Updated: Thursday, April 09, 2020

Should You Ask for a Forbearance?

Were breaking down the details.nbsp;

What is a forbearance?nbsp;

Forbearance is a temporary postponement of mortgage payments, said Investopedia. It is a form of repayment >

The key words here are temporary and postponement. Forbearance is a way to delay your mortgage payments for a period of time with the knowledge and permission of your lender. That way, you can skip a number of payments without putting your home at risk like you would if you just topped paying; Eventually, your home would go into foreclosure.nbsp;

The CARES Act, otherwise known as the coronavirus >

You can also ask for an additional extension for up to six months if needed. Younbsp;must contact your loan servicernbsp;to request this forbearance, said the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. You do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify other than your claim to have a pandemic->

Here are a few more things to consider.

Those skipped payments arent freebies

Some homeowners have been disappointed to find out that forbearance doesnt mean forgiveness. Youre not excused from making those payments; Youre just not making them NOW.nbsp;

One of the most important things to remember, and the source of a lot of confusion, is that forbearance is not forgiveness, said Karan Kaul, a research associate in the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, on CNBC.nbsp;Its just putting a pause on your mortgage payments for a few months. And depending on the loan servicer, interest can continue to accrue during the forbearance period, which may increase the overall cost of the mortgage.nbsp;

In addition, homeowners are still going to be paying interest on the balance of their loan, there are taxes and insurance that are not into escrow, that will have to be paid out, said Jennifer Micklos, with Movement Mortgage out of Clermont, NY on WFTV.

Those skipped payments will likely be due sooner than you think

There has been some talk about mortgage payments being tacked on to the end of the loan term, which would be more of a mortgage holiday for those who are having a hard time paying. But, by and large, this is not what lenders are offering.nbsp;

When Morgan Davis, a furloughed clothing designer, called Wells Fargo to ask for help with her FHA loan about two weeks ago, she was offered to suspend three payments without penalty three months of forbearance, said Forbes. But at the end of those three months, all my mortgage payments would be due at once, Davis said. I told [the bank representative] that didnt sound very helpful. I explained I had only called to see if there was a way for me to hold onto more of my cash while I wasnt getting paid.

Flagstar Banks forbearance program has similar stipulations, although they initially offer a six-month suspension period. The forbearance letter they are sending out to customers states, that A forbearance plan is a temporary solution, and the suspension of your payments during the Forbearance Period will make your loans past due.nbsp;

Borrowers are expected to bring their loan current at the end of the six months by paying all past due amounts including those not paid during the Forbearance Period; setting up a repayment plan that adds a portion of your past due amounts to your regular monthly payment until your account is current; or applying for a more permanent loss mitigation solution.

You wont be reported as late

Lenders are not to report forborne payments to the credit bureaus, which means that borrowers who request forbearance will not see their credit scores suffer, said Forbes. However, if they do not contact their loan servicer to start a forbearance plan and miss a payment, the lender is to report that lapse to the credit bureaus.

Additionally, Loan servicers are barred from addingnbsp;any fees, penalties or interest charges beyond the amounts scheduled or would be calculated if the borrower made timely payments, said CNBC.

You might not be able to get through to your lender

CNBC reported that homeowners have spent hours on the phone waiting for help from their lender, so be patient if youre making that call. Or, check out your bank or lenders website to see if they have added forbearance information. You might find what you need and be able to submit your request without having to speak to someone.nbsp;


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Developing a Successful Homeowner Association

The growth of HOAs has been nothing short of phenomenal in the last decade. In many urban areas, upwards of 75 of all new residential housing is in the form of a homeowner association. Mixed used HOAs combine residential and commercial together. For instance, retail and office units often occupy street level space while residential units occupy upper floors.

HOAs are essentially governmental corporations controlled by the members through an elected board of directors. The HOA has authority to make and enforce rules and regulations and to collect HOA fees from the members to support the HOA operation and maintenance responsibilities. Like the IRS, the HOA has significant power to enforce its will through liens and, in extreme cases, foreclosure.

When homeowner associations are properly conceived and constructed, they work very well. When they are haphazardly implemented, trouble and discontent follows. The success or failure of an HOA begins at the beginning...with the developer.

Knowing the huge potential in HOA development, what should the savvy HOA developer do to maximize sales and profits? I will explain several steps to being a successful homeowner association developer.

1. Choose the HOAs design and material carefully. Homeowner associations often have significant maintenance, repair and replacement responsibilities. This is particularly true of condominiums where the structures and grounds are the maintenance responsibility of the HOA. This responsibility falls on the shoulders of a volunteer board of directors which is usually composed of well meaning but inexperienced people. So, when it comes to designing the structure and grounds, ease of maintenance and cost of repairs are extremely important.

Steer clear of unproven architectural designs and materials. The odds are high that such an experiment will fail and problems come back to haunt the developer. The more complex and expensive it is for the HOA to maintain, the more likely it will not be done properly.

2. Carefully craft the governing documents. Also called CCamp;Rs Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, rules, regulations, declaration and bylaws, these documents form what is the HOA governmental structure. State laws vary on the requirements so its imperative that these documents be crafted by a knowledgeable and experienced attorney in the state where the development is going to be. There is no such thing as "boilerplate" governing documents. Each HOA is unique and state laws change frequently. Never try to save money on legal costs, because poorly written governing documents can make it next to impossible for the board to administer HOA business, enforce reasonable rules or raise the money needed to maintain the assets.

3. Budget the HOA adequately. In an attempt to be competitive in selling their HOA units, some developers set the HOA fees unrealistically low. If the competition is charging, say, 300 a month, they might charge 250. Thats a better deal right? Hardly. If it takes 300 per month per unit to support the HOA budget, it wont take long for the new board of directors to figure that out and then Mr. Developer receives a strongly worded letter from an attorney that has ugly words like misrepresentation and fraud sprinkled here and there. Whether the developer has intentionally or unintentionally underestimated the HOA budget, he will be held accountable. Moreover, if the HOA doesnt have enough money to maintain the assets, it will fail sooner and the developer usually gets blamed for construction defects.

Its best to use third-party consultants, including professional HOA managers and management consultants that specialize in homeowner associations to determine the HOAs operating and reserve budgets. The developer should get as arms length as possible from the budget numbers.

4. Provide a reserve study. A reserve study forecasts the repair and replacement events that the HOA will encounter over the next thirty years. It identifies the common elements by component roof, paint, siding, etc., assigns a repair or replacement cost to each, a schedule for each like roof, thirty years; paint, ten years., and a funding plan that guides the board of directors on how much money to reserve each year for these future events.

