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Real Estate News Articles

Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Using Your Homes quot;Deadquot; Equity

Question. Our house is free and clear. We have a 100,000 home equity line of credit, and the interest rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 percent. We itemize tax deductions and are in a high federal tax rate, and hoping that any new tax laws will reduce our taxes.

My question concerns using the home equity loan for investment. We are considering using 50,000 of the home equity line of credit and investing it in a growth stock for the next five years. Our accountant/tax advisor, however, is strongly in favor of having an unencumbered house especially as we are close to retirement.

Answer. It is my strong belief that homeowners -- of any age -- should make use of the equity they have gained from their real estate investments. As this column has suggested in the past, there are too many retired persons who are "house rich and cash poor." Hopefully, your house will appreciate in the future, and this appreciation will continue whether you have equity or not in the home. Thus, for all practical purposes, that equity is "dead equity."

There are, however, a number of parts to your question.

First, should you use the equity in your home for investment purposes? My answer is a qualified yes. Are you prepared to lose your investment if the stock market tumbles? Growth stocks may grow -- or they may not. If you are in any way concerned about risk, you should consider investing in government insured programs or tax free bonds. Of course, the higher rate of potential return will also carry a higher risk.

I am sure that readers will ask: why borrow money at 4 or 5 percent only to invest it in a security which has a 2 or 3 percent rate of return? Here, you have to do the numbers, and also look to your own future situation.

At first blush, it makes no sense to pay more interest than you are receiving from your investment -- especially if that investment has no or little growth capacity. But there is one important factor that must be considered, namely the liquidity of your investments. If you find at a later date that you need money for emergency purposes, if may be difficult -- if not impossible -- to tap into the equity of your home when you are retired and no longer employed. The investments you are considering -- whether stocks, mutual funds, or government securities -- do have immediate liquidity.

Second. If you decide to invest the equity in your home, what is the best route to take? You have indicated that your current home equity line of credit is around 7 percent. This seems rather high in todays market.

More importantly, most home equity loans fluctuate in rate; the rate of interest is pegged to some index -- such as "prime." If the prime rate rises or falls, so will the interest rate on your home equity loan.

Instead of using your home equity, you may want to consider refinancing your home, while interest rates are >How will you make the monthly mortgage payments when you are retired? If you do not have other sources of income -- such as a pension plan -- you still have the liquidity of your investments that should be able to carry you for a long period of time.

Additionally, if you decide to refinance your home, although the refinance funds will pay off your home equity loan, nevertheless, you definitely should keep the home equity loan available. As you know, a home equity loan is a line of credit; you only pay interest on the amount of the money you have actually borrowed. If you obtain a refinance mortgage, make sure that you can also keep the existing or obtain a new home equity loan. There are some logistical legal issues that your attorney can handle to make these arrangements.

Third. You must understand the tax implications of borrowing on your home equity. Interest deductions for tax purposes are based, in part, on what the IRS calls "acquisition indebtedness." In your case, this indebtedness is zero, since your house is free and clear. You will only be entitled to deduct interest on the first 100,000 that you borrow -- whether this money comes from a new first mortgage or a home equity loan. And this may all change if Congress enacts a new tax code.

These are difficult -- and clearly personal -- decisions that everyone must consider. Talk to your tax advisors, and "crunch the numbers."

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Ask the HOA Expert: Repercussions When A Board Throws Out A Member Decision

Question: What are the possible repercussions when a board throws out a member decision voted on at the Annual Meeting?

Answer: If member approval is required to do what you describe, the board must follow the dictates of the vote. If the vote was advisory only, the board could go a different direction but that clearly would invite well deserved challenge from the member majority who expressed their preference. Smart boards would not do such a thing.

Question: Our HOA is half sold and is being managed by the developer who charges us for it. The outside maintenance is terrible. The sprinkler system doesnt work and weeds were out of control. Thoughts?

Answer: You need to review your governing documents to see if there is a deadline for the developer to turnover the HOA to a board of owners. There usually is a trigger based on number of units sold or a certain time that has passed, whichever comes first. If there is, you and other owners can demand turnover to the owners. Get an attorney to make the point if necessary. Once an owner board is in place, it can act on behalf of all owners.

If the developer is not yet required to turn over control, you are certainly within your rights to point out the developers management shortcomings. Youre paying for the service and failure to maintain the common area diminishes your property value.

Question: We have an upcoming election for directors and two of the candidates are not full time residents. They are from a troublemaker group and plan to participate in board meetings only by phone. Is there anything that the present board can do to prevent this from happening?

Answer: Candidates for the board are not required to be residents. And if all board meetings are handled by phone, no big deal. But if they are saying they wont attend in-person meetings, this is a big deal and such information needs to be conveyed to the voters. As to what you can do about it... You can encourage and nominate others that are willing to fulfill the board job as intended. If the dissidents dont get voted in to begin with, the rest of the board wont have the challenges of dealing with them.

Question: We are nearing completion of our HOA website and getting ready to launch. The board intends to use email for meeting notices, dues notices and event reminders. Right now our governing documents state notices must be sent by US Mail. Is this going to pose a big issue? Also, should we get each members written consent to communicate via email?

Answer: Since a high percentage of citizens now regularly use email and its free, fast and efficient, many HOAs are now communicating that way. However, since your governing documents require use of mail, the members need to vote to approve a change. I suggest holding a special meeting including distribution of proxies to ensure a quorum to handle this issue as soon as possible.

Yes, you should get written approval from each member to use email. Some dont have computers or ra>For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see www.Regenesis.net

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REALTOR Analysis Of Tax Bill Is Worth Examining

It is no secret that the National, State, and Local Realtorreg; associations are strongly opposed to certain provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the current tax reform bills. The REALTORreg; concerns range from worry that changes to the present capital gain exclusion will result in a further decrease to for-sale inventory, to concern that proposals regarding mortgage interest and property-tax deductibility are liable to decrease home ownership rates and to drastically depress property values.

It is not my intention here to repeat those arguments or to analyze their validity. There simply isnt enough room for that. Rather, I would like to encourage readers to examine on their own some of the Realtorreg; organizations central arguments and, importantly, the facts and figures that undergird them.

Credit where its due: the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR has devoted a great deal of effort to collect and present the data on which its conclusions are based. Moreover, they are presented in a manner that is both accessible and >

Interested persons can examine the REALTORreg; analyses at the NAR website. They are available on the public pages; you dont have to be a member to access them.

