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Updated: Friday, July 28, 2017


How to Help Your Parents Downsize and Declutter

When the child is the one charged with helping the parents downsize, these guidelines can smooth the process.

Many seniors eventually need to downsize to a smaller space, whether to a retirement community, a nursing facility or a room in a family members home. Often, the task of decluttering and packing falls to their children.

If youre the person faced with going through an aging parents belongings, it may be tempting to rent a storage unit and just pack it all away. However, that can be an expensive way to me>

1. Acknowledge the true magnitude of the task. Moving from a home filled with years of memories can be a very emotional process for your parents. Not only do they have to downsize the physical memories of perhaps as long as a lifetime, but moving may also summon unwanted reminders of their mortality.

For both parent and child, decluttering takes patience. And for the child especially, it can be difficult to stay motivated, since you wont directly reap the rewards of a tidier space. Further, your decluttering standards may be different than those of your parents. What you consider trash may be your parents treasures, and this can sometimes lead to friction. Its important, though, to involve your parents in the decision-making process rather than taking over completely. Soliciting their input and accommodating their desires is a way to show them you value their decisions and respect their belongings.

So before you get started, mentally prepare yourself for whats to come. Know that some items may be easy to declutter, such as clothing that doesnt fit. Others will take more time, patience and thought.

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2. Schedule bite-sized work sessions. Decluttering is time-consuming, and it can be tiring for aging parents. If time permits before the move, space out your sessions so you and your parents can maintain the energy to complete the entire house. I recommend no more than four hours at a time, and perhaps just two to three times per week. This schedule allows for a balance between making efficient use of your time and not exhausting your parents.

3. Understand your parents life>. Getting a snapshot of how your parents plan to live in their new home will help you narrow down what they keep - with the goal of retaining only what they actually love or need. Even if you think you understand their life>For example, if your parents typically launder their clothes once a week, then 10 to 14 sets of clothing for each season would be more than enough to last between washes. If they wont be entertaining at their new location, they may feel confident donating their punch bowls and tablecloths. If formal events are few and far between, then three to four comfortable formal outfits may suffice.

Photo by Tamsin Johnson - More sunroom ideas

Below are some questions you could use as a starting point for your discussion with your parents. You could even use their answers to guide a first pass at eliminating ir>

  • What type of clothing do you need“ Daily comfort wear“ Weekly church outfits“ Occasional formal outfits“
  • What is your current range of clothing sizes“ Is it OK to donate all clothing outside of this range“
  • To what extent will you be cooking and baking“
  • Will you be entertaining“ If so, what would be the maximum number of guests“
  • Which suitcases and bags are no longer practical for travel too large to manage, lacking wheels“
  • Will you want to decorate seasonally“
  • Which books do you still read and which music do you still listen to“

    4. Start with the least sentimental items. As with most things, practice makes perfect. My clients have found that the decision to keep, toss, sell or donate becomes easier the more you practice. Starting your decluttering process with the least sentimental items, such as linens and clothing, and working your way toward the most sentimental, such as photos and letters, can be a helpful way to ease into harder decision-making territory.

    5. Declutter by category rather than room. Separating your decluttering into categories is helpful in terms of keeping your parents - and yourself - motivated and focused. Its easier to make decisions when items are grouped, as this helps you see all at once how many belongings youre dealing with. Also, you can all feel a sense of accomplishment with the completion of each category. I recommend separating items into the smallest categories possible. For example, instead of creating a category of tops, separate the items further into short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters. Accessories can be separated into belts, hats, scarves and handbags.

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    6. Keep only sentimental items that will be displayed. Many of my clients have a hard time parting with sentimental memorabilia. But the truth is, some of these items have been buried in their houses for decades. I usually encourage them to keep only the items theyll have out. After all, memorabilia cant be enjoyed while hidden away, and disposing of the items doesnt diminish the memories associated with them.

    One possible way to ease the permanence of losing sentimental items is to take photographs of them. However, I dont recommend this in cases where the photograph cant be filed away immediately, whether in a digital album or a physical scrapbook. If there is no defined location for the photograph, whether digital or physical, then it becomes clutter. Also, if its likely that looking at these photographs will bring on feelings of regret for your parents, I also dont recommend this method.

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    7. Take charge of your childhood items. If your parents have saved all of your childhood memorabilia, they may be willing to turn those items over to you for sorting through. This can be quite helpful for parents who are overwhelmed with culling their own possessions. Now is also the time to remove any of your adult possessions that have been stored in their house.

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    8. Remove unwanted items from the property. You havent truly finished decluttering until all the unwanted items are no longer in your parents house. Consider ordering a dumpster for trash, scheduling a charitable organization to pick up donations and selling items at a consignment store or online. Although it would be wonderful to earn money by selling some items, if you dont have time to list them or your items dont sell quickly, permit yourself to donate instead. Its important to keep unwanted possessions moving as you continue the decluttering process, as storing them in the house may hinder progress.

    Photo by Sarah Greenman - Look for home design design inspiration

    9. Treasure this quality time with your parents. Decluttering is undoubtedly hard work, and tensions often arise amid differing viewpoints. So try to adjust your perspective when these moments inevitably come. Instead of viewing the task as a chore, consider it a special time spent with your parents. You may even hear some priceless stories about their youth and your childhood - especially if you maintain a patient attitude, and if you take the time to ask.

    Also See:

    • Pick Up a Clothing Rack to Organize Their Garments
    • Clean Out and Sort Through Storage Cabinets
    • Consult a Professional Organizer For More Help


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    7 Reasons To Stop Renting Today

    Still renting“ You must have a good reason. Although, were not really sure what it is. With rents continuing to rise across the country, interest rates staying around historic levels, and new loans lowering down payment requirements, it just makes sense to take the leap to homeownership. Maybe youve got terrible credit and dont want to take the time to improve it or dont know about loans that accept lower scores“ Or, maybe you just like giving your money away. If youre still not on board, these 7 reasons might change your mind.

    Because owning a home is still less expensive than renting across the country

    GOBankingRates annual survey of "the cost of renting versus owning a home in all 50 states and the District of Columbia" just came out, and, while they "found that the number of places where its more expensive to own than rent has increased," the number went from 9 to 11. That means that, in 39 states, it still makes more financial sense to buy.

    Rates are near historic lows

    Were spoiled. Seriously. Anyone who has been paying attention to the market over the last few years and has seen interest rates with a 3 or 4 before that decimal point may just think itll always be that way. But history has a way of repeating itself, and while we may not see rates in the teens again anytime soon, most industry experts have been predicting rates moving into the 5s sometime this year, with a pattern of rising rates beyond. Buying a home while money is cheap is a smart move.

    "A difference of even 1 percent can have a major impact on your total payments over time," said ZACKS. "For instance, a 200,000 mortgage for 30 years at an interest rate of 5 percent would require a monthly payment of 1,073.64. By comparison, the same mortgage at 4 percent interest would result in a payment of 954.83." That might not seem like a big deal every month, but, consider the long-term potential: "Over 30 years, the total difference between the two would be 42,771.60."

