Updated: Sunday, May 16, 2021

5 Necessary Steps to Flipping a House

Thanks to the popular reality TV shows that feature house flippers who make nearly 50,000 in just a few weeks, house flipping has become more and more popular. Theres nothing wrong with the profession--its lucrative, honest, and helps a lot of people find their dream homes since youve helped to fix it up for them. The only problem is that you have to be able to do the job right. You cant go into it expected to paint the walls and sell the home for a million dollars. House flipping can take a lot of research and hard work. To help, heres what you need to know in order to flip a house in 5 main steps.

1. Research the Real Estate Market

Not every market is the best choice for flipping houses. For example, if youre starting off with just 10,000 that you can work with out of pocket, you probably shouldnt start flipping houses that are being listed in the millions. It wont work out well for you and youll end up with less than you started with. The general rule of house flipping is the less cash you have to work with, the less the house should cost overall. That means that the first two questions that you need to answer are:

How much cash are you starting off with?

What market can you afford to work with?

You need to know where the neighborhood that youre planning on working with sits on the scale of A to D. A neighborhood that is >

2. Set a Budget and a Plan

Youd be setting yourself up for failure if you went into this without a real plan. It doesnt have to be fancy or crazy, or even super in-depth. You need to know how much youll think the flip is going to cost you and how much youre going to make off of it. Also, make sure that youre never buying anything that has major problems that you wont be able to fix within your budget. For your first house, you want something that you can flip fast and easy.

3. Find the Right House

The next thing that you need to do is to find the right house to start your work on. Again, this is where the neighborhood >

4. Renovate

Here comes the part that you were expecting: the renovation. This is one of the most important parts of the process. Youll be on the clock working on the house all day and into the night since the faster you can flip the house, the more youll make. Add features that make the house feel homey. Add a skim coat to the walls to make everything last longer and to give it an appearance of quality. Every month that you spend working on the house youll lose money. You have to pay to taxes, bills, and insurance. Because of all of that, try to finish the home as soon as possible.

5. Get Ready to Sell

The final step of the process is thankfully the easiest. All you have to do now is sit back and get ready to sell the home. Its up to you to set the price that you want to sell it at. You want to sell it low enough to make sure that the house is >

Once youve done that, you can move on to bigger and better projects.nbsp;

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5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Kitchen Remodel Design Team

Before putting money down for a deposit on your new kitchen remodel, you need to look at several factors including the years of experience, previous customer reviews, availability, option for cabinets, flooring, and other components, and the cost.

1. How Many Years of Experience Does Your Kitchen Contractor Have?

It doesnt matter if youre doing a small kitchen remodel project or if youre looking at completing a total overhaul; in every situation, you want to hire a kitchen contractor that has the experience to get the job done the right way the first time. While every kitchen contractor and design team has to start from somewhere, you are taking a significant risk allowing someone that hasnt been in business very long to do the work.

The ideal way to select a kitchen remodeling company that has enough knowledge and skill to assist you is by looking at those that have at least five years of work in the industry. That says that they have been able to keep their operation up and going through providing quality work to their customers. If they werent capable of doing what they say they can, then the likelihood of them still being operational after five years isnt very high.

Additionally, if you select a kitchen design team that isnt well-established yet, you could be asked to pay for some or all of the cost of your new kitchen up front. While in some instances there is no issue with getting the work done that way, its another risk youre taking. After you pay your kitchen contractor, theres no reason for them to hurry up and get the work done, or do it all, unfortunately. You could be stuck with an unfinished kitchen remodel for much longer than you expected, or they could disappear with your money.

2. Are There Enough Positive Customer Reviews On Your Kitchen Design Team?

Thanks to technology, the internet, and social media, it isnt hard to find out what other customers experienced when working with a specific kitchen remodeling company. All you really have to do is type in the name of the kitchen contractor youre considering, and within seconds youll see anything positive or negative that others have said about them. While you have to be careful if the reviews seem like they might be scripted, if there are poor ones, you can trust that they are factual.

If there arent any reviews on the kitchen contractor at all, that should also make you leery of hiring them. They might not have as many years of experience as they claim, or perhaps they had to change their name because of all the negative things people were sharing about them. Negative reviews online are nearly impossible to get rid of, so kitchen contractors that have them have been known to change the name of their business instead of trying to get rid of them.

You can always skip the internet enti>

3. Will Your Selected Kitchen Design Experts Be Available?

Some of the best kitchen contractors near you are likely going to be booked out several weeks, months, or even longer in advance. Think about when you want the project done. Also, take into consideration how long you are going to want the kitchen design team in your home. There are plenty out there that will be able to give you an accurate estimate of how long its going to take from start to completion. If they hesitate on being able to share the details with you, then you could be looking at a company that isnt dedicated to completing the job promptly.

When do your research, look for kitchen contractors that have guarantees on their time projections. Many of them will even offer a discount or money back if they go over their time terms. Those are the ones that you can bet will get the job done when they say they will.

4. Does Your Kitchen Contractor Have the Options Youre Looking For?

You might be inclined to think that every kitchen contractor in your area can complete the same tasks and offer you whatever materials and products you want. That isnt necessarily true. Some kitchen remodeling companies will only handle cabinets and flooring, for instance, while others are capable of completely changing the footprint of the room. Here in the Treasure Valley area where our company operates, North Star Kitchen and Bath Remodels pride ourselves in being a full-service remodeling company, that can handle just about any kitchen remodelnbsp;customers are looking for.

Check for kitchen contractors that will give you personal attention, and preferably your very own design team or expert to work alongside from the start to the finish of the job. That way, you can have someone that you will be able to easily describe any custom kitchen cabinets, flooring options, countertop choices, and appliances you have in mind. They should be able to quickly offer you alternatives or let you know that its not something that they are capable of doing.

