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Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Is Ordinance or Law Insurance Right For Your HOA?

Homeowner associations especially condominiums are required to properly insure the common elements which often include the structures. As buildings age, the unavoidable happens: they fall out of compliance with building codes. Building code changes periodically to improve fire and life safety, structural integrity standards and energy efficiency.

As new building materials, equipment, engineering and designs are developed that meet that charge, code is revised. One example is the current standard of six inch versus four inch exterior walls to improve insulation performance. There are many other examples. The older the structure is, the more out of code it becomes.

While the building code generally doesnt require older buildings to meet current code, if an out-of-code structure experiences fire, flood, wind or earthquake that does substantial damage, the code issue is likely to raise its ugly head. This means that even though the original structure wasnt required to comply, the rebuilt structure will be, or at least the part of it that requires reconstruction. While this is logical why rebuild to an outdated standard?, basic fire and hazard insurance only pays for rebuilding what is there, not what could be.

So, if you insure four inch walls, the insurance will only pay the cost to rebuild four inch walls, not six inch walls. You pay the difference.

Fortunately, the insurance industry provides supplemental insurance coverage for older buildings called "Ordinance or Law Coverage" which is specifically designed to pay the increased cost of reconstruction. However, this coverage must be requested. It doesnt automatically kick in simply because of building age.

If your HOA buildings are ten years old or older, contact your insurance agent to discuss the merits and costs of Building or Ordinance coverage. It is usually very reasonably priced.

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

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Many Fix-It Projects Require A Contractors License

It is common for home sellers to need to hire someone to do maintenance or corrective work in order to facilitate a sale. Sometimes such work will be done in order to prepare a house to go on the market. Sometimes it will be done in response to a buyers "fix-it" list, and sometimes it will be performed in order to meet contractual requirements such as doing what is needed in order to obtain a structural pest control clearance.

When the work is hired out, as opposed to being done by the homeowner himself, attention should be paid to determine whether or not the person doing the work is required to have a contractors license.

California Business and Professions Code 7028a states, "It is a misdemeanor for any person to engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor within this state without having a license therefor, unless such person is particularly exempted from the provisions of this chapter. Note: All the references here are to California law; but many states have similar regulations. What exempts a person from the license requirement? The same code at section 7048a says, "This chapter does not apply to any work or operation on one undertaking or project by one or more contracts, the aggregate contract price which for labor, materials, and all other items is less than five hundred dollars 500"[my emphasis]

A project whose price totals less than 500 is considered " of casual, minor, or inconsequential nature," and can be performed by a non-licensed person, often referred to as a handyman.

Good old American ingenuity being what it is, numerous schemes have been devised in attempts to skirt the 500 limit. Some will attempt to avoid the license requirement by breaking a jobs billing up into components, e.g. labor 300 and materials 300. This doesnt work because the legislation clearly states that the >

Another ruse is to attempt to segregate the job into smaller components. "Ill do the north side of the roof for 450, the south side for 450, etc." This will not work either, as the code states that the exemption does not apply for a job, "in which a division of the operation is made in contracts of amounts less than five hundred dollars 500 for the purpose of evasion of this chapter"

Even if the particular job e.g. tearing out a wall is less than 500, it is not exempt if it is, "... part of a larger or major operation [e.g. remodeling the house], whether undertaken by the same or a different contractor" [my emphasis] Also, even if the job is less than 500, the exemption does not apply if the handyman has, through cards or advertising, held himself out to be a contractor.

Finally, it should be noted that the law requires a non-licensed person to disclose this fact to the consumer. The code provides specific language that must be delivered at the time of bid or at least prior to entering into a contract to perform work for less than 500. In 10 point boldface type the notice needs to tell the hiring person that the handyman is unlicensed, and that a license is required for work that will total more than 500. The required notice also puts the consumer on notice that, "If you contract with someone who does not have a license, the contractors state license board may be unable to assist you with a complaint."

There are other headaches a homeowner might have to deal with. If the handyman has hired others to work on the project, they may be considered employees of the homeowner. If the job results in damage to some third party, the homeowner may be liable. Moreover, a "contractor" without a license is not going to have workmans compensation. If a worker, hired by the unlicensed person, is injured, guess who will be held financially responsible?

In these situations, the homeowner is not the only one liable to incur headaches. Unlicensed "contractors" need to know that the homeowner cannot be compelled to pay them for their work. Attorney George Wolff has stated the situation succinctly and forcefully:

Even if the work of the unlicensed contractor was perfect, and the other party is perfectly happy with the work done and is using it, and even if the property owner knew that person was unlicensed before the work started that the builder was not licensed, the unlicensed contractor may not sue to recover the amount owed on the contract, and can be forced to pay back to the owner every single penny that it was paid for the work.

[my emphasis]

An unlicensed contractor doing work for which a license is required? Not a good idea for either party.

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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Health and Fitness Focus of New Canadian Workplaces

Two Canadian office buildings are pioneering a new building standard that places the health and wellness of its occupants first.

The WELL standard, which is being promoted and administered by the Canada Green Building Council CaGBC and Green Business Certification Inc., is a performance-based system that measures features impacting the health of people working in the buildings. It is based on seven concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

The first firm in the world to gain WELL certification was TD Bank Group, which renovated 25,000 square feet of corporate office space on the 23rd floor at the TD Centre in Toronto. It features more than 60 elements of the standard, including ergonomic office furniture, water filtration, improved lighting and a lounge where work is not allowed. The offices vending machines now offer only nutritious food.

"A growing body of research demonstrates the environments where we live and work have a direct impact on our well-being and it is becoming increasingly important to place people at the heart of design and construction, operations and development decisions," says Paul Scialla, founder of the International WELL Building Institute, which developed the standard.

