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Updated: Thursday, March 30, 2017

Real Estate Commissioner Issues Warning To Agents and Brokers

Although many California real estate agents and brokers may not know it, this month March, 2017 Real Estate Commissioner, Wayne Bell, issued a "Licensee Alert" in the form of a Supplemental Disciplinary Advisory to an advisory that was issued in September of 2015. That advisory was titled Disciplinary Warning to Real Estate Salespersons Who Act, Conduct Themselves, and/or Advertise as "Independent" Real Estate Professionals -- and a Simultaneous Caution to Brokers Who Allow or Support Such Practices.

The earlier advisory began by noting, "Under California law, with its two-tiered licensing system, real estate salespersons cannot provide -- or advertise that they can provide -- real estate services independently of their responsible brokers. Moreover, salespersons must be associated or affiliated with a responsible broker in order to engage in real estate licensed activities in this State."

Three specific problems were identified:

1 "CalBRE has received a number of reports of salespersons who are conducting property management businesses without any broker affiliation or supervision. Such activity is a crime."

2 "Also, it is evident that a number of salespersons have branded themselves as independent real estate practitioners, and they practice and advertise as such. That is unlawful as well, and the advertisements in connection therewith are false and misleading to the public."

3 "Finally, it has been reported to CalBRE, although it has not been verified, that some brokers are assisting associated salespersons with some of the practices abovehellip; CalBRE has been told that some brokers are helping salespersons with lsquo;independent branding and the advertising >

In the recent supplementary advisory, the Commissioner noted that, since the earlier warning, CalBRE has continued to be made aware of the false and misleading advertising engaged in by some agents.

"A scenario that we have repeatedly seen is the use by a salesperson who for this illustration we will identify as John Doe of a fictitious business name that would lead members of the public to incorrectly believe that the business is operated and managed by a real estate broker. In this example, salesperson Doe conducts business using the name Doe Real Estate. Doe advertises using that business name, and the advertisements are connected to, or accompanied by, a webpage and other materials that extol the virtues of Doe Real Estate. The public would not think that Doe is a salesperson who must be supervised by another, and would most certainly conclude that Doe Real Estate is a real estate broker or brokerage, And the above practices are unlawful."

The Commissioner also notes that similar unlawful practices are employed by agents who advertise as teams, but who do not comply with the rules governing team advertising.

Perhaps the most common example of non-compliant team advertising occurs when the advertisement either does not identify the responsible broker, or which fails to do so in a compliant manner. The law requires that "The responsible brokers identity under which the members of the team are a part, must be displayed as prominently and conspicuously as the team name in all advertising and solicitation materials." [my emphasis] But it is commonplace, if not typical, that the team name will be this size and the brokers name will be this size. Or, maybe the brokers name will be the same size, but it will be displayed in a white-on-white color schemehellip; Or hidden in some other way.

The Commissioners warning advisory ends as follows: "CalBRE will take appropriate disciplinary action including the imposition of significant fines, and -- where appropriate -- the revocation of licensure against real estate salespersons who engage in the unlawful activities discussed above, and against real estate brokers who permit their salespersons to engage in such activities."

He appears not to be kidding.

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

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Five Sanity-Saving Strategies For Home Construction

Is this the year you begin construction of your dream house?

What have you done to ensure your dream does not turn into the nightmare that house building has become for too many?

  • If you purchase a custom-built home from a subdivision developer, you may believe its construction will be smooth sailing, with just a few choices of interior and exterior finishes to resolve.
  • If you buy an amazing lot and hire an architect and contractor to turn your dreams into a stunning and practical design, on budget and on deadline, you may believe the hard work is behind you. Thinking theres little to stress about until the agreed-upon move-in date does not make this true.
  • If youre determined to self-manage and self-build your long-contemplated, inspired design, you may believe that keeping overall control of the build will ensure no surprises with budget, scheduling, and quality control.

In any and all of the above three scenarios, youd probably be wrong.

The degree of unplanned problems, frustrating delays, and escalating costs will vary from situation to situation, but the unpredictability of construction will not. Because problems, delays, and additional costs are expected and accepted as part of the construction process, they appear.

Adopt the following Five Stress-Saving Strategies to minimize the unexpected and help the expected to materialize in all three of the dream-house construction scenarios above:

1. Plan The Entire Project.

Just as homebuyers fixated on acquiring a chefs kitchen can overlook many other aspects of the home, similar distractions can leave aspects of house plans incomplete or poorly thought-out. Mentally live in every corner of the dream home. "Walk" through every activity that will take place during each season. Consider all the elements of functionality youll count on to make the home practical, affordable, and a pleasure to live in. Architects, contractors, and every other professional involved in this project will >

  • Let an architect focus on ambitious design aesthetics instead of your budget and practical needs, and you and the house may suffer.
  • What you overlook or do not fully think through in the planning stage, may come back to haunt you during construction or after you move in. Getting it right from the start beats rebuilding once you move in.
  • Invest time on the wide range of variations and wild possibilities during this planning phase. Prioritize costs, price options and consider timing. For instance, your temptation to add a second lavatory sink, an extra bathroom, a skylight, a larger window, or a new amazing feature during construction will slow progress and raise costs.
  • >

Learn to read plans scale, perspectives, symbolshellip; so you can see what the professionals see. Youll save time, money, stress, and frustration. Youll enjoy the process when you understand what is going on and should be coming next:

  • Computer graphics will make the visualization easier, but they may not tell the whole story and are not detailed enough for contractors to work from.
  • Architects design plans formalize concepts and aesthetics, but they may not be to-scale, "how to build the house" instructions. If the architect will not be involved in the entire build, who will project manage to translate design into precise reality?
  • Contractors work best from detailed architectural or construction plans. Incomplete plans mean expensive guesswork, delays, and changes. This is all true for self-builds, too. You want construction accuracy, building-code compliance, and first-rate craftsmanship, so take time to find the right professionals and help create the comprehensive plans they need to get the job done.

2. "Hope" Is Not A Building Strategy.

