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Updated: Saturday, January 25, 2020

Tips for Designing a Great Home Office


Natural lighting is preferable in most cases, making a working area near a window ideal. In many instances, daylight hours are limited, so consider investing in a task light. Should it be impossible to set up a workspace near a window, there are light sources available that replicate natural light. When arranging lighting, remember that placing an overhead light directly above a computer screen or setting the screen opposite to a light source increases the glare and should be avoided. The office space should have ample lighting, while taking care to include the ability for the worker to control the lights intensity.

Equipment and Ergonomics

When picking out your office equipment, it is imperative that you focus on its function. For instance, you could choose a working table with nothing more than a lap drawer for supplies if you do not need more storage, or you might opt for a larger desk complete with drawers and space for storing files. It is recommended that you choose an office chair that supports the lower back, and keeps your elbows and knees at a 90-degree angle. Screens should be at eye level and arms length. There are plenty of desk organizers on which unattended tasks can be stored to prevent disorganized piles which impede a persons productivity.

You should choose office equipment that does not compromise on your overall safety and health. Serious long-term health problems can be avoided if you make your office space and equipment as ergonomic as possible right from the onset. Keeping in mind that you will be spending a lot of your time working, personalize your office space to what you would prefer and make it as friendly to your body as possible.

Minimize Distractions

Whether youre trying to study for the MCAT, taking an online course, or just working from home, privacy cannot be overemphasized. Its crucial that you are able retreat to a private area, preferably with a door, to minimize distractions and interruptions. Though headphones can be a temporary solution, continual use of headphones tends to have diminishing returns as time goes on. You can also achieve a sense of privacy by the erecting divider walls. To further cut down on distractions, consider installing low-noise fans and air filters, which are less noisy than most.

The Layout

One thing people often overlook is equipment cables. Consider talking to your office designer about integrating a way to hide cables that are not only an eyesore but also increase the likelihood of accidents. Adequate electrical outlets should also be included and the equipment layout left open for any alterations in the future. Ease of access to anything you will need as you work is essential. Should you be space-challenged, you could invest in all-in-one equipment to provide required functionality while occupying less space.

If youre running a business from home or using your home office for school and studying, make sure you make the space large enough to accommodate meetings with at least one other person.

When designing a home workspace, remember to work within your budget and purchase equipment that perfectly suits the size of your work space. Design the office area to reflect your >

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6 Best Reasons to Invest in Pre-Construction Condos

In regards to condo occupancy rates, there are nearly 2 million people in Canada who made a condo their new home in 2016. Due to the newfound demand for pre-construction condos in Canada, the number of construction projects in the country has also risen accordingly. Here, our focus will be on new condos for sale in North York, and why you should consider investing in pre-construction condos in Canada.

What is a condo?

A condo is a dwelling or building that has been divided or subdivided into multiple housing units. Each unit within the building is then sold off on an individual basis to individual investors or owners. Every owner within the condominium complex has a share of land ownership upon which the condo was erected.

Reasons to Invest in a Pre-Construction Condo

One of the chief benefits of investing in a pre-construction condo is that you will have an opportunity to invest less money initially, while also getting more for your money in the future. In other words, if you decide to invest in a condominium during the pre-construction phase, then you will be able to maximize your return on investment.

The purchase price for a pre-construction condo will be lower than the current price of a condo that has already been fully built. Once the pre-construction condo is finalized, you will be able to reap the benefits of your investment and patience rather quickly.nbsp;

While there is some risk involved in investing in a project that has yet to be finished, more often than not, the benefits mitigate any risks that are involved. Another advantage of investing in a pre-construction condo is that there is very little maintenance involved.

Of course, poor craftsmanship, which may involve cutting corners to cut costs, may force you to make repairs quickly, which is why it is important to perform the necessary due diligence to ensure that you are getting quality for your investment.

Instant equity is yet another benefit of investing in a pre-construction condo, as you will get the opportunity to enjoy instant equity as soon as you invest. That means that even before construction takes place once you have the required paperwork, the condo is as good as yours.

Furthermore, you can also enjoy some unique tax benefits by investing in a pre-construction condo. For example, did you know that only 50 of all capital gains are taxable in this country? You will be able to deduct quite a bit of your costs from your taxes, including but not limited to, unit depreciation, property taxes, and even mortgage interest.

You will also be able to enjoy an extended deposit structure by investing your hard-earned cash into a new pre-construction condo project. In other words, the deposit, which may range from 15 to 20, will usually be spread out. Also, it should be noted that you can own a pre-construction condo and not have to worry about it being shown on your credit bureau as well.nbsp;

Thanks in part to the extended deposit structure that is involved in pre-construction condo projects, you will have ample time to save your money. The time it will take to complete the project, which may take several years in some cases, will also allow you to save enough money to purchase without any financial issues on your end.

In addition, if you are worried that all of your money will be tied up into the initial purchase cost, then you can rest assured that you wont have to worry about investing in any renovations for quite some time. Given the fact that the condo is brand new, you likely wont have to worry about having to renovate the unit for at least a decade.

This is in stark contrast to many older condo units, some of which have been occupied for several decades. In the unlikely event that you do notice something wrong with the new unit, you can call the builders to notify them that something is structurally wrong. More often than not, your builders will be more than happy to rectify any structural issues free of charge.

Investing in a Pre-Construction Condo

As can be seen, there are many benefits to investing your money in a pre-construction condo in Canada. Given the fact that even a common townhouse can cost upwards of one million dollars in many parts of Ontario, more and more people have opted for the far more affordable solution, which is investing in a condo project instead.


Monica Benoit is a blogger in Toronto.nbsp;She is currently working as a community manager fornbsp;Your Condos. She has graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.

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5 Landscaping Tasks That Increase the Value of Your Home

You dont have to rip out everything and start over. Its easy enough to make some simple enhancements. A general rule of thumb is to spend 5 to 10 of the value of your home on landscaping improvements. You can reduce these costs by doing some of the work yourself.

Here are five landscaping trends sure to increase the value of your home.

1. Clean It Up

Over the years, our yards get overgrown. Like us, they need regular haircuts. The first task? Remove any dead or wilted trees and bushes and replace them with drought-resistant, native plants, or create a mulch bed in their place. Be sure to prune overgrown trees and shrubs, and cut away low branches. Remove old rusted metal edging and install new metal or plastic edging around areas where the grass meets rocks or mulch. Be sure to use rounded edging to keep pet paws safe.

2. Keep It Low Maintenance

You want a yard that works for you, not one youll have to spend hours working on. A few simple tips can make your yard easy to maintain.

Plant perennial flowers that will return every year.
Install a sprinkler system or automated soaker hoses.
Cover more areas with pavers or hardscape to cut down on mowing time.
Avoid messy trees that drop leaves, needles, and berries. Consider arborvitae trees that can grow up to 50 feet tall, need little pruning, and stay green year-round.