Since these costs can easily add up into the millions of dollars, its critical that they be included into the HOA budget from the beginning. Then, its a >

5. Provide a maintenance plan. While adequate budgets can pay for adequate maintenance, how the money is spent is very important. Remember, the board is made up of amateurs that often dont have the knowledge or experience to maintain the millions of dollars in assets with which they are entrusted. A maintenance plan written by the developer gets into the specifics of what should be done, who should do it, and when. The plan should be written in laymans terms because thats what the board members are. They need to understand what needs to be done but will not actually do it themselves. A maintenance plan that ties directly to the operating budget and reserve study will give the board the guidance it needs to spend the HOAs money properly.

6. Honor warranty obligations. Developers generally have a statutory warranty period on HOA property sold. Handling warranty claims properly and quickly yields big dividends in the public >

7. Stay in the mix. Just because the project is sold out and turned over to the homeowners doesnt mean the developers job is over. Beyond warranty issues, there is always a potential that some legal claim may raise its ugly head.

To help fend off these dragons, the developer should retain the right in the governing documents to attend future board meetings and receive copies of board meeting minutes. Proactive developers take those rights seriously and attend all meetings for years. The result is that small problems are nipped in the bud before they become subjects of litigation.

Being an HOA developer can be highly rewarding and profitable when the plan includes these insider principles. Take this advice to heart and enjoy hearty results.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net.


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Your Essential Spring Lawn Care Guide

Rake

First, rake leaves twigs and dead grass and remove snow mold if you live in colder climates. This allows air and sunlight to reach down to the grass roots. Avoid power-raking; go for a gentler approach, using a light rake rather than a heavy one. Hacking away at the ground can damage shallow grasses and remove the layer of soil holding seeds that need the sun to germinate.

Weed

You know spring is here when the weeds come out. Dandelions are among the first to rise up in the dormant grass. The yellow flowers, followed by the puffballs, pop up almost faster than you can keep up with them. Hairy bittercress, common chickweed, and henbit are also common winter annual weeds. They spend winter in a dormant state and sprout in the spring. For best results, pull as many as possible by hand or use a hoe. Be sure to get the entire plant, roots and all. Mow before and during flowering to stop seed production. If you use a pre-emergent weed killer before the weeds wake up, make sure its a calm day.nbsp; Wind can spread the chemicals onto plants you dont want to kill and into waterways you dont want to pollute.nbsp; If youd prefer to avoid chemical and hand-pulling, there are a number of natural weed killers, but dont expect them to work quite as well.

Aerate

Aerating making small holes in your soil lets air, water and nutrients reach the roots of your lawn, encouraging healthy growth. Your best bet is a power plug aerator, but you can also use a manual spike aerator. On newer lawns 1-3 years old, aeration is encouraged twice a year, in the spring and fall. After that, you can switch to once a year in the spring. Dont rake the plugs; leave them on the lawn as topsoil. Mow over them and they will decompose naturally.

Overseed

Overseeding is the practice of spreading grass seed over your existing lawn. Cover bare and thinning patches of turf using a mix of seed that includes slow-growing and low-growing grasses fine fescue or centipede grass, for example. Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass and annual ryegrass benefit the most from overseeding. The process ensures your lawn will stay young, healthy, and thick.

Water

Maybe getting up early isnt your thing, but you need to water the lawn early in the morning before the sun gets too strong. This prevents water evaporation waste and lets the grass blades dry off before evening, which helps prevent insect and disease issues. Watering deeply and less frequently makes the roots stronger and deeper. But dont overwater Perpetually soggy roots cant breathe and rot, attracting disease and insects. Soil should be moistened to a depth of about 6 inches a couple of times a week. Not sure if your lawn needs watering? Try the screwdriver test. Take an 8-inch screwdriver and push it into the lawn. If it goes in easily, your lawn is moist enough.

Fertilize

Fertilizer is food for the soil. It helps keep your lawn healthy so it can resist disease and weeds. Fertilizing also plays a role in lawn color and helps the grass recover from stress. Grass often needs more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than the soil provides. Thats where fertilizing comes in. Wait until the soil reaches a temperature of 55 degrees. Fertilizer is useless on frozen ground. Use either slow or quick->

Mow

When the grass is growing well, its time to mow. The proper mowing height will depend on your type of grass, but for good lawn health, follow the one-third rule: Never cut off more than one-third of the length of the grass. Cool-climate grasses have two peak growing periods, in the spring and fall. Warm-climate grasses grow fastest in the summer heat. Mow more often when growth is peaking and back off when slower grass growth tells you to. Its also best to let the clippings fall back into the lawn. They recycle nutrients so youll need less fertilizer.

The yard is the first thing people notice about your home and the cornerstone for curb appeal. Make sure the grass is thick and healthy with these essential spring lawn care tips.


Amy Okafor loves a good landscape, and seeks inspiration for the one in her backyard by visiting every one she can in her travels. She writes about gardening and landscaping for a variety of local and national publications.


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Trying to Refinance? May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor.

Heres what you need to know if youre looking to lower your rate right now.

Rates may be higher than you thought

That 3.5 rate you saw last week might be up over 4 now. No, the coronavirus crisis isnt over, and the Fed hasnt raised the benchmark rate. So whats going on here?

A big reason may be a resurgence in new applications for mortgages and especially refinances, said The Mortgage Reports. Investors hate refinances, especially if theyre for mortgages that are recent. So the last thing they want is to replace lost mortgages with ones at an even lower rate. And, understandably, they shy away from mortgage-backed securities MBSs. But supply and demand mean that inevitably pushes up mortgage rates.

So the Fed is having to resist the market forces that arise when investors vote so decisively with their feet. We still think it likely that it will get its way in the end and push mortgage rates lower. But dont expect a smooth ride.

But they also may dip back down

When they do, call your loan professional. Quickly. And hope you make it through to the end. By some accounts, its like the Hunger Games out there.nbsp;

All lending institutions are not equalnbsp;

If youre working with a mortgage broker, youll have access to a number of refinancing options and programs. If youre working with just one lender, you only have access to their programs. It behooves you to get quotes from more than one person.

It may be harder to get approvedand stay that waynbsp;

The credit score that was good enough to qualify last yearor even last monthmay not be good enough anymore. Thats because the COVID-19 pandemic has forced lenders hands when it comes to FICO score minimums, said Forbes. As more and more Americans lose their jobs or see reduced wages because of the virus, the risk of foreclosure goes up. Investors who buy mortgage loans will lose out when that happensand taking on more risk by lending to lower-credit borrowers? Thats just not something investors or the lenders who sell to them are interested in.

That FHA minimum of 580 that many first-time buyers with sub-par credit used to qualifyits probably going to be awhile before that type of score is acceptable again. Lenders set their own credit score requirements based on how much risk theyre willing to take on, they said. One lender told a borrower the new minimum for FHA was 680.

