Southeast Florida Real Estate News


July 24, 2019

What Is an Amortization Schedule? Mapping Out Your Mortgage Payments

mortgage payment

What is an amortization schedule? When you borrow money to buy a home, one of the documents you’ll see is an amortization schedule provided by your mortgage lender who could be a retail bank, a mortgage bank, a mortgage broker, or other lender. The word “amortization” refers to the repayment of a debt through regular payments until the loan is paid off in full.

What is an amortization schedule?

In essence, an amortization schedule outlines your loan payments each month and helps keep you on track.

When you take out a fixed-rate mortgage—whether it's for 30 years or any other term—your lender calculates an amortization schedule based on the beginning balance, interest rate, and number of payments that shows your payment for each month of your loan.

The schedule shows your interest calculation and how the payment is divided into principal and interest, so you know how much of each you pay each month. It also calculates the outstanding balance of your loan as you progress through the loan term.

By looking at your amortization schedule calculator, you can see how the amount of interest you pay changes compared with the amount of principal you pay during the life of the loan.

You can view your amortization table on a monthly or yearly basis. In the early years of your mortgage, the schedule shows that your monthly payment is almost entirely interest. The higher your interest rate, the more interest expense you pay with each monthly payment. Gradually that shifts due to amortization—lowering of the balance by periodic payments. By the end of your loan schedule, the calculator shows your payments going almost entirely to pay down your principal.

Thinking about refinancing your loan?

When you make your first payments on a home, you may not pay attention to your balance or how your payments are split. You may be happy to be in a home and keeping up with the payments.

After you’ve owned your property and made payments for a few years, though, you may be thinking about refinancing or selling. In that case, you’ll need to know your balance so you can estimate your home equity. You can find this information on the amortization schedule calculator, or on your latest mortgage statement.

If you decide to refinance, remember if you switch from one 30-year loan to another, you’re restarting the interest clock and could end up paying more over time, even with a lower rate. For example, if you get a new loan after seven years of payments into a new 30-year loan, you’ll be paying interest on your home for a total of 37 years, between the two loans. It may be worth it, however, if you qualify for a lower interest rate.

Paying down your principal loan balance

Another reason to pay attention to your amortization table—and to use an amortization calculator—is you can easily see the benefit of making extra payments to reduce the principal balance on your loan. While your monthly payments won’t change unless you start over with a new loan, you can pay off your loan early by making additional payments.

In fact, you can use amortization to your advantage to save money and pay off your loan faster. If you make an additional loan payment of $1,000, for example, a calculator will show you that it saves you more than $1,000 over the life of the loan. That's because the additional payment helps you amortize your loan faster; in other words, lower the balance and thus save on interest expense.

Here are three ways to pay down your balance faster:

  • A little extra each month: Round up your payment and designate it to pay down your principal.
  • A lump sum payment: If you get a windfall, bonus, or tax refund, use it to pay down your balance.
  • Biweekly payments: By paying half of your mortgage every two weeks, you end up making one extra month’s payment each year.

You can try different scenarios on a calculator to see how even small, regular additional amounts can speed amortization of your loan along.

Regardless of how you make extra payments on your amortizing loan, make sure your lender applies the payment to the principal amount, if your goals are to decrease total interest expense and shorten the effective term of the loan.

Study your amortization schedule when you get it to see if you can accelerate your loan payoff date.

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Posted in Market Updates
July 24, 2019

Staging and Selling a Home With Kids: Yes, You Can!


Staging your home is universally acknowledged as one of the most important things you can do to make it appeal to potential buyers. And while no one ever goes in thinking it'll be easy, it doesn't have to be an insane amount of work, either—which is especially good news for home sellers who have kids. After all, few expect a home occupied by children to be perfect; that said, it should still adhere to some of the basics of staging, by being clean, inviting, and depersonalized.

This may seem like a lot of hassle, especially when buyers probably knowyou have kids. Won't they forgive a few minor details? Maybe not, says Mary Hall Mayer, a Realtor® with Warburg Realty in New York City.

“It’s psychological," Mayer says. "A dirty-feeling house implies nothing is well-maintained—not your appliances, or even the wooden floor concealed by a large area rug.”

So whether you’re selling a house with messy preteens or trying to stage while your toddler throws food across the room, we'll walk you through the process of transforming your home so it's seller-ready. Read these tips from the experts that will help you prepare your house (and your children) for a staging success.

Strike a balance

Just like any other room in the house, the kids’ rooms should be tidy and clean. Does this mean playtime is banned while your house is on the market? No. But it does mean you’ll need to get tough about what really needs to stay.

“The first thing I like to remember is that, if I'm showing an occupied unit, it's occupied by everyoneliving there,” says New York City–based real estate broker Brian Letendre. “Let's find out what's absolutely essential to normalizing the day to day for the children, and get a storage space to put any overflow.”

One of the best ways to make your home inviting (besides keeping it clean) is to depersonalize. We don't mean transforming it into a sterile space, just a neutral one that could comfortably belong to anyone, even a buyer without kids.

“You always want the prospective buyers to get a glimpse of what life would be like in the unit for them, without too much of the seller's personality there,” explains Letendre.

