Tips For Negotiating With Sellers

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

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

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

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

Find out when the house will be vacated, if any repairs or improvements are planned, and if the seller has any pressure points such as a relocation deadline. Also, you'll want to review the seller's disclosure of the condition of the property.

Your agent must also find out if other offers are on the table. Your position is stronger if there are no other offers. The seller may be less likely to bend on price concessions or repairs if there are other offers.

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

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

Making the offer

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

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

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

The only thing a seller can't argue with is a strong set of comparables that show the home is overpriced or out of date. These are homes that have sold that are nearby (within two blocks) and similar in age, size and features. If you can show that a similar home has sold within the last two months for less than the seller is asking, that's good.

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

Negotiating after inspections

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

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

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

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

Home Seller Tips To Have A Successful Open House

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Holding an open house for your soon-to-be-listed or newly on the market home is a lot like being on a game show where edging out the other contestants in a short period of time is key. In TV game shows, such as "Jeopardy," the contestants don’t automatically know answers to so many trivia questions; they study and they plan and they make it appear to viewers like they walk around with that body of knowledge every day. Open houses need to be thought of similarly. Once your home is on the market, an open house is your opportunity to plan and strategize how you are going to win over buyers in very short time.

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


Back to the game show analogy, think of depersonalizing as studying the answers and questions before trying out for "Jeopardy." Your house is lovely for how you live in it, but buyers don’t want to see you in your house. In fact, the more your house makes it difficult to guess who lives there (age, religion, gender etc), the better. Take down personal photos, religious emblems, the cute collection of mini ceramic frogs, etc. Analyze your stuff for whether it’s morally, politically, or otherwise socially objectionable and remove all of it. You don’t want to eliminate buyers because they are turned off by your personal tastes.


While you are depersonalizing it’s also a good time to declutter as the two go hand in hand. The more simple and understated your home is, the more likely buyers can see the home for what it is and imagine themselves in it. When you have too much stuff cluttering walls and counters and shelves, buyers turn their focus toward those things and sometimes even make the assumption in logic that if you are cluttery, then you are disorganized, which means maybe you don’t take care of the house as well or as on time as you should. A good rule of thumb is to box up or store at least half of the smaller items displayed in your home.

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

Lure Them In

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

Complete Your Honey-Do List

While you have the yard power tools out, dust of your workbench and take a walk around your house inside and out. Make a list of all maintenance issues such as wiggly door handles, missing fascia, paint that has chipped, etc. and repair them before the open house. Buyers see even the smallest of maintenance issues as an extension of the condition of larger items such as roofs, plumbing and major appliances and assume you haven’t taken care of the home. You might talk to your realtor about a pre-inspection to deal with all home maintenance and problems upfront, before you get into contract with a buyer.

Be Cautious

Once you have taken the above steps and you are ready for the actual open house, there’s one last thing to plan. Protecting your valuables and identity. It might be rare, but criminals do use open houses as a way to case a house or to find collateral to steal identities. Make sure indoor safes are locked and hidden. Store heirlooms, checkbooks, prescriptions, and valuable jewelry away from prying eyes. Utilize a reliable, trustworthy, identity theft protection service to see you through the entire listing and sales process.

8 Ways To Love Your Small Space More

 Photo by A+B KASHA Designs - Discover bedroom design ideas

Photo by A+B KASHA Designs - Discover bedroom design ideas

When we run stories on living in homes with petite proportions, you often tell us, "Small? You should see my house!" Because we aim to please, we've rounded up some of the tiniest rooms on Houzz, picking those that pack plenty of ideas and function into a small space. We think that these are indisputably compact. But, more important, do you?

Pack it in. This bedroom may be minute, but it is perfectly formed. Rather than conventionally putting the headboard on the back wall, the owners found just enough space to turn it so that the side of the bed runs along the back wall.

This could look cramped and messy but instead looks airy and designed. Here's why.

  • Crumpled bed linen allows the bed not to be made perfectly (which can be a pain when a bed is surrounded on three sides) but still looks clean, stylish and, especially, cozy and inviting.
  • Deep storage drawers beneath the bed take the place of bulky furniture elsewhere.
  • An almost one-color palette - the drawers are the same pale color as the bed and walls, and the floor is pale too - banishes harsh boundary lines and visually expands the space.
  • A wall light is nearly always the best solution for teeny spaces, since it frees up surface area that might otherwise house a table lamp.

The high shelf enhances the feeling that the room is bigger than it is, especially since its use is decorative and not functional. Why? If a room appears to have space to use shelves purely for display, it simply feels as though it must have the space to do so - a little brain trick! Choose light or transparent objects, which won't visually fill up the room, or get designer-y if you're so inclined and display paperbacks with their spines facing inward to add texture, but not color.