Many commentators have observed that the real-estate >

Even looking at state-by-state impacts paints with too broad a brush, so the analysis is also carried out at the level of congressional districts. Hence, for Californias 49th District -- on the coast -- the projected typical loss of home value is approximately 58,000; whereas, in the less expensive inland area, Californias District 23 would be expected to see an average loss of just over 20,000.

Of course, the arguments arent just over home values. There are also discussions of ancillary economic activity generated by home sales, as well as the more intangible values that home ownership brings to neighborhoods.

Interested in the Realtorreg; analysis of possible impacts from the current tax proposals? Read about it Here. Think about it. And let your representatives know what you think, whichever side youre on.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

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Why Chinese Real Estate Investors Are Still Flocking To Canada

Despite taxes on foreign real estate buyers in the Vancouver and Toronto areas, Chinese interest in Canadian real estate continues to have an impact in both regions. In B.C., where the tax was introduced in August 2016, property transfers involving foreign nationals have been steady increasing during the last year, with much investment coming from China.

Ontarios tax arrived in April 2017. The government says that foreign buyers accounted for 5.6 per cent of transactions in September, down from 7.2 per cent when the tax was introduced. Most analysts believe the trend in the Toronto area will follow what happened in Vancouver and that foreign investment will pick up again.

Oxford Properties, which owns 11 shopping centres in Canada, recently announced that Chinese visitors and recent immigrants can now use their WeChat Pay and Alipay mobile wallets in Oxfords shopping centres, affiliated hotels and travel partners. The apps have more than 1.2 billion active users.

"Our Chinese retail customers have told us that tourists, students and newcomers alike want access to their mobile wallets in-mall," says Brad Jones, head of retail at Oxford Property Group.

So, whats the big attraction thats bringing these Chinese visitors, immigrants and real estate buyers to Canada?

Property portal Juwai.com says education is a major draw. China is the top source of international students who are studying Canada -- there were 132,345 Chinese students enrolled in Canadian schools in 2016.

Juwai teamed with Sothebys International Realty Canada to find out why Chinese home buyers want to come to Canada. Juwai conducted a survey of more than 4,000 Chinese international property buyers in 2017.

It says the cities with the most Chinese buyer interest in the first half of 2017 were Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Victoria. Canada currently ranks fourth in Chinese buyer interest, behind the United States, Australia and Thailand.

"Education has long been a prime motivation for property investors from China to buy homes abroad and Canada is one of their perennial favourites, as its world->The report says Canadas government updated its visa system so that graduates of Canadian universities got extra points when studying for Canadian Permanent Residency. International graduates from B.C. universities who qualify for a post-graduate work permit can be exempt from the foreign buyers tax, says the report.

Tuition rates in Canada are also lower than in other countries. They were 42 per cent cheaper than in the U.S. in 2016, says the report.

The Sothebys/Juwai report cites other reasons why Chinese investment remains strong. First, follow the money.

"In spite of the strengthening of the Canadian dollar, interest from international buyers hasnt waned," says Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sothebys International Realty Canada. ">Seventy-nine per cent of Chinese home buyers surveyed cited low cost per square foot/value as a key criterion in their purchase.

"When we did this same research a year ago, safety was the top factor. This year, value has knocked safety out of the top spot," says Carrie Law, CEO of Juwai.com. "This may be a result of the stepped-up enforcement of capital controls, which has caused some families to squeeze their budgets to reduce the amount they need for their down payment and ongoing costs."

Safety came in as the second most-important factor -- both as a safe haven for investments and for personal safety.

"China has >Sixty-nine per cent of survey respondents cited "convenient to shopping, entertainment, activities" as a key factor.

The report says the assumption that Chinese buyers are looking only for high-end real estate is incorrect. Most buyers are looking for properties at or below the average sale price of residential properties in the local neighbourhood. Only 17 per cent of survey respondents cited "prestige and exclusivity" as a factor of importance in their house-hunting.

Ranking next was "property rentability" followed by low maintenance cost, proximity to good schools, construction quality, yard/land size, community amenities parks, golf course and ethnicity of the community at 39 per cent.

Ranking at the bottom of the list with fewer than 20 per cent were multigenerational living, character/uniqueness of property, energy efficiency, property customizability and accessibility to friends/family.

The survey also says that Chinese purchasers prefer new construction homes to existing or remodeled homes.

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Purple Power: How To Use Pantones 2018 Color Of The Year

Seeing a whole lot of purple recently? Its not an homage to Prince. Its Pantones Color of the Year for 2018, and its about to be everywhere.

Pantone, the worlds leading color authority, typically sets off trends with its annual color choice. So expect fashion and home deacute;cor to soon be wrapped in PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a color choice they call "a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade that communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future."

And you just thought it would look pretty in the bedroom.

"Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now," they said. "The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own."

In color theory, purple is recognized for its "mystic and royal qualities," and is a soothing color that inspires creativity and "calms the mind and nerves," said Sensational Color.

That makes it a good choice for just about any space in the house, especially if youre trying to stand out, since "enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance," said Pantone.

As designlike puts it, you can "use the psychological effects of color purple to create a luxurious and expensive environment to your home. "If it has a bluish shade, it can be serene and calm and gives an air of mystery. Reddish shades attract more attention and dominate the room. Purple color has a long reputation of royalty and power."

Architectural Digest called Ultra Violet "a sort of thematic continuation of Greenery, the 2017 selection meant to evoke ideas of revival and renewal," and said that Ultra Violet "symbolizes the sort of mindfulness and boundary-pushing that ultimately propels each of us - and the world at large - forward." They sought to learn more about the inspiration behind the color choice and how to use it at home from Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute.

It has an ability "to play nice with everything from grays and taupes to pastels and metallics depending on your tolerance for boldness," she said. "In addition to offering tranquil lighting hues, Ultra Violet will also work well alongside other purples within floral pieces, or in decorative dining accents like candles, plates, or glassware."

Here are some ideas to give you purple inspiration.

Go big

Why just stick to one purple hue? This living room will never get boring.


Do it in the bedroom

The same idea works wonderfully in an elegant yet bohemian bedroom. The boldness of purple plays well with neutrals, but look what it does with other bold colors The space is deep, rich, and luxurious, but also maintains a playfulness.


On the other side of the design coin, we have this bedroom, which is enti>



You may not be ready for this level of purple commitment, but wouldnt it be cool if you were?



Purple is a rich choice in the bathroom, providing a chic backdrop for glamorous finishes.


Your walls

Splash it on the walls and let the natural light provide contrast.


Or, pick a great piece of art that brings in the color and keeps your commitment ultra-low.