A look at rate sheets from lenders across the country reveals a similar theme. Credit score requirements are either much higher than the official FHA minimum one lenders floor was 740, or tiered interest rates make the loans virtually unaffordable for lower-credit borrowers another lender added 15 for scores between 600 and 619. The result is a mortgage market that essentially shuts out buyers and existing homeowners who dont have sterling credit.

Your appraisal may come via an algorithm

Increasingly, appraisers are using computer algorithms instead of an-person inspections to determine the value of a home. Thats partly because Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage giants, recently directed mortgage lenders to reduce the need for appraisers to inspect the interior of a home for eligible mortgages, said Money. The caveat? For non-conforming mortgages, such as FHA loans, an in-home appraisal is still required.

Your inspection may be virtual

In many areas, this is the new normal. The Erie Building Division has begun offering a virtual option so homeowners can have their projects inspected without staff members coming entering homes during the novel coronavirus pandemic, said Colorado Hometown Weekly. Erie staff is still conducting inspections on new home construction and commercial construction.

Money adds that a number of home inspectors are now using live video chatting apps like FaceTime or Zoom to let home buyers tag along remotely.

There may be other barriers to closing

Closing on a real estate transaction is hard enough without the extra obstacles erected by social distancing and lockdowns. So some are trying to dismantle the biggest barrier, said The Mortgage Reports. Legislators are currently working on a law that could further facilitate remote, electronic signing of closing documents. Thats generally already legal under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act E-Sign and various state laws. But a new bipartisan bill is intended to make it easier and more commonplace. And Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and probably others are being less strict about some aspects of verification. So, perhaps, your employer, working from home without access to paper files, may be able to certify your employment by email rather than provide documentary evidence.

However, that doesnt mean there arent barriers to closing right now, outside of any difficulty associated with loan approval. For one, the closing of government offices in some areas is proving to be a challenge.nbsp;

Squir>

May the odds be ever in your favor.


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NOW: BV (Before Virus) & AV (After Virus)

Times have changed dramatically.

The strategic frontline for the war against the COVID-19 virus and for the fight to keep people healthy is our homes. We are all living on this frontline, therefore we can all make a significant difference in determining how this war plays out and ends.

Simply, STAY HOME

Thats how the war will be wonfirst in your home, then around the country, then globally. By staying home to curb virus spread, youll remain healthy and out of the overburdened healthcare system. Through this civic service, you are buying time for the hard-working global medical community to save the infected, discover drugs which will increase their survival, and create vaccines to protect against the virus and, therefore, to end this.

Personal 6-foot distancing and staying physically separate, especially when combined with frequent, effective handwashing andif you must go outwearing a mask, reduce the risk of catching the virus through inhaling an infected persons air-born respiratory droplets and, if you have the virus or carry it, of spreading the virus.

Whether home is a house, a high-rise unit, or something in between, home may never have played a more important role in your life and in society. Staying home is at the top of the We must win out over this virus list, therefore make a difference and shelter in place.

At the same time, reach out online or by phone to help:

those who are isolated, under-housed, or in abusive > those whose work is directed at helping these people as well as recently laid-off or homeless individuals and families.

Uncertainty Is Certain

So many thought they had job security, but it turns out that was false security. Now you see why. Hopefully, your learning curve will be flattened by support from your employer, community, the government, and from yourself.

nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Discovering how to live comfortably with uncertaintythats living with constructive uncertaintymay be your greatest challenge and, eventually, your most powerful super power:

Start by acknowledging that youve always lived with uncertainty, you just ra> Then, invest your energy and creativity in action and learning opportunities that build your resilience and flexibility on all levels. Apply the resulting resourcefulness to empower you into creating and moulding the future of your choice, not settling by default.
Cope with continued change by repeatedly practicing constructive uncertainty until it is a new habit. Life may never be the same again, but what if that becomes a good thing? How can you contribute to a better outcome?

NOW thinking starts NOW

1. No going back, only forward
2. Only you stop you
3. Why not take action while the world is on pause?

Shift your perspective to make a painless, quick transition to NOW Thinking:

1. No going back, only forward

Theres no BACK and theres certainly no NORMAL

Before Virus BV: With all the talk of returning to normal or going back to normal living, few people are willing to acknowledge there is no going back. There never was a going back nor a normal. We were just programmed to believe there was.

After Virus AV: Life is like a river. In a river, its impossible to step into the water and then return later and step in exactly the same spot in that river. The same is true in life. If you revisit a person, place, or memory, you have changed and so have they or it. The unobservant and distracted dont see these differences. They also miss the subtlety of opportunity. Accept the fact that there is no going back and that we are all moving forward whether we acknowledge this or not. Then AV, youll see previously-missed opportunities.

2. Only you stop younbsp; nbsp;

You dont need enemies or barriers to stop you. Weve each had a lifetime to become good at self-sabotage.

BV: Each of us is the real obstacle we face. We limit our own goal achievement and future. For instance, are you letting fear steer your course now even though youre not exactly sure what youre afraid of and how realistic this is?

AV: Awareness of how you undermine yourself can help you change patterns in the future. Adopt a positive perspective on every set-back to regain ground and move forward quickly. To empower yourself, replace fear of what you might lose with gratitude for what you have and who you share your life with. Are you here to follow someone else or to be yourself AV?

3. Why not take action while the world is on pause?

BV: Did you feel you had not accomplished all you expected to in life and then the virus hit and now you have been thrown completely off track?

AV: Bad things are happening, but good will come of the worlds unprecedented banding together to conquer this common invisible enemy. Lean on the positive side of this global crisis and you may come out in a better place.

Not never, but when

If youre bored, its because youre boring. Youve not even engaged with yourself. Get curious. Be interested in more than virus statistics and streaming to kill time. Concentrate on helping, learning, being productive, contributingand suddenly you may find fulfilling hours have passed. Were living in a new world, so adopt a pioneers strength of will and resourcefulness. Eventually, this purposeful, self-directed approach will become your signature stance on lifes current and AV challenges.

The work day still ends when it ends. Employers who are driving remote-working employees to labor beyond their regular 8 hours are not improving productivity, making friends, or building credibility.

Home-based employees and entrepreneurs with stay-at-home children work two careers:nbsp;

1. Theirswithout many of the conveniences of the normal workplace, and

2. A new untutored, fill-in education role cobbled from the careers of missing nbsp; nbsp; teachers, principals, lunchroom people, recess monitors...the childrens nbsp; nbsp; entire school education team.

Working from home is not me>

Employers, independent contractors, and employees benefit from re-thinking how workers are expected to fit their job into often-complex home life while simultaneously achieving equivalent, if not higher, rates of productivity. Employers who pressure, threaten, or stress workers are using old-fashioned BV habits, not forward-thinking AV leadership.

