Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017
Clean Out Your Closet And Help A Charity
When you clean out your closet or your whole house, the "donate" pile can get pretty big. But theres no need to worry about lugging everything to a donation centre. Clothesline will send a truck right to your door to pick up your gently used clothing, electronics and small household items for free. The proceeds will go to the Canadian Diabetes Association CDA to support its research, education and advocacy programs.
Each year, Clothesline, a national Canadian program, raises more than 10 million and diverts more than 100 million pounds of clothing and household items from landfill sites across the nation, something else donors feel good about.
The CDA started the program in 1985 as an innovative way to raise funds while making a positive impact on the community, says Janelle Robertson, general manager of Clothesline, one of the longest running programs of its type in North America.
In addition to clothing, the donations accepted for pick-up include towels, draperies, shoes, dishes, cloth items, post secondary textbooks, kitchenware and toys. The not-accepted list includes large appliances, sofa beds, newspapers and food.
Clothesline has more than 110 trucks that pick up at 1.7 million households each year across Canada, Robertson says.
The organization also has more than 3,000 clothing donation boxes, as well as 30 offices or donation centres where items can be dropped off.
Clothesline solicits donations, picks them up and delivers them to Value Village stores. Value Village pays for the volume of goods delivered. The two organizations have enjoyed an exclusive mutually beneficial partnership since Clotheslines inception. By having a business arrangement with Value Village, the CDA receives much-needed funds to support its programs and supplement the monetary donations it receives directly from the public.
Donors can drop off reusable items at a Clothesline Donation centre or donations box, or by scheduling a free household pickup online or by calling toll free at 1-800-505-5525.
"By donating directly to Clothesline, CDA receives proceeds from Value Village. It does not benefit from items dropped off directly at Value Village," says Robertson.
In addition to support from individuals, the Clothesline program needs help from corporations, local businesses, schools and communities.
"You can help by becoming a drop box host, sponsoring a community clothing drive, becoming an apartment/condominium building pickup co-ordinator or arranging for your business or school to conduct a clothing drive on our behalf," CDA says.
Through the In The Bag program, schools, clubs and communities across Canada can raise funds for trips, equipment or other projects. Clothesline pays for each garbage bag 67L of clothing collected.
Clothesline will provide step-by-step guidelines, a list of acceptable items, a checklist and tips to make your In The Bag event a success.
Furniture is accepted at only specific locations, so if it is not collected in your area, there are other options. Furniture can be donated to other charities, such as the national organization, Furniture Bank.
Another option is the Salvation Army Thrift Store. It accepts "gently used" clothing and household items and in some locations it offers a pick up service for larger items. The organization says that for sanitary, health and safety concerns, it is unable to accept donations of used mattresses and box springs, used carpets, hazardous materials such as paints, propane tanks, barbecues, infant equipment such as car seats, cribs and strollers, tires and auto parts.
The Salvation Army supports many programs and services including food banks, shelters, childrens camps, addiction treatment facilities and other community programs. It says it is Canadas largest non-governmental provider of social programs.Visit https://thriftstore.ca/ for the closest location.
Some Canadian cities, such as Calgary, offer a municipal textile recycling service. City landfill facilities there have Throw N and Go areas where residents can dispose of used clothing and textiles, even if they are damaged.
"If the item isnt reusable, it can still be recycled," says the City of Calgary website. "Textile recyclers turn old clothing, shoes and fabrics into new products. Materials are sorted, cleaned and can be turned into wiping rags or shredded down for upholstery stuffing or fibre recycling."
All proceeds from the revenue of the recycled textiles support the charity Haiti Arise.
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California Broker-Owned Escrows Need To Submit Activity Reports
There is still time left -- but not much -- for affected California brokers to submit their annual Escrow Activity Report to the Bureau of Real Estate BRE. This applies to firms that operate a "broker-controlled escrow" that engaged in five or more transactions or whose escrow activities exceeded 1 million in the past calendar year.
Not every California Broker has an escrow division. Many own escrow companies that operate under the Department of Business Oversight DBO. Many others simply have no ownership interest in any escrow operation. Then, there are those who operate a "broker controlled escrow", pursuant to their real estate brokers license. These escrows are restricted to transactions in which the >
Broker-controlled escrows are, then, significantly restricted as to their potential market when compared to the more common escrow company operating under the DBO. Nonetheless, broker escrows require less capitalization and can still bring a decent profit into a brokerage.
In October of 2011, Senate Bill 53 Calderon was signed into law adding section 10141.6 to the Business and Professions Code. It set forth filing requirements for broker-controlled escrows. If such operations conduct escrow activities for five or more transactions in a calendar year, or whose activities equal or exceed one million dollars in a calendar year, it is required that a report be filed within sixty days following the completion of the calendar year. Except for leap years, the deadline is March 1. As I said, theres not much time left.
The report is submitted on the Bureaus form RE 890. It is neither particularly burdensome nor time-consuming to complete. In addition to asking about the number and dollar volume of escrow transactions, it requests the location of escrow offices and basic information regarding the escrow officers and escrow trust accounts. If anyone has difficulty with the form, they may contact the CalBRE Mortgage Loan Activities section at 916 263-8941.
It has been a source of particular annoyance to the Bureau and its Commissioner that, so far, there appears to be a serious lack of compliance with Business and Professions Code 10141.6.
