13 Decorations to Pair With Beautiful Dark Walls

Dark walls, from inky blue to charcoal and black, are refined and dramatic - but decorating around them without making your space feel too dark can be tricky. If you've been thinking of painting one or more walls a deep, dark hue, these ideas for color and decor pairings should help.

Natural wood. Natural wood, whether in a mirror frame, rustic tabletop or chair, helps lighten up dark walls while also emphasizing their richness. You can't go wrong with a driftwood or barn wood mirror, a farmhouse table or bentwood chairs.

Sculptural shapes. Place anything colorful or white in front of a dark wall, and your eye will be immediately drawn to its contours. Try placing a group of pottery pieces on a console or mantel. Or highlight the shape of an unusual table or chair by positioning it in front of a deep, dark wall.

Green plants. Potted plants and indoor trees look even lusher when placed in front of a dark wall. The dark color recedes into the background, creating the feeling of having a mini forest in the room instead of a few plants. Bonus style points if your plants have a sculptural shape, like the topiaries shown here.

Large artwork. A single piece of oversize art hung on a dark wall has the most impact - even more than a salon-style grouping. The drama of a deep wall color draws the eye. This works especially well with artwork with a large white mat and a slim black frame.

White. If you feel at all unsure about which direction to go in with the other elements in your dark painted room, choose white — it always works. In this bedroom a charcoal wall is set off by a grouping of wall-mounted plants on white bases, white bedding and white window treatments.

Pale, watery hues. Soft and ethereal, pale aqua, mint, champagne and silvery gray bring lightness to a room with dark walls. Try these watercolor-inspired hues in bedding, a throw or pillows for an elegant feel.

Rich mustard and teal. These hues complement deep blue, gray or even dark chocolate walls by bringing in the colors of fall. Just a small touch of mustard, teal or both hues will do — try a throw, pillow covers or curtains.

Wild card pairing: brights. A flash of hot pink, neon yellow or vibrant turquoise is daring - and exciting! Brights work best with black or charcoal; adding these bold hues to a room painted another dark color (like navy or forest green) is riskier. Test out a fun color pairing with a low-cost addition like hand towels or a cluster of bright vases.

Mirrors. Dark walls in a room without much natural light run the risk of making it feel oppressive. Boost what light you have by adding mirrors - even small, decorative mirrors, like the ones shown here, can help lighten things up. If the room is very dark, add a larger mirror, either on the wall or leaning against it.

Acrylic and glass. Like mirrors, clear materials, like acrylic and glass, can help a dark space feel a bit lighter. Swap out a wood piece, like a console, for a glass or acrylic version. Or add a large glass vase filled with greenery for a quick boost.

In this living room, dark gray walls are lightened up with a glass coffee table, an acrylic TV stand, white trim and a light sofa and rug.

Rich texture. Dark walls call out for touchable textures, like velvet, silk, oiled wood and fluffy mohair. Consider a plush velvet sofa, velvet or silk accent pillows, or a mohair throw in a living room with dark walls.

Oriental rugs. Rolling out an Oriental rug is a good way to marry a daringly dark wall color with a traditional home. These carpets tend to include a range of rich, deep colors, lending them well to dark walls in just about any hue.

Antiques. As with using traditional rugs, bringing in an antique piece or two is a wonderful way to take the edge off a strong wall color. In the room shown here, dark walls look refined alongside an eclectic mix of antiques and modern Lucite chairs.

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Oct 19, 2017 8:01:22 PM
The FAFSA And Real Estate: When To Buy And Refi To Get The Most Aid For College

Getting ready to fill out the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? It's the form that strikes fear in parents of college students and college students-to-be who have been cautioned about the tedious process involved, and the disappointing results. And while there is a ton of advice out there about how to properly prepare, what you need, and what to expect, there's another layer of concern for homeowners and homebuyers: How does the FAFSA affect you if you're in the market, already own a home, have investment property, or are thinking about refinancing? We're breaking it down.

First, a little bit about the FAFSA for those who have not yet had the pleasure: "Based primarily on your family's income and assets, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) qualifies students for federal grants, loans and work-study programs," said Bankrate. "The purpose of the FAFSA is to calculate your expected family contribution, or EFC - the amount the government believes your family can contribute for college that year."

The good news for homeowners getting ready to fill out the FAFSA is that a principal residence is not reported as an asset. But, other real estate holdings may count as assets and may reduce your financial aid award.

Rental income

If you have a small business that is both owned and controlled by your family and has fewer than 100 full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees, it is not a reportable asset. However, income from a rental property cannot be included as a small business.

"Rental properties are a popular tax and investment strategy among parents, but they do not qualify as a family controlled small business asset that can be excluded from the FAFSA," said Forbes. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can just throw your rental properties in an LLC and exclude the value as a small business on the FAFSA."