 Photo by Bambù / Olivier Bourdon - Discover living room design ideas

Photo by Bambù / Olivier Bourdon - Discover living room design ideas

Scale your furniture. This wee living room, which flows into a small dining space, shown in the foreground, has lots of smart tips to pick up.

Furniture is scaled down, so as to give the room the impression of being bigger than it is and to avoid overcrowding. Take the spool coffee table: Not only is it low and compact, but it's also circular, often a wise shape in small spaces since curves can intrude less into a space than corners.

The side table next to the petite sofa and the armchair are interesting choices too, as each is designed to let light through them, meaning they don't block space and light.

Incorporating up-and-over storage, which makes use of otherwise unused areas above a door frame and high-up wall space, is an absolute winner of a way to pack more into a little space without making it feel cramped.

 Photo by Stephan Bidoux Studio - Discover dining room design ideas

Photo by Stephan Bidoux Studio - Discover dining room design ideas

Divide and conquer. Picture, for a moment, walking into this studio apartment before that shelving unit had been built and before the glass screen went up. You'd risk feeling as if you'd arrived home and straight into the dining table. Subtle and interesting divisions of space — especially those that don't close it off, as shown here - are your friends.

 Photo by PAVONETTI Office of Design - Look for bathroom pictures

Photo by PAVONETTI Office of Design - Look for bathroom pictures

Highlight cuteness. This teeny sink could get swallowed by a vanity, but with the hairpin legs, its petite proportions are really highlighted. The legs also make it look more elegant and important. As already discussed, something may be small, but if you make it really special, no one will be thinking about whether it's big enough. Instead, they'll just be admiring it, as hopefully you will also do daily. Distraction as a tool should not be underestimated!

Another great idea here is to have wall-mounted faucets when you have to have a smaller-than-average sink — the last thing you want is deck-mounted ones impinging on the little space you have. Act out washing your face exuberantly before you buy -- if none of the water has a chance of going back into the sink, think again. Or design a wet room around it where it won't matter.

 Photo by Moon Design + Build - More home office photos

Photo by Moon Design + Build - More home office photos

Go custom. This little home office is clever on several fronts. First off, rather than feeling thwarted by that low, skinny window, the owners simply worked around it. The desk cuts through it, but by painting the desktop and the window frame the same color, the two features work with rather than against each other.

Investing in custom design for a space that needs to be functional is also a good tip to take from here: Just look at how much storage has been packed in and at how deep the desk is. It looks so obvious when you see it now, but the secret of good design is that it's so often deceptively simple.


 Photo by Nicolas Matheus Photographe - Look for deck pictures

Photo by Nicolas Matheus Photographe - Look for deck pictures

Lie low. This rooftop garden plays with proportions. Opting for furniture that's low to the floor gives an impression of more head height. It's a trick that works more obviously in rooms with low ceilings, but you can see how effective it is at also making this area feel like a welcoming lounging spot.

Another tip to take away is not to scrimp on planting. You may think that crowding the space with greenery will shrink it. In fact, doing so is likely to make you feel as though you're in a lush, extravagant secret garden. But do choose plants that are easy to prune and handle, and that have soft foliage you can brush past without ducking, diving and contorting.

 Photo by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design - Look for bathroom pictures

Photo by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design - Look for bathroom pictures

Ignore convention. No space for that statement slipper or roll-top tub? Are you sure? Of course, having wall space on both sides would be more conventional, as would generally putting a fancy bath in a more generously sized room, but a small bathroom hasn't stopped these homeowners from going big on their bathing spot. And what better way to make the most of a lush view like that?

 Photo by Chris Snook - More living room photos

Photo by Chris Snook - More living room photos

Build your own sofas. When you can't find the right sofa for a very small living room, consider copying this idea. The homeowner had her own bench seating built around the room, and beneath the cushions, she's bagged loads of extra storage to boot.

Ensure that you design benches to be deep enough for slouchy TV-watching comfort, and invest in good-quality, thick cushions, which you can get made at a foam-cutting shop. This is furniture you'll spend a lot of time on, so before you go ahead, make it your mission to seek out and try out every bench seat in your area - in cafes, friends' homes, shops - so you can figure out what you do and don't like.

Also See:

  • Outfit Your Space With Savvy Storage Cabinets
  • Splurge on a Cool Clawfoot Tub
  • Space-Saving Ideas for Tiny Bathrooms

Click Here for Article Source Info

Tips For Creating A Luxe Bedroom

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Creating a relaxing, romantic retreat of a bedroom is the goal, but it's not as easy as just loading the furniture in and making the bed. Many people find that even with beautiful pieces and great space, their bedroom is still lacking that something special. A few tips and the right mix can make you feel more serene, help you sleep better, and even make you feel more amorous in your private sanctuary.

