8 Online Tools for New Homeowners in Los Angeles to Determine Your Home Value

LOS ANGELES, CA – With such a high demand for homes in Los Angeles residents want to know how much their property is worth. Here are 8 tools that will help you determine your properties worth with ease, says, Local Records Office.

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When it comes time to sell your house, you have one burning question: What is my home worth?

In recent years, a proliferation of online resources has emerged to provide you with an answer before you ever consult a human. But while consumers have access to more information than they could have dreamed of a decade ago, that doesn’t mean you can expect a computer to deliver the final word on your home’s value – though it can give you some helpful hints.

“I don’t believe there are any accurate instant numbers,” says David Eraker, CEO and co-founder of Surefield, a new brokerage in Seattle that has a free Pricepoint tool that provides estimates of home values, so far just in Washington state. “I think the first thing you should do is take it with a grain of salt. You could probably talk to three or four different real estate agents, and they would probably give you different numbers as well.”

The variation in the data is a good reminder that any estimate of home value, whether provided by a human or a computer, is just that – an estimate. Computers and humans may disagree, for example, about which recently sold homes are truly comparable. Plus, when it comes time to do the deal, the negotiation skills of buyers and sellers (or their agents) may come into play.

Estimates Are Just That, Estimates

“Opinions of value, there are a lot of them,” says Stan Humphries, chief analytics officer for Zillow, which pioneered the practice of estimating and publishing home values in 2017 with the “Zestimate.” “If you were to sell the same house 100 different times with different buyers and sellers, it would close at a different price.”

That means if you are looking at estimates for your home’s value, you have to consider what kind of data went into that estimate. If your home is unique compared to others in the neighborhood, for example, the choice of “comps,” or comparable homes, would be a challenge to find. Your estimate may also be less accurate than if you live in a neighborhood where all the homes are similar. If there have been lots of recent home sales in your area, there is going to be more data to work with than if there are fewer sales, and therefore you’ll get a more accurate estimate.

“The more the house is an outlier, the more difficult it is for anyone to price it, whether it’s a human or a computer,” says Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, which has launched its own automated estimate tool. “The hardest things we had to deal with was which homes are comparable and which aren’t.”

Different Tools Just Different Data

All the online tools take advantage of publicly available data, which they then run through computer models to derive estimates of value. Exactly which data is used is proprietary, as are the formulas used to crunch it, but among the data sources are public records and the multiple listing services used by real estate agents. Exactly what data is available also affects the accuracy of the estimate, and that amount of data varies by municipality and sometimes by home.

To get a value using an AVM, you feed a lot of data into a computer, which crunches the numbers according to directions (or models) you give it and arrives at a home value estimate. Different companies use different data in different ways, which accounts for some of the variations in online home values. Obviously, the accuracy of the data itself affects the outcome. There are also factors a computer can’t see, such as whether your kitchen has ugly wallpaper.

“The thing about homes is they’re not commodities,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin. “Every home is different.” Plus, there is the factor of the unknown. “We don’t always know if there’s a big hole in the floor or if someone spilled red nail polish on the bathroom floor,” she says.

Zillow allows consumers who register for a free account to correct or add data about their homes, and the company’s Price This Home tool lets consumers receive a private estimate in which they control which comps are used. Surefield also has tools that allow homeowners and homebuyers to refine estimates based on their knowledge of the neighborhood and the listed comps. Redfin shows the comps and public records data about the home that was used, and you can email if you believe the information is inaccurate.

Estimates Aren’t Just the Big Number

Zillow covers about 100 million homes in 450 markets. Humphries says the national margin of error for home values is 7.9 percent, but the rate varies by location. That’s partly because the type and accuracy of data vary, but also because home values are easier to estimate in an area with more sales and in areas with a larger volume of homes. “You’re dealing with less data than you’d like to have,” Humphries says of some areas. Parts of New York state, for example, don’t list square footage in public records.

He points out that real estate agents doing comparative market analysis have an error rate of 5.5 to 6 percent, and it’s rare that a home sells for the exact asking price. “No one’s error rate is zero. They’re all opinions of value,” Humphries says.

Glenn says Redfin’s estimates have a median error rate of 1.96 percent for homes on the market and 6.23 percent for homes not on the market, but the service so far covers only about 40 million homes in 35 major metro areas, which are often easier to value than homes in less dense areas.

We also found some calculators that provide estimates at several bank sites, with information drawn from databases used by appraisers. ForSaleByOwner.com has its own tool, called Pricing Scout.

The representatives of all the companies stress that their numbers are merely estimates, based on the available data, plus a number of assumptions about comparable sales. While all the services throw out a number for the home’s estimated value, most provide a range of values, which sometimes gets overlooked by consumers who focus on the number in big type.

While the various online AVM services spit out a single number that is an estimate of the value of your home, Richardson and Humphries point out that the number comes with a few caveats. Zillow provides a range of values for an estimated sales price, as well as publishing the error rate for a given municipality. Redfin shows you the comps it used to reach its final number.

For example, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home in suburban Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a Zestimate of $153,306 also notes that the home is likely to sell for between $146,000 and $161,000. Homes like it in the area have sold for $138,000 to $163,000, Zillow reports. The median error rate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is 8.7 percent, with 31.8 percent of homes sold at a price within 5 percent of the Zestimate, 55.3 percent within 10 percent and 79.8 percent within 20 percent.

If we take Zillow up on its option to remove three of 10 comparable home sales because of location and up to another three because of the condition, the estimated value rises to $161,211. Zillow also offers users an option to correct facts about their homes, including the size, type of heating or cooling system and the number of bedrooms and baths.

“There are some things that aren’t explicitly in the data that our models aren’t able to discern,” Humphries says. “A lot of consumers don’t focus on that value range, and they should. The wider that range is, the less certain we are. … From day one, we’ve said these are all opinions.”

Not all services use the same “facts”

One reason the companies arrive at different estimates is that they aren’t all using the same facts. With our house above, Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com calculated the home’s value based on a size of 1,155 square feet, the number from the tax assessor’s records. But Trulia used 972 square feet, which is the size of the house without the garage. (Trulia does not provide an automated estimate unless you agree to be contacted by a real estate agent.)

While garages and unfinished basements usually aren’t included as part of a home’s square footage, Florida tax officials and real estate agents traditionally include half the square footage of the garage when they compute the taxable value, and that is the number that usually appears in the MLS.

Redfin, using the same home facts as Zillow did, estimated the home’s value at $163,001. Redfin showed the comparable sales upon which it based its value, making it possible for someone who knows the home to realize the comps were substantially remodeled while the subject home was not.

Realtor.com estimated the home’s value much lower at $142,689, but there are no details about how the tool arrived at that figure.

Economists who work with the data remind consumers that the estimates are just that, estimates and that the actual sales price is likely to depend upon many factors, including the condition of the home, the motivation of buyer and seller, and the supply and demand at the time the home is offered for sale.

“This is the starting point of a conversation that you’re going to have with your family and your real estate agent,” Richardson says. “It’s not just this black box that gives you a number. It’s important to note that this is not a be-all, end-all. It’s just the beginning of a complicated process.”

“We think of our estimate as the beginning of a conversation, not the end,” Kelman says. “Many times the asking price of a home is the result of a fairly tense conversation between the owner of the home and the agent who is trying to sell it.”

8 Online Home Value Estimating Tools

Here are seven online tools you can use to help you estimate the value of your home:

Zillow: This is the pioneer of the home value estimating tool, and the company continues to refine how it arrives at its Zestimates.

Redfin: This new tool shows you photos and listing information for the exact comps used to arrive at the value of your home.

ForSaleByOwner.com : This site’s Pricing Scout tool gives you the average of regression analysis and comparative market analysis to estimate the worth of your home. It also shows recent sales of comparable properties on a map. You have to register to use it.

Chase: This tool allows you to change the information about the house to arrive at a more precise estimate, plus provides information on recently sold homes and neighborhood trends. You can also use it to estimate the value of improvements you’re considering.

Bank of America: This tool shows comparable neighboring sales on a map. It provides only a range of values, not a single number.

Surefield: This site lets you narrow or widen the range of comparable homes, plus exclude specific comps from the list.

Eppraisal.com: This site uses data from public records and lists homes sold recently nearby.