    FHA loans and the like make it easier to qualify

    Dont have an 800 credit score“ You dont need to today. FHA requirements are lower than conventional loans, and you may already be where you need to be to qualify. "The average FICO score for buyers who finance FHA loans is 683, according to Ellie Mae. Thats considerably lower than the average score of 753 for conventional, non-FHA financing," said Interest.com. "Most lenders have a...minimum of 600."

    A little thing called equity

    Rising rents may or may not equate to rising property values in your area, but either way, youre not going see any financial benefit from it. When you own your home and your equity rises, that equity is yours. And so is the choice of what to do with it. Whether you decide to let it sit and continue to grow or tap your equity for home improvement projects, the money is yours to decide how to use.


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    The days of the 20 percent down payment are all but gone

    Does 20 percent down make it more likely that youll qualify for a loan“ Sure. Does that mean you have to come up with that huge chunk of money“ No. Nor do you have to come up with 10 percent down, which, for some reason, the majority of new buyers seem to believe. "87 offirst-time buyers think they need 10 or more down to buy a home," said The Mortgage Reports.

    TheFHA loanis one of the most popular loans available to first-time buyers because, not only can you qualify with a fair credit score, but the down payment is as low as 3.5 percent, and, "100 percent of the down payment can be a financial gift from a >Rents keep rising

    Unless youre in a rent-controlled apartment and, bless you if you are since there are so few left, your rent is just going to keep going up every year. Apartment Lists monthly NationalApartment ListRent Report shows that, "Our national rent index is continuing to climb, with month-over-month growth of 0.5 percent for June. Rents grew at a rate of 0.5 percent between May and June,which is generally in line with the monthly growth that weve seen over the course of this year thus far. Year-over-year growth at the national level currently stands at 2.9 percent, surpassingthe 2.6 percent rate from this time last year.In addition to the growth on the national level, rents are now increasing in nearly all of the nations biggest markets."

    When you own your home, your payment is your payment is your payment. Unless you take out a home equity loan or refinance to take cash out, your payments not going to go up.

    Tax breaks

    Heres another bit of fun for renters: nothing you pay comes back to you. I mean, except for that security deposit, but that all depends on what effect your dog and those few parties you threw had on the condition of the home. As a homeowner, you get to write off all kinds of stuff, which lowers your overall costs. "Your biggest tax break is reflected in the house payment you make each month since, for most homeowners, the bulk of that check goes toward interest. And all that interest is deductible," said Bankrate. "Did you pay points to get a better rate on any of your various home loans“ They offer a tax break, too.The other major deduction in connection with your home is property taxes."

    And think about it this way: Even if your house payment is going to be a little bit higher than what youre currently paying in rent, its not an apples-to-apples comparison. How do those numbers look when you calculate the tax savings“


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    5 Ways Telecommuters Can Reduce Household Energy Use

    As someone whos devoted to reducing their homersquo;s carbon footprint, youre likely already adhering to some of more common suggestions. Case in point: You turn off the lights when you leave a room. Youve purchased blackout window shades. And youve made sure not to set the A/C too high during those hot, summer months.

    While you may want to boost your energy savings even more, as a telecommuter, some of the >

    1. Run Sleep Mode on Your Computer

    Your computer features a number of power modes to save you money on your energy bill. As House Logic notes, these include active/on, active standby and passive standby/off modes. Set up your computer to automatically go into one of these low-consumption modes when youre away from your home office for extended time periods.

    For example, this feature would bode well for your computer mdash; and monthly utility bill mdash; when you take a phone call with a client or go on lunch break. When you return to your desk, your computer will immediately power up and be ready for use. Then, at the end of the workday, completely shut off your computer. This approach can save you between 25 and 75 annually per computer.

    2. Use a Single Backup Server

    If you have multiple servers in your home, you can easily decrease your energy consumption by switching to one central server. To protect your computers mdash; and all your important work mdash; back up everything on the server through a cloud-based service provider like Mozy.

    Mozyrsquo;s user-friendly, energy-efficient software allows you to decide when to perform any backups and which specific files you want protected. Many utility companies charge less if you use a bulk of electricity at certain times of the day; if this is the case for you, schedule your backups to run when rates are at their lowest.

    3. Consider Switching to a Laptop

    Laptops offer more than easy portability and user-friendly designs mdash; theyre also much more energy efficient than their desktop counterparts. As Homeselfe.com notes, laptops use up to 80 percent less power than desktops. So, if youre in the market for a new computer, investing in a laptop will help save you money on your electric bills.

    4. Invest in a Power Strip for Easy On/Off Savings

    Your computer, printer and other home office electronics continue to use energy, even when theyre turned off. Solve this issue by plugging all your electronics into a power strip instead of an outlet. As a bonus, you wonrsquo;t have to go around turning off multiple machines at the end of the day. Instead, simply flip on the switch to your power strip and immediately start saving money.

    5. Think Before You Print

    While you might be accustomed to printing your invoices, important emails from the boss and other documents, cutting back on this practice will save energy, along with protecting trees. Store your invoices and work->


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    Critiquing The 15-Year Home Loan

    Question. I bought my first home in the early 2000s when interest rates were much higher then now, and got a fixed, 30 year loan for 6.25 percent. This is a small condominium unit. I am 50 years old and will need to work at least 15 years to be eligible for retirement.

    For some time I have been wondering if I should consider getting a 15-year mortgage, as I do not want to be burdened with a mortgage in addition to condominium fees.

    Assessing how and when to consider such a change is confusing to me. I would appreciate your advice on the advantages and disadvantages of the 15-year mortgage compared with the 30-year mortgage.

    Answer. You have asked two very important questions. One deals with comparison between a 30-year loan and a 15-year loan, but the second one -- equally important -- goes to the question of when and whether to refinance.

    Lets take the refinancing question first. You indicate that you have an 6.25 percent loan. To switch to either a 15-year or 30-year new loan means you will have to refinance. Before you even consider switching mortgage loans, go out and take a look at the interest rates in the marketplace.

    Interest rates are about as low as anyone can remember. It certainly would make sense for you to shed the 6.25 percent loan and get a new loan for a rate that might be as low as 4 percent.

    But do not forget that you will have to pay closing costs for your new mortgage, although some lenders currently advertise "no closing costs". Be ware of getting anything for free; always shop around.

    Thus, under current market conditions, I believe you should seriously consider refinancing. The general rule of thumb used to be that until rates come down at least two full percentage points below your current mortgage, it does not make sense to refinance. This rule of thumb is, in my opinion, no longer applicable. When you do the numbers, you will see a dramatic saving to you -- even if you take into consideration all of the closing costs associated with a refinance loan.

    You also asked about the advantages and disadvantages of a 15-year loan compared with a 30-year loan.

