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  • 30 Tips for Increasing Your Home's Value

    Home Improvements: Under $100

    Tip 1: Spend an Hour With a pro

    Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

    Tip 2: Inspect it

    Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can't fix it if you don't know it's broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don't normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home's value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.

    Tip 3: Paint, Paint, Paint

    Master Bedroom With Olive Walls and Custom Headboard

    Gail Fedela

    One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter's tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!

    Tip 4: Find Inspiration

    An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.

    Tip 5: Cut Energy Costs

    The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers' homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

    Home Improvements: $100- $200

    Tip 1: Plant a Tree

    If you aren't planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.

    Tip 2: Low-Maintenance Landscaping

    Paul Cox

    No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you "think green." Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.

    Tip 3: Money-Saving Luxury

    Speaking of water, here's another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it's the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.

    Tip 4: Improve the air Quality Inside Your Home

    Air quality isn't just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don't hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.

    Tip 5: Save the Popcorn for the Movies

    Finally, what's on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. NOTE: some older ceilings could contain asbestos so before undertaking this project, have yours tested by professionals. 

    Once you're in the clear, this is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

    Home Improvements: $200-$400

    Tip 1: Clean up the Lawn

    Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.

    Tip 2: Cleanliness counts

    The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.

    Tip 3: Visually Increase Your Home's Square Footage

    The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn't the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.

    Neutral Bathroom with Grasscloth Wallpaper & Abstract Art

    Tip 4: Small Bathroom Updates Equal a big Return

    Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can't afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.

    Tip 5: Add new Energy-Efficient Fixtures

    A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

    Home Improvements: $400-$750

    Tip 1: Big Return on Bathroom Updates

    A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.

    Light Gray Transitional Kitchen With White Cabinets

    Katy Lyons

    Tip 2: Any Kitchen Update Equals Added Value

    The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don't have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home's value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.

    Tip 3: Replace Worn Carpets or rugs

    Take a look at your home's soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.

    Tip 4: Keep up With Regular Maintenance and Repairs

    Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don't feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your "to do" list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.

    Tip 5: Get Help with Getting Organized

    Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home's value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

  • 30 Can't-Miss Home Staging Tips

    Grimy bathroom walls are a major red flag to buyers. Here is an easy way to get rid of surface mold: Mix a spray bottle with one part water and one part bleach. Just spray it on the wall, and watch the mold disappear. Give it a fresh coat of paint, and your grimy bathroom will go from red flag to red-hot.

    Don't replace a yucky shower door: Just scour it. A grimy glass shower door can really wash out your sale. Instead of replacing it, clean it with a mixture of one part muriatic acid and about 10 parts water. Scrub with steel wool. After wiping it down, reinstall the door and you'll have a shower that'll help you clean up at the open house.

    Avoid dated tile by painting. Bathrooms sell houses, but dated tile in a bathroom doesn't. A low-cost alternative to replacing the tile is to use paint. First coat the tiles with a high-adhesion primer. Next, brush on a special ceramic epoxy covering. For a fraction of the cost of new tile, you will have an up-to-date bathroom that brings in big bucks.

    A master bedroom should appeal to both sexes. When you are selling, your master bedroom should appeal to buyers of both sexes. Get rid of features that seem too gender-specific. Paint the walls a neutral color, and choose bedding that matches. Then accessorize with items that complement the overall color scheme.

    Do you have an overpowering brick fireplace that sticks out like a sore thumb? Here's an easy way to tone it down with paint. Use a rag or brush to rub a light coat of paint on the bricks, one at a time. This will give them a new tone without covering them completely. And, if you use a paint color that matches the walls, your fireplace will go from sticking out to standing out.

    Updating an old fireplace screen is a cheap (and quick) fix. After removing the screen and wiping it down to get rid of the dust, mask off the windows so you won't get paint on them. Then, using a can of heat-resistant spray paint, give the screen a facelift. Hold the can about 18 inches away, and use long, even strokes. For less than $5, you will have a fireplace screen that'll keep your sale from going up in smoke.

    Turn an unattractive fireplace into a selling feature. Need to turn an unattractive fireplace into a selling feature? First, that dated brass screen has got to go. Next, give the fireplace a good cleaning, scrubbing it with soap and water. Then, using a stone color enhancer, polish the bricks to make them shine. In no time you will have a fireplace that will turn your house into the hottest property on the block.

    Stain dated kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them. Dated kitchen cabinets can be a big turnoff to potential buyers. Instead of paying big bucks to replace them, just stain them. First, apply the stain in even strokes, going with the grain of the wood. Add some stylish hardware, and your kitchen will have the up-to-date look that buyers love, for less than $200.

    Stainless-steel appliances are definitely in with buyers. Instead of buying a new dishwasher, here is a low-cost way to resurface an old one: First, remove the front panels, and clean them. Next, apply a stainless-steel stick-on covering, and cut it to size. For just $20 your dishwasher will go from outdated to ultra-modern.

    Fill existing hardware holes instead of making new, unsightly ones. Removing old kitchen hardware can leave your cabinets with stripped-out holes. Here is a trick to reusing the existing ones.

    First, dip a toothpick in glue and place it in the stripped hole. Cut off the excess piece. Once the glue dries, you'll be ready to put in the hardware that buyers love.

    Save money on granite countertops. Granite countertops are a huge selling feature, but they can be expensive. Here are a few ways to save on this investment:

    First, do the demo yourself. Also, ask the vendor for remnants from previous projects. Remember, any money you spend will definitely be returned in the value these beautiful counters add to your kitchen.

    New kitchen appliances bring high returns from sellers. Studies show that new kitchen appliances bring high returns from sellers, so get rid of old appliances that make the rest of the kitchen look dated. Once you install the new equipment, it will scream "new kitchen," and you will see that spending a little money will make you even more.

    Need to dress up a window but don't want to shell out big bucks for window treatments? Here's a trick: Use place mats. First, apply a hook-and-loop fastener to the place mats and attach them in a row to a basic curtain rod. Now that the place mats are attached to the curtain rods, pin them together at the bottom, and you'll have a stylish valance that costs about $12.

    Adding drama to old hardwood flooring is easier than you might think. First, isolate damaged boards, cut them out and replace them with new pieces. Rent a sander from a local hardware store, and give the floor a good sanding. The last step is to stain the boards with a rich color, and watch your floor go from drab to dramatic in no time.

    Buyers love built-in bookshelves. There's a fine line between filling them with clutter and staging them to sell. The trick is to arrange neutral items in clusters. Make sure that no single accessory stands out too much. That way, you'll show off your attractive built-ins, and not your personal belongings.

