Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2019

5 Tips to Save Time Setting up Your Christmas Decorations

1. Buy a Christmas Tree With the Decorations Already On

When you want to save a lot of time, consider investing in one of the many p>

2. Have It Organized

When youre putting decorations away this year, make sure that theyre organized to save yourself time next year. If youve ever found yourself unable to find your tree topper, or you feel like youre missing half of your ornaments, youll save yourself a lot of time by packing everything together in a logical way. Keep all totes in the same part of the attic, garage, or wherever you store your Christmas decorations so that you can find them quickly the next year. You can even have a computer file where you catalog where you put everything you pack away. And if you want to ensure that your ornaments will be intact the next year, use felt and other storage techniques.

3. Cut Down

You might be a Christmas decorator who pairs down regularly, but if youre not, take some time every year to cut out the things that are no longer bringing you the same amount of joy. For instance, if youve had Christmas lawn ornaments that are starting to fade or just arent that much fun to see in the front lawn anymore, get rid of them. If theyre in good condition, donate them to someone who will enjoy them. You can cut out hours of unpacking, packing, and setting up every year if youre mindful of what you actually want to keep.

4. Do Outside Decorating Earlier

If you live in a northern climate, you might know what its like to try to put up lights on the roof of a two-story house. You need to be more careful of slip hazards when ice and snow are present. Plus, your hands are freezing, which slows you even more. If you want to cut out some time, put up your Christmas lights before the weather is frozen.

5. Get the Kids Involved or Send them to the Grandparents House

If your kids are old enough, dont do it all yourself. Inviting your children to help with Christmas decorating isnt just a great way to build memories; its also a great way to cut down on the time that it takes to decorate. If youre still worrying that your toddler will stick something into his mouth, take him out of the equation by sending him to his grandparents house.

There are a lot of ways that you can cut down on the time that you spend decorating the tree and the rest of your house. In fact, there are time-saving hacks for cooking and other holiday activities, too. If you want to have a beautiful home for Christmas in less time, think about which projects will bring you the most happiness, and organize so that next year is even easier than this one.

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Inspection vs. AVM vs. Appraisal

A property inspection is ordered by the buyers. While not required by a lender, its certainly excellent advice and buyers should order an inspection very early in the process. A property inspector will physical examine the property from head to toe noting the functionality of various parts of the home. The inspector will flip light switches, turn on the oven and cycle the dishwasher among a host of others. If any issues pop up, the inspector makes note.nbsp;

Where do you find an inspector? Your real estate agent can provide you with a list of inspectors they have worked with before and recommend. You can choose from this list or find one on your own. However, its the agent that knows the quality of work of each inspector, making sure your property is properly inspected.nbsp;

Many of the items are those that need some attention but wont affect financing. However, when major repairs are needed, the lender might want to have those issues addressed before any funding will take place. If the inspector details a bad roof, the property appraisal will also take note. Minor problems can be taken care of after the sale by the buyers, but some issues must be addressed upfront. A full appraisal calls these issues deferred maintenance items.

Once the inspection has been completed and reviewed, the lender can order an appraisal. The lender wont want to order an appraisal at the outset but wait for the delivery of the inspection. If ordered right away and you have to pay for one upfront, its possible the condition of the home isnt up to conventional standards and the lender cant place a loan on the property.

An Automated Valuation Model, or AVM, is a digital evaluation of the value of a home. An AVM will quickly research the database of similar homes in the area and compare them with the value of the subject property. Many equity loans only need an AVM. When a loan is submitted for an automated approval, the approval will state if an AVM is the proper report required.

An appraisal is also a valuation tool for a subject property but in this instance a licensed appraiser will physically visit the property as well as research recent sales of similar homes in the area. The appraisal can be exterior only or a full appraisal. Again, the automated approval will state which is required. A complete appraisal contains information on both the exterior as well as the interior. Pictures are taken and included with the final report. Most often the appraisal is confused with an inspection because with an appraisal the property is indeed inspected by a licensed appraisal.

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Can Landlords Manage Rental Property From Out of State?

Why buy out-of-state property?

Each landlord has a different reason for managing property out of state. You might have a piece a property in a popular vacation area, which can be a lucrative opportunity. Some landlords may also be looking to spread their properties around the country, or they might purchase property with the intention to retire there later in life. If you have recently moved to a different state, you may choose to keep your properties instead of selling.

What challenges can you expect while owning out-of-state property?

One of the main challenges of renting out homes and apartments in other states is local laws. You will need to understand landlord-tenant laws, property taxes, building codes, and other municipal regulations. You will likely need to find a lawyer in the area to work with. It may also be challenging to understand the neighborhoods in the city where you own property. Unless you lived there in the past, you will need to do research on the local schools, activities, and businesses in the areas where you are renting out homes.

How can you handle tenant >

Tenant-landlord >

When it comes to finding the right tenants for your units, an online rental application form can be an excellent resource. You can get basic information and interview tenants without needing to be there in person. And if conflict arises, its essential to be accessible by phone and email. Strong communication skills can compensate for a lack of physical presence.

When should you hire a property manager?

One of the best ways to responsibly rent out properties in a different state is to hire a property manager. However, because this is an investment, you should consider some factors. Landlords who do not have the time to devote to managing their own properties or those who own many properties could benefit from property management services. If the cost of property management fits comfortably into your budget, then it can also be worth the investment. A property manager will understand local laws and the local housing market. They can also be a great resource for managing tenant >
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5 Designer Tips on How to Mix and Match Furniture

Dont stress by following only a few tips, you will be able to easily shape and >

Allow yourself to indulge and buy a few signature pieces and accessories to fill in the gaps in your designs and you will have a space you will be happy to call your home.

