Florida Real Estate News

Fort Lauderdale News

Updated: Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Short and Succinct Guide to Boosting Your Curb Appeal

Make no mistake; curb appeal can be a deal-breaker. The first glance at the exterior sets the foundations for someones feelings towards a property. People will often write a place off based on its immediate appearance, without even setting foot inside and rightly so, as more often than not, the exterior says a lot about what to expect from the interior.nbsp;nbsp;

Dont judge a book by its cover just isnt applicable in the property market which is why curb appeal is essential whatever the size, shape, or >

Whether youre putting your property on the market, sprucing up a home to show off to the neighbors, or looking to give a new lease of life to a long-neglected exterior, you will find the best ways to create a good first impression in our short but succinct guide on boosting curb appeal.

The First Impressionnbsp;

The importance of that first glance at a property cannot be overstated. If well kept, the exterior will entice potential buyers, make visiting friends and family feel comfortable, and even add value to your home. Before the external features are scrutinized, the general feel is absorbed in those first seconds: the design, the layout, the boundaries, the color, and the organization. These are the factors that shape that immediate inspection.nbsp;

The exterior needs to have a picture-perfect postcard look that comes from having a well-maintained and presentable layout. The first thing is setting clear boundaries to the property, so people know exactly what is in the picture. Ensure walls, fences, and surroundings clearly exhibit your propertys exterior space and show-off its organization and security.

Look at the appearance of these features. Make sure the paint is up to scratch, the gate is sturdy, and the fences and walls are well kept and easily observed. They may seem separate from your property, but walls or wooden fences cannot be neglected. A lick of paint on metalwork or a new coat of varnish on a fence can make all the difference and show a home is secure and protected from the elements.

The Natural Necessities: Graceful Greenery

In a world that becomes more artificial and digitally dictated with each day, everybody seeks more of a connection with nature. For that reason, greenery has a huge influence on curb appeal and how appealing people find a propertys exterior.

If a property has a front garden, it goes without saying this needs to be presentable. It doesnt take much to mow a lawn or trim a hedge. The greenery in front gardens whatever their size can be hugely influential on curb appeal and property value. But it needs to be inviting and attractive rather than disheveled and disorderly.nbsp;

A balance in external greenery can be one of the hardest things to get right. A verdant exterior adds vigor to the property but too many overflowing plants can present a burden rather than a benefit for potential buyers and can feel unwelcoming for visitors not to mention anybody who lives in the building.

Equally, a home without any greenery can lack vitality. If a property doesnt have a garden or lacks the space for hedges and a lawn, its not the end of the world. Some well-chosen pots and planters bring ample life to an exterior and can be used to organize spaces for those properties that dont have walls, gates, or fences.nbsp;

The Pristine Pathway: The Journey to Your Front Doornbsp;

Once the design, layout, boundaries, and greenery of a property have been absorbed, the journey from the curb to the front door is the focus. For obvious reasons, the pathway or driveway should be clear and void of obstacles, so entering a property is an enjoyable experience.

Garbage cans positioned on the driveway or outside the front of your house arent going to do you any favors. So if they cant be tucked away neatly around the side of your home or somewhere out of sight, it might be that a garbage storage shed is necessary.nbsp;

Ensure the driveway or pathway are deweeded, flat, and look neat. Sweep away leaves and replace cracked paving stones to improve both the look of your path and its safety. The journey to the door is extra important for those people with buggies, wheelchairs, or children, so the path or driveway should be as accessible as possible.nbsp;

If either your pathway or driveway is looking worse for wear due to dirt that cant be removed, a pressure wash can rejuvenate your driveway and breath a new lease of life back into your exterior. It takes a day and has an enormous impact.nbsp;

The driveway is a practical part of your property, but its often overlooked as a great feature in itself. As a feature of the exterior that directs your eyes towards the front door, the driveway must be kept attractive. Curved borders or patterned paving slab designs add a brilliant touch, as do pots or planters that flank the driveway.nbsp;

The Elegant Entryway: A Fresh and Updated Front Door

A front door is the most important part of a homes exterior. After the general details of the property have been absorbed, it is here the focus ends up. The front door speaks of the homes character and expresses more about the property than the rest of the exterior.nbsp;

The front door is also where people will wait, and you will enter and exit every day. So for everybodys benefit, it should be presentable, warm, and welcoming.nbsp;

Giving the door a fresh coat of paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve curb appeal. The gleam of a fresh coat removes any weather-beaten signs. It also gives the exterior a facelift and says a home is clean and comfortable. Black paint looks formal and professional, while blues, greens, reds, and yellows bring a bright and cheerful feel to your entryway. Greys and browns should be avoided for their meaning and mood associations, while whites will easily dirty and are hard to maintain.

Once youre satisfied with the door color and the state of the paintwork, the doors hardware and accessories should be spruced up next. Nobody likes a squeaky door or one that doesnt function properly, so make sure your doors hardware is doing what it is designed to do. Stick with brass, chrome, or another type of metal, get some sturdy door handles, new house numbers, and invest in a door knocker that means business.

As the focal point of the exterior and a feature that buyers will always subconsciously end up over-analyzing, the front door should be customized as best as possible. A canopy above the door adds elegance and stops rainwater falling on the front doorstep while a festive wreath adds charm and comfort.

The Limelight: Important Illumination

Last but not least is the lighting. Garden lighting is essential for those who have one, and the bigger the garden, the more essential it is. A dark, gloomy path up through shrubs and plants is not an inviting sight in the darkness. A property should be approachable day and night.nbsp;

The door should be the most well-illuminated of all with lanterns either above or beside it, so people feel safe and welcomed. A sensor light boosts security and saves on energy and bills. It is a great option in todays market; it makes a home feel functional and safe.

Wall lanterns or fisherman->

Property buyers might inspect a house at any point during their search, so curb appeal after dark must be considered too.nbsp;


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Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Cooler weather ahead doesnt mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people dont tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. If you live in a condo, check regulations first.

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so youll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canadas Hot Market.nbsp;

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. Theyre not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for 500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.