Figuring out how much you can afford to spend and hoping this will be enough for what you want built is a formula for disaster. Have your plans costed out by construction professionals. Disagreeing with professional budget projections does not make their calculations wrong. Either your budget or your house plans may need revamping. Add a realistic contingency amount to the budgetmdash;an amount that would undermine your project if you had to come up with it out of the blue. Cost out interior finishing and flooring, including furnishings, and also landscaping. This part of the build may cost almost as much as the structure.

3. Do Not Expect Your Schedule To Dictate Move-In Date.

You may hope to move in by the holidays or before your interim housing lease runs out, but this is not what drives the construction timetable. The more restrictive your interim accommodation arrangements, the more vulnerable you are to forced compromises, expensive shortcuts, sloppy workmanship, unplanned accumulating costs, and unseasonable weather. Ask about realistic schedules and what could cause delays. The fact that you have chosen to temporarily live precariously or expensively is not a construction criteria. Many would consider this bad planning on your part. Youll pay for this one way or the other, so save by resolving interim accommodation issues at the start.

4. Changes Change Everything.

Once construction is underway, moving a wall, window, or layout element is never "simple." Many interconnecting systems and details, from wiring and plumbing to planning permission, may be involved. Changes on the fly can wildly inflate costs and add significant delays. This is where the nightmare ramps up.

5. Youre Not The Only Customer.

Youve put your life on hold to get the build complete, but contractors and suppliers of everything from roofing systems, engineered structures, heating systems, and windows must satisfy many clients at oncemdash;some of them more significant spenders than you. Trusting, respectful >

What could possibly go wrong? Wont everything just go according to plan?

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Realty Times and PinRaise Announce Nonprofit Partnership

Agent with Heart program to benefit local nonprofits and real estate agents

Yorba Linda, CA March 28, 2017 -- Realty Times and PinRaise announced a new partnership to promote the Agent with Heart movement.

Under the Agent with Heart program, real estate agents and brokers who join the Agent with Heart network agree to donate a portion of their commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing a transaction.

"Were excited to get behind the Agent with Heart movement," said Realty Times Vice President Chris Warrick. "We believe that most local real estate professionals strive to make a difference in their neighborhood, and the Agent with Heart program gives them a way to do this in a way thats both easy and impactful."

"There are so many local nonprofits that are in dire need of sustainable donations, and this program provides the means to do that," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Research indicates very clearly that people like to do business with people who care, and nothing demonstrates that more than an Agent with Heart," Giaimo concludes.

Under the partnership, agents who join will be promoted on both RealtyTimes.com and PinRaise.com, and will receive a marketing kit that includes trademarked logos, digital assets, listing presentation inserts, social media materials, a press >

Agents who subscribe to the Realty Times custom newsletter will have the opportunity to feature their Agent with Heart designation on their digital masthead. With the expanded distribution, it provides homebuyers and sellers even more ways to find an Agent with Heart.

About Realty Times: Realty Times is one of the worlds most viewed news portals for real estate, attracting a national and global audience of homebuyers, sellers, consumers, real estate professionals and ancillary businesses. Its market condition reports, consumer advice, market outlooks, listings other content is updated daily, providing crucial and timely real estate news. For more information, please visit http://realtytimes.com.

About PinRaise: The PinRaise app connects consumers with local businesses who agree to donate a small percentage or fixed dollar amount to the nonprofit of the buyers choice, providing recurring revenue for the nonprofit, a differentiator for the local business or real estate professional, and a feel-good story for the consumer. PinRaise is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. You can download PinRaise at the App Store or Googlereg; play. For more information, please visit http://www.PinRaise.com/agents.

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Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting Quickstart Guide

Technology advances are making electric water heaters more popular than ever. The electric water heater market, valued at 6 billion in 2015, will expand at an annual compound growth rate of 7.5 percent to reach 33.22 billion by 2024, Global Market Insights projects. Advances in energy saving, comfort control and display technology are driving demand. As more homes acquire electric water heaters, home owners will increasingly require specialized maintenance for these appliances. Herersquo;s a quickstart guide to assist you when troubleshooting electric water heaters.

Check the Power First

As a safety precaution, make sure to turn off circuit breaker or fuse for the heater before doing any troubleshooting. Checking the power will also tell you if a power issue is the problem. Look for tripped circuit breakers that need to be reset or blown fuses that need to be replaced.

Diagnosing Hot Water Problems

If therersquo;s no hot water, ruling out a power problem is the first step, Whirlpool says. After looking for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses, check to make sure therersquo;s power running to the thermostat for the electric water heating element. If itrsquo;s receiving power and itrsquo;s still not working, replace it or the heating element.

If the waterrsquo;s not running hot enough, make sure the heater is large enough by checking if it can manage 75 percent of its capacity as hot water. After checking this, look for a crossed connection. You can do this by turning off the water source and then turning on the hot faucet. If water still runs, therersquo;s a crossed connection. Next, check the upper and lower heating elements to make sure therersquo;s power and electrical continuity. Replace the element if needed, clearing way sediment before you install the new element. If the element is working, check the upper thermostat and then check the lower one to see if either needs to be replaced.

If the water is running too hot, the thermostat is usually set too hot. Verify that both upper and lower thermostats are set in a range between 110 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fixing Leaks

If therersquo;s a leak problem, after turning the power and water off, the first thing to check is whether the temperature and pressure Tamp;P >

Next, lower the thermostat setting to make sure there is no excessive heat or pressure. After this, look for any loose pipe connections that need to be tightened. Follow up by checking the heating element bolts and making sure theyrsquo;re tight. If the heating element still leaks after all this, take it out and replace the gasket.

Finally, check to make sure the storage tank isnrsquo;t leaking. Corrosion or other issues such as worn o-rings can cause storage tanks to leak. Keep extra o-rings at home so you dont have to make an extra trip to the store if you need a new replacement.

Interpreting Discolored Water, Bad Smells and Noises

Rust-colored water can be a sign of a corroded glass-lined tank or a sacrificial anode rod thatrsquo;s going bad. A bad rod should be removed in favor of a magnesium anode replacement.

A smell like rotten eggs can be another symptom of a sacrificial anode rod thatrsquo;s on its last legs. To fix this, start by flushing the water heater. Then use a solution composed of 2 pints of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide per 40 gallons of water to treat the tank for two hours. If this fails to remove the smell, use a zinc-alloy anode to replace the old anode. If all this doesnrsquo;t remove the smell, remove the heater and replace it with a plastic-lined substitute.