3. Grow a Privacy Fence

Watching your neighbors parade around their backyard in their pajamas on a Saturday morning is less than ideal. Create some privacy by planting trees or shrubs that keep your views inside your yard. Choose native plants within your plant hardiness zone that are easier to maintain and need less water. Buy bigger plants rather than waiting for the smaller ones to mature enough to create a privacy fence. This way youll need fewer plants and save time digging in the yard. Pro tip: Vary the types of plants to avoid losing them all to the same type of disease or pest. Stagger different kinds of plantings, such as deciduous shrubs, evergreens, and perennial grasses, in small groupings to create a natural privacy fence. For the prospective buyer, variety offers attractive sightlines and a greater variety of heights and colors.

4. Bring Your Indoors Outside

Once youve established some privacy, youre ready to create an outdoor oasis. If your budget allows, install an outdoor kitchen with a built-in grill, refrigerator, and a TV to help keep the party going into the backyard. Add comfortable seating with fluffy cushions for cozying up to a good book on a warm, sunny day. Close in your outdoor space in a gazebo or pergola, which serves to frame the open-air room while offering shade. Adding outdoor-rated carpet and throw pillows will create an inviting indoor feeling outside, perfect for entertaining on a Saturday evening or for sipping coffee on a Sunday morning.

5. Create a Focal Point

Your yard is like any room inside your home. Consider a focal point that immediately draws the eye. A koi pond, Zen garden, fountain, or an outdoor fireplace are also great gathering places for guests.nbsp;

Fashioning your backyard and lawn into an appealing and well-kept retreat expands the "liveable" space in your home. Think of it as an investment. Youre adding an extra room to your home, without adding additional walls. Creating a greener, more trendy landscape will pay off when its time to sell, by putting more green in your pocket.

Rose Stanford is a former real estate agent who enjoys fixing up and staging older homes. Her specialty is renovating backyards and patios.

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Why The Seating Arrangement At HOA Meetings Is So Important

There are lessons to be learned from this age-old experience that can be applied to homeowner associations. HOAs have both Board and Homeowner Meetings and both formats demand very different seating considerations.

Board meetings are designed to transact regular business for the care and welfare of often millions of dollars of community assets. As such, they should be held at places and times conducive to business. Meetings held in someones home prove challenging.

At Home Board Meetings. Always remember that owners are entitled to attend Board meetings as an audience, not participants in the discussion or voting. There should be adequate seating for a reasonable number of them. If meetings are held in tiny quarters with room only for the Board, guests are effectively shut out and the impression is that they arent welcome. Seek the most spacious home available to accommodate both Board and guests.

Avoid using living rooms except for guest seating. Its very difficult to juggle papers or take notes while sitting in a Lazy Boy. Meetings should be held at a table large enough to spread out agendas, reports and other papers without having to continually shuffle the stack. If using a kitchen table, remove everything except meeting items. Turn off home and cell phones during the meeting since the ringing always disrupts the discussion and pulls someone away from the business at hand.

If there is a table head, the board president should sit there and direct the meeting. The head of the table is the historical place of authority and there is no reason to buck tradition. The secretary taking minutes should sit at the opposite end of the table so all directors can be more easily seen and heard. Guests should not sit at the meeting table since this is an invitation to actively participate in the business.

Avoid the temptation to have the Board face the guests as a "panel". This seating format also invites participation from the guests and makes it difficult for the Board to talk amongst itself.

Formal Board Meetings. Ideally, the Board should meet at a location that is designed for meetings. Basics include a large conference table, good lighting, bathrooms, temperature control and room for guests. If none exists in your association, seek out meeting rooms in area community centers, libraries and churches. They may be closer and cheaper than you think. There are a number of advantages to moving "out of the kitchen" into a formal meeting place. The distraction potential is enormously reduced: no phones, food, TV, kids, dogs and neighbors. The business meeting takes on a true "business" nature. Folks are less likely to linger in this environment or get into protracted discussions. As with home meetings, seating should be adequate for both Board and guests.

Annual HOA Meetings. These meetings should be carefully choreographed. Always hold them in a formal meeting facility large enough to accommodate all owners. Owners normally sit gallery >

Meeting seating is critical when it comes to getting things accomplished efficiently. Set your sites for successful meetings and, dont forget to check your swords at the door.

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6 Things That Happen When You Become a Homeowner

You learn what pride of ownership means

You may take pride in your car and your clothes and other minor possessions, but nothing compares to the feeling of being a homeowner. Buying your first place is an accomplishment, and you get to come home to that accomplishment every day.nbsp;

Youll have more peace of mind

Once you have moved into your new home, unpacked, and taken a breath, youll have that momentthat moment where you realize, This is mine. Thankfully, that moment is repeated regularly. Youll have it when you look at your countertops and realize you can redo them any way you want. And when you decide to get a dog and dont have to ask permission. And when you want to paint your wallsany color you choose.

Youll obsess over paint colors

Speaking of paint colors, get ready to spend hour after hour at Home Depot gathering dozens and dozens of paint chips. Even if you just want a fresh coat of white on the walls, its easier said than done. There are hundreds and hundreds of white paints available, and most of them are considered white, saidnbsp;The Spruce. This makes choosing a plain white paint color nearly impossible.nbsp;

You learn skills youd never imagine

Soon you may be able to snake a toilet, tile a backsplash, and refinish your floors. Yes, there are people you can hire for these tasks, and all the others youll want and need to do in your home over the years, but it can be so much more satisfyingand cost-effectivewhen you do it yourself.

If youre on a strict budget after buying your first home, youll likely also have to learn how to care for your lawn. Get those edging skills down

You start prioritizing differently

Oooh, that skirt is so cute. But if you buy it, youll want the shirt and the jacket and the boots, and the jewelry, and, before you know it, youve spent half the money it would take to update your fireplace.

You start investing in yourself

When you put money and sweat equity into your home, youre impacting its value. Thats an investment in your home, but its also an investment in you and your future.nbsp;

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3 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home in Winter

However, you need to take several key factors into consideration when home shopping during the holiday season or after. Here are three tips that will help you pick the right house and avoid serious problems in the future.nbsp;

1. Find Issues Beneath the Snow and Ice with a Home Inspectionnbsp;

Image Source: Pixabaynbsp;

A blanket of snow or ice on a home can hide serious problems, which is why its vital that you schedule a professional home inspection before you make any solid commitments. You might not be a home expert, so checking the place out with a naked eye wont work.nbsp;

A professional home inspector will provide you with the opportunity to address any problems before closing on the house - or steer you away from a bad house enti>

  • Nearly 20 percent of home inspectors found problems with the roofnbsp;
  • 18.7 percent found at least one issue with the electrical systemnbsp;
  • 18.4 percent found problems with the windows
  • 13.6 percent discovered issues with the plumbing systemnbsp;
  • 12.2 percent found issues with the water heater

Whether you use the inspection as a contingency in your contract or as a sign that the home isnt for you, its certainly worth having that information as you make your big decision.nbsp;

2. Note Signs That Could Indicate Heating/Insulation Problemsnbsp;

Image Source: Unsplash

One good thing about home shopping during the winter months is that you can easily determine how well a home is retaining its heat - or how poorly.nbsp;

For example, if you note long icicles hanging from the edge of a roof, it could be a sign that the roof isnt properly insulated. Your roof is losing heat, which melts the snow and ice above, causing icicles to form. Similarly, if you feel cold air streaming in through closed windows or cracks in shut doors, you know that youre looking at a home that needs some work.nbsp;

Even if the home does seem to have proper installation, take note of its warmth and how updated its heating system is. You dont want to move in only to find out you need an enti>

The good news is you dont have to be an expert when examining a homes heating system. However, youll definitely want to check out a comprehensive furnace guide with information on inspections and replacements.nbsp;

3. Look for Signs of Household Pests

Image Source: Pixabay

Pests problems can be especially bad in the winter. As the weather gets colder, critters like mice, bats, racoons, snakes, and insects can sneak indoors to stay warm. In fact, rodents alone invade an estimated 21 million American homes every winter according to the National Pest Management Association.

