Real Estate NEWS

Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Economic Reports and Mortgage Rates

Did you know that economic reports can impact mortgage rates? And that some economic reports have a greater impact than others? Each month and each quarter, various government agencies >Inflation is another key element that investors pay attention to and one of the key reports the Federal Reserve reviews when the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, meets every six weeks. One of the Fed’s responsibilities is to control the cost of funds and attempts to do so by raising or lowering the Federal Funds rate. Inflation is measured on the wholesale level, the Producer Price Index and at the consumer level, or the Consumer Price Index.

These various reports give us a look back at recent economic activity and can provide clues as to what might occur in the future. Investors can then allocate their portfolios to make adjustments based upon expectations. For instance, if an investor sees a solid jobs report indicating a growing economy, the investor might allocate more funds toward stocks and less so in bonds. Stocks have the potential to provide greater returns compared to bonds. Bonds do provide a return, but the yield is >

Mortgage rates? Your typical 30 year fixed rate for a conforming loan tracks either the 30-yr FNMA bond or the FHLMC 30-yr bond. As the prices of either move, so too will interest rates. If an economic report is >

When mortgage lenders set their rates each day they do so after a review of various indices. There really is a process lenders practice when setting daily mortgage rates and tracking mortgage bonds and Treasury prices is the primary method. When you get a quote today from your loan officer for a 30 year rate and then get another quote tomorrow and the rates are a little different, you can bet there was some economic data >
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Are You Ready to Be a Landlord?

“One of the biggest shifts in the housing market since the financial crisis has been the growth of the single-family rental market,” said Investopedia. “Single-family rentals are developing faster than any other segment of the housing market, outpacing both single-family home purchases and apartment->

Yes, smart investments can pay off in a steady stream of passive income, and provide a nice chunk of change when you go to sell. But that doesn’t mean you should run and buy a property without learning a thing or two first. Buy wrong or go in unprepared, and you could make a financial mess of things. “Becoming a landlord might sound like an easy way to make money: Buy a property, find tenants and watch the rent checks roll in,” said CBS News. “But it can be a costly undertaking that requires a lot of time and shouldnt be taken on without consideration and research, said Lucas Hall, a Washington, D.C.-area landlord and founder of”

Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly to determine if you’re ready to be a landlord.

Do you have the time?

Being a landlord is a job. A part-time job, hopefully, but a job nonetheless. If you’re already overscheduled, it can be hard to keep up with all the must-do’s. “People need to understand that this is a business, not a hobby," said East Meadow, New York-based landlord, real estate broker and president of the Landlord Protection Agency, John Nuzzolese, on CBS News. "You need to take it seriously. The people who make it a hobby usually run into problems because its not their top priority."

Keep in mind, also, that being able to landlord effectively means having some flexibility in your schedule. “Most days are more spontaneous than structured,” said The Balance. “It is not the type of life where you get to work at 9am, go to lunch at noon and leave at 5pm. One day you may have one hour of work to do, while the next, you may have fifteen hours of work.” And you can bet that a fair amount of that work is going to happen at 4am when a tenant emergency interrupts your precious sleep.

Do you have the money?

If you’ve made a good investment in your chosen property, the amount of rent you’re collecting each month will exceed your financial obligation. But what if you have a hard time renting a few of the apartments in the building you bought or one of your tenants skips out? Remember that, no matter what’s happening with the property, you’re still responsible for making your payment to the bank. “You will be responsible for meeting your monthly mortgage payment even if the property is vacant or if your tenant has not paid his or her rent,” said Investopedia. “In addition, you may have unexpected expenses >

Hiring a property management company to do some some of the ongoing work for you will also cost moneymdash;count on about 10 percent of the rent each month, and you’ll also have to pay them a finders fee for securing new tenants. But many landlords find it’s well worth the money to be able to offset some of the more painful or time-consuming duties involved.

Do you know what the smartest investments are?

Not every property is a winner when it comes to investment potential, and you need to think like an investor to become one. Forbes has some great tips, including:

• Keep your emotions at bay. “Think of it as pu>• Research, research, research. “Make sure that the property is situated in a location that will attract the type of clients you hope to sell or rent to, that it will reach to the returns you are expecting and that it will appeal to the market.”
• Get your down payment together. “Unlike the 3 down payment on the house you are currently living in, you are going to require at least 20 down payment for buying your first investment property. This is because mortgage insurance is not applicable for investment properties. Moreover, investment properties require greater down payments than your regular building and have strict approval requirements.”
• Figure out your expenses and profits before you buy. You want to make sure you have a good handle on current funds, cost to purchase and renovate if needed, operation costs, ongoing expenses, and what you could legitimately list the house for when you decided to sell.
• Don’t overspend on your first investment property. “Even if you are ready to invest up to a million dollars in your first investment property, it is always a good idea to go for properties that lie in the lower- to mid-range price brackets.”
• Go in debt-free. “As a new investor buying their first investment property, you might need to consider the investment loan options mdash; one shouldnt be carrying debts as their investment portfolio. You must clear all of your debts, student loans, medical bills, etc., before starting out in real estate.”

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Real Estate Referrals, Again

We’ve had enough queries and responses regarding the difference between state and federal law on this matter that it appeared worthwhile to examine the issues a bit more.

Of all people, Californians who live in a self-proclaimed sanctuary state, should be aware of the fact that state and federal laws may conflict with one another. Think marijuana legislation. Sometimes these conflicts may require resolution through a court decision; other times they just go on. In the present case the differences in the laws have not led to the kind or size of conflict that would have merited extensive and expensive litigation.

