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Updated: Monday, May 02, 2016

A Sellers Guide To A Winning Open House

Holding an open house for your soon-to-be-listed or newly on the market home is a lot like being on a game show where edging out the other contestants in a short period of time is key. In TV game shows, such as "Jeopardy," the contestants dont automatically know answers to so many trivia questions; they study and they plan and they make it appear to viewers like they walk around with that body of knowledge every day. Open houses need to be thought of similarly. Once your home is on the market, an open house is your opportunity to plan and strategize how you are going to win over buyers in very short time.

Even in a strong real estate market where houses sell quickly, its still important to ask your agent to hold as many open houses as possible until the home sells. One reason is that even buyers with agents still like to look at homes on their own without feeling the pressure of a home tour. Sometimes their agent is out of town when your house goes on the market. Many buyers are not represented by an agent and the only way for them to tour a home is through an open house. Your agent will plan the open house to include everything from signage to freshly baked cookies. As a seller, you should take the following steps:


Back to the game show analogy, think of depersonalizing as studying the answers and questions before trying out for "Jeopardy." Your house is lovely for how you live in it, but buyers dont want to see youin your house. In fact, the more your house makes it difficult to guess who lives there age, >


While you are depersonalizing its also a good time to declutter as the two go hand in hand. The more simple and understated your home is, the more likely buyers can see the home for what it is and imagine themselves in it. When you have too much stuff cluttering walls and counters and shelves, buyers turn their focus toward those things and sometimes even make the assumption in logic that if you are cluttery, then you are disorganized, which means maybe you dont take care of the house as well or as on time as you should. A good rule of thumb is to box up or store at least half of the smaller items displayed in your home.

For example, how much is on your kitchen counter right now? Now imagine reducing that number to just three things. What would you choose to keep versus store? Some sellers are benefited by going to other open houses in their area and looking at how other people have decluttered and arranged what is left. Online pictures, such as what is found on Pinterest, can help too. Often you can get some good ideas on what works visually just by seeing how others do it. When you are all done decluttering, clean your home like never before because buyers notice dirt and grime. Hire a maid service if you have to.

Lure Them In

The outside of your home is as important as the inside, especially the front entry area. Before an open house, take care of simple yard maintenance such as mowing, edging and weeding flower beds. A fresh layer of mulch adds color especially in winter months when not much is blooming. At your front door, clean off spider webs, blown leaves, and place a large, colorful pot of annuals or anything you can buy in season.

Complete Your Honey-Do List

While you have the yard power tools out, dust of your workbench and take a walk around your house inside and out. Make a list of all maintenance issues such as wiggly door handles, missing fascia, paint that has chipped, etc. and repair them before the open house. Buyers see even the smallest of maintenance issues as an extension of the condition of larger items such as roofs, plumbing and major appliances and assume you havent taken care of the home. You might talk to your realtor about a pre-inspection to deal with all home maintenance and problems upfront, before you get into contract with a buyer.

Be Cautious

Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, theres one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a >
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8 Laundry Rooms Thatll Make You Want To Fluff And Fold

Lets face it. Laundry is no fun. In fact, its often counted among our most hated chores. But since running around in stinky, soiled clothes is not an option for most of us, its gotta get done.

Which is why were always thrilled to see rooms that make it feel like more of a yay and less of a yuck

"A laundry room doesnt have to be a dull and boring room where you just toss your dirty socks and t-shirts. The laundry room is a place where you can really show off your creativity," said Kimberly Grigg of Knotting Hill Interiors and Get Your Southern On.

Indeed, it can even be a luxurious space, said Advice on the House.

"When decorating a home, there are endless possibilities to make each room a chic oasis. The laundry room can be upgraded to exude personality and design flair so it becomes a more enjoyable place to spend time in," they said. "From the color palette or patterns on the walls to the floors under foot and everything in between, decorating your laundry room with things that inspire productivity and tranquility can transform your tired, dull space into a room that feels luxurious, welcoming and >

In these 8 rooms, we might even be inspired to scrub out a few stains, fold everything real pretty, and actually see the bottom of the laundry basket.


dcor pad

The ample countertop and storage space, the glass-front cabinets, the glam lightsthis laundry room has it all. But what really gets us is the double washer and dryer. Twice the capacity to get and keep everything clean? Oh. Yes.


Oplab Dcor

Ummm, you had us at TV.


Get Your Southern On

Glamorous and utilitarian? Well take it. Something about the all-white palette and reflective surfaces make this space feel so tranquil that we wouldnt mind doing a loador 10.


My Design Chic

Then again, who says you cant have a little fun with color and pattern?


Inside Story Design

Is it weird that all that storage is making us a little flush? We love that there is a space for everything in this traditional space, including a pullout for dog food and built in bowls for puppys food and drink.


Georgiana Design

Lacking space for a "real" laundry room but still want to create something with form and function? Hide it in a hallway.


Inside Story Design

Because why should kitchens and bathrooms have all the fun. Adding a little luxury to your laundry room makes it a place you dont mind hanging out for a while.


My Design Chic

Look. At. All. That. Counter. Space.

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Builders Digital Experience BDX Updates New Home Source Professional Platform For Real Estate Agents

Agents Get New Tools, Modern Interface, and Free New Construction Website

Austin, TX- Builders Digital Experience BDX has launched major updates to theNewHomeSourceProfessional.complatform, which allows real estate agents to search for new construction homes and is used by a number of MLSs nationwide to complement their current database.