This is why its vital that you take a good look at the basement and attic of the home.nbsp;

Droppings, small holes in the walls, and smells can be surface level indicators of pest problems. However, you need to get a pest control service in the house to look for more discreet signs of infestations.nbsp;

Pest control can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the severity of the infestation. Even if there are no immediate signs of problems, an expert will be able to tell you if the home has any vulnerabilities that could open the door for unwanted pests in the future.nbsp;

Like we said, winter can be a good time to buy a home. Theres less competition with other buyers and sellers can be more motivated to strike a bargain.nbsp;

However, dont let those opportunities steer you away from doing due diligence on your inspections of the house. Everything from the heating and plumbing systems should be thoroughly examined for signs of weakness - or expensive repairs.nbsp;

As long as you check everything out before signing any contracts, you should be in good shape to purchase a great home during the winter months, even with snow and ice plaguing the marketnbsp;

Amy McConaghy is >

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An Effective Home Listing Can Get Your Place Sold

You may not have thought much about your real estate listing, but its a critical piece of the home-selling pie. Getting it wrong may not necessarily cost you a sale if your home is well-priced, located in a hot area, and you have great listing photos. But it could help you attract the right buyers if done well.

If youre working with a good, experienced real estate agent, they are probably already following these tips and, if not, it might be time for another agent. Which brings us to our first tip:

Listen to your real estate agent

There are numerous applications for this, but, the most important oneand one that has the biggest potential to attract or repel potential buyersis your listing price. Its common practice for sellers to disagree on the price of their home. No one want to sell for less than they think their home is worth or what they think they can get.nbsp;

Trusting in your agents pricing strategy is important. Dont be surprised if the recommended price comes back with a 9 in it. There is a psychology to this.nbsp;

When cruising the aisles at the grocery store, ever notice how many prices end in 99s? Thats no accident. This strategy is callednbsp;charm pricingnbsp;and >

nbsp;The other reason is more practical. If your buyer has to stay under 450,000 for their home purchase, your place will show up in their search.

Watch your words

Cozy means small. Assume your buyeror your buyers agenthas looked at the square footage. You dont need to remind them your house is the size of a shoebox. Charming could means lots of thingsin need of updates, probably not done to the buyers taste, or, the kiss of death, interesting. A term like great potential will likely make the buyer think a deal can be had because the home is in need of a serious makeover.

Carefully choose which features to mention

Some could be more valuable than others. Mentioning certain home featuresnbsp;like professional appliances, wine cellar, steam shower and waterfall countertop can boost sales prices from 24 to 34, saidnbsp;SFGate.

Think about the area

It may turn out that your buyer is hyperlocal, but many experts advise that sellers focus on out-of-area prospects. Even a buyer from 10 minutes away many not be aware that there are 12 community parks, 20 miles of trails, and four museums in the area.nbsp;

Be creative

Especially if youre in a market with a lot of listings in your price range, its important for your listing to stand out. Look at typical real estate ads and you will notice they tend to be similar and boring, said SFGate. How would you react if you read an ad among 24 others that is in capital letters and says, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? 12 Acres of Wooded Land for HOW MUCH? If you were looking for raw land, would you click on it?nbsp;

Write an effective headline

Your house has to make a great first impression to attract buyers, and so does your listing. This isnt a time to be boring.

Check for errors

Every couple weeks or so we see a listing with a glaring error in the price of a home for sale such as one that makes a 300,000 home look like its listed for 3,000 or even 3,000,000. And thats not the only easy mistake to make.nbsp;

For example, if your house is listed on Polar Lane when it is actually on Poplar, your place may never be found, even if it is turnkey and well priced, said thenbsp;Los Angeles Times. The same holds true if the school district is incorrect, the ZIP Code is wrong, the number of bedrooms is misstated or the map coordinates are inaccurate.nbsp;

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Another Reason to Be Careful of Zillow

But, theres another reason real estate agents, buyers, and sellers are aggravated with Zillow. Agents are checking their personal listings on Zillows site and finding their names grouped with several other agents namesnone of whom have a connection to the home. In some cases, these agents may not know they appear on that particular listing, and they might not even be familiar with the home, which means they wont have the ability to speak to its details or selling points.

Welcome to what some call the pay-to-play world of Zillow, which charges agents a premium to be named on listings that are not their own, said thenbsp;Miami Herald. "Zillow calls it the premier broker program, by which agents pay a fee to secure leads from people inquiring about houses in certain ZIP codes. According to the company website, when a shopper makes an inquiry through Zillow or the Zillow-owned site Trulia, the company confirms that the prospect is ready to speak with an agent. If so, it hands the would-be client off to the premier agentas opposed to the listing agent.

Having first crack at this buyer mean the Zillow Premier agent can show the home, even though its not their listing, and also redirect the buyer to other listingsprobably his or her own listings first. Now, the listing agent has lost a potential sale, as well as a potential new client."

Zillow calls this an incredible lead generator for agentsand, not surprisingly given the companys excitement about this program, it generates a huge amount of revenue for them. The company reportedly refused to discontinue the practice despite the prodding of numerous Realtors.nbsp;

So what can buyers and sellers do as a workaround?

What buyers can do to protect themselves

Pay close attention to the listing. When buyers click on a listing, they have no idea they are not going to get the listing agent, Kat Palmiotti of Grand Lux Realty in Monroe, New York, told the Herald. Sometimes they get contacted by 10 different agents. It can be frustrating to a buyer.

If the listing agent is identified and youre planning to reach out, contact him or her as opposed to the other agents listed. That way you can assure youre working with the individual who not only secured the listing fair and square, but who also knows all about the home.nbsp;

There may be important details about the homes construction, floorplan, or features that an unaffiliated agent cant provide. In some cases, premier agents may not even be located in the areas where the home is locatedanother reason to make sure youre working with the listing agent.nbsp;

What sellers can do to protect themselvesnbsp;

Talk to your agent about Homesnap. Homesnap started out as anbsp;consumer-facing appnbsp;for displaying information about local homes by taking a photo three years ago, saidnbsp;TechCrunch, and has grown into a mega portal used by real estate firms and multiple listing services across the country.