Select a kitchen remodeling company near you that starts you off with a free estimate. Thats when you can go over in detail exactly what you have in mind, and youll know right away if theyre going to be able to get the job done for you or not. With a free estimate, if they cant, youre not out any money.

5. What is Your New Kitchen Design Going to Cost?

The last thing you want to think about is cost. You dont want to pay prices that are way out of the ballpark compared to the other ones, but you should never go with the cheapest one you find either. If a kitchen remodeling company can offer you a meager price in comparison to the rest youve looked at, its likely they are cutting corners on quality, labor, or the processes that they use.

It is recommended to get at least three different quotes before choosing any one company to work with. That way, you can have a clear idea of how the kitchen design and remodeling industry works, and you can get the results you deserve for your investment.

Scott Merriman is the owner of North Star Kitchen and Bath Remodels which operates in Boise and the greater treasure valley area. nbsp;He has over 18 years of experience working in the remodeling industry and knows how to bring the most value to any remodel when a realtor or homeowner is looking to buy or sell.

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Ask The HOA Expert: Hostile Neighbors, Surcharges to Rentals, Board Authority, Holiday Board Meetings

Question: Do you have any advice on dealing with hostile neighbors? There is a couple in our HOA that make the rest of us miserable, with their constant complaining and badgering of the Board about rule violations.

Answer: Difficult people ra>

Question: Our Board is considering a surcharge to owners that rent out their units. Any problem with this?

Answer: This kind of surcharge is illegal since it changes the homeowner fee allocation. Changing that allocation takes a 100 percent approval vote of the membership and, possibly, their mortgagees. However, if any resident causes extraordinary costs to the HOA like damage to common elements, those costs can be passed on for reimbursement. It is fairly common to charge Move In/Move Out fees when there is documentable costs incurred by the HOA but those fees should apply to all residents, not just renters.

Question: Our HOA has provisions in the governing documents, requiring Board approval for certain additions like awnings. The Board recently received several requests for awnings and the Board has decided not to allow awnings of any kind. Is this a correct interpretation of the Board authority?

Answer: Its reasonable for members to assume that since the awning option is mentioned in the governing documents, the intention was to allow them. The Board cannot enact a policy that contradicts the governing documents. If the Board feels that awnings arent desirable in any form, the governing documents should be amended by an appropriate vote of the membership. Otherwise, the Board should honor the provision as it is written, arrive at a awning standard and approve requests under those conditions. Adopting a standard is important because of consistency, quality and curb appeal considerations. It also saves both Board and petitioner a lot of time and guesswork.

Question: Our regularly scheduled Board Meeting fell on a holiday. At the last minute, our management company informed us that they could not make the meeting and failed to provide reports or materials for us to review. I cancelled the meeting and reschedule it for another date. Some directors disagreed with my decision stating I was letting the management company run the HOA instead of the Board. Was I wrong?

Answer: A board meeting scheduled on a holiday is never a good idea and the management company should have advised you well in advance about not being available to attend. Presumably, there was just a miscommunication. But you made the right decision to reschedule.

One of the most important benefits of professional management is the counsel the manager provides. Having the manager attend Board meetings is critical to get objective feedback and adequate information for the Board to make informed decisions.

It sounds like some directors are maneuvering to self manage. In most cases, this is a very bad decision. There is a lot more to it than they imagine, not the least of which is having to collect money and enforce rules on neighbors. It ra>
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6 Things to Know About Buying a Home in a Flood Zone

In the United States, floods are the most common natural disaster, but flooding can come from other situations too. For example, if theres new construction on your street, your home can be flooded because of water diversion. Even a clogged storm drain can cause flooding.

There are some places where the risk of floods is higher than others, and these places are referred to as flood zones.

Flood zones are often very attractive places to buy a home because theyre close to water, whether thats the ocean, a river, or a lake.

Flood zones are designated on a Flood Hazard Bounty Map. Geographical areas are given a rating based on the likely flood risk.

The following are some of the key things to know about buying a home in a flood zone.

1. What Are the Zones?

The flood zones are broken down into sub-categories, and these zones determine how much flood insurance might cost, as well as whether or not its mandatory.

A zones are high-risk and are usually located along rivers, streams, and ponds. B or shaded X zones are at moderate risk, and C or un-shaded X zones are low-risk for floods. The designation V is used for very high-risk coastal areas, which could be damaged by waves if there was a storm.

You may also see the term Special Flood Hazard Area or SFHA. This refers to zones that start with the letters A or V, which according to FEMA, have at least a one in four chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage.

2. Flood Zones Can Change

When youre first looking at a house, you might learn more about the flood zone, but you should also realize the designations can change because of the environment, new construction, or different weather patterns.

3. Can You Get a Mortgage?

If youre using a VA, USDA, Freddie Mac, FHA, or Fannie Mae home loan, you will need to have flood insurance if youre in an A or V-designated zone.

If youre going to get a mortgage from a private lender and youre in a non-SFHA zone, you probably wont be required to get flood insurance, but your lender could recommend it.

4. There Are Benefits of Flood Zones

There are often benefits that come with buying a house in a flood zone, which is why people continue to do it. Again, many of the most beautiful locations in the country are in flood zones, such as low-lying coastal areas.

Even though being in a flood zone could theoretically have a negative impact on the resale of a home, since these properties are usually in very in-demand places, thats not often a problem. Theres a life>

5. There Are Also Risks of Flood Zones

Of course, there are also possible risks of being in a flood zone. If youre required to buy flood insurance, its expensive. Flood insurance also doesnt always cover 100 of the costs to deal with flood damage or rebuild a home.

You could need to evacuate your home quickly if there was a natural disaster, and if thats the case, you might not be allowed to return until local law enforcement gives you the go-ahead. Theres a lot of stress that can come with being in a flood zone, so its not for everyone.

If youre buying a second home, you may not be as worried because you dont live in the home full-time, so you have somewhere to go if something happens.

