Cost efficient homes

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Feb. 11, 2013 – Saving money was never on Dennis Kaech’s mind when he built his Olympia, Wash., home. But saving energy was.
“I wanted to see how many crazy things you could put in a house,” Kaech said on a recent winter day in his light-filled home on the city’s west side.
By “crazy things” he means energy producers and heat conservers. Kaech, 69, is a retired high school science teacher. Fun for him is a day spent calculating how many kilowatts he can save with a new heating system.
Kaech has spent $350,000 on the house. But it’s not a gold plated palace with luxe finishings. The money is inside the walls, under the floors and on the roof. He wanted to build the most energy-efficient home he possibly could. He appears to have succeeded.
“I’d probably get 50 cents on the dollar,” Kaech said of his investment – if he sold it today.
The home features a windmill, solar panels, passive heat storage and enough insulation for a colony on Mars.
Kaech bought the property in 1978 but didn’t begin construction until 2008 after tearing down the previous home on the site. In November, he moved in.
The house is open and inviting – mostly. Directly behind a bank of south-facing windows is a formidable rock wall. It’s not some horrible blueprint screw-up. Kaech designed the house that way. The rock wall, recycled from the previous house’s chimney, is heated by solar rays and by a wood burning stove. In the evening, the wall releases heat back into the house.
They aren’t the only heat-holding rocks in the house. A concrete box underneath the living room holds more than four tons of rock. It absorbs excess heat and then releases it as the house cools.
The walls of the wood-framed home are built like a layer cake. Underneath HardiePlank siding is a layer of foam insulation acting as a thermal break, followed by house wrap over subpaneling. Inside the 2-by-6 framing, Kaech installed 4-inch batts of fiberglass insulation and had a 2-inch layer of blown-in foam insulation. Lastly, sheetrock followed.
The walls have a total combined R-value of 31. R-value is a measure of a material’s ability to block heat transfer. The higher the R-value the better the insulation is. Building codes require a minimum of R-20 for exterior walls. For his north and west facing walls Kaech used prefabricated insulated panels manufactured by Premier Panels of Fife. He also minimized windows in the north walls – an energy saving move.
The downstairs holds a modest living room, kitchen, bathroom and garage while the upstairs holds his loft bedroom, bathroom and a separate living area. The living space totals 1,400 square feet.
Both levels have 2-inch thick concrete floors. Hidden in them are 0.5-inch wide tubes filled with water that provide radiant heat. A water heater, set at 105 degrees, is dedicated to the system. Ceiling fans push heat back down toward the living spaces.
Complicated enough yet? It’s only the beginning. The radiant heat system and domestic water supply are both heated using geothermal technology. It’s not the kind of steaming hot geothermal you see at Yellowstone. The system uses plain old Olympia ground heat.
Four horizontal holes were drilled on Kaech’s property and filled with tubes containing water. It’s a closed loop system that absorbs heat from the ground (which is usually at 50 degrees) and then, using a heat pump, transfers the energy to the radiant heat and domestic hot water systems. Think of it as the opposite of a refrigerator.
“It only raises the tank 5 or 6 degrees per hour,” Kaech said. But that’s enough to get the hot water tank to 115 degrees. That may be enough for a shower but not to do dishes. Not to worry: he has a backup – or two.
A set of solar panels on the roof runs heated water (up to 200 degrees even in January) to a transfer system (another closed loop) that heats the domestic water system in conjunction with the geothermal. A third and final backup is provided by standard electrical coils.
Those aren’t the only solar panels on Kaech’s roof. Panels of photovoltaic cells produce 4,680 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
In the summer Kaech’s system creates more electricity than he can use. The excess is sent to the power grid. Puget Sound Energy doesn’t pay customers for excess kilowatts but they will credit accounts – making a battery superfluous. In the winter, when short grey days produce less electricity, Kaech can use those banked kilowatts.
A look over Kaech’s bills shows the results. In December 2012 PSE delivered 584 kWh while his system produced 81 kWh. But in August Kaech’s system produced 663 kWh. (Kaech was not yet living in the house in August and PSE delivered only 99 kWh).
Banked kilowatts – if there are any – are zeroed out in April. But Kaech said he’ll never be a net producer. He expects the panels, over the course of a year, to provide half of his electricity needs.
The entire solar system cost Kaech $36,000 for parts and installation. That might seem like a high up-front cost but when one starts to do the math the figure doesn’t seem so daunting.
First, the federal government gave Kaech a 30 percent tax credit off the installation costs. Additionally, because the solar system was manufactured in Washington (by Silicon Energy of Marysville), for every kilowatt he produces until 2020 the state (via PSE) pays him 54 cents. In the most recent year-long period he made $2,611.
Solar energy is often thought of as clean energy (compared with emission spewing power plants) but its production is not necessarily so.
“It’s green in theory but to build a silicon cell takes a lot of energy,” Kaech said.
A windmill that rises above the home was supposed to add to the green electrical system but it has never functioned correctly. It’s a sore point for Kaech – one of the home’s few failures.
What is green in Kaech’s home is his sewer system. The home has two effluent lines. A grey line drains bathroom sinks, tubs, showers and washing machines while a black line drains toilets, kitchen sinks and dishwashers. The grey line feeds into a 1,000-gallon cistern (along with rainwater from gutters) that can be used to water landscaping. The black line goes to the city’s sewer system.
While the rest of us sweat over heating bills, Kaech reclines in his 75 degree home, heated only by his wood stove and an occasional morning boost from the radiant floor system. He only has one regret.
“I should have built it when I was younger.”
Copyright © 2013 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