Renovate

Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, dont cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwoods red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive. Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants keep the soil to act as an anchor and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squir>

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

Im seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.nbsp;

Activities for the whole family Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.


Full Story >


Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Cooler weather ahead doesnt mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people dont tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. If you live in a condo, check regulations first.

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so youll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canadas Hot Market.nbsp;

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. Theyre not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for 500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.

Renovate

Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, dont cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwoods red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive. Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants keep the soil to act as an anchor and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squir>

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

Im seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.nbsp;

Activities for the whole family Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.


Full Story >


Who Are Those Behind-the-Scenes People at Your Mortgage Company?

When you first begin thinking about mortgages, more than likely its your loan officer who you will have the most contact with. Your loan officer will prequalify you and quote interest rates and monthly payments along with an estimate of closing costs and the approval process in general. When you submit your loan application, the loan officer takes sort of a back seat as the file is prepared for processing. Not that the loan officer walks away and you never hear back, not in the least. Its just that there are so many other people working in the background that you may never know much less speak to.

Your loan processor however is one person who you will speak to after loan submission. Its the loan processors job to put the loan file together, order out various third party services and collect further documentation from you when needed. The loan officer will give you a list of what needs to be submitted along with your application.nbsp;

This list contains items such as your most recent paycheck stubs covering a 30 day period. The last two years of W2 forms and tax returns if self-employed. Bank statements will also be required to provide evidence there are enough funds to close on the transaction. The processor will order third party services and documents such as title insurance policies and property appraisals. Once the file is fully documented, it is handed over to the underwriter.

Your underwriter is the individual who will make sure the loan package that was submitted meets the guidelines for the selected program. The underwriter will review the initial decision provided by an automated underwriting system. This decision will itemize the things needed for a complete approval. If the list says there needs to be paystubs in the file covering a 30 day period and there is only one paycheck stub covering a 15 day period, the underwriter will send the file back to the processor to gather the additional items. You will not speak with the underwriter at all, but work with your processor to provide what is needed.

After the loan has been approved, the file moves to the closing department. The closing department will prepare the loan file for a digital delivery of the package to the settlement agent. The settlement agent is someone you will not only speak with but meet at your loan closing. Once the loan documents are signed, theyre returned to the lender for one more review.

At this stage, the lender has pulled funds from its credit line in order to fund the newly created mortgage. The individual who reviews the signed papers makes sure the settlement agent followed the lenders instructions properly. Once the determination the settlement agent did follow the instructions properly, the lender will provide the settlement agent a funding number which in essence is a digital key that unlocks the funds needed to create the new mortgage.


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September Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "Mortgage rates set several record lows over the last few months and have remained low into September. While there is room for rates to decrease even more, higher home prices and low inventory could potentially stifle the high demand that weve been seeing."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.90 percent with an average 0.8 points for the week ending September 24, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.91 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.64 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.40 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.46 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.90 percent this week with an average 0.2 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.91 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.38 percent.


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How Much Does Location Really Matter When Buying A Home?

The old saying, "Location, location, location" is more like a mantra when it comes to real estate. Buy in the wrong one and you could be setting yourself up for financial ruin. Or at least an unhappy experience. Right?

In some cases, yes. But also, maybe not so much. Lets get into it.

The argument for buying in the best location you can afford

You can change your home, adding, updating, and renovating down to the last square foot. What you cant change is where its located. Add in an inherent desire to build equity when you buy a home, and its not surprising that real estate experts often recommend buying not only in the best location you can afford, but, if given a choice, buying the worst house in the best neighborhood instead of the other way around.

"A home is an investment - and the best investments have the most room for improvement," said Realtor.com. "Ideally, youll be adding to the home during your ownership, building equity in hopes of a payoff when you eventually sell. Brendon DeSimone, author of "Next Generation Real Estate," told them. "You can add value on your own. If youre choosing between an awesome house in a crappy location or an awful house in a great location, I would choose the latter."

Multiple recent studies bolstered the idea of buying in the best location you can, but identified new factors for determining location-worthiness. Namely, you need to buy a home with a Starbucks nearby. Or a Target nearby. Ideally, both.

"Among homeowners who sold in 2015, those near a Target saw an average 27 percent increase in home price since they purchased their home, which equates to an average price gain of 65,569," said the Washington Post.

As for Starbucks, "Between 1997 and 2014, homes within walking distance, or one-quarter mile, of a Starbucks appreciated 96 percent," said Forbes. "Compared to the national average for the same time period, 65 percent, it seems having a barista close by is a smart real estate move."

Buying the house, not the neighborhood

Yes, buying in a neighborhood that seems to offer some cushion when it comes to values makes sense. But what if you fall in love with a house thats not in your preferred neighborhood? What if its not in anyones preferred neighborhood?

The opportunity to buy a more affordable home can tempt people to take a chance on an iffy location. But how iffy is too iffy? The potential for losing money on a home that may not ever appreciate because of the neighborhood is only the beginning. Buying into an area that has higher crime can be dangerous to more than your finances.

Not sure what youre getting yourself into? Here are a few ways to investigate the neighborhood:

Look at sales data - Beyond the safety issues, you want to know what youre in for in terms of your investment. Just because a home in a questionable area is priced low doesnt mean its a good value.
Check crime records - Youll obviously want to pay attention to murder and violent crime rates, but also property crimes including break-ins, home robberies, and car thefts.
Check the sexual predator registry - Thats a given for any move.
Talk to neighbors and area business owners - Sometimes, the people that live and work there can provide the most telling information.
Consider the type of businesses in the neighborhood. Remind yourself about the Starbucks and Target value conversation. Those arent around? Whats in their place?

The quality of the businesses in the area can be one of the main determining factors when considering a neighborhood. A story from attn: asked the question, "Do Certain Businesses Attract Crime?" Their findings: "The prospect of a new liquor store or marijuana dispensary can spark safety concerns in some neighborhoods. But while the idea that particular businesses are crime magnets holds up in some cases, its not always true, and peoples concerns can be based on real evidence or flawed perception."