Moreover, it’s important to remember that, for a significant number of transactions, the issue doesn’t even arise. The RESPA rules and prohibitions cover what is probably a majority of real estate transactions. Those are residential real estate of less than five units in which federal or federally->

It is also worth noting that California law regarding referral sometimes called “finder” fees came about from a court ruling. It is case law, as opposed to the result of specific legislation aimed at referral fees. The landmark case Shaffer v. Beinhorn went before the California Supreme Court in 1923. The plaintiffs in the case had sued a California real estate broker for not paying them a finder fee as he had promised to do. The broker’s defense was that he could not pay them because they didn’t have a real estate license.

The California Business and Professions Code Currently Business and Professions Code sect;10131 spells out those activities that require having a real estate license. Simply referring, or “finding”, a buyer or seller is not among them. The court noted this, and thus noted that the plaintiffs’ lack of a license was not sufficient reason not to pay them. The logic of that ruling prevails today.

Recently, I was pointed to a very thorough and detailed discussion of the referral rules for both RESPA and California law. It appears in the 2016 Winter Bulletin of the California BRE/DRE, and it is available on the department’s website. The article was written by Wayne Bell and Summer Goralik ndash; two very smart and very nice people. Mr. Bell is the former California Real Estate Commissioner and Ms. Goralik is a former Special Investigator for the BRE/DRE. I commend this article to anyone further interested in this topic.

While the article reference above is detailed, comprehensive, and very useful, it includes something that, for me, requires further analysis. The authors say:

hellip;Bamp;P Section 10137 provides that a real estate salesperson can only be compensated for real estate acts through his or her employing or responsible broker. That prohibits a real estate salesperson from receiving pay, a commission or a lawful referral fee directly from another person. If a lawful referral fee will be paid to any salesperson, including a broker acting as a salesperson, an any real estate transaction, then it must be paid first through the responsible broker.

What the authors say would be true only if simply giving a referral were a real estate act. But it isn’t. That was settled in 1923. Giving a referral is not an act that requires a real estate license. In California, payment to a real estate agent for simply giving a referral should not be required to go through a broker. QED


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What if There is No Board?

Answer: If the boat sinks, its owner may be able to look to his insurance carrier for recovery. However, if the Association sinks, perhaps the only recourse to the owners is to look to the board members for recovery of any loss. Each board member runs the risk they will be sued personally, where there probably may not be any insurance coverage. However, presumably the board carried Directors and Officers insurance check with management if they are still around and file claims immediately. You should be able to find some lawyer to assist.

Members of a Board are governed by one standard: l fiduciary duty. But many states have protected boards who make mistakes by enacting the business judgment rule but that still require boards not to violate their fiduciary duty. The law in your state will dictate whether the business judgement rule is applicable. However, even if it is, a board member must understand that he/she has been elected by the owners to govern their association. You cannot just “cop out” when the going gets tough by resigning your elected position. And resigning is clearly not good business judgment.

Let’s look at some of the possible consequences should there be no board. Who will pay the bills -- insurance, management, utilities? Who will enforce the rules -- collections, architectural, safety and health? And who will give direction to management for the day-to-day operations of the Association? After all, the property manager -- regardless of how competent -- cannot and should not take on the responsibilities reserved exclusively in the association documents for the board of directors.

As one can quickly understand, a headless association is an invitation to disaster -- and the burden of creating or avoiding that disaster rests solely on the shoulders of the entire board of directors.
You should also consider filing for bankruptcy >
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7 Tricks Hotels Use That Can Make Your Home Look and Work Better

"Whether you actually travel the world by getting on those planes, trains and automobiles or mainly explore from your sofa with an iPad in hand, youll know that hotel designers are full of clever ideas on how to make bedrooms comfortable, visually interesting and small space smart," said Apartment Therapy.

Economy of space

For the most part, hotel rooms are small spaces that have to pack a lot of function and >

Originally designed under the Tommie brand, the rooms were designed as "micro scale." Niki Leondakis, the chief executive of Commune Hotels and Resorts, told the New York Times that, building hotels in "urban markets where real estate is at a premium and hotel rooms are notoriously small" requires "an approach to design that maximizes every square foot" - an idea that can translate to home.


Make it interesting

Small doesnt have to be boring. Look how this Great Gatsby-themed hotel room uses pattern and textured panels to create interest.

Luxury linens

You know how hotel room sheets are always so soft? They dont scrimp on thread count. Or the number of sheets they use. "To design your own hotel bed, "start with very clean, white, high thread count sheets," Sybil Pool, a spokesperson for Park Hyatt, told Huffington Post. "Three-hundred thread count seems to be the general rule - thats the standard at Park Hyatt Sydney, and Arizonas award-winning Miraval Resort uses 300 thread count as well. The Westin Heavenly Bed, likewise, gets its oomph from 300 thread count Egyptian cotton, along with a special twist: There are three sheets, says Hoover. That way, youre always touching a sheet. Its a really plush bed."

Huffington Post has a few more tips to make the bed at home and feel like youre in a plush resort.

A great mattress = a great nights sleep

Hotels buy great mattresses. So much so that many have become available to the general public over the years. Theres the aforementioned Westin Heavenly Bed, or you can grab a Four Seasons Bed, the luxe bed youll sleep in if you stay at the W Hotel, and a few more you can see here.

If cost is an issue, think about it this way: a good nights sleep can affect more than just your coffee consumption in the morning. It may be that buying a great mattress ends up being a small price to pay for better health, clarity, and an improved mood all day long.

Accentuate the positive

This tiny, budget room in Copenhagen puts the view front and center. And even though the space is limited REALLY limited, they still found room for a desk and chair, as well as another accent chair. The wall-mounted nightstand is a great way to include a little convenience without a lot of space and the colorful drapes bring the eye out toward the city view.

Wake Up Copenhagen

Concentrate on lighting

Good lighting can make or break a space, and this is something that good hotels do particularly well. The trick: layer it in with overhead, ambient, and task lighting, making sure to illuminate key spaces, like in this Las Vegas room.