Get the lighting right

You don't want to feel like you're being interrogated in the bedroom. Super bright lights don't set the mood, nor are they useful for helping you to relax. But, you may need bright lights for function if you don't have a space that gets a lot of natural light. The answer: a dimmer. Reading lights you can place on nightstands are also key for adding function and style without blasting the whole room with light.

Choose the right color

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

Indulge in a luxurious headboard

A headboard isn't just a finishing touch to the room. It's an essential part of the space that gives it a well-put-together, finished look and that also make the bed feel plush. "An attractive headboard will really make a statement in your bedroom and transform the space," said Houzz. "It will also make your bed a much more comfortable place to be. When choosing a headboard, think about the size of your room and the height of the ceiling to get the proportions right. If you have a really high ceiling, you can afford to scale the headboard accordingly to create a real impact."

Article Source Realty Times

Are Barn Doors Here To Stay?

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If it seems like what was dismissed as a flash-in-the-pan trend has stuck around a lot longer than many of us predicted, you're right. Barn doors are now becoming a staple in homes from new construction to renovations for their unique appeal and space-saving properties. If the word "barn" is turning you off, rest assured that there are a variety of styles that can bring a fresh look to your home along with new function. Not only that, barn doors can also bring increased value - important if you're thinking of selling your home or just want to make smart renovations.

"It's official: Barn doors are incredibly hip," said Pro Remodeler. A recent study "found that these contemporary yet rustic sliding doors can help a home sell as many as 57 days faster and at a higher price point. The study analyzed descriptions on the listings of more than 2 million homes sold between January 2014 and March 2016 to see how certain keywords affect a home's sale. Of all the terms analyzed, ‘barn doors' brought the highest premium, with homes whose listings mentioned this door type selling for an average of 13 percent above expected values."
According to Google Trends, interest in barn doors "quadrupled between 2012 and 2017," said Victoria Advocate. Another advantage of barn doors: they're easy to install, and are even DIY friendly for the average person.

"In addition to their powerful visual appeal, barn doors can also be an effective way to partition open spaces," said Pro Remodeler. "Many homes today have two larger rooms, such as the kitchen and living room, connected by a wide opening. While a barn door added to such spaces will likely stay open more often than not, it can act as the perfect feature to suggest spatial separation."


These oversize, reclaimed wood barn doors look great in a commercial space, creating privacy for a conference room in the same way they would in a living space.

These more traditional doors set off a private living room.


Black-framed, glass-paneled doors are on trend and bring a modern look to the space. Plus, you can close off the kitchen without losing light.

Instead of more traditional doors

A little bit rustic with contemporary flair, this barn door has some heft to it, which gives it a substantial feel and the size required to slide past a wide bathroom door opening.


Steel is another material that is being used for barn doors, and one that brings in an industrial feel. In this space, a steel sliding door looks is the perfect choice to separate the living space from the bedroom.


There's a bedroom tucked behind there. A swinging door may take a way from the flow of the room or impede into the living space. Instead, the blue door adds an architectural element to the space.


This version looks like a decorative wall, but it's actually a 12-foot barn door that slides away to reveal a hidden laundry room.


Beyond room-sized doors

Barn doors or even showing up in items like bathroom vanities, which are especially useful in a small space that might not allow for a swinging door.


They're also being woven into furniture, like this entertainment unit.


Get Ready To Buy This Spring

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

The answer lies in two sets of decisions:

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

#2. Who's "We"?: The other essential to a good start is to decide who "we" is going to be:

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

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

  • The transition from searching for an ideal property to moving in can be condensed into a few weeks. This is often the pace for corporate relocation. Frenzied decision-making may not generate the best long-term results unless you are ultra-prepared and an experienced real estate buyer.
  • At the other extreme, stretching the search for that "perfect forever home" over many seasons or even years may work for those who want a specific location or type of property and are not displeased enough with their current home to accelerate the process.

Somewhere in between those extremes lies your ideal time line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most people have more real estate choices than they realize. Are you sure you want to wait for Spring to get started?


The Real Estate Scene is Heating Up


While there are still a few weeks of winter left, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and spring is soon in sight. Along with warmer weather, the real estate scene is sure to be heating up soon. With that in mind, what should you know about buying or selling a home in the months to come?

A slight uptick in mortgage rates back in January shifted the market, though demand remains overwhelmingly strong. On a national level, the supply of new homes rose to its highest rate in four years—a strong indicator of a building trend to last through 2018. All in all, markets remain competitive, ensuring buying or selling a home this spring will be a wise investment or return.

