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You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings and trends. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Jan. 10, 2021

Decluttering Hacks for Your Kitchen

It can be difficult to keep a kitchen clean for every showing. Here are some organization tips to help sellers maintain order.

Submitted by Wren Kitchens

For a homeowner trying to sell, it may be particularly challenging to keep a kitchen spotless for impromptu showings. To help keep the space spick and span, Wren Kitchens recently collaborated with professional organizer Rhiannan Morgan to reveal organizational tips and tricks for the kitchen.

1. Tackle decluttering first.

Organize the space. When deciding whether to keep an item, ask yourself the following two questions, Morgan suggests:

“Do I love it?”

“Do I need it?”

“If the answer is not yes to at least one of these questions, then it’s time to say goodbye,” she says.

2. Identify danger zones.

Kitchen drawers and other areas of the home are hotspots for clutter, according to Morgan. “Pretend you are a visitor and walk around your home to look for clusters of clutter,” she says. “It can help to make a video on your phone because when you play it back, you will likely notice clutter that you’re usually oblivious to.”

3. Keep all surfaces clean.

Make it a rule to keep as many surfaces as clear as possible in your home. Store any “stuff” in cupboards, drawers, and units so they’re out of sight. Anything left out on countertops is just more to have to clean. Another reason why you should clear things off surfaces is that “stuff” acts as a magnet to more “stuff.” If you were to simply dump something on a clear surface, it would stick out like a sore thumb, which would prompt you to tidy it up,” Morgan says. “If your surfaces are already cluttered, then one more thing will just go unnoticed, until you do not have any space left.”

4. Organize your shelves, cupboards, and drawers with baskets.

Storage Jars

Photo credit: Wren Kitchens

“Avoid putting items directly into your cupboards, and instead, place your items into baskets,” Morgan suggests. “The basket system makes it easier to organize items into categories, meaning you can avoid a mismatched mayhem of cupboards. Plus, by sorting your cupboards with baskets, you can access the things you need much easier—and it will be quicker to clean.”

Kitchen Storage Baskets

Photo credit: Wren Kitchens

5. Use vertical sorting.

The “kitchen pan lid chaos cupboard” is a common organization headache that is making the inside of cabinets and drawers a mess. Pan lids are an excellent example of where vertical sorting is a brilliant way to organize your items. Racks like the one below are ideal for keeping pan lids, chopping boards, and baking trays neatly sorted.

Vertical Lids

Photo credit: Wren Kitchens

6. Consider when you will need items.

You are naturally going to use some appliances or kitchen tools more than others. Morgan recommends that you organize the items based on how often you’ll want to access them. Keep the daily items closer within reach. This way, “you don’t need to rummage through all your cupboards when you need to find something quickly,” she says.

Posted in Home Tips
Nov. 29, 2020

Proposition 19: Property Tax Exemptions from Reassessment

Proposition 19: Property Tax Exemptions from Reassessment


New Rules on Tax Basis Portability

With the passage of Proposition 19, a homeowner who is over 55 years of age, severely disabled or whose home has been substantially damaged by wildfire or natural disaster may transfer the taxable value of their primary residence to:

  • A replacement primary residence
  • Anywhere in the state
  • Regardless of the value of the replacement primary residence (with adjustments if "greater" in value)
  • Within two years of the sale
  • Up to three times (but without limitation for those whose houses were destroyed by fire)

Proposition 19 will supersede the old rules which limited this exemption to the sale and purchase of a principal residence within the same county (Proposition 60) or between certain counties (Proposition 90) -- but only if the replacement property was of "equal or lesser value" and only one time.

Purchases and Sales Before April 1, 2021

Although we believe that the tax benefits under Proposition 19 apply to transactions where either the  sale or purchase of a primary residence takes place before April 1, 2021, as long as the subsequent sale or purchase takes place within two years and on or after April 1, 2021, others have taken the position that both the sale and purchase must occur on or after April 1st, 2021.  C.A.R. will seek official clarification of this issue.

As always, our advice to agents is to not give legal or tax advice -- especially on an issue that is so consequential and presently has no definitive answer. If an agent has a client who wishes to obtain the tax benefits of Proposition 19 for a transaction that closes prior to April 1, 2021, whether it is buying or selling a property, the client should be encouraged to seek the advice of a qualified California real estate attorney or tax advisor. 

Nonetheless, owners of real property that qualify under Proposition 60 or 90 can still take advantage of those features until April 1, 2021. (If an owner never took advantage of these and were qualified, they might be able to get a refund of taxes already paid. See question 21 in this BOE FAQ).

New Rules on Intergenerational Family Transfers and Family Farms

Proposition 19 also changes the rules on exemptions from reassessment for intergenerational transfers by limiting the exemption to the transfer of a primary residence to a child (or grandchild) only when the property continues to be used as a family home by the child (or grandchild), and even then, if the divergence between the taxable value and the actual value is too great, a partial increase in the new taxable value will be imposed. Proposition 19 also includes provisions that would allow the transfer of a family farm to retain its taxable value.  These new rules apply to any purchase or transfer beginning February 16, 2021.