    I must state at the outset I am biased against the 15-year loan. While there have been many commentators who have praised what they perceived to be the benefits of a 15-year mortgage, in my opinion, such a mortgage ra>Lets look at some examples. Consider a 300,000 loan to be amortized on a 30-year basis compared with a 15-year basis. While there are lenders who will give you a lower interest rate if you take a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year loan, for comparison purposes, let us assume the 30 year rate will be 4 percent while the 15 year rate will be 3.5 percent.

    To amortize the loan over 15 years, your monthly payment of principal and interest is 214.5. On a 30-year basis, the principal and interest is 143.40 There is a 71 cash savings per month on a 30-year loan. On a yearly basis, this is a savings to you of 853.20.

    Keep in mind that the interest deductions for tax purposes will, by and large, be the same for the first few years, but as your principal balance goes down faster with the 15-year amortization, accordingly your interest payments will also be smaller.

    While no one can guarantee at this early stage in the Trump Administration what Congress will do with taxes, it seems fairly clear that the Federal Reserve Board will in fact raise the tax rate. This means that the home mortgage deduction will also be higher, thereby giving you additional benefits for a 30-year loan.

    Thus, the major benefit of the 15-year loan is that you will save a lot of interest over the life of your mortgage. Additionally, you are also putting more dollars toward principal, thereby reducing your mortgage balance and building up your equity.

    Equity is the difference between the market value of your house and the mortgage or mortgages that you owe. In good real estate market conditions, property values increase on a yearly basis as much as 10 to 15 percent. Even in bad times, we all hope that property values will at least keep up with inflation, although obviously there will be dips and decreases in the market values on a periodic basis.

    But assuming we anticipate growth over the next decade, the equity in your house will grow regardless of the amount of your mortgage. This equity is "dead equity" and, in my opinion, you might as well be taking that extra money and burying it in your backyard. In effect, this is my analogy of the 15-year mortgage.

    I would rather take the extra money I pay each year and invest it somewhere. I could put it in a pension plan, I could invest it in the stock market, I could give it to my children or I could spend it on a vacation with my family.

    After all, what will you do with your house 15 years from now when your mortgage is paid in full“ I know of too many people who are currently house rich and cash poor. When you are in retirement, you may not keep that condominium unit, or if you do, you want to make sure you also have some sort of nest egg to be able to enjoy your retirement years. If you have put all of your money into your house, and then you retire, you may not be in the financial position to tap into that equity at that later date.

    Accordingly, in my opinion, take the extra money you pay a year and invest it in a conservative, long-term investment for the next 15 years. Even without any computation for interest, this will grow in the next 15 years. That will be the start of this important nest egg for the rainy day.

    There is one other important consideration that should be addressed. Generally speaking, most mortgage loans do not contain a prepayment penalty. This means you can pay your loan -- in whole or in part -- as you see fit, and when you make that decision. If you take a 30-year loan, you always have the right -- but not the obligation -- to make additional payments each and every month so as to reduce your principal balance. Indeed, if you want, you could make a 214.50 payment each month the amount of a 15 year loan and use it to reduce your mortgage, if you have no other investment opportunities.

    But the 15-year loan obligates you legally to make the higher monthly payment.

    In my opinion, you get the benefits -- but not the detriments -- of the 15-year loan by opting to refinance on a 30-year basis. Some day in the future savings accounts may be paying a higher rate of return. You may want to consider investing that extra money in a savings account, rather than being obligated, each and every month, to make the 15-year monthly mortgage payments.

    However, the advice I give is obviously general. You are advised to discuss your specific needs, plans and tax considerations with your own advisers.


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    Real Estate Professional Dana Roberts Makes Donation to Childs Play on Behalf of Her Clients Through the Agent with Heart Program

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential in Irvine, California, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Childs Play on behalf of her clients, Adam Hart and Courtney Knapp.

    "Having Dana Roberts as a partner in giving back within our Agent with Heart Program is something we truly cherish," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "Our program was created to connect local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the hope of aiding in the growth of local communities, and Danas generosity makes that possible," continues Mr. Giaimo.

    "Giving back is second nature to Dana, and that is a noble quality that all of us a PinRaise greatly admire and appreciate. Thank you, Dana, for being a driving force within the Agent with Heart Program and for being so dedicated to giving back," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Dana Roberts who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit her website at www.DanaRobertsRealEstate.com.


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    Canadian Housing Policies Could Hurt Economy, Analysts Warn

    Recently the provincial government in Ontario and Canadas federal government implemented housing policies designed to slow down the housing market in the Greater Toronto Area and put the brakes on climbing levels of household debt. The measures have worked, at least in the short term, as the real estate market in Toronto took a breather.

    But a proposal by the federal regulator of financial institutions would require that anyone applying for a mortgage would have to pass a "stress test" of 200 basis points over their qualifying rate before they could be approved. Currently this rule applies only to those who apply for insured mortgages with a down payment of less than 20 per cent. Critics say this is an over-reaction and could put the countrys economy in jeopardy.

    Despite record levels of household debt in Canada, most people are handling it well, particularly those who have a mortgage. The Canadian Bankers Association says the percentage of mortgages that were in arrears as of April 30 of this year was 0.26 per cent.

    Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. CMHC reports that in the fourth quarter of last year, there was a drop in the delinquency rate for all types of loans. "The average credit scores of mortgage holders improved in the fourth quarter, in addition to a decrease in their likelihood of bankruptcy," says the CMHC report. "In contrast, consumers without a mortgage continued to follow a declining trend in their average credit scores beginning in 2015, as well as an increasing likelihood of bankruptcy."

    The agency says the number of mortgages that are 60 to 90 days past due dropped, which "bodes well for the next quarters as fewer loans are showing early signs of difficulty."

    A recent report says, "Canadians are regularly inundated with news stories about policy concerns over household debt. These concerns, however, can be seen to be overblown once we properly account for the other side of the balance sheet."

    The report, by Livio Di Matteo, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., says, "Debt is a tool and the concern should not be with debt itself but debt that is not manageable in the economic circumstances facing households and government. The greatest risk to the management of household credit-market debt are economic shocks that lead to job losses that make debt servicing difficult, or increases in the interest rate that raise debt-servicing costs. To date, interest rates have remained low and the Canadian economy has performed adequately, with >The Bank of Canada recently raised interest rates for the first time in seven years. More small increases are expected.

    "It is quite possible that interest rates will increase to some degree over the coming years, but it seems unlikely that interest rates will increase to the level assumed by the stress test," says Will Dunning, an economist with Mortgage Professionals Canada, a mortgage brokers association. "On the other hand, if the stress test policy works as intended and reduces homebuying, it would weaken the Canadian economy."

    Dunning says most people would be able to cope with an increase in mortgage rates by extending the amortization periods of their loans. "It would take them longer than hoped-for to repay their mortgages, but at least they could stay in their homes, and continue to retire their mortgages. Meanwhile, they will have been able to meet their own housing needs. On the other hand, if the stress test does achieve its intended consequences, it will unnecessarily prevent them from meeting their own legitimate needs at costs that they can afford," Dunning says.