    Curb appeal is vital to attracting buyers. Here is how to stop traffic using color. First, with two tones of paint, add a faux finish to any corner keystones. Next, bring out the color of walkway pavers using a stone sealer. Plant flowers in bloom, and you'll have buyers swarming like bees to your front door.

    A nice outdoor deck can be a big selling feature, but an old one is a major liability. To give your outdoor space new life, first sand the wood. Cover it with a light-colored stain instead of paint to give it a rustic, grainy look. Furnish it for entertaining, and watch your open house turn into a party.

    Breathe new life into a worn patio. Do you have a red-brick patio surface that needs to be freshened up? Here is an easy way to give it new life with paint. First, roll a light coat of paint onto the bricks. Next, lightly spray them with water and then dab them before they dry to give them an outdoor look. When you are done, you will have a patio that looks fresh and reels in buyers.

    Staging rooms to show off their true potential is essential when selling your home. Clear out clutter or other personal items that will distract buyers. Paint the walls a neutral tone, and furnish the space to show off how functional it is. When buyers come through and imagine themselves there, you can bet an offer isn't far behind.

    A shabby wood-panel wall is not a strong selling point. Instead of ripping it out, cover it up. Use wood filler to carefully fill in all the cracks between the panels. Then, use a sponge to wipe away the excess filler. Once it's dry, paint the room. You'll see an unattractive wall go from standing out to blending in.

    Use tape outlines on the floor instead of actually moving furniture around. Rearranging a room to stage it for your open house? Here is a tip to save time and effort: Instead of lugging the heavy furniture around the room to see what feels best, put outlines on the floor with painter's tape. Arrange the room according to your outlines, and save your energy for counting offers.

    Vinyl tile is an inexpensive way to update your home. Laying vinyl tile is an inexpensive way to update your home, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. You need to avoid laying patterns that look too perfect. Instead, make sure to switch up the direction and placement of the tiles to mix the tones. That way, you end up with a floor that has a natural feel.

    Let the sun shine in. Buyers love light and airy living rooms, but dark and dingy isn't on their list. Open up your window shades to let some light in. Cheat some sunshine with a light-colored paint and lots of artificial lighting. You can never have too many lamps. Last, arrange the space with lightly colored furniture, and you'll have a living room that brightens your chances of a sale.

    Stage rooms with one purpose so buyers will know what it is. Potential buyers are confused by extra rooms that have a mishmash of uses. To avoid this problem, first clear away clutter and excess furniture. Paint the walls a neutral tone and then furnish the room with a desk to stage it as a home office in which buyers will want to get down to business.

    Unpleasant pet odors won't win over buyers. We all love our pets, but unpleasant pet odors can make a negative first impression. Be sure to get rid of old carpet that can trap offensive smells. Replace it with fresh new carpet in a neutral color. Plus, if you paint the walls to match, your living room will look bigger. It'll go from designed to smell to designed to sell.

    Pack up unnecessary items and furniture before you show the house. An overpacked living room is a red flag to buyers that your home lacks storage space. Pack up unneccesary items and furniture, and move items to your garage or a nearby storage facility. Clear the way for a sale by letting buyers see your square footage, not your personal belongings.

    Storage space sells! Potential buyers love homes that have lots of storage space. Since they will open your closets, it's a good idea to clear out unnecessary clutter, and organize your shelves to show off how much storage you really have. Plus, it gives you a chance to start packing, as you will definitely be moving once buyers see all that closet space.

    Create a nice flow in your rooms. Buyers are attracted to homes that have a good flow. You can create circulation by replacing square or rectangular dining tables with round ones. Cutting the corners adds room to this maneuver and creates a spinoff effect that adds flow to your home — cash flow, that is.

    Create a better flow in the house by starting with the floor. Want to create better flow in your house? Start with the floor. Join two rooms together by using the most cost-efficient material in the book: vinyl tile. First, use a snap-line to create a center point between the two rooms. Next, the fun part: Peel and stick the new vinyl tile down, and watch your kitchen and dining room go from old to sold!

  • Don’t Lose Faith, Would-Be Home Buyers: It Will Get Better

    It’s been a seller’s market in residential real estate for more than a year now. That’s fantastic for homeowners, and for the U.S. economy overall, but let’s get real: It creates a challenging environment for people who are trying to buy their first home. Fear not, first-time home buyers! Things are going to get better—soon.

    The main reason we’ve seen above-average price appreciation is limited inventory. And that leads to bidding wars. Thankfully, higher prices ultimately help solve this problem by encouraging more owners to put their homes up for sale.

    So the market is clearly shifting toward more of a balance in the second half of the year. Combined with a temporary reprieve from rising mortgage rates and slightly easier access to credit, buyers should find it easier to purchase a home in the months ahead.

    Listings have grown an average of 4.5% over the past three months. New construction is also finally stepping up to relieve pressure as well, with single-family permits up 9% year to date over last year.

    And prospective buyers are noticing the difference. From our daily surveys of visitors to® who are looking to buy a home, the No. 1 reported obstacle to making a purchase in June remained “I have not yet found a home that meets my needs.” However, the percentage of respondents reporting this problem declined from 42% in January to 37% in June.

    For first-time buyers, the fact that they’re “just starting to explore” became their No. 1 obstacle in June, bumping the issue of finding a suitable home for the first time this year.

    Don’t get me wrong—supply is still tight. But we are moving in the right direction. We should see the median age of inventory—the number of days a house sits on the market—plateau and even increase in the months ahead as a result of supply expanding. This will be a clear sign that the market is moving toward more of a balance.

    Access to credit has been holding back many potential sellers and buyers from participating in this market. That, too, is slowly changing for the better. Mortgage credit availability was 5% higher in June than in June 2014, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

    Meanwhile, even though mortgage rates are now well off their lows, with the average 30-year fixed-rate firmly above 4%, rates have retreated more than 10 basis points from their recent highs. “Lock” and “float-down” are two moves to put in your dance arsenal this summer and autumn if the direction of rates is unnerving you.

    Finally, the upcoming change of season should favor you first-time buyers, assuming you are flexible about timing and can find a home that fits your needs. Families with school-age children are far less likely to compete for homes on the market after the beginning of the school year, which for many is in August. While inventory levels will also be lower due to the season in most areas of the country, the fall could turn into a great time to buy.


  • Is Real Estate Really the No. 1 Investment Right Now?