With listing data provided directly from thousands of builders nationwide, the new platform offers a modern interface, more search filters, multiple result views homes or communities in list, photo, and map options, expanded detail pages, and printable reports, plus saved searches and saved listings that can be shared directly with clients.

All agents with a free account on New Home Source Professional now also get a free, multi-purpose Consumer Portal, which serves as both a standalone, agent-branded new construction website for agents to generate new business and a place for clients to review shared listings and searches.

In 2015, nearly 10 of all homes sold were new construction,according to the National Association of Homebuilders. Yet because much of the inventory is in the form of builder plans that do not have fixed addresses or prices, it often doesnt appear in MLS systems. Thats why over 25 MLSs partner with BDX to provide New Home Source Professional to members. Current partners include CRMLS, MRIS, MRED, MFRMLS, MIAMI, ARMLS, MLSListings, GLVAR and ABOR.

MLSs have added the platform through a no-cost partnership with BDX, which includes an MLS-branded version of New Home Source Professional. More than 400,000 agents currently have access the platform via their MLS.

"New Home Source Professional gives my Subscribers access to the unique information on a new property that does not fit into the traditional MLS," said Sean Murphy, Executive Vice President of the MLS of Southern Arizona.

"Their team has been responsive to the feedback from my Subscribers and it shows in the updated platform. The updates to the platform will make using the service a more fulfilling and productive experience for my Subscribers."

The new tools are in addition to existing platform features and information, including builder contact information, interactive assets, compensation details, promotions, events, community-level data and educational articles and videos for agents. The updates are for desktop and tablet users, with mobile set for a summer launch.

The platform updates were based on feedback from agents and BDXs MLS partners, who are part of an expanding industry effort to make sure agents have single access to all new construction inventory and develop >
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One Wants To Sell The House, The Other Does Not: What To Do?

You have just inherited the family home, with your sibling. He wants to sell but you want to keep the property. After all, it has been in the family for a long period of time, and the two of you grew up there.

What can you do? Unfortunately, this is a common problem -- especially among families. Fortunately, there are a number of possible solutions.

First, are you sure you both own the property? Has it gone through probate? Did your mother or father, or whoever died last have a Will. Does the Will give you any guidance? Generally speaking, Probate Courts want to enforce a persons Last Will and Testament as closely as possible.

Is there a mortgage on the property that has to be paid off? Is there any equity in the house? You should obtain an appraisal of the property. What is it really worth? It may have so little equity that it does not pay to get into a legal fight with your sibling.

Let us assume the house had a market value of 500,000 on the day your mother or father died. Let us further assume that the house was free and clear of all mortgages.

Under these circumstances, you and your sibling each own the equivalent of 250,000. Keep in mind, however, that should the house be sold on the open market, you will probably not obtain the full 500,000. There are closing costs, fix-up costs and real estate commissions which have to be paid, thereby reducing the net proceeds to be divided between you.

You should make a valiant effort to reach a peaceable resolution. Since your sibling wants to sell, this means that he wants the money. One simple solution is to negotiate a sales price for his half, and buy him out. If you do not have enough of your own money, you may be able to borrow the funds by placing a mortgage on the house.

The alternative will be long, prolonged -- and expensive -- litigation called Partition

On the other hand, if you are unable to reach agreement, I recommend you both retain separate legal counsel. You have separate interests, and most lawyers would prefer not to have a potential conflict of interest when they take on a new case.

The ultimate remedy is for you to file a suit for partition. This is a legal concept, which has been universally accepted throughout the United States.

The Courts have made it clear they will not require two or more people to continue to own real estate when someone wants out of the >

The only winners in a partition suit, however, are the lawyers and the speculators who purchase the property.

You might also want to consider asking your brother to have the matter decided by binding arbitration. Under this arrangement, you both would select an arbitrator who would have the written authority to review all of the facts. The arbitrator would make a determination that in the opinion of the arbitrator would be fair and equitable to all of the parties.

In the final analysis, this matter should be resolved amicably between you and your brother, without outside involvement -- or interference -- from the courts or from an arbitrator.

Your parents left the house to both of you; they did not want to leave a lawsuit as their legacy.

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Ask The HOA Expert: Second Hand Smoke

Question: Our HOA has ongoing problems with cigarette smoke which permeates the hallways and stairwells every time a resident smoker comes and goes from their unit. The ventilation system recycles the smoke throughout the common areas. Besides the bad odor, Im concerned about health hazards.

Answer: Second hand smoke is a serious health hazard. The estimated 41,000 deaths in the US in 2015 >

Some boards worry that bans on smoking will negatively impact property values. In reality, there is growing support for smoke free HOAs which would be highly prized by non-smokers who would pay a premium to live there. Something to think about.

There is no Constitutional right to smoke. Moreover, inflicting a health hazard on others is against the law. The board should take this issue seriously. For a sample No Smoking Policy, see the "Policy Samples" section at www.Regenesis.net.

Question: Our governing documents, like most, prohibit co-owners from serving on the board at the same time. Does this principle apply to committees?

Answer: Committees can be composed of anyone that has an interest in serving, including renters. As long as the members are serving effectively, the board should encourage such participation. Since committee members are appointed rather than elected, the board can unappoint them if they arent doing their job.