Among other things, Homesnaps technology allows you to take a photo with your mobile device of any house and instantly be shown all its pertinent details: size, number of bedrooms and baths, property taxes, school district, asking price if its for sale and even its estimated value if its not, said the Herald. The idea is to give buyers and sellers a better online search experience than the one provided by companies such as Zillow, where agents spend beaucoup bucks promoting their listings.

Homesnap also sorts listings according to the users search data instead of clouding them with featured or paid listing.

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2020Hindsight or Foresight?

January 2020 is the official forward-thinking month since it starts the calendar year and, this year, a new decade.

Januarys annual barrage of forward-looking media, business, and social media pundit prognoses generates a wide range of business and online reflections on opportunity and risk in 2020.

If you dont consider January the start of your business cycle or youre on vacation this month, these forward-focused ideas may receive little or no consideration by you.

Where and when do you get your inspiration for the annual fresh start that keeps us on our toes against competition and in tune with target prospects and clients?

  • How effective are you at forecasting and goal setting?
    How much do you >
  • Are you repeating an annual habit or do you have proof that this is the best you can do year over year?
    Do you use the same business forecasting methods each year or search out new analytical approaches and data resources to refresh your methods? How effective is your decision making? For instance, do you react more quickly to avoid loss than you do to gain advantage? Do you research ways to maintain status quo or are you continually on the lookout for ways to improve various aspects of your prospecting and client service? What did you learn in 2019 that you intend to put into action in 2020?
  • Will you uncover significant opportunities and >
    Looking back over your real estate career, which driving forces have moved you forward and helped you overcome risk? Foresights anticipation of achievable opportunity can be exhilarating and translates into action and results. If only Id realizations in hindsight are frustrating acknowledgments of loss that can undermine confidence in the future. Stay alert in 2020. This year is shaping up to be full of distractions which can mask opportunity and risk. Will you anticipate opportunity or bemoan losses in hindsight?

Learning from the mistakes of others rather than making expensive or time-wasting mistakes yourself can make a lot of sense. Consider the context, process, and content similarities and differences between your situation and thoseincluding winnerswho you want to learn from:

  • Context: Economic Sustainability

  • Use hindsightwhich is after-the-fact clear visionto explore the financial failings of others and what made them vulnerable: what they ignored, what they underestimated, what they overlooked. A false sense of security or the too big to fail confidence that is common with continued success often leads to poor judgement.

    The occurrence of previously-impossible big financial failures and the economic roller coaster of the last decade should have taught us that the impossible does happen in this globally-interconnected world. Yet, it is surprising how often the obvious is overlooked. Ignoring increasing financial vulnerability is a common error. What are you overlooking? What could sneak up on you or your target market?

    Have you crunched the numbers so you know exactly where you stand if the market or interest rates turn against you or your target prospects and clients? Hoping nothing bad happens is not a strategy. Wait until something negative occurs and there may not be enough time for corrective solutions to kick in. Searching out ways to cut costs, expand into new niches or services, and earn additional income before a problem arises are strategies.

  • Process: Get Everyone On-side

  • Digital transformation has changed the way we do many things. A number of businesses and industries have been dramatically transformed while others have faded from view. How has the sales process you base sustainability of your practice or brokerage on weathered the shift to online commerce?

    Change is escalating. What do you believe is next for real estate and your sales process? Online shopping will continue to redefine the buying experience for purchasers and the selling experience for sellers.

    Buyers and sellers are often quoted saying that they feel their interests are at cross purposes with commission-intent real estate professionals. Strengthen common purpose to ensure prospects and clients connect their success with your services. That is, they understand that without you they cannot accomplish as much and certainly not all they want to. Start by explaining exactly how you contribute to success in the process of home buying and selling instead of me>

  • Content: Keep the Facts Straight

  • Perceptions distract us from reality. Real estate buyers and sellers are encouraged to concentrate on glorified keeping up with the Jones perceptions of economic value and modern interior design instead of learning the realities of financial return, continuous-upgrade maintenance, and design functionality.

    To acquire, preserve, and build home equity, buyers and sellers benefit from learning to analyze all that goes on around them. The increase in internet searches demonstrates that buyers search for content to make themselves smarter and sellers search for content to ensure theyre smarter sellers. Unfortunately, finding accurate, >

    My personal wish for you in 2020 is that you continue to move Onward amp; Upwardthose are the directions that really matter

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    Why Do Lenders Sell Loans?

    Gone are the days when a mortgage company or a bank would pull money out of its vault in order to finance the purchase of a new home. Instead, lenders operate from a line of credit. When a new mortgage is approved and ready to fund, lenders tap into that line of credit. After the loan has funded, it can then sell the loan to a third party. Selling the loan replenishes the line of credit so the lender can continue making more home loans. But who does the lender sell to?

    Most loans today end up being owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. When a lender approves a loan using standards issued by Fannie or Freddie, the loan conforms to these established guidelines and is eligible for sale. But what might strike some is that monthly payments arent made to Fannie or Freddie. Instead, its made out to another mortgage company, or more appropriately, a mortgage servicer.

    A mortgage servicer is typically a division within a mortgage company or bank that gets paid a fee for handling the monthly payments on a loan. Each month, when a borrower writes a check to the mortgage company, the funds first go to the servicer and later transferred to Fannie or Freddie.

    Fannie and Freddie play a crucial role in the mortgage industry when buying home loans. Without the ability to sell a loan, mortgage lending would falter. It would mean rates and fees would be higher. Down payment requirements more stringent and overall mortgages would be much more difficult to qualify for. By approving a conforming loan, it lets the lender know the loan is eligible for sale, sells the loan and continues making still more home loans.nbsp;

    Loans can be sold individually or in bulk. An individual sale is less common but still a practice. Instead, lenders commit to selling a certain amount of loans to Fannie or Freddie in advance. A lender might commit 50 million in home loans during a specific period of time to Fannie Mae, proceed to process, approve and fund those loans, later transferring the 50 million in funded mortgages to Fannie. At that point, the process starts again.

    The buying and selling of mortgages in this secondary mortgage market provide needed liquidity in the mortgage industry. Without being able to offload mortgages, for a profit, the mortgage industry and real estate in general would suffer greatly. A goodbye letter is a sign of a healthy mortgage market.

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    Homeowner Associations And Their Budgets

    Diamonds in the Rough

    Many homeowner associations find it difficult to hold the line on expenses. Inflation erodes endlessly increasing budgets and members scream for >

    Insurance. Raise the deductible and reduce the annual premium. Create a line item in your Reserve Study with a life of three years called "Insurance Deductible" equal to your deductible. If there is no claim during the three year period, the money is saved.

    Pools. Check temperature and pump cycle times and adjust for savings. Swimmers may not notice a two degree drop in temperature, but lower temperatures significantly decrease the heating bill.

    Lighting. Convert to high lumen-low energy lighting. The conversion expense is usually paid back within only one to two years due to reduced power and labor costs.

    Distributing Information. Many meeting notices and information can be distributed to residents by way of flyer boxes like the ones used by real estate agents. Even better, distribute information by email for nothing.