Dining table

You may not have ever thought about a deep purple dining room table, but you may now. Between the clean lines, the glossy finish, and the gorgeous color, this would certainly amp up your dinner parties.


Starting small

Of course, you dont have to go out and buy one of the most significant pieces of furniture in your home to incorporate the color into your space. The saturated purple of the chairs in this space offers the perfect accent to a room that already has a surprising color element: the black wall. All that white in the rest of the space keeps it light and bright despite the dark colors.


"This striking and glamorous piece will look good wherever you place it - whether its at the foot of your bed or in your entryway," said Real Simple. "It doesnt hurt that the velvet material is a trend of the moment, too." Or that it is just 150 at Target.


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The Introverts Guide to Hosting Holiday Get-Togethers

So you somehow got roped into hosting a holiday get-together this year, which means dozens of family members will be descending upon your house, and... this is your basic nightmare. Introverts are so much better at going to other peoples houses for these types of things because you can arrive when you want, leave when you want, and play with the dog instead of trying to participate in awkward conversation, right?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Having people at your house actually gives introverts several distinct advantages over having to go to somebody elses house for the festivities. Here, well help you cope and prepare. And by "you," we mean "us." Introverts, unite

Prepare yourself for a long night or nights, as the case may be

As much as you might like for people to come, eat, and leave, the holidays tend to create a lingering situation. And, lets get real for a second. Youve never really been able to take off when you wanted to you from other peoples houses in years past, anyway. Its always cousin Linda who has one more story or your husbands Great Aunt Gracie who is always insisting you have one more piece of pie. If you can keep reminding yourself you got through it last year and the year before that and on and on, itll be easier to envision getting through it this year, even though the circumstances have changed.

Its okay to say no

Even if you have already said "Yes" to hosting, you dont have to take on the lions share of the hosting duties. The thought of all those before, during, and after tasks can bring on the anxiety.

"Saying yes to everything over the holidays can be overwhelming. A lot of obligations arise at this time of year, but it is okay to say no to some of them if you need time to yourself," said The Alternative Daily. "A study published inProcedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences2010 found a cor>That may mean asking friends and family attending to help out at home. And if that just raised your blood pressure because asking for help is not in the introvert handbook, you can always ask for help with asking for help. Your spouse, mom or dad, or closest sibling is probably already aware of your introvert-ness. Put one of them in charge of disseminating duties so you can split up the responsibilities.

Or, take on as much as you can

Us introverts like to busy ourselves with tasks so we dont have to interact. You could, conceivably, stay in the kitchen a good 90 of the time people are over. Of course, with todays open kitchens, youll have less privacy than you would have in a more compartmentalized home, but youll still have so much to do you can minimize interruptions and limit conversations that include you.

"If awkward pauses are the thing you dread, youre in luck because as the host you have so many excuses - filling drinks, clearing plates, etc. - to break away from a conversation to attend to things," said Huffington Post. "This is one main reason that hosting a party is better than attending one."

Limit other holiday activities

"The office party. The family party. The friendsmas party. Another family party.So many people. So much energy. Its an extroverts dream," said Verily. "But when it comes to introverts and alittle downtime? Nowthatsa party."

You dont have to attend them all. "During the holidays, youre bound to have more social engagements than usual. Be honest with yourself and know when to say no to an invite," said Pure Wow. "Remember that you dont have to go to everything, and take time to really think about how much you can or want to handle over the next several weeks. We give you full permission to call out sick from that friend-of-a-friends Secret Santa party."

When you do have to put a party on your calendar, bookending it with some "me time" can help you decompress.

Plan lots of activities

If you have lots of kids coming to your get-together, make sure there are crafts and coloring books. Theyll stay busy, and you can join in whenever you want to escape the adults. Some baking activities are also great because it means everybody will have something to do, and you can focus on tasks like completing a puzzle or decorating Christmas cookies.

Escape to a private spot

You may not have a place you can go at your brothers or your aunt Lucys house, but at your place you know exactly where to go if you need a moment to scream into a pillow.

"Dont feel bad if you need to take a small break," said Huffington Post."Take an extra-long trip to the bathroom or escape to your room for a few minutes. Sometimes thats enough to help an introvert get through the rest of the night. No one will notice.

Go to the store

Theres bound to be something you forgot to buy and just cant live without, right? Getting out of the house, even for a few minutes, can refocus your energy and give you the stamina to get through the rest of the night. Even better? Walk there if possible, given your location and the weather. Fresh air is a great equalizer.

Set an alarm

Just cant hear any more of Uncle Larrys angry political rants? That kitchen timer is your best friend. Set it before you sit down, or on the sly on your phone to build in an escape plan.

Seek out the extroverts

"The only thing extroverts love more than talking is a rapt audience," said TODAY. "Ask the center of attention for a piece of advice and watch them go. Hopefully youll be joined by others close enough to overhear and youll be part of a garrulous group."

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Get The Look: Transitional-Style Kitchen

Transitional >The Basics: Mixing Old and New

Fundamentally, transitional >

Often this means taking evocative traditional shapes and applying a contemporary finish to them. For example, take a look at this beautiful bridge faucet. Its a very traditional >

Photo by Titus Built, LLC - More kitchen ideas

Essential: Shaker Cabinets

Perhaps the best example of this balancing of traditional and contemporary elements is the Shaker >These cabinet doors and drawers typically have a flat panel in the middle with a raised flat border at the edges and no "profiling" i.e., no fancy curved molding. This gives a bit more richness than a minimalist flat-front cabinet without feeling fussy.

Photo by Titus Built, LLC - Search kitchen design ideas

Cabinets in this >

Photo by Coastal Cabinet Works - Look for kitchen design inspiration

The Palette: White and Gray with Neutrals

White Shaker cabinets are not seen in every transitional kitchen, but they are certainly a popular pick. This is likely because the freshness of white instantly makes any space feel more spacious.

Again, transitional kitchens are not strictly minimalist either, so the white is usually mixed with grays, woods, enticing metallics and other neutrals and textural elements for a friendly palette.

Photo by SINGLEPOINT DESIGN BUILD INC. - More kitchen photos

Dark and charcoal grays are quite popular as well, either instead of white cabinets or added alongside white for a tuxedo effect. Deep, true-neutral grays feel >For a fun twist, a dark gray chalkboard paint gives a room a sense of levity that keeps the mood from being too somber.

For those who prefer a bit more color, blue and blue-grays make a perfect hue for fixed elements like cabinets or floor tiles. This sort of color makes white porcelain and polished stone appear even more fresh, and it will work with changing accent hues in future years.

