliminate staged properties from his
look list.

Consider the Bare Bones

Agents working for buyers might discuss ways to evaluate staged properties with their clients. Donrsquo;t look at the props. If a buyer visits a staged property, imagine the house buck naked and empty. Thatrsquo;s what yoursquo;re buying.

Working farms usually are well organized with a few rough edges. If you find no edges in a farmyard, piles of weathered materials, pieces of equipment, scrap from the last century, Irsquo;d be suspicious. Farmers always need such backup.

Some farms are perfectly maintained in every nip and tuck. These farmers take great pride in neatness and upkeep. If you see every fence as tight as a prison door, every road newly graveled, every gate painted thatrsquo;s great. Be prepared to pay for perfection. This isnrsquo;t staging; itrsquo;s compulsive-maintenance disorder.

The reasons to cross off staged properties is that you will pay too much for what yoursquo;re getting, and yoursquo;re likely to be competing against stage-struck buyers who have fallen under stagerrsquo;s Spell.

The seller has paid for the stage show, usually a minimum of several thousand dollars but often much more. Statistics from Home Gain indicate that for every dollar invested in staging, a seller gets 4 to 5 back in additional sales price. Where, a buyer must ask, do those extra dollars come from?

Staging raises seller expectations. Itrsquo;s hard to negotiate with a seller whorsquo;s both out hard cash and hopeful to boot.

Since staging works, it is ever more common. My advice to buyers is to factor out staging and stick with a price that makes sense to them.

For buyers: All of what you see is not all of what you get.


Curtis Seltzer, land consultant, is the author of How To Be a DIRT-SMART Buyer of Country Property at his website.


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HOA Landlord Rules

Rules Enforcement.

The HOA has the right to expect all residents, whether owner or renter, to play by the rules. But with renters, its up to the landlord to enforce them, not the HOA. So, the board should adopt a policy that requires all landlords to provide a set of the governing documents and all rules that have been adopted that affect the renter. The Board can also require that all rental agreements specifically make reference to and be subject to those documents. If a tenant violates a rule, the landlord should be informed of it immediately along with the expectation of enforcement. If there is a fine or penalty, the landlord should be levied for it as if he did the dirty deed himself. Its up to the landlord to get reimbursement from the tenant.

There are several exceptions to the landlord middle man enforcement process. If a tenant parks illegally in a fire lane, the HOA has the authority to have the car towed and the tenant will, naturally, pay to retrieve the car. There are some things the HOA should not interfere or get involved with. When a renter crosses the line between HOA rule and civil law infraction, the HOA has the right to call in proper authorities. Those authorities include the police, fire safety, FBI and drug enforcement.

Short vs. Long Term Rentals.

Most HOAs deal with renters who have entered into long term rental agreements 30 days or more. Most governing documents, in fact, require that the rental agreement be long term to avoid what would be a hotel operation. In resort areas, mountains, beach, etc. the HOA may have been expressly built and sold allowing owners to rent their homes short term. These homes or units are owned outright and are not timeshares with professional site management. However, unless virtually every owner has that in mind, there will be an ongoing clash between permanent residents and short term renters. Short termers have no allegiance to the community, dont know the neighbors and frequently are in party mode.

These factors point to ongoing problems with the locals. If this is a reality, its important for the board to press for consensus among the owners. If the majority want the flexibility to short term rent, it makes sense to have an onsite manager to control these issues and others like key exchange and housekeeping. The manager could be funded partly by the HOA to handle regular maintenance and partly by landlords to care for rentals. Its a win/win.

Controlling Tenants.

Renters generally are no better or worse than owner residents. Ongoing problems result from lack of landlord standards or enforcement of those standards by the HOA. Here are Landlord Standards, which all HOAs should adopt:

bull; Landlords must provide a set of governing documents CCamp;Rs and rules to renters before move in.
bull; HOA rules amp; regulations must be a condition of all rental agreements.
bull; Landlords are held accountable for renter infractions.
bull; Renters must communicate requests to the HOA through the landlord.
bull; Board may demand termination of a tenant with multiple rule violations.
bull; Landlord must provide a copy of each rental agreement to ensure compliance with the HOAs standards and for emergency contact purposes.

Renter Surcharges amp; Fees.

Some HOAs impose a Move In/Move Out or Renter Fee on landlords. Unless this fee is imposed on all residents, owner or renter, it is discriminatory. If a particular renter causes damage to the common area moving in or out, the landlord should be charged for it. Never surcharge >

Communicating with Landlords.

All tenant violations should be directed to the landlord in writing along with specifics, including date and time. The communication should be clear on what the landlords course of action should be. It should also reinforce that its up to the landlord, not the HOA, to deal with a renter.

Limiting Rentals.

At one time or another, someone may press to limit rentals. There are right reasons for doing so, but avoid the wrong one: The belief that renters are undesirable. While some tenants may be problems, so are some owners. Each must be dealt with as individuals, not a >muster with most lenders. Falling below that level causes closer scrutiny by some lenders. When lenders scrutinize, it usually means the interest rate or fees go up. Restricted financing options cause market values to fall.

Limiting rentals to protect financing is a worthy rationale for doing so. However, placing a system in place that allows some owners to rent but not others has many problems. The board must oversee the rental restriction policy and establish guidelines for who gets to rent and when. Also, there will be hardship cases disability, job loss, down real estate market, etc. that will press the board to bend the policy.

And consider if a landlord simply ignores the restriction and rents his unit. The HOA has control over the owner but not tenants who are protected by Landlord-Tenant laws. For a variety of reasons, if limiting rentals is desirable, it should apply to all owners. A total ban on rentals doesnt completely eliminate the boards oversight, but it at least makes it fair to all owners. For a sample Rental Restriction Policy, see www.Regenesis.net.

Renters Have Rights.

After considering the various issues, its important to remember that renters have rights that must be respected. Besides the state Landlord-Tenant laws, the Fair Housing Act speaks to unreasonable rental restrictions. Never impose restrictions based on sex, faith, culture or race. When it comes to HOA renters, do the right thing.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net


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HELOC or Home Equity Loan: Which One Is Right for You?

While there are definite advantages to accessing your equity over taking out a personal loan or using credit cards, especially if yoursquo;re intending to use the funds for home improvement, the No. 1 thing to consider before you take any money out of your home is whether you can really afford it. Take out a home equity loan or use the funds from a HELOC and your monthly obligation will increase. But thatrsquo;s not all. Should you have a change in circumstances like a job loss or simply extend yourself beyond your financial comfort zone, causing you to miss payments, you could be putting your home at risk of foreclosure.

ldquo;Because the loans are secured against the value of your home, home equity loans offer extremely competitive interest ratesmdash;usually close to those of first mortgages. Compared to unsecured borrowing sources, like credit cards, yoursquo;ll be paying far less in financing fees for the same loan amount,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;But therersquo;s a downside to using your home as collateral. Home equity lenders place a second lien on your home, giving them the right to eventually take over your home if you fail to make payments. The more you borrow against your house or condo, the more yoursquo;re putting yourself at risk.rdquo;

Should you want to move forward, itrsquo;s important to know the difference between a home equity loan and a HELOC so you can make the decision that best suits your need.

ldquo;HELOCs and home equity loans extract value from your home but add to your debt,rdquo; said NerdWallet. ldquo;The loan is a lump sum, the HELOC draws money as you need it.rdquo; Both loans typically offer a shorter term than borrowers have on their mortgage. ldquo;Home equity loans and HELOCs are paid off within five to 20 years, while 30 years is typical of a first mortgage,rdquo; said Bankrate.

