Monday, October 05, 2015
The Know Before You Owe Disclosures Start Now
The Know Before You Owe disclosure form issued by The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will go into effect on October 3, 2015. The rule provides for easier-to-use mortgage disclosure forms that clearly lay out the terms of a mortgage for a homebuyer.
But some lenders and real estate agents say the new mortgage rules may delay closings. What will change is that three documents, the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, the Good Faith Estimate, and the Truth-in-Lending disclosure will be pared down to two new closing forms called a Loan Estimate and a Closing Disclosure.
The Loan Estimate form must be given to consumers no later than three days after they formally apply for a loan. That means providing financial information to the lender and signing a mortgage application.
When the consumer receives the Loan Estimate form, he or she will know what the loan amount and the interest rate will be, how much the monthly payment is, an estimate of taxes and insurance based on local rates, and how much down payment is required.
To prepare for settlement, homebuyers will have a three-day period to review the Closing Disclosure form. Because of the added review period, lenders are recommending that borrowers lock in their mortgage rates for longer periods than they normally would.
CNBC real estate reporter Diane Olick explains that the "new rules will require lenders, title companies, real estate professionals and insurance representatives to all come together sooner in the process to ensure the disclosures do get out in time."
For example, a 30-day rate lock is typical, but borrowers can extend the lock period up to 45 days or 60 days. However, there may be a question as to whether or not more time is really needed to close the loan.
According to Bankrate.com, Borrowers are often told theres no charge for a rate lock. Thats true in the sense that the rate lock isnt associated with a fee. But a rate lock isnt free.
Josh: A longer rate lock typically involves a higher interest rate, which is more expensive for the borrower. The interest rate or "pricing" difference between a 15-day rate lock and 60-day rate lock might be as little as one-eighth or as much as half of a percentage point, or roughly 25 to 50 per month for the life of the loan.
Laura: Meanwhile, real estate agents are preparing for the worst. According to a new survey by the National Association of REALTORS says that about 56 percent of REALTORS say they plan to add more time to their contracts.
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17 Things First-Time Buyers Need To Know
Few things in life are more exciting than buying your first home. The feeling of turning the key for the first time or clicking the garage door opener is thrilling. Youll likely feel a sense of pride like never before. But getting to that point may be a challenge. And the challenges wont end once you move in.
The more you know about the process, the more prepared you can be for the wrinkles that pop up, and the more you can >
1. It may cost more than you expect.
When youre calculating your monthly payment, dont leave anything out. Add in principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, plus any HOA fee. Then estimate landscaping, pool maintenance if needed, and any other fees there may be. Dont forget to include your monthly home warranty cost if you have one.
Experts recommend putting aside a minimum of one percent of your home price for repairs and maintenance per year, so add that in. Think also about utilities. If youre coming from a small apartment, you might have a bump in that monthly cost. Only by taking a real look at the numbers can you get a true feeling for what youll pay every month as a homeowner.
2. You may only have to put three percent down.
FHA loans arent your only low down payment option anymore. Ask your lender about 97 LTV loans that require only three percent down for first-time buyers.
3. You can probably afford it more easily than you think.
Rents have been going up way more than home prices in many real estate markets. A recent analysis by RealtyTrac found that, "Payments on a mortgage used to purchase a three-bedroom home were more affordable than paying rent on a similar home in 66 percent of the counties."
4. Butknow how much you can really afford.
Your loan approval will tell you how much the bank thinks you can afford. But they only know so much. If youre planning to have a baby or change careers sometime soon and your income could be affected, you may want to stay lower on the payment scale, which means a higher down payment or a less expensive house or both.
5. You need a preapproval.
Your REALTOR will tell you this. Believe him. Even if he takes you out to look at houses without a preapproval many wont, since it could be seen as an indication that youre not serious about buying, you wont be in a good position to make an offer if you find a place you like. And in a competitive market, that could be disastrous.
6. It may be easier to buy a single-family home than a condo.
Strict FHA restrictions on condos can make for a limited pool of options, and, if you can find one that is approved, it might have a higher interest rate. Be sure to ask your lender to provide a side-by-side analysis of a condo and single-family home in similar price ranges; a home that is priced slightly higher may end up being the answer when you examine the numbers carefully.
7. You might be able to get money to fix up your home.
Fashion yourself a DIYer? Ask your lender about 203k and Home>
8. You might be able to get a gift for your down payment.
"Cash gifts are also allowed for low-down payment mortgages including the FHA purchase mortgage, which requires a 3.5 down payment and the Conventional 97 mortgage from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which requires just 3 down," said The Mortgage Reports.
Theyre also allowed on many other conventional loans, and can help a first-time buyer get to a 20 percent down payment that would help them qualify for the lowest rates. Check out The Mortgage Reports for important details about down payment gifts. Do it wrong, and your application can be rejected. There also may be tax implications for improper gifting.