Photo by Fireclay Tile - Look for kitchen design inspiration

Essential: Rich Woods

Mixing these broad strokes of crisp paint with wood brings in much needed texture, so its very common to see transitional kitchens with wood floors, wood bar stools and butcher block counters.

Photo by Dan Macdonald/ Craftsman Kitchens - More kitchen photos

Flooring planks in a herringbone layout bring additional richness, playing up the positives of traditional parquet floors in a way that doesnt feel stuck in the past.

Photo by Miralis - Look for kitchen design inspiration

Sometimes the best way to use wood is unexpectedly, like as an accent on a vertical surface like the side panels of a wall cabinet or even on the ceiling. This brings in natural texture in a way that definitely wont leave your space feeling as if its outdated.

Photo by Cloth Stone Designs - Look for home design design inspiration

Essential: Sparkling Stone

For quite a time, dark granite was widely seen as the top choice for countertops. But for a coveted transitional >

Photo by Bailow Architects - More kitchen photos

Essential: Subway Tile

While were talking hard surfaces, heres another key transitional >Slab Backsplashes

That isnt to say that subway tile is the only option, of course. Another very popular choice is to simply continue the counter material up the wall. This leans toward a more contemporary look, turning the counter and backsplash into a singular dramatic statement.

Photo by My Bespoke Room - Discover kitchen design inspiration

Mosaic Backsplashes

If you prefer the look of a mosaic backsplash, consider choosing one in a neutral palette in a rich, >

Photo by Space Harmony - Discover kitchen design inspiration

Essential: Stainless Steel

Stainless steel appliances are highly coveted but especially so in transitional kitchens, where they bring a chefs-kitchen appeal and help integrate modern features into a somewhat traditional setting. Plus, adding some strong elements of crisp metal offsets the organic character of wood floors and stone counters. If you dont currently have the budget or the desire to use stainless steel appliances throughout, consider using this finish for just one appliance like the range or through other accents like cabinet hardware.

Photo by Simply Beautiful Eating - Discover kitchen design ideas


Brass has recently been a very popular finish for transitional kitchen accents. It brings some golden glamour and warmth to a space but in a more subdued tone than true gold.

Feel free to mix it in beside stainless steel and other cool silvery metals. It makes for great knobs and pulls, lights or even fixtures.

Photo by Titus Built, LLC - Search kitchen pictures

Essential: Modern Furnishings

If you stick to just traditional trappings, you might end up with a kitchen that slides from transitional to just traditional overall. This is where some great modern furniture pieces come in, such as high-tech extruded dining chairs, midcentury bent metal barstools, cool industrial accent lights or a minimalist dining table.

Photo by Battres Construction - Search kitchen pictures

Splurge: Statement Pendants

Your lighting is a great place to splurge, as it always makes for a natural center of attention. In transitional >

Photo by South Hill Interiors - Search kitchen pictures

Humble schoolhouse, dome or cone shapes are popular, as are glass globes or lantern->You can use the lights as an opportunity to introduce a new accent material or color, such as a hint of red or copper, or match them to another finish in the space. These cone pendants pair nicely with the base of the stools.

Photo by LB Design - Search kitchen design ideas

Finishing Touch: Traditional Rug

As a tailor-made finish to your transitional space, a warm, colorful traditional rug will make sure it doesnt feel too staid, bringing a splash of personality and sense of >

Photo by Zephyr Ventilation - Discover kitchen design inspiration

Also See:

  • A Must-Have Essential: Shaker >Why White Marble Is a Popular Choice for Countertops
  • Accent With These Stylish Cabinet Pulls

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What To Expect from Your Solar Energy This Winter

What happens when you >

Preparing for Winter

Winter is known for drastic changes in temperatures above and below freezing. It is important to inspect your panels and roof before winter weather arrives. Hiring a pro is the safest option when it comes to inspecting roof-mounted solar panels according to HomeAdvisor. Making sure your roof is in good shape and that there is no damage to the panels will allow them to reach their highest electrical output in the winter months.

Functionality in Cold amp; Darkness

Many think that overcast, winter days have a negative impact on their solar panel performance. However, cold weather can improve the performance of your panels. Though the hours of sunlight in winter are shorter, the cold weather allows for a higher absorption capacity. Electronics often run more efficiently in cooler temperatures, and as solar panels get warmer they produce less power with the same amount of sunlight. The highly-reflective white snow can also improve the performance of your solar panels.

Snow Accumulation amp; Removal

A dusting of snow will have little impact on power performance because wind will blow it off. If you live in an area that gets more than two inches of accumulating snow at a time, you will need to remove any accumulation to ensure the panels are receiving enough sunlight to generate electricity. Panel efficiency begins to be effected when light cannot penetrate through the snow. Performance is all dependent on how quickly you remove accumulated snow. If light cannot reach your panels for one hour due to snowfall that is one hour missed of electricity generation.

Solar panels are rated with impact and pressure tests so that they can withstand the weight of snow.nbsp; Your contractor will inform you how much your panels can withstand. The safest option is to remove snow as it begins to accumulate.

Because panels are mounted at an angle, snow is likely to slide off eventually. There are tools such as a snow rake specially designed to safely remove snow from solar panels. The average cost for a solar snow removal rake is 40 to 115. Hiring a pro to remove snow from solar panels is always recommended.

Angle Affects Efficiency

The sun is lower in the sky during the winter months. This means that changing the angle can greatly improve the performance of your cells. By adjusting your cells to face south and increasing the tilt of the panels your cells will be able to create more electricity. By changing the tilt of a panel from 0 to 20 or 30 degrees you can increase the output by up to 20. Calling a professional to adjust your panels is the best option. They will be able to calculate the optimal angle required based on the exact location of your home.

Blizzard Conditions

If you are in an area that has a high accumulation of snow you might consider some power storage options. For those in homes that are run completely on solar power,nbsp; ice and fast-falling snow may be difficult to remove in harsh conditions, so a battery is recommended. A battery will store electricity from the cells and use it when the cells have below optimal outputs. Installing a battery can cost about 5,000 to 7,000, and may be a good option for those off-grid.

Effects of Ice and Freezing Rain

Ice and freezing rain are often overlooked. The accumulation of ice on your panels is less likely to cause interference than snow. The fact that ice is more translucent than snow allows your panels to absorb sunlight. This translucence will also make melting time faster so you will not have to scrape anything off of the panels.

This winter may be cold, but your home will be warm with your new or pre-existing solar power system keeping the lights on.