    "The bottom line is obvious. The government should not be pursuing a policy which, if it works as intended, will impair the Canadian economy."

    If government policies result in a decline in house prices, he says the entire country would be impacted, not just Toronto and Vancouver.

    "The initial negative effects would emerge in communities that are already weak economically and have weak housing markets, and their reductions in spending would spread their pain across the country. The housing market data we have now hints that this initial, localized pain may be present in some areas of the country."

    Another economist urging caution is Benjamin Tal of CIBC Economics. He says higher interest rates are "unlikely to lead to a surge in default" but they will slow the pace of mortgage originations.

    "The proposed changes to apply a 200-basis point increase to the qualifying rate of the non-insured mortgage segment of the market could be more significant," Tal says. "We estimate that such a move, if implemented, could cut growth in mortgage outstanding by two percentage points from the current six per cent annual growth. Add to it the possibility of a reduced average size of mortgage due to lower house prices and its not unreasonable to assume that within a year or two mortgage growth in Canada would be half of what it is now."

    Tal says, "Too severe rate-induced slowing in consumer spending and real estate activity could be recessionary and eventually turn the growth story into a credit quality story."

    Di Matteo says that "despite the high levels of household debt, there are also record high levels of net worth," much of it in real estate. He says that could be a concern if theres a significant housing correction, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto where house prices have soared in recent years.

    A decision on whether the new stress test guidelines will go ahead is expected late in 2017.


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    Real Estate Recovery Account Is Useful, Though Limited

    Many people have learned that it is one thing to go to court and obtain a judgement against someone; to collect is quite another matter. The legislature and the Bureau of Real Estate BRE know this too, and that is why the Recovery Account, often referred to as the "recovery fund", was established.

    The BRE states it this way: "The Recovery Account is a fund of last resort for a member of the public who has obtained a final judgment against a real estate licensee based on fraud or certain other grounds and who has been unable to satisfy the judgment through the normal post-judgment proceedings."

    A variety of requirements must be met in order to have a valid claim against the Recovery Account. They are set forth in the Business and Professions Code Section 10470 and following.

    1 A final judgment must already have been obtained, either in court or through an approved arbitration procedure. That is, one does not go to the account in order to argue the merits of the case itself.

    2 The claimant must already have pursued collection efforts against the judgment debtor, and, in situations where it is appropriate, against "all other persons liable to the claimant in the transaction that is the basis for the underlying judgment." One does not obtain the judgment and then proceed directly to the Recovery Account.

    3 The judgment debtor must have been a real estate licensee at the time the underlying transaction occurred. Although this requirement seems simple enough, it has sometimes been an occasion for dismay. For example, suppose the judgment debtors license had been expired at the time of the transaction, or that the person never had a license in the first place -- that he was an imposter -- the Recovery Fund could not pay on the claim.

    4 The judgment debtor must have been performing acts for which a real estate license was required. The judgment must have been based on a real estate transaction. You couldnt go to the Recovery Fund because a real estate licensee had stolen your car.

    5 Not only must the acts have been >

    By todays standards the Recovery Account is not a very deep pocket. The code sets forth a limit of 50,000 payment for any one transaction, and 250,000 for the total of claims against any one licensee.

    Funding for the Recovery Account is derived from real estate license fees. If the account drops below 200,000 the commissioner is authorized to add seven dollars onto every brokers license fee, and four dollars to that of each salesperson. The real estate commissioner is also authorized to transfer funds from the general real estate fund into the account as deemed necessary.

    The overwhelming majority of real estate Recovery count cases have to do with mortgage fraud and conversion of trust funds. As we have seen, the application of Recovery Account funds is strictly limited. It doesnt solve all the problems, but it has provided a lot of help over the years. Since its inception in 1964, the Recovery Account has paid out in excess of 50 million to claimants.

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


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    Real Estate Professional Michelle Ratajczak Makes Generous Donation to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund on Behalf of Her Clients

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Michelle Ratajczak of All/Pros in Virginia Beach, Virginia recently closed a transaction and made a donation to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund on behalf of her clients, Erick and Stacy Sweimler.

    "We are so appreciative of Michelles continued generosity within our Agent with Heart Program," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program aims to connect local real estate professionals to nonprofits in the community with the goal of assisting in the growth of communities nation-wide.

    "Thanks to Agents with Heart like Michelle, we are able to assist nonprofits local to the communities of our agents, like the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. We thank Michelle for her participation, and look forward to seeing how her donations will continue to impact her community, and the communities of her clients, in the future," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Michelle Ratajczak who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Michelle Ratajczak, please call 757-472-0944 or visit her website at www.ahomeforgood.com.


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    Curb Appeal Problems And Easy Ways To Fix Them

    Just how important is curb appeal“ Real estate industry legend Barbara Corcoran has said, "Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if theyre interested in buying it." What are buyers going to see in the first eight seconds after driving up to your place“

    If youve walked around the perimeter of your house recently, youve probably seen at least a couple of issues that need to be addressed before you sell. And your plan probably depends on how much time you have available. If youre listing your house today and expect immediate interest, you may have to pick from a few quick tips to get it in the best shape you can. Have a little more time“ You can make a real impact in improving the curb appeal so potential buyers will drive up and want to see more.

    Everything just looks a little shabby

    It may be time to bite the bullet and repaint the house, or, at least, address some peeling trim. If your windows, walkways, and ornamental details are looking drab, a power washer can help transform the area easily and inexpensively. This is a >Your open house is today and your yard is looking pretty boring

    You may not have time to do any new plantings, but that doesnt mean you cant make the yard look tidy and pretty. Fresh flowers in pots placed near your front door will bring the eye up from the street to your entry and give the impression that your home and your yard is well cared for. Add a new welcome mat to finish the look.

    Your front door is janky

    If youre looking at making a few smart updates before listing your home, dont ignore your front door. A new door can return between 75100 percent of your investment, and its a >


    pinterest.com

    You have a last-minute showing and the landscaper hasnt done his thing in the yard yet

    Get in the car, drive to Lowes, and pack up the trunk with mulch. Its one of the easiest ways to transform your yard and make it look fresh and neat. Lawn and bushes a little overgrown“ Nextdoor is a great resource for finding last-minute landscape help or, in a pinch, a neighborhood kid with some developing gardening skills and a need for pocket cash.


    K-State

    Leaves. Everywhere

    Get out the hose and spray those suckers away from sidewalks and walkways. Even if the hardscape is wet when the prospective buyers arrive, the area will look nice and clean. Now corral everyone in the house for some fire drill leave-bagging fun. An abundance of leaves in the yard can be a turnoff to those looking to buy as it may make them think the home is unkempt or that the yard is hard to take care of.