The standard was "created through seven years of rigorous research and development working with leading physicians, scientists and industry professionals," says the institute in a news >

Commercial real estate firm CRBE recently opened its WELL registered office building near Toronto Pearson International Airport.

"Simply put, what we have created is the workplace of the future," says Mark Renzoni, president and CEO of CRBE Canada.

All of the workstations in the new building are "sit-stand" to encourage employees to move around. CRBE says the internal air in the building is in the top one per cent of all offices globally and the HVAC system automatically pumps in fresh air from outside when increased levels of carbon dioxide are detected.

No employee is more than 25 feet from natural sunlight or views, and the lighting system automatically adjusts to brighten or dim based on the natural sunlight level outside.

The office has "a variety of work >

Many new office spaces now include a step up from the old "coffee room" -- this one has the "RISE Caf", designed as the focal point of the office where people can come to work or take a break. Clients who visit the office are invited to stay and check their emails or do some work on their own in the caf.

Employees can move around the office and work from any workstation, or from any other CRBE office in Canada.

"The average worker spends approximately half their waking hours in an office, so its a place where employers can have a very real and direct impact on employee wellness," says Ashley ONeill, vice president of corporate strategy at CRBE Canada. "By being an early mover, not only do we create one of the healthiest office spaces in Canada for our people, we will be in an experienced position to council our clients through the process."

CaGBC says the WELL standard, which includes more than 100 features, "can help create a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance of its occupants. Certification allows building owners and employers to know that their space is performing as intended to support human health and wellness."

There are many overlapping features between the WELL standard and the better-known LEED standards, as well as other international green building standards. The WELL standards were designed to work harmoniously with the other previously developed standards.

At least nine more projects in Canada are registered to pursue WELL certification. They include a CRBE office in Vancouver, the Bay Park Centre in Toronto and Oxfords MNP Tower in Vancouver.

Oxford conducted some research in 2014, finding that millennials felt that workplaces should include features >

"WELL Core and Shell certified buildings address these needs with features such as higher levels of natural light and internal air quality testing, access to stairwells to encourage regular use by tenants, reduced exterior noise intrusion and biophilic design recognizing the human psychological need to be around nature and incorporating natural elements into the design of indoor environments to enhance >

The Bay Park Centre, scheduled for completion in 2019, will offer three million square feet of space in two towers at 81 and 141 Bay St. in Toronto. It will be a candidate for LEED Platinum and WELL certifications.

"Along with access to shared green spaces, the buildings will offer high-efficiency energy and water solutions, highly optimized air filtration and ventilation and over 500 bicycle parking racks," says developer Ivanho Cambridge. They will have "an extensive suite of amenities, including the one-acre elevated programmed park -- featuring a series of seasonal events -- connecting the two buildings, a leading-edge fitness facility and a first->
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Top Tips For Keeping Your Home Safe When Youre On Vacation

While youre luxuriating in a tropical locale or in a quaint European town enjoying time with friends or loved ones, thieves could be planning to attack your home and ruin more than your vacation. There are some easy steps you can take to make your home look occupied while youre away and protect your property.

"If it looks like there are still people at home, you are much less likely to be robbed," said A Secure Life. "Do everything you can to make it look like there is activity both inside and outside the house."

Add a security system

If you dont want to deal with the monthly output, you can buy a DIY alarm system like iSmart Alarm, offering an eight-piece set "with an alarm hub, two window sensors, two door sensors, a motion sensor and two keychain remotes" for 189, said Freshome. "The premium package 295 adds a security camera. An HD camera with audio and motion detection and recording capability also is available for 150."

Get a Wi-Fi doorbell

Products like the SkyBell videotape visitors to your front door, which is accessible by Smartphone.


Vary your lights

If your home is being cased, would-be thieves may notice that the lights come on at the same time every day and figure that theyre on a timer. "With new smart lighting technology and home automation packages, homeowners now have the ability to maintain full control over how a living space is illuminated, even while no one is home. Brighten multiple rooms or dim lights from the other side of the city or the other side of the world with an app on your smartphone, or invest in a smart home system that alternates lighting on a schedule," said Safewise.

Majestic Outdoor Lighting

Up your exterior light game

While youre automating your lights, make sure you have enough of them on the outside of your home. A well-lit place is less likely to be an attractive target for a thief. And motion-activated lights that pop on when they sense movement outside your home can help protect it every day.

Let your neighbors know

If those who live closest to you know that youre away, theyre likely to keep a closer eye on your home and be alerted to strange noises or unfamiliar faces.

Consider mail and newspaper delivery

Thieves may notice an overfilled mailbox and take that as a cue to hit your home. But, "A smart robber who is watching will notice that the mail is not being delivered," said A Secure Life. "This is also a tell-tale sign that someone is out of town." It might be best to continue with mail delivery and ask a neighbor to collect it for you.

Social Control

Newspapers gathering on your front steps may be all the sign a thief needs to target your home. Suspending your delivery for the time youre out of town is easy and smart.

Have a neighbor collect any fliers or door hangers littering your front door

One Chinese takeout menu on your welcome mat is no big deal, unless its there for a week. Three might be an indication that youre not there, which could be an invitation to a thief to make their way in.

Check your doors and windows before you leave

You might not realize you have a back door or first-floor window thats unlocked, but a thief will.

Townsville Bulletin

"Statistics have shown that roughly 30 percent of all home invasions are unforced entry, meaning they likely occur through an unlocked door or window," said Safewise. "Thats not an insignificant number. A good rule of thumb? Check once, check twice, and then check again, because its easy to prevent someone from just walking right into your home. Making sure the palace is on lockdown while away is still one of the best deterrents out there."

Chill on the social media updates

Just posted a pic on Facebook of the family hanging out on Maui or tweeted about a great restaurant you found near Disneyworld? You just gave thieves all the info they need to make your home next on their list. If you still want to make sure youre sharing your good times online, set your profiles to private. Or, wait until you get back to share your photos.