Distress does not discriminate

There goes the neighborhood: mansions in distress

Forbes.comBy Morgan Brennan | – Wed, Feb 6, 2013 2:25 PM EST

Take the $100 million Casa Casuarina. The Miami Beach mansion peddles an enviable address on South Beach’s Ocean Drive, a storied history as the former home of Gianni Versace, a 10-suite boutique hotel staffed with British-trained butlers, and a glittering 24-karat gold-lined swimming pool. It also totes a laundry list of lawsuits, starting with a federal foreclosure suit filed in December of 2011 by VM South Beach, an entity affiliated with Jordache Enterprises’ Nakash family. It alleges that Casa Casuarina’s owner, telecom entrepreneur Peter Loftin, defaulted on a $25 million mortgage note. In December of 2012, Loftin countered with his own suit, through Casa Casuarina LLC, against original mortgage holder WestLB, alleging multiple counts of fraud pertaining to VM South Beach’s note.

Still following? A bankruptcy trustee also has a claim on the property, because Scott Rothstein, convicted of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, held a minority share. Adding to the complications, taxes have not been paid in three years, reportedly due to a legal dispute between Loftin and Casa Casuarina’s hotelier tenant Barton G. Weiss, whose boutique hotel Villa by Barton G. rents one-bedroom suits for more than $2,000 a night.

Since the downturn, a series of high-end homes located across the U.S. have faced financial troubles, struggling with foreclosure filings, bankruptcies or lawsuits. Yahoo! Homes is publishing five of them here; to see even more, go to

In many cases the troubles were the result of a zealous development plan undertaken during the housing bubble, whether it be Bank of America’s 2011 repossession of ex-billionaire divorcee Patricia Kluge’s Charlottesville, Va., estate, Albemarle, or the 2012 bankruptcy auction of realtor-turned-developer John McMonigle’s Newport Coast, Calif., spec home, Villa Del Lago.

In Palm Beach, Fla., another developer, Dan Swanson filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September against more than $27 million loans owed to two creditors on a lavish spec home. In October one of those creditors, TD Bank filed its own complaint via circuit court, seeking repayment on $21 million. On the market since 2010, the $74 million lakefront home, located at 1220 South Ocean Boulevard, has 27,000 square feet of living space including a 4,000-square-foot master suite with fireplace, a 3,000-bottle wine cellar and a commercial-grade elevator. If the property doesn’t snag a buyer by the end of the year, it’s reportedly expected to sell off in a bankruptcy auction come December.