A low noise with a rumbling quality can be a symptom of sediment buildup causing overheating and making water boil. Flush the water heater to fix this.

A whining noise with a high pitch can be a symptom of scale build-up on electrical heating elements. To fix this, flush out the water heater and clean up any scales that have accumulated on the tank and elements. Then replace the heating elements with low-watt density substitutes with greater surface area for improved heat transfer.

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Appraisals Can Be Challenged

Question: We are refinancing our home to replace an adjustable rate mortgage with a good fixed rate loan. Unfortunately, the appraisal came in low and when I received the copy from the mortgage company I noticed many errors, some of which are significant.

For example, the appraisal statet my home is stone and frame instead of stone and brick. It also omits a finished bedroom in the basement and a porch. The appraiser is >

Discussing the potential adjustments with an independent appraiser leaves me to conclude that if the errors are corrected, it would add at least an additional 10,000.00 to the appraisal, and thus about 8,000.00 more in a loan to me.

Should I have my home reappraised? Should I contact the corporate officer of the mortgage company? Should I consider any legal action?

Answer: I cannot recommend you consider legal action. Not every wrong that occurs should be taken to court. Usually the courts want a Plaintiff to demonstrate that he or she has exhausted all other remedies before filing suit.

To prove the measure of your damages -- if any -- in court, you would need to obtain another appraisal, so you can demonstrate the error of the original appraiser.

I am a believer in going to the top, when necessary. You write that the mortgage companys loan officer does not seem to care about the apparent error. I suspect that the loan officers boss -- the president of the mortgage company -- would care.

People in business usually are concerned about staying in business, and reputation and word of mouth are a very important aspect of business growth.

Even in todays market, where mortgage lenders are very busy doing refinancings, I would try to meet with the president of the mortgage company or at least someone in a supervisory position above the loan officer, and discuss your concerns.

The lender may put pressure on the appraiser to reappraise your house. I have heard of numerous instances where appraisers have made mistakes but have been honest enough to go back to the house with a view towards correcting the original appraisal.

You should note that the appraisal business is not scientific. At best, it is a sophisticated art. While appraisers certainly use such bench marks as comparable sales in the area, square footage, replacement value and other similar concepts, the bottom line in my opinion is that appraising a house is a very subjective exercise.

The best test of market value still is what a ready, willing and able buyer will pay a ready, willing and able seller. The price sets the market value. All of the other factors are significant, but not necessarily critical to a determination of price.

You should also understand that the appraisal industry has been under significant pressure -- and has taken a number of steps -- to correct many of the errors which they made during the 1980s 90s. Indeed, most appraisers are now taking a very conservative approach, just to be on the safe side. And under new rules, the appraiser must not be selected by the lender; this creates potential problems since I have personally seen appraisers from a different part of the country where the property was located. Clearly, an appraiser must have a working knowledge of the area

If your mortgage lender is >

Thus, in your particular case, I would go to the mat with this appraiser and with this lender. Clearly, if there are errors in the appraisal, those errors should be corrected -- at no additional cost to you.

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HOA Board Directors: Lone Ranger or Tonto?

Being a person that wants to serve and protect your own interests, you get yourself elected to the board. At the first board meeting, the president gives you a pep talk about not giving instructions to contractors or discussing board issues with other members unless you preface comments with "the board policy/decision is...". You bristle at this. Who does this guy think he is? This is America, Home of the Free and Land of the Lone Ranger. Why shouldnt you be able to say what you want, when you want and to whoever you want?

As a director on the board, you wear two hats: one as an elected official and another as a member of the HOA. While you are clearly entitled to your personal opinion, you need to be careful how and when you express your opinion as a board member. Once elected to serve the interests of the HOA, you need to view things through corporate glasses. This can be difficult when the issues are contentious.

The homeowner association form of government is a representative democracy.... a few are elected to represent the many. A fundamental concept of democracy is rule by the majority. Thus, decisions of the board do not require consensus, just that most agree. This may leave some directors in the minority opinion and in even direct opposition with the rest.

When it comes to being a minority position director, there are several approaches, one good and one bad. An HOA board needs diverse points of view to make good decisions. If few have an opinion, usually the loudest voice will prevail and effectively the board will run by a dictator. Dictators dont work well within the democratic context. Having dissenting opinions expands the perspective and dissenters can often have a major impact on shaping key parts of the final decision. A Lone Ranger dissenter may not carry the day but can still impact the outcome.

On the other hand, a dissenter can choose to express opposition by churning the boards decision through the HOA grist mill, spinning the facts and creating ill will. It compromises the ability of the board to do its job and causes bad feelings among neighbors. Thats bad for everyone.

That said, there are times when a board or board officer is acting irresponsibly or even criminally. Whistleblowing is certainly appropriate when there is self dealing going on. If the matter is irresponsibility or neglecting HOA business, a vigilant director can be effective by promoting candidates that are more suitable or encourage ineffective directors to step down. But bad mouthing the current regime to neighbors over the back fence is usually self-defeating. It makes the Long Ranger look small minded, he will be ostracized or minimized by the remaining directors and lose ability to impact decisions.

A Lone Ranger director can also compromise the HOAs interests by interfering with day to day management. One of the most frustrating things a contractor goes through is trying to respond to many "chiefs". In a professionally managed HOA, the manager is usually authorized to direct contractors. But when a Lone Ranger director steps in to micro-manage a project, the contractor will often try to respond to both the manager and Lone Ranger. But it takes more time and effort and reduces the chances of a successful outcome.

Tonto was the Lone Rangers sidekick and mentor. With his wise manner, he would balance the Rangers hero compulsivity. Between the two and creative thinking, they always figured out a way to save the day.

In the final analysis, while dissent is a fundamental part of the democratic process and can produce good outcomes, consistently being a Long Ranger erodes the ability for the board to work as a team. Tonto understood the concept of teamwork and often gave the Ranger a different point of view by providing additional information and options. Encourage opposing points of view but strive to forge an outcome that works for the majority. Hi yo Silver

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

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How To Score A Deal On Home Appliances

Who doesnt dream of a kitchen full of shiny, new appliances. Raise your hand if you want a new refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, microwave - and, hey, lets throw in a washer and dryer, too - but dont want to pay top dollar for them. The expense is definitely a bummer when it comes to buying new, but you dont have to go broke to get what you want. Use a few tips and tricks to get a great deal.