Letrsquo;s break that down a little further.

About home equity loans

Borrowers who choose home equity loans often do so because of the fixed interest rate. The stable payment schedule means they donrsquo;t have to worry if rates go up. But, the fact that this type of loan is given in one lump sum doesnt necessarily track with everyonersquo;s needs. If you are the type that wants more flexibility in your loan, a HELOC may be the better choice. If you get a loan for 25,000 and only use 5,000, yoursquo;re still required to pay on the total amount loaned.

A home equity loan can also be problematic if your homersquo;s value drops after you have tapped all your equity. In this situation, you could find yourself underwater, or owing more than the home is worth. Homes in some hard-hit areas remained underwater many years after the market crash, with ldquo;more than 820,000 underwater homeownersrdquo; who owed more than double what their home was valued for, according to CBS News.

About home equity lines of credit

With a HELOC, you are still borrowing against the available equity in your home, however the funds are provided differently. Instead of having a lump sum, you use a HELOC like you would a credit card, accessing money as you need it and only paying interest on what you use.

ldquo;As a line of credit, a HELOC allows for flexibility around both borrowing and paying back the money you borrow,rdquo; said Credit Karma. ldquo;But it can also require borrowers to stay especially disciplined when it comes to taking out the funds and repaying their lenders.rdquo; Thatrsquo;s because HELOCs typically offer adjustable rates; if the interest rate rises, so does your payment.

ldquo;A HELOCrsquo;s interest rate is usually variable and can change. The interest rate is often tied to the prime rate and can be affected by market forces that could change quite a bit over the life of the HELOC,rdquo; said Credit Karma. ldquo;There may be limits to those changes though, like a periodic cap a limit on rate changes at one time or a lifetime cap a limit on rate changes during the loan term.rdquo;

Most HELOCs also have ldquo;two phases,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;During the draw period ndash; typically 10 years ndash; you can access your available credit as you see fit. Many HELOC contracts require small, interest-only payments during this period, though you may have the option to pay extra and have it go against the principal.rdquo;

At the end of the period, borrowers have to start repaying the principal in addition to the interest, and, ldquo;From here on out, you can no longer access additional funds and you make regular principal-plus-interest payments until the balance disappears. During the 20-year repayment period, you must repay all the money yoursquo;ve borrowed, plus interest at a variable rate.rdquo;

Payment shock often hits at this point because, ldquo;The monthly payment can almost double. According to a study conducted by TransUnion, the payment on an 80,000 HELOC at 7 annual percentage rate will cost 467 a month during the first 10 years when only interest payments are required. That jumps to 719 a month when the repayment period kicks in.rdquo;


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The Importance of Not Losing Money in Your Portfolio over Extended Periods of Time

For example, if one were to invest 100,000 and lose 20 the first year, the ending balance of the account would be 80,000. The following yearrsquo;s return would have to be an increase of 25 [80,000 X 25 = 20,000] just to break even. This does not include making a profit over the two year period; it just means that, over a two year period, the return would be zero. If the same 100,000 earned 20 per year compounded for three consecutive years and then suffered a 20 loss, the annualized compounded rate of return would be less than 8.5 rather than 10 [3 years X 20 = 60, less 20 = 40 / 4 years =10];

Here is how the figures work:

Original investment 100,000

Year 1 20 increase 120,000 [Value at the end of year 1]
Year 2 20 increase 144,000 [Value at the end of year 2]
Year 3 20 increase 172,800 [Value at the end of year 3]
Year 4 20 decrease 138,240 [Value at the end of year 4]

The time value of money shows that a 100,000 investment turning into 138,240 in four years equates to compounded rate of return of less than 8.5.

Thus, the effect of losing money, even after gaining three years in a row [in our example] is worse than a steady increase. If, in the above example, the investment simply increased 10 compounded per year, after four years, the account would have grown to 146,410. The difference of 8,170 [more than 2 per year on average] represents the severe hit the investment takes when there is a loss of any real magnitude; thus, the importance of a steady positive return per year versus the ups and downs that an investment may experience over time.

The main reason for the powerful downside impact of losing money is that, if the loss happens before any gains [early in the investment years], there is less principal to work with to achieve a significant increase. If the losses happen after significant gains, then there is a fairly sizeable loss of investment as seen in the above example between years 3 and 4.

The larger the swings in increases and decreases, the more significant the difference in risk adjusted rates of return. The example above showed 20 increases for three years and then a 20 decrease. The difference in a fluctuating return [of both positive and negative years] reduced the return of a potentially steady rate of 10 down to less than 8.5; however, what if the first three years were 40 positive and then a loss of 40 in year four?

Here is how the numbers would look:

Original investment 100,000

Year 1 40 increase 140,000 [Value at the end of year 1]
Year 2 40 increase 196,000 [Value at the end of year 2]
Year 3 40 increase 274,400 [Value at the end of year 3]
Year 4 40 decrease 164,640 [Value at the end of year 4]

Rather than a 20 return per year [40 X 3 years = 120 less 40 = 80 / 4 years = 20/yr], the return is 13.27 per year [100,000 turning into 164,400 after four years at 13.27 compounded annually]. The difference in interest rates of 6.73 is significantly higher than the previous example due to the higher percentages of rates of returns [both positive and negative]. In summary, the higher the rate of returns involved, the wider the gap in total rate of return when looking at an investment that has both positive and negative potential returns.

Since no one can accurately predict when investments will have their up and down years, it would appear that a more conservative, steady, return is more beneficial, as long as the return is not insignificant, and one needs to evaluate how an investment should be risk adjusted for comparison. For example, comparing a T-Bill, which is considered essentially riskless, might produce a return of 1 per year over a specified period of time, to an over the counter stock that might have wild fluctuations [as in our example{s} above] is not appropriate. The aggressive investment produced either the roughly 8.5 return or 13.3 return, so one might presume that one should always invest in the riskiest vehicle because of the huge gap between the riskless investment [1] and the aggressive investment [8.5-13.3]; however, nobody knows if the aggressive investment will be a net positive return over a specific period. For example, what happens if the aggressive investment consistently losses money every year and never recovers; or maybe so much time has elapsed that the compounded rate of return is fairly small?