  • Restorative sleep is the vital goal. Resilience is essential for homefront fighters in the war against COVID-19. That means restorative sleep is essential for good health, clear decision-making, and sharp thinking. Cut sugar, caffeine, and drugs to aim for calm and >

Or, turn to music. Participate. Dont just listen. Take up the anti-virus challenge Jon Bon Jovi has extended. Help him write a song of perseverance based on if you cant do what you want, you do what you can.nbsp;

The strategic frontline for staying healthy is home. If you go out and catch the virus, the healthcare system becomes the battleground where you fight for your life.nbsp;

Stay healthy to protect yourself and others

This too shall pass.


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Tips for Taking Your Own Listing Photos During the Quarantine

But, even in jurisdictions where real estate->

First, a disclaimer. Professional photos of your home are critical to showing it in its best light so it will sellespecially in a market that is suddenly facing some challenges. According to the Center for REALTOR Development CRD, It might seem obviousor go without sayingthat good photography and videography are critical for your success as a real estate professional, said RISMedia. But when you dig into the numbers, just how much of an impact good visuals make borders on shocking.

Heres just a taste of those stats: Homes with high quality photographynbsp;sell 32 percent faster. Homes withnbsp;more photosnbsp;sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends an average 70 days on the market, but a home with 20 photos spends 32 days on the market. For homes in the 200,000 to 1 million range, those that include high-quality photography in their listingsnbsp;sell for 3,000-11,000 more.

If youre ready to pick up that SmartPhone, here are a few tips to help you tske pro-quality photos.

1. Make a shot list.

Although your shot list may be slightly different, especially if there are other areas in your home like a basement, game room, or home theater, this is a good overview from Expert Photography:

2 wide angle shots of each bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room
1 photo of the bathroom, unless its particularly beautiful or spacious
1-3 photos of the backyard unless it has some unique features. And then
1-2 shots of the front of the home to show off the curb appeal
1 shot each of features such as laundry room, garage, and pantry

2. Check out other listings, especially in your area.nbsp;

This will help you see what works when the photos are done right, and what doesnt.

3. Think like a buyer.

Before grabbing your camera and tripod, walk around your house and imagine how it looks to people who dont live there, Buddy Mountcastle, a real estate photographer in Fort Lauderdale, FL, told Realtor.com.nbsp;

4. Consider the time of day.nbsp;

Shoot when the sun is at its sunshiny-est to help your home look light and bright. If you must shoot your interior on a cloudy day, play with the flash and the exposure to see if you can approximate natural light.nbsp;

5. Turn on all the lights.

Youre not going to have the benefit of professional lighting, but making your home as light as possible is key to taking good listing photos. Images that are too dark are a waste of time and effort.

6. Capture that sunset.

If youre getting ready to sell your house, put the whole family on sunset watch. That way, you can get out and take some exterior shots with a pretty sky in the background. Butyoull want to make sure the exterior of your house is lit right and that you are including the right home-to-environment ratio, as well.nbsp;

Just as when youre shooting indoors, you want to create the perfect vignette of the outside of your home, said Forbes. Showing too much street can make the image feel cold, Carrie Wells, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse innbsp;Aspen, CO, told them, Preparation is the key element in achieving great listing photos. Determine the right time of day or evening for each shot. If you have beautiful outdoor lighting, dont skip taking images at dusk. This can give potential buyers a better picture of the property and landscaping.

7. Use a wide-angle lens.

Its hard to get the angles right without one. Thankfully, you dont have to buy a professional camera with an expensive lens. On iPhone, the Panorama 360 app can give you the tool you need to look like you brought in a professional.nbsp;

8. Use a tripod.nbsp;

Most homes look much more appealing when shot in natural light, said Home amp; DIY Blogger, Erin Spain, on FitSmallBusiness. If you dont have professional flash equipment or a very steady hand, pictures taken without a tripod in natural light can look dark and blurry. Tripods allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds to take advantage of natural light while still keeping images sharp.

Dont have a tripod? Use one of these clever tricks to DIY one.

9. Clean, clean, clean.nbsp;

Any area being shot for your listing photos needs to look as clean as it would be if people were physically touring your house. Dirty carpets and smudged mirrors will show up in photos.nbsp;

The exterior of your home likely also needs some work. If you plan to show the home from the outside And you should, dont forget to give the exterior a clean-up, too. You might not be able to add fresh flowers to the porch or have the trees trimmed like you would if you werent quarantined, but, if you can spend a little time outside, you can still make the area look nice. Rake the leaves, clean the windows, and pull the weeds so the front looks tidy and inviting in photos.nbsp;

10. Watch the reflections

You might have to alter your angle several times in order to avoid reflections from mirrors or shower doors.nbsp;

11. Pay attention to the details.

Did you put the toilet seats down before you shot pictures of your bathrooms? Are there light bulbs missing or out in any of the light fixtures? Did you overlook the overfilled laundry basket in the laundry room? The little things we miss every day in our home will stand out to someone seeing it for the first time.nbsp;

12. Make use of good photo editing tools.

Snapseed or Box Brownie can help you get the best out of your photos with features to lighten them up, enhance the images, and retouch where necessary.nbsp;


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Sellers: Adopting a “Buyer Frame of Mind”

Your real estate professional will help with this mental transition and ultimately youll benefit from embracing this shift. The sooner you let go of obsessing about your home and start concentrating on what buyers in this market and this price range will spend their money on, the easier and more lucrative selling your home will be.

Embrace The Buyer Perspective

You probably selected your listing professional and brokerage based on what you believe they know about getting you the best deal. During the listing presentation, they brought you up-to-date on current local buyer patterns. This was intended to demonstrate their understanding of local market trends and their knowledge of how to connect with qualified buyers.

Dont be shy about returning to that conversation. Learn more about those shopping in your neighborhood for homes like yours. What exactly do they want and what dont they want.

Whether your experts use the National Association of REALTORSNAR annual Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report to illustrate selling points or statistics provided by their brokerage or Real Estate Board, you will learn a lot when you are introduced to the substance behind their marketing plan.

For instance, millennials represent a significant segment of buyers in many markets. If your real estate is already a millennial magnet, you and your professional team have a good chance of reinforcing this hot vibe. This marketing activity may materialize as an even great selling price with seller-favoring terms.

What can you do to help with Step One, which is getting buyers inside your real estate, so they can fall in love with the property?