Question: Our HOA board wisely ordered a reserve study this year. The study was completed and indicates that we are seriously underfunded. The study includes a funding recommendation that will substantially increase our fees. Is increasing reserve contributions a decision that the board alone can make? Do the general members have the right to voice their opinions, concerns, etc. prior to the boards decision. Should the reserve study be available to the membership to review?

Answer: As long as the governing documents give the board authority to approve the budget usually the case, the board alone can make the decision. The board doesnt have to follow the reserve study providers recommendation but departing from it will encourage greater challenge from members, particularly those that dont want to pay more. The logic is "If the board can propose an increase lower than the professional, why not propose one even lower still?"

If the governing documents require the board to get member approval for increases over a certain amount, the board will have to bring the matter for a vote. In either case, its wise for the board to hold a special meeting to discuss the reserve study and its implications, particularly if there is a significant increase in fees indicated. Ask the reserve study provider to present the study and answer questions. This will add a much higher level of credibility to the process and take the spotlight off the board.

One mistake some boards make is deciding ahead of time that the members wont approve a large increase so a much smaller one is proposed. It is always preferable to present the higher recommendation and let the chips fall where they may. If the case for the professionals funding plan is made and a majority of the members still vote it down, future shortfalls can be blamed on the membership, not the board. If the board decides on its own to under fund, it has failed in its fiduciary duty to budget properly and should be held responsible for shortfalls.

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

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Dual Agency Can Be A Good Thing

A man cant serve two masters, the Good Book says; but neither the law nor common practice precludes the possibility of both buyer and seller being represented by the same real estate agent. When this happens a "dual agency" situation is created; and dual agency is a subject about which both confusion and controversy abound.

First of all, how does dual agency come about? In what sorts of contexts does it occur? No doubt the example that most readily comes to mind is when an individual agent shows his or her own listing to someone who then decides to buy it or at least to try. A most natural setting where this might occur would be at an open house.

Dual agency is not restricted to situations where there is only one individual real estate agent i.e. person involved. We have noted before that California law stipulates that it is the broker or the brokerage company that is actually the agent in a transaction. Suppose, for example, that Jim Jones of the ABC company writes an offer for a buyer who wishes to purchase the property listed by Jane Jackson who is also an agent at the ABC company. There would be dual agency in this situation, because the ABC company is the agent of both buyer and seller. Moreover, this would hold true even if Jim and Jane worked out of different offices of the ABC company. It wouldnt matter if Jim worked in the Los Angeles office and Jane in the San Diego office; the ABC company would still be acting as a dual agent. This is not the case when there are two independent franchisees represented, even though they share the franchise name.

It is not hard to imagine why some people find dual agency controversial. "How," they ask, "can the same agent represent parties whose interests are in conflict?" "It sounds like asking the same person to be both prosecutor and defense attorney." "Su>

In response to this, let us note first what California law requires. Other states may differ. There are two primary conditions: i Dual agency must be adequately disclosed to both parties. There are severe penalties for agents who fail to disclose dual agency. ii The law specifically prohibits someone acting as a dual agent from telling the buyer how low the seller will go, or from telling the seller how high the buyer will go. Not that agents always know these things, anyway.

However, we know that all sorts of other information can influence what someone may offer, counteroffer, accept or not accept; and it is this fact that the critics seize upon. They will argue that insofar as the dual agent uses his skills and knowledge on behalf of the buyer, then in that respect he will be doing a disservice to the seller, and, of course, vice versa. How could this not be so?

Those who believe that dual agency does not entail unavoidable conflict reject the model that the critics assume. They do not believe that sales negotiations are what the theorists would call a "zero sum game" -- one in which every plus for one side means a minus for the other. That may be an appropriate model for the adversarial proceedings in a courtroom, where one party wins and the other loses; but it fails to take into account that sales negotiations are, after all, negotiations. The aim is not simply for one side to "win" and the other to "lose." The aim is to get a deal together, to create a transaction that is, of necessity, acceptable to both parties.

Not only is it the aim of sales negotiations to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement; but also, especially in residential real estate, there are often important considerations which have nothing to do with the ultimate price. There are matters of personal pride, emotional attachment, convenience, etc. All of these are factors which an agent, or agents, must take into account.

More than one transaction that could have happened didnt, because agents were not sufficiently sensitive to the personal nuances that play such an important role in negotiations. That is especially likely to happen when agents act like adversaries. Ironically, it is precisely because of their special >

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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Drone Photography Is Changing Real Estate For Good. Are You Keeping Up?

Photo by: Dallas Air Photos

Real estate companies are quickly adopting drone technology as it offers them a new way to catch the eyes of potential buyers.

According to Joe Carriere, owner of Dallas Air Photos, "most real estate professionals utilize MLS to promote their listings online. Up to 30 images of a property can be uploaded to the MLS system. However, only one single photograph can be chosen as the propertys first impression, or Featured Image. A Feature Image taken from the drones perspective, is the perfect opportunity to grab the attention of a potential buyer with an incredible first impression that sets the property apart from all others."

Joe says, "An aerial shot of a home, in comparison with a street level shot provides not only depth and dimension, but also a view of what is behind the home. A pool, beautiful backyard, lake, ocean or mountain view can all be captured and showcased perfectly by aerial drone photography."

Aerial photography is currently the best way to showcase the selling points of a home or building, and drones offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative to helicopters and planes. Drones are the next step in high-end real estate sales and agencies who are quick to adopt them will receive a cutting edge advantage over their competition.