    Your mailbox iswow. How did you never notice that“

    If its old, worn, rusty, or has just seen better days, buyers will notice. This seemingly little thing can make them question the quality of your home. Thankfully, its an easy fix that you can do yourself for almost no money. "It doesnt matter if you have a regular mailbox by the road or if you have a box mounted to your house, adding a new mailbox can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around 20," said DIY Network. "When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. If you have a simple mailbox mounted on your house, this home improvement project should take less than an hour to complete. If you have a full-size mailbox at the road, plan for at least two hours or so to complete the project."


    Full Story >


    Cant Sleep? Why Your House Might Be To Blame And What You Can Do About It

    Not being able to get sufficient sleep isnt just annoying. Beyond making you grouchy and causing you to yawn all day, it can threaten your immune system, impact your memory, and injure your back. There are a number of potential reasons for your sleeping issues, but your house probably isnt helping. With a few fixes, you may be sleeping soundly in no time.

    Clean your house

    What“ Yes, it turns out cleaning can have a positive impact on your sleep patterns. Not only will it make you tired with all that physical activity, but a messy house can give you anxiety, and anxiety can cause insomnia.

    "Women who described their homes as lsquo;cluttered or full of lsquo;unfinished projects were more depressed, fatigued, and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than women who felt their homes were lsquo;restful and lsquo;restorative,nbsp;according to a studynbsp;in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin," said Shape.

    Darken the room

    That streetlight on the corner that allows light to shine through your windows isnt doing you any favors when it comes to your slumber. "A darker room when trying to sleep is important for everyone,nbsp;especially shift workers and younger children," said Victor Shade. "For shift workers, especially if you work nights or irregular schedules, having the ability to control the amount of light coming into the home will help you get to sleep easier and prevent health issues like insomnia."

    But, for anyone with trouble getting to sleep, the right window coverings can make a big difference. Try changing them out tonbsp;rollernbsp;shades,nbsp;roman shades, ornbsp;honeycomb shades, or get blackout drapes that can block any sign of light when its bedtime.

    The right noise

    Youve probably heard of white noise, but pink noise might be even better in helping you sleep.

    "A small new study published innbsp;Frontiers in Human Neurosciencenbsp;suggests that one easy way for older adults to get deeper sleep and stronger memories is to listen to a certain soothing sound called lsquo;pink noisemdash;a mix of high and low frequencies that sounds more balanced and natural than its better-known cousin, lsquo;white noise," said TIME. "It may sound strange, but previous studies have found that playing so-called pink noise during sleep improves the memory of younger adults," too.


    Lowes

    Turn the temp down

    Want to get to sleep easier and doze all night long“ It may be as easy as turning your thermostat down. "Dr. Christopher Winter, Medical Director at Charlottesville Neurology amp; Sleep Medicine, told simplemost that, "Your bedroom should be between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. Temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees can disrupt sleep. Over a 24-hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping keep your body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep."

    Another benefit: "Its been shown that sleeping in temperaturesnbsp;between 60-68nbsp;degreesnbsp;will allow your body to >

    Control the stink

    Dirty clothes in the corner, animal scents on the bed - theyre just the realities of everyday life. And they may be, quite literally, keeping you up at night. Bring in a known >

    Change the layout

    Are you paying any attention to the principles of Feng Shui“ There are said to be 33 ways this practice can help you sleep, from choosing the right location for your bedroom to the placement of your bed," said Feng Shui nexus.


    marksonchiropractic.com

    Get a new mattress

    If your mattress is just not comfortable, youre having trouble getting to sleep, are tossing and turning during the night, and/or are waking up with a sore back on a regular basis, it may be time to go shopping Experts recommend getting a new mattress every six to eight years. Keep in mind that many newer mattresses only have a pillowtop on one side, making them unflippable, but if your existing mattress is flat on both sides and or has pillowtop and bottom, flipping it every three months, as recommended, will help keep it in its best shape, which can help you sleep better.

    Think about the 5,000 pounds of dead skin and bugs in your mattress

    OK, maybe not quite that much. But the longer youve had your mattress, the more gross stuff is building up in it. "Old mattresses are filled with bed bugs and dust mites. These microscopic creatures eat the dead cells your body sheds. The process sounds gross, and it is," said ELITE DAILY.

    Sorry to get so graphic about dust mites, but, "Your bed is Disneyland for those little critters," said Apartment Therapy. And, the allergies they can cause may be the reason youre having trouble sleeping. If youre still not ready to get a new bed, there are fixes to help keep the bugs at bay. "Vacuum your room with a HEPA filter and clean your bedding as often as you can - including your pillows, which you can throw in the dryer for 15 minutes to kill off any existing bugs," they said. "Instead of scented detergent, use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your laundry. Put hypoallergenic protective covers on your mattress and pillows."

    Get new bedding

    While youre examining your mattress, dont overlook your bedding. If nothing else has helped your insomnia, the Gravity blanket might do the trick," said Elle Deacute;cor. This blanket is weighted and "simulates the feeling of being hugged. The pressure in the blanket is evenly distributed to target specific pressure points throughout your body thatnbsp;have been shownnbsp;to help >


    Full Story >


    Real Estate Professional Fran Bakst Makes Her Agent with Heart Donation Debut with a Donation to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance Inspires Client to Give Back, Too

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Fran Bakst of Realty ONE Group in Mission Viejo, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance on behalf of her client, Oscar Oo.

    "Fran Bakst is a recent agent to join our program and has already turned around her first donation Realtors like Fran, who are dedicated to giving back, are precisely why our program was created," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program connects local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the goal of being able to aid in the growth of communities nation-wide.

    "On top of Frans generous donation, her giving spirit inspired her client to also make a separate donation on behalf of someone close to him This circle of giving is what we hope to inspire through our Agent with Heart Program, and we are very proud to include Fran amongst our agents who are assisting in doing that," continues Mr. Giaimo. "We look forward to seeing how Frans generosity will continue to assist her community, and the communities of her clients, going forward."

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Fran Bakst who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Fran Bakst, please call 949-923-0334or visit her website at www.FranBakst.com.


    Full Story >


    Real Estate Professional Kristina Vanderpool Makes Her Agent with Heart Donation Debut

    PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Kristina Vanderpool of Century 21 Fairway in Apple Valley, California recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Hope for Paws on behalf of her client, Kellie Farris.

    "Kristina Vanderpool is a new agent to our program, and we are very proud to see that she is already taking off with her first donation," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. The Agent with Heart Program connects local realtors to nonprofits within the community with the goal of being able to aid in the growth of communities nation-wide.

    "We are looking forward to seeing how Kirstinas dedication to giving back will positively impact her local community," continues Mr. Giaimo. "Id like to personally thank Kristina for her generosity and for being a partner in Agent with Heart Program. I know that, together, we will be able to do great things in the Apple Valley and surrounding communities," concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Kristina Vanderpool who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit http://www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Kristina Vanderpool, please call 760-617-8026.


