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  • Stylish Bath Storage Solutions: Ways to Complement Your Bathroom Vanity
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Joseph Truini for The Home Depot) on October 21, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Finding adequate storage is a particularly challenging problem in bathrooms, and not just because they are usually the smallest rooms in the house. Bathrooms have increasingly become the place to store a large and diverse number of items, including bath towels, beauty supplies, toiletries, hair care products, medications, soaps, shampoo, and assorted cleansers. And if the primary inhabitants of the bathroom happen to be teenagers, then the demand for storage space increases exponentially. Fortunately there's a very easy and space-efficient way to gain storage in a bathroom: install a bath-vanity cabinet. Fully assembled, easy-to-install vanity cabinets are readily available in several sizes and designs, but they all serve two primary functions. First, a bath vanity has a countertop that supports the sink and faucet. And just as important, it provides plenty of storage space right where you need it. Depending on the size of the bathroom, you can install either a single-sink or double-sink vanity. The double vanity will obviously provide more storage and counter space than a single vanity, but both options typically have under-sink storage and may have a bank of drawers on one or both sides of the doors. If you need more space than a vanity can provide, consider installing an auxiliary cabinet. Most major cabinet manufacturers offer a line of auxiliary bath cabinets that provide an easy, cost-effective way to add storage to any bathroom. Below is a detailed look at the five most popular auxiliary cabinets. They can be used alone or in conjunction with other units to transform even the most compact, cluttered bath into a clean, well-organized space. 1. Linen Cabinets Freestanding linen cabinets are available in dozens of sizes, styles and colors to suit any décor or space, no matter how cramped it may be. Linen cabinets can be divided into two basic shapes: tall and narrow, and low and wide. Taller cabinets are ideal for squeezing storage alongside the sink, next to a window or in a corner. They're often as narrow as 15 in. wide. Low, wide linen cabinets range in width from 26 in. to 36 in., so they require a bit more wall space. However, their low tops can be used for placing everyday items or storage baskets. Depending on the cabinet manufacturer, some assembly may be required. Linen cabinets come with all the necessary hardware and fasteners, and most can be assembled in less than 30 minutes using basic hand tools. Safety note: To prevent freestanding cabinets from toppling over, be sure to securely fasten them to the wall. 2. Wall Cabinets When floor space is limited, consider installing a wall-mounted bath cabinet. These space-saving storage units come in a variety of styles and colors to complement or contrast the existing bath cabinetry. The most popular style has an open shelf situated below a two-door cabinet. The shelf is useful for displaying decorative objects or keeping often-used items within easy reach, and the upper cabinet is ideal for storing health and beauty supplies or medications. When installing a wall cabinet, be sure to drive the mounting screws securely into wall studs or other solid-wood framing. 3. Medicine Cabinet Gain a little extra storage space (plus a mirror) with a wall-mounted medicine cabinet. This type of cabinet is typically installed over the sink and features a hinged mirror door that opens to reveal a shallow cabinet lined with shelves. While the shelves are seldom more than 3 in. deep, they can hold a surprising number of small bottles, jars, tubes and boxes—items that gets lost if tossed into a drawer or vanity cabinet. Medicine cabinets are commonly available with one, two or three mirrored doors. Note that most medicine cabinets can be installed one of two ways: recessed or flush-mounted. Recessed installation requires cutting a hole in the wall and setting the cabinet between two wall studs. This type of installation requires more work, but looks much neater. Flush-mounted cabinets are simply screwed to the wall, which is quick and easy, but doesn't look as integrated. 4. Freestanding Shelves Freestanding shelves take up very little floor space, install in minutes, can easily be moved around and repositioned, and provide ample storage space for both bath linens and toiletries. Bathroom-shelving units come in a dizzying array of sizes, colors, styles, and materials to suit any bath. Space-saving models are available for use in corners, taking advantage of floor space that typically goes unused. 5. Wall-Mounted Shelves Wall-mounted shelves provide a quick, easy way to add storage to any bathroom, no matter how small and crowded it is. You can stack the shelves, spacing them 10 to 12 in. apart, to increase storage, without sacrificing floor space. Bath shelves are typically made of glass or chrome-plated metal; both styles blend in nicely with most bath fixtures and fittings. There are even space-saving shelves designed to fit snugly into the room corner. It's best to fasten the shelves to wall studs, but if they'll be used to store small, lightweight bottles and jars, then hollow-wall anchors will suffice. If you're looking to add storage to your bathroom, start with an updated vanity that can provide plenty of room to tuck away towels, toiletries and cleaning and beauty products. Then, look for space where you can complement that storage with one of these shelving or cabinet ideas. Joe Truini is a home-improvement expert who writes extensively about do-it-yourself home remodeling and repair. He has authored six books, including his latest, "Build Like a Pro: Installing Floors." You can research Home Depot's full line of bathroom vanities, including styles discussed by Joe, online. […]