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10 Things To Consider Before Buying A Couch

A couch isnt just a place to sit. For many of us, its the biggest piece of furniture in a room, and also the most expensive. Get it right and you can set the tone for the rest of the space. But if its the wrong size or color, if you choose the wrong fabric for your life>

"Sofas are a big commitment - both literally and figuratively," said Houzz. "On the figurative side, theyre expensive, and they need to last for a long time. And literally, well, theyre big. They take up a lot of space in a room and often anchor a decorating scheme. As a result, choosing the right sofa for your home and your life>

These tips will help you make a great choice.

1. The right >

Are you decorating the room from scratch or fitting a new couch into existing dcor? Do you have an idea for how you want the space to look and feel from a >

"Since your couch is such a huge part of your living room decor, its important to narrow down the >

Best of Picture

2. Size

Size is one of the most important considerations when choosing a couch. Go too small and you limit the use and make the space feel off. Go too big and you can overpower the roomalthough you should have plenty of space for friends and family to sit

Be sure you know what size couch your space can hold before making a purchase. You may think you know the room dimensions or can eyeball what will work, but you can run into a huge hassle if you order something too large.

Huffington Post

To further zero in on the right size, consider the use of the couch. Is it going to be used minimally in a room thats ba>

"Most of my clients ask for sofas to be long enough for a nap - so I make them at least 90" long or even longer if the room allows," designer Ginger Barber told House Beautiful. "Even if youre not going the custom route, make sure you can lie down comfortably."

3. Visual height

Think also about where the couch is going. If its going to be pulled away from the wall, youll want to consider the height of the back.

"Quite often your sofa can block the view into another space," said Apartment Therapy. "Even though you can still walk around it, having furniture blocking essential views can make a space feel smaller without your intending it to."

4. Shape

Sectionals are a popular choice for those with families who like to sit together or for those who often have large gatherings and need ample seating. But not every space can handle one. If youre dreaming of filling your space with a big sectional but still want to keep it open and airy, think about a sectional that has a chaise on one end. That way you still get the function without all the heft.


5. Depth

A great couch is one you can take a comfortable nap on, right? Or at least sit comfortably for hours on end binge watching Netflix or working on your laptop. The key to achieving that kind of comfort is choosing the right depth.

"Sofas generally come in depths from 34 - 43." The latter is like a stretch limo," said Lau>

6. Color

"Its tempting to go neutral when buying a sofa, so the piece works in a variety of different spaces," said Houzz. "That makes sense. But if you love color, dont be afraid of ita sofa can be a statement piece and color makes it exciting."

And, in fact, going bold with your couch is a growing trend, with many people eschewing beige, brown, and gray for bright hues like deep blue, hot pink, and emerald green.

Identity Kitchen

If youre really bold, go with a pattern. "While solid colors are easier to decorate with, patterned sofas dont show wear as quickly," said HGTV.

7. Fabric

Choosing the right material is one of the most important considerations when buying a couch. Certain fabrics may look great but wont hold up well. And you dont want to have to be draping throws and carefully positioning pillows to cover the red wine stains your friends left behind.

"Be realistic about material," said POPSUGAR. "If youre dreaming about a beautiful velvet couch, ask yourself: is this going to work for my life>

Robin Bruce

8. Cushions

There are two things to think about here: construction and configuration. "The cushions are what really make a sofa comfortable," said HGTV. "The least expensive option is high-resiliency foam, which compresses during use and comes back to its natural shape. For real luxury, goose-down filling is the most expensive option, but it doesnt offer much support and needs to be fluffed up often. A good compromise between comfort and budget is an inner core of foam topped with cotton batting surrounded by a cover filled with goose down. The foam center provides support for the soft feathers."

The number of cushions you have on the couch can determine how many people sit there. Even if a couch is large, limiting it to two cushions might mean only two people will take a seat.

9. Pillows

Some couches have pillows that are attached, while others with loose pillows allow you to rearrange as you see fit but also require a tad more maintenance to fix saggy or unkempt pillows. Attached pillows tend to give off a more formal vibe, while loose pillows keep it more casual.

10. The arms

The arms of a sofa can define the >
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5 Things You Should Know About Home Inspections

If youre hiring someone to inspect the home you want to buy, or youre a seller trying to find out if there are any hidden problems that need fixing before you put your home on the market, here are five things you need to know:

1. You can choose your home inspector.

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

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

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

3. Home inspection reports include only the basics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essential 2016 Home Buying Skills

Buying real estate is one of the most complex undertakings of your life. Success is much easier to live with than failure, so decide from the start what "success" means to you in terms of purchasing real estate. Then, be prepared to learn everything necessary to achieve it.

Savvy buyers take two approaches when preparing to excel at buying real estate, especially in hot markets and sought-after neighborhoods:

1. Buyers learn as much as they can about the legal, financial, and decision-making aspects of purchasing; and

2. Buyers leverage the >

Among the practical real estate abilities that give buyers the edge during hot real estate markets, regardless of price point, are two essential buying skills: 1. Million-dollar True-Value Validation; 2. Revved Up Decision Making.

Skill 1. Million-dollar True-Value Validation

For years, "million dollar" was the "Big Deal" label for homes and everything else. Now, its no big deal. Million-dollar homes are commonplace. In neighborhoods full of multi-million-dollar houses, these homes are the "cheapies." For instance, San Francisco has been overrun with million-dollar homes[]an increase of almost 40 since 2012, according to Trulia.

In many cases, this increase in price has not been earned by improvements in architectural design and construction quality. Paying more for less is the really significant aspect of the price-inflation trend. Dont be impressed by 6- or 7-figure-numbers. Be impressed by true value[]location and the quality of design and construction. The more that buyers understand about how location influences local real estate value and how to identify quality construction and building design, the more likely it will be that their 2016 purchase retains its value and appreciates over time.

