May 27, 2016

Don’t Let Hackers Scam You Out of Your Down Payment

Real estate transactions routinely involve the transfer of large sums of money, typically through wire transfers. Given the electronic nature of these transactions, they are somewhat susceptible to fraud. The loss of funds and the dream of homeownership for a buyer or seller can be absolutely devastating.

Recently the National Association of Realtors(R) issued a warning about a sophisticated wire fraud scam. According to this article on the NAR website (

May 20, 2016

Digging into a Home’s History with these Questions

When you’re about to put your hard-earned money into a home, you want to know everything you can about that home’s history. While there are common questions to ask about a home’s condition, history, and location, there are some questions buyers often overlook.

Don’t rely on sellers to volunteer this information. In some cases, they may not even know the answers for themselves. Protect your potential investment. These questions can help you get to the bottom of potential pitfalls:

1. Have you ever had asbestos removed from the home? Old heating ducts, ceilings, and even certain types of flooring can contain asbestos. If they’ve had asbestos removed, follow-up with how it was removed. Was it their uncle Joe hacking away at it, or did they have professional help?

May 12, 2016

How to Gather Renovation Ideas Online

Home renovation projects are a great way to fall in love again with a home you own, or make upgrades buyers will pay top dollar for when the time comes to sell. Redoing a kitchen or bathroom can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy a space. But how do you know what you really want? Are you aware of how much is out there in terms of modern home design?

Searching for inspiration online is a good place to start. While you can haphazardly click from blog to blog, there are some easy-to-use tools to help introduce you to design options and help you organize your project.

May 6, 2016

What Buyers Want

One of the most common questions I get is “What do buyers really want?” This can change as design trends change, but there are some tried-and-true areas buyers look at when they’re considering a home.

I’ve found that attention to these areas prior to listing a home will almost always result in a quicker sale without significant pricing adjustments. So what do buyers want? Here’s what I can tell you:

  1. Pay close attention to your kitchen and your bathrooms. Countertop, cabinet, and fixture upgrades can go a long way to modernizing these rooms in the eyes of buyers.

April 29, 2016

Happy Arbor Day!

If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood filled with trees, you probably already have an appreciation for Arbor Day whether you realize it or not. In the U.S., Arbor Day is celebrated on April 29th, and marks a day “in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees.”

The first U.S. Arbor Day took place in Nebraska City by J. Sterling Morton. On April 10th, 1872, approximately one million trees were planted in Nebraska. The day did not come to true national prominence until conservationists urged President Theodore Roosevelt to make a proclamation in 1907 that “the importance of trees and that forestry deserves to be taught in U.S. schools.”

April 22, 2016

Rightsizing for Your Next Move

“Where will we put all of our stuff?”

This is one of the foremost questions on homeowners’ minds when they’re making a move. Whether it’s a relocation from a suburban to a city environment, or downsizing for a more comfortable retirement, “stuff” can cast a big shadow. To lighten the burden before the big day, it can be helpful to “rightsize” for your move far in advance. Not only will rightsizing save you time, money, and energy as you transition to a new home, it can also help you learn how to evaluate what you really need versus what you’ve been hanging onto for no good reason.

If you’ve compared your current floor plan to your new one, you’ve probably already made the determination that some things must go. But how do you winnow the pile? Here’s a set of criteria you can use to rightsize your possessions:

  1. Is this right for the weather? If you’ve lived in places with severe winters and you’re heading for a zero-snow climate, recognize what doesn’t fit and let it go.

April 15, 2016

Getting Green & Organic in Your Own Garden

Do you have a home garden? Are you thinking of starting one? Are you concerned about pesticides and expenses associated with growing your own food? Check out these tips for making a home garden healthier, greener, and more economical:

  1. Start collecting rain water. You don’t need to run your sprinklers or hoses full-time to get the hydration fruits and vegetables need to flourish in your backyard. Purchasing and installing a simple rain barrel can help you store hundreds of gallons of free water throughout the year. Make the most of that rain water with drip hoses to supply your plants with the water they require.

April 8, 2016

What Goes in an Earthquake Kit, Anyway?