Putting the Tools to the Test

We tested homes we know in South Florida, Los Angeles and Kansas City, Missouri, plus a random home in Seattle, using the available home value estimators. Not all the online tools had the same data for the same home.

These Were Our Results:

A two-bedroom, one bath home in a trendy historic urban neighborhood in Miami where homes vary considerably in size, age, and condition.

  • Zillow: $670,860
  • Chase: $501,000
  • Redfin: $470,578
  • com : $459,750
  • Bank of America: $434,000 to $486,000
  • com: $420,743

A two-bedroom, two-bath home in a 1970s tract home neighborhood in suburban Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

  • Redfin: $462,237
  • Zillow: $451,716
  • com: $446,774
  • Bank of America: $433,800 to $460,200
  • Chase: $436,000
  • com: $425,500

A two-bedroom, one-bath home in a trendy neighborhood of 1930s bungalows in Los Angeles:

  • Redfin: $961,513
  • Zillow: $876,004
  • com: 869,585
  • Bank of America: $709,300 to $1,020,700
  • com : $765,500
  • Chase: $785,000

A five-bedroom, three-bath home with a water view in Seattle:

  • Zillow: $963,818
  • Redfin: $894,306
  • com: $870,663
  • Surefield: $852,390
  • Chase: $833,000
  • Bank of America: $823,400 to $966,600
  • com : $778,500

A one-bedroom, one-bath house on a double lot in Kansas City, Missouri, where the houses vary in size and condition:

  • com : $222,750
  • Zillow: $214,984
  • Chase: $205,000
  • Bank of America: $96,700 to $217,300
  • com: $81,790
  • Redfin: Not available

Why the Online Value of Your Home Could be Wrong

Here are six reasons the automated valuation of your home could be off:

The facts in the public record or the MLS are wrong. With our Fort Lauderdale home above, the companies all took the square footage of the Fort Lauderdale home from the public record, but they didn’t all use the same figure. A difference in the number of bedrooms or bathrooms might create an even larger variation in valuation. “If there’s a discrepancy … it’s usually because the facts themselves are not up to date,” Humphries says. Homeowners can claim their homes and correct facts on Zillow.

Your home is not like others in your neighborhood. Whether a real estate agent, an appraiser or a computer is evaluating your home, it’s harder to arrive at an accurate value if there are no comparable homes. “Houses that are very unusual are harder to value, not surprisingly than homes that are not,” Humphries says. “The Playboy Mansion and the White House are very difficult to value.” Homes that are different from others in the neighborhood or have unique features are harder to value because there are fewer or no comparable properties with which to compare them.

Few homes in your neighborhood have sold in the last six months. The more homes that sell, the more MLS data and the more sale prices the computers have to calculate the value. With few sales, there is less information to draw from.

Your home has not been on the market in recent decades. There is significantly more information about a home in an MLS listing than there is in the tax records. Once a home has been listed, the services add that data. As homes are sold, the models can adjust for whether the home sold for more or less than asking price or the AVM price.

Public records in your jurisdiction omit key information. The nation’s approximately 3,100 counties don’t all record the same information about homes. In Suffolk County, New York, for example, few records include the home’s square footage, Humphries says. “There is a wide variance in the quality of the data we obtain,” Humphries says. “Without square footage, it becomes very challenging to value the home.”

The market is changing rapidly. Home valuations are based on past sales. If the market is significantly hotter or colder than it was six months ago, those past sales are less an indicator of current values.

 

 

 

Your SoCal Vacation Home Could Make You Extra Cash: Here is How

LOS ANGELES, CA – Southern California has been a booming state ever since the early 1900’s so it’s not a surprise that people want to live here, says, Local Records Office. Los Angeles along with San Francisco has been the two major cities that attract homeowners and tourists.

As you schlep your ski gear to your favorite resort for the umpteenth time or search for lodging near your favorite beach on a holiday weekend, you may think how much easier life would be if you had your own vacation home.

An estimated 1.13 million vacation homes were sold in the U.S. in 2017, the highest number since the National Association of Realtors began collecting the data in 2012. And vacation home sales made up 21 percent of residential transactions in 2017.

While owning a vacation home can make logistical and financial sense, it’s not a decision to be entered into lightly.

“For some people, it’s not a matter of dollars and cents,” says Marian Schaffer, president and founder of SoutheastDiscovery.com, which publishes information on retirement and vacation home communities in the Southeast. “It’s a matter of experience.”

For most people, money will play a big role in the decision. Baby boomers who have sold their family homes for cash may choose to invest some of that cash in a winter home in a warm climate or other future retirement destination, says Valerie Dolenga, a spokeswoman for Del Webb, which builds active-adult communities throughout the United States. In those cases, homeowners don’t rent out their properties but move from one home to another, perhaps spending winters in a second home in Florida or Arizona and summers up North near family.

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Others may buy a vacation home with the idea of renting it out when they’re not using it to defray at least some of the costs. Some may only be able to afford a vacation home if they rent it out when they’re not using it.

Rob Stephens and his family bought a three-bedroom condo in Vail, Colorado, in 1999 with rental income in mind. “Having a getaway place in the mountains was a motivator,” Stephens says. “When I started, I really needed that rent to make my mortgage payment.”

“To us, owning real estate in Vail long-term is a good investment,” says Stephens, general manager of Avalara MyLodgeTax, which helps owners comply with local lodging tax laws.

If you want the rental income, it’s important to choose a home that can be rented at the frequency you need to cover expenses. That means both choosing a community that allows vacation rentals and then making sure you’re set up to take advantage of the rental potential, from furnishing the unit to having a plan for advertising and handling tenants. You need to know before you buy whether you will rent the home when you’re not using it.

Here Are 10 Things to Consider When Looking at Vacation Homes

Can you afford it? Real estate is not a liquid investment, and you can’t count on being able to sell a home for a profit or even break even, especially in your first few years of ownership. During the recession, homes lost more than half their value in Florida, Arizona, and Nevada, among other places.

Know all the rules. Not all homes can be used as rental property. Homeowner or condo associations may set rules for rentals, as many cities. Some resorts may require you to use their programs, which set standards for interior furnishings and amenities, but the property handles the logistics for a percentage of the rent. If you plan to rent out your property, it’s especially important to research all these rules before you buy.

Calculate all the costs. The actual purchase price is only part of what you will need to spend. You will also have to pay utilities, HOA or condo fees, property taxes, insurance and the cost of furnishing a new home down to the spoons and forks. If you’re in a resort area, you may also need or want skis, snowboards, kayaks, water toys or other gear.

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Be realistic in your expectations of rental income. Renting out a vacation home comes with expenses. You will need to pay for cleaning between tenants, advertising and perhaps property management. If you’re part of a resort rental program, it will take a percentage.

Know how often you will really visit. If you don’t rent out your unit, you want to make sure you will visit enough to make the purchase worthwhile. Pick a place you love and want to return to often, advises Dolenga. You don’t want your home to sit unoccupied for long periods.

Have a plan for emergencies. If you don’t visit the house often, make sure someone does. A water leak can be devastating. If you’re renting, repairs need to be made quickly, so get to know a good handyman or property manager. If there is a hurricane, you may need someone to put up shutters before the storm and remove them afterward and secure the home if it suffers damage.

Protect your home when it’s vacant. Vacant homes attract thieves. Take steps to keep your home from looking empty. Consider lights on timers or asking neighbors to occasionally park in your driveway. Make sure someone picks up mail and fliers so its not obvious no one is home.

Have a rental business plan. Will you go into a rental program, hire a management company or do it yourself via services such as Airbnb or VRBO? If you’re handling your own advertising, you will need great photos. You also need to be able to take payments from tenants (services like PayPal or Stripe typically work well) and have a way for them to get in (Stephens uses a keyless entry system with codes). A reliable cleaning service is essential, especially when you have only a few hours between tenants.

Calculate your return on investment. If owning a vacation home is part of your overall investment strategy, make sure it’s a good move. Estimate returns and weighs them against other uses of the same money.

Expect to pay taxes. Rental income is taxable on state and federal returns, though most vacation homeowners won’t earn enough after expenses to face a significant tax liability. If you are doing short-term rentals, usually of less than six months, your state and county consider you an innkeeper and expect you to collect the same lodging taxes that hotels collect and pay those to the appropriate authorities. “If you’re renting a home, an apartment, a room, you’re basically running a mini-hotel,” Stephens says, with the rules varying by state and county. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for example, a tax of 11 percent is due, 6 percent to the state and 5 percent to the county, he says.