    Have an HOA Website. Enjoy HUGE communication savings with your own HOA website. Post important information like the governing documents, newsletters, meeting minutes and rules. Use email for maintenance and information requests so the information is moved quickly to the right person with a date stamped record. Poll your members on important issues or proposed policies. Notify them of meetings and other events. An HOA website is probably the best move your HOA can make to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

    Preventive Maintenance. Catch problems when they are small enough to resolve cheaply by regular property checklist inspections. Of particular importance:

    • Carpet Cleaning: Professionally clean common area carpet at least once a year to prolong its life.
    • Gutters amp; Downspouts: Clean at least annually prior to winter or rainy season; clean out underground drains as needed.
    • Paint: Use only the highest quality paint suitable for the application for maximum performance and durability.
    • Roofs: Inspect and clean annually prior to winter or rainy season; look for obvious problems like missing shingles, breaks in the membrane; contract with a roofing contractor to perform this function automatically prior to winter.
    • Sidewalks: Inspect annually for tripping hazards; grind down or remove and repour.
    • Trees: Prune trees every 3-5 years to eliminate deadwood, enhance shaping and identify treatable diseases and pests.

    Handyman Services. For HOAs that cant afford a full time maintenance person, contract with a licensed, bonded and insured handyman who can perform a monthly "laundry list" of small repairs. Combine tasks to provide a full days work.

    Wood Fences. Use a stain rather than paint since stain wont peel and requires less frequent maintenance. For cedar amp; redwood: Leave unpainted to age naturally. No stain, paint or sealer required. Use steel pipe instead of wood fence posts that dont rot.

    Paint Supplies. Discuss special pricing options with local paint supply companies. If your HOA is large enough, it may qualify for contractor pricing.

    Sidewalk Repair. Use a grinding service to repair walkway uplifts and tripping hazards instead of the replacing the concrete.

    Water Usage - Exterior

    • Install a sprinkler system with a rain sensor to eliminate unnecessary cycles.
    • Early morning sprinkling reduces water loss from evaporation.
    • Adjust sprinkler heads frequently so water lands on the vegetation, not the paving.
    • Plant native and drought tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Group plants together based on similar water needs.

    As a jeweler carefully examines and sorts his gem stock, consider the ways your homeowner association spends its money. Cut and polish those items that arent shining like they should. If you look closely, you will indeed find diamonds in the rough.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Sure-Fire Ways to Enhance the Value of Your Home


    The curb appeal of your home is in straight connection with the perceived value of the home. Its important to remember that the value of your home will be determined by the buying market. For this reason, youll want to ensure that your home looks amazing. Curb appeal is an area that you simply cant ignore. The outside of your home is the first glimpse that people get of your house from a listing and when driving up for a showing. You want to impress them at first sight. Investing your money in different landscaping features can provide a great return on your investment. Features can include trees, shrubs, flowers, fountains, fences, benches, ambient lighting, and so forth.

    Energy-Efficient Features

    Aside from the mortgage payment, one of the most expensive parts of owning a home is paying the electricity bill. This holds especially true in the dead of winter and drought of summer. To help keep energy levels low, there are various energy-efficient features that can be installed throughout your home. Solar panels tend to be some of the first features that most people think of when they hear about cutting energy costs. By producing your own energy, you can avoid the high costs of paying your utility company each month. Heat pumps are another great way to majorly reduce your heating and cooling costs. Even adding energy-efficient kitchen appliances can be a great idea to help lower the electric bill each month.

    Replace Old Windows

    Older windows in your home can be a big avoidance of potential homebuyers. They know that windows can be somewhat costly to fix and will avoid buying homes that will need a lot of windows replaced. You can fix this problem by installing new windows in your home. These newer windows will be more energy-efficient and make your energy bills much cheaper. According to EnergyStar, the average homeowner can enjoy savings of up to 500 per year in energy costs just by installing new windows. Also, by installing new windows, it can modernize the look of the home which is a big plus for potential buyers.

    Convert Extra Space Into Rooms

    One of the biggest ways to improve the value of a home is to add another bathroom or bedroom. While not all homeowners have the space to do so, it can be advantageous for those who do. Look for those spare rooms that can be converted. Even an attic space that is tall enough to be converted into a bedroom can drastically improve the value of your home. If you have a lot of open basement space, consider installing a downstairs bathroom and bedroom. The more bedrooms and bathrooms you can install, the higher the value increase for your home.

    Update The Kitchen

    The two most popular rooms in a home are the bathroom and the kitchen. The kitchen is one that is highly desired to be modernized. This includes new appliances, beautiful countertops, and more modern features. If youre going to be investing your money in updating any room of your home, you should opt for the kitchen first. This will bring you the biggest return on your investment.

    Increasing the value of your home can be done through many different methods. The above are just some of the most popular methods that are used by homeowners. Its always a good idea to consider the return on investment that youll get from any home improvement that you intend to do. This will ensure that you get your money back when you go to resell your home in the future.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Can a Board Control The Tenant Approval Process From Owners?

    Answer: The board has no direct legal authority over renters. The board has the right to require that all rental agreements are subject to the HOAs rules and regulations and that the landlord be responsible for enforcing renter violations. If the landlord fails to enforce the HOA rules on his tenants, the board can invoke whatever penalty the written policy describes as if he violated the rule himself.

    The board does not have the authority to screen renters or prospective purchasers unless there is specific authority to do so in the governing documents very rare. Even if that authority exists, the board needs to be very careful not to violate federal fair housing laws which prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, >

    Question: The directors of our board serve as unpaid volunteers. Its difficult to get others to volunteer for these positions, so the current board has been there for years. Are there any rules or guidelines for compensating board members?

    Answer: Most governing documents prohibit compensation for the board and committees. Even if not prohibited, its strongly recommended not to due to an unavoidable conflict of interest.

    While volunteer work can be taxing at times, the "volunteer" aspect is extremely important to the outcome. Once the board is paid, outcomes will change and not necessarily for the better. Self compensation has a way of growing over time. If the board needs help to run the HOA, it should hire a management company and have all members share in the cost.

    Question: Our bylaws state that if an owner wishes to rent their unit, they must first obtain written permission from the board. We have two units that, as it turns out, are unauthorized rental units. What is the best way to proceed?

    Answer: A local title insurance company can provide you the names and mailing addresses of the unit owners of record so you can inform them of the illegal rentals. But since the tenants have probably already moved in, Im not sure what you can do to the owners now other than threaten legal action. The tenants probably have a written leases and are protected under state Landlord Tenant law.

    If the board feels strongly about controlling rentals, there needs to be a comprehensive Rental Policy enacted which outlines the procedure for getting permission, the penalty for violation and an appeal process. See Resolution Process section for suggested formatting. Restricting rentals is a highly controversial issue in HOAs and the board should never adopt any policy that has not been thoroughly discussed and supported by a large majority of the members. To ensure it complies with state and federal fair housing laws, run any proposed policy passed a knowledge HOA attorney.

    Question: The board recently had a beautiful 20 year old flowering tree cut down behind my unit and never informed anyone of the plan. When I inquired about it, I was told that it blocked a sprinkler head. It seems to me that sprinkler heads are easy to move but growing trees are not. Im distressed about this.