For such an example, one might look at the NASDAQ. By the beginning of 2000, the NASDAQ was about 4,200. 15 years later, the NASDAQ was about 4,600. A 400 point increase over 15 years turned out to be a paltry .61 compounded rate of return. The NASDAQ experienced a lot of volatility over those 15 years. The point here is not to presume that all investments that have a wide swing in returns will always, over time, produce a better return than a more conservative investment.

One clicheacute; that is always heard is that, ldquo;Over a long period of time, the stock market has produced a good return for investors; you can allow for swings in the market, sometimes producing gains and sometimes producing losses, but, as long as you stay in the market, you will have a good return on your moneyrdquo; [or some such quote]; however, which indices is this quote referring to? The Samp;P 500? The Dow Jones Average? Small Cap Stocks?

Also, what other types of investments is this quote comparing to?

For example, for the last 30 years ending December 31, 2018, the Dow Jones Average produced an annualized compounded yield of about 8.2. This obviously includes the incredible run up in the market from 2002 to 2007; the Great Recession starting in 2008, and the bullish years that followed. One might want to compare this against the Prime Rate. Although the Prime Rate is not necessarily indicative of what an investor could or should earn, it is a widely accepted interest rate in the market place; mostly for the cost of borrowing, but it gives a general idea of prevailing rates of interest and the direction of where they are headed. The Prime Rate during this last 30 years started at 10.5 in December 1988 and immediately rose to 11.5 by the end of February 1989. The ldquo;lessrdquo; Great Recession that started in June 1989 pushed interest rates lower until July 1992, when the rate dropped to as low as 6. Rates increased thereafter until they peaked again in May 2000 when the Prime Rate stood at 9.5. It continually dropped until it hit a low of 3.25 in December 2008. It started to increase again in December 2015 and steadily went up until December 2018 where it hit 5.5. The average annualized compounded yield for the Prime Rate over the last 30 years [if one could invest in such a benchmark], would have been just short of 7, so, the Dow Jones Average over the past 30 years produced a greater return than the Prime Rate by a little over 1 per year.

However, what if we look at another >

Many people believe the real estate market crashed during the Great Recession, but, in reality, real estate had a slow, steady decline. In the San Francisco Bay Area [a strong real estate market by most standards], the real estate market took four years to decline about 25 in total. Investors who stayed true to investing only in conservative mortgages did not see a loss of principal, and, in many cases, earned more than what they envisioned as a trouble borrower was mandated to pay late fees, and, in some cases, default interest that added upwards of 4-5 more than the note rate. Of course, the downside to this was the delay in receiving interest, but, in some instances, the investor received a windfall if the borrower failed to pay and the investor/lender acquired the real estate through foreclosure. Most lenders would prefer to just receive the intended interest they signed up for, but the notion of additional interest and possibly owning the real estate that was collateralizing the loan is a potential benefit. Lenders need to make sure they are willing and wanting to potentially owning the real estate they are lending on should there be a time when the borrower can no longer make the interest payments.

As with all investing strategies, an investor needs to do proper due diligence before investing money; this includes the stock market as well as real estate. That being said, as pointed out earlier, one needs to think about whether a more conservative, steady, positive return investment is more advantageous than one with wild swings of both positive and negative returns, especially if the conservative, steady investment outperforms the wild one.

nbsp;


Edward Brown is an investment expert and host of the radio show, ldquo;The Best of Investing.rdquo; He has multiple published works, including an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and has also served as a chairman of the Shareholder Equity Committee to protect 29,000 shareholders representing 500 million REIT. Edward is also a recipient of a prestigious MBA Tax Award.nbsp;


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Going Up? Home Elevators Offer Independence

Home elevators, once thought to be a luxury feature for large new builds, are becoming a more common addition to smaller homes.

Residential elevators are a brilliant idea, and not just for seniors or those with mobility issues, but for everyone, every day, says Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto. He specializes in accessible real estate.

A wide selection of elevators is now available, and with the smallest having a footprint of just 12 square feet, theyrsquo;re suitable for urban home retrofit projects, says Katrina Maheu, marketing director of Savaria Home Elevators. The smallest model has a 36x48-inch cab and requires a 41x56-inch hoistway.

Savariarsquo;s least expensive model is the Eclipse, priced from 22,000. The company says it offers a smooth ride and doesnrsquo;t require a separate machine room.

The space-saving Telecab17, a two-stop elevator that travels through the ceiling/floor, has a vanishing effect. It can be installed in the corner of a dining room, for example, to connect it with a master bedroom above. When visitors arrive, it can be ldquo;parkedrdquo; on the upper floor, out of sight in the dining room.

Traditional elevators require a hoistway which supports the weight of the elevator to be constructed by a contractor, with installation of the elevator separate, Maheu says.

Itrsquo;s important to find a qualified contractor to construct your hoistway, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build. An architectural technologist will determine how to accommodate the retrofit some projects may require structural work or the >

Cabs for traditional elevators can be tricked out with a variety of finishes, colours and types of doors, and are even available with a glass wall for extra light and views. A super modern MDF finish has a high sheen for a modern look, while paneled wood cabs offer a more traditional touch. Or cabs can be left unfinished, and the homeownerrsquo;s contractor can finish it to match the rest of the house, Maheu says.

A traditional two-stop elevator costs about 25,000, not including the hoistway construction. The cost to install the hoistway can vary greatly depending on the work required, but Maheu says the average is about 25,000. It takes less than a week to install the elevator once the hoistway is in place.

The Vuelift is a futuristic glass elevator in either a cylindrical or octagonal shape that has a self-supporting hoistway, so therersquo;s no need to hire a separate contractor. The Vuelift is modular, with small components that fit through traditional doorways, she says. Prices start at 70,000.

They can be installed in less than a week.

Safety features are built into all of the elevators, with back-up systems in case of power failure. They can be lowered manually, Maheu says. As with all elevators, regular maintenance is important part of safety.

When shopping around, Maheu says to ask the following:

1. How long has the company been in business? An elevator is a big investment and once itrsquo;s installed, you want to have it properly maintained in order to be safe. You donrsquo;t want to go with a company you canrsquo;t count on down the road.

2. Does the company have more than one type of product? If it has just one, it may try to sell you their only product whether itrsquo;s good for you or not.

3. Can I try before I buy? Can I ride the lifts to see what they feel like?

Residential elevators are a new trend. More people are installing them when they are middle aged and can afford them, even though they donrsquo;t need them, Maheu and Kerr say.

Thatrsquo;s what one client, who is in his 50s and is mobile, active and not ready to use an elevator, had in mind when he installed one. It came in handy when he suffered a sports injury and wasnrsquo;t able to use the stairs for several months, Maheu says.

Kerr says people in their 30s are installing elevators so their home is ldquo;visitablerdquo; by everyone they know, regardless of their age and mobility.

Elevators offer a lot of benefits, safety being number one. ldquo;Most falls occur around stairs,rdquo; Kerr says. ldquo;An elevator will allow people to stay in their home.rdquo;

The trend is being driven by an aging population that doesnrsquo;t want to move or go to a retirement home.