Have aspirations to buy or sell? March is the perfect month to the test the waters, strategize with a pro, and set a mindful agenda for the time ahead. Get a sense of where you stand this season by confiding in your neighborhood agent today. Give us a call and kick off Spring 2018 with a master plan.

Chocolate Magic Cake


So light it might just float off your plate.


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Grease a 8"x8" baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
3. In a medium bowl bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder. Set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with vinegar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
5. In a third bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow in color (it will still be grainy).
Beat in the melted butter, espresso powder and vanilla extract until evenly incorporated. Mix the flour mixture into the batter until evenly incorporated. Add the milk and beat low speed. Gradually and gently fold in the egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the cake is slightly jiggly.
6. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh berries.


1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 c. Milk, warmed
1 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
4 eggs, separated
1/8 tsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. espresso powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract strawberries, for serving
Powdered sugar, for dusting

How to Tell Whether Your Aging Parents Can Live on Their Own


It is difficult assuming the parental role with your parents and making decisions about "what is right" for the people who raised you. There is also a lot of emotion tied up in switching roles and the loss of independence for everyone involved. Sometimes, however, it becomes necessary for a son, daughter or grandchild to not only be their parents' loved one, but also their advocate. You may need to figure out if it is safe for your aging parents to continue to live on their own.

How do you know when it may be time to talk with your parents about their living arrangements? Here are a few ways to assess the situation.

Drop in unexpectedly to visit.

See with your own eyes if your parents are meeting their daily needs without assistance. Are they clean and groomed? Are they keeping up with the house and laundry? Is there sufficient food in the refrigerator? Take note as to whether their basic living needs are being met.

Check their medication.

Count your parents' pills from time to time to determine if they are taking them correctly. You can also check with their pharmacy or enlist the help of their healthcare provider to learn if your parents are picking up their prescriptions on time.

Ask about their friends and activities.

Assess whether your parents are getting out and socializing with others. Are they keeping up with activities that they have always attended, such as going to their place of worship or clubs or playing cards with their friends? If you are not certain, speak with their friends, neighbors or spiritual leader, or offer to attend activities with them.

Determine if they are safe in their home.

If your parents don't live in a safe neighborhood with adequate transportation, make sure they have proper home security and access to rideshare programs. If they have a lot of stairs or live in a cluttered environment, help make sure they have clear pathways for walking and eliminate trip hazards. You can also install assistive devices, such as lift chairs and grab bars in their tub or shower.

Evaluate how well they are managing their finances.

It may be a sensitive topic, but ask your parents if you can help keep their financial paperwork organized. Take note of unpaid bills or large amounts of money that are unaccounted for. If your parent feels uncomfortable talking about their finances, offer to help them set them up with an advisor. These activities can open the door to frank discussion.

If you decide that your parents shouldn't live on their own anymore, keep in mind that leaving their home and everything familiar may be difficult and even disorienting for them. There are many options to explore, such as moving in with a family member or moving into an assisted living or long-term care facility. But know that there are also other options that would allow them to stay in their own home or community. Help them figure out if they would be safer and happy in a smaller house. Or perhaps they would prefer an apartment or condo with an elevator and other amenities. Consider hiring a home care agency to come in to monitor medications or perform personal care, or have a service clean or run errands. You can even ask a family member or hire an individual to live with your parent.

Finally, arrange to have someone visit your parents from time to time, especially if they change residences. This can help make sure they are adjusting well and having all their basic needs met.

You can find more information on helping your parents age in place from sources like Eldercare Locator, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Nancy Kupka PhD, RN has first-hand experience caring for seniors as a former home care specialist and caretaker for her mother. She is now Manager of Clinical Programs and Quality for Walgreens, where you can find assistive devices like lift chairs to help your aging parents live independently in their homes longer.

Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Is A Creative Loan Option Best for First- Time Buyers?


If you're in the market to buy a home and, especially, if it's your first home, you've probably heard A TON about conventional and FHA loans. But just like you're not like anyone else, your financial situation may not be either. The truth is that while you may think you need to go with one of these expected loans, it could be that there are far better options out there to meet your needs. This is especially true if you're having a hard time coming up with a down payment, have a lower credit score, are still paying off student loans, or are continually getting priced out of your desired neighborhoods. These options are all worth mentioning to your lender as you discuss your home purchase.

Employer loan assistance

This brand-new program could spell the difference between perma-renting and being able to buy your own place, and all it takes is a forward-thinking employer. "A new program allows employers to help workers' down payment on a home, similar to how companies contribute to a 401(k)," said REALTOR Mag. "HomeFundMe, a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-approved down payment crowdfunding platform, allows borrowers to crowdfund their down payment from several sources, including their employer. CMG Financial, a mortgage banking firm, created the HomeFundMe program." 