The picture above taken by Dallas Air Photos shows the difference between an aerial shot
and a regular photo. According to MLS statistics, the properties photographed by drones sold 68 faster.

What does it cost to hire a drone?

These days, the cost of hiring a drone for real estate starts at around 200. This would be for a single family home or small building and will typically include all of the exterior shots you need, and basic editing. At about the same cost of regular photography, drone photography is becoming an increasingly popular digital marketing strategy.

Use the reference below to get an idea of what you can expect based on your budget.

According to Joe, drone operators who are experienced with real estate will "provide the REALTOR two versions of the photographs; one image will be at full size for the creation of fliers or other marketing material. The second, identical shots, are replicated in the smaller MLS size and proportion."

How To Get Started

Drone operators are ready to fly all around the United States. Websites like HiFlyPhotography.com help you find aerial photography no matter where you are or what your project is.

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Differences Drive Referral Success

Exactly how is each prospect, client, and their >

As a real estate professional, how you adapt what you do to this essential service truth and how you communicate this reality determines whether prospects and clients will refer new business to you.

Referrals are significant business drivers, so anything that interferes with clients referring undermines business growth.

How each prospect, client, and property is different is the real point of what you do and of the services you provide. How aware you and your clients are of this truth is crucial to your success.

In a busy market and over many years, continuous success -- liberally loaded with ongoing pressure and stress -- can distract you. Your professional focus can shift from the uniqueness of each client and the problem you solve to concentrate on similarities between transactions -- the "sameness."

This mental shift is applauded when a "sameness" focus initiates economies of scale to control expenses and provides time-saving reusables for marketing and advertising. On a larger scale, target marketing concentrates your business activities on defined market groups with clear similarities. This "sameness" has practical applications, including:

  • Template->
  • Standardized email and other digital campaign formats inexpensively allow repeat reach-outs to past clients and new prospects in greater numbers than door-to-door canvassing.

Digital content, social media, online practices, and mobile computing facilitate a "sameness" focus. However, concentrate too intently on "sameness" and successfully sustaining your real estate practice may be challenging.

The real estate truth is that every property is unique. That makes seller, buyer, and the resulting real estate transaction unique, too. At the heart of this are the unique definitions of success created by each seller, each buyer, and you.

From your perspective, success is achieved when the deal closes and generates commission. Through many transactions, you have worked with clients: either sellers who sold or buyers who bought. Do your clients always feel as successful -- and hopefully more successful -- than you do?

Which of the following two statements accurately describe typical reactions for your clients after their transaction closes?

Scenario 1: Clients feel dragged through an often-confusing, usually-stressful legal and financial process with you in charge, but at least they ended up with something -- not what they initially expected, but something.

Scenario 2: Clients are aware of you continuously tweeking the legal and financial process to accommodate their unique situation and significantly reduce confusion and stress, until they achieve more than they expected.

In Scenario 1, clients have completed a real estate transaction and are ready to move on, but do they genuinely feel "tell all my friends" successful? On contemplation, they may have reservations about what happened, or didnt, so they hesitate to refer you. Since they may have initially seemed pleased with results -- from your perspective -- lack of referrals may surprise you.

In Scenario 2, clients feel that the success was theirs. Since you both understood their definition of success, you were able to achieve more than they expected. You knew which aspects of the property would mean more to them and which features would not. You were also clear how to make the process less confusing and stressful for them. On contemplation, they are clear about how you helped make things happen and wont hesitate to refer you. In fact, they may champion you to friends and family.

When you do not clarify the prospects or clients definition of success from the start, you miss opportunities to understand what makes them different and how differently they see real estate. Do you listen for success?

  • Buyers -- Hearing a buyers "dream home" description, are you mentally matching it with listings? This order-taking passivity is not listening.
  • Sellers -- Hearing details of sellers attachment to their property, are you mentally erasing their presence in the property with staging strategies? This marketing is not listening.

Active listening involves asking questions about statements that clients make and standards they insist on, so you understand exactly what they mean by what they say. Questions clarify what they value. Resulting discussions can ensure practical, achievable goals are set. If you do not confirm information and goals with the client, neither they nor you will concentrate on what really matters.

For example, buyers may be distracted by decor issues while sellers may be off-track reacting to negative buyer remarks about the home. Distractions waste valuable time -- time that may make a crucial difference, especially in a hot market. What approach do you take to focus on a clients achievable definition of success?

  • For inspiration as you rethink your seller approaches and for more ideas on uncovering seller uniqueness, consider 6 Home Seller Procrastinations: What Are You Waiting For? or 3 Tips for Sellers Stay Or Go? Dilemma as a place to start exploring seller perspectives.
  • To discover different buyer viewpoints and gather insight on recognizing opportunities to draw out uniqueness, consider Home Buyers: Seven Insights Into Confident Decision Making and Five Core Matching Questions For Buyers.

Source: "Whats Your Point?" by PJ Wade

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Living Posh: What To Buy For Your Home When Money Is No Object

Ever wonder how the other half lives? Maybe you are the other half and want a few ideas for how to spend all that money adding the most posh, plush, and luxe not to mention crazy expensive items to your home. Either way, weve got a list that will have you salivating.