In the first year the requirement went into effect, for calendar year 2013, 206 real estate brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 8.63 billion. In the next year, for calendar year 2014, 161 real estate brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 5.52 billion. For calendar year 2015, 143 brokers reported broker escrow activities totaling 8.45 billion. That is, in the first three years the number of brokerages reporting actually declined.
At the Commissioners recent forum in Indian Wells, it was reported that, last year, 170 brokers submitted reports showing total activity of 10.3 billion. While 170 reports is an improvement over the initial response to the reporting requirements, it still remains woefully inadequate. The Bureau estimates that more than 700 brokerages should be submitting reports.
Fines for failing to submit a timely report can run up to 10,000. There can also be non-monetary penalties as well as the often-substantial cost of a BRE audit. The Bureaus Audit section is actively pursuing brokers to determine if they have met their reporting requirements, if any. Brokers who have escrows that meet the >
Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .
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6 Show-Stopping Ways To Use Blue In Your Home
Color trends may come and go, but primary colors like blue never really go out of >
"Bluerepresents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity," said Bourn Creative. "The color bluehas positive effects on the mind and the body. As the color of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming and exude feelings of tranquility. However, not all blues are serene and sedate. Electric or brilliant blues become dynamic and dramatic, an engaging color that expresses exhilaration."
If youre looking to incorporate the color into your home, you cant go wrong with any or all of these tips.
Bring it into your kitchen
Blue is a great option for kitchen cabinets if you want something other than white. A powdery blue allows you to stay neutral-ish, and easily accommodate adventurous finishes like patterned floor tiles and black counters, if you so wish.
House And Home
Or, take it deeper - waaaaaaay deeper - to create a space that will wow. Cobalt or navy can make a kitchen look incredible, regardless of the size. But if you want to make sure it keeps an airy feel instead of feeling closed in, go for marble slabs and forgo the upper cabinets, like in this gorgeous room.
Use its peaceful quality to your advantage in the bathroom
Because blue is known to be a calming color, its a smart choice for a bathroom if your goal is to impart a spa feel. But that doesnt mean your choices have to be sedate. Here, a standout tile brings the wow factor to an otherwise neutral bathroom.
Theres nothing boring about this bathroom, where the deep hue and ultra-glam finishes create a knockout space.
Swap out your furniture
Because blue is a hot color right now, there are numerous options if you want to bring the color into your furniture or furnishings - and you dont have to look too hard to find something great. We love Rooms To Goss Monaco Court Indigo series, with its saturated color, tufting, and naiheads. The set is surprisingly inexpensive 1,655 for five pieces, or you can split it up, and its part of the stores Sofia Vergara Collection, which probably explains why its so chic.
Rooms To Go
Hang it on the wall
Art can move us in so many ways, and a piece that allows you to sink into it, like this Shawn McNulty piece, does more than just look pretty on a wall.
Go blue on blue on blue
Who says you need to add contrast to achieve design greatness? This bedroom with varying shades of blue manages to be dramatic and serene at the same time.
Add a bright pop
As vibrant as it is, a bright pop of turquoise can fit in almost anywhere, no matter the >
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How To Add Moroccan Flair To Your Home
Its vibrant. Its exotic. And its one of the hottest design >
"Throughout history, the North African nation of Morocco has played host to a wide range of cultures, civilizations and even >
If you have the opportunity to travel to Marrakech, Casablanca, or another Moroccan city that offers an impossibly rich landscape steeped in history and culture, its easy to pick up some fabric or a few accessories at one of the souks open markets. But with Moroccan dcor continuing to grow in popularity, finding a great piece can be as easy as hitting one of your favorite stores, like Home Goods and World Market.
A pouf can serve as extra seating and also adds a little flair, as you can see in this eclectic living room, where it serves as a focal point that adds texture and interest.
One of the hallmarks of Moroccan design is the variety of unique shapes found in the architecture and dcor. This is often exhibited in mirrors and tables, both of which are used here. The vibrant pink and red colors and unique shapes on the tables are unexpected and beautiful. The graphic patterns on the pillows are also reminiscent of Moroccan >
Want to go full-blown Morocco in the bathroom? Think color, texture, tile, and architectural detail.
"Moroccan furnishings often draw from the countrys captivating architecture," said HGTV. "In this dramatic powder room, the hand-painted porcelain Marrakesh sink by Kohler was inspired by mosaics found in a quaint Moroccan courtyard. The arches and double doors on the mirror above evoke an entrance to an ornate Moroccan palace."
Rug-making in Moroccan has been a tradition for centuries, and one that has inspired homeowners and interior designers for nearly as long. Today, you can find thousands of rugs from authentic pieces hand-woven by Berber women to inexpensive reproductions.
Moroccan tile is one of todays top interior design trends for floors and backsplashes. With abundant colors and shapes, its possible to bring a truly unique look to your space, like in this gourmet kitchen.
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Light Up Your Home Movie Room by Creating a Star-filled Ceiling
Can you imagine the look on the faces of friends and family when they walk into your home theater room, look up at the ceiling and discover that its covered with twinkling stars from wall to wall?
If youre not afraid of DIY projects involving power tools and if you have the patience it takes to wire up a large ceiling to make this dramatic focal point, youre ready to begin a project that adds a perfect finishing touch to a room youve already fitted with a sound system, flat screen TV, theater seating and creature comforts.
Where to begin? By recruiting an equally-handy friend whos willing to help you get this surprisingly easy-to-accomplish project off the ground, both literally and figuratively. Its going to take time to do this job right, but once youre done, expect to be thrilled every time you walk into your four-star theater.