    Answer: From what you describe, the board acted rashly. Tree removal is a highly political issue. Unless there is immediate danger posed like with storm damage, residents especially those directly impacted should always be informed and given a chance for input.

    While the board does have the authority to make tree removal decisions, this board needs a big lesson in diplomacy and common sense. If the board ramrods over this issue, what other issues are being ramrodded through.

    There are several things you can do.

  • Get a petition signed by as many unit owners as possible. The petition should state that non-emergency tree removals must be noticed to all owners within, say, 300 feet and they must be given 30 days to give input prior to the board finalizing a decision. Since this approach is enti>
  • Offer to form and serve on a Grounds Committee. The board can then assign special landscaping and tree issues to the committee for review and recommendations.
  • Run for the board. If successful, you can bring common sense to the board and hopefully derail rash decisions like this one.
  • For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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    Five Tips for Choosing the Right Estate Agent

    An estate agent should be >

    If youre on the lookout for an estate agent, here are some tips to help you make the right choice:

    1. Accreditation and affiliation

    Estate agents have to get a real estate license that entitles them to work in the industry. Buyers and sellers should make sure that the estate agent has all the necessary qualifications.

    Rules and regulations governing the sale of real estate may change. A good estate agent should be able to prove that theyve attended the necessary training to keep abreast of the latest developments.

    A quick online check can establish if an estate agent is affiliated to an established property agency. Working through an agency with a proven track record and wider reach will ensure you more extensive exposure to buyers and sellers.

    2. Specialization

    Many estate agents specialize in selling certain types of properties. Selling condos is a different ballgame from selling homes in the suburbs. If youre selling or you know the exact kind of home youre looking to buy, check what experience the estate agent has in the field.

    An estate agent who works in a smaller niche is better able to get you what you want, whether its the right buyer or the right home to buy. It eliminates time wasted visiting homes that dont suit your needs because theyre all that this estate agent has on their books.

    3. Personality

    A successful estate agent is generally an outgoing person. They need to have a passion for what theyre doing. Whether youre buying or selling, you want a driven agent who will secure you the best deal possible.

    A less than enthusiastic agent doesnt make much of an impression on either buyers or sellers. Thats not to say the estate agent should be loud and overbearing. There will be something in their personality that will tell you they have the confidence and commitment to get the job done.

    4. After-sales service

    When you meet with an estate agent for the first time, get a feel for how committed they are to the post-sale process. Buying or selling a property is complicated and filled with plenty of technicalities youre unlikely to be aware of.

    A good estate agent wont only be talking about the sale and their cut of the proceeds. Theyll also be talking to you about what happens after the sale is completed.

    There is a lot of legal paperwork for both the buyer and seller to sign. An estate agent should be prepared to assist you every step of the way to make sure the sale doesnt fall through. Their commission depends on it.

    5. Transparency

    An estate agents track record shouldnt be shrouded in mystery. A reputable estate agent can show potential clients how many homes for which theyve brokered sales. A proven track record is convincing.

    Another aspect of transparency comes to money. An estate agent must explain how the house is valued and what determines the selling price. They should also be clear on how much commission theyll earn.

    A seller must know precisely how much money theyre going to get. Equally, a buyer must know what the house will cost including legal fees to make sure its within their budget.

    Full Story >

    3 Renovations That Will Help Get Your Home Sold

    You might not want to think about making renovations to your house because youre spending money on a place youre no longer going to live, which means you wont even be able to enjoy the renovations But heres why you should re-think that: Smart renovations can actually help get your home sold quickly and for a higher sales price. Here are three to concentrate on.

    Quartz countertopsnbsp;

    Quartz became the preferred choice in countertops several years ago andnbsp;Elle Decornbsp;may have dealt granite the final death knell by putting it on their design trends that are out list for 2020. Granite countertops are a thing of the past, Lonni Paul ofnbsp;Lonni Paul Designnbsp;told them. Quartz is a great alternative to granite or marble because of its durability and ease of maintenance. The new >

    Putting a couple thousand dollars into your countertops to get rid of granite or, even worse, laminate, can be a great investment that gets your home noticed. You may not recoup 100 of your dollars, but it may be well worth it to get your home sold without dropping your price.

    If the countertops look dated, are stained or are in poor general condition, they can be a deterrent to selling your home, saidnbsp;Countertop Guides. Anytime a potential buyer walking through your home sees an expensive item that needs to benbsp;fixed or replaced, they make a mental note of it. If those negative marks add up too high, your home wont be considered a good choice for them. If your countertops are ugly or in bad shape, you might not get all your money back in resale value, but they may make your home more acceptable to more buyers, and that is worth a lot.

    The master shower

    A cave-like shower or one with chipped or dingy tile or a corroded door isnt going to attract buyers. In fact, the idea that buyers will have to remodel this critical element could be such a turnoff that they might just turn around and leave.nbsp;

    Cabinets can be repainted and lighting easily swapped out, but the shower is a bigger undertaking, and one that can cost big dollars, depending on what youre looking to do. Knowing you likely wont make all your money back could also give you pause, but, your shiny new shower could get your home sold.nbsp;

    Quite simply, bathroom remodels wont necessarily recoup at resale everything you spent to update it, but they are one of the higher return projects you can do, saidnbsp;HomeLight. Anecdotally, a brand new bathroom also helps inspire offers on your house, and small, inexpensive updates to this space could help younbsp;fetch 2-3 more for your house."


    Bright red walls, dirty white walls, deep purple walls. What do they have in common? They could all cost you a sale.

    Painting your home beforenbsp;putting it up for sale can be critical to selling it faster and for a better price, says Dan DiClerico, a smart home expert for HomeAdvisor, a home improvement platform, in New York City, according tonbsp;USA Today. While it varies a lot, we estimate that fresh paint adds 1nbsp;to 3 to a homes final sale price, he says. On a 300,000 home, that means you could be getting 3,000 to as much as 9,000 more.

    You dont have to paint every inch of the place, inside and out. Experts recommends focusing on high-traffic and first-impression areas such as the kitchen, the bathrooms and the foyer.

    As for colortalk to your real estate agent to get recommendations. While most experts suggest neutral colors to appeal to the largest possible buyer pool, there may be specific areas that could benefit from something richer, darker, or more dramatic.

    Full Story >

    20 Down Payment Saving Tips for 2020

    Many renters assume theyll never be able to buy a house for this reason. They spend so much money month to month, there is little or nothing to put away. And the idea of coming up with tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment seems impossible.nbsp;

    But heres the reality: The current national median home price is 257,000, and 3.5 of thatthe minimum amount needed for an FHA loanis just under 9,000. Does that seem more doable?nbsp;

    The truth is that there are probably a bunch of cuts you can make to your current budget to come up with that kind of cash. Here are 20 ideas for 2020.