Buy at the right time

You cant go a week without seeing some kind of sale on appliances at one of the big box stores. But if you havent been researching for a while, you might not know when a deal is really a deal. Turns out, there are certain times of the year when you can get a better value on appliances.

"When it comes to landing bargains on major appliances, timing is everything. And the best time to buy home appliances is when stores need you more than you need a new home appliance," said Houselogic. "September, October, and Januarynbsp;when manufacturers roll out new home appliance models, and retailers are eager to move last years inventory. Refrigeratorsnbsp;are the exception. New models come out in the spring."

Also note these times: The last days of the month,nbsp;"when stores are desperate to meet quotas and are more likely to dicker over prices; and certain holidays, like "Labor Day, Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Black Thursday Friday, Saturday - when stores take advantage of your day off and slash prices."


Ask about price matching

This is a service provided by many stores, and one that many of use fail to take advantage of. Retailers like Sears,nbsp;Best Buy,nbsp;Lowesnbsp;andnbsp;Home Depotnbsp;will match the price for similar items - embrace the challenging of matching up identical product numbers. If its off by one number or letter, its a no-go. Even better is Home Depot offering 10 percent off competitor prices.nbsp;"Best Buynbsp;also matches online prices with competitors likenbsp;Amazon," they said.

Check outlet stores

Best Buy and Sears have outlet stores where discounted merchandise is available, and Designer Home Surplus is the official outlet for Elite Appliance, offering appliances at discounted prices. You can get a great deal on a refurbished or open-box item at these stores. If youre not stuck on something brand-new or thats never been used or even looked at, this might be a great option for you.

Scratch and Dent

The idea of a "scratch and dent" product may sound rather unattractive, but its actually a great way to get a brand-new appliance that might have a little blemish at a big savings. Google the term and see what comes up in your local market. We did and found Oliver Dyers Appliance, which has a "14,000 square foot scratch and dent warehouse packed full of savings," including "FIVE TRUCKLOADS of near-perfect stainless steel French-door refrigerators with savings of 50 or more," and a dare: "Well give you an extra 100 off if you can find the imperfection"

Many of these items have a small scratch or dent in a place you cant even see - like on the side, which wont show once the appliance is installed.

Shop Pre-Owned

Who says your appliances have to be new? Youd be surprised how many ideal items are out there being rehomed by people who just renovated their kitchen and got rid of a perfectly good refrigerator or bought a new home and gutted everything even though it was all brand new because they hadnt picked it out themselves. Their loss is your gain.

The obvious place to start these days is Craigslist. "Craigslistnbsp;is one of the best sources for finding local private sellers who are looking to quickly offload equipment they no longer need," said Remodelista. "DIY remodelers Ada Egloff and Rick Banister bought their Viking range from a Craigslist seller near them for 500."

Ebay is another good option; be sure to search locally since you probably dont want to pay to have a front-loading washer shipped across the country from a private seller. Have you joined Nextdoor yet? You might be surprised what your neighbors are getting rid of, and because youre buying within your local community, theres an added sense of security.

There are a number of great spots for pre-owned luxury appliances, but they tend to be tied to local markets Green Demolitions in New Jersey, Earthwise Architectural Salvage in Seattle. Check in your local area.

Some appliance repair shops may also have inventory to sell. North Dallas Appliance Repair buys and sells "a good selection of gently used refrigerators, washers, dryers, and cooking products" and specifies that they only deal with appliances in excellent condition - we dont buy junk."


Consider what you really need

Its easy to walk into the appliance section of Best Buy and be seduced by the 4,000 French door refrigerator-freezer with the mood lighting and the ability to make - not just water - but sparkling water from the door. But, lets be serious. Do you really need all that?

In our household, no one but the dogs ever drank from the water in the doormdash;because, apparently, they dont think it "tastes funny." So, when it was time for a new refrigerator, we saved several hundreds of dollars by going without the in-door water and ice. Problem solved, money saved.

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6 Places You Can Get Great Stuff For Your House For The Cost Of Lunch

So you just laid out a bunch of cash for your down payment and closing costs, and dont forget about the moving company. Or, maybe youre just getting ready to buy or move into your first home, and youre not sure how youre going to furnish and fill up your great new space after draining your savings account. The same-old hand-me-downs youve been putting up with just arent going to cut it in your new place, right?

You dont have to drag your beat-up college futon with you, nor do you have to settle for IKEA everything with a 20-year-old, 300-pound TV thrown in. By making smart use of available zero-interest credit programs, you can get all kinds of cool stuff for your home and pay it off monthly. Choose right, and it may only take a homemade lunch here and there instead of going out with coworkers every day to afford that great couch, flat-screen TV, and new fridge. Heres where to go and what to check out.

Home Depot

Home Depots Consumer Credit Card can have an interest rate as high as 26.99, but get in on their special promotion and you can pay your principal balance over 24 months with no interest. That means you can use the money to buy new floors, redo your bathroom, or put in new kitchen countertops, and, as long as you make your minimum payment on time each month and pay the balance in full by the end of the promotional period, youre good to go. Keep in mind that the more you spend, the higher your payment will be. So if you spend a couple grand on new doors and windows, your monthly payment may be closer to dinner than lunch.

Its important to note that the zero interest on this and any of these retailers programs, is really deferred interest. Youll definitely want to keep in mind what happens if you get behind or fail to pay off the balance in time.

"When a card offers deferred interest, its not waiving the interest. Rather, its setting it aside until later," said Nerdwallet. "If you pay off your purchase by the end of the deferred-interest period, youre fine. But if you carry a balance past the end of the period, youll be charged interest on your entire purchase, going back to the day you made it."


Lowes offers a similar program to Home Depot, but the promotional period tends to be shorter. If you prefer this store over Home Depot or if they have the tile you cant find anywhere else, youll have to be OK with a promotional period of 12 months instead of 24 months.