Transfer of the Tax Basis in the Sale and Purchase of a Principal Residence

Q1. What are the most significant changes made by Proposition 19 regarding the transfer of the taxable value of a principal residence?
Proposition 19 makes three significant changes to the portability of one's tax basis from the sale of a principal residence to a replacement principal residence.

First, it allows a seller of a principal residence to transfer the tax basis of that principal residence to the purchase of a replacement principal residence anywhere in the State of California.  Under prior law, the seller was limited to transfers either within the same county (under Proposition 60) or between a limited number of counties that specifically permitted such taxable value transfers (under Proposition 90).

Second, it allows the transfer of the tax basis of the sold principal residence to the replacement principal residence regardless of value with certain adjustments to the tax basis if the replacement principal property is of "greater value" than the sold principal residence. Under prior law, only transfers of "equal or lesser value" were eligible for the exemption.

And third, Proposition 19 permits such transfers up to three times (but unlimited for those whose homes were destroyed or substantially damaged by fire). Prior law allowed such transfers only one time.

Q2. So, under Proposition 19 a seller of a principal residence can transfer the tax basis of the sold principal residence to the purchase of a principal residence anywhere in the State?

Q3. Can the replacement property can be of greater value?
Yes.  Proposition 19 has two provisions regarding the value of a replacement principal residence.

(1) Equal or Lesser Value: The replacement primary residence is of equal or lesser value, subject to an inflation index of 105% if purchased within one year of sale, and 110% if purchased within the second year of sale of the original property.  The tax basis of the original principal residence may transfer to the replacement principal residence.

(2) Greater Value: The replacement residence is of greater value.  The taxable value of the replacement primary residence is calculated by adding the difference between the full cash value of the original primary residence and the full cash value of the replacement primary residence to the taxable value of the original primary residence.

Ex:        Original Primary Residence (OPR) taxable value . . .             $400,000

             OPR sold for      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             $900,000

             Replacement Primary Residence

(RPP) purchase . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                          $1,000,000

Difference between sale price of OPR

and purchase price of RPP is . . . . . .                                                   $100,000

Taxable Value of RPP is $400,000 plus $100,000…                          $500,000

Q4.  Who does Proposition 19 apply to?
 Proposition 19 applies to a seller of a principal residence who is over 55, severely disabled, or whose home has been substantially damaged by wildfires or other natural disasters.

While Proposition 19 states that it applies to persons who are over 55 years of age,  Revenue and Taxation Code Sec. 69.5 defines this to include those who are 55 years of age or older. It is this definition that will likely determine eligibility.

Q5. Who qualifies as "severely disabled?"
 Any person who has a physical disability or impairment, whether from birth or by reason of accident or disease, that results in a functional limitation as to employment or substantially limits one or more major life activities of that person, per California Revenue and Tax Code Sec. 74.2.  While there is no definition within Proposition 19, the meaning of this phrase is likely the same as contained in the California Revenue and Tax Code.

Q6. How many times can a qualified homeowner take advantage of this tax basis transfer?
 Proposition 19 allows both those over 55 and the severely disabled to use this exemption up to three times.

Q7. How often can homeowners who are victims of wildfires or other natural disasters use this exemption?
Proposition 19 does not limit the number of times homeowners, who have had their principal residence substantially damaged due to a qualifying wildfire or other natural disaster, may transfer their tax basis whenever such event occurs. 

Q8. When does this portion of Proposition 19 go into effect?
 Beginning April 1, 2021, Proposition 19 applies to the transfer of one's tax basis anywhere in the State of California regardless of value.

Q9. I’m over the age of 55 and want to sell my home now. Under Proposition 19 do I need to wait until April 1, 2021, to purchase another home? How long can I wait?
Current law prior to Proposition 19 states that the purchase of a new home must be made within two years of the sale of the old one. If you have already transferred your property tax base once, you will be ineligible to do so again until after April 1, 2021. While this question is ultimately an issue that will have to be worked out in the implementation process we believe that as long as either the sale of an existing home or the purchase of a new one occurs after April 1, 2021 that the transaction will be eligible for the tax benefits under Proposition 19 as long as both transactions were completed within two years.

As always, our advice to agents is to not give legal or tax advice -- especially on an issue that is so consequential and presently has no definitive answer. If an agent has a client who wishes to obtain the tax benefits of Proposition 19 for a transaction that closes prior to April 1, 2021, whether it is buying or selling a property, they should be encouraged to seek the advice of a qualified California real estate attorney or tax advisor. 

Q10. Can a replacement property be purchased prior to the original primary residence being sold?
Yes. This is how the current rule under Proposition 60 operates, and Proposition 19 uses nearly identical language.