Real estate can be reported as an asset on the FAFSA as either investment real estate or business/farm assets. "For real estate to be considered a business asset, it must be used in the operation of the business, not incidental to it," said Fastweb. "Sub-regulatory guidance published by the US Department of Education indicates that, ‘A rental property would have to be part of a formally recognized business to be reported as such, and it usually would provide additional services like regular cleaning, linen, or maid service. This is similar to IRS guidance concerning whether rental income from real estate must be reported on Schedule E or Schedule C of IRS Form 1040.'"

If you're unsure of whether to report rental income as a business asset or investment asset, there are some rules of thumb that you can read about here, but the best course of action is to consult with your accountant or tax attorney. Keep in mind, though, that reporting real estate as a business or farm asset has "less of an impact on the student's expected family contribution (EFC) than investment assets."

Shifting assets

Because your principal residence is not a reportable asset on the FAFSA, it doesn't matter how much equity you have in your home; whether the house is worth a mere $100 more than when you bought it or you have $300,000 worth of equity, it won't count against you.

Paying down the balance on your home prior to applying for the FAFSA is one of the strategies recommended by financial professionals for those who need to lower their cash on hand and savings. "To get the most financial aid, consider shifting some assets from reportable categories into nonreportable ones before you sit down to fill out your FAFSA," said TIME Money. "For example, you might use some money from reportable assets like bank accounts and mutual funds to pay down the mortgage on your home, which doesn't count as an asset on the FAFSA."

Refinancing

But, home equity can come in handy in another important way: tapping into it can be a smart move if you're low on funds and need to find a way to pay for college, especially if the interest rate is lower than a federal Parent Plus loan or a private education loan.

Refinancing, and, especially a cash-out refinance, can be especially tempting if you have an interest rate that is higher than what is currently being offered. A cash-out refi would readjust your rate (hopefully to something lower than what you currently have) and give you money that could be used to pay for college tuition. But, there are issues associated with this type of refinance that may make you think twice, like the upfront disbursement.

"This yields a lump sum in advance, years before the money is needed," said fastweb! "The interest rate may be very low, but the borrower will pay interest on the loan for many years before the money is needed to pay for college bills. Interest begins accruing from the date of disbursement. Another problem with a cash-out refinance is that the money will be counted as a parent asset until it is used, reducing eligibility for need-based financial aid."

For this reason, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is often the preferred refinancing method for those looking to use the funds for college.

"In a climate of lower housing interest rates, a home loan might seem like an attractive option for some parents to help shoulder the cost of paying for college," said US News. "A HELOC is a type of home equity loan that allows borrowers to borrow a line of credit against the value of their home - it operates almost like credit card and usually has a floating interest rate. A borrower can limit the amount to just what's needed under a HELOC compared with a home equity loan, which requires taking out a lump sum. The minimum amount for a home equity loan can range between $10,000 and $25,000 at lending institutions, home loan experts say."

Be aware, though, that, a HELOC may be counted toward your EFC. Because of this, the timing of taking out the loan and filling out the FAFSA is critical. Waiting until after you file the FAFSA to take out the loan, or timing it so the proceeds of the HELOC do not hit your bank account until after you file, can protect these funds from being counted against you and having your need-based aid reduced.

Getting ready to buy a house

If you're in the market and wondering you to manage the timing of your home purchase and FAFSA filing, you'll be pleased to know that buying now will likely help you when it comes to getting money for college. In determining your need-based aid, any money you currently have set aside for your down payment and closing costs would be used to reduce the amount of aid awarded. Putting it into a home improves your financial picture, at least in terms of the amount of help you can get for college.

The FAFSA has questions that "ask about how much cash students and parents have in savings and checking accounts at the moment you are filling out the FAFSA," said TIME Money. "But notice that there are no questions on the FAFSA about your debts or bills." That means that sheltering your money in real estate, so long as that real estate is the only property you own and you intend to live in it, is a smart move.

Oct 18, 2017 8:21:32 PM
How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

Home alarm systems can be particularly hard to calculate into resale value or return on investment (ROI) because their job is to prevent loss rather than achieve gains. You purchase a home alarm system with the hope that you never need to use it.

The reality is that a burglary is reported to police every 14.5 seconds. But robbery isn't the only thing that alarms can save you from. Smart alarms can detect smoke and hazards.

More than ever, homeowners want to feel safe in their homes. A built-in alarm system may be just what it takes to get your house off the market.

1. Alarm Systems Aren't as Expensive as They Used to Be

According to HomeAdvisor's survey, most homeowners invest between $330-$1,040 when purchasing and installing home alarm systems. However, with the advent of smart, connected technology, home security is more affordable than ever.