9. Gift funds may also be allowed for your closing costs.
Be sure to ask your lender. Not having to come up with thousands of dollars at closing means money for new furniture
10. Youll have a love-hate >
Youll appreciate them when the car up on blocks for a week in front of the neighbors house is towed. Not so much if its your car up on blocks.
11. Youll want to thoroughly check out the neighborhood.
Make sure there are no development plans that may affect your home value in the neighborhood youre looking at. Talk to the neighbors. Check for sexual predators nearby. And spend some time in the area at different times and on different days so you can observe the neighborhood flavor. You also might want to arrange to commute from/to the house one day to see what you have in store.
12. Youll want good schools. Even if you have no kids.
Families inherently seek a neighborhood with quality schools. But studies show that good schools can dramatically affect home value, making these neighborhoods desirable to buyers without kids as well. "Living near a high-scoring school can increase your homes value by over 200,000, according to the Brookings Institution," said AOL.
13. You can derail your loan approval.
Dont check your credit, get a new store credit card, close an account, or buy a new car while youre in escrow - you might not stay in escrow. Listen to your lender and hold off on anything that could affect your credit or financial situation until you close.
14. The home inspection will reveal some issues. It always does.
Keep a cool head and let your Realtor handle any negotiations. You just might come out better than before.
15. Youre gonna get a tax break.
Youre probably already looking forward to this, but do you know the details? Your mortgage interest is a write off. So are your Private Mortgage Interest PMI fees and any points you pay to buy down the rate on your mortgage. All told, you could be getting a nice little return come tax day. Check out this calculator to estimate your tax break.
16. It will be more work than you imagined.
Stuff leaks, breaks, makes weird noises, shuts down, peels, crumbles, flames out, and falls off. You will learn how to fix it all, or at least how to make a phone call to someone who can.
17. It will all be worth it.
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Home Repairs VS Improvements: No Clear Answer
Question: I am having trouble figuring out what constitutes an improvement and what is ordinary maintenance. Thinking ahead to selling my house in a few years when the market rebounds, I have been keeping accurate records so that I can deduct these costs to lower the capital gains. Recently, I remodeled a bathroom, replaced a deck, replaced and upgraded the spa filter and motor, replaced the front door with a fiberglass model guaranteed to last more than my lifetime, and replaced a roof and rain gutters. Which of these can I safely regard as improvements, and which are just maintenance?
Answer: The line between repairs and improvements is fuzzy. The Court cases that have analyzed this issue are all over the place, with Judges deciding the exact same work going in opposite directions.
If your property is a rental, then in most cases you want to call the work a repair. Repairs can be deducted as rental expenses in the year that you pay them, thereby reducing your rental income. But discuss this with your tax advisors or your accountant first.
If this is your principal residence, however, while you obviously want to keep your house in good repair, the moneys you spend on ordinary maintenance provide no taxable benefits for you.
Improvements, on the other hand, may be very valuable to you when you sell your house, since they increase the tax basis in your house. The higher the basis, the less tax you have to pay.
Lets look at this example. In 1985, you bought your first house for 100,000, and sold it for 200,000 in l990. That same year, you bought another house for 200,000. Prior to l997, an important tax break for homeowners was called the "roll-over". Although you made a profit of 100,000 when you sold your first house, you did not have to pay any capital gains tax. Instead, the profit was "rolled-over" into the new house. The basis for tax purposes of the second property became 100,000.
You now want to sell, and have listed your house for 700,000. You know that under the current law, since you are married and have lived in the house for two out of the five years before sale, you can exclude up to 500,000 of your gain. You do the numbers and think that because you bought the house for 200,000, and will sell it for 700,000, you are home free on any capital gains tax.
Wrong: since you took advantage of the old "roll-over", your basis was 100,000, and when you sell it for 700,000, you will have made a profit of 600,000. While you can exclude up to 500,000 of this gain, you will have to pay capital gains tax on the 100,000 difference. Currently, the tax rate can be as high as 20 percent, so you will have to send a check to the IRS in the amount of 20,000. You may also have to pay the applicable state tax.
For purposes of this discussion, I am not taking into consideration other expenses which you have paid, such as closing costs, real estate commissions, or legal fees. These expenses will, of course, reduce your overall tax obligation.
How can you increase your tax basis? Here is where improvements play a vital role. Any work which you do to your house that adds to its value, prolongs its useful life or adapts it to new uses such as "going green" will be considered an improvement and can be added to the tax basis of your property.