6. Homeowners Insurance Probably Wont Cover a Flood

The most important thing to know if youre even contemplating buying in a flood zone is that flooding isnt usually covered by homeowners insurance. If youre not in a flood zone you should still consider buying separate flood insurance because the risks of not doing so are significant.

Even in low-risk zones, a burst pipe, for example, could flood your home, and you might be stuck without insurance coverage if you dont have a separate flood policy.

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How to Find Your Niche in Real Estate

When youre a real estate professional, its incredibly competitive. You have to find a way to differentiate yourself, but thats often easier said than done. A good way to set yourself apart is to find a niche that you specialize in.

Some agents are afraid of identifying a niche because they feel like it will limit them. The reality is that with a niche, youre going to save time and money on your marketing because it will be more targeted. Youre also going to get a better return on your investment when you focus on a specific niche rather than trying to cast a wide net and target everyone.

The following are some things to consider to find your niche in real estate.

General Ideas

There are some ideas you can use as youre getting started to find your niche. A few of the options and broad categories that your niche could fall into include:

First-Time Buyers

First-time homebuyers often have a lot of enthusiasm but may also need more guidance than more experienced buyers. When you work with first-time buyers you become a true advisor to them, and youll give them help through every step of the process.


You dont always have to work with buyers when youre a real estate agent. You can also work with renters, but interestingly, when you go with this option, those renters may ultimately turn into buyers, and they might come back to you when its that time for them.

Specific Property Types

There are a lot of different types of property you can specialize in. For example, maybe you specialize in commercial property or perhaps rural homes and farms. You can specialize in land sales, or you can sell business buildings.

Geographical Area

When youre a real estate professional and you deep dive into one geographical area or neighborhood, its known as farming it. Your farm might be one particular neighborhood or subdivision that you get to know inside and out so that you are the go-to expert for buyers and sellers who live there.


You could work with one type of client based on their budget. Maybe you want to work with entry buyers on the low end, or you want to specialize in luxury properties. There are pros and cons to both. With entry buyers, you might be able to do more volume, while luxury properties are obviously going to mean each sale is higher-value.

Internet Buyers

A particularly interesting niche for a lot of agents right now is the internet buyer. The past year has seen tremendous growth in buyers who want to go through most if not all of the buying process online, but they may still need someone to guide them. There are also people who are >


If you specialize in buyers who want fixer-uppers, you can be the person who finds them great deals with a lot of potential. You might work with people who are going to move into the homes, but also investors.

How Do You Find the Niche Thats Right for You?

The best place to start as far as identifying your personal niche is to think about what you love. Whats your favorite part of real estate and how can you turn that into your niche?

Once you do that, start to delve into the ways you can differentiate yourself. For example, maybe you work toward professional designations that are a good fit for your niche.

You might also get out and about in the community youre specializing in. Dont just get to know residents, but the business owners as well.

When you identify your niche and start working on it, its something that youre always building on and getting better at. It also gives you a focus for your brand so you can truly stand out from other agents. Youre going to get to know clients and potential clients on a deeper level, so you can anticipate all of their needs and offer them specialization that they cant get from anyone else.

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What to Know About Selling a Home to a Family Member

Its not uncommon to want to sell a home to a family member, but it can become a tricky situation. You have to be mindful of not only the personal elements that can come with doing this type of transaction with a >

Its perfectly legal to sell a home to a family member as long as youre not just doing it to avoid taxes. If youre selling the home at a very discounted rate, you might have to pay an estate and gift tax, but beyond that, its just like any other real estate transaction.


One option if youre selling your home to your child, for example, is to do an owner-financed sale. Then, your family member would make payments to you instead of a bank. However, you need to legally arrange it so that if your >

Transferring a Property Title

There are different ways you can end up transferring the title to a property to your >

For example, you can do a quitclaim deed. That transfers your interest in the property to your >

A special warranty deed transfer protects the family member from any issues that you might have dealt with when you owned the home.

Regardless of the option you choose, its really important to talk with a lawyer first to protect everyone involved.

There are different tax implications for each type of transfer.

Gifting a House to a Family Member

If you want to give someone a house, you can, but youre going to pay taxes if you do so.

You can gift up to a certain amount each year to as many people as you choose without being hit with a gift tax, but you cant go over your federal gift and estate tax exemption in your lifetime. You can gift as much as you want to your spouse without paying taxes on it.

Some people will gift a certain amount of their home each year to their family member so that its tax-free.

However, if you gift a home to a family member unless they live there and its their primary residence for two years, when they sell it, the original price paid is the tax basis for the person you gave the home to.

Follow Fair Market Value If You Arent Gifting the Home

If youre not going to work it out so that youre gifting your home to a loved one, you need to stay >

Theres a term here called a non-arms length transaction. If you give too good a deal on your home, the IRS might take notice. That doesnt mean you cant give a good deal, as long as its not too good to be true.

Aim to sell the house for around 75 of its fair market value and no lower.

The big takeaway is that yes, you can absolutely sell your home to a loved one or potentially gift it, but there are tax implications in doing so.

Before you do anything, talk to an attorney who can walk you through your options and help you figure out which is best for you.

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Easy Ways to Make Some Extra Cash for Your Down Payment

Being able to buy a home now or having to hit pause often comes down to how much money you have saved for a down payment and closing costs. If your savings account is a little light, there are several easy ways you can pump it up to get you over the hump.

Get a side hustle as a driver

With companies like Lyft and Uber, its never been easier to make a little money on the side.nbsp;Ubernbsp;claims that theirnbsp;driversnbsp;take home 25 per hour and Lyft claims thatnbsp;driversnbsp;can earn asnbsp;muchnbsp;as 35 per hour, said Ridester.

