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Updated: Sunday, October 25, 2020


7 Scary Things to Avoid If You’re Trying to Sell Your Home at Halloween

It may sound surprising, but doing Halloween dcor right may actually help you sell your home. Doing it wrongwell, were terrified just thinking about it. Heres what not to do when decking out your house for the spooky holiday.

Dont overdo the exterior

Your home is strung with witch lights, gravestone markers dot your front yard and Casper the Ghost greets visitors at the door, said MassRealty. How will potential buyers take your home seriously when your kids insisted on decorating for the holiday.

Dont go crazy with blood and gore

You may pride yourself on your intricate displays of horror and mayhem, but its best to save that for your new place. Sure, your very realistic zombie playground may be a hit with the neighbors every year, but selling your home will require you to keep your professionalismafter all, youre trying to sell your house, not spook people away from your front lawn, said DreamCasa. Avoid any cringe-worthy Halloween dcor like bloody handprints, tombstones, or morbid scenes.

Dont lack self-control with the pumpkins

You dont need your front porch to look like a grocery store display. A tasteful mix of pumpkins and gourds can be inviting. Keep the tasteful thing in mind when youre carving, as well. The last thing you want is to attract attention to your Richard Nixon pumpkin instead of your newly painted front door.

Keep an eye on the kids carved pumpkins, too. If you dont want to offend them by hiding the less-than-perfect pumpkins during an open house, you can simply turn the faces toward the wall for showings.

Dont pack every inch of your interior with Halloween-themed dcor

If buyers cant take their eyes off your admittedly impressive skeleton collection, theyre not paying enough attention to your floorplan and features. You want buyers to notice the home, not whats in it.

Dont fail to decorate

If youre in a neighborhood in which every home decorates for Halloween, you dont want to be the one party pooperthis could make your home stick out for the wrong reason. Save the hanging witches and inflatable Dracula for another time and go for something elegant that speaks to the design sense buyers might find inside. We love these luminary pumpkins that are carved with repeating geometric patterns.

Dont let your yard go

Its fall and, in many areas, lawns will be dormant soon and yards wont be in their best spring shape. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt make an effort, especially if youre trying to get your home sold. A simple clean up, new mulch, and a couple of baskets of fall flowers near the door can be all it takes to look fresh and new.

Dont price your home too high

This is problematic regardless of the time of year, but fall can be eye-opening for buyers who incorrectly assume that they may be able to command spring or summer home prices without the same competitive conditions. Your agents competitive market analysis should serve as a guide.


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Why Fall Is the Best Time for Planting

Spring is often thought of as the best time for planting, but do you know that plating in fall offers some significant advantages for your garden? In fact, marketing ploys aside, fall is the best time for planting and starting a garden

Below are some reasons why fall is the best time for planting perennials, trees, and shrubs in your garden:

The Weather is Perfect for Planting

The cooler weather in fall is easier for the plants and gardeners alike. The ground isnt semi frozen and not too dry and the weather isnt too warm or cold. The plants wont get too stressed because they wont be subjected to extremes in weather and hence can recover faster after planting.

You Wont Have to Plant Right After Buying Plants

There is no need to plant right away because you wont have to worry about plants drying up or the ground being too hot. As for trees, planting them when theyve lost their leaves is actually better because they wont have to exert energy growing leaves and can focus on growing roots. This is the biggest fall advantage, helping the plant grow better roots so that theyll have energy to display gorgeous foliage and blooms come spring time. The fall to spring transition is quicker than waiting for a full year before getting to see the results of your handiwork.

Lower Maintenance Effort

You wont have to water as much in fall, so thats less maintenance effort from your part. You will also not have to baby sit new plants and fret about whether they will survive or not because of the overall milder weather.

A good tip for planting in fall is to water the plants in their pots a few hours before you transport them to their new homes. This lets them soak up water and be better prepared for planting. Water the hole theyll be placed in too before planting.

It is Easier to See Where to Plant Best

Fall allows you to see sparse areas of your garden that need more plants. It is the best time to plan out next years garden and start planting it. Youll know exactly how the other plants look like and how much space they take when they got foliage and blooms, allowing you to add pops of colour where you know you need it.

Bargains in Gardening Supplies

Gardening supplies are typically at their peak prices in spring but are cheaper in fall when some shops even close their business for the winter. Shop for non-perishable supplies, seeds, and maybe some bulbs in fall. You can probably get gardening tools at discounted prices and perhaps some fertilizers, netting, pebbles, and similar things. Watch out for sale in pots too


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The Differences Between Financing New Construction and an Existing Home

Financing for new construction as well as financing an existing home both involve getting a loan with real estate as the collateral. Theyre both the same in that manner but clearly different in others. Lets look at the differences between financing new construction and financing an existing property.

When someone decides to buy an existing home and take out a new mortgage, the options are nearly unlimited. First, there are fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgage options. Fixed rate programs simply mean the selected interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. This provides easier financial planning for those who intend to keep the property for the long term, knowing what their mortgage payment will be in say year 28. The payment will be exactly the same as in year 1. These loans can have terms ranging anywhere from 10 to 30 years, with some portfolio type mortgages being as long as 40 years.

An adjustable rate mortgage as the name implies can adjust but to do so the loan must follow very specific rules laid out in the note. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, can adjust based upon a selected index and then adding a margin to that index to arrive at the new mortgage rate until the next adjustment period. There are also consumer protections called caps that limit not only how much the rate can move at the new adjustment period but also how much the rate can adjust over the life of the loan. ARMs also can have various terms. In general, for both types of loans, the shorter the term, the higher the monthly payment but at the same time there is less overall interest paid over the life of the loan.

A construction loan is used to finance new construction. Mortgages used to finance an existing property cannot be used to finance new construction. Construction loans are issued only for as long as it takes to build the home. Once the home is completed, the construction lender sends out an inspector for one last inspection to make sure the home is finished and is ready for occupancy. When this determination is made, the construction loan must be replaced by a permanent mortgage, the same types of home loans used to finance an existing property.

