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Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Is The Gray Hardwood Floor Trend Right For You?

Gray floors starting popping up as a trend a few years ago, and theyve grown in popularity and desirability alongside gray walls and gray kitchens and gray everything else. But you dont have to have gray in every part of your home to embrace this trend. Cool and sophisticated, gray hardwood provides a solid foundation upon which an array of dcor >

Lumber Liquidators called gray "the new neutral," and they hit on what has connected so strongly with consumers and designers: banishing the brown and bringing in the gray introduces a new perspective and a modern feel.

"Already a fashionable look for walls, furnishings, and home accessories, gray has also emerged as the must-have stain for floors," they said. "And its no surprise. This versatile hue provides a stylish and modern look that works well in casual and coastal settings. Gray flooring will give your home a fresh new look that is both timely and timeless."

Gray hues are endless and make picking the right shade an adventure when painting your walls, and the options for gray hardwood floors are vast. Choose from wide plank or narrow, sleek and shiny or weathered, light or dark finish, or even painted. And then theres the huge array of wood-look tiles that gives the feel of wood with other advantages including lower maintenance and durability.

"Different shades and hues of gray blend well with a variety of colors, and understanding the undertones in your floor color is necessary before you surround it with complementary colors," said Home Guides. "Gray is subtle, sets the tone for a room, and quietly adds depth to its surroundings."

Check out these options to see if gray hardwood floors click with you.

"Weathered wood floors grayed from years of wear go so well with the ubiquitous reclaimed wood and industrial furniture in todays market," said Bob Vila. You can also get that look by finishing or refinishing floors using a product called Monocoat.

Photo by Perpetua Wood Floors - Search eclectic home design design ideas

This version is Vintage French Oak Alaska, an engineered and prefinished product thats perfect for a modern, chic living room.

Photo by Unique Wood Floors - Browse modern living room ideas

Some of todays gray wood floors are really more of a gray-brown hybrid, which makes those who still may be having a hard time leaving traditional flooring hues behind feel a little more comfortable.

Coats Homes

This barnwood look in light gray is cool and contemporary with a touch of rusticity.


Dark, wide planks bring a sleek look perfect for any modern space.

Wide Plank Flooring

This floor may resemble petrified wood, but its actually glazed porcelain.

Daily Press

Using gray as a base and building in beachy colors gives this wood-look floor a seaside feel perfect for its setting.

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The Ps Of Community Living: Rules Enforcement

Question: We live in a nice community, but every so often someone breaks one of our rules. Sometimes the infraction is minor -- such as washing their car on the public street. Other times, the violation is more serious, such as yelling, arguing and even threatening people. The violators may be unit owners or tenants. Can you outline in general terms what our Board of Directors can do to curtail these various infractions?

Answer: In my years of representing community associations, I have developed a long list of "Ps" of community living, including pets, people, presidents, prostitutes, parking, pianos, pigs vietnamese, pools, psychiatrists, portals, plumbers, etc.

Lets address the most serious matters first. Whether the person creating the problem is a tenant or an owner, if criminal conduct is involved, call the police immediately. Neither the Board of Directors nor management is competent to handle such matters. More importantly, you do not want to be involved in obstructing the authorities in their investigation.

If the problem is not criminal, but involves an infraction of your association documents or your rules and regulations, we then have to determine if the alleged perpetrator is a unit owner or a tenant of an owner:

1. Owner: Here, the situation is >

Make sure the alleged conduct does in fact violate your rules or your associations documents. If you have any uncertainty, discuss the matter with your association attorney.

Once you are satisfied you have a strong case, advise the owner that the Board or an authorized committee will hold a hearing, for the purpose of giving the owner an opportunity to defend his or her position. The owner can be represented by counsel at the hearing if he or she so desires. The hearing is informal and can be held before a panel of board members or other owners selected and approved by the board.

If the Board or the committee determines the owner has violated the governing rules, the Board has a number of options at its disposal. It is important to note that these comments are general in nature; some association documents may not permit some of these options or may even have others:

  • fine the errant owner;
  • suspend voting;
  • sanctions, e.g., the owner cannot use the Association amenities -- the pool;
  • take the owner to court seeking declaratory or injunctive >
  • have the owner sign a statement an agreement to the effect that the problem will not happen again. Such statement should include language spelling out what happens should the situation occur again.

2. Tenant: Many associations over the years have adopted -- and implemented -- a requirement that each owner and each tenant sign a "lease addendum". Such a document allows the association to step into the shoes of the owner and take all appropriate legal action against the tenant if there are violations created or caused by the tenant. If your association does not have such a "lease addendum" policy, again, it is strongly recommended that you immediately adopt such policy.

On the other hand, if the tenant did not sign a lease addendum, you may find it more difficult to take legal action against him/her. However, you should follow the same procedures as discussed above concerning owners with the owner receiving copies of all the notices and documents mailed to the tenant. In some cases, the Board may need to explain to the tenant that this is a community association, and that everyone is expected to honor and follow certain rules and regulations. Often, I have found that tenants are not aware of the applicable rules, and welcome the opportunity to learn about them.

If the tenant shows no concern -- or indeed is hostile to your overtures -- advise the tenant and owner that the Board has to follow the rules and that legal action will be taken if the alleged violations do not cease.

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4 U.S. Cities Best for New amp; Experienced REALTORS

A career in real estate can be immensely rewarding and challenging, while providing ample opportunities to grow and succeed. While many REALTORS start and end their careers in whichever city they currently reside, some would like to branch out a bit and test the real estate waters in other parts of the country.