    We know: You’re getting mixed messages. Homeownership is at record lows. But so are mortgage rates (even though some mortgages are harder to come by). Prices are inflated in some markets. Still, real estate edged out cash (the 2013 and 2014 pick) in a survey of investments Americans would park their money in over the next decade.

    The source:, which says Americans love real estate once again (garnering 27% of the vote), and are less keen on the financial industry.


    Cash came in second with 23 percent of investors, only 17 percent said the stock market is their preferred place for long-term money and just 5 percent said they would put their long-term money in bonds,” wrote CNBC.

    “For many investors, the tangible nature of real estate simply offers much more peace of mind than the intangible nature of stock and bonds,” certified financial planner and vice president of Proctor Financial in Sherborn, MA,  Stephen Doucette told them.

    As for the stats: “The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index, which measures the value of residential real estate in 20 major metropolitan areas, has generated a hearty annualized 9.2 percent return over the past three years through June 30, but produced an annualized 0.4 percent loss over the past decade. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index, a broad measure of the U.S. stock market, grew an annualized 14.8 percent over the past three years and 5.87 percent over the past 10 years,” they write.

    The crash may have had a little something to do with those numbers, of course. And you can’t cash that home in as quickly as you could a stock or bond, even in the era of bidding wars and cash buys.

    This is all fodder for investors to ponder, but what about average Joe and Jill? Jonathan Smoke, our own chief economist, is bullish on real estate and has told us not to lose faith. “The market is clearly shifting toward more of a balance in the second half of the year,” he wrote in his column this week. “Combined with a temporary reprieve from rising mortgage rates and slightly easier access to credit, buyers should find it easier to purchase a home in the months ahead.”

  • Existing-Home Sales Rise in June as Home Prices Surpass July 2006 Peak

    WASHINGTON (July 22, 2015) — Existing-home sales increased in June to their highest pace in over eight years, while the cumulative effect of rising demand and limited supply helped push the national median sales price to an all-time high, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions experienced sales gains in June and have now risen above year-over-year levels for six consecutive months.

    Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.32 million in May. Sales are now at their highest pace since February 2007 (5.79 million), have increased year-over-year for nine consecutive months and are 9.6 percent above a year ago (5.01 million).

    Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says backed by June's solid gain in closings, this year's spring buying season has been the strongest since the downturn. "Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007," he said. "This wave of demand is being fueled by a year-plus of steady job growth and an improving economy that's giving more households the financial wherewithal and incentive to buy."

    Adds Yun, "June sales were also likely propelled by the spring's initial phase of rising mortgage rates, which usually prods some prospective buyers to buy now rather than wait until later when borrowing costs could be higher."

    The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in June was $236,400, which is 6.5 percent above June 2014 and surpasses the peak median sales price set in July 2006 ($230,400). June's price increase also marks the 40th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

    Total housing inventory3 at the end of June inched 0.9 percent to 2.30 million existing homes available for sale, and is 0.4 percent higher than a year ago (2.29 million). Unsold inventory is at a 5.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 5.1 months in May.

    "Limited inventory amidst strong demand continues to push home prices higher, leading to declining affordability for prospective buyers," said Yun. "Local officials in recent years have rightly authorized permits for new apartment construction, but more needs to be done for condominiums and single-family homes."

    The percent share of first-time buyers fell to 30 percent in June from 32 percent in May, but remained at or above 30 percent for the fourth consecutive month. A year ago, first-time buyers represented 28 percent of all buyers.

    According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose in June to 3.98 from 3.84 percent in May, but remained just below 4.00 percent for the seventh straight month.

    Properties typically stayed on the market for 34 days in June, down from May (40 days) and the shortest time since NAR began tracking in May 2011. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 129 days in June, while foreclosures sold in 39 days and non-distressed homes took 33 days. Forty-seven percent of homes sold in June were on the market for less than a month — the highest percentage since June 2013 (also 47 percent).

    NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says Realtors® are reporting drastic imbalances of supply in relation to demand in many metro areas — especially in the West. "The demand for buying has really heated up this summer, leading to multiple bidders and homes selling at or above asking price4," he said. "Furthermore, tight inventory conditions are being exacerbated by the fact that some homeowners are hesitant to sell because they're not optimistic they'll have adequate time to find an affordable property to move into."

    Matching the lowest share since December 2009, all-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in June, down from 24 percent in May and 32 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 12 percent of homes in June (14 percent in May) — the lowest since August 2014 (also 12 percent) and down from 16 percent in June 2014. Sixty-six percent of investors paid cash in June.

    Distressed sales5 — foreclosures and short sales — fell to 8 percent in June (matching an August 2014 low) from 10 percent in May, and are below the 11 percent share a year ago. Six percent of June sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in June (unchanged from May), while short sales were discounted 18 percent (16 percent in May).

    Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

    Single-family home sales increased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.84 million in June from 4.71 million in May, and are now 9.8 percent above the 4.41 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $237,700 in June, up 6.6 percent from June 2014 and surpassing the peak median sales price set in July 2006 ($230,900).

    Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 6.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 units in June from 610,000 units in May, up 8.3 percent from June 2014 (600,000 units) and the highest pace since May 2007 (680,000 units). The median existing condo price was $226,500 in June, which is 5.5 percent above a year ago and the highest since August 2007 ($229,200).

    Regional Breakdown

    June existing-home sales in the Northeast climbed 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 720,000, and are now 12.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $281,200, which is 3.9 percent higher than June 2014.

    In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 4.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.33 million in June, and are 12.7 percent above June 2014. The median price in the Midwest was $190,000, up 7.2 percent from a year ago.

    Existing-home sales in the South increased 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 2.20 million in June, and are 7.3 percent above June 2014. The median price in the South was $205,000, up 7.2 percent from a year ago.

    Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.24 million in June, and are 8.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $328,900, which is 9.9 percent above June 2014. 

  • Have a Safe and Happy 4th - Safety Reminder - Places to see FIREWORKS this weekend.. Enjoy!!

    Fireworks are illegal in Riverside County

    All fireworks are illegal in Riverside County. The only cities in the county that allow State Fire Marshal Safe and Sane Fireworks  are Cathedral City, Indio, Blythe and Coachella. However, these fireworks must not be transported or possessed outside of the cities where they were purchased .

    ALL fireworks, including sparklers are illegal in Riverside County. All fireworks are illegal because they may cause serious injuries and very often, cause fires. Riverside County has very diverse terrain. The vegetation is very dry, where fireworks can easily start a brush fire. Individuals who cause fires by using illegal fireworks will be held responsible for all suppression costs. These costs can run into the millions of dollars.