  • The Race to Build Canada’s Best Real Estate Website
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Jim Adair) on October 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    A seven-year legal battle about what data can be displayed on real estate agents’ websites has concluded. Now everyone from Zillow to your local sales rep is racing to create the listing site that will attract the most potential buyers. The race to build the best real estate listing website in Canada is now entering the final laps. Prompted by the end of a long legal battle between the federal government’s Competition Bureau and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) over what data could be displayed on the board’s member websites, now the market is wide open for whoever can produce the best consumer experience. “Change is bubbling beneath the surface of Canada’s real estate industry, and big data is the catalyst,” wrote Christopher Alexander, EVP of Re/Max Integra, Ontario-Atlantic Region, in a recent op-ed in REM magazine. “With the arrival of Zillow and Purplebricks in Canada, and most recently the public release of sold data, you can be sure that our industry will look different one year from now.” Many real estate sites in Canada, including those owned by brokerages and third-party companies, have access to the data feed of homes for sale on the county’s MLS systems. But it’s how the data is packaged and what other features and information is offered that will determine which sites are used the most. The most popular site in Canada is currently Realtor.ca, which is owned by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The association is putting many resources into improving and upgrading the site. Recently CREA announced that it would soon provide sold data on its site. This is significant because for several years, CREA fought alongside TREB to keep sold and other disputed data off the public websites of its members. A Competition Tribunal decision in 2016 found that by not including sold and other data in the listing feed to its member websites, TREB had engaged in anti-competitive acts. An appeal court upheld the decision and earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear TREB’s appeal. The board is now supplying its members with all of the disputed data in its data feed. “Change is often accompanied by fear, and in this case, the fear is that publicly available sold data will spell the end of the real estate industry as we know it,” says Alexander. “Instead of fighting the inevitable, I encourage agents and brokers to see this as an opportunity.” TREB CEO John DiMichele says the complex case is not well understood by the public and that many people have contacted the real estate board in the belief that they can now have access to the entire MLS system. In fact, clients must get the information by working with a Realtor and accessing the data on password-protected sites. The information must be displayed only “in the context of helping the client buy or sell the home,” says TREB, and the data cannot be provided or sold to a third party. However, CREA announced that it would not require a password once the sold information is available on Realtor.ca. It will work with real estate boards and regulators across the country to ensure it complies with local laws and regulations. DiMichele says TREB’s motivation in fighting the Competition Bureau was protecting clients’ privacy. The Competition Tribunal order also requires TREB to make pending sold information available, which is a particularly sensitive issue for Realtors and clients, says DiMichele. “They are saying they don’t want that information out there, particularly when the transaction has not been completed,” he says. “Consumers have concerns about their privacy and confidential information.” Pending sold information will not be displayed on Realtor.ca. Sold information has been available on websites in the United States for several years. DiMichele says that providing the data on member websites “is a whole shift in the paradigm” for brokerages, so they will have to rethink their website and decide how to use the information going forward. Recently Seattle-based Zillow announced that it would soon begin placing Canadian listings on its site. The company has signed agreements to receive direct listing feeds from several Canadian companies and brokerages, including Century 21 Canada and Exit Realty Corp. International. Zillow says it operates more than two dozen real estate apps across all major platforms, and that it receives more than 100 million visits from non-U.S. users per year, with most coming from Canada, U.K., India, Germany, Mexico and China. “The websites that offer more information will get more traffic and generate more leads,” says Alexander. “The real estate businesses that don’t give consumers what they want (convenient, user-friendly and easy access) will fall off the radar.&rdquo […]

  • Renovating With Your Kids: Projects You Can Do Together