According to a recent U.S. Geological Survey, 143 million Americans live in earthquake-prone zones. While California still tops the list for earthquake possibilities, there’s growing evidence to suggest areas throughout the east and midwest are susceptible to a seismic shockwave disaster.

The key to surviving in the wake of a quake is disaster preparedness. Topping that list? Your family’s earthquake kit. Below is a checklist of the essentials you’ll need to survive until normal services are restored. Experts advise you need at least three days of supplies, though a better plan is to pack enough for one week. It’s also a good idea to refresh your kit each year. Here’s what you’ll need to have in waterproof containers, close at hand:

March 25, 2016

What Makes a Real Estate Agent Great

There are thousands of licensed real estate agents, but of those licensed, how many are dedicated professionals? Many can make a good first impression, but to truly represent your needs, they’ll need to be able to make good on the promises only pros can make. One way to separate the pros from the merely qualified is to ask them if they’re willing to make some promises about how they conduct their business. Here’s what any great agent should be able to say from day one:
  1. “I promise to keep you in the loop and the lines of communication open.” Communication is fundamental to a working relationship, and a great agent knows that a buyer or seller may have questions and concerns which need addressing as soon as possible. You should never feel your agent is missing in action.
  2. “I promise you this is my full-time career.” Those with experience in real estate have graduated from the part-timer’s realm to the ability to support themselves with their income in real estate. People are pros when they go full-time.

March 18, 2016

Conquer Your Fears

What are you afraid of right now? If not outright fear, where do you feel resistance in your life? Is it centered around new technology? Changes in your community? Conversations with people who don’t share your political or social views?

Whatever your fear, I would advise you to explore the possibility of embracing it. We gain a great deal when we explore our fear, hold it up to the light, and try to get an objective picture of what, exactly, scares us.

Often our fear is base: Humiliation. Failure. Bewilderment. Embarrassment. As children, we are forced constantly into our fear. From the darkness of a bedroom at night to falling off that bike for the first time, we are in a perpetual state of fear, revelation, and ultimately mastery.

March 11, 2016

Buyers Beware of these Home Buying Hazards

When you finally find your dream home, the worst thing that can happen is the deal falling through at the last minute. It’s more common than you might think, and the reasons are often surprisingly small. Fortunately, a little attention to detail and thorough planning can save you from the heartbreak of a buy gone bad. Here are some pitfalls for buyers:

  1. Last-minute shopping sprees. Until your home loan has been funded, big purchases are flat out dangerous to closing the deal. Your credit matters and so does your bank balance. Every time they take a hit (say for new furniture, appliances, or even a big pickup truck for moving day), you risk skewing your financial picture in a foul direction. Lay off the buying until you’re in the clear.

March 4, 2016

Can I Bring Kids House Hunting?

If you need more room for your growing family, or you’re simply relocating to a new town during the summer months, you may be wondering if bringing your kids along on the house hunting journey is a good idea.

In my experience, there are pros and cons to having kids with you as you try and find the next family home. Here’s what you’ll want to consider before you bring everyone along to open houses and showings.

  1. Liability matters. If you have a newborn strapped to your chest, it might not be much of an issue to walk through a prospective home, but toddlers are a different story. Your home may be kid safe, but not all homes on the market have been prepared to show with a free-range child in mind. Kids don’t necessarily understand this new home isn’t a playground, and there may be areas which are not explicitly safe for your little ones.

February 26, 2016

How’s Your Home Investment Doing?

The dream of home ownership is about more than just a stable place to live, exempt from the whims and decisions of landlords. For many, home ownership is a piece of the wealth building picture, essential to a future retirement or financial independence. The idea is pretty basic: You purchase a home and pay it down while hoping the value of the home increases over time. Generally speaking, this is what happens over a long enough period of time. As you go, you build what’s called “equity.”

Equity is defined as “the market value of a homeowner's unencumbered interest in their real property—that is, the sum of the home's fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property.” If you were to sell your home and pay off the balance of the mortgage (and any other debts, such as home equity credit lines or liens), the cash you would have leftover is your equity. Your “equity position” changes over time due to a variety of factors.