FHA 203(k) loan

We have written about this loan a few times before but it bears repeating that THERE IS A LOAN OUT THERE THAT ALLOWS YOU TO BUY A HOME AND FIX IT UP! This is great for those who want to take on a reno project with their first home or are willing to do so because they can't find a move-in ready home in their budget and/or area. The minimum credit score is 580 to qualify for a down payment as low as 3.5%, but can go as low as 500 for a down payment of 10%.

The standard 203(k) covers most types of improvements or repairs, and the amount of money borrowed for the loan can exceed its current value; you can borrow up to 110% of what an appraiser estimates will be the "after" value of the home.

Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation mortgage

The Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation mortgage is similar to the 203(k) and requires only a 5% down payment. It has one big advantage over the 203(k): It is also open to investors—perfect if you're already a homeowners and are looking to do a flip with little money out of pocket. "With a down payment of less than 25%, you'll need a credit score of at least 680," said "If your debt-to-income ratio is higher than 36% but less than or equal to 45%, your credit score needs to be 700 or higher."

The funds can be used for repairs, renovations or energy improvements. "The only restriction is that the changes must be permanently affixed to the property and add value."

Energy-efficient mortgage (EEM)

This is another loan geared toward making home improvements, but, in this case, they are focused on energy efficiency. These loans are guaranteed by the FHA, or the VA for military buyers.

"One of the best tools for making your dream home more affordable while saving on the cost of power, heating and cooling is the energy-efficient, or ‘green,' mortgage," said Bankrate. "Most energy-efficient mortgage, or EEM, programs let you qualify for bigger loans than you would otherwise by folding in the additional cost of making improvements for energy efficiency or of purchasing an already energy-efficient home. Another version of the green mortgage provides discounts on loan fees or interest rates for homes that are certified as energy-efficient."

USDA loan

Zero down payment loans are "issued through the USDA loan program, also known as the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program, by the United States Department of Agriculture," said Nerdwallet. Eligible homes are generally in rural areas, but may also cover suburban locales. You can use their map to look up individual addresses.

The USDA also "guarantees a mortgage issued by a participating local lender - similar to an FHA loan and VA-backed loans - allowing you to get low mortgage interest rates, even without a down payment" and offers home improvement loans and grants, as well.

Good Neighbor Next Door

If you're a police officer, firefighter, EMT, or teacher (K–12), you may be able to take advantage of the Good Neighbor Next Door program. Sponsored by HUD, this program slashes the price of eligible homes in "revitalization areas" by 50%. "Buying a home through HUD's Good Neighbor Next Door initiative is designed to encourage renewal of revitalization areas by providing an opportunity for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and teachers to purchase homes in these communities," said HUD. You can search eligible homes by state on the HUD website.

Eagle Home Mortgage

Another recent entry intended to help millennials become homebuyers, this mortgage option from Eagle Home Mortgage, a subsidiary of Lennar, helps homebuyers pay off their student loan debt.

"Eagle Home Mortgage's Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program offers borrowers as much as $13,000 that can be used to pay off student loan debt," said Housingwire. "But the program isn't without its conditions. Borrowers who used Eagle Home Mortgage's Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program can direct up to 3% of the purchase price to pay their student loans, but only if they buy a new home from Lennar. Lennar contributes the 3%, which, according to the company, does not increase the price of the home or add to the mortgage balance. The program's maximum loan amount is $424,100, but Lennar said that in addition to the 3% contribution to student loan balances, buyers may also be eligible for other incentives -- such as credits toward closing costs."

National Homebuyers Fund

The National Homebuyers Fund is not a loan - it's a grant for up to 5% of your loan amount that provides down payment assistance with no need to ever pay it back. "You read that right—you don't have to pay back anything," said "The NHF offers two down payment assistance programs with different sets of requirements, but both are meant for low- to moderate-income earners. The NHF Sapphire program is available in multiple states and has generous FICO score requirements (which is a good thing if you have a subpar credit score)."

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Diversify Your Portfolio With Real Estate


The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute categorizes real estate as an alternative investment that includes residential and commercial properties as well as mortgage-based securities and real estate investment trusts. For most real estate investors, these investments are characterized as income-generating properties that see revenue from rent earned and capital appreciation from the increase in market value. Since this investment vehicle depends on the net operating income (NOI), maximizing cash flow is key to a successful real estate investment.

