Miami Beach Real Estate News

South Beach News

Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Nightmare Neighbor: Disturbing Marijuana

The first year I lived here it only happened once or twice a month. But about two years ago his use increased to a few times a week. I covered all vents and ducts and purchased two very expensive air purifiers - which had very little effect. At that point I knocked on my neighbors door and tried to have a conversation with him about it, explaining that his marijuana stench seeps into my unit, as well as the common hallway. He became irate, called me names, swore at me and told me to mind my own business. To emphasize his point he took a hit from a bong and blew the smoke in my face.

The past year its increased to almost daily. Needless to say my condo constantly reeks of marijuana. My childhood asthma returned - I hadnt had an attack in 20 years, and started having them weekly. I had to get a prescription inhaler. I started getting headaches and eye irritations. I started staying with friends to avoid the health issues. When I wasnt in my condo, the health issues stopped.

I complained to security, they gave him a written warning and submitted it to the Condo Association. The board issued a nuisance fine. My neighbor paid it and continued to smoke marijuana - usually daily/nightly. I contacted my Condo Association board again, they told me they did all they could, we do not have a non-smoking rule, and since its illegal activity I needed to call the police.

Instead I called my real estate agent to put my condo on the market. I knew Id sell at a loss but I just wanted to get away from the stench. The day my real estate agent came to assess my condo and talk about putting it on the market, the stench in the common hallway and in my unit was so strong even with air purifiers blasting and windows open that he said there was no way he would consider bringing prospective buyers to view my condo. He too, suggested that I call the police, thinking a visit from the police and a fine would curtail my neighbors marijuana use.

So I decided to call the police. Surprisingly, they showed up quickly, issued a ticket and left. It had zero effect on my neighbor, in fact it seems like hes smoking even more because the marijuana stench is now almost constant. Occasionally he burns incense or cooks fish or bacon in an attempt to cover the sent, which leaves a smell of incense, fish or bacon mixed with marijuana. Another neighbor finally had enough, too, and called the police. They showed up, again, issued another ticket and left. As long as the guy pays the fine and isnt selling/dealing drugs, theres nothing further the police will do.

I am desperate to sell so I contacted two other real estate agents. They both left almost immediately upon entering my condo and refused to list my unit because of the obvious drug use next door. Friends and coworkers occasionally tell me my clothes smell like marijuana my closet is in the direct line of stench fire so I starting storing my clothes in airtight tubs in another part of my condo.

My marijuana-smoking neighbor is in his 50s, he does not work and is the son of the condo owner. The father, who owns the condo, is elderly and lives in another state. I also learned the pot smoking son doesnt work and doesnt have any financial assets; he is completely financially dependent on his father. I do not want to drag his innocent elderly father into this.

Do I have any legal recourse? Is my only solution foreclosure? - KC.

: K.C. No, there are avenues you can take and foreclosure is not one of them. I am confident that somewhere in your associationrsquo;s legal documents usually the Bylaws there is a provision that a unit owner cannot create a nuisance. And thatrsquo;s exactly what your ldquo;neighborrdquo; is creating: a clear nuisance. You should go back to the Board and tell them that they have to get an injunction against the owner as well as his son, demanding that he either stop smoking in the apartment or sell and move out.

If the Board is unwilling to do that, I suggest you contact a local real estate attorney who can follow up on my suggestion.

Two other avenues: you can file a lawsuit against that ldquo;neighborrdquo; claiming a private nuisance. You have to discuss this with your local counsel, to make sure what the elements of such a claim are in your state.

And if the Board is unwilling to take action, you can sue the Board directly, claiming that by failing to follow the Bylaws there are breaching their fiduciary duty to you. It is helpful that you have another owner who is upset with the situation. The more owners who will support you, the stronger your ability to persuade the Board to take action.

And finally, I donrsquo;t know why you are hesitant to contact the father; he is the owner, and should know what is going on. Perhaps if the father feels threatened somehow, he may be able to get his son to move out.

Your question raises yet another issue: as more and more states are allowing marijuana use ndash; whether in general or just for medicinal purposes -- I suspect that your problem will be duplicated throughout the nation. Boards of Directors of community associations should start thinking about imposing smoking restrictions ndash; and this should only be done by a bylaw amendment and not me>
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Its a Beautiful Day in the Gayborhood

The survey also focused on housing discrimination among the LGBTQ community, noting that, ldquo;Federal law and the Fair Housing Act do not yet include protections for LGBTQ clients.rdquo; Although, ldquo;According to the Human Rights Campaign, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, with a further one state prohibiting housing discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.rdquo;

Members of the LGBTQ community are driven by many of the same factors as anyone else when looking to buy a homemdash;price, value, amenities, convenience. But, given the history of discrimination against this segment of the population and present-day issues, there is also a desire among many gay homebuyers to purchase in an area with an LGBTQ population, or one that is at least considered gay-friendly.

Thatrsquo;s where the ldquo;gayborhoodrdquo; comes in. defines gayborhood as, ldquo;an area of a city or town characterized as being inhabited or frequented by gay people.rdquo; Despite a proclamation in 2017 by the New York Times that the gayborhood was dead, having ldquo;straightenedrdquo; over the years, ldquo;There are more of them than you think,rdquo; counters Mashable.

Their recent take centers around the idea that ldquo;gayborhoods are shifting, not dying.rdquo; The piece is based on research from Amin Ghaziani, assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. ldquo;In his recently published piece, lsquo;Cultural Archipelagos: New Directions in the Study of Sexuality and Space,rsquo; Ghaziani analyzes new research to make a bold hypothesis: The gayborhood hasnt died, and it isnt being diluted out of existence,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Instead, gayborhoods are multiplying and diversifying.rdquo;

Ghaziani takes the definition of gayborhood beyond the more rudimentary description, identifying four main factors: ldquo;Its a geographical center of LGBTQ people including queer tourists, it has a high density of LGBTQ residents, its a commercial center of businesses catering to the queer and trans community, and its a cultural concentration of power.rdquo;

So where are todayrsquo;s gayborhoods? You have your usual suspects: The Castro in San Francisco, The West Village in New York City, Boystown in Chicago. A look at the ldquo;U.S. cities with the highest rate of same-sex married couplesrdquo; from NBC News is also illuminating. According to federal tax data from the year gay marriage was legalized, the cities with ldquo;the largest share of same-sex married couplesrdquo; are:

1. San Francisco, CA
2. Santa Rosa, CAmdash;also a top 20 retirement spot for LGBT seniors
3. Seattle, WA
4. Boston, MAmdash;the first state to legalize same-sex marriage
5. Portland, OR
6. Miami, FLmdash;also named the "greatest gay destination in America" by Thrillist
7. Albuquerque, NMmdash;also a SeniorAdvice most LGBTQ-friendly retirement spot
8. San Diego, CA
9. New York, NYmdash;Home to ldquo;the largest number of same-sex marriagesrdquo;
10. Portland, ME

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5 Overlooked Factors That Can Affect Your Homes Insurance Rates

1. The age and condition of your house.

This is one of the most obvious factors and also one of the biggest. The age of your house and the wiring, pipes, roof, lumber, square footage, and even how many corners it has all play a role in the price of your insurance.

It comes down to the risk associated with the house and the costs that come with repair or replacement. For example, if your home was built in 1920, it may have old pipes and wiring that arenrsquo;t up to code. These materials come with a much higher risk of damage or fire, so the insurance companies will charge more to insure it.