Skill 2. Revved Up Decision Making

The "Days on Market" statistic for listings was originally an indicator that a listing had problems, in one way or other. High demand and low listing inventories can drive "Days on Market" down and drive up selling price. Buyers benefit from investing time in learning strategies for beating out other offers, instead of just "hoping we get it."

Each buyer or buyer couple will only experience the emotionally-draining roller-coaster contest of multiple offers once if their offer is accepted or a few times until their offer is accepted or they give up. They may not fully understand what is going on, especially since everything may move very quickly and buyers are not directly involved in most of the negotiation.

So who do you think is best equipped to "win" the multiple offer contest? No contest here. Real estate professionals are emotionally-detached negotiators who earn their living successfully negotiating multiple-offers, week in and week out, during hot markets.

When buyers know they are facing the possibility or probability of multiple offers, they will benefit from learning exactly what that means. Select an experienced real estate professional who is an area authority and who has a proven track record of helping client buyers achieve their goals. Ask the professional for details on past multiple offer situations and take notes. Which strategies are there? How do you decide which strategy to use? What are all the common mistakes buyers make? Buyers benefit from understanding the entire buying process before they plunge in and begin viewing properties.

Beyond Price

Purchase price is only one feature of an offer to buy real estate. For instance, closing date, what is included in the purchase, conditions on purchase, financial ability to close, how well sellers >

Bonus: Earned Trust

To backtrack a bit, if buyers do not have complete trust in the expertise of the real estate professional they choose, they are both in trouble. Could you plunge in and agree to significant additional increases in purchase price or dramatic changes in closing date if you did not have full confidence in the professional representing you? Would you listen to suggestions to continue with negotiations or to step away from the property?

When you want to achieve your goals in spite of multiple-offer contests, begin by being sure about your fit with the professional youve chosen to help you become sure about location and value. Then study the multiple offer process to be mentally prepared and financially ready to take steps you can live with and to avoid disappointments you do not want to live with. Then, go looking for that dream home.

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Title Company Sues Realty Firm Over Wire Fraud

While the number of incidents of wire fraud >

The case First American Title Co. v. Tanisha Zapata et al. was filed May 16 of this year. There is a long list of defendants [collectively, "The Fraudsters"] along with 100 John Does. Many of them are business entities in the Peoples Republic of China. We should probably not expect their representatives to show up in Los Angeles Superior Court. Included in the list of defendants are a real estate agent Mark and a Southern California real estate firm Realty. The plaintiff, First American Title Company FATC is suing in >

According to the complaint, the >

The complaint goes on, "Although unknown by FATC at the time the funds were wired, FATC is now informed and believes that the email instruction was not from Mark and was not genuine because on March 18, 2016, FATC was informed by the listing agent, Mark, that the sellers, VU, had not received the sales proceeds via wire transfer as directed. The sellers, Vu, filed a police report with the Glendale Police Department."

Subsequent investigation has shown that the registered agent of TZ is located in Florida. During the period March 16 -- March 18, 2016, 5 other money transfers, totaling 487,500, went into the account of TZ and were then credited to various accounts in the Peoples Republic of China..

Somehow, FATC was able to recover 186,380 of the amount it had thought it was sending to Vu. That reduced the total loss to 327,328.45. Vu has assigned to FATC all claims arising out of the transaction and events as described. Thus this suit.

Naturally, the primary causes of action -- fraud, conspiracy, unjust enrichment, etc. -- are against the Fraudsters and the John Does. Good luck finding them. But there are also causes of action against the real estate agents and the firms involved. And what might those charges be? Negligence and violation of California Civil Code 1798.81.5.In short, Mark and his company are charged for failing to "implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect the personal information of Vu from an unauthorized access, use, modification, or disclosure."

Now, we know that anyone can sue anyone for just about anything. And, at this point, we dont know if there really is anything to this suit. We certainly dont know if FATC followed any industry practices to verify the last-minute instructions they received. But we do know that getting named in a suit is -- even if subsequently dismissed -- the beginning of a series of events that no one calls fun.

Best advice: as early as possible in a transaction, try to ensure that all parties are on board as to precautionary procedures when it comes to wiring instructions.

Also See:

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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6 Ways To Get A Head Start On 2017 Home Trends

Looking to remodel, renovate, or design a new home? You probably want to make sure youre on the forefront of modern trends. These 6 items and features will give you a head start on 2017, ensuring that your home is the chicest one on the block.

1. Bar carts

Metal, wood, glass, acrylic, painted, gilded, square, round, on wheels and offbar cars come in so many options its head-spinning. You can find one to match any >

But one thing is certain: theyre hot Elle Dcor calls bar carts "practical, portable, and eminently stylish pieces that are sure to get the party rolling." And we agree


2. Playful and passionate pink

Pink has made it out of the girls bedroom. Trends for 2017 are showing shocking swaths of pink as wall color, on furniture pieces, and as stylish accessories. A few licks of this bright, happy hue can instantly update a space and make it feel fun, fresh, and fabulous.


3. Mixed Metals

We havent seen the end of the metal trend, but a few new twists are making metal feel even fresher now. "

"Were seeing brass and gold still, but also polished nickel and silver coming back, and theres a new metal finish - white plaster," said designer Marie Flanigan in Houstonia magazine. As a >


4. Luxury appliances

Kitchens today are increasingly combining sleek surfaces with commercial functionality, and that trend isnt ending anytime soon. If youre building or remodeling, some emphasis in this area will not only give you an upscale, modern look, but also make the home desirable to buyers when you go to sell.

One to watch: The True 42 refrigerator from commercial appliance manufacturer True Residential. From their new luxury home line, this fridge brings a restaurant look in stainless steel or slate pearl "with an automotive-grade paint application that raises the bar on traditional kitchen appliance offerings," said A Light Reflection.