That means you’ll be putting your storage unit to work, and filling it with items like old monogrammed baby furniture or those abstract clay art projects made by your kids before they could even walk.

Remove larger toys that might otherwise dominate the room, like play sets, dollhouses, or that 4,000-piece Lego Death Star set.

Corral the small stuff

Once you’ve packed the big items off to storage, it’s time to gain control of the small stuff. You know—all of those half-used crayons and McDonald’s Happy Meals toys that have been accumulating for years.

A good approach is to invest in a collection of baskets or bins. Pick something that adds some style to your space, rather than detracts from it. That means stay away from hideously bright plastic bins; the point is to make your space look like it was organized by a professional.

Kim Jones, a Realtor and owner of Louisville-based L+K Home Organization, sold her home when her twins weren’t even a year old.

“The toys you keep are the ones kids play with every day,” she explains. “Rather than leave them out, get containers and shelving. To maintain organization, it’s important to place the toys back in a manner where it’s easy for the kids to help in the cleanup process.”

If your kids are old enough to help, encourage them to keep their space clean and organized.

“Labeling the containers, baskets, and bins gives the look a finishing touch but makes it easy for everyone to identify where things go back” says Jones. “If your kids are too young to read, use pictures instead.”

Prevent messes before they happen

When the bins are labeled and ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about all of the little messes that happen with kids—and how to prevent them when you have prospective buyers coming over.

"Now isn’t the time for art projects," says Danielle Schlesier, a Realtor in Brookline, MA. "Pack up tempting supplies like paint, markers, crayons, and glitter.”

Another good point is to watch what you cook on showing days. Here's a tip: Skip the waffles and maple syrup for breakfast. In fact, keep any sticky, high-spatter foods off the menu for those days, and plan to have the kids out of the house at least 30 minutes prior to your open house, giving you some time to clean up if necessary.

Do a final sweep

Toys organized, messes cleaned up, kids waiting outside—it looks like you’re ready to go, right? Not just yet.

Despite all of your hard work (and we see you!), there are still a few final places you’ll want to check before heading out.

Mayer, of Warburg Realty, offers up her final checklist. “Clean [off] fingerprints and sticky handles that people may open, like closet doors, appliances, doorknobs, mirrors, and glass.”

If nothing else, you should make sure your buyers can’t guess that morning’s breakfast based on the door knobs.

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Posted in News
July 17, 2019

Moving Is the Worst, but These Tips Will Make It Way Less Stressful


The idea of moving can sound like a great adventure, but for most people, the actual process of moving is a giant headache, or much worse. In fact, a lot of people equate it to some of life's biggest annoyances.

In a recent Comcast Xfinity survey, 19% of respondents said they would rather get a root canal than spend the day moving, and nearly half would choose sitting next to a screaming baby on a one-hour flight over packing up their place. (But what about a two-hour flight?)

Hey, relocating is a reality of life. The good news: There are ways to make it less stressful. No, it won't be a barrel of laughs, but moving doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. So when the time comes, consider putting the following tips to use.

Follow the rule of twos

When you know a move is imminent, there's a tendency to procrastinate, and this adds to the stress. A good way to stay on track is to follow the rule of twos: Start planning two months before moving day, and start packing two weeks before.

“If possible, give yourself eight weeks to handle your moving checklist in an orderly, low-stress manner,” says Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving Co. in Los Angeles. “This will give you time to send change-of-address information, pack up your home, arrange to transfer your child’s school records, etc.”

Make a checklist

Don't even try to commit your moving to-do list to memory!

Laurence Jankelow, co-founder of Avail, a Chicago startup that makes software for landlords, recommends making a checklist that includes the following items:

  • Contacting your utilities company to change or cancel service
  • Scheduling cable and internet installation
  • Updating your home or renters insurance
  • Hiring a moving company
  • Updating your billing address

Think of packing as a marathon, not a sprint

To keep from becoming overwhelmed, pack in sections, going room by room.

“Start with small tasks in each room—each drawer and cabinet are their own victories," says Rambod Mirhossein, project manager at Errands Group LLC in Orange County, CA. Packing should be considered a progressive process, not something you complete overnight.

“And don’t forget as you tape each box closed, label it with the contents and the name of the room where it will be unpacked," Mirhossein says.

Get acquainted with your new floor plan

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all of your furniture will fit in your new place.

“The room sizes won’t match up exactly, so you’ll want to measure all of your furniture to make sure it will fit where you want it to," says Ross Sapir, founder and CEO of Roadway Moving, in New York City.

He recommends obtaining a copy of your house's floor plan as soon as you close, so you'll have time to make other arrangements (i.e., go shopping) if necessary.

Pack an emergency bag

When you arrive at the house on moving day, you'll want to have easy access to your daily necessities like medicine and a toothbrush.

“Having a box or bag that you can immediately go to that has everything you need to survive a couple of nights is ideal,” says Cameron Brown, co-owner of Einstein Moving Co., in Austin, TX.

He advises packing the following items in this bag or box: toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, soap, and shampoo), an extra change of clothes, a towel, important medications, toilet paper, a book or other entertainment, chargers for cellphone and computer, a checkbook, and other moving essentials.

