Honored to be accepting my award for $3.5 million in real estate sales.  Very appreciative of all the clients I was able to work with and be a part of their real estate journey.  Looking forward to 2018!

There are two phases of the home selling process that throw most homeowners for a loop: The home inspection and the appraisal. Both can have a major impact on the home’s market value and, thus, how much money can be realized from the sale.

Repairs suggested on the home inspection report can be negotiated between the buyer and seller.

While both can break the sale, the appraised value isn’t something you can negotiate. This is why it’s so important to work with a real estate agent to determine the current market value of your home. Then, do everything you can to ensure that the appraiser agrees with that value.

What Influences Value To An Appraiser?

Real estate consumers, for the most part, don’t really understand the appraiser’s role in the home sale process. For instance, although the buyer pays for the appraisal, it belongs to the lender, not the buyer.

By law, however, a copy of the appraisal must be given to you if you request it in writing, according to the Federal Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Residential appraisal professionals take a multi-pronged approach to determining a home’s value. Items considered, over which a homeowner has no control, include local housing market trends, which are impacted by economic, social and other forces. Supply and demand is an example of this.

In other words, the current real estate market.

The appraiser will use all of these factors as a backdrop when he or she studies the neighborhood, your home’s characteristics and competitive properties to arrive at the home’s appraised value.

There’s Value In A Well-Maintained, Clean Home

If you’ve maintained your home over the years, it may sail through the home inspection. And, a well-maintained home will also impress the appraiser. Making small repairs, revving up the home’s curb appeal and meticulously cleaning the home will help you in both instances.

While some appraisers say that clean properties don’t result in higher values, others, along with many real estate industry insiders, beg to differ.

The home’s condition, however, will have a direct bearing on its appraised value – known as the Condition and Quality rating in the appraisal industry. The condition rating can range from C1 (for new homes) to C6 – for homes with severe deferred maintenance issues and defects that may impact the home’s habitability.

During this phase of the evaluation, the appraiser will consider all the improvements you’ve made to the property.

Supply The Appraiser With Accurate Data

Don’t assume that the appraiser will notice the upgrades you’ve made to the home. Make a list of them, the dates they were performed and by whom.

Get specific in your explanations. Rather than “Bathroom remodel,” be more specific. “Bathroom remodel: new tub; travertine tile work; cherrywood cabinetry; Kohler sink, faucet, etc. …/Installed 2009/$15,000 cost,” says Ryan Lundquist, certified residential appraiser in Sacramento, California.

In fact, Lundquist offers a handy information sheet you can download, fill out and offer up to the appraiser when he or she visits the home.

Don’t assume the appraiser is familiar with your neighborhood

As a result of the Dodd-Frank reforms, appraisers are typically assigned jobs by an Appraisal Management Company, or AMC for short. And, these jobs are assigned “essentially at random,” Phil Huff, CEO of a real estate appraisal data company in California tells Market Watch’s Daniel Goldstein.

Which means, the appraiser may have little to no knowledge of your neighborhood.

Make a neighborhood description (quick and to the point) part of the data you supply to the appraiser. Lundquist suggests a bulleted list to make it easier for the appraiser to read quickly.

Tell the appraiser what you appreciate about the neighborhood, about your HOA (and fees you pay), anything important about its location within the town or city, anything in particular that makes your neighborhood among the “in-demand” areas of town and any information you have on pending projects that will have a positive impact on your area’s home values.

Do mention the school district if it is of high enough quality to positively impact home values in the neighborhood.

Other items to point out to the appraiser include:

  • If your lot is more desirable than others nearby, include a copy of the property survey.
  • Home features that the appraiser may not notice, such as energy efficiency.
  • Any information you may have on why a nearby home sold for less than it should have, such as a divorce or a sale to a member of the homeowner’s family.

Sure, there may not be anything you can do to change the economic forces that influence your home’s value in the eye of the appraiser, but taking care of the items that are within your control will help a great deal.

As retailers are so fond of reminding us, the holidays will soon be upon us. That means parties and family visits. If you start getting the house ready now, the run-up to your soirees will be less chaotic and you can focus on the finer points.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be offering you tips to get various parts of the home holiday-ready and today, we start with the one room most of your guests will use, the bathroom.