Now that the real estate market is much healthier than it was several years ago, there are numerous cities across the United States that have recovered especially well and offer a great working environment for Realtors of all experience levels. With that in mind, check out four cities that are especially great for newbie Realtors who have just gotten into the industry, as well as more seasoned veterans of the real estate market.

Houston, Texas

a great place to start a career

Good Call lists the Houston metropolitan area as number seven on its Top 10 Places for Real Estate Agents list. The region, which includes The Woodlands and Sugar Land, offers a median salary of 56,390 and a housing affordability index of 24.34 percent. Homes remain on the market an average of 69 days and the sale-to-list price is an impressive 97.85 percent. ForRent confirms how booming the housing market in Houston is. In addition to homes for sale, the community offers plenty of apartments and condominiums. Young real estate agents who are starting their careers will find a lot of inventory, clients and great selling prices in the Houston area.

Eugene, Oregon

low competition ideal for new Realtors

Eugene, Oregon, is more than the home of the University of Oregon and its rabid group of Duck fans. It is also a perfect place for fledgling Realtors to test their wings Duck or otherwise. Although the region has a >

Rockford, Illinois

beckons industry veterans

Rockford, Illinois, is a vibrant community with plenty of jobs in the health and aerospace industries. Even though there is a >

Reno, Nevada

hot market with no signs of slowing down

According to the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors, everything about the Reno real estate market is red hot. The average sales price is 310,000, which is a 5 percent increase and the inventory is up as well. Realtors who have been in the business for some time will enjoy working in a competitive marketplace that is also a haven for retirees. With Realtors incomes typically coming from commissions, higher home values in Reno mean bigger paychecks, and the competitive market is perfect for seasoned Realtors who are knowledgeable about working in an active area with eager buyers ready to pounce on properties.

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9 Reasons To Visit A Home At Night Before Buying

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who moved into what seemed like a perfectly great house on a perfectly nice street only to have a complete nightmare unfold. But the truth is that your neighbor doesnt have to be practicing Santeria on the front lawn for you to hate where you live. So many things can turn what seems like your dream home into a disaster. You may not be able to avoid every one of them, but doing your due diligence can help.

Step 1: Visit the homes you are considering at night. You may get a completely different perspective on the neighborhood once the streetlights go out - one that could change how you feel about living there. Need some concrete reasons to visit at night? How about:

1. To find out if your neighbors are weird

If you toured the house during a weekday or even on a weekend, you may not have gotten a true feel for who your neighbors could be. Come at night, and you might see the guy next door walking his pet iguana in the nude the guy, not the iguana, or see the shady couple from around the corner make their nightly pilgrimage to the elementary school to ride the swings in a very curiously happy state.


2. To figure out if its not active enough

Do you even have neighbors? You may not be too sure if they never emerge from their house. If youre looking for a social experience in your new neighborhood and the one your potential new house is in looks like a ghost town after 5, this might give you second thoughts.

3. To see if its too active

There can be too much of a good thing. If you swing by and see that everyone is out mixing, it may make you look further into how often this occurs. Does living there mean youll never have time to play a board game with the family or sit and watch your reality shows, or even prepare your own dinner or take a bath? That could be a deal breaker.

4. To gauge the noise level

Noise ordinances arent something homebuyers want to have to familiarize themselves with, but, for some, thats the reality of life in a loud neighborhood. You may not know that the dog across the street barks for 20 minutes every time the sun goes down - and then every time someone has the nerve to walk by the house - or that several teenagers on the street have formed a garage band and their practice schedule is not compatible with your childrens sleeping schedules until youre spent some time there at night.

5. To figure out the commute

Drive from work to your potential new house and make sure the commute is doable. Even if its around the same distance to work as your current home, traffic patterns could make the drive unbearable.

6. To make sure there are enough kids

Envisioning a neighborhood where the kids all play together on the street and ride their bikes and families are out walking with their dogs and strollers just not every minute of every day? Spend some time in the neighborhood before and after dinner. If you dont see much activity in the time before the sun goes down, there may not be much to see at all.


7. To make sure the mixed-use neighborhood isnt a little too mixed

The idea of being within walking distance to shops, cafes, and restaurants sounds great to many people. But have you thought about how the noise and traffic thats created in areas like this might affect your peace of mind at night?

8. To ensure its safe

A neighborhood can look fine during the day and transform to something a little iffy when the lights go out. Make sure you check out the park down the street to make sure it isnt a drug hang and that area businesses dont attract a questionable crowd in the evenings.

9. Because there could be a serial killer living next door

Are you going to find out in one night of sitting outside in your car or strolling down the street? No, but you may observe some odd behavior that gives you pause. Maybe its just a gut feeling you get spending time in the neighborhood at night. If youre trying to decide between a few homes, this may provide the tipping point you need to make the right choice.

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Niche Staging For Your Home

You wont always know who your buyer is going to be when listing a home for sale. But, with many homes, you have a good idea of the general target group. While many homes for sale attempt to appeal to the largest number of buyers, niche staging may actually get a home sold sooner.

"Whether you are marketing your home to first-time home buyers, young families or empty nesters, all of them are looking for some of the same characteristics in a home - along with a few special preferences that meet their specific needs," said Realtor.com. "Of course, home buyers are individuals, too, so the feature in your home that most appeals to one buyer - such as an extensive backyard with space for gardening - could have zero appeal for another buyer. As a seller, there are some things you may not be able to change easily about your home - but the more you know about what attracts buyers, the more you can emphasize those features in your marketing materials and by staging your home."

And the more your home is staged for a particular group, the better your chances of being able to influence who the buyer is.