However, they note that businesses like liquor stores, nightclubs, and pawn shops can be linked to higher crime trends. A careful examination of police reports can either put your mind at ease - or send you in another direction.

Perhaps toward a neighborhood with a strip club. Yes, the establishment once thought to be a neighborhood killer has actually been found to have little or no effect on home values. "A new study found that proximity to strip clubs doesnt put downward pressure on home prices, said Inman. In addition, "The research undercuts legal arguments that municipalities have used to justify placing zoning restrictions on strip clubs."

The new study was conducted in Seattle between 2010 and 2014, analyzing more than 300,000 home sales. "The basis for the study was as follows: The >

The upshot: "The study found no empirical evidence that strip clubs drive down home prices, as property values in Seattle neighborhoods near the opening or closing of an establishment did not change in value per the studys findings."

Buying in a transitional neighborhood

Transitional is code for "might be on its way up" which also translates to "might be a great investment." Many buyers seek out these changing neighborhoods when their ideal neighborhood is out of reach and/or to get more for their money and be on the "ground floor" as the area appreciates.

So how do you know if your neighborhood is transitioning? If theyre building a Whole Foods, a Trader Joes, or a caf on the corner, that a good sign. Forbes offered a few more tips:

Its Accessible, with "proximity to public transportation."
"Hot hoods border it - A neighborhood thats adjacent to a much-desired one is much more likely to gentrify than one thats surrounded by less prime areas."
Days on market are dropping - Your real estate agent will be able to pull data and show you trends.
"It Has an Art Scene. A large population of artists tends to mean galleries and restaurants will soon follow suit - which, in turn, attracts more residents and businesses."
"It Has Historic Architecture - Historically significant > Renovations are being made - "One of the most obvious signs of a turnaround neighborhood is homes that are in the process of renovation. Drive around and see if you spot construction trucks and dumpstersthen you know theres activity in the air."


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Important Reasons To Keep Your Gutters Clean

A recent report from Prime Time Window Cleaning gives a clear picture of the damage that can be caused by failing to clean out your gutters each year.

They report that millions of dollar in damage are caused to Chicago area homes. The lesson to be learned can be applied across the nation. When Fall comes calling, homeowners must clean out their gutters.

One Prime Time Windows customer writes, "Naturally you might be thinking that this is one chore you would rather avoid this year especially with the busy holiday season rapidly approaching. Chances are you have ignored this time-consuming but vital home improvement chore in the past but if this winter is even half as destructive as the last, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in damage to your investment."

Whats wrong with clogged gutters?

The risks to skipping out on this task are easy enough to see. As leaves and debris build up in your guttering system there become blockages. Instead of watering flowing easily into downspouts, it backs up onto eaves, the roof, and other parts of your house eventually leading to rot.

This in turn can lead to interior home damage to walls and ceilings. Overly full gutters can also become extremely heavy. This can bend the gutters and their brackets, causing unsightly damage to the exterior of your home.

Fox news reports, "Even flooded basements and cracking foundations are other symptoms of clogged gutters. If water isnt drained away from the house and it pools around the foundation it will expand when frozen and cause cracks which lead to floods in your basement or crawl space."

Thats a lot of damage from some fallen leaves The first order of business is not procrastinating. If you wait until its miserably cold outside you may be tempted to skip this yearly task. If you wait even longer you may miss you opportunity as snow and ice fill your gutter systems.

Thankfully, all it takes is a few simple tools and some elbow grease

As you set out to complete this job, be sure to gather the correct tools. Youll need comfortable gloves, trash cans or bags, a ladder, garden trowel, and a hose.

Begin by scooping out the large debris and depositing it into your bag or can. Next, scrape any remaining deposits with your trowel. Finally, clean out the gutter with a steady stream of water from your home. If you find an area in a downspout, for example, that is clogged and cant be reached simply use a plumbing snake to push the blockage on through.

A little upkeep goes a long ways when it comes to gutters. Now you have a clean system that not only look good, but are also going to save you time and money in the future


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When Is “For Sale By Owner” The Right Option?

When you put your home on the market, one of the first decisions youll make is whether to hire an agent to represent the property or to go the for sale by owner route.

While a portion of homeowners initially goes into selling their home on their own, they end up ultimately hiring an agent.

Some of the big reasons homeowners decide to try and sell their home on their own are because they think it will save them money and time. Some homeowners also feel like they understand their home better than a real estate agent will.

So when is it the right option to try and sell your home on your own without an agent?

The Basics of For Sale By Owner FSBO

FSBO means that as a homeowner, you list your home for sale without a real estate agent, making you responsible for the process from start-to-finish. Some of the things youll have to do include pricing and listing your home, staging it, negotiating, and closing.

The standard real estate commission fee is around 6, and trying to save that is one of the primary motivators for people to go the FSBO route.

Along with avoiding the listing commission, there are other benefits of FSBO.

Youll have full control over the price at which you list your home.
You can schedule your open houses and showings, so youre not stuck at the last minute trying to leave the house.
Youre going to be motivated to get the highest possible amount for your home.
You know not just your home but also your neighborhood best.

What Are the Downsides of FSBO?

Some of the potential downsides of trying to sell your home on your own, aside from the commission youll pay, include:

A real estate agent understands how to properly price a home to sell based on fair market value. You may be emotionally attached to your home, which can be problematic. You may think your home is worth more than it is, or you might be offended if someone criticizes your home. A real estate agent doesnt have that emotional connection so they can be objective.
Real estate agents have access to local listing portals, the MLS, networks, and other agents.
Some agents wont show a home thats FSBO.
Real estate agents understand how to efficiently manage the procedural aspects of selling a home, such as the paperwork.

When Does It Make Sense To Sell Your Own Home?

In many circumstances, working with an experienced, professional real estate agent is best.

There are a few cases where it can make sense to opt for FSBO, however.

If you already have a qualified buyer whos interested in your home before it goes on the market, you may not need a listing agent. One of the big roles of an agent is marketing, and if you have someone who plans to buy your home, you wont need an agents expertise in that area. It is important to separate interested buyers from qualified buyers in this case.
Is there a lot of demand in your market? If youre in a high-growth market and inventory is limited, you may be able to sell your home quickly and for top-dollar without an agent.
Can you take your time? If youre in no real hurry to sell your house and you can wait, then you might be able to sell it on your own successfully.