Florida eclipsed Nevada as the nation’s foreclosure capital in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. High-end homes were not immune, including the largest single-family home in the U.S., Windermere, Fla.’s massive Versailles estate. The unfinished 90,000-square foot structure, which has a two-story wine cellar, three pools and 13 kitchens, faced a foreclosure auction last April due to an outstanding construction loan from Bank of America. It was the second scheduled auction in roughly six months. The owners, timeshare titan David Siegel and wife Jacqueline, were able to thwart repossession by refinancing with $20 million mortgage from ICR Finance Services. The hulking home is listed for sale: $65 million, unfinished.

Here’s a rundown of U.S. estates where, either presently or within the past several years, a lawyer may have done more good than a broker:

Casa Casuarina's pool is lined in gold. Click the photo to go to the listing (with many more pictures).Casa Casuarina’s pool is lined in gold. Click the photo to go to the listing (with many more pictures).Casa Casuarina, Miami Beach, Fla.

List Price: $100 million.

The Digs: 23,000-square-foot spread, where Gianni Versace was shot, has a hotel and gold-lined pool.

Owner: Peter Loftin.

Legal Woes: VM South Beach filed foreclosure suit in December 2011 on a $25 million loan default; a year later Loftin’s LLC is suing lender WestLB for fraud. There’s also a pending bankruptcy claim.

1220 South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach. Click either photo to see many more pictures in the listing.1220 South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach. Click either photo to see many more pictures in the listing.The home is on Billionaires Row.The home is on Billionaires Row.1220 South Ocean Boulevard

Location: Palm Beach, Fla.

List Price: $74 million

The Digs: The 27,000-square-foot lakefront house built on spec has a sculpture garden and an auto showroom.

Owner: Dan Swanson

Legal Woes: In October 2012 Swanson filed for Chapter 11 protection on $26 million in loans from two creditors, including TD Bank.

The Beverly House. Click either photo to see other Beverly Hills homes.The Beverly House. Click either photo to see other Beverly Hills homes.The Beverly House is a former Hearst estate.The Beverly House is a former Hearst estate.Beverly House

Beverly Hills, Calif.

List Price: $95 million.

The Digs: Former Hearst estate has double master suites, two screening rooms, an art-deco nightclub and spa.

Owner: Leonard Ross.

Legal Woes: Longtime owner Ross filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010, reportedly because of legal disputes with several banks; he still owns the mansion, at least for now.

Villa Del Lago. Click either image to see other Newport Coast properties.Villa Del Lago. Click either image to see other Newport Coast properties.The home is on 12.5 acres.The home is on 12.5 acres.Villa Del Lago

Location: Newport Coast, CA

2010 List Price: $57 million

2012 Auction Price: $19.4 million

The Digs: The 12.5-acre estate includes a 16,600-square foot-main house, 17-car garage, stables, vineyard and a wine cave.

Former Owner: John McMonigle

Legal Woes: The estate was sold in a bankruptcy auction after the owner, a Realtor-turned-luxury home developer, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, having reportedly amassed $50 million in debt.

Versailles. Click either image to see other Windermere properties.Versailles. Click either image to see other Windermere properties.Versailles is America's biggest home.Versailles is America’s biggest home.Versailles

Location: Windermere, Fla.

List Price: $65 million (unfinished)

The Digs: The half-finished 90,000-square-foot home is America’s biggest, with a two-story wine cellar, three swimming pools and 11 kitchens.

Owners: David and Jaqueline Siegel

Legal Woes: In 2012, Bank of America scheduled a foreclosure auction for April (the second since 2011), but the time-share tycoon and his wife scored a $20 million loan from ICR Finance Services in that allowed them to refinance, escaping foreclosure.

The St. Regis Penthouse. Click either image to see other San Francisco properties.The St. Regis Penthouse. Click either image to see other San Francisco properties.The home eventually sold for 60% off its original asking price.The home eventually sold for 60% off its original asking price.St. Regis Penthouse

Location: San Francisco, CA

2008 List Price: $70 million

2011 Bank-Owned List Price: $35 million

REO Sales Price: $28 million in December 2011

Former Owner: Victor MacFarlane

Legal Woes: The penthouse garnered several most expensive titles, from when its initial 2008 listing debut to its REO resale, including most expensive foreclosure after Bank of America took ownership in lieu of foreclosure in 2011. The lender eventually found a buyer willing to pay $28 million — a 60% discount off of the original asking price — in December 2011.