Property Valuation

To fully understand the importance of cash flow to real estate investment, it is necessary to know that the value of the property is directly linked to the NOI. Unlike residential homes that get their value from comparable sales, income-generating real estate value is calculated as the annual NOI multiplied by an industry standard rate of return, called the capitalization rate. For instance, if the property has an annual NOI of $100,000 and a 10 percent capitalization rate, then the property would be valued at one million dollars. Since NOI is calculated after expenses and both property value and return on investment are depended on NOI, it is important to maximize income and minimize expense.

The Risk/Return Profile

Commercial real estate increases in value based on two components. The first is capital appreciation from the increase in the surrounding market. As a neighborhood becomes nicer and properties sell at higher prices, the value of the commercial asset increases. There is very little that an investor can do to mitigate the risk of market increase or decrease.

The other component to value is the cash flow from income. Revenue is something the property owner has a large amount of control over and which the risk and return balance can be finely tuned. To lower risk, the operating pro forma should have both estimated market rate returns and lowest logical returns. Most cities have a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 program in which the municipality pays a tenant's monthly rent. Since Section 8 units are in demand, these rent amounts are a safe low-end income value for your property. The HUD website has the maximum fair market rental amounts for each county in the United States.

REOs and Arbitrage Opportunities

Of course, getting a good deal is the foundation of any real estate investment. A low investment amount and high revenue make for a good return on investment. Bank-owned and government-owned homes often offer properties at amounts under market value. These properties are generally in disrepair, so rehabilitation costs should be factored into the price equations.

The website Equator handles bank-owned properties, and HomePath has extensive databases of distressed properties owned by the government. A knowledgeable real estate agent with expertise in this form of alternative investment makes it easier to identify opportunities for high returns. For active investors, a real estate analysis seminar helps maximize their investment.

Important Correlations

As an alternative investment, real estate is historically poorly correlated to the stock market, making it a good investment to diversify a portfolio. During times of stock market loss, real estate continues to offer returns. Real estate is positively correlated to inflation, meaning that it generally increases in value as inflation increases. This makes real estate a good inflation hedge.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

8 Ways To Define Space In An Open Floor Plan


We've fallen for open-plan living in recent years. After all, not many of us have a formal room just for company anymore. And with modern building materials, we don't necessarily need every room to have four walls to keep it at a comfortable temperature. But although an open plan may bring the space, light, flow and garden views we desire, it can also feel problematic to organize into zones - and prove distracting to share. Enter the glass partition. It makes room division simple yet doesn't starve spaces of light or compromise the open feel. Decorative, at half or full height, framed or barely visible, a glass partition can work in every environment. Check out these designs.

Cordon off the cooking area. A glass partition is a natural solution when a separation of cooking and relaxing spaces is essential. Here, it's a framed glass version from above counter height to the apex of the sloping roof.

This division means that the TV volume doesn't have to be cranked up to drown out the sounds of the exhaust fan, dishwasher and running water when the space is being used for multiple activities, but the whole effect is still open. Notice how the cabinetry, partition framing and sofa are linked through color, while the floor finish is continuous throughout for a pulled-together effect.

Make a room within a room. When true separation is required, glass partitioning can divide without losing openness or light. Here, floor-to-ceiling shelving forms one wall, while the glass doors and side panels ensure that both areas benefit from all the windows.

To maximize light, low furniture that sits at or below sill level is a must-have. Opt for window treatments that don't obscure any of the glass when they're open or, if privacy isn't an issue, take a leaf out of this room's book and go without.

Go half way. A half-height glass divider is enough to split the office from the dining area in this home. A height difference between the two areas and a change in floor finish also help separate the work zone from the social space.

A smaller partition is best employed when noise between the areas of an open-plan room isn't an issue, whether that's because the two activities are equally quiet or the two zones aren't used simultaneously.

Set off the staircase. When a flight of stairs is part of an open-plan room, it can become a striking feature. Here, surrounding it with glass that includes cross-struts adds to its sculptural value and draws the eye to the cantilevered steps. The glass partition also works to create a natural spot for the L-shaped sofa in a long room, leaving those seated and those using the staircase with a feeling that their spaces are separate.

Adding rugs can also help define large, open spaces.

Divide a rectangle. Opening a Victorian house from front to back can result in a long, narrow room, so a glass partition can help with the proportions of the resulting space without losing any of the benefits of an open plan. It's easier to position furniture in rooms that are more square, especially if the fireplaces are still in place.

Here, the central doors open, while the panels on both sides are fixed. If you were considering something comparable for your own home, it would be worth weighing the pros and cons between something like this and a design with bifolds that allow the two spaces to be fully open to each other when desired.

Try a transom. A glass room divider can work by creating an entrance to a new part of an open-plan space, like the transom version marking the change from the kitchen to the seating area here. The steel-framed style of the partition elegantly links to the dark cabinetry.