How to Rent Out Your Vacation Home and Make It Pay

Renting out your vacation home can yield significant financial benefits – but only if you do it right.

“It starts with a commitment to customer service,” says Jon Gray, chief revenue officer for HomeAway.com, which also owns the vacation rental website VRBO.com. “You’re basically having to market your house and get people to want to stay there.”

Renting a vacation home is a business, which means you’ll need the proper business tools in place, from being able to accept credit cards as payment to paying lodging taxes to get the home cleaned quickly and completely between guests.

“It’s really quite a lot of work, and a lot more work than people anticipate,” says Michael Joseph, co-founder, and CEO of InvitedHome.com, which manages vacation properties. “There’s a lot to keep up with. … Guest expectations are becoming higher.”

One of the first decisions when starting the vacation rental process is whether to hire a management company or manage your rental yourself.

While websites such as HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and Airbnb.com provide online marketing tools, access to credit card processing, booking tools and other infrastructure, the individual owner still has to handle guest inquiries, screen renters and arrange for cleaning.

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Full-service management companies charge 20 to 50 percent of the rental proceeds to manage the entire process, from bookings through cleaning. You also can hire people to manage parts of the process for less. The online portals usually charge an annual fee for listings. VRBO and HomeAway start at $349 a year and also offer a pay-per-booking option of 8 percent, while Airbnb charges both hosts and guests a small processing fee – 3 percent for hosts and 6 to 12 percent for guests.

The home rental industry has grown significantly in recent years, as online listings and reviews make travelers more comfortable with the model. But travelers who are accustomed to staying at hotels and resorts expect significant amenities and, in some cases, service.

“The competition is more fierce today,” says Cathy Ross, CEO of Exclusive Resorts, a vacation travel club that owns its own properties. “Today’s customer is demanding, and they want certainty that what they see online is what’s there.”

Customers expect modern finishes, nice furniture, hotel-quality beds and linens, plenty of bathrooms, entertainment options such as a TV with cable package, a pool table, board games and big gathering spaces for families, one of the groups that favors vacation home rentals. “Those homes that aren’t well decorated or aren’t well furnished just don’t cut it,” Joseph says.

It’s important to screen tenants, collect a damage deposit and have a strong rental agreement in place, as well as the proper insurance, to protect your home from damage. Stevens, who has been renting out his vacation home in Vail, Colorado since 1999, has only once had to deal with significant damage by a tenant. “That concern is way, way overstated,” Stephens says. “These people are generally very respectful of your home.”

Here Are 13 Things You Need to Know and Do Before You Rent Out Your Vacation Home

Figure out if the math works. Create a spreadsheet to analyze what it will cost you to rent out your home versus the income you can expect to generate making it a vacation rental. Expenses will include maintenance, utilities, taxes, insurance, repairs, and amenities. “Make sure you budget for preventive maintenance, and wear and tear,” Joseph says.

Decide whether to manage it yourself or hire a company. While managing a rental yourself provides a greater financial return, it also means more work. HomeAway, VRBO, Airbnb and similar sites offer online booking, calendars, email communication and referrals to other tools such as credit card processors and professional photographers. But even with these online portals you still have to hire and oversee the cleaning crew.

Furnish, decorate and equip your home. Amenities typically depend on the market and the price, but people often expect most of what they would get at a hotel. A fast Wi-Fi connection, an expansive cable package, and other entertainment options are recommended, while a hot tub, pool table, board games, and other recreation options can be a draw for some guests. Have toiletries, paper products, and basic cleaning products available. Stephens provides guest passes to his community’s athletic club. Remember to remove family photos, clothes, and personal items so the guests feel more comfortable.

Get professional-quality and write a great, detailed description. People will choose your home based on the photos and the description of the property. “That first photo is incredibly important because that’s what people see,” Gray says. Be very thorough in your description. List every amenity, down to balconies, cribs and pool noodles.

Find a dependable cleaning crew and other maintenance personnel. If your home is popular, you will have one set of guests checking out in the morning and a second set arriving that afternoon. That makes it imperative that the cleaning crew show up on time. If you don’t live nearby, your cleaning crew is also your eyes and ears. You may also need pool service, lawn service, and a handyman, plus know whom to call if the toilet quits working.

Get proper insurance. A regular homeowners policy rarely covers a vacation rental. Ask your agent what type of policy you need for a home that is used for short-term rentals.

Set up your welcome package and infrastructure. If you don’t plan to meet guests personally, how will they get into the unit? Keyless entry and a hidden key are the two most common methods. Decide which is best for you. Most guests expect to pay with credit cards, though some online portals provide that service or help you sign up for it. Consider creating a welcome packet with the Wi-Fi password, entertainment services, appliance operating instructions and information on community amenities.

Expect to pay resort or occupancy taxes. Your city, county or state may require you to register your vacation home or get a business license, and most municipalities will collect the same taxes from you that they collect from hotels. You can handle this yourself or hire someone to do it. Avalara MyLodgeTax charges by the report, with most homes paying between $60 and $200 a year for the service.

Comply with legal requirements. Make sure you can legally rent your home to travelers. Most homeowner associations don’t allow short-term rentals, though some resorts may handle them for you. Some cities and counties ban short-term rentals. Know the local laws before starting the rental process.

Make rules and create a strong rental agreement. Management companies and online portals have agreements you can modify, and you can also find examples of such agreements online. Decide what number of people you’ll allow per stay and whether to allow pets or smoking.

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Photo by Nancy Nobody on Pexels.com

Be ready to respond quickly. Most online shoppers will send inquiries to several homes at a time. The first suitable home to respond is likely to get their business. “That’s critical,” Stephens says. “Responding a day late is probably unacceptable. You’re going to lose business.”

Create a tenant screening process. Joseph advises talking to all prospective tenants by phone. Ask the number of guests, their ages, why they want the property. If they book, get their full names, addresses, and phone numbers. “You get a lot more information and a feel for people by talking to them,” he says.

Offer a personal touch. In a world of online reviews, you want your guests to recommend your home or become return customers themselves. Anything you offer to make your home stand out and to make their vacation easier is likely to yield dividends.

 

 

Trump Administration’s 2019 Budget Proposal; Employees’ Benefits & COLA Take a Major Hit in Pekin, IL

LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – While the share of nation’s workers the federal government employed in 2017, equaled its lowest level ever recorded, new Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the level is too low for government to perform basic functions. And with alarms ringing over the rising costs in Pekin, Illinois could less us to fewer firefighters serving the community. With two firefighters down in the department due to retirements of last year, the union’s president, Tom Veatch explains, “It’s a safety concern. You know, not only for our taxpayers but our members too. We’re always here. We do our job 100 percent all the time. And we will never stop doing our job, no matter what.” However, the city has not filled those 2 positions and leaders are pointing at rising costs as they are looking towards a budget plan for the next fiscal year. The Local Records Office reviews how the 2019 budget proposal will impact federal jobs; employees’ benefits and the cost of living adjustments (COLA) will both a take a major hit.

“It might sound better to say ‘cuts’. We’re maintaining the employment levels in the proposed budget,” proposed Carson.

Carson described that the city faces 60 million in pension liabilities for the fire and police retirees and is the reason staffing levels in the proposed budget are under consideration.

“They offer great service to our residents. They’re going to continue to do a great job. I have confidence in their abilities. We’re not short staffing them,” expressed Carson.

Though, CBP has documented how, due to lack of personnel, basic governmental functions –ie. administrating the nation’s Social Security and even tax systems –are being performed inadequately.

Recently, Sens. Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recently announced they are closing a two-year budget deal, which lifts budget caps and would require appropriations committees to develop detailed plans within six weeks.

The 2019 Budget proposes a pay freeze; federal employees will take major compensation cuts

With the 2019 presidential budget in place to include a pay freeze for federal employees; with the administration’s intention to rely on a “pay for performance” basis rather than a standard pay increase on a schedule, the American Federation of Government Employees national president J. David Cox Sr. explains that “by stripping employees of their due process rights and firing those who reject his politics, President Trump is opening the door for rampant corruption, discrimination, and worker intimidation.”

