Advantages of Living in a City

City life is commonly described as fast-paced. It is a life that is tangled with having a busy lifestyle such that every second counts. Despite this scenario, the advantages of living in the city still speak best about why there are still may families who choose to dwell in the urban jungle.

Transport accessibility. Even if you don’t own a car, transportation is relatively easy to take you from one part of the city to another. There are many modes of public transport such as buses, trains, and taxis. There are designated points or stations to where you can ride so looking for them won’t be a problem at all.

Variety in lifestyle spots. If you’re one that is active day and night, then the city is perfectly yours as a playground. From shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment spots, bars, and a lot more – the city is that big to accommodate them all. These establishments are made to lure you more into being a city dweller.

Better opportunities in choosing school institutions. Admit it or not, it is a well-known fact that educational institutions are concentrated in cities. While there are school districts which closely monitors those in other areas, there is still a better opportunity of choosing from many schools when you are in the city. Aside from designated public schools, there are also private schools that can give you more options to where to send your kids. If you’re looking for specialty schools and training schools to enhance your skills or upgrade your knowledge, the city can also offer several options.

More job opportunities. Because a city is where population is usually concentrated, then there is also a tendency that more establishments are constructed. From government offices to private institutions, a city has numerous employers which offer jobs to its residents. whether you’re inclined to government service or your skills is for private firms, you have options to choose from as a city job hunter.

Diverse social interaction. More than the advantages anchored with the presence of lifestyle spots and government offices, city life has more to offer. Social interaction in the city is so diverse. There is variety in culture and religious beliefs. This is attributed to the presence of numerous races and ethnicities within the city particularly those that are classified as metropolitan. Living in the city is one great opportunity of expanding your horizon. After all, making real friends and acquaintances is essential in making one’s life worthwhile and productive.

Garden Apartments

This residential apartment is located on landscaped property that is at ground level. This term loosely describes any apartment on the first floor. It also includes a basement apartment or one in a high rise. If it is a real garden apartment, there will be no household, or apartment, above it. They are spread out horizontally in an open courtyard. You can find these apartments worldwide.

Such an apartment will have one or two bedrooms but you can find some that have three or more bedrooms, especially if they are used as a vacation apartment. The more bedrooms there are the more people they can accommodate when on vacation and renting the apartment. If it is an apartment that is rented out long term it is generally not furnished. If the apartment is rented out on a weekly or monthly basis for vacations, it will be furnished. Garden apartments may also have one or two stories. The common area can include outdoor amenities like a swimming pool, tennis or basketball courts, a spa or clubhouse. The entrance to the apartment could be off the courtyard or the street.

The owners of the garden apartments are responsible for the outdoor area being kept up with the lawn mowed, any outdoor equipment cleaned, clean swimming pool without leaves and other debris, etc. Many owners will plant the area with well cared for trees and floors. If it is an apartment complex and you have a pet you need to find out if there is a special area for the dogs. Make sure that you clean up after your dog once it has finished its business. Your garden apartment may have a small yard or patio. If your garden apartment has either of these two amenities, it would be a good place to have friends and family over for a barbeque.

Each garden apartment is a separate household unit but all of the tenants share any amenities, such as a swimming pool or exercise room and the main outside grounds. The apartments have their own controls for the heat and air conditioning and bathroom and kitchen facilities. In some places, it may be called a walk-up garden apartment because it has an outdoor staircase. With garden apartment complexes that offer premium services like a weight and exercise room or sauna may be charged an extra monthly fee to help with the upkeep and have a key to let them into these facilities. By having a key, it prevents those that choose not to pay the extra fee from using these premium facilities. Some may even have a laundry room for the residents. The rent for a garden apartment would be much the same as a regular apartment but it depends on the location and amenities.

Choosing the Best Green Home Builder

Today many people are “going green”, which means that they are becoming environmentally friendly in how they live their lives and minimizing the harm done to the earth. When some people decide to build their home from the bottom up, they decide to have a green home builder build their home. This contractor would build their home with low environmental and energy efficiency in mind. To find a green home builder you should talk to the contractors in your area. Some that will travel to your area to build your home but their services will add more expense to the cost of your home.