If you do the research and think FSBO is best for you, remember to price it accordingly, based on market research rather than emotions.

Create a listing thats high-quality with professional photographs and an optimized description.

Finally, if you arent going to have a real estate agent, you should work with an experienced real estate attorney early on to protect you and help guide you through the process.


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Ask the HOA Expert: Counting Ballots, Long-Standing Policies & Club House Remodels

Question: What is the most efficient way to count ballots at an Annual Meeting? Our group has a large membership and vote counting bogs down the meeting.

Answer: With many ballots to count, preparation is essential. The ballots should be preprinted with names of all candidates and a checkbox next to each. A couple of blanks should be left for nominations from the floor at the meeting. After the ballots have been completed, they should be collected by the election tellers none of whom should be running for election and divided into equal parts.

Using several teams of two, one reading the results and the other tallying, ballots can be counted simultaneously by the teams and the final tallies from each team can then be added together for the final results. A Head Teller should check the math, circle the names of the winners and hand the results to the president to announce. Using this technique should allow the process to be completed in 5-10 minutes during which other business can be handled. The counted ballots should then be batched and stapled to the tally sheets and retained in the annual meeting file should questions about the election arise.

Question: Can the board cite a "long-standing policy" to prohibit construction of an enclosed patio beyond a side privacy wall in my own back yard, although there is no written rule or regulation in the documents which would prohibit that?

Answer: In general, it is the HOAs right to dictate the exterior appearance of the homes. So, as a rule, an owner should always get approval of exterior modifications before proceeding. Even though the city may issue a permit, the HOA may have restrictions that override local zoning and building codes.

If the board has enacted broader architectural design restrictions than are found in the governing documents, these need to be documented in writing. It is not reasonable to expect owners to know these things by ESP. Also, such restrictions need to be reasonable. If your proposed enclosure is not visible from the street, what difference should it make to the board or the neighbors? Based on your description, this restriction does not seem reasonable and unless the board can produce an Architectural Design Policy that specifically prohibits it and the reasons for it, you should not be restrained from moving forward.

Question: Is it a problem if we are remodeling our clubhouse and a board member charges the materials to her personal credit card?

Answer: As a rule, HOA expenses should be billed or charged directly to the HOA so the record is clear about what was bought and why. It will also keep the record straight for warranties that are included with the purchases.

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


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What Should Your Credit Score Be to Buy a House?

What credit score do you need to get a home loan? While specifically, it can vary, there are certain things you should know before you apply for a mortgage to ensure youve put yourself in the best possible financial position.

Factors Impacting Your Credit Score

Before you explore specific loans, pull your credit report. You can look for errors that may need to be corrected and get a better idea of what you can do to improve it.

The factors that play a role in your credit score include:

Payment history: This is the main factor of a credit score, making up about 35 of your score. Your payment history is simply whether you pay your bills on time or not. Any creditors you have will report your activity every month to major credit bureaus. One or two late payments probably wont have a big impact, but a pattern of late payments will.
Debt: The amount of debt you owe across the board makes up around 30 of your score. Debt is also called your credit utilization ratio, and it looks at how much debt youre using versus whats available to you.
Credit age: Making up around 15 of your score is credit age. The longer you have accounts on your credit history the better, as long as theyre in good standing. If you have old accounts, keep them open if possible because this will affect your average credit age.

Other factors that are >

Your credit score is important not only because it determines whether you get financing for a home, but also the interest rate youre offered.

The following are typical ranges for credit scores:

Anything below 580 is considered very poor A fair score is one ranging from 580 to 669
A good credit score might range from 670 to 739
An excellent score is between 740 and 799
Anything 800 and above is considered exceptional

Conventional Loans

If youre applying for a conventional loan from a bank or a similar type of lender, you will usually need at least a 620 to qualify.

Conventional home loans follow Freddie Mac and Fannie Maes standards.

While 620 is the minimum, having that score doesnt mean youll be approved for a home loan. An excellent score is usually considered 740 and above, and with an excellent score youll likely not only qualify for a conventional home loan but youll also get a competitive interest rate and you may have a lower down payment requirement.

VA Loans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs insures VA loans. Theyre available to certain servicemembers and veterans of the U.S. Military, as well as spouses of military members who died while on active duty.

The minimum credit score for a VA loan is likely to be around 620, although this can vary, and theres no set minimum score.

FHA Loans

Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are less risky for lenders so you may find its easier to qualify. The minimum score for an FHA loan with a down payment of 3.5 is 580. If youre paying at least 10 for your down payment, theres no minimum required credit score.

If you have an FHA loan originated by a private lender, each will have its own minimum requirement for credit scores.

Other Factors Lenders Consider

Yes, your credit score determines whether your quality for a home loan and also what your interest rate will be, but other factors are >

Lenders will look at your income to ensure that you can afford your mortgage payments if you get a loan. Theyll also look at your existing debt in comparison to your income.

The more of a down payment you can make, the more likely youll qualify for a lower interest rate.

Lenders also want to know if you have savings if your income ends for a period of time. You should be able to show that you have enough money saved to cover at least two months of your mortgage payments.

Finally, employment history is >

If you have a low credit score, you could potentially still get a loan, but youre a riskier borrower.nbsp; Youll have to offset that risk, which means youll have to have a larger down payment, and youre also going to pay a higher interest rate.


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Before You Leap In…

The world may be on pandemic pause but real estate professionals continue to work hard whether they are in a hot real estate market or a very troubled one.

After a careerand, for many, a lifetimeof serving others, its going to take more than a pandemic to keep real estate professionals from finding a way to help home-buying prospects and clients connect with their real estate dreams.

Which of the current real estate trends describes your next dream step?

Less Expense amp; More >

Residents of crowded, expensive cities like New York City and San Francisco move into low-stress, less-costly areas, like a move from California to Idaho.