5. The return of cork

Over the look of reclaimed wood on the walls? Take it up a notch, with cork.

"Cork is making a comeback Cork adds warmth and texture to any home, its also a great way to absorb noise in luxurious open plan homes," said Barry Estates.


6. Deep, rich colors

Not a fan of those light pastels that Pantone chose as the colors of the year? Go dark. But instead of the blue hues weve been seeing for a few years, veer next door on the color wheel.

Photo by erin williamson - Search eclectic living room pictures

"2017 is the year we wave goodbye to navy blues and midnights, because dark shades of green are one of the hottest new trends to come," said Barry Estates. "Dark greens add depth when used as accent pieces, especially among tan leather, brass and natural linens."

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DIY Workbench: Build a Portable and Inexpensive Table out of 2x4s

So you just moved into a new place and are in need of a sturdy bench to work on DIY projects. Instead of purchasing something ready-made at the store, with a little determination you can build one yourself at a more economical cost for about 100. This workbench design will give you a solid surface with two layers of storage not counting the floor underneath and an integrated power strip. Additionally, it can be broken down if needed, allowing you to transport it to another location in the future.

What You Will Need

10 10 long 2x4 wooden beams

12 ft. 3/8" - 16 threaded rod

16 3/8" - 16 nuts

16 3/8" washers

1 4x8, " plywood sheet

1 Power Strip

12 nails approximately 1" long roofing nails work well


Cut the Wood to Length

If possible, have your local hardware store cut the 1/2" plywood sheet into sections of 22 1/2" x 58" and 19 1/2" x 58". Save the cutoff pieces, which will be used to construct the middle storage shelf. The 2x4s need to be cut as well as listed below, though this may need to be done at home with a miter saw.

Finish the Plywood Cuts

Once the wood is cut to the correct general shape, to complete this design, youll need to make a few finishing cuts.

To ensure cuts are made correctly, you may want to wait until the 2x4s are assembled to visualize how things will fit together.

Drill and Finish Cutting the 2x4s

Once cut, youll need to drill 3/8" holes through each piece of 2x4 to attach the bench together. Each hole should be centered on the long axis of the 3 1/2" face.

Cut Threaded Rod to Length

Cut the 3/8" rod to the following lengths. Take care to ensure that nuts can still thread onto the rod after manipulation.

Assemble Workbench Frame

Once you have everything cut out, the bench should slide together. Thread a nut with a washer onto the end of each of the six longer cut rods. Push the 2 22 1/4" rods through a counterbored 410" piece, then each should go into the top hole of a 32" piece, with the counterbores on those pieces facing the assembled nuts and washers. Insert 4 19 1/4" rods in the same manner into the 32" pieces.

From here, follow the figures below for how to insert each piece of cut 2x4, remembering to insert the 5 1/2" rods along with corresponding nuts and washers as shown. Exploded views are provided for the top and middle levels of the table. For the bottom, replicate the middle layer, substituting a square 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" spacer for each of the angled support blocks.

Light blue, 3 1/2" square spacer 2x4; dark blue, 32" main vertical supports; grey, 410" horizontal supports; yellow, 19 1/16" angled 2x4 supports

If you have problems with insertion, a rubber mallet can be used to "help" the 2x4s into place. Additionally, if needed, you can bore some or all of the holes oversize at 17/64" or even drill some of them again off-center. As seen in the assembly photos, it can be helpful to lay the 2x4s with the 3/8" rod inserted on the ground, resulting in the 3/8" rod sticking up.

Critically, as you insert the 2x4 supports, ensure that you dont put your body directly over the rods while pushing. It would be possible to seriously injure yourself if the rods slide in faster than you were anticipating. Use a mallet if you need help sliding the rod into place.

Once the rods are nominally in place, loosely attach nuts to the opposite side including the internal 5 1/2" supports. Tighten incrementally until the workbench is secure using a socket wrench. Dont be afraid to use a mallet to force the rods into place, using extra 2x4 material as spacers when needed.

Add Work Surface and Stain

Place your power strip in the 2x4 recession cut earlier, with the power cord facing whatever direction will be convenient for your setup. Place the top piece of plywood on the assembly, with the rectangular cutout aligned with the power strip. Slide the middle and bottom plywood pieces into place. If everything fits correctly, you can use your bench as is or finish it as outlined below.

Make any adjustments as needed, then remove the power strip and finish the surface of the assembly with an orbital sander. Sand the pieces of plywood as well, then wipe each surface down with a rag to remove loose wood particles. Apply a coat of stain and urethane you can buy it combined to save a step to the 2x4 supporting structure as well as the pieces of plywood. Be sure to use gloves during this process to protect your hands.

Once dry, slide the power strip and plywood back into place. Though the plywood surfaces should nominally stay put, use nails on the top layer to secure it to the structure. Other layers can be fastened as desired, but since you will likely only be storing items there, it is not generally necessary.

Use and Disassemble

Once set up, youll find this to be a sturdy workbench, capable of holding tools and supplies underneath of the work surface, while providing you with power. If you do need to move in the future, this bench can be disassembled as needed by removing either partially or fully the 3/8-inch rods that connect the vertical supports.

When this bench was initially built, the 3D modeling program used Onshape, had an app that was used as a reference on a smartphone rather than always referring back to a computer. While you build this, or as a reference during disassembly, its a great idea to have the original instructions or pictures that youve taken of the finished bench literally in-hand for reference.

Jeremy Cook is an engineer and avid tinkerer who can often be found devising his own DIY projects. He writes about his endeavors for eBay.com, where you can find mobile devices and the electronics he uses to build his designs.

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Defining Your Principal Residence

There are now only two real tax benefits available to the American homeowner -- interest and real estate tax deductions, and the capital gains exclusion for your principal residence.