1.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Choose a >

When you begin your journey of design and mix-and-matching furniture, the first thing you should always consider is if you like what you are creating and if your space represents you. The area in which you are designing should resemble your own personal taste in >

By doing so, the end product of your journey will be one you love. It will inspire you to make your styling journey an ongoing one and to stay active creatively.

2.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Mix and Match Your color like You Mix and Match Your Furniture

As chic as an all-white bedroom seems, with pure white goose feather filled pillows and seashell pinch pleated curtains, why not add some bright and exciting colours like blue and pink to give the room character.

In a room that is filled with light shades like white and grey, try popping in a lounge chair with a velvet pink or purple color to give it personality. Or, if you have an office that is crying out dullness with its infinite amount of dark tan wood, fill up a bookcase with accessories of earth-like colours such as dark green to build charm.

Keep in mind that too much color will cause the space to look cluttered, so limit your color palette. For example, in a bedroom try coordinating the nightstand, dresser and bed with the lighting, window treatment and artwork. Then, allow freedom of color throughout the rest of the bedroom.

3.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Be Aware of Space

If the room you are designing has too little in it, it will look plain and unstimulating. On the other hand, a room too full will feel crowded and messy. Find that balance and you will walk into a room that will fill you with comfort and embolden you.

When mix and matching furniture, be wary of scale. If you have a couch that is quite large and has square-like features, sit a thin-legged round side table next to it. The visual weight between a strong build and a petite structure will be complimentary.

4.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Take Advantage of Texture

Leftover, you have a wooden dresser, a silver-lined round mirror and a geometric glass candle holder. Three completely different textured types of furniture, how could you possibly fit these into your home to make use of them? You may think were crazy, but, put them all together.

When furniture and accessories placed beside each other all have the same texture, your eyes tend to simply glaze over. But when you place a textured object in the space, the elements pop

5.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Accessorise to Characterise

The ultimate and easiest way to successfully mix and match your furniture is through accessories.

Ensure the accessories are adding >

By following these tips, your mix and matching journey should not only be fun and lead to an end product that embodies who you are, but itll give you confidence to invite people to your home and to make use of the new space you have created.

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The Power of SEO How to Grow Your Online Presence

What is SEO?

When a user searches a keyword, Google presents them with a ranked list of results. Those links have been evaluated and ranked by an algorithm for popularity, >

To put it simply, SEO is how you refine your online presence to make it rank higher in the search results, and thus be more visible to the people youre trying to reach.nbsp;

How to Use SEO

The big search engines like Google and Yahoo are constantly evaluating websites and adjusting their rankings. Theyre looking at factors like keywords, the quality of a websites user experience, the type of content it offers, and its nuts and bolts aspects like URLs, images, security, and viewability to decide how useful that website would be to search users. So it stands to reason that youll want to adjust those aspects of your website to improve your ranking. Lets cover a few of the most important in more detail.

Leveraging Keywords

Lets start with the basics. Keywords are going to be the foundation of your SEO efforts, because keywords are how your users are going to find you.

Think of it as a matchmaking exercise. Your ideal customers are out there, looking for you, and to find you, theyre searching for various keywords. In order to connect with those ideal customers, you have to discover those keywords, and incorporate them into your website. Only then will those searches start landing on your site, which will lead to those customers clicking through.nbsp;

Whether youre trying to rank for a keyword like sell my house if youre in the real estate space or 1031 exchange in the investing space, its important to update your articles regularly to ensure they have correct information and are the best results possible, so Google will list them first.nbsp;

An important note on keyword research: many businesses put a lot of effort into keyword research in the beginning, and then never go back to it. Then they wonder why their web traffic plateaus. Google is constantly adjusting their search algorithm, which means that websites have to adapt if they want to maintain their ranking. Remember that keyword research is a constant, ever-evolving process.nbsp;

High Quality Content

As recently as a few years ago, SEO was seen mostly as a struggle to get users onto your website: raw clicks were king, and what users did after that initial clickthrough was more or less ir>

Google now measures how long users stay on your website after they click through. If too many users bounce right back to the search results after a few seconds, your site will likely be designated as low quality, and its ranking will sag.

So how do you get users to stay on your site? Theres no magic bullet here: if you want users to stay on your website, you have to offer that high quality content. Listicles and short videos wont get the job done in 2019: today, with so much consumer web traffic being driven by cost-conscious and community-minded millennials, the best way to hold onto eyeballs is to provide rich, informative, educational content.

One of the best ways to do that is with longform content. This might seem counterintuitive in an era of reduced attention spans, but the numbers show that most users today want to be educated, and that many websites are seeing great results with pieces of 2,000 words or even longer.

Dense Internal Linking

Another way to boost your SEO is with internal linking. This is effective for two reasons.

One, SEO is an inexact science, and user behavior is hard to predict. Once a user clicks on your link, they may realize that the page they landed on doesnt offer exactly what theyre looking for. But if youve provided a sidebar of >

Second, even that initial click got the user exactly what they were looking for, the right selection of internal linking can entice them to spend more time on your site. Not only does this increase brand awareness for you, but Google notices when users click deeper into a site, and incorporates this information into your authority rating. And having a strong authority rating puts you on the fast track to the top of the rankings.

A Pleasant User Experience

Theres never been more competition for consumer eyeballs. So how your content looks and reads is as important as the substance of that content. If your website is unsightly or clunky, your customers wont hesitate to click over to a competitor.nbsp;

If youre going to follow the trend toward longer content, make sure that your content is readable and unintimidating. Think short paragraphs, punchy sentences, and plenty of white space to give your pages visual appeal. Also consider incorporating visual aids like infographics and short videos to make the material more digestible.