    Those caught with illegal fireworks will be subject to fines, citation and/or arrest: including confiscation of all illegal fireworks. We urge you to leave the fireworks to the professionals.


    Here are some places doing firework shows this weekend.. 


    Beaumont4th of July Celebration


    Wednesday July 4th @ 5:00 pm Downtown Beaumont – Plaza area between Downtown Library & Julie Rogers Theatre

    Celebration offers a rollicking salute to our nation’s past with events that include performances by local musical groups. The Symphony of Southeast Texas will also perform at the Julie Rogers Theatre. Enjoy the music and the air condition of the orchestra beginning at 8 pm. At 9 p.m. fireworks explode in the sky while the explosive and dramatic delight to eye and ear continues for about 30 minutes.

    Schedule Of Events

    5:00 pm Performance by Ashlynn Ivy 6:15 pm Performance by Folk Family Revival 7:15 pm Welcome speech from Mayor Ames 7:30 pm Performance by Hamilton Loomis 8:00 pm Performance by Symphony of Southeast Texas (Julie Rogers Theatre) 9:00 pm Fireworks For additional information, please call (409) 838-3435

    Big Bear 4th of July Fireworks-

    When: Wednesday, July 4th Time: Fireworks start at dusk Where: Big Bear Valley

    New! Discounted Fireworks Vacation Package, includes: Lodging and Admission to Big Bear’s lakeside annual 4th of July BBQ!

    Chino Hills Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Picnic -

    When: Wednesday, July 4 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

    Where: Big League Dreams Chino Hills Sports Park 16333 Fairfield Ranch Road

    Main Stage Band: Skinny Little Twits – Classic Rock

    Free activities include: Food Eating Contests, Face Painting, Fun Inflatables, Creative Crafts, BMX Stunt Show, Bungee Trampoline Rock Climbing Wall, Water Slides, Water Cannon Blowout*, Teen Extreme Zone, *As long as the water tender truck from the Chino Valley Independent Fire District is available

    For more information: (909) 364-2700

    Claremont 4th of July Celebration -

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012 2012 Theme: Claremont Celebrates America Memorial Park 840 N. Indian Hill Boulevard

    This year’s Independence Day Celebration will be another fun-filled day in the true Claremont tradition! Over 30 community volunteers comprise the Independence Day Committee that dedicates nearly 6 months in the planning and execution of this community event.

    Corona 4th of July Events -

    4pm – 10pm Santana Park 4th of July Celebration

    This years event will feature music by the  ”Rock & Soul Revue All Star Band”, a youth band performance by “Sabrina & Minor Aftershock” and a performace by the Christian Arts Theater “CAT”.

    A shuttle service will be available beginning at 5:30 p.m. with pickups and drop offs at the Centennial High School and Santiago High School student parking lots. The formal program and Military tribute will begin at approximately 8:30 p.m.

    And please remember that fireworks are prohibited in Riverside County.  For more information please visit Corona Says NO To Fireworks

    Crestline – Jamboree Days – 

    Parade to be held on July 2nd. Your Chamber is trying to bring back the FIREWORKS!!! Call the Chamber for more details! 909-338-2706

    Lake Arrowhead Fireworks –

    Enjoy the “4th of July” Fireworks Display in Lake Arrowhead!

    The Annual Lake Arrowhead Fireworks displayed hosted by the Arrowhead Lake Assoication will be on July 4th starting at 9pm For more information please call 909-337-2595

    La Verne -

    Bonita High School Stadium (3102 D Street)-6am- Pancake Breakfast, 10am-Parade, 5pm-BBQ, 6pm- FIREWORKS!

    Lake Elsinore -

    Lake Elsinore (32700 Riverside Dr.) 9PM (if you have a boat, you can watch from the water for $10!)

    Menifee Independence Day Parade and Fireworks-

    City Independence Day Event, Parade, Concert and Fireworks June 30th

    The City of Menifee and its partners, the Lake Menifee Women’s Club and Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, invite the community to enjoy the 21st Annual Independence Day Celebration and Paradeon Saturday, June 30, 2012 at Wheatfield Park in Menifee from 5 PM to 9 PM. A 5:00 PM parade down La Piedra, from Antelope to Menifee Road, will kick off the event for the 21st year. New for this year’sevent is a large outfield main stage, which will host live music featuring American Idol Season 10 audition round finalist, Rachael Stark and The Rachael Stark Band and local Menifee rock and roll band Universal Trap. This year’s fireworks show will also be synchronized to live music arranged by Bill Gould of Full Value Entertainment.

    Moreno Valley -

    This year, Moreno Valley’s Independence Day and Family FunFest will kick off with the parade on Thursday July 4, at 9:30 a.m. The festival activities, concert and fireworks display will take place at Morrison Park/Mountain View Middle School in the afternoon. The festival concludes with a spectacular fireworks display, which is simulcast on radio station KOLA 99.9 FM beginning at 9:00 p.m.

    Family Fun Fest 2013

    Come out early to the Family Fun Fest and enjoy the bands, food, arts and crafts booths, jumpers, petting zoo and pony rides. Highlights of the Festival include:

    – 2:00 p.m. Community Stage

    – 3:00 p.m. Pacific Crest Band

    – :4:00 p.m.         Mrs. Jones’ Revenge

    – 5:45 p.m.         Ghost in the Machine

    – 7:30 p.m.        Hollywood Stones

    – 9:00 p.m. Fireworks Extravaganza with Music Simulcast by Kola 99.9 FM Morrison Park/Mountain View Middle School (corner of Dracaea Ave. & Morrison St.) Time: 2 – 9 p.m. (Gates open at 1 p.m.)


    – Presale tickets are available at the Conference and Recreation Center from June 11-July 3. Cost: $2 per person or $10 for a family (up to 6 people).          –          July 4:          Free entry between 1-4 p.m. After 4 p.m. $3 per person. Military service members with valid I.D. and children under 5 are free. I

    n the interest of everyone’s safety, please be aware:

    – Barbecues are welcome! (propane only)

    – No pets, alcohol or fireworks. There will be a mandatory search of ALL bags, purses and coolers.

    – Limited entry to festival site after 6 p.m.

    Ontario July 4th Parade -

    Fireworks Spectacular starts at 9:00 PM admission is Free Location: Westwind Park 2455 East Riverside Drive Ontario, California 91761 For more information, please call Ontario Recreation & Community Services at (909) 395-2020.