8 Decisions to make before you begin:
1. Will you cover the entire ceiling with stars, just the center or the periphery?
2. Do you prefer twinkling stars, static ones or will you be just as happy with either?
3. Are you more comfortable using cable or do you prefer to use fiber optic filament?
4. Would you like a sky thats densely crowded with stars or just sprinkled across the ceiling?
5. Will you have to install a dropped ceiling over the current one or do you have access to an attic?
6. Will the illuminator you install to power the stars require a dedicated outlet?
7. Is your ceiling area so large, youll need more than one illuminator to handle your field of stars?
8. Do you have the time and patience to undertake an installation that could run 30 to 40 hours in total?
Finances, kits and options
Your ceiling size determines the amount of money youll spend on your project, but if youre looking for a ballpark figure to decide if its worth your while to undertake this challenge, expect to achieve a 4-to-1-star ratio on the ceiling of a small theater room using 1000-feet of .50mm fiber optic filament and an illuminator this unit provides the light, with or without a twinkle wheel, for about 500.
Make life simple by purchasing a kit that includes the items you need as well as instructions for undertaking this ceiling remodel. Alternatively, hire a contractor to do the job for you using the following suggestions, but this is a time-intensive job, so keep the checkbook near.
While you can tackle this job on your own, things could get tedious as you methodically drill into your room ceiling from your attic access to thread filament into holes, so a helper can save you time and frustration. Using single strand filament costs less money and theres less waste, too. Follow these steps to do the job:Mark ceiling joist locations with a pencil so you avoid cutting into them when you drill your holes.Use a bright room light to illuminate the ceiling from the floor so those pencil marks are visible.Drill each hole "up" from the theater room rather than down from the attic to avoid ragged holes.Thread a length of continuous thread optical fiber into each hole.Secure each "star" in pace with a drop of epoxy to keep it stationary.Once all fibers are installed and sealed, collect them and attach them to the illuminator.Plug or wire the illuminator to your electrical system, adding a dedicated switch.
Make your theater room a "one of a kind" creation
Finish your home theater room by adding drama worthy of any blockbuster. Assuming youve money left in your movie room budget, go further with your design scheme by adding touches of authenticity. For example, "Architectural Digest" magazine featured an over-the-top movie room design sure to be coveted by movie fans everywhere.
Designers started with a ceiling filled with twinkling stars and then installed the trappings of a drive-in movie theater, complete with refreshment stand, theater seating that mimics vintage cars and cut-out palm trees that bring Hollywood to mind.
You may not wish to go to this extreme or plunder your childs college savings to replicate this ultra-cool environment, but you should be prepared for guests who drop by and refuse to leave, even if you cut off their popcorn supply
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Can You Trust Zillows Home Price Zestimate? In a Word: No.
I got an email from Zillow last week. Seems my house has gone up in value another 2,000 dollars in the past 30 days. And its going to rise another 3.5 in the next year, according to their Zestimate. Fab
Except that its just speculation. When it comes to Zillows Zestimates, you have to take the numbers with a grain of salt. Make that a big shake of salt, right over your shoulder. And maybe a stiff drink. And a frank conversation with your real estate agent.
"Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents - and to one another - as gauges of market value," said the Los Angeles Times. "If a house for sale has a Zestimate of 350,000, a buyer might challenge the sellers list price of 425,000. Or a seller might demand to know from potential listing brokers why they say a property should sell for just 595,000 when Zillow has it at 685,000. Disparities like these are daily occurrences and, in the words of one realty agent who posted on the industry blog ActiveRain, they are the bane of my existence."
Are faulty Zillow estimatesirritating, dangerous, somewhere in the middle? It all depends on your personal situation. A real estate investor, a seller in a high-end neighborhood, or an obsessive real estate watcher ahem may be able to brush off a 15,000 error. But for many people across the country, the word of Zillow might as well be the word of God. So, yeah, dangerous.
Errors in sales prices are one of the issues Investopedia pointed out in its look at Zillows Zestimates.
"Zillow factors the date and price of the last sale into its estimate, and in some areas, these data make up a big part of the figure. If this information is inaccurate, it can throw off the Zestimate," they said. "And since comparable sales also affect a homes Zestimate, a mistake in one homes sales price record can affect the Zestimates of other homes in the area. The Zestimate also takes into account actualproperty taxespaid, exceptions to taxassessmentsand other publicly available property tax data. Tax assessors property values can be inaccurate, though. The tax assessors database might have a mistake >
In June, Zillows much-maligned by industry experts, anyway Zestimates got an upgrade with a new algorithm. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has famously called his companys price estimates, "a good starting point" and copped to a median error rate of approximately 8. With their new algorithm, they say its dropped to 6.1.
John Wake, an economist and real estate agent from Real Estate Decoded, applied Zillows updated 6.1 margin of error to "Zillows own estimate of the median sale price in the U.S. in May 2016 of229,737and got atypical error of 14,000. He then took a sample city, Denver - a city in which estimates areactually more accuratethan average" - and found "the error spread in 2016 is a lot tighter and more focused on the bullseye of the actual sales price," but that "their Zestimates are scattershot."
