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  • Selling Your Home? Consider These Five Landscaping Ideas
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Realty Times Staff) on July 19, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    You've probably heard how important curb appeal is when you're trying to sell your home. The first thing buyers look at when they pull up to your home is the big picture -- the house, the yard, the trees, the flowers. It's the impression that counts, and all it takes is one thing to ruin the effect -- a cracked walkway, dead branches in the trees, leggy bushes. As you look around at all the things you need to fix or update to sell your home, it can be overwhelming. Many sellers struggle with the costs, the decisions, and the time it takes to market their homes. Since most landscaping isn't permanent, you may think it's not as important as other projects that need to be done, but you should strongly consider putting it in the marketing budget. You can do some of the work yourself or you can get help. But here are five jobs you can do that help you make the most of your home's drive-up appeal. 1. Get rid of anything dead. Dead leaves, flowers, and trees do nothing for your curb appeal. Snip it, rake it and bag it. As you finish, you'll see blank areas. Fill these in with fresh flowers, small bushes, potted plants or yard art. No Gnomes or flamingoes need apply. 2. Cut and weed the grass. If you mow your own lawn, make sure it's freshly mowed every week. Pull or spray weeds so the texture of the grass will be more pleasing. 3. Replace or hide leggy bushes. Nothing makes a front entry look more dated than bushes with longer legs than torsos. Pull them out and replace them, or if it's more expedient, plant boxwoods or other small bushes in front. You can also cover a lot of blank areas with mulch, wood chips or gravel. 4. Improve both hardscapes and softscapes. Decorative stone, tile, brick, concrete or wood can add a lot of appeal to the softer elements such as flowers, plants, grasses and ground cover. Landscaping doesn't have to end at the porch. Bring color and vitality to the entry with potted plants and flowers. 5. Light the way. Landscape lighting doesn't have to be expensive. Lanterns to line the walk, or the occasional uplight for the trees can have a glamorous effect on the exterior of your home. Lighting provides security as well as spotlights what you want to call attention to -- a beautiful tree, a flower bed or an architectural element of the house. If you're not sure where to begin, go to your local supply with a sketch or photo of your home and ask for ideas. Explain that you're selling your home and you need help with curb appeal. You may get a lot of free advice that's really helpful. […]

  • Remake Your Garage With These Essentials
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Realty Times Staff) on July 19, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    It is easy to clutter your garage with miscellaneous items, but if you streamline the space by getting rid of what you don't need and investing in some helpful gear, your garage can become an organized and practical space that makes your household more efficient. Deck out your garage with this essential gear and add some functionality to your home: Purchase a Workbench A garage is incomplete without a proper workbench. A sturdy workbench will not only store tools, but also creates space to complete those do-it-yourself projects. Most come with built-in-drawers and are equipped with a light to tackle projects after the kids have gone to bed. There are many options available, ranging from the sophisticated to simple. Install Lighting To take full advantage of your space, your garage must come equipped with plenty of lighting in order to allow you to work at convenient times in your busy schedule. Poor lighting hurts the quality of the work you are trying to accomplish and if a project requires small parts you don't want to spend your time searching for tiny items on your hands and knees. If you prefer not to install a mounted light on your ceiling, invest in a portable light, a less-expensive option to create the lighting you need. Buy a Tool Chest A garage with tools on the floor and scattered across different surfaces isn't the best for productivity. This haphazard approach leads to buying multiples of the same tool because you keep losing them in the clutter. A tool chest will keep items organized and save time whether you are working on a small repair or a long-term DIY project. Purchase Spare Tires How many times have you realized you have a flat tire and need an immediate replacement? For convenience, always keep a set of spare tires in your garage. Order a reliable tire brand from Tire Buyer to ensure your backup set of tires is of the highest quality. With a little preparation, a flat tire will no longer have to be a major setback in your day. Add Garage Storage Is your rake and broom in one corner and your bike on the ground? A functional garage needs proper storage options, like a peg board affixed to the wall. This storage option will accommodate your small tools, larger items and any miscellaneous tools unable to fit in drawers. If you prefer not to splurge on this expense, at least add sturdy hooks on the wall to store a garden hose, lawn equipment or other tools. With items hung up out of the way, your garage will appear clean and neat. Invest in Proper Safety Gear If you like home improvement projects, keep appropriate safety gear in your garage. Invest in protective goggles, gloves and masks to protect your face. Keep a small first aid kit handy for minor emergencies. Upgrade Your Flooring To give your garage a polished looked, consider adding an upgraded finish to your floors. Coat the cement with epoxy or tile - this will give your garage an instant face-lift and make it look more appealing. […]

  • International Housing Show Opens Local and Chinese Markets to Agents