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Drones Make An Impression With A Birds Eye View Of The Neighborhood

Technology is changing the way real estate agents sell their listings; from putting the very first digital pin on a map to detail the exact location of a home, to offering video tours online, technology is continuously advancing and its important that real estate agents are keeping up with the times to bring the very best to their clients.

Today, drone technology is quickly becoming a go-to tool for real estate agents to market their listings, but often the cost is so expensive that entire marketing budgets can be easily blown with just one video.

Realty Times is proud to share that we have partnered with DroneView to offer our real estate agents the very best in drone technology to beautifully market their listings in a cost-effective way that will bring something fresh and exciting to clients while seducing potential buyers, allowing agents to separate themselves from the rest.

While most real estate drone videos focus on featuring the home itself, DroneView sets listings apart by featuring the neighborhood of a home, allowing potential buyers to explore the community of a listing through a crisp and clean high-definition, 360 degree graphic shot 100ft above the home.

An FAA approved drone pilot shoots each DroneView with 100 covered liability. Best of all, the realtor nor the homeowners need be present; because the focus of the DroneView is the listings community and surrounding neighborhood, the pilot can get the shots they need without having to enter the home.

Agents already love this innovative way to feature their listings and are finding that DroneView gives them a competitive edge in the market. "Separating myself from the lsquo;field of agents going after the same listings has become increasingly difficult. It has become very competitive and if you are an agent that is not keeping up with technology, you might as well quit the business," says REALTORreg; Geri DeVille of RE/MAX Top Producers in Brea, California.

"Having a drone video image is a new way of capturing the neighborhood so potential buyers can get a better idea of the type of neighbors they might have. Sellers love showing off what they have to offer and a drone view is another way to do that."

After delighting a previous client with a past DroneView listing, Geri was so pleased with the product that she has already purchased another for her latest listing. "I love the drone viewshellip;When I told my most recent client that I would be ordering a DroneView for their home, they said, lsquo;Oh really? Wow That is pretty cool I think its important to make every client feel special and that you would do everything you could to put their home in the best light and separate them from the field of listings."

Continuing on the importance of showing dedication to clients, Geri adds, "Clients want to see how their home is going to get marketed and know that they will be at the top billing in as many ways as possible. They want as much exposure as possible, and a DroneView is a bonus, especially when they are not expecting ithellip;as drones become more and more popular I visualize this as just another part of doing business and as an expectation."

Exclusive to Realty Times, each DroneView listing will be featured directly on the RealtyTimes.com website through a unique webpage for the lifetime of the listing. Each webpage will include the HD 360 degree DroneView graphic as well as additional HD exterior shots of the home, a map to detail the listing location, agent info, and a link to the listing page. Only DroneView listings will be featured on Realty Times, allowing for optimal reach and link clicks back to your listing.

One DroneView listing is included under the newly revitalized Agent Publicity Package, however DroneView listings can also be purchased separately. DroneView upgrades are also available for those who would like an even more in-depth drone experience for their listing. A great agent-to-agent gift idea, DroneView gift cards are available To learn more, please visit www.RealtyTimes.com/droneoffer or email .

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Innovative Rent-To-Own Program Could Be The Answer To Your Down Payment Dilemma

Strapped for cash and desperate to buy a home? We hear ya. While todays homeownership rate is trending back up after reaching its lowest level since 1965 last year, there are still thousands upon thousands of people who would love to become homeowners but who are stymied by the lack of a down payment.

Yes, loans you can get through the Federal Housing Administration FHA require as little as 3.5 down, and some other loans out there drop that minimum down payment even lower. But rents that just continue to rise across the country can keep cash-strapped folks from being able to get together the savings required to get in the door - literally.

Rent-to-own company Home Partners of America may have an answer. Yes, rent-to-own.

Before you scrunch up your face at the idea of something that sounds too good to be true or something that brings back memories of "old school" arrangements that could prove costly for potential buyers in more ways than one, its important to know that there are some key differences here. What Home Partners is offering is unique, with features that benefit the renter/buyer. Thats not necessarily so with some other rent-to-own options like owner-occupied homes and companies who buy distressed homes through bulk foreclosures with the intent to rent them out and potentially sell them to tenants. Some of these other options have resulted in tenants who are locked into contracts that require them to pay hefty upfront deposits - deposits that could sometimes approach what they would need for a down payment in some areas

"Rent-to-own companies have a poor reputation in the housing industry for taking nonrefundable deposits from tenants who clearly wont ever be able to qualify for a mortgage or afford a home," said Realtor.com. "Home Partners doesnt take a nonrefundable deposit, so if the homes value declines or they decide not to buy for any other reason renters can simply walk away."

The rent-to-own program through Home Partners keys in on desirable locations, making the idea more viable from both a financial and desirability standpoint. Instead of searching for a needle-in-a-haystack home for rent with the option to buy, "Home Partners of America works with prospective homebuyers... to identify and purchase properties that the consumers select, but cant buy themselves," according to Moodys, said HousingWire.

"The prospective homeowner chooses a property that he would like to eventually buy, and if the property fits HPAs criteria and the tenant qualifies, HPA buys the property and the tenant enters into a lease and Right to Purchase Agreement that allows the tenant to buy the property at a pre-determined price during the term of the lease, which is typically between three to five years. The purchase price typically increases by 3.5-5 per year throughout the term of the lease."

Additionally, this mortgage product "applies some of the appreciation in their homes value during the time they have lived there toward reducing the down payment," said Realtor.com. "In areas with even modest home-price appreciation, that could reduce the down payment requirement to almost nothing. If the home fails to appreciate or if the tenant opts not to purchase, they can simply walk away."

The program has been around for five years, and Home Partners has purchased about 8,000 homes in more than 50 cities so far. As rents continue upward, growing the affordability gap for many homebuyers, its not surprising to see this programs popularity growing in lockstep. Loans for the program go through Pennsylvania-based lender New Penn Financial and are backed by mortgage companynbsp;Fannie Mae.

"Not unlike a traditional house hunting process, youll be working alongside a real estate agent to view listings that fit your budget, life>

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Real Estate Disclosure Laws Vary From State To State

Question: I believe my house is haunted. Periodically, a door will slam or windows will mysteriously open when no one else is home. I plan to sell; do I have to disclose? Mary.

Answer: Dear Mary: For purposes of my response, I will accept your statement that your house is haunted. Frankly, I am a skeptic, and do not believe in such ghost stories.

But if thats what you believe, you have to find out whether your state has a law on this topic. To my knowledge, in most of the states you would not have to disclose. In Florida, for example, there is a specific statute that protects home sellers and their real estate agents from liability by not disclosing.