Revenue Changes

Q11. Generally, how are increased tax revenues generated by Proposition 19 to be allocated?
A11. Proposition 19 created the California Fire Response Fund (CFRF) and County Revenue Protection Fund (CRPF). It requires the California Director of Finance to calculate additional revenues and net savings resulting from the measure. The California State Controller is required to deposit 75 percent of the calculated revenue to the Fire Response Fund and 15 percent to the County Revenue Protection Fund. The County Revenue Protection Fund is set to reimburse counties for revenue losses related to the measure's property tax changes. The Fire Response Fund is set to fund fire suppression staffing and full-time station-based personnel.

Intergenerational Family Transfers

NOTE:  No real estate licensee should provide advice relating to estate planning or other transfers.  All questions from the client, and all questions regarding a licensee’s own properties, should be referred to a qualified estate planning or real estate attorney.

Q12.  If I pass my principal residence on to my children or grandchildren, will the property be reassessed?
 So long as the property continues to be used as a Family Home (primary residence), and the transferee claims the homeowner exemption, the property tax basis will remain the same, subject to some upward adjustments if the property value, at the time of transfer, is more than $1M over the original tax basis.

Q13. If the property is transferred to a child or grandchild and used as a Family Home, what will the new tax basis be if at the time of transfer the property value is less than $1M over the original tax basis?
 The new tax basis will remain the same as the original tax basis.

For example, if the original tax basis was, let's say, $500,000, and at the time of transfer the property is valued at $1.2 M, then the tax basis will remain at $500,000. This is because $1.2M is not more than $1M over the original taxable basis. 

Q14. If the property is transferred to a child or grandchild and used as a Family Home, what will the new tax basis be if the at the time of transfer the property value is more than $1M over the original tax basis?
 If the property at the time of transfer is more than $1M over the original tax basis then the new tax basis will be the value of the property at the time of transfer minus $1M.

For example, if the original tax basis was, let's say, $500,000, and at the time of transfer the property is valued at $2M then the new taxable value will be $1,000,000 ($2M minus $1M). You use this formula because the value of the property at time of transfer was more than $1M over the taxable basis.

Q15. Are Family Farms included in Proposition 19?
Yes, Family Farms have the same exemptions as Family Homes (principal residences).  "Family Farm" means any real property under cultivation or which is being used for pasture, or grazing, or that is used to produce any agricultural commodity. It does not require the transferee to live in the property as a principal residence.

Q16. When do these family transfer rules take effect?
The family transfer rules take effect February 16, 2021. The transferee would have to claim the homeowner’s or disabled veteran’s exemption within one year of the transfer to obtain the benefit of the family transfer tax exemption. 

Q17. Intergenerational transfers previously exempted not only the transfer of the tax basis of a primary residence but also up to $1 million dollars of all other real property. Is that exemption still available under Prop 19?
 No. Prop 19 allows only the intergenerational transfer exemption only for the primary residence and only if it continues to be used as a primary residence.

Nov. 29, 2020

FHFA raises 2021 Fannie, Freddie loan limits

For release:
November 24, 2020

California REALTORS® applaud FHFA for raising Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limits

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 24) – The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) today issued the following statement in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) announcement to increase the 2021 conforming loan limits for mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to $548,250 on one-unit properties and a cap of $822,375 in high-cost areas. The previous loan limits were $510,400 and $765,600, respectively.

“C.A.R. commends the FHFA for recognizing California’s record-setting home price increases during this past year and raising maximum conforming loan limits, which will give tens of thousands of California homebuyers a chance at homeownership,” said C.A.R. President Dave Walsh, vice president and manager of the Compass San Jose office. “Increasing the existing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limits will greatly benefit higher-priced areas of the state and provide stability and certainty to the housing market.”

C.A.R. and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) both have long advocated for making higher conforming loan limits permanent. As a result of C.A.R.’s and NAR’s efforts, cities with high median home prices have benefited from a loan limit above the national conforming loan limit.

The conforming loan limit determines the maximum size of a mortgage that government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy or “guarantee.” Non-conforming or “jumbo loans” typically have tighter underwriting standards and sometimes carry higher mortgage interest rates than conforming loans, increasing monthly payments and hampering the ability of families in California to purchase homes by making them less affordable.

Leading the way...® in California real estate for more than 110 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® ( is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States, with more than 200,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Posted in Buying, Market Updates
Nov. 22, 2020

Los Angeles County Market Update October 2020

Posted in Market Updates
May 30, 2020

LA Panel Approves Stadium Proposed for Warner Center

by Olga Grigoryants // LA Daily News

As stadiums and entertainment venues sit idle across Los Angeles amid the global pandemic, French developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has moved closer to bringing a sports center to Warner Center.

The City Planning Commission unanimously approved on Thursday, May 28, the Promenade 2035 project, featuring a 7,500-seat sports and entertainment venue with a partial roof or an enclosed 10,000-seat arena.