Although the cost may seem prohibitive, itrsquo;s a great option for those who love where they live and want to stay in their neighbourhood. The cost to move is substantial. It may be wiser to put that money into retrofitting the home rather than moving and paying land transfer and other moving costs. And when compared to the substantial cost of a retirement home, installing an elevator may even leave you farther ahead, Kerr says.

If possible, try not to take space away from a bedroom. If you dedicate a full bedroom for the elevator, it could affect future property values, he says.

Professionally renovated and modified homes increase in value when marketed and sold to the right buyers, Kerr says, provided, of course, that a bathroom and entrance are accessible.

ldquo;Plan ahead. Be proactive, not reactive and make decisions rather than having them made for you,rdquo; Kerr says.


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Following the Green: How Legalized Marijuana is Transforming the Traverse City, MI Real Estate Market

Part of the reason for the ultra competitive environment is the lack of inventory. But this isnrsquo;t simply an availability issue; itrsquo;s also a licensing issue. ldquo;In Traverse City and Acme Township, only a limited number of licenses are available for certain types of medical marijuana businessesmdash;and only within certain districts,rdquo; they said.

ldquo;While Traverse City has unlimited licenses available for grow operations, processing facilities, testing laboratories, and secured transportation companies, the city capped dispensary/retail store licenses at just 13mdash;with a lottery scheduled for May 3 to distribute them. Acme, which held its first lottery last year, had 20 total licenses available: five each for grow operations and processing facilities, three each for testing laboratories and secured transportation companies, and four for dispensaries/retail stores.rdquo;

Limitations on what type of properties can be used for marijuana->

Those whose numbers come up are, quite literally, winning the lottery. After all, the stakes are exceptionally high. The marijuana industry in Colorado has brought in 6 billion since recreational use was legalized in the state, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and making millionaires out of many of those in the industryrsquo;s inner circlemdash;and those who have properly navigated the real estate environment.

Traverse City property owners are already reaping the benefits. ldquo;Everything has gone off the charts with value,rdquo; Tom Krause of Krause Realty Solutions told them. ldquo;Wersquo;ve had people from California to Colorado flying in. Wersquo;ve done seven deals so farhellip;four of those were for dispensaries, and a couple were for growers.rdquo; One of those deals was for a property owned by Krause himself; ldquo;While the sale was being finalized, he received another offer that was 200,000 higher,rdquo; he said to The Ticker.

The lack of available properties in high-target areas is creating a speculative environment in which ldquo;buyers are not just targeting whatrsquo;s for sale, but approaching owners of eligible sites and making offers. ldquo;Theyrsquo;re enticing them to sell with high priceshellip;it can be a 50 percent premium to purchase a building above what the market rate would be,rdquo; they said. The Ticker added that other sellers are accepting offers from multiple entities on a property to insure there will be a deal with a licensed buyer.

Despite the potential profits for sellers now and potential windfall for buyers later, disagreements between state and federal laws around marijuana are creating some challenges that give cash buyers a leg up. ldquo;Buyers face the most riskmdash;particularly mom-and-pop businesses and individuals without major financial backers,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Banks typically wonrsquo;t touch marijuana deals since the substance is still illegal federally, so buyers are on their own for financing.rdquo;


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Important Things To Know About Home Inspections

1. You can choose your home inspector.

Your real estate professional can recommend an inspector, or you can find one on your own. Members of the National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. NAHI, must complete an approved home inspector training program, demonstrate experience and competence as a home inspector, complete a written exam, and adhere to the NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

2. Home inspections are intended to point out adverse conditions, not cosmetic flaws.

You should attend the inspection and follow the inspector throughout the inspection so you can learn whats important and whats not. No house is perfect and an inspection on any home is bound to uncover faults. A home inspector will point out conditions that need repair and/or potential safety->

3. Home inspection reports include only the basics.

A home inspector considers hundreds of items during an average inspection. The home inspection should include the homes exterior, steps, porches, decks, chimneys, roof, windows, and doors. Inside, they will look at attics, electrical components, plumbing, central heating and air conditioning, basement/crawlspaces, and garages.

They report on the working order of items such as faucets to see if they leak, or garage doors to see if they close properly. Inspectors may point out termite damage and suggest that you get a separate pest inspection. The final written report should be concise and easy to understand.

4. Home inspectors work for the party who is paying the fee.

The NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics clearly state that members act as an unbiased third party to the real estate transaction and "will discharge the Inspectors duties with integrity and fidelity to the client." A reputable home inspector will not conduct a home inspection or prepare a home inspection report if his or her fee is contingent on untruthful conclusions.

The inspector should maintain client confidentiality and keep all report findings private, unless required by court order. That means it is your choice whether or not to share the report with others. If youre a seller, you dont have to disclose the report to buyers, but you must disclose any failure in the systems or integrity of your home.

5. Inspectors are not responsible for the condition of the home.

Inspectors dont go behind walls or under flooring, so its possible that a serious problem can be overlooked. Keep in mind that inspectors are not party to the sales transaction, so if you buy a home where an expensive problem surfaces after the sale, you wont be able to make the inspector liable or get the inspector to pay for the damage. In fact, you may not be entitled to any compensation beyond the cost of the inspection.

As a buyer, you need the home inspection to decide if the home is in condition that you can tolerate. You can use the report to show the seller the need for a certain repair or negotiate a better price. You can also take the report to a contractor and use it to make repairs or to remodel a section of the home.

One thing you should not do when buying a home is skip having the home inspected because of cost or undue pressure by the seller. A home inspection is reasonable, it can save you money in the long run, and its required by many lenders, particularly for FHA loans. Theres a reason why buyers should beware, and a home inspection gives you the information you need to make a sound buying decision.


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Four Rooftop Owners: Three Want to Repair; The Fourth Says No

Question continued This case has four homes sharing common walls between them and all under one continuous roof. The roof is at replacement age and should definitely be replaced within the next year as it shows heavy wear per a contractor that made minor repairs. The 4 owners involved were approached, 2 owners agree that it should be replaced, one said wait till next year and the last neighbor refuses totally. He feels that the roof is good for many years and to wait till it starts to leak. Due to it being a continuous roof, the job needs to be done as a whole. There is no way to do a partial job 1,2 or 3 homes and if it were possible it would look rather shoddy. I believe the hold out is trying to leverage a free roof out of the other 3 owners, which will not happen as one owner has stated hed pay only his share. How can this be resolved without waiting until there is actual water damage from a leaking roof? If there is damage the holdout has a 3 out of 4 chance it will not involve his property. This is quite a dilemma; can we legal John.

Answer: John. Tough question, and an even tougher answer. The developer may have anticipated this. First, I would review the title history to your property. When you bought the house, you should have obtained a title report. You may be lucky and find some easement language among the land records that addresses situations such as yours. If your settlement file does not contain any such information, perhaps the three of you should chip in and have the title searched.