With the 2019 budget proposal relying on employee compensation cuts and changes to reduction to the deficit by more than $70 billion by 2028, by mostly coming from reducing the government’s contributions to the retirement and health programs, and eliminating some programs, such as special retirement supplements and the Federal Employee Retirement System cost of living adjustments, the 2019 budget proposal estimates adjustments to will reduce the U.S. deficit by $192 million by 2021 and achieve a total reduction near $2.8 billion by 2028.

Similarly, this 2019 budget proposal estimates these changes to the federal retirement benefits will also reduce the deficit by nearly $2.6 billion in 2019 and adds up of more than $68 billion in reductions by 2028. And members will receive a 2.5% raise, according to the 2019 document.

Though the president is proposing a pay freeze for civilian employees next year, the Congress has multiple opportunities to suggest and pass laws otherwise.

New changes to the federal employee retirement benefits

-Increasing the employee contributions to retirement by 1% per year until it reaches 50% in the Federal Employment System (FERS) –phased out over a period of several years.

-Replacing the current high three average salary to calculate the retirement annuities with the five-year average salary baseline.

-Eliminating FERS annuity supplement for eligible employees retiring 2018 and beyond.

-Eliminating the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for current and future FERS employees

-Eliminating the FERS cost of living adjustments and reducing civil service costs (CSRS) and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) by 0.5%

With the White House plans to indicate plans to propose a seismic shift in federal retirement systems in the future, as it could remove defined benefit pensions altogether, officials wrote that “the TSP is a particularly attractive benefit to young, mobile workers not intended to make a career of federal service.” And that “the budget, therefore, funds a study to explore the potential benefits, including the recruitment benefit, of creating a defined-contribution only annuity benefit for new federal workers, and those desiring to transfer out of the existing hybrid system.”

As the proposal would change other federal employee benefits and do away with the current leave system, which offers time off for regular leave, sick days and vacation, in favor of Paid Time Off would effectively reduce the number of leave workers receives each year.

Healthcare –Proposed changes to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)

The trump administration is recommending changes to the formula the currently directs towards the government’s contribution rate for the participants in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB).

With the budget contribution rate on an FEHB plan’s score from a performance assessment, the OPM rates all FEHBP carriers on all 19 health outcomes, quality, and efficiency standards.

The formula set under law determines a share the government and enrollee pay towards FEHBP premiums each year. The government pays 75% of participants’ premium up to a certain cap. The cap equals to 72% of the weighted average of the previous years’ premiums.

The Trump administration wants to alter the formula slightly, so the government would contribute more towards the employee’s health care depending on how well the specific FEHB plan performs under the OPM’s standards.

The Office of Management and Budget projects the government will contribute a range of 65-75%.

“Under the current structure, enrollees have few incentives to choose less expensive, higher value plans,” the budget cites. “This proposal would incentivize enrollees to select high-performing, high-value plans by making them more affordable. The proposal would also provide carriers with greater incentive to compete on price and quality, help driving down overall program costs.”

And according to the budget, this change to FEHB premium contributions would save over $2.7 billion in the next decade.

Annual leave –impacts paid time off and sick days

The 2019 proposal also suggests combining all leave into one “paid time off category.”

“This would reduce total leave days while adding a short-term disability insurance policy to protect employees who experience a serious medical situation,” according to the 2019 request.

And currently, the federal employees receive 10 paid holidays, 13 sick days and 13-to-26 vacation days, depending on the tenure.

  1. David Cox, the national president of AFGE, had told reporters that Trump’s budget is a significant threat to the federal employees’ livelihood, particularly following years of austerity during the Great Recession.

“Federal workers already make 5 percent less in inflation-adjusted terms than they did at the beginning of the decade,” Cox said. “If we don’t stop the pay freeze for 2019, they will have given up $246 billion in wages and benefits since 2011. No other group has lost more to deficit reduction than the federal workforce.”

And Tony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union described the budget in a statement as a “full-scale assault” on our federal civil service.

“This should alarm every member of Congress and all Americans,” Reardon said. “Weakening our civil service system and attacking the pay and benefits of federal workers will backfire and leave our country unable to tackle the complex issues we are facing.”

 

 

Employment Wages Continue to be Stagnant as the Working Class Seeking Employment has Nearly Diminished in Pekin, Illinois

LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – The top industries that stimulated Pekin, Illinois’ economy are diminishing industries that once stimulated the economic growth in Pekin, Illinois. With companies avoiding corporate taxes by outsourcing and avoiding paying for the employee wages and taxes here in America, the wage growth is continuing to diminish, which has resulted in fewer people in the seeking work. The Local Records Office reviews how the unemployment rates are merely hitting the tail end of the crisis our economy is in.

Service industries, manufacturing, exports, agriculture, and mining

Service industries contribute the largest dollar amount to the Pekin, Illinois economy, according to the Local Records Office. Leading the way of our community, business, and personal service sectors are: hotels, law firms, accounting firms, engineering powerhouses and private health-care providers generate a majority of the dollar share in Pekin, Illinois’ economy. And following close behind are Pekin, Illinois’ finance, insurance and real estate conglomerates, the Local Records Office said. Thirdly are the wholesalers and the retail industries from car dealerships, department stores to supermarkets.

75% of the U.S. economy gains its shares from the service sector. As it is well-known, American boosts more of the service industry and thus outsourcing forms a major part of their operations. Therefore, U.S. firms that rake off a sustainable GNP growth must bring a balanced dependency on each other, to bring improvement to productivity is the only mantra for a successfully growing economy.

Manufacturing is the second largest, in fact, Pekin, Illinois is known as a major manufacturing leader in the entire company, said the Local Records Office. While building machinery makes a huge portion, including the assembling of construction equipment, farm machinery, and machine tools. And the second largest is the processed foods sector. Primary food products being created in Illinois include baked goods, breakfast cereals, candy, sausage, and spices. Chemical manufacturing makes up the remainder with the production of pharmaceuticals, cleaning solutions, and paint.

Exports sustain thousands of Illinois businesses as a total of 23,252 companies exported from Illinois locations in 2014, 333,674 U.S. jobs supported by goods exports from Illinois in 2015 and 86% of these jobs were supported by manufactured goods exports. While Illinois depends on world markets, the exports from Illinois have helped contribute a total of $59.8 billion out of the $2.21 trillion of U.S. goods and services exports in 2016. And Peoria, being relatively close to Pekin has contributed to export a goods value of $9.8 billion which is a 13.6% share of the state’s exports.

Though, the controversial issue of free trade is moving businesses out of the country costing us to lose tax revenues from corporate profits and the workers, and puts people out of work, which put pressures on the government to raise taxes, borrow money, print money, and still add onto our growing debt, to eventually collapse.

As some question a policies aimed towards looking only at consumer prices and not seeing the bigger picture, as well as keeping American jobs in America, bringing back the jobs we have left, and creating an environment for people to start and continue to grow companies, as outsourcing has contributed to the scourge of unemployment and denies the worker a just wage and the security of the worker for his or her family. But at the same time, some see the factor of production as an alternative to achieve improved levels of efficiency.

In Pekin Illinois’ the 2018 Governor’s Export Awards Applications –are due by Friday, April 20th, at 4:00 Pm.

Company Application

Organization Application

To fill out the application, right click and save on your computer. If you’re having trouble downloading, please email Godfrey Angara at godfrey.angara@illinois.gov for an emailed copy.

Agriculture -as CAFOs hurt property values, contributes to pollution and other environmental problems, question the impact of the proposed facility on 40 houses and cabins within a two-mile radius of the proposed facility, and roads as well as nearby ponds.

Opponents also question whether the site complies with “setback” rules requiring facilities with 7,000 or more animals to be at least a half mile from an occupied residence and a mile from populated areas.

Johnson’s concern of the number of swine CAFOs in her home country also mentions how pigs are raised in CAFOs tightly confined crate-like pens.

The odors, gases, and particulates are said to rise nearby neighbor’s health issues and meanwhile, proponents are keeping up the increasing international demand for pork as farmers are updating their facilities and lead others to argue whether these facilities will be enhancing the local economy.

Coal mining is now more apart of Illinois’ history than the present, as coal production has decreased since the 1920s, with technology and natural gas being the two culprits for the industry’s decline and mining jobs dissipated after the Harsey’s mine shut down, and many workers were let go. The Local 1825 still comes together to celebrate the history of coal mining every year on April 1st.

Despite Chicago’s gains in employment and the declining unemployment rate across the state, the rest of the state of Illinois.