Dont forget to optimize the nuts and bolts of your website, too. Make sure your site is crawlable by properly naming images, making links >

Be Patient

Above all, keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process, and a long one. Google adjusts its algorithm hundreds of times a year, so the results of your SEO adjustments will take a little time to gain traction. Some experts estimate that it can take a full year for the benefits of an SEO campaign to impact your rankings.nbsp;

Refining your sites SEO is like climbing a mountain. Be diligent, be consistent, and be patient, keep moving upwards, step by step, and before long, the top will be in sight.

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Co-Signing? Consider These Points

The first is realizing what happens if someone you co-signed for defaults on a loan. A lender typically wont foreclose on a property until two or three payments are showing up as more than 30 and 60 days past the due date. A single late payment wont start foreclosure proceedings but more often than not when these payments become seriously delinquent the co-signer remains in the dark until things start to deteriorate rapidly. If you co-sign, make sure you get copies of monthly statements for the mortgage and monitor them closely.

Another thing to consider >

Opening up new credit accounts will also affect your credit balances. By co-signing on a mortgage, the new payment, including principal and interest, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance when needed, will be tacked on to your own personal debt. Should you decide to apply for a new mortgage or other larger purchase on credit, the amount you currently owe can affect whether or not you can obtain an approval.nbsp;

Maybe a gift would be a better option? To help someone qualify by co-signing, youre just as responsible for the mortgage as the primary borrower. Instead of co-signing, and you have the funds available, consider providing some financial assistance in the form of a gift. This would lower the amount borrowed and make it easier to qualify. Providing a gift also leaves out any longer-term solution. Co-signing means youre on the existing note. A gift can help but doesnt affect your credit lines. And if you do agree to co-sign, ask if this would be a long or short term situation. Do the primary borrowers need help as it >

And one final note here about co-signing. If one or both of the primary borrowers has damaged credit, co-signing wont help. When there are multiple borrowers on the same application, lenders use the lowest middle credit score of all the borrowers. If your credit score is 780 and their qualifying score is 500, you credit wont help. The lender will use the 500 as the qualifying score and likely headed for a turn-down.

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Are You Buying For The Right Reasons?

In the push to buy, have you stopped to decide what is driving you into homeownership in the first place?
With this in mind, are you sure youre well equipped to buy whats best for you?

The U.S. Census Bureau census.gov, which recently >


Of the nearly 123 million occupied housing units in the US, almost 57 percent of them are owner occupied.
Although homeownership rates were highest in the Midwest 69.0 percent, homeownership levels have not statistically differed from rates a year ago in the Midwest, Northeast, and West.

Homeownership is valued and is a persistent trend, but not an escalating one. Existing homeowners bought for a variety of reasons over a wide time frame. Some love where they are and what they bought; some are disgruntled; some are planning to move again for reasons that matter to them.

What is your main reason for buying a house? That is, how will owning a home improve your life and that of your family?

Six Top Reasons For Buying A Home

Prioritize the following list of Six Top Reasons For Buying A Home to clarify exactly why you are buying real estate and how to do it well:

1: To Gain More Living Space

Has your family expanded or are you launching a home-based venture? Or, do you just love the idea of room to spread out, inside and outside? Space costs money, so if you want to keep costs down, smaller is better. How have you arrived at your desired square footage? Just following the pack or is it based on experience? Clarify whether you need more space for living and sharing or for storing your ultimately-expendable stuff.

Reality Tip: Good design is more valuable than square footage. Cleverly-designed traffic flow, room placement, storage utilization, lighting including windows and skylights, and interior decor including furnishings can make a small house feel like a spacious home. The more you learn about how good design pays off, the more effectively you can evaluate the true value of any property you view.

2: To Further Career amp; Income Development

If a location puts you near work, clarify how stable the employer and your job are. However, if mobility and career flexibility are essential to your chosen profession, buying a home now may not be the best plan. If career research confirms that you may have to move out of the area in a few years to get ahead, you might not recoup the cost of buying and maintaining a home in that short ownership period. Renting may be the best approach.

Reality Tip: If you love this location and hope to return to it when your career is established, buy now and rent out the house while your career takes you away. This property can function as collateral for buying more real estate and will provide income and equity-building potential. If you love the location, this strategy may keep you from being squeezed later out if area prices increase while youre away.

3: To Find a More Affordable Location

If all you can afford to do in your current area is rent, buying a home will probably require a move to a new area. How does that balance against commuting costs, work potential, amenities, and what you love about where you live now? Do the math: is it better to rent and save to invest, or buy elsewhere? Ideally, housing costs should be 30 to 35 percent of gross income. Have experienced real estate professionals fill you in on the benefits and realities of living in new areas youre considering. For instance, even if you dont have kids, local school quality will still have a big impact on how quickly your new location appreciates. Dont just wander around online. Spend time walking and touring the new areas. Before you invest time looking at a lot of houses, this complete reality check will let you know whether the shift to a less-expensive neighborhood or a move further out of town makes life>

Reality Tip:nbsp; To stay in the area that means a lot to you, you might consider the shift from a detached house to an attached townhome or even a condominium. Townhomes, condominiums, and lesser locations all tend to appreciate in value more slowly than detached homes and highly-desired locations, so consider the long-term costs of settling for less at the start.nbsp;

4: To Invest amp; Build Equity

Determined to improve your finances by investing in a fixer upper and building sweat equity through do-it-myself renovations? The savings can be amazing, especially if you buy the best location you can afford and take advantage of the value your improvements and location add. If you are not trained or experienced in construction, invest time locating contractors who deal fairly and who have a lot of on-the-job experience. You dont want to pay them to learn on the job. Cheap quotes and fast talk can be expensive in the long run. Recent home buyers hired a renovator to get the 30-year old home they bought looking good and to renovate bathrooms and the kitchen. That all went well, but serious problems with the foundation were glossed over by the renovator who had no experience with foundations and water issues, just decor. Those homeowners overspent on renovations and now have to refinance to tackle foundation repairs.