Products like the Nest Cam Outdoor monitor your home in 1080p high definition video that you can access from your smartphone 24/7. This monitor also has a two-way audio feature, meaning you can use your voice to scare off intruders or give live instructions to a delivery service. Smart products allow you to monitor your home yourself, which cuts down the cost of hiring a security company to do the monitoring for you.

Smart products send security alerts right to your phone, allowing you to act fast and take control. Monthly security subscriptions on smart products are usually a fraction of the cost of subscribing to a traditional security service.

2. Add Resale Value

Owning a safe and secure home is appealing to every home buyer, from frequent travelers to families. That means pre-installed cameras, smoke detectors, and smart locks can be huge selling points. The more convenient and easy-to-use the security, the better.

One of the most desired security features for homeowners is motion sensor lighting over the driveway. Not only does it scare away late-night intruders, it also helps homeowners navigate in the dark. Buyers want added safety and convenience in their everyday lives, and the right security system can provide both.

3. Home Security Lowers Neighborhood Crime

In 2016, Rutgers University released a study that found that neighborhood crime rates dropped significantly when alarm systems were installed in multiple neighborhood homes.

Burglars are less likely to break into homes that are protected with home security, and that fact carries over when applied to entire neighborhoods. Safe neighborhoods are highly desirable to homeowners and can help your home sell faster and at a higher price.

4. Alarm Systems Can Reduce Your Homeowners Insurance

If you financed your home with a mortgage, you are most likely required to have home insurance. While the price of home insurance varies, most companies offer discounts to homes with security systems.

With a home monitoring system installed, you can save up to 20% on home insurance. Those savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per year or the cost of the security system all together.

5. They Save Money in the Long Run

Burglaries can cost you, not only in the possessions stolen from your home, but also in the damage that many homes incur during a burglary.

Most burglars enter homes through the front or back door or first-floor windows, usually breaking them in the process. The cost of fixing a broken window or kicked-in door can be even more expensive than the valuables taken.

It was found that when burglars enter homes with security systems, they are much more likely to leave quickly, taking fewer items with them.

While security systems aren't foolproof, they do offer the benefit of safety and security. Whether you're installing a system for yourself or for future homeowners, the peace of mind it offers is the ultimate ROI.

Written By: Katy Caballeros

Oct 18, 2017 8:19:40 PM
Protecting Community Associations Against Money Loss

Qustion: I am the President of a 135 unit condominium association and have just read that a local Property Management company has been the victim of an embezzlement. I understand a lot of condominium money that was held by the Management Company may have been lost. What can our association do to protect ourselves against such events?

Answer: In my law practice, I have represented at least two property management companies that went out of business in this area, leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills and large losses from community associations' reserve and operating accounts.

There are many ways in which to protect your association funds.

First, before you hire a property manager, make sure the firm is licensed in the jurisdiction where your property is located. However, not every state requires a license.

Second, check out the property manager carefully. Perhaps you should even obtain credit reports on the firm (and the property manager who will be servicing your project); this will, of course, require the permission of the manager, but they should not object if they want your business.

Third, keep control of your funds. Generally speaking, there are two pools of moneys in community associations: operating accounts and reserve accounts.

Regarding the operating account, set a dollar figure above which the property manager will need the co-signature of at least one board member on all checks going out of that account. This will, of course, create a burden on both the property manager and the board member who has to sign checks. But, in my opinion, if you want to serve on the board, you should be willing to assume those responsibilities which will protect the funds belonging to the unit owners who elected you -- and yourself as well.

Clearly, there are routine checks that have to be paid on a monthly basis -- such as water bills, insurance, and trash collection. If you set a dollar limit (such as $1,000), the property manager can write checks up to that amount without a second signature. But any checks over that limit must be co-signed by at least one board member. Your bank will give you signature cards and these requirements should be spelled out in those documents. Then, the bank will have to honor your request.

Regarding the reserve accounts, they should only be in the name of the association and only board members should be authorized to sign checks (or transfer funds) from those accounts. Community associations do not transfer moneys often from reserve accounts; it should not be a hardship on anyone to require that only board members be authorized to have access to those funds.

Fourth, make sure the property management company has adequate insurance covering your association in the event of embezzlement, fraud or other activities which may cause your association a loss. The insurance industry will write "third party coverage" bond insurance which will give you protection in the event of a loss. The amount of the policy will depend on the amount of the reserves you anticipate you will carry. Some associations have hundreds of thousands of dollars in reserve; clearly, third party coverage in the amount of $50,000, for example, is woefully inadequate for those associations.

Fifth, make sure that the management company has a fidelity bond in place covering any loss created by its employees.