Springfield, Decatur, and Danville have experienced dips in the employment rates because more residents are unable to find a job.

Policies are pushing smaller businesses into paying higher taxes, while corporations are ‘beating the system’ by outsourcing and getting a corporate tax break

And policies are not helping the issues of forcing smaller businesses to pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation, the highest workers’ compensation costs in the region or raising the overall tax burden to fix Springfield’s spending problems.

Yet, a vast majority of these jobs have decreased their average weekly wages. And to determine whether wages have increase broadly and consistently, after adjusting for inflation, economists measure that wages were only 10% higher in 2017 than they were in 1973, with the annual real wage growth just below 0.2%.

So while corporations get a larger cut on their taxes and even a larger corporate tax break by from outsourcing, the companies start hiring more people and the continuation of inflation of prices rises only higher. And with more people employed and stimulating the economy buying from these large corporations, they continue to have a larger profit margin and become more powerful.

Reasons wages have lagged behind U.S. job growth

Diminishing wages is resulting in fewer people entering the labor force, and as Baby Boomers are retiring and Millenials start earning relatively lower salaries

Andre Chamberlain, the chief economist at the jobs and recruiting company Glassdoor has said even as unemployment fell to a 16-year low recently, the wage growth has slowed. As the Labor Departments’ numbers show wage growth averaging 2.5% in the last four months of last year’s peak at 2.9% in December. Though, Chamberlain says wage growth during this stage of economic recovery should be closer to 3.5%.

One theory is many young, inexperienced workers are entering the job force getting paid less and dragging the nations’ earning growth down as a whole.

Another factor the unemployment rate does not reflect is the people ages 25-54 –the prime working ages – are the ones’ not looking for a job, but might if the condition is right, Chamberlain says.

Replacing workers with technology will reduce costs in the long run, as workers lose out on employment. And while opposing views of whether or not the technological advances are economically significant or simply, are a better alternative for companies to increase productivity. The overall impact of job losses has slowed those looking for work under the right circumstances and the overall wage growth has gotten worse for those who are entering the labor force.

So as people justify that the economy has improved, due to the lower numbers of unemployment rates and the amount of 1.5 million entering the labor force, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco have recently argued that people entering the labor force are earning relatively lower salaries.

Consider These Architectural Home Designs in Pekin, Illinois to Brighten Up Your Next Home

LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – While you may be either building a completely new home or searching for your next home, it is one of the most exciting times and is important to start looking for your ideal home design. As we are growing out of modern architecture, you may be wondering if building a ‘fad’ for your newer structure really worth it? Tiny houses have been the big craze for many families looking to downsize and still be able to access an adequate amount of surrounding land, but will it still be a popular choice for potential homeowners in 20 to 30 years?

Either way, looking into styles of homes that fits both you and your family needs and wants is your main objective. And here are the few ideal architectural home designs that are both popular and offer significant features with each having its own unique style. This can be overwhelming, as there are many different housing designs, so I put this list in alphabetical order, in case you already know what design you are looking for.

Acadian

These house plans share the ideal Country French architecture and are found in Louisiana and across the American southeast, maritime Canadian areas, and exhibit the Louisiana and Cajun influences. Rooms are arranged on either side of a central hallway and the kitchen is in the back. And these stylized homes typically feature a steep, sloping roof with gables that shed snow and moisture effectively.

Adobe

Is a regional architectural style that draws inspiration from the Pueblo and Spanish Missions located in New Mexico, and typically are made with stucco and have a flat roof with rounded edges. These decorative features often found in this style home include wooden beams projecting from the roof line, hand-hewn lintels inset above deep window openings and walls that slope inward.

A-Frames

The popular style A-Frames have come back into style and are great for that cozy, ‘cabin look’ and most offer acres of land surrounding rivers, a lake or a body of water. And they are well-underpriced for what they have to offer. The A-frame is shaped like an equilateral triangle and its distinctive peak is formed by rafters or trusses that are held together at the top and bolted to the floor joists or plates down below. And the cross-piece of the A is created with horizontal collar beams to stabilize the structure and typically supports a sleeping loft.

A-frames meet the earth on the rubble of cinderblock walls, concrete or even wood columns, but their essential nature is for them to float slightly above their natural environment, with a viewing platform for an expanse of nature.

Beach

These houses are often raised houses suitable for shoreline sites and are adaptable for vacation homes near water or mountain areas. The Tidewater house is typical and features the wide porches, and are constructed of wood with the main living are raised one level.

Bungalow

These house plans are common to Craftsman, Rustic and Cottage home designs. These typical home designs have a great porch for your rocker and are typically one-level with over-hanging eaves as some of the most classic features.

Cape Cod

This small, symmetrical style is typically 1 ½ stories, and typically people will add on additions behind or on the sides to increase the square footage. These first Cape Cod homes were also built in the 1600s and were inspired by Britain’s thatched cottages, but with steeper roofs and larger chimneys to withstand the cold Northeastern winters. New builds in this style are rare, says Rob Brennan, principal at the Brennan + Company Architects in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Carriage

Get their name from the outbuildings of large manors whereas owners store their carriages. Today, the carriage house generally is in reference to the detached garage with living space above them.

Colonial Revival

Has a symmetrical look and floor plan and has been a popular style throughout 19th and 20th centuries. These are typically two to three story house plans with symmetrical façade and gable roofs and often are expressed in temple-like entrances with porticos topped with pediments. Multi-pane, double-hung windows with shutters, dormers, and paneled doors with sidelights, topped with rectangular transoms or fanlights, and include entry-hall floor plans, fireplaces and simple, classical detailing.

Contemporary

Offers today’s building appearances, and can vary in design. The most common characteristic is clean lines, large windows devoid a decorative trim, and with the focus towards function. It is comparable to connecting the indoors with the outdoors by emphasizing energy efficiency, sustainable materials, with large, floor-to-ceiling windows offering lots of natural light and uses recyclable non-toxic materials. The exterior is a mixture of siding, stucco, stone, brick, and wood. The roof is either flat or shallow pitched, and often with great overhangs.

Cottage

This smaller design is a storybook charm that will fit near a lake or in a mountain setting. These are sometimes also referred to as bungalows.

Country

As are one of the most popular styles, these styled house plans embrace the wraparound porch and have a gabled roof. And they are offered most commonly in either one or two stories high.

The French County style is rooted in the rural French countryside and includes the modest farmhouse designs and estate-like chateaus. This style exudes warmth and comfortable design elements such as curved arches, soft lines, and stonework. The inside has wooden beams, plaster walls and stone floors as the most common thematic features.

The Low Country house plans are suited for coastal areas and the coastal plains of the Carolinas and Georgia. Typically, they are elevated and have welcoming porches to enjoy the outdoors in the shade.

Craftsman

The Craftsman displays honesty and simplicity of a truly American house. These homes emphasize natural materials –wood, brick, and stone with wide porches and low-pitched, gabled roofs (often hipped) with exposed rafters. The porches are either full or partial width, with tapered columns, and or pedestals that extend to the ground level. The interior’s open floor plan features built-in furniture, big fireplaces, and exposed beams.

Dutch Colonial

A Dutch Colonial is similar to Colonial-style and it most recognized for its gambrel roof and has a shallower pitch with must steeper sides –a look most commonly used on barns. Dormers are where second-story windows pop out of the façade and are also a more common feature of Dutch colonial homes.

European

These houses have typically steep roofs, subtly flared curves at the eaves and faced with either stucco or stone. The roof comes down to the windows and the second floor is often the roof, or as we know it, the attic.

Farmhouse

Reflects the American simpler era when families gathered in an open kitchen and a living room. This version of a country home style usually has bedrooms clustered together and features the friendly porches. The lines are simple and often faced with wood siding.

Federal

The Federal-style became popular during America’s first decades as a nation in the late 18th century and 19th centuries. These homes tend to be symmetrical with tall windows. The Federal homes were originally built in a similar box shape, and it is common to see in additions to the side or expanded depth.

Florida

A Florida house plan embraces elements of several styles that allow comfort during the heat of the day. This Mediterranean house with its shallow, sloping tile roof and verandas is faced with wood and has one or more porches, verandas, and windows to allow a breeze to flow freely throughout.

Georgian

These home plans characterize with proportion and balance and typically have square symmetrical shapes with paneled doors centered on the front façade. The paired chimneys are a common feature of added symmetry. The common building materials use stone with red, tan or white being the most frequently used colors.