A recent survey revealed that 39 percent of urban Americans are considering a move to a less crowded, less expensive location as a result of the pandemic. Theres a lot to choose from since the median population density of Americas 324 largest cities with over 100,000 residents is just 3,419 per square mile, about 80 percent less crowded than New York City.

Less Flu amp; More Sun Trend

Those who fear Covid-19 and the also-dangerous flu during winter months when cold forces people inside together are moving to warm, less confining areas like Florida.

The 2020 Miami Report states that roughly 950 people a day move to Florida and many come from cold Northern cities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Less Cost amp; More Security Trend

Adult children move in with parents or >

A recent analysis of government data by Zillow stated that there were 32 million adults living with their parents or grandparents in April 2020, the highest number on record. More than 80 percent of those who recently moved back in with their parents are Gen Zers who pay an estimated 726 million in rent each month. Those payments to landlordsabout 1.4 of the total rental marketcould be at risk if moving home becomes permanent.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Less Location amp; More Work Flexibility Trend

Employers have allowed employees to work from home to protect them during the pandemic.

We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time, said Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. About another 33 percent are not workinga testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession...So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Working from anywhere has become a reality. That means no longer paying premiums to live near work. Real estate anywhere would be a great workplace and a hot market

These trends and more are evolving in our change-a-minute pandemic world. Micro-local trends, like moving within a neighborhood to improve access to a pool or other amenities, pop up in local markets. All this creates a whirl of confusion that can distract buyers and sellers from what makes good sense. This frenzy of options superimposed on social-distancing limbo and pandemic-driven stress may catalyze inadvisable decisions and action in some when wait and see or take a long cool look may be better strategies as economic shifts appear.

We are followers not leaders. Trends are reflections of what people are actually doing, not what is best or smart for you to do in the long run. Following friends, social media, or any other group behavior may not always, or perhaps ever, be the best move for youpresent and future.

Buyers and sellers are free to reach out to real estate professionals for answers, even when buyers or sellers are not quite sure what the right questions are.

Originally, people said were all in this together. Now, its clear that we are all experiencing the pandemic, but how varies greatly with individuals and families. For instance, in many areas natural disasters including wildfires and hurricane flooding are exacerbating pandemic effects and ramping up stress for everyone concerned.

Real estate professionals are experiencing extremes, personally and professionally, as much as others. Some are in hot Covid-escape markets while others work in areas hard hit by industry layoffs and shutdowns or even full-on natural disasters. Regardless of market conditions and in spite of continued up-rooting change, real estate professionals remain intent on buyers and sellers making confident decisions they can live with now and once the pandemic subsides.

Before you leap in as a buyer or a seller, your real estate professional has questions theyd like you to consider:

How Solid Is Your Decision?

Solid, confident, well-examined decisions move life forward. Avoid impulsive swings, emotional shifts, or a plunge into panic which can undermine everything you hope to achieve. Learn to control your emotions so you dont jump in before first considering key implications and ramifications.

How Reversible Is Your Decision?

When the driving need for change suddenly ends, would you want to revert to your original life>

How Many Other Options Do You Have?

Dont limit yourself to the options you know. Ask your real estate professional to call on their expertise to help you discover alternatives. Learn how to always be prepared with a new plan when things change unexpectedly.

What Is The Worst That Can Happen?

The Worst must be what you consider devastating, not what others might insist cannot possibly happen. Dig deep to decide what loss would be irreversible and how it could be avoided.

Ask your real estate professional about alternatives that allow you to leap in and restart or refresh your real estate dreams.


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What Should You Know About Homeowners Associations?

If youre thinking about moving, there are a lot of factors to consider aside from the house itself.

Homeowners associations are one example. Living in a community with a homeowners association can have its benefits but also its downsides.

Its important to be well-aware of the implications of living in a community with a homeowners association before you make an offer on a house.

The Basics: What Is An HOA?

An HOA is a governing body in a community, and youll often find theyre present in gated neighborhoods, planned communities, and apartment and condo buildings. An HOA is funded and operated by residents, and theres a board of directors.

HOAs have meetings, create budgets, and are responsible for enforcing regulations and rules. The rules set by an HOA are legally enforceable.

A well-run HOA can improve property values because they work to make sure the community maintains a certain standard as far as how homes and lawns look. Poorly run HOAs can be expensive and make it difficult to own a home in the neighborhood because of the bureaucracy.

If youre a member of an HOA, you might pay dues monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

The dues are meant to go toward keeping up common areas like clubhouses, pools, walkways, and lighting.

Fees vary significantly depending on location and the neighborhood or building itself. HOA fees might be 50 a month to thousands of dollars a month. nbsp;

How Do the Rules of an HOA Work?

HOA rules are referred to as conditions and restrictions, or covenants. If there is an HOA in a community where youre thinking about buying a home, you need to understand them well.

The majority of HOA rules are going to be >

For example, you may be required to maintain your lawn in a certain way. You may only be able to paint your house in particular colors. In condos and apartments, the rules might be >

If you dont follow the rules of HOA, initially, youll be asked to comply. If you dont, you may have to pay fines, and then if it gets beyond that point you may face a lawsuit.

Additionally, if you dont pay HOA fees, the board can put a lien on your home or even require you to foreclose, depending on the state where you live.

What to Find Out About an HOA Before Buying

If youre looking at a home with an HOA, the following are things to find out or ask your real estate agent to find out for you:

Ask if you can attend an HOA meeting, or if thats not possible, request a copy of the most recent minutes. This will give you a feel for the behavior of the board members and whether their top priority is resident well-being.
Your HOA should be in good financial standing. Otherwise, you may be hit with an unexpected assessment that you have to pay if work needs to be done in the community.
Are there are a lot of issues between the board and homeowners?
Youll have to consider how well the HOAs rules will fit with your life> Go over, in detail, what HOA fees will include.

Finally, along with thinking about how HOA fees and rules will affect you now, you have to think about how its going to affect the resell value of a home you buy. There are a lot of buyers who simply dont want an HOA, and if you do want to sell your home, your pool of buyers may be limited.

