Florida Real Estate News

Fort Lauderdale News

Updated: Saturday, February 17, 2018

Tips For Negotiating With Sellers

If you dread the negotiating process when buying a home, never fear. Your real estate agent is an experienced negotiator who helps keep the bargaining from becoming emotional and veering off track.

Your agent must know your desires by heart and have quick access to you if a negotiation point needs to be made. Its important to stick to the strategy you and your agent have agreed upon -- showing the seller how strong your offer is.

First, get preapproved for a mortgage loan. That means your mortgage lender has reviewed your credit history and assets, checked employment and income, examined your debt-to-income ratios, and has preapproved you for a certain amount, terms and interest rate so you know exactly how much you can spend.

Being preapproved shows sellers that you are prepared and able to buy. Before you submit an offer, ask your agent to find out more what the seller wants as far as terms. The more your offer matches up with the sellers requests, such as a closing date, the more likely your offer will be accepted.

Find out when the house will be vacated, if any repairs or improvements are planned, and if the seller has any pressure points such as a >Your agent must also find out if other offers are on the table. Your position is stronger if there are no other offers. The seller may be less likely to bend on price concessions or repairs if there are other offers.

Have your agent pull up the most recent CMA comparable homes recently sold or on the market within a reasonable radius of the home, so you can sculpt your offer price. Be sure that you are comparing apples to apples in terms of updates, size of the home, amenities, location, schools districts, etc.

Once these steps are made, you are ready to write an offer.

Making the offer

Make yourself think like the seller. It helps you anticipate what the seller will accept in price, terms, and other conditions. By considering the sellers position, you will likely create an offer that is either accepted or strongly considered.

Your offer should be clear on the terms, closing dates, repair requests or other conditions the seller needs to meet and it should be accompanied by a letter from your lender that you are preapproved to buy the sellers home. Include a cover letter summarizing your strengths as a buyer in terms of creditworthiness, flexibility in closing, and the strength of the offer.

Dont insult the seller with an offer thats too low or requires too many concessions. The seller may be nostalgic about his or her life in the house and may not like the idea that you want to remodel.

The only thing a seller cant argue with is a strong set of comparables that show the home is overpriced or out of date. These are homes that have sold that are nearby within two blocks and similar in age, size and features. If you can show that a similar home has sold within the last two months for less than the seller is asking, thats good.

Be sure all conditions, repairs, etc. are agreed to in writing. Some sellers may feel that a handshake covers a promise, but its essential to be clear on paper what is expected and when. A sellers promise to paint should be included as an addendum to the contract and include all details, such as primer, exact color and type of paint, how many coats, and when the work will be finished for inspection.

Negotiating after inspections

The offer is negotiated and accepted, the earnest money is at the escrow agents office. Now the inspections occur, and this is where the contract negotiations can break down.

No home is perfect, not even brand-new construction. During the inspection process, the inspector is usually required to tell you about any condition of appliances, heating and cooling systems, roofs, electrical and plumbing systems, etc, and if your future home is up to current city codes.

Sellers are usually not required to bring a house completely up to current local building codes. Negotiate a repair only when a system is unsafe or a major repair is needed to make the system operate effectively.

As long as the seller has a reasonable explanation of what your position is and why, and communication remains open, the seller should have as much desire to make the contract work as you do.
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Design Tips for Upgrading Your Sunroom

The bones of your sunroom are all there - windows, floors, ceiling and maybe even some >

Big Changes for Big Effects

Take a good look at your space. What do you see? The "bones" of your space set the tone for everything that goes in it: this includes flooring, wall color or wall finish, ceiling, and other architectural elements that give your room its distinctive atmosphere. Tile and stained concrete are both tempting options for sunroom floors since they lend a breezy, sophisticated atmosphere to a sunshiny space.

Overhaul Your Floor with Tile

If youre looking to make a big impact with your floor, tile is a fantastic choicemdash;its sophisticated, you can do it yourself with a bit of practice and know-how, and your options are endless. Opt for a cozy, rustic brick feel, or perhaps Moroccan elegance with colorful tiles boasting a cool, casual feel. This Old House offers step-by-step instructions to lay your own tile floor. Keep in mind that when youre laying your own tile, the simpler the pattern, the better.

Treat Your Walls

For a Tuscan feel, go with a light Tuscan plaster wall treatment, and offset the coziness of your wall color with breezy, cream-colored sheer curtains or other light window treatments. Coupled with sophisticated furniture, youll love your understated Italian-inspired getaway, but make sure you dont overdo the accessories and clutter up the look.

Create an Atmosphere with Accessories Alone

If you live in an apartment or a rental home that doesnt lend itself to major overhauls, you still have plenty of options for updating your sunrooms look. ForRent.com offers countless ideas for designing your rented space. Something as simple as new patio cushions, candlesticks, brightly-colored pillows, or wall art can make your space look like something out of a design magazine. The best part about this kind of design: Its easy to overhaul your look without repainting Just view your space as a blank canvas, and fill it with colors and textures representing the >

Photo by Wickerfurniture via Flickr

Patio Cushions and Curtains

If youre handy with a needle and thread, sew your own patio cushions and curtains without paying the exorbitant prices that custom design firms charge. Check out SewMamaSew for step-by-step instructions to sew your own patio cushions.

Centerpieces/Decorative Accents

Paint is your friend here. The hardest part about this step is harnessing your creativity, so choose a palette and run with it. Try picking up some old candlesticks from an antique store or flea market, then update them with high-gloss paint. Going for a beachy feel? Print a few sepia-toned beach shots you took on your last vacation, then frame them in simple wooden frames youve painted to match your >

Woodworking Projects

Repurpose an old wood pallet into a coffee table that adds rustic >

Photo by Wickerfurniture via Flickr

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Nine Must-Haves For Your New Home, Valentines Day Edition

Sure, the right number of bedrooms is important. And, of course, you wouldnt even consider a house in the wrong school district. But what are the other things that really matter when buying a home? You know, the things that make your life easier - or at least a little less chaotic - on a daily basis and that support your life>

Whats true of >

The right location

If youve never had to sit in traffic for three hours a day, you probably dont know exactly how much it completely sucks. It may be worth it to you because a long commute is the only way youll be able to afford a home, but have a serious talk with yourself first.

The right overall layout

Sure, walls can be moved and floorplans reimagined, if thats what youre into. But some things you might not be able to change, perhaps because you lack budget or spacemdash;or both. If the idea of being on a different floor than your children stresses you out and you fear youll never be able to >

Enough bathrooms

Nothing kills the mood like having to squeeze your knees together while your honey is in the only or only functioning bathroom. If youve ever watched House Hunters and seen a couple buy an old home with one bathroom, which they justified because the place was "just so charming," let us set the record straight: Theres nothing charming about peeing your pants.

Dual sinks

So the house youre considering has an updated master bathroom, and what it lacks in space it makes up for in >

A good family gathering space

Whether or not you have kids or ever plan to, a good family room or living room is key to long-term enjoyment of a home. The amount of square footage is obviously important, but also pay attention to the key features of the room. Otherwise, youll end up with a space you hate being in because the west-facing windows make it too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and the TV niche is shoved into the corner, making it hard to see unless youre sitting directly across from it. Or perhaps thats just us.

Upstairs laundry

Back to House Hunters for a moment. Who else cringes every time someone buys a house with a laundry room in a creaky old basement? Just the thought of having to carry laundry baskets down two flights of stairs is enough for us to say a hard "No" to that. Many basement-free homes have laundry rooms on the first floor, when all the bedrooms are upstairs. This may be an acceptable feature for most peoplemdash;and it may be all youve known to this pointmdash;but trust us: Once youve enjoyed the convenience of an upstairs laundry room, youll never want anything else.

A sufficient garage

Burning your butt on a hot car seat in the summer and having to run the engine for 10 minutes before you get into a freezing cold car in the winter might anger you every single time you do it.