    Full Story >


    How Technology is Changing the Way Real Estate Leaders do Business

    In recent years, real estate developers, builders, and brokerages have been faced with rapidly changing social, demographic, and technology realities, and all of which have had an enormous impact on how the real estate industry markets and sells both listings and new developments.

    The combination of changes in technology and the speed of social media have meant organizations must quickly adapt to an online and mobile world, ready to meet client expectations for the delivery of multimedia property information, while still retaining an informed and engaged sales staff with strong client >The ever-evolving market is creating opportunities unlike any weve seen in the past. Real estate organizations that plan on staying ahead of their competition will quickly adopt digital technologies, enabling them to reach more prospects, close more deals faster, and gather more >As technology and competition in the global real estate market come together in real time, real estate organizations need more enhanced tools to manage and grow their business, without adding significant complexity and/or cost. Organizations traditionally have a website, and CRM tools; however there is a big gap in-between, which means its likely that the marketing and sales teams are not properly equipped to meet todays digital display property information challenges, all of which are designed to engage clients and capture leads.

    The industry needs the ability to bring this together, so agents are able to share and follow properties, find and connect with other agents across multiple languages, in a manner that is both easy and accessible. The solution does exist and it is called a collaborative real estate sales platform.

    Here, real estate companies can automate and enhance their marketing and sales processes, improve the creation, control and distribution of property information, accelerate the sales cycle, and track results in real time.

    Proxios Collaborative Real Estate Sales Platform is an enterprise-wide solution producing consumer-facing marketing for every property in inventory, and then leveraging a collaboration model, by enabling agents to "follow" and "share" these listings, and connect with each other via a LinkedIn-type model. The marketing is branded so leads come back to them, thus creating a motivated virtual, global team that promotes listings and properties, while providing new opportunities for connected agents.

    Real Estate is a traditionally non-techie field. As a result, Proxio was designed to reside in the cloud so organizations dont have to worry about additional technology to run the platform. It provides valuable feedback by tracking and revealing the activity of both agents and consumers, as they engage with and share inventory. It is genuinely user-friendly from all perspectives.

    For example, Coldwell Bankers new luxury brand, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, recently adopted Proxios Collaborative Sales and Marketing Platform as its underlying technology for its 8,000 luxury agents around the world. Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, which was recently introduced to the public this past April, encompasses 8,000 agents, representing 12,000 exceptional listings globally.

    Agents connected to the platform now have the ability to leverage their client networks to find buyers for distinctive properties in some truly amazing places. Agents listings are shared and promoted by this large, vibrant network of talented luxury agents from all over the world. In a space that is traditionally more local than global, the way we do business has truly changed -- for the better.

    Succinctly put, traditional sales processes in real estate havent kept up with the speed of business or the speed of the enterprise. Digital presentations and extensive visuals have become the new norm, while global has become the new local. Real estate developers, builders, and brokers can finally take advantage of the technological advances that could not be utilized in the past. Going 100 digital means more control and lower costs; while multi-lingual capabilities increase reach and maintaining a collaboration model, which delivers more qualified leads in real time. In todays world, where everything is changing so quickly around us, its reassuring to know there are solutions enabling both the real estate enterprise and the real estate leaders to stay ahead of the market, rather than be left behind.

    About The Author: Janet Case lives and breathes the real estate industry. Before founding Proxio, Janet was CEO of two of the largest Associations of Realtorsreg; in the U.S. simultaneously providing services to over 7500 agents in hundreds of brokerages; she also ran an online real estate forms company and participated in the governance of Silicon Valleys MLS. Today Janet is a recognized speaker at industry conferences and real estate associations on the topic of internationalizing real estate practices and building professional referral networks. Janet previously held senior management roles in Fortune 500 companies Varian Associates and Tencor Instruments, where her responsibilities included international marketing for Europe, Asia and North and South America, and launching new products worldwide. Janet holds a BA in Economics from the University of Maine and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.


    Full Story >


    Nathan Grace Real Estate Is Hosting An Open House Extravagaza You Dont Want To Miss

    Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex: Nathan Grace Real Estate, a boutique real estate company dedicated to the client, community and industry, is blowing the top off the traditional open house format with a massive 22-home open house extravaganza on Sunday, July 23rd from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

    Prospective buyers will be welcomed to these beautiful homes sprinkled across Dallas and surrounding communities with custom balloons, delicious treats and a chance to win prizes to favorite local restaurants - the more you visit, the more opportunities you have to win

    Nathan Grace Real Estate prides itself on thinking outside of the box and like to say they "We are not your mommas real estate company, but shed be so proud". This not-to-be-missed event is just one example of these principles in action, so if youre looking for properties in the area, plan to visit as many of these homes as you are able, they are stunning

    Watch the video below for a preview of the homes, including addresses, and listing agents:


    Full Story >


    8 Aerial Views of Popular American Housing Patterns

    Even before Google allowed anybody with an Internet connection to see a satellite view of anyplace on the globe, I loved looking at books with aerial photography. A few favorites that focus on natural and human-made landscapes of the United States are Alex S. MacLeans Designs on the Land: Exploring American from the Air, Dolores Haydens and photographer Jim Warks A Field Guide to Sprawl and Alan Bergers Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America.

    Flipping through these books again recently prompted me to look at Americas housing patterns in Google Maps, particularly places for which high-resolution, 45-degree aerial imagery is available. The collected views reveal the diversity of the countrys suburban housing in terms of scale and form, but also that much of it is what MacLean describes as "monotonous, sterile, inefficient and pedestrian unfriendly. It is missing a larger plan that goes beyond the responses to market forces, finances and restrictive regulations."

    But all hope is not lost, as well see. So come along on a trip over America, taking in the good and the bad, the normal and the weird. All the views are at the same scale a little less than 1/2 mile across.

    Suburbia. The suburbs in the United States take many forms, having evolved, like cities, over time from the 19th century to today. This image of Katy, Texas, near Houston is of the type that often comes to mind when we think of the suburbs. It is actually a layout that is fairly indicative of developments in the 1960s and 70s. Instead of following a grid, like earlier suburbs did, the streets are curved. But unlike later suburbs, where the cul-de-sac predominates, the streets are interconnected and have only the occasional cul-de-sac.

    nbsp;

    Suburban-urban grid. As cities grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they tended to follow the grid that Thomas Jefferson laid down in the 18th century. This view of Buffalo, New York, illustrates the adherence to the grid as well as >

    nbsp;

    Fairway housing. This view of Bend, Oregon, is fairly typical of suburban houses bordering golf courses. Their fronts face the streets that serve them, while the backs face the fairways and greens of the golf holes. Developments with houses and golf courses are now fairly common. The design of the streets, houses and golf courses have to work together, even though each has its own needs. As I pointed out in an article on walkability, golf course developments are extremely car dependent, given that it is necessary to drive a great distance to get to retail, commercial and other services.

    nbsp;

    Multifamily island. In the middle of this aerial shot of Bloomington, Indiana, is a multifamily housing development made up of about a dozen apartment buildings. Typical of much of the suburban landscape, the development is segregated from everything that surrounds it, such as the retail on the left. Residents must drive to it via one of two access roads. Note the recreation center with a pool that serves the apartment buildings, as well as the enormous amount of surface parking.

    nbsp;

    Greenfield housing. One of the most criticized aspects of sprawl is how land previously used for forests and agriculture is developed for housing and roads. This view of Columbus, Ohio, shows some houses that are pushed to the edge for the time being, probably serving homeowners that cant afford houses closer to urban or other commercial cores. One way to tell this is the "end of the line" is the fact the power lines dont extend to the right.