    Set a frugal but realistic budget

    Do you know how much you spend every month on bills, necessities, and incidentals? Many people dont. Having a debit card makes it easy to spend, spend, spend, and, often, a lot of what is being purchased is unnecessary, frivolous, and counterintuitive to your goals if youre looking to buy a home.nbsp;

    Setting a budget is key. But it has to be a realistic budget so you can stick to it. We lovenbsp;, a free website from the makers of Quickbooks, that can help you set up a budget and track your spending.

    Cut the cord

    The average cable or satellite user spends a little over 100 a month on their TV bill, which means canceling their service could save them over 1200 annually. But many pay TV defectors will likely be looking for an alternative way to watch their favorite programs, saidnbsp;Mental Floss. Assuming youre one of the 83 percent of consumers who pays for both TV and internet, switching to a web-based service shouldnt be too expensive. Annbsp;Amazon Primenbsp;plan costs 99 a year, a basicnbsp;Netflixnbsp;subscription costs 132, andnbsp;Hulunbsp;costs 96. Even if you spring for all three choices, youll still only be paying 327 annually, saving you about 875 if youre a former cable subscriber.

    Work out at home

    Go for a run, jump rope, do some planks, or take a fitness >

    Pause your retirement savings

    If youre already saving for retirement, this might feel really weird, saidnbsp;Dave Ramsey. After all, Dave normally recommends you start investing 15 of your household income for retirement right after getting your emergency fund in place. But if youre planning on buying a house in the near future, hold off on your retirement savings and redirect those funds toward your down payment. Its temporary, so dont worry. Once youre sipping coffee in your new breakfast nook, you can get right back to that 15 toward your retirement goal. Think of it like this: If youre currently investing 500 a month into 401ks and IRAs, and instead, you put that toward your down payment savings, you could save around 12,000 in two years. Thats a big boost to your savings timelinenbsp;

    Make your lattes at home

    This has been a hotly contested topic, with many financial experts insisting that millennials are throwing their money away on expensive coffee drinks and millennials countering that they should be able to spend their money any way they want. Shawn M. Carter wrote about this topic fornbsp;CNBCnbsp;and admitted that he had spent 2,300 at Starbucks in one yearnbsp;

    Ditch the dry cleaning

    Save hundreds of dollars per month with a few dry cleaning tricks. There is anbsp;difference between dry clean and dry clean only, saidnbsp;Capitol Hill >

    Go generic

    Simply switching from name brands to generics at the grocery stereo can save you 160 per month, per Dave Ramsey.nbsp;

    Cook at homenbsp;

    According to meal planning servicenbsp;Wellio, You can save around 16 per meal by cooking at home, saidnbsp;MyDomaine. That means if you cook just one meal at home a week that you would normally buy from a restaurant, you could save 832 a year. Extrapolate those savings out over multiple nights and you could have your down payment in no time

    Make your lunch

    Imagine all the money you could save if you were also bringing your lunch to work Even if you just weave in a day or two a week, you could save 150 a month or more.

    Use those coupons

    We all get mailers that have coupons for local restaurants, but how many of us actually use them? If you are going to go out for a meal, use that buy one entree, get one free offer.nbsp;

    Do competitive research on credit cards

    You could be throwing away money on credit card rates that are higher than they should be.nbsp;LendingTreenbsp;has a great breakdown of the best options, hitting on interest rates, rewards programs, and other important details.nbsp;

    Use your points

    Savings those credit card points for a vacation? Check to see if your points are redeemable for cash. If not, they may be able to be turned into gift cards, which you could use for daily spending, which would free up that money for your savings.nbsp;

    Mow your own lawn

    That 30 per week may just put you over the top, or at least help pay for your closing costs.nbsp;

    Clean your own house, too

    Serious savings sometimes calls for sacrifice. Will 200300 per month make a difference to your savings? Were betting the answer is, Yes.

    Adjust the temperature

    You can save money by lowering the temp by a few degrees in the winter and raising it in the summer. According to thenbsp;U.S. Department of Energy, the savings can add up to 10 per year by simply turning your thermostat back 7-10F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68F while youre awake and setting it lower while youre asleep or away from home. In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and setting the thermostat to 78F 26C only when you are at home and need cooling.

    Share groceries

    Buying in bulk can save you money, but those savings may evaporate if you end up letting all the food you bought spoil. Shop your Costco list with a friend and split up the apples and avocados, and the toilet paper and paper towels, too. You can save hundreds of dollars per year.

    Say goodbye to plastic

    Theres a worldwide effort to ditch single-use plastic bottles, and doing so could help save the planet while saving you money. Get yourself anbsp;25 Brita filternbsp;and stop buying bottled water. Youre looking at a savings of more than 100 per person, per year, in the household.

    Stop carrying a balance on your credit cards

    If you carry a balance on at least one card every month, youre unnecessarily paying interest. Wouldnt you rather be earning interest instead?

    Get the right bank

    There are plenty of banks that dont charge monthly fees or ATM fees. That can save you 25 or more per month, and it all adds up. Ally continues to get high marks for its online bank account. This account pays a modest interest rate and offers free Allpoint ATM uses and up to 10 in monthly reimbursements for other bank ATM fees, saidnbsp;The Balance. There are no monthly fees, plus no fees for ACH transfers to or from other banks, no fees for cashiers checks and no fees for incoming wires. This account also offers free checks, which come in handy for your landlord or anyone else who still wants to get paid like its the 1990s.


    Another way to lower your footprint and save some money is by driving to work with a colleague.nbsp;Ridesharenbsp;estimates that, For a person with a longer than average commute e.g., more than 12 miles and carpooling 250 days a year, the potential savings in a two-person carpool could exceed 1,500 For even more savings, trade off cars to lower the wear and tear on your automobile.nbsp;

    Full Story >

    The One Change You Should Make to Your Home in 2020

    So key are plants to the overall look and feel of the home that they madenbsp;Elle Decors list of 2020 design trends. But were not talking about those faux, plasticky plants. Its time for the real stuff.

    Going green with nice, real indoor plants helps give personality and another layer to a space, Linda Hayslett ofnbsp;L.H. Designs, told them. For a while, it seemed like everyone was going faux. But these days, its all real, ll the time. I can always spot a faux plant in a design. It may be great initially, but the character of a plant comes from how it organically grows. And faux plants will always remain the same and eventually get dusty.

    We could build a best of list based on popularity or pretty factor or 3,700 other categories, but, like anything else, its best to split the list into individual categories. Here, then, is our take on the best plants to incorporate now.

    Most low maintenance

    Many of us avoid having real plants because we lack a green thumb guilty. But there are some great options that take little effort to stay alive and look great. Dont be fooled by the beauty of the Chinese evergreenbeyond its handsome exterior is one tough plant, saidnbsp;Real Simple.nbsp;

    Justin Hancock, a horticulturist atnbsp;Costa Farms, explains that this forgiving houseplant is great during the wintertime because it doesnt mind low light or inconsistent watering, as long as it doesnt stay wet for extended periods. Its broad, decorative leaves are woven with gorgeous patterns in colors that come in a range of glossy greens, silvers, grays, and cream. Even the least experienced gardener can successfully grow the Chinese evergreen thanks to its hardiness. Cast aside any self-doubt, as Hancock reassures, this air-purifying houseplant powers through the winter season and looks fresh and green all year.