Sixth, make sure that you (and not the property manager) hire an accounting firm to give you a full audit each and every year. Your association should give a letter of engagement to the accountant, and the accountant should report back to you -- and not the manager.

Seventh, and perhaps most importantly, insist that the property manager give you and your board members a monthly financial status report, which will include copies of the actual bank statements received by the management company. Review these carefully every month within five days from receipt. Keep in mind that every board member has a fiduciary relationship to all the unit owners. Presumably you review your own bank statements on a monthly basis; you can do no less for the unit owners you serve. In recent years, it has been easy to access bank accounts on line. The association treasurer should have the password and must review the bank statement each and every month. If there is anything unusual, ask the property manager for an explanation.

Most property managers are honest and hard-working. However, one dishonest manager will unfortunately cast a broad brush of distrust on the entire industry. I do not believe that property managers will object to the various suggestions I have made, and indeed may have more recommendations of their own.

Several years ago, the United States Attorney in New York indicted a large number of property managers there. Clearly, not all were involved in community association management. However, the lesson to be learned from New York and from the two incidents in the Washington area is quite clear: when there is money there will be greed and corruption. Community association board members have the power to control -- as best they can -- the financial security of association funds, and steps should be implemented immediately, while it is not too late.

Oct 17, 2017 7:45:40 PM
Earmarking Reserves In Your HOA

Most homeowner associations are entrusted with substantial common elements which must be maintained, replaced or renewed. All of this costs a lot of money. Borrowing said money is a very bad idea because it comes at a very high price in the way of interest and fees which must be repaid along with the principal. The cheapest and fairest way to pay for these expenses is to earmark a portion of the monthly, quarterly or annual fees and hold this money in reserve for future expenses. A properly done reserve study will inform the board how much the earmark should be so that all pay a fair share of a 30 year plan. If this is done, special assessments are never needed and the board has the money when needed.

But keep in mind that even the best reserve study has its limitations. While it predicts likely useful life spans and replacement costs, it can't guarantee either one. A reserve study is based on assumptions that change over time. The climate, weather, soil conditions, maintenance, design and construction quality play a role in the aging process, causing some components to age differently than expected. The financial climate is also variable. Investment earnings and the inflation change. To keep the reserve study accurate, industry experts recommend (and state statutes often require) that the reserve study be updated annually.

How Much Do You Need? The reserve study will estimate how much money is needed for future projects and when the funds will be needed. For the typical garden style condominium, it is necessary to reserve 25-35% of the annual budget to meet future needs.

Communicate with Owners. For HOAs that are not currently contributing enough to reserves, the solution is to start contributing more by increasing the monthly fees. Lenders shy away from HOAs which have little or no reserves but it negatively impacts a lender's collateral. Once the reserve study is completed, provide owners with a copy and encourage them to read it. Hold a special meeting and invite the reserve study provider to explain it. Make sure owners understand the reserve funding schedule and emphasize the relationship between the reserve level and property values. It is not just lenders that will be scrutinizing the HOA's finances. Savvy buyers will be scrutinizing them as well.

Don't Commingle Funds. Reserves should not be used to pay for ongoing preventive maintenance and repairs. Those should be paid out of the operating budget. Reserve funds should be segregated in a special bank account apart from operating funds. Typically, the portion of HOA fees earmarked for reserves is swept into this separate account monthly. Only reserve related expenses should be paid for out of this special account.

Borrow Reserves Funds Carefully. Borrow from reserves only in an emergency or because of seasonal high expenses like an insurance premium that comes due early in the year and not enough fees have accumulated yet to pay it. If you must borrow, document the board vote approving that decision, establish a reasonable repayment plan and stick to the plan.

Develop a Reserve Investment Plan. Reserve funds are typically placed in FDIC insured savings accounts, money market accounts and Certificates of Deposit. Most state laws don't have specific reserve investment standards for homeowner associations. The governing documents usually give the board investment discretion. Boards should develop a written investment policy that defines the investment goals, establishes the objectives against which the investment performance will be measured, and identifies the boundaries within which investment selections will be made.

The investment policy should include:

  • Keep the reserves safe (don't risk the principal).
  • Preserve earning power by choosing investments that match or exceed the inflation rate when possible.
  • Ensure that the funds are available when they are needed.

Other issues to consider include:

  • Consider working with an investment professional. This is particularly important when the reserve fund is large.
  • Remember that this is OPM (Other Peoples' Money). Tread carefully.
  • Document the investment decisions in meeting minutes.
  • Diversify the investments (savings, CDs, etc.)
  • Focus on liquidity. Industry experts recommend holding 5% of reserves in cash for emergencies, another 10-15% in short term (six months or less) securities and the rest spread among varied investments with varied maturities. The reserve study provides the schedule for work and projected cost for investment planning.
  • Review your investment strategies annually to make sure they still match near and long term goals. Don't let cyclical changes in the market alter the investment strategy which should remain long term.