Yes, millennials are buying houses. They may even be looking to buy your listingif it has what they need and appeals to them visually. Bankrates No. 1 tip for attracting millennials: "Dont make it look like Grandmas house."

Yes, thats a solid strategy, because, "Millennials... want a home thats move-in ready, modernized and furnished with all the colors and comforts of a Pottery Barn store," they said.

If your home for sale isnt quite there yet, a few tricks can help:

  • A fresh coat of paint: Keep it neutral but stay away from beige. This reads old and dated to millennials.
  • Fix whats broken: Millennials dont want fixer-uppers.
  • Swap out furniture: Forget the comfortable, cushy couch and heirloom sideboard. Think modern, clean lined, and glamorous. If thats the opposite of what the house has, pack it all up and hire a professional stager.
  • A sleek kitchen: It might be that your listing needs a new everything in the kitchen to attract buyers and get the price your buyer wants. Most of todays buyers are looking for solid surface countertops and stainless steel appliances. In lieu of a big redo, painted cabinets, updated lighting, and new fixtures can help distract from what hasnt been done.
  • New fixtures and accessories: "Shag carpeting, original light fixtures, heavy draperies, which just scream old, and mirror walls" need to go, Kathy Streib, a home stager at Room Service Home Staging in Delray Beach, Florida, told Bankrate. Inexpensive blinds or drapes and contemporary light fixtures can give an updated look without a large financial output.
  • Bedding: A fresh, new comforter in a graphic pattern can help transform an old, outdated bedroom into something a millennial could see himself living in.

Finally, think about the marketing. Does the listing talk only about the home? Think about including the things that are important to millennials: area entertainment, including bars, cafes, and popular restaurants; recreation and shopping; and major employers nearby. Emphasizing these factors as part of the listing may push it over the top.

Chicagoland Home Staging

Young families

If the home for sale is in an area that attracts a lot of home families, but the home is designed for a Hollywood bachelor, theres some work to do.

Data has always supported that women are the decision makers when it comes to buying a home, and thats especially important to consider for this buyer group. MarketWatchs article titled "What moms look for when buying a house" touches on a few of the more obvious choices - "Open floor plans, a mud room, and an office so parents can keep tabs on their kids" - as well as tons of storage. If your listing doesnt tick these boxes, consider making changes. Bringing in a few smart storage items and, especially, setting up a play room where toys and books are all nicely put away, can do wonders.

Speaking of a play roomdoes the home have one? If not, families with young kids may not even come tour it. Staging an existing home office or guest room as a play room for young families or a game room for older families depending on what your market research indicates can help the home connect with these buyers.

Warm gathering spaces and open sightlines are key to creating the kind of home that will attract families. If the home has walls in all the wrong places, a little money spent knocking them down to create an open plan could pay off big on the back end. The same could be said about making sure the kids bedrooms are sufficient. If the owners are currently using bedrooms for a craft space, home office, or guest room while the kids are doubled-up, you turn off buyers, giving them the impression that the home doesnt have enough space for their family.

For marketing purposes, its also important to highlight neighborhood amenities that are important to this buyer. Creating a map that lists nearby shopping and family-friendly restaurants and activities is that something-extra that will resonate with buyers.

Important tip: Pay special attention to schools, making sure you have the right ones in the listing and highlighting good test scores and any other important factors. Buyers will look online at listings on sites like Zillow and Redfin, and often the schools listed are incorrect. Making sure you have the most up-to-date info about schools is critical for young families who may be looking for a specific district or elementary school.

Angies List

Retirees/empty nesters

Think your buyer might be a retiree or empty nester? Perhaps you need to rethink that game room or play room.

"Empty nesters are at a unique stage in their lives: They are free of child-rearing responsibilities, yet they remain young enough for an active life>

Staging to show off entertainment areas is key, as is making sure "multipurpose rooms appeal to childfree active adults." Have an extra bedroom? Think about turning it into a craft space or reading room.

When it comes to the main living areas, pay extra attention to the furniture arrangement. Having too much furniture in the rooms can not only make them look smaller, but may also be a hazard for those who arent as mobile as they used to be. A thoughtful space plan will make the room look better and can also make it safer.

Outside, simplifying the landscape where possible can also make a retiree feel better about the home. A small garden area may appeal to this target, but a large lawn and English garden that needs to be maintained regularly can seem overwhelming.

From a marketing standpoint, thinking about other aspects that make the home desirable to this group of buyers can also help it stand out. Does the home have walking trails or community amenities that would appeal to an active, older buyer? Local restaurants and cultural hotspots should also be included. How about the medical services nearby? A local map that points out points of interest will be helpful - and memorable.

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The Art Of Tree Pruning In Your HOA

Trees are living artwork that decorate the common area. They are beautiful and soothe the soul but are constantly changing. Like all living things, they need care and attention.

Trees are pruned to produce an effect in the landscape - thats the "art" side of pruning. Understanding and being able the trees growth and health response to pruning is the "science" side.

When done properly, pruning can improve a trees appearance as well as increase its life expectancy. Proper pruning opens the canopy of the tree to permit more air movement and sunlight penetration. Done improperly, pruning can decrease the trees life expectancy or even kill it. Because trees are living organisms, they can be profoundly affected by pruning practices.

The American National Standards Institutes criteria for tree pruning called "ANSI A300" was adopted in 1995. It should be followed in all pruning situations and geographic areas.

Making Cuts: Branches should be removed with thinning cuts. A thinning cut either removes a branch at its point of origin or shortens it back to a lateral branch that is large enough to assume the terminal role.