When not just any old fridge will do, who do you turn to? Well, Dolce and Gabbana, of course The famed fashion designers just launched a new collaboration with Italian appliances brand Smeg "to produce 100 limited-edition FAB28 refrigerators, all of which are hand-painted by artists specially commissioned by Dolce and Gabbana themselves," said Vogue. "Bedecked with these prints that weve seen pop up in past collections from the fashion house, each fridge will be available through Smeg and Dolce amp; Gabbana for - get ready - 30,000, or about 34,140."

Dolce and Gabbana arent the only top clothing designers to veer into the home world. Fendi Casa has been creating furniture and design objects since 1987, with items reflecting their high-end, contemporary tone.


For luxury, it doesnt get much better than Versace, and their home collection is about as posh as it gets.


Calacatta marble not exclusive enough for you? How about countertops made from glazed volvic lava stone, "an ancient and natural stone extracted from the Nugere crater at the heart of Auvergnes volcanoes in France," said LEEZA Surfaces. Thats Pyrolave, which, in addition to being rare, is also very strong, heat resistant, and available in 32 colors. The cost: A measly 370/square foot.


Baccarat is known for their luxury crystal glassware, jewelry, and gifts, as well as a number of incredible chandeliers. You can pick one like this up for a few thousand dollars, but as long price is no object, bring this beauty home. The Baccarat Zenith Chandelier with 48 Lights with only set you back a mere 147,600.

Crystal >

Maybe you envision a different kind of showstopping chandelier. One reminiscent of museums, botanical gardens, and luxury hotels around the world. One from world-famous artist Dale Chihuly, perhaps.


If youre planning to add a Chihuly work to your house, youll want to be aware of a few things. "If your ultimate splurge is a Chihuly masterpiece, youll want to get started early to incorporate all that will be required," said Houzz. "Youll also have to accept that the artist is going to be the boss, especially if its an artist as accomplished as Dale Chihuly."

Looking to bring some ultra luxury to the foundation areas of your home? Hire Mark Evans to sculpt leather onto your walls using knives. His work adorning a Russian billionaires mansion is the most expensive wallpaper in the world, realized by "etching the leather down to the suede with a number of bladed tools of different sizes, from a large hunting knife to several sculpting knives," said Most Expensive. The results are photorealistic depictions of animals, the crucifixion and even the celebrated "Fight of the Year" between Doug Jones and Muhammad Ali. Evans leather etchingscover the walls of two rooms in a mansion in Moscow. The tally on the "unnamed billionaires" walls: 2.71 million, or "around 23,675 per square meter."


With so much grandeur throughout the other areas of your home, you certainly cant skimp on floors. How about this exotic Macassar Ebony wood? Its only slightly more than that budget option at Home Depot with a price of 150 per square foot.

"Having Macassar ebony milled into flooring will no doubt set your home improvement budget back a ways," said This Old House. "Truth is, most people who can afford to use this exotic hardwood arent too worried about budgets.

This Old House

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How To Find The Right Dining Table On A Budget

You know whats irritating? Walking through a furniture store and falling in love with a piece of furniture only to flip over the tag and see that it cost three times your monthly salary.

When it comes to a dining room table, you want something substantial, especially if it will act as an everyday table and also if youll be entertaining frequently and/or hosting holiday feasts.

Shape and size are also important considerations, and theyre not the only ones. A dining room table is not just "a surface to gather around for meals," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Interesting choices in shape, >

But that doesnt mean it has to be expensive. If youre looking for a great table at a price you can handle, here are some great places to look.

World Market is a great place to look for stylish furniture at affordable prices. The Wood Durham Extension Dining Table is great looking, goes with almost any decor with its walnut stain, adds a bit of flair with its turned legs, and seats up to 10 with the self-storing leaf. And its only 349

World Market

Prefer a cleaner leg on your table but want a bit of a rustic look? Check out this Carmichael Table from Pier 1. Available in rubbed black, sage, or antique ivory, its priced at just 359.

Pier 1

IKEA may be king when it comes to inexpensive - and some would say disposable - furniture, but the megastore has a variety of tables, chairs, and dining sets for a variety of budgets, and some might last you through several stages of life.

The clean lines of the Bjursta table make it a favorite, and its extendable with two different leaves. The white Henriksdal chairs bring some glam to the space. The whole set with four chairs is just 475.


You can also find affordable dining room sets at stores like Macys, Rooms To Go, and Ashley. This rustic-industrial Freimore Dining Room Table and Stools from Ashley is just 379.


Modern minimalism with an Asian flair makes this Madina three-piece dining set a great buy at 899, on sale at Macys.


If youre comfortable with buying over the Internet and dont feel like you need to touch, feel, and see the finish in person, you can find some of the deals on sites like Overstock, like this five-piece set that combines a rustic look with a modern gray finish for 600.


Or this Christopher Knight outdoor set for 643.


Wayfair has several different sets at every imaginable price point. We love their extendable tables, perfect for everyday use and for guests. This round pedestal table can easily tuck into a breakfast nook and expand to accommodate guests. Plus, the round >

The Kersey Dining Table brings some mid-century >


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What To Look For When Buying Or Renting A Handicap-Friendly Home

Buying a house: Its one of the big coming of age moments for many people, but it can also be an overwhelming experience. If you or your loved ones need assistance it can be even more daunting as there are additional aspects that you must look for. Perhaps you are helping a client look for a house that will make it easier to perform your caregiver duties and responsibilities. Or maybe its for a family member. Regardless, if youre not prepared and you do not know what to look for, the process will be miserable and you will overlook certain aspects that will greatly inhibit the way of life for the person needing daily assistance. But if youre willing to put in the time to do the methodological research you will most likely avoid future bumps in the road and you will purchase/rent the most handicap-friendly home

Here are some things to consider when buying a more accessible home.