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Realty Times Staff) on July 18, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    In just a few short weeks the International Housing Show will be making its debut in Los Angeles. On August 25th and 26th, real estate agents will have the opportunity to attend the International Housing Show, which seeks to connect the American real estate community with consumers abroad, an important connection real estate agents would be remiss to ignore. According to a 2017 report done by NAR, 10% of the overall volume of existing home sales for last year came from foreign buyers. NAR also reported that the amount of residential property purchases from foreign buyers showed a 75% increase from the previous 12-month period. The International Housing Show is apt to connect American real estate agents to foreign buyers and investors. “Currently there is a gap between the housing industry in the US and other countries. With the International Housing Show, we are hoping to connect the industry and industry professionals to help the market grow and, of course, help businesses grow,” said Cindery Lang, Executive Director of the International Housing Show. One international market will be a particular focal point of the show: China. The International Housing Show will be the first of its kind to offer real estate agents the unique opportunity to position themselves in front of the Chinese market, but how the show is offering that exposure is truly innovative. With the purchase of a real estate agent ticket to the event, agents will be automatically added to the 2018 IHS Directory, which will be distributed to thousands of households in California and in China, giving agents “exposure to the Chinese buyers market community, and allowing agents the opportunity to begin cultivating their own Chinese buyer outreach.” Why is it important for agents to position themselves in front of Chinese buyers? According to NAR’s report, China continues to be the leading source for foreign buyers, the bulk of which are interested in residential real estate. While the International Housing Show will offer immense exposure for its agent attendees, the show will also feature an impressive lineup of speakers and industry insiders from the real estate, financial, and investment industries, including Realty Times’ own President, John Giaimo. The show will also feature a number of exhibitors from both the United States and abroad. Real estate agents can purchase a ticket for $89 on Eventbrite; a small price to pay for the wealth of knowledge and international exposure agents will receive from this inaugural show. For agents or businesses looking to exhibit or participate on a larger scale, sponsor packages are also available until August 10th. For inquiries, please visit the show’s website at laihs.org. […]

  • Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Jaymi Naciri) on July 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    You can crowdfund your medical expenses. You can crowdfund your honeymoon. And now you can crowdfund your down payment. Savings, shmavings. Seriously, though. For people who are having trouble coming up with a down payment or just need a boost, HomeFundMe is a Godsend. Provided through California mortgage bank CMG Financial, HomeFundMe is helping people realize the dream of homeownership by eliminating what, for many, is the biggest barrier. The idea of crowdfunding a down payment is not totally new, but cooperation with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which signed off on the program, has smoothed out potential wrinkles for both buyers and donors. "HomeFundMe is approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a down payment crowdfunding platform because it allows for a fully transparent and verifiable crowdfunding effort," said Mortgage Orb. How it works is: Buyers first get prequalified, as they would to kick off any homebuying process. This will give them an idea of how much they need for a down payment. "Borrowers typically aim to raise 3 percent of the purchase price, which is the minimum down payment for conventional mortgages bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," said Benzinga. "Donors can give as much as $7,500. For contributions of $500 or more, donors must sign a gift letter." DocuSign can be used to make that process easier. Crowdfunding works on the power of social networking, as we've seen with popular platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, so the program recommends connecting user accounts to Facebook and actively sharing. "Write a summary of your goals and publish updates to share your story," said HomeFundMe. "Upload images that help others get to know you or even showcase your dream home. You also have the option to film and share an ‘Intro' video. We recommend adding visual content like images and video to give potential contributors a better idea of who you are and what you are trying to do." HomeFundMe also assigns each buyer a fundraising coach who can help maximize their social outreach. Once a HomeFundMe campaign is active, the clock starts ticking. Once buyers receive their first gift, they have 12 months to close on their home and use their funds. Gifts can come from anyone - friends, family, strangers, even Realtors. "HomeFundMe has partnered with wedding registries so couples can ask for down payment assistance rather than flatware and dishes," said Benzinga. "The site also opens the door to Realtors rebating some of their commission for down payments, a practice that's normally prohibited. A "variance" from Fannie and Freddie "allows Realtors to divert part of their fee to the buyer's down payment." In addition, HomeFundMe has launched Affinity Portal, "a new program allowing employers to add HomeFundMe to their benefit packages to assist employees in overcoming the down payment obstacle," said Mortgage Orb. "The HomeFundMe Affinity Portal allows employers to add HomeFundMe to their benefit packages, with the option to elect to match donations in any amount." Borrowers taking part in the HomeFundMe program can earn more than their goal amount, and donors can also make their gifts "conditional," so their funds are returned should the home purchase not occur within the 12 months. Also, there are no fees on contributions and no charges for payment processing; by comparison; GoFundMe charges a 2.9 percent payment processing fee. […]

  • Do All HOA Rules Have To Be Enforced?