Branches should not be removed with heading or topping cuts. A heading cut is when a currently growing or one-year-old shoot is cut back to a bud, or when a larger limb is cut back to a stub or a lateral that is not big enough to assume the terminal role. Heading should not be used in shade and ornamental tree pruning, since it forces the growth of sprouts that are weakly attached to the parent stem. Drastic heading can kill the tree outright.

Branch Size: A minimum or maximum diameter size of branches to be removed should be specified in all pruning operations. This establishes how much pruning is to be done.

Pruning Objectives: Pruning objectives should be established prior to beginning any pruning operation. A300 provides two basic objectives:

Hazard Reduction Pruning: This is recommended when the primary objective is to reduce the danger to a specific target caused by visibly defined hazards in a tree. For example, hazard reduction pruning may be the primary objective if a tree had many dead limbs over a park bench.

Maintenance Pruning: This is recommended when the primary objective is to maintain or improve tree health and structure, and includes hazard-reduction pruning. An example here might be to perform a maintenance pruning operation on a front yard tree.

Pruning Types: Hazard reduction pruning and maintenance pruning should consist of one or more of the pruning types noted below.

  • Crown Cleaning consists of the selective removal of one or more of the following items: dead, dying, or diseased branches, weak branches and watersprouts.

  • Crown Thinning is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration, air movement, and reduce weight.

  • Crown raising consists of the removal of the lower branches of a tree to provide clearance.

  • Crown reduction, also called crown shaping, decreases the height and/or spread of a tree. Consideration should be given to the ability of a species to sustain this type of pruning.

  • Vista pruning is selective thinning of framework limbs or specific areas of the crown to allow a view of an object from a predetermined point.

  • Crown restoration pruning should improve the structure, form and appearance of trees which have been seve>

When you contract a company for tree care, you should obtain a written commitment that, "All pruning shall be done in accordance with the ANSI A300 standard for tree pruning." This means:

  • Proper cuts will be made.

  • Spikes wont be used to climb. Spikes are injurious to the living tree and should only be used in emergency situations or when the tree has very thick bark.

  • Not more than 1/4 of the foliage of the canopy or individual limbs should be removed in any one season.

  • When pruning is completed, at least of the foliage should remain evenly distributed in the lower 2/3 of the canopy.

Trees are one of a homeowner associations biggest assets and need to be treated with respect and care. Use only a trained arborist and budget in your reserve plan for recommended pruning.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see Regenesis.net.

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Broker-Owned Escrows Need To Submit Activity Reports

It appears that the California Real Estate Commissioner is more than a tad annoyed with one segment of the real estate community. That portion would be the brokers who a operate an escrow company pursuant to their real estate license, and b have not timely filed escrow activity reports with the Bureau of Real Estate BRE.

The annoyance is justified. The numbers would suggest that many brokers that should have been filing have, in fact, not been doing so. Moreover, the Bureau has actively been soliciting them. For at least the past two years, at BRE forums held in conjunction with meetings of the California Association of REALTORSCAR, the Commissioner has made a special point of reminding members about the filing requirement. Now, earlier this month, the Bureau has issued a special alert, through its web presence, to address this issue.

Not every California Broker has an escrow division. Many own escrow companies that operate under the Department of Corporations. Many others simply have no ownership interest in any escrow operation. Then, there are those who operate a "broker controlled escrow", pursuant to their real estate brokers license. These escrows are restricted to transactions in which the >

Broker-controlled escrows are, then, significantly restricted as to their potential market when compared to the more common escrow company operating under the Department of Corporations. Nonetheless, broker escrows require less capitalization and can still bring a decent profit into a brokerage.

In October of 2011, Senate Bill 53 Calderon was signed into law adding section 10141.6 to the Business and Professions Code. It set forth filing requirements for broker-controlled escrows. If such operations conduct escrow activities for five or more transactions in a calendar year, or whose activities equal or exceed one million dollars in a calendar year, it is required that a report be filed within sixty days following the completion of the calendar year.

So, how has that been working out? In the first year the requirement went into effect, for calendar year 2013, 206 real estate brokers reported such broker escrow activities totaling 8.63 billion. In the next year, for calendar year 2014, 161 real estate brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 5.52 billion. For calendar year 2015, 143 brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 8.45 billion.

Thats right. The number of reporting brokers has declined each year since the reporting began. Moreover, there is little reason to believe that even the highest reporting number represented a majority of those brokers who should have been reporting. In its recent alert, the BRE said this:

"In spite of these reports of very large volumes of escrow activities statewide, the Bureau has reason to believe based on prior Audits, and complaints received and/or investigated regarding brokers or broker controlled escrows that hundreds of brokers who are required to report escrow activities have failed to do so. The Bureaus Audit Section will conduct audits of the activities of some of these brokers to determine if these brokers are in compliance with Bamp;P [Business and Professions Code] 10141.6 and are properly handling and accounting for the escrow trust funds."

Fines for failing to file a timely report can run up to 10,000. The cost of a BRE audit can also be substantial. Brokers who have escrows that meet the >

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

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Summer Smarties Solve Winter Disasters With Your Home

Summer time is the right time to think about heading off winter disasters.

What? Are you crazy?

Why would anyone want to sit in the summer sunshine, cool drink in hand, and conjure up cold, nasty, expensive breakdowns or problems that are months, maybe years away?

Because the alternative is desperately struggling to discover last-minute solutions to emergency needs in the midst of your already too busy life. Under the gun, youll be attempting to avoid being forced into high-pressure deadlines, rushed decisions, and inflated costs that have significant impact, financially and otherwise. And, if you wait until trouble arises, youll only have self-serving, dodgy, or even dishonest "repair people" to provide guidance and protect your back.

Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, choosing when and how to make expensive home maintenance decisions is always right. Having the time and support to make sure these are confident decisions at reasonable prices, beats under-the-gun desperate buys every time.

Things that keep you awake worrying in the cold months can benefit from close examination under the summer sun. Theres little benefit to waiting for a crisis to hit before you start arranging to make the transition from your current almost-worn-out anything to the most suitable new efficient version:

1. Start with the most expensive or most urgent worry, based on your personal-worry meter and priorities.

2. Clarify and define the problem. Whats wrong or what could go wrong with what? Is that noisy 20-year-old furnace or odd-looking roof on its last legs? Gather details about the existing system, so you have a reference point. Do you have the original installation details and receipts? For furnaces, where size matters, measure what counts, including the furnace room, access doorways, and stairwells. When contemplating a new roof, get out the binoculars or ladder and count shingle layers. After two, everything must be stripped down to the sheathing before the new roof goes on.

3. Clarify the budget. Consider exactly how much cash on hand and monthly cost is comfortably yours to spend on an affordable solution. Whats the budget upper limit, that is, tight, but doable? Estimate how long youll continue to live in the house and what other big expenses lie ahead so you can set a practical budget. Once research and quotations are complete, you can fine tune the finances.

4. Explore alternatives. This is where youre back sitting in the sun with a cool drinkgo online and collect details on every solution you know about, those that have emerged recently, and those just coming to market.

  • For roofs , consider the range of materials available. What else can or should be done at the same time the roof is replaced, like adding roof vents, exhaust fan outlets, skylights, an antenna, gutters, leaf guards, de-icing coils, solar panels... Not that all of this will be done, but thinking ahead reduces "if only wed thought of..." regrets later.
  • For furnaces, initially consider the full range of heating options. What if you changed from oil to natural gas, or switched from a hot water system to solar-supplemented electrical? Would a heat pump make sense, financial and otherwise? Understand the pros and cons of different alternatives and youll learn what the key heating and cooling decisions are for the system you eventually settle on.
  • Back to the summer time research .... gently add your questions to conversations and youll discover what knowledge friends, guests, and neighbors have accumulated. Those that made solid informed decisions and those who reacted to disasters will have lots to share. Anyone with solar panels or other environmentally-friendly systems is usually ready to extol virtues. The goal is determining which features are musts for you and which will help keep the price down.

5. Create the brief or request for proposal. Distill what you have learned into a clear email-able, numbered list of what you need and want regarding all the features and details involved:

  • Send out the brief to ask for quotations from those on the list of names of heating suppliers or roofing contractors youve collected from research and summer chats.
  • Keep personal details out of email quotations. For instance, dont broadcast that your house is vacant all summer.
  • Include questions about deposit and payment schedules, how long the quote is good for, and work availability. Ask for at least three references. Check out contractors with local and state trade associations. Asking questions saves you headaches later.
  • You may not want the furnace replaced until the fall or the roof done before next spring, but an amazing price for replacing it sooner and ahead of the seasonal rush could be an incentive for you. Just listen to your "spidy" senses in case this "unbelievable price" is a come-on, gimmick, or scam.

Summer is the right time to think about heading off winter disaster. Even making a start on what keeps you awake on winter nights will pay off. The goal is to dodge some of the pressure and expense of last-minute decisions when the furnace, roof, or any major system let you down at the very worst, most expensive, inconvenient time.

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Historical Weather Patterns and Risk: What Homeowners Need to Know

Its only been about 60 years since the insurance industry has been calculating risk >

While calculating risk >

Factors that Impact Weather->

Number of Homeowners. One of the biggest changes to weather->

This influx of new property has changed the insurance game, and some areas have more exclusions and options when it comes to purchasing hail, wind or other natural disaster coverage. The best thing to do, when it comes to homeowners insurance and weather->

Living in a coastal state. Coastal states in the southeast - Mississippi, Florida, the Carolinas and the Gulf region of Texas and Louisiana - are clearly hotbeds for hurricanes and wind damage. These areas of the United States are known as wind-storm zones. Policies in this region have the option of excluding wind damage, because if the option wasnt available for homeowners, no policies would be sold.

If you exclude the coverage from your standard policy, this region has what is called a "wind storm pool," a state fund devoted specifically to wind damage. This is where homeowners in the southeast will want to purchase their wind coverage if they so desire. Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina and the coastal region of Texas all have wind-storm pools and the option for coverage; however, Florida does not have wind-storm coverage because the entire state is in a wind zone. Again, no policies would exist in Florida if wind coverage were an option.

Flood insurance. Flood insurance is also another disaster with its own pool in certain areas. However, the flood insurance program is in a state of flux, as they were upended by the overwhelming amount of flood damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Tornado Alley. Another major weather region in the U.S. to take into consideration is Tornado Alley. This is the area in the middle of the country, roughly expanding from North Texas to Kansas, which is susceptible to tornados in the spring and throughout the year. If you are purchasing coverage in this region, there are some options to consider that your agent will go over with you when purchasing insurance.

Preventative Measures

What about reducing damage and preventative measures? There are a handful of things homeowners and builders in certain regions can do and have done to preemptively reduce damage and thus not impact their coverage on the back end once disaster strikes.

Installing a metal roof. Roofing has come a long way in the past few decades, but purchasing a 30-year shingle to put on your roof doesnt necessarily mean the roof is going to last 30 years. This simply means that, if no severe weather impacts the roof like hail, then they will last 30 years. But where in the country will a roof not be affected by hail, or wind, or heavy rains, or snow and ice?