Sell some stuff

You can always go the garage sale route, but beware that while you may make some decent money cumulatively, bargain-seekers will be looking for major deals, which can mean selling that 200 dress for a dollar. Put it on Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace instead for a better upside.nbsp;

Have any designer bags, belts, or clothes you no longer need? There are several sites that can help you turn them into dollars.

Play with doggies

Sites like have made it easy to find a dog walker or dog sitter, or to BE a dog walker or dog sitter. Pet sitting is a huge growth industry, and that means there is a substantial need for this type of service.nbsp;

The best part is you get to hang out with dogs, and get paid for it. If younbsp;love animals and would likenbsp;a way to earn some extra money on the side, pet sitting might just be the perfect fit for you, said The Simple Dollar. After all, no extensive training or certifications are required. The main qualifications to be a pet sitter arenbsp;simply loving animals, being >

According to the site, Sitters that treat Rover like a part-time job and take two or threenbsp;dogs for two weeks out of the month earn an average of 1,000 per month. Meanwhile, those that treat Rover like a full-time job, working 4 weeks out of the month and taking 2-3 dogs at a time, earn an average of 3,300/month.


Maybe people are more your thing. Offer your babysitting services on Nextdoor or register on The average hourly rate across the country is 13.49 per hour; this may not be as much as you make at your full-time job, but, as supplemental income for a few hours here and there, it can add up.nbsp;

Turn on the fan

While a ceiling fan wont lower the temperature in your home, it circulates the air to make the space feel more comfortable. That means you can give your air conditioning a break to save a few bucks. Every little bit helps

Comparison shop for car insurance

Are you the type that sticks with the same company year after year and doesnt think twice about looking around? Were guilty of that over here, too. It could be costing you money.nbsp;

Insurance companies are always competing to win your business, but if you turn a blind eye and keep the same policy in place for a long period of time, your rates might have increased, said Your PennySaver. By checking rates, drivers saved an average ofnbsp;531 per yearnbsp;with a new policy.

You can load in some basic info here and get multiple quotes.nbsp;

Go through your bank statements with a fine-tooth comb

When you really look at your expenditures, youre sure to find a bunch of ways to save money, like cutting back on eating out and limiting your Starbucks runs, for starters. You may also find some surprises in there, like gym memberships or subscriptions you thought you had cancelled but are being charged for every month.nbsp;



nbsp;Down payment and closing cost funds need to be seasoned. Taking on a part time job cant be counted either as income nor available for cash as a down payment. There needs to be a two year history of Uber income. Bank statements will also show random deposits and the lender will want to know the source.nbsp;

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Essential Tools To Help With Your Renovation

Below are the essential renovation tools thatll help you with your next renovation project.

Tape Measure

For any do-it-yourself renovation project, youll need a tape measure or measuring tape. Measuring tapes have a small slot located at the end hook, so you dont need help in holding one end of the measuring tape in place.

However, this essential item is easily forgotten. Make tape measure your lifetime partner to ensure that you take dimensions of surfaces, corners, and edges accurately. Also, choose one with a switch that stops the measuring tape from retracting back.nbsp;


For most woodwork projects, a hammer is an essential tool that youll need for driving and pulling nails. While youre used to using traditional old-fashioned hammers, spend some time researching pro tools for efficiency and precision. Itll save you plenty of time because it gets nail work done more comfortably and faster.

Here are some of the features and benefits of a professional brad nailer:

Impressive Magazine Capacity: Most brad nailers have the 60-nail capacity, and there are those with 100-nail capacity.
LED Light: Its used to help you see and focus on your woodwork with a clearer vision
Air Pressure or Pneumatic Nail Guns: These nailers are portable enough that you can carry it anywhere and anytimenbsp;


Without a ladder, its impossible to reach wall heights you want to reach. A sturdy and >

The most popular type of ladders are aluminum ladders because theyre lightweight, water and flame resistant, affordable, and fairly corrosion-resistant. Just make sure that you have one with an attachment for your other renovation tools with manufactured rungs so that you stay comfortable as you stand on it for hours, like painting the cornices of your bedroom.nbsp;

Hand Saw

While power tools are fast efficient, using hand saws still makes a difference. It can be used for multiple purposes. Instead of an old-fashioned hand saw, you can use a modern hand saw, which is more durable and faster. So, when do you use hand saws over power tools?

Here are some examples:

Undercutting Door Jambs: Japanese pull saws are highly recommended for undercutting door jambs than jigsaws. It can cut on the pull stroke, which makes it easier to start cutting and control. A Japanese pull saw has super thin blades that make precise cuts in door jambs for easy insertion of tile or vinyl.

Rigid Foam Insulation: Power saws can mess the rigid foam. Thats why hand saws are better in making curved cuts to help minimize the mess.

Screwdriver Set

Steel screwdrivers resist twisting and bending, which are usually cross or flat head with a handle, a tip, and a shaft. A screwdriver is inserted into the screw head, turning it.

When using a screwdriver, make sure to use the correct type to avoid damaging the head of either the screwdriver, the screw, or both.nbsp;

Drill Bits

You cant proceed to your renovation project without drill bits, which are cutting tools for removing material to create holes, such as holes in circular cross-section. Drill bits drill different materials like metal, wood, PVC, and fiberglass.

Here are the different drill bit materials you can choose from:

High-Speed Steel HSS: Its a popular material thats suitable for drilling wood, plastic, and soft steel.
Cobalt or HSCO: Its an upgrade from HSS with 5 to 8 percent Cobalt blended in the base material, which is used for drilling stainless steel grades and harder steel.
Carbide: This drill bit material is used for drilling the hardest materials.


Pliers are used to firmly hold, bend, and compress objects with accurate precision. While there are many types of pliers used for different purposes, having a pair of pliers at hand is crucial for any renovation project.nbsp;

Spirit Level

This tool is used to show how perpendicular plumb or parallel level a surface is >


For a successful renovation project, its important to have handy tools available for easier and faster work. Both traditional and power tools have their own features and benefits, so you have to choose the best ones that are most convenient for you.