2. In a flood zone? It can cost you.

Again, if the risk of destruction is high, your insurance will reflect it. If you have a beachfront home on the Gulf Coast, you can expect to pay more than if yoursquo;re in an area of the country where flooding is typically not a concern, such as the Midwest.

If yoursquo;re in any sort of flood zone and you have a mortgage on your home, your lender will probably require a separate flood insurance policymdash;and that costs money. Even if you arenrsquo;t in a flood zone, your mortgage company may still require coverage, so be sure to look into your lenderrsquo;s requirements when you begin shopping around.

3. Some dog breeds can take a big bite out of your wallet.

In some cases, your family dog can bump up your premiums. Certain breeds, such as pit bulls and ldquo;bullyrdquo; breeds, have a reputation of being more dangerous than others and historically come with larger liability concerns to your insurer, resulting in a higher rate.

Three things can happen if your dog is considered a ldquo;dangerousrdquo; dog breed: you could be charged a higher rate from your carrier, your provider may cover you but exclude any liability associated with the dog, or the carrier could decide not to insure you at all.

4. Your pool can put your rates in the deep end.

Pools, trampolines, and even backyard construction projects are in a category called attractive nuisances, which are recreational amenities added to a home that can raise liability concerns and your rates on behalf of an insurer. If there is something in your yard that can attract the attention of a minor and pose any level of danger, it will probably affect your insurance policy.

5. Proximity to the fire department affects your premiums.

If your house were to catch fire, how long would it take for the local fire department to get there? The faster they can get there and handle the situation, the better chance they have of minimizing the damage.

Every homeownerrsquo;s policy requires whatrsquo;s called a Public Protection >

In some cases, you may be able to make some changes to help lower your rates, but never lie or intentionally exclude key information on your applicationmdash;this could result in your coverage or renewal getting denied. Be honest with your agent, and they will help you find the right coverage and rate that works for your needs.


Paul Martin, CPCU, is an insurance professional for Trusted Choice with over 30 yearsrsquo; experience in the field. Throughout his career, his mission has been to advance the insurance industry through education to be better equipped to serve the public.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Gutters That Work

Until the late 19th century virtually all rain gutters were made of wood. With the advent of metal roll forming machines around 1900, the ability to create metal gutters became possible. The roll forming process shapes long coils of flat metal into long, formed sections of gutters in a variety of designs. Up until the 1970s, most rain gutter was produced on stationary roll forming machines weighing up to several tons. Then, lighter portable roll formers on trailers became available. With portable roll formers, contractors measure and form gutters onsite.

The three most common metal gutter systems are made of aluminum, steel and copper. The first two have the advantage of being custom painted while copper unless properly clear coated will weather and change color over time. All metal gutter options have a 20 year life or more as long as they are not damaged. Aluminum is the lightest weight metal option and most easily damaged. Downspouts should be located away from areas where damaging forces are likely vehicle, pedestrian, etc. or properly protected with landscaping or posts that prevent contact.

One of the most important functions of rain gutters is to prevent foundation movement due to water. Once rainwater has made it to downspouts, the downspouts need to direct the water away from the foundation, either in subterranean rain drains which lead to a french drain a cistern like system that allows the water to be gradually reabsorbed into surrounding soil, run off to an above ground ponding facility that also allows gradual absorption into the soil or connection to a grid of storm water drains that carry to water back to streams and rivers. Some states and jurisdictions have restricted hard surface roof, street, parking lot storm water run-off to onsite collection facilities to avoid contamination of streams and rivers.

Splash blocks are a low tech alternative that move water away from the foundation. A splash block is a rectangular wedge about a foot wide and two feet long that is placed under the downspout outlet. Rainwater hits the block and is diverted away from the building and works well as long as there is positive drainage. However, in areas with high volumes of rain, splash block drainage may create additional problems with boggy areas in the landscaping or flooding downstream neighbors. In these areas, more sophisticated drainage systems are in order.

An ongoing maintenance issue with gutters is the accumulation of tree and roof debris that block or slow water drainage. This is particularly burdensome in areas of heavy deciduous tree cover. In those areas, ongoing tree pruning and selected tree removal is necessary to reduce the problem and >

Airborne dirt and roofing granules wash into the gutters and accumulate in gutters and create a hindrance to water flow. Removal of this sludge requires hand work by scooping, flushing with high pressure water hose or blowing out with a leaf blower. The last two can be create additional mess to the landscaping, walkways and building but are quicker and cheaper to accomplish.

There are quite a few options for gutter covers that claim to eliminate the need for gutter cleaning. They come in many different designs and price points and do reduce the need and frequency of cleaning but none can prevent the accumulation of sludge that finds its way passed even the best gutter cover systems. Since these systems are expensive, part of the selection criteria should be ease of removal to flushthe sludge.

Gutters and downspouts are a wonderful piece of engineering when properly installed and maintained. While ldquo;in the gutterrdquo; is a description for someone that is ldquo;down and outrdquo;, rain gutters are indispensable for getting rainwater down and out to where it does no damage.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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8 Easy Ways To Improve Your Homes Curb Appeal

1. Spruce Up the Front Door

Your homes front door is like a welcoming smile. Make sure yours is bright and attractive. If its in terrible condition, consider replacing it. Otherwise, a fresh coat of paint in a color that compliments your home will do. Polish or replace the doorknob and hardware. A metal kick plate at the bottom will do wonders to cover pet scratches and other damage.


2. Install Outdoor Lighting

Use low-voltage lighting to accent landscaping, the house, or sidewalk. This will also add to safety and security. Dont worry if you cant use lights that require wiring. Solar fixtures are available that will do the job.


3. Rejuvenate Your Lawn

Bald spots and weeds on your lawn are an eyesore for your entire property. Make an investment in getting yours up to par. Make sure your grass type is appropriate for where you live. Learn when and how to fertilize, water, and weed it properly. Keep your lawn mowed, raked and edged. If you live in a dry area consider drought-tolerant landscaping.


4. Container Gardens and Flower Beds

Flower beds and container gardens are a wonderful way to brighten curb appeal. If you already have flower beds, get them in shape by pulling weeds, pruning, and mulching. Buy your container gardens ready-made or create your own. Be sure to use plants that will thrive where you live, and consider the amount of sun or shade they will get.


5. Mailbox Makeover

A mailbox makeover is a quick and affordable way to add curb appeal. Choose a hanging dropbox that compliments your homes trim work. If it sits on a post, give the box and the post a fresh coat of paint. Purchase attractive and visible lettering for the name and street number. Consider surrounding the mailbox with a flower bed.


6. Add Shutters and Accent Trim

Shutters and trim add a touch of subtle beauty to your homes exterior. If you already have shutters, make sure they dont have peeling paint. A color change for shutters and trim can revive a tired-looking exterior. If you are adding new shutters, look for shutters made of durable material such as PVC resins or polyurethane. Use durable, low-maintenance trim details.


7. Replace Gutters and Downspouts

Nothing shouts neglect more than an old rusting gutter system. Newer systems are available made of snap-fit vinyl that can be put together easily with simple tools. Another option is to invest some money into a copper system for really dynamite curb appeal.


8. Upgrade the Driveway and Walkway

Cracks in concrete driveways and walkways with vegetation growing through can ruin your homes curb appeal. Fortunately, this problem is easily fixed with crack refill and driveway sealant. Stained concrete can be cleaned and repainted. If you have a dirt driveway, holes and washouts are unsightly and inconvenient. A load of fresh gravel will keep your driveway looking neat for a long time.