When a construction lender provides financing for a new home, the loan amount is based upon the plans and specifications laid out by the builder. All the costs, both hard and soft are added up. These loans also typically ask for more initial equity from the borrower. While a home for an existing property can have very low down payments, sometimes zero, a construction loan might ask for a down payment of something like 20. If the borrowers already own the lot on which to build, the lot typically accounts for the initial 20 equity required. A loan for an existing home can be found at a mortgage company or through a buyers own bank, while a construction loan is usually provided only by a bank.


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What Are the Differences in Mortgage Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval?

When youre considering buying a home, there are two terms youll hear, both of which are >

Understanding these terms is critical because theyre going to help you know what you can afford as you search for a home, and theyre also how youre going to demonstrate youre a serious buyer to a seller.

Both are similar in that they are steps along the way to get a mortgage, but if you have a preapproval, you dont necessarily need a prequalification.

What is Prequalification?

A mortgage prequalification means that you provide a lender with some general financial information. The goal is to help provide you an estimate of how much you can afford when youre buying a home.

The information you provide for prequalification is usually self-reported. Most of the time, it doesnt include verification of your credit report. You can get a prequalification without dinging your credit report with a hard pull.

When youre prequalified, you receive a letter that will show you can afford to buy. You can show it to your agent and sellers, and it may be helpful in the process, but not as much as a preapproval.

What is Preapproval?

A preapproval carries a lot more weight in the buying process. When youre preapproved, youve submitted your financial history and the lender has verified the information you provide by checking your credit report, your employment and income, and your assets and debts.

For a preapproval, youll have to submit information like your total monthly expenses, W2s, pay stubs, and if you already own property, your mortgage statement.

Once you submit all the necessary documents, you receive a preapproval letter. This letter will outline the amount youre approved for, and the type of mortgage a lender will give you as well as the terms.

A preapproval serves as an offer by the lender to you, and there is usually an expiration of the offer. For example, you might have 90 days to buy a home based on your preapproval.

How Do You Get a Mortgage Preapproval?

The following are steps to follow to get a mortgage preapproval:

Get your own credit score. The higher your score, not only the more likely you are to be approved but the better the terms youre likely to be offered. With most lenders, if you have at least a 740 credit score, youre likely to qualify for the most favorable terms.
When you check your credit score, go over your report and make sure there arent errors that need to be addressed.
Calculate your debt-to-income ratio. To buy a home, you should aim to have a ratio of 36 or less. Your DTI is a ratio of your gross monthly income that goes toward paying debt.
Gather the documents youre likely to need to submit, such as your tax forms, employment details, and banking and account information. If youre self-employed anticipate showing at least two years of income tax returns.

Finally, when youre applying for preapprovals, shop around and talk to multiple lenders. This will help you find the lender thats right for you so you increase your chances of getting approved, but also so that you can save money on interest with better terms.nbsp;


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Enforcing "Nuisance" Provisions

"Nuisance" has been defined as "something that causes harm" and "a bit of a bother." Nuisances are a pretty common occurrence in homeowner associations since living in close proximity is bound to create friction from time to time. Most HOA governing documents include language like: "No resident shall engage in offensive activities which are a nuisance, or interfere with the quiet enjoyment of other residents."

These "nuisance" provisions trigger the need for the HOA to control certain resident behavior. The problem is there is a growing belief in the legal community that these provisions themselves may be a nuisance for the boards responsible for enforcing them.

One problem is simply defining the term "nuisance." The obvious goal of nuisance provisions is to prevent residents from making other residents miserable. But the broad wording of typical nuisance provisions leads to arguments of whether such provisions apply to almost any activity, or none of them. This ambiguity causes board members charged with enforcing them to echo former Supreme Court Justice Stewarts statement about the difficulty of defining obscenity: "[I cant define it], but I know it when I see it."

In the same vein, many HOA boards would agree that they recognize a nuisance when they see it. However, this approach has mixed results. Behavior that infuriates one person might go unnoticed or overlooked by another. Hyper-sensitive residents may deem all sounds as offensive, while others may refuse to recognize how their neighbors could find the most offensive behavior unacceptable.

The typical nuisance language in HOA documents doesnt offer much guidance to the boards who must mediate these disputes. One option is to list the activities or behaviors that will constitute a nuisance. Generally, the board has the authority to adopt resolutions "to clarify" the governing documents. A nuisance resolution could include:

nbsp;

Barking dogs at any time
Unsupervised pets in the common areas
Loud music, TV, singing. etc. between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Obnoxious odors
Use of chemicals or equipment that cause life or fire safety concerns
Tobacco or barbecue smoke that migrates between units
Housekeeping that causes fire safety or health conditions overly cluttered, attracts vermin, mold, etc.
Other activities that the Board deems to be a nuisance catch all provision

nbsp;

Is a nuisance a bit of a bother or something that causes harm? Good question. But this is an area in which the board needs to establish a policy that works most of the time and then focus on those special cases that require more thought or mediation.

Excerpts used with permission from an article from HindmanSanchez.com


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9 Ways Becoming A Homeowner Can Change Your Life

Homeownership. It shifts so many things. If youre coming from an apartment, you may experience conveniences like direct-access garages and walls that arent shared for the first time. If youve been renting a home, you will probably feel a new sense of security and peace of mind once the mortgage is in our name. Not to mention the itch to repaint, re-imagine, and redo at least a few dozen things.

Want to know just how becoming a homeowner can change your life? Read on.

1. Financial Security

"The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation," said Investopedia. "Price appreciation helps build home equity." Added Real Estate ABC: "The principle you pay on the mortgage is like putting money in the bank, in the form of equity."

2. Peace of mind

If you worry every time your lease comes up for renewal, those days are gladly over. Unless you refinance or take cash out once you have enough equity, your house payment is your house payment.

3. Pride of ownership

The feeling you get when you come home to your place - the place you scrimped and saved for and the place that represents a lifelong dream - well, theres just no substitute.

4. Stake in your neighborhood

Pride of ownership extends to the homes and area around your house as well. Whether or not you move to a neighborhood with a homeowners association, buying a house will undoubtedly make you more invested in whats going on around you. And that can mean increased property values if neighbors band together for common improvements.

5. Increased interest in HGTV. And DIY channel. And weekends at Home Depot.

Dont be surprised if you start quoting Drew and Jonathan Scott or using terms like "mitered corners" and "refaced cabinets." Which is good news, because the changes you make to your home wont just mean greater enjoyment while you live there, but also potentially greater profit when you go to sell.