Lets take your examples:
remodeled your bathroom: since this clearly prolongs the useful life, it is an improvement;
replaced a deck: this is a grey area. According to the IRS, "a repair keeps your property in good operating condition. It does not materially add to the value of your property or substantially prolong its life." IRS Publication 527, "Residential Rental Property" available free from www. IRS.gov/publications. Since you can claim that the new deck will increase your propertys value, I would consider it an improvement.
replaced and upgraded spa filter motor: although it sounds like a repair, since you upgraded the motor, I would consider this an improvement.
replaced the front door: clearly an improvement, since the new door has a very long useful life.
replaced roof and rain gutters: the IRS publication specifically addresses rain gutters, and states "fixing gutters" is a repair. But since you replaced your gutters, once again you are in a grey area. However, since you replaced the roof which clearly is an improvement, and had to remove the gutters during this process, I would call the entire job an improvement.
The IRS publication contains a list of "examples of improvements" but cautions: "Work you do or have done on your home that does not add much to either the value of the life of the property, but rather keeps the property in good condition, is considered a repair, not an improvement."
If your profit will be less than the exclusion of gain 500,000 for married couples; 225,000 for taxpayers filing a separate tax return, then it probably does not make a difference whether your work is a repair or an improvement.
However, for those who bought and sold homes before l997, and used the "roll-over", and for those whose property values increased dramatically in the early part of this century, improvements will assist you in reducing your capital gains tax obligations to the IRS.
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The Most Complete List of Marketing Tips and Ideas for Agents
If youre looking for a comprehensive resource of real estate marketing tips, our friends over at Point2 just put together a practical list of 75 Marketing Ideas for Real Estate Agents.
Here are the highlights of the best tips to put into practice:
Email is a great starting point to get in touch with prospects and referral sources. Use subject lines that are short, personalized, and contain positive words like "invitation" and "thank you." To make your job easier, use drip email campaigns.
The listing is the first encounter a buyer has with the property for sale. A great listing description will make them want to see it in person. Write concise descriptions that make use of popular buzzwords. Listing photos are the face of your listing, so use beautiful, clear photos that make a good first impression.
Seasonal marketing and client appreciation go hand in hand. Take advantage of holidays to show your clients that you are thinking of them. Customized notes, cards and fun freebies can break the ice with prospective and existing clients alike, and keep you at the top of their mind. Custom mugs or sweet treats are a great way to pass along a business card.
Social media is a real estate agents best friend, an inexpensive and solid source of lead generation. Social media marketing doesnt have to be complicated or overwhelming, use these strategies to make the best of it.
Telephone marketing is nothing new, but it remains an effective marketing tool. Keep in mind that good phone etiquette will never go out of >
Position yourself for success with a great website and a blog. A professional website is your businesss window to the world, it lets people find you, see you, learn about you, and connect with you. Add a blog to let your community find out more about you and that you are good at what you do.
Point2 is a leading provider of real estate marketing and lead management solutions specially designed for top performing brokers and agents.
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Should You Rent Your Home to Others?
With rental prices rising, you may be wondering if nows the time to become a landlord. There are advantages to renting your current home while you purchase another to live in.
The advantage to renting your home is that youre likely paying a homestead mortgage interest rate, which will make it easier to make a profit than if you purchased rental property with a mortgage at a higher interest rate. As youve owned your home, its likely appreciated in value, allowing your home to compete well in the rental market so you can use profits to put back into the home to keep it rentable.
Assuming youre current on your mortgage, have the credit scores to buy another home, and have saved enough cash for a down payment, now may be the ideal time to add a rental investment to your portfolio.
Real estate has always served as a hedge against inflation and against other investments, so the first thing to do is find out how rents compare to home prices in your area. Your real estate professional can provide you with market comparables that show you how much homes are renting for per square foot and how quickly they rent, as well as for what prices comparable homes are selling.
If the rental income is enough to cover your mortgage, youre in good shape, but there are other expenses to consider, such as income taxes, advertising, listing and management fees, and maintenance.
For income tax purposes, your current mortgage isnt considered a cost of doing business that you can deduct like office supplies or equipment purchases. Youll pay taxes on this gross amount, less repairs and management fees, if any. On the bright side, if you sell the property within five years and youve occupied the home two of those five years, youll likely pay no capital gains at all up to 250,000 for an individual or 500,000 for a couple.
To qualify for a mortgage on another home, your ender follows a typical multiple home formula. Even though you may have your home rented, plan to deduct approximately 20 of rental income from your "investment." Why? Most homes have a period where they are not rented while theyre on the market, which means no rental income. Your lender wants to make sure you can handle periods when your home isnt rented.
When you turn your home into a rental, its no longer a homestead, but an enterprise. Tax laws require you to make a profit within three years of launching an enterprise, or otherwise you wont be able to take deductions associated with it. Also, expect to pay more in property taxes as you will also lose the homestead deduction rate, since youll be applying for the homestead deduction on your new home.
On the other hand, one of the best ways to build equity is to have someone else pay your mortgage for you. The longer you own your home and the longer its rented, the more the amortization tables turn in your favor. Every loan payment is made of principal and interest. The longer you own your home, the larger the percentage that goes toward reducing principal.