The majority of todays buyers shop the internet before they contact a real estate professional. This means a stellar online presencephotos, videos, accurate informationis essential to gaining buyer attention and enticing them inside your real estate:

Videos and photos are only as good as the subject, so your help preparing your real estate to shine is vital. Curb appeal has to be there for a photo to capture this allure. A must-get-inside street face has to exist to have buyers click or swipe for more details on your real estate treasure. Think ahead if possible since some curbside beautification takes time. For instance, if you expect to sell in the spring, planting a lot of spring bulbs during the previous fall will be a great investment.
No one knows your real estate as well as you do, so you may see linkages that wouldnt occur to someone looking on. Suggesting benefits evident in other seasons may be useful content in marketing literature or during home tours. For instance, as the summer sun shifts between buildings, I can watch the sunrise from my front deckone of my favorite ways to start the day. Whats special about living in your real estate?
Most buyers would like a brand-new home, but they can only afford or find a resale. How can you make your home seem brand-new to buyers? Thorough cleanups, freshening up with paint, and repair of the unsightly all add up to a good first impression, inside and out. Youve gotten used to building defects, but friends and your real estate team will help you see the flaws if you have an open mindbuyers mindset.
Most buyers are moving to get more space. Empty closets, storage areas, and the garage, so it is evident there is room to spare. Remove extra furniture and stuff so rooms are visibly larger. Listen to your real estate professional. Youre going to move anyway, so get an early start.
Staging of interiors translates interior potential into visual proof that this is exactly what buyers are looking for. Generating Thats our > Get used to the idea that you and your family will be inconvenienced. This starts before the house goes on the market and lasts until its sold. Everything is about selling the buyers new home to them.

Power-Up Negotiation

Sellers benefit from understanding that negotiations for the sale of their real estate begin as soon as the listing is signed, not when an offer to purchase is presented.

Your real estate professionalyour negotiatoris steadily working toward negotiations. Generating offers to purchase is an important step along the way. Ask about their strategies for doing this.

Because you are not a trained real estate professional, any conversation or email exchange you have directly with buyers could undermine your professionals selling strategies. Your casual oh, sure, no problem response to a buyers request for something or question concerning closing date or what youll include in the sale, may cut into your negotiating position on the big day. Usually, direct contact between buyers and sellers is kept to a minimum for that reason.

Remove any must keep items like dining room fixtures, family heirlooms, or big screen TVs before the home is shown. Help buyers concentrate on what theyll receive, not get fixated on what they wont.

During a showing or an open house, your attempts to sell a buyer on the attributes of your yard or living room may put-off the buyer. Since buying connections are emotional, it takes an expert at reading the signs to know what to say and how to say it. Get out of the houseyou, your family, and petswhen your property is shown to buyers. How can they feel free to voice their feelings and visualize this as their home when youre sitting right there? Or worse, if youre along for the house tour?

Prepare for offer presentation by working out what you could do to move quickly if the right price appeared. What dates, if any, are essential to you? Find out what moving after those deadlines would cost you. That knowledge may help keep closing date in perspective during negotiations.

If you are concerned that your real estate professional is not doing everything they said they would, when they said they would, call them on this. Time on market is a crucial factor for achieving the best sale price. Wasting time means wasting your money.


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Here’s the Thing About TV Niches, and Five Ways to Transform Them into Something Better

We can personally attest to dealing with more like enduring a TV niche that was both poorly located and improperly sized. Shoved into the corner of the living room, it suffered from extreme glare coming through floor-to-ceiling, west-facing windows and created an unfortunate scenario in which there was only one good seat in the room: the one directly in front of the TV.

The massive sizeand uneven measurements from front to backalso made TV and furniture selection challenging. Nothing ever looked right in there, and it became a constant source of frustrationso much so that we found ourselves not using the room.

Our solution: >

Of course, this is just one idea for how to transform an odd, awkward, or unusable TV niche into something decidedly better.

Home office

A TV niche is the perfect spot to tuck in a home office. We love these table tops from IKEA from just 8.99 that you can attach to the wall for a built-in look. Pick your favorite finish, add a comfy chair, some cute accessories, and a shelf or two plus a dynamic piece of art above, and youve got a usableand attractivespace.

Bookcase

The same shelf you used above the desk can be multiplied to create an area for books, photos, art, and knick-knacks. Whether you want a sleek look with hidden brackets or you like to be able to see the hardware, youll find an abundance of super-affordable options at IKEA. We also love these rustic floating shelves from Wayfair that have a lip so the end so your stuff will stay put.

Gallery

Dont have good wall space where you can display some favorite art or framed family photos? Now you do You can use these tips to help you with the layout, and, for added punch, paint or wallpaper the back wall of the niche to really make the art stand out.

Play area

DJ booth. Hair salon. Spaceship. Kitchen. Art studio. There are so many ways you can turn an unused or underappreciated space into a masterpiece for kids and inspire their creativity. Of course, it helps if you dont mind it being the centerpiece of your living space If you do, a pair of curtains you can close or a couple of sliding doors will help keep everything under wraps.


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Do You Really Skip Two Payments When Refinancing?

First, lets understand that mortgage payments are made in arrears. Its the opposite of a rent payment. When renting, youre actually paying for the month youre about to live in. With a mortgage, youre paying for the month you just lived in. For instance, you make your mortgage payment on the first of the month, but the payment is for accrued interest from the previous month.nbsp;

You might have noticed this when you first bought and financed your home with an entry on your settlement statement noting prepaid interest and a range of dates. If you closed on the 25th of the month, the interest collected would be from March 25 March 31. That would amount to seven days of interest collected at your closing. But heres where the skip part comes in- because you made your first payment of seven days and because interest is paid in arrears, you dont have to make your first payment on the first of the next month because you already paid it at your closing. You paid seven days. You didnt really skip anything, you just paid it ahead of time.

Now look at a refinance. When your new lender seeks out a payoff from the old lender, the payoff amount will be the principal balance plus interest that has accrued for the current month. Lets look again at closing on the 25th. The payoff will include the outstanding loan balance plus unpaid interest. Because refinances require a three-day rescission period before funding, the loan would fund on three days later. In this example, the loan would fund three business days after the 25th. Borrowers have a right to change their minds for pretty much any reason whatsoever up until midnight on the third business day after signing closing documents. The rescission cant be waived, even if youre completely satisfied with your loan and wondering why theres a wait.nbsp;

If your refinance funds on the 29th for example, the payoff will include the outstanding loan balance from the old lender of 29 days and 2 days for prepaid interest for the following month. This is the two months worth of skipping payments. Yes, you did make your mortgage payments, its just not paid directly out of your pocket like a regular monthly payment. Instead, its included in your new loan amount. Borrowers certainly have the right to not include interest in arrears and prepaid interest in the final loan amount, but most do. Its your choice.

But if you hear of a loan officer talking to you about refinancing and the loan officer mentions you get to skip two payments, while it sounds good its really not the case. You made those two payments, just in a different way. Still, though, your pocketbook will feel a little heavier because you didnt have to make those two payments from your own bank account.