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Jaymi Naciri) on October 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Renovating your home? Why not make it a family affair, getting the kids involved in projects that can make them feel included and proud of their work. Not every job is gong to be right for your kids. But there are several tasks they can do with supervision, and a few they might be able to handle on their own, depending on their age and maturity level. The first step is to properly explain the tasks at hand and identify any risks. "Parents really need to talk to their kids who are old enough to understand and lay down ground rules for the renovation," says Eric Phillips, vice president and general manager at DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen of the Triangle in Apex, NC on Bob Vila. "And once the rules are there, parents really have to have the discipline to enforce those rules with their kids." Feeling good about their ability to help? Go renovate something together! Cleaning and chucking Before any renovation can start, you'll probably have some cleaning out to do. The traditional three-pile method of "keep, sell, donate" can work well for kids. Telling them they can keep whatever they make on the sale of their old things usually inspires a job well done. Painting the walls Your kids have probably been painting since before they could speak. With their fingers, anyway. They probably haven't lost the love of covering surfaces in pretty colors, so set them up with a paintbrush and let them go! You'll want to give them a basic tutorial that illustrates how to best get paint on the desired surface without dribbles. And don't forget to prepare the area with heavy-duty dropcloths, tape up baseboards, and move furniture and furnishings out of the way so they don't accidentally get splattered. Sanding Use caution with electric sanders, or any power tool for that matter, when your kids are involved. But sandpaper or sanding sticks and a surface that needs to be stripped down could be a good way to bring some kids in on a renovation. You'll need to make sure they have a dust mask, eye protection, and a well-ventilated area. Sandpaper in tender hands might cause abrasions, so make sure there are gloves as well. Creating new art You probably already have a stack of your kids' art showcased or stashed in your home. But directing them to create something new specifically for a showcase wall or tabletop is a great way to involve them in your renovation without worrying about them getting hurt. Choosing colors and materials together at an art store and show them ahead of time where their art is going to be displayed can get them excited about this new project—and maybe make them feel better about the fact that they don't get to handle the nail gun. Backsplash Doing your own kitchen backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project you can do over the weekend and have a little fun at the same time. If you're doing mosaics on a sheet, kids as young as five or six should be able to help place them and even help adhere them to the wall and apply/clean up the grout. Pulling up carpet Kids who love to dismantle stuff (read: all kids) will love being able to help roll up carpet for removal. The box knife needed to slice it up is probably not the best tool to put in a kid's hands, but taking up the tack strip? A handy child can use a pry bar and rubber mallet to handle this task. Just take proper precautions with gloves, eye protectors and the like. Those nails can be nasty. Laying wood floors Kids can be helpful gluing and placing wood planks and might even enjoy the process. Can you leave your five-year-old alone to handle the job? Probably not. But working side-by-side with your children laying out the wood pieces will make you all feel good every time you take a step. Wallpaper removal The tedious peeling away of old wallpaper might be the perfect task for your kids. Even if they don't finish the job, any wallpaper you don't have to peel off yourself is a bonus. Trust us. Other demolition An invitation to break stuff? Oh yeah! Just remember to take all safety precautions (goggles, closed-toe shoes, and gloves if needed) and make sure the demo is appropriate for the age group (i.e. you might not want to leave your five-year-old alone with a power saw.). Gardening If your renovation includes an outdoor element, you're in luck! Kids love to get dirty. Depending on the age and inclination of your child(ren), a bag of soil and a shovel might be considered a good time! […]

  • Architectural Control Committees Serve a Need
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Benny L Kass) on October 18, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Q. We live in a homeowner association and I have just been appointed to the architectural control committee. Some of the homeowners do not want such a committee, and many owners just ignore the process when they make exterior changes. Our declaration of covenants requires advance approval before any such changes or additions can be made. Many people do not understand the concept of belonging to an association and when we try to explain, they become hostile. How do we get homeowners to understand that this is not unique to our development? A. Most community associations throughout the country have some form of architectural review committee. Although the scope of these committees varies, the general theme is that in order to keep some semblance of uniformity and balance within the association, unit owners must receive advance approval from a committee before any