"Home ownership means you have free rein in the aesthetics of the home. When renting, you do not have the advantage of changing your environment to please you," said Real Estate ABC. "You may be able to paint a room, but need to repaint back to the original color scheme when you move. Owning your own home means you can do whatever you please to make your environment both personalized and, in the process, add value to the home."

6. Your honey do list may increase

But so will your satisfaction.

7. Tax breaks

"The second largest financial benefit of owning a home is tax savings," said Investopedia. "The biggest of these is the ability to deduct the annual interest paid on a mortgage from income. Private mortgage insurance may also be a write off, on addition to fees paid at closing. If you have paid points, either discount or origination, you can deduct these as well."

8. Expert knowledge of interest rates, neighborhood home prices, and area sales trends

When youre in the process of buying and after you close escrow, youre more likely to be tuned into whats going on in the market and in your neighborhood. This can help you to make smart decisions about updates, upgrades, and refinancing, and can also make you a trusted resource among your friends who want to buy.

9. More financial responsibility in other parts of your life

With a home to take care of, you may be more clued in to other long-term investments and less wiling to spend frivolously.


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What is an FHA Loan and Is It Right for You?

The Federal Housing Administration insures what are called FHA loans. These mortgage loans provide opportunities for buyers with less-than-perfect credit or limited down payments to purchase homes, but they arent without potential pitfalls.

FHA loans are available to borrowers with a credit score of at least 580, and you have to make a minimum 3.5 down payment. Theyre a popular option for first-time home buyers.

Lenders such as banks and credit unions issue the mortgages, which are insured by the FHA. That protects the lender if the borrower defaults, which is why the terms are more favorable than a traditional mortgage.

Around eight million single-family homes have loans insured by the FHA.

What Can an FHA Loan be Used For?

You can use an FHA loan to refinance single-family houses, to buy a single-family home, to buy some multifamily homes and condos and certain mobile and manufactured homes. There are particular types of FHA loans that can be used to renovate an existing property or for new construction.

How is an FHA Loan Different from a Conventional Mortgage Loan?

The biggest differentiator between an FHA loan and a conventional mortgage is that its easier to qualify for an FHA loan. You may get a loan with a lower credit score than you would otherwise, and your mortgage insurance payments may be lower too.

There are also fewer restrictions as far as using gifts from family or donations for your down payment.

If you have a FICO score of at least 580, you have to make a 3.5 down payment. With a FICO score between 500 and 579, youre required to make a 10 down payment, and mortgage insurance is required. Your debt-to-income ratio needs to be less than 43 whereas with a conventional loan its usually 36. You do need to have proof of income and steady employment, as you would need with a conventional loan.

Are There FHA Loan Limits?

There are limits on the mortgage amount you can get with an FHA-guaranteed loan. The limits vary based on your county, and in 2020 these ranged from 331,760 to 765,600. The limit amounts are updated by the FHA each year based on fluctuations in home prices.

The Benefits of the FHA Loan

The primary benefits of an FHA loan are that buyers who wouldnt otherwise qualify may be able to own a home and for a lower down payment. Sometimes the FHA will help facilitate coverage of closing costs. If you have problems making payments on an FHA loan you may be eligible for a forbearance period if you qualify.

What Are the Downsides of an FHA Loan?

You will have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium with an FHA loan to protect the lender. The fee is due when you close and its 1.75 of your loan. You will also have to pay an annual mortgage insurance premium for the life of your loan. The amount can range between 0.45 and 1.05.

When you buy a home with an FHA loan, it has to meet strict standards in terms of health and safety.

Also, while there are set standards from the FHA, approved lenders can create their own requirements.

Applying for an FHA Loan

Youll have to first find an FHA-approved lender to get one of these home loans. Youll need some documents, including proof of U.S. citizenship, legal permanent residency, or eligibility to work in America. Youll need bank statements for at least the past 30 days, and youll probably need to show pay stubs.

Some of the information your lender may be able to obtain on your behalf, such as your credit reports, tax returns and employment records.

There are advantages to an FHA loan because it expands homeownership to more people than conventional loans. Its just important that if youre considering this loan you understand the costs and that youre not taking on more than youre financially prepared for because of the less stringent approval requirements.


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What Should You Know About Buying Real Estate Overseas?

Owning real estate overseas is often a lifelong dream. It can look different for everyone. For example, maybe your goal is to retire in Tuscany, or perhaps you want to buy a second home but keep your primary residence in the U.S. You might want to purchase property now where youll live later, or you could want to move overseas full-time.

Regardless of your situation, many specifics vary depending on where you want to buy, but the following are some general considerations to keep in mind.

Buying Property Overseas Is Complex

No matter where you want to buy or when, you should go into it with an understanding that its complex. There are legal and financial issues, as well as travel->

To help streamline it, you should work with local professionals. First, a local lawyer can be extremely helpful when youre buying property as a foreigner. You should also use a buyers agent who specializes in international transactions.

There are very specific rules dictating who can buy what in most countries. For example, theres a rule in Mexico that if youre a foreigner, you cant own property on the coast, but there are ways to go around this by using a Mexican bank trust.

Some places wont let foreigners buy property altogether. For example, Switzerland has very strict restrictions on foreigners buying property. You can only buy property if youre an EU or EFTA national who has a Swiss residence permit and lives in Switzerland, or have a Swiss C permit.

Financing Foreign Property

In many cases, mortgages overseas arent available to U.S. buyers, and U.S. banks typically wont lend you money to buy something internationally. Even if you can find a location where you might be eligible for mortgage lending, youre probably going to have to make a down payment of anywhere from 30 to 50 and your terms arent going to be very favorable.

You may also have to get a life insurance policy that totals your mortgage, and the bank lending you money will have to be named the beneficiary. At the same time, depending on your age you may not be eligible for life insurance in some countries.

What this means is that you should have cash if you plan to buy overseas. You might be able to get developer financing, or you can use the proceeds of a self-directed IRA if you plan to use the property as a rental or investment only.

Tax Liability

If you buy property in a foreign country, you may be taxed both when you buy it and sell it. You may also have to make payments throughout the year, similar to property taxes in the U.S.