Reality Tip: Renovating a home yourself or hiring experts is very doable, but dont confuse what you want with reality. Because you have and want to spend only 30,000 does not mean your planned changes will cost 30,000. Take the time to cost out construction changes and include a healthy contingency fund for surprises. Once you agree in writing on renovation details with your contractor, avoid changes. Changes drive the budget up and dont always improve the outcome. You may benefit from investing time and perhaps a few hundred on a short consult with an interior designer or architect. Theyll fill you in on common renovation problems and usual errors before you start.

5: To Move Ahead In Spite of Everything

Have you stayed out of the real estate market because sluggish wage growth and increasing debt make your dream home seem less affordable every year?

Time for a redo of that dream. Search out a real estate professional who specializes in helping first-time buyers maximize their advantages to make a solid move into real estate. Thats the professional who is very interested in helping you buy well, so youll come to them when its time for you to sell and move up.

Reality Tip: In your mind, separate interior decor from building condition and design. Decor offers a superficial, and often do-it-yourself, fix while changes and improvements to the building can be expensive, but, done well, add space and utility. Buy real estate with solid bones and the best location you can afford. The rest is paint and imagination which can take place gradually as you get to know the building and what really works.

6: To Live More Green

Research will be your friend here. Technology and materials may be labeled green, but they are not always as effective as advertised. They may also be much more expensive. If you want to go green, make sure you know what you and everybody you hire are talking about. One home buyer opted for many environmental systems in his new build. He did not investigate installation requirements but >

Reality Tip: Environmental features can include building orientation, window placement, energy-efficient appliances, lighting, HVAC systems, landscaping for energy conservation, and long-lasting materials and technologies. A home office can be an environmental feature if it saves on commuting costs. The time spent talking to homeowners who have successfully created environmentally-sophisticated homes will be priceless. Learn from their mistakes and mis-spends, not yours.

Clarify why you want to buy a house and youll know what you need to investigate and understand before you start the actual search. This is how to guarantee youll make informed decisions about the best fit.

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You Dont Need 20 Down and Seven Other Myths That Are Getting in the Way of Homeownership

You need to be well-established in your forever career

There has been a lot of discussion about how millennials are waiting longer and longer to purchase homes. As a result of their consequent struggle to save,nbsp;millennialsnbsp;are delaying major life milestones like getting married and buying a home, said Business Insider.

Nonetheless, there are still millennials jumping into the market because, even know their name isnt yet on the door, theyre excited to have a home in their name. Having a stable job, a comfortable salary, and the desire to own a home may just be enough.nbsp;

Sure, you might not be ready to buy the house of your dreams or move to the neighborhood where you can imagine raising kids and, someday, retiring, but that doesnt mean youre completely out of the game. A smaller place closer to work or an attached property can, quite literally, get your foot in the homeownership door and allow you to start earning equity.

You have to be completely out of debt

Recent data shows that nearly half of all undergraduates are delaying homeownership because of student loans. According to a recentnbsp;Federal Reservenbsp;study,nbsp;a 1,000 increase in student loan debtnbsp;lowers the homeownership rate by about 1.5, equivalent to an average delay of about 2.5 months in attaining homeownership, said Clever Real Estate. For the average college debt holder with 37,000 in debt, that ends up being about a 7.7-year delay in their path homeownership.

Regardless of your debt, whether its from student loans or credit cards, it may still be possible to qualify for a mortgage and afford the payments, especially because rents are often comparable to mortgage payments. Mortgage underwriters dont expect homebuyers to be debt-free; In fact, having no debt might actually work against you. They like to see responsible credit use and management.

You need to have a family

Yes, many would-be homebuyers hold off until parenthood is looming, because theyre not ready to move to the suburbs, get married, and have kids. But, a third of todays new homeowners are unmarried, according to CITYLAB. The shift is detailed in anbsp;new working papernbsp;from Harvard Universitys Joint Center for Housing Studies, in which researchers crunched demographic data from HUD and from American Housing Surveys taken every other year between 1997 and 2017. Perhaps the most notablenbsp;departure from 20 years ago is the marital status of new homeowners. According to the paper, the share of married buyers declined from 61 percent in 1997 to just over half by 2017. Meanwhile, 35 percent of first-time homebuyers in 2017 had never been married.

You need to be a man

There was a time when single women wouldnt even have considered buying a home on their own. That time has clearly passed. According to the National Association of Realtorsnbsp;2018 profile of home buyers and sellers, single women homebuyers outnumbered single male homebuyers bynbsp;2 to 1

You need a 30-year conventional loan

There are tons of different loans that can help you purchase your first home, make payments more affordable and/or give you the flexibility you need to make homebuying affordable. FHA loans are among the most well-known and most popular loans for first-time buyers because they require just 3.5 down and have low credit score requirements. Other loans worth looking into depending on your circumstances include: government VA loans for veterans; USDA loans for properties in rural areas; and loans like Fannie Maesnbsp;Home>

You need to have great credit

If your score isnt in the 800s, or even the 700s, it doesnt mean youre going to be living that apartment life forever. You might be surprised to see the credit score minimums for some loans. While there is no official minimum credit score for a home loan approval, the minimum FICO credit score for conventional loan approvalnbsp;tends to be around 620, said Credit.com.