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7 Simple amp; Smart Basement Repairs to Consider

But, if your basement is unfinished or has other lingering issues, it can be a downright scary place to spend any amount of time. Here are a few simple tips to help you fix your basement:

1 Gutter Extensions

Believe it or not, one of the easiest and smartest things you can do to fix your basement takes place outside. By adding extensions to your gutters downspouts, you can avoid a lot of the issues that commonly plague basements, from foundation issues to leaking walls, mold and mildew buildup. Gutter extensions carry water away from the foundation of your house, helping to prevent seepage and long-term damage from soil erosion. Average gutter extensions cost no more than 10 per foot.

2 Outer Foundation Work

There are two big steps you can take on the outside of your home that will protect your basement and improve your foundation. Your home ideally sits on a crown of soil that slopes six inches over the first 10 feet in all directions away from your foundation. If the soil around your foundation has settled, build it back up with a shovel and some dirt to ensure water does not build up against the foundation wall.

Second, reshape your landscape by creating a berm beyond the eaves of your home. This will prevent rot, termites and water from getting too close to your foundation. The minimum suggested distance for a dirt berm is six inches away from your homes foundation. You can complete both of these steps in a weekend and help prevent water from pooling against your foundation and leaking into your basement.

3 Plug Visible Gaps

A number of pipes and vents have to exit the basement of your home through the foundation walls. Examples include the water pipes leading to outdoor faucets, bathroom fan vents and dryer vents. The holes drilled into the foundation to allow for pipes and vents to escape can lead to water issues in your basement through seepage and general rain intrusion. You can easily seal these cracks and holes yourself by using hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk, both of which retail for about 20.

4 Repair Leaky Pipes

Insulate any pipes collecting condensation. Insulation will prevent the buildup of condensation on the outside of pipes carrying hot water in the winter months and cold water in the summer months.

Always call a plumber to tackle larger jobs like major leaks or cracks. Many times these pipes run to other parts of your home and require a professional to properly address the problem.

5 Insulate Your Walls

You can also prevent foundation damage by insulating your walls. As the environment inside your home heats and cools, condensation can build up on exposed foundation walls.

As the condensation builds over time, cold water can expand and crack your foundation, while warm water in the summer can lead to mold and mildew. Insulating your walls establishes a barrier between the internal environment of your home and the temperature outside.

6 Install Drywall

If you want to improve your basement further, consider installing drywall over the insulation. This can help to dampen the temperature swings in your basement, holding in cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.

7 Window Repairs and Replacement

Basement windows are another source of leaks in your basement. Replace your old, faulty weather stripping or apply a polyurethane caulk around the edges to insulate your window frames. For windows that are outdated, upgrading to energy efficient windows will drastically improve the conditions in your basement and prevent seepage of both air and water.


There are many smart, simple ways to fix up your basement in order to create a safe, enjoyable space for friends and family.

Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

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Why Do Lenders Sell Loans?

When you first work with your loan officer very early on in the process, you’ll soon establish a trusting >

Soon thereafter, you’ll receive payment information indicating where you need to make your payments. And for most funded loans, you’ll also receive another letter informing you the lender you originally worked with has just sold your loan to someone else. Someone you’ve never worked with before and even to a company you’ve never heard of. What happened to that >

Among the many initial documents you signed when you first applied was a Mortgage Servicing Disclosure. This form tells you what percentage of the lender’s loans are sold and more often than not the form indicates most if not all of the loans approved and funded by that particular mortgage company will be sold to someone else. But why? Why go through all the effort of originating, approving and funding a loan and forgo all the interest that new loan provides? Good question and an easy one to answer- if not for selling the loan, the lender would soon run out of money to lend.

Mortgage companies today work with a line of credit. It’s not as if the mortgage company approves a loan and then opens up a vault full of money to fund your mortgage. Instead, when it’s time to fund your loan the lender taps into the line of credit for the needed amount to fund the new mortgage. In order to replenish this line of credit the lender then sells the loan to a third party. Once the loan is sold, the lender now has more funds to make still more loans. Who is the loan sold to? Many times, it’s to other mortgage companies but ultimately the loan is sold either to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

The marketplace for all this buying and selling is called the secondary market for mortgages. This secondary market is robust and active and keeps the mortgage market liquid. Without a secondary market, there would be fewer loans issued and still fewer choice. When your loan is sold it’s not because your original lender isn’t loyal to you or doesn’t appreciate your businesshellip;it’s to stay in business so the lender can make even more loans.

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The Tell Tale Signs it is Time to Sell Your Residential Property

Insufficient Living Space - A growing family, for example, would require more living space as the children grow and if one of your kids doesn’t have a room they can study in, perhaps it is time to upgrade. This would typically arise for a newly married couple around 10-12 years in the future, and this time is enough to ensure that their financial status supports the upgrade.If you are looking to upgrade, be sure to find a suitable contractor who will offer a fair rate.

Can’t Afford The Mortgage Repayments - If you made the mistake of buying a property out of your budget limit, the best thing might be to put it on the market. If the house is in a prime location and is in good order, you might be lucky and make a profit on the deal, although your objective should be to downsize to a comfortable level.

The Long Daily Commute - If you are spending more than one hour travelling to or from your place of work, this could be the time to look at >

Looking To Start Your Own Business - If you have a great business idea, yet do not have access to startup capital, selling your home will >

A Career Promotion - If you suddenly are offered a promotion that would mean >

Whatever the reason for selling, it is essential that you engage the services of an experienced conveyancing lawyer, who will facilitate the legalities and can help you to calculate your total costs.