For anyone with mobility issues, the most important issue is space. A house with narrow hallways, tight turns and complicated labyrinths of rooms isnt going to be conducive for independence and easy maneuverability for anyone who uses a wheelchair or any other mobility device. A flat, one-story house is often the only option for mobility device users, but be careful with houses with sunken rooms and random steps, which will instantly make certain rooms off-limits or challenging to get to.

Floor plan

Seen more and more in newly built homes, open floor plans and houses with more space give homeowners more flexibility with decorating and making the house their own. But when a wheelchair is involved, it adds yet another level of convenience, allowing you to organize large items of furniture where you want, leaving room for open walkways and maneuvering space. Make sure doorways, hallways and corners are all wide enough for a wheelchair or any other equipment. Compliant to the Fair Housing Act, doors must have a 32-inch passable opening, but many people, if able or willing to renovate to their preference, prefer it wider, closer to 36 inches, if possible.


Kitchen design is one of the most varied areas of home design, but following trends wont make a kitchen accessible or even operable for anyone who uses a wheelchair. There are a few things to look for, and a few simple fixes if the house you decide on isnt perfectly optimized for you. Side-by-side refrigerators are more user-friendly than setups with the freezer on the bottom or on the top, simply because of whats in reach. Ovens, often placed high on the wall, are not only awkward and unsuitable for use, but can be dangerous. The folding-down door is hot and will get in the way, and lifting items that are both heavy and dangerously hot dont make for a good cooking combination. Look for double, stacked ovens, and lower-level microwaves, or at least scope out cabinetry that can possible be moved.

If the problem becomes affording a home, there are numerous programs set up to help. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a homeownership voucher program, Social Security has a Supplemental Security Income program, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has housing grants for disabled veterans.

And if theres any question, remember the Fair Housing Act, which says that when selling or renting houses to anyone, the renter or seller may not question race, color, national origin, >

It may take some creativity to find the perfect house, or to customize one you find, but its possible. Create a checklist of the things most important to you, making sure to know whats non-negotiable and what you can live without. If you cant get everything, make sure you can at least get the things most important.

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Essential Garage Equipment for Car Enthusiasts

What makes a car enthusiast? The vehicle you own says a lot about your passion for cars. About 12 percent of Americans are loyal to a particular vehicle brand, and vehicle brand loyal customers are four times more likely than other consumers to describe themselves as car enthusiasts, according to Scarborough. What you have in your garage also makes a statement about your love of cars. Here are some essential items every car enthusiast should have.

Garage Space

First, you need a garage with adequate space. A small garage might provide enough space to park your car, but if you want room to work, you may prefer something bigger. Chicago architect Allan J. Grant recommends that a single-car garage should be a minimum of 10 feet wide, and a two-car garage should be at least 20 feet wide, with 24 feet being optimal. For a car enthusiast, a two-car garage provides better working space.


A good workbench is the first piece of essential equipment, says Popular Mechanics. You can build your own workbench inexpensively or purchase one from the store.

There are several ways to design your own workbench. The simplest is to use a pair of sawhorses to support a solid-core door or a plank of medium-density fiberboard. You can also find many designs online for building workbenches out of simple materials such as 2 x 4s and 4 x 4s. Bob Villa offers five different DIY designs for workbenches you can build in a weekend.

To speed things up, kits for building your own workbench are also available from suppliers such as the Simpson Strong-Tie Company and Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation with its 2x4 Basics product line. If youd prefer to buy a pre-made workbench, modular workbenches from manufacturers such as Craftsman and Gladiator provide the flexibility to customize your workspace.


To use your workbench, you will want a good bench vise. A bench vise holds your projects in place, provides extra force and stabilizes items while glue dries. Avoid cheap vises, and invest in a quality vise from a manufacturer such as Craftsman.


Adequate lighting is essential for working on your car. The easiest way to improve the quality of your overhead lighting is by installing ceiling-mounted fluorescent light fixtures. Four-foot instant-on T8 bulb fixtures with wide reflectors or diffusers are a good start.

However, to get lighting in hard-to-reach places, youll want more than overhead lighting. Mercedes mechanic Kent Bergsma recommends avoiding clip lights and halogen-type shop lights and instead using stage and movie lighting equipment, such as an LED video lights with barn doors.


The more tools you own, the more storage space you need. For general storage, a pegboard is the most affordable way to store individual tools and other pieces of equipment, and a tool chest provides organized storage.

To store your off-season tires, it puts less stress on tires to store them upright than to stack them. You can hang tires on hooks if theyre mounted on the rims, but never hang unmounted tires because this will distort and damage them.

Ramps, Jack Stands, Lifts and Hoists

Its also essential to have equipment to elevate your car. An auto ramp set is great for working under your car. Jack stands with safety pins will come in handy to change tires. If you can afford it, a vehicle lift will really make your garage look like a car shop. An engine hoist with a stand is also useful.

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The Dangers Of Being House Poor

Most of us who have bought a home have at least some awareness of the loan-to-value ratio, or LTV - one of the factors lenders use to determine whether a borrower is qualified for the loan they want. Lenders typically want your mortgage payment to be between 28 and 33 percent of your income and your total debt including car payment, credit cards, etc. under 40 percent, according to "Money Under 30."