Love letter to purchase your home

[Yahoo! Homes editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jacqueline Shannon of Zillow.]

The residential real estate market is finally rebounding. The overall economy is improving. New families are being created at a brisk pace. But the number of homes currently on the market has dramatically declined over the past year, especially in the usual highly desirable areas. In San Francisco, inventory is down 47 percent; Silicon Valley, 45 percent; San Diego, 30 percent; Chicago, 26; and Washington, D.C., 19.


Love letters

What’s all that spell? In those and other hot markets, we’re back to the days of camping out all night to get a shot at a house in a new development. Here come all-cash offers and multiple bids well over listing price. Add in stirring emotional letters to sellers from buyers who want to stand out from all the other bidders. Here’s one from Gina in San Diego:

“As we walked through your home, both my husband and I were in love and confident that our two little girls would love it, too,” reads part of Gina’s letter to a homeowner whose house was for sale. “We can already imagine which rooms the girls will want to make their own and found ourselves smiling as we pictured them picking flowers in the garden you have so lovingly tended and (as teenagers) getting ready for school dances in front the little vanity in the hall bath.”

It worked. This letter filled with sentiments sealed the deal for Gina.

Meanwhile, Bonnie, a teacher and homeowner in North Potomac, Maryland, an upper-middle-class suburb of Washington, D.C., says she finds letters from hopeful buyers in her mailbox even though her house is not for sale.

And the Wall Street Journal reports that when Judy Blankenburg and her sister went to sell their childhood home in Silicon Valley’s Los Altos, they were “sold” on a buyer who raved in a letter about the 1938-built home’s charm, with its “majestic trees,” “lush foliage,” and a high ceiling in the living room made of knotty pine.

“My sister and I had a huge emotional attachment to that house,” Judy told the Journal. “We didn’t want it torn down.”

Pour your heart out

Your goal with a love letter is to establish a personal connection with the seller and his or her property, according to Catherine Nicholas of CADO Real Estate Group in San Diego, who worked as buyer’s agent for Gina.

At an open house, note the features you particularly love, even if they won’t transfer in a sale. The seller collects 33 rpm record albums just like you do? Mention that in your letter as well as how much you’d enjoy playing them in the 1950s-designed and -decorated rumpus room the seller created in the basement.

Nicholas, who has decades of experience in residential real estate transactions, is unusual in that she recommends that her buyers always write a letter no matter what market conditions are. She wrote a letter of her own when she and her husband, Jim Cento, bought their primary residence in Solana Beach, Calif., in 2000.

Even in a slow real estate market, she says, it helps to have established a good relationship with the sellers and their representatives. “Escrow can be really difficult,” she says. “A friendly air between the buyer’s team and the seller’s can help when you negotiate about things like getting the seller to pay for more repairs or to simply move the seller to not wait for other offers to come in.”

It’s OK to make it personal

Nicholas and other real estate pros say some buyers have increased their chances of getting an offer accepted by enclosing a family photo with the love letter. This is yet another method establishing a personal connection with the seller. They have a baby who is just starting to walk, and guess what? So do you. They have two dogs – so do you.

Getting a little personal about your financial situation can also be helpful, especially if it convinces the seller that you’re in a position to get the deal done quickly. An example is mentioning what you do for a living if you’re in a stable profession, such as nursing. Nicholas has a client who enclosed a copy of his most recent pension statement to show that he had the funds readily available to close the sale.

Don’t get too flowery with your adjectives. People toss around words like “stunning” when the object being described rarely fits the dictionary definition of that, and being too flattering can mark you as a “phony” or as pulling a “snow job.”

Remember that the spell/grammar check is your friend, but there’s no reason to ask your real estate agent to write or edit your letter or to hire a professional writer, according to Nicholas.