To ensure that you will have the best green home builder ask them what type of building material they will use. You should also inquire about their disposal methods to make sure they are in compliant with sustainability practices. The materials that they should use are non-toxic when possible, and environmentally friendly. They should also be materials that come from renewable sources, or sustainable material. This can include materials from homes that have been knocked down. This material can include old doors, cabinets, some of the wood to accent the home such as using the material for ceiling beams, and more. They should try to avoid using plastics and choose their wood carefully. You should ask to see examples of the green projects they have completed. Their construction philosophy should focus on green building. It should not just focus on using green techniques as a secondary technique. Make sure that the contract you sign states that it will be constructed from sustainable and green material.

A home builder may tell you that they are using green building techniques but it could be easy for them to start using less environmentally friendly techniques and designs to save money on materials so they can put more money in their pockets. This is why you need to be sure that they are a reputable home builder and have good references as a green construction company. They need to be knowledgeable about green techniques and processes and committed to green construction and design. If you want your new green custom built home to be built using unconventional techniques make sure the home builder can demonstrate they understand the techniques you want and can do them correctly.

Before you choose a green home builder, you should educate yourself on what constitutes a green home and the process to build one. This will help you to determine a good green home builder and to know if they are cutting corners using non-environmentally friendly material. Having a green home can save you money on heating and cooling costs, and if sustainable material is used it can save these materials from being disposed of improperly.

Reasons Some Rent, Instead Of Own

Although it is generally, considered, to be the American Dream, owning a home, of their own, is not, for everyone! Although studies indicate, in the longer – run, it is more cost – effective, to be an owner, than renter, there are certain individuals, who, it is often, not for. With that in mind, this article will attempt to briefly, consider, identify, and discuss, some of the items, which might make someone, a less, than stellar, candidate, for home ownership.

1. Down – payment: There might be several reasons, certain individuals, lack the necessary down – payment, needed, to put down, in order to purchase a house. Some lack the necessary discipline, while others might not have the financial necessities, or have experienced major obstacles (economic/ financial, etc), which have made it challenging, to put together the funds. Others are afraid, to proceed, because they lack the self – confidence, etc, which makes them, ready, willing, and able, to handle the stress, etc.

2. Reserves: In addition to having the needed, up – front, funds, there are many other financial obligations. and preparations, needed and necessary! Wise individuals put together, at least 6 to 9 months, equivalence, in case of any interruption in earnings, etc. In addition, there should be separate reserves, for initial changes, or modifications, most new homeowners, perform. Then, money should be put aside, for regular repairs, upgrades, modifications, renovations, and unforeseen issues.

3. How much do you want it?: Are you prepared for home ownership? When you rent, your landlord is responsible for necessary repairs and maintenance, but when you own, you not only have to pay for it, but be responsible for either, performing the task (if you are capable) yourself, or bringing in a professional, to take care of it. This includes: electricians; plumbers; painters; concrete workers/ masons, etc.

4. Confidence: Do you have the necessary degree of self – confidence, to trust yourself, and your abilities, to handle the stresses and tensions, involved, in owning, a home, of your own? If the stresses and tensions, are things, you don’t want to get involved in, and/ or, handle, then, owning a house, may not be, for you.

While I personally, enjoy owning my own home, it is not for everyone. One should seek, to better, know, what makes him happiest, most satisfied, and serves his personal self – interest, etc.

Owning a Classic Craftsman Home in Northeast Los Angeles

NELA home architectural styles vary widely: Modern, Art Deco, Victorian, Tudors, and others. But perhaps the Craftsman residences get the most attention.

Craftsman homes are among the most sought after real estate in Northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods. One of the many reasons why homes for sale in Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Hermon and elsewhere have become hot commodities is a renewed interest in so-called “character homes”. But Craftsman homes come in significant variations, sizes, and conditions – opening up opportunities for homebuyers in a range of prices.

The high value – i.e., prices ranging from $400,000 on past $2 million – being placed on Craftsman homes in NELA is an interesting turn of historical events. These solid structures were originally designed for the advent of middle class home ownership in the late 19th and early 20th century. Gone were the features of Victorian homes that included butler’s quarters and kitchens only used by household staff. Instead, the family prepared their own meals while some features of kitchens blended with dining rooms – which are why there are those built-in, glass-front cabinets for dishware that was previously stowed out of sight from formal dining rooms.

The characteristics of Craftsman homes range from low-pitched roofs to deep eaves, exposed rafters (usually with distinctive decorative knee braces), dormers, one- to one-and-a-half stories, large fireplaces (often flanked by built-in cabinetry), and double-hung windows. Outside, Craftsman bungalows had large porches that welcomed newcomers to the California lifestyle, which offered a longer outdoor season for people arriving from the Northeast and Midwest.