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The Future of Real Estate in a Quarantined World

Living in a virtual world

Ive been telling people for years that I believe agents and consumers will demand a virtual office solution going into this next decade- that is now becoming a reality.nbsp; For the past five years, my team has been able to do everything virtually and physically at my brokerage in Omaha. We are now operating 100 virtually during the quarantine. Since we are, and have been, a paperless company, the current situation hasnt impacted the function of our business as hard as most during the COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 impacts on real estate

The current pandemic will affect real estate in a few ways. We are going to see less listings while people quarantine so the supply will go way down and the demand will continue to go up. Despite the fact were in a recession you will see a buyers market- due to a lack of inventory. With interest rates at an all time record low buyer demand will be just as great if not greater than before COVID-19. I think that home prices will stay stable or go up because of this and closings will take longer. Wet signatures may also be a thing of the past with updated policies making virtual signing legal in many states for buying a home online.nbsp;

So how can you and your business adapt during this unprecedented period? I have five tips that can help your team continue to serve customers and grow their skills personally- all virtually from home.

5 Tips for Shifting to a Virtual Business Modelnbsp;

1. Keep your employees current with continual training. My business conducts weekly virtual training sessions using the virtual platform Zoom. Agents have the option to interact live with their instructor or access training videos at their convenience.

2. Maintain accountability. Agents participate in weekly check-ins to ensure they are on track to achieve their professional goals by meeting key performance indicators.nbsp;

3. Implement a comprehensive transaction management system. There are a lot of moving parts in a real estate closing. Keep track of all the vendors and their respective deadlines with a digital transaction management tool such as Dotloop. Or, work collaboratively and organize your workflow with online platforms like T>

4. Make sure your products can be viewed virtually. Theres a reason Amazon is such a booming success. Customers want to see what they are purchasing. Every one of my teams listings have a custom virtual VRLY landing page offering drone fly-overs, HD photos, and 3-D Matterport walkthroughs. We are the only local brokerage that requires this next level of service.

5. Create a digital workplace. Staying connected to the consumer is important. So is fostering communication and >

Utilizing technology to add value

Technology and innovation have to be a priority moving forward. My new office we are building out now will feature a virtual reality room for agents to do VR tours of homes with oculus goggles, along with platforms and portals that utilize AI to predict ways to save customers money. These and other tools will not only revolutionize real estate but ultimately add more value for customers. My brokerages goal, like most in real estate, is to always serve the consumer in the highest order. Its also important not to forget to serve your agents through coaching, accountability, and business mastery. We are an example of a real estate company that can operate 100 virtually and I hope that these tips and tools can help your business through this unprecedented time too.

nbsp;


About Jeff Cohn:

Jeff, a nationally renowned speaker and host of The Team Building Podcast, is CEO of a tech-powered Keller Williams market center in Omaha, NE. As founder of Omahas Elite Real Estate Group, he led his team from 70 to 700 transactions in 6 years, and was awarded the 1 team in unit sales in the world at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in 2019. Since beginning his real estate career in 2006, Jeffs team has closed over 5,000 sales, totaling over 1 billion in volume.

Jeff is founder and CEO of Elite Real Estate Systems, a coaching company, offers the annual Team Building Summit, monthly workshops, and weekly coaching calls. As a credit to his extensive know-how, Jeff speaks frequently at various events throughout the US and Canada.

In recent years, Jeffs passion for providing exceptional service to his clients propelled him to establish ancillary businesses in Title, Mortgage, Insurance, and Investing. His objective is to expand these ancillary businesses into 100 locations across the country. Jeffs vision is that the hybrid office of the future - through technological advancements - will offer the consumer a one-stop-shop customized experience, providing access to the agent and all ancillary businesses, virtually and in-person.


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3 Decorating Tips To Make Your House Looks Fancy

1. Living Room

The living room is part of the home where you are likely to be entertaining your guests most often. Thus, you should make sure that it presents itself very well to others. Otherwise, people may think youre a messy and cluttered person.

nbsp;You dont need to do much or modify too many parts of your living room. You only need to consider a few factors such as your lighting, the artworks in your living room, and the paint on the walls.

Lighting

A subtle element of interior design that people dont often think about is the lighting of a room. With great lighting, you can make an ordinary living space more open and welcoming.

Make sure that you have a lot of natural light coming in from windows in your living room. This way, your living room can look wide and at the same time, people would feel more welcome.

Artwork

If you feel that your living room needs a little something to make it truly shine, then consider displaying some artwork. You can go two ways with it: You can either make it the highlight of the room, or you can use it to subtly change the atmosphere of the room. There are lots of affordable artwork for you if you know where to look.

Paint

Changing up the paint of your living room walls makes a difference in the space. You might want to make it warmer, then you should add warmer colors on the walls. You can even try painting cabinets in the room to create a subtle but needed change. Maybe you might want to try more neutral colors to make the room much more subtle and soft.

2. Kitchen

When it comes to renovating your home, one room in your home that isnt cheap to renovate is the kitchen.

Kitchens have lots of appliances that you should keep up-to-date. Plus, there are countertops and cabinets and more that you should keep up with. However, there are some decorating tips that you can try that are cost-effective as well as attractive to look at.

Organize

The simple act of reorganizing your kitchen tools and utensils can make your kitchen look more seamless and appealing. Plus, youll be thankful for it in your day-to-day use of the kitchen, knowing where everything is supposed to be.

Make use of all of your cabinets and store the appropriate tools within for better organization. You can even try shelves that dont hide your kitchen utensils if they match. That way, they can serve as a decoration when not in use.

Faucet

Nowadays, there are plenty of designs available for faucets.

If you have a plain one, then consider changing things up in your kitchen by installing a new one. This time, make sure that it matches your cabinets so that you have a harmonious design working for you in your kitchen. Of course, you should make sure that the faucet works.

Wallpaper

For your kitchen, instead of repainting the walls, you might want to consider plastering wallpapers on it instead.

You dont even have to put it on all of your walls. Small sections of the kitchen thats plastered with some wallpaper is good enough to create such a lovely appearance. Plus, it doesnt cost too much money to accomplish.

Thats one design tip that you should take notes on. A simple pop of color or a different pattern is often an effective design scheme.

3. Bathroom

If youre planning to modify your home, then one of its most important parts to renovate is the bathroom. You spend a lot of your time doing your business there, so redecorating your bathroom can be a worthy investment.

With that in mind, below are some design tips that you can consider to beautify your bathroom to the next level.

Tiles

The tiles in your bathroom are an important design choice so make sure that you take extra care into which one you plan on installing.