Arrange parking

If you won’t have a driveway to load and unload the moving truck, Jankelow recommends scoping out where you can park. Don't assume you'll be able to park the truck on the side of the road. Some cities allow you to reserve a parking spot, but make sure you do this well before moving day.

"Some cities require at least a week’s notice, and it can take a couple of business days for the city to post a ‘No Parking’ sign,” he says.

Check in with your moving company

Double-check your reservations with the movers.

“Check in two weeks ahead of time to confirm what time they’ll show up on moving day, and then check in again the day before the move to make sure you’re both on the same page,” Jankelow says.

And while you’re checking reservations, make sure you know what you’re responsible for.

“Unless you're having the movers do absolutely everything, it's likely you will be responsible for some packing prior to moving day,” says Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBudda, an online platform.

Every moving company is different, and some have specific requirements. Does everything need to be in cardboard boxes? Do the mattresses need covers?

"Being unprepared on moving day can add a lot of stress and potential extra costs to your move," Carrigan says.

Double-check your lease

Renters, it's extremely important to scan the leases of your old and new homes for any moving day stipulations.

“You might be charged for failing to fulfill any move-out requirements," says Jankelow. These requirements can include using the back door when moving or vacating the unit by a certain time of the day.

“Some landlords may charge a lot of money for even filling a small nail hole—and that’s not an expense you want to add to moving day," he says.

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Posted in News
July 10, 2019

Should I Sell My House? 6 Signs It's Time to Move On



Ten years. That’s the average amount of time a homeowner stays in a house before a sale, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Think that sounds shockingly short? Or way too long? The fact is, people's reasons for selling their homes are different, as are their time frames.

Still, there are some common reasons—financial and emotional—that lead us to sell our current home and move on to the next one. And you don't always see the reasons coming.

Read on for some telltale signs it's time to start looking for the next home and packing your bags (and when you should settle in for the long haul).

1. You know the seller’s market is booming and you want in

Let’s start with one of the most obvious reasons to sell: You’re eager to make a profit on your property.

You need to gauge the key indicators of a strong real estate market, explains Allen Shayanfekr, CEO and co-founder of Sharestates, an online real estate investment company.

A few signals: The price per square foot for real estate in your area is increasing, the amount of time properties stay on the market is decreasing, and you’ve noticed an uptick in brokerage activity in your neighborhood. (If you're situated in an especially hot neighborhood, you might even get a letter or a knock on the door from a listing agent who wants to help you get in on the action.)

“If any of these are true in your area,” Shayanfekr says, “think about selling up.”

2. Because your neighbors just got what for their house?

Check online real estate listings in your neighborhood, and pay attention to the “recently sold” flyers in your mailbox to keep track of comparable home prices in your area.

“If other houses on your street with the same bedroom/bathroom count [as yours] are selling for a price that you’d be more than satisfied with, it might be time to move on,” Shayanfekr says.

Another sign of a hot home sales market is the relationship of asking prices to sale prices. If home buyers are making offers fast—for as much or more than sellers are asking—it's a seller's market. A buyer may offer you a sales price you can't refuse, too.

3. You’re sick of feeling financially stressed

Not everyone sells their real estate in order to pad their bank account. Some homeowners underestimated their ongoing housing costs and simply sell to ease their mortgage burden, or to cash in their equity and use it for other purposes.

If your property taxes or mortgage payments have become unmanageable, the best recourse may be to sell and find another home that’s more affordable, Shayanfekr says. Selling your home is better than struggling with a big mortgage loan, and possibly risking foreclosure.

To breathe easy, your monthly housing costs, including your mortgage interest, principal, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and HOA or condo fees if applicable, shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross monthly income.

Before you sell your home to reduce your monthly living expenses, make sure you can find another home to rent or buy in your price range, and that you can qualify for a loan at current interest rates when you do.

4. You’ve grown—but your home hasn't

The starter home you moved into when you were expecting your first child isn’t necessarily the house you need now that you have three preteens and a capybara. It’s bittersweet to give up the memories you’ve made in your home, but if your living quarters are causing you stress rather than comfort, “take the leap and sell up,” Shayanfekr says.

Death, serious illness, divorce—these are all emotionally wrought experiences that may warrant a need for change. Relocation is another factor. But let's not overthink things.

“Maybe you’re just tired of the same old, same old, and it's time for a change of scenery,” says Bruce Ailion, a Realtor® and attorney for Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta.

5. You're over 'high maintenance'

The average homeowner shells out $2,000 a year for maintenance services, according to a recent report by Bankrate. Not repairs, mind you, but scheduled services such as landscaping, snow removal, septic service, private trash and recycling, and housecleaning.

Sick of watching these payments steadily drip out of your bank account? You could sell, and buy some lower-maintenance real estate such as a condo or a new-build property, Shayanfekr says. You might even want to try renting, and let a landlord worry about leaky pipes and other property hassles.

6. You’ve put at least 5 years into the relationship

“If you sell too soon—assuming you have a mortgage—you haven’t really built up any equity in the home beyond the down payment," points out Adam Jusko, founder and CEO of personal finance portal "In the beginning, your mortgage payments are almost completely interest payments.”