February 12, 2016

Don’t Miss these 5 Moving Day Tips

Moving is often listed as one of life’s most stressful events, but there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier. While you probably know some of the basic tips such as having a garage sale before you move, labeling your boxes by room, and filing “change of address” forms with everyone, there are some less-common tips which can save you time, money, and moving-day headaches.

Here are 5 often overlooked moving tips to help make your move a smooth one:

  1. Measure doors at your destination and measure your large furniture. There’s no point in moving heavy, large objects if they won’t make it in the new house or condo. Find out what won’t fit and sell it before hand. You’ll save money on the move and the proceeds from the sale will help you purchase a more reasonably sized replacement piece.

February 5, 2016

Tips to Help You Choose a Great Property Manager

One of the most important decisions you can make as a real estate investor is hiring the right property manage for your investment property. The difference between a cash-flow positive property and a drag on your finances can be an experienced, professional property manager.

You should always interview more than one property management company when you’re evaluating property managers, but do you know what to look for in a property manager? If not, these tips will help put you on the right path.

  1. Find certified property managers first. Consult the National Association of Residential Property Managers ( to seek out property managers with certifications and designations.

January 29, 2016

The Truth About Price Per Square Foot

Price per square foot is a concept in real estate which is easy to understand and just as easy to misuse. The formula is pretty simple: To determine price per square foot, you take a price, such as sale price of a home, and divide it by the square footage of the property.

Price per square foot is useful in looking at broad market comparisons, such as comparing one entire metro area to another, or looking at an area’s average change over time. It is not, however, terribly accurate in figuring out the value of your home.

Why? Well, price per square foot fails to take into account the most important factors when pricing a home.

First and foremost, it makes assumptions about the home’s amenities. We all know the quality of materials used in home construction and the condition of the home’s appliances and other features can have a dramatic impact on the value of a home. A kitchen with Italian marble surfaces versus one with pressboard countertops will have completely different values. Price per square foot in a given neighborhood will blend these homes together and produce an average.

January 22, 2016

How to Respond to Lowball Offers

Your agent is required to bring you any and all offers made on your home, so once in a while you’ll receive what’s known as a “lowball” offer. Lowball offers are buyer offers which far fall below your asking price. Sometimes they’re so low that they only serve to make you angry.

Don’t get angry! While selling your home is an emotional process, there are rational, effective strategies for dealing with the lowball offer. Sometimes the lowball offer can even turn into the right price if you handle negotiations the right way.

  • Remain calm. Your urge may be to tell the buyer to go #*&@! themselves, but there’s nothing to be gained in making enemies.

January 8, 2016

Guide to Preventing Burst Pipes in Winter

Do you have a home in an area where extreme cold is likely during the winter months? Don’t risk thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs… take the time to protect your pipes from bursting. When water freezes in your pipes, the ice expands, adding to the overall pressure in your home’s plumbing. When this force builds, it can cause pipes to split. In addition to plumbing repairs, you might find yourself on the hook for flooding damage, too.

The pipes most at risk? Those exposed to the lowest temperatures, of course. This includes plumbing on the exterior of the home, in exterior walls, and exposed pipes in those unheated zones of your home. Did you know that even a frozen garden hose can cause enough pressure to split an interior pipe? Be sure to disconnect and drain them. Faucets outside are vulnerable as well, so you’ll want to locate the shutoff valves for those spigots and make sure they’re drained before a freeze.

January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

The new year is here, and with it come the billions of small promises we all make to spark some change in our lives. For some it will be a brand new creative endeavor  For others it will be the abandonment of bad habit. Almost invariably, resolutions center on the formation or destruction of a habit. Habits are like compound interest. If you understand how to harness their power, the returns in the long run are enormous. But how do we support the willpower it requires to start and sustain a new habit?

An often overlooked tool in our quest for habit formation is the simple ritual. A ritual is a series of actions or behaviors followed without deviation. Though rituals are most often associated with religious ceremonies or family traditions, there’s increasing scientific evidence to suggest that rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. Rituals have also been shown to alleviate grief after loss and help enhance confidence before sporting events.