Note that Bungalow and Craftsman style homes are often – but not always- the same thing; Bungalows always have that front porch (“veranda” if you prefer), while Craftsman sometimes do not. (If looking at homes for sale in Glassell Park, Garvanza or Mt. Washington, you might nerd out with your realtor by looking for the distinction.)

A further distinction might be made between Craftsman homes designed by certain architects (Greene & Greene built the trend-setting larger versions, which drew from Spanish mission and Japanese aesthetics), while Craftsman-style homes had a lower cost and were more modest in proportions and features. Craftsman-style homes may have shipped by train in a kit (e.g., “Sears homes”) or been a much-replicated design used by 1920s developers who knew a popular style when they saw one.

What made Craftsmans so popular when first built is what makes them equally popular today. These solid buildings have a relaxed style, one that accommodates an easy flow between rooms and activities. Mothers and fathers making meals in the kitchen can take a break to help children with their homework while keeping an eye on something cooking on the stove. Throw a party on the veranda but some guests might easily drift inside to admire the Arts & Crafts detailing of the cabinetry, fireplace surround, or wainscoting. They are healthy, unpretentious and sturdy: anything standing today has withstood a century of seismic activity, testimony to the sturdy craftsmanship of these Craftsman homes.

Financial Considerations Of Home Ownership

While we often, refer to, home ownership, as a core component, of the American Dream, it’s important, for us, to take a realistic look, at the obligations, and necessities, involved, if this is, to truly be a dream, instead of a potential nightmare! Before embarking on this house – hunting, process, carefully, introspectively, objectively, examine and consider, your personal reasons, persona, what makes you happy/ satisfied, and whether, it’s a good course, for you. After, you’ve determined, what’s best, for you, and know, what you want, it’s essential to clearly consider, and examine, what you might be able to afford. This means, proceeding, in a responsible, well – planned, and considered manner, focused, on preparing for the many contingencies, of home ownership. With that in mind, this article will attempt to briefly consider, review, and discuss, a few steps, which should, both reduce unnecessary stress and hassle, and maximize the potential enjoyment!

1. Reasons for buying that house: Why do you want to buy, any specific house? Does it meet your present needs, and into the future? Or, are you looking, at a shorter – term, and want to live, there, for a shorter – span, and, then, relocate, when needed and necessary? Are you the type of person, who enjoys moving, or would you rather, remain in your present quarters? What are your needs, goals, and priorities, in terms of location, neighborhood, schools, costs, transportation, conveniences, etc? Why, this house?

2. Down – payment: Do you have the necessary funds, to have the down – payment, while avoiding, placing too much stress, on yourself, because of using these funds? Smart homeowners prepare, and make their journey, far less stressful!

3. Needed reserves: The best way, to proceed, is to put together, several reserve funds, in order to ease your way, forward! Once, you’ve purchased your house, most people face monthly fixed expenses, which includes mortgage payments (including principal, taxes, and escrow items, such as insurance, etc), utilities (electric, heat, telephone, television, internet, etc). Realize, owning a house, requires preparation, for affording the costs of regular repairs, including appliances, heating, water, etc. Create a reserve fund, for this specific area. Also, realize, houses require attention, and certain items, have useful lives, and will need replacing, such as roofs (rated from 20 – 40 years), appliances (including washer, dryer, refrigerator, oven/ stove, dishwasher, etc), painting or power – washing, etc. At some point, many realize, their house needs certain upgrades, renovations, etc. The better prepared, the easier this process!

FINANCIAL DEFENSE The True Path to Wealth

“Congratulations! You play fantastic offense” This was said sarcastically by Thomas J Stanley in his famous book, The Millionaire Next Door. I have not read or listened to this book in more than eight years, but I still remember this phrase. That one, and the millionaire saying, “I drink two types or beer. Budweiser and Free.”

The message in his book is that you need to watch your spending with more tenacity than to increase your income. Obviously, it is a combination of income and spending that creates wealth, but controlled spending is far more important. As long as you spend less than your income, you will be moving forward, and consistent progress will make you rich! The problem I often see is that people spend what they make, or worse, spend more than they make. In either of these scenarios, you are at best staying even, but most likely going backwards. Many want to be investors and entrepreneurs, drink the get rich Kool-Aid and focus all their energy on increasing income. That is what sells coaching programs, mentor-ships and advertising on TV shows. With energy and focus comes success, so many of these entrepreneurs and investors see results. And with the positive results of higher earnings comes… higher spending!