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Cautious, Realistic Approach Needed When Buying A Time-Sharing Unit

Answer. If you have the time -- and perhaps the patience -- to put up with the sales presentation, it certainly pays to make the appointment. However, you should look long and hard before you commit yourself to purchasing any kind of time-sharing condominium unit. If you do want to buy into a time-sharing arrangement, you should do so cautiously and with no expectation of profit.

Oversimplified, time-sharing is a way of making money for developers. Instead of selling a condominium outright, the developer is selling ownership of the same unit for parts of the year and is making a lot more money in the process.

Many time-share operators permit a buyer to purchase a week or more, or even a season, such as the spring or summer. You own that time period, and other purchasers will own subsequent periods. Usually, these condominiums are fully furnished. In effect, you are moving into a hotel for the period that you purchased.

My concern with time shares is that people do not fully understand what they are buying. The documents are vague, written in complex legalese and often high-pressure sales techniques are used In fact, from my personal experience, they wont let you take the proposed contract to your lawyer before you sign it.

In fairness to the industry, however, it has taken steps to change its reputation, primarily because of legislation that has been enacted in many states throughout the country.

If you are considering a time-share unit, do not jump in without giving the matter serious thought. Dont be convinced by the sales rhetoric that you must buy now or the deal is off. As you know from receiving all of those sales brochures, there will always be another time-share unit and another sales representative if you remain interested.

Here are some questions to ask before signing up to purchase:

  • What kind of title will you receive?
  • Are you getting fee-simple ownership of your time interval or are you me>
  • What kind of mortgage financing is available and how much will you have to pay? Dont forget you will have to make your mortgage payments every month throughout the year, even though you may have the use of your apartment for only one or two weeks.
  • Who controls the condominium or homeowners association? Do you have a vote in the association, or are you delegating all of your responsibilities to the developer, who in reality now becomes the new property manager?
  • What are the costs over and above the mortgage payments? Often, you will have to pay for such items as condominium maintenance, weekly cleaning, use of the swimming pool and other amenities, and these fees may continue on a monthly basis.
  • Are there any tax benefits for you? Are the real estate taxes allocated, and are you entitled to treat this property as your second home, or is it an investment property for tax purposes? Discuss this important question with your tax advisers.

You must ask these questions of the real estate agent and make sure any representations by the agent are put in writing.

One of the interesting developments of time-share operations is the exchange program. Under this system, you are permitted to swap all over the world. But what restrictions are there? What fee is charged to participate? Are you eligible to participate in only one such program or can you join others? I know of one couple who swapped a Christmas week with another couple who were only able to swap for a February week in Canada.

In the final analysis, the decision to purchase a time-share unit depends on your life>

And getting out of the time-share may be impossible. I constantly get calls -- and complaints -- that owners cannot sell. I once represented an elderly couple who could not travel anymore to their time share and wanted out. We finally were able to convince the developer to take it back, but only on the condition that my clients paid two full years of mortgage and maintenance charges.

Incidentally, look on the back of the sales promotional letters. It should contain a statement of the odds of winning that color television, the cash or some piece of cheap jewelry. I know one person who thought he was very lucky when he won a power boat. When he went to collect his prize, it turned out to be a 10-inch, battery-operated childs toy.

And the latest scam -- in my opinion -- are the robotic telephone calls we are getting telling us we just won a free cruise. Good luck with that

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To Rent or Sell Your Vacant Home

Deciding whether or not to sell or rent your vacant home is an incredibly big decision that requires a lot of thought. Therefore, you should always look at the pros and cons of selling or renting your home.nbsp;

The Main Reason to Sell Your Home

Before you can look at the pros and cons of selling your home instead of renting it, its important to look at the main reason why you should sell your vacant home.

If the following reason applies to you, then it is best to sell your vacant home as soon as possible.

The Value of the Neighborhood Has Gone Downstream

If your vacant home is in a neighborhood where the value is sinking, its best to sell this house and move on as fast as possible. By doing so as quickly as you can, you will get more money than you normally would unless you plan on waiting to see if the value will go back up, which is an extremely bad idea.

Once the plummet in value has begun, its hard to know when it will stop, or if it will stop at all. Speaking to a real estate agent who has experience and knowledge about dropping neighborhood value will help you in figuring out what to do.

If the agent believes that the value is not going to go up anytime soon, or at all, its best to sell your vacant home as soon as you can. By using a real estate agent to sell your vacant home, the process will go a lot more smoothly when compared to doing it by yourself, especially if you need to sell it within a short period of time.

An agent will help you and tell you what to do when it comes to preparing the home, like referring you to a plumber or an electrician to have them come in and do a walk-through to ensure everything is in order. They will also give you advice whether or not you should stage the home, or just leave it empty of furniture, if you currently do not have any in there. Your real estate agent will also guide you through the selling price, meeting with potential buyers, going through the negotiation process, and finalizing the sale.

However, if you would like them to handle the meeting with buyers, negotiations, and closing the deal, you can sit out of these parts completely.

Although, if you are still unsure whether or not you want to sell or rent your vacant home, or youre willing to take the chance in a neighborhood that is losing some of its value, then the pros and cons below will help you to decide on your final decision.

The Pros and Cons of Renting Your Vacant Home

As previously stated, if you are still looking to rent your vacant home out to tenants, then the following pros and cons will aid you in your decision.

The Pros of Renting Out

The biggest pro when it comes to renting out your vacant home is that youll have a second source of income.

This extra money each month will help you pay for the property taxes, mortgage, and utilities unless you are going to have the tenants paying for utilities each month, which is completely your choice.

You can increase the value in your vacant home by having some renovations done for your future tenants, which could end up becoming a future investment if you play your cards right.

For example, finishing the basement and adding a kitchen and a bathroom, if there is not a bathroom in there already. This will turn it into a basement apartment, and increase the homes value for resale.

By renting out your vacant home, you will successfully avoid squatters, vandals, and thieves. For example, if you own a vacant home and you are ba>

You may get lucky and even have a tenant, or tenants, who can help you with maintaining your property when you are unable to. This could be anything from lawn care to plumbing issues.

If you get lucky, a tenant could even become a future buyer for your property. However, this does not tend to happen very much, because people who are renting are generally not going to buy. Although, even if people have the money to do it, they may choose to rent for longer than they need to, to ensure that they have their ideal savings built up.nbsp;

The Cons of Renting Out

Unfortunately, there are a lot more cons when it comes to renting out your vacant home than there are pros. For example, you could end up with horrible tenants who do not show their true colors until a rental agreement or contract has already been signed.

The process of evicting a tenant is a long one, and you must bring sufficient grounds to do so to the right place. In short, it can take months.

Bad tenants are considered tenants who cause damage to your property, are always late on rent payments, or dont pay rent period. This will cause you additional expenses for any repairs that need to be done, and will eliminate all of the benefits of renting out your property to begin with.

You could always have background checks conducted on each potential tenant, but sometimes this will not show you all you need to know until its already too late. Another con would be tenants making the home difficult to sell. For example, say you have let your tenant know that you are planning to sell, and that they have to >

Whereas if your home were empty, you could easily clean up, get the property ready for the potential buyers, and make any necessary repairs without having to work around your tenants schedule.

The Pros and Cons of Selling Your Vacant Home

Deciding whether or not to sell your vacant home definitely takes a lot more thought than renting, the process is longer, but do you feel it will be worth it? After going over the following pros and cons of selling your vacant home, the decision will be much easier to make.