In New York, however, if a home has a reputation of being haunted, it must be disclosed. Apparently, that law came out of a case where the home had significant media coverage about it being haunted.

So, if there has been no media coverage -- or your house does not have the reputation of having ghosts -- depending on your state law, you do not have to disclose.

Your buyers may be upset, but if you dont have to disclose you are legaly protected.

Question: I have a business I run from my home and use part of the recreation room for keeping records and filling orders from customers. Can I claim a home office deduction? Terrance.

Answer: Depends on the facts. The law allows you to claim the deduction if the office space is used "regularly and exclusively" for your business. If there is other use in that room such as watching TV -- you will not qualify. You can, however, isolate a space in that room even though others may be watching the television -- so long as it is "exclusive".

There is a formula the IRS has authorized to simplify how to calculate the deduction and it is explained in IRS publication 587, "Business Use of Your Home". It is available free on line from irs.gov/publications.

Question: I am the Treasurer on my large 100 unit condo association board. Our management company has been managing the complex since the units were built in the late 1980s. The management contract, which took me forever to get a copy of, renews every three years automatically if no changes are made. It is next up for renewal in April of 2019.

As a board, what steps do we need to do to open this up to bid to other property management companies? Obviously we have no experience in this, as weve never changed companies. Is this something the board should do independently of the current management company? Were concerned that if we dont dot every "i" and cross every "t", our current firm will use that as an excuse to void any agreement we might make with a new property management company. Mike.

Answer: Mike, selecting a management company should not be any different than selecting a landscaper, or a contractor for a large job. Typically, the managing company will solicit two or three bids and then make a recommendation for the Board to decide. However, if you pass this task on to your management company, even if they do an honest search, there will always be the perception that they dont want to lose the job.

So, the board should create a three-member management committee -- could be from board members only or other interested owners -- to solicit bids. If you dont have a current list of property managers in your area, contact the Community Association Institute caionline.org for such a listing.

Prepare a letter spelling out who you are, how many units, what you are looking and ask for a bid response. You should list a contact person because most management companies will want to inspect the property first.

Give them a four week deadline. I would also send it to your current manager and ask them to submit their response. Once you get some responses, review them carefully, talk with other associations they manage, and then make your decision.

Caution: do not decide on price along. Remember the old saying: "you only get what you pay for".

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Picture Perfect HOA Reserves

A reserve study identifies a homeowner associations future repairs and replacements like a snapshot in time. Imagine that you could picture the buildings and grounds as they would be in five, ten, even thirty years. A reserve study acts just like that by estimating the useful life of the common elements and the cost to replace them in the future based on current cost adjusted by inflation.

A reserve study uses a component inventory analysis of the HOAs common elements having useful lives of between 2 and 30 years to project scheduling coupled with a funding plan. Those components consist of the obvious, like roofing, painting, paving, fencing and the not-so-obvious like treework, landscape renovation and inspections elevator, fire sprinklers and alarms, tripping hazards.

Even the smallest HOAs have at least 15 items that should be included. Large HOAs can have hundreds. For a list, go to the Reserve Planning section of www.Regenesis.net.

Common elements deteriorate over time and as do the underlying assumptions of the reserve study. Reserve studies can be affected by new labor-saving techniques, building designs and materials that reduce projected costs or extend useful lives. As these changes take place, so should your reserve study.

Annual review and update of the reserve study confirm that the schedule and costs are still accurate. And its not always bad news that affects the review. Age, condition and rate of deterioration can be positively impacted by preventive maintenance implemented by the association which increases useful lives. Changes in area inflation and the actual interest earned from invested reserves need to be revised as well.

The good news is the annual review is a snap compared to the initial reserve study which requires significant field work to compile data.

Now that youre focused on reserves, its time to load the film and start shooting. Snapshot by snapshot, the results will develop picture perfect.

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

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Five No Regrets Real Estate Buying Strategies To Avoid Missing-Out

In real estate, "the one that got away" stories get told and retold, usually with little satisfaction to the teller.

The real estate you didnt buy, but still wish you had, can weigh heavily on your mind and may even top your "Big Regrets List."

Every piece of real estate, vacant or otherwise, is unique. Once a property is sold, searching for its exact match is fruitless. Compromise becomes key.

Heres Five No-Regrets Buyer Strategies to spare you dreaming about a property you missed out on:

1. View When You Can Buy: Theres a whole group out there who casually visited an open house for a number of reasons but who were not ready to buy. When the property proved to be "it" mdash; their dream home mdash; and they could not buy it, missing out haunted future home searches. View homes when your finances are in place and you can put in an offer, just in case the open house you visit is the "one."

2. Buy Before The Market Turns: When real estate prices are down or stalled, jump in. Your purchasing power goes further. Those who wait to see whether the market will come back or that a neighborhood will catch on can find themselves squeezed out of properties they could have afforded during the slump. Real estate professionals have been tracking prices and value longer than you have, so talk to them about where opportunity lies for you now.

3. Buy The Abutting Condo Unit: If noise is an issue, buying the unit over yours can mean quieter living while expanding your home into a two-level delight. If youd like to widen your terrace and add interior space in the process, consider purchasing an abutting unit. Before you select a condominium complex, check out rules on combining units to be sure you know your options. Contractors can tell you which approach makes sense and project costs. Keep an eye on what happens around you.

4. Buy The Abutting Property: Keep in touch with the neighbors whose properties surround yours, so you act quickly when someone decides to sell. Protect your view by buying the vacant lot across the street; protect the mature trees edging your property by buying that land; protect your mutual driveway or other access by purchasing that abutting property; protect your solar rights before a new owner builds a sunshine-blocking monster home. Anticipation is a key talent in real estate ownership. Its not only whats happening now that should occupy owners thoughts, but what could happen next to upset their current use and peace of mind.

5. Investigate That Amazing Property: Do you have a special lot or recreational property that you have always admired? Is there a house or condominium unit that you feel would suit you and your family beautifully? If the property you love is suddenly listed, act just as quickly to get your real estate professional working for you. You may have even put this expert on notice in case that property comes on the market. If you have your eye on a property thats not listed, tell your real estate professional and theyll approach the owner and get the ball rolling for you. Sometimes, this proactive approach nets buyers a dream home without having to search the market.

The ultimate strategy to ensure you get the real estate you want is to put in an offer

Thats the crucial task that real estate professionals take responsibility for by asking a buyer to put in an offer when they show interest in a property.

If you dont make it to the offer stage, that real estate may be a property that was never within your grasp in the first place.