I am fortunate enough to live in a great neighborhood. Most people in the neighborhood are high income earners, but several of them live above their means. It is not uncommon for me to see neighbors move out of the area because they can no longer afford to stay. They are the same ones with the new cars and the extravagant parties. It is a look at me attitude and peers feed on the pressure to keep up. This creates a little spiral of friends living outside their means. But hey, at least they are all moving backwards together.

The ones that live below their means feel pressure to spend or get left behind. And on the surface, many of them do. One challenge about living below your means is it takes years before you realize the benefit. During those years it seems as though you are missing out. I see it so clearly and understand the pressure, but I also see a high percentage of our aging population that should be retired, working their asses off. They are stressed and busy and churning to get by.

If you have not yet, you owe it to yourself to read The Millionaire Next Door. This book really sank in for me on the power of financial defense. Of limiting spending and protecting your earnings. I am able to live in my neighborhood, provide for my family, enjoy my time away from the office, and many other benefits because of the control I had with spending as my income was increasing. As you invest earnings for income, instead of spending it, you will witness exponential growth of income.

If I recall correctly, the quote from the book “Congratulations! You play fantastic offense” was referring to a broke high earner. He made more than his peers but would miss a mortgage payment if his income stopped. That is not a comfortable life, yet he was proud of it. If I could help one piece of financial advice sink in, it would be to focus on defense before offense.

Travis and I both recently read the book, Set for Life, by Scott Trench. This is another fantastic book focusing on the correct way to build wealth and retire early. It is a simple formula. Spend less than you make and invest the difference.

Green Homes for Sale

If you were looking at real estate ads and saw one that stated “green homes for sale”, you may at first wonder why anyone would a listing stating the color of their home. This is not what this type of ad means. It is just stating that the homes for sale are earth friendly and energy efficient. Green homes for sale are being built in an effort to less the carbon footprints we leave behind.

When you purchase a green home they will contains all or some of the following features that are earth friendly.

• Fiber cement siding
• Alternative power system like wind and solar
• Recycled building insulation
• No VOC stains and paints, which stands for volatile organic compound. It is any compound that is carbon-based and will vaporize at standard room temperatures. Some of the more prevalent ones are formaldehyde, acetone, and methane.
• Solar powered hot water heating

Even if you do not live in a green home, there are things that you can do to increase your energy conservation. It will even help contribute to saving our environment. Making your home a green home can help to reduce global warning and save the homeowner money. It will significantly better the environment and require little effort for the homeowner.

Making a green home

• Instead of using the standard incandescent light bulbs start to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). When you switch to the CFL’s you can save per year over a hundred dollars. You can find these lights in the same aisle as your regular bulbs but they are little more expensive. In the United States, if every house switches the type of light bulbs they were using to CFL’s there would be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of one trillion pounds.
• Install a thermostat that is programmable-with this type of thermostat the homeowner can program the thermostat so that the air conditioner or heater is off when homeowners are not at home. The programmable thermostat can be programmed so that it will cool or heat your home shortly before the homeowner arrives home. This change could save the homeowner ten percent or more on cooling and heating costs
• Plug air leaks-this will help the homeowner save money and practice conservation. You can do this by installing weather stripping, keep the temperature in your home from rapidly fluctuating, and caulk windows correctly to stop air drafts.
• Energy Star® rated appliances-these reduce the amount of electricity that is needed to operate them so they have less of an impact on the environment. They will also save on your energy bill.

Drive for Show, Putt for Dough

Last week I shot a 97. That was my best round yet. I started golfing about 3 years ago, and I am enjoying the challenge. I first took lessons to learn how to hold the club and make contact with the ball, which was surprisingly difficult. I remember that accidentally breaking a club in half was the highlight of my first lesson. Yes, I was swinging hard. I was trying to show off and hit the ball farther than a friend. That was embarrassing. Travis took me to one of his favorite courses for my first 18-hole round. Once again, I thought I had to hit the ball far, so I swung hard. The ball sailed… right into a house.

It was not too long before I started consistently hitting the ball, so I recently took lessons to see if I could hit straight. I had hopes to score under 100 this year, so it was satisfying to reach that goal last week. The instructor in my recent lesson told me over and over to control my club speed and practice my short game. Keeping the ball in play by focusing on hitting it straight, instead of far, and getting better at putting, would shave several strokes off my game. “It won’t look as good as the big drive,” he explained, “but it will win you the round.” This is why they say, “drive for show and putt for dough.” A far drive looks great, but your money is made with consistency in the short game.