One alternative for shingle roofing is a metal roof. It may cost more on the front end, but metal roofs will sustain severe weather damage and last much longer. There may be cosmetic damage, which you can exclude from your policy, but the roof itself will not leak or tear away from the home.

Homebuilding improvements. Some preventative measures have also been taken when it comes to homebuilding. The placement and size of windows, the anchoring of the roof to the structure and the foundation anchoring have all been improved to help reduce damage. Certain areas of the country susceptible to wind damage have also moved away from sliding glass doors, Areas prone to flood damage have increased the elevation of their new structures. These are all things homeowners can take into consideration when shopping for a new house.

Overall, the best plan for homeowners when it comes to securing homeowners insurance is to try and reduce the number of exclusions and limitations in their policy, and get weather->

Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 12 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics


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7 Smart Renovations Under 500

If youre thinking about selling your home, you may be stressed out about all the things you need to do to get it market ready, and all the costs associated with those updates. Renovations dont have to cost you a fortune. By thinking smart about some of the updates that will have the greatest impact, you can minimize your spend and maximize your investment.

1. Give your kitchen some attention

If theres one spot that can make or break your home sale, its this. You could spend thousands on new countertops and cabinets - and your agent may advise you to do some of these larger updates depending on the age and condition of your current kitchen and the competitiveness of your local market. But, for many of us, attention to a few key areas can help detract from the negatives and highlight the positives.

"Naturally, there are limits to what you can do on a budget. But many home-remodeling experts stress that moderately handy homeowners with just a little cash to spend can make a big difference in their kitchen," said Bankrate. "And if the work looks good, youre adding equity to your home," Erin Davis, lead designer for Mosaik Design amp; Remodeling in Portland, Oregon, told them.

For under 500, you can paint your kitchen cabinets - use white for a >

Light in the Box

2. Get a new appliance

Its not likely that youll find a new appliance package for under 500, but you may be able to find a great deal on a new fridge or dishwasher if yours is a bit ratty by looking at scratch and dent items. Sometimes, the scratch is in a place that will be obscured by a wall, meaning you can save tons of money and not ever see the issue. If you can only afford one, think about the fact that you can take the refrigerator with you to your new place.

3. Bring in the light

One of the most important things you can do to prepare your home for sale is to fill it with natural light. That means opening drapes and pulling blinds for showingsand making sure your windows are clean behind them If your home doesnt offer a lot of natural light, careful placement of mirrors can help bounce whatever light there is around. Painting lighter colors can also keep the space airy, and is recommended by stagers as well.

Bringing in new light fixtures to replace anything that is outdated or builder grade can help give the home a modern feel for little financial output. Hanging two of these pendants over an island or peninsula captures one of the hottest trends in lighting today and will only set you back 104.

Lighting Direct

4. Refresh the bedrooms

Making sure the bedrooms have just the right amount of furniture - not too much, not too little - is key. Remove unnecessary pieces to emphasize the space and add key pieces like nightstands in a master if you dont currently have them to highlight function. You can pick up a pair at IKEA for under 30. >


5. Create some architectural interest

Crown molding can make a room look elegant and is also one of the features that can woo a picky buyer. Having a pro come in to install it can get expensive, but if you can use a saw and are somewhat adept at math, you can do it yourself. Materials should cost you abot 1.20 a foot at Home Depot. You can get some DIY tips here.

Creating interest in a space that needs it doesnt have to involve power tools. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is one of our favorite tools for dressing up a wall without the hassle of working with paste and now it comes in textured looks we love, llike this reclaimed wood version.


6. Create some curb appeal

Some of the most important things to do in the front of your house wont cost you a thing outside of elbow grease: mow, rake, and clean up. Next, lay down a new layer of mulch, which will cost you a couple bucks per bag, and plant some fresh flowers or bring some flowerpots close to the door.

If your front door has seen better days, a fresh coat of paint will keep buyers from wondering what else needs work on the inside.

7. Throw some accessories at it

You may not have money to make large changes to your home, but you can make it look freshened up with a little smart staging. Make sure furniture arrangements in living spaces make senseit costs you nothing to move stuff around or store an extra-large chair thats impeding the flow of traffic in the garage while the home is for sale.

Some fresh flowers, a few throw pillows, an inexpensive new rug to anchor the seating area, and maybe a few modern knickknacks scattered around can make the space feel inviting.

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Your Guide To Choosing The Right Drapes

Whether youre investing in drapes as your main window covering or simply looking to add a decorative element to frame out your windows, there are a few tips to getting it right.


Today, there is only one modern options when it comes to drapery length: your drapes have to be long enough to at least hit the floor instead of stopping short.

"Youll get the most current look if the fabric makes contact with the floor or sill or radiator," said Real Simple. "Too-short curtains can seem nerdy and off, like high-waters."

From there, several options allow you to customize the feel youre looking for.

Just hitting the floor - This look is ">

Photo by Debbie Basnett, Vintage Scout Interiors - Search eclectic living room design ideas

Breaking slightly at the floor - The most current trend in drapes is the one that has a few inches of give after hitting the floor. This look can be both elegant and casual, and is probably best suited for spaces where there isnt a ton of activity since the fabric could get caught in doors or easily get dirty and dusty.


Exaggerated pooling - Want to create old-school elegance in a formal space like a dining room? Six inches of fabric pooled on the floor "can look romantic," said Real Simple, "but is also high-maintenance; curtains need refluffing every time you vacuum or the cat lies on them."