    Correction: The power lines do extend to the right, angled to the south and east.

    nbsp;

    Fly-in houses. At first this view of Cameron Park, California, may look fairly typical of the suburbs, but a couple of odd things come to the fore: Those roads are mighty wide compare them with the road at the bottom, and the left-to-right road in the middle of the photo is connected to a runway. Yes, this is a community of fly-in housing, as Alan Berger calls it in his book Drosscape. After landing, residents can park their planes in hangars attached to their houses.

    nbsp;

    Canal houses. A variation on fairway housing, though not nearly as popular, is canal housing. Just picture the waterways between these houses in Palm Valley, Florida, as fairways. While this sort of plan mdash; where water is used for both recreation and to a lesser degree transportation mdash; makes some sense on the Florida coast, it can also be found in the desert Southwest and other areas where water scarcity would point to more suitable alternatives.

    nbsp;

    Houses on the water. Canal housing may offer the appearance of living on the water, but the previous example shows how the suburban norms roads, yards are still maintained. Houseboats, on the other hand, offer the reality of life on the water waves and all as well as the ability to move from one slip to another, or even to another city. This "neighborhood" of houseboats in Sausalito, California, is closer to the form of boat docks than suburban sprawl hellip; although I guess each walkway could be seen as a cul-de-sac.

    Also See:

    • Unique Exterior Home Design Ideas to Break the Mold
    • Modern >
    • How to Create a Clean and Safe Community


    Full Story >


    Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

    Water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years, but as with anything, the better care you take of it, the longer it will last. There are several easy "set it and forget it" tips that you can use with your water heater, like keeping the thermostat at 120 degrees, and always maintain two feet of clearance around the appliance. You can also conserve money on your gas bill by setting your heater to its "vacation" setting when leaving town. This will keep the pilot light going without heating the water.

    Water heater maintenance goes well beyond just checking the thermostat, however. Here are some detailed tips for making sure your water heater lives a long, full life.

    Draining Cleaning

    The bottom of the tank can contain all manner of sediment, calcium deposits, rust and bacteria. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove this debris. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run until the water is clear.

    A once-a-year full cleaning should include draining the appliance completely, removing the drain valve and then scrubbing the bottom with a long, narrow brush. From there, screw on a nipple, pump 15 or 20 seconds worth of fresh water into the tank, then drain, repeating the process until the water runs clear. This is the best chemical-free way to clean a water heater.

    Testing the TPR Valve

    Most experts recommend testing the temperature and pressure >To perform the test, slowly raise and lower the test lever so that it lifts the brass stem. At this point, hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If you get no water, or only a trickle, be sure to replace the valve. The main thing to watch for immediately after testing the TPR valve is a leak. If you do catch a leak, operate the test level a few more times to loosen the debris that could be preventing the valve from working correctly. If the valve is functioning properly, turn down the temperature on the water heater controller and turn down the water pressure.

    Examining the Sacrificial Anode

    Sacrificial anode is the fancy name for the rod of metal located in your water heaters tank that rusts easily so that the steel wont; it takes the fall, essentially. Sacrificial anodes in water heaters are made of highly corrosive metals like magnesium and aluminum.

    To examine your heaters sacrificial anode you must first remove it. Start by shutting off the electricity or gas to the water heater, as well as the water supply. Drain a few inches of water from the tank via the tank valve. Locate the top of the anode rod or connecting hardware - it may be under a cap about halfway to the center, or it may be under a pink top nipple. Loosen the anode very carefully with a wrench. Here, it may be necessary to apply penetrating oil to the connecting nut or threads.

    One you remove the anode, inspect it carefully. If it is covered in rough metal that looks like its been chewed, thats normal and your anode is functioning properly. If you can see six inches or more of the steel core wire inside the anode, replace it. If not, put it back in place and check back in a year.

    Insulating Older Units

    When you insulate the walls in your house, you increase its energy efficiency, and the same is true with your water heater. Although newer units are optimized for insulation, many older units are not, and by insulating them, you could reduce heat loss by 25-45. If youre not sure whether or not to insulate your appliance, simply touch it; if its warm to the touch, its time to insulate.

    Before purchasing a water heater insulating blanket kit, check with your utility to see if they offer blankets at discounted rates. Some companies even install them for little-to-no cost.

    To self-install, turn off the electricity to your heater at the breaker or for gas, switch the valve to "pilot" position. Wrap the blanket around the heater and tape it temporarily, leaving open areas for the access panels, valves and for gas heaters, the burner areas. Then tape the blanket permanently, and be sure to never set the thermostat above 130 degrees because the wiring could overheat.

    When to Replace“

    If you own a conventional storage tank water heater and its getting into the double digits in age, its time to replace. However if your water heater is only a few years old, there are a few things that would only take about 150-300 to repair. These things include extinguished pilot lights, burner or heating elements failing, thermostats breaking, or valves sticking. The two precursors to replacement are usually either old age or a leak. When your water heater springs a leak that usually means its time to face the music and buy a new one.

    What are some other ways you care for your water heater“

    Sarah Kellner writes about home heating appliances, including water heaters, for Home Depot. Sarah provides tips to homeowners on DIY energy efficiency and maintenance. A selection of water heaters available at Home Depot can be found on the companys website.


    Full Story >


    Is This The Ultimate Example Of What Not To Do When Listing Your House For Sale?

    Theres a new home listing thats been making the Internet rounds this week, and its a must-see for anyone who is selling their house, considering selling their house, or just wants to do a little point-and-stare. Oh, and for mannequin lovers. Let us explain.

    The house in question is a large, gated estate on Jones Creek in the desirable Houston-area city of Richmond. Its listed for 1,275,000. At five bedrooms, five baths, and 7,406 square feet, with two acres of pastoral grounds backing to a scenic creek with a cattle ranch on the other side, and features including an art studio, game room, trophy room, swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, and a garage apartment, its seemingly a gem.

    But that assumes you can actually see any of what the home has to offer. The owner of the home, whose identity is undisclosed, is an artist. And the home is her canvas. Oh, and her tools arent paint, theyrewell, see for yourself.

    Did you notice the figure hanging on the stair railing“ Thats a mannequin. And hes not alone. In fact, one notable real estate insider has even teased a contest to guess the number of mannequins in the home. "Our team has been chatting about this house now for a few days," said CandysDirt. "Home stagers are running for Xanax."