But it is possible that there is no language in your title that assists you. Accordingly, you really have only two alternatives: first, wait until the roof leaks and then all four of you will have to hire a roofer. Clearly, this is not acceptable for several reasons, the main one is that the rain may cause damage to your property and based on the fact that you were trying to deal with this earlier and know that there are problems, your insurance carrier may reject any claims.

Your second alternative: the three of you should hire an independent engineer to assess the condition of the roof and its useful life. If the report indicates that you have to deal with the roof now, I would send a formal letter to the holdout neighbor, send him a copy of the report, and put him on notice that he will be held responsible should there be any damage to any or all of the three other houses.

And if the neighbor still balks, and if the report indicates that the roof needs immediate work, your attorney may be able to file suit against the neighbor seeking a permanent injunction, thereby forcing him to cooperate.

Itrsquo;s not a pleasant situation and unfortunately therersquo;s always one person who stands out in a crowd.


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Mortgage Rate Locks: What You Need to Know

Such volatility has been rare over the past year or so but thatrsquo;s how rates can be higher in the afternoon compared to earlier in the day. What consumers also may not know is that mortgage rate quotes mean little until yoursquo;re able to lock that rate in.

Years ago, a borrower could call up multiple lenders over a period of time and not only get a rate quoted over the phone but also lock that rate in. Without even submitting a loan application or any documentation at all. Those days are long gone and today lenders take interest rate locks just as serious as consumers do. When a lender locks in a clientrsquo;s rate, it essentially reserves those funds from its credit line.

As part of the initial loan disclosure period when someone first submits a completed loan application, consumers receive a Rate Lock Disclosure document. It is this document that spells out when someone can lock and what happens if a rate lock expires. Most lenders today wonrsquo;t accept a lock until and unless the lender has a completed loan application package. Lenders can also decline an interest rate lock request if there is no sales contract or subject property selected. However, when consumers do arrive at a point in the process where they can lock in a rate, they do have options.

Rates and fees will be the lowest for shorter term locks. How short can a lock be? Some lenders offer a lock period of 12 days but others ask for a 15 day lock. Once the rate is locked, and itrsquo;s usually different than the one initially disclosed, then another round of disclosures are required showing the newly locked rate, APR and other features of the note. Perhaps the most common lock period is 30 days, but borrowers may also be offered lock periods of 60 or 90 days. Remember, the shorter the lock period the lower the rate. Conversely, the longer the lock period, the higher the rate.

The lock period gives the lender sufficient time to prepare your closing papers and deliver them to your settlement agent. The lock period must be long enough to cover this processing time as well as reviewing your final, signed closing papers. Sometimes a rate lock is set to expire soon and the lender is not certain there will be enough time to fund the loan without a rate expiration. The general rule is this: if a rate lock is broken, the consumer is typically saddled with the higher of previously locked rate or market rates. It doesnrsquo;t do the consumer any good to slow down the documentation process because rates in general have fallen below the original locked rate.

Lenders can however offer lower rates even if a rate was locked, but there are some lender requirements for a ldquo;float down.rdquo; First, to get a rate lock extension, the extension must be issued before the rate expires and second, for a float down, market rates must have fallen by a specific amount. Donrsquo;t expect to nab the lower rate if rates have only fallen by 0.125 for example.

There are also times when a lock expires due to no fault of the consumer and lenders can then provide a courtesy extension for enough time that it takes to fund the loan. Such a concession is typically when the loan process is taking longer than usual or the lender is taking more time than it should. These concessions are completely up to the lenderrsquo;s internal guidelines and not necessarily universal from one lender to the next. To do your part, make sure you act swiftly when providing documentation and answering any questions the lender might have while your loan is being moved through the approval process. If not and your rate lock expires, the lender can point to your delays in providing requesting documentation.


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Junior Liens Who Choose to Foreclose

Many private lenders may choose to fund a junior lien where the first mortgage is >

In looking at a foreclosure, a lender has to strategize. In the case of the second mortgage, it is imperative that the first does not foreclose out the second as there is usually nothing left over from the foreclosure to pay the second. In California, the foreclosing party gets to ldquo;credit bidrdquo; its loan. This means that it can simply bid [at the auction/trustee sale] what it is owed. Non foreclosing parties need to come up with cashierrsquo;s checks in order to bid. This can be a potential hardship for the second mortgage if the first is the foreclosing party.

For example, if we look at a situation where the property has a value of 1,400,000, the first is 800,000 and the second is 200,000 and the first is the foreclosing party, the first would most likely credit bid its entire 800,000 [it does have the right to bid less than what it is owed, but, if the value is reasonably higher than what is owed to the first, it will normally credit bid what it is enti>

Any bidder at the auction/trustee sale would need to come up with 800,000 at the auction itself or more should any bid exceed 800,000 if the bidder wants to be the highest bidder. In this instance [where the first mortgage is the foreclosing party], the second is not allowed to credit bid its 200,000 balance. It would need to come up with the 800,000 to pay off the first and its 200,000 second mortgage in order to be made whole. True, the second would just get its 200,000 back because that is what it is owed, but, unfortunately, in this case, since it was not the foreclosing party, it has to come up with cash just as any other bidder. Only the foreclosing party is allowed to credit bid.

For this reason, it is important for the second to have a strategy in place. The second wants to be the foreclosing party in most instances, driving the bus, so to speak. Borrowers usually go into default for two main reasons.

First, they stop making payments to the lender. Second, the lenderrsquo;s loan is due, and the borrower has not refinanced or sold the property. In the case where payments have not been paid, junior lien holders have the right to ldquo;curerdquo; the first. One can usually do that simply by making the payments to the first. Since foreclosure in California normally takes three months and 21 days, one strategy is for the second to cure the first and start its own foreclosure.

However, this may be cost prohibitive, especially if the first is large and the arrearages on the first are a few months. When the first files for foreclosure, junior lien holders are to be notified. This gives them notice, so they can have the opportunity to cure the first. The second then files its own foreclosure [either because the borrower has probably also not made payments to the second mortgage or because most loan documents state that if a borrower is in default on any mortgage associated with the property, its loan is also in default whether or not the borrower has kept the second current with payments].

One strategy for the second lien holder is to cure the first as soon as possible to allow the second to be the foreclosing party. That way, the second would be allowed to credit bid its loan, but would not eliminate the first; it would have to take the property subject to the first and have to deal with them post foreclosure. However, what happens in the case where the second pays just enough to get the first to stop its foreclosure for the time being, the second starts its own foreclosure, and then does not make any more payments to the first and allow the first to start its own foreclosure?

Letrsquo;s look at an example and see how this might play out; in our previous example, the property was worth 1,400,000, the first was 800,000, and the second was 200,000. Letrsquo;s presume that the borrower stopped making payments on both the first and second mortgages. Both loans have a maturity date five years in the future. If the first files foreclosure, the second could cure the first by making only one mortgage payment to them. Now it is true that most lenders will not immediately file a notice of default after 30 days, but the point here is for the second to make the first mortgage cancel or delay [even temporarily] its foreclosure, so the second mortgage can start its own foreclosure for two main reasons; it puts the second in a situation wherein the first does not foreclose out the second, and it allows the second to credit bid its loan at the time of the trustee sale.