Pretend You Are Selling Your Home

Approach your bathroom makeover as if you were readying it for a steady parade of potential homebuyers. This means starting with a deep clean, top-to-bottom – literally. Start at the ceiling and work your way down.

  • Before you start, remove everything from the counters and any shelving in the bathroom. Take down the shower curtain and remove the throw rugs.
  • Next, use the vacuum or a duster to get the accumulated “fuzz” out of the ceiling fan grate. Then, check the walls (especially where they join the ceiling) for cobwebs.
  • The light fixtures come next. If you have the Hollywood-type strip vanity lighting, your bulbs may be dusty so remove each one, dust them and replace them.
  • If you have windows in your bathroom, tackle those next. Clean the glass and then clean out the tracks. Vinegar and water, and old toothbrush and a rag work well for this task.
  • Mirrors come next. There are lots of ways to do this – from using ammonia and water to vinegar and water or commercial window cleaners.
  • Vinegar and water also works well on counter tops and shelves.
  • Next, clean the sink and shower/tub. We asked several of our friends and clients to tell us about their favorite products for these tasks: a mixture of Dawn dishwashing soap and vinegar; Ajax cleanser; Tide laundry detergent. The last one we were a bit skeptical about until we tried it ourselves. Used like a scouring powder, it truly does get off the toughest bathtub grime better than anything else we’ve tried.
  • Toss the shower curtain, window curtains and rugs in the washer
  • Wash the floors

If you have shower doors, clean those with a mixture of warm distilled vinegar and a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Don’t use this on stone, though. Instead, try a paste of baking soda and the dish soap and use a non-scratching sponge.

De-Clutter

Now it’s time to bring back all the items you removed from the shelves and countertops. Unless something is decorative, hide it away in the cupboards and drawers.

Throw out anything you don’t use and those empty shampoo bottles that tend to collect in the bathroom.

Get ideas on what to leave on the counters and what to hide from online sites such as PinterestHGTV and Better Homes & Gardens.

Bring Back The Linens

But, check them first and get rid of rugs, towels, mats and curtains that are frayed, faded or torn.

Replace them with new items that coordinate with the rest of the bathroom’s décor.

In fact, beautiful towels can double as attractive accessories if folded in clever ways. Check out these amazing towel display ideas on Pinterest.

Extras

Wall treatments can improve the look of a bathroom instantly. Again, Pinterest can serve as inspiration. Houzz.com offers 260 photos of bathroom artwork and more inspiration can be found at Apartment Therapy and Brit.co.

Skip the corn mazes and haunted hayrides this Halloween and indulge in haunted-house pleasure in your own living room. In fact, if you work your way through our series of real estate-related Halloween flicks, you’ll think of them every time you view a home for sale, or put yours on the market.

Now, some of these are serious thrillers while others include a dose of humor, but all are worth a watch. So, cook up some spooky eats, invite your closest friends and binge on this October real estate fright-fest.

The Selling”

A small-budget film, “The Selling” offers a combination of horror, suspense and slapstick humor, mostly the latter.

The story follows Richard, an honest, hard-working real estate agent and his business partner Dave, who are duped into listing a home that later turns out to be haunted. But, that’s not all. As one reviewer put it:

“How do you sell a house full of ghosts in this economy without telling anyone that the house was once owned by a famous, though unconvicted serial killer?”

Especially, we might add, when the agents have to compromise with ghosts over showings of the home to potential buyers.

Funnier than it is scary, even horror fans love this movie. Not rated, you can rent “The Selling” at amazon.com, vudu.com and iTunes.

“The Conjuring”

A horror film that gained its R rating not for nudity, gore or naughty words (because there aren’t any), but by its scare factor alone.

Released in 2013, “The Conjuring” follows two paranormal investigators who try to help a family who is at the mercy of whatever is haunting their farmhouse.

Haunted real estate – maybe someone should specialize in that?

One of the highest-rated horror movies at amazon.com, you can rent it there, at Google Play, vudu.com or use your HBO Go subscription.