    Pomona Fairplex Kaboom-

    Wednesday July 4, 2012 from 5:00pm – 10:00pm The Fairplex of Pomona 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, CA 91768, California 91768 Get Directions It’s the 26th annual fireworks spectacular at Fairplex. The nighttime programming is a crowd pleaser and has played to a sold-out audience since its inception in 2002. It puts the boom in KABOOM!

    Rancho Cucamonga Fireworks Celebration-

    Rancho Cucamonga Epicenter 8408 Rochester Avenue

    July 4, 2012 Tickets on sale NOW ALL Tickets $8.00 prior to July 4th ($10.00 day of event)

    Purchase Tickets:

    • On-Line at Here (additional fee applies for on-line sales) • By Phone – (909) 477-2752 • In Person at the Lewis Family Playhouse Box Office 12505 Cultural Center Drive

    Tickets for this event will NOT be sold at the Epicenter Box Office

    Redlands’ Community Fourth of July! 2012 Celebration -

    Ticket Sales: General Admission – $7.00 in advance, $10.00 at the gate. Children under 3 Free and will not need a ticket. Click here for pre-sale locations and Information on Reserved Seats or Map & Driving Directions.

    Each year the citizens of Redlands band together to celebrated Independence Day in grand fashion. The 4th of July Committee works tirelessly throughout the year to plan a fun filled day for the entire family. The day begins with a picnic at beautiful Sylvan Park: Food; Games; Music! Official T-Shirts: Monday June 4th official T-shirts will be on sale for $15.00 at the Redlands City Clerk’s Office. The shirt will also be sold at the committee booth in Sylvan Park on the 4th.

    Park Activities: Many local service and civic clubs are expected to participate in the daytime activities in Sylvan Park, Section A on University Street near the University of Redlands. Set up is expected to get underway at 7 a.m. and booths should be open at 9 a.m. Live entertainment will begin at 9 a.m. At 10:30 a.m. 4th of July Parade will march around the park.

    Park activities will wind down around 3 p.m. Park activities are under the direction of George Barich. For booth information please call 793-9683.

    *Parade starts at 10:30*

    Stadium: Once again the University of Redlands plays host to one of the largest 4th of July celebrations in the State of California . The gates at the U of R Stadium will open by 6 p.m. The live show and opening ceremonies will begin at 7:00 p.m. and will include a flag ceremony and a four jet flyover followed by a USAF C-17 flyover. After the flyover, skydivers from Perris Valley Skydiving will be landing in the center of the stadium. The Fireworks show under the direction of Jeff Martin, citizen of Redlands and Sales Manager for Pyro Spectaculars by Souza will begin about 9pm.


    Rialto’s 4th of July Celebration in the Park

    This event will be packed with fun and excitement for the entire family! Spend the evening with us at Rialto City Park and enjoy live music, family games, food-eating contests, train rides, petting zoo, Kids Fun Zone, Safe & Sane fireworks, and much more! The overall event is FREE and there are some fee-based rides and vendors, also. Please join us Thursday, July 4th, 5:00 to 9:00 pm at Rialto City Park.


    Free admission for all.

    Riverside 4th of July Spectacular

    Mt. Rubidoux at 2012 9:00 PM

    The City of Riverside Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department is proud to present the 4th of July Aerial Fireworks Shows on Wednesday, July 4.

    Enjoy beautiful aerial fireworks shows at La Sierra Park (5215 La Sierra Avenue) and Mt. Rubidoux (in sync with KOLA 99.9 broadcast).

    Aerial fireworks shows will begin promptly at 9 p.m.

    For more information:  951-826-2000

    La Sierra Park (5215 La Sierra Avenue- View the fireworks from Mt. Rubidoux) -9PM to 10PM

    San Bernardino -

    Inland Empire 66ers (San Manuel Stadium)-7:05pm (after the baseball game!)

    Temecula 4th of July Parade and Fireworks Show-

    All activities held  July 4, 2012 Old Town Parade at 10am Family Fun & Fireworks at the Ronald Reagan Sports Park 2pm-10pm Fireworks at 9pm sharp!

    Parade Information The 4th of July Parade will be starting at 10am Wednesday morning. The parade will be running arch to arch, South to North. Parking is available at the Old Town Parking Garage (South of the Civic Center on Mercedes St). Parade Lineup Coming Soon.

    Family Fun & Fireworks Information: Festivities start at 2pm, however the park opens at 8am. Fireworks start at 9pm sharp. Music broadcasted on KATY 101.3 Food Vendors and Kids Fun Zone. Handicap parking is limited and first come, first serve. Arrive early to secure a parking spot. ATMs located in the Food Vendor area as well as the Kids Fun Zone. Entertainment from 2pm-9pm on the main stage. Blood Drive at the CRC parking lot. CRC Pool is open from 11am-3pm.

    Park Rules: No alcohol or glass containers. No Dogs off leash. No staking or roping off areas.

    Kids Fun Zone Fun Zone opens at 2pm, wristbands required. Wristbands are $5 each, cash only, ATM available nearby. Wristbands grant unlimited use of the inflatable bounce area, rock climbing, and face painting. Fun Zone closes at 8:30pm. No refunds issued.

    Temecula – Vail Lake Resort!

    Come Celebrate Independence Day at Vail Lake Resort!

    • June 27, 2012  –  June 30, 2012
    • Address: 38000 Highway 79 South, Temecula, CA 92589
    • Times: Call for times
    • Phone: 951-303-0173

    San Jacinto Independence Day Celebration-

    SAN JACINTO 4TH OF JULY PARADE: SALUTE TO OUR MILITARY Join fam­ily, friends & neigh­bors for our annual San Jac­into Val­ley Tra­di­tion! For infor­ma­tion, call (951) 654‑4041. [flyer]

    VALLEY-WIDE 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATION 9:00 am — 9:30 pm, Valley-Wide Regional Park, 901 W Esplanade Ave, San Jac­into Come join us for our annual 4th of July Cel­e­bra­tion. We will have food, and craft ven­dors along with live enter­tain­ment. Fire­works at 9:00 pm. For infor­ma­tion, call (951) 487‑9234.

    Yucaipa 4th of July Carnival and Fireworks Show-

    Independence Day Weekend Celebration Carnival & Fireworks Show at the Yucaipa High School Grounds. June 30th – July 4th. Music, Food, Non Food Vendors, and Fireworks. Sit on the grass and enjoy the music, food, and a good old fashioned fun time, bring your lawn chairs and join us for a Yucaipa 4th of July weekend blast. It is FREE to enjoy the Celebration…

    Famous events not happening this year are:

    Fontana – Red, White, and Cruise -

    The City of Fontana announces that due to unforeseen circumstances, the City will not be participating in the Auto Club Speedway’s 4th of July celebration. The Auto Club Speedway Red, White and Cruise event has been a summer tradition for the community, but unfortunately it was necessary to cancel this year’s event. The City looks forward to participating with the Auto Club Speedway in 2013 to celebrate Independence Day.