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Mortgage Lending amp; Homebuying Trends for 2019

These are interesting times for mortgage lenders. While there are large-scale economic and socioeconomic reasons for optimism going forward, there are also some complexities and cautionary notes that need to be taken seriously. Understanding these key trendsmdash;and appreciating the significant issues likely to impact the industry in 2019 and beyondmdash;is important for lenders, mortgage banking professionals and real estate professionals across the country.

Equilibrium on the horizon?

I expect to see the current imbalance between the number of homes available for sale and the number of buyers in the market to begin to come into greater equilibrium in 2019. That gradual balancing act is unlikely to depress housing prices, but it will slow the rate of increase somewhat. The slowing of home appreciation a product of simple supply and demand dynamics could actually be a positive development. Housing appreciation has been outstripping wage increases for some time now, and as these come into equilibrium, the result will likely be a healthier and more accessible home-buying marketplace.

Demographic dimensions

Experienced lenders are well aware of the importance of staying in touch with the preferences and priorities of different demographic groups and generations. Two of the most influential demographics, the baby boomers and the millennials, are likely to play an especially important role in shaping the contours of the housing market throughout 2019 and beyond. More boomers will likely be staying put and holding off on downsizing, as we see a slightly weaker market for larger homes and, consequently, a financial equation that doesn’t look quite as favorable with regard to downsizing. While much has been made of millennial preferences for urban environments, a recentnbsp;Ernst amp; Young survey of 1,200 adults aged 20-36nbsp;actually reveals that greater numbers of millennials are purchasing homes in the suburbs than in cities. According to the study, 41 percent of millennial homeowners in 2018 are choosing suburban locations over cities, small towns or rural areasmdash;an increase from 36 percent in 2016. Today, 38 percent of millennials live in the suburbs versus 37 percent in urban settings. What’s clear, is that the iconic American dream of homeownership remains durable. As older Millennials begin to raise families and look for more space, they will become an increasingly influential home-buying demographic.

Peaking your interest

Regardless of demographics, low interest rates make home ownership accessible. The sticking point for many prospective homeowners is the ability or lack thereof to make a large down payment. Lenders will continue to offer more loan products to credit worthy borrowers that require reduced or minimal down payments, and financing options will continue to be available with less than the traditional 20 percent down payment.

Another important piece of the puzzle is the impact of what are expected to be rising interest rates in the months and years ahead. While rates currently remain at historically low levels, higher rates inevitably impact affordability. That said, given the low rates and current state of the marketplace, it seems unlikely that marginally higher interest rates would have anything more than a fairly modest-to-minimal impact on home sales.

Technically speaking

The continued introduction of innovative technology in the months and years ahead will be an important storyline. Most of that new tech will be designed to facilitate the process on behalf of consumers. That means removing some of the friction from the loan process and ultimately compressing the amount of time it takes to get mortgage applications approved. New platforms will allow lenders to verify income at the time of application with consumer permission. This should alleviate some of the paper trail and the documentation burden, allowing electronic access essentially at the time of application. Consumer trust will be a big part of this. It’s incumbent upon lendersmdash;and the tech providers they >

Wild card factors

There continue to be rumblings that Amazon is considering putting a toe in the water and getting into the mortgage business. Whether that would be as a facilitator, using their platform and unmatched market reach to connect consumers with mortgage professionals, or as a full-fledged provider offering something like “Amazon Mortgages,” is unclear. One thing that is clear, however, is that Amazon will have an impact one way or another. Even if the rumored market entry never materializes, younger homebuyers who grew up with Amazon and are used to the ease and speed with which customized service is delivered will continue to extend those expectations throughout other spheresmdash;including mortgage lending. Amazon has helped set a standard for speedy and efficient service that real estate providers in general, and mortgage lenders specifically, will need to be able to meet if they want to be competitive going forward.

The big picture

For all the ebbs and flows and outside factors, home sales increased from 2017 to 2018 while the overall mortgage market is slightly down in 2018, that’s largely because of fewer instances of refinancing, not because of a decline in home sales. The consensus among organizations like the Mortgage Bankers Association of America is that they expect that trend to continue in 2019. While you can never discount the possibility of a “black swan” event that disrupts national or global markets, the future continues to look bright, with innovation and increasingly efficient service models allowing forward-thinking lenders to continue to evolve and thrive.

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17 Ways to Increase Your Storage Space

1. Between the studs

Put the space between studs to work by tucking open display shelves into walls. They don’t have to be outdated arched niches. Create clean rectangles or squares. To keep things looking tidy, add doors on the front. Or use piano hinges to mount artwork so it can swing open to reveal hidden storage space. You can even recess narrow drawers into the space.

2. Nothing wasted, something gained

Use space that otherwise would be wasted. Under the stairs is a perfect example. For smaller budgets, add a door to the side and use it like a crawl space, says interior designer Vanja Stepanek of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. Finish the space with shelves and hooks. For those who have more cash, each riser can house a drawer. It is a more expensive project because you’re working with the structure of the stairs, she says.

If you have a staircase that’s open underneath, turn that unused space into a home office by tucking a desk and some cubbies, shelves or file cabinets underneath.

Put the space beside the fridge or between the washer and dryer to good use by building narrow shelves on wheels.

Build a headboard that includes storage space, add a long floating shelf above the headboard or use rows of floating shelves above bedside tables to create extra display space.

3. Look up

Install shelves above doorways to store stuff without using up floor space. Continue the shelving around the room, including above windows and doors to create a loft library.

4. Over or behind

Use over-the-door hooks for extra hanging space. Or add a shoe storage system behind the door. Build floor-to-ceiling shelves in unused spaces, such as behind the toilet or on a wall behind a door.

5. Functional into fab

Stepanek says her friend lives in a typical small downtown condo. It has a long narrow hallway with a bathroom and bedroom doors on one side and the living/dining room at the end of the hall, with large windows beyond. The loft has high ceilings, so Stepanek installed two rows of floating shelves along the full length of the hallway the side without doors. Stepanek’s friend loves shoes and purses, so the shelves give her the perfect display space for her wearable treasures. It looks cool but provides practical storage space, she says. Art depicting different periods of shoes hang under the shelves to create an art wall. Antique lighting completes the stylish look.