In his example, "aDenver home has a fair market value of 300,000.According to ZillowsZestimate Accuracy Table,10 of their Zestimate priceswere off by more than 20 from the actual sale prices. Half of that 10 are Zestimates that are too high by 20 or more, and half are Zestimates that are too low by 20 or more. That means you have a 5 chance Zillow will give you a Zestimate of 360,000 OR MORE, and a 5 chance Zillow will give you a Zestimate of 240,00 OR LESS.Yikes"
It gets even more complicated without all the data that gets fed into Zillows algorithm. Limit the available info and the margin for error grows.
That same email I received included a couple of new listings and info on recent sold homes in the area. Notice anything interesting about these recent sales?
Yep, no sales prices. Texas is one of about a dozen states without a mandatory price disclosure law, which makes property appraisals challenging and which makes it even more difficult for Zillow to come up with an accurate Zestimate since it eliminates one of their key data points.
In the case of my home, theyre a good 11,00015,000 high on their sales price estimate. And thats based on my direct knowledge of sales prices in my neighborhoodnot list prices, not tax assessments, and not assumed sales prices based on trends.
Which brings up another issue that leads to inaccurate estimates. In many neighborhoods, sales trends and prices vary street to street. But Zillows estimates are a one-size-fits-all program. In my masterplan, the building of high-density units on the southern edge of the community a few years back took a bite out of the value of homes on the perimeter streets. Sales of homes with a first-floor master also get a bump here.
And then theres the fact that this community is also split between two elementary schools. Zillow wouldnt know which one buyers prefer and wouldnt account for a difference in sales price between two otherwise comparable homes. But, people who live here would, and so would the local real estate agents.
Which only reinforces the importance of working with one, BTW.
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Maximize Your Listing Price While Minimizing Your Expense
Its almost spring and in many parts of the country the housing market is already starting to thaw. Some markets like Denver, Seattle, and Portland are red hot. According to the S amp; P Co>
The Price is Right
Theres generally two schools of thought in regard to listing price. One philosophy is to list at top price and lower the price progressively until it sells. Sellers who choose this strategy are usually in less of a hurry and more risk averse. A second strategy is to list slightly under expected sales price. These sellers are usually trying to sell faster and hope to bring multiple offers, boosting the final selling price. The latter is, counterintuitively, the better strategy for getting the most money for your home. Heres how to do it:
Price Under a Typical Search Limit
If you home is worth 400,000, set your listing price at 399,000. This way, you capture everyone who might be setting their search ranges at 400,000 or less. Like how products are priced at retail stores, psychologically, a price that ends with 99 appears to be a better value. Better yet, such that it deviates from both, such as 397,400 which studies have shown also increase the perception of value.
It might seem risky to underprice your home what if your home is worth 400,000, you list for 375,000, and the offers all come in at only 375,000? First, thats your homes actual market worth. Two, if you receive offers you dont like, you can counteroffer or decline them. Listing your home under value creates a psychological sense of urgency. You want buyers to visit your home and become attached enough to put in an offer. If enough people do this at once, you have created a buyer frenzy and increased your chance for multiple offers and escalated prices.
Use Comprehensive Comparables
Your agent should create a comparative market analysis of recently sold homes but also those currently active, expired and off-market. What is selling is as important as what is not. According to Zillow, ensure your home is priced within 10 percent of the average home price in your area. If there are few sold comparables nearby, price your home 10 percent under any currently active or expired listings.
Home Improvements Before Listing
There are many home improvements that might enhance your homes value, such as putting in an expensive new kitchen or bath, but stick to the lowest cost for the highest possible value. Your goal is to make a positive first impression and sell your home quickly.
Replace Tired Flooring
If your carpet is more than five years old, has unsightly stains or is starting to buckle, its time to replace it. You can replace carpet with carpet but todays buyers see more value in hard floors. Buyers with kids or pets tend to prefer engineered floors, bamboo, or cork for their sustainability. One continuous floor of the same material also creates the appearance that the home is bigger, creating an impression your home is worth more.
Paint, Paint, Paint
A coat of paint can cover scuff marks and dirt and brighten a room. Did you love flamingo pink for your hallway and forest green in your kitchen? Thats great But chances are buyers wont have your tastes so instead opt for neutral colors such as grays and earth tones when readying your home to sell.
Revitalize Your Kitchen
Fully remodeled kitchens are a great return on investment but dont spend the money if you are looking to sell. Instead, paint them with Annie Sloan chalk paint. Chalk paint looks so good the buyers will ba>
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Condo Renters: A Potential Asset
Question: We have been renting a condominium unit in a fairly large complex for the last several years, and our current plans are to stay here for several more years. For financial and other personal reasons, we do not want to buy. However, quite frankly we feel that we are second >
Answer: This is a very touchy and sensitive issue in the condominium community. Many condominium boards of directors have the attitude that owners are good and tenants are bad.
But people are people.
I have known many owners who not only do not cooperate with their Association, but indeed are downright destructive. I have known many tenants who take better care of their property than do their counterpart owners.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to a tenant. The general philosophy is that "I bought into this complex, and accordingly I have a greater involvement in protecting my investment."
However, getting these people to serve on boards of directors, or to participate in the numerous condominium activities is often quite difficult. Apathy is rampant in most condominium associations. There have been many occasions where boards of directors have pleaded with owners to attend an Annual Meeting -- or at least give a proxy -- so that a quorum could be reached.