In fact, unless the housing market is seriously booming (see above), you might lose money when you sell. You might even owe more than you can get from your house after closing costs.

Remember: Selling isn't free: You'll have to shell out to cover all of the costs associated with hiring a real estate agent, closing, and, of course, purchasing another home.

That's why Jusko recommends staying put for at least five years, unless you have an urgent need to move. In addition to everything else, moving too quickly sends potential buyers a bad message.

"Buyers don’t feel good when it appears you are selling too soon,” Jusko cautions. “What was wrong with the house? Why are you leaving so fast? Are the basement walls about to collapse? Are the neighbors selling drugs and shooting fireworks at your house? Buyers can dream up all kinds of negative scenarios when a seller hasn’t owned the home for very long."

Another reason you may not want to sell is if you don't meet the qualifications to avoid paying capital gains tax on your profit from a home sale. Generally, you can exclude the gain from the sale of your home if you owned and lived in the home for two of the past five years. A sale before the two-year mark, if you don't meet any of the exceptions, could be a costly mistake. By the time you pay capital gains tax, you won't have as much equity left as you'd planned.

But beware of snap decisions

Of course, there are no promises that selling will be better for you in the long run. Take your time deciding if you should sell, and then study the local home sales market, with the help of your real estate agent, before you price your home. If you underprice your home, a buyer may snatch it up too cheaply. If you overprice it, the right buyer may pass it by.

Jusko and his wife lived in Chicago in the early 2000s, when home values were through the roof. After about three years, they sold at a 40% profit. But soon after moving to the Cleveland area, where they're both originally from, home values plummeted.

"For many years, our home was worth less than what we paid," Jusko says. "It's only now—more than 15 years later—that I believe we could sell for more than our purchase price. And don’t get me started on how much money we’ve put into the house over that time."

Selling your home is, above all, a personal decision. Do what will help you live—if not happily ever after—happily for now.

Article courtesy

Posted in News
July 1, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Bathroom Tile for Your Walls, Floors, and More


Selecting bathroom tile can be a daunting task, because there are just so many gorgeous options out there. Where to begin?

In this latest installment of our Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide, we'll lay out all the information you need to know. Here's what you should consider to find the right bathroom tile for your project.

Types of tile: Pros, cons, and price

Let's talk about tile choices. "The first thing you need to understand is that all bathroom tile is going to get wet, due to moisture and water vapor," says Cristina Miguelez, a remodeling specialist at means that every single piece of tile in the entire bathroom—yes, even walls far from a shower or sink—should be able to withstand water. So you want a nonporous tile in the bathroom whenever possible. Porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles are nonporous and hold up well; meanwhile, marble and many natural stones are porous and should be avoided.

Here's what else you need to consider:

Porcelain tile

Cost: About $2 to $15 per square foot.

Pros: This low-maintenance tile is ideal for both bathroom floors and walls, because the surface absorbs little moisture. That means it also resists stains. In addition, only soap and water are needed to maintain it.

Cons: The one big downside of porcelain is that it's a pain to install. The material is very dense, which makes precise cuts harder and means that the installation takes longer to complete. This type of tile also requires a fair amount of grout, which can easily get dirty if it isn't sealed properly.

This porcelain tile floor brings the wow factor.

Ceramic tile

Cost: About $3 to $30 per square foot.

Pros: Ceramic tile not only comes in classic white subway tile but offers a range of colors and patterns that give remodelers a lot of possibilities to choose from. It is exceptionally durable, and examples of ceramic tile have survived intact for thousands of years. It is often used on shower walls.

Cons: Ceramic is softer than porcelain, so it's not a good option for high-traffic bathroom floors. And when ceramic chips, the color underneath is different from the shade on top, which makes the breakage more noticeable (porcelain is the same color throughout). The tile is also not as water-resistant as porcelain.


Cost: $1 to $18 per square foot.

Pros: The biggest advantage of stone tiles is their uniqueness and beauty. These eco-friendly tiles are also not as slippery as porcelain and ceramic tile, and their durability makes them a good choice for showers.

Cons: Acid like vinegar can stain or damage natural stone, so you have to be very careful when cleaning it. And because the stone occurs naturally rather than being fired in a kiln, it can have small natural cracks that get larger over time. Just make sure to seal the tile to make it water-resistant. "Never use natural stone in a steam shower, and try to keep green marbles out of the bathroom, as they have a tendency to get flaky around water," says Miguelez.

bathroom remodel

Glass tile

Cost: About $30 to $40 per square foot.

Pros: Glass tiles add an opulent touch to any bathroom. Since they are resistant to stains, mold, and mildew, they are easier to keep clean. The tile is available in a rainbow of colors, as mosaic collections with a mesh backing and also as individual tiles.

Cons: The upscale feel of glass tiles comes with a price tag to match: This is one of the most expensive tiles. Glass can also be tricky to install. The tile is also easily scratched, which means that a floor of glass tiles will only look good for a few years.