Over time, as HOA fees go up, it may put living there out of many peoples price ranges, making it tough to sell your home.


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How Lenders View Installment vs Revolving Debt

One of the more important functions a mortgage lender performs is determining affordability. Primarily, this is accomplished by comparing monthly credit obligations with gross monthly income. Dividing debt by income results in a percentage, or a ratio. Debt ratios fall into two basic categories, a housing ratio and a total debt ratio. The housing ratio is the total monthly mortgage payment which includes the principal and interest payment and a monthly allotment for property taxes and insurance. Mortgage insurance is also figured into this number when needed.

Debt ratios are typically not hard and fast rules, although some loan programs do prescribe a maximum debt ratio in order to qualify for the loan program. If for example the recommended housing ratio is 33, then a house payment or 3,300 would be 33 of a gross monthly income of 10,000. If a total debt ratio is 43, then the housing payment of 3,300 plus other obligations are included to arrive at that number.nbsp;

What types of debt are included in the total debt ratio? Pretty much anything that appears on a credit report, for starters. These other obligations include credit cards, student loans and auto loans. However, when these debts are paid off to a zero balance, mortgage lenders treat such a move differently depending upon the type of debt.

Most debts fall into either an installment or revolving category. With an installment loan, the monthly payments are set each month and do not change throughout the life of the loan. When the loan is paid off, the monthly amounts are no longer considered in the debt ratio calculation. Further, if there are less than 10 months remaining on an installment account, lenders can ignore the amount when calculating debt ratios knowing the monthly payments will soon vanish. When a car loan is paid off there are no monthly payments and the owner keeps the car.

Revolving debt on the other hand is treated differently. Revolving debt is where the balance can rise and fall when credit is used and when payments are made. Your credit card is a >

Consumers can pay down monthly debt in order to help qualify for most loan programs. However, when the balance is paid down, it might take up to 30 days for the new balance to be reported to the credit agencies. The consumer would have to keep a paper trail of the payments and new balance and work with the lender or credit agency directly to update the report with the new information.nbsp;


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Real Estate Attorneys: A Benefit in Home Purchases

The costs associated with buying or selling a home can add up quickly. Many buyers and sellers opt not to retain an attorney to save the several hundred dollars it costs to have one review the contract, deed and title, respond to inspection issues, and make sure the contract is performed according to its terms.

But the cost of an attorney is one that should not be eliminated in an effort to save money, in the end the lack of legal representation in the sale or purchase of a home could cost you much more than the money you saved.

It is common in some areas not to have an attorney involved in a real estate transaction, but consider the legal education or experience the closing or title agent, real estate agent or brokerage has >

nbsp;

Retain an attorney who specializes in residential real estate.

You might know an attorney who is a friend or >

nbsp;

Acquire a blank copy of the local real estate contract and review before you sign one.

Most local real estate boards have a form contract that has blanks for contract price, terms and conditions. You will feel more confident if you review a real estate contract long before you are asked to sign one. Ask your real estate agent for a blank contract after your first meeting. If you have questions about the contract ask your attorney to review it with you.

nbsp;

Have your attorney review all real estate contracts that you sign.

After both parties have executed a real estate contract, deliver a legible copy to your attorney promptly. Most contracts allow for a attorney review period of at least five business days. During this time your attorney can review and request certain changes to the contract or if need be void the contract.

nbsp;

Request a title insurance policy.

Your attorney will request a title insurance policy from the property seller. This policy insures you against any prior clouds on the title. The chain or history of title will be provided and will be reviewed by both sides attorneys to look for any possible irregularities before the title insurance is delivered. The buyers attorney can request that questionable items be removed or insured over by the title insurance provider.

nbsp;

Confirm and update legal descriptions on your property.

This is one of the most important reasons to retain an attorney. Legal descriptions that are recorded in title and deed government records should accurately state the current and updated legal description of your property. These descriptions are difficult for lay people to read and take an experienced legal eye to catch mistakes which could impact the property your buying or selling.

nbsp;

Review property survey.

Your attorney should receive and review the property survey before closing or escrow to check for encroachments when an adjoining property intrudes on yours, easements the limited right of another to use your property and verify parcel or lot dimensions.

nbsp;

Require your attorney to attend closing or escrow. From contract to closing is a marathon and the closing is the finish line. Your attorney should attend the closing or escrow to verify the smooth transfer of your property. Last minute glitches with possession, final throughs and mortgages need the finesse of an experienced real estate attorney.

nbsp;

Review post-closing documents.

Most attorneys want to review all recorded documents >

nbsp;

Administrate and evaluate problems in contract to closing period.

The time between contract and closing can include some problems that only an experienced real estate attorney can respond to adequately. Unreasonable requests after a property inspection, weak mortgage ability of the buyer, missed earnest money payments and quite a few additional issues can bog down a contract after acceptance. An attorney that has handled and most likely seen it all in real estate contracts, is your best asset when a contract get bogged down.

nbsp;


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Disaster Preparation To Keep You Safe In a Catastrophic Storm

A natural disaster can happen anywhere, at any time. Whether you live in earthquake country, tornado alley, or in a hurricane zone, there are important steps you can take.

Get an inspection

Its a given when buying a house, but you can schedule one in your current home, too. An inspection can turn up items that need fixing or replacing, which can save you money and also eliminate dangers from your home that could prove dangerous in a powerful storm.

Hire an engineer

A Texas-based engineer touring tornado damage found "examples of horrific construction in tornado wreckage," said the Dallas Morning News. Timothy Marshall, "a forensic engineer and meteorologist who volunteered as part of a damage survey team created by the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service" following deadly Texas tornados, "says he saw rampant irresponsibleness in the way many homes and buildings were constructed."

That included "improper attachment of the walls to the foundations, which just made walls fall either in or out," in numerous structures, including Donald T. Shields Elementary in Glenn Heights, shown below. An engineer can help identify structural issues that could affect your home in a powerful storm.

Get prepared

The Texas tornadoes hit in the middle of the night, when vision was compromised. Earthquakes hit with no warning, whatsoever. No matter what type of storm is likely to hit your area, proper preparation is key.

