Thursday, July 28, 2011

Playing Nice with Neighbors

It happens to the best of us. When it comes to decisions about our home, we can get quite territorial. How can you handle neighborly disputes and still play nice?

The first rule of neighbors is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. There is a common misconception among the prideful that respect is earned and that only when others treat you with respect will you return the favor. This sentiment is entirely backwards. You need to treat everyone with respect from the start. Respect breeds respect.

It's also easy to keep our blinders on to other people's needs and perspectives. Perhaps you have the money to fix a fence and assume your neighbor has the same. It is quite likely that your preferences, tastes, and finances are different from your neighbor's.

Be willing to see things from their perspective. Take a moment during any conflict to see the situation through their eyes. Maybe those trees partially obstruct your view, but provide your neighbors with shade during the heat of the day.

Next, unless there's unlawful behavior taking place that needs to be reported to the authorities, be sure to talk to your neighbors first about an issue before lodging a formal complaint. They may be unaware that their noise or mess is offending anyone. Many people assume that things are fine unless someone says something.

When you bring up issues to neighbors, leave your attitude and condescension at home. This gets you nowhere, except deeper into conflict. Be kind, direct, and leave the blame game at home. Simply let them know what the issue is and, if needed, what you see as a possible solution.

During this conversation it's important to listen. What is your neighbor saying literally and through body language?

Keep in mind that neighbors often live next door for decades. You don't want to let a minor issue become a dark cloud that hangs over your home. There is a time to fight and there's a time to let things go. While some people see letting things go as a sign of weakness, it can actually be a sign of wisdom.

Compromise isn't always an easy word to swallow. It can mean giving up some of your wants. Yet, this is what living in a community with others means. It is not "Youtown," but rather a wonderful collective of individuals. You may get a new fence, but one that is priced more cheaply. You may still get to have your band practice on the weekends, but need to practice at an earlier time or a lower volume.

With all that said, sometimes you'll encounter neighbors who are too enveloped in their own lives to see the needs and wants of others. If you have a neighbor that suffers from this self-absorbed affliction, then it is time to either accept the situation as it is, or to take the next steps to remedy it. You may need to contact the HOA, authorities, or a lawyer. Do this only as a last resort.

Most of the time, however, you can find a middle ground if you start with respect.

Published: July 28, 2011 by Carla Hill

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® applauds Gov. Brown on signing SB 458 into law

The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) applauds Gov. Jerry Brown on signing SB 458 (Corbett) into law. SB 458 extends the protections of SB 931 (2010), to ensure that any lender that agrees to a short sale must accept the agreed upon short sale payment as payment in full of the outstanding balance of all loans.

Under previous law (SB 931 of 2010), a first mortgage holder could accept an agreed-upon short sale payment as full payment for the outstanding balance of the loan, but unfortunately, the rule did not apply to junior lien holders. SB 458 extends the protections of SB 931 to junior liens.

“The signing of this bill is a victory for California homeowners who have been forced to short sell their home only to find that the lender will pursue them after the short sale closes, and demand an additional payment to subsidize the difference,” said C.A.R. President Beth L. Peerce. “SB 458 brings closure and certainty to the short sale process and ensures that once a lender has agreed to accept a short sale payment on a property, all lienholders – those in first position and in junior positions – will consider the outstanding balance as paid in full and the homeowner will not be held responsible for any additional payments on the property.”

SB 458 contains an urgency clause making it effective upon signing.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® ( is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States, with nearly 160,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Top ‘Lifestyle Factors’ When Home Shopping

If you want to make a sale, selling the lifestyle in a community or neighborhood is becoming an important piece of the presentation of a home, according to a new survey. One in five home owners have moved or would like to move because they don’t think their neighborhood or community is a good fit to their lifestyle, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 home owners and future home buyers

The majority of those surveyed said they would place more weight on lifestyle factors–such as family-friendly neighborhoods or easy access to cultural activities like museums and music venues–when shopping for a future home. The survey was conducted by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC and and Meredith Corp.

“While the relation of price to features has become very favorable in many areas throughout the country, ultimately the surrounding community may determine how happy you are with your home purchase,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, which used the survey results to launch a “Lifestyle Search” tool on its web site to help buyers factor in community preferences–such as “arts and recreation” and “family and community”–more in their search.

Here are some of the top lifestyle priorities survey respondents reported they’ll be looking for in their next home:

Ease of commuting by car: 38%

Access to health and safety services: 34%
Family friendly neighborhood: 33%
Availability of retail stores: 32%
Access to cultural activities: 21%
Public transportation access: 19%
Nightlife and restaurant access: 18%
Golf friendly area-access to golf courses: 6%

This article was provided by Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Your Small Home: 5 Big Reasons to Love It

There's plenty to love about small homes--they're easier to maintain, and the price tag is generally lower. Image: Ross Chapin Architects/

A small home packs plenty of perks, and generally means a lower asking price. But entry price is only one factor—they’re easier on the pocketbook in a host of ways.

1. Lower property taxes. Your small home will be charged at a lower tax rate than its larger neighbors because the assessed value generally is lower.

2. Lower property insurance. The smaller the house, generally the lower the insurance cost, although it also matters where you live and how your small house is constructed. A brick house in wildfire-prone southern California is likely to cost less to insure than a similar-size house with wood siding.