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Tips For Growing An Urban Garden

As families become more health-conscious and think more about the food they consume, family farms are on the comeback, regardless of the size. Whether driven to grow produce on their own to make sure their vegetables are pesticide-free, out of a passion for gardening or as a cottage industry for extra cash, city-dwellers are using innovative means to produce crops of their own.

Your ability to grow fruits, vegetables and a variety of herbs at home depends primarily on three things:Your climate zone, Available property, and Your desire.

Even an apartment-dweller in Alaska can raise edibles, given the right tools and motivation. Here are the primary things to consider when planning your garden:

What crops will you grow?

For outdoor gardening, the first step is to check local zoning ordinances and/or homeowners association rules. Then determine your plant hardiness zone. Take that number and consult a planting schedule to find recommended plants and the best times for planting. Selecting plants can be almost as much fun as growing them.

Indoor gardening is especially affected by available light. If you have large, south-facing windows, youre set. If not, you will need to set up grow lights or get really creative. Hearty indoor crops that may work for you include: avocados, carrots, microgreens, lemons and scallions.

How can you garden... without a garden?

When you think of a garden, you probably envision lush rows of crops and tilled soils, producing plant after plant of vegetable-producing crops. Luckily, this dream may not be as far-fetched as you think. Find out if there is a community garden in your area, and take advantage of a fertile space to call your very own. Community gardens can be a way to share in the work, strengthen community bonds and enable others to participate. With the right equipment and some sweat equity, any community can turn a vacant lot into a food-producing zone.

It is enti>

Build a grow tower: A 15-gallon plastic drum, a length of five-inch PVC pipe, a drill, and dirtthats all you need to garden vertically. This Grow It video demonstrates how.
Garden in containers: Use containers of all sorts on your porch and patio to maximize your growing space including buckets, planter boxes, hanging baskets, pots, and wooden bar> Create a rooftop garden: Utilize the space that most of us never even think about, your rooftop If you have a flat space on your roof and a safe way to access it, consider designating that area as your growing space.

Dont be discouraged by small spaces when you have the urge to grow your own produce. There are plenty of innovative ways to support a small garden, its just a matter of getting creative and finding the best route for you. Once youve sliced and tasted your very first home-grown tomato or finished your first batch of pesto from your home-grown basil, youll know that all the hard work was well worth it

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Hand in the HOA's Cookie Jar

An excerpt from a recent news story read: "Bridgett Freeman of Sheboygan stole more than 11,000 from the Westridge Homeowners Association in West Bend. Thursday, she was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation, and was ordered to pay back 11,617.41. She said she was sorry."

From time to time, these stories hit the local rag with the really big ones making national news. While embezzlers can be found in virtually every type of business, homeowner associations are not immune. In fact, because of the volunteer nature of HOAs, business practices tend to be somewhat lax and HOAs are even more vulnerable than traditional businesses.

In the past, big time embezzlement was less likely because most HOAs had little money to steal. It was like mugging a panhandler. What was more likely to happen, is something, like board members buying themselves dinner or other perks on the HOAs dime. Those so engaged, view it as a legitimate expense for a volunteer position. Trouble is, since directors usually serve for no compensation see your governing documents and there is ra>

With reserve planning for homeowners on the rise thankfully comes increased amounts of cash which can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. With larger amounts of cash comes the unfortunate temptation to dip into the HOAs cookie jar. Embezzlement can happen by either a board member or management company that has access to the funds. Usually, managers are restricted or should be from reserve accounts where most of the HOAs money is. This leaves the HOA cookie jar under the control of the Board President and Treasurer.

When it comes to protecting against embezzlement and other forms of fraud, its best to have a number of controls in place that are designed to preempt the act. In other words, if there is a good chance an embezzler is going to get caught, the temptation is much less than if stealing is a piece of cake. Some of the basic controls include:


  • Two Signatures Required Checks. Get checks that require two signatures. Of course, a forger would simply sign both lines and, frankly, the banks ra>nbsp;

  • Duplicate Bank Statements. Getting two sets of bank statements, each mailed to a different party, reduces the likelihood of embezzlement. Of course, the two recipients could collude to embezzle, but the odds are greater against collusion.


  • Rotate Check Authority. Dont always have the same person write, sign and issue checks. Rotate that authority so that several sets of eyes are looking at the checkbook.


  • Bank Account Reconciliation. Having an outside entity that has no check writing authority, like a bookkeeping service, balance the checkbook each month places the check function at arms length.


  • Secure Check Storage. All blank and canceled checks should be stored in a locked and secure location. A favorite ploy is to steal blank checks from the back of the stack so the theft wont be immediately apparent. Canceled checks can be used to assist in forgery.


  • Fidelity or Employee Dishonesty Insurance. While it wont prevent theft, this kind of coverage will reimburse the HOA up to its limit for theft.


Getting caught with a hand in a cookie jar is no big thing if youre five years old and the goal is a macaroon. But when the prize is the HOAs cash, the Board needs to place aggressive measures in place to help keep those "certain someones" from helping themselves.

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Should You Write a Seller a Personal Letter?

When the real estate market is booming, which it is in many parts of the country right now, you may find yourself in a bidding war. You have to act quickly if you want to have any hope of scoring the home of your dreams. One way to make your offer more attractive is to pay more for a home, but thats not always an option.

There are other ways to make yourself stand out, one of which is writing a personal letter to the seller.

This has become increasingly popular in many markets around the country. Sellers often have a personal connection to their home, and getting a heartfelt letter explaining why their home would mean so much to you can make the difference in them accepting your offer.

You do have to be careful if youre going to write a letter because it can also be off-putting in some cases. Theres a sense of balance to achieve if you go this route, and if youre worried you wont be able to write a genuine, heartfelt letter, you might want to look at different ways to increase the likelihood of your offer being accepted.