Develop an emergency plan for your family

Bob Vilas tips for creating an emergency plan at home include:

Have an escape plan - "Decide on reunion spots via foot or car, depending on the type of disaster. If it is an emergency isolated to your house or block, choose a nearby rallying point that will allow a headcount. If the emergency involves a larger area, decide on a destination further away - perhaps a > Learn evacuation routes - Doing a few "practice drills" will get the family familiar with exit routes, when needed.
Establish an emergency place to stay with friends or family - And learn the locations and rules of local public emergency shelters.
Make a plan with neighbors - "If a flood occurs or a tornado hits when you are not at home, have a plan with neighbors, sitters, or > Bone up on first aid skills - Its a good time to take a CPR >

Know your disaster

Its not always easy to predict what kind of storm may hit your area - flooding can happen almost anywhere. But knowing the basics of storms that are common to your city and recommendations for what to do in an emergency can help keep you safe.

In an earthquake:

According to Earthquake Country, "In MOST situations, you will reduce your chance of injury if you:

DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquakes knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
COVER your head and neck with both arms, clasping your neck with your hands. If a study desk or table is nearby, crawl beneath it while keeping one arm over your head. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that wont fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
HOLD ON to your shelter or to your head and neck until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around."

Experts warn that the most substantial danger to people in an earthquake is from falling objects. This is a great time to secure bookcases or any other items that could fall or be catapulted off of a wall or shelf. "Secure top heavy furniture to walls with flexible straps. Use earthquake putty or Velcro fasteners for objects on tables, shelves, or other furniture," they said. "Install safety latches on cabinets to keep them closed." Get more info here.

In a tornado:

"The best shelter from a tornado is a basement or storm cellar. If neither one is available, go to an inside room without windows on the lowest level of the building," said News 9. "Cover yourself with something, such as pillows, a mattress or blankets. Place as many walls between you and the outside as possible."

Other tips include:

Avoiding structures like mobile homes if at all possible
Staying away from windows
If a tornado is approaching while youre in a car, "get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. If there is not a building nearby, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands... and do not get under an overpass or bridge" they said.
Use a weather radio or local news station app to keep track of the storm and warnings in your area.

You can get information on safe rooms on the FEMA website and learn about storm shelters in your area on the National Storm Shelter Associations site.

In a hurricane:

In addition to checking your insurance coverage, said MNN, youll want to "protect your property by installing the following items in your home:

Hurricane shutters or keep inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
Head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
A safe room that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping; diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds.

An evacuation plan is also key, as is an emergency supply kit with food; water; medications; pet supplies; items like toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste; a basic first-aid kit; flashlights with extra batteries; and blankets and pillows.

In a flood:

Flood waters can rise quickly. According to FloodSmart.gov, you can stay safe during a flood by:

Getting to higher ground and "avoid areas subject to flooding."
Staying away from flowing streams and flooded roadways.
Escaping rising water in your home by gong to the top floor, attic, or roof.
Listening to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
Turning off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
If youve come in contact with floodwaters, washing your hands with soap and disinfected water."

If youre suffered a flood, learn the steps to take toward recovery here.


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Less Stress – Managing Your Cash Flow As A Real Estate Agent

2020 hasnt been the best year for property sales. The market has experienced its biggest decline in almost a decade, slashing agents earnings dramatically. For many, this has led to cash flow issues as income has dropped or dried up altogether.nbsp;

The role that commission plays in the real estate industry means that you need to prepare for unexpected dips. The best way to do this is to take a proactive stance on money matters so that future downturns dont dent your pocket.nbsp;

Draw Up A Plan and Budget

A cash flow plan and a budget are two essential tools for managing income and expenses. Your plan and budget must cover 12 months, and rather than making it a once-off exercise, revisit those documents regularly, adjusting them as required.

When drawing up your budget, include cash contingency plans that offer some >

Be Realistic

Income, expenditure, and cash flow forecasts are not an exact science, but that doesnt mean you should give in to fantasy. You may be tempted to predict property sales will increase by 70 during the year. Even though this may be possible in theory, its highly unlikely.

Its important to be as realistic as possible about yourself and your real estate agencys current and future positions. The best approach is to be conservative in your predictions and projections. If you find yourself with surplus funds, you can use them for extras that are surplus-dependent or put it toward cash contingency plans.

Keep Track Of Income and Expenses

As a real estate agent, good financial management requires that you keep track of income and expenditure meticulously. Take note of everything, no matter how small or trivial some expenses may seem.

You need to stick to your budget if you want to realize your cash flow plan. If you dont keep an accurate record of how much money comes in and goes out, budgeting correctly will be impossible.

Review your budget monthly, and when doing so, pay close attention to fixed costs and overheads. You may be able to find ways to save money on at least some of them.

Plan For The Best - and The Worst

When forecasting and planning, put the extra time and effort into drawing up plans for best- and worst-case scenarios. This way, you can try to cover all your bases.

Create your best-case and worst-case plans when you have completed your cash flow plan. Using the plan as a guide, take the best case to be approximately 25 higher than the most likely scenario. Calculate the worst case at 25 lower than the main plan.

Stay On Top Of Taxes

Remember to include taxes in your financial plans. This will help you manage your money and ensure you never fall foul of the IRS or incur penalties.nbsp;

A smart business strategy to apply here is to pay tax every three months rather than once a year. Theres less paperwork to deal with, and the tax amounts should be manageable. Another way is to put a percentage of your commission into an account thats dedicated to taxes. Alternatively, you can combine these approaches.

Prepare For Cycles

Like many industries, real estate works in cycles. There are times when the property market is hot, and when its not. While these trends arent always predictable, estate agents need to develop the habit of being ready for them at any time.nbsp;

One way to prepare for a downswing is to purchase a few short-term certificates of deposit. You cannot touch the money you invest until those CDs mature. When theyre ready, youll get more out than would be possible with a regular savings account.nbsp;

Another option would be to set up a savings account that you can access at any time, but you add to monthly. If your commission for a month is higher than usual, you can save a larger amount. This way, youll have extra capital for the leaner times, and your cash flow wont be stunted.nbsp;

As you can see, managing your finances as a real estate agent requires foresight and dedication. By applying those qualities to the tips above, you can put yourself on the path to good cash flow management.