The right size backyard

Taking the kids to the park instead of letting them loose in a backyard you dont have. Getting out of bed to walk the dog in the middle of the nightmdash;and in the rainmdash;because, again, no backyard. Not having a backyard at all, or a tiny patch of grass that doesnt give you space to move, might not be the kind of compromise you want to make. On the flip side, a large back yard that requires time and effort to maintain may take away from family time and create stress or anxiety.

A kitchen you can work with

Yes, you can replace a dishwasher or repaint your cabinets. Heck, you can rip the whole thing out and start over if you want, but most people arent looking to drop that kind of money on a brand-new kitchen. Is the kitchen workable as is? Are there small tweaks you can make that would create a space you want to cook in? Being honest with yourself about what you need, what you can handle, and what is realistic can help you make a good choice instead of one you may soon regret.

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Home Seller Tips To Having A Successful Open House

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

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


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


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

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

Lure Them In

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

Complete Your Honey-Do List

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

Be Cautious

Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, therersquo;s one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a >
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Death And Taxes: Not Always Inevitable

Question. My husband recently died of a massive heart attack, leaving me a widow at a young age. I was thrust into a new life status that was not my choice or my desire. I believe I am being penalized for something that has already devastated my life in many ways.

We were fortunate to have invested wisely in our principal home many years ago, and have made more than 250,000 in profit. I want to sell, and it now appears I will have to pay the tax on any profit over 250,000, since I no longer file a joint return. If couples are making the life choice to divorce, they can sell their home prior to the divorce and get the 500,000 exemption recently enacted by Congress. A widow has no option or choice in the change that has happened in her life.

Please advise me how I should proceed; I need the money for my future more than the government.

Answer. It has often been stated that two things are inevitable: death and taxes. However, there is a measure of hope based on an often forgotten concept in the tax law known as the "stepped-up" basis. And, fortunately, this was not modified or repealed under the new tax law that was just enacted.

Oversimplified, this means the value of a persons real property on the date of his/her death becomes the basis of the person who inherits that property.

Let us take this example: in 1995, you and your husband purchased your first home for 100,000. You took title as tenants by the entireties -- which is the common form of ownership for married couples. Your husband died in 2017, and the property was valued at 800,000 on the day he died.

Your basis is as follows:

Initial basis: half of purchase price 50,000

Inherited stepped up basis: 400,000

New basis: 450,000

Please note that since the property was worth 800,000 on the date your husband died, you inherited his half of the property -- namely 400,000.

If you sell your property today for 800,000, your profit before excluding such items as real estate commissions, legal fees and fix-up costs will be 350,000 800,000 - 450,000. As you correctly pointed out, since you are now filing a single tax return, under the current tax laws, you are entitled to completely exempt the first 250,000 of this gain. Once again, Congress did not repeal or amend this important homeowner benefit.

Thus, your capital gain tax will be on 100,000 350,000-250,000. Because the income tax brackets were changed under the new law, please talk with your financial advisors as to what your tax obligation will be.

However, lets analyze this even further. Did you and your husband make any improvements to your house over the many years of your ownership? If you put on a new addition, installed a new kitchen, or significantly improved the back yard, all of the costs of these improvements are added to your basis. Thus, if the costs of your improvements were at least 100,000, you will not have to pay any capital gains tax at all.

Furthermore, try to find the settlement statement when you first purchased the property. There were a number of costs which you incurred -- title examination, title insurance, legal fees -- which can properly be added to basis.

Keep in mind that for every dollar you add to basis, you are going to save from paying capital gains tax. Clearly every dollar can add up to a considerable tax saving.

Although you did not raise this next issue, I want to take the opportunity to comment on a question I often get: should you put your children on title now?

Generally speaking, my answer is no. The reason is the same as discussed above -- on your death, your children will get the benefit of the stepped up basis, and indeed under the circumstances may not have to pay any capital gains tax. For example, were you to die when the property is valued at 800,000, if your children sold the property for this price, they would have no gain at all -- and thus no tax to pay.

However, if you were to gift them the house now, during your lifetime, their basis for tax purposes would be your basis -- i.e., 450,000. The law requires that the basis of the donor becomes the basis of the donee. If they sold the property for 800,000 -- and the house was not their principal residence -- they would have to pay capital gains tax on profit of 350,000 800,000 - 450,000 At the maximum rate, this could be a nice gift to Uncle Sam.

You must, of course, fully discuss these issues with your tax advisors. These are not easy questions, and the answers are even more complex.

So much for "tax simplification."
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The HOAs Maintenance Plan

The purpose of a Maintenance Plan is to instruct a homeowner association board and property manager how to properly maintain common element components. Following a well prepared Maintenance Plan will help extend the useful life of the components and reduce costs to the members.

An effective preventive maintenance plan should satisfy the following five key goals:

1. Preserve owners investment. Preventive maintenance can extend the life of building components, sustaining and enhancing the propertys value.

2. Help buildings operate at peak efficiency. Because preventive maintenance keeps equipment functioning as designed, it reduces inefficiencies in operations and energy usage.

3. Prevent failures of building systems. Buildings that operate trouble-free allow the occupants to enjoy the property as intended. Preventive maintenance includes regular inspections and replacement of equipment crucial to building operations.

4. Sustain a safe and healthy environment. Protecting the physical integrity of building components preserves a safe environment for residents.

5. Provide cost effective maintenance. Preventive maintenance can prevent minor problems from escalating into major failures and costly repairs. Preventive maintenance can be handled >The objective of the Maintenance Plan is to provide clear direction to the board and management how and when to provide repairs to building and grounds components. If consistently followed in conjunction with a properly prepared reserve study schedule, the components will enjoy their maximum useful lives and >For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see www.Regenesis.net.
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Get Ready to Buy This Spring

Once you decide that this Spring you want to buy a new home mdash; or your first house mdash; the question is, "Where do we start?"

The answer lies in two sets of decisions:

1. Start With Success: Begin by deciding what success means to you. Clarify what you really want and why, not just whats "in" right now. Explore this practical side before viewing properties. What matters is not the number of homes you see, but zeroing in on genuine good matches. For instance, a couple who wanted to add a mortgage-paying basement suite to their next home, decided to search for houses with an existing basement bathroom since this would be the most expensive part of creating a rental unit.

2. Whos "We"?: The other essential to a good start is to decide who "we" is going to be:

  • Will friends or family come along to share their construction or real estate ownership expertise?
  • Will you have a contractor on-call to provide renovation-cost estimates to back up your offer price?
  • Who will you select as your local real estate professional to be sure you see all the best matches without being dragged through definite "nos." For instance, a condominium specialist may not be the best match if you are intent on a detached house with rental suite potential. How much do you need to learn about real estate before you will be comfortable when its time to sign on the dotted line? If you have a steep learning curve, youll benefit from a real estate profession who is well equipped to inform as well as provide access to the best-fit real estate. Then theres the professional negotiation skills youll want to tap into.

If you want to buy this Spring, when should you start?: How quickly you can find a home to buy and move into it depends on many factors:

  • The transition from searching for an ideal property to moving in can be condensed into a few weeks. This is often the pace for corporate >At the other extreme, stretching the search for that "perfect forever home" over many seasons or even years may work for those who want a specific location or type of property and are not displeased enough with their current home to accelerate the process.

Somewhere in between those extremes lies your ideal time line:

  • Buying within a market cycle, enables your real estate professional to identify specific properties that present the best return in that buyers, sellers, or flat market.
  • If you have a busy work and personal life, carving out time to consider listings, view properties, explore neighborhoods, investigate financing, and deal with all >When the goal is to enroll children at the start of school year or to arrive at a new job on time, back calculating with your real estate professional will reveal when the search should begin. When in doubt, start sooner, so you dont end up faced with time-pressured decisions.
  • Hot real estate markets are the hardest to plan timing in. You may be eager to purchase, but lose out on property after property in multiple offers. Decide what your worst-case scenario would be and act accordingly.
  • Waiting for your local real estate market to change gears so prices drop is risky. Timing the real estate market is no easier than timing the stock market. The best advantage in any market lies in selecting ighly-knowledgeable, experienced professionals fully committed to working with your best interests as their top priority.
  • You may not be 100 certain this is the Spring for you to plunge into the market, but if youre more sure than not sure, invest time finding the right professionals. If the timing is not right for you, that will become evident and youll discover what your options are and why.