The Pros of Selling

One of the biggest benefits of selling instead of renting is, you guessed it, the money. Even though you would be getting income each month from your tenants, whether its for rent solely or both rent and utilities, you will also have to spend on repairs, new appliances if anything breaks and anything else that goes wrong.

This can get incredibly costly, and theres no real way to plan your budget when you do not know what could happen.

Another large pro is freeing up equity and rolling over so you can apply such funds to your next home, or put all of that money away into your savings. Should your neighborhood drop in value, selling quickly will ensure that you get a fair chunk of cash before the value falls.

If your home qualifies, you can even get a capital gain that is tax-free, where you would not if you decided to rent the home out. Utilities can be quite expensive, especially if you are not charging your tenants for them, and they receive sky-high utility bills.

Tenants can be difficult to deal with, especially if you come around saying that they need to use less water and stop keeping all of the lights on.

It could also start an issue if you, for whatever reason, have to add utilities to their rent, and they make a scene about it. By selling your vacant home, you wont have to deal with tenants or utilities, period

You will no longer have to worry about squatters, or tenants completely wrecking the place and making the value of the home plummet to the point where youre spending thousands of dollars trying to fix it and make it a home again. Plus, you will save hundreds of dollars per year when it comes to maintenance that you will no longer have to do anymore, which will also help to give you a peace of mind.

If you have already bought another home, you will no longer have to worry about keeping up with two mortgages, which will save you time, money, and a ton of stress. Why yank your hair out over both homes, when you can just sell your vacant one? The answer is simple; just sell it and move on.

The Cons of Selling

The only major con when it comes to selling your vacant home is that it could be difficult for you emotionally, if you have memories ties to the home. Perhaps you bought a new home and are keeping your old one for whatever personal reasons you may have.

Another con is the process of selling, but that can be easily be dealt with by taking on an experienced, reputable real estate agent who knows how to sell homes quickly, especially in a declining value neighborhood.

Though the process may take some extra time, and it can be very stressful, the real estate agent can help you get your home appraised for a selling price, do all of the showings with potential buyers, work with buyers during the negotiation process, and even finalize and close the deal for you once all of the proper documents have been signed.

Making the Best Decision

Based on the pros and cons listed for you, the decision to either rent your house out to tenants or sell it should be an easy one. By selling, you wont have to worry about risky tenants, keeping up with constant maintenance, squatters invading, vandals destroying the place, and you will not have to pay utilities or a second mortgage anymore, if applicable.

If you choose to sell the house, you will su>

However, if you do decide to rent out your vacant home to tenants, just be sure that you know what youre doing, you are careful with who you choose to rent the home out to, and always stay on top of maintenance and repairs.

You will probably have to spend more money than you will receive for rent and utilities, if you choose to not to charge for them, but it may work out for you in the end. Once you make a final decision, its best to get on it immediately. Whether that decision is renting your home, or contacting a real estate agent to help sell the house as quickly as possible.nbsp;nbsp;

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Home Upgrades That Can Save You Money

Adding Smart Lighting

Did you know the lighting in your home can increase or decrease the overall value? Itrsquo;s one of the easiest and least expensive upgrades you can make. You may be wondering ldquo;How does adding new lighting save me more money?rdquo; Most lighting inside homes comes from incandescent light bulbs, which are filled with mercury and argon. These are very toxic chemicals to humans and can cause serious health problems if they shatter.

To prevent this from happening, consider switching to CFL or LED because not only is it safer, itrsquo;s going to save you a lot of money. In addition, if you have a bad habit of leaving the light on while yoursquo;re gone, you can turn off the light with your phone.

Install Remote Outlets

While on the subject of remote control, your lights arenrsquo;t the only thing that can be controlled from afar. You can install a wifi enabled socket that allows you to switch off your electrical appliances when you are out. Some people scratch their heads and wonder how this is significant. However, have you ever had that feeling as yoursquo;re out shopping and you start wondering if the coffee pot was left on? The fear that soon overtakes you probably forces you to drive back home, only to find that you did indeed turn the coffee pot off.

With a smart outlet, yoursquo;ll be able to shut off the power in a mere instant. Not only will you end up saving money, but youll also alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress. Yoursquo;ll be able to enjoy your time outside without having to worry about leaving the oven on

Beat The Cold by Having Smart Heating

In most homes, there are usually two kinds of people. The first is someone who sets their to thermostat to the specific temperature and will ra>

Should you be the person who sets it once, you should still consider adjusting the thermostat at least once every season change. The Department of Energy recommends all homeowners to set their thermostat to 68 to 73 degrees during the holiday season. Its worth noting that if youre the type of person that constantly adjusts the thermostat, youre more likely to cause damage and waste money on repairs.

Without working your HVAC into overdrive and running up your bill, consider installing a smart thermostat. You can set up a program where the smart thermostat will adjust the temperature throughout the day that maximizes savings.

With these tips in mind, yoursquo;re ready to start getting more bang for your buck with these upgrades If yoursquo;re looking for more ways to upgrade your home, conduct a more thorough research to find an abundance of home upgrades.

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Prepare Your Kitchen for a Home Sale

Define your goals

Rearrange your kitchen by clearly defining your different goals.

A well-organized kitchen:

---gt; Must be clean and smell good.

---gt; Must look spacious and unencumbered. There is enough space in the drawers and cupboards.

---gt; Must be tastefully decorated: there must be no ugly or dated objects.

---gt; Must be welcoming: the buyer must be able to easily imagine using it and appreciate the space.

---gt; Must be alive without being messy.

Have your kitchen cleaned by a professional

Having your kitchen cleaned by a professional is a very good investment if you plan to sell your house. Sure, you could just as well do it yourself, but would the result really be so good? A kitchen is at its best when it is sparkling.

Be very sensitive to odors

Be sure to remove all trash cans, recycling bags and pet accessories before making visits, and be sure to clean the inside and bottom of the bins. Spread a lemon under your trash. There is nothing worse to let a potential buyer spin than a bad smell.

Be very sensitive to odors

Be sure to remove all trash cans, recycling bags and pet accessories before making visits, and be sure to clean the inside and bottom of the bins. Spread a lemon under your trash. There is nothing worse to let a potential buyer spin than a bad smell. The refrigerator is another place to be attended to - refrigerator odors oftentimes carry far past the kitchen. Repair Aid, a professional appliance repair company, advises on how to solve this problem in this post.

Remember to redo the paintings

Outside the household, you will get your money back if you redo the paintings. Spend a new layer in your kitchen, with a hue in harmony with the color of your closets and worktops. If you have a doubt, go for white. Even if your kitchen is new, look carefully at the walls and ceilings, and make the necessary adjustments, even the small ones.

Organizing your kitchen is the first step to move on, which is not always easy. If you are preparing your house for sale, it is time to no longer think of it as your home, but as a property about to be sold. This preparation, if done well, can make your home more attractive and speed up your sale. It is even sometimes possible to obtain more than originally hoped for. It is better to make the best possible impression from the beginning so that you do not have to endure the incessant visits. Keep this in mind during your preparations.

Make the windows

Clean the windows, both inside and out. If your windows are equipped with awesome curtains, consider removing them, or at least making sure they are well drawn during the visits.

Make a clean space on the worktop

A toaster and coffee maker are the only things you can stay on the counter. Everything else must be tidy.