Many years ago, there were secondary mortgage market restrictions on the number of tenants that could be living in any condominium community. Generally speaking, if the level of tenants reached 30-40 of the entire membership, lenders would be >
While these restrictions still apply for newly constructed or newly converted condominiums, for all practical purposes most condominium associations do not have to worry about these rental restrictions, unless the ratio starts to come close to 50 percent.
Indeed, I believe that even the financial community is beginning to understand that sometimes a tenant can be a better asset to a condominium than an apathetic occupant-owner.
Any legal question involving condominiums requires an evaluation of the "power source." The highest authority in any jurisdiction is the applicable state condominium law. The condominium laws throughout the country are different, and everyone has to understand the law in which your condominium is located.
The second level of authority is the Declaration, which is recorded among the Land Records in the city or the county where the property is located. This, in effect, is a document that declares that there is a condominium created, and outlines certain important aspects, including a legal description of the complex. In any condominium, there are three components: general common elements, limited common elements, and individual units. The Declaration attempts to define each of these components.
The third power source is the Bylaws of the Condominium. In some states these Bylaws are recorded among the Land Records, and in other states they are not. But whether or not they are recorded, the Bylaws spell out the basic operating guidelines under which the Association is to function. Bylaws always provide the requirements for the Board of Directors, and will spell out who can serve on the Board. Here is where the legal authority can be found as to whether or not you can serve on the Board if you are not an owner.
The Bylaws will also establish the types of committees that are to function in the Condominium Association. For example, one important committee is the architectural control committee. This committee determines whether a unit owner can make improvements or alterations to the exterior of their unit.
This architectural control committee serves an important function in a condominium. Often, however, it becomes a bottleneck to legitimate and needed improvements within the complex. Indeed, the architectural control committee of many associations has been referred to as the "local KGB."
Here is a suggestion. If the Bylaws do not require owners to serve on the architectural control committee, this might be a very good place for you to get involved. Because you are not an owner, you do not have any vested interests, nor do you have any ax to grind. The architectural control committee members should be objective and impartial, and it sounds to me as if you meet these tests.
Additionally, if you have any writing skills, you may be able to assist or edit the community association newsletter. Or if you have any accounting background, you should be able to serve on the finance committee.
Ask for a meeting with your Board of Directors. Convince them that you are sincere, and truly want to participate in the affairs of the Association. Directors should be able to tap all the resources within the community -- whether they are owners or tenants.
I cannot promise instant success, but a competent Board of Directors should be willing to jump at this opportunity to get able and interested volunteers.
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How to Update Your Home on a Dime
Updates and home renovations are frightening to many homeowners. But improving your home doesnt have to be a daunting task. Here are a few simple projects that will boost the value and looks of your home:
Try a Fresh Coat of Paint
Applying a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference in the looks of your home. If you have children or rambunctious pets, consider a quick touch-up of nicked or damaged areas.
Update Your Hardware
Quality hardware can cost anywhere from 5 to 25 per piece. But, considering the cost of most home improvements, even more expensive hardware can be a bargain. You can update your hardware with >
Lighting changes the way a room looks and feels. When you want to improve the lighting in your home, focus on adding accent lighting overhead. Lamps, floor lights and even spots on your art and other collectibles can greatly improve a space. Ambient lighting like sconces can add a decorative and useful touch. Task lighting will also improve the usability of your home.
Vintage items, particularly those with a more rustic or lived-in feel, can make a sterile space feel more exciting. Also, many vintage pieces wont cost as much as new or designer lighting options.
Extra items cluttering your home will detract from its charm and make it difficult to clean. Move excess items to a storage space in the garage or have a yard sale. You might even make money improving your home
Updating your home can be a costly project. Use these tips to help you improve your home without breaking the bank. Youll be surprised how much better your home can look and feel for just a few bucks.
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To Buy Or Not To Buy: Is Now The Time?
|Andrea Davis is the editor for Home Advisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.|
The US Census Bureau recently revealed that the US homeownership rate declined to 62.9, the lowest level reported in 51 years of Census tracking.
This statistic does not signal impending doom. Since 2006, there has been a decline from peak ownership rates which is attributed in part to responsible lending practices and shifting demographic patterns. What is significant about this statistic is that it can give those intent on homeownership the false impression that they are fighting a losing battle.
If youre on the non-homeowner side of this statistic, does this spell opportunity for you? With the economy and employment gaining strength, and predicted home-buying demographic shifts, homeownership may start an upward swing.
If you dont own your own home, you know there are reasons why not. Since my work dictates I challenge the best to become better, I ask you, "How sure are you that those reasons are still valid or insurmountable?"
Repeatedly, when I speak to audiences about becoming their own futurist and creating strategies to achieve the future of their choice, I frequently meet people - individuals, couples, families, groups - who did not realize that their future could include homeownership.
Because they did not consider ownership a possibility, they gave up investigating, learning, strategizing, acting, and dreaming to make it happen. So it did not.
Ask any real estate or financial professional, and they wont hesitate to tell you that home ownership is, ra>
Any "short cuts" lie in understanding exactly what effort and action are required for the most direct path to ownership success. Thats what real estate professionals are trained to know all about. They understand how to >
Interview real estate professionals until you find one with the right mix of experience and determination to assist you with your ownership goals.
Listen and take notes or record when this professional explains your options and how to achieve your ownership goals. If you ask questions, you will also receive details about various ownership options, including cooperatives, condominiums, and other alternatives available in your area and price range. More questions and youll discover how the purchasing process works.