“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”

This one is for the squeamish among your fright-fest audience. Billed as a comedy/horror film, it takes the top spot among the genre’s offerings at Netflix.

Tucker and Dale head to their backwoods mountain hangout for a few days of beer drinking and fishing and meet up with a group of college kids.

Location, location, location isn’t just paramount in real estate, but a central theme in the characters’ hilarious – and deadly – assumptions.

Released in 2010, the film is rated R. Rent it amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

“The People Under The Stairs”

We’ve seen some crazy things in homes, but never anything like what’s in Wes Craven’s mansion-turned-chamber of horrors.

LA Weekly calls it a “gentrification fable,” an allegory for the “ongoing war between property renters and property owners.”

Craven says the house came to him in a dream – a house with an unassuming exterior whose real truth is revealed inside.

Released in 1991, and rated R for the violence, you can rent it at amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

“Hausu”

If you’re a fan of foreign films and/or really weird stuff, “Hausu” (Japanese for “house”) is a Japanese film, released in 1976.

Seven girls on a summer trip pay a visit to a possessed house filled with furniture that eats them in bizarre ways. Watch the film carefully as there’s a message behind the campiness.

By the way, It’s titled “House” at amazon.com and you can also rent it at vudu.com and iTunes.

“Drag Me To Hell”

This one is especially good for those homeowners who’ve had the misfortune of being forced into foreclosure.

A young loan officer turns down an elderly homeowner’s request for a mortgage payment extension and lives to regret it.

Yes, it’s a bit gory at times, but it’s also surprisingly funny at others. Rated PG13, rent it at amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

“The Ladies Of The House”

The first thing you need to know about this ““grindhouse-style feminist horror” film is that the kids should be safely tucked into bed when you watch it.

Although it’s not rated, trust us – you don’t want the little ones watching it.

The characters include strippers and three guys out for a good time. Nudity? Yes. Sexual content? Mhm. Gore? It’s a horror film, so yes.

In fact, one reviewer calls the most gruesome aspects of the film “unsavory torture porn scenes.”

But, we had to include it because, first, horror fans rave about it and, second, the house (specifically its interior) is a central character in the film.

In a nutshell, three guys on a birthday outing end up back at one the seemingly normal, nondescript home of several strippers who also happen to be cannibals.

Rent “The Ladies of the House” at amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

Conflicted: It’s the perfect description of how homeowners feel when faced with the reality of relocating from one city to another. It’s both exciting and mind-numbing, frightening yet courageous and it brings up feelings of both melancholy and elation.

Moving from one home to another is a life-disrupter, but moving from one town to another is a major upheaval. Watching that moving van drive down the street, fearful that it’s the last time you’ll see your belongings, is just one of the moments of angst you’ll face when relocating.

Between then and now you’ll need to find a real estate agent and a neighborhood and, finally, a home – all in a town that may be thousands of miles away.

Relocating doesn’t have to be a ghastly process. Let’s make a plan and get you into your new town, neighborhood and home, without many of the hassles.

Your Ideal Home

Knowing exactly what type of home you want is the first step in your relocation process. From single-family to multi-family homes to condos and townhomes, get clear on exactly what you want.

Then, decide on how much room you need – both in living space and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

And, don’t forget the exterior. With a condo, you may not have much of a choice about outdoor areas, but if you’re in the market for other home styles, determine what you require outdoors.

  • Do you need a garage? If so, how big?
  • Is a backyard important?
  • Do you need outbuildings?
  • Is a swimming pool on your wish list?
  • If you garden, how important is an existing irrigation system?

Choosing Your New Neighborhood

Your preferred home style may help narrow down your choice of neighborhoods. For instance, depending on what city you’re headed to, condos may only be available downtown.

If you’re in the market for a luxury home, you may find them only in certain parts of town. If you’re bringing the horses, the boat or the golf clubs and cart – all will help you choose a suitable neighborhood.

In general, however, you’ll need to answer some questions to figure out where you want to live:

  • What is your priority? Is it a quick commute to work, being located in a quality school district, close to public transportation or recreational amenities?
  • Do you crave urban living or are the suburbs more to your taste? Rural living has a lot to offer as well.
  • Do you love the sound of kids playing outside our window or does it grate on your nerves?