Arrange closets inside

Potential buyers will look inside your closets. And if they are overloaded, it will give the impression that there is not enough storage space in your kitchen. Remove any excess, or mismatched items, and anything that does not make a good impression. If you still need these items, keep them in a box that you place at the top of a shelf or cupboard during visits.

Store the pantry

Reduce the contents of your pantry until there is empty space on each shelf. Arrange this leftover in matching boxes or baskets. It may be necessary to remove food, but remember that a well presented kitchen is not necessarily a practical kitchen. As with the objects in your closets, keep the extra items in a box that you will hide for visits.

Organize your wall shelves

People have a special >

Put nice soaps and dishwashing liquids in a tray

Dispose of old sponges and dishwashing liquids, and replace them with an original soap, a nice dishwashing liquid dispenser and a lotion, all well presented on a tray.

Make the tap shine

A clean and bright faucet always makes a good impression. Also be sure to repair any leaks.

Accessorize your cooking plates

A nice cookie or kettle on the hobs is a welcoming touch. Just make sure that what you choose is in perfect working order and without any scratches.

Add new tea towels

New tea towels are at the top of the list when you want to present your kitchen. They are an inexpensive way to add some color and pattern, especially in an all-white kitchen that might otherwise look bland.

Buy fresh fruit

Everything that is ripe and pretty will do the trick. Choose beautiful fruits and arrange them in a basket, a salad bowl or in a cake dish.

Add fresh flowers and other green plants

Just like the fruit basket, freshly cut flowers, branches or aromatic plants in jars bring life to your kitchen. No need to spend a fortune: in this kitchen, for example, sunflower->

Exhibit your finest cookbooks

Cookbooks are an accessory that makes cooking attractive and useful. But think of sorting in your books: keep a single row, taking care to choose books in good condition. If you do not have a shelf, you can have a small stack on the worktop.

Full Story >

Real Estates Surprisingly Hot High-Tech Tool is Actually a Traffic App

Itrsquo;s Waze. Yes, the crowdsourced traffic app people use to find alternate routes when driving.

ldquo;Waze isnrsquo;t technically real estate agent software, but if yoursquo;re stuck in traffic, yoursquo;re not selling houses,rdquo; said Fit Small Business, who names the crowdsourced traffic app as one of their best bets on the list of the ldquo;43 Best Real Estate Software amp; Tools for Top Agents in 2019.rdquo; Waze lets you ldquo;focus on your business by providing up-to-the-minute traffic condition reports from other Waze users. Plus, itrsquo;s a great tool if yoursquo;re giving clients a tour of your listings and want to hit as many properties as possible. It saves you time, frustration, and best of all, gas money. Waze is a must-have on any realtorrsquo;s smartphone.rdquo;

Being able to guide you through heavy traffic isnrsquo;t the only advantage of using Waze.

A recent story in the Hollywood Reporter also mentioned the app without using the name as a contributing factor in the growth of neighborhoods in South Los Angeles ldquo;including Ladera Heights, View Park, Windsor Hills and Leimert Park mdash; "that are now seeing double-digit annual price jumps in their historic homes and an influx of diverse new buyers in ZIP codes that traditionally have drawn mostly African-American families,rdquo; they said.

ldquo;You know whatrsquo;s brought more visibility to the area mdash; and I hate to give props to the technology mdash; but itrsquo;s people driving through using a [navigation] app,rdquo; Coldwell Banker real estate agent, Janet Singleton, told them. ldquo;Theyrsquo;ll call up and say, lsquo;I just saw your sign. What is the name of this neighborhood? And how much is it?rsquo;rdquo;

Enterprising real estate companies like Daniel Gale Sothebyrsquo;s International Realty in Long Island and Queens, NY, are also exploring new ways ldquo;to capture a broader audience for its listings and Open Houses on Long Island and in Queens,rdquo; said Real Trends, and are finding Waze to be a great optionrdquo;

Open houses show up as ldquo;a branded pin on the Waze map at its location and interested parties will be further directedrdquo; to the location,rdquo; they said. ldquo;A separate detailed takeover ad with additional information about the Open House will be revealed to the user when the vehicle is at a complete stop.rdquo;

Compass is another company working with Wave to have their listings show up on the app, and also provide another showcase for their new high-tech signs, which were rolled out last year.

Full Story >

Is Homeownership the Greatest Way to Secure Your Financial Future?

But therersquo;s something else to consider: The future value of the home. Equity growth is likely something yoursquo;ve at least thought about if yoursquo;re in the market for a home. After all, the idea of paying someone elsersquo;s mortgage payment interminably instead of building equity in your own place has probably been driving you crazy. But letrsquo;s dive in a little further.

Appreciation in a nutshell

ldquo;Appreciation, or the rising of home prices over time, is how the majority of wealth is built in real estate,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;This is the lsquo;home runrsquo; you hear of when people make a large windfall of money. While prices fluctuate, over the long run real estate values have always gone up, always, and there is no reason to think that is going to change.rdquo;

That makes real estate one of the more stable long-term investments. A paper from economists at University of California-Davis, University of Bonn, and the Deutsche Bundesbank the central bank of Germany culled together ldquo;the annual returns of treasury bills, treasury bonds, equities, and residential housing from 1870 to 2015 for 16 now-rich countries such as the US, Germany, and Japanrdquo; to study the effects of different forms of investments. They found that, ldquo;in the average wealthy country, the annual return on housing during that period was just over 7 when adjusted for inflation, while the return on equities was just under 7,rdquo; said Quartz. ldquo;At the same time, the risk associated with housing was far lower. By standard measures of uncertainty, housing was about half as risky as equities, and slightly less risky than bonds.rdquo;

This is, obviously, important to those who are purchasing real estate for strictly investment purposes. But itrsquo;s also something to keep in mind when buying real estate for personal use.

Proving financial security later

ldquo;Paying off a mortgage during your working years allows you to remove a large expense from your plate during retirement,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;For retirees that see a drop in income once they start taking Social Security or pulling from their retirement accounts, this can be the difference between living a comfortable life and living paycheck to paycheck.rdquo;

And while it may be hard to look forward several decades and even try to picture what retirement will look like, especially if yoursquo;re just starting out, the idea of long-term savings is attractive nonetheless.

ldquo;Forced savingsrdquo;

Need a little help saving? A house is great that way. ldquo;For those who havenrsquo;t made a habit of putting money away, paying a mortgage can create a savings cushion that renting cannot,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;Owning a home does not guarantee a higher net worth, nor does it remove the need to be financially responsible, but it does provide a structure within which one can build wealth.rdquo;

Buying young

The earlier you buy, the more wealth you have the opportunity to create. ldquo;Of todayrsquo;s older adults, those who bought their first home from ages 25 to 34 accumulated the most housing wealth by their 60s mdash; a median of around 150,000, according to a report by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization,rdquo; said app. ldquo;In contrast, the median housing wealth for those in their early 60s who bought later ages 35 to 44, was about half as much, at 76,000. Homeowners who bought after they were 45 had about 44,000 in housing wealth by their 60s.rdquo; What you do today can absolutely affect your future financial picture.

Full Story >

Lease Restrictions and Obtaining the 2/3 Majority Vote

Answer: Herb. First, as I always tell presidents of their condo association, ldquo;my condolencesrdquo;. Itrsquo;s a tough job, no one ever thanks you, the hours are long and there is no pay. But, its your investment and presumably thatrsquo;s why you accepted the task.