Now it is true that, if the second does not make any more payments to the first [other than the one to get the first to stop its foreclosure], the first may start a foreclosure again, but, the firstrsquo;s foreclosure will be after the second mortgage has completed its foreclosure, buying time for the second to deal with the first [or sell or refinance the property] if the second is ultimately the high bidder at auction. If another bidder outbids the second, the first would get paid, the second would get paid, and the owner [borrower who defaulted] would pocket the difference.

If there is enough equity in the property, either the property will receive a high enough bid to pay off all of the liens, or the second [the foreclosing party in our example] should be able to flip the property fairly quickly or decide to keep the property, as it would be the new owner. If the second chooses not sell the property, it should very quickly discuss with the first some sort of agreement to either refinance [a new loan to the second who is now the owner] or make payments for a period that will allow time for a new lender. The above information is for discussion purposes only and, as always, one is advised to discuss real estate >

nbsp;


Edward Brown is an investment expert and host of the radio show, ldquo;The Best of Investing.rdquo; He has multiple published works, including an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and has also served as a chairman of the Shareholder Equity Committee to protect 29,000 shareholders representing 500 million REIT. Edward is also a recipient of a prestigious MBA Tax Award.


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Use Corporate Sales Strategies to Sell Your Home

Lets start with Apple and Samsung. Apple distinguished its products by going white when other hardware producers had black or metallic casings. Samsung imitated the success of Apple products by copying their interfaces, then took the inside lane by creating a bigger viewing screen. So what does that have to do with selling a home? Here are three ways you can use world->

Paint it white. One reason Apple products are so hot is the cool factor. Their products are streamlined, minimalistic and great-looking. Thats the same thing you should strive to do when selling your home. Like Apple did away with the hard drive, get rid of anything you dont absolutely need for a clean, uncluttered look. Paint your home a single color like white so your buyers can see the bones of the house.

Make it unique. Theres a reason you cant shop anywhere else to get the fit you want. The great retailers like J Crew tell a story by creating their own branded clothes and accessories around a theme. You can do the same thing. Make your home stand out from the neighbors with a feature they dont have like a treehouse or a koi pond. Greet visitors with a tableau -- a porch swing decorated with fresh pillows and a tabletop with a tray of lemonades.

Add value. Recognize that competition is stiff, so you have to do something to make your home a little more attractive to buyers. While you cant supersize your home like a McDonalds burger and fries, you can offer more for the money like a meal deal -- a burger, soft drink and fries for less than they would cost separately. Offer touring bikes for the next family to enjoy around the neighborhood. Throw in the first year of HOA fees in exchange for a full-price offer.

You want your home to be memorable and inviting. Let the big corporations show you how its done.


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Simple DIY Projects That Will Increase the Value of Your Home

Modernize Fixtures

Replacing outlet covers can cost less than a dollar each, but if they have paint or other things on it, its a good change. While youre at it, consider updating the outlets themselves. For about 25-30 you can buy an outlet that also includes two USB charging ports. With all the smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices lying around, just a few of those, well-placed, can make a big difference. Think about the rooms in your home that dont have enough outlets and the rooms that are most used for charging.

A less expensive upgrade? Doorknobs. Mismatched, broken, and dingy doorknobs can be a major deterrent. For a small amount of money per knob, you can update the look and make the whole house more visually appealing.

Lighten It Up

The more light you can add to your home, the better. Freshening up or removing curtains can brighten your home and make it more inviting.

Replacing windows is also a great way to add value to your home, particularly true if you live in an older home that has a lot of windows that stick or that let in the heat or cold. Installing energy efficient windows can also get you a nice tax break. However, poorly-installed windows can let in water, which can lead to mold and cracked foundations, so this isnt for everyone.

Old light fixtures, or light fixtures that are dim or unappealing should be replaced to brighten the house.

Makeover the Bathroom

Bathrooms consistently get a high return on the investment. If you have a small budget and youre DIYing, start small. A new vanity. New sink. A nice ceiling light. A spa-like shower head. A nice towel bar. None of these things have to cost over 100, but they all add value to your home by freshening it up, providing simple conveniences, and making it nicer. Who doesnt want one of those fancy shower heads?

If your bathroom floor is falling apart, suffering from water damage or is just outdated, you can restore it yourself pretty inexpensively. Many home improvement stores offer a >

Freshen Up the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the biggest things that will turn potential buyers on or off to a house. Its also one of the places where you can get the most money back for your investment. Whats the single best DIY change to make in the kitchen? A fresh coat of white paint on the cabinets. Go ahead and change out the knobs, too.

Storage is another change to consider. Add more shelves, possibly with space underneath to hang coffee mugs. Kitchen islands are in demand now and building one with storage will add value.

Keeping Up on Maintenance

A home in good repair is always going to be more valuable than one with a leaky roof. If the siding is old or falling apart, replace it. Consider getting a home warranty, to ensure the value of your appliances. Also make sure to maintain the appearance outside, sweep up the leaves, trim the bushes, and keep fences in good repair.

Adding value to your home doesnt have to be expensive or difficult. Sometimes, the simplest DIY can be the best place to start. Start by considering your budget and your homes most pressing needs, and update from there.


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Working With Professional Real Estate Agents

License Required

State licensing law requires anyone acting as a broker or salesperson to first obtain a real estate license this involves taking real estate >

Common examples of violations would be a misrepresentation, false advertising, undisclosed dual agency, secret profits, and commingling of client monies.

An agent is one who represents another, called the principal, in dealings with third persons. The best way to create an agency is using an express written contract, although agency can also be created after the fact through "ratification" by the principal of the agents acts.

The agent owes the principal fiduciary duties of good faith, full disclosure, confidentiality, obedience, accounting, and the exercise of reasonable skill and care.

An agency >

A listing is a written employment contract in which the owner authorizes a broker to deal with prospective buyers on behalf of the owner. The listing is a personal service contract that can neither be recorded nor assigned. The amount of commission is negotiable between owner and agent.

The main types of listings are the exclusive listings, open listings, and net listings. The Multiple Listing Service MLS is an organized "pooling" of listings by broker members.

The listing agent represents the seller; in some cases, the listing agent may offer to represent the buyer as well in what is called a dual agency. In other cases, the buyer may decide to retain the services of a buyers broker to represent the buyer exclusively in most cases, the buyers broker will be paid from an authorized commission split with the listing broker.

Key Words in a Real Estate Transaction

AGENCY- A >

AGENT- One who is authorized to represent and to act on behalf of another person called the principal. A real estate broker is the agent of his client, be it the seller or buyer, to whom he owes a fiduciary obligation. A salesperson is the agent of the broker and does not have a direct personal contractual >

ATTORNEY-IN-FACT- One who is authorized by another to act in his place under a power of attorney.