“I will give my buyers some bullet points of the types of things I think should be addressed and remind them of high points about the property they’ve expressed to me,” Nicholas says. But beyond that, the buyers are on their own to compose the letter. “Above all, the reason for that is that I want the letter to sound genuine,” she says. “In other words, your appeal to the seller should be… well, sincerely yours.

Bank Owned no longer what it used to mean

While “foreclosure” remains a buzzword for bargain seekers, a study finds that the actual discount off a “normal” price is far less than it used to be.

According to a study by Zillow, the national average discount of a real estate owned (REO) property compared to a non-REO was only 7.7 percent in September – a sizable change from the 23.7 percent average discount that peaked nationally in August 2009 and less than the average 9.1 percent discount one year earlier.

In some areas of Florida, REOs aren’t a bargain at all. Zillow included three Florida metro areas in its analysis and claims an average REO savings of only 2.9 percent in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market – a significant drop from the peak of 22.7 percent in August 2008 and a notable decline year-to-year; in September 2011, a South Florida REO sold for 6.8 percent less.

In Tampa, a REO in September 2012 sold for 9 percent less than a non-REO sale, down slightly from the 9.6 percent discount one year earlier, but significantly lower than the peak 29.1 percent discount recorded in November 2008.

In Orlando, the REO discount of 4.6 percent rose slightly year-to-year; in September 2011, it was 2 percent. However, both numbers are down from the peak 24.4 percent discount for a REO recorded in January 2010.

In two cities – Phoenix and Las Vegas – REOs no longer come with a discount, with sale prices roughly equal to other home sales.

“The smallest foreclosure discount is found in places where competition for homes” is high, says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “People are willing to pay the same amount for a foreclosure re-sale that they would for a non-distressed home simply to take advantage of historic affordability.”

Year-over-year foreclosure discounts fell in roughly three-quarters (76.9 percent) of metro areas analyzed, and all metros are down from their peak. Nationwide, foreclosure discounts reached their height in 2008 and 2009, and in some areas peaked at more than 30 percent.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

More renters think is NOW time to BUY

WASHINGTON – Nov. 9, 2012 – Americans show growing confidence that home prices will increase over the next 12 months, according to results from Fannie Mae’s October 2012 National Housing Survey.
At the same time, consumers expect an even higher surge in rental prices, suggesting that more renters may be motivated to jump into the real estate market in the coming months, survey authors say.
“This has been a year of steady growth in the percentage of consumers with positive home price expectations,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. “Increasing household formation, encouraged by an improving labor market, is adding additional momentum to the housing recovery and putting upward pressure on rental price expectations. Expected increases in both owning and renting costs may encourage more consumers to buy and add further strength to the housing recovery already under way.”
In October, survey respondents, on average, expected home prices to increase 1.7 percent in the next 12 months. The share who said home prices will decrease in the next year dropped to 10 percent – 13 percentage points lower than October 2011 and the lowest level since the survey’s inception in June 2010.
The percentage of respondents who believe mortgage rates will go up climbed 4 percentage points to 37 percent following a steep drop in September. Respondents’ average rental price expectation jumped by 0.8 percent to 3.9 percent, and 50 percent believe home rental prices will rise in the next year – a 3 percentage point increase over last month and the highest level since the survey began.
Survey highlights
Homeownership and renting • Consumers’ average home price change expectation edged up slightly to 1.7 percent. • Ten percent of those surveyed say that home prices will go down in the next 12 months, a 13 percentage point decrease since October 2011. • After a sharp drop last month, the percentage who think mortgage rates will go up rose 4 percentage points in October to 37 percent. • 72 percent of respondents say it’s a good time to buy, while 18 percent say it’s a good time to sell. • The average rental price expectation increased by 0.8 percent to 3.9 percent. • 50 percent said home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, a 3-percentage point rise over last month.
The economy and household finances • The percentage who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months remained level at 43 percent. • 19 percent of respondents said their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, a slight increase from last month’s total of 17 percent. • Household expenses remained stable over the past month, with 56 percent responding that their household expenses stayed the same compared to 12 months ago.
© 2012 Florida Realtors®

5 Easy DIY Weekend Projects Under $300

By: John Riha

Published: May 24, 2012

Just another weekend? Not if you take advantage with one or more of these 5 great projects you can easily pull off for under $300.