Hill Country

This Texas Hill Country style is a regional historical style with roots in European immigrants that settled the area, with available white limestone and later brown sandstone that were used with the local cedar to construct these well-crafted and attractive homes. During the settlers’ movement and due to these lean times, the result of these homes is simple and has an authentic style with modern elegance.

Log Home

Log Homes originally were small cabins in the 1600s and were built as one room using no nails, sort of like the same concept of when we were kids building our own homes with the logs. Now, they are built as functional and large luxurious getaways. These log homes are ideally found in a rural setting. The climate of the surrounding area will dictate the type of wood you should use to build the home. And can be handcrafted or milled (built of manufactured wood).

Mediterranean

This is usually a one-story home design with shallow roofs that slope, with a wide overhang to provide shade in warmer climates. The courtyards and open arches allow for breezes to flow through freely the house and verandas. There are typically open, big windows throughout and the verandas can be found on the 2nd floor. The exterior is stucco and the roofs made with tile, making these great vacation homes in southern latitudes.

Modern

Features glass, steel, and concrete. The open floor plans are a signature characteristic and from the street, they are dramatic to behold. And even though there is some overlap to the contemporary house plans, they are two different looks.

Mountain

Mountain home designs commonly feature huge windows and large decks with rugged exteriors and exposed wood beams. These prow-shaped great rooms are quite common. There is some crossover to vacation home plans.

Neoclassical

From Greek and Roman architecture for inspiration, the Neoclassical design embraces large columns and smooth surfaces. Some of the well-known homes in the U.S with the Neoclassical design, include the White House and Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

Northwest

Designed by architects from the Northwest, this home is simple in design, devoid the excessive exterior details and it is mostly made of wood. The roof usually is medium to low-pitched with deep overhangs. Windows being large can bring light into the interiors.

Plantation

The plantation home plans are typically boasted with white pillars, a symmetrical shape and sprawling porches mostly associated with the South, though, found all over the country. The grand scale features are spacious and suggest the charm and genteel lifestyle of the South.

Prairie

The prairie style home plans came around the turn of the 20th century and are often associated with one of the giants in design. With seeping horizontal lines and wide open floor plans, the common features of this style include overhanging eaves, rows of small windows and one-story projection, and in many cases, a central chimney.

Ranch

Is also known as “rambler” for the way the rooms spread out over only one level, but it also becomes a raised ranch or a split level with room for expansion. These styles became popular in the 1950s and had inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style, says Brennan. The asymmetrical shapes are common with the low-pitched roofs and a built-in garage. And the exterior is faced with either wood or bricks or has a combination of both.

Shingle Style

Shingle style house plans were born in England and popular throughout the West Coast, they are informal and highly imaginative –a summer style “cottage” often built for the wealthier clients. This architecture of an American summer is known for their casual style with their ability to blend into their surroundings, with wooden shakes in natural colors. The wide porches are fairly common and are an invitation to spend more time outdoors in the sun.

Spanish Colonial Revival

These Spanish styles are easily recognizable by the terracotta tiles roof that is perfect for warmer climates, and stucco or adobe walls, and arched windows and doors that complete the look.

Split level

Its variation of the ranch but has more of an up and down feel as you walk through. Essentially is a ranch house with a garage stuck underneath it. The short staircases lead up and down to different levels and to rooms throughout.

Traditional

This being one of the most common styles in the U.S. is a mix of classic, simple designs that commonly features little ornamentation, simple rooflines, and symmetrically spaced windows. The building materials are in either wood or brick.

Tudor Revival

The Tudor Revival homes only use timber cosmetically and are easily recognized by its steep-pitched roof and a framing of typically half brick or half-timber with stucco. Often, is misrepresented as the Tudor which refers to the English architectural style in the 16th century.

Tuscan

These house plans combine modern elements with a classic Italian design and resulting in an attractive Old World European charm. Though similar to Mediterranean house plans, the Tuscan designs typically feature stucco exteriors and stone accents, terracotta roof tiles, narrow, tall windows with shutters and enclosed courtyards. Additionally, this style often features decorative ceilings and wooden beams.

Vacation

Vacation home plans have central, open living spaces and with few or many bedrooms to suit a couple or a family with lots of friends.

Victorian

Is best marked with its steep roof, asymmetrical facade and elaborately crafted trim on overhangs and roof lines, giving it a ‘gingerbread house’ look. San Francisco’s Painted Ladies are a prime example of the Victorian and Edwardian architecture in the U.S.

 

 

These 7 Things Are Lowering Your Credit Score and Will Make it Difficult to Buy a House in the Future – Local Records Office

HARRISBURG, PENNSYLENIA – Several factors come into play when calculating your credit score. “According to FICO.com, your credit score is affected by five major elements, in this order of importance: payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit and types of credit used” say, the pros from ‘Local Records Office’ in Harrisburg, PA.

 

  1. Credit Score Plays a Big Part in Buying a House

 

That said, here are some things you might be doing that could knock your score down a few pegs.

 

  1. Banning Credit From Your Life

 

If you don’t use it, you lose it — your good score, that is. Credit score is a measure of how responsible a borrower you are. If you cut up all of your cards — literally or figuratively — “lenders won’t know what to expect from you should the day come when you want to open up a line of credit” says, ‘Local Records Office’. If you want to minimize the amount of credit in your life, try to use one major credit card for small purchases and pay it off in full monthly to keep your credit active.

 

  1. Closing Old Accounts

 

You might think since you’re happy with your current credit card that you might as well kick your old ones to the curb, but be careful. If you cancel an account that you’ve had open for a long time, you could be damaging the credit history portion of your credit score. Essentially, when you close an account, you erase that account from your history.

These 7 Things Are Lowering Your Credit Score and Will Make it Difficult to Buy a House in the Future – Local Records Office

  1. Opening a New Account

 

Doing this affects the “new credit” portion of your score. Every time you apply for or are awarded a new line of credit, your credit score takes a dip. If you’re planning on applying for a home mortgage or a car loan in the near future, hold off on opening a random charge account. The higher your credit score, the better interest rate you may qualify for, and that could mean thousands in savings over the life of a home loan.

 

  1. Owing Too Much, Even if You Pay on Time Every Month

 

You might think that as long as you pay your bills, you’ll have great credit. “While that is the most important aspect of a credit score, creditors think that if you carry high balances, you’re only one emergency or layoff away from being in financial trouble. It’s important to try to keep your debt utilization ratio low – that’s how much you owe as compared to how much available credit you have” say, the pros from ‘Local Records Office’. Experts say keeping it at 30% or lower is best, so if you have a $1,000 credit limit, you shouldn’t carry more than a $300 balance.

 

  1. Paying a Bill Just One Day Late

 

Once your credit card company flags you for a late payment, you can expect a ding on your credit report. The damage will be greater if you go beyond 30 or 60 days without making a payment, but even one day late can be enough to hurt your score.

If you’re thinking of making any moves when it comes to your credit, do some research first to see how your plans might affect your credit score. You’ll be glad you did.

 

  1. Joint Credit Score

 

There’s no such thing as a joint credit report – for married couples or anyone else. Married or single, you have your own credit report, one that’s linked to your Social Security number. If you’re married, you and your spouse may have a lot of joint accounts, such as mortgage loan, car loans and shared credit card accounts. Those joint items will appear on both your credit reports and will affect both of your scores. But your credit report is yours and yours alone.

 

  1. BONUS – Thinking a Credit Repair’ Company Will Magically Make Your Credit Score Go Higher

 

There’s nothing that a “credit repair” company can do for you that you can’t do yourself. No one can remove accurate information from your credit report. Reputable credit reestablishing services can help you come up with a plan to repay your debts, but the only legitimate way to enhance your credit score is to practice good credit management.

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Home Maintenance Checklist That Go Along Way – Local Records Office

This ultimate checklist created by “Local Records Office” that will insure that you have everything you need to to the best maintenance to your home.

Home Maintenance Checklist That Go Along Way – Local Records Office

HARRISBURG, PA – “When you think of summer cleaning, things like scrubbing floors, sprucing up cabinets and straightening closets come to mind. But spring is also a good time to perform routine home maintenance”, say, the pros at ‘Local Records Office’. Ignore these crucial home upkeep tasks at your peril. Fail to clean the gutters, for example, and you could end up with a flood in your basement. People know they should perform these routine maintenance chores, but do they actually follow through?