BROKER- One who acts as an intermediary between parties to a transaction. A real estate broker is a properly licensed person who, for a valuable consideration, serves as an agent to others to facilitate the sale or lease of real property.

BROKERAGE- That aspect of the real estate business that is concerned with bringing together the parties and completing a real estate transaction. Brokerage involves exchanges, rentals, trade-ins, and management of the property, as well as sales.

CODE OF ETHICS- A written system of standards of ethical conduct. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors, first written in 1913, establishes the high standards of conduct for members of the Realtor community.

COMMINGLING- To mingle or mix; for example, to deposit client funds in the brokers personal or general account. A licensee found guilty of commingling can have the license suspended or revoked by the Real Estate Commission.

COOPERATING BROKER- A broker who joins with another broker in the sale of real property; sometimes called the selling broker.

COURTESY TO BROKERS- The practice of sharing commissions with cooperating brokers.

DEFERRED COMMISSIONS- Commissions that are earned but not yet fully paid.

DUAL AGENCY- Representing both principals buyer and seller to a transaction.

EXCLUSIVE AGENCY- A written listing agreement giving one agent the right to sell the property for a specified time, but reserving to the owner the right to sell the property himself without payment of any commission.

EXCLUSIVE LISTING- A written listing of real property in which the seller agrees to appoint only one broker to sell the property for a specified period of time. The two types of exclusive listings are the exclusive agency and the exclusive right to sell.

EXTENDER CLAUSE- A "carry over" clause referred to as a safety clause contained in a listing provides that a broker is still entitled to a commission for a set of period of time after the listing has expired if the property is sold to a former prospect of the broker.

FARM AREA- A selected geographical area or one specific building to which a real estate salesperson devotes special attention and study.

FIDUCIARY- A >

FINDERS FEE- A fee paid to someone for producing a buyer to purchase or a seller to list property; also called a referral fee.

GENERAL AGENT- One who is authorized to perform any and all acts associated with the continued operation of a particular job or a certain business.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR- One who is retained to perform a certain act, but who is subject to the control and direction of another only as to the end result and not as how he performs the act. The critical feature, and what distinguishes an independent contractor from an employee or agent, is the right to control.

LICENSEE- A person who has a valid license. A real estate licensee can be a salesperson or a broker, active or inactive, an individual, a corporation, or a partnership.

LISTING- A written employment agreement between a property owner and a broker authorizing the broker to find a buyer or a tenant for certain real property.

OFFICE EXCLUSIVE- A listing in which the seller refuses to submit the listing to Multiple Listing Service, even after being informed of the advantages of MLS, and signs a certification to that effect.

OPEN HOUSE- The common real estate practice of showing a listed home to the public during established hours, frequently on Sunday afternoons.

OPEN LISTING- A listing given to any number of brokers. The first broker who secures a buyer ready, willing and able to purchase at the terms of the listing is the one who earns the commission.

OVERRIDE- A commission paid to managerial personnel e.g., the principal broker on sales made by their subordinates, usually calculated as a percentage of the gross sales commissions earned by the salesperson.

POCKET LISTING- A listing which is retained by the listing broker or salesperson, who does not make it available to other brokers in the office or to other Multiple Listing Service members.

POWER OF ATTORNEY- A written instrument authorizing a person the attorney-in-fact to act as the agent on behalf of another to the extent indicated in the instrument.

PRINCIPAL BROKER- The licensed broker directly in charge of and responsible for the real estate operations conducted by a brokerage company.

PROCURING CAUSE- That effort which brings about the desired result, as in producing the buyer for the listed property.

REALTOR- A registered word which may only be used by an active real estate broker who is a member of the state and local real estate board affiliated with the National Association of Realtors. The use of the name REALTOR and the distinctive seal in advertising is strictly governed by the rules and regulations of the National Assn. of REALTORSreg;.


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HOA Volunteer Pheromones

Develop a communication system.

A frequent complaint of members is not being kept informed. To draw out volunteers, itrsquo;s critical that they know whatrsquo;s going on. Also, some members develop a suspicious nature about board motives when kept in the dark. Suspicion breeds volunteer resistance. The board should strive to do business transparently. Let them know what yoursquo;re up to early and often A newsletter and flyer distribution box the kind used by real estate agents is an inexpensive and convenient way to get the word out. Email is free.

Give credit where credit is due.

People love recognition.

Make sure that directors, committee members and volunteers are given formal recognition for their efforts at meetings, in the minutes and newsletters...every opportunity where there is an audience. Seek out particular members that show superior abilities. Award certificates of achievement at the annual meeting.

Provide social opportunities.

People tend to want to help those that they know personally. However, many are shy and donrsquo;t make friends easily. The HOA can promote several social events each year to facilitate the process. Consider a spring clean-up party, pool party or just plain old potluck. It will help create real "community".

Assign real jobs to do.

Itrsquo;s been said, "A committee takes minutes and wastes hours." There is nothing more frustrating than a job with no substance. There is real work to do at each homeowner association. Directors and committee members should have clear marching orders detailing exactly what the objectives are, the time frame and the money available to help get the task done.

Get organized.

Have meetings scheduled well in advance. Have a proper agenda, run the meeting in a businesslike way and limit your meetings to two hours. Save cocktails, if any, until after the meeting to avoid endless rambling meetings which are a real turnoff to successful people the kind you want as volunteers. Your meetings should be decision oriented so things get done.

Be an encourager.

It is incumbent on the board to take the lead in promoting volunteers. The successful leader motivates by persuasion and not authority. A servant leader does not lower himself but elevates others.

Since common scents donrsquo;t work with humans like they do in the animal world, use common sense by making the volunteer position too attractive to resist....like a moth to a flame.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net


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Why You Should Just Say No to FSBO

Well therersquo;s an oversimplification. While we await a follow-up sometime NEVER saying the home has been sold, without a Realtor and for asking price, we thought it was a good time to examine again why itrsquo;s not a good idea to try to sell your own home. It just so happens that the National Association of Realtorsrsquo; NAR 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers was just >Data from the report shows:

The number of homes sold by owner decreased in 2018 to ldquo;the lowest share recorded since this report started in 1981.rdquo; Just seven percent of home sales were logged as an FSBO. This is likely due to: fewer homes being listed FSBO overall; and homes listed FSBO not selling and ending up, ultimately, with agent representation.

ldquo;The median age for FSBO sellers is 55 years.rdquo; Could this be a factor of people thinking they have enough life experience and knowledge to play real estate agent?

ldquo;Seventy-one percent of FSBO sales were by married couples that have a median household income of 98,800.rdquo; Regardless of marital status or income, itrsquo;s not a stretch to say that those who opt to try to sell their own home are doing so to try to save some money.

However, ldquo;FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of 200,000 last year up from 190,000 the year prior, and signicantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at 264,900.rdquo; While itrsquo;s not possible to make a straight-up comparison between the 200,000 and 264,900 number, that is a GLARING difference.