Based on the purchase price of your home, you can deduct "depreciation" from your income every year you rent it, but this amount decreases with time. You can also deduct some maintenance and improvement expenses which are not available to homesteaders. See your tax professional for more information.
There are other pros and cons of becoming a landlord. Youll be dealing with people who dont respect your home as much as you do and could cause damages. They may skip out without paying the final months rent. Youll have two homes to maintain, and could get broken plumbing or appliance calls in the middle of the night. On the bright side, renters of single-family homes tend to be older, more responsible and remain occupants longer. Also many losses are tax-deductible to landlords.
Ask your real estate professional or someone else that you know who owns rental property for more insights. Theyll be able to share real-life property management situations and costs that may help you to decide if this is the right step for you.
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Unique Ways To Dress Up Your Kitchen Cabinets With Hardware
Hardware is the jewelry of the kitchen. In a well-designed space, it can add an important finishing touch. In a space that needs a little help, it can provide some sparkle to help distract from worn or outdated features that may be more difficult to update. And, its an easy, inexpensive project you can do yourself.
"Hardware is an often-overlooked accessory that can completely change the look of room or even an exterior," said Huffington Post. "Of course, were referring to hardware in the design sense: Knobs, pulls, hooks, knockers, brackets, railings, handles an d any other metal flourish that can go in or on a home. Its a huge category, but few really give it a lot of thought."
Whether your taste runs to traditional, transitional, modern, vintage, or funky, hardware can help you express your >
Just beware of hardware that makes such noticeable holes in your cabinets they cant be easily repaired if you remove them when you sell your home.
Huffington Posts handy guide provides a list of websites for hardware options ranging from vintage to distinctive and different to >
The latest trends
Hardware is a great way to bring the latest trends into your kitchen. Because they can be easily changed out, you dont have to worry about your space becoming outdated when brass and golden-hued hardware is no longer the latest thing again.
These oversized pulls would look snazzy on any color cabinets, but really stand up to the bold red.
In a high-end kitchen, the right hardware can offer just the right touch to bring it all together. Exposed hardware adds another unique element.
In this kitchen, modern lines accentuate the cabinet design, creating a standout, custom look.
For some, kitchen hardware offers the perfect opportunity to express their individuality and creativity, with spoons turned handles....
or even concrete. These knobs are "as easy as creating a form out of a something small, in the shape you desire for your knob," said Bob Vila. "Then fill it, and let the concrete set for a few minutes. Insert the head of a bolt, and let the concrete dry. Once removed from the mold, sand the knob smooth with silicon carbide wet/dry paper and rub the surface with talcum powder to create a shine."
Bring an artistic feel to your kitchen with a touch of glassart glass, to be specific. Available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, it might be just the right thing to bring a personal touch to your kitchen.
Or use metal in a different way. Who says it has to be linear? Take artistic license with shapes that contrast with the lines of your cabinets.
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Easy Architectural Details You Can Add To Your Home
Newer homes, especially those geared toward first-time buyers, are often devoid of the level of architectural detail you would find in older or more expensive homes. If youre not a fan of the big, boring box look, you can easily add in some detail to up the charm factor. And, many of these projects can be done yourself with minimal skill and money.
"Nothing jump-starts design envy more than walking into a home with stunning architectural details like interesting ceilings, textured walls, charming stained glass and more," said Apartment Therapy. "Dont despair if you dont have any built-in architectural details in your home; there are some ideas you can try that just might give your space a similar feel as those bursting with architectural character and charm."
If you have a Spanish or Mediterranean home, or just want to make your home look and feel like one, adding an archway can help.
"Here, we transformed an ordinary rectangular cased opening into a beautiful elliptical archway featuring fluted columns, and an arched header with keystone accents," said This Old House. "We used a prefabricated 4-foot Model B poplar elliptical-archway kit from CurveMakers. On day one, we prepped the existing opening. On day two, we completed the installation and painted."
Crown molding can transform the look of a space, taking it from blah to beautiful. And it doesnt have to be traditional.
"The three-piece crown molding on this upper kitchen cabinet matches the >
"Ceiling beams can be added to any ceiling and come in a wide variety of >
You can also paint your beams for a different look.
"Wood beams can give a rustic or antique looks but painted beams bring a different type of warmth and character," said Better Homes and Gardens. "Dont forget to look up when designing your space. In this kitchen, the box beams on the ceiling are a sunny shade of yellow to match the cabinets. Exposed ceiling beams make a space with a high ceiling feel more welcoming."
Better Homes and Gardens
Another popular option is faux wood beams that give you the look you want without the weight of real wood. You can get a step-by-step guide to installing beams yourself here. Keep in mind if youre doing it yourself, higher ceilings may require stilts or scaffolding. If you have an issue with heights or are a klutz, you may want to consider hiring a pro.