The approval came with some conditions, including that the developer would need to come back if it decides to modify the proposed plan.

The $1.5 billion project would spread across a 34-acre site. It calls for the construction of an urban district with nearly 1,400 residential units, 280,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, 731,500 square feet of office space and 572 hotel rooms.

During a virtual meeting hosted by the City Planning Commission hearing on the Promenade 2035 mega-development, hundreds of participants dialed in to wave on the controversial development.

The hearing comes months after city planners recommended a fully enclosed 7,500-seat arena as part of the massive development proposed for Woodland Hills that was half the capacity of the originally proposed 15,000-seat stadium. The proposal triggered several appeals regarding the lack of affordable housing, the size of the stadium and air quality.

Developers said the project represents over $1 billion in long-term investment in Warner Center, creating more than 10,800 construction jobs and over 9,700 permanent jobs upon completion.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield agreed to modify their proposal, offering a smaller sports and entertainment center along with rent-restricted affordable housing.

The stadium, the developer said, will be a catalyst for economic growth, attracting further investment in the Warner Center area. It will include a dedicated space for cultural programming and also provide a gathering place for community events such as high school and college graduations and various cultural events.

“We’re tired of transporting over the hill” to see events,” said Larry Green, executive vice president-development at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

In response to community feedback, the developer agreed to redesign the venue, reducing its square footage from 320,000 square feet to 181,550 square feet and its height from 155 feet to approximately 85 feet. The venue will be encircled with landscaping, trees, open space and pedestrian paths.

But opponents fear the venue will attract rowdy crowds and fill up the 101 Freeway with cars.

West Hills resident Christine Rowe said she was “absolutely” opposed to the stadium.

“I’m disgusted with the new arena,” she said.

Supporters said they approved the 10,000-people facility, smaller than downtown’s Staples Center, that they hope will bring construction jobs and attract entertainment events in years ahead.

The updated plan includes a commitment for a total of 15% of the project’s initial residential units to be affordable, workforce and stakeholder housing divided into:

  • 5% for very low-income households—those whose income is 50% of the median income.
  • 5% for a voluntary workforce housing program, targeting rents affordable to workers such as
  • teachers and firefighters;
  • 5% for a voluntary local stakeholder incentive program for local workers.

Gina K. Thornburg, executive director of Coalition for Valley Neighborhoods criticized the plan for not proposing to build more affordable units, demanding that the developer build 7.5% of the 1,009 units, to be preserved in perpetuity for the very low-Income residents.

Posted in Market Updates
May 9, 2020

Buying and Selling During the Pandemic

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

By: Leanne Potts for National Associations of Realtors / Shared on

Technology and good-old-fashioned creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by COVID-19 health and safety practices while getting deals done.

Some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.

“We have had to make some adjustments, for sure,” says Brian K. Henson, a REALTOR® with Atlanta Fine Homes / Sotheby’s International Realty in Alpharetta, Ga. “Everyone is trying to minimize face-to-face interactions. There have been some delays, but mostly, deals are getting done, just with tweaks.”

Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.

Showings Go Virtual

The rules around in-person showings vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some ban them. Check with your state, county, and local government to get the latest on business closures and shut-down rules.

Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. Real estate sites report a surge in the creation of 3D home tours. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for video home tours in March.

“I’ve done several FaceTime showings,” says Henson. He conducted virtual showings before COVID-19, too. He recently closed a deal on a home the buyers only saw on video, he says, but hasn’t yet done so during the pandemic.

In places where in-person showings are allowed, agents wipe down door handles, spray the lockbox with disinfectant, and open up the house, closets, everything for a client. “We leave all the lights on so no one touches switches, and we don’t touch cabinets or doors during showings,” Henson says.

Safe-Showing Guidelines

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which produces HouseLogic, recommends only one buyer enter a home at a time, with 6 feet between each guest. NAR also recommends agents have potential buyers wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer when they come in the door. They should also remove their shoes. No children should be present at showings, either.

“We’re living in extraordinary times and unusual circumstances. If you have the ability to work, you have to be creative,” Mabél Guzmán, a Chicago real estate agent, told NBC News. Guzmán, who is also vice president of association affairs for NAR, has put together a video offering tips and strategies for virtual showings during the pandemic.

Down Payment Help

Many organizations offering down payment assistance to first-time home buyers have temporarily suspended the programs or changed the rules. You can check the status of programs in your area at the Down Payment Assistance Resource site.

Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals

Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New, temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.

In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home’s exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal. The Appraisal Foundation has put out guidelines for handling appraisals during the pandemic. Here’s the FAQ.

And here are specific new appraisal guidelines by agency:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • FHA
  • Veterans Administration
  • USDA Rural Development

On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute

When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hotspot.

Inspections Via Live Video

Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home’s condition.

Mortgage Rates and Locks

With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.