    For more information or questions regarding the Red, White and Cruise event, please contact the Fontana Community Services Department at (909) 349-6900.

    Looking for a local discount on your fireworks? Here is a local booth offering a discount just print the image.



  • Mortgage rates edge down: 30-year average at 3.84%, Freddie Mac says

    Mortgage rates were little changed this week on mixed news for housing, with Freddie Mac saying the average rate for 30-year conventional loans was 3.84%, compared with 3.85% a week ago. 

    Lenders were offering 15-year fixed loans at an average of 3.05%, down from 3.07%, according to Freddie Mac, which releases its survey results each Thursday morning.

    But a real-estate trade group said Thursday that sales of previously owned homes fell in April due to a supply shortage.

    Analysts said the effects will hit hard in Southern California's expensive markets.

    Southland home prices and sales rose in April for the second straight month, but a dwindling supply of homes for sale meant buyers face challenges in finding homes they can afford.

    Freddie Mac asks lenders early each week about the terms they are offering to solid borrowers seeking mortgages up to $417,000 that conform to guidelines set by Freddie and Fannie Mae, the other mortgage finance giant.

    The borrowers would have paid a little more than half of 1% of the loan balance in upfront lender fees and discount points to obtain the loans.

    Not included are such expenses as appraisals, title insurance and mortgage insurance, which often is required for loans with down payments under 20%.

    The survey provides a consistent gauge of mortgage trends, but actual rates may change rapidly and are influenced by many factors, including borrowers’ credit scores, debt loads and down payments. 

  • The 10-Step Guide to Buying a House

    Buying a house may be the most complicated financial process of your entire life. Luckily, we’ve broken it down into 10 straightforward steps:

    1. Are you ready to become a homeowner?
    Whether you’re becoming a homeowner for the first time or you’re a repeat buyer, buying a house is a financial and emotional decision that requires the experience and support of a team of reliable professionals.

    2. Get a Realtor®
    In the maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing, and negotiating, it makes sense to work with professionals who know the community and much more. Those professionals are the local Realtors who serve your area.

    3. Get a mortgage pre-approval
    Most first-time buyers need to finance their home purchase, and a consultation with a mortgage lender is a crucial step in the process. Find out how much you can afford before you begin your home search.

    4. Look at homes
    A quick search on our site will bring up thousands of homes for sale.  Educating yourself on your local market and working with an experienced Realtor can help you narrow your priorities and make an informed decision about which home to choose.

    5. Choose a home
    While no one can know for sure what will happen to housing values, if you choose to buy a home that meets your needs and priorities, you’ll be happy living in it for years to come.

    6. Get funding
    The cost of financing your home purchase is usually greater than the price of the home itself (after interest, closing costs, and taxes are added). Get as much information as possible regarding your mortgage options and other costs.

    7. Make an offer
    While much attention is paid to the asking price of a home, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms. In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value—or additional costs—for buyers.

    8. Get insurance
    No sensible car owner would drive without insurance, so it figures that no homeowner should be without insurance, either. Real estate insurance protects owners in the event of catastrophe. If something goes wrong, insurance can be the bargain of a lifetime.

    9. Closing
    The closing process, which in different parts of the country is also known as “settlement” or “escrow,” is increasingly computerized and automated. In practice, closings bring together a variety of parties who are part of the real estate transaction.

    10. What’s next?

    You’ve done it. You’ve looked at properties, made an offer, obtained financing, and gone to closing. The home is yours. Is there any more to the home-buying process? Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a repeat buyer, you’ll want to take several more steps. 

  • This Part of the Home-Buying Paperwork Is Everything, So Make Sure You Get It Right

    The prime home-buying season is upon us, and with it, mounds of paperwork. And, let’s be honest—a chunk of that paperwork will be devoted to the real estate purchase contract.

    Here’s how you can sign on the dotted line without losing your mind.

    What it is

    A real estate purchase contract is a legally binding document that details the sale of the property. Details range from the basics (e.g., how much the property costs) to the specifics ( e.g., what furniture or appliances stay in the house).

    How to prepare

    Before you even go near the contract, do a walk-through of the property with a professional land surveyor, engineer, or experienced landowner. Call in an inspector to search for anything that might end up costing you extra money: broken gutters or gates, inadequate electrical circuits, outdated plumbing pipes, and more. Get it all down in writing and attach all building and land inspection forms to the contract.

    Review the contract

     Once all the paperwork is gathered and reviewed, a real estate purchase contract will be drawn up. The following are common items that appear in traditional contracts:

    • Buyer’s and seller’s list
    • Legal description of the property, including zoning information
    • Purchase price and terms of the sale
    • Down payment to be held in escrow and future payment structure
    • Closing date
    • Response time frame before the contract is void
    • Any items included in the sale such as appliances, furniture, and flooring
    • Disclosure of lead paint (for buildings built before 1978) and other defects
    • Home and appliance warrantees
    • Pest and environmental inspection results
    • Home inspection results
    • Title insurance
    • Contingency clauses (for example, you can buy this house only if your other home sells, or certain repairs need to be made)
    • Commissions, if any
    • Signatures

    Signing the contract

    When you sign this contract—that’s pretty much it. If you come back to the seller and ask for anything else not in the purchase agreement, she or he doesn’t have to do it—and probably won’t. The contract states everything you’re getting and not getting in your new home, so get a real estate lawyer to go over all the details. Ask the seller for clarification on anything you don’t understand, and sign only when you’re certain you understand the agreement.

    After signing

    Store the contract in a secure area such as a safe-deposit box. Also store the deed and any other documents registered in the local registry office.

  • Brokers Might Ask You These 6 Questions at an Open House (So Be Ready to Answer Them)

    Would you go to a friend’s dinner party, nibble every course, drink a glass or two of wine, and then leave—without ever speaking to the host? I hope not. And I hope you wouldn’t treat open houses the same way. And yet home buyers often do, refusing to sign in or deflecting agents’ questions about the house they’re touring.

    Sometimes they do it because they’re leery of being given a hard sell or handing over their personal information; others decline because they’re uncomfortable being put on the spot about a potentially huge decision. Whatever the reason, this puts brokers in a tough place: Open houses might be fun for home shoppers, but to agents, they’re work. Your feedback is the market research they need to do their jobs right.