    The ZZ Plant is another great choice because it is virtually indestructible. In fact, thenbsp;zznbsp;plantnbsp;will often do better if you leave it alone, they said.

    Best for your health

    There is evidence that plants are good for you in a variety of ways, but one of the most potent is their effect on air quality. They can help counteract the effects of volatile organic compoundsnbsp;VOCs and indoor air pollution. Spider plants are among the easiest air-purifying indoor plants to grow, saidnbsp;Greatist. Spider plants are also super fast-growing, so you can start with a small plant and watch it flourish, or even spin off spiderettes to spread throughout your home.nbsp;

    Tallest growing

    The ficus is another air purifying plant and a good choice if youre looking for something that can grow large. An indoor ficus can get as tall as 10 feet, and is another low-maintenance option.nbsp;

    Easiest herb garden starter

    An indoor herb garden is easier to achieve than you may think, especially when you start with something simple like basil. A critical herb for cuisines around the world and a favorite pairing for tomatoes, basil is easy to grow indoors, saidnbsp; Pinch off individual leaves and add to salads, sandwiches and sauce.nbsp;Make your own pesto. Plant seeds or purchase small plants and pot them in rich, organic potting soil. Basil loves heat and bright light, so give it a southern or western window or use a grow light. Avoid cool, drafty spots, especially in the winter.

    Most fragrant

    Make your place smell sweet, and look beautiful, with Azores Jasmine. For intense fragrance, grow this jasmine," saidnbsp;DIY Network. "It typically flowers spring through fall, but tosses open blooms in winter, too, if growing conditions provide warmth and sun. Give it a spot near a southern-facing window. The perfume is similar to gardenia. Plants may be slow to bloom the first year. Just waitthe flower show kicks into gear as plants age.

    Most >

    Jasmine is also great to grow in the bedroom as it can help promote sleep, but this option might be preferable. Another great bedroom plant is lavender, which was was named one of the best scents for sleep and >

    Full Story >

    5 Ways to Know Its Time for Expert HVAC Repair

    While most homeowners can handle some general maintenance like replacing a filter, there are signs to watch out for that require an expert HVAC repair company. Heres what to watch out for:nbsp;

    If you hear any odd noises coming from your unit. If there is an odor present. When youre not getting the proper airflow. When your systems are continually shutting down. If your energy bills are consistently going up.

    HVAC Repair Experts Can Evaluate and Correct Unusual Noises

    Modern, efficient, and effective heating and cooling systems should run almost silently. When you hear whistling, rattling, squealing, or knocking during operation, theres likely a problem. You can inspect the system yourself, but chances are you dont know much about the components inside your air conditioner or furnace. By opening it up, youre putting your safety and the safety of anyone living with you at risk. Its better to let an expert HVAC repair contractor take care of it. They know how to properly work with all the electrical features and other parts so that no accidents or injuries occur.nbsp;

    An HVAC Repair Company Will Determine Where Odors Are Coming From

    When an air conditioning unit or heating system is working correctly, you shouldnt be able to smell it. If there is an unpleasant odor emitted when either is turned on, something is wrong. It could be something as simple as a filter that needs to be replaced. If yours is older than three months, replace it first. If the odor goes away, then you fixed the problem. However, if the smell is still there, you could be looking at a more significant issue.

    You might have mold growing, a damaged air duct, or a clogged drainpipe. Each of these situations will require a thorough cleaning of the unit. An expert HVAC repair technician knows what to look for. By doing it yourself, you could end up spending hours or even days trying to figure out where the smell is coming from. If you arent sure what youre looking for, it could all be for nothing because you wont be able to find it, much less correct it.

    Improper Airflow Warrants a Call to an HVAC Repair Company Near You

    Clogs, blockages, and leaks can all lead to a decrease in the airflow of your heating and cooling systems. These are very intricate parts of your home, and theres more to them than what you might think. A qualified HVAC repair technician has experience in airflow issues. They can follow a process thats more efficient than what you can do. Even after watching video tutorials or asking around, you can still miss what the problem is. Instead of wasting your time trying to save a few bucks and correct it yourself, an HVAC repair expert will take care of it quickly. Not only are you saving time, but you can have peace of mind that the situation was handled properly. You wont be dealing with other issues right away.

    A Heating or Cooling System Break Down Requires Expert HVAC Repairs

    You come home to discover that your system isnt working at all. Its common for homeowners to go to the heater or air conditioner to see whats happening. However, the chances that you can fix a completely broken unit on your own arent very good. Even if you do get it operational again, if you havent done the HVAC repair correctly, its only going to break down again.

    If you dont want to have to continually call an HVAC company to work on a system that frequently shuts down, regular HVAC maintenance is recommended. By having a professional come in and inspect your equipment routinely, any minor issues or potential problems can be taken care of on the spot. Then your systems will run efficiently for longer, and you wont be paying more than you have to for HVAC repairs.

    Energy Bills Will Lower With An Expert HVAC Repair Contractors Services

    Have you noticed that your energy bills keep going up every month? The temperatures havent changed from what they usually are, so theres no reason to see an increase. A spike in your charges is a good indicator that theres something wrong with your HVAC system. You dont necessarily have to see, smell, or hear the problem either. Many times your unit will have something wrong with it, but it will work harder to keep up with your desired temperatures. That requires more energy use. The only way to know is by keeping an eye on the utility bills you get. To prevent paying the higher costs, an HVAC repair technician can diagnose anything that might not be operating correctly.

    Hiring an HVAC Repair Company Near You

    After recognizing that any of these issues are occurring, now you have to find an HVAC repair company. Before calling the first name that pops up in the phonebook, take a few minutes and make sure they are someone you want in your home. Not all HVAC companies are the same, and you should never only consider one resource when determining the right one for you.

    First of all, look at their credentials to make sure everything is up to date. That tells you that they are a company that continues their education in the industry and values providing quality work. Check for licenses required in your state and inquire about liability insurance coverage.

    Ask around for references or look for reviews online. If they have been able to satisfy previous customers, you can expect the same kind of service for your required HVAC repair. Stay away from any that cant provide you with this information. They likely are trying to cover something up, or they dont have the experience you want.

    Finally, ask them for an estimate. Many HVAC repair companies will provide these at no cost. Get a quote from several different businesses before choosing one. That way, you can see if anyone is trying to take advantage of you with extremely high rates. Cheap estimates are a sign they arent a quality company. Check the standard prices in your area and select the HVAC repair contractor that is in line with whats normal.

    Chase Roberts is the owner of Superior AC Repair Cypress, specializing in both residential and commercial AC repair and installation as well as furnace repairs and air filtration systems. Chase and his team have decades of experience in heating and cooling repairs for virtually every air conditioning and heating system in use today, making quick work of diagnostics and repairs for residential and commercial systems. The crew at Superior AC Repair Cypress is also dedicated to ensuring every homeowner and business owner receives nothing but stellar service from whatever AC repair company they choose.

    Full Story >

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