The report nbsp;also showed that among the ldquo;most difficult tasks for FSBO sellersrdquo; were ldquo;getting the right price,rdquo; at 17.rdquo; This makes sense considering agents have access to comparables, historical data, and a network of other real estate professionals to provide pricing counsel and context, whereas sellers havehellip;Zillow.


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How to Find a Living Space That Works for Your Disability

According to a US Census Bureau report, 12.6 percent of non-institutionalized Americans were living with a disability in 2015. While your situation is a unique one that requires special attention, you are certainly not alone. However, the average home might not be the right dwelling for you. Instead of staying in a place thatrsquo;s not suited to your life>

Finding Your Next Home

With the Internet serving as a haven for home listings, a world of options is at your fingertips. Just about every home listing site has a search feature that allows you to filter results for accessible housing. Try searching ldquo;handicap accessrdquo; or ldquo;disability accessrdquo; to see whatrsquo;s on the market and which house offers the best features. Since each individual has unique needs, you might not find a house that has everything to accommodate your life, but you might find something close. It could help to find a home that was lived in or designed by someone with a similar condition as yours. The more similar your condition and impairments, the less yoursquo;ll need to modify.

Preparations

Before you move into your new home and start making modifications, prepare your new home for your arrival. Safety should always be the top priority. Secure your home by having your locks changed. An online search tool can help you find a trustworthy locksmith, along with other vendors for various jobs around the house. Hire a cleaning crew to deep clean the place of toxins and allergens, especially if you suffer from a condition that can be triggered by poor indoor air quality. Find a flooring company to rip out the carpets and replace them with non-slip floors, such as laminate, vinyl, hardwood, and ceramic tile. Other modifications can be made once yoursquo;re living in the home, but these things are easier to handle when the house is empty.

Buy a Home and Modify It

Sometimes, you canrsquo;t find a dream home that features the accessibility you need, but you can turn your dream home or your current one into an accessible home with a little work. If yoursquo;re unable to climb stairs, the main thing to avoid is having a second floor; thankfully, therersquo;s no shortage of single-story homes on the market. Some houses come with small steps leading from one room to the next or at the entrances, but a ramp can alleviate the difficulty of getting up and down the stairs.

Wider doorways can make it easier for you to get around, as will an open floor plan. Aim for fewer hallways and walls so that there are fewer obstacles to navigate around. To make daily living easier and safer, look into design modifications such as grab bars in the bathroom and a walk-in shower with a bench instead of a step-in tub.

It may seem overwhelming to embark on a big move, but itrsquo;s manageable with the right resources and a reasonable plan. Recruit some help from family or friends, and start making those moves. Whether yoursquo;re disabled and require accessible accommodations or yoursquo;re simply in need of a change, your new home awaits.


Full Story >

Can Experian Boost Turn You into a Homebuyer?

ldquo;The first thing most lenders look at when you want to buy a home is your credit history. Most people have traditional lines of credit such as credit cards, auto loans or a current mortgage that form a track record of how they manage debt,rdquo; said NerdWallet. ldquo;But if you have no credit history or whatrsquo;s sometimes called a nontraditional credit history, which is one with no credit card debt or other kinds of loans, it might be harder to establish a set of credit stats. That could make it tough to find a mortgage lender who will work with you.rdquo;

A just-launched program from Experian intends to help would-be buyers become better qualified. Called Experian Boost, the free, online platform allows consumers to ldquo;instantly influence their credit scoresrdquo; by using data from telephone and utility payments. ldquo;Itrsquo;s a first of its kind program designed to give more consumers access to credit,rdquo; said Experian.

How it works is: consumers grant permission to Experian Boost ldquo;to connect to their online bank accounts to identify and access utility and telecommunications payments,rdquo; per the companys >

ldquo;The amount a consumerrsquo;s score will be boosted depends on many factors, including current credit history,rdquo; Rod Griffin, Director of Consumer Education for Experian, told us. ldquo;Ultimately, the mortgage lender will make the final approval decision. The new self-reported accounts, or trades, will flow through the tri-bureau process for mortgage underwriting, giving lenders the view of new trades that were not visible before Experian Boost.rdquo;

According to the company, those with ldquo;thin credit files less than five trade lines and scores between 580 to 669 will benefit the most from Experian Boost.rdquo; Testing of the platform on a sample FICO reg; Scores showed an increase in two of three credit bureau scores and:

bull; ldquo;10 of thin-file consumers became scoreable
bull; For consumers with a score below 680, 75 saw an improvement in their credit score
bull; 14 of consumers with a credit score at or below 579 moved to a near prime score between 620 ndash; 679
bull; Depending on credit tier, 5-15 moved into a better score categoryrdquo;

The benefit to homebuyers is twofold: 1 Those who may not have been able to qualify for a home loan otherwise may end up with scores that are high enough to satisfy lenders; 2 A lower interest rate may be available for those who previously had subprime scores. This can save them tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. ldquo;According to Credit Builders Alliance, having a subprime credit score will cost the average consumer approximately 200,000 more over the course of their life,rdquo; they said.

You can sign up for Experian Boost on their website.


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Your VA Loan the Second Time Around

Yet just checking that box isnrsquo;t enough for a lender to verify the applicant is eligible for this special program. Instead, the lender contacts the VA directly the borrower can but it takes too much time and asks for eligibility. This eligibility is verified by receiving a copy of the applicantrsquo;s Certificate of Eligibility.

The certificate is received almost momentarily after the request. The interesting part of this process is how much eligibility the applicant has. For someone that has never used their VA entitlement to buy a home, that individual will have full entitlement. But the certificate will show the entitlement amount is 36,000.

Thatrsquo;s not much, is it? However, because there is a 25 guarantee to the lender, the maximum VA loan amount is four times 36,000, or 144,000. Still, thatrsquo;s much lower than what many want to borrow. In 2019 for example the maximum VA loan limit is the same as the conventional one. In most parts of the country, that amount is 484,450 for a single family home. So, whatrsquo;s the point of the certificate?

Guidelines have changed over the years and today, VA loan limits match conforming ones, regardless of what the eligibility certificate says. If a veteran buys a property and finances 300,000 with a VA loan, that uses up all of the eligibility. Stay with me here.

Now letrsquo;s say a veteran sees a house for 80,000 and uses the VA loan. The 25 guarantee would be 20,000. If you subtract that from the original 36,000, that leaves 16,000. Four times that is 64,000. Again, not many properties would fall into that category. However, that is possible and any remaining entitlement would be listed at 16,000 on the certificate. But this is only an issue if the borrower keeps the existing home and buys another. In that scenario, the VA loan isnrsquo;t an option and full entitlement canrsquo;t be restored.

Instead, the veteran can sell the existing home which would restore the original entitlement and use the VA loan once again. The VA home loan benefit is not a one-time deal. It can be used again. One final note, when using the VA loan the second time around, let your lender help at the outset to make sure there wonrsquo;t be any entitlement amount issues as your loan is being processed.


Full Story >

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Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

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