Repeating the look? A high-ceilinged room is the best place for this approach. In a less lofty space, a doorway works better than a transom for maximum head height.

Look into the bathroom. In this home, the bedroom and en suite are open to each other except for the glass divider. The upside of using glass in this type of arrangement is that an en suite gets filled with natural light where it otherwise might be windowless and always artificially illuminated. It also allows a beautiful bathtub to be a feature of the bedroom as well as the wash space. In this interior, mosaic tiles that catch the light complement the reflective wallpaper of the sleep space.

If you're inspired by this arrangement, bear in mind that it's really for bathroom neatniks only. Discarded towels and plastic shampoo bottles can spoil the look of your bedroom as well as your bathroom with glass in place. And for many people, a closed-off loo may be preferable.

Or screen the bath with translucent glass. When a little privacy is required, translucent glass can conceal a bathroom from a bedroom yet still allow light through.

It's worth considering how obscure you want to make the partition. Sandblasting allows control over the level of opacity. Window film is an option for a DIY revamp of a partition from see-through to concealing.

Combine it with doors. The radical transformation of this beachside house in England involved adding glass at every opportunity to make the most of the wonderful light and views.

The result of this approach is a contemporary-looking home, which is often the case where lots of glass is part of the architecture. But in this area of the house, the designer opted for a nod to classic coastal styling with doors that combine glass and a tongue-and-groove look. The result? The view of the sitting room from the hall looks characterful but also wonderfully light and bright.

Half-glass doors come in all sorts of styles and, with roots in the Victorian era, are often a good shortcut to adding period style.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

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Faking It: Faux Materials You Can Use To Bring Interest


As the Marvin Gaye song lyric goes, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, Baby." And while that might be a good motto to live by, when it comes to home trends and décor, today it's all about faux. You can have a great-looking place, even if it wasn't built that way, and without a huge expense. And because many of these items that stand in for the "real stuff" are DIY friendly, they're even more attractive.

Electric fireplaces

Fireplaces can make a space feel cozy and comfortable, but not everyone was blessed with a built-in version. Thankfully, electric fireplaces are inexpensive, starting at just a couple hundred dollars, and are easy to incorporate into your home.

"If you don't have a chimney or simply want to avoid the hassle of a wood-burning or gas fireplace, electric fireplaces provide an alternative to traditional systems," said the Topeka Capital-Journal. They are also super easy to install since all they require is a power outlet and no chimney or venting, although, if you plan on setting it into a wall, you might need to hire outside help.

Make your fireplace pretty

Once you install that fireplace, you may want to trim it out to make it look pretty. DIYers swear by Airstone veneers, which look like stacked stone but are light, durable, and easy to install.

Faux panels

If you want to redo a large space, small products may not be an answer. These faux panels and sidings "are made of a high-density polyurethane" and are "molded from actual rock, stone, and brick, so they are lightweight, durable, realistic and easy to install," said "Whether you are a homeowner or builder, you can install the panels yourself for a fraction of the cost and time." These panels could provide an easy update to the exterior of your home or transform an interior space that is calling for a little character. Their sister company,, also has faux beams that can give your ceiling some interest without the high cost of real wood beams.

Peel-and-stick wallpaper

Peel-and-stick wallpaper has grown from being a novelty to being a legit interior design option, and not just for those who can't do (or can't stand) "real" wallpaper. For those of us who like to change our décor a lot (guilty!) temporary wallpaper from companies like Walls Need Love are a godsend.

Other peel-and-stick options

The idea of peel-and-stick is a DIYers dream, and it goes beyond wallpaper. This peel-and-stick option gives you the look of real stone in an easy-to-apply, easy-to-manipulate, and easy-to-remove package that will look great on a backsplash. They are pricy, at about $23 a piece (which covers one square foot), so it's not exactly a budget answer. But if you want stone without the installation hassle, this could be for you.

Quartz countertops

Quartz is the single hottest countertop product on the market today, having surpassed granite. One of the reasons today's homeowners are choosing to go this direction: the ability to get the look of upscale, high-maintenance marble at a lower cost and without the abject fear of a stain or scratch that could ruin your expensive counters.

Marble backsplash

If you want to run marble up your walls, creating a rich backsplash look, you could be talking about thousands of dollars. These peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are intended for floors, but at about a buck apiece, they are an affordable option for kitchen (and bathroom) walls, too.


These stencils make it easy to create the look of Moroccan tile or shiplap, customized furniture and even handmade-looking pillows. Create the impression of custom tile in your kitchen or on your floor (or both!) without the expense or hassle of remodeling.