Real estate professionals, committed to understanding market pace in areas they work, can help you manage timing. One thing they may suggest, is not to wait for the Spring Market, but to get ahead of the mass of spring buyers and jump into real estate now. For instance, sellers who are listed now are serious about selling and, depending how long their property has been on the market, they may be more receptive to negotiation.

Whether you decide to wait until Spring or jump in now, here are Five Savvy Buying Tips that ensure youll get the best property for your needs, at the best price, with the minimum amount of hassle and disappointment:

1. Apply Smart Buying Rules: If you consider yourself a smart buyer when purchasing a car, a phone, or travel, apply that savvy to buying real estate. Understand what you need and why. Set a realistic budget. Learn how things work. With all these issues, the right professional should save you time, stress, and money.

2. Ensure Location Overrules Features Decor: Real estate is an immoveable object. That reality dictates that where you buy is the prime value concern. Smart buyers look for the least property in the best area, so their real estate improvements result in increased market value. Values within a neighborhood or community are not uniform. There are specific streets, even ends of streets, that represent the highest local value just as boundary streets and other locations may represent lower prices. Particularly in urban areas, proximity to the most highly-regarded schools, popular shopping areas, and sought-after local features like parks dictates price, as your real estate professional will explain.

3. Maximize Move-In Timing: The more flexible your move-in date, the more room to negotiate with sellers. Agree to their ideal move date and that may generate concessions in price or inclusions. When you have a fixed move-in date, you may find yourself paying more to buy what you want, when you want it. Timing is a significant consideration when deciding whether to buy your next home before you have sold your current property, that is, taking the risk of paying on two mortgages at once. Since the market where you are selling may be different from that where you want to buy, timing decisions should involve the experience of a real estate professional or two.

4. Own The Money Factor: Affordability encompasses costs ranging from purchase price including legal fees and other costs, mortgage financing, and the cost of customizing the living space to including ongoing expenses like heating, cooling, commuting, and anything else that matters. With mortgage rates on the rise, reducing consumer car loans and credit card debt may open up borrowing room.Mortgage professionals can help you shop a wider range of lenders. These money experts can also explain why there is so much more to consider than just interest rate.

5. Face Reality Head On: Compromises to your "must have" list can maximize value and returns.

  • You may want four bedrooms, but if two younger children share a large room until the eldest child goes to college, maybe that 3-bedroom with significantly-better location and greater appreciation potential will really work for your family.
  • If cosmetic or minor renovations dont daunt you, this could also provide a location advantage and may even mean a larger home is affordable.
  • Compromising on location can also mean more living space, just be sure that commuting costs, including needing an extra car and possible lower appreciation rates, dont swallow up that saving.
  • Your buying perspective is also an important consideration. Do you expect to stay until a second child appears or until all the kids finish school or are you in for the long haul? Shopping for a "forever home" is a popular approach. Just take care that projections are fact based and not fantasy that leaves you buying more home than you can comfortably afford in a rising interest-rate world.

Most people have more real estate choices than they realize. Are you sure you want to wait for Spring to get started?
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New Recording Fees Will Fund Affordable Housing
Effective January 1, 2018 there is a whole new set of fees that will be charged to Californians who are recording real-estate->

It is important to note that it is not the kind of instrument that is important, but, rather, the context in which it is being recorded. If, for example, you are refinancing your property, part of the transaction involves recording a new trust deed. That will cost you 75 in addition to whatever other costs might be incurred. If, however, you are recording a trust deed in connection with the sale of a property, the extra charge will not be imposed.

Also, no charge will be imposed on a transfer of property -- even if it is not a sale -- to a person who will be an owner occupant.

What kind of documents might a property owner want to record, even if no sale is occurring? A short, incomplete, list might include: deed of trust, reconveyance, assignment of trust deed, declaration of homestead, easement, mechanics lien, notice of completion, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions. Theres plenty more, and they all cost an extra 75 a pop up to 225 per transaction.

This is all the result of Senate Bill 2 Atkins, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, which the Governor signed into law September 29, 2017. It made additions to both the California Government Code 27388.1 and the Health and Safety Code 50470.

The purpose of the bill was to provide a permanent source of money that could be used to provide, "an adequate supply of homes affordable to California at all income levels"

Prior to this, affordable housing programs, including those to assist the homeless, were financed through voter-approved bonds and through a 20 set-aside that was imposed on redevelopment agencies. Bonds do not provide a permanent source of funding, and nearly all the existing voter-approved funding had been awarded. Moreover, redevelopment agencies have been eliminated.

According to the Legislative analysis, California has a shortfall of approximately 1.5 million affordable units for low and very-low income households. This includes rental housing. Furthermore, with 12 percent of the U.S. population, California has 20 percent of the nations homeless population. It is estimated that 118,000 Californians are homeless on any given night.

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the new fees will generate 200-300 million annually. SB2 specifies the manner in which the funds are to be spent. In the first year, half of the money will go "to local governments to update their general plans, housing ordinances, and other planning documents to increase the production of housing. The other half of the funds in the first year will go to assist people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In all subsequent years, the bill requires 70 of funds deposited into the Trust Fund to be distributed via formula to cities and counties to be used in a variety of ways to address the unmet housing needs of the jurisdiction." For a full and more detailed accounting of the use of the Trust Funds, the reader is invited to check out 50470 of the Health and Safety Code. It is very detailed.

Since the implementation of Senate Bill 2, the California Association of REALTORS CAR has received complaints "that title companies and potentially some county recorders have been improperly charging buyers for exempt documents." The association has prepared a variety of documents to assist property owners in preventing and/or recovering inappropriate overcharges. They are available to REALTORreg; members on car.org.
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Creative Ways To Save For A Down Payment

Youd love to buy a house, and if it werent for that pesky down payment, youd be sitting pretty in a place of your own, right? Youre not alone. Not surprisingly, the "top challenge for would-be homebuyers is thedown payment requirement," said The Mortgage Reports. In a recent study, "Over half of potential buyers claimed saving a down payment was a bigger issue thancredit scores, income needed or housing prices."

There are some creative ways to get there.

Look for down payment assistance

Many homebuyers dont realize that these programs even exist. "Down paymentgrants are designed to help eligible buyers bridge the gap between their savings and the required down payment for a mortgage," said The Mortgage Reports. "This money doesnt usually have to be repaid."

Grants are available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD and typically have eligibility requirements that are tied to income. In addition, "You must be a first-time buyer purchasing a primary residence," they said. You can check for available grants here.

Save your pennies

Every little bit helps Get used to paying for things with cash, which is another tip financial analysts recommend to keep track of spending. At the end of the day or week, put aside any change. Youll be surprised how it can add up over a few months.

Shop for a better savings account

Some banks offer special rates or even kick in money if you open a new account and maintain a certain balance. If you already have a good head start on your down payment, this could be a great way to get a bump. Also pay attention to any fees you are currently paying at your bank just to have your savings and checking accounts. If you cant negotiate to get them removed, it might make sense to open fee-free accounts elsewhere.

Among the best out there: "Discover Online Savings has no minimum deposit requirement and offers a competitive APY of 1.40. In addition, theres no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirement," said NerdWallet in their review of the best savings accounts of 2018. "Discover is a decent choice for simple, stress-free savings." Discover also offers bonuses that are tied to a 15,000 minimum deposit.