Finally, before you buy anything overseas you need to have an exit strategy you can turn to if necessary. You may think youll never sell, but unexpected life and financial situations can arise. What taxes would you owe if you did sell? Would you even be able to sell? What is the market like where youre buying and what is it likely to look like in the future?


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ULI & 3 Adaptability-Booster Perspectives

As the pandemic evolves, real estate professionals continue to adapt to changeboth for themselves and their clients.

Over the past months, I have been struck by repeated situations in the media and on social media that reminded me that professionals in all fields often overlook opportunities to improve adaptability while in the midst of change.

With more shifts on the pandemic horizon, why not take proactive steps to increase your adaptability by building up your powers of resourcefulness, flexibility, and resilience?

The pandemic is a health crisis not an economic crisis nor a global-scale natural disaster, so capital will be available when the crisis abates and the necessity for massive rebuilding will not delay recovery. Pandemic impact will be lessened, counterbalanced, and eventually ended by well-founded, improved, and sustained personal and societal confidence.

Once we are confident as individuals, families, and organizations that we will be safe from catching or spreading Covid-19, stand back. Individuals, businesses, communities, and countries will forge ahead when not constrained by fears of contagion.

Speakers and panelists at the virtual 2020 Urban Land Institute ULI Fall Meeting agree that the pandemic will not continue forever. Varying estimates of when it will end are linked to how quickly an effective vaccine can be developed and distributed. Uncertainty at the timing prevailed with some voicing certainty for next spring, others predicting next fall, and still others forecasting at least another year or so.

As you stay safe and keep others safe, consider reinforcing your professional expertise by incorporating:

Three Adaptability-Booster Perspectives

1. Not Unconscious But Conscious Effort

Widespread agreement that Covid has been an accelerator of trends leaves us with the knowledge that some pre-Covid hindsight may be useful in projecting into our post-Ccvid futures. The more conscious you are of what was really going on before the pandemic, the better youll be at predicting details and identifying opportunities associated with amplification of real estate trends >

Example: 18-hour cities, defined by ULI as less intense version[s] of some of the biggest global centers while still maintaining an international character and a vibrant urban core, continue to dominate The Top 10 Markets [list below] powered by strong growth, homebuilding outlook, affordability, and job prospects.

ULI and PwC US >

The Top 10 Markets in Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021

1. Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
2. Austin, Texas
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
5. Charlotte, N.C.
6. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Washington D.C./North Va.
9. Boston, Mass.
10. Long Island, N.Y.

2. Not Perpetuate But Shed

Progress involves risk and letting go. You cant achieve change while you cling to the way its always been. We cant embrace technology the way we have during the pandemic and hold on to the way weve always thought. Work and education are just two areas that technology has rapidly redesigned under social-distancing pressures. For digital transformation to be effective, the way we define work, learning, and, therefore, productivity must be transformed too. Until you shed bias and out-dated standards and reach out for fresh perspectives, progress is just talk.

Example: Our love affair with online tools and toys has led to consistently elevated expectations for technology. In a ULI session about the Networked Economy, Lisa Picard, CEO of EQ Office, said technology has heightened the speed at which we expect what we want: Everything. Everywhere. All the timeNot Work From Home but Work From Anywherenbsp; What is missing is that our standards and language lag behind. The pandemic has changed the nature of work and where we do it, but definitions of productivity must change as well. For example, instead of expressing intent as get the most out of workers think bring the best out in individuals.

3. Not Chance But Choice

The decisions you make, large and small, determine the present and shape the future. Even deciding not to decide is a decision. The more you leave to chance, the less certain the present and future. The more often you dig in to uncover choices for clients and yourself, the more often confident decisions emerge.

According to ULI: Social unrest and protests in cities across the country have also played a role in the reevaluation of presence in urban cores. 70 of respondents agree that the real estate industry can address and help end systemic racismfrom promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within the sector, to looking for ways to develop underserved communities. On a rating scale of social issues in real estate, income and racial inequality moved from little to moderate importance last year, to moderate to great importance.

Example: Onay Payne, Managing Director, Clarion Partners LLC shared a statistic to illustrate social inequity that also emphasizes that inequity will not be resolved by chance but by choice. Payne, an Emerging Trends general-session panelist, told reportedly 4,000 virtually-attending real estate professionals that, on the financial scale, the top 50 individual Americans possess as much net worth as the bottom 165 million Americans.

Has the dazzling speed at which Covid-19 changed everything proven to you that nothing is beyond change?nbsp;

Simply, commit to conscious effort, search for choice, and shed accumulated crap to achieve progress.

For more by PJ Wade, visit PJs blog: Whats Your Point?nbsp;


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5 Tips for Staging Your Home

If youre in a tough sellers market or just looking to get top dollar for your home, you want to do any little thing you can to make your house stand out in a potential buyers mind. Staging is one of those things that can make the difference between a sold sign and a house that lingers on the market.

The National Association of Realtors suggests that staging has a real impact on home sales. In fact, a majority of realtors report that staging increases the sales price of a home anywhere between 1 and 10 percent. However, the real impact of staging seems to be how quickly a home is sold, with 39 percent of Realtors stating that it greatly decreases the time spent on the market. Buyers agents confirm the positive impact of staging, stating that 77 percent of buyers were better able to picture a home as their own when it was staged.

Of course, there is an art to staging a home, and a poorly staged home can have a negative impact on a potential sale. Here are five tips for staging your house that will have you putting up that SOLD sign in no time.

1. Declutter and Clean

Before thinking about decorations or furniture placement, the No. 1 suggestion of realtors is to declutter and deep clean. Clear countertops and other surfaces, and pack away anything that is not essential. Your goal is to remove anything that will distract buyers from seeing the positive aspects of your house, which is why realtors often suggest removing family photos and overly personalized decorations like your giant bobble head collection. Remember, decluttering includes removing excess furniture, which help make your rooms feel bigger.

2. Group Furniture

Once youve removed furniture that is unnecessary or too large for the space, group furniture into conversational groups away from the wall, instead of pushing sofas and chairs to the corners. You want there to be a flow to each room, and keeping the walls clear of big furniture will actually make the room feel bigger, says HGTV.