Project #1: Add a garden arbor entry.
The setup: Install an eye-catching portal to your garden with a freestanding arbor. It’ll look great at the end of a garden path or framing a grassy area between planting beds.
Specs and cost: Garden arbors can be priced up to thousands of dollars, but you can find nice-looking kits in redwood, cedar, and vinyl at your local home improvement or garden center for $200-$300. Typical sizes are about 7 feet high and 3-4 feet wide. You’ll have to assemble the kit yourself. Tools: Screwdriver; cordless drill/driver; hammer; tape measure. Kits come pre-cut and pre-drilled for easy assembly, and usually include screws. If fasteners aren’t included, check the materials list before you leave the store.
Time: 3-5 hours Project #2: Install a window awning.
The setup: Summer is super, but too much sunlight from south- and west-facing windows can heat up your interiors and make your AC work overtime. Beat that heat and save energy by using an awning to stop harsh sunlight before it enters your house.
Specs and cost: Residential awnings come in many sizes and colors. Some are plastic or aluminum, but most are made with weatherproof fabrics. They’re engineered for wind resistance, and some are retractable. A 4-foot-wide awning with a 2.5-foot projection is $150-$250.
Tools: Cordless drill/driver; adjustable wrench; tape measure; level. You can install an awning on any siding surface, but you’ll need a hammer drill to drill holes in brick. To prevent leaks, fill any drilled holes with silicone sealant before you install screws and bolts. Time: 3-4 hours

Project # 3: Screen off your air conditioner from view.
The setup: Air conditioning is great, but air conditioner condensers are ugly. Up your curb appeal quotient by hiding your AC condenser or heat pump unit with a simple screen.
Specs and costs: An AC screen is typically 3-sided, about 40 inches high, and freestanding — you’ll want to be able to move it easily when it comes time to service your HVAC. For about $100, you can make a screen yourself using weather-resistant cedar or pressure-treated wood to build 3 frames, and filling each frame with plastic or pressure-treated lattice.
Or, buy pre-made fencing panels. A 38-by-38-inch plastic fencing panel is about $50.
Tools: Hammer; saw; cordless drill/driver; measuring tape; galvanized wood screws.
Time: Build it yourself in 4-6 hours. Install pre-made fencing in 1-2 hours. Project # 4: Add garage storage.
The setup: Shopping for garage storage solutions is definitely a kid-in-the-candy-store experience. There are so many cool shelves, hooks, and hangers available that you’ll need to prioritize your needs. Take stock of long-handled landscape tools, bikes, paint supplies, ladders, and odd ducks, such as that kayak. Measure your available space so you’ll have a rough idea of where everything goes.
Specs and cost: Set your under-$300 budget, grab a cart, and get shopping. Many storage systems are made to be hung on drywall, but hooks and heavy items should be fastened directly to studs. Use a stud finder ($20) to locate solid framing. If your garage is unfinished, add strips of wood horizontally across studs so you’ll have something to fasten your storage goodies to. An 8-foot-long 2-by-4 is about $2.50.
Tools: Cordless drill/driver; hammer; level; measuring tape; screws and nails.
Time: This is a simple project, but not a fast one. Figure 6-10 hours to get everything where you want it, plus shopping. But, oh the fun in putting everything in its place!

Project #5: Edging your garden.
The setup: Edging is a great way to define your planting beds, corral garden mulch, and to separate your lawn from your garden or patio.
Specs and cost: Wood and metal edging looks like tiny fencing; they’re 4-6 inches high. Some include spikes that hold the edging in position; other types must be partially buried. Cost is $1-$5 per foot.
Plastic edging can be molded and colored to mimic brick, wood, and stone. About $20 for 10 feet.
Concrete edging blocks are smooth, or textured to resemble stone. $15-$25 for 10 feet.
Real stone edging is installed flush with the surrounding grade in a shallow trench on a bed of sand, so digging is required. Stone is sold by the ton and prices vary by region. You’ll need about one-third of a ton of flagstone to make an 8-inch-wide edging 50 feet long, costing $150-$200.
Tools: Shovel; wheelbarrow; tin snips (for cutting plastic edging); work gloves.
Time: Pre-made edging will take 2-3 hours for 50 feet; stone will take 6-10 hours.