Maintaining adequate reserves is a fundamental part of the board's fiduciary duty. Make sure to earmark the budget for reserves.

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

Oct 17, 2017 7:43:06 PM
Condo Renovations: Making The Most Of Your Space

In real estate, nothing ever stays the same. In Toronto, the types of condo buyers are constantly changing, says real estate agent Cynthia Goodchild of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, Johnston and Daniel Division.

Many buyers are now families or young couples with a baby on the way. They don't want to rent but can't afford to buy a house. Or some, regardless of age, don't have the time or inclination to maintain a home.

Condo suites are smaller than they used to be, so it pays to renovate to make the most of every inch and to make the space functional for everyday living and entertaining.

Designer Sabrina Bitton, an expert in all things space saving and clever, recently transformed her 825-square-foot suite into a showpiece of good, functional, flexible and space-efficient design. Her suite offers the clean-lined and less-is-more sensibilities today's buyers want.

She embraces European design, with a dash of Frank Lloyd Wright (bringing the outdoors in while ensuring no space is wasted, she says.)

Her original two-bedroom suite had large windows in the living room and master bedroom, the rooms side by side at the end of the suite. Bitton removed the master bedroom wall and incorporated the square footage and windows into the living space.

She sealed up the doors to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom and lined the walls with floor-to-ceiling custom millwork. Instead of extending the built-ins to the end of the living room wall, she added open solid walnut shelving to provide an airy feeling and to offer a place to display treasured items.

Walnut is used for several features throughout the suite, bringing a touch of nature and creating a sense of flow between rooms.

The kitchen includes walnut shelving and a walnut island. To create maximum storage space, Bitton took advantage of the nine-foot-high ceilings and extended the built-ins to the ceiling. The high space is ideal for storing large boxes of out-of-season clothing and seasonal items that don't need to be accessed on a regular basis.

Vents for heating and cooling are hidden behind cupboard doors and kick plates, with slits to keep the air circulating.

Storage space is always a challenge in condos, so finding creative ways of adding more makes the unit more functional. "I have so much storage space that some cupboards are actually empty," she says.

A clever "Bitton trick" is a bar-height island on wheels that fits over the existing kitchen island so it doesn't take up additional floor space.

When entertaining (be it for a sit-down dinner for eight, a buffet or a large cocktail party), the bar-height island can be wheeled out to provide a separate table. Or it can be used as buffet space, a place to enjoy cocktails or additional work space.

Downsizers who aren't ready to give up their sit-down eating space find this a particularly welcome idea, Bitton says.

She chose bar stools with lower backs so when they're tucked under the bar, they don't obstruct the view from the kitchen. Bitton added a clear rectangular blown glass chandelier over the island to add drama without distracting from the view.

Seamless, clean-lined built-ins on another wall in the living/dining space include a fold-up desk, and a surprise. Instead of hard-to-reach cupboards at ceiling height, Bitton added pull-down rods so hanging clothes are easily accessible.

When renovating, figure out what you want, how to achieve and what you want to invest your money on. Bitton splurged on a comfortable sofa.

"Comfort is important. Also, since it's a linear space, the curved couch adds a feeling of movement. You could also add an additional sleeping area by using a sofa bed."

In the second bedroom, which is beside the original master bedroom, a door was added to provide access to the walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom. More custom built-ins were added in the closet.

In the bedroom, the original closet doors were removed and the closet space was lined with walnut to create a headboard/nook for her bed. The window seat was extended from 18 to 24 inches to create a cosy sitting area. Custom built-ins were installed below the window seat and extended along the wall. An unused alcove space was filled with shelves and glass doors to create a fun display space for Bitton's fancy shoes.

Light-coloured floors are used throughout, chosen over dark, which shows dust and visually closes in a space. Paint and window treatments are different tones of the same creamy neutral colour family. Doors are painted light grey to complete the Zen ambiance.

Before buying a new condo, Goodchild says it's important to speak to the builder to find out what changes can be made. You may not want the kitchen that's there or would prefer to omit a wall, but the builder may not be able to accommodate your needs.

Few developers will allow preconstruction changes. In that case, choose the least expensive finishes for features you plan to remove, and then renovate with an eye to creating functional and multi-functional space, says Bitton, of Sabrina Bitton Interior Design. "It's all about creating smart condos."

Times have changed from 20 years ago, when condos were purchased primarily by retirees, Goodchild says. Now people in their 50s are buying too because they want less upkeep, more freedom and the ability to do more of what they want, including travel.