Tile guide

How to save money on tile

When you're pricing out home upgrades, you'll find that remodeling a bathroom has one of the highest costs per square foot in the entire house (a bathroom upgrade typically costs about $9,000, and tops out at $20,000). So before getting started, determine the style you want, and make sure you can live with it for years to come, advises Jay Kallos, senior VP of architecture for homebuilder Ashton Woods.

One way to save money is to skip tiling a bathroom from floor to ceiling. Instead, tile only the areas that truly need it, like the shower, bath, and sink backsplash. Find alternatives to covering the other areas: for example, wallpaper, panels of reclaimed wood, or shiplap.

You can also use more expensive tile as an accent in your bathroom.

"Custom handmade tile and natural stone can add up quickly, so if you have a small budget, use these sparingly, such as in the back of a shampoo niche or the backsplash at the vanity," says Erin Davisof Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Oregon. You can also use less expensive tiles in an unexpected layout, which can make them look more sophisticated. "Try a herringbone or chevron pattern."

Wall tiles vs. floor tiles

Any floor tile can be installed on walls ... but wall tiles can't necessarily be installed on the floor, depending on the finish. For instance, glass mosaic tile isn't typically rated to go on the floor, because bathroom floors get slippery. Instead, use a small tile with a lot of grout lines, or a non-skid tile, to keep the floors safe.

"Keep in mind that softer ceramic floor tile can crack or may stain over time, making porcelain your best bet for flooring," says Miguelez. Another tip? "Try choosing one tile that comes in several sizes and using it on the bathroom floor, shower floor, and walls of the bathroom, to make the space appear larger."

Tile tips and tricks

Just as when you pick out a paint, "Be sure to look at physical samples in your own home when selecting a tile for your bathroom," says Abby Sanders of Pennsylvania tile installer Stone Interiors. "Every space has its own unique lighting, wall colors, and layouts, which can alter the look of your tile, compared to the version you may have seen at the showroom." Ask your installer for a few samples of similar colors, and take them home for a few days before making a final decision.

And don't forget about grout. "There's a growing trend of pairing plain tiles with colored ‘designer’ grout as an accent," says Curt Rapp, CEO of The Tile Doctor. "For example, use grout in bold hues like oranges, blues, and even reds, with simple white or black tiles." The contrast creates a fresh, unexpected look.


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Posted in News
June 29, 2019

Does Magnetic Paint Work? Creating a Nail-Free Art Wall


Magnetic paint will not magically make your wall as sticky as your refrigerator door, but it can create a cool design effect throughout your home if you use it right. It might sound as easy as slapping on some paint and instantly having a magnetic surface, but proceed with caution. Creating a magnetic surface that will successfully hold up papers requires some know-how, a lot of paint, and the right magnets.

Ready to transform a corner of your home into a nail-free, magnetic gallery wall? Here's what you need to know.

The science of magnetic paint

Before you go out and buy a quart or two, you should have some understanding of how it all actually works.

"Magnetic paint or primer is just like regular paint, except that tiny particles of iron dust are mixed in," says Michael Paul of K&J Magnetics, in Pipersville, PA. Magnets are attracted to the iron bits, so the more coats of magnetic paint you apply, the more power it has to attract magnets (be sure to allow each to dry well before you add another coat).

Paul did a test in which he applied three coats of magnetic primer and one coat of regular paint. He noted that one more coat of paint would have looked better, but the more paint you put on top of the magnetic primer, the less magnetic power it has.

He found that a disc magnet, which he describes as "a bit stronger than a refrigerator magnet," was able to hold up one piece of paper on the magnetic wall.

A second test was done with six coats of primer and one coat of paint, and Paul found that the disc magnet was able to hold up four pieces of paper on the magnetic wall. If you're having trouble visualizing it, here's a video showing the test wall's performance.

Does magnetic paint work?

The million-dollar question: Is magnetic paint too good to be true?

The answer depends on how many coats of paint you use and how heavy the thing you're trying to hang is.

Kristie Barnett, a design, staging, and color expert for the The Decorologist blog, has created a magnet wall for a client.

After more than three coats of paint, "the area still was not magnetic enough to hold most magnets, much less a magnet holding a piece of paper," she explains. They were able to use the surface for magnetic poetry (the small magnets with individual words printed on them), but that's about it.

Lindsey Allen of the home decor blog Better After had a better experience using magnets specifically designed for magnetic paint walls called Hooked on Paint Hanging Magnets (it's currently unavailable, but similar magnets are available for $5.40, They're different because they are polymagnets, a type of magnet that has multiple poles instead of just one, and so the result is a much stronger pull.

Allen used a quart of paint on a 5-square-foot space, coating it until all of the paint was used up. The result is a nail-free gallery surface that can be rearranged easily.

So ultimately, magnetic paint does work; it just takes sufficient paint coverage and the right kind of magnets.

Tips for using magnetic paint

Interested in designing a magnetic wall in your home? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your paint, including how to apply it and make it as sticky as possible.