Best Buy

Best Buy typically offers a few different options for interest-free financing, including 6- or 12-months financing on purchases of 199 and 399, respectively, throughout the store, 18 months for appliance purchases over 599, and 24 months on home theater purchases of at least 799nbsp;and up. New dishwasher or 60-inch TV. Hmmmm...

Like other interest-free programs, you have to make your minimum payments on time every month. Miss one dollar or one day, and youre looking at a hefty interest dump.

Furniture stores

Zero-interest programs are helpful for those who are looking to get a few key pieces or furnish entire rooms or a whole home and dont have several thousand dollars to pay out at once.

Ethan Allen and Rooms To Go both offer 60-month, no-interest financing programs. American Signature Furniture has a 36-month, no-interest program good on purchases of 2,999 or more.

Furniture and more

At Sears, you can buy a dining room set, a lawnmower, a microwave, and a treadmill with no interest. The retailer offers zero interest for 12 months on various items, including appliances, home fitness, lawn and garden, furniture, mattresses, and outdoor living. Spend requirements vary depending on the item 499 for furniture, 599 for mattresses, so make sure youre hitting the minimum to qualify for the zero-interest promotion.

Step up your furniture game at Macys, and get a new mattress at the same time Furniture and mattress purchases at Macys qualify for 12 or 24 months of interest-free financing with a minimum purchase of 999 or 1,999.


Mattress Stores

Speaking of mattresses, this can be an expensive purchase, and, if youre currently sleeping on something lumpy, bumpy, and backache-inducing, youre not alone. Being able to spread out payments over time without paying interest makes it infinitely less painful. Check out Mattress Firms no-interest-for-12-months deal and Sleep Experts, which has a 48-month, interest-free program. Want to go super upscale with your mattress? You can get zero percent interest for 60 months on a minimum Purchase of 4,499nbsp;at Sleep Train. They also have no-interest plans for 6, 12-, 24-, and 36 months with smaller purchase amounts.

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10 Surprising Items People Hate Having in Their Home

Warning: This article might cause you to feel ashamed, embarrassed and like youre committing home design sins. OK, maybe not. But what you are about to read is a list of common household design elements that many homeowners, according to a recent, lively Houzz discussion, absolutely refuse to have in their home.

The dirty, and hilarious, truth is that many homeowners - even the most extreme yet playful haters - make do with these things in their own homes, and are actually quite fond of them. Plus, what many people are probably reacting to are those basic, off-the-shelf options that fill old, dated homes and apartments like mine. Actually, many advancements have been made in things like carpet and laminate. And the point is, its all fun and you should never take your house too seriously anyway. Just make the most of what you have - and never say never.

1. Carpet. Oh, come on. Why is everyone so down on carpet? Its soft, it comes in lots of >

OK, I admit that I dont quite understand putting carpet in the kitchen or a bathroom. And stock apartment carpet is more than ho-hum. But let designer Judith Taylor convince you that theres more to carpet than what you think.

11 Reasons to Love Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Again

Photo by Paul Anater - Browse eclectic home design photos

2. Laminate flooring. As with most things, the cheaper you go, the cheaper itll look. Laminate flooring has come a long way. You can have enti>

Laminate Floors: Get the Look of Wood and More for Less

3. Taxidermy. This is a tough one. Ive hunted before. I grew up in Texas. I have a friend who wants to train to be a taxidermist. But its just not for me mdash; from a moral, ethical and environmental standpoint. What Ive found is that many homeowners who agree with me still find themselves in households with taxidermy because their spouse or significant other is really into it. I think if we can find a way to accept everyones views and be respectful enough to have a serious, smart conversation about the subject, then weve made a little progress.

Take user mmers, for example. She sums the dilemma up nicely: "There are a few things I would have said lsquo;never to until I married my husband. Unfortunately we have some taxidermy things his office. I ra>

Photo by Mark Newman Design - Look for contemporary living room pictures

4. Vertical blinds. Ill admit, I was a little taken aback by this one. I like my vertical blinds, especially the ones in my bedroom, and especially after I hang a large blanket, a dark red fitted sheet and blackout curtains over them. Thats just me.

As longtime designer Becky Dietrich points out, however, vertical blinds have come a long way, work great for large windows and sliding glass doors, and are now available in materials like sheer fabrics.

How to Choose the Right Window Blinds

5. Fake flowers. Actually, pretty much fake anything. I definitely can get behind this one, though of course there has been a vase of fake flowers in my home at various points in my life, ones I let stay for far too long.

Architect Eric Reinholdt advocates for humble materials that "dont draw attention to themselves or pretend to be something theyre not." I think thats a simple way to make a home more honest and inviting.

Design Workshop: The Beauty of Humble Materials

Photo by Todd Davis Architecture - More modern bedroom photos

6. Wallpaper. Again, I think this is a case where many people have an image in their head from a time long, long ago. I can remember the floral-print wallpaper in my parents bathroom, yellowed and peeling. But today things are different.

"Just a few years ago, wallpaper was considered a fusty >

Considering Wallpaper? Heres How to Get Started

Photo by Jill Wolff Interior Design - Search traditional living room design ideas

7. Too many knickknacks collecting dust. If I had a nickel for every time I dusted, I wouldnt have enough money to buy a stamp. Im guessing from the comments in the above-mentioned Houzz discussion that many people are just like me, so much so that theyve made it a mission to rid their homes of any tchotchkes that can accumulate dust.

But thats not the right solution. Our homes should be filled with memories and things that make us happy, no matter how abundant or small. Keep your collections and display them with pride mdash; learn how to fight dust instead.

What You Need to Know About Dust and How to Fight It

8. Fluorescent lighting. I cant imagine any situation where fluorescent lighting makes a home feel, well, homier. In a home office or workshop? Fine. But a kitchen? Dont think so.

5 Questions to Ask for the Best Room Lighting

By Mitchell Parker - See more Home Design Photos

9. Recliners. People seem to fall into two camps: those who like big reclining chairs and those who loathe them. Sorry, I love my recliner. Granted, it looks like a big lump of ugly, but when I see it, all I think of is the times Ive spent curled up rocking my newborn daughter, reading a good book or watching an exciting sports game. Theres nothing like it. Maybe its a dad thing.