Marble is a great choice for any bathroom. Not only is it sleek and stylish, but it is also sturdy and >

Plus, styling your bathroom with marble tiles makes it easy for you to find other decorative pieces in your bathroom because it goes well with a lot of things.

Mirror

Mirrors in your bathroom are one of the things that you can splurge on a little. When you do that, you can make your bathroom look significantly fancier. You can go minimalistic with it or avant-garde depending on your bathroom theme.

You should consider buying a bathroom mirror that can also serve as a storage place for your toiletries. That way, you have a stylish yet economical bathroom design piece.

Vintage Look

One of the design themes that you should consider for your bathroom is the vintage look. Lots of vintage-looking bathrooms appear >

Making your house look fancier doesnt mean you should be spending fancy-people amounts of money. With the simple design tips given above, you are sure to have a >

nbsp;


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Buying a Home? Don’t Forget to Ask These Questions!

Can You Have a Copy of the Homes Sales History?

It is important to know about how many times the home has changed hands over the years as well as for much the home sold for each time. This will let you know about your prospective propertys value fluctuations which can help you sell the home and negotiate fairly in the future.

What is the Cost of Monthly and Annual Utility and Maintenance?

No one wants a home that racks up utility bills as though the owners are made of money. The water, power, and gas bills should be disclosed as well as annual maintenance cost for you to gauge if you can truly afford the home.

How Much is the Property Tax?

Although the homes value is the primary determinant of the property tax, knowing how much the current owners are paying is a good way to determine future expenses on the property.

Does the House Have an Unusual History or Has It Been Involved in Any Crime?

Any history of suicide, murder, or death should be disclosed by the broker or seller. Unusual history like appearing in a magazine, commercial, or movie should be disclosed as well. A home appearing in public media may mean a future privacy breach and a negative history can make a home difficult to sell in the future.

When was the Roof Last Fixed or Replaced?

A roof replacement can cost upwards of 10,000. The future homeowner should know when a huge expense like this may be due.

Does the Area Around the Property Come with Parking Restrictions?

Whether or not the home has a garage, it is possible that future visitors may need to park outside of the property. When this happens, the last thing you want is for your guests vehicles to get towed away.

Are There On-Going Warranties for the Kitchen Appliances, Garage Door, the HVAC System, and More?

Replacing any of the above can easily cost thousands of dollars. Having the warranties can save a lot of money down the road.

Are There Renovations or Additions Made by Past and Current Owners?

Upgrades can cost a lot. It is best to know which contractors worked in the house before and what they did more so if planning future additions or renovations.

Are There Any Issues with Sewage or Broken Pipes?

Although you can hire a home inspector, it is best to know these issues beforehand more so that the cost of repairs for issues like this can be equivalent to a sizable amount.

Are There Past or Current Pest Infestations?

Getting rid of rodent or insect infestation can incur a lot of time and money. Something like this needs to be disclosed rather than find out when it is too late.


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Should You Buy a House During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

Shark Tank star and real estate icon, Barbara Corcoran, is the latest to weigh in, telling TMZ that, Nows the time to score a steal, they said. She told us buyers who are willing to pay special attention to details can find properties discounted by as much as 25. Shes seen it happen in NYC, and says that kinda deal wont be uncommon due to the harsh economic reality facing millions of Americans. She says if sellers are willing to list right now during a pandemic, its likely because theyre desperate to unload the property. That adds up to great deals...if youre able to buy now.

So, if youre looking to make a move right now, what do you need to know and what should you be looking for?

Distressed properties

Yes, its crass to say that one persons loss is anothers gain. But the reality is that some of those whose jobs and/or finances cant withstand an economic downturn may end up losing their homes. Its not out of line to think that there is going to be a new wave of foreclosures >

Between the low mortgage rates and the potential for home prices to come back down if there is a glut of distressed properties that hit the market, there could be a good buying window for buyers.

Investment properties

This could also be a good time to consider real estate as an investment toolespecially in light of the recent stock market drop and those low mortgage rates.

Withnbsp;historic low rates, it is a good time to consider investing in real estate, Victoria Shtainer, a real estate agent and expert at Compass in New York, told Realtor.com. Low rates give you more buying power, and we have been negotiating amazing deals for our buyers. Given the current volatility in the stock market, investors are reassessing asset allocations in their portfolio, and considering how real estate may fit into this from an asset allocation standpoint.

Realtor.com added that buying an investment property can be a valuable asset and a good way to generate passive income, and it might also provide tax write-offs and incentives that you wouldnt get on other instruments.

For a historical perspective on real estate vs. stocks, check out this piece by Bigger Pockets, which provides a ton of data points as well as this nugget: Throughout modern history, residential real estate has actually boasted an extremely high rate of return with low risk.nbsp;

A few things to keep in mind when buying now

Given the current situation around the coronavirus quarantine, the way you buy a home will likely be different. You cant expect open houses or, in many cases, in-person home tours, right now Although, youll likely walk through a home you wish to purchase with an inspector during your escrow process.. Your escrow timeline may also be impacted.

"I recommend working with your lender early, even before the offer is accepted," Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert atnbsp;Opendoor, told Business Insider. The home buying process is taking longer than usual, and you could end up waiting around if you dont get a jump start.

The delay is partially due to the fact that lenders have been inundated with refinancing applications from existing homebuyers, but also because of work-from-home mandates that limit what some of the professionals involved in the process can do.nbsp;

Yes, the influx of refinancing applications has overwhelmed lenders but thats not the only reason the process is slowing down, they said. Many companies employees are now working from home, which sometimes hinders them from working as quickly.nbsp;

That can affect multiple aspects of the escrow process, like the appraisal. The appraiser physically has to go out to the house...Many of them are actually asking to have quarantine clauses built in, Andy Taylor, General Manager ofnbsp;Credit Karma Home, told Business Insider. They want to know that the home theyre going to isnt under quarantine because someone there is sick from this virus thats going around.


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Home Improvement Projects to Tackle During the Quarantine

Youre working from home, which means youre bored, and youre looking for stuff to do. If you own your home, that stuff probably means home improvement projects. Weve got tips on what to tackle during the quarantine.

Do an even deeper clean than usual

It is spring, after all. This year, in addition to annual spring cleaning list, add a few tasks that are specifically intended to kill germs and improve the air quality in your home.nbsp;

Its best to check if your cleaning materials are in the list of approved products >

Its also a good time to change your air filters and opt for a better quality than you typically get. They wont prevent coronavirus, according to experts. Your typical HEPA filter is not going to be able to remove coronavirus from the air, Dr. Erin Sor>

But, they can help keep dust and pollen away, which is important for household members who have allergies and breathing issuesif you buy the right ones.