When it comes to how high to hang drapes, conventional wisdom says: at the top of the window. But experts recommend raising the height - all the way to the ceiling, where possible - to create the illusion of high ceilings where needed.


If youre going to the fabric store to choose material for custom drapes, you may be overwhelmed by whats available. Color and pattern will probably drive your selection, but dont underestimate the importance of texture. Heavier fabrics may read heavy in your space, whereas sheers and other lightweight fabrics may not give you as much weight or light and temperature control as you need.

Is privacy a concern in the space? Dont forget to look for fully lined drapes if youre buying them ready-made, or add a layer of lining if youre going custom and if drapes will be your primary window covering.

Color and pattern

The options when it comes to color and pattern are endless, especially if youre doing custom drapes. But even with ready-made versions, the choices are vast.

Looking to go neutral and extend your wall color? Maybe youd rather introduce a secondary color for some punch. Either way, "Solid curtains give you many decorating options and leave considerable space for future modifications of accessories," said DCORLOVE. "They are a safe option when patterns have already been introduced as they provide the necessary balance."

The Shade Store

But drapes can also become the accessories with the right pattern. Weave in a graphic pattern to add a layer that will help the room feel complex and fully finished.

"Large, graphic prints are daring but can look really amazing when their color >


Have you thought about how youre going to hang your drapes? The hardware can make a huge impact or it can disappear, depending on what you choose. "Basic metal or plastic curtain rods work behind the scenes. Larger-diameter wood or metal poles, usually capped by decorative finials, assume more prominent roles in window treatments," said Better Homes and Gardens.

Home Design Ideas

And then you need to consider whether you want clips or grommets or some other decorative way to hang the drapes from the rod. Their Buying Guide can help break down the options.

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How To Renew Your Deck In 5 Easy Steps

Summer is here, which means you need to take a hard look at your deck. Given winters inclement conditions, theres a good chance your deck is in need of some attention. Here are some quick and easy steps for getting it in shape:

1 Clean your deck.

Regular cleaning prevents your deck from graying and looking worn down. You can employ a few different methods to keep it spotless:

Use a hose: Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to get rid of debris and dirt.
Pressure wash: High-pressure water can get between slats and take off any stubborn debris. The cost to pressure wash a deck is about 250.
Scrub it down: For really harsh debris, you might need to get down on your hands and knees to remove the buildup or stains.

2 Check for repairs.

Once the deck is clean, you can inspect for any potential damage points. Keep an eye out for:

  • Broken boards
  • Missing stain
  • Termite holes
  • Cracks

You can DIY most of these problems, but if you have termites infesting your deck, think about hiring a pest control service. Otherwise, consider replacing boards or restaining the surface.

3 Sand it down.

If your stain is stripped away, consider sanding the surface. If you dont want to spend all day sanding, you can rent a floor sander. After youve sanded your decking smooth, apply a finish.

4 Stain or seal your deck.

Once youve sanded down the surface, think about sealing or staining. Finishes help protect against water damage, mildew and inclement weather. Here are some considerations when determining whether to seal or stain a deck:

  • Seal: Seal your deck if you like a natural look. Sealing your deck will cost about 790 and you can choose from a variety of sealing products.
  • Stain: Staining will cost about 850, depending on the size of the deck. You can stain your deck in different colors and finishes.

5 Consider a brightener.

Use a brightener if your deck has stains or grey spots. You can apply brightener using a garden spray hose. A fresh coat of brightener will renew the appearance of your deck without expensive and time-consuming repairs.


Make sure to keep your deck in shape with regular maintenance and cleaning. Most of these jobs you can do as DIY projects. But dont be afraid to call a deck professional when the situation is beyond your expertise.

Andrea Davis is the editor for Home Advisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

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Americas Love Affair With Bedrooms and Bathrooms

We love our bedrooms and bathrooms.

In 2015, the share of new single-family homes sold that had at least four bedrooms and at least three bathrooms hit a more than three-decade high. And one expert suggests this bedroom and bathroom trend is being driven by a fundamental change in American living arrangements.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 53 percent of new single-family homes sold in 2015 had at least four bedrooms and 41 percent had at least three bathrooms. Back in 1978, just 27 percent of new single-family homes sold had at least four bedrooms and just 8 percent had at least three bathrooms.

Of course, in order to squeeze in more bedrooms and bathrooms, the average American home has grown bigger. In 1975, the average new single-family home took up 1,975 square feet, the Census Bureau says. Today, that number exceeds 2,600 square feet. Thats a four-decade jump of more than 30 percent.

Multigenerational Ownership

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, which specializes in housing data and analysis, says the trend toward larger homes featuring more bedroom and more bathrooms reflects the "increasing acceptance" of at least two generations of a family living under one roof.

"Part of this acceptance is brought about by cultural changes influenced by a higher percentage of foreign buyers who are open to multigenerational homeownership," Blomquist says, "as well as millennials who put more value on their social network than their personal space."


Blomquist says multigenerational homeownership is being spurred by the overall lack of affordability and inventory in the housing market. According to RealtyTrac data, up to 14 percent of home sales last year in the U.S. involved multigenerational buyers.

In 2012, a record 57 million Americans 18 percent of the U.S. population lived in multigenerational family households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That compares with 28 million in 1980 12 percent.

In this infographic, we examine the growing number of bedrooms and bathrooms in American homes a development being fueled in large part by the rise of multigenerational households.

This content is brought to you by LawnStarter

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Home Inspections Must Be Totally Independent

You are about to sign a contract to purchase an older home. The real estate agent has given you the name of a home inspector, and has advised you to use the "specific inspection contingency" clause in the contract instead of the "general inspection contingency" clause. There is a major difference between these two concepts and it may cost you a considerable amount of money if you use the wrong one.