Dont Use a Template

The most important thing you can do if youre going to write a seller a letter is speak from your heart. If youre fake or you use a template, you found online, this is probably going to backfire. Sellers are smart, discerning people and theyre going to realize somethings up if youre trying to flatter or compliment them too much.

Try to Find a Connection

If at all possible, try to identify and highlight a connection you have with the seller. For example, maybe you have a shared hobby, or your families are similar as far as how many kids you have. You want to build some sort of personal bond if you can, but dont push it if its not there.

There Are Times When a Letters Not Worth It

If the person selling a home is an investor or builder, you can probably skip the letter altogether. They want to make a profit, and they dont have an emotional attachment to the property. Youre going to have to offer them more money or a fast closing to grab their attention.

Appreciate Their Work and Improvements

If you notice the sellers have done work in their home, like remodeling their kitchen, feel free to mention that. People put a lot of time, money, and work into their homes, and it feels good to know that other people notice that.

Even if you have some ideas in mind, dont mention your own plans to remodel. Its better for a seller to envision that youll enjoy the spaces like they did.

Dont Be Desperate

If you come across as too needy or desperate, thats not going to appeal to a seller. People like to feel positive emotions rather than negative ones. You dont want to make a seller feel uncomfortable. You want to make them feel happy about passing their home onto people who will enjoy it the way they did.

Finally, keep it short and to the point. You want to convey why the house is meaningful to you and how youll use it, but you dont have to go on page after page to make an effect.

Write a brief letter, and sum up all your key points in your final paragraph for a takeaway.

Its not necessarily easy to write a personable and engaging letter to a seller, and its not the right path for everyone, but there are instances where it can make the difference in whether you get the home you want or not.

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FHA, VA or USDA: Which One Is Better?

There are two basic types of mortgage loan programs, conventional and government-backed. A conventional loan is one where the issuing lender assumes the risk of making the mortgage. Should the loan ever go into default and the lender is forced to foreclose, the lender is on the hook for the entire loss. There is in fact private mortgage insurance used for low down payment conventional loans, but the insurance policy only covers the difference between 80 of the value of the property and the actual down payment. With a 5 down payment, 15 of the loan amount will be covered.

Not so with government-backed loans. These loans are FHA, VA and USDA. So, given these three choices which one is best? The answer is each one is best given the proper scenario. Lets look at the first choice, the FHA loan. This is a program from the Federal Housing Administration. Its highly popular with first time buyers because the loan only asks for a down payment of just 3.5 of the sales price, however the program can be used by anyone. Low down payment conventional loans will require private mortgage insurance. The FHA loan also asks for private mortgage insurance in the form of an upfront and annual mortgage insurance premium. This premium compensates the lender for the total loan amount.

The VA loan program is reserved for those who are eligible. Eligible borrowers are veterans of the armed forces, active duty personnel, those with at least six years of service within the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves and unremarried surviving spouses of those who have died while serving or as a result of a service->

The USDA loan is one managed by the United States Department of Agriculture and designed to finance homes that are located in rural or semi-rural areas. These areas are designated every 10 years after the latest Census Bureau counts are reviewed. USDA loans also require no down payment. The attraction of the USDA loan is its inherent ability to finance properties located in sparsely populated areas. Areas where a conventional loan would not be a fit. FHA loans are also more difficult to be used in rural areas. USDA loan guarantee to the lender compensates the lender for the remaining loan amount and financed by two separate mortgage insurance premiums, just like the FHA program. This program is the ideal choice to finance a rural property.nbsp;

Each of these three programs address an important need in the housing sector and each carries its own unique characteristics. Lastly, all three programs can only be used by those who intend to occupy the property as a primary residence and cannot be used to finance investment properties.

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Part 1: Suddenly Construction Looms

All of a sudden, you hear that a massive new house, renovation, or addition is scheduled to begin construction next door to your home.

Only it wasnt sudden. You just werent paying attention.

The owners may have been planning and saving for this since the day they moved in.

Have you chatted with neighbors on both sides over the years to keep up-to-date on what their plans are for their home?

Architects and contractors need plans to work from and those plans must fit municipal standards and be approved by the planning department.

All that takes time. What stage are the neighbors at?

The process usually involves notice to neighbors or a hearing or two if owners want to do more than current zoning bylaws and building codes allow.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Do you read notices you receive in the mail or from your neighborhood alert? How do you ensure youre up-to-date with whats going on around you?

Obtaining a building permit to build or renovate may take weeks or more depending how busy the offices are.

Will the building department or inspector back-up safety issues regarding your home during demolition and excavation?

One day, the approval process ends, and demolition of the existing building will make way for the new addition or house.

Long before that dayin fact as early in this process as possiblethe more you can learn about the construction process and your rights as an adjacent neighbor, the less adversely you, your property, its value, your family, and your life may be affected.

Not all neighboring construction is bad. Its just that in the excitement of planning and stretching dollars to achieve their fully loaded dream home, owners may not look at things from adjacent neighbors perspectives like yours:

That airy open-concept, two-storey addition speaks decor volumes to the owners, but its a two-storey siding or stucco billboard->

Those wonderful floor-to-ceiling windows will let light in for the owners, but they represent night-light pollution and loss of privacy to those living next door who love their backyard, sitting outside in the evening, and their privacy in general.

The amazing huge rear deck, second-floor terrace, and front balcony are wonderful open spaces for owners. In contrast, those exterior platforms are intrusive, overlooking vantage-points and privacy-eliminators for adjacent neighbors and their guests. Elevated decks and balconies also lift sound and smoke vapors up over fences, so noise and smoke levels can become annoying for those next door.