  • Be prepared for bumps. If you're hoping for a smooth surface, this might not be the solution for you. Because the magnetism comes from those little iron bits included in the paint, it's inherently clumpy. "Many folks who use this primer complain of the surface roughness. When it dries, the surface is quite bumpy," says Paul. "It seems to be the nature of magnetic paint."
  • Mix first. Before you use your paint or paint primer, mix, mix, mix. "Left alone on the shelf, the iron particles will tend to settle to the bottom," says Paul. You want an even distribution of particles.
  • More is better. Paul recommends that homeowners apply at least six coats of primer (and dry well in between each). Remember, the more magnetic primer you put on, the more iron dust you're adding, so the more magnetic your wall will be.
  • Use the right magnets. You want strong magnets that are not too strong. The disc magnets ($0.99+, that Paul used for the tests are a bit stronger than the average refrigerator magnet. (If you have young kids around, you might want to think twice, Barnett cautions, as the magnets could be a choking hazard.)
  • Choose the right color. Magnetic primer and paint come in dark gray, so you'll want to pick a color that will look good over gray primer. Remember: It will be slightly textured and, with as many coats as you need for good magnetism, thicker than the rest of the wall.

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Posted in News
June 27, 2019

What Really Happens When You Sell Your House for More Than You Owe on a Loan


What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you'll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home's sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here's how to figure out if you're going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there's traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they're the ones who will take the buyer's money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller's mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn't just go straight into a seller's pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller's real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer's agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

The typical commission for a seller's agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer's agent who helped secure the deal.

If for some reason there isn't enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you'll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It's a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they'll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn't responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you're facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It's yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there's money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you're expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

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Posted in News
June 16, 2019

What Is a Homeowners Association? HOAs—Explained


What is a homeowners association? If you're buying a condo, townhouse, or free-standing home in a neighborhood with shared common areas and amenities—such as swimming pools, tennis courts, parking garages, or even just the security gates and sidewalks in front of each residence—odds are high these areas are maintained by a homeowners association, or HOA.

What is a homeowners association, and how will it affect your life?

Homeowners associations help ensure that your community looks its best and functions smoothly, says David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.

For instance, if the pump in the community swimming pool stops working, someone has to take care of it before the water turns green and toxic, right? Rather than expect any one homeowner in the neighborhood to volunteer his time and money to fix the problem, homeowners associations are responsible for getting the job done. Think of it as similar to real estate property taxes that a homeowner pays for city and state services, except these fees go to pay for amenities and maintenance in your own planned community or condo building.

The number of Americans living in a home with an association is on the rise, growing from a mere 1% in 1970 to 25% today, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research. So, it's wise to know exactly how such an association of homeowners works.

How much are HOA fees?

To cover these property maintenance expenses, homeowners associations collect fees or dues (monthly or yearly) from all community members. For a typical single-family home, HOA fees will cost homeowners around $200 to $300 per month, although they can be lower or much higher depending on the size of your house or condominium and the services provided. The larger the homeowner area, the higher the HOA fee—which makes sense, because the family of four homeowners in a three-bedroom condominium is probably going to be using the common facilities more than a single resident living in a studio condo.

Many HOAs pay property managers to oversee maintenance and deal with other real estate property issues.

In addition, most homeowners associations charge their members a little more in dues than monthly expenses require, so that they can build up a reserve to pay for property emergencies, amenities, and big-ticket items like repairing the roof and water heaters, or acquiring new carpeting, paint, and lights for the hallways.

If the association doesn’t have enough fees in reserve to cover necessary expenses, it can issue a special “assessment,” or an extra fee, in addition to your monthly dues, so that the repairs can be made.

For example, if the elevator in your condo building goes out and it’s going to cost $15,000 to replace it—but the HOA reserve account holds only $12,000—you and the rest of the residents are going to have to pony up at least an additional $3,000 in dues, divided among you, to make up the difference.

And yes, you as a resident still have to contribute your share of dues, even if your property is on the first floor.

HOA rules: What to expect

All HOAs have boards made up of homeowners in the complex who are typically elected by all homeowners. These board members will set up regular meetings where owners can gather and discuss major decisions and issues with their community. For major expenditures, all members of the HOA usually vote, not just members of the board.

In addition to management of the common areas, homeowners associations are also responsible for seeing that its community members follow certain rules and restrictions. Homeowners receive a copy of these rules from the HOA board, known as covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), when they move in, and they’re required to sign a contract saying that they’ll abide by them.

CC&Rs can cover everything from your type of mailbox to the size and breed of your dog. Some HOAs require you to purchase extra homeowners insurance if you own a pit bull, for example. Others have covenants and restrictions prohibiting certain breeds entirely. Many associations even have rules about what color you paint your house, what kind of curtains you can hang if your unit faces the street, and how long your lawn can grow. Its goal is not to meddle—it's merely to maintain a neighborhood aesthetic. However, if you don't like being told what to do with your home, living under the bylaws and rules of an association may not be for you.

What happens if you violate HOA rules?

That varies from place to place, but if you break the rules—or fall behind in paying your HOA dues—the consequences can be severe. The management could evict you from your property, or worse. Some HOAs have the right to foreclose on your property if you don't pay your monthly fees or don't follow the rules, says Bob Tankel, a Florida attorney specializing in HOA law.

So make sure you read your CC&Rs carefully so you know what to expect, and know the pros and cons of living in an HOA community before you buy real estate with a homeowners association.