These also come in a variety of sizes (this particular Santa Ana Tile Stencil is available in 6x6, 8x8, or 12x12). You also may want to check out the furniture stencils that can transform an ugly old piece into something fantastic. This Indian Inlay Furniture Stencil piece looks…like it would take a ton of time, if we're being honest, because of the intricate pattern. But it's so amazing we might be willing to give it a try.

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Timeless Paint Colors For Your Home


Trends come and go. If you paint your walls the "provocative and thoughtful purple shade" of Ultra Violet, as Pantone, itself, calls it, you're probably gearing up to repaint them in whatever the color authority deems the "it" shade next year. If you'd rather pick a paint chip or two and keep your space the same for the long haul, you'll love these colors that endure.

Garden Stone, Clark+Kensington

When it comes to gray, we might be at the end of the widespread trend. But certain shades of gray are classics and "go-to's" for designers - and they'll be around long after the next trend is here and gone.

"I try to stay away from colors with heavy blue undertones, and I direct my clients toward warm grays that will stand the test of time," Ace design expert Katie Reynolds, who prefers Garden Stone, said in Good Housekeeping. "This shade is a favorite."

Revere Pewter, Benjamin Moore

Google Revere Pewter and you will be inundated with countless photos and praise for this iconic shade. Despite its great popularity, you don't have to worry that your home will look cookie cutter because the shade looks different in every home - in every room, even - depending on the angles and the amount of light in the space. It also complements any style of architecture.

Repose Gray, Sherwin Williams

Greige is not too gray, not too beige. This favorite color toes the neutral line, and not only is it a favorite of designers, it apparently clicks with homebuyers, too. Pick a mix of gray and beige - "greige" - for your exterior," said MyDomaine. A recent analysis of colors that help build value "found homes with these shades on their outside sold for $1,526 more than white properties."

Repose Gray is appreciated because it is "the perfect paint color for almost any room whether you're living in your home or preparing it for sale," said Kylie M. Interiors. "Repose Gray is a soft, light gray that has soft and SUPER subtle undertones of brown with a wee dab of purple -- not enough brown to qualify it as a greige, it's just the undertone that adds a certain softness to this lovely color, keeping it from falling flat."

Manchester Tan, Benjamin Moore

Described as a warm neutral, this hue drinks in the sun but also changes slightly depending on the amount of light and shade in the room, adding interest you don't always find in a paint color from the beige family.

Clay Beige, Benjamin Moore

"This is my go-to whenever a neutral, but not boring, background is needed," said Atlanta designer Mandy Lowry in Better Homes and Gardens. "It's a chameleon color. It has the amazing ability to read either warm or cool and never fails to make its surroundings elegant in any light."

Super White, Benjamin Moore

You would think it would be easy to pick a shade of white, but…no. Really, there is nothing more challenging when it comes to choosing paint. This one has a little too much yellow. This one is slightly beige. Wait, is that baby blue? I thought I bought white! Ugh.

Go to the paint store, buy a gallon of Super white, and you'll never look for another shade of white again. "Our go-to white around here if you are looking for a modern clean color," said Emily Henderson. "It reflects light in such a pretty way and doesn't have any cool tones that would it go blue or warm tones that would make it yellow." 

Stiffkey Blue, Farrow & Ball

This moody blue brings some drama to a living space without creating a cave-like feel, and is also a good choice for the kitchen, according to Brian Paquette of Brian Paquette Interiors.

"For cabinets, I am more drawn to the material and detail of the actual cabinet and aim to keep the paint neutral, bright, and reflective of what may be going on in nearby room" he said on MyDomaine. "My go-to's for paint colors are Decorators White by Benjamin Moore and Shaded White by Farrow & Ball for that European look. A contrast on an island or lower cabinets can be fun, and once again I lean toward a fun color that may run throughout the space, a deep gray, like Down Pipe from Farrow & Ball, or a blue that reminds me of the deepest depths of the ocean, like Stiffkey Blue from Farrow & Ball." 

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More homes will be sold in 2018 than in more than a decade!

Heading into February, some predict that more homes will be sold in 2018 than in more than a decade. What does this mean for your average buyer and seller? 


For starters, new property construction is on a steady upswing, while competition is still strong among buyers. Bidding wars are becoming more common, and home prices are expected to climb right on track with recent year-over-year growth. The upside? Sellers are in an especially lucrative position when listing property. Meanwhile, buyers can take heart that desirable community amenities—a cool coffee shop or hip restaurant—are following new construction and rehabbed communities. This expansion means there will be more trendy neighborhood options brewing, expanding the market and creating more choice. 

Buying or selling a home in 2018? The surest way to navigate a quick-paced market is to enlist the help of a pro. From sourcing your dream home to fielding negotiations, an experienced agent is an ace in the hole. Give me a call today to learn more about your options this year.