"Retirees still make up a large percentage of purchasers, but the under 35-year-olds find condo ownership appealing because they want to be downtown and be close to work. They want to have the ability to work, live and play in the same neighbourhood," Goodchild says. "Then they have children and sometimes stay."

Whoever the buyer, making the most of the space is key, says Bitton, who along with in-person service, offers Skype design consultation. A portion of her fee goes to charity.

Oct 16, 2017 5:39:25 PM
Real Estate Cyberfraud Continues. Is It Time To Return To Paper?

Cybercrime continues to thrive in the real estate brokerage environment. By this, I don't mean the kind of electronic skullduggery that results in stolen identity information or hacking into someone's bank account. Rather, I refer to the business of fraudulently inducing a principal -- sometimes even an escrow officer -- into wiring funds to a bank account controlled by a hacker or someone in business with the hacker.

Here's what can happen: the hacker gains access to the "network" of participants involved in a real estate transaction. His entry point may be through a real estate agent's email account, or escrow's, or any one of a number of affiliated services such as title or home warranty. Certainly, the hacking of an agent's account seems the most likely. The hacker will monitor the transaction, learning all the names, phone numbers, and financial information involved. Then, at some point near closing, the hacker will send an email -- posing as one of the relevant figures -- issuing false instructions as to where money is to be wired. Too often, the people who receive the bogus instructions will comply.

More frequently, this kind of theft is occurring at the beginning of a transaction. One scenario is this: the hacker is monitoring electronic communication between the buyer's agent and the seller's agent (and between the agents and their principals). Shortly after a purchase is agreed upon, the hacker sends the buyer an email (appearing to have come from his agent) telling him where to wire the earnest money. That will be to an account controlled by the hacker.

The scam at the beginning of a transaction doesn't generally yield as much money. It is deposit money, not a down payment. But it takes less time and saves watching an escrow that might fail anyway.

California REALTORS® have available to them a useful one-page document entitled "Wire Fraud Advisory." We have discussed that in an earlier column (July, 2016) and need not review it here. Instead, it is important to focus on the use of the form.

Two things: (1) As the above scenario illustrates, the advisory -- read "warning" -- should be provided early on in the process. Just as agency relationships need to be disclosed and discussed prior to writing a purchase offer, so should the wire fraud advisory. (2) It should be given singular attention, not simply included in a pile of papers with "you should read these" instructions. The issue needs to be addressed.

Some companies have their own version of the advisory, which is fine -- as long as they are provided in a timely and focused manner.

Indeed, some companies are now advising their clients to use cashier's checks, rather than to trust the electronic handling of their funds. Is that just too impossibly retro for you? Well, it made sense to some of the people who recently attended the most recent meeting of the Directors of the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

The topic of wire fraud received extensive discussion; and one group was formulating a request for the Standard Forms Committee to revise its treatment of earnest money deposit in the standard purchase contract (Residential Purchase Agreement, RPA). As it is now, the default position in the RPA is that deposit funds will be provided by electronic transfer. (One can still choose an option of personal check or cashier's check, or cash for that matter.)

Brokers initially loved the electronic transfer -- and probably most still do -- because it relieves them of the bookkeeping and procedures to follow when they have to handle checks. That relief now needs to be balanced against the risk of cyber fraud.

Speaking of which, it emerged in other discussions that brokers need to do a thorough assessment of their risks in this regard. It turns out that more than a few insurance policies that have an electronic fraud provision don't, in fact, cover the kind of fraud and loss that has been discussed here.

A topic for another day.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors®. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is scbhunt@aol.com.

Oct 16, 2017 5:37:39 PM
Benjamin Moore's 2018 Color Of The Year: A Modern Guide To Using Red In Your Home

Neutrals, be gone! If Benjamin Moore has its way, interiors will be going from soft and soothing to red hot next year. The paint company's Color of the Year for 2018 is Caliente, and the name is appropriate. The fiery red is "hot, passionate, and sexy," said Benjamin Moore. With a hint of orange, caliente has lots of personality and is the perfect hue for you if you are drawn to the warmer tones of red.

The company's Director of Strategic Design Intelligence, Ellen O'Neill, weighed in by adding, "Strong, radiant and full of energy, Caliente AF-290 is total confidence. It is pleasing, passionate and makes people feel special, like 'red carpet treatment. "Whether used as one note or on four walls, the spirited personality of red turns heads signaling surprise and adventure. The eye can't help but follow its bold strokes."

Indeed. Architectural Digest believes that, "This year's choice will stop you in your tracks." Whether or not you're a fan of red, you're bound to notice it. Red can be a polarizing color, with some loving the energy it brings and others finding it a tad too bold for their space. The key to making it sing in your home is knowing where to use it, and how much.