The thinking is that the higher the LTV, the more likelihood a borrower may default on the loan, which is why, "Assessments with high LTV ratios are generally seen as higher risk and, therefore, if the mortgage is accepted, the loan will generally cost the borrower more to borrow or he or she will need to purchase mortgage insurance," said Investopedia.

The danger in a high LTV ratio for a buyer is the possibility that youll end up house poor.

"You may not have heard of the term "house poor" but you probably know what it means. The family that owns a 3-bedroom house, but cant afford to pay their credit card bill," said lifehacker.

Investopedia described it as, "A situation that describes a person who spends a large proportion of his or her total income on home ownership, including mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and utilities. House poor individuals are short of cash for discretionary items and tend to have trouble meeting other financial obligations."

Leave Debt Behind

Fixing up the house, and other ways to become house poor

Buying a home you cant comfortably afford is only the beginning. Even if the desire to own a home triggers an intense period of saving and a whole new outlook on being thrifty and delaying gratification, can you maintain it once youve gotten your keys? The urge to nest, rip the home apart, fix it up, and make it reflect your taste and >

What will you do about the fact that the kitchen countertops are from 1972 and so is the mold growing on the grout in the secondary bathrooms shower? How about the new living room set that would look so great in front of the fireplace youre going to redo? Or a pool in the backyard or at least a new patio set so you can entertain friends. Oh, and youll need to add a great big grill for that and maybe a pergola, too.

Miracle Method

And, youll probably be too busy painting and ripping out floors and gardening and hanging window treatments to cook dinner, so add in a bunch of restaurant meals.

Before long, you may just find yourself maxed out on credit and struggling to make all your payments on time. Or, huddled around the table eating Cup-o-Noodles with no cable or Internet and trying to come up with more cost-cutting measures. That can be a dangerous place, not only for your credit and, ultimately for your living arrangements, but also for your psyche.

"Living house poor not only hurts your finances, it takes a toll on you mentally and physically," said Money under 30. "Knowing that your income and your home expenses rule your life can be a great source of anxiety. Being house poor removes the liberating feeling of being in control of your finances. Ironically, we Americans view home ownership as the ultimate symbol of financial security and success, but if youre living house poor, your finances are anything but secure."

And that may not be the worst of it. Being house poor can get really risky if theres a job loss or other change of circumstances in your family. When youre living paycheck to paycheck, missing just one could be enough to crumble your world.

Preparing well for the purchase

Still ready to take the plunge despite the potential pitfalls? Remember the three Ps: price, practicality, patience.

  • Price: You dont have to buy at the max of what the lender gives you. Breaking down the monthly payments and looking at a detailed accounting of what the home will cost you may be a better determining factor of what you can afford than the sales price of the house.
  • Practicality: If your budget is stretched to the limit, what will that mean for your future in terms of being able to save for college and other important items? What will it mean for the immediate future? Are the sacrifices you need to make in terms of limiting entertainment, vacations, gifts, etc. worth it?
  • Patience: When youre not finding the right house in your price range, it can be tempting to raise it. Remembering how you want to live in that house can help you refocus.

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Vacation Home Safety Tips

Among the fastest ways to kill a post-vacation buzz is returning home and discovering your house is in shambles. Maybe a water pipe broke and now youre trudging through ankle-deep sludge. Perhaps a burglar slipped inside, ransacked the place and gallivanted away with your most valued possessions. Or it could be that you forgot to clean out the fridge before leaving, and now mold has infested every nook and cranny. Just like its important to shop for an excellent vacation deal, its crucial to make sure returning from that well-earned trip isnt a headache or disaster. Here are six easily-skipped steps to keep in mind while youre planning that enticing itinerary.

Of Course Somebody is Home

Hiring a house or pet sitter is the best - albeit costly - method to ensure your home stays just like you left it. House sitters can vary from a trusted friend or family member, to somebody who is a professional. Typically a house sitter will take care of any pets youre leaving behind, water plants, collect the mail and sometimes other small tasks. Its challenging to trust somebody enough to be in your home for days on end, but their presence ensures burglars avoid your place and that your appliances and utilities dont decide to take a vacation of their own.

Celebrate on Social Media After the Trip

Booking a vacation is exciting. Its a break from the daily grind, and thats often something we want to share with our friends, family and acquaintances via social media. But you should probably hold off on announcing to the whole Internet that your home is vacant and ripe for the picking. Websites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for complete strangers to gather your personal information and then find out where you live with a quick online search.

If you cant help yourself from announcing the trip and posting photos, then do yourself a favor and greatly restrict who can see and share the information. The same plan of action holds true for automatic email responses and voicemail systems. The rule of thumb is that if youre not comfortable with somebody being in your house when youre not there, then dont tell them - even indirectly - that youre heading off on some sweet adventure. Scound>

Burning the Midnight Oil

Casing a house is a common tactic for many home invaders. They spend days - sometimes even weeks - monitoring when youre home, what rooms youre in, what youre doing and who youre with. Theyll know your daily habits better than you do. The best way to thwart these folks is to make sure it genuinely looks like somebody is home. Set up an app-controlled light timer. You can even set up a timer-controlled power supply to stereos or TVs. But dont keep the same timer settings day by day. Vary when lights come on, which rooms they pop on and for how long everything is running. Also be sure to use compact florescent light bulbs to save electricity and your energy bill.