Do automatic transfers

Setting up an auto transfer from your checking to your savings on payday is a >Get a gift

For many types of loans, the down payment can come via a gift. Just make sure you know the rules so you dont run into trouble. "Even though lenders do allow gift funds, they also require mortgage applicants to disclose the source of these funds," said Cherry Creek Mortgage. "There are specific rules for using gift funds as a down payment. For starters, your lender will need information about the donor. Donor requirements vary by lender and mortgage program. Some programs only allow gifts from a blood >Save all raises and bonuses

If you get a raise or a bonus during your saving period, dont celebrate by blowing it on a new living room set. Pretending it didnt happen and socking the money away will pay off in the end. "For a set period of time, consider saving all extra income you receive from work," said Quick and Dirty Tips. "For instance, if you get a 3 raise, increase your down payment savings percentage by at least that amount. Or if you get quarterly or annual bonuses, transfer the full amounts to savings."

Shift some money toward repairing your credit

That might seem counterintuitive if youre trying to get together as much cash as possible to buy your house, but it might just be that doing a little credit repair can improve your buying position, which could lower your interest rate and lower the amount of money required by the bank for your down payment. A conversation with your lender or broker and a detailed look at your credit history may yield some surprising suggestions.

Pare down

This is a great time to take a good look at your stuff and decide whats going with you, and whats not making the trip to your new place. "You likely have some used furniture you no longer use or old clothes that are no longer in >Call your cable, Internet, and phone providers

There may be lost money floating around out there. Bundling your services with one provider can create dramatic savings. It might also be time to look at new providers - just make sure you wont incur a penalty or cost when you move and have to have your services set up again.

Make your coffee - and your lunch - at home

"If there are two people buying one coffee each at 4 every day, or 8 total, that adds up to 240 per month So by getting a good coffee maker and putting it in a TO GO cup, you can potentially save more than 2,880 over the course of a year," said Blue Water Credit. "If you think coffee was expensive, add up all of those 12, 20, and 25 lunches at restaurants when you step out from work. Even if you only buy lunch three times a week, that could easily end up with 50 a week in savings per person, or about 400 a month, or 4,800 per year"
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Tips For Creating A Luxe Bedroom

Creating a >Get the lighting right

You dont want to feel like youre being interrogated in the bedroom. Super bright lights dont set the mood, nor are they useful for helping you to >Choose the right color

Fire-engine red walls will create energy, which could be helpful to your love life, but might keep you up at night for all the wrong reasons, too. Use the principles of Feng Shui to choose colors that will help "bring the best energy into yourspace," said MyDomaine. According to certified Feng Shui expertLaura Cerrano, earth tones, beige, and cream are "ideal for someone looking to create a restful bedroom," while colors like blue, blue-green, and black "can translate into a deeper connection between you and your partner."

Indulge in a luxurious headboard

A headboard isnt just a finishing touch to the room. Its an essential part of the space that gives it a well-put-together, finished look and that also make the bed feel plush. "An attractive headboard will really make a statement in your bedroom and transform the space," said Houzz. "It will also make your bed a much more comfortable place to be.When choosing a headboard, think about the size of your room and the height of the ceiling to get the proportions right. If you have a really high ceiling, you can afford to scale the headboard accordingly to create a real impact."


Pick cushy sheets

Theres just no reason to live with scratchy sheets. High thread counts matter, and they can get expensive. But the weave and fabric of the sheets can also help them to feel more - or less - comfortable. Business Insiders exhaustive test of the best sheets came out with a clear winner: "After reviewing dozens of contenders, our top pick for bed sheets are the280-thread-count Pima Cotton Percale Sheets from L.L. Bean," they said. "Crisp, cool, and comfortable against your skin, these sheets make bedtime a treat."

Add texture

Creating any stylish space is about layering, and the bedroom is no different. Start with the bed. "Dont be that person with just a top sheet," said Elle Dcor. "Okay, we know youd never commit that cardinal design sin, but in our opinion, layering is key to a beautiful bed. Throws, bed runners, the works It will give your space an instantly glamorous upgrade, plus youll be beyond cozy in the wintertime."

Wallpaper or a feature wall behind the bed and accessories like cushions and decorative items sprinkled throughout the room can add another layer of interest.
Full Story >

Lessons Learned From a Master Bathroom Remodel

Ive never really shared my own home with you before, and Im a little nervous. But I learned so much from my recently completed bathroom renovation that I wanted to tell you about it.

The project started out as a fairly light makeover but blew up quickly as it evolved. I am not an interior designer, but the wealth of information and inspiration Ive gleaned from interviewing hundreds of them over the years was a big help throughout the process.

Bathroom at a Glance:

Who lives here: Homeowner and Houzz contributor Becky Harris
Location: Atlanta
Size: About 100 square feet 9.3 square meters
Contractor: Innovative Construction

Bathroom Before

It all began with this grungy shower stall. I dreaded showering in here. First of all, it was tiled in travertine. Not super-pretty vein-cut travertine but just yucko builders-special travertine that was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. No matter how well it was sealed and scrubbed and resealed over the years an expensive process, it was porous and a magnet for mold. And then there was no cleaner I could use to get the reddish iron marks from Atlantas water out of the grout without removing the sealant. A built-in moldy bench made the shower feel cramped. The dated framed translucent glass surround never felt clean and made it feel even more cramped and dark. And there was just no way to get some of the grunge out of that frame.

By Becky Harris - See more Home Design Photos

I should mention here that I did not receive any discounts or special treatment in exchange for this story. But my brother owns the construction company that completed the renovation, and he passed along his friends-and-family trade discount perks at a few vendors. He also stayed far away from being involved in my project. I cant imagine why.

By Becky Harris - See more Home Design Photos

What I learned: Wow, you really dont see your own clutter until you take a photo of it. Or is that just me? I also learned that it can be hard to take a good, well-lit "before" photo. This one is dark even though all the lights are on and the blinds are open. Hey, at least my toilet seat is down.

I really liked this vanity, and I wanted to try to preserve the countertops. They were made of reclaimed pine boards from my attic floor and were about 80 years old. Thats a good trick to know, by the way. An older homes attic floorboards are a great source of reclaimed lumber. The mirror frame is made of the same wood. Although I knew that tiling the wall and placing mirrors atop it would be a more updated look, I loved having this huge mirror and decided to keep it. It bounces so much light around and makes it easy to get ready in here and check my hair and makeup.

I used to have beadboard wainscoting around the room. But what I had noticed was that dust and grime would collect in the grooves of the paneling and be hard to get out.

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - Look for bathroom design inspiration

The inspiration: Once I found this tile, most of my plans revolved around it. Warm gray, light blue-gray, charcoal gray, black and white, and powdery blue came into play in my color palette.

The meeting: So on day one of the construction process, several of us crammed into my bathroom. My brother, Clark Harris; his second-in-command, Eric Bain; my projects day-to-day manager, Junior Zenil; and Clarks amazing office manager, Aisling Bell. They looked at what would be changing and approximated the schedule.

Eric, whom I know pretty well and know to be fairly fiscally conservative and often a man of few words, kept looking at me and saying, "Radiant heat would feel really nice." I mean, if Eric was in favor of heated floors, that was powerful. As they looked at the adjacent closet, which was carpeted, they suggested extending the heated tile floors in there as well. Now the closet became part of the project, just like that, and I was going to go for heated floors. The radiant heat portion added about 1,500 to the budget. And I cant wait for it to get cold outside.

What I learned: Be prepared for a mistake. One thing my brother said to me as he very officially went over everything we were going to do was, "I tell all my clients that there is probably going to be a big mistake made along the line. Just know that when it happens, we will fix it, and it will be fine." I thought this was a very smart thing to say. Also, the morning after a mistake did happen, Eric brought me an Egg McMuffin and a regular Coke, the first one Id had in many years. And the team fixed it that day.

Liria Negro encaustic cement tile: The Tile Shop

By Becky Harris - See more Home Design Photos

Prep Day

What I learned: Living at home through a renovation will make you feel like John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. They prepped by laying down cardboard over my floors along the path from the front door to the bathroom and creating a plastic tunnel that led upstairs from the front door to keep the house from filling with dust. Zipping and unzipping plastic doors to get to certain places in my house became the norm.