Feng Shui

If the principles of feng shui are important to you, consider that red conjures fire and, "Fire represents the energy of sun and life," said The Spruce. "A balanced feng shui fire element in your home will bring joy, excitement, and strong sexual desire. An imbalance of the same element will bring either fiery arguments, restlessness and even aggression (too much Fire) or a lack of energy and enthusiasm for life (too little Fire)."

When it comes to the home, red "signifies richness, luck and luxury," they said. "If used too much, though, it can bring bursts of anger and over stimulation." That means a cautious hand may be best. Covering the walls in every room and oversaturating the spaces with furniture and décor pieces could just be a bit too caliente.

Color Theory

We know from the study of color theory that different colors can affect moods. If you apply that to the home, it makes sense that some spaces would be a better fit than others for a color called caliente.

"Red raises a room's energy level. The most intense color, it pumps the adrenaline like no other hue," said Freshome. "It is a good choice when you want to stir up excitement, particularly at night. In the living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression." In the bedroom, it could mean a fiery sex life…but trying to sleep might be an issue.

You may not be ready to take the bold hue through your whole kitchen, but careful placement can make a huge impact, like on this island.


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Juxtaposed against bright white, Caliente is a standout on the walls - especially in a room that flooded with natural light.


benjaminmoore.com

How's that for a warm welcome?! The rich, red door is a beautiful complement to the neutral décor and adds another element of interest in a space with a wealth of architectural detail.


benjaminmoore.com

Don't want to splash this color on your walls? One standout piece in the electric hue can energize the whole room.


designaddictmom.blogspot.com
Oct 15, 2017 1:23:51 PM
Halloween Decor Trends For An Elegant Interior

Halloween stores are popping up all over the place as the countdown to candy collecting begins. Halloween décor is big business today, too, and while some (OK, a lot) of it can look cheap and childish, there are many options for pumpkin décor that allow you to be festive without veering away from your sense of style. If you're ready to bring the great pumpkin into your home, here are some chic ways to go about it, whether you're crafty or crafty about how you shop.

Pretty pastels

Who says your pumpkins have to be orange or that your fall décor can't be fun and fresh? This six-piece pastel pumpkin mini mix from Etsy is handmade from white craft pumpkins, meaning you could DIY it if you wanted to. But when they look this great...

Metal

These galvanized metal lanterns from World Market offer anther unique way to dress up your home for Halloween, but with an unexpected elegance. Even better - they're on sale for $6.99 to $10.49.


worldmarket.com

World Market offers a treasure trove of items for Halloween. (We also love these black iron candelabras, that just may be elegant enough to use all-year-round.) If Day of the Dead is more your speed, you'll love this $19.99 los muertos ceramic candy bowl that depicts four highly detailed calavera skulls.


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Splattered

Feeling artistic? All you need to create a pumpkin masterpiece is a little paint and a flick of the wrist. These splatter paint pumpkins have a chic style, and they're just the beginning of what you can create with paint. Check out more great options on Pinterest.


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Carved

Don't want a face on your pumpkins but still want some time knife time? These patterned pumpkins are next-level carving and create unique methods for mood lighting. "Turn standard grocery store pumpkins into decorative votive holders that are embellished with polka-dot cutouts," said Southern Living.


Southernliving.com

Break out those crayons

Your kids will love watching the crayons melt over the pumpkins, and you'll love the outcome of this easy DIY project that produce oh-so-stylish Halloween décor.


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Studded

InStyle has declared this the year of the studded pumpkin, and that's a good thing considering they're super easy to make with real studs if you wish, or, with hot glue and a studded strip. You can use either real pumpkins or the faux kind, which will last longer.


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Mercury glass

You can buy pumpkins that look like mercury glass, but they're fragile and can also be expensive. This easy trick gives you the look without the hassle. First, spray paint them white and then use a "looking glass" spray to get the mercury effect.


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Textured

Texture is all the rage in home décor and fashion, and it hasn't escaped Halloween décor. These velvet pumpkins are one of the hottest items this year, and they're all over the board in terms of cost. (We saw one for almost $100 at a posh boutique!) Save yourself some money, and a whole lot of hassle since this is not one of the easier DIY-friendly crafts unless you're very experienced and very patient, and head to Target. This three-piece collection is just $18, and there's no orange in sight!


Target.com
Oct 15, 2017 1:22:34 PM
Tips For Decorating Rooms That Are Long And Narrow

Distract attention away from an awkward room shape and create a pleasing design using these pro tips.

When you're clicking through images of gorgeous rooms to gather inspiration for your home, does it sometimes seem as though the ideas will work only in large or pleasingly proportioned rooms? The truth is, when a room is well designed, we don't notice when it's awkwardly shaped. Here, three interior designers share their tips for dealing with a common type of awkward space - a long, narrow room.