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Move Over She-Shed, Make Room for the Backyard Office

March ushered in a new way of life for many people due to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the first things that happened in many states was workers were asked to telecommute from home whenever possible.

Now, even though shutdowns are technically over in many places, it seems to be a trend thats sticking around.

A lot of companies arent calling employees back to the office anytime soon.

Working from home has had big implications for real estate. For example, after spending an increasing amount of time at home, many people are opting to move from cities and into the suburbs where they can have outdoor space and square footage.

Theres also a demand for home offices, but if you dont have space for one, you can get creative.

One option is the backyard office.

Benefits of a Backyard Office

A backyard office can be a shed that you transform into a workspace. The benefits include privacy as well as natural light. You might even have a bit of a view from your outdoor office.

For a lot of people, theyve found working from home leads to no work-life balance, but having a dedicated space separate from their living areas can help with the distinction. Its easier to not only separate work and home life with a differentiated space, but you may find it helps you focus when youre working.

Do You Need a Building Permit?

If youre thinking about an office-shed, one of the first things youll have to determine is whether or not youll need a permit.

Where you live and the size of the structure you plan on building or putting on your property are the main determinants of whether or not youll need a permit.

If applicable, you may also need to check with your Homeowners Association and get their approval.

If you go the prefabricated route, meaning you buy a shed or shed kit from a company, some are marketed as being small enough that youre unlikely to need a permit.

Placement

When you scope out your backyard for a location for your office shed, look for somewhere flat with good drainage.

If you arent sure or your backyard needs clearing or cleaning up before you can place your shed, you might want to work with a landscaper who can help you with planning.

Prefab or Custom-Build?

Many companies are now offering prefabricated office sheds. You can find them as kits, meaning all the pieces come to your home and youre responsible for putting them together. You might also find an office shed thats already built and arrives at your home almost ready to go.

When you choose a prefab shed, it may be more expensive than building your own, but also more convenient.

Theyre available in different >

Some kits include doors, windows, insulation and flooring, and others dont, so read the fine print.

Building Your Own Office Shed

There are other options that may be less expensive than a prefeb shed.

One is converting an existing shed into an office. In that case, your focus might be primarily on making an old shed into a comfortable, stylish place to work and perhaps adding power.

You can also find plans online and build your own shed.

Design Tips

Regardless of the route you go, you want your outdoor office to be someplace you feel comfortable and content.

Try to create an office with plenty of natural light.

Add comfortable furnishings, and surround yourself with things you find visually appealing. Add a rug to warm the space up.

Consider whether or not youll have meetings in your office, and if so, how you can have a space where guests feel comfortable.

Youll need to ensure you have electricity in your office, and also Wi-Fi.

Finally, create a landscaped path leading from your home to your office.

A shed-office is one of the biggest trends when it comes to working-from-home design. It can give you a space thats separate from your home and family so you can remain productive and focused, and also maintain a work-life balance.

Creating a separate area thats detached from your home doesnt just work as an office. Its also something homeowners are looking to so they can have a home gym, a guest room, or even a learning area for their kids.

Its one more representation of the move toward spending more time at home thats impacting all of us.


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HOA Project Roll-Out

Winter is the time of year that a homeowner association board should be soliciting and reviewing proposals for fair weather renovation projects like painting, fencing, pool replastering, asphalt sealing and roofing. There are several practical reasons for starting the process early:

Contractors are more available. Winter is a slow time for many contractors. This means they have the time to thoughtfully consider your work and produce a good proposal.

Better pricing. Sometimes the work you want done can be performed during the winter months, even certain kinds of roofing. If you agree to start the project now, you just may save a significant amount of money. When work is slow, many contractors are willing to offer better pricing to "seal the deal."

Scheduling preference. If you accept a contractors proposal now, you can generally dictate the scheduling. Set the date now. If you wait you may not make the schedule at all.

Arranging for money. If you havent accumulated enough reserve funds, you will need several months to discuss, approve and collect a special assessment.

Coordination with residents. If the project is extensive and disruptive, you will want to warn residents well in advance. This will give them the opportunity to work around or even plan vacations strategically.

Always get references and check them out. It is important to use only contractors that have a good track record. Make sure the references are for work that is comparable in size and complexity to yours. It is not uncommon for small contractors to get in over their head when trying to nail down work. Feel comfortable that they can deliver what they promise.

Always, always, always use contractors that are properly licensed, bonded and insured to do the work they are contracting to perform. If you have any question about requirements, contact the state licensing board. Use it.

Get named on their insurance. Insist on getting a current copy of the contractors liability insurance coverage directly from his insurance agent. If you accept the proposal, require that the HOA be included on this insurance as an "additional insured" and get an appropriate and current insurance certificate from the contractors insurance agent to prove it.

Make progress payments. Do not make advance payments on the project work. This is often the sign of a contractor on a "shoe string" that may be using your money to pay other jobs labor or supply bills. You could be left high and dry with uncompleted work. Instead, use progress payments that pay for work actually completed. Usually, make no more than one per month and be sure to inspect the work to verify completion.

Consider paying for a Performance Bond. For large and expensive projects, requiring a Performance Bond provides assurance that the contractor will perform, or, another contractor can be hired to finish the job. It costs extra but is often worth it.

Get Lien Waivers. When making payments, have the contractor sign a Lien Waiver for the amount tendered. Your attorney can provide the appropriate form or ask the state contractors board for a sample. A Lien Waiver is the contractors promise that he has paid or will pay all labor, material and supply bills >

Its also appropriate to have all materials delivered directly to the job site and to pay for materials directly. You will need someone in charge of ordering the material and making sure its delivered and secured.

For any substantial construction, it is very important to involve an attorney who can draft or review the contract. Dont bypass this important step. Theres a lot riding on what the Board is obligating the HOA to.


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