The Beautiful Thing About Dads Chair

Photo by Jeni Lee - Look for eclectic living room pictures

10. Clowns. OK, I read Stephen Kings It, have seen Killer Clowns From Outer Space and wouldnt want my house filled with anything reminiscent of a clown. But lets cut some people some slack here. After all, Id be more than happy to have this Australian family of clowns in my home

My Houzz: An Australian Circus Familys Home Juggles Extra Room

Also See:

  • Find Carpet and Flooring Professionals in Your Area
  • Like Laminate? Know Your Flooring Options
  • How to Display Your Cherished Collection

Full Story >

Is This Home A Good Deal?

Theres no perfect home, but some homes are more ideal for your household than others. When you look for your next home, carefully consider these four criteria - price, features, location and condition. The closer you get to meeting all four criteria, the better your chances are of making a good buy.


In any market, price has to come first. To determine what you can comfortably afford, talk to your real estate professional. He or she can recommend a lender who will prequalify you for a purchase loan. When you know how much you can spend, it will be easier to shop for homes within your price range. With luck, one will stand out.


The size of your household and your activities determine the features you want in your next home. The number of bedrooms, baths and living areas are a matter of comfort and convenience. You may want an extra bedroom for guests or a second master suite for parents.

If you work a lot at home, youll want a private home office or a computer nook. You may want a playroom for the kids, a separate laundry area, and fenced yard and covered patio for entertaining. An eat-in kitchen may be more important to you than a formal dining room. You may want an outdoor kitchen or at least an entertainment area.

Think about your daily life from morning to bedtime, and how your next home can make these activities more pleasant. This should be your "must-have" list, and will help you look at homes more objectively.


Some areas will always be more expensive to live in than others. Neighborhoods that are well-kept tend to maintain higher home values. Homes that are close to jobs, schools and shopping centers tend to sell for more money than homes without as much infrastructure.

What is the best home you can find in the area where you want to live? If these homes are out of your range, you can compromise -- buy a smaller home or a home that needs lots of work in the best neighborhood you can afford.


Condition refers to the state of repair. Does the home have curb appeal? Is it updated and well-maintained, or does it need extensive and expensive remodeling? Carefully consider any deferred maintenance, such as a roof that may need to be replaced in only a few years. Consider the design and functionality -- is the kitchen too small and would you be able to afford to remodel it? Look closely at repairs, cleanliness and traffic flow.

The one advantage of buying a home that needs updates and repairs is that these homes cost less than updated homes in the same neighborhood.

Be prepared to compromise. Dont frustrate yourself or your family looking for perfection. Sometimes the home of your dreams doesnt have every feature on your checklist, or it may be a little further away than your favorite neighborhood, but youll be happy if it has most of criteria you want at the price you can afford.

Full Story >

Why Millennial Buyers Are Swiping Left On Your Home

They want it fast, they want it easy, and it better be perfect. That pretty much sums up the typical millennial homebuyer today. So, if thats your target and your house isnt pristine, theyre going to move on to one that is. So how do you make your home swipeable? Its easy, really.

Clean it up

"Whether or not we admit it, weve all seen at least a few of the home reality shows on channels such as TLC and HGTV. Those shows can be fun and informative, but they also do a lot to shape buyer expectations," said Bankrate.

That means millennial buyers - maybe more than any other demographic since they grew up in the age of House Hunters and flipping show marathons - will be expecting a house to be spic-n-span and well-staged. Award-winning home stager Torinbsp;Toth, author of the best-selling book,nbsp;FEEL AT HOME: Homenbsp;Stagingnbsp;Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell, has some ideas that can be easily implemented to help a home sparkle, including staging your kitchen or your bathroom for under 1,000.

Consider the color

Are the walls of your home beige, gold, or something else in the Mediterranean family? Go gray, instead. As weve seen countless times, most buyers have little vision when it comes to overlooking design issues, and may get hung up on something like a paint color, which keeps them from being able to really see the home. An outdated color may also give them the impression that the rest of the house is outdated.

"The new grays that have gained wide appeal have become a standard base for the millennial palette, along with more whitewashed gray variations, other soft neutrals and cooler whites influenced by Scandinavian deacute;cor," said the Chicago Tribune.

Dont be afraid to throw some modern wallpaper up in a space that needs a pop. It can make the buyer feel like time, effort, and care was taken to make the home stand out.

Focus on kitchens and baths

Weve been told for decades that kitchens and baths sell homes, and those spaces are top of mind for millennial buyers, too. But, while they may have ideas about what theyd like these spaces to look like, they may not have the patience, or the funds, to pay for them to be redone.

"The primary reason younger buyers seek updated kitchens and baths is because they have limited budgets," Jack Curtis, a Keller Williams real estate agent in Dublin, Ohio, told Bankrate. "Most of their savings will go toward the down payment and furnishings. Kitchens and bathrooms are also the most expensive parts of a home to update, and young homeowners cannot afford to sink a lot of money into those areas."

If youre going for a big renovation in the kitchen, taking down walls to open it up to the living space will reap rewards. Think: A large island with seating, stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, and new fixtures, "which are especially important for todays young, budget-conscious buyers," said Curtis.


Go for luxury-ish

When considering options and materials, muse on this: "Anbsp;Monitoring the Futurenbsp;study by the University of Michigan showed a dramatic increase resulting in 75 of millennials noting that wealth was a very important life attribute," said Freshome. "Since millennials seem to value money and success, it only seems natural for them to flock to high-tech jobs that lead to wealth and success. nbsp;This life>

The takeaway is that millennials want a space to look rich. But that doesnt mean it has to put you in the poorhouse. Decluttering the space is one of the top tips of home stagers, and this will help create a minimalistic appearance that helps communicate luxury. A few inexpensive, high-end-looking details - a faux fur pillow on the couch, a gilded accessory, a marble-topped side table you pick up at Home Goods for 50 - can take it a step further:

Incorporate easy-care materials

Millennials may want the look of luxury, but they may not want the upkeep. "Most millennials want a turnkey home that needs little or no work. They spend long hours on the job and have many interests, and prefer materials and that require minimal care," said Mary Cook of national, award-winning commercial interior design firm Mary Cook Associates. "That means wood or tile floors, easy-care countertops and gas fireplaces. New products that reflect this are ever-more-functional engineered stones and tiles that mimic more luxurious surfaces, from marble to exotic wood. The model home interiors we create embrace furnishings that reflect these preferences."