Raising the roof guarantees very high interior ceilingscathedralsso the owners enjoy that airy feeling. However, the additional roof height may mean sunlight blockage and snow and ice avalanching on to next doorsthats yourroof or access routes.nbsp;

FYI: When your furnace and hot water heater vent into your chimney, the new builds higher walls and roof may restrict venting and force you to replace your furnace, hot water heater, and anything else that requires your chimney to keep your home free of carbon monoxide.

Forewarned is Forearmed

The more you learn about the design and functionality of the new addition or house, the better you and the professionals you talk to, or hire, will be able to anticipate problems for you. The smartest approach is to talk and negotiate with the owners before the building permit is approved and construction begins.

Who will be your most useful information source? The goal is to learn from the mistakes of others, not your own.

Contact a range of knowledgeable locals including local municipal building departments, contractors, your local elected representative, your ratepayers association or home association, and local real estate professionals. You may find neighbors whove lived through construction helpful. Many will share their construction complaints and unexpected issues that arose when construction was next door.
Your insurance agent can explain what your home insurance will and will not cover if damage is done to your home. They may also help you understand what builders insurance is and what it should and may not cover.
If issues can not be resolved on friendly terms, you may need to contact a lawyer experienced with construction and the property issues involved. Ask for references so you can hear first hand from past clients what the risk and rewards were when compared to fees involved.
Are there construction consultants in your area wholl serve as a mediator or negotiator for a reasonable fee?

Nose around the community and see what you can learn that will be of help to you. Once you know who the builder or contractor will be and what their reputation is with past customers, property owners adjacent to their construction projects, key local suppliers or contractors, or >

You dont have to talk to everyone, but ask around enough to learn who youre dealing with and what the builders or contractorsnbsp; professional word means when its given to you.

Part 2: Questions Save You... Everytimenbsp; Coming soon.

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To Rent or Sell Your Vacant Home

To Rent or Sell Your Vacant Home.nbsp;Have you ever thought whether it would be better to rent or sell a vacant home that you own? Maybe you already have someone renting this house, or you have been considering renting it to tenants, but would that really be the better choice?

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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Should You Ever Pay Points?

When beginning to get interest rate quotes from mortgage lenders, it can get pretty confusing pretty quickly. Consumers can sometimes think lenders have just one interest rate for each loan program. After all, rate advertisements show just one rate along with the calculated APR. The fact is, lenders offer an array of interest rate choices for the exact same loan program.nbsp;

A 30 year fixed rate loan program can offer several rate choices in 0.125 increments, not just one. The lender doesnt really care one way or the other which rate you choose, the ultimate net to the lender is pretty much the same. The difference is whether or not you choose to buy down the rate by paying discount points, or simply points.

A point is actually a form of prepaid interest. Paying the lender interest up front in the form of points results in a lower rate on the loan. But its up to you whether or not to pay points. Again, the lender doesnt care which rate you choose. Some rates require discount point payment while other rates do not. A so-called no point loan means just that. The rate doesnt require any points to be paid.nbsp;

If you want a lower rate, you can pay points. Your loan officer will provide you with various rate/point combinations. At some stage, all of these numbers can get a bit confusing. That said, should you consider paying points to lower your rate? Thats up to you of course, but personally I wouldnt recommend it. However, its >

Lets look at a scenario. Lets say someone is borrowing 300,000 and wants a 30 year fixed rate loan. In the process of getting rate quotes, a lender quotes a 30 year fixed rate of 3.00 with no points and 2.75 with one point. The 3.00 results in a monthly payment of 1,264 while the 2.75 rate gives a payment of 1,224, or a difference of 40 per month. Its probably evident at this stage that the point wont really be a good investment.nbsp;

If you run the numbers, youll find that paying 3,000 to save 40 might not make much sense in this scenario. To get that 3,000 investment back, it would take 75 months, or a little more than six years, to get a return on that money.

When you speak to a loan officer to get rate quotes, have the loan officer calculate the return of paying discount points. If the return is say, two years and you intend to own the property longer than two years, it might very well make sense. But if would take much longer than that for the lower rate to provide a direct benefit, you might want to reconsider paying any points at all. Again, the lender doesnt care and neither does your loan officer. Youre in the drivers seat here. Just be careful not to drown in a sea of numbers.

Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Unit Occupancy, Resolutions, Unresponsive Owners, Pet Weight Limits

Question: Our governing documents restrict unit occupancy to three people. There is a unit that has four. What should we do?

Answer: If you have a limit of three, I assume your units are quite small. If you have two bedroom units, four would be reasonable but, honestly, this kind of regulation is overly intrusive. Its not the number of people that dictate problems, but the life>

Occupancy rules are very difficult to enforce unless the owners willingly comply. It is a constant game of cat and mouse with the violator claiming extra occupants are just temporary guests. And to really enforce it, the HOA must be willing to go to court where the judge would likely view the rule as too onerous read "you lose". Unless there is a clear problem being caused by the extra occupants, this is a rule that is for all intents and purposes unenforceable or effectively so. Either amend the bylaws to remove it or send periodic reminders in the newsletter asking for voluntary compliance. Dont make this a high priority enforcement issue. You cant win.

Question: When is a resolution required and should they be included in the homeowners handbook?

Answer: Resolutions are never required but are a desirable policy format for defining complicated issues like collections, architectural control, parking and others.nbsp;Handbooks should always contain the full text of all rules and resolutions. These should also be posted on an HOA website for the benefit of prospective purchasers, real estate agents and others that have an interest.

Question: What should a homeowner do about a property manager that refuses to respond to telephone calls or e-mails? The manager told the board she wasnt responding because the person "asks too many questions."