They also vacuumed and swept their way out the door each day. Ask your contractor if the team does this when youre getting your estimate. Also make sure items like the dumpster and the port-a-potty are included, along with their servicing. Youll find that unrealistic low-ball offers leave out necessary line items like this.

By Becky Harris - See more Home Design Photos

Demo Day

What I learned: Demo day is crazy. It was good to get out of the house to shop for faucets and fixtures because the noise from demolition was unreal. Earplugs were fine while I was writing stories, but I dont know how I thought I could attempt phone interviews with Houzz pros while this was going on. I had planned to make the calls from my porch, not remembering that my porch is just below my bathroom and it was even louder out there.

What I learned: While you have a dumpster in your driveway, make good use of it. Although I did not go full-on Marie Kondo, I completed a major purge, donating and recycling whatever I could along the way, but throwing a few things that were no good for anyone into the dumpster. It felt great to get rid of so much. When I was done, I also had 15 lawn bags full of stuff for two charities that picked up the donations on my doorstep. Both of these charities send email alerts about once a month with dates theyll be in the neighborhood. Ever since the big purge, I keep a donation bin going and try to sign up every time, knowing that it will spur me to clean out another closet or cabinet by the deadline.

Project Management

What I learned: I am not much of a techie, but project management software was helpful. Innovative Construction set me up with an app, which was a great tool for all of us to communicate. I could keep up with the schedule, invoices, paint colors, lighting choices, work order changes and everything else right from my phone.

Shopping List

Aisling provided me with a thorough checklist of what Id need to procure for my project, with vendor and showroom suggestions and other tips on the app.

What I learned: Sometimes the highway falls down Around day six, the portion of Interstate 85 where I usually hop off and on caught fire and collapsed, which put a crimp in my plans for running around Atlanta looking for tile and faucets and lighting. I was able to check out a lot online before braving the crazy traffic to hit the showrooms and walk to stores.

What I learned: I saw the true power of the traffic-navigation app Waze. I also learned to order things way ahead of time. Almost everything I ordered was on back order, double back order, triple back order or we-have-no-idea-if-it-will-ever-be-ready back order mdash; or it was made-to-order, broke on the way to the store, got lost within the store once it arrived intact or is still missing in action and untrackable. There is still one toilet for the downstairs bath I was going to have installed while I had a plumber in the house that su>

Had I been less picky and ordered way ahead of time, the renovation would have taken about five weeks. Due in large part to a chandelier I simply had to have, the job ran from April 1 to mid-July, though the bulk of it was done in two months. This was solely due to my back-order curse.


What I learned: Be flexible and find a great associate at showrooms to help you. I was really set on all antique brass, but I also knew that I wanted some graphic black and white in the bathroom. Beth Moon at Plumbing Distributors, or PDI, was instrumental in the decision to mix in matte black fixtures by Jason Wu for Brizo in the shower. I also learned to always use the restroom at a bathroom showroom; PDI has a luxury toilet that does everything except hand you toilet paper, and it is quite an experience.

What I learned: In your initial meeting, ask the plumber which brands he or she loves to work with. They will have good insights about which fixtures they install with ease, which may have the rough-ins ready and which will have replacement parts readily available if you need a repair down the line. It can help inform your decisions when you are shopping for fixtures.

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - Search bathroom pictures

Shower tile: I have loved >

And after writing "pebble tile feels wonderful underfoot" so many times for Houzz, I wanted my feet to feel wonderful too, so I found a reasonably priced granite pebble tile at Floor amp; Decor.

What I learned: Pebble tile feels wonderful underfoot. Also, I learned the hard way to make sure the grout is totally dry before you try to feel how wonderful the pebble tiles feel underfoot. Whoops.

Subway tile: Daltile; Absolute Black granite pencil-tile trim: Floor amp; Decor; Delorean Gray grout: Home Depot

What I learned: Although I had a very dark charcoal, almost black, grout picked out for the shower floor, the tiling crew made me realize that the pebbles were not black and that the grout I had chosen would look bad.

What else I learned: Some details dont matter that much mdash; let some things go. I had ordered a very design-y black square shower drain that worked well with my shower fixtures, but I forgot to communicate that with the tile installers or enter it on the app. When I saw they had installed a round one, I realized that it worked better with the pebbles anyway.

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - Look for bathroom design inspiration

What I learned: Some details do matter. Because matte black is a >

What else I learned: Sometimes when you think youre being crafty and tracking down the exact Ladder Pull you want online, they accidentally send you a different item directly from China instead. But they eventually straightened it out.

Tub faucet: Fortuitously, I happened to choose a tub faucet with cross handles rather than lever handles. The plumber let out a sigh of >

Roman tub faucet : Newport Brass

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - Browse bathroom ideas

Toilet Room

I decided to go for a comfort-height toilet in the bathroom. This Memoirs model from Kohler has a really nice top on the tank with an edge that keeps things from falling off.

What I learned: This paint color changes dramatically from day to night. Its a light gray, but at noon, it has a very bluish look. At night, its a true gray.

Gray Screen SW 7071 wall paint and Ceiling Bright White SW 7007 trim paint: Sherwin-Williams; bath mat: Urban Outfitters; shower glass: Chattahoochee Shower Doors; Memoirs Stately two-piece toilet: Kohler via Houzz; robe hook: Anthropologie

What I learned: Not many people can pull off looking fierce when hung over a toilet. But Diana Ross can.

"Diana Ross Goes Shopping, 1965" photograph: Michael Ochs Archive via One Kings Lane; light fixture: Restoration Hardware

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - More bathroom photos


Somewhere down the line, I realized that I didnt want to have all this work done only to have my reclaimed-wood counters eventually rot and ruin the whole thing. They had put in a good 15 years but had some damage around the faucets, and, sadly, it was time for them to go. I planned for some practical, durable quartz instead.

What I learned: Its highly likely that once you see Statuario Venato marble at the stone vendor, youre not going to want quartz anymore. I went for the marble.

What else I learned: If you have a waterfall countertop with a prominent veining pattern like mine, have the installer place the template pieces continuously on the stone slab. That way the veining pattern continues down and across, uninterrupted. Also, make absolutely sure that you are present to approve the templating on the slab and that you take a photo of it while youre there. I worked on the countertops with Simona Tivadar at Custom Kitchen. She has great taste, and with her keen eye, she also helped me figure out which backsplash tile was just the right white to complement the marble.

The photo: I need to get that photo on the wall professionally matted and framed, but I didnt have time before photo shoot day. Its an iconic photo within my family of my giant dad in a tiny claw-foot tub giving the victory sign back in the 60s. My uncle Tommy Calder took it back then. He tracked down the negative and had it blown up for me.

Pewter Cast SW 7673 vanity paint: Sherwin-Williams; hardware and glass shelf: Anthropologie; Irvine double sconces: Schoolhouse Electric amp; Supply Co.

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - Look for bathroom design inspiration

Shower Niche

What I learned: Unless you have really detailed drawings from an interior designer of where every piece of tile will go and how it should be cut, you want to try to be around during tile installation. There are small design decisions that will come up on the fly.

For example, I had pieces of marble cut for the shower threshold, the top of the half wall and the shower niche from the same slab as the countertops. I then had the tile installers put in a border of the same Absolute Black granite pencil-tile trim around the inside. There are also funky things that will happen around corners and in tighter spaces where you may want to give your input on the pattern, even with something as simple as subway tile.


What I already knew: I hoard. As was obvious from the "before" photos, I have a problem with countertop clutter. So I invested in a large medicine cabinet to hold everyday stuff. Also, the huge drawer clean-out I had to do on the vanities so that they could be removed and painted provided a ton of new storage space. I also knew that I was stretched for towel storage so I bought a train rack for them mdash; no more towels shoved willy-nilly in a cabinet under the sink.

Make use of things or ditch them. I organized my shampoo, conditioner, lotion and face cream samples that were still usable in a hanging cosmetic bag. I hung it on the back of the door and vowed to use them every day. I havent had to buy a bottle of any of that stuff for several months now as I go through them all.