Plain walls can easily be dressed up by creating panels with strips of molding. If you can miter a corner and use a paintbrush, you can create standout room like this one.
Better Homes and Gardens
Accentuating the architectural details you do have
"Think you dont have any architectural details at all? Well thats just not true Youve got windows...consider painting the window frame a bold, contrasting color," said Apartment Therapy.
Or, paint your doors or your ceiling, like this one. Who wouldve thought this emerald green would be so inviting.
Another way to accentuate the ceiling is by applying tin tiles. Tin ceilings date back to the "1880s as an affordable way for people to dress up a rooms fifth wall," said This Old House. "Tin was not only an aesthetic upgrade, meant to emulate high-end decorative plaster, it also offered a measure of fire protectiona big concern at a time when home cooking, lighting, and heating were largely done with open flames."
Today, theyre used in modern spaces as well, to add interest up top with linear metal looks, corrugated metal, and an array of stamped tiles.
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Cant Top That Tree Topping In HOAs
Homeowner associations often deal with tree issues in the form of view blocking or overcrowding as they age and grow. Tree topping is sometimes used to address the view issue. But tree topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known. Yet despite years of explaining its harmful effects, it remains a common practice. While the object is to reduce size or improve view, there are alternatives that achieve the same goals while protecting the health of the tree.
Topping is the indiscriminate cutting back of tree branches. Other names for topping include "heading," "tipping," "hat-racking," and "rounding over." Topping often removes 50-100 of the leaf-bearing crown of a tree. Since the leaves are the "food factory" of a tree, removing large sections can starve a tree. The severity of the pruning triggers a survival mechanism. The tree activates latent buds, forcing the rapid growth of multiple shoots below each cut. The tree needs to put out a new crop of leaves as soon as possible. If a tree does not have the stored energy reserves to do this, it will be seriously weakened and may die.
A stressed tree is more vulnerable to insect and disease infestations. Large, open pruning wounds expose the sapwood and heartwood to attack. The tree may lack sufficient energy to chemically "defend" the wounds against invasion. Some insects are actually attracted to stressed trees by chemical signals.
Topping Can Lead to Sunburn. Branches within a trees crown produce thousands of leaves to absorb sunlight. When the leaves are removed, the remaining branches and trunk are suddenly exposed to high levels of light and heat. The result may be sunburn of the tissues beneath the bark. This can lead to cankers, bark splitting and death of some branches.
Topping Creates Hazards. The survival mechanism that causes a tree to produce multiple shoots below each topping cut comes at great expense to the tree. These shoots develop from buds near the surface of the old branches. Unlike normal branches that develop in a "socket" of overlapping wood tissues, these new shoots are only anchored in the outermost layers of the parent branches. The new shoots grow very quickly, as much as 20 feet in one year, in some species. Unfortunately, the shoots are very prone to breaking, especially during windy conditions.
Topping Makes Trees Ugly. The natural branching structure of a tree is a biological wonder. Trees form a variety of shapes and growth habits, all with the same goal of presenting their leaves to the sun. Topping removes the ends of the branches, often leaving ugly stubs. Topping destroys the natural form of a tree. Without the leaves up to six months of the year in temperate climates a topped tree appears disfigured and mutilated. With the leaves, it is a dense ball of foliage, lacking its simple grace. A tree that has been topped can never regain its natural form.
Topping is Expensive. The cost of topping a tree is not limited to what the perpetrator is paid. If the tree survives, it will require pruning again within a few years. It will either need to be reduced again, or storm damage will have to be cleaned up. If the tree dies it will have to be removed.
Alternatives to Topping. There are times when a tree must be reduced in height or spread. Providing clearance for utility lines is an example. There are recommended techniques for doing this. If practical, branches should be removed back to their point of origin. If a branch must be shortened, it should be cut back to a lateral that is large enough to assume the terminal role. A rule of thumb for this is to cut back to a lateral that is at least 1/3 the diameter of the limb being removed. This method of branch reduction helps to preserve the natural form of the tree. Sometimes the best solution is to remove the tree and replace it with a species that is more appropriate for the site.
If pruning involves working above the ground, or using power equipment, it is best to hire a professional arborist. An arborist can determine what type of pruning is necessary to improve the health, appearance and safety of your trees. A professional arborist can provide the services of a trained crew, with all of the required safety equipment and liability insurance.
A couple of closing caveats. Avoid using any tree company that advertises topping as a service provided. Hire only a trained arborist. Arborists know that topping is not an accepted practice. Pruning work should be accomplished by free climbing, ladders or lift equipment. Climbing spikes can damage trees, and their use should be limited to trees that are being removed. And never, never, never top your trees.
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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
With autumn here it is time to get your house in shape for the cooler months ahead. Fall is a great time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Getting ready for colder weather means checking, repairing, and prepping your home to withstand the upcoming rain, wind, and snow.