 

“Almost no one does, in my experience,” says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whose company gets called in to make repairs after a crisis. He says “a lot of it is selective memory,” where people think they recently changed the furnace filter when actually they did it two years ago. “There’s kind of an amnesia about things like that,” he adds.

 

The Only Home Maintenance Checklist You Will Need Created by the Pros at Local Records Office

 

The most important maintenance chores are those related to drainage. Failing to keep water out of your house could result in mold, rot and foundation problems. “That’s most of your big bills – water coming in,” Bennett says.

Home Maintenance Checklist That Go Along Way – Local Records Office3

Tasks vary by location. In coastal areas, spring maintenance chores include preparing hurricane shutters and checking generators. In the North and Midwest, spring is the time to assess damage caused by bad weather during the winter and make repairs to protect against next year’s snow.

Here are 12 home maintenance tasks you should do this spring to save money later:

 

Clean the gutters. Make sure they don’t have holes and all the downspouts are still attached and taking water away from the house. “Gutters are one of the most valuable and affordable methods for homeowners to protect their homes from the elements,” says Allison Hester, editor of eClean Magazine, an online trade publication for the home cleaner industry. “By channeling water off the roof and directing it to a location away from the home, properly working gutters help protect the home’s shingles, wood under the eaves, siding, flooring and landscaping from a whole host of problems and expensive repairs.” Clogged gutters can also cause mosquito infestations, mold and mildew from decomposed leaves and other problems.

 

The good news is cleaning gutters is an easy job. You can do it yourself in an hour or hire someone to do it for about $35 to $40.

 

Seal holes where insects and varmints can get in. That includes openings around the foundation, especially entry points for wires and pipes. A spray can of foam, which you can buy for about $6, will handle most holes, Bennett says.

Home Maintenance Checklist That Go Along Way – Local Records Office

To prevent insects from getting into your house, you should keep moisture away from the foundation and eliminate sources of standing water, according to the Local Records Office. Termite’s cause $5 billion in property damage every year in the U.S., according to the NPMA. These destructive insects need moisture to survive, which is why the NPMA advises fixing leaking faucets, pipes and air conditioning units; repairing fascia, soffits and rotted shingles; trimming tree branches away from the house and replacing weather stripping around windows and loose mortar around basement foundations.

 

Get your air conditioning system ready. You can hire a service company or do it yourself. Change or wash the filters, which should be done monthly. Clean the coils and wash the condenser outside, if needed. Trim away any shrubs from the unit, and make sure its drain line isn’t clogged. While you’re at it, change your furnace filter so it’s ready for fall.

 

Clean your roof. Most people are better off hiring a professional for this chore, but it’s important. “Those ugly black streaks on asphalt shingles are doing a lot more harm than simply looking unattractive,” Hester says. The stains are caused by algae that feed on the limestone filler in shingles, “so those black stains are essentially eating your roof,” she says. The algae spread quickly before the wind blows them to neighboring roofs.

 

Power wash driveways and walkways. You can rent a power washer for about $30 if you want to do this yourself, Bennett says. The biggest benefit is removing mildew and discoloration. He advises caution before power washing decks because the force of the water may damage the wood fibers, don’t forget to check for water damage too.

 

Make sure your windows are sealed. “You want to keep water out and cool air in. You may need to replace caulking or weather sealing to accomplish this” says the company, Local Records Office.

Home Maintenance Checklist That Go Along Way – Local Records Office2

Clean your refrigerator coils and dryer vent. The Electrical Safety Foundation International notes that these chores not only improve the efficiency of the appliances, but also guard against electrical hazards.

 

Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be at least one of each detector on every level of your house, and they should be working. Be sure to replace batteries, if necessary.

 

Fertilize the lawn. About $30 will cover enough fertilizer for 10,000 square feet, Bennett says. If you don’t have one already, you’ll also want to buy a basic push fertilizer spreader, which you can pick up for about $35.

 

Restain and seal wood decks. Rescuing your deck from the elements is not a task you should overlook. “Outdoor wood decks get hammered by the elements, including snow and rain in the winter and harsh sunlight in the summer,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, an online home management tool. “These temperature cycles and absorption cause the wood to wear out quicker than if you regularly seal them. This can lead to rotting decks and an expensive replacement.”

Declutter. We all have too much stuff. Get rid of items you don’t use, including the stuff you have stored in the garage or basement because you “might” need it sometime.

 

Organize your paperwork. Not being able to find an important document when you need it can cost you. Get rid of the paperwork you don’t need while filing the paperwork you want to keep so you know where it is when you need it.

 

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59 Illegal Aliens Were Arrested by Custom Boarder Patrol in Texas

Border Patrol Claims to Have Rescued 59 Trapped Illegal Immigrants in Texas local records office

The Border Patrol (CBP) said on Monday it had rescued 59 undocumented immigrants in the first two weeks of the month when they were brought into dangerous locations.

Forty-eight of those allegedly rescued immigrants were caught inside a refrigerated container.

The fact, according to Border Patrol, occurred last day 2 on Interstate 35 in Texas during the inspection of the refrigerated container. The 48 immigrants were nationals of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.

Border Patrol Claims to Rescue Over 50 Illegal Immigrants

The driver of the truck carrying the container was a US citizen and was arrested. According to ICE, these immigrants were in danger because of the low temperatures inside the container and because it could not be opened from the inside.

Another 6 immigrants were rescued on the 5th of the interior of two wooden cabinets. The incident occurred on the 5th of this month, also during an inspection at an immigration checkpoint on Highway 35.

In this case, the vehicle was a van . Border Patrol said the lockers were locked with the six immigrants inside.

Also in this case the immigrants were nationals of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala and the driver was a citizen of the United States who ended up arrested.

Read complete story here

By Simply Doing These Simple Things I’ve Been Getting So Much Real Estate Business – Local Records Office

LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – LOS ANGELES, CA – When I first started in the business I loved doing fix and flips, but wasn’t so keen on selling houses to strangers. I sold enough houses to get by, and focused on the flips since those were much more fun. I always thought it would be smart to buy rental properties, but I was young and not very good at saving money.

 

Then in 2008, I started selling REOs and completing broker price opinions for banks. I loved the REO side of selling houses and I have become very successful at it the last few years. I am a HUD listing broker as well and love HUD, I can’t buy HUD homes myself, but I have a great article on how investors can great deals ion HUD homes here. I think the reason I love REO is because I can communicate through email and I am a natural introvert (another popular forum discussion). With REO came more money, more savings and a desire to grow that money into something more. I did a lot of research on franchises, business, the stock market, bonds and decided rental properties were the best investment out there.

 

When I was doing fix and flips with my father, we bought most of our properties at the public trustee auction and it did not matter if we had our Real Estate license or not. When we sold our homes, we saved 3% on each transaction, because we did not have to pay a listing agent a commission.   When I started buying rental properties for myself in 2010, I bought everything off MLS and saved a commission on each purchase.   We are buying more flips off the MLS now as well, we are now saving a commission on the buy side and the sell side.

By Simply Doing These Simple Things I_ve Been Getting So Much Real Estate Business – Local Records Office 1

Even though we save a ton of money on commissions by being agent that is not the biggest advantage to having a Real Estate license. The biggest advantage is having a huge advantage buying properties over those that do not have a license.

 

Saving Money on Commissions

 

I will take you through an example of how much we save on a typical flip. The savings is similar on a long-term rental purchase, except there won’t be any commission on the sale since we are holding the property. Let’s assume we purchased a flip on an REO property for $100,000, fixed it up and then sold it for $170,000.   The bank offered a 3% commission to the Real Estate agent that represented the buyer on this property. Sometimes banks do not like it when the buyer is also the Real Estate agent and they may have stipulations they won’t pay a commission in these instances.   We use an LLC to purchase our flips and my dad will usually sign for the LLC and I will be the agent on the deal. That way the agent is different than the end purchaser and the bank will pay a commission.

 

On the purchase end we can structure the deal so we get paid $3,000 for our commission or we will waive our commission and pay $3,000 less for the property. The benefit to getting the $3,000 is the extra cash in our pockets for repairs or other investments. The benefit to reducing the price is, we won’t have to count the commission as income and pay taxes on it. It saves money in the long run to reduce the price if that is an option.   However, many brokers will only allow agents to take no commissions on one or two deals a year. We can do it as much as we want, since we are on a 100% split and the monthly fee brokerages may allow you to make as many no commission deals as you want as well.