6. Focal point and fun storage

A long basement hall, which had numerous doors along its sides and one at the end, had no focal point. The door at the end of the hall was replaced with a bookshelf on hinges. The bookshelf creates visual interest and storage/display space. Plus the kids love having a hidden room behind, Stepanek says.

7. Lift it up

Where ceiling height allows, put a bed on top of a custom platform. Or build a stage for children. Drawers within the platforms can house camping gear, seasonal items and other seldom-used items.

8. Double duty

An office can do double duty as a guest room by adding a wall-to-wall unit that includes a Murphy bed. Add a desk on the opposite side of the room.

9. Down under

Like building niches between the studs, add storage space between the joists in the floor. Build a box or cabinet to stow stuff.

10. No monsters under the bed

Use baskets or zippered plastic storage bags to use under the bed. Or buy a bed with drawers built in. Another option is a mattress that lifts up on hinges to make under-bed storage more accessible.

11. New uses

In the hallway, switch out a table for a dresser that will provide drawers to store everything from hats and mitts to keys and mail.

12. Double up

A chest that doubles as a coffee table, vintage suitcases stacked beside the couch or bed and ottomans all offer storage space within.

13. Kick off

Toe-kick drawers in the kitchen are great for storing cookie sheets, cutting boards and wire cooling racks.

14. Air space

Floating shelves offer display space. Or hide away items in pretty boxes or baskets for a neater look. Think vertically to find more usable space.

15. Clutter be gone

Before you cram your new-found storage space, try decluttering. Keep only what you need and what you really enjoy. Pace yourself and tackle one job at a time. Don’t expect to do everything in one fell swoop. Mix smaller, easy decluttering projects, like cleaning out your medicine cabinet or makeup drawer, with bigger tasks such as tackling your clothes closet.

16. Map it out

Figure out what you want to store, which room to store it in and what kind of storage you need before you knock holes in the walls.

17. To the garage

Shelves that hang from the ceiling above the car are one solution. Garage systems, which include tool storage, a place for garbage and recycling and lots of space for plastic storage totes, can make the most of your garage space. Again, think vertical storage.

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Should You Decorate with the Color of the Year?

Staying on trend

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, or if you simply love to be on the forefront of trends, using the Color of the Year is a great place to start. Of course, you may not want to splash it all over the walls. As “animating and life-affirming” as this year’s winning color may be, coral is still a bold choice for such a broad expanse.

Wallpaper that features the huemdash;especially in a temporary version like this WallPops NuWallpaper Coral Grove Peel amp; Stick Wallpaper if you’re selling your home soon, is a great option that can bring new life to a boring space. A few accessories can also make a big impact in a trendy color. Freshen up the living room couch with a few pillows, drape a throw at the foot of the bed in the master, and swap out a few tired tchotchkes for something more current.

Sticking with >

The major downside to following trends: “You need to be prepared for the possible necessity of redesigning your rooms once tastes change, especially if you’re thinking of putting your home on the market,” said Freshome.

Neutral colors and >

Going with what you love

Regardless of the trends, it’s your home. And unless you’re planning a home sale imminently, you get to take creative license. That could mean embracing every new trend, color->

Want bright red walls in the living room? A dining room with a poker table instead of a place to eat? When it’s your house, you get to make the rules. “Ditch lsquo;safe’ designs in favor of creative accents and personal touches to make your abode feel one-of-a-kindmdash;just like you,” said Martha Stewart, for “home decorating tips to begin adding a healthy dose of personality into your home.”

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Holiday Hosting Tips for First-Timers

Don’t try to do everything yourself

The key to successful hosting is knowing when to say “when,” and accepting help when its offered. Remember this when you start to worry about delegating too much: just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to have fun, too. Plus, if you spend the whole time in the kitchen, your guests won’t get to see youmdash;and that defeats the purpose of them coming over in the first place.

Do what you can ahead of time

If everything you’re serving needs to be made at the last minute, you’ll likely be a stress ball standing over the stove and cursing the sauce that won’t thicken up while your guests are having fun in the other room. When you’re doing the menu planning, pay attention to items that allow you to do the cooking, or at least the prep, a day or two before. It’ll save you timemdash;and save your sanitymdash;on the day of the shindig.

Don’t try to be Martha Stewart

Nobody expects you to be the perfect hostess and chef and interior designer. Your friends and loved ones just want something to eat and drink among good company. If your lack of fancy dishesmdash;or even matching dishesmdash;is giving you a pre-party eye twitch, keep this in mind. “Use what you already have Say you have a mixture of odd platesmdash;scatter them and try to have a common thread,” said Domino. “For example, if the plates are all different, have the same matching napkins. If you have mismatched glassware, try alternating matching ones at each setting. Try to be mindful when you’re setting a table to find a balance visually for your guests, but things don’t have to be perfect.”

Don’t be overly ambitious

It’s natural that you’d want to show off your cooking skills or try something new to impress your guests. But that might not be the best tactic for your first time hosting.

“When you’re hosting at your home, it’s smart to scale back and stick to what you know,” Kathleen Schaffer, creative director and culinary chef at Schaffer as well as a celebrity caterer to clients including Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and George Clooney, told The Knot. “In other words, this isn’t the time to attempt the fancy sous-vide or souffleacute; recipe you saw on Facebook. Set yourself up for success by playing to your strengths, and most importantly, planning and preparing in advance.”