Here are some helpful tips that every homeowner should do before hibernating this winter.
1. Stow Your Mower
With the cooler months ahead, its time to start thinking about how you are going to stow your lawn mower. Before saying goodbye to your lawn mower for the winter season, there are a few things you should consider. First, it will be a good idea to sharpen the blade of your lawn mower to ensure that it is in tip-top shape for the spring. Youll also want to empty your gas tank before putting your lawn mower to rest. Taking simple steps like these before putting your lawn mower into storage will help increase the longevity of your equipment.
2. Perform an energy audit
Performing an energy audit is really important because it will tell you where heat is escaping, so you can correct the problem and save money on utilities. If you are doing an energy audit yourself, first make a list of all air leaks in your home by seeing where there are drafts. You can learn how to detect air leaks by following these simple steps. Seal the air leaks that you have identified by applying caulk or weatherstripping. Potential energy savings by detecting and fixing drafts can range from 5 to 30 and will make your home much more comfortable.
3. Replace Your Storm Windows
Before it gets too cold, replace your screen windows and doors with energy-efficient storm windows. Consider a proper storage space for your screen windows so they do not get damaged over the winter months. Youll want to give them a good cleaning, along with your storm windows, so that they are ready for the upcoming colder months
4. Check your Furnace
Home heating systems that arent properly maintained may be less than 50 percent efficient. A dirty filter will increase your heating costs and reduce the life of your equipment. For these reasons, it is important to check your filter once a month and replace or clean if necessary. Have a professional take a look and perform any adjustments to your furnace during this time if needed.
5. Install Gutter Guards
Homeowners often overlook the importance of gutters, but they protect your home by diverting rain water safely away from your home. Gutter cleaning is a temporary solution to a permanent problem, but it is important to keep your gutters clear and clean in order to prevent home issues like foundation and structural issues.
If neglected long enough, these types of concerns can be serious and costly. One way to combat clogged gutters and eliminate gutter cleaning is to have gutter guards professionally installed to your home. Installing a micromesh gutter protection system, will help save you the time and hassle of cleaning your gutters when the leaves begin to fall.
6. Maintain your Homes Exterior
Trim back trees and branches that are hanging too close to your home. Fall and winter are known for unexpected weather conditions, so it is important to prevent any type of debris from falling on your home and producing serious damage. Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. For long term care of your home exterior, it is important to apply a layer of sealant to prevent weed growth, repel stains, and increase the longevity of these areas.
7. Chimney and Fireplace
Youll want to call in a professional to inspect and clean your chimney. Annual cleaning of your chimney is important to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Test your fireplace flue to ensure that it is tightly sealed when closed.
8. Test smoke/carbon dioxide detectors
This is a simple task for homeowners, but it is often forgotten about. Detectors should have a "test" button. If the alarm sounds -- youre good to go If not, try replacing the batteries and test again. If the alarm still doesnt fire, you may need a new detector. Testing these systems is a quick, but very important quarterly test to perform.
Taking these steps will not only lower your utility costs, but they will protect your largest investment, your home, from the unexpected weather conditions ahead.
Article contributed by LeafFilter. LeafFilter is a micro mesh gutter guard that attaches to your existing gutters and provides you with clog free gutters for the life of your home.
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Unique Ways To Bring Nature Right Into Your Home
Using natural materials at home is not a new idea. But new ways of using them can turn ordinary into extraordinary and give your home some unique flavor.
Whether youre drawn to wood, stone, gems, or plant materials, using them in your dcor - in small doses or in a large application - can give you the distinctive look and feel you want. And with an increasing focus on green materials, the choices are more vast than ever.
"When it comes to creating a trendy interior, using green materials is definitely the way to go," said freshome.
"Designers are practically jumping at the chance to create products that bring nature into your home, which means you have the chance to incorporate them into nearly every aspect of your dcor. Go big and make a statement with a copper bathtub. For a subtler feel, consider buying furniture made from eco-friendly fibers. Smaller still, add bamboo shades to your windows to keep out the afternoon sun."
Here a few more ideas.
Between simple wood trim and a mountain->
Pull up a chair. Or, set it in a place where you can simply admire its beauty.
Or, create a desk that will always keep you inspired.
Little Branch Farm
Being green can be literal when you bring a moss wall into your home.
"One of the most striking materials to add some green to a room is mossoffering designers a huge variation in colour, tone and thickness, a moss wall can bring an original touch to any interior space," said Worldbuild 365. "Its versatility means designers can use moss however they want, from covering an entire wall to using the smallest sliver to inject a dash of nature."
Better Living Patios
Sometimes, the topography of a property makes it difficult to build on without stripping the lot of all of its natural beauty. So dont.