Research Is Your Friend

If you don’t know yet how much you can afford to spend on your new home in your new city, please see a lender.

When you have a handle on your budget you’ll find the homebuying process immensely more manageable.

But, you must also take into account that the cost of living where you are now may not look at all like the cost of living in your new hometown.

  • How much do groceries cost in the new town? A gallon of milk in New York City, for instance, is $4.20. You can buy that same milk in Phoenix, AZ for $2.20, according to a AOL.com’s Emily Rella.
  • Utilities? One of the things that most shocks Las Vegas homebuyers is the cost of utilities. It’s not at all unusual to have a $300 monthly power bill in summer from the Buffet-owned NV Energy.

To get a handle on your future costs, navigate online to a cost-of-living comparison calculator, such as this one at CNN Money or one with more detailed results at Bankrate.com.

Let’s Find A Neighborhood

Now you have an idea of how much you can afford to pay for a mortgage every month so it’s time to check out what’s available in your affordability range.

If you’re moving for a new job, go to a Google map of the area surrounding your new workplace and find the neighborhoods with a tolerable commute. Then, do some research on each one.

A good place to start is City-Data – the folks who hang out in the forums there have lots of good information.

Let’s assume you’re moving to Minnesota’s Twin Cities and you want to live within 30 minutes of your new job, which is in Minneapolis. You’ve checked out a Google map of the area and determined that Edina, Maple Grove and Excelsior look like cool towns to explore.

With your list of must-haves in a home in hand, navigate to City-Data and click on “Minnesota.”

You’ll be taken to a new page with a list of cities. Let’s click on “Edina.” The new page is full of information about the city but, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find a listing of the latest posts in the Edina forum.

This is where you’ll find the nuggets of wisdom that will help you decide whether or not it’s the city for you.

It’s Time To Get Help

That help will come in the form of a real estate agent. If you are selling a home in your current city, ask your listing agent for a referral to an agent in your new city.

If you won’t be selling, ask friends, family and colleagues for a referral to a local agent who will then help you find one in the new town.

One final tip:

Don’t rely on the information about homes that you find on the big real estate portal sites because much of it is unreliable.

Although they would like you to think that they have all of the active listings in any given area, they don’t.

The only accurate listing of homes available is in a region’s Multiple Listing Service database, which can only be accessed by licensed real estate agents.

One of the biggest obstacles standing between you and that house or condo you want to buy may be your credit worthiness.

And, who is it that tells your lender whether or not you are worthy of getting a mortgage? Credit reporting bureaus — known collectively as “The Big 3” (Experian, Trans Union and Equifax), are the first to investigate how risky lending money to you may be.

Let’s take a look at how the determination is made and, more important, why you should be diligent in checking for mistakes made along the way.

The Big 3

Whenever you borrow money, whether it’s for a major purchase such as a car or home or with revolving credit, such as a charge card, the lender will report your repayment history to the Big 3.

But that’s just the beginning. These agencies also receive information about you from debt collectors and they purchase information from public records, such as tax liens, judgments and bankruptcies.

Most, but not all creditors report to all three agencies. Some don’t report to any.

How They Determine Your Credit Worthiness

Each of the three agencies “has its own model for evaluating the information in your credit report and assigning you a credit score,” according to the experts at Equifax. This is why your score may be different with each agency.

A big chunk of your credit score is determined by the types of credit accounts you have and how many you have.

Equifax, for example, bases 15 percent of its determination on these factors.

Payment history, however, is the most important factor.

The Big 3 Are Only Part Of The Story

The three credit reporting agencies report to credit scoring companies, such as FICO®, short for Fair Isaac Corporation. About 90 percent of lenders in the country use a borrower’s FICO® Score when determining whether or not to approve a loan.