Fashion a home office

Have an extra room thats serving as a guest space or a catch-all? Pick up an inexpensive desk, position the guest chair in front, and now you have a home office. Today, millennials might reject your home altogether and fail to even come for a tour if they dont have a place to work from home. The words "home office" have to be in your listing.

Upgrade your tech

"One defining characteristic of the Millennial generation is that they grew up with technology," said Better Homes and Gardens.nbsp;"Many were lsquo;plugged in from the day they were born. To these individuals, technology is not just a luxury, but its a necessity. Your home needs to be technologically friendly in order to appeal to these buyers."

Making a few easy changes to add tech features to your home could go a long way toward making it irresistible to a millennial buyer. "Install a simple home automation system like a programmable thermostat that can be linked to your smart phone," they said.


Dont ignore the curb appeal

Making sure your home looks good from the street is universally important. But dont forget about the backyard. An annual Better Homes and Gardens survey monitoring "attitude and behavior trends of homeowners in the U.S." took a look at millennials and found that "more than three-quarters 77 say they want their outdoor living space to feel like a >

Take good pictures

Millennials are visual people. You only need to return to the Tinder analogy to understand that. Its more important than ever to make sure the pictures of the home are stellar. A baby boomer or Gen-Xer may be able to look past photos to come see a home that matches their needs. You may not have the same shot with a millennial.

Think carefully about how you promote the location

How far is the local Trader Joes Whole Foods, and Target? Is there a popular shopping area or group of restaurants nearby? Walkability is key for many millennials. Playing up these details in the home listing and marketing materials can go a long way toward attracting this target.

Play up energy efficiency

"With energy costs on the rise and growing interest in protecting the environment, young buyers are conscious of buying homes that are green," said Bankrate.

While many energy-efficient items may not necessarily be seen by the naked eye, expect millennials to "ask about the sustainability of your building materials and practices," said Pacesetter Homes. "They are committed to eco-friendly, energy-efficient homes - with ENERGY STAR appliances, programmable lighting and thermostats, and other high-tech, low-carbon-footprint amenities. Not only can they spell lsquo;LEED, but they want this building certification."

Got a fixer-upper? Market it that way

Millennials may be turned off by a junky or outdated home masquerading as move-in ready, but if you have a true fixer-upper thats being sold as is, well, Hello challenge A millennial might be turned on by the idea of having a project, especially if they think theyre getting a deal.

Full Story >

Building a Wall Around The Homeowners Association
"Lets build a great big wall around our property", the board president told the directors of his community association. "We have too many cars taking shortcuts through our streets to get to the main highway," he pointed out. "And we have no security at night, I often see strangers wandering over our grounds. Furthermore, our neighbors down the street have a gated community, so why not ours", he added.

"Can we do this", asked one of the directors. "I agree its needed, but it will cost a lot of money. Dont we need the approval of those who voted us into office", he asked.

That is the 64,000 question: what can a board of directors in a community association do on their own and when do they need the advice and consent of the membership?

The technical, legal answer will always be found in the associations legal documents, usually in their Bylaws. In general, there are two different provisions: one is called "Maintenance and Repair" and the other is "Additions, Alterations or Improvements".

For the first, the board generally has full authority to "maintain, repair and replace" the common areas of the property regardless of cost, although in a very few associations there is a dollar cap, above which the board needs the approval of a majority of the owners.

Additions, alterations or improvements, however, usually impose a financial limit on the boards authority, and the members must approve any work over that dollar cap.

Thats the "technical and legal" definition. The problem is determining what is "maintenance" and what is an "improvement". Take this real life example: a cooperative association here in the District of Columbia had a very old phone system, where an operator answered all incoming phone calls and then literally "plugged" the caller into the appropriate apartments house phone. Some of us older folks may remember Judy Holliday as Ella Peterson, telephone operator, in "Bells are Ringing".

After many years the cooperatives phone system failed. The board arranged to pay and install a totally different system. They based their decision on "maintenance and repair" and did not seek members approval. A member filed suit, claiming this was an improvement which needed the vote of a majority of owners. The DC Superior Court upheld the boards decision. According to the Court, while the new system clearly was an "improvement", since it was impossible to replace the old one, this was, in effect, me>In an 1999 Ohio case, the court provided an interesting definition: "an alteration orimprovement involves the change of things from one form or state to another, where maintenance contemplates the restoration of a thing to its original condition."

Unfortunately, the court cases are inconsistent. I have read cases with identical facts in which one judge called it an improvement and another said it was maintenance. Even the Internal Revenue Service has struggled with these definitions, but you can get guidance from Publication 523, "Selling Your Home" free online from irs.gov. According to the IRS, you cannot claim anything as an improvement if, when installed, it has a life expectancy of less than one year.

In addition to determining whether the board needs membership approval, there is yet another reason why it is important to determine in which category the work falls: if it is an improvement, association owners may be able to claim their percentage ownership interest in the amount for income tax purposes.

If you bought your condo unit many years ago, it may have increased significantly. Your association has spent a considerable amount of money improving the property. They have added a new roof or roofs, installed a swimming pool, and made other similar improvements.

In your community association, you own a percentage interest of that association. Let us assume the association spent 300,000 in improvements from the time you bought the property, and that your percentage interest is 1.5. If you multiple your interest times the total improvements, you get 4,500, and this amount could be added to your basis as "improvements." Confirm this with your own tax advisors.

It is surprising to me that many community association owners are not aware of this tax benefit. This is especially helpful for the elderly owner who is selling his or her last property, and does not want to have to pay a lot of tax on the gain that was made. Remember, if the gain is over 500,000 if you file a joint tax return or 250,000 for single filers, you have to pay capital gains tax on the overage.

In most community associations, the records should be available as to the total expenditure for improvements on a year to year basis. Please understand that maintenance and repair items are not added to basis, but capital improvements -- generally items which have a useful life of one year or more -- are indeed legitimate items to be added to basis.

Incidentally, the great wall will be an addition, alteration and improvement, requiring membership approval. Why? You did not have a wall before and now you do.
Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: The Meeting Agenda

Question: How does the board choreograph a meeting if not allowed to meet privately in advance? We have always scheduled work sessions every other month prior to the open board meetings. Some members are calling us on it. Some board members have said they will resign if they have to face a room full of homeowners every month.