Lease restrictions are the current hot-button topic in community associations. Perhaps the main reason is that the Federal Housing Administration FHA has imposed lending restrictions that, among many other conditions, require that no more than 50 percent of the complex can be investor owned. And, today at least, FHA is the main game in town when it comes to making condo mortgage loans.

So, associations all over the country are looking for ways to impose restrictions on the number of units that can be rented. There is a concept in law known as ldquo;restraint on alienationrdquo;. In simple English, this means that the law encourages the free transfers and sales of real property. And courts have held that putting restrictions on the ability of a property owner to rent or sell his/her home is or can be a restraint on alienation.

However, there is another concept in community association law, namely that every owner is bound by the associationrsquo;s legal documents as they existed at the time the person became an owner AND as those documents may be legally amended from time to time.

In a condominium, for example, there is a hierarchy of power. First, the
State law is supreme. Next comes the Declaration, then the Bylaws and finally the rules and regulations.

Courts around the country have had to address the question of what can be done to put restrictions on the number of renters so as to comply with FHA guidelines. And the courts have basically ruled that if a restriction is legally incorporated in the Declaration or the Bylaws, it will be upheld as valid.

My recommendation: try to amend your Declaration; itrsquo;s the higher authority. And typically, to amend your legal documents requires a super-majority ndash; usually 2/3 or even seventy-five percent vote of the membership. And this does
not mean just the members who are present at a meeting; it requires a super-majority of all of the owners, based on their percentage interests.

You state that you are not sure you can muster the requisite 2/3 majority. Thatrsquo;s the price of democracy. The legislators who crafted condo laws have made it clear that major changes in the operation of the association must be approved by more than a mere majority.

Needless to say, owners who rent may not be inclined to vote in favor of restrictions. You can try to grandfather those owners by having the amendment state that it does not impact in any way on existing owners. You should try to convince those investors that if the proposed amendment does not pass, the investor may not be able to find a buyer who is able to get loan.

Full Story >

15 Ideas for Home Projects on a Budget

Projects Under 100

1. Rearrange Furniture. Pull furniture away from the walls and position it at new, more inviting angles. Yoursquo;ll change the look and dimension of your room.

2. Paint Walls. Choose one wall to paint in an accent color. Select a hue thatrsquo;s already a part of the deacute;cor, one that complements and highlights your pieces.

3. Get Plenty of Greens. Lush broad-leafed plants are easy to maintain indoors and add some life to any room. If you donrsquo;t have a green thumb, opt for silk plants instead.

4. Accent Floors. A new rug is the perfect accent. Look for one that has colors that reflects your deacute;cor, and then angle it under a coffee table or dining room table.

5. Frame It. Use multiple frames that are of a similar >

6. Light Up Your Room.

7. Go Faux. Create a whole new look with faux finishing. Washing, leafing, marbling and stripping can be used to change walls or make furniture look fresh.

8. Update Cabinets. New hardware can transform a kitchen. Select matching sets of knobs and pulls to completely change the look and feel of your cabinets.

9. Wallpaper. Wallpaper doesnrsquo;t need to go wall-to-wall. Use it with paint to accent borders or choose a single wall to express your >

Projects Under 500

10. Update Fixtures. New fittings, a fresh vanity and new toilet can completely change the appearance of your bathroom. Choose sets that work well together.

11. Add Moulding. Crown moulding adds a touch of luxury. To install it yourself, buy extra moulding and practice your miter cuts before beginning.

12. Update Flooring. New flooring gives a room a boost from the bottom. Try a natural-looking wood laminate. Itrsquo;s simple to install and yields extraordinary results.

13. Install a fan. A large, decorative ceiling fan with a light fixture can brighten a room and create a comfortable climate
that you control at the touch of a button.

14. Organize Closets. Less clutter will make your entire home feel more spacious. Maximize storage with new shelving and wire organizers so everything is neat.

15. Care For Your Landscape. Add new hedges in the front, trees in the back and flowers that complement your homersquo;s exterior. Little outdoor projects like these can really make you feel more settled in.

These ideas are provided as a service from Lowes, the Original Home Improvement Warehouse. Lowes assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please read our terms of use.

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Must-Haves for Aging in Place

ldquo;Ninety percent of older Americans would prefer to live in their own home as they age, according to AARP,rdquo; said Lifeline. But doing so typically requires changes to the home to accommodate the realities of agingmdash;changes HomeAdvisor highlighted in their most recent Aging in Place Report.

ldquo;As we heard from survey respondents both aged 55 to 75 and aged 75 and over, the key to facilitating aging in place is actually taking a holistic approach to home improvement leading up to aging in place mdash; doing things like simplifying landscaping, repairing and replacing windows, swapping out door handles, and organizing closets and storage areas,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Take a front walkway, for example. If there are cracks or dips in the concrete, homeowners would want to address those existing safety issues before consider installing a wheelchair ramp or a railing that theyrsquo;re not sure theyrsquo;ll ever need. And installing self-cleaning gutters will not only make life easier in the short term, but it will also ensure that gutter cleaning is covered when climbing a ladder becomes too precarious later on.rdquo;

The survey found that respondents in both the 55 to 75 and 75 and over categories were motivated to make home improvements in order to simplify their livesmdash;ldquo;even above aesthetics, safety, accessibility and increased home value.rdquo;

The top individual projects varied depending on the age of the respondent, although many, such as adding pullout shelves in kitchen cabinets No. 1, 55 to 75, No. 2, 75 and over made both lists. Others included:

Changing doorknobs to leversmdash;This simple change makes it easier to operate door hardware for anyone who may be suffering from arthritis or have issues with their joints that make grasping and turning the doorknob difficult.

Changing out flooring from tile or stone to wood or carpetmdash;Taking steps to minimize the potential for injury in the home is key for those looking to age in place.

Installing a smart security system or smart thermostatmdash;Adding smart home features is one of the most popular trends spanning every demographic, and theyrsquo;re hot in the senior market, said Healthy Women. ldquo;Smart thermostats keep your home at the perfect temperature without you needing to fuss with the dial. Automatic blinds keep the sun out of your eyes and maintain your homes temperature. The best part? Not needing to fight with those pesky cords. Smart showers allow you to customize everything from the waters temperature to your morning playlist. Every morning you just press a button to be greeted with your perfect shower. Smart doors act like your butler. Just walk up to the door and it opens itself for youmdash;no keys, locks or handles.nbsp;A key fob or your smartphone serves as your ID.rdquo;

Making renovations to bathrooms including comfort-height toilets and grab barsmdash;Ugh, grab bars. Is that what yoursquo;re thinking? The good news is that not only do these features provide protection, theyrsquo;re also being designed with new flair to make them appear as decorative as they are useful. ldquo;As considerations for aging in place and safety in retirement house design become more top of mind for home builders and their clients, new solutions are being developed that provide functional items such as shower grab bars without creating a design that stigmatizes the homeowner,rdquo; said Lifeline. ldquo;One of our favorite new lines that wersquo;ve utilized in retirement house designs is that Invisia Collection by American Standard. This collection disguises grab bars as decorative flourishes on traditional bath accessories such as toilet paper rolls, towel bars and the like. They offer the functional strength and durability needed to aid the homeowner ndash; without being overt. Their design is elegant and modern.rdquo;

Therersquo;s one more important change you likely want to consider to make your home well-prepared for your retirement years: Single-story living.