FICO® examines each credit report, looking for the following:

  • Payment history – accounts for 35 percent of the credit score
  • Amount of money owed – makes up 30 percent of the credit score
  • Length of credit history – 15 percent of the credit score
  • New credit and credit mix – each make up 10 percent of the borrower’s credit score

The company then assigns you a credit risk score, from 300 (considered poor) to 850. Borrowers with credit scores of 740 or higher qualifiy for the lowest mortgage interest rates from the majority of lenders.

Those with scores lower than 620 will find it challenging to obtain a loan and, if they do manage to get approved, will typically pay much higher interest rates.

Everybody Makes Mistakes

Your credit score is only as good as the information supplied to the credit reporting agencies. And, errors are common.

“As many as 42 million Americans have errors on their credit reports,” according to CNN Money

Some of these mistakes are egregious enough to ding the consumers’ credit scores. When you’re getting your finances in order to go after that loan preapproval letter, check your credit reports (from all three agencies) carefully.

Some of the most common errors, according to the Federal Trade Commission, include:

  • Identity information – Ensure that your name, address and social security number are accurate. “Mixed files,” those that contain information from two consumers with similar names, are common.
  • Accounts – Check each account to ensure that it is truly yours. Identity theft is another common reason for errors in a credit report.
  • Status – Check that the status of each account (open or closed) is listed correctly.
  • Delinquent accounts – Verify that an account listed as delinquent is actually delinquent.
  • Dates – Each account should list when the account was opened, closed and the date of the last payment. Ensure these dates are correct.
  • Double entries – Dispute any debt that is listed more than once, even if they have different account names or different creditor names.
  • Corrected information – If you’ve received a correction to a previous dispute, ensure that the information in the current report remains corrected.
  • Balances and limits – Check all the outstanding balances and credit limits to ensure they’re correct.

How To Correct Errors In Your Credit Reports

Each credit report includes information on how to dispute information contained in it.

  • Equifax – handles all their disputes online. Learn more, here.
  • Equifax – they, too, handle all disputes online. Go to equifax.com to get the details.
  • TransUnion – dispute your credit report online, by mail or phone.

The dispute process takes time, so start it as soon as you’ve decided to purchase a home.

Conflicted: It’s the perfect description of how homeowners feel when faced with the reality of relocating from one city to another. It’s both exciting and mind-numbing, frightening yet courageous and it brings up feelings of both melancholy and elation.

Moving from one home to another is a life-disrupter, but moving from one town to another is a major upheaval. Watching that moving van drive down the street, fearful that it’s the last time you’ll see your belongings, is just one of the moments of angst you’ll face when relocating.

Between then and now you’ll need to find a real estate agent and a neighborhood and, finally, a home – all in a town that may be thousands of miles away.

Relocating doesn’t have to be a ghastly process. Let’s make a plan and get you into your new town, neighborhood and home, without many of the hassles.

Your Ideal Home

Knowing exactly what type of home you want is the first step in your relocation process. From single-family to multi-family homes to condos and townhomes, get clear on exactly what you want.

Then, decide on how much room you need – both in living space and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

And, don’t forget the exterior. With a condo, you may not have much of a choice about outdoor areas, but if you’re in the market for other home styles, determine what you require outdoors.

  • Do you need a garage? If so, how big?
  • Is a backyard important?
  • Do you need outbuildings?
  • Is a swimming pool on your wish list?
  • If you garden, how important is an existing irrigation system?

Choosing Your New Neighborhood

Your preferred home style may help narrow down your choice of neighborhoods. For instance, depending on what city you’re headed to, condos may only be available downtown.

If you’re in the market for a luxury home, you may find them only in certain parts of town. If you’re bringing the horses, the boat or the golf clubs and cart – all will help you choose a suitable neighborhood.

In general, however, you’ll need to answer some questions to figure out where you want to live:

  • What is your priority? Is it a quick commute to work, being located in a quality school district, close to public transportation or recreational amenities?
  • Do you crave urban living or are the suburbs more to your taste? Rural living has a lot to offer as well.
  • Do you love the sound of kids playing outside our window or does it grate on your nerves?

Research Is Your Friend

If you don’t know yet how much you can afford to spend on your new home in your new city, please see a lender.

When you have a handle on your budget you’ll find the homebuying process immensely more manageable.