    It definitely begs the question, "What is art and what is clutter“" It also makes you wonder what the initial conversation was like between RE/MAX FINE Properties agent Diana Power, whos listed the home, and her seller. We assume it, at least, included the words, "decluttering," and "staging" and "storage."

    It goes without saying that this array of art and accessories may be just a tad excessive and perhaps also a little bit distracting. And maybe also kind of weird, or at least eccentric. It makes for a great spectacle - and certainly brings a lot of attention. But will it sell the home“ "She has lots of collections," Power told Huffington Post. "Its not hoarding or clutter; its art."

    But thats hardly the end of the discussion, and it brings up a few more keys for selling your home.

    Mind your curb appeal

    A house thats picture-perfect on the inside but questionable from the street isnt doing a seller any favors. It takes just a few seconds to to form a first impression. If the mannequin standing at the front gate presumably, the communitys HOA either limited the number of mannequins to one or made sure it was inside the gate, or both doesnt raise an eyebrow, perhaps the knocked-down and haphazardly restacked mailbox will. I mean, we presume it was knocked down and haphazardly restacked. It could be "art," after all.

    Dont creep people out

    Yes, the clutter in this master bedroom is overwhelming. But beyond the sheer amount of stuff in the space, why is there a mannequin at the foot of the bed“ Even more curious: all the dolls stuffed into the bookcases. One look and Im heading right back out the door. You“

    Bonus question: Where do you even get all those mannequins“

    Wait. Foot-of-the-bed mannequin has a friend. Or two“ Whos that climbing under the table“

    Show off the goods

    Most sellers, and, certainly their agents, would insist on framing that view out to the pool and creek. But, between all the taxidermy real or faux, pelts, knickknacks, dolls, blankets, and furniture, its hard to even focus the eye, even with that grand expanse of glass.

    Maybe this serene view of Jones Creek makes it all better“ Is that a mannequin riding the lawnmower“

    This home has great features throughout. In the living room, there are beautiful built-ins, gleaming hardwoods, an elegant fireplace, and detailed dental molding all around. But you have to look hard to notice any of it.

    "You can see the charm of the house underneath it all, from its 300,000 foundations to the way the windows are framed in cement and stone," Powers told ABC13. "I think that the person who will end up buying this house can see the forest from the trees."

    Lets test that theory in the kitchen. This gourmet space has professional grade appliances and a huge island - and every inch of it has been covered with something to distract potential buyers from the great features.

    At least the seller staged a mannequin at the island to showcase the eating bar. That is a mannequin, right“

    Look at the features in this library. Behind all the books, papers, rugs, birdcages“, and a mannequin that is WALKING ON THE CEILING, there are some stunning bookcases, and French doors that lead out to a patio and pool - if you can manage to get to them.

    Does it make you more interested in seeing the home, and, if you do want to see it, is it only to count the mannequins“

    And, P.S., dont get any ideas about trying to buy the home with everything in it. The owner has stated shes "taking everything" with her when she moves on.


    Full Story >


    Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

    Water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years, but as with anything, the better care you take of it, the longer it will last. There are several easy "set it and forget it" tips that you can use with your water heater, like keeping the thermostat at 120 degrees, and always maintain two feet of clearance around the appliance. You can also conserve money on your gas bill by setting your heater to its "vacation" setting when leaving town. This will keep the pilot light going without heating the water.

    Water heater maintenance goes well beyond just checking the thermostat, however. Here are some detailed tips for making sure your water heater lives a long, full life.

    Draining amp; Cleaning

    The bottom of the tank can contain all manner of sediment, calcium deposits, rust and bacteria. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove this debris. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run until the water is clear.

    A once-a-year full cleaning should include draining the appliance completely, removing the drain valve and then scrubbing the bottom with a long, narrow brush. From there, screw on a nipple, pump 15 or 20 seconds worth of fresh water into the tank, then drain, repeating the process until the water runs clear. This is the best chemical-free way to clean a water heater.

    Testing the TPR Valve

    Most experts recommend testing the temperature and pressure >

    To perform the test, slowly raise and lower the test lever so that it lifts the brass stem. At this point, hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If you get no water, or only a trickle, be sure to replace the valve. The main thing to watch for immediately after testing the TPR valve is a leak. If you do catch a leak, operate the test level a few more times to loosen the debris that could be preventing the valve from working correctly. If the valve is functioning properly, turn down the temperature on the water heater controller and turn down the water pressure.

    Examining the Sacrificial Anode

    Sacrificial anode is the fancy name for the rod of metal located in your water heaters tank that rusts easily so that the steel wont; it takes the fall, essentially. Sacrificial anodes in water heaters are made of highly corrosive metals like magnesium and aluminum.

    To examine your heaters sacrificial anode you must first remove it. Start by shutting off the electricity or gas to the water heater, as well as the water supply. Drain a few inches of water from the tank via the tank valve. Locate the top of the anode rod or connecting hardware - it may be under a cap about halfway to the center, or it may be under a pink top nipple. Loosen the anode very carefully with a wrench. Here, it may be necessary to apply penetrating oil to the connecting nut or threads.

    One you remove the anode, inspect it carefully. If it is covered in rough metal that looks like its been chewed, thats normal and your anode is functioning properly. If you can see six inches or more of the steel core wire inside the anode, replace it. If not, put it back in place and check back in a year.

    Insulating Older Units

    When you insulate the walls in your house, you increase its energy efficiency, and the same is true with your water heater. Although newer units are optimized for insulation, many older units are not, and by insulating them, you could reduce heat loss by 25-45. If youre not sure whether or not to insulate your appliance, simply touch it; if its warm to the touch, its time to insulate.

    Before purchasing a water heater insulating blanket kit, check with your utility to see if they offer blankets at discounted rates. Some companies even install them for little-to-no cost.

    To self-install, turn off the electricity to your heater at the breaker or for gas, switch the valve to "pilot" position. Wrap the blanket around the heater and tape it temporarily, leaving open areas for the access panels, valves and for gas heaters, the burner areas. Then tape the blanket permanently, and be sure to never set the thermostat above 130 degrees because the wiring could overheat.

    When to Replace“

    If you own a conventional storage tank water heater and its getting into the double digits in age, its time to replace. However if your water heater is only a few years old, there are a few things that would only take about 150-300 to repair. These things include extinguished pilot lights, burner or heating elements failing, thermostats breaking, or valves sticking. The two precursors to replacement are usually either old age or a leak. When your water heater springs a leak that usually means its time to face the music and buy a new one.

    What are some other ways you care for your water heater“

    Sarah Kellner writes about home heating appliances, including water heaters, for Home Depot. Sarah provides tips to homeowners on DIY energy efficiency and maintenance. A selection of water heaters available at Home Depot can be found on the companys website.


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    Updated: Friday, July 28, 2017

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