It has to be your primary home

Some rich urban millennials are choosing tonbsp;rent in the city and buy a vacation homenbsp;instead of a primary residence, said Business Insider. Meanwhile, some other savvy investors are continuing to rent and plunking down money to purchase homes in tourist-friendly locations so they can take advantage of the AirBNB craze. According tonbsp;Priceonomics, hosts on Airbnb are earning more than anyone else in the gig economy and are raking in an average of 924 a month, said Travel amp; Leisure. Airbnb hosts make nearly three times as much as other workerswith some hosts making more than 10,000 per month.nbsp;

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What Do Millennials Want? We Now Have a Better Idea

Millennials tend to have higher expectations than older homeowners did about their ideal starter home, according to a new survey by Clovered, said REALTOR Magazine.nbsp;

If you look at the buying trends of millennials, its clear that while they may be waiting longer to purchase their first home, their expectations of what that house should include certainly arent lagging. Compared to their parents and grandparents at their age,nbsp;fewernbsp;millennials are homeowners, but millions of younger peoplenbsp;havenbsp;invested in their own propertyand they might not be the starter houses youd expect, said Clovered. Despite living with their parents longer than any generation before them,nbsp;putting off marriagenbsp;for an increased time span, and sometimes strugglingnbsp;to find their dream jobs, millennials are going from perennial renters to owners of whatnbsp;might be their forever homes.

The company surveyed more than 1,000 millennial first-time buyers for insight into which features and amenities were highest on their list. Here are a few of the key points:

Home size

Does size matter? It does in pretty much every demographic, but millennials are the most sensitive when it comes to the amount of square footage they want in their home. Baby boomers ideal size home, according to the survey, is 2,949 square feet, Generation X prefers homes at 3,311 square feet, and millennials want the most space at 3,320 square feet.

Number of bedrooms

Millennials prefer 4.2 bedrooms, per the study, to boomers 3.7 and Gen Xs 4.1. While youre probably not looking to add a fourth bedroom just for the purpose of selling your home, this information may help you stage it intelligently. Clearing out that bedroom youve been using as a home gym or storage space and turning it back into a bedroom might be a good idea.nbsp;

Move-in ready

The top factors noted by survey participants had several things sellers cant do much about in terms of making their home more saleablethings like affordability of the area, local crime rates, short commute to work, and climate. Sellers can, however, do something about making their home move-in readyanother important factor for millennials.

Its hard to deny the emotional aspect of buying a home, Clovered said. When youre touring potential listings and trying to decide where you want to raise your family or put down roots, youre fantasizing about what life in that home could be like. Instead of thinking about where the house is located or how much youll have to pay in property taxes, its the tangible features of a home that really help sell it for most people.

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Drew Barrymores Peel-And-Stick Wallpaper Is Here to Dress up Your Holiday Home

We know what youre thinking: Isnt that for rentals? Let us tell you whats so great about peel-and-stick wallpaper regardless of where you live: Its temporary. It allows you to take risks with your interior design in a way you might not consider with less-temporary dcor items like, say, actual wallpaper. You can take it down and put something else up when you want your walls to rock a new trend. So, you dont have to live with the choices you make today for the next 10 years or more because you dread taking it down.nbsp;

Just how bad is it to take down real wallpaper? One Redditor on the OMG wallpaper removal sucks board commented that, I actually tore the walls down in my living room because I didnt want to steam the wallpaper off. I figured I could tear the walls down and rehang drywall faster than steaming and scraping.

Peel-and-stick is easy to put up, is repositionable, and comes right off in a matter of seconds when youre ready for something new. While youre considering gifts for loved ones, be sure to think about how great this would look in your house

Flower by Drew Barrymore

Wallpaper is one of the new additions to the fall Flower by Drew Barrymore line also introduced were new furniture pieces, bedding, accessories, art, and kitchen/dining items.. The lineup includes artistic and abstract prints, patterns, and colorways inspired by the season, said Walmart. Each 18 ft. x 18.86 ft. roll is priced from 34-49. And includes:

Navy Vintage Palm
Tropical Toile, Teal
Tropical Toile, Yellow
Peach Vintage Palm
Orange and Blue Vintage Floral
Yellow Vintage Floral Peel
Coral and Blue Art Deco Fan
Blue and Yellow Art Deco Fan

My dcor >
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Identifying Dangerous Products in the Home

Last year, the Consumer Products Safety Program CPSP, part of Health Canada, received 2,355 reports about dangerous products, of which 22 involved a death and another 917 referred to a non-fatal injury. This list includes consumer products and cosmetics, but not vehicles, medical or food products, which are monitored by separate divisions of Health Canada.

Under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, companies that make consumer products must report any health or safety incidents to Health Canada. Consumers can also report unsafe products by filling out an online form.nbsp; In addition, the CPSP gathers information in Canada and internationally about any injuries and new science >

The top 10 consumer products reported to CPSP last year were, in order:

Toys: Reports of children getting cuts and bruises from toys and choking on small parts

Telephones or accessories: Burns, cuts and electric shocks

Diapers: Irritations and allergic reactions

Electric ranges or ovens: Burns, cuts, irritation or allergic reactions

Battery chargers and adaptors: Burns and electric shock

Laundry soaps and detergents: Irritations or allergic reactions and poisoning

Stroller/tricycle: No injuries reported

Light bulbs: Cuts, burns and electric shock

Thermostats: Fire, causing irritation or allergic reaction

Computers: Burns

Several household products were also blamed at least partially for a death. Five people died as a result of strangulation by cord entanglement from window shades, venetian blinds or indoor shutters. A floor lamp fire resulted in someone receiving extensive burns and dying as a result of complications. A heating system malfunctioned and killed a resident by carbon monoxide poisoning. There were 10 deaths from garden tractor and riding lawn mower accidents.