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Home Owner Associations (HOA)

Home Owner Association’s (HOA) is a term that many do not want to hear and many others do not understand the meaning of.  As a prior Massachusetts resident, HOA was not a term that I was very familiar with until relocating to Florida.

Well let’s start with the positive, HOA’s are associations that have been created to make decisions in regards to the activities that take place in a specific community and often make decision of the members that reside within the community.  Some of the benefits that are identified with being part of a community with an HOA, is that many communities with HOA’s tend to hold on to their home value much better than those communities that do not participate.  Also as there are set standards on the up keep of the home, well maintained properties are often found within the community.

Some of the negatives that are identified by homeowners in being part of an HOA, are that there’s set limitations that you may have in regards to changes in your home and any alterations require prior approval before taking place.  Penalties for not following the regulations could include fines.

The amounts that are charged as part of the Association are different in every community and could include different amenities and services as part of the fee.  When looking into a specific community, most time there will be a internet page about the association regulations that have been set forth.  Hope this assist you in the search of your new home.

If you would like to have more entailed information in regards to the way HOA’s work you could find the information at

Looking for great Florida destinations, start with the best Beaches

Florida is well known around the world for being a great family vacation destination and there is no denial that it does provide this for many families.  Today though, I want to introduce to you other great destinations in Florida.

Did you know that Five of the top Ten Beaches in the United States are found here in Florida? –  According to “Trip Advisor the Traveler’s Choice of 2012” the best beaches include the following:

Coming in at #1 is Saint Pete Beach, located in Pinella County on the West Coast of Florida.  Saint Pete is known for the sandy white beaches and beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico.

For additional information on St. Pete you could visit,_Florida

At #2 is Miami Beach, which is located in Dade County.  Many beautiful sunsets reflecting off the Atlantic Ocean will be some of the memories you will find in Miami.  Minutes from South Beach is only an added bonus to what will make Miami Beach a memorable experience.

For additional information on Miami Beach you could visit

At #6 you will find Daytona Beach, located in Volusia County.  Daytona Beach has recently endured a multi-million dollar renovation.  Only one of the many reasons to visit Daytona Beach and it’s great boardwalks.

For additional information on Daytona Beach you could visit,_Florida

Making the top ranks at #7 Fort Lauderdale, located in Broward County.  Great climate, dining, shopping as well as some of the most amazing real estate are all found within walking distance in this wonderful beach.

For additional information on Fort Lauderdale you could visit

Last, but certainly not least…coming in at #10 Key West, located on Monroe County at the southern most point in Florida.  Known for great fishing, bridges and snorkeling; great celebrations are found here in Key West throughout the year.

For additional information you could visit

Well, what are you waiting for? Hope to see you at the beach.

Florida and National ratings for Palm Beach Schools

Few more reasons to call Palm Beach home, I was pleasently surprised to find out that three of the ten top ranking High Schools for the state of Florida are found in Palm Beach County.  The schools are the following #2 A.D Henderson University School and FAU High School in Boca Raton, #4 Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach and #9 Alexander W. Dreyfoos Junior School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

Continuing the top ten Florida rankings I discovered that Bak Middle School in West Palm Beach was ranked #4 in the middle schools.

As well as Water’s Edge Elementary in Boca Raton ranked #9 in the state.

On national rankings four Palm Beach High Schools topped the nation’s top 500 schools.  Suncoast High placed 9th, with the best college-ready grads,  Alexander W. Dreyfoos Junior High school placed 37th, Boca Raton High School (Boca Raton, FL) ranked 200th and Spanish River High School (Boca Raton, FL) ranked in at 362.

Suncoast and Boca Raton High Schools also succeeded in  making the list of “America’s Most challenging High Schools”.

Congratulations to all Palm Beach educators that take great pride in allowing our children growth and assisting them in learning how to reach for their dreams.

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