If you dont already have a single-story home, perhaps you have a master suite on the first floor. Donrsquo;t have that either? There are renovations that can help transform the home into something that lives more like a single-story:

bull; Turn an unneeded space into a first-floor mastermdash;have an unused guest room, formal living room, or dining room? That might provide the perfect opportunity to create a first-floor master.
bull; Add an elevatormdash;Elevators are a big trend, but can also be a big expense. Homeowners looking to stay in their home well into retirement can add an elevator if theyrsquo;re willing to pay anywhere from 25,000 to 45,000. Be sure to ask your real estate agent for the probably return on investment first.
bull; Add on to the homemdash;This can be an even larger expense than adding an elevator, depending on how extensive the addition is, but if yoursquo;re set on staying in your home for retirement, it might be well worth it.

Full Story >

Practical Homeowner Knowledge Is Vital

Did you take a >

Whatrsquo;s the origin of your mish-mash of fact-amp;-fantasy regarding your ldquo;herersquo;s how it worksrdquo; approach to living in your home? For most of us, our education was a mix of parental training, copying friends, guesswork, and replicating what we saw in the movies and on television; millennials and younger generations ldquo;Googlerdquo; all that flawed data and perpetuate it.

Our tip? Seek out factual, practical information before you run into problems. Oh yes, you will have problemshellip;everything breaks down eventually.

Take our ldquo;Do It Rightrdquo; Quiz below to learn how on-point your working knowledge of home management is. Therersquo;s no ldquo;almost rightrdquo; for each quiz question; yoursquo;re right or yoursquo;re not. No ldquo;truerdquo; or ldquo;falserdquo; or ldquo;ardquo; or ldquo;brdquo; simplification either. ldquo;Working knowledgerdquo; means having clear, practical understanding, not guessing or ldquo;Googlingrdquo; for quick, band-aid solutions in the middle of a crisis. This informed approach will prevent you from doing little things the wrong way each day which can build into big problems later.

In reality, ldquo;winningrdquo; this Quiz can mean lower maintenance bills, fewer inconvenient breakdowns, fewer expensive service calls, and more choices when renovating. In this version of our ldquo;Do It Rightrdquo; Quiz, we offer a mini-quiz that highlights the most-taken-for-granted household item which causes some of the biggest home-repair problems - the toilet.

Since most modern homes have at least two indoor, modern toilets and many have one per bedroom, this home appliance has significant impact:

"Do It Rightrdquo; Bathroom Quiz

1. Flush Right: What is a toilet designed to flush away?

Answer: Only human waste, with a small amount of bathroom tissue, should go into a flush toilet.

Not kitchen grease, leftover paint, diapers, handiwipes, or deceased pets. The huge blob of fat and heaven-knows-what, called a fatberg, which has accumulated under a British city and a few American cities too, is what happens when too much of the wrong stuff gets flushed or poured into sinks or other household drains. On a local level, your plumbing bill will be your barometer of how well toilets are used in your home. New low-flow toilets may save on water, but their low-water volumes can cause problems. Sometimes, large amounts of excrement wonrsquo;t flush cleanly. Foreign objects like kitchen grease can cause blockage, so overflows become a problem. Septic systems operate the same way toilets do plus they have additional maintenance requirements to prevent massive fecal backup, which can flood the bathroom or swamp the lawn. You know this will happen at the worst possible time like a backyard birthday BBQ or wedding reception.

2. Toilet Seat Right: What is the main purpose of a toilet seat cover?

Answer: The toilet seat cover protects people and bathroom surfaces from germs and fecal matter that are sprayed out in a fine mist when the toilet is flushed after use.

The toilet seat cover is not for standing on to change light bulbs or dust vent gratings. Put the toilet seat and cover down after using the toilet and before you flush to keep fecal contamination to a minimum. For the same reason, regularly wash surfaces and the bowl of the toilet with disinfectant, even if it ldquo;looksrdquo; clean.

3. Toilet Location Right: What is a >

Answer: An offset toilet flange can be added to the connection between the toilet and the sewer pipe extending through the bathroom floor to move the toilet a few inches forward, backward, or to one side.

A small job for a professional plumber, adding an offset or extender toilet flange may be possible for experienced homeowners. The do-it-yourself risk lies in not having the right tools or expertise to make sure seals are water-tight, so no leaks damage the bathroom floor or the ceiling below. If done incorrectly, repair costs will be much greater than the price of the part. Homeowners can decide about the cost-benefit return by getting exact quotes for the potential adjustment compared to what is gained.

The contractor for my last bathroom renovation did not take into account the difference in dimensions for the new, smaller water-conserving toilet. A few dollars spent on an offset toilet flange would have compensated for the resulting wider gap at back of the toilet tank. Irsquo;m now stuck with a gap which things fall through and the loss of a few crucial inches of space that would be valuable when climbing into the soaker tub.

4. Environment Right: What are the local environmental requirements for replacement toilets in your area?

Answer: Check with local municipal building offices to learn what is required.

Municipalities may have grant programs for those interested in replacing old toilets with more environmentally-sound, low-flush models. Locations with water shortage issues may have more strict requirements. If you pay for each flush, you may be more committed to going low flow. Investigate flush dynamics to get the best results even when water volumes are lower. All models are not equally effective in performing the desired task cleanly and efficiently each time.

5. Renovation Right: How can bathroom renovation costs be kept to a minimum, even when a ldquo;gut jobrdquo; is required?

Answer: Do not move the location of drains for the toilet, sink, bathtub, and/or shower to keep costs down.

Replacing the existing toilet, vanity, bathroom sink, tub, and shower, including facets and taps without moving the location of any of these elements will keep you on budget. The expensive aspects are demolition and removing the debris something homeowners can tackle to save money and replacing tile, laying down flooring, painting, and adding fixtures and decorative mirrors and hooks. Decide to move the toilet or any other ldquo;bathroom furniturerdquo; and re-plumbing and rewiring can add significant cost. Arrange full estimates from experienced plumbers and bathroom contractors so you can create an accurate budget and contingency fund. Talk to the professionals about what ldquo;surprisesrdquo; may lie in walls and floors. Locals will know which problems are common for houses similar to yours. Renovating in the ldquo;busy seasonrdquo; will mean longer time lines.

Donrsquo;t try and learn everything about everything all at once.

Start with the oldest or most-used systems and gradually expand your knowledge and list of professional contacts. Be prepared and you and your wallet will benefit in many ways.

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Using HOA Contractors, Agent Specializing in HOA, and Building Restrictions

Question: Can a homeowners association force unit owners to use its contractor to repair unit interior damage when the HOA is responsible for repairs? In this case, water seeped in due to failed waterproofing and damaged carpet, drywall, paint, baseboards and insulation. The HOA is paying a contractor to do both exterior and interior repairs but I do not want to use this contractor. Irsquo;ll accept the HOArsquo;s cost estimate to do my interior repairs but want to get my own contractor.

Answer: The reason the HOA wants one contractor is itrsquo;s easier, faster and cheaper to use one contractor for all repairs. But unless interior repairs involve things like structural repairs safety issue or mold remediation health issue which can adversely impact neighboring units, individual unit owners have the right to take care of interior repairs using their own contractor.

Question: I am a real estate agent specializing in HOA property. In the past, I was used to seeing a charge for resale disclosure packages of around 100. Yet, recently Irsquo;ve seen charges up to 250. Isnrsquo;t there some sort of regulation that prohibits price gouging?