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Benny L. Kass) on July 18, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Question: I live in a condominium complex where there is no enforcement of the "house rules." I have noisy neighbors, neighbors with three cars (for their two-person, one-bedroom condo), neighbors who erect anything and everything on the common elements. The Board of the Association does not appear to be doing anything about these qualities of life violations. This lack of enforcement troubles me greatly. Does a Board have to enforce all the rules? Answer: Serving as a member of a Board of Directors of a community association is, to say the least, a very difficult task. You are "damned if you do, and damned if you don't." All too often, competent, responsive Boards of Directors are faced with a difficult decision -- namely do we enforce our rules, or can we ignore some of the minor violations that occur within the community? More importantly, many Boards of Directors do not have the resources to properly enforce all violations of the rules and regulations. Almost every set of community association documents authorizes a Board of Directors to enforce their own documents. A Board can enforce in a number of ways. First, the Board generally has the authority under the association Bylaws to take an errant unit owner to court. This is time consuming and expensive, and no one can predict with certainty what a court will do. Many courts throughout the country are now becoming concerned about enforcing relatively petty matters, especially if the alleged violation occurs within the confines of the unit, as compared to the common elements. Second, the Board can establish a set of fines, and impose a fine against a unit owner for any violation of the community association documents. Many condominium state laws require, among other things, that a "due process hearing" procedure be established before a fine can be imposed. Under this process, the Board would advise a unit owner of its intention to impose a fine, and hold a hearing, giving the owner an opportunity to present his or her case as to why the fine should not be imposed. The unit owner should be entitled to fully participate at this hearing, and indeed bring his or her own lawyer. Interestingly, all that such laws require is that the condo owner be given the opportunity to attend the hearing. Even if the owner ignores and does not show up -- assuming the board has proof that proper notice of the hearing was provided - the board then has the ability to issue a fine. The fine procedure is workable, since the fine would then become part of the unit owner's financial obligations to the association. If the errant owner does not pay the fine, the association would have the right to go to court seeking a money judgment against that owner, and in most cases (depending on the documents themselves) all or a portion of the association's attorney's fees could also be awarded. A major dilemma facing many Boards today is whether they really have to enforce all of the rules and regulations. The current trend in the law is that a Board of Directors can ignore certain violations, if the Board acts reasonably and in good faith which legally is referred to as "the business judgment rule". The Board should consult its members and its counsel, and have a full debate and discussion in open session as to why the Board believes certain violations should be ignored. If, after going through this process, the Board makes such a decision, the Board may be insulated from liability if a unit owner files suit against that Board for failure to enforce the association documents. Courts have often held that even if the board makes a mistake, unless it is a serious matter or violates public policy, the court will not second-guess the board. Clearly, there are some rules and regulations which a Board has to enforce. For example, if an owner is creating a life-threatening problem which impacts on the health and safety of other unit owners, the Board has an obligation to enforce those infractions, even if it necessitates spending legal fees to accomplish this objective. On the other hand, there are numerous violations which the courts have considered "petty." In my opinion, a Board does not have to enforce every single rule and regulation, merely because they are on the books of the association. But, the Board does have an obligation to advise the owners why the Board is refraining from its enforcement activities. Presumably, if enough owners disagree with the Board's decision, they can attempt to mount a recall petition, whereby the current Board would be thrown out of office -- or not elected at the next annual meeting. But a Board of Directors is cautioned they cannot enforce the rules and regulations in an arbitrary or capricious manner. They cannot be selective. If they are not going to enforce a particular rule, this non-enforcement has to be across-the-board. Conversely, if the Board is going to enforce its documents, the enforcement has to be fair and even and levied against every owner who is in violation. The Board can also repeal certain rules and regulations, by holding a hearing and then taking a vote in accordance with the applicable state laws and the association's legal documents. […]