In order to qualify for these tax benefits, the home in which you live must be your legal, principal residence. And although interest and tax deductions are also available for investment properties, this column will address only your personal home.

There is no statutory definition for principal residence in the Tax Code. If you ask an IRS agent for a definition, she will have to admit that "whether or not property is used by the taxpayer as his principal residence . . . depends on all the facts and circumstances in each case, including the good faith of the taxpayer."

There have been very few court cases in which this concept has been defined. But in those cases, the courts give the same answer as the IRS: we will investigate the facts of each case, and make our decision based on those specific facts, on a case-by-case basis.

If you have been living in the same home for a number of years, and consider it to be your principal home, there should be no question that it is your "principal residence." Some of the factors to be considered include the address on your drivers license, your voters registration and where you pay local or state income taxes.

However, if you moved out of your house and have been renting it for some time, you will have to review the specific facts involving your particular situation, to make sure you still qualify for these basic homeowner tax benefits.

In its regulations, the IRS states that "the mere fact that property is, or has been, rented is not determinative that such property is not used by the taxpayer as his principal residence." The IRS volunteers the following illustration: "if the taxpayer purchases his new residence before he sells his old residence, the fact that he temporarily rents out the new residence during the period before he vacates the old residence may not, in light of all of the facts and circumstances of the case, prevent the new residence from being considered as property used by the taxpayer as his principal residence."

The tax courts have also made it very clear that a taxpayer is not required to actually occupy the old residence on the date of sale. The courts -- and the IRS -- will look at the particular facts and circumstances.

However, keep in mind that to take advantage of the new tax saving laws, there are statutory time limits that have to be honored. Under the Taxpayer >

If you meet the statutory time restrictions, we then look to the facts involved in each case. The courts -- and the IRS -- carefully analyze the intent of the taxpayers. Did they, for example, truly intend to sell their house, but were unable to so because of market conditions? Or was their real motive me>

The burden of proof is on the taxpayer. You must be able to demonstrate that you did not intend to abandon your house as a principal residence.

It should be noted that there are times when a homeowner wants to have the house considered as "investment" rather than principal residence. For example, if you have made a significant profit i.e. over 500,000 and are faced with a sizable capital gains tax, you may want to consider doing an exchange under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. Keep in mind that you can only exchange investment properties, not principal residences.

If you want to preserve your home as your principal residence, what should you do?

First, it is advisable to try to sell your house before you rent it. According to some tax court cases, evidence of attempts to sell property have been a significant factor when ruling on this question.

Second, avoid any impressions that you are not abandoning your old house as your principal residence. . Periodically discuss the possible sale of your property with real estate professionals and keep records of those conversations.

Third, if you have purchased a new house, until you sell the other one, try to keep your old house as your principal residence. For example, have you changed your drivers license? Have you changed your voting registration? In which jurisdiction do you pay taxes? Have you told anyone you no longer wish to return to your old house?

All of these factors will play a role in determining the facts and circumstances of your particular case.

There is an old adage that your home is your castle. Whether it will also be your principal residence will depend on how carefully you have preserved and documented all of the >

Politics will continue to play heavily on the future determination of all real estate tax deductions. However, the American homeowner is a strong lobby, and it doubtful that Congress will ever repeal the great American dream of homeownership. At best, it may "tinker around the sides" by -- for example --putting dollar limitations, above which you either lose the deduction or it is phased out depending on the facts.

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When It Comes To Real Estate, Is It Ever OK To Overpay?

A story broke this week about how Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff overpaid for his 20 million home. The New York Times called it "ironic" that he paid "over 1 million above its Zestimate" for his 12,732-square-foot Brentwood, CA mansion. Everyone whos had an issue with Zillows farcical Zestimates calls it "payback."

"The next time youre surfing popular real estate listings site Zillow for a new home and stumble across a "Zestimate" - the companys estimate for a propertys value - you might want to take it with a grain of salt," they said.

Frankly, we could sit here all day and debate the dangers of Zestimates, especially as they >

"I cannot justify anytime where overpaying for a house is a viable option," said attorney Kenneth Go on Asian Journal.

But others arent so cut and dry.

"Buyer emotions, stiff competition from other buyers - even feelings of losing out on the home you want challenge buyers to overpay," said Owners.com. And while no one ever sets out to pay more than they have to, there are certain circumstances where it may be acceptable, or even necessary. Were debating a few.


In a competitive market

Prices get driven up when demand, well, demands it. A home that lots of people want is naturally going to be more valuable to those trying to buy it.

You may assume that a home that gets multiple offers would be worth more, but thats not always true. A home that doesnt appraise for the sales price can put you in a difficult position where youre expected to pay the difference between the appraisal amount and the sales price in cash. And thats not the only issue.

New York Times

"In a fast-paced sellers market, its not uncommon for prospective buyers to find themselves in a bidding war over a house. And while it may appear an innocent move after all, the lucky bidder gets the house there can be dangerous downstream affects," said Owner.com. "By overpaying for the house, it costsmore money for the down payment on the mortgage, more in closing costs since many mortgage costs are based on a percentage of the mortgage, not to mention thousands of dollars more in interest over the years due to the larger mortgage."

In an especially desirable neighborhood

If youre buying in a neighborhood that traditionally holds its value and where buyers clamor to get into the neighborhood, paying a premium might not be such a bad idea.

"It may seem counterintuitive to pay over the asking price," said Inman. "However, if youre looking for a type of property thats hard to find, and youve looked for long enough to know that the property is what you want for your long-term enjoyment, it might make sense to pay a little more. There is some satisfaction in buying a house that is in high demand. If you keep the property in good condition and price it right for the market when you sell, you might receive multiple offers. There is always a demand for the best houses."