The same idea is true in baseball. The most valuable baseball players have high batting averages and get on base regularly. They are not swinging for a home-run every time they go to the plate. Home-runs are exciting and rewarding and fans love them, but at what expense? Big home run hitters also have high strike out rates. Focusing on just making contact with the ball to get on base helps to avoid an out, while moving runners around the diamond. This is how the best teams win games. Singles win games.

This is also true in real estate. I have one client in mind that is always swinging for a home-run. He is a great guy! He has a big heart and is a lot of fun to be around. He is also a fantastic builder and rehabber. The problem I have seen though is that he is passing on singles, so he can swing for the big one. He wants to make six figures on everyone flip, or more by doing new construction projects. He keeps waiting for the perfect deal, or he gets into trouble doing deals that are too big for him. Either way, he is not helping his cause. There seems to be a simple fix looking at it from the outside, but he has the mindset that he needs to hit it big. A short drive down the fairway or a simple base hit is not exciting enough for this experienced real estate investor.

I have another client that is only looking for base hits or the easy chip out of the trees. He is doing deals for profits in the $15,000 to $20,000 range in Denver. Some would say that is too thin, but he is doing three or four a month!! And he recently got lucky and is going to make over $100,000 on a single flip in Denver. He understands that luck behind it and is happy, but he is not setting his mind on those big pay days.

The annual income difference between these two highly capable investors is over a half a million dollars.

Even the best investors that I know work towards a simple shot off the tee. They want the easy and safe base hit over and over. Some of them have increased what they consider a base hit, but they all started small. It is a process to work up to, but no successful investor that I know is always trying to hit the home-run or the long drive over an obstacle. They take those when they present themselves but are on the hunt for the straight shot down the middle; which is why I would suggest keeping your real estate business simple and grow with it over time. Don’t do a bad deal but don’t pass on a good one. Our office is more than happy to have a conversation with you about your real estate plan or a specific deal to help guide you to success. Consistency is key. Whenever I swing my club hard looking for the big drive, I come up short. The easy swing without the pressure produces great drives. Remember… four singles without losing your ass is better than swinging big and missing.

Consider Resale Value Before You Renovate

When doing renovations, people rarely think about long-term resale value. Most families just want a really nice place to live and they work to create their forever home. However, life can be unpredictable. So while it is joyful to make a dream home, those dreams need to be balanced with an understanding of whether or not those granite countertops or that second story are good investments in the long run.

What is resale value?

We hear the idea of resale value quite often pertaining to real estate. The ideal is to buy a property that is a good investment and to have its value appreciate. Good maintenance and appropriate renovations help ensure that when it comes time to sell again, the property has gained equity and you’ll make money.

However, the amount of money you’ll make depends on market appreciation. Which is why it’s important to make improvements that fit the property and the neighborhood.

Location the key factor to consider

If you’ve bought a property by a highway or another not-so-great location, you probably got it for a good price. If that location’s value doesn’t increase during the time you own it, you’ll probably have to sell it for a similarly good price, even if you’ve done a lot of work on it.

Many property owners invest in renovations that aren’t in keeping with the neighbourhood. As a result, they end up selling for less than they invested, which can be heartbreaking.

Before you renovate, look at what has been selling around you – at what cost for what quality? If the most expensive home in your neighborhood sold for $400,000 after being completely renovated, it doesn’t make sense to style your house to a value any higher.

And really, how special are those $10-per-square-foot tiles anyway? Go with the $5 tiles instead.

Focus your investment to one or two elements per room. Make pricey items such as granite countertops, a fancy backsplash, or a higher end faucet; work like show pieces, similar to a piece of art.

Smallest may be best when it comes to resale
As for adding a second story to create more space for an expanding family, it may be worth it in the long run to hunt for a bigger home.

If you invest an extra $100,000 on a two-bedroom bungalow in a neighborhood full of two-bedroom bungalows, you may never recover that full investment. It may be a much better idea to take your equity and find a larger home in a neighborhood where your investment will hold and even grow in time.

When it comes to resale value, it’s always better to have the smallest house in an area with mansions rather than a $600K house surrounded by $300K houses.

Of course, creating a joyful home should always be the first priority. Just make wise decisions that will bring you prosperity and happiness for years to come.