Consider the full range of neighborhoods and communities within your area. Prices tend to go down the further out you go from city center. With good public transit, moving to the suburbs may not require as many sacrifices as you might think.
If youd like to own your own home, this may be the right time for action.
There are a number of ways to increase your purchasing power and bring real estate ownership within reach. The important thing is not to give up on making an effort before you have explored opportunities available to you in this real estate market:
Interest rates have not risen as dramatically as they are predicted to do in the future. Waiting until rates rise will limit the size of mortgage you qualify for. Mortgage brokers can explain how much youll qualify for and how you may be able to improve that level of financing. When you purchase, aim for the longest term you qualify for without seriously compromising purchasing power. That way youll have years at a rate you can afford while the mortgage debt is declining.
Debts can reduce the size of mortgage you qualify for, but financial professional advisers can suggest do-able debt-reduction strategies to improve borrowing power.The first step may be reducing the accumulation of new debt by ending discretionary spending like impulse shopping, eating out, and holiday travel.
The real estate you purchase may become a "financial partner" in achieving ownership. For instance, buying a one or two-unit rental income property may raise your qualifying income by some or all of the rent the rental unit or units would bring in. This financial leverage may also be possible in a non-rental property if you can prove you have boarders who will move in with you, pay rent, and share expenses.
Uncertainty abounds, but the economy continues to build momentum and job prospects continue to improve. Untapped income opportunities may exist. When was the last time you explored new employment and education opportunities with your current employer or within your community? Having a job that is "just enough" to keep you going can create inertia that defeats your belief that theres more out there for you if you persist.
Realtytimes.com contains a rich library of articles to answer your questions and help you explore alternatives. Below are a few from my ongoing column "Decisions amp; Communities" that reveal the range of opportunities available to those on the path to homeownership:
- "Five Core Matching Questions For Buyers"
- "Home Buyers: Seven Insights Into Confident Decision Making"
- "Joint Ownership: Proceed with Equal Parts of Creativity and Caution"
- "New Online Education Empowers Home Buyers"
As you research ownership ideas and opportunities, stay skeptical. Ask for details and persist until you understand exactly what you and others involved will be responsible for. Beware of anyone promising overnight success or cheaper-than-believable housing. Stick with professionals who have verifiable credentials and proven expertise.
Since the downturn, youve had years to consider homeownership. Is it time for action before rising interest rates and increasing demographic demand move real estate ownership further out of reach?
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Summary Of Multiple Offers Will Also Be Useful
Last weeks column discussed Californias new Summary of Offer form that was designed for listing agents to present to their clients who were likely to be a bit overwhelmed by the standard eight-page offer to purchase. Judging by the emails I received, California is certainly not the only state where such a form would be a useful tool for listing agents and their clients.
If a single offer to purchase can be difficult for typical sellers to digest, what happens when they receive multiple offers? "Confusion" would be one correct answer to that question. And, by all accounts, theres probably a lot of confusion at play these days, as low-inventory markets continue to generate more than a typical amount of multiple offers.
It is a good thing, then, that the Standard Forms Advisory Committee of the California Association of REALTORS CAR has also produced a Summary of Multiple Offers form C.A.R. Form SUM-MO.
The multiple-offer summary is in many respects similar to the single-offer summary. It presents in an easy-to-read table form a side-by-side comparison for up to five different offers. It covers the same eleven terms as the single-offer summary. They are: 1 purchase price, 2 initial deposit, 3 increased deposit, if any, 4 loan amount, 5 close of escrow date, 6 possession date, 7 removal date for loan contingency, 8 for appraisal contingency, and 9 for buyers inspection contingency, 10 sale of buyers property contingency, if any, and 11 whether certain items are included in the sale.
There is also a place in each offer column to identify the name and firm of the buyers agent.
Unlike the single-offer summary, the multiple offer comparison is generated enti>
A listing agent who uses the multiple-offer summary will still need to address some items that, as with the single-offer summary, are not covered in the form. The form does not, for example, address the question of who is to pay for HOA documents and/or transfer fees. Nor does it show if a home warranty policy is being requested.
The multiple-offer summary form provides a great and convenient start for agents to make comparisons with their clients. But for the comparisons to be complete, they will need to bring some more information to the table.
California REALTORS can access the Summary of Multiple Offers on Zipforms. Anyone from another state is welcome to contact me for a pdf. sample.
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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Top Home Security Tips You Need To Make Your Home Safer Now
No matter where you live, your age, life stage, the square footage of your floorplan, or type of neighborhood, staying safe at home is a priority for all of us. And you can go out and spend thousands of dollars on security measures or DIY it at all, but the goal is the same: to protect your home, your things, and the people you love.
Home security is not a one-size-fits-all enterprise, nor is it typically a one-purchase-and-youre-done experience.
"Think of home security as though youre putting on layers of clothing to protect your body from harsh weather," Jordan Frankel, executive vice president ofGlobal Security Expertssaid on Tech Hive. "Protecting your home from burglary is all about the layers. Because burglars determine their targets through risk vs. reward scenarios, the more security measures you put in place to increase the risk and lessen the reward for would-be intruders, the less likely your home will be viewed as an easy target."
Whether youre starting from scratch or looking to upgrade or enhance your security measures, here are eight places to start.
1. Secure the front door
It seems like a no-brainer to lock your front door and make sure its secure, but, "Roughly33 percent of burglars enter through the front door," said Safewise. Inspect it to make sure the frame is "strong, the hinges are protected, the wood is not hollow, and, if your door has a mail slot, that someone cant reach through it to unlock the door. If your door doesnt have a peephole or a deadbolt, you should install those immediately to help make the door even more secure."