But, you must also take into account that the cost of living where you are now may not look at all like the cost of living in your new hometown.

  • How much do groceries cost in the new town? A gallon of milk in New York City, for instance, is $4.20. You can buy that same milk in Phoenix, AZ for $2.20, according to a AOL.com’s Emily Rella.
  • Utilities? One of the things that most shocks Las Vegas homebuyers is the cost of utilities. It’s not at all unusual to have a $300 monthly power bill in summer from the Buffet-owned NV Energy.

To get a handle on your future costs, navigate online to a cost-of-living comparison calculator, such as this one at CNN Money or one with more detailed results at Bankrate.com.

Let’s Find A Neighborhood

Now you have an idea of how much you can afford to pay for a mortgage every month so it’s time to check out what’s available in your affordability range.

If you’re moving for a new job, go to a Google map of the area surrounding your new workplace and find the neighborhoods with a tolerable commute. Then, do some research on each one.

A good place to start is City-Data – the folks who hang out in the forums there have lots of good information.

Let’s assume you’re moving to Minnesota’s Twin Cities and you want to live within 30 minutes of your new job, which is in Minneapolis. You’ve checked out a Google map of the area and determined that Edina, Maple Grove and Excelsior look like cool towns to explore.

With your list of must-haves in a home in hand, navigate to City-Data and click on “Minnesota.”

You’ll be taken to a new page with a list of cities. Let’s click on “Edina.” The new page is full of information about the city but, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find a listing of the latest posts in the Edina forum.

This is where you’ll find the nuggets of wisdom that will help you decide whether or not it’s the city for you.

It’s Time To Get Help

That help will come in the form of a real estate agent. If you are selling a home in your current city, ask your listing agent for a referral to an agent in your new city.

If you won’t be selling, ask friends, family and colleagues for a referral to a local agent who will then help you find one in the new town.

One final tip:

Don’t rely on the information about homes that you find on the big real estate portal sites because much of it is unreliable.

Although they would like you to think that they have all of the active listings in any given area, they don’t.

The only accurate listing of homes available is in a region’s Multiple Listing Service database, which can only be accessed by licensed real estate agents.

Skip the corn mazes and haunted hayrides this Halloween and indulge in haunted-house pleasure in your own living room. In fact, if you work your way through our series of real estate-related Halloween flicks, you’ll think of them every time you view a home for sale, or put yours on the market.

Now, some of these are serious thrillers while others include a dose of humor, but all are worth a watch. So, cook up some spooky eats, invite your closest friends and binge on this October real estate fright-fest.

The Selling”

A small-budget film, “The Selling” offers a combination of horror, suspense and slapstick humor, mostly the latter.

The story follows Richard, an honest, hard-working real estate agent and his business partner Dave, who are duped into listing a home that later turns out to be haunted. But, that’s not all. As one reviewer put it:

“How do you sell a house full of ghosts in this economy without telling anyone that the house was once owned by a famous, though unconvicted serial killer?”

Especially, we might add, when the agents have to compromise with ghosts over showings of the home to potential buyers.

Funnier than it is scary, even horror fans love this movie. Not rated, you can rent “The Selling” at amazon.com, vudu.com and iTunes.

“The Conjuring”

A horror film that gained its R rating not for nudity, gore or naughty words (because there aren’t any), but by its scare factor alone.

Released in 2013, “The Conjuring” follows two paranormal investigators who try to help a family who is at the mercy of whatever is haunting their farmhouse.

Haunted real estate – maybe someone should specialize in that?

One of the highest-rated horror movies at amazon.com, you can rent it there, at Google Play, vudu.com or use your HBO Go subscription.

“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”

This one is for the squeamish among your fright-fest audience. Billed as a comedy/horror film, it takes the top spot among the genre’s offerings at Netflix.

Tucker and Dale head to their backwoods mountain hangout for a few days of beer drinking and fishing and meet up with a group of college kids.

Location, location, location isn’t just paramount in real estate, but a central theme in the characters’ hilarious – and deadly – assumptions.