But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy.

Employment Verification

An important step in getting a mortgage is proving the borrower has a job. In pre-coronavirus days, lenders called the borrower’s employer for a verbal verification.

The Federal Housing Finance Authority, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federal home loan banks, has relaxed the rules for loans backed by the federal government because so many businesses are closed.

Lenders for federally backed loans now accept an email from an employer, a recent year-to-date paystub, or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit as proof of employment.


Home buying and selling during the pandemic means real estate agents can conduct the final walk-through via video with their clients. Or they can just open the home and have buyers walk through on their own. Henson says he still accompanies his clients, but stays six feet away and has them wash their hands when entering and exiting the house. Everyone’s wearing masks, too.

And, of course, when the buyers take possession, they should disinfect.

Remote Notarization Depends On Where You Live

About one-half of states have permanent remote online notarization (RON) policies. These allow a notary and signer in different locations to sign electronic document, usually by use of video apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will watch you sign either a paper document or do an electronic signature on an e-doc, via camera.

Some states have rolled out temporary rules allowing RON. Here’s a state-by-state list of notary law updates, and the type of remote notarizations allowed. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as federal and state pandemic legislation expands.

Closings Get Creative

Traditional closings, where everybody gathered around a big table to sign the final papers, are no longer possible. Title companies and banks are getting super creative in dealing with the limitations.

A Minnesota company, Legacy Title, rolled out a drive-thru closing service at one of its offices in an old bank branch building. The title company rep sits in a bank teller window and handles the closing papers while the customer sits in their car. Legacy completed 14 closings in the first week it offered drive-thru service.

Then there are drive-by closings, where the entire transaction takes place in cars. Masked and gloved notaries meet buyers in parking lots and pass documents through car windows.

“I had a closing where the buyer sat in her car the whole time. The attorney came out to her car, gave her paperwork, had her sign in her car, and my buyer never got out of her car,” Birmingham, Ala., agent Isaac McDow told WBRC television.

Says Georgia-based agent Henson, “I’ve had closings the last three weeks [that] I’ve been asked not to attend. There was one where the seller signed two days before buyer. Then the seller came back two days later and signed.”

Henson, who is also licensed in New York, has had to extend closing dates on two sales there since. Co-op boards won’t let non-residents into buildings ­­­– not even an electrician who needs to make repairs as part of an issue that came up in the inspection. He left the closing with an open-ended date.

“It’s all about being really flexible right now,” he says.

TIP: Find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

Student Loan Relief

Finally, if you’re also trying to swing your student loan payments, know that federal student loan borrowers get an automatic six-month break in loan payments from April 10, 2020, through Sept. 3, 2020. Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they also won’t be charged a dime of interest in that time.

Learn more at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s site.

Keep in mind that payment suspension only applies to federal loans owned by the Department of Education. Some help may be available to borrowers with private student loans and other loans (like Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loans) that aren’t covered. But it’s not automatic. Reach out to your student loan servicer for information.

So, Should You Buy or Sell?

The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it’s a question only you can answer.

Posted in Buying, Selling
May 28, 2019

10 Simple Tactics to Enhance Your Home Security

10 Simple Tactics to Enhance Your Home Security


There are a number of steps you can take to enhance your overall home security. This includes some more complicated strategies as well as some very basic and simple steps you can take to enhance your home's overall security. These 10 simple tactics are easy to employ and effective when it comes to improving the overall security of your residence.


Eliminate an Overflowing Mailbox

 Image result for overflow mailbox

One easy practice you can implement is to ensure that you never have an overflowing mailbox at your home. Ideally, a mailbox built into your residence through which items go directly into your home is preferable. However, if that is not an option for you, make sure you empty your mailbox daily. If you are traveling, make arrangements for someone to remove items from your mailbox regularly so that it doesn't overflow. In the same vein, make certain that newspapers and handbills do not accumulate at your either, whether you are home or on the road.


Apply Home Security System Decals

 Image result for home security decals

If you have a home security system, take advantage of the decals that your system provider likely will provide. Display them about your property. These decals are proven effective at deterring a miscreant from invading your home in some manner. Even if you do not have a home security, get your hands on decals indicating you do have one and display they at your residence.


Utilize Home Illumination Automation

Image result for home illumination automation

Take advantage of technology when it comes to illuminating your home. For years, you had the ability to put your light on a timer so that they would illuminate even when you are way, rendering the appearance that your home is occupied. In this day and age, timers remain an option. However, you can also control the lighting of your home from afar using an app. Indeed, there are apps and associated technology that permit you the ability to open and close window curtains or blinds from a distance.


Trim Shrubbery

green bear in topiary garden

If you are like many people, you've elected to plant shrubbery around your home. You can take another simple step to enhance the security of your residence by keeping the shrubbery around your property well-trimmed. By keeping shrubbery trim, you eliminate spots at which individuals intent on committing a crime can conceal themselves on your property.