But keep the food coming

You never want your guests to start getting grumpy because they arrived hungry and dinner is delayed. Having a spread of appetizers everyone can nosh on buys you time to get the main dishes together and keeps them satiated. This “cream-cheesy salsa of fresh cranberries, cilantro and a little jalapeno kick” is one of our favorite holiday apps, and not just because it’s incredibly easy to make. You can find more ideas here.

Remember that you can never have too much toilet paper

This is the kind of thing you might overlook while you’re shopping, and you definitely don’t want to have to run out in the middle of your gatheringmdash;or, even worse, bring in the dreaded roll of paper towels. While you’re buying plenty of TP, do the same with napkins, plastic cups and silverware, and bottled water.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Someone is going to spill something. Or drop all the crackers on the floor. Or break a chair. Or all of the above. Keep your sense of humor closeby and you’ll get through it with stories to tell later on. If that fails, consider downing another glass of wine.

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How to Choose the Best Kitchen Countertop Based 0n 6 Key Variables

6 variables to consider

When planning your kitchen, you need to be aware of certain factors when it comes to the type of your countertop. To streamline the selection process, Fixr created the below two graphics using 6 key variables. The same 6 variables were considered in both graphics, however, the focus changes depending on the graphic which will be explained further in each section.

Installation is one of the first factors; can the contractor access your house with the delivery vehicle and is there space to work the material on site as necessary?

Cost refers to the cost implications >

Maintenance looks at the day to day care that is required to ensure the countertop does not wear excessively or get damaged.

Durability focuses on how well the countertop stands up to use, including nicks or dents and water or heat damage.

Options available refers to the range of options in terms of color or finish that are available for that material or counter type.

Stain resistance is the last variable and it considers the surface resistance of the countertop. A marble material or the grout in a tiled countertop may be more susceptible to staining than other options, especially in a kitchen where various acidic or alkali foodstuffs may spill onto the surface.

Working with the scores, based on their own countertop installation cost indicator, it is possible to simplify the selection process using a numeric score. The better the product performs with regard to cost, installation, maintenance, stain resistance, durability and options available, the higher the score it has.

The top choices for the type of countertop

Here, the focus is on the type of countertop only, without looking at how the material of the countertop affects the outcome.

Tiling wins with a score of 22, thanks to the range of options available, its durability and stain resistance and fair overall scores for the other variables.

As the next three options have a shared score of 18, they get second, third and fourth place equally:

Slab countertops offer a good variety of options, however, have low scores for cost and installation which bring the total score down.

Cast in place countertops have an even, mid-range score across all factors, so are a good option where all variables are equally important.

Precast countertops can be costly and tricky to install, however, the other variables, especially durability and the range of available options, help to increase the overall score.


The top three choices for countertop material

Material options have improved in recent years and the list includes traditional options like marble, granite and wood as well as more contemporary options like solid surface, concrete, glass slab, stainless steel, recycled glass, ceramic and quartz.

Using the same numeric scoring system as the first graphic, the focus in the second graphic was on how the material scored without consideration of the countertop type. In this instance, quartz, ceramic and recycled glass come out as the best scoring options for material choice.

Quartz has most of the aesthetic attractions of natural stone, however, its stain resistance, durability and range of options beat almost all other finishes, leading to a total score of 23. Though cost and installation are >

Ceramic comes next with a score of 22, it offers the widest range of options of all and has good durability and stain resistance, but installation, cost and maintenance bring its average score down.

Recycled glass follows in third place matching ceramic’s 22, but its main strong points are durability, stain resistance and maintenance, so, once again the choice comes down to your priorities.

Making The Final Choice

In order to make your final decision, it is best to identify your top three priorities in terms of the six variables used. Then, simply find the countertop type and material that have the highest scores for those three variables and compare them against each other to establish the best choice for your kitchen.

Of course, there are many other more subtle variables to consider. Environmental implications have become important and even legislated in some countries, so it may be worth considering each material in this light as well. You may find your chosen countertop’s green rating brings down or improves its final score.

At the end of the day, you want to feel satisfied with your choice and have a countertop that is both beautiful and durable. Hopefully, this scoring system will make that choice a little easier.

And remember, beautiful countertops won’t necessarily add value but they will make your home more attractive to potential buyers should you want to sell.

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Perhaps Its Time for Some RESPA Reminders

In 1974 Congress enacted the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, commonly known as RESPA. The provisions of RESPA were intended to protect consumers during the home purchase process. Its two main areas of emphasis were 1 the provision of disclosures regarding settlement closing costs, and 2 the prohibition of kickbacks or referral fees that unnecessarily increase closing costs. Section 8 of RESPA makes it illegal, except for limited specified exceptions, to give someone money or any other thing of value for the referral of a real estate settlement service. For example, if I received money, or anything of value, for referring someone to an escrow company, in most every case that would be a violation of section 8 of RESPA.

While the Department of Housing and Urban Development has for a long time been the chief enforcer of RESPA provisions, that has, since 2011, become the province of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB. It has become an active enforcer and agents should be aware.

Fortunately, the National Association of Realtors, keeps track of RESPA activity and of the ever-on-going issues of interpretation. In what follows, we will look at a sample of issues featured on NAR’s web page regarding frequently-asked RESPA questions.

Question 1

A real estate agent is sponsoring an open house for other agents. A local title agency reimburses the real estate agent for the cost of a luncheon and the title agency does not market its title services at the open house. Is this a violation of Section 8 of RESPA?

A: Yes, this is a violation of RESPA. By reimbursing the real estate agent for the cost of the luncheon, the title agency has given the real estate agent a thing of value in consideration for the referral of business. Both the title agency and the real estate agent could be held responsible for the RESPA violation. If, however, the title company attends the open house to make a presentation or to otherwise market its services, such payments may be lawful under RESPA.

Question 2

A real estate broker and a mortgage lender agree to jointly place a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper. Each company gets exactly one-half of the page to advertise its services. Each company pays one-half of the cost of the advertisement. Is this a violation of Section 8 of RESPA?