exterior work is done. However, many owners -- whether in a condominium, planned unit development or homeowner's association -- believe this requirement creates an unnecessary, time-consuming -- and often expensive -- burden. Many homeowners have also had negative experiences with their architectural control committees; we have all read of the cases where these committees acted arbitrarily and without any common sense. However, design review within an association has at least two purposes: to establish and preserve a harmonious design for a community and to protect the value of the property. When one buys into a community association, one must understand that it is community living. Decisions cannot be unilaterally made, nor can the rules and regulations of the association be unilaterally ignored. One might disagree with the need for external uniformity, for example, but the fact remains that if the association documents require external uniformity, that is the law of the association and is binding on its members. You should read your association documents carefully – preferably before you buy -- to learn the scope and purpose of the architectural review committee. Having discussed the function and purpose of architectural controls, however, the architectural control committee must recognize that it cannot be a dictator, arbitrarily rendering decisions. Courts that have addressed architectural review cases have made it clear that covenants are valid and enforceable so long as there are clear, written guidelines spelling out the overall standards. For example, it is not enough to say that owners may not make changes to the exterior without first obtaining the written approval of the architectural control committee. If specific guidelines have not been developed, nor circulated to all homeowners, neither the unit owner nor the review board will have any objective standards by which to judge the proposed external change. And without such standards, even the most well-intentioned committee can be accused of being arbitrary. Boards of directors (or the committee itself) must establish fairly specific guidelines, and if those rules are not already in your association documents, they should be drafted and approved by a majority of the homeowners. You should also be aware that the following will be valid defenses by a unit owner when the committee tries to seek enforcement of the architectural standards: • Arbitrary and capricious actions have been taken. The architectural standards must be applied fairly and consistently, and in good faith.and if something occurs in a unit (such as a pipe bursts that only serves that unit) the owner is obligated to pay the condo deductible, regardless of fault. (Section 5) It is improper for the architectural review committee to pick and choose the enforcement of the covenants. • Delays, or "laches," have occurred. This means that the committee has permitted a lengthy period of time to elapse before taking action against a unit owner. For example, one court ruled that a board's six-month delay in filing suit against an unauthorized fence barred the board from enforcing the covenants.If a unit owner is in violation of the architectural standards, or at least the committee believes there is a violation, prompt action must be taken to assure compliance with the standards.• A waiver has been granted. Basically, if the committee fails to enforce a covenant in the case of one homeowner in similar situations, it may be prohibited from enforcing those same standards against another homeowner.• Often, the association documents require that the committee make a decision within a specified period of time (for example 60 days from receiving the request) or the request "will be deemed to have been approved." Since you are on the committee, make sure you read your documents and follow the language carefully. If you must act on an owner's request within 60 days, it is not acceptable to reject the owner on the 62nd day. All too often, architectural control committees have been accused of asserting dictatorial powers. Indeed, in one large local community, the architectural control committee has been referred to as the "KGB." According to one report, committee members were often seen "prowling around the neighborhood with their clipboards, looking for violations." Often, architectural control committees become obsessed with minor, petty violations and lose sight of reality and common sense. A considerable amount of money has been spent by both homeowners and boards of directors in litigation that should never have been brought. Your committee must sit down with any homeowner who is alleged to have violated the architectural standards and try to work out an amicable resolution of the problem. In the final analysis, architectural control committees must be firm -- but must also be reasonable and flexible. […]

  • Eye on Nashville: Why Music City is Now a Top Five Real Estate Spot