Lock Your Doors and Windows

Image result for lock your doors and windows 

Perhaps the simplest step you can take to shore up your residential security is to make certain your doors and windows are locked whenever you leave your home. A majority of people do lock their doors when they leave their homes. However, a good many people do not do the same with their windows.


You should also keep your door locked when you are inside your residence as well. Home invasions represent one of the most common categories of crimes in the United States in this day and age. Many home invasions are accomplished because a home owner fails to keep doors locked when inside a residence.


Install Window Stops

Image result for window stop image 

On a related note, another affordable and relatively easy step you can take to enhance your home security is to install window stops. By installing these devices you are able to enjoy fresh air and having your windows open. However, a miscreant will be prevented from fully opening a window to access the interior of your home if you install window stops. You will also want to take a very serious look at installing the same type of device on any sliding doors that you have in your home.


Reconsider Your Social Media Use

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If you are like many people, you enjoy using social media. You may make social media posts about an activity you are involved with away from home. You may make social media posts while you are on vacation.


Bear in mind that people with criminal intent monitor social media. As a result, if you are posting items about what you are doing away from home, including when on vacation, you are sending an invitation to a would-be criminal to pay a visit to your unoccupied abode. Therefore, you should seriously consider not posting information in real time about your vacation or even an event away from your residence.


Know Your Neighbors

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Get to know your neighbors. In neighborhoods where homeowners know one another, there tends to be a lower crime rate. This is the reality because neighbors who do know one another tend to be more apt to watch out for one another.


Take the Trash Out to the Curb

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If you are going to be away from home on "trash day," make arrangements for someone to take your trash down to the curb. Not only will taking the trash out lessen the chances for odors in your home, it enhances security. Don't place the garbage at the curb days in advance of the scheduled collection. You want to send the message that it's business as usual at your home.


Beware of Dog Sign

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Owning a dog can be a solid deterrent to a person otherwise intent on entering your property with the objective of committing a crime. Even if you don't own a pooch, consider placing a beware of dog sign at different locations on your property. This can have the effect of keeping a bad actor off your property.


These do represent simpler steps you can take to enhance the overall security at your residence. If you want to go a bit further, but still keep it relatively simple, consider installing security lights and cameras on the exterior of your home. In this day and age there are an array of affordable options, including products that are quite easy to install.

Posted in Home Tips
April 25, 2019

5 Specific Things to Consider When House Hunting

5 Specific Things to Consider When House Hunting


House hunting simultaneously can be an enjoyable and highly challenging undertaking. There are five specific things that you need to bear in mind when house hunting. By paying attention to these points you place yourself in the best position to have an ultimately productive house hunting endeavor.


Location is Paramount


One of the most worn out clichés associated with real estate is that three things matter when if comes to real estate:



  • Location


  • Location


  • Location




In the final analysis, the location of the home you select will govern so much of your life going forward into the future. Thus, it is imperative that before you really dive into your hunt for a home, pinpoint the part of the community in which you want to reside. In other words, settle on the area in a city or town in which you really do want to live and build your house hunting efforts around that decision. 


House Site is Crucial


Directly under the "location, location, location" mantra is the necessity of making a firm decision of what type of house site you truly desire. You need to make this decision in advance of heading off house hunting.


You cannot be overly narrow when it comes to narrowing down the type of house site you desire. However, you need to establish specific parameters.


One of the biggest flubs people make when looking to buy a home is that they really don't focus on the type of site they would really like to have for their home. As a result, they end up what they thought was an ideal home purchase only to come to a realization that the site on which the residence is located isn't quite right for one reason or another. 


Don't Forget the Specifics of the Neighborhood 


Delve into the specifics of the neighborhood when house hunting. Really digging into a neighborhood involves more than just driving or walking around and checking out. This is an area where you really must undertake thorough due diligence. 


You will want to do research and obtain information about everything from the crime rate in the area to which school district serves the neighborhood. Don't just accept a statement by a real estate agent that a house is "within walking distance" to a particular, desired school. Walking distance does not mean that the house is in the district served by that school of choice.


Focus on Curb Appeal


Curb appeal certainly matters to a seller who wants to make the most of an initial presentation. Curb appeal should also matter to you as a buyer as well. The reality is you will want your home to make the best forward presentation possible. You probably don't want to purchase a residence that is going to require you to undertake a considerable amount of time and money to improve the curb appear of the property. 


Weigh and Balance the Floorplan and Design 


As with some other issues mentioned a moment ago, you will also want to weigh and balance what you desire or need in the way of a particular residential floor plan and design. You are best served undertaking this consideration before you begin the house hunting process. This preliminary decision making aids you in narrowing down the houses you end up looking at while house hunting. You avoid wasting time on properties that really don't meet your floorplan and design desires. 