And if youve just moved in to the house, dont forget to change the locks. Extra keys that may have been floating around prior to you moving in could compromise your safety.
2. Check the windows, too
This is another easy-access spot. Safewise notes that, "As many as 23 percent of home burglaries occur through first-story windows." Check the latches, which can degrade over time and fail to protect the windows from opening.
3. Light it up
A home thats dark will be more inviting to a potential thief than one that is lit up. We love the BeON Home Protection system, which can be used both inside and out.
"At first glance, the BeON Home Protection system looks like a trio of odd-looking smart LED bulbs," said Techlicious. Its actually a "sophisticated early warning system for your home, disguised and doubling as smart bulbs. Once you insert the yellow BeON peg module through the bulb and screw them into a standard A21 Edison base lighting fixture, each BeON bulb becomes a listening post that can hear and react to your front door bell ringing or your smoke/CO alarm sounding. When the BeONs hears one of these, the bulbs light up in an automatic or programmed sequence to either make it appear as if youre home to scare off intruders, or light your way to escape potential danger."
According to BeON, "The system picks up on your natural lighting habits so that theres seamlessly no noticeable difference between you being home and away. Since the goal of the system is preventative security, BeON wants the system to act as a deterrent days in advance, rather than as a reactive security system." You can also " train your BeON bulbs to hear your doorbell, and you can set a sequence of which BeON lights go on in reaction."
Uplights can give the home some great curb appeal and make it more safe, and motion-activated floodlights are another great theft deterrent. The added advantage of Mpow Solar-Powered Outdoor Motion Sensing Light is that its solar powered, so it wont add to your electric bill or stop functioning in a power outage.
Rings newFloodlight Cam is "the worlds first and only HD security camera with built-in floodlights, a siren alarm and two-way audio," they said. "Floodlight Cam streams 1080HD video and comes with two 3K lumens LED floodlights, and it starts recording and turns on the lights as soon as it detects motion."
4. Get to know your neighbors
Establishing friendships in your neighborhood isnt just great for your social life; it can also help keep you safe. Your neighbors may already know your daily habits what time you come and go, but alerting them to changes like a new job that means youll be leaving earlier and returning later, cleaning crews or landscapers that might have access to the home or yard, and, especially, vacation plans that will leave your home empty for a period of time, is important. That way they can help keep an eye out and be aware of anything that just seems "off."
5. Get on Nextdoor
Your local Nextdoor community is not only useful for finding a babysitter or a handyman, but its also a great place to share and learn about security issues like break-ins and car vandalism in your neighborhood. If you know whats going on, you have a better chance of banding together to come up with solutions to get it stopped.
6. Get it on camera
Having security cameras outside your front door may not stop a crime from happening although it could deter someone who noticed the camera, but it can help you catch them on the backend by providing footage to police or circulating in your neighborhood.
Cnet recommends the SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell as one of the their best smart home devices. "With 1080p resolution, SkyBells video quality is terrific, and integrations with Alexa, Nest, and IFTTT help it stand out in an increasingly competitive category," they said. "Free online video storage is a major plus, too."
7. Get a security system
Homes without security systems are about three times more likely to be broken into.The Simple Dollar has a thorough list of the best security systems for 2017 broken down by categories like DIY installation, cost, and >
8. Eliminate hiding spots
It makes sense that burglars would target homes where they cant be easily seen. If you have tall shrubs or trees up close to the house, that might be you.
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8 Things You Should Do Before Moving Into A New House
Moving into a new house? Your task list doesnt end once you pack up your old place - and were not just talking about all the fun unpacking you have ahead of you. Theres a few more things youre going to want to do before you get in and start living it up.
Change the locks
It doesnt make you paranoid to want new locks on the doors to your home. It makes you smart. "Who knows how many people have keys to whats now your home? The fix is easy: Its usually a minimum charge for a locksmith to come to the house," said Ron Phipps, principal with Warwick, Rhode Island-based Phipps Realty and past president of the National Association of Realtors, on Bankrate. Phipps advice: Dont just re-key the locks - replace the hardware, too. You get a nice update, plus peace of mind."
Dont forget to change your garage door opener code, too.
Do an in-depth tour of the house
Do you know where the water and gas shut-off valves are? How about the electrical box and water heater? Any idea how to use your sprinkler system? Familiarizing yourself with all the ins and outs of the house and making sure key members of the household are also aware can help avoid disasters.
Seal off rooms you dont use - or wont be using right away
The first few months in a new home might be a revelation financially - and not in a good way. Between moving costs, new furniture, any renovations that need to be done, and the cost of turning on all your utilities, youre probably going to want to save a few dollars where you can. Sealing off rooms you wont be using for a while can help lower your heating and cooling costs.
Meet your neighbors
Your neighbors may be planning to come by once they see that youve moved in, but think about beating them to it. You never know where you might make a new best friend or find one for your kids, and being friendly and outgoing from the get-go establishes good will.
At the very least, being able to see a friendly face or two in the neighborhood will help you acclimate - and it wont hurt to have someone point out the neighborhood gossip, tell you which Starbucks makes the best lattes, and help you find the most traffic-free route to the elementary school.
Need a babysitter, a dog walker, a handyman, or a recommendation for the best Chinese restaurant in your new neighborhood? Nextdoor will help you find it.