Why use regular old stone when you can use precious gems. The Precioustone Series takes "a broad variety of gemstone slabs that contain amethyst, quartz, agate and jasper, which are processed, refined and custom crafted" for interior home applications," said Best of Interiors.
Best of Interiors
You dont have to create an entire installation of your precious stone. A favorite way to use onyx is on countertops, especially since they can be backlit.
If you have the benefit of carving your home out of stone, by all means, do.
If not, you can make it look as authentic and rustic as you want.
Or, simply find a cave you can convert into a home.
Whats more inviting than a copper front door? The warm glow the material gives off is unique, inviting, and sets a naturally spectacular tone for the rest of the home.
All Seasons Home Improvement
Natural materials make an impact when hung from the ceiling in this unique art piece from Korean artist Jaehyo Leeused.
Interior Design Photos
Or, make it functional by adding some lights.
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Rental Late Fee Provisions Are Subject To Legal Tests
Just about every residential rental or lease agreement contains a late charge provision; and from time to time questions arise as to what is fair or reasonable in that regard. Can a late payment fee be too high? Are there legal limits or guidelines?
It is perhaps surprising, given the abundance of laws governing landlord-tenant matters, that the California Civil Code gives no definite guidance here, as it does, for example, when trying to determine whether an interest rate is usurious. Left to their own devices, then, many landlords settle in on an amount around 5 - 6 of the rent, others go as high as 10, and still others, I am sure, go even higher.
Although there is no specific civil code section setting forth late-payment limits, it is highly >
In 1998 Jose Orozco leased a property to Olivo Casimiro for a monthly rent of 550. The rental agreement provided for a 50 "Late Rent Charge" if the rent was not paid by a certain time each month. In December of 2002, Orozco served Casimiro with a three-day notice for not having paid the late fee as required by the agreement. Casimiro obtained defense from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. The matter proceeded to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court in early 2003.
Casimiros defense in part was that "the 50 late fee was punitive in nature and not a good faith estimate of the damages likely to be suffered by [Orozco]" and that therefore "the late fee which bore no rational >
On appeal, however, the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court reversed the ruling and found in favor the tenant, Casimiro. Why?
The Court reasoned that the late fee in the rental agreement was really a liquidated damages clause. That is, it was not an amount that was taken to represent the actual damages that the landlord would suffer, should the rent be late. Rather, it was an amount, agreed upon by the parties, which would be treated as damages, in the event of a late payment. Many buyers, sellers, and real estate agents are familiar with the concept of liquidated damages, as it is often applied to the so-called "good faith deposit" in a purchase contract.
But the Civil Code does deal with liquidated damages, particularly at Section 1671; and there are a number of precedent-setting court cases that have dealt with it too. Citing one such case, the Los Angeles Appellate Division Court noted that, for a liquidated damages provision to be enforceable, two conditions must hold: 1 it must have been "impracticable or extremely difficult to fix the actual damage", and 2 the amount of liquidated damages "must represent the result of a reasonable endeavor by the parties to estimate a fair average compensation for any loss that may be sustained."
The landlord, Orozco, failed to show that either of those provisions obtained, hence his liquidated damages provision i.e. the late fee was void.
The rental agreement published by the California Association of REALTORSCAR contains the following language in its Late Charge section: "Tenant acknowledges either late payment of Rent or issuance of a returned check may cause Landlord to incur costs and expenses, the exact amounts of which are extremely difficult and impractical to determine." And, also, "Landlord and Tenant agree that these charges [the late fee] represent a fair and reasonable estimate of the costs Landlord may incur by reason of Tenants late or NSF payment."
The CAR form contains the language needed to meet the test required by the civil code subject to the designated amount not being patently unreasonable. Many rental agreements do not contain such language, and would probably be void as far as late charges go. Landlords who want legally enforceable late charge provisions should take a careful look at their contracts.
Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way.
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Is School Improvement Part of Your Ownership Strategy?
Neighborhoods with good schools often carry higher value for home buyers with children, so if you want to raise values in your neighborhood, supporting school improvement may be a valuable undertaking.
Improving the ranking or reputation of local schools involves community investments on many levels, and it generates benefits for everyone that extend well beyond real estate value. Obviously, "school improvement" is a larger undertaking than redoing a kitchen or adding a second floor to a home, but it may be more achievable than many realize.
How do home buyers, including millennials, prioritize in your area? Surveys have revealed that top home-selection priorities include safe, affordable neighborhoods with good schools. School district quality has a significant influence on neighborhood choice and often home values when buyers focus on whats best for their children.
Jack and Alice Johnson name changed finally found a house they could afford, proudly moved in, and grew to love the area. Their plan was to renovate their home and gain from improving the real estate value. At no time in this process had they thought about local schools since children were not in their immediate plans. They soon discovered that a "value ceiling" existed. No matter how much renovation money they poured into their home, its value would not significantly increase beyond that price point.