Answer: The choreography of a meeting is called a "Meeting Agenda". The board is always allowed to formulated an agenda ahead of the meeting. The board is not permitted to discuss or make decisions concerning the agenda item content outside the meeting venue. An agenda can be discussed and approved by email, phone, face to face or any other means.

Question: Whats the best procedure for filing a rule violation complaint with the HOA? We are getting bombarded with verbal complaints.

Answer: It depends on what the nature of the complaint is. If it is a noise issue, the affected resident should first be required to address the issue in person with the offender unless there is a threat of violence keeping a record of the issue, date, time and what the response was. If it happens again within a short period of time, say, one week, an email or letter should be directed to the board/manager with the details for further action.

If the issue involves something like parking, roaming pets, an email or letter should be directed to the board/manager with the specific details.

Do not take complaints verbally either in person or over the phone. Theyre too easy to pull off. Require it be put in written form with all the details. It will generally reduce the number of complaints and put the issue in the complainers own words to eliminate misunderstanding.

Question: Our HOA sent out notices for our Annual Meeting by both regular mail and email. Our president prepared and sent the email notice and proxy without approval from the board. In the email notice, the president wrote that responding "Yes, a board member" was enough to assign their proxy to a board member. Is that allowed?

Answer: Transacting HOA meeting business by email may or may not be allowed by your governing documents or state statutes. Even if it is, a proxy needs to be in writing and carry the members signature to avoid fraud. The board or president has no authority to make up new standards for how proxies are handled.

Question: We divide our expenses equally, however, the master insurance policy premium is being allocated according to unit square footage which varies. Is that okay?

Answer: Unless the governing documents specifically permit a square footage allocation of insurance premiums, they should be allocated the same way as other expenses. Another common error occurs where, for example, the annual budget is allocated according to a square footage formula and a special assessment is assessed equally. Regardless of the type of assessment, the same allocation formula should be used. The board has no authority to change how expenses are allocated.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see www.Regenesis.net
Full Story >

Making Your Down Payment With Gift Money

To take advantage of low interest rates while home prices climb higher and higher, some homebuyers need help accumulating enough money for a down-payment. To satisfy secondary market loan package purchasers such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and insurers like the Federal Housing Authority, lenders have strict rules about where down-payment money originates.

Lenders prefer that borrowers supply their own down-payment funds. It shows they have "skin in the game" and that they are good with money and can meet their financial goals. However, many homebuyers are turning to their parents, grandparents and other family or friends for help.

Research in from loanDepot LLC, found that more parents are planning on helping their Millennial-age kids buy homes. In the last five years, 13 percent of parents pitched in with down payments, covering closing costs, or co-signing the loan but lenders anticipate that fully 17 percent of parents will help their kids.

Because gifts are a gray area, lenders are requiring more documentation for down payment monies. For example, a parent may provide a few thousand dollars to an adult child to use as a down payment -- but is the money a gift or a loan? Lenders may require borrowers and gift-givers to provide a certified down-payment gift letter or to sign an affidavit.

Such affidavits must include:

  • The amount of the gift, accompanied by a corresponding cashiers check
  • The name and address of the gift-giver and >
  • The purpose of the gift -- to be used only as a down payment on the subject property, complete with the propertys address
  • A statement confirming that the gift is not a loan, and does not need to be repaid
  • Signatures of the borrower and the gift-giver

Because lenders require a paper trail, allowing parents to simply transfer money into the borrowers account to mix with the borrowers funds is discouraged. First, a large deposit raises the borrowers income and alters the bank statements, possibly allowing a borrower to qualify for a home that in reality is too expensive. And dont think underwriters wont find it. One of the first things they do is examine your bank accounts.

If you want to get a conventional loan, Quicken Loans advises the following:

  • If you put down 20 or more, it can all be from a gift.
  • If you put down less than 20, part of the money can be a gift; how much varies by loan type.
  • You can only use gift money on primary residences and second homes.

For FHA and VA loans, all of your down payment can be gift money. If your credit score is between 580 and 619, at least 3.5 of your down payment must be your own money. You can only use gift money on primary residences.

If youre planning to use gift money as part or all of your down payment, ask your lender how to meet the appropriate requirements.

Full Story >

Tired Of White Everything In Your House? Paint It Black
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Monday, 27 March 2017
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Tired Of White Everything In Your House? Paint It Black

Written byJaymi NaciriPosted On Sunday, 19 March 2017 13:48
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White is crisp and cool. But if its all starting to feel a little clinical, you might be ready for a change. Bring some drama and sophistication to your space, not to mention a chic counterpoint to all that white, with the unexpected addition of black. Afraid to take that plunge into the deep, dark abyss? Its easier than you think.

Black walls in an entry hall? All that glass, an eye-popping floor and ceiling, and glam details make this foyer a showstopper.


The black floors and fireplace in actress Cameron Diazs Manhattan apartment look sleek, especially with the light tones in the rest of the space, and the mirrored fireplace wall, which bounces light around the room.

Who would have thought black walls in the bedroom would be so chic? Keep the other furnishings light and finish it off with a sparkly chandelier for maximum glam.


You dont have to cover almost every inch of your black walls with art... but it sure looks cool if you do.


You also dont have to paint every wall black. Look at how the black feature wall in this New York living room designed by Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent helps center the eye on the view out the dual windows. A stellar black coffee table and duo of chairs continue the color play.


Soapstone is a great way to introduce the color into your kitchen because its a softer black that has some white veining.


But if you really want to make a statement in the kitchen, deck it out in black from the cabinets to the integrated appliances to the countertops to the beams above. Keeping the island counter white gives you all the contrast you need for an exceptional space.


Talk about glamour. If youre thinking about black in the bathroom, take a cue from this chic space. Black, large-format subway tile and a black countertop work when you weave in some shiny chrome and the big window streaming light into the space doesnt hurt.


If you dont want to make such a large or semi- permanent change, think about transforming a piece of furniture. A tired dresser gets a whole new life with a coat of black paint. This piece started out pretty ragged and outdated in light and mid-tone brown.


Full Story >

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