3. Accessories in Odd Numbers

Although youll need to declutter, you still want your space to feel like a lived-in home. Do this by decorating with groups of accessories like vases, books or plants. Staging professionals often recommend grouping similarly hued objects in odd number pairings of varying heights and shapes.

4. Add 1 or 2 Bold Accents

While you want to keep your staging dcor fairly neutral, adding one or two bold accent pieces will help highlight a particularly great feature of your home. Adding a dramatic chandelier that matches the >

5. Use Mirrors

Mirrors can help brighten a dark hallway, bring light into a room and make a room seem larger, says Forbes. For a big impact, get a cheap mirror and add a decorative frame, or group a lot of small mirrors in differing shapes and sizes. In a room with a window, place mirrors across from the window to reflect the sunlight.

Staging is all about helping potential buyers create an emotional connection with your home. Help buyers picture themselves living in the house by decluttering, grouping furniture and accessories, adding one or two bold accents and using mirrors. Now get ready for the offers to roll in.


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Rate Locks: What You Need to Know

If youre a homeowner and thinking of maybe refinancing or youre out shopping for a new home, certainly interest rates are part of the picture. Rates determine your monthly mortgage payment as well as determine affordability. In either case, its important to know that any rate you see advertised on the internet or a rate you get from your loan officer arent immediately available for you. Mortgage interest rates can change daily and, in some instances, when the markets are somewhat volatile, rates can even change from the morning to later in the day. Regardless, whatever rate you see isnt any good until you lock that rate in. How do you lock in a mortgage rate and what is the process?

First and perhaps foremost, dont expect to pick up the phone and call a mortgage company and request a rate lock. Lenders take rate locks just as seriously as you and wont lock in a rate from someone whos just placed a phone call. Lenders want a bit more commitment than that. To get to this important first step, it means you must at minimum submit a loan application and provide the requested documentation.nbsp;

Lenders can quote rates over the phone to give you a general idea of what the rate market is doing but there are different factors involved when lenders quote a specific rate to a client. FICO scores, occupancy, equity in the transaction matter. Some of this information wont be known until you apply for the mortgage and send in copies of your paycheck stubs, W2s and other requested documentation.

Once youve reached this stage, you might be in a position to lock. But maybe not. There are no universal guidelines lenders must adhere to as it >

Rate lock periods can vary but most rate locks can range from 10 to 60 days or more. The longer the rate lock period the higher the rate and/or fees will be. The strategy is to lock in your rate for the shortest period as possible while still meeting your settlement date or to give the lender enough time to approve your loan, deliver your loan papers to the settlement agent, sign the papers and return them to the lender for a final review.

Finally, if your rate lock expires while your loan is still in process, most lenders will >


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What Online Dating Can Teach You About Selling Your Home

Online dating is a big business; according to eharmony, forty percent of Americans use online dating and twenty percent of all committed >

Be smart

When you create a dating profile, youre trying to capture the essence of your beauty and personality. Apply the same principle to your home for sale. If youre not certain what your homes best features are, your agent will su>

Spruce it up

You wouldnt go on a date wearing tattered or stained clothes, so dont show your house with tattered or stained furnishings. If your couch has seen better days, a throw rug and a few pillows may be all you need to disguise the damage.

Stained carpets? Try steam cleaning first. If that doesnt work, get an inexpensive area rug. Worn tables? Cover them with a stylish tablecloth.

Be a little coy

Dont be afraid to go for it with a bit of flirtation. Just like a dating profile that insists on lifelong celibacy or is aggressively chaste may not attract the right attention and the same certainly goes for those that go waaaaay beyond flirtation, a home that shows blah and boring probably wont garner much notice.

"Popular wisdom says that when you put your home up for sale, it should be made to appear as bland and beige as possible," said The Kansan. "Well, like a lot of popular wisdom, this idea is only partially true. A low-key look helps potential buyers to envision how their own possessions will fit into the house, but a dash of zest will help your property to stand out from the crowd...in a good way.

Take a sexy pool shot with the fountain going. Transform your boring bed into a hotel masterpiece with pillows and turned-down bedding. Add a little sparkle to your dining room table, your fireplace, your sideboard. And for open houses, appeal to the senses with a sparkling clean home, soothing music in the background, and chocolate chip cookies freshly made in the oven.

Dont let them judge a book by its cover

You know the old saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Its true whether youre meeting a date for the first time or touring a home. If the first impression of your home is one of patchy grass, piles of leaves, overgrown greenery, and chipping paint, there probably wont be an opportunity for a second impression. A little attention to curb appeal could pay big rewards.

Strut your stuff

You dont hide great hair under a hat or muscled arms under an oversized sweatshirtnot if you want to show your best assets. Use this same idea in your home. If your granite counters are hiding under cutting boards and bills and blenders and magazines and scented candles and vessels full of stirrers and wooden spoons and spatulas, well, then how can anyone see what youre working with? Clean up your stuff so people can fall in love with your homes best features.

Show yourself in your best light

In other words, take great pictures. You never want to misrepresent the condition of the home, but rather showcase the best bits. Dating profile pics focus in on key features: pretty eyes or a great smile. Pictures of your house should do the same. If your kitchen is updated, show it off. Same for a nice master bath or well-designed master bedroom. Large yard? By all means, add a few photos of this desirable space.

Clean yourself up

Youd hardly put pictures of yourself online surrounded by dirty clothes. It would seem like a given that sellers would apply the same logic when listing their home. But in some cases, you would be wrong.

Put on a happy face

On your dating profile, that means smile big. As it translates to your house, it means open up those blinds and let the light in. And it wouldnt hurt if you put out a vase of flowers or two.

Update your look

Old-fashioned hair and out of >

Be a good listener

Online dating is all about communication, so those who are participating are bound to get feedbackunwanted or not. Home sellers can also expect to get feedback. But if your agent, other agents who viewed the home, and everyone who came to tour it during an open house are all telling you the house is unkempt, in need of obvious repairs, or is way too pricey for the condition or neighborhood, you may want to listen. Just like a man whose profile is offensive to women will likely not get him dates, a home that is turning buyers away instead of turning them on is not likely to sell.


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Buyer vs. Seller’s Agent: How Do They Compare?