The Johnsons researched the area to identify criteria which established the local value ceiling. Some they could do nothing about; others showed some potential. They zeroed in on what they could contribute to and what could increase buyer perceived value for the areathe local elementary school was ripe for improvement.
Neglect and apathy are among key factors challenging schools and communities. These two negative factors can be minimized or canceled out by commitment from parents and non-parents alike. Your contribution, based on your skills, knowledge, and local connections, may become obvious to you and do-able for you when you read the following list of possible benefit strategies to supporting schools:
Back up parents
Schools benefit from parental contributions of time, skills, connections, money, and fundraising. Pitch-in to support parent efforts to improve buildings, textbook holdings, or facilities and benefits will abound.
Add your voice
Local politicians and school boards respond to numbers. Attend public meetings concerning the school to lend your support to parents and learning issues. Add your voice and presenceencourage other neighbors to join inand the school may receive more attention and funding.
Strengthen teacher appreciation
Acknowledging teacher effort with recognition reinforces the type of >
Support student excellence
Coaching, tutoring, and other motivational and productivity-enhancing efforts raise student performance and school ranking. The more people who get excited about school improvement to reinforce student learning, the more noticeable the returns.
Spread the word
Local media, websites and real estate professionals want to praise neighborhood efforts. Make sure they know what benefits the school, its programs, and extracurricular activities offer its students.
FYI: The Fair Housing Act directs real estate professionals not to make value statements linked to local schools, but to provide interested consumers with school-evaluation resources so they may draw their own conclusions.
Bolster community choices
Sometimes effort spent improving community centers, arenas, playing fields, and other local assets can also benefit local schools. Your sports interests may lead to health and wellness contributions that provide benefits for teachers and students.
Retired educators, business people, and professionals know the value of education for neighborhood students. Enlist these adults, even those without children or with grown children, to join your school improvement project.
TIP: If your home-buying search continues, adopt a long-term perspective and consider local schools whether or not you have or want children.
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Swing That Hammer, Sellers
If youre selling a home that needs updating, youll net more for your home because youre making it look closer to new. Youre solving problems that current buyers dont want to take on, making your home more competitive in todays market.
According to the latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity LIRA >
Among the reasons cited for the upswing are stronger pending home sales and continuing low interest rates. Other reasons may be just as significant. Purchase prices are still lower than the 2006 peak, inventories are tight, and the production of new homes has stagnated since 2007.
The 2015 Generational Report by the National Association of Realtors found that 84 percent of buyers purchased an older home, and with good reason.
The median age of homes purchased in the survey was 22 years, built in 1993, and over 53 percent of homebuyers purchased homes older than that. The median seller sold their home after occupying it for 13 years.
Sixty-four percent of buyers chose older homes because they cost less than new homes and offered more value, while 17 percent preferred the charm of older homes.
Yet, the exact same number of buyers who purchased new homes said they did so to avoid maintenance problems and to choose their own designs.
A whopping 88 percent of buyers used the Internet to view homes before they drove by or called an agent, and 50 percent of buyers used mobile apps such as phones or tablet devices. The number one thing they wanted to see were photographs of homes.
In other words, its time to get a facelift. Your home could be selected or eliminated based simply on how it looks.
So where should you spend your money? Kitchen and bathroom projects remain the most popular remodeling jobs, said the National Association of Home Builders in 2015, but smaller projects are becoming more common.
Bathroom remodels were cited as the most popular type of remodel by 78 percent of remodelers, and kitchen remodels were next at 69 percent. Other popular remodeling categories reported by remodelers included window/door replacements, whole house remodels, room additions, major repairs and handyman services.
Blue Ridge Outdoors once said of plaid shirts that they "never die. They just continue to evolve." The same could be said of the use of plaid in interior design.
Frankly, were obsessed.
We already knew plaid was all the rage, and then we got a load of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biels couch when he flashed pictures of their new baby on The Tonight Show.
Holy plaid. We. Have. To. Have. That.
and gives a babys room an inspired backdrop.
Upholstery is an ideal spot to play with plaid, but why do it in the traditional way? These dining chairs are backed with a complementary array of blue-based plaids, creating a distinctive yet pulled-together space.
If nothing but a plaid couch is going to do thanks, Justin, you have options, like this one featured on Houzz from
Hudson Interior Design.
Contemporary Living Room by Boston Interior Designers amp; Decorators Hudson Interior Design
If thats not in budget, add a few good pillows to your existing couch for a punch of plaid.
Think plaid cant be used as a foundational piece? Check out how this apple green plaid rug gives the bedroom some life.
You can also get a chic patchwork plaid look with carpet tiles.
The Burberry plaid is one of the most iconic patterns in fashion, and while you might not be able to upholster your walls or even a sofa in the fabric, you can at least drape a throw over it. What better way to bring in a bit of luxury while showcasing a modern trend