A: No, this appears to comply with RESPA. As long as the advertising costs paid by each party are reasonably >

Question 3

A real estate broker pays its real estate agents 20 for each referral the agents make to the real estate broker’s affiliated mortgage company. Is this a violation of Section 8 of RESPA?

A: Yes, this is a violation of RESPA. Although RESPA provides an exception for payments made from an employer to its employees, payments between a real estate broker and its salespeople do not qualify for this exception. Real estate professionals are considered independent contractors, rather than employees of the real estate broker. As a result, the 20 payments described above constitute payments in return for the referral of business in violation of RESPA.

As previously mentioned, the NAR website contains a large amount of information, including regular columns, regarding RESPA Moreover, most of these pages are on the “public” side. That is, you don’t have to log in with a user name and password. Readers are encouraged to take a look for themselves, and to become familiar ndash; if they aren’t already ndash; with the highly >

A few of the more accessible and >



Window to the Law: RESPA video

Happy reading

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New Windows Changed My House - and My Mind

It was exciting to contemplate city life after living in smaller towns. Apparently, everyone else thought so too, because by the time I decided I liked a house, it was gone from the market.

Between struggling with a tight real estate market and shopping from across the country, it wasnt easy to find a house. While the city offers the charm of older neighborhoods and homes of by-gone eras, it also means that you can be pretty sure that youll be remodeling something.

Thats how my window struggle came into light.

Id snagged a home full of potential. Nestled in a full acre of green grass and big trees, the brick home offered the room I needed and the one-story I desired - plus it had the original hardwoods. Tangled up in an estate, it had sat empty for four years.

So here I stood trying to gaze out the spider web-coated windows of a 1950s-era ranch and see the beautiful maples and oaks. It was like an oasis tucked in the city. As I did, I began to list the key items on my to-do list, like a modern kitchen, repaired air ducts, pipe repairs and a new coating on the driveway.

Windows ba>

As I began to focus on key items, like a modern kitchen, leaking air ducts, plumbing issues and an eroding driveway, so windows ba>

Funny now to think I thought that meant I was done with windows.

Two things came into play nearly simultaneously. Only a day or two after the moving van unloaded, I decided I couldnt take the dirty windows another day. So despite having mountains of boxes to maneuver around, cleaning years of grime got moved to the top of the list. Armed with rags, cleaning supplies and a step-ladder, I marched to dark, dirty glass in the dining room. Thats when I discovered the window would not budge. It had opened on the last walk-thru, but would not open today.

Humidity had played a part in the old wood swelling. Undaunted, I cleaned the inside and headed outside to clean it from that direction. Covering the window were storm windows that probably hadnt been removed in years, if not decades. They were supposed to slide up, but it wasnt happening. As I moved around the house, I noticed a great portion of the windows had issues, including cracks, I could not resolve.

Ultimately, it didnt take long to learn that I couldnt live with the old windows that didnt function. In fact, changing out the windows got bumped up to the top of the list.

My desire for the windows had to do with function. I wanted to see out them and open them. I hadnt really thought about the look. I guess I thought a white window replaced by a white window would be the same. Instead, it was a huge shock to learn what enormous difference new windows made in the appearance and feel of the home.

In one day, the house went from one that looked like it had black widow spiders in the lock box to one that looked loved and inviting. The old windows contained grilles, the pieces of wood which visually divides a pane of glass so it appears to be made of smaller panes. The new windows I chose did not have grilles. That move made every window seem bigger and every room seem brighter. Of course, the new windows, without years of wear and the layer of dirty storm windows, really were brighter.

While I was waiting on windows and other key repairs, like electrical panel upgrades, I was trying to plan that kitchen remodel as well as a bathroom re-do. In trying to save costs where I could, I was working around existing windows. Despite taking down a wall to get more space, no matter how I moved around cabinets and appliances in my kitchen drawing, I could not get good workflow. In the current design, a small table for two sat in front of the only window, a long one that went nearly to the floor.

One day, someone asked me why I was working around that long window. They suggested I put in a shorter window and place the sink under the window. It was a light bulb moment.

With a brick house, Id not even thought about changing a windows dimensions. It turns out it wasnt hard at all. Since the windows exterior is on my screen porch, I choose wood to fill in the space of the shortened window and painted it to match the window, rather than have a brick mason brick in the space.

The same width was kept, but the shortened window allowed for a changed countertop and sink placement and suddenly made the whole kitchen plan work. I also shortened a window in the remodeled bathroom, which meant the soaking tub could be placed under the window and Id still get plenty of natural light.

The new windows really changed the whole look and feel of the old house. When I get a chance to talk remodeling, I now tell people replacing old windows needs to be at the top of their list.

Lea Schneider is a professional organizer based in Nashville, Tennessee. She shares her experiences on remodeling her 1950s ranch fixer-upper, which included replacing her casement windows. If you are also looking to update your house, visit The Home Depot to see a large selection of casement windows.

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4 Essentials for Building a Home Office

The key to staying efficient and on-task is to set up your own dedicated workspace. If you’ll be working at home, building a home office helps create an environment of productivity and replicate a traditional office feeling within your own home. Of course, you should consider a few essentials when setting up an office of your own.


According to some sources, the fluorescent lights many traditional office buildings use can be damaging to your eyes. When designing your own office space, you have control over the types of lighting you choose, as well as how bright or dim they are while you work. Choosing options that fit the projects you work on will help you create the perfect lighting system. You should also consider factors like what can protect your eyes and adjust to outside conditions if your home office has a window.

Desk and chair

Getting a desk and chair for your office may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s more to it than picking out something to write on and something to sit on. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in your office chair, you should make sure it provides adequate support and comfort for the long haul.