Photo by Innovative Construction Inc. - Browse bathroom photos

Splurge: Besides the sink faucets and the heated floors, my other big splurge was this fabulous beaded chandelier. With such a high vaulted ceiling, the room really needed one. It appears somewhat turquoise in this photo, but its more of a powdery blue in person.

Savings: I reused the original vanities, mirror and bathtub. The planks were already on the ceiling, and I already had great doors with hardware that worked well with the new finishes.

Although I think a freestanding tub would best suit this space, I love the very nice Jacuzzi bathtub that came with my house, and the thought of anything less comfortable gave me pause. Plus, tubs are expensive.

What I learned: Keep your eye on the price of your back-ordered items. If you see that something has gone on sale while you are waiting for it to arrive, call the retailer.

This renovation experience was so educational and a lot of fun. Some days, I even miss the plastic and all the activity. If you have any questions, please ask, and Ill do my best to answer them.

Malibu beaded six-light chandelier: Regina Andrew via Horchow; train rack: Restoration Hardware

Also See:
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Will The Stock Market Affect Your Home Purchase?

The wild stock market of the past week has sent some into a panic and caused many others to take a closer look at their financial picture. But what is the stock markets impact on real estate, and should you worry if youre getting ready to buy a new home? Not much at this point, and not really, say financial experts.

So why isnt a 1,175-point drop - the largest single-day dip in history - not a concern? First, because most financial experts saw some sort of correction coming because of the robust market over the last two years and, as many expected, the market bounced back with a 567-point gain on Tuesday, although there could be more volatility in the short term.

"The stock market has been on a roller-coaster ridenbsp;since late last week, with anbsp;historic one-day plunge in trading, and a ripple effect that struck the rest of the globe Tuesday," said Inman. "But most economists will tell you the historic highs over the past two years were bound to result in a correction of sorts as investors reckon with the possibility ofnbsp;inflationnbsp;andnbsp;rising interest rates."nbsp;

Second, and most important to homebuyers, is the fact that any potential impact on real estate is expected to be nominal. "Real estate professionals, and potential homebuyers and sellers arent immune to the fears that reverberated across trading floors on Friday and again on Monday, they said, "but analysts say the effect on home prices, sales volume and lending activity will be minimal and temporary."

Play the long game

Of course, the stock market isnt one size fits all, and, depending on where your investments lie, you may, understandably, be worried. Economists and financial planners have generally had similar advice to "average investors" wondering how to respond to the stock markets volatility: Think about your objectives and, "Stay put," said CNN Money. Its all about playing the long game.

"Are you saving for retirement? A future home purchase?nbsp;If those goals are more than 10 years away, you probably dont have much to worry about.nbsp;While its hard to ignore the noise when the market experiences a dark day, its important to take the emotion out of trading."

On the other hand, if you have a more immediate goal of buying a home and your down payment is tied to your investments, its probably time to call your financial advisor and reevaluate your portfolio.

What does all of this mean for real estate?

That depends on what aspect of real estate youre talking about. Publicly traded real estate-based companies including "Realogy,nbsp;Zillow,nbsp;Redfin,nbsp;News Corp, andnbsp;Re/Max "posted modest losses between end of trading on Thursday and Mondays close," said Inman. Real estate investors also felt an immediate pinch. "The plunge also resonated through real estate investment trust stocks, resulting in a 2.9 drop in the FTSE NAREIT All Equity REIT Index Monday," said BISNOW.nbsp;But, National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts NAREIT "economist Brad Casenbsp;said the 2.86 drop in the All Equity REIT index, though sizable, will be short-lived."

The potential for dipping consumer confidence can have a far greater impact on the overall economy and, specifically, the real estate market.

"Consumer confidence is a major consideration when people purchase durable goods and real estate," said ZACKS. "Few people are likely to commit to a big mortgage payment if they feel that their economic future is uncertain. When the stock market retreats and the value of portfolios declines, investors are impacted psychologically. Even if the portfolios are in IRAs, which will not be touched for years, peoples confidence is shaken. Loss of confidence can spread like a virus, affecting others who have not been financially hurt but have nevertheless become unnerved."

Which leads us back to the overall economy. U.S. jobs data >

The stability of real estate as an asset should shield the industry - and those who are looking to be a part of it, even as stocks rise and fall. "Back when the internet bubble burst in the year 2000, during that period, thats when the housing market began to steadily rise," National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told Inman. "That means that as people felt their financial assets to be very volatile, people were looking for more stable assets, which they perceived that real estate could provide."

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Save Some Green By Going Green

Is your commercial real estatenbsp;energy efficient? Did you know the cost of power alone represents, on average, 9 of your operating costs? Are you doing what you can to use less energy to provide the same service?

As the commercial property market grows more competitive by the day, property owners are constantly searching for new ways tonbsp;add valuenbsp;to their properties. The good news is that there are numerous ways to trim expenses and the better news is that most apply to a single 5,000 square foot property as much as they do to a million-square-foot portfolio.

Not every building needs to perform like a trophy asset in Midtown Manhattan, but they should all be optimized to best serve the needs of the most likely mix of tenants. But, one thing is true across all asset types - lighting and HVAC account for up to 71 of energy consumptionnbsp;in commercial buildings. So, it only makes sense to make them the primary focus of an energy efficiency strategy. Some of the most common solutions include:nbsp;nbsp;

With utility rates expected to rise 26 to 42 by 2020, professional property owners and managers recognize that in order to remain competitive and increase the value of assets, energy efficiency needs to be on the top of the to-do list. Lets get down to the numbers.nbsp;


Office Building with Monthly Power Bill of 12,000 50 is Demand = 6,000

EE applications installed save minimum of 30 of demand 6,0000.30 = 1,800/month


30 of 50 = 15 of net Cost Savings every month

Assume, Electric costs on Pamp;L account for 7

Therefore, 70.15 = 1.0 savings on Pamp;L = Pure Profit

There are multiple goals in the practice of sustainability. Increasing NOI by decreasing operating expenses is clearly in the interest of every property owner. Perhaps more important is the fact that delivering a better overall workplace experience for tenants helps them attract and retain the top talent they need to be more successful.nbsp;


When you increase the energy efficiency of your building, you win, your tenants win and the planet wins, too.nbsp;

Interested in learning more? Contact Marc Brener directly at 949 365-5823 or
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What Is Your Property Really Worth?

Qustion. Over the years, I have been involved in questions dealing with the value of certain property. This has involved such diverse issues as appealing the Countys assessment for tax purposes, obtaining a refinance mortgage to avoid private mortgage insurance, and recently challenging an IRS valuation of property we just inherited.

Is there a way to determine what our property is really worth. We have often obtained different appraisals on the same property, and would like to determine our true net worth. How do the appraisal prices work?

Answer. The most commonly used method to determine the value of ones property is to obtain an independent appraisal from an experienced appraiser. However, appraising market value of real estate is an art -- and not a science. And at best, it is an inexact art. My own experience with appraisals and appraisers has led me to question the validity of a number of appraisals.

It should be understood that an appraisal is an estimate and an opinion of value. The appraisal will not determine or establish the value of your property, but it can only estimate what that value is. The Supreme Court of the United States has defined fair market value as "the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of >All too often, however, the appraiser does not understand -- or even know -- the neighborhood, and brings to bear his or her subconscious prejudices while considering the value of your house. This is even worse now since lenders often have to >There are three methods used by appraisers. First, the cost approach. Under this method, the cost of reproducing the building is added to the value of the land, and a discount is applied for depreciation and deterioration that the buildings might have suffered.

A second approach is known as the capitalization of income. Since this is generally used in considering income-producing property, and is complicated and controversial, this column will not enter into a discussion of this approach.

The third formula is known as the market comparison. Here, the appraiser must consider the value of comparable properties, and once again, this is a highly subjective task. For example, your next door neighbors house recently sold for 410,000. Your house looks identical to your neighbors from the outside.