Sometimes we dont focus on distinguishing between a buyers agent and a sellers agent, but understanding the differences is important when youre choosing someone to work with. The terminology can also get a bit confusing.

A buyers agent is also called a selling agent because they help buyers find properties. A sellers agent is referred to a listing agent.

For purposes of comparing the two, well call them a buyer and sellers agent, because this references who they work for. A buyers agent represents buyers, and a sellers agent represents sellers.

If youre weighing whether or not you need an agent, when it comes to selling a home you can do it as an owner, but unless youre a great marketer and negotiator, you might not do as well as you could with a sellers agent. As a buyer, it can be even more important to have an agent representing you. Some sellers agents wont accept offers from buyers directly.

Beyond working out the terminology, the following are some differences between the two.

Compensation

When youre selling a home and you hire an agent, you usually have an exclusive representation listing. Thats an agreement between your agent and you as the seller. Then, once you sign this agreement, only the listing agent is entitled to receive a commission when your home sells. More specifically, the brokerage the sellers agent works for receives a commission and of that, the agent gets a percentage.

A buyers agent is compensated when they work with the sellers brokerage and theres a deal for their clients to buy a home.

Representing Different Interests

The primary difference between a buyer and a sellers agent is that theyre representing different interests. The buyers agent wants to make sure their client is getting the lowest possible price and most favorable deal when they decide to purchase a home. The sellers agent wants to make sure their client gets the most money for their home.

In some cases, the sellers agent can also represent the buyer, but this is illegal in some states.

Can An Agent Be Both?

Theres no reason an agent cant sometimes work for sellers and others for buyers. In fact, many agents do this. On the other hand, some agents find they just like dealing with one side of the transaction better, so they may specialize.

Responsibilities

A sellers agents responsibilities can include:

A sellers agent will see a property and do an initial walkthrough. During this time they might provide tips on how the seller can make the home more appealing to potential buyers.
The sellers agent might provide referrals for professionals who can make needed updates to a home, and they can help a seller stage the property.
Sellers agents work on marketing, which can include having professional photos taken.
Sellers agents work with the homeowner to price their home accordingly. There has to be a balance between getting the highest possible price and selling the property in a reasonable amount of time.
Other things sellers agents do include hosting tours and open houses, negotiating issues including inspection issues with the buyers agent, and helping with the closing process.

A buyers agents responsibilities include:

Helping buyers with the preapproval process if theyre getting a mortgage loan.
Finding properties they think will meet the criteria of their clients.
Taking buyers on appointments to view potential properties.
Helping buyers understand the value of a home as they work toward making an offer.
Coordination of communication between the mortgage lender, seller, buyer, and title officer.
Helping with the closing process.

Overall, while their roles are different, a buyer and a sellers agent have the same overall objectives. They want to represent their clients to the best of their ability and negotiate successful deals to closi


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Ask the HOA Expert: Shared Expenses, HOA Newsletters, Swayed Managers

Question: Our By-laws indicate that expenses are shared equally. We have one and two bedroom units that vary significantly in size. Dividing expenses equally seems unfair. Can we simply vote to change it? If so, how many need to vote in favor of it?

Answer: Occasionally, developers propose an expense allocation like the one you describe. Its easier to calculate but clearly overlooks disparity in size and value. When there is substantial difference in square footage, the norm is to allocate expenses according to a units square footage as a percentage of the total units square footage.

When developers ignore the unit size and value issue, the inequity usually becomes apparent after turnover when the new board focuses on the budget process. Members that feel they are carrying a bigger share than they should lobby to "fix it." The problem is, all members agreed to pay what the developer indicated was their share of HOA expenses, fair or not.

If a majority of the owners were allowed to change the expense allocation formula, theoretically 51 percent of the owners could pass an amendment that would force 49 percent of the owners to pay 100 percent of the expenses.

This cant possibly be right or equitable. So changing the expense allocation should be based on receiving the consent of those affected. However, since people are people, this is unlikely to happen.

Bottom line listen up developers, the expense allocation formula needs to be fair from the get-go. Dont set up the HOA for conflict that inevitably will be blamed on the developer.

Question: One of our homeowners wants to start an HOA newsletter. A few Board members object to this because people dont read the minutes as it is, the Board would need to review it and finding someone to do it consistently may be difficult. What say you?

Answer: Having a regular newsletter is not just a good idea, its a basic good management practice. To encourage readership, the newsletter should be worth reading and provide information that all members need to know. If certain members dont choose to read it, thats up to them. The HOA should not withhold information because of it.

The Board Secretary generally previews the newsletter for content and accuracy. This doesnt take much time for a two to four page newsletter more than ample for most HOAs.

Newsletters do not need to be long and involved, just timely and >

Question: I just read your article on sex offenders in HOAs. My experience with paroled sex offenders is that they ra>

Answer: While the answer to that question varies from location to location, national statistics do bear out that recidivism is a big problem with sex offenders. And statistics to the contrary are small consolation when you, or someone you know especially a child, is the victim of this crime.

However, in fairness, all sex offenses are not created equal. Some involve underage consent while others committed unspeakable acts. The Board should investigate the facts before unduly impugning a residents character.

That said, for the Board to keep silent about a known sex offender could be viewed as complicity. State laws allow disclosure and the Board should do so along state prescribed guidelines.

Question: Our professional manager is pandering to certain Board members and ignoring policies passed by the Board majority. How do you keep a manager from getting involved with Board politics?

Answer: The Board President should speak to the manager directly and plainly about this problem. Most managers are only trying to please or do their job. It may be a simple misunderstanding. If, however, there is conscious subterfuge and unwillingness to change, the matter should be addressed directly with the management company owner. If change isnt forthcoming, the President should recommend to the Board that there be a change in management company.

On the other hand, if the manager is kowtowing to the Board President, the remaining directors need to have a heart to heart with the President. All officers serve at the pleasure of the Board. If an officer is exceeding authority, the Board can remove and replace that person with another director who wont.


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Can You Get a Mortgage with Bad Credit?

The real estate market remains hot right now, despite economic headwinds. Many people want to jump in and buy a home or upgrade their current home to a new one for good reason. Interest rates are incredibly low, so now could still be a buying opportunity, despite limited inventory and high prices in some locations.