You should also make sure your desk is well-suited for long days of work. Set up a system of organization for paperwork and any knickknacks you have lying around. In addition, try to use your desk only for work as much as possible. Training your brain to have a dedicated space during work hours can help you stay on-task when you’re working at home.

Necessary technology

Remote workers often lean on technology to connect to others they work with and complete tasks. It’s important to invest in good equipment, from keyboards to storage. In addition, because you’ll most likely be working online, it’s important to have a strong internet connection. Keeping up-to-date on all the technology you’ll need will help prevent tech-based headaches, especially because you won’t have an in-house IT department to fix any issues.


Since you’ll be spending a good chunk of each week in this one room, it needs to be a place you find aesthetically appealing. Adding a few decorations can personalize your office and make it a place where you feel comfortable and happy. A word of caution: it can be easy to go overboard on decorations and end up creating visual distractions for yourself. With this in mind, be thoughtful about the items you choose to put in your space. Plants and simple wall art can help your space feel inviting without catching your eye every time you sit down.


Once you’ve got your home office set up and ready to go, you’ll be able to promote a productive and enjoyable workday in the comfort of your own home. Fostering the perfect space to foster productivity and creativity is key to a successful remote working experience.

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The Best Holiday Gifts 25 And Under Can Buy

Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag, 16.50

Is it a plastic bag? No, it’s a glass piece created to look like a plastic bag. This is just the type of unique, kitschy gift your friend, colleague, or loved one willhellip;well, love.

Automatic Pan Stirrer with Timer, 25

Let’s admit it. That constant stirring is the worst part about cooking, are we right? Anyone who loves spending time in the kitchen will appreciate this gift.

Mood Ring Thermochromic iPhone Case, 17.98

This just might make you wish you didn’t upgrade your phone to the X This cool case fits iPhones 6ndash;8 and reacts to touch, just like a mood ring.

14-Piece Stainless Steel Bartending Set, 24.99

Behold the perfect hostess gift You’ll undoubtedly see this 14-piece stainless steel bartending set againhellip;the next time you come over

Hamilton Beach Quesadilla Maker, 14.99

Who doesn’t want to make restaurant-quality quesadillas at home? Forget the microwave. This is the real deal.

KitchenAid Stainless Steel Utility Whisk, 9.80

This falls somewhere between a stand mixer and a hand mixer, and, at under 10 each, you’ll want to buy one for everyone

Good Housekeeping Instant Pot Cookbook, 10

When you can’t afford the Instant Pot, you can at least go with the cookbook.

Kaia Naturals Detox Hot Bath, 15

Your Type-A friends and anyone who needs to chill will love these natural hot baths, “with revitalizing ingredients like matcha, turmeric, and spearmint” that allow them to “easily be able to moisturize, soothe, and unwind,” said Woman’s Day.


Staying over with family or friends during the holidays? Come bearing this gourmet, artisanal brunch accoutrement. You’ll be the hit of the party

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, 11.99

This one is perfect for your favorite adventurer. “When theyre stranded out in the wilderness without anything to drink in a misguided attempt to become Bear Grylls, this handy little stick might literally save their life by turning the dirtiest sludge into drinkable water,” said Esquire.

Its Saturday Morning: Celebrating the Golden Era of Cartoons 1960s - 1990s, 20.39

Give a walk down memory lane this holiday season with this wonderfully nostalgic book thats sure to put a smile on the recipients face.

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7 Model Home Ideas to Steal for Your Home

Getting color ideas

Model homes are ra>

1 The color is by and large not used large scale, meaning, all the walls of every room wont typically be painted in bold or bright colors;

2 The main color scheme generally flows from room to room. The shades and placement of color may be different, but there is a coherent look and feel throughout the home that makes it feel finished.

If you want to introduce color without covering every surface, consider these tips from Lennar: "You can add color to a space without painting walls. Pop color with pillows, rugs flowers and artwork. If you do add color to walls, use it sparingly. A painted feature wall can be a great backdrop for a bed or built-in cabinets."

General design inspiration

You may not have thought about putting certain colors together or layering a bunch of patterns in one room or choosing tile that looks like wood instead of real wood... but you will once you see what theyve done in model homes. If youre in a design rut or youre not sure how to take the first step toward modernizing your space, walk through the models. Consider not just what you see, but how you feel in the space. Starting to feel >

Incorporating the newest trends

Looking to redo your kitchen? Touring a model will give you some great ideas about how to handle the layout and materials. It may not have occurred to you to take down your double-height island and continue the counter height the full length, but this is a hot kitchen trend intended to capture the open space feel. Seeing all-white cabinets may inspire you to have your dark wood cabinetry painted, and the quartz counters are sure to inspire you to start researching new countertop options.

Treating small spaces

In general, the less crowded a room is, the more airy it will feel. But that doesnt mean leaving it empty. Furniture placement is key to creating a space with form and function. Notice how the office in the room above has just the right amount of furniture. And instead of placing the desk up against the wall, its been floated, which allows the eye to more easily move around and makes the space feel larger.

Getting space planning tips

Model home designers are great at disguising awkward spaces with creative solutions and showcasing spaces with furniture thats to the perfect scale and placed in such a way that it shows the room in its best light. If youve got a weird spot in your home that you dont know what to do with or are having trouble figuring out what furniture to buy or where to put it, studying what theyve done in a few models might help you figure it out.

Styling a guest room

Go stand in the guest room in the model down the street. Simple, clean, and elegant, right? Excited to go home and redo your guest room? Remember three key things: lighting, pared-down accessories, and crisp bedding.

Getting your kids rooms just right

Kids rooms are often some of the most challenging spaces to design, because its a slippery slope between a creative space and a circus room. Model home designers love to theme these spaces or give them some pizazz, and they often get the balance just right.

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