"The challenge you face with a long, thin living space is to ensure the room feels welcoming, inviting and free flowing," says Letiche Black of Amberth. "You want to avoid it looking too static or formal."

Make sure the seating area doesn't feel too far away from the TV and other necessities.

"The biggest challenge will be not to feel obliged to push everything against the walls, because you will only emphasize the narrow shape and corners and be left with a slim walkway," she says. "The space will feel tight and cramped instead of open and light."

 

Diana Greenhalgh of My Bespoke Room suggests creating areas of color, as in this room. "These will draw the eye to certain points around the room to help break up the space," she says.

Maximize space with style. Greenhalgh suggests making a feature of details that will maximize the feeling of space in a narrow room. "Space-saving solutions such as small shelves instead of bedside tables, and hanging pendant lights instead of bulky bedside lights, can help make the most of the available space, and also assist by creating an interesting focal point," she says.

Focus on lighting. In a long, thin living area, Black recommends putting seating areas near the main natural light source. "This will influence how you design the rest of the space and encourages a loose placement of other furniture," she says. "Position armchairs away from the wall, as this tricks the eye into believing the space is much wider."

Section it off. "Break a long room into sections by cleverly placing furniture," says Charlotte Ford of Cotton Tree Interiors. "Console tables are really useful when placed at the back of a sofa," she notes. "And if possible, get some floor-mounted sockets, so lamps can be put on them to bring in subtle lighting and create a soft divide." She also advises looking at the size of your furniture. You can buy slimmer sofas and other scaled-down pieces that will fit well in the space.

Take the textural route. Black suggests introducing plenty of texture into a thin room. "Create layers and warmth that will allow your senses to be met with an arrangement of smooth, rough and shiny surfaces, instead of lonely corners," she says. "Use mirrors too, as these will help the space to feel wider." In a bedroom, Greenhalgh advises considering the position of the bed with care, as it will probably be the focal point. Placing a bed at the end of a narrow space, as seen in this room, plays up the room's shape in a stylish way.

Open up. In a narrow bedroom, Black says, choose colors that make the space feel wider and brighter. "It is important to be mindful of the space as a whole, ensuring one end doesn't get neglected or feel darker than the other," she says. "Don't be tempted to simply position your bed, desk and other furniture all down one wall, as you will only add emphasis to the long, narrow shape of the room." She suggests using warm, light grays, off-whites and whites. "These shades instantly create a brighter, more open space," she says.

Distract the eye. "Use neutral window treatments, as drawing attention to the boundaries at either end of the room only emphasizes its shape," Ford says. "Use pattern, texture and color on occasional chairs, cushions, lampshades and art and also carefully positioned wallpaper, all of which take the focus off the shape of the room and direct it on to the more interesting objects."

Find your focal point. One of the difficulties in decorating a narrow room is deciding where the focus of the space should be, Ford says. If you are working with a builder, ask to create subtle room dividers. "Full-length narrow columns break up the room, giving a natural finishing point when using different wallpapers and paint colors," she says.

Don't be afraid of the dark. "If the room is dark due to lack of windows," Greenhalgh says, "go with it and embrace a dark color palette to make the space cozy, rather than trying to fight it."

Go round. Choosing accessories in shapes that go against the linear nature of a long room — such as circular forms — is another trick to visually widen a space. "Avoid stripes, as these will only enhance the long, thin feel," Greenhalgh says.

Avoid the "corridor effect". "Choose items that can be positioned to break up the feeling of a long, thin room, such as small coffee tables, side tables or armchairs," Greenhalgh says. "Break up the corridor effect by positioning pieces of furniture in clusters, instead of in a row." This tricks the eye into seeing a wider space. "For example, pick different seating options and arrange them together, instead of having just one long sofa against the long wall," she says. And don't be afraid to use bold furnishings, fixtures and fittings, Black advises, noting that they will add visual interest.

Light it right. Bedroom lighting needs to be well considered in a narrow space, as there often isn't sufficient surface area for table lamps. Ford suggests installing downlights, as they spread the light across the room. Then, if you have the luxury of enough space, "have a softer, secondary lighting plan with a combination of bedside lamps, reading lamps and table lamps," she advises. Wall-mounted reading lights can also help to declutter bedside surfaces where space is tight.

Get horizontal. When deciding on the position of the bed in a narrow room, if space allows, "break up the space by positioning the bed across the width of the space instead of up against the length of one," Black says. Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to position the bed going with the length of the room and facing the door. And there are benefits to that. "It feels welcoming and will take your eye off the shape of the room," she says. "Especially if you use lots of pillows to add comfort and warmth."

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Oct 12, 2017 8:45:41 PM