By taking a proactive stance to house hunting, by making preliminary decisions in advance of going to open houses, you develop an efficient means of searching for the best place to call home. You also avoid the risk of settling for a home that doesn't really meet your needs, specifications and desires. 



Posted in Buying
March 28, 2019

Questions to Ask Your Realtor When Selling

Buying a home can be stressful. You have to find the perfect home to fit your needs in the perfect neighborhood where your family is going to be safe and happy. Selling a home?

Selling your home can be both stressful and confusing but it doesn't have to be. In all actuality if you ask the right questions it can be quite simple finding the right realtor and selling your home. When choosing the right realtor for you many thoughts come to mind: "Is this realtor and I going to get along? Is this realtor going to be available? Can I trust them?" These are all great questions - however we cannot always ask them. Instead ask the following questions and eliminate the realtors that are not a good fit. First you want to get acquainted with them then understand their capabilities, strengths and weaknesses; then find out if they are the right realtor for you. 

The best questions to ask are:

1. Which neighborhoods do you specialize in?

It's very important to know which neighborhoods your realtor specializes in. You want someone who is experienced that really understands your neighborhood. If a realtor does not specialize in your neighborhood they most likely don't have an accurate understanding of it. The better their perception and knowledge of your neighborhood the easier it will be for them to sell your home to potential buyers by highlighting the positive attributes of the neighborhood. Many home buyers have families and they will ask about the school districts, neighborhood watch, crime rates etc. Chose a realtor that is familiar with your neighborhood that can answer such questions.

2. What is your marketing strategy?

This question can have an overwhelming answer sometimes. A realtor can start listing off many different ideas and processes to advertise your home - some of which you may not recognize or agree with. Now is the time to discuss marketing strategies that you prefer and ask how / why they chose such methods. You can also ask them to share their success rate with such steps that they plan on taking. Maybe their strategy is to sell your home as a pocket listing It's better to know ahead of time what their marketing strategy is and do your own research to see if it aligns with what you want.

3. How much support do you offer?

This question will allow you to identify how involved your realtor will be during the selling process. If their response is "I have multiple assistants who are always available," you have to decide if you are comfortable with that. Some prefer to have the realtor available instead of assistants or other team members. Some sellers are happy to work with a realtor that has a team who will always be available. When listening to the realtor answer this question you can identify your needs and what you prefer. 

4. What is your availability / schedule?

Almost all realtors have multiple clients - good for them! But does this mean that you don't take priority? Will they have a dedicated time for which they are available for your questions? Do they have business hours? Maybe they only answer calls between 9 am to 1 pm and return other calls the next business day. Although there is no wrong answer for this question it is important to know the answer so that you can set appropriate expectations and appointments. 

5. What is included in your fee?

This question is a step towards avoiding hidden fees. Yes hidden fees exist everywhere. You may end up meeting a real estate agent that is the absolute perfect fit for you but they don't included the advertising costs in their fee. Are you going to be financially responsible for advertising costs? Is there additional legal fees that you were not aware of? Don't hesitate to ask what services and fees are if you do not understand them. It is better to know before you hire them then to find out afterwards and be put in a tough spot.

6. Can you provide some references?

Asking this question will reveal if this realtor builds strong and memorable relationships. When working with someone compatibility, honesty and work ethic are crucial. Having references readily available reveals that the real estate agent you are interviewing has these qualities.

7. How much do you think we can sell this house for?

Answering this question will reveal the realtors sensibility and experience. An inexperienced realtor will respond with a high and hopeful number. An experienced realtor will be honest with you and take into consideration where the market is and the impact of your neighborhood on the price to list with.

8. How fast are houses selling in this neighborhood?

This question will continue to reveal the realtors experience, knowledge and effort. An experienced and motivated realtor would have known to check such statistics and updates before meeting with you.

9. How many listings do you have in this neighborhood?

This question is preferred by some and not so much but others. However it is important to know if this potential realtor has prior obligations that may affect their ability to sell your home quickly. For some realtors it is beneficial to have multiple listings in the same neighborhood. If the realtor says that he/she does have other listings in the same neighborhood ask them how this will impact the marketing strategy for your home.

10. How many homes have you sold in the past 12 months in this price range?

Asking how many homes the realtor has recently sold in your price range will reveal their experience also. For example maybe they sold 20 homes last year but they were all high - end multi million dollar homes where as your home is around 800K. You want to hire a realtor that has experience selling homes that are within the same price range as yours; such a realtor will have a larger network of buyers that will buy your home. If a realtor works only with multi million dollar homes may not understand the market of average homes, how to find the right buyers, how to advertise etc.

11. What are your thoughts on staging?

It's important to stage your home when selling. Staging helps buyers envision how they can fit into the space. Also take safety into consideration when staging. If your house is on the market unfortunately you will have strangers enter your home, you can't help but worry if that Vase from your last trip will get knocked over and break or what if some items go missing? When you have your home staged such things will not be a worry. Speaking about staging will also open the conversation to see what your realtor will advise.