But inside your house there are major differences. You have a finished basement; your neighbor does not. You have wall-to-wall carpets; your neighbor does not. You have recently installed a very modern kitchen; your neighbors kitchen is from the l940s.

Needless to say, unless the appraiser actually visits and inspects both houses, the comparable method may adversely affect you.

Nevertheless, this market comparison method is widely utilized by appraisers in determining property values for mortgage lenders.

This does not mean to imply that you must take the appraisal without question. Here are some tips in dealing with your appraiser:

  • 1. Insist on obtaining a written report from the appraiser. Obtain the appraisers name and address, and inquire as to the methods used to determine the value of your property.
  • 2. If the appraisal was obtained by a mortgage lender, appeal that appraisal through that lender. Advise the lender you are dissatisfied with the value placed on the property, and that you will insist on a second appraisal being done, by an appraiser of your selection.
  • 3. Although it may be considerably more expensive for you, it may be worth your effort to hire your own appraiser. While they have to give you an objective, independent market value determination, you certainly have the right to obtain your own evaluation as to the worth of your property.

    Several years ago, the United States Tax Court was called upon to determine -- for estate tax purposes -- the value of certain property located in New York city. The Court concluded that a 19 percent discount from market value should be applied to the property because the decedent owned a small percentage of the property and could not -- by himself -- exercise full control over the property. Furthermore, the Court discounted another 26 percent because of market conditions in New York in the late l980s. Barudin v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1996-395. Thus, each property is different, and you -- and your appraiser -- should be completely familiar with all of the factors to be considered when determining the market value of your property.

    Incidentally, there is a legal provision contained in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1991 that should utilized by every mortgage borrower in this country. In Section 701e of the Act, Congress made it clear that every creditor "shall promptly furnish an applicant, upon written request by the applicant made within a reasonable period of time of the application, a copy of the appraisal report used in connection with the applicants application for a loan that is or would have been secured by a lien on residential property." The law does permit the creditor to require the applicant to reimburse it for the cost of the appraisal.

    It is strongly recommended that everyone request and obtain a copy of the appraisal report from the mortgage lender.

    There are, of course, on-line websites that attempt to project -- or perhaps predict is a better word -- the value of your house. While all these are helpful, I would not
    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Changing The Governing Documents

    Question: Our homeowner association has 30 single family detached homes. Our governing documents were basically written for townhomes. One of the bothersome issues is that the governing documents state that the HOA is responsible for replacing roofs, painting, gutters and other things that are commonly done with condominiums. Many owners object to building up a reserve fund to pay for repairs that may be as much as 20 years or more down the road.

    The covenants also state that the board cannot special assess for anything other than common area improvements. So that leaves us with pretty much the options of building up the reserve fund or changing the governing documents. Can you provide us some sample wording for a single family home HOA that would allow homeowners to pay for major repairs themselves but would allow the board architectural control of those repairs?

    Answer: While its unusual for a single family HOAs to do exterior maintenance, repairs and replacements, its not unheard of. I doubt that the developer made a mistake on this since its a huge issue. And its doubtful that you can muster the votes to change this which may take 100 of the owners to approve it including their mortgagees. You need to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to determine the requirements. If it is possible, the attorney can assist the board with the proper wording of the amendment.

    So barring you pulling off a major governing documents amendment, yes, you need a reserve plan that includes a funding plan to collect money systematically from each owner every year. The 20-years-down-the-road thinking is flawed. While a reserve event like a roof may take place 20 years down the road, the reserve plan will only charge each owner a share of the future cost directly proportional to the benefit received. For example, if a particular owner owns for five years and sells, he would only pay 5/20ths of the future roof cost. He only pays for the benefit received and not a penny more. This is the fairest way to fund future costs.

    Question: Our board is being badgered by a delinquent owner because his account was turned over to collection. In hard economic times, should the board back off of collections?

    Answer: As long as the board is enforcing collections uniformly, consistently and fairly, it is the boards responsibility to enforce the Collection Policy regardless of circumstance or economic climate. There is no government bail-out for HOAs.

    Question: Is there an average that HOA management companies charge for managing a homeowner association? How do they base their fees...by size, number of units, expectations, etc.? Do they usually charge a flat fee or percentage? How do they charge for maintenance...as a flat fee, by the job?

    Answer: Percentages are not used to determine HOA management fees. Commonly, the management fee is expressed as the cost "per door". But behind the per door concept is an analysis of how much time it takes the management company to execute the routine duties described in the Management Agreement. This can vary a lot from HOA to HOA. And within the fee structure, there is usually several levels and costs of service included in the routine duties like management, accounting and administrative mailing, making copies, etc..

    Maintenance and repairs are charged over and above the basic duties on an hourly or bid basis. So, for a management company to make a profit, an annual estimate of all the levels of service multiplied by their hourly charges multiplied by the number of hours for each plus a profit margin equals the annual cost of management. Keep in mind, however, that most Management Agreements provide for extra charges for non-routine tasks like assisting in insurance claims, arranging contractor bids, overseeing larger renovation projects and performing special tasks requested by the board.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see www.Regenesis.net
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    Portability Initiative Is Designed To Help 55 and Over To Sell Their Homes And Buy Another

    The California Association of REALTORSreg; CAR is attempting to qualify a ballot initiative, The Property Tax Fairness Initiative, that will restructure the way property taxes are calculated for buyers over the age of 55 and also the disabled and/or natural disaster victims. In many cases REALTORSreg; are already circulating petitions asking for ballot-placement of the initiative, and, in short order, professional signature-gathering organizations will be engaged as well.

    CARs approximately 200,000 members have been assessed 100 each in support of the effort; and there are expectations that the Associations substantial reserves will also be tapped in efforts to support the initiatives passage.

    What would this accomplish and why is it needed? In what follows I will seek to summarize CARs answer to those questions. First: the why?

    As is well-known, California is currently experiencing a shrinking inventory of housing available for sale. This lack of supply has driven up prices, which makes it extremely difficult -- in many cases, impossible -- for first-time buyers to enter the market. In many cases, it also makes it difficult for move-up buyers to find replacement property.

    There are, no doubt, multiple causes for this, but, no doubt, a major one is this: nearly 75 of California homeowners 55 years of age and older have not moved since the year 2000

    Why? Because of the way property taxes are calculated under Californias Proposition 13. For tax purposes, properties are valued on the basis of purchase price, not current market conditions. Example: Suppose I bought my house for 600,000 a few years ago; and that my neighbor bought the same model -- as identical as can be -- in this heated market for 800,000. My tax will still be calculated on 600,000, whereas his will be based on 800,000.

    CAR says, "A large part of the reason why [55 and overs are not moving] is that, even if they want to downsize or move closer to family, the prospect of a property tax increase of 100, 200, or even 300 percent, effectively locks our parents and grandparents in their homes." Thus, CAR maintains, "hellip;The Property Tax Initiativehellip;will help these homeowners to sell their current homes and move without being subjected to a what is effectively a massive "moving penalty."

    How will it help? By modifying current law to expand the conditions under which those over 55 would be allowed to transfer their current tax base -- based on their original purchase price -- to a replacement home that they are purchasing.

    Currently there are only limited conditions under which someone over 55 may transfer his or her old tax base to a newly purchased home. The Initiative would expand this. "C.A.R.s Property Tax Fairness Initiative would allow homeowners 55 years of age or older to transfer their Prop. 13 tax base to a home of any price, located anywhere in the state, any number of times."

    CARs talking points offer two examples of what would happen if the Initiative should pass.

    Buy Up Example

    • Original Purchase Price: 100k
    • Estimate Property Taxes: 1K/annually
    • Existing Home Sale Price: 300k
    • New Home price: 400k
    • New Property Taxes: 2k/annually

    The 100k difference between the 300k sales price and the 400k purchase price is added to the original Prop.13 property tax base of 100k for a new Prop. 13 tax base of 200k. The buyer still pays their fare share of taxes but isnt blocked from making the move.