Making a long-term move

You might not be as concerned about immediate return on investment if youre buying a forever home. Traditionally, real estate appreciates over time, with rates that can vary dramatically depending on where and what you buy. If youre in it for the long haul, you may feel more comfortable paying more upfront.

"You shouldnt buy if you dont plan to own the home for a long period of time," said Inman. "It would be a mistake to overpay for a home and then have to sell it the next year. Even if the market was stable, you wouldnt break even due to the costs involved in selling."


In a transitional neighborhood

A transitional neighborhood or one thats also known as an "up-and-coming" neighborhood, might seem like a smart place to buy. And it can be, if the price is right. But its important to remember that not all up-and-comers actually become hot neighborhoods. Overpaying for a home - even one with great potential for gutting and updating or one thats already been redone - can be a dangerous investment to make.

So can buying in an "iffy" neighborhood

"Overpaying for a property should not be isolated from other facts of the purchase," said Owners.com. "For example, overpaying for a house in a stable, appreciating neighborhood may not be as dire as spending too much on a house in a deteriorating subdivision or on the edge of a warehouse district."

At auction

Knowing what to pay for a home you plan to buy at auction or from the bank can be challenging, especially if you dont have access to the property to walk it or inspect it before purchasing. Whether youre planning to live in the house, flip it, or rent it out and collect passive income over a period of time, most experts will caution you against getting caught up in a frenzy, which can lead to you paying more than you planned.

Market value is market value, and a home you cant research properly could end up costing you - dearly. Set a budget, and stick to it, when there are so many unknowns.

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Moving To The Country: 8 Points To Consider Before Buying Rural Property

1. Analyze Your Location

Not surprisingly, location is an incredibly important aspect to consider before purchasing any piece of land. Youll want to make sure that youre in the right area, because settling in the wrong place and lead to all sorts of hassle and headache which is best avoided if at all possible. When looking at rural property, youll want to look at what the distance is to other places youll regularly visit, as a long commute can take a lot of time and gas. Researching weather from past years can help you know whether or not youre likely to see flooding, thunderstorms, or blizzards in the future.

2. Consider Acreage Size and Natural Resources

The amount of land and natural resources youll need are dependent on what your goals are, so analyzing your ambitions is an important step to purchasing rural property. Will you need a dozen acres, or several hundred? Is a source of water vital for your success, or just aesthetically pleasing? Make sure you know exactly what youll require, as well as what really isnt necessary. Knowing what you want is an important part to being able to make a wise purchase that you wont regret later on.

3. Double-Check the Property Boundaries

Making sure you know what youre buying is important with any real estate transaction, but its especially helpful when youre purchasing a rural area which may or may not have any boundary markings or landmarks. Going to a county assessors office and finding out how many acres are being taxed on the property is one way to quickly double-check the property size. If the number they give you is different than what youre hearing from the seller, you may want to do some further investigating.

4. Connect to Your Neighborhood

Unless youre planning to live as a hermit, connecting to your local community will be an important aspect of rural living. Getting to know your potential neighbors is a great way to learn about the community youre looking to join. Find out who your local mechanic will be, as well as where local farm suppliers are located. Locating your County USDA Farm Service Agency FSA Office is also important, as they can help you out a lot.

5. Zoning and Taxes

Take a look at what local development has recently taken place, and consider how this will affect property values and taxes. Does it seem likely that the area will have significant growth in coming years? You wont want to be rudely surprised to find that your property taxes suddenly spike due to local growth. Considering the current zoning laws is a wise idea, and you should also see if its likely that they will change in coming years.

6. Cost of Living

The up-front buying cost isnt the only expense youll incure when purchasing a property. Sometimes, youll be required to pay for installing electricity, water, and other amenities. Youll need to pay for insurance, as well as normal utility bills and such. The cost of adding sheds, a driveway, fences, and farm equipment to the property should also be taken into consideration, as it may take a large chunk of cash to make your property operational.

7. Research Available Services

In suburbs and urban areas, certain services are taken somewhat for granted. In more rural areas, however, these services may be limited or totally non-existent. Even if you can live without these things, knowing beforehand that they wont be available can help you avoid some nasty surprises. Its likely that cell phone service will be difficult to obtain so alternative communication networks will most likely be limited to satellite internet or VSAT services. Finding a trash service might be difficult as well. Your distance to the local schools and fire department may also be further than youd like.

8. Know Exactly What Youre Buying

In addition to investigating property boundaries and size, youll also want to have a clear agreement with the seller about what aspects will be including in your purchase. Dont assume that hes planning to sell portable sheds, fences, or farm equipment with the land itself. Anything that can be moved should be clearly discussed and a plan agreed on, and this needs to be stated in the contract. This will help both of you avoid any conflict or disappointment later on.

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The HOA Manager Balancing Act

Homeowner association HOA management companies retained by developers often must balance the competing interests of the developer and the homeowners. They just as often find the developer pulls one way while the homeowners pulls the other way with the manager in the middle.

It is common for an HOA developer to hire a manager to assist with the transition to homeowner control. It is often assumed that the manager will manage the new HOA. However, after transition takes place, the manager must consider the interests of the homeowners and, if the manager was originally hired by the developer, he may find it difficult to ignore the developers interests. This dual master >

Post-Transition Construction Defects. It is always in the best interest of an HOA developer to minimize warranty and construction defect repairs since they diminish profitability. However, after transition, an HOA may become aware of potential construction defect problems. The HOA manager is placed squa>

Pre-Transition Construction Defects. Sometimes, construction defects are discovered before transition. In one such case, the homeowners hired an attorney to work with the developers attorney to resolve the problems short of litigation. The developer met with the manager and tried to arrange a meeting with the homeowners so he could pitch a repair plan "without the need to get the attorneys involved." If the manager cooperated in this scheme, both the developer and homeowner would lose the benefit of legal counsel in a long term negotiated settlement.