If your credit isnt perfect, you may wonder if anyone will approve you for a mortgage. The short answer is maybe.

You arent alone if you dont have great credit. Around 15 of Americans have a credit score from 500 to 599, which is considered poor. Around 10 of people have credit in the range of 600 to 649, which is considered fair.

When youre applying for a mortgage, youre most likely to be approved with a score of at least 650, although even anywhere in the 600s can make it challenging. If your score is below 500, youre almost certainly not going to be approved for a mortgage, and beyond that, the following are key things to know.

Conventional Mortgages

Conventional mortgages tend to have the strictest requirements as far as your credit score. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are two companies offering conventional mortgages. Freddie Macs minimum credit score requirement is 660, with a down payment of 3. Fannie Maes minimum score for a 3 down payment is 620. If you make a down payment of at least 25, you may be eligible for a Freddie Mac conventional mortgage with a credit score as low as 620.

The majority of lenders follow similar requirements, because usually after your loan is closed, the lender will sell it to Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

You should be aware that in the eyes of your lender, theres a difference between having a low score because you dont have much credit history and having a low score because of bad credit history. Youre likely to be viewed more favorably with limited credit than with bad credit.

If youre close to the lending cut-off, you should be able to show that you have a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 36. You will probably also need to show that you have at least two months of cash reserves on hand.

What About an FHA Loan?

An FHA loan may be an option for someone with a very low credit score. You can be approved for these loans with a score as low as 500, but youll have to plan to put at least 10 down.

If you have a higher score, you may be able to put as little as 3.5 down.

Aside from VA loans, FHA loans have the least stringent approval guidelines.

As such, FHA loans are often used by people after a foreclosure or bankruptcy.

FHA lenders dont have to follow the above credit score requirements. They can require that your credit score is higher for approval. Many FHA borrowers have a score somewhere between 650 and 699.

VA Loans

For a VA loan, there is no minimum credit score, but you can only get this type of home loan if youre an eligible service member in the military, a veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran. While theres no a set minimum score, individual lenders can create their own guidelines.

Should You Focus on Improving Your Score?

If you have less-than-perfect credit right now, you might want to focus on building your score. It can take several months, but its very unlikely interest rates will go up anytime soon based on what the Fed has said so far. The Fed says they expect rates will stay around zero through 2021 and maybe 2022, although theres no guarantee.

If you can make even modest improvements in your credit score, not only are you likely to be approved, but you may also get better terms. Focus on paying down your high-balance credit cards, cleaning up any errors, and in the meantime, also try to save for a down payment. If you have at least 10 for a down payment, a lender will see you as less risky.


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How To Use Color To Boost Emotion And Well Being In Your Home

Having trouble sleeping? Or staying awake? Feeling down? Or stressed? Maybe you just need a new paint color.

Turns out that the colors you use in your home can impact more than just the way it looks.

"Home decor is often viewed as simply a matter of aesthetics - what looks attractive. But proponents of color psychology believe that the colors you use to decorate your home can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of you and your family," said WebMD.

So how does it work?

"While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning," said verywell. "Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference."

Which color is right for you?

Think a sunny, yellow room may brighten up your spirit? Give it careful consideration. Yes, "Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness. It is an excellent choice for kitchens, dining rooms and bathrooms, where it is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming," said Freshome.

But, "Even though yellow although is a cheery color, it is not a good choice for main color schemes. Studies show that people are more likely to lose their temper in a yellow interior. Babies also seem to cry more in yellow rooms. In large amounts, this color tends to create feelings of frustration and anger."

And, of course, theres also a matter of personal taste. Its not important that a splash of yellow brightens up a dark bathroom if you despise the color so much it makes you irate every time you enter.

If you have a busy life and manage a lot of stress, blue might be a good answer for you. This color symbolizes serenity and "is said to bring down blood pressure and slow respiration and heart rate," said Freshome. "It is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms."

Other colors that work well in the bedroom: green, which also tends to have a >white, which keeps everything clean and calm.

White "conveys peace, simplicity, and spaciousness," said Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, on Professional Builder. Not to mention that, "used throughout a room, it can give the illusion that the space is bigger than its physical dimensions."

While red is a color that denotes passion, its not recommended for a bedroom because it can raise the blood pressure, heart rate, and energy level, and keep you awake. Instead, use it in a dining room, where it can help stimulate the appetite - and the conversation.

"Warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges, and earth tones like brown and beige often work well in both the living room and foyer, because theyre though to stimulate conversation," said WebMD.

Use orange in a game room or especially a home gym, and it may inspire just the right emotion and increase well-being. "This color is great for an exercise room; it will bring out all the emotions that you need >

Deep, rich like colors like purple, black, and emerald can impart a sense of luxury and sophistication, but, especially with black, you want to use a light hand. "Dont get carried away with it," said Zimmer. "Too much black can be depressing."

Choose the right hue

When considering the colors for different rooms, its also important to remember what certain hues can do to a space. "Light colors are expansive and airy, making rooms seem larger and brighter," said Freshome. "Dark colors are sophisticated and warm; they give large rooms a more intimate appearance."

"Bright yellowcan quickly move from cheerful to abrasive," said HGTV. "Rather than painting an entire room the color of McDonalds golden arches, choose a toned-down shade or use that vivid yellow as an accent against a neutral backdrop, like gray." Likewise, "A pastel blue that looks pretty on the paint chip can come across as unpleasantly chilly on the walls and furnishingsespecially in a room that receives little natural light," said Freshome.


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What is a Short Sale?

The idea of purchasing a home at a deeply discounted price is appealing to most people, but these situations can come with strings attached. One way to get a deal on a property is to buy a short sale, but the transactions are complex and risky.

Short sales are transactions where a home is sold for a lower price than the debt thats owed. When a homeowner realizes they cant afford their mortgage anymore, they can start the short sale process with the lender. The owner has to apply, and the goal is to avoid foreclosure.

Lenders will often approve a short sale if the home is worth less than whats owed, and the seller has to demonstrate financial hardship. Short sales were incredibly common following the Great Recession in 2008, but have since become less so.