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Ethics In The Real Estate Business

Its no secret that real estate salespeople do not, by and large, enjoy a very good reputation. Indeed, the true professionals in the business are discomforted by the fact that opinion polls regularly show that the public ranks real estate sales pretty low on the list of occupations whose practitioners are to be admired.

More particularly there are common perceptions that, in the course of their business, many real estate people cannot be depended on to tell the truth, and that they do not hesitate to manipulate others for their own self interest.

Yet the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR, and its state and local affiliated organizations, persistently claim that accountability to a Code of Ethics is a central and predominant fact of membership.

Whats wrong with this picture?

One wrong answer should be laid to rest immediately. It is not the case that the unethical real estate people are predominantly those licensees who dont belong to NAR, whereas those who are members can almost always be depended upon to be pure and good.

Anyone who has been around the Realtorreg; associations for a while is aware of the fact that it is a perennial complaint from within the organization that ethical standards are not sufficiently adhered to, and that "something ought to be donehellip;"

Nor is the point that the Code of Ethics itself needs fixing. The REALTORSreg; Code of Ethics along with its supplementary Standards of Practice is both comprehensive and >

The Realtorreg; organization has a >

One possible answer is ignorance. Perhaps there is insufficient knowledge among real estate salespeople as to what they should and should not do. In certain cases there is some plausibility to this. Certainly, there are, so to speak, finer points of some ethical matters where one just doesnt know what the right course of action might be. But, clearly, this does not apply to the vast majority of cases where right or wrong may be determined by central and well-known principles.

More plausible is the claim that the disparity between behavior and the Code of Ethics is a result of the fact that the Code is not sufficiently enforced. No doubt there is some truth to this. Realtorreg; organizations do not have an ethics police. Although there is a fairly elaborate quasi-judicial system for dealing with violations of the Code of Ethics, that whole system only comes into play when complaints are filed. And, frankly, the filing and pursuit of an ethics complaint is a time-consuming and not particularly pleasant process for the person who has been wronged. Most people would prefer simply to move on.

For reasons of cumbersome process alone, it is unlikely that enforcement at the organization level will ever have much influence on the inclination of practitioners to adhere to the Code of Ethics.

Moreover, if one thinks about it, the point of enforcement in ethics is not to get people to behave in a certain way because they fear punishment. Think of training a child. The point is to demonstrate that the principles are taken seriously; and the aim is that the learner will internalize the values

The ethical behavior of real estate salespeople will improve only when salespeople are shown that their peers, and most importantly, their trainers and employers, take ethical principles seriously. That kind of demonstration cannot be done by the Realtorreg; association. It can only occur at the level of individual companies and offices.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

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CASA and St. Vincent de Paul Society Receive Generous Donations Through the Innovative Agent with Heart Program.

Erica Seigred of Surterre Properties in Newport Beach, CA has made a donation to the Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA on behalf of her clients, Andrew Garrison and Emily McEwan.

Terri Repetto of Realty One Group in San Diego, CA has made a donation to the St. Vincent de Paul Society on behalf of her client, Rika.

ldquo;Wersquo;d like to extend a special thank you to Erica and Terri for their generous contributions theyrsquo;ve made through the Agent with Heart Program,rdquo; said Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. ldquo;For Erica, this is her first Agent with Heart donation and we are very grateful to be able to include her among our real estate partners in giving.rdquo;

ldquo;Thanks to the generosity of real estate agents like Erica and Terri, our program is able to assist communities nationally by providing donations to local nonprofits with each real estate transaction. We commend Erica and Terri on their dedication to giving back, and look forward to a continued partnership in making a difference.rdquo;

About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local nonprofits who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clientrsquo;s choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.AgenwithHeart.org.

To contact Erica Seigred, please call 949-230-4416 or visit her website at www.ehomgroup.com

To contact Terri Repetto, please call 619-348-5122 or visit www.TerriRepetto.com.

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Modern Exterior Decor To Update Your Holiday Home

Perhaps youve had the same holiday deacute;cor for decades and are ready to modernize your look. Maybe you just moved into a new home and decided this was a great time to start fresh. Either way, you probably want to make sure your new holiday deacute;cor reflects modern trends. Weve got ideas.

White on white

It doesnt get any more elegant than white lights along the architectural lines of your home. This >

Add some sparkle

If you do want to add to the basic look, try this Everglow 2980-22 100 Clear White Wire Light Set, 9 on Amazon, which was voted best white lights by The Spruce. "The Holiday Wonderland light sets are ideal for indoor and outdoor use," they said. "These mini-incandescent bulbs hold up remarkably well to the elements and dont overheat, making them a safe bet for decorating the Christmas tree, the mantle, or anywhere outdoors. Reviewers love the set for thenbsp;simplicity, warm light it gives off and low cost."nbsp;

Let interior design be your guide

These round, clear balls are in touch with interior design trends over the past few years and will make your homes exterior look just as stylish. The Globe String Lights With Clear Bulbs are available for 14 on Amazon.



LED lights have been growing in popularity every year and have recently surpassed incandescent lights. They may still be a bit more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, but they use only about 10 percent of the electricity, are less of a fire risk, and last two to three times longer.

Amazon users love these TaoTronics Dimmable lights, which "give you ultimate control with 10 settings to adjust brightness and lighting modes like a strobe function, flashing, fade and more," said The Spruce. "They come in warm white or our favorite pick, thenbsp;multi-colored set. Featuring 33 ft. of easily adjustable, bendable, sealed copper wiring, this set allows you to wrap and illuminate any holiday decorating project." The 100-light set comes with a remote control and costs 15 on Amazon.

C9 Bulbs

After many years of small bulbs dominating the market, larger C9 bulbs have made a resurgence. You can choose from white bulbs, twinkling versions, multi-colored, and ceramic, which "have the traditional colors that look like the bulbs have been dipped in latex paint," said NoveltyLights.com. These ceramic C9 replacement lamps are prefect if you are looking for a >


Pre-lit garland

Garland is not a revolutionary idea, but if your garland dates back to the days when you had to use your own strands of lights to get some sparkle, youll love how simple and elegant these pre-lit versions are. "Save yourself the hassle of wrangling string lightsnbsp;around swaths of evergreens and opt for these natural-looking strands instead," said Good Housekeeping. "Twist them around porch poles and bannisters, or frame the front door usingnbsp;Command hooks."nbsp;

Rope lights

You can always wrap your trees with traditional lights, however these make installation super simple and also may be less attractive to rabbits and other cord-eaters. You can also "use these waterproof lights to wrap pillars or fences," said HomeBNC. "Made out of flexible material, these lights can bend and shape to fit any decoration idea you may have."