    Buy Down Example

    • Original Purchase Price: 100k
    • Estimated Property Taxes: 1k/annually
    • Existing Home Sales Price: 300k
    • New Home Price: 200k
    • New Property Taxes: 1/3 of 200k = 67k [value] or 670/year for property taxes

    If a homeowner buys a less expensive home, the property taxes will be proportionally the same as for the original home. In other words, if the tax base was one-third of the sale price, the new property tax would be one-third of the new sale price. Buying down reduces the homeowners annual property tax bill.

    Among the objections raised to the Initiative is that it will reduce revenues to local governments. In response to this, CAR says: "The revenue loss is the result of a lsquo;static analysis -- it only looks at the revenue lost, not the revenue gained which a lsquo;dynamic analysis would do. All buyers of homes formally owned by a senior homeowner will have the home reassessed to market value and pay property taxes based on the reassessed value."

    Lots to think about. Theres an election coming.

    Full Story >

    Torontos Traffic Congestion: REALTORS Seek Solutions

    Traffic congestion, overcrowded public transit and Torontos Land Transfer Tax are combining to make life more difficult for the regions residents -- and costing them millions of dollars, REALTORSreg; attending a Toronto Real Estate Board TREB event were told recently.

    The board reached out to local governments and policymakers to ask what they are doing about issues of mobility and traffic congestion.

    "Everywhere I go in this city, people tell me that traffic and congestion remain their number one issue," says Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement sent to TREB. "Thats why addressing traffic and transit continues to be one of my key priorities."

    These initiatives include accelerating road construction projects to get work done faster, increasing enforcement on illegally parked vehicles during rush hour and better management of road closures. "Weve moved marathons, co-ordinated construction projects and injected a good dose of common sense into the whole process," says Tory.

    Public transit in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region has failed to keep up with the explosion in population and residential development in recent decades. A report by the C.D. Howe Institute, presented at the TREB event, says, "Anyone who has followed transportation debates in the region has seen a lack of political will to reduce congestion. The province quashed Torontos plans for road tolls, and politicians cant decide on where to build new transit."

    A recent study of young professionals by the Toronto Region Board of Trade found that "commute times across the region are depriving them of time with family and friends, which as our survey shows, is a major factor influencing their housing decisions," says Jan De Silva, president and CEO of the board. "As the city and region continue to grow, connected communities with an array of amenities will be key to ensuring our talented young professionals want to and can work here."

    The survey found that 76 per cent of young professionals ranked commute to work as the most important factor when choosing a home. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they would purchase a "less ideal" home or rent to be closer to work, while 77 per cent said they would consider living further away if they had better access to public transit.

    The C.D. Howe Institute report blames Torontos Land Transfer Tax for making congestion worse.

    "The tax tends to reduce the moves within a city rather than longer-distance moves or job changes," it says. "That means the economic cost to homeowners of transfer taxes is when they have to suffer through growing traffic congestion year after year to get to their same job because they cant afford to move closer.

    "Land transfer taxes exacerbate what we call the hidden economic cost of congestion when people decide to make a trip," says the report. "The hidden cost of congestion is that workers do not take jobs that are the best fit for them. Companies lose out, because the pool of workers they may draw from is shallower than otherwise."

    The institute estimates these additional costs to be "at least 1.5 billion and as much as 5 billion per year in lost wages."

    The cash-strapped City of Toronto isnt about to give up the Land Transfer Tax soon -- it is hoping to collect more than 800 million from the tax in 2018. But the C.D. Howe research says the "estimated dollar value of lost mobility is about 13 per cent of every dollar of revenue that the LTT generates for Torontos coffers."

    Among other things, the institute advocates the introduction of high occupancy tolling lanes, in which drivers who want to travel a little faster will have the option of paying for that privilege.

    De Silva says the Toronto Region Board of Trade was "excited" when the City of Toronto voted to start tolling two local expressways and were then disappointed when the idea was rejected by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

    "The road tolls got us all fired up," De Silva told the TREB audience. "We decided that weve got to start thinking boldly about the issue."

    That led to the boards proposal to form a single provincial agency called Superlinx. All transit planning, construction, operations and real estate commercialization in the region would be uploaded to the new entity, eliminating the existing 11 transit authorities. The proposal would maximize land use for housing, commercial and public services, says the board.

    It says the initiative could result in annual savings of more than 93 million for the City of Toronto and savings of 7.4 million for Hamilton and 13 million for York Region.

    In addition, "for the regions transportation plan to be successful, our primary focus on moving people must expand to include the efficient movement of goods, and until there is collaboration, better data and policy alignment across all levels of government, congestion will be a major impediment," says De Silva.

    Congestion delays cost 500 million to 650 million per year in higher prices for goods nationally, says the board.

    "Our products are not reaching their destination on time, which negatively impacts our productivity," says De Silva. "If we dont manage our competitiveness challenges, our economy -- like our goods and people -- will remain stuck in traffic."
    Full Story >

    The Agent with Heart Program Kicks off 2018 with Record-Setting Donation Month Thanks to Six Generous Realtors

    Las Vegas, NV February 1st, 2018 ndash; PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that six of their esteemed real estate professionals each made donations on behalf of their clients to the nonprofits of their clientsrsquo; choice.

    Brittany Howe of Realty One Group in Goodyear, AZ has made a donation to Arizona Animal Welfare League on behalf of her client, Amy Kroening.

    Terri Repetto of Realty One Group in San Diego, CA has made a donation to the American Cancer Society on behalf of The Bowmans, as well as an additional donation to Allina Health Hospice Foundation on behalf of her client, Julie Olson, in memory of Gary Olson.

    Dana Roberts of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Irvine, CA has made a donation to Families Forward on behalf of her clients Ava Chii and Shige Itoh.

    Geri DeVille of RE/MAX Top Producers in Brea, CA has made a donation to St. Jude Childrenrsquo;s Research Hospital on behalf of her client, Yolanda Ishak.

    Dawn Veronica Curry of Keller Williams in Fredericksburg, VA has made a donation to Maryrsquo;s Shelter on behalf of her client, as well as an additional donation to the Disability Resource Center on behalf of her clients David and Caroline Seawell.

    Tammy Dollar of Town amp; Country Realtors of East Tennessee, Inc. in Maryville,TN has made a donation to St. Jude Childrenrsquo;s Research Hospital on behalf of her clients, Richard and Sandra Nuttall.

    ldquo;To already be starting 2018 on such a high with a new record of donations is incredible, and I would like to personally thank Brittany, Terri, Dana, Geri, Dawn, and Tammy because without their generosity this would not have been possible,rdquo; says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise.

    ldquo;Irsquo;d also like to give special thanks to Tammy Dollar as she is a recent addition to our program, only having joined in January, and already made her first donation in the same month. Kindness like that is precisely why our program was created, and Irsquo;d like to thank her for her generosity.rdquo;

    ldquo;All of us at PinRaise are continuously grateful for the dedication that Brittany, Terri, Dana, Geri, Dawn, and Tammy have shown by being committed to paying it forward within their own communities. We are incredibly proud to have agents like them in our program to assist us in reaching our goal of donating to nonprofits nation-wide, and we look forward to their continued generosity throughout the year to come,rdquo; concludes Mr. Giaimo.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local nonprofits who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.AgentwithHeart.org.

    To contact Brittany Howe, please call 632-302-4542 or visit www.Facebook.com/BrittanyHowe.RealtyONEGroup.

    To contact Terri Repetto, please call 619-348-5122 or visit www.TerriRepetto.com.

    To contact Dana Roberts, please call 949-433-6694 or visit www.DanaRobertsRealEstate.com.

    To contact Geri DeVille, please call 714-392-1001 or visit www.GeriDeVille.com.

    To contact Dawn Veronica Curry, please call 571-436-8321 or visit www.DawnCurryHomes.com.

    To contact Tammy Dollar, please call 865-982-5000 or visit www.TammyDollarHomes.com.

    Full Story >

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