Recently Health Canada and the Ontario Fire Marshals office issued a warning about tabletop fire pots, also known as fireburners, patio burners, flamepots or tabletop fire pits. They are portable, decorative accents that support an open flame burning. They are generally made of ceramic and have an open fuel reservoir.

Ontario has recorded multiple fatalities and serious injuries >

In June, a Toronto doctor died after she was seriously burned while refueling one of the units.

Pegg says that a fire hazard called flame-jetting can happen if you try to pour fuel into one of these units before the flame has been fully extinguished. The flame is not always visible.

The Fire Marshals Office created a video to show how injuries can happen.

When using a firepot, make sure any flames are fully out and that its cold to the touch before refueling. Only refuel when there is nobody near the unit. Use a fuel container that has a flame arrestor, says the Fire Marshal.

Health Canada maintains a busy website that includes product recalls and warnings for all kinds of consumer products, as well as food, vehicles and health products. Here are a few household products that recently made the list that no manufacturer wants to be on.

Mid-Century three-drawer chests, imported by Home Meridian International: Some models of these chests are unstable if they are not anchored to the wall, posing serious tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children, says Health Canada. About 10 of the units were sold in Canada.

Carrier- and Bryant-branded 1.5-ton multi-zone, four-ton multi-zone and four-ton single-zone ductless heat pump outdoor units have been recalled due to a fire hazard. Health Canada says the fan motor can fail and catch fire. If the units are close to a building the flame could spread. As of August 2019, there had been five reports of fires in Canada and one in the United States. About 450 of the units have been sold in Canada. Consumers are advised to contact their installation servicer, dealer or contractor for a free repair.

DeWalt multi-functional 40-inch utility bars have been recalled because they may break while being used for prying. The bars are yellow at one end and black at the other. The model number DWHT55293 is printed in black on the yellow end. As of October of this year, the company has received no reports of the bar breaking in Canada.

ASKO dishwashers sold in stainless steel and custom panel-ready options have internal wiring that can overheat, melt or catch fire. There have been no reports of this happening in Canada as of September 2019, but 69 reports have been recorded in the United States. Health Canada says 4,324 of the units have been sold in Canada.

The Health Canada site includes dozens of warnings and recalls and outlines what consumers should do to dispose of the recalled products and get a refund.

Health Canada also works with international consumer production organizations. You can check out products that have been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or by other countries around the world.

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Tips to Check the Feng Shui of Your Home

A strong and healthy front door

In feng shui, houses are absorbing most of the needed energy nourishment via the front door, so the stronger your front door, the more good feng shui energy it can absorb. And the more good feng shui energy your door can absorb, the better energy there is to support you Having a strong feng shui front door is a bit like having a clear, strong voice and speaking up for yourself/letting yourself and your needs be known. Houses need to have a clear voice, too.

What makes a strong feng shui front door? A door that is proportionate to the size of the house, that opens easily and freely, enjoys beautiful paint in the right color and has good hardware. Other features include a door that is well-lit, has a good pathway leading to it, and opens up into an inviting main entry. In other words, a door that invites both respect and admiration, a door that looks good and feels good.

A main entry with inviting, self-contained energy

The main entry is very important in feng shui as this is the space that has to have the ability to draw in and further invite/direct the energy into your home. It has to have a quality of energy that is welcoming as well as self-contained, so that the energy can settle in. There should be no doors or windows directly facing the front door. When you have any door facing the front door be it a bathroom door or a back door the energy easily escapes without being able to nourish the house. The same scenario can be created by a big window facing the front door as this will promote a leakage of incoming energy.

A happy, active and nourishing kitchen

The kitchen is considered the heart of the home in many cultures for obvious reasons. In feng shui, the kitchen is also connected to the health and wealth energy, so it is very important to take good care of your kitchen.From best feng shui colors for your specific kitchen to creating and maintaining fresh and nourishing energy, any and all details matter in creating a good feng shui kitchen. There can be no good feng shui home if the energy in the kitchen is unhappy, stagnant or cold.

The bedroom as the most loved room in the house

You must have heard me many times saying that the bedroom is the most important room in the house. That is, in a good feng shui house, of course Instead of focusing most of our attention on grand living rooms and expensive dining to impress others, it would do the house and us so much good to create a good feng shui home by keeping our attention on the bedroom. Understand all the guidelines and basics that make a good feng shui bedroom, and then continue to bring lots of love energy into your bedroom.


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The Beginners Guide to House Hacking

In reality, house hacking helps you break into the real estate investment market while also covering your own housing expenses.nbsp;

That last part is huge. For most people, their biggest bill is their rent or mortgage, with the average rent in the United States hitting an all-time high of 1,405 last year. Theyre spending hundreds of dollars each month to keep a roof over their head, money that could otherwise be used to build wealth or achieve financial freedom. Home prices have skyrocketed in the last 30 years while household incomes have remained largely the same, so home buyers need to find creative ways to afford their monthly payments.

Whether youre a real estate investor newbie or are a seasoned investor looking for a new way to build wealth, house hacking not only provides an attractive income, but can also allow you to live for free.

What is House Hacking?