Regular HVAC filters are intended to protect the equipment, not your lungs and sinuses, said Airista. While ordinary furnace and ac filters do help to remove some dust from the air when changed regularly, they do little to trap the microscopic particles that cause the sneezing and wheezing of allergy season. Thats why you need special air filters for allergies that are designed to stop those tiny particles. They are called high energy particulate air filters or more commonly, HEPA filters. Because HEPA filters are made from densely packed layers of glass fibers instead of paper, the best ones are able to trap more than 99 percent of pollen, dust and smoke particles and keep them out of the air you breathe every day.

After youve identified that your filter is HEPA, look for the MERV rating. HVAC HEPA air filters for allergies are rated on how well they block particles of different sizes. The rating system is called the minimum efficiency reporting system, or MERV. The ratings range from MERV 1 to MERV 12, with the higher number indicating filters that are capable of removing the smallest particles, including many species of pollen.

Paint

Have some leftover paint around the house? Touch up those walls and baseboards. If not, home improvement stores are still open if youre able to get out and, if you do, be sure to abide by the appropriate social distancing rules and take proper safety precautions. Walmart also has paint, so you can pick up a couple of cans when youre getting groceries or other necessities.nbsp;

A fresh coat of paint will refresh your space and also make it feel newwhich you probably need right about now.

Clean out your closets

Face it: Even the most organized among us can have a messy closet, and now is the time to make it right, said Curbed. Start by taking everything out of the closet, purging whats no longer used, and cleaning the interior. If its a clothes closet, sort your clothes by category and be sure to hang delicate items and stack thicker things like denim. Put your most-used items at the front, while seasonal or ra>

Build a garden

Not only will it give you something to do, but also something to eatwhich can come in handy if the quarantine period goes on for an extended period of time. Fast-growing vegetables likes arugula,nbsp;lettuce,nbsp;radishes,nbsp;spinach, andnbsp;turnips can go from seed or seedling to harvest size innbsp;40 days or less, said The Creative Vegetable Gardener.

Stick to projects that are not super labor intensive or that will take a long time

Getting projects taken care of in this interesting time is about making smart choices. Someone in the family could get sick, or you could be called back to work sooner than expected. You probably dont want an unfinished project when its time to get back to regular life.nbsp;

Limit the products you need

You could run into supply chain issues, backorders, or delivery issues with your renovation, which could delay or derail your project.nbsp;


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Ask the HOA Expert: What's The Difference Between The CC&Rs And The Rules And Regulations?

Answer: CCamp;Rs stands for "Covenants, Conditions amp; Restrictions". CCamp;Rs include the Declaration, Bylaws, Rules, Regulations, Policies and Resolutions.

As far as standing up in court, no one can predict the outcome of a judge or jury decision. But the board has a responsibility to make sure all rules, regulations and policies are in writing, distributed to all owners and residents and easily accessible when needed website recommended for 24/7 access. If the HOAs rules are fair and uniformly enforced, most judges will rule for with the board.

Question: I am an HOA treasurer and have been attempting to implement spending controls. We have two board members who regularly purchase items for the HOA and want to be reimbursed. My concern is that expenditures are unpredictable and hard to track. Ive proposed that all expenditures by these individuals must be for budget approved line items. This was rejected by the board as being too restrictive. What do you think is a reasonable policy?

Answer: It sounds like your HOA has a long history of directors spending money as they saw fit. Your well intentioned controls were predictably not well received by the Old Guard. The first question that comes to mind is: Has the old routine caused budget overruns? If yes, you have a sound basis for your controls. If no, you may be making much ado about nothing.

That said, it is not common for random directors to routinely spend the HOAs money. In self managed HOAs, the president and treasurer generally handle payments, occasionally reimbursing a director for an HOA expense that cant wait for the normal payment process. Ideally, if you have a hired manager, all expenditures should be routed through the manager. It is much easier to hold an employee or contract manager accountable than a fellow director.

Your biggest obstacle doesnt seem to be opposition to good financial management practices, but perception that such is not needed. Getting a barge to change course takes time. Continue to press for change. The board has a fiduciary duty to run HOA business in a business-like way.

Question: I recently took over professional management of an HOA which has over 70,000 of unpaid water bills. The water department has threatened to shut off service within 48 hours. The board directed me to impose a special assessment of 1000 per unit without a meeting or member vote. Can an emergency special assessment be imposed without member approval?

Answer: You need to read the governing documents to see what authority the board has to raise special assessments. Even if the board has authority to do so, proper and reasonable notice must be given to the members and time to raise the cash.

If a special assessment requires approval of the members, a member meeting needs to be called with advanced written notice. The meeting must have a legal quorum and a legal majority vote as defined by the governing documents. You may be able to pull this off by mail in ballot if your governing documents allow it. But none of this could possibly take place within 48 hours.

The board needs to make immediate and adequate payment arrangements for the water bill, perhaps by getting a short term loan from the bank. Or, you might be able to get the water department to leave the water on if money is on the way special assessment or loan. But they will, no doubt, want to see the written evidence letter from bank, copy of special assessment notice, etc..

The bigger question is, if this HOA has allowed things to get so bad that basic utilities cant get paid, what other fires are you going to find that they want you to put out? This crisis didnt happen overnight and the board likely has others waiting in the wings. Unless you are getting paid extra to deal with these special circumstances, you need to seriously evaluate whether this is an account worth your time.

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

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

On the other hand, if the manager is kowtowing politically to board president who is abusing her authority, the remaining directors need to have a heart to heart with the president. All officers serve at the pleasure of the board. If one is exceeding authority, the board can remove and replace that person with another director who wont.

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

Answer: Occasionally, developers propose an expense allocation like the one you describe. Its easier to calculate but clearly overlooks disparity in size and value. When there is substantial difference in square footage, the norm is to allocate expenses according to a units square footage as a percentage of the total units square footage. In that case, the expense share may range, for example, from 2 to 5 depending on unit size.

When developers ignore the unit size issue, the inequity usually becomes apparent after turnover. Then, those that feel they are carrying a bigger share than they should lobby to "fix it". The problem is that fixing it requires 100 consent from those that will pay more and those that will pay less. In this regard, individual owners have the protection against a majority foisting its financial will on the minority whenever it sees fit. Its different when it comes to a rule that applies to everyone, like No Pets. A majority could vote to eliminate pets but the same rule would apply to everyone.

If a majority of the owners were allowed to change the expense allocation formula without this 100 requirement, theoretically 51 of the owners could pass an amendment that would force 49 of the owners pay 100 of the expenses. So expense allocation is one area that absolutely requires 100 consent of those affected. While its theoretically possible to achieve if 100 are willing, people are people and there is usually someone that refuses to budge.

Bottom line listen up developers, the expense allocation formula needs to be fair from the get-go. After turnover, its too late to change.

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

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

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

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

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net


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