Answer: Lets assume that the property manager is otherwise doing her job correctly. Homeowner inquiries can take an enormous amount of time to respond to, especially if they take research. If the question >

The property managers basic scope of work is typically limited to "ordinary and routine" HOA business. When a member, whether board or general, makes repeated and special requests, it exceeds the intended scope of work that the manager is being paid for. The manager can respond to this several ways:


  • Start charging for the extra work


  • Stop responding to requests that are excessive or non-routine business


The board should either defend the manager against owners that believe the manager is being paid to do anything and everything or be prepared for extra charges. To do otherwise is unrealistic and ultimately will fracture the board/manager >

To control costs, there must be reasonable limits to homeowner requests. The manager usually knows when an owner has reached that point and should expect the board to intervene or support the managers judgment.

Question: We have number and weight limits for pets at our HOA. Can we also require that pets be spayed, neutered, have ID and required shots?

Answer: These requirements would be going too far. Even a weight limit is too far. The issue should be based on demeanor, not size or reproductive capability.

Question: We are considering a bylaw amendment that requires all board candidates to be residents of the HOA. Can we do that?

Answer: Restricting candidacy based on occupancy is illegal because all members, resident and nonresident have the right to serve on the board. It is also inappropriate because it assumes that resident directors make better directors than nonresident. This, of course, isnt necessarily so. Board candidates should be evaluated based on their talents not location.

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What Are the Most Common Contingencies?

When youre buying a home, theres something called a contingency to be aware of. A contingency clause means that certain requirements must be met for the contract to be binding. If the terms of the contingency arent met, then the contract might end.

Sometimes these are described as if-then scenarios. For example, if you sell your home, then youll buy someone elses.

When you find a home you want to buy, it usually starts with a purchase offer that you make to the seller. When the seller eventually accepts your offer, the contingencies may be attached to that offer. Contingencies are included in your real estate contract.nbsp;

The following are some of the most common contingencies.

Selling Your Current Home

One common contingency is that your offer might be based on whether or not you successfully sell your current home.

This is called a chain of sale clause.

These clauses are usually based on a certain time frame, which might be 30 or 60 days. Then, after that time, if your home doesnt sell, your contract ends.

If youre buying a home in a down market, then this might be more feasible. If youre trying to buy a house in a hot or competitive market, this is going to make it hard for you compared to other buyers.


An appraisal contingency is a protection for you as a buyer. Its meant as a way to make sure the property is valued at a specific, minimum amount. If the property you want to buy doesnt appraise for at least whats specified, you can terminate the contract. In many cases, you can also get your earnest money back.


Its always recommended that you have a professional inspector check out a property before you buy it. The appraisal is different from this. An appraisal is a value thats for the lender and is required for underwriting. An appraisal doesnt look at the physical condition of a home as much as factors that play a specific role in its value.

An inspector is going to go over things like mechanical systems and structural elements of a home and identify anything that needs to be replaced or perhaps repaired.

You might use these as part of your negotiations.

Contracts might stipulate that the repairs be made by the seller if theyre found, or again, you could renegotiate based on what an inspector finds.

If youre looking for a home in a hot market, you might agree not to have an inspection at all.


With a financing contingency, also sometimes called a mortgage contingency, you have the time to obtain the financing youll need to purchase a home. If you cant get financing, then this leaves you the ability to get out of your contract and still get your earnest money.

With a financial contingency, usually, the contract will outline a certain number of days that you as a buyer have to get financing. Then, you have up to that date to terminate or extend your contract.

Otherwise, the contingency is considered automatically waived, and you have to buy the property even without a loan.

Whats important to realize is that yes, if youre buying a home, contingencies can be an important way to protect yourself. At the same time, you need to be smart in how you use them because too many contingencies can cause your offer to be rejected. If youre buying in a competitive market, sellers arent going to want to deal with a laundry list of contingencies. Even if you cant raise your offer in a multiple offer situation, what you can do is eliminate contingencies to make yourself a more attractive buyer.

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Staging vs. Decorating: What's the Difference?

Selling your home means selling a life>

This is the distinction between decorating your home and staging it to sell. It can be hard to understand at first, but if you dont know the difference, you might not sell your house as quickly as you like.

Although everyone has different tastes in decor and furnishings, most people want a home that is welcoming, functional, peaceful and organized. Tailor your house so that buyers will describe it in those terms rather than by your >

Making sure your home isnt taste specific doesnt mean your rooms should be devoid of color. Instead, keep color schemes simple and dose them with an on-trend neutral, like a clean tan, a soft gray or a warm white.

Photo by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist - Discover contemporary living room design inspiration

If you have a distinctive decorating >

Photo by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist - More traditional bedroom photos

Dated is dreary. Strive to stage your space with a current and fresh feel. Use updated neutrals on the walls and furnishings that are clean-lined and simple. Punches of color are great; just use them sparingly. A room arranged symmetrically and centered on the architecture reads as peaceful one of those important aesthetics every buyer is drawn to.

Photo by Andrea May Hunter/Gatherer - Browse eclectic home design ideas

This guest bedroom is full of great staging ideas. It has lots of on-trend design details, but its sparse on accessories and other distractions. The color palette is simple, easy on the eyes and would be attractive to both men and women. Most potential buyers would remember this appealing room long after leaving the house.

Photo by Warline Painting Ltd. - Search traditional hallway design ideas

This clever arrangement draws attention to the unique architecture in the space and illustrates a smart use for the area under the stairs: an office nook. This area is nicely decorated, not staged.

If I were staging this area, I would keep the desk, chair and lamp, remove overly personal items such as family photos, and leave a few pieces of art and an attractive notebook and pen. Simple accessories can help draw attention to a functional space.

If you are updating a kitchen or bath before putting your home on the market, keep the finishes neutral and >

Photo by HomeTech Renovations, Inc. - More traditional bathroom photos

Sure, this may not be what normally sits on your countertop, but doesnt it look better than the usual bills and coupons? Remember, you are selling an idealized life>

The bottom line is that you have to get outside your head and inside the mind of a potential home buyer. Its very difficult to be objective about your own home, but its crucial if you want to sell it.

Photo by Ren Zieg - Look for traditional entryway pictures

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