12. Can you explain your open house strategy?

Understanding whether or not your home will host open houses or how frequently there will be open houses will help you plan adapt your schedule. It will motivate you to tidy up and get rid of that box of junk you've been putting off to make your home clean and pretty. 

13. What will you be asking me to sign?

Make sure you understand what documents you are signing and what you are agreeing to. Are you going to be asked to work with a different realtor? Are you going to be asked to only work with this realtor? Are you signing away your rights to influence how your house will be advertised? Any reputable realtor will not ask anything outrageous of you and take the time to explain what they are asking you to agree to.

14. Why should I hire you as my realtor?

Realtors are sales people after all Ask them to sell themselves to you. If they do a good job, you just found your realtor.


Consider other questions you may want to ask a potential realtor and write it down before you sit down to interview them. You can't ask too many questions but make sure you're taking this time to ask important questions that will help you identify if this is the right realtor for you.


Posted in Selling
March 14, 2019

6 Vital Tips for First time Homebuyers


If you are a first time homebuyer, you likely find yourself with a myriad of questions. Understanding the newness of the process for you, amassing useful information about buying a home is crucial. We present you with six vital tips for consideration by a first time homebuyer. 


Be Proactive in Saving for a Down Payment 


If you have your sights on purchasing a home as first time buyer, you need to take a truly proactive stance when it comes to saving for a down payment. In this day and age, the standard down payment on a home across the United States is 20 percent. There are some home finance opportunities for different classifications of buyers that can permit a lower down payment. With that said, even if you qualify for financing that requires a lower down payment, you will then be left paying more each month for your mortgage. 


You also need to bear in mind that even a smaller down payment can add up to a notable amount of money. For example, if you wrangle a mortgage that necessitates a 5 percent down payment, and the home price is $200,000, your down payment will still be $10,000. 


Prepare Your Credit for a Mortgage Application 


You must also be proactive when it comes to your credit as a first time homebuyer. That process begins by making certain that there are no errors on your credit reports. The reality is that a high percentage of credit reports contain erroneous information. You will want to make sure that you confirm the accuracy of the information on all three of your credit reports. 


There are other steps that you will want to take to ensure that your credit reports and score are in the best position possible. You will want to reduce the overall debt load you are carrying. For example, if you are like many people, you likely have open credit card accounts. You will want to pay those down. You do not necessarily want to close them out, however. Your credit score may benefit from paying down credit card accounts and yet maintaining a couple of them open with low or no balances. You definitely want to make credit card and other account payments recorded on your credit report in a timely manner. 


Shop Around for the Best Mortgage Option for You 


At this juncture in the 21st century you've an array of different options available to you when it comes to home mortgages. Thus, you will want to take the time to "shop around" and find the mortgage loan that is most favorable to you and your situation. Keep in mind that even a slight difference in a mortgage rate can amount to what proves to be a considerable amount of money over the lifetime of a loan. 


Let prospective mortgage lenders know that you are shopping around. Be up front about a prospective lender that appears to be committed to giving you a favorable mortgage rate. In the end, another mortgage lender may take the step of even offering an interest rate a bit lower in order to attract your business. 


Obtain Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval 


A very important step to take when it comes to buying a home for the first time is to obtain preapproval for a home mortgage loan. You can generally prequalify for a mortgage, a process that indicates you will be able to obtain some amount of financing. 


You can also seek a preapproval letter. A preapproval letter sets forth specifically the amount of money you qualify for via a home mortgage loan. Having a home mortgage loan preapproval letter gives you an edge over other people looking to buy a home who may have not taken this step. With a preapproval letter, a home seller understands that there will not be an added delay while you seek final approval for a home mortgage loan. 


Establish a Budget and Stick to It 


When you are heading onto the market to find and buy your first home you must establish a budget and stick to it. In other words, you need to establish an absolute maximum amount of money you are able to spend on all aspects of buying a residence for the first time. 


You don't want to make your budget ill-defined and flexible. Having a vague budget can have seriously negative consequences when you get onto the marketplace looking for a property to purchase. Without a well-defined budget, you very well may find yourself going beyond even the most detailed budget. 


Get Suitable Homeowner's Insurance 


Once you make the purchase of residence, you need to make absolutely certain that you obtain appropriate homeowner's insurance. A variety of considerations need to be contemplated when selecting homeowner's insurance for your new home, ensuring that you are absolutely certain you obtain an appropriate amount of coverage to provide you full protection. 


By employing these strategies you will place yourself in the best possible position to make an educated, wise decision when it comes to purchasing your first ever residence. You will be able to find the ideal home for you and your family at a prices that fits appropriately within your budget. 


You will also want to make certain you take advantage of those real estate professionals that can provide you the vital assistance you need on all fronts when you enter onto the real estate market in search of the perfect home.




Posted in Home Tips