Clean your carpets
A thorough cleaning of the home should have been done when the sellers were moving out. In some cases, its stipulated in the contract, and a seller who fails to live up to that aspect is "at risk for a lawsuit," said Realtor.com. But unless specific cleaning tasks are called out, the house may not be as spic-n-span as you want.
Even if the house looks clean and tidy when you move in, they may have skipped the carpets. A good cleaning can extend their life, improve air quality, and remove allergens.
"Little do most of us realize that what we are seeing is only a tiny fraction of the soil that a carpet contains," said the National Carpet Cleaners Association NCCA. "The visible grime we notice is only the tip of the iceberg; up to 85 per cent of the dirt the carpet holds is buried deep within the pile. And when you consider that a carpet can eventually trap its own weight or more in soil - as much as 150 pounds for an average-sized living-room - youll agree its no trivial matter."
Wipe out drawers and cabinets
This is another oft-ignored task, and one that could be responsible for leaving germs, or at least crumbs, behind.
Change your fire alarm batteries
The U.S.FireAdministration USFA recommends that fire alarm batteries get changed twice a year. Since you probably wont know when the last time this was done, its best to change them when you move in. That way you wont be awakened at 3am by a blaring alarm your third day in the house.
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A Marketing Program With Heart: A Revolution For Real Estate Agents
Become a Certified Agent with HeartTM and set yourself apart
Looking to differentiate yourself from the real estate competition? Who isnt There are thousands upon thousands of marketing ideas that exist for that very purpose. But what if your next great idea had a little more substance to it? Thats the concept behind PinRaises new charitable program for real estate agents, Certified Agent with HeartTM.
What is PinRaise and how does the program work?
PinRaise, the company that connects consumers with local businesses and nonprofits, announced its new Agent with HeartTM initiative.
Now, PinRaise is having an impact on real estate agents, turning them into rock stars in their local community. And all they have to do is donate a small portion of their commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice. Better yet, the real estate agent sets the amount they wish to give and has access the complete Agent with Heart marketing kit, including trademarked logos, digital assets, listing presentation inserts, social media materials, a press >
The benefits of giving back for real estate agents
The personal satisfaction of giving back is obviously the most important factor in any charitable exercise - especially considering the number of worthwhile charities and the fact that fundraising is typically the biggest challenge for organizations. But for real estate agents who want to give back, there are some important added benefits, like increased business opportunities, more and repeat clients, and enhanced name recognition and visibility with exposure through enhanced SEO on highly rated websites like Realty Times and PinRaise.
Agents who join the movement are also included in an exclusive agent "wall of fame on PinRaise.com and RealtyTimes.com for enhanced search engine optimization. It also provides homebuyers and sellers yet another way to find an Agent with Heart.
"Real estate professionals always want to be doing more selling and prospecting, but many dont realize they can do both of those things while giving back to the community," Robert Rosenthal, a spokesperson for VolunteerMatch, a San Francisco nonprofit that matches volunteers with charitable groups, said on Realtor.com.
For those who want to volunteer in person for an organization, VolunteerMatch is a great resource. One of the main advantages to a program like PinRaises Certified Agent with Heart is that it is a zero-time-commitment method of giving back.
For more information about how to give back with PinRaise, please visit the website, or search for partner merchants on the Merchants List page. You can also learn more about becoming a PinRaise Business with Heart here. If youre a nonprofit who would like to be involved with PinRaise, please visit the "For Nonprofits" page.
For more information about how to give back with PinRaise, please visit the website or apply to be a Business with Heart at www.PinRaise.com/Agents. Visit the "For Nonprofits" page for more information about charities.
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The Third Rule of Home Staging: Add a Splash Of Color
When it comes to staging a home for sale, the >
But many homeowners who already have colorful walls or furniture may wonder if its possible to keep some color in their staged home. The answer is absolutely yes. You can maintain - or even add - just a pop of color to create the right amount of personality and >
Throw pillows are easily found and often cost-efficient. On a sofa, theyre a terrific way to add a burst of color. Select throw pillows that complement the sofa and room. You might go for a bright contrast, like royal blue against white, or bright yellow on a beige sofa. Its all right to choose patterned, floral, solid or metallic versions. The key is to look for a color or combination of colors that will add visual interest without taking over the room.
Color-coordinating your display shelves is another smart and budget-friendly way to infuse your living room with a little color. When editing your bookcase or shelves, try keeping books of the same color or combinations of colors together. You might be surprised how a simple stack of brightly colored red or blue books can transform a shelf or an accent table.
If the thought of parting with that pair of brightly colored armchairs gives you trouble, rest assured that you might not have to let them go. Once youve given the room a neutral and soothing palette overall, try reinstating that colorful furniture piece or accessory. Perhaps balance it out with a paler counterpart, as with a light-colored throw on a chair, or white books on a colorful table.
The rule of thumb is that if its a visual distraction, you should remove it. But if your punchy piece complements the space and adds just the right amount of personality, it can stay. A buyer might remember the cool house with the interesting blue velvet ottoman, especially among a sea of all-white homes with nothing memorable about them.
Look to surfaces such as a countertop, an open shelf or a stovetop as opportunities to add a pop of color here and there in the kitchen. You dont want to introduce clutter, but you could replace necessary items teakettle, dish towel, cookie jar that are neutral with colorful equivalents that tastefully brighten the space.