3. You’ll save on heating and cooling. That’s regardless of how energy efficient the house is. In fact, one study indicates that a poorly insulated, 1,500 sq. ft. house is at least $200 cheaper per year to heat and cool than a well-insulated house twice that size. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says homes of 2,000 sq. ft. to 2,500 sq. ft. use an average 102.3 million BTUs of fuel yearly—13% less than homes that are 1,000 square feet larger.

4. Save on major replacements. When you need to replace a major house component or system, you’ll be glad you’re living in a smaller home. For example: According to the Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine, the national average for vinyl replacement siding is about $9 per sq. ft.

For a modest-size house (1,500 sq. ft. of living space) with 1,740 sq. ft. of exterior wall space, that’s $15,660. For a 2,500-sq.-ft. house, you’ll pay up to $10,000 more!

5. Easier maintenance. You’ll spend less time cutting those smaller lawns, cleaning gutters, washing windows, and the umpteen other chores that home ownership involves. Figure 16 windows and sliding glass doors on a home of 2,000 square feet or less would take about 10 hours to clean, inside and out, twice a year. Double the house size, and that’s roughly 20 hours spent with a squeegee and rag.

Living in a small home has the benefits of lower insurance rates, less hassle, and less overall cost to own.

Article compliments of Terry Sheridan

6 Best Places for Business, Careers

To find cities with the most jobs and lower costs of doing business, you’ll have to venture to the heartland, according to Forbes’ 13th annual Best Places of Business list. Eighty percent of the top 25 regions on Forbes’ list this year are from the center of the United States.

Forbes’ rankings evaluate 200 metro areas, factoring in job growth (past and projected), costs (business and living), income growth, projected economic growth, and educational attainment.

Demographer Bert Sperling says the heartland’s success is largely due to its “extractive industries,” such as oil, gas, and mining and record-high crop prices that have added jobs.

“These economies run in cycles, and these booms and busts are often decades in the making,” Sterling says.

Many of the cities topping the list also boast at least one strong university and strong entrepreneurial activity.

Here are the top six cities to make Forbes’ list:
Raleigh, N.C.
Des Moines, Iowa
Provo, Utah
Lexington, Ky.
Fort Collins, Colo.
Nashville, Tenn.

Source: “Raleigh Tops Forbes’ Best Places for Business 2011,” (July 11, 2011)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some HOAs Foreclosing on Residents

While banks are usually the ones who go after delinquent home owners, more homeowners’ associations (HOAs) around the country are deciding to take on that power too in fighting against home owners who have stopped paying their HOA fees.

For communities governed by a homeowners’ association, which one in five communities are, more HOAs are discovering they have a power they have ever rarely acted upon until now — the right to foreclose on residents who stop paying fees.

For example, a condo complex in Fort Pierce, Fla., for 55-and-older residents was once a desirable area with condos once fetching nearly $80,000 four years ago but now sell for as little as $3,000. The HOA levied $6,000 assessments on its residents for much-needed repairs in the complex and when some residents didn’t pay, the HOA foreclosed on them, even if they didn’t owe the bank anything.

"The treacherous part is that homeowners' associations are acting like a local government without restraints, and they have this extraordinary power," Marjorie Murray, a lawyer and founder of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law, told the Associated Press.

If HOAs need to do major repairs, the board can levy a “special assessment” on top of its regular dues. When a home owner fails to pay, all of the home owners then have to step up to pick the costs.

“What many people didn't realize when they bought their homes was that the fine print gave the association the right to foreclose — even over a few hundred dollars in unpaid dues,” according to an article by the Associated Press. “All the association board has to do is alert its attorney to place a lien on the property to start the process. The home can then be auctioned by the board until the bank eventually takes ownership. Home owners typically have no right to a hearing.”

About 65 percent of HOAs have reported delinquency rates higher than 5 percent, according to a September survey by the Community Association Institute.

Source: “As More Are Unable to Pay Homeowners’ Fees, Associations Pit Neighbor Against Neighbor,” Associated Press (July 7, 2011)

10 Best-Performing Major Housing Markets

Ten of the highest performing major market metros are expected to improve their performance over the first half of the year, with five of the top 10 even expected to see modest gains, reports Clear Capital in its latest monthly Home Data Index.

While housing prices in the first half of the year were mostly negative among the metro areas, Clear Capital says the market is showing signs of stabilizing.

Top Performers
The following are the highest performing major markets based on first half 2011 data (January through June) and second half forecast, according to Clear Capital.

1. Washington, D.C.-Arlington, Va.
2. New York-Long Island, N.Y.-No. New Jersey, N.J.
3. Orlando
4. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
5. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
6. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.
7. Honolulu
8. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.
9. Rochester, N.Y.
10. Memphis, Tenn.

Yet, only five of these markets are expected to boast home price gains in the second half of 2011: Washington, D.C., New York, Orlando, Dallas, and San Francisco, according to Clear Capital.

Worst-Performing Markets
Meanwhile, the lowest performing markets were Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.; Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio; and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn., according to Clear Capital.

“While most individual markets are also projected to post losses for the year, it is clear prices have begun to level off and are not exhibiting as much volatility as we’ve seen since the downturn began,” says Alex Villacorta, director of research and analytics at Clear Capital.

Source: “Clear Capital Home Data Index Forecast Reveals Further Price Declines for Second Half of 2011,” Clear Capital (July 8, 2011)