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Jaymi Naciri) on October 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    A new study of the hottest real estate markets in the country from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute is out, and it’s topped by Dallas Fort Worth, a region that has experienced extreme growth over the last several years. However, another city on the list caught our eye, and not just because we’re big music fans: Nashville. “Nashville's real-estate market bounded ahead of Seattle, Los Angeles, and other major markets as the nation's fifth-surest investment bet for 2019, according to one of the industry's most comprehensive and influential reports,” said The Tennessean. “In the study, Nashville rose from 9th to 5th place this year.” Nashville’s reputation as a top music city may be largely responsible for its growth over the last few years, but, that’s only the beginning of the draw today. "It's really a story about affordability, employment growth, population growth and employment stability," Mitch Roschelle, a PwC partner, said in The Tennessean. "One thing that's really important now is no state income taxes. That's becoming a bigger and bigger factor when people start making choices about where they want to live." If you’re considering a move to Nashville, or simply looking for a place to put down roots, this top five real estate market may be for you. The music Whether you’re an aspiring musician or simply love the idea of being in a musical city, Nashville could be for you. The Bluebird Cafe is “where greats such as Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift played before making it big,” said Bellhops. “You should also check out South Broadway Avenue, the veritable heart of country music. While Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is the most famous venue on this strip, you can walk into any honky-tonk at any time of day and hear live music. The Ryman Auditorium was originally a church built in the late 19th century. Now it is well-known as an historic, beautiful, and popular music venue that hosts shows of all genres.” The affordability Nashville’s home prices seem like a dream for those coming from pricier markets, although the reality is a little murkier for those coming from lower-cost areas, and, especially, long-time residents who have watched home prices rise steadily. “Nashville's housing costs have jumped more than 70 percent in the past six years, as new residents flooded the city at a rate of about 100 people per day,” said the Tennessean. “The surging prices have shocked residents and rapidly displaced lower-income people outside the city center, creating an affordable-housing crisis. But the $250,000 median cost of a single-family home in the greater metropolitan area is still just below that of the overall U.S. market.” To put that in perspective, SpareFoot notes that a 2017 study released by GoBankingRates “revealed that Nashville has seen the greatest year-over-year cost of living increase in the nation. But, a salary of $70,150 will allow you to live comfortably in Nashville—more than some other popular cities, but far less than other hot markets in the Top 20. A bright spot for buyers: the new-home market, which led to Nashville’s No. 1 ranking for home-building markets in the ULI report. Vibrant neighborhoods Downtown Nashville is a dynamic spot within walking distance of Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium, and Broadway Ave. (the main strip in Nashville), while Bellhops calls The Gulch “the fastest-growing neighborhood in Nashville. Located just a few blocks from downtown, this area boasts easy access to the interstate and some of the best new restaurants and bars in town. A word of caution: the cost of living continues to rise as The Gulch becomes more popular. For reference, though, it remains somewhat cheaper than downtown at the moment.” Music Row is ultra-convenient to numerous recording studios, if that’s your thing, but is also heavy on the rentals and college students. East Nashville “includes popular neighborhoods such as McFerrin Park, Greenwood, Lockeland Springs, Maxwell, and Eastwood. Through neighborhood revitalization, the focus of East Nashville has become more community-centered. Musicians, artists, and creatives have flocked to this neighborhood, which is now a haven for arts and culture.” Brentwood is 15–20 minutes from downtown, meaning it’s still convenient for those who work in the city center but offers a more suburban-type environment with larger, single-family homes with yards—popular with young families and professionals. The economy According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nashville “had the lowest unemployment rate—2.7%—of any metropolitan area in the US with over one million people as of February 2018. Nashville even beats out the metropolitan area of San Francisco, the US mecca of economic vitality,” said Quartz. Bridgestone Tires and Vanguard Industries both have their headquarters in Nashville, and startups and tech companies like Emma and Cicayda are also abundant. So much other stuff to do “If there's one thing that Nashville, Tennessee is known for, it's probably the country music. But you’d be (pleasantly) surprised to learn how much music city has to offer even if you don’t have a single country bone in your body,” said Bellhops. Have a picnic (or watch a concert) in Centennial Park, or stroll along the Cumberland River walkway, working up an appetite for the famous hot chicken. The city’s abundant restaurants and breweries cater to just about anything you have a craving for. “Nashville cements its ‘It City’ status with eclectic and fine dining establishments, such as City House and the Catbird Seat,” said Livability in its look at “8 Reasons to move to Tennessee." The sports Whether or not a city has its own professional sports teams can and does drive migration to the area. So many of those who are moving to Nashville love the fact that they can support the local NFL team, the Tennessee Titans, and the NHL’s 2017 Stanley Cup finalists, the Nashville Predators. […]