Released in 2010, the film is rated R. Rent it amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

“The People Under The Stairs”

We’ve seen some crazy things in homes, but never anything like what’s in Wes Craven’s mansion-turned-chamber of horrors.

LA Weekly calls it a “gentrification fable,” an allegory for the “ongoing war between property renters and property owners.”

Craven says the house came to him in a dream – a house with an unassuming exterior whose real truth is revealed inside.

Released in 1991, and rated R for the violence, you can rent it at amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

“Hausu”

If you’re a fan of foreign films and/or really weird stuff, “Hausu” (Japanese for “house”) is a Japanese film, released in 1976.

Seven girls on a summer trip pay a visit to a possessed house filled with furniture that eats them in bizarre ways. Watch the film carefully as there’s a message behind the campiness.

By the way, It’s titled “House” at amazon.com and you can also rent it at vudu.com and iTunes.

“Drag Me To Hell”

This one is especially good for those homeowners who’ve had the misfortune of being forced into foreclosure.

A young loan officer turns down an elderly homeowner’s request for a mortgage payment extension and lives to regret it.

Yes, it’s a bit gory at times, but it’s also surprisingly funny at others. Rated PG13, rent it at amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

“The Ladies Of The House”

The first thing you need to know about this ““grindhouse-style feminist horror” film is that the kids should be safely tucked into bed when you watch it.

Although it’s not rated, trust us – you don’t want the little ones watching it.

The characters include strippers and three guys out for a good time. Nudity? Yes. Sexual content? Mhm. Gore? It’s a horror film, so yes.

In fact, one reviewer calls the most gruesome aspects of the film “unsavory torture porn scenes.”

But, we had to include it because, first, horror fans rave about it and, second, the house (specifically its interior) is a central character in the film.

In a nutshell, three guys on a birthday outing end up back at one the seemingly normal, nondescript home of several strippers who also happen to be cannibals.

Rent “The Ladies of the House” at amazon.com, vudu.com, Google Play and iTunes.

So, how was your garden this year? If it didn’t perform as you’d hoped it would, we have good news for you: Fall is the perfect time to ensure that next year’s spring garden is a winner.

From soil fixes to curing diseases and dealing with garden pests, tasks you perform now are well worth the time and energy spent.

Clean It Up

Sure, you can run around the garden yanking out dead plants as they pass into the afterlife, but why? Just wait until they all die off and then perform a mass “yank.”

Since garden detritus provides safe havens for over-wintering disease organisms and pests, bag up the dead plants or throw them into the compost bin.

Then, clean up the soil by removing dead leaves, twigs and anything else that will provide shelter for pests.

Attend To The Soil

Fall is the ideal time to prepare your vegetable and other garden soil for next season’s garden.

A 4-inch layer of shredded bark, combined with an equal amount of compost, dug into the top 6 inches of soil and left to overwinter will lighten up clay soil.

For even better results, add an additional 4-inch layer of wood chips to the surface of the soil and allow it to remain all winter.

Give other soil types a shot of compost spread over the surface. By spring, Mother Nature will have mixed it into the soil.

All vegetable gardens can use a bit of ammonium sulfate. The experts at Colorado State University Extension suggest adding about two and one-half pounds per 1,000 square feet of garden space, mixed into the soil to about 10 to 12 inches deep.

Take Care Of The Workhorses

Sure, it sounds trite, but perennials truly are the workhorses of the garden and they’ll work even harder for you next season if you pamper them now. Any that require cutting back should get the treatment now (don’t forget to remove the debris to keep pests and disease organisms away).

Inspect shrubs for any branches or stems that may be diseased, prune them off and then rake up the mulch under the plant (it may contain disease organisms or spores).

Then, as we get closer to winter, spread a 4- to 6-inch layer of fresh mulch (such as leaves or pine needles) over the soil.

And The Bulbs

If you want spring blooms from crocus, daffodils, or tulips, now through the fall (before the ground freezes) is the time to plant them.

The gardening gurus at Better Homes & Gardens suggest that you plant each bulb in a hole that is “two to three times deeper than the bulb is tall. So, if you have a 3-inch-tall bulb, dig a hole 6 to 9 inches deep.”