Turnover Accounting. Frequently at transition, there are accounting questions. While state laws vary on audit requirements, questions arise like:

  • Did the developer pay all HOA fees owed?
  • Were expenses paid by the HOA that should have been paid by the developer?
  • Were expenses reimbursed by the HOA to the developer that should not have been?
  • These and other financial questions need to be answered. The manager is the logical one to obtain these answer, however, the answers may implicate both the developer and manager in wrongdoing. Can the manager really remain neutral?

    How to Avoid the Conflict Conundrum. The cleanest way to avoid the conflict-of-interest quagmire is simply to avoid acting as manager for both the developer and homeowners. An HOA management company could either specialize in pre-transition properties on behalf of the developer or post-transition on behalf of the HOA, but not both.

    The next best alternative is for the HOA management company to disclose up front when hired by the developer that the manager will work for the developer up through time of transition, but once the control of the HOA shifted to the homeowners, the manager will act solely on behalf of the interests of the homeowners. This arrangement should be clearly defined and articulated in the management agreement with the developer.

    The least recommended option would be for the HOA management company to try to balance the interests of both clients simultaneously throughout the period of management. It is imperative for the manager to inform both parties in writing of such dual representation and the potential for conflict of interest.

    The HOA manager should >

    HOA management companies are placed in difficult situations every time they serve two clients with conflicting interests. When faced with this dilemma, they should minimize the potential for conflict through written disclosure to the parties and to refer controversial issues to independent, qualified consultants.

    Thanks to Daniel Zimberoff of Barker Martin, P.S. for article input. For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net.

    Full Story >

    Debate Rages About Government Intervention In Canadas Housing Market

    What to do about the surging real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver?

    While the rest of Canada stares in awe, prices in these two cities and the communities round them keep climbing. In Vancouver, the benchmark home price index is up by 32.1 per cent compared to last year. In Toronto, the benchmark price is up by more than 16 per cent. The average price for detached homes in both cities is now well over 1 million and climbing.

    "The warnings are piling higher on the Canadian housing market," says BMO chief economist Douglas Porter in a recent report. "After seemingly downgrading the alert level a few years ago, the Bank of Canada has now ramped up its rhetoric to four-alarm level along with similar concerns from both the IMF International Monetary Fund and OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. While we have heard the message on and off for years, the remarks have been sharpened and are much more focused on white-hot Vancouver and Toronto."

    Now the federal government is taking the summer to consult with provincial and municipal housing authorities to see what should be done about the market. In the past the government tried to tame the market by tightening the rules for buyers to qualify for mortgages.

    Particularly in Vancouver, there are calls to ban or tax foreign real estate investment; to put a "speculation tax" on properties that are resold within a short period of time; and to tax properties where the house is left vacant. But earlier this year, a report from the B.C. Finance Ministry said the province could lose 1 billion in residential real estate sales and about 4,000 construction jobs if foreign investment was curtailed.

    "There is no doubt that heavy-duty buying from abroad is a major factor behind the price surge in Vancouver and Toronto, and is playing a growing role in Montreal," says Porter.

    Many in the real estate industry have downplayed the role of foreign investors in the market, but Porter says, "Economics 101 will tell you that the marginal buyer sets the price; and, if you introduce a wave of new buyers on an already tight market, prices will soon reach for the sky as the demand curve shifts even slightly to the right."

    Porter adds, "Its worth making the distinction between landed immigrants and those simply seeking to park capital -- the former are not of particular concern given the economic contributions they bring, but the latter think vacant homes in tight markets, potential risk of capital flight do deserve the attention of policymakers."

    But he says moves to tighten borrowing standards in Canada "will simply crowd out the domestic buyer and leave the field wider open for foreign capital inflows."

    In a report for Mortgage Professionals Canada, economist Will Dunning acknowledges that there have been calls for "further tightening of mortgage lending conditions in Canada to address what is considered excessive risk." But he adds, "From our perspective, the greatest risk to the housing market and consequently to the broader economy is not reckless consumers or lenders -- it is needless policy changes."

    Dunning agrees that there is sufficient evidence that "foreign buying is very substantial in Vancouver and that the Vancouver housing market is being seve>

    But he says, "changing mortgage lending criteria in response to those pressures would unnecessarily punish Canadians who have reasonable expectations of home ownership. As well, those policy changes would unnecessarily impair housing markets in Canada, which would have economic consequences."

    Dunning says, "We do not have compelling evidence that significant numbers of Canadians are taking unreasonable risks in the housing market. Data from the Canadian Bankers Association shows that the mortgage arrears rate 0.28 per cent as of March is close to the lowest all-time rate."

    He also notes that research by Mortgage Professionals Canada has consistently shown that Canadians are highly motivated to pay off their mortgages as quickly as they can.

    Dunning goes against popular opinion and says there is no housing bubble in Canada.

    "Price growth in Canada, even in Vancouver and Toronto, is still consistent with the economic fundamental of interest rates and affordability in combination with another economic fundamental of a moderate rate of job creation," he says. "It is still too soon to speak of a bubble in Canada as a whole or in individual communities."

    Porter agrees that economic fundamentals point to little change in the markets unless theres government intervention. In addition to the low borrowing costs, Porter notes that demographics are supporting housing as there are more 25-40 year-olds, the prime home-buying age group. He says Toronto and Vancouver now account for 25 per cent of all Canadian jobs, the highest share in the last 15 years. Other factors such as densification, land restrictions and a lack of single-family home building are also playing a role, Porter says.

    "None of the major drivers of Vancouver and Torontos housing market are pointing downward, suggesting that without official intervention these wildfires are likely to continue burning. Given the limitations on dealing with many of the lead accelerants, we would recommend that government policy action be aimed at those it can affect -- foreign investment, speculation and land restrictions, in that order."

    Full Story >

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