 

On the sell side we save the 3% as well since we are the listing agents and do not have to pay someone else to sell the property for us. Again, commission are negotiable and you may be charged more or less for an agent to sell your home.   Three percent of $180k is $5,400 that we save by not hiring another agent. We structure this as a no commission deal, since we will not have to pay taxes on the income again.   Total savings is $8,400 on this one deal alone. We flip about ten homes a year, and it is easy to see we save a lot of money by being agents.

 

Finding Deals

 

The biggest reason I would suggest every Real Estate investor get their license is because of the advantage it provides when finding deals. I still buy most of my long-term rentals off of MLS and we buy flips on MLS as well. We purchase short sales, a few REOs and even a few fair market sales off the MLS system. As an agent I have access to MLS and an investor without their license does not. Most properties listed in MLS are listed on other sites like Zillow, Realtor.com and others, but the information is not as accurate or updated as quickly.

 

If I were not an agent, my time frame for making an offer would be much longer. I would have to do more work to find new listings on Zillow or another website. Once I found a great deal, I would have to contact my agent. I would have to wait for them to find time to set up the showing and show me the property. Then I would have to wait for them to write the contract and I would have to come in and sign the contract, before it was submitted. I have to hope they understand they importance of time and getting that offer in ASAP. Even if they are a super fast, great agent, it may take them half a day or an entire day to get all that done. Someone else could have already submitted an offer and had it accepted before my offer was submitted.

Knowledge of the Market

 

As a Real Estate agent MLS also provides me with a wealth of sold information. I can look up sales from 10 years ago if I want to, as long as the sale was completed through MLS. MLS is a great tool for me to determine value quickly, and easily.   I am also constantly around houses as a Realtor, I am constantly determining values for my sellers and buyers and I almost always know the market without having to pull up sold info. Knowing values is the most important thing for a Real Estate investor to know an being a Real Estate agent gives me a huge advantage.

 

Connections in the Business

 

As a Real Estate agent I am constantly talking to lenders, other agents, title companies, buyers and sellers. I found my portfolio lender, because other agents referred me to them. My portfolio lender is awesome and will give me as many loans as I want as long as I qualify. That may change at some point, but without them I would be struggling to finance properties, especially now that I have 10 mortgages.

 

Other agents have referred me to sellers looking to get out of their homes, because they know we buy flips. I know the best title companies, the best lenders and the best Realtors. I also know which companies and Realtors to steer clear of, because they may kill a deal with their incompetence.

 

Disadvantages to Being an Agent

 

There are some disadvantages to having a Real Estate license and being an investor.

 

The biggest one for me, is I am limited to what houses I can purchase, but this won’t apply to 99% of agents. Since I am a HUD broker I cannot buy any HUD homes no matter who has them listed. None of my immediate family or any agents and their immediate family can buy a HUD home either. Bank of America will not allow me to buy any of their listings or even short sales because I list REO for them. There are a few other companies I work with that have the same policies and I can never buy an REO that I have listed. It is a clear conflict of interest for me to purchase I home I listed that I determined value on for the banks.

 

  • I have to disclose I am Realtor when I market to sellers. I don’t think this is a big disadvantage, but some people on the forums think they get a better response if they are not an agent.

 

  • Some people feel a code of ethics is too restricting for Real Estate investing, I do not feel this way. If you are a Real Estate agent, it is easier for buyers or sellers to file a complaint against you with Real Estate commission or whatever body governs Real Estate in your area.

 

  • The biggest reason most do not get their license is the cost and time it takes. Getting a license is not easy in most states, it takes hours and hours of classes and tests and the tests are not easy. Once an agent has their license, they have to take continuing education, keep insurance, pay for MLS, pay board dues, pay to hang their license or split their commission.

 

 

Conclusion

 

It can cost thousands of dollars a year to be a licensed Real Estate agent, but one or tow deals a year will easily make up for that money. Not only are you saving commissions, but the biggest advantage is the deal you get, because you were faster than everyone else. To a flipper, one deal can mean $20k, $30k, $40k or more in profits. To an investor buying long-term rentals, one deal can mean thousands of dollars a year in cash flow.

8 Steps That Guarantee You To Be a Real Estate General Contractor

LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – I’m closing on a triplex (two 2bed/1bath units and one 1bed/1bath) on Monday that needs renovation and I’ve decided to GC this project on my own. I sat down and started getting my thoughts together about a calendar and timeline and I realized that this process would make a great article for anyone doing their first renovation or anyone who wanted to get more organized. My golden rule for renovations is to make a realistic budget and timeline and stick to them.

Here are the 8 steps I follow when renovating a property:

Step 1: Demo

Maybe the most critical step because having a clean working environment will actually save time and money. Have your demo crew take down walls and get everything out of your way before making any improvements. Also have them remove any trees or bushes that are in the way of progress. Then have the demo crew remove all of the trash and debris.

(Note: A beginner mistake is to perform these steps room by room or unit by unit but that actually ends up costing more time and money when contractors have to return so whenever possible have the contractors perform their task for the entire project before moving to the next step.)

Step 2: Waterproof Building Envelope

Another critical step because nothing would be worse than renovating a property only to have some or all of the renovations ruined after the first rainy day. In this step I focus on making the property is completely protected against the elements. This includes fixing or replacing the roof, the gutters, the windows, the window capping, masonry work, gradation issues, sidewalks, basement, parging, and foundation work. Make sure that by the end of this step the building is 100% waterproof.

Step 3: Preliminary Framing

Now that the property is a blank pallet and watertight you can be begin any structural or light framing you are doing on the project. Not every project requires this step but if you are moving or installing walls now is the time to build them. Also use this opportunity to repair or replace joists and sub-flooring if necessary.

Step 4: HVAC, Plumbing and Electrical

In the next phase the heating, cooling, electrical, gas and plumbing systems are put in place. Here are some common tasks that occur during this phase of the renovation:

The HVAC contractor will run the ductwork so it can properly distribute to each

  • Floor

 

  • Plumbing lines are installed

 

  • Water lines for kitchens and baths are installed

 

  • Main electric panel is replaced or cleaned up

 

  • Electrical wiring is repaired/replaced

 

  • Switches and outlets are changed/upgraded

 

After all of the ducts and lines are installed your framing contractor will return for some secondary framing. All this entails is dry-walling and boxing in the ducts/lines that were just installed.

Step 5: Insulation and Drywall

The next step requires the installation of insulation and drywall. Make sure that the drywall contractor hangs, tapes, spackles and sands the drywall and leaves it ready for the painter to begin painting. Painters can sand and prep the walls but they are usually more expensive than dry-wallers so try to have the dry-wallers do most of the wall prep.

Step 6: Paint, Lighting, HVAC, Plumbing, Kitchens, Baths

This phase of the renovation covers interior paint, lighting installation, HVAC, and finalizing the plumbing. This is the home stretch and a great deal of work is done in this step. Common tasks include:

  • Prime and paint interior walls

 

  • Install kitchen cabinets

 

  • Order/install counters

 

  • Install new interior doors

 

  • Order/install flooring

 

  • Install trim/molding

 

  • Install light fixtures, switches cover plates and outlet cover plates

 

  • Make sure HVAC system is installed and fully functional

 

  • Install sinks, vanities, toilets and kitchen/bath fixtures

Step 7: Interior Punchlist

If you’ve made this far take a deep breath because you are almost done! The interior punchlist phase is the time when you go around and put the finishing touches on your renovation project. Common puchlist tasks include installing HVAC trim covers, outlet light switch covers, doorknobs, cabinet handles, touching up paint and all of the small items that really make the project look great. Make a list and go down item-by-item and cross them off as they are complete.

Step 8: Exterior

The final step is exterior renovation. This step includes exterior landscaping, exterior paint touch up, mailbox installation, property address number installation, flower boxes, window shutters, door hardware and any other item dealing with exterior curb appeal.

Congratulations you’re done! As you can tell overseeing your own renovation project really isn’t that scary if you are super organized and stick to a timeline. Follow these steps and over time you will streamline your process and become more efficient. Best of luck and make sure to let me know how it goes.

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