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Posted in News
May 30, 2019

6 Ways to Embark on an Eco-Friendly Renovation


Eco-friendly living is all about choosing materials and practices that are beneficial to the environment. But did you know this can also include your renovation process and the materials you use?

“There are five things everyone should consider for an eco-friendlyrenovation: water conservation, air quality, energy savings, recycling, and buying sustainable lumber,” says Thom Kuntz, director of merchandising for 84 Lumber. For example, when you purchase lumber, he recommends using a retailer that sources it from a mill that practices legal and responsible harvesting.

"It's essential to reclaim, recycle, and repurpose materials. If you’re willing to put in some research and a little extra work, you can have a successful renovation that benefits your lifestyle and the environment,” Kuntz says.

So what are the best practices for having an eco-friendly renovation? Get the top go-green guidelines below.

1. Assemble your green team

During a home renovation, you need to communicate to your architect, designer, and contractors your desire that the process be as environmentally sound as possible. Erica Reiner, owner/principal of Eco Method Interiors, an eco-friendly interior design and consulting firm, says there are many people who specialize in this type of work.

“With certifications from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to the International WELL Building Institute, they will be able to guide you on how to use greener materials and practices that suit your particular project," she says.

Asking the right questions can also help you find the right people.

“When you’re vetting contractors, prioritize those who will demolish your home in a careful way and salvage materials like aluminum, wood, and glass,” says Michael DiMartino, senior vice president of installations at Power Home Remodeling.

2. Focus on the roof

Need a new roof? This is one area of the home practically made for going green.

"Rooftop solar panels can help you save on energy costs and lower your carbon footprint,” says Alex Pecora, director of residential product management at CertainTeed Roofing. “This includes newer, low-profile solar systems that integrate with existing shingles or tiles and blend seamlessly with the roofline.”

The cost of solar panels varies by state and company, but on average, you can expect to pay about $3.70 per watt. This means that the average-size 5-kilowatt solar system would run about $18,500.

Another eco-friendly option is metal roofing, for example, in aluminum, copper, or steel. Pecora says this material lasts a minimum of 50 years and is usually 100 percent recyclable.

“Metal roofing also accommodates solar-reflective paints that significantly reduce rooftop temperatures," he says. "This can lead to a noticeable reduction in air-conditioning costs, particularly in the hotter months.”

3. Prioritize energy-efficient products

Learn which types of appliances and household products are available in energy-efficient versions.

Energy-efficient windows and doors are essential to preventing heat and cold transference, protecting your home from harmful UV rays, and helping to keep maintenance costs down,” DiMartino says.

Take a look at three measurements when selecting energy-efficient products: U-factor (or rate of heat loss), solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), and air leakage.

“For each of these measurements individually, the lower the number, the more energy-efficient the product,” DiMartino explains.

Opt for certified EnergySTAR appliances and lighting, and WaterSense products for water-efficient toilets, shower-heads, and bathroom faucets.

4. Consider concrete

Flooring comes in a multitude of eco-friendly options, including bamboo and cork, but concrete stands out as a clean choice for flooring and walls.

“Concrete is one of the greenest materials out, because it can be sourced locally and has less of a carbon footprint from production, transportation, and importation than other materials like tile, carpet, marble, and even wood," says Earl Choate of Concrete Camouflage in Isabella, MO. It's also extremely durable and can be recycled.

And if you're concerned about concrete looking dark and gloomy, an acid stain can mimic the look of stone or marble and brighten the surface right up.

5. Pick out pre-loved furniture

You can show some love for the environment—and your wallet—by shopping used furniture and home accessories. Reiner suggests beginning your search on apps like Letgo, OfferUp, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace, where people are selling high-quality name brands. For trendy, antique, or hard-to-find pieces, she recommends websites like Chairish and AptDeco.

And of course, be sure to check out your local flea markets, estate sales, and thrift stores to score stylish furnishings at great prices.

6. Repurpose and recycle materials from your home

The flip side to purchasing pre-loved stuff is deciding how to reuse or donate the items you already own.

“Hardwood floors, wood, and windows are some common reusables," says Michelle Tascione, environmental strategy manager at 84 Lumber. You might even be able to refinish old hardwood floors instead of buying new ones.

If you can't find a use for the materials in your home, there are always organizations that are willing to accept donations. "Habitat for Humanity and Construction Junction take old kitchen cabinets and leftover lumber," Tascione says.

There are also carpeting stores that repurpose unwanted carpeting, as well as paint recycling centers where old paint can be remixed into new colors and resold.

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Posted in Market Updates
May 29, 2019

Should You Do Home Upgrades Now ... or Right Before You Sell?


Home sellers are often told to make upgrades to their house before they sell ... but when is the best time to get those home improvements underway, in terms of scoring the best ROI?

It's a tough balance to strike. After all, the sooner you remodel your kitchen or retile the bathroom, the more you'll get to enjoy it all yourself. But if you make those improvements too long before you sell, you risk them looking run-down and outdated by the time you want to market your home. So, when's the right time to give the green light?

If you're agonizing over such questions, we can end your misery now—in a good way! Here’s how far in advance of listing your home you should do certain home improvements, so they'll still look fresh enough to fetch top dollar.