Full Story >

The Best Holiday Gifts For Those Hard-To-Buy-For Types

Gift-giving is fun, its satisfying, but its not always a breeze. Especially if you have a large list filled with people who are notoriously difficult, demanding, have expensive taste, or who just dont give much of an indication about what they might want, you may be searching for ideas for unique gifts. We have curated a list that can help with all those hard-to-buy-for types, and most of them are super affordable, too.

After all, finding inexpensive gifts... that dont look like inexpensive gifts... is one of the biggest challenges of the holiday season. "While you might want to gift everyone fromnbsp;your momnbsp;tonbsp;your sisternbsp;tonbsp;your bestienbsp;a 60 Diptique candle, odds are its just not realistic for your budget," said MyDomaine. "But believe it or not, it is possible to find gifts for under 10 for everyone on your list without looking like youre skimping."

For the Fashionista

Bring some legendary Italian design into your giftees home with these gorgeous Giacomo Towels By Missoni Home, from Amusespot. They come in three color combinations featuring the >

For the cosmetics queen

Forget the mood ring. This is mood nail polish At just 6 at Urban Outfitters, its a great little stocking stuffer, or buy one in each of the available colors for your babysitter or teenage daughter.

For the health-obsessed

Buy a pillow for a friend or family member? Sure, when its this one. "Covered in mineral-infused fibers that absorb your bodys energy and then recycle it back into your body, promoting faster workout recovery and better sleep, sounds too good to be true, but clinical tests proved it really works," said Architectural Digest. The Body Chemistry Comfy Hybrid pillow is 80 from PureCare.nbsp;


For the obsessive-compulsive cleaner

The iRobot Bravaa Jet is a robotic cleaning machine for hard surfaces. Hello, bathroom floor Its on the pricier side at 200, but theyll never have to get down on their hands and knees to scrub that tile again, and youll be a hero. Win-win.

For the foodie

This Himalayan Salt amp; Grater by Rivsalt will be a hit far beyond its 24 price tag.


For the political junkie in your life

"We all have those loved ones who, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, arenbsp;hardcorenbsp;when it comes to politics," said Refinery29. "They talk about it over dinner, post about it on social media, and will drive you crazy when theyre praising their faves or condemning people in power whom they dont like."

So what do you buy for someone whos so passionate about politics? They curated a great list of options with books, t-shirts, mugs, and, perhaps our favorite because it suits anyone regardless of political affiliation: this collectible edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Even better: Its just 7.98 atnbsp;Barnes amp; Noble.

For the kid you dont know very well

We all have a child on our list that we have to buy something for and are flummoxed because we dont spend enough time together to really be able to get personal. This adorable 25 balloon dog nightlight from Uncommon Goods will delight any child and, quite family we want one, too.

For the techie

Buying gifts for the tech-lover in your life can be challenging, especially if you are on a budget. The new Roku Streaming Stick might be your answer. "We already loved this little 50 video streamer, which turns any HDMI-equipped TV into a gateway to online entertainment bliss: Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, HBO Now and literally hundreds of other streaming channels," said cnet. "And now it gets better for 2017, with a new voice-activated remote that can also control your TVs power and volume."

For your teen or tween

The idea of picking out gifts for your teen or tween can send you running right to the gift card aisle. But before you load up on cards, take a look at these great gift ideas from Good Housekeeping.

This 30 Splash-Proof Mini Portable Bluetooth Speaker provides "up to fivenbsp;hours of non-stop music from any device," and encourages showering, which is another plus. We also love this 3-Port USB Car Charger that allows your kids and all their friends to charge up their phones at the same time. Its just 15 from Shop On Market.

Full Story >

5 Easy Design Tips For A Zen Bedroom

A good nightrsquo;s sleep is a much-coveted dream of many, and for good reason. Research from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute shows that sleep is vital for emotional well-being, decision-making, physical health and creativity. And yet 45 percent of Americans report that poor sleep negatively affects their life at least one day a week, the National Sleep Foundation says. Luckily, there are some proven strategies to rediscover dreamland, and they all start with a zen bedroom. From design decisions to color choices, here are five easy ways to transform your bedroom into a calm, peaceful environment so you can >

1. Choose a Natural Color Palette

Neutrals like white, gray and warm brown provide a timeless backdrop that evokes the calmness of nature and matches any accent color for an ordered space. A dresser, bed frame and nightstands in a natural wood stain look great against misty gray walls and crisp white window trim and baseboards.

For walls, try a light and airy paint color like Sherwin-WiIliams Passive with the buttery-smooth Cashmere finish. If you want to try a more colorful accent wall, opt for a light shade of blue which is associated with >

2. Invest in a Great Bed

A substantial and comfortable bed promotes a good nights sleep. If space allows, opt for a king-size mattress with a dense memory foam core. This provides the maximum support on pressure points like hips and shoulders while keeping the spine aligned. The larger size will also minimize any disruptions from a partnerrsquo;s movements during the night.

When arranging the furniture, position the bed against the wall farthest from the door, HGTV.com suggests. This helps achieve a sense of safety and allows for foot traffic to flow through the room. Also, consider anchoring the bed with a heavy wooden, leather or upholstered headboard, or even a dark accent wall to create a sense of being enveloped or cocooned.

3. Display Beautiful Art

Choose art that is pleasing to look at and calming in its effect. Black-and-white photographs, landscapes or abstract prints of water or foliage work well. Whatever the >

When hanging artwork above the bed, ensure that it feels connected to the bed rather than floating above it. To accomplish this, measure eight to 10 inches above the headboard mdash; thatrsquo;s where the bottom of the artworkrsquo;s frame should be.

4. Pay Special Attention to Lighting

One of the most annoying ways to lose sleep is glaring sunlight flooding your space. To create a nurturing and intimate sleep space, cover windows with light-blocking roller shades framed by beautiful linen drapes.

To give the room a romantic glow at night, frame the bed on either side with table lamps or wall-mounted reading lamps. Soft indirect light, rather than the harsh brightness of overhead light, will help to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

5. Layer on the Natural Textiles

From wool rugs to cotton bedding, go overboard on high-quality natural textiles. The softness of the material will cushion sound and make comfort and calm a priority.

For large area rugs, look for 100 percent wool since the synthetic blends donrsquo;t hold up as well to traffic and vacuuming. When shopping for bed sheets, choose 100 percent cotton with longer fibers such as Egyptian, pima and supima.

Now yoursquo;re ready to create your own zen bedroom. Go forth with calmness, serenity and balance.

Full Story >

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Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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