By definition, house hacking is the act of turning your investment property into your primary residence. In some cases, you might convert a single-family home into a duplex or rent out a bedroom. But typically, the practice applies to multi-family residences, one of which is yours and others are rented out to other tenants.

As the landlord, you receive rent from the other units, which will ideally be more than enough to cover the mortgage and your own living expenses. When this is done correctly, you can use the leftover money to quickly increase your investment capital. This is different than the house flipping popularized by HGTV its not about a quick flip.nbsp;nbsp;

However, there is some risk involved. If you end up with a money pit, you could end up spending more than youre collecting in rent, which would essentially defeat the purpose of house hacking.nbsp;

House Hacking Benefits

Lets say your household brings in an average salary of 73,298 each year. In a recent report, Americans spent an average of 19,884 on housing, which is roughly 27 of your annual pre-tax salary. Imagine what you could do with an extra 19,884 ever yearnbsp;

Maybe youd want to put it toward more rental properties to grow your portfolio. Or, perhaps youd want to save it to pay for your kids college, their first car, or even retire early

Heres a quick example of what house hacking looks like in action, based on a property purchased last year using this exact strategy:

Four-plex property: 220,000 including closing costs and repair credits
Cash to close: 10,000 including the down payment, property inspection, and 3,000 in additional repairs
Monthly rent from 3 units: 2,000
Monthly mortgage payment: 1,400
Monthly cash flow: 600
Budgeted expenses: 600
Final Income: 0
Money saved from not paying rent: 8,400 per year

There wasnt money earned on this deal, but rent was free. Instead, there was enough money to cover expenses and repairs. As for the money saved on housing, it was now invested in building wealth 8,400 per year.

But aside from living essentially for free, house hacking provides so much more. For some investors who are doing this, its their ticket to early retirement. For others, its a long-term plan for making money and allowing you the financial independence you crave.nbsp;

What You Need

Successful house hacking >

A multi-unit investment property
Affordable down payment
Low fixed-rate mortgage

Ideally, you can find a below market value property that will help you build instant equity. We recommend only considering properties where the total rental income is at least 1 of the propertys purchase price.nbsp;

Heres another bit of good news: if you plan on using the property as a primary residence, you can usually find more favorable financing.nbsp;

Money is usually one of the biggest obstacles that prevents people from investing in real estate. But when you can get a mortgage with a low down payment and low interest rate, like a 3.5 FHA loan, the barrier to entry is much lower.nbsp;

The right real estate agent can make all the difference, especially when you can work with an investor-friendly one. Lean on your agent throughout the process, from finding investment properties to exploring financing options. Youll likely get a lot farther with an agent than you could going it alone or using an iBuyer like Offerpad, especially if youre new to house hacking.nbsp;

Where to Start

Weve found that the best way to implement this investment strategy is in the Midwest where property is affordable, but it can also work in other parts of the country e.g. renting out an Airbnb in Denver to cover your mortgage.nbsp;

Youll want to do some digging in your local market to find properties below market value or at least affordable. Much of the country right now is still experiencing a sellers market, but there have been several signs thats about to change. The market looks to be cooling, which is great news for investors who want to score a potentially good deal on a multifamily property.

Foreclosed homes, HUD properties, or fixer-uppers are good labels to start with. When looking at these homes, remember youll likely need to do a little work to get them move-in ready. Look at the roof, the plumbing, HVAC system, foundation, condition of the windows and doors, appliances, and the kitchen and bathroom.

Youre not likely to find a property thats in good condition, in a good neighborhood, AND priced affordably. Youll usually have to bend on something, and we recommend prioritizing the things you cant change.

Getting Financing

Getting a mortgage for a house hack is similar to getting a mortgage for any primary residence, but its a little harder. You may have certain requirements to meet that you otherwise wouldnt.

Youll need to know your low down payment mortgage options, which in this case would be a VA Loan, FHA Loan, FHA 203K, or Fannie Mae Home>

Look at the credit score requirements, down payment options, property eligibility requirements, if you need mortgage insurance, and whether you can wrap home improvement costs into the loan.nbsp;

Its a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage first to be ready when you find the right property.

After Closing

You close on the property, fix it up, start getting tenants, and BOOM now youre a landlord.nbsp; One upside to living on property is being able to manage it yourself rather than outsourcing to a property manager.nbsp;

First and foremost, remember this is a business, and youll need to learn quickly what to do and what not to do if you want your house hack to be profitable.

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Is This the Future of Rent-To-Buy?

One of the main reasons why rent-to-own agreements are attractive to renters is because they can engage to a contract even though they have a bad credit status, said Passive Real Estate Investing.nbsp;He or she can improve their credit rating by renting the property and later on, they may be able to get a loan to purchase the property.

Another benefit of renting to own is that it allows buyers to lock in a purchase price, which can be especially beneficial in a time when home prices are on the rise, said Quicken Loans. If the option money or a percentage of the rent is applied to the homes purchase price, you can also begin to build equity in the home before you even purchase it.

Prospective buyers also get a test run of sorts to figure out if its the right house and the right area, or if they need to start their search over. If thats the case, they can walk away, said Passive Real Estate Investing. Of course, they lose whatever premium theyve been paying above and beyond what the regular rent one of been.

That premium is perhaps the biggest negative of entering into a rent-to-own arrangement. First, theres the upfront money. In a rent-to-own agreement, you as the buyer pay the seller a one-time, usually nonrefundable, upfront fee called the option fee, option money, or option consideration, said Investopedia. This fee is what gives you the option to buy the house by some date in the future. The option fee is often negotiable, as theres no standard rate. Still, the fee typically ranges between 2.5 and 7 of the purchase price.