When ever you purchase a house -- especially an older one -- it is imperative you have the house inspected by a professional -- and independent -- home inspector. While you certainly are free to use the inspector recommended by the real estate agent, you should make your own choice.

You should include an inspection contingency in your sales contract. This would read something like this:

This contract is completely contingent upon purchaser obtaining, at purchasers expense, a satisfactory home inspection, within ___ days from date of contract ratification.. If purchaser is not satisfied, for any reason, and advises seller in writing within said ___ days, this contract shall be null and void and purchasers deposit shall be immediately refunded to purchaser. If purchaser does not notify seller within said ___ days, this contingency shall automatically expire and the contract shall remain in full force and effect.

This is known as a "general inspection contingency". Basically, if the buyer -- for any reason -- does not like the results of the inspection, the buyer can terminate the contract and the earnest money deposit will be refunded to the buyer. Indeed, many buyers are adding language in their purchase and sales contract to the effect that their deposit will not be cashed until after the inspection contingency has been removed.

The contingency recommended by the broker -- referred to as a "specific inspection contingency" -- is much more limited. Although different contract forms contain different variations on the theme, the thrust of a specific contingency is that if the buyer finds defects in the house, the buyer will give the seller three days in which to agree to make the repairs. Once the seller responds, the buyer then has one or two additional days in which to decide whether to accept what the seller is prepared to do, or to terminate the contract.

I oppose the specific inspection contingency, since I believe it is unfavorable to both buyers and sellers. From the buyers point of view, if the house is structurally sound, but the roof, for example, has a short useful life, the buyer may not want to complete the transaction faced with a large expenditure two or three years down the road. However, since there are currently no defects, the buyer cannot get out from under the contract.

At first reading, the specific contingency appears to favor the seller, since it does not permit the buyer to terminate the contract for any reason. However, my experience is that when a buyer wants out of the contract at an early stage, it sometimes is better to terminate the contract at this early point in time rather than have continuous hassles all the way through to settlement.

Why should a home seller permit the buyer to inspect the house? While sellers may think that an inspection is not in their best interests, if you really stop and think about it for a moment, it should become obvious that even from the sellers point of view, it is advisable to let buyers have a short period of time in which to cancel their contract if they are not satisfied with the condition of the house.

Clearly, sellers would rather have their purchaser cancel the contract early in the process than wait until the very last minute and raise all sorts of problems on the day of settlement. From my own personal experience, this is a common problem at a real estate settlement where the buyers really do not want to complete the deal, but know they are legally obligated to do so.

Of equal importance, if the purchaser has obtained a satisfactory home inspection report, that same purchaser will be hard pressed to raise issues about the house on the day of settlement. Often, I have heard sellers tell buyers, "You removed the inspection contingency, and if you have a problem with our house, look to your home inspector."

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Flash Landlords Not Liable For Everything

Residential landlords are all too used to learning of new laws or court decisions that expand their liabilities and/or make life more difficult. It is a pleasure, then, to report on a California appellate decision that affirms a limit on landlord liability and rejects a claim as to landlord duty. Garcia v. Holt, Fourth Appellate District, Oct. 27, 2015

In October of 2005, the Mamertos Michelle Mamerto was Michel Holt at the time the complaint was filed leased their Escondido property to George Jakubec. The lease was for one year. At the end of the year, the lease became a month-to-month rental.

In 2005, the Mamertos hired Mario Garcia to maintain the landscaping of the subject property. He or his employees worked on the premises at least once every two weeks throughout the five years leading up to the incident that triggered this lawsuit.

According to the court record, "On November 18, 2010, Mario was injured when he walked over unstable explosive material on the backside of the Premises and the material exploded under him." Apparently, the tenant, Jakubec, had been creating and storing explosives on the property. Neither the owners, the Mamertos, nor Garcia and his employees were aware of this.

The Appellate Court summarized the proceedings that followed:

"The Garcias sued for premises liability alleging the Mamertos were negligent in the maintenance of the Premises by allowing explosive materials to be kept on the Premises. The Mamertos moved for summary judgment [essentially, dismissal] arguing they owed no duty to Mario because they had no actual or constructive knowledge of the explosive materials on the Premises, thus there was no foreseeable risk requiring an inspection.

"In opposition, the Garcias argued the Mamertos had a duty to exercise reasonable care to inspect the Premises periodically once the lease became a month-to-month tenancy. The Garcias further argued there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether the Mamertos breached that duty.

"The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Mamertos on the ground the Mamertos owed no duty to the Garcias absent actual knowledge of a dangerous condition on the Premises. The court ruled, before liability may be thrust on a landlord for a third partys injury due to a dangerous condition on the land, [a plaintiff] must show that the landlord had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition in question, plus the right and ability to cure the condition."

The Garcias appealed. They contended that when the lease became month-to-month then the Mamertos had a right to periodically enter the premises. With that right, they argued, the Mamertos has a corresponding duty to make "reasonable periodic inspections and they should have discovered the dangerous conditions."

The Appellate Court disagreed. They asserted that "the obligation to inspect arises only if [the landowner] had some reason to know there was a need for such action."

Moreover, the court stated, "Public policy precludes landlord liability for a dangerous condition of the premises which came into existence after possession has passed to a tenant." "This is based on the principle that the landlord has surrendered possession and control of the land to the tenant and has no right even to enter without permission."

"Where a landlord has >

In short: You want to sue someone? Sue the tenant.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

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