Lock it Down, Regardless of Where You Live

Its oddly common that in small, homely towns where "everybody knows each other" folks leave their homes and cars unlocked. If youre involved with this mindset, then you may very well leave your door unlocked during an extended absence. And unlocked doors are the biggest "burglarize me" signals out there. More than 30 percent of home burglaries happen from an unlocked entrance. Dont be the person who forgot to close and lock the windows or sliding glass door. Put a dowel rod behind any type of sliding entrance, and be sure to lock the deadbolt. Its easy to prevent an easy crime.

This Needs Power, This Doesnt

Imagine how devastating it feels to show up back home after your trip and discover a charred pile of rubble where your home once stood. Let that feeling sink in for a few moments, and then take a look around at what electronics and appliances you currently have plugged into the wall throughout your home. A power outage or surge could trip these devices and cause a fire if the device isnt plugged into a surge protector or turned off. Now since youre leaving certain electronics on timers to discourage home invasions, make sure what you do leave plugged in is plugged into a surge protector. You can group electronics and appliances close together to limit the number of protectors youll need to buy.

Otherwise, think about how much energy appliances like your refrigerator, water heater or climate control require and consume. If you dont have plants, animals or open food, then you can pretty much turn off your climate control depending on what the outside weather is like. Set your water heater to vacation mode to reserve energy consumption. And last, either remove perishables from the fridge, turn it off and open the door to prevent mildew, or make sure the appliance is completely full of non-perishable items. If you have empty space then fill jugs of water there to insulate your fridge and lower energy consumption.

Finally, if youre off on an adventure during the winter, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to come by and run the facet for about 5 minutes every day or two. If your pipes are properly insulated, this should help prevent them from freezing over or breaking.

A Tidy Home is a Lived in Home

The final step that is extremely easy to skip on longer or seasonal trips is how your home looks. Sure, you have lights popping on and off at random times, but is your yard unkempt? Are mail flyers, newspapers and packages creating the next great pyramid on your doorstep? These are signals to anybody paying attention that youre not home. Either stop packages, the newspaper and your mail from being deposited, or get somebody you trust to pick everything up for you. Plus if youre leaving in the winter and it snows, make sure they shovel your driveway or sidewalk.

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Mortgage Payments When You Are In Financial Trouble

None of us can appreciate -- nor anticipate -- the future. Although we always believe it will never happen to us, once in a while, calamity strikes, and then we have to address these very hard and difficult questions.

You own a house, with a sizable mortgage. Suddenly, you or your spouse lost their job, and you cannot make the monthly mortgage payments.

There are a number of options you should immediately consider. However, the very first thing you should do is to talk with your lender. Dont just discuss your issues with a low-level employee. Try to go as high up the corporate ladder as you possibly can. And dont be afraid to be honest. Legitimate mortgage lenders will try to work with you, since they dont want to evict you and have to own and carry your house until they sell it.

Here are some of the options which are available to you.

1. Temporary indulgence. Here, the lender, at your request, may grant you a short period of time -- usually not more than three months -- in order to cure any delinquency. However, this is me>

2. Repayment plan. Here, the borrower is given a fixed period of time -- usually not to exceed one year -- in which to bring the mortgage current by immediately making and continuing to make payments in excess of the monthly mortgage payment. It is important to get this repayment plan reduced to a written document, signed by both the lender and the borrower.

3. Special forbearance >. Here, the regular monthly mortgage payments are suspended or reduced for a period of up to eighteen months from the due date of the first unpaid monthly installment. At the conclusion of this >

In this case, the lender will make a determination that the default is curable, and based on the current financial and appraisal data, the lender must be satisfied there is a likelihood that the borrower will be able to comply with the repayment plan. Clearly, the burden will be on you to document and justify the plan, so as to satisfy the lenders requirements.

If you are in the military, the Soldiers and Sailors >

4. A short sale. Here, the lender will authorize you to sell the property for what it is really worth, and the lender will get all the proceeds. Let us look at this example. The house can probably be sold at 395,000, but the mortgage is 425,000. The lender may allow you to sell the property for 395,000, giving a real estate broker a commission. The lender gets all the remaining sales proceeds; you get nothing from the sale. However, under this "short sale" approach, you will be >

5. Deed in lieu of foreclosure. This is another remedy that may be available to you. Under this arrangement, you deed your property to the lender or to whomever the lender designates and this is in lieu of instead of foreclosure proceedings. This arrangement is an acceptable and customary procedure when, for example, the borrower is deceased and the estate is willing and able to transfer the property, or the borrower has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the trustee has abandoned interest in the property.

6. Foreclosure. Here, the lender will sell your property at auction or in some states at the Courthouse, and you will lose your home and your credit rating whatever is left of it. Legitimate lenders do not want to foreclose. and they will >

7. Bankruptcy. Your final option, of course -- which should be used only as a last resort -- is for you to file bankruptcy. When someone files for bankruptcy, there are many protections that automatically apply from the day the bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court. The most important protection under the bankruptcy law is known as "the automatic stay." If you are in bankruptcy, no legal action can be taken against your house unless the lender requests the Court for permission to "lift the stay."

You cannot ignore your financial problem, hoping you will win the lottery or find some other immediate source of funds. The level of your cooperation is the most significant aspect that will determine how willing the lender is to similarly cooperate.

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