Tender bulbs, such as canna, dahlia and gladiolus should be protected from being brought to the surface by frost heave during winter. Use pine tree boughs, wood chips or pine bark, according to the experts at Better Homes and Gardens.

Don’t Forget The Trees

Get young trees ready for winter by using tree guards, wrapped around the trunk. This helps keep hungry critters from chewing on the bark.

Prune any branches that don’t look like they’ll stand up to winter weather and any that are crossing over one another (they may be wounded or break when they rub together during windy weather).

Continuing watering your evergreen trees right up until the first frost to protect the foliage from drying out.

That Luscious Lawn

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean your lawn doesn’t require attention. In fact, fall is the season when grass is working its hardest, taking in as much water and nutrients as possible to prepare for the dormant season.

Keep mowing and watering the lawn throughout autumn and, as winter approaches, cut it at the mowers lowest setting.

Don’t cut more than one-third of the lawn’s height in one mowing.

Fall is also the best time to aerate and fertilize the lawn. Use a broadcast or drop spreader to apply fertilizer evenly.

Finally, don’t allow fallen leaves to remain on the lawn over the winter. If you do, they may suffocate the grass or, according to Popular Mechanics, provide the ideal breeding ground for fungal organisms.

Now all you need to do is stock up on seed catalogs and gardening books to read by the fire. Before you know it, gardening season will be back and your little plot of dirt will be ready.

Like practitioners in any profession, real estate agents and brokers have a unique vocabulary, they usher their clients through a distinct process and provide industry-exclusive legal paperwork.

Because agents and brokers use the latter, daily, they are so familiar with it that many tend to forget that their clients are not. None of us want to appear clueless, so many real estate consumers keep quiet and don’t ask questions about things they don’t understand.

Today we’ve decided to fix that by introducing you to two of the most important forms that your listing agent will ask you to sign.

Agency Disclosure

The first thing to understand about “agency” is that it is a legal term that applies to a relationship in which one party is representing another in dealings with a third party.

When selling your home, your real estate agent is his or her broker’s agent – representing the broker in her dealings with you.

Your real estate agent will then represent you in your dealings with buyers. Confusing? Yes, a bit.

Think of the real estate agent as the middle-man or woman, standing in for the person who holds the broker’s license when dealing with you and representing you when dealing with the buyer.

One of the first forms you’ll be asked to sign (if not the first) is an agency disclosure.

It is “a written explanation, to be signed by a prospective buyer or seller, explaining to the client the role that the broker plays in the transaction,” according to “Barron’s Dictionary of Real Estate Terms.”

The disclosure form explains the various types of agency relationships in effect in your state.

The most common relationships are single agency (the broker represents only one party in the transaction), designated agency (when the buyer and seller are represented by two agents from the same brokerage) and dual agency (when one agent represents both the seller and the buyer, illegal in eight states).

The agency disclosure form is not a contract. When you sign it, you are merely acknowledging that the broker has disclosed the agency relationship.

Listing Agreement or Contract

This is typically the second form you’ll sign and it gives the broker and her agents the right to offer the home for sale. The listing agreement must contain the following if the broker is a member of the National Association of Realtors:

  • The price at which the home will be offered for sale.
  • A beginning and ending date.
  • The amount of broker compensation and the terms and conditions under which it will be paid.
  • Authorization for the broker to cooperate with other brokers and how the broker that brings in the buyer will be compensated.
  • Authorization for your broker to either reveal or not reveal the existence of previous offers.

Other items you may find in the purchase agreement include:

  • Authorization for the broker to install a sign and lockbox.
  • Items the seller wants excluded from and included in the sale.
  • Seller’s warranty that he or she owns the home and that there is no pending notice of default.
  • Authorization for the broker to advertise the home in the Multiple Listing Service database and/or online.

The listing agreement is a contract, so read and understand everything in it before signing.

 Another important piece of paperwork you’ll be asked to sign is the homeowner’s disclosure, which we’re happy to explain to you.

Selling your home is a paperwork-intensive undertaking, but nothing compares to the stack of papers you’ll be required to sign at closing. But, that’s a subject for another post.