    So, perhaps all that home buyers need is a little preparation. If they know the questions brokers are going to ask, they can be ready with answers, and everyone can go home (perhaps to this very home?) happy. Here’s your cheat sheet:

    1. The question: How long have you been looking?
    Why they’re asking: The agent is trying to gauge how serious you are. If you’ve been looking for only a short time, say a few weeks, the agent will understand that you’re just getting your feet wet—that you’re still gathering your thoughts. If you’ve been looking for months, then the agent might dig in. That tells her you’ve seen a lot, but you haven’t found what you’re looking for. She’s wondering why you haven’t pulled the trigger and, hey, maybe this is the house you’ve been waiting for.
    How you should answer: Be honest and specific. This is harmless information.

    2. The question: Are you working with an agent exclusively?
    Why they’re asking: Agents are trained to respect boundaries. If you are represented by an agent, the open house agent cannot try to represent you. This question sets the tone of the conversation. Don’t be surprised if the agent asks who your agent is. Most agents who do business in a certain area know other active agents. This way the open house agent can call your agent—not you—for your feedback. You are insulated by your buyer-broker agreement.
    How you should answer: If you’re working with an agent, say so! Even better, give the open house agent your agent’s name and brokerage company. This protects you from having to give your personal information to the open house agent. Rather than sign in with your name, number, and email, you can sign in with your name and your agent’s contact information. That’s all the open house agent needs to follow up.

     3. The question: How does this house compare to others you’ve seen?

    Why they’re asking: Now that the agent knows how long you’ve been looking, she wants to get a sense of whether this house is a contender. She is also assuming that you’re touring other houses nearby (other “comps,” as they say). She wants your honest insight on whether her listing is better or worse than the others.
    How you should answer: Be honest. If the house around the corner has a remodeled master bath and this one doesn’t, point that out. If you think this house could use some work, let her know. Remember, being honest about the house won’t hurt the agent’s feelings. She’s independent. Of course she cares about her listing, but, unlike an owner, she isn’t emotionally attached. This is one reason for sale by owner is difficult.

    4. The question: Are you specifically looking at this neighborhood? 
    Why they’re asking: The agent isn’t being nosy here, she wants to know how focused you are. She wants to rule out the looky-loos and focus on the serious buyers. If you are looking in that particular neighborhood but not interested in making an offer on her listing, you’ve caught her attention. She needs to understand what other listings have that hers doesn’t. Now she’s focused on knowing your trigger: Are you focused on certain streets within the neighborhood? A certain style of house? Or is it all about price?
    How you should answer: Be specific. If you’re focused on that neighborhood, it’s OK to say so. If you’re open and still getting your bearings straight, it’s OK to say so. These answers provide depth for the agent when she’s talking to the seller (e.g., “The open house was great! I had a buyer walk through who has been looking for a while and she is only looking in this neighborhood.”). This tells the seller there are buyers out there—and that adjustments may have to be made if those buyers aren’t buying this home.

    5. The question: What do you think of the price?
    Why they’re asking: This is probably the most important question, but it may not be the first one out of the agent’s mouth, because she wants to establish rapport first. The agent knows that people are usually guarded when it comes to price. She wants you to give a thoughtful answer, not a flippant one.
    How you should answer: Now, this is tricky. If you’re not really in the market to buy, or can’t compare it to other houses on the market, don’t just throw out a number. Simply tell the agent you haven’t seen enough to give an educated answer. If you feel you cananswer, say something like “I think it’s priced competitively” or “It’s priced too high.” The point is not to give a dollar figure but to offer a general perception. If you believe it’s a good deal, say that. If you think it’s overpriced, say that. Because if the house is overpriced, maybe the agent will call you once it’s reduced.

    6. The question: Are you considering making an offer on this home?
    Why they’re asking: Please don’t take offense! The agent has a job to do, and this is a valid question.
    How you should answer: As a prospective buyer, remember: You hold the power. If you’re planning to make an offer, it’s good news to the agent and lets her know to expect something in writing. It also might help you if the house is in demand so the agent will know there are multiple offers coming in. That way, she may not start negotiating without first getting your offer in hand. To some extent, this buys you time to call your agent and get your offer submitted. If you’re not planning to make an offer, it’s fine to say that, too.

    Finally, please sign in. You don’t have to go overboard—you don’t even have to give your last name. (Unless you want the agent to check your credentials on LinkedIn.) No one is expecting to see the list, not the broker’s boss, not the seller. Signing in is, in some ways, absolutely unimportant. But it is also common courtesy, the least—the very least—that you can do to preserve the social fabric of our society.

  • Tips to Cut Your Monthly Housing Costs

    Whether you see your residence as a forever home, a financial investment or just a place to crash for the night, there’s no denying how much the cost of housing cuts into your available funds at the end of the month. According to CNN, housing expenses top the list of how Americans spend their money, regardless of income or age, and it has been this way for quite some time.

     GOBankingRates reached out to experts in both the real estate and mortgage loan fields to get a sense of simple ways to save money on this massive monthly cost, without having to downgrade accommodations.

    Here’s what the professionals had to say.

    1. Don’t Throw Money Out The Window



    “Check your windows and doors,” said Shawn Tamarro, co-owner of Entourage Elite Real Estate. “These openings have the least amount of insulation between your warm house and the blizzard conditions that we are experiencing right now.”


    This concept goes both ways, whether you’re caught in the wrath of the polar vortex or are fortunate enough to live in warmer West Coast temperatures. Weatherproofing your doors and windows can help save 25 percent to 40 percent off heating and cooling bills, meaning more savings in your pocket that can go toward paying down your mortgage loan or growing a nest egg.

    Tamarro recommended that homeowners look into insulated windows with a 0.35 or lower fenestration rating, where possible.


    2. Double Your Monthly Principal


    John F. Sullivan, a 20-year exclusive buyer agent and vice president of Buyer’s Edge Co., Inc., explained how to pay down a 30-year mortgage loan fast, but without the pressure of taking on a larger mortgage payment every month.


    “This can be accomplished by making your normal 30-year mortgage payment, plus the principal of the following month’s payment,” Sullivan said. “The result is substantial savings in interest paid and the flexibility to pay down the principal when it fits [a homeowner’s] budget.”


    The housing expert is exercised this strategy on his own mortgage loan, and was 53 months ahead of his lender’s payment schedule as of last year.

    Before paying off your mortgage loan early, however, identify whether your lender imposes a prepayment penalty to avoid additional fees.