You can expect to pay more per month, too. Typically, the rent is slightly higher than the going rate for the area to make up for the rent credit you receive, said Quicken Loans. But be sure you know what youre getting for paying that premium.

And thats not the only downside. In the end, when you decide not to buy the property, you will lose all the money you paid including the initial premium payment, said Passive Real Estate Investing. Also, in cases of missed or late payments, you may lose the option to buy the property.nbsp;

Youll also want to make sure you read the contract carefully so you know the terms. Some landlords include a lease-purchase in their rent-to-own agreement, which legally obligates the renter to purchase the home at the end of the lease, said Quicken Loans.nbsp;

A new way to rent-to-own

Divvy Homes is a new player on the rent-to-own scene that may be the answer for buyers looking to get into a home while mitigating some of the potential drawbacks to a more typical arrangement. Divvy works with buyers to figure out the budget that is comfortable for them and requires just 2 down while covering all fees, closing costs, taxes and insurance.nbsp;

You pick the house you want to buynot just any house, said Marketplace. Around 20 percent of your monthly rent goes toward what Divvy calls equity credits. After three years, renters own 10 percent, typically enough to qualify for a mortgage and buy Divvy out.

Divvy also refunds some of the money for those who opt not to purchase the home. If they leave or default before three years, theyll get back half of the equity theyve built.

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Troubleshooting Plumbing Issues

Broken pipes

Orange County, for example, is one of the most densely populated places in America, and it is facing an expensive problem. About a fifth of the areas water pipes are coming to the end of their useful lifespan. Not only are the pipes a bit old, but the soil is also corrosive. Of course, much of the pipe that needs to be replaced is the citys responsibility, but some of the financial burden will rest on the shoulders of local residents.nbsp;This is also an issue for plenty of other lcoations nation-wide. If youre experiencing any of the signs of a major leak, be it reduced water pressure, damp spots in your yard or driveway, or a smell of sewer in the house, be sure to contact a plumbernbsp;to get things working the right away.

Leaking faucets

Leaking faucets are a pain. They can run up your water bill and even cause damage if the pooling leaks in a place you cant see. You might not believe it, but even a slow drip, if it is steady, can be costing you 20 dollars in water a week. In most cases, a dripping faucet is caused by a faulty seal on the valve that holds back the water supply coming into your home. Your water supply is under pressure, which is why water spurts out when you turn on the tap, and the seal holds this pressure back. To fix it, turn off the water supply and then remove the faucet assembly. Check that the screw and stem are not damaged. In most cases, the problem is the washer. Replace the washer with one of exactly the same size and be sure to wrap it in plumbers tape.

Slow drains

If only one drain has slowed, its likely to be a localized clog. In that case, your first step should be to look down the drain and see if anything obvious is clogging it. If not, try using a plunger to clear it. You can use a toilet plunger or buy one specifically for sinks: it is the same shape but has a shorter handle. If this doesnt work, try putting a half cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it with a half cup of vinegar. Let it sit for a couple hours and then send down some boiling water. If youre completely sure that grease is the problem, use a half cup of salt and a half cup of baking soda and a pot of hot water. Let it sit overnight. If you experience constant drain problems, see about having the pipes inspected and replaced. You have great roofing, perhaps even an Everdrain roof, to protect your home from seepage and wet from above: make sure its not being eroded from below by faulty old pipes.

Toilet problems

If youre not getting enough water in the tank to fully flush the bowl, try bending the float arm up just a bit. This will allow the tank to fill higher before the water turns off. If theres plenty of water in the tank but not enough makes it into the bowl, check the tank ball on the flush valve and consider resetting the guide. If neither of these issues fixes the problem, there could be buildup from hard water in the small holes that sit under the rim of the inside seat. These small holes are where the water comes out, and buildup can block the water. Trying using a mirror to inspect them and a wire coat hanger to unclog them. These are just a few of the problems you can face when it comes to your home plumbing. If you get in over your head, dont hesitate to call for professional help.

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Building New? Make Sure Your Preapproval is Ready for Your Permanent Mortgage

Funds for construction are provided to the builder in phases and not issued in one lump sum. For the first draw it might be to clear and prep the lot. The second might be to begin framing for the foundation and so on until the home is ultimately completed. During this time, the lender will send out an inspector who will verify the funded stage has been completed and ready for the next round.

The lender will also order an appraisal noting what the value will be as completed even though the home has yet to be started or in construction phase. Its this value where the lender establishes a minimum base loan amount. Depending upon the size of the job, a home can be built in as little as six months to a year or more. But once construction has been completed, the construction loan needs to be replaced. This replacement is referred to as the permanent mortgage and is nothing more than your traditional home loan.nbsp;

Your construction lender will want to see that youve already applied for a permanent mortgage and received a preapproval. To do this, you will need to provide your preapproval letter from your mortgage company.nbsp;

The permanent mortgage can be any available residential home loan. You will be expected to provide documentation verifying your income, employment and assets. Your credit report will also be pulled as well as credit scores. Upon the initial application, the lender can provide you with your preapproval letter. Yet as construction progresses and youre getting closer to completion, the lender will ask for updated credit documents, even though youve already provided them. This is due to the requirement that all credit documents, things such as your paycheck stubs, bank statements and credit report needs to be no more than 30 days old. When the lender is alerted that completion is nearing, the lender will need new documents from you.

Finally, there are loans sometimes referred to as one time close or construct to perm that combine funds for both the construction as well as a permanent mortgage. To find out which scenario is best for your situation, your loan officer can help find the financing for you.

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5 Surprising Ways to Invest in Your House

Expanded Driveway

One area that many people never think