7 to 10 years out

Well, you’re quite a planner, aren’t you? That’s cool … we’ll play the long game with you. Here are upgrades you can safely undertake when you still have significant time until your sale.

1. Redo your landscaping

This is truly one of the few housing projects that gets better with age, since shrubs and trees only improve as they mature. And, bonus: It's likely that it will never look dated, says Lisa Shiroff of Leafy Green Landscaping in Buena, NJ. However, she cautions, think twice about unique or difficult-to-maintain items if you are concerned with resale value—we’re talking elements like a meditation nook, bocce ball court, or koi pond.

“Most people are not willing to invest the time, energy, or finances to maintain those areas, so keep your additions relatively mainstream and user-friendly,” Shiroff says.

2. Update the garage door

Believe it or not, updating your garage door is the top upgrade you can make in terms of return on investment.

“Curb appeal is key when you’re getting ready to sell your home, and garage doors can dramatically improve the look of your home,” says Matt Edstrom of GoodLife Home Loans in Laguna Hills, CA. Since garage doors can last for up to 40 years, this is an update you can enjoy right now, without worrying about taking a depreciation hit.

3. Replace your roof

If your roof is more than 20 years old and you plan on selling, you may want to replace it, suggests Taylor Willson, owner of Willson Home Inspection Inc. in Tampa, FL. For one thing, you may receive immediate savings from your insurance company, he says, and beyond that, “A newer roof is a great selling point.” Choose a hardy material, like concrete tiles or asphalt shingles, that have a long useful life.

4. Keep up on repairs

Repairs should have a permanent spot on your “to do” list. If it’s broke, then, yes, please fix it.

“Don’t put off repairs while you wait for the optimum time,” says Cristina Miguélez, remodeling specialist at “They help your home retain value and can keep a small problem from becoming exponentially bigger.”

5 years out

This is a good time to start thinking about big-ticket items that will affect your resale and that you won’t want to pay for all at once. Here are some to consider.

1. Replace major systems

We’re talking HVAC systems, plumbing … anything whose average life expectancy is relatively long, and where you want your listing to showcase that these key systems are less than five years old. Replacing them now allows you to enjoy the improved operation and potential energy savings, while avoiding a concession in the sale price when the time comes, Willson says.

2. Check on anything with a warranty

This is also a good time to do a check on any items that have a current warranty—such as windows and appliances—while they are still covered, suggests Frances Dawson, with Re/Max Executive at the Lake in Cornelius, NC.

3. Switch out your front door

Another important element of “curb appeal,” your front door can really make your house pop, says Edstrom, as well as potentially increase your energy efficiency. Front doors can last for decades, but they are also exposed to the elements, so this is a good time frame to allow you to enjoy the aesthetics and energy savings, without running the risk that it will look too weathered come sales time.

2 years out

Two years is nothing in a home’s history, so it’s time to really start getting serious. Here’s what to do to start prepping for a relatively imminent sale.

 1. Reno the kitchen or bathroom

This can be subjective, but you’re probably safe doing an overhaul in this time frame if you are hoping to get some personal enjoyment out of your updates. Miguélez suggests, however, that you pick your decor carefully to avoid being stuck with an upgrade that’s already dated.

"A ‘trend’ is something that’s predicted to last roughly 10 years, so your safest best is to find a look that’s been on the upswing for roughly two to three years," Miguélez explains. "That means it will look relevant for a while, rather than something that is already five years old and potentially nearing its expiration date.”

Dawson recommends seeking the opinion of a local real estate agent, who can steer you to cost-effective updates that will increase the value of your home without over-improving it. And, she says, beware of DIY.

“If you don't have extensive prior experience, hiring a professional is going to be cheaper in the long run, because the DIY look is unappealing to your potential buyer.”

2. Get to organizing

This is also a good time to start cleaning out storage areas, closets, cabinets, the garage, the attic—anyplace you have an accumulation of stuff, Dawson says. Your future self will thank you for getting this time-consuming project out of the way now.

3. Have a home inspection

Very few sellers do this, but it’s smart to have your home professionally inspected right about now, so you won’t run into any nasty surprises when selling time rolls around.

“It is always less expensive to repair items before you get into negotiations with a buyer,” Dawson points out.

1 year or less

It’s crunch time, and now is the time to attend to all the high-traffic areas, as well as make improvements that will freshen up your listing.

1. Redo flooring

Pets and kids can scratch up your floors quickly, so wait as long as you can before refinishing floors. Replace carpet, too, if it’s dingy, and especially if it has pet odors.

2. Roll on a fresh coat of paint

Walls get dinged up constantly, so painting right before putting your house on the market can really make it sparkle. It’s also a quick job that you can get done in a week or two.

3. Replace all your accessory items

These are things like bedding, throw pillows, chair cushions, patio furniture, shower curtains, plumbing fixtures, cabinet pulls—all the embellishments that provide the “lipstick” for the foundational elements.  Shop those sales and switch out everything you can, Dawson recommends.

“You want the house to shine like a new penny, not appear to be well-loved," she says.

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Posted in Market Updates