Answer: HOAs and their management companies are entitled to a reasonable charge for producing information >

That said, some states have more complex resale disclosure requirements than others so time requirements to fulfill them varies from state to state. Also, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the two entities that underwrite the majority of condominium mortgage loans enacted more stringent underwriting requirements in 2007 and 2008 which expand lender verifications of HOA reserve studies, renter occupancy, delinquency rates and insurance. This has placed additional burden and time on boards and managers to comply with resale disclosure so an increase from 100 to 250 may be enti>

Question: We bought a lot in an HOA and were given a copy of the recorded governing documents prior to closing. We read them carefully before we closed the sale. Several months later, we submitted house plans to the Architectural Review Committee ARC for approval and were informed that we could not build any structure within 30 feet of the back of our property line. This restriction was outlined in the ARCrsquo;s ldquo;Landscape Guidelinesrdquo;, something we were not provided a copy of before closing. As it turns out, the standard rear setback is 15 feet but a 30 foot restriction applies to a few lots including ours to maintain a ldquo;view corridorrdquo;. Can the HOA really enforce this kind of selective setback restriction on us?

Answer: It depends. You apparently were aware that there were HOA architectural restrictions since you knew to submit plans to the ARC for approval. Did you not think to inquire about what those restrictions might be before closing? On the other hand, the seller most certainly knew about the special setback on this lot. If it was not disclosed, you have an issue with the seller. Finally, any setback or other restriction that applies to selected lots should be made part of those lotsrsquo; title record so prospective purchases can be made aware of it prior to closing.

You likely have a strong case in your favor to get the restriction overturned. However, you may be fighting your neighbors who will get their view blocked as well as the HOA to get it done. You should retain an attorney that specializes in HOA law to help you sort it out.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

Full Story >

Down Payment Dilemma: How Do You Know How Much To Put Down On A Home?

For many others, who do have enough money set aside to make a substantial down payment, the question is: how much? Conventional wisdommdash;not to mention most of the banks and a good portion of homebuying and financial expertsmdash;will tell you that 20 percent is the standard bearer when it comes to down payments. But is it really necessary to put 20 percent down?

The short answer is: no.

Now for the long answer.

"Raising a 20 percent down payment isnt an easy thing to do. Fortunately, you dont have to. "Its a myth that all homebuyers must have a 20 percent down payment to buy a home," says Nancy Herrera-Siples, a Riverside, Calif., branch manager at Primary Residential Mortgage on U.S. News. "So why do you constantly hear that you need to put 20 percent down? Because if you dont, it usually means youll have to shell out money for either private mortgage insurance or government insurance, which is usually financed by the Federal Housing Administration FHA."

And theres another rub for those who are already struggling to come up with the minimum down payment: that extra couple of hundred dollars per month feels like a penalty. Its not, of coursemdash;"Mortgage insurance protects the lender in case you cant make your payments and the house is foreclosed on," said U.S. Newsmdash;but that money can make a significant difference for those who are stretching to buy a home.

Still, when your only option to buy is a low down payment, which can mean an FHA loan or one of the new low down payment loans from Freddie Mac and Fannie Maemdash;"At the end of 2014, the two government-backed companies announced plans to slash down payments from 5 to 3," said CNNmdash;PMI might literally be a small price to pay. Especially if swelling rents are making homeownership look more and more promising. Remember that PMI does go away eventually when your loan balance is 80 percent or less of the homes value. If youre in an area where homes are rising in value, this could happen sooner than you think.

Still confused about the ins and outs of down payments? Here are a few reasons to go highhellip;or low.

When to make a substantial down payment

  • When youre looking to keep your monthly payment as low as possible and have cash to spare
  • When you just cant fathom paying PMI
  • When your goal is to buy a forever home and own it free and clear
  • When you are approaching retirement age and can envision a reverse mortgage sometime down the line
  • When you want to buy your house and pay it off as quickly as possible
  • When the rate is lower with a higher down payment. "The more you put down, the better position you are in for negotiating a lower interest rate with your lender," said Plus, a "low down payment might affect other loan features, such ashellip;the points, which are upfront interest charges," said Banking My Way.
  • If youre worried about being under water. If the market should drop in your area, you run the risk of owing more than your home is worth.

When to go low

  • When you dont have the funds for a higher down payment and cant earn or borrow them quickly enough
  • When the rate on your FHA or Fannie or Freddie loan is comparable to that youd get with a higher down payment
  • When you need to escape a high-rent situation and the monthly payment on a house is lower than what youre currently paying, even with the PMI factored in
  • When youre confident your home will appreciate quickly, allowing you to refinance and get rid of PMI quickly
  • When your investments cant be touched without a penalty or are returning better than the interest rate youll get on your home
  • If you have something better to do with the money. "If you bought a 400,000 home, 5 down would be 20,000, while 20 down would be 80,000mdash;a whopping difference. An immediate need such as a college tuition payment would make the smaller down payment more appealing," said Banking My Way.
  • When you feel more secure setting money aside for emergencies instead of tying it all up in your house.

Full Story >

11 Things To Do Before You Move Into A New House

1. Change your address

Youll have to stop into your local post office or visit the United States Postal Services website nbsp;to change your address at some point. Doing it early ensures that your mail will make as smooth a transition as you do. A side benefit to changing your address is the coupon package that comes with the form. That 10 off Lowes discount will su>

2. Update your contact info

Change your address online with creditors, financial institutions, schools, publications, and anyone else that is important. Your change of address form from the post office will forward your mail but going right to the source will ensure your new address is on file.

3. Tell your mailman and say "Thank you"

A little consideration goes a long way when it comes to forwarding mail.

4. Change the locks

How many of us have moved into a new place and used the same locks and keys that were provided to us?

"You really dont know who else has keys to your home," said HouseLogic. "That ensures youre the only person who has access. Install new deadbolts yourself for as little as 10 per lock, or call a locksmith mdash; if you supply the new locks, they typically charge about 20-30 per lock for labor.

5. Get the house deep cleaned

The previous occupants probably cleaned the house or had it cleaned when they left. But is it up to your standards? Get a crew in there before you move in. Itll be money well spent.

Make sure the crew also gets inside the closets, cabinets, and drawers. You dont want to start your new life with someone elses crumbs and dust bunnies.

6. Clean the carpets too

This is another area where you will probably want to focus a little energymdash;unless youre a fan of "germ hotspots," said Huffington Post. The blog reported that carpets are "botanical and zoological parkshellip;that can be 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat," said microbiologist Dr. Philip Tierno, according to Mens Health. Let that set in for a moment.

7. Call an exterminator

Nothing ruins your first night in a new house like critters scurrying across the floor.

8. Research utilities

The current providers might be the best or only options...but they may not be. Deregulation in some areas means competitive rates for utilities that can pay off for you. Be sure to ask about any new user discounts for cable or satellite, and, also for bundling packages that might be available.

9. Shut off the utilities on the house youre moving from

Sounds like a given, but its one of the most common errors people make when movingmdash;an error that can turn out to be costly when youre paying double utilities.

10. Alert your service providers

Let your gardener and anyone else that services your home regularly know you are moving early on. Details like this can be easily overlooked during a move, and giving ample notice will allow them time to try to replace the business if youre moving out of their service area.

11. Pare down your stuff

The only thing worse that having boxes of stuff you dont use and dont need crowding your space is carting them from house to house. Days disappear quickly when youre packing and preparing to move. If you are at all concerned you wont have time for a garage sale or even to drive to the local donation spot, take advantage of charities that will come to your house and do a pick up. Then all you have to do is haul the stuff to the front porch and bring in your tax receipt once theyre done.

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