Short Sale vs. a Foreclosure

Sometimes buyers think a short sale and a foreclosure are the same, which theyre not. During a foreclosure, the bank repossesses the property. Then, the bank tries to sell it, often at a price well below market value, to cover their costs.

In both situations, financial hardships lead to the loss of the property for the homeowner, but the specifics vary.

In a short sale, the seller is voluntarily entering the process. A foreclosure is not voluntary for the seller.

For the seller, a foreclosure is much more damaging to their credit history, and they may end up having to file bankruptcy.

What Are the Benefits of a Short Sale?

For buyers, there are a few big benefits of buying a property in a short sale. The first is the lower price. A lender is very motivated to sell the property and cut their losses. Short sales may be less complex than traditional sales because there is likely to be less competition from other buyers. Your offer has a greater chance of being approved with less competition.

For sellers, the benefits of a short sale include preventing foreclosure and possible debt forgiveness. For a seller who goes through a short sale, they may qualify for a new mortgage after two years. Its much harder to get another mortgage after a foreclosure.

Are There Downsides of a Short Sale?

For buyers, one of the primary downsides of a short sale is that its time-consuming. These transactions can take much longer than a traditional transaction. Theres also an increased level of risk for buyers because theyre buying the home as-is.

Theres also the possibility the transaction wont go through, and the time will be wasted for the buyer.

Since the owners in a short sale are experiencing financial hardship, their homes may be in significantly worse condition than similar properties.

For sellers, there are quite a few pitfalls of a short sale too. Sellers dont have any power to negotiate the priceonly the lender can. The seller isnt going to receive any profits when they sell the home because its owed to the lender, and short sales damage the owners credit scores.

Short Sale Tips

If you understand the possible risks and still want to look for a property thats a short sale, make sure that you go into it prepared. While the property is sold as-is, you still need an inspection so you can figure out how much youll have to spend in repairs. Youll also have more negotiating power with the lender if you can prove significant repairs are needed.

Even though short sales are a way to get a deal, you still need to be realistic with your offer. Your offer can be turned down if its too low.

Its also a good idea to provide as much cash as you can because the lender will want to reduce their risk.

Finally, work with a real estate agent experienced in short sales because theyre


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Want To Cut Down A Tree In Toronto? Good Luck With That

Recently the Arbor Day Foundation, one of the largest conservation foundations in the world, presented its Champion of Trees Award to the City of Toronto.

The award recognizes exemplary leadership to develop and implement new policies and practices for municipal tree planting and care, natural area stewardship or arboriculture.

Toronto has planted more than one million trees since 2005, investing 605.6 million in its urban forest.nbsp; A 2018 study by the city estimated that the citys tree canopy the area of the tree population as viewed from above at 28.4 to 31 per cent. The goal is to increase that canopy to 40 per cent.

In addition to planting new trees, the city has tough bylaws to protect existing ones including those on private property. Residents who want to cut down a tree on their land are often shocked to find out they cant do it. The city takes tree cutting so seriously that decisions on whether an individual tree can be cut down are often decided by the entire city council.

In a typical recent case, a homeowner wanted a Norway maple on his property removed because he said it could cause damage to his foundation wall, and because there was risk to an elderly neighbour who could slip on fallen leaves in autumn.

The citys Urban Forestry staff examined the tree and determined that it is botanically and structurally healthy. They also said there was no evidence the tree is associated with any leaking through or beneath the foundation wall. Tree roots are not physically capable of exerting the force required to lift or crack properly constructed and maintained foundation walls, said the Urban Forestry staff in a report. However, if property drainage has not been provided, heaving may occur as a result of freezing and thawing, creating space that tree roots may grow into.Waterproofing of the foundation, if not already done, would prevent roots from growing in any existing cracks or other openings in the foundation. The problem described here can typically be repaired without requiring tree removal.

As far as the slippery leaves were concerned, the report recommended that the homeowner rake them up. City council denied the request to remove the tree.

Another tricky application came from a family that wanted to remove a black walnut tree because the walnuts posed a risk of anaphylactic allergic reaction to the four-year-old child who lived there. A doctors note confirmed the seriousness of the allergy.

But the Urban Forestry staff denied the request, suggesting that physically collecting and removing the walnuts and educating those at risk would reduce the likelihood of exposure.

The decision was appealed and at city council, a motion was made to approve the removal despite the staff report. That vote resulted in an 11-11 tie, but since a majority was required, the motion failed. Council then voted to support the staff report and the walnut tree is still there.

Even when a request to cut down a tree is granted, its a costly process for the homeowners. Council recently agreed to let a homeowner cut down a city-owned tree on a city right of way to accommodate a new driveway entrance, but the property owner had to pay the city for the appraised value of the tree 3,809; pay the costs of removing the tree; and plant five replacement trees on the property, or pay cash-in-lieu of planting.

Why is Toronto so fixated on saving individual trees, when the city has more than 11.5 million of them? Despite the planting programs over the last decade, the 2018 report found that impervious land cover such as concrete or buildings increased by 1.4 per cent over the last decade.

The citys tree population has also taken some hits. An ice storm in 2013 took out many of them, and infections of the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer have also decimated the tree population in some areas.

Trees improve the quality of urban life and contribute greatly to our sense of community, says Urban Forestry in its reports. They help soften the hard lines of built form and surfaces in an urban setting.

Trees contribute to the overall character and quality of neighbourhoods. Studies suggest that social benefits such as crime reduction and neighbourhood cohesion can be attributed to the presence of trees.

From an economic standpoint, trees enhance property values. Mature trees can reduce the energy consumption of a home by lowering air conditioning costs in summer and protecting homes from the wind in winter.

The environmental benefits of trees include cleansing of air, noise and wind reduction and protection from ultraviolet radiation, says Urban Forestry. Trees reduce rainwater runoff thereby reducing soil erosion and lowering storm water management costs. They also contribute to moderation of temperature extremes and reduction of the urban heat island effect by providing shade during summer.

These benefits are worth an estimated 55 million per year.

Unlike grey infrastructure, the urban forest is always changing, growing, maturing and dying, says the report. Canopy cover and population size are not the whole story. Urban forest size, condition and distribution are factors in the canopy cover story; pest threats, natural mortality, invasive species impacts, development activities and climate change are realities effecting urban forest sustainability.


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