    3. Talk to the Right People



    “Reach out to a mortgage banker (not a broker) and clearly define [your] goals so that a customized solution can be offered,” said Jorge Avila, in-house mortgage banker at Opulence International Realty.


    Although a mortgage broker can be helpful in the initial home-buying process, once the broker finds an adequate lender and financing terms for his client and connects the borrower to the lender, the broker’s role is looped out of the process.

    On the other hand, Avila said, mortgage bankers still play an active role in assessing your financial situation and offering viable options, should you need to adjust mortgage loan terms after the starting stages.

    “If it makes economic sense, we [mortgage bankers] restructure their current mortgage to accomplish one of three goals,” Avila said. “We lower their rate and thus their payment amount, we lower the term and thus save them on interest payments, or use existing equity in the home to accomplish another financial goal.”


    4. Use a Home Improvement Organizer

     “Have a personalized maintenance schedule that reminds you every month of what needs to be done to maintain your home,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a home improvement resource and tool. “Most people forget or just don’t know all the little things to do to keep the home running smoothly.”

    Aside from repaying your mortgage loan, a large housing expense that can easily send your savings account spiraling downward is routine household maintenance needs that go unattended. At times, scheduled maintenance gets overlooked by accident, but this forgetfulness can lead to costly repairs down the line.

    Not only does staying on top of home improvement projects and maintenance schedules keep your home in tip-top shape, but it also helps keep a home’s resale value intact, Bodrozic said.

    Finding ways to save money and maintain affordable housing costs can take very different approaches, all of which are viable if you’re willing to put in the effort to achieve a lower monthly payment goal.


  • Big Refinancing Questions Answered

    You may have heard about it on the news, your neighbors may be bragging about it or you could have even received eligibility notice in the mail — but what is the real deal behind refinancing? Before you crunch your personal numbers and weigh the costs and benefits of refinancing your mortgage, you need to be sure you understand what exactly we're talking about.

    How Does It Work?

    Basically, refinancing a mortgage means getting a new loan with new terms on your home. When you went through the homebuying process, you likely thought — or hoped — that you were done with picking mortgages, but if you can secure a lower interest rate, need lower monthly payments or want to build equity in your home sooner through a shorter-term mortgage, it may be time to revisit your situation. Refinancing also gives you the option to switch between an adjustable-rate mortgage and a fixed-rate mortgage.

    Should I Do It?

    When making the decision, it's important to consider your current mortgage size, details of the new mortgage you would be taking out, the current home value, the interest rate of your loan options and the closing costs. A refinance calculator can help determine if refinancing is right for you. You enter specific information about your personal finances and the calculator determines what makes the most sense for you. If you plan to stay in the house longer than it will take for the monthly savings on your new mortgage to recoup the upfront costs of refinancing, you may want to move forward.

    What Will It Cost?

    When you bought your home, you probably paid closing costs to complete the sale. When you refinance, you have to pay these again to replace your original mortgage with the new one. You can expect to fork over 3% to 6% of your principal in refinancing fees along with any prepayment penalties you could incur. Beware that if you are offered a "no-fee" refinance, the lender may be charging you extra interest to make up for the fees you are avoiding upfront.

    When Is It a Bad Idea?

    Refinancing may sound great, but it isn't for everyone. You need to be eligible for the new loan, which means you usually need to have a certain amount of equity in your home and decent credit score. If you don't qualify, it obviously isn't an option for you. You also should probably not refinance if you plan to move from your home soon, since this doesn't give you time to recoup the closing costs for the new loan. Being able to afford closing costs upfront is also important. Though lenders may offer the option to roll them into your new mortgage, this isn't always the best decision and can cancel out the savings you would make from the switch. Also, if the prepayment penalty on your original mortgage is too high, this can also negate the potential savings of a refinance. 

  • The City of Norco - Utility Bill Assistance Program

    The City of Norco -

    Proudly announces the Reinstatement of it's utility bill assistance program

    You May Qualify for a Discount on the Water and Sewer Fees 

    Low Income Seniors and Disabled Residents are Eligible 

    A Simple application is available to City Hall, The Norco Senior Center or by calling the City's Housing Specialist

    Keep in Mind: 

    Other Housing Programs are available for lower income homeowners, including emergency grants and 0% interest loans to fund qualified home repairs 

    For more information, contact: 

    Michael Neal, Housing Specialist City of Norco 


    or check the City website:




  • You're Invited!

     You're Cordially invited!

    To join us for our Wine & Cheese Networking Event on

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  • REAL ESTATE: Builders must prove they have the water

    State lawmakers intended to prevent building beyond the water supply when they passed two “show-me-the-water” laws in 2001.

    Senate Bills 221 and 610 require that governments review water supplies before approving developments of 500 or more units and to verify there is sufficient water to meet the project’s needs for 20 years, including a multiyear drought.

    It’s hard to know how many projects across the state have been denied or redesigned because of the show-me-the-water laws, since there is no database.

    “It’s spotty, how it’s been complied with across the state,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency in Chicago.

    Her group issued a report in January detailing what districts have done so far with the two laws.

    Primarily, developers offset a project’s water use by retrofitting somewhere else in the community – sometimes at a ratio of two times the water used by their development – or they contribute money for the water district to use for conservation rebates, she said.

    Dickinson’s group is developing a template to help communities accurately calculate offsets, develop ways to verify implementation of efficiency measures and establish policies to ensure the reductions are permanent.

    “We just want new development to be water-neutral,” she said.

    In a review of 95 projects from 2002 to 2004, Ellen Hanak, director of the Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute, found that nine were initially deemed to have insufficient supplies. In seven of those cases, developers were asked to find additional water or scale back the projects. Two developments were rejected.

    A second survey by Hanak in 2005 found that only one project was blocked because of water supply concerns. Almost 30 percent of projects took measures to introduce conservation, use of recycled water and water transfers, she said.

    During the last drought in 2007 and 2008, Eastern Municipal Water District in Perris delayed certifying nine major industrial and residential projects because of supply doubts.

    Within months, however, the district agreed to issue “will serve” letters after determining that conservation measures and additional water resources could provide enough water, records show.

    One of those delayed projects was the 1.8 million-square-foot Skechers distribution center in Moreno Valley.

    Construction of the warehouse eventually was allowed to proceed after the developer, Highland Fairview, pledged to reduce water use at its previously approved 2,702-home Aquabella development by using water-efficient landscaping in the new homes’ backyards.

    That reduced the anticipated water demand at the tract from 1,939 acre-feet per year to 162 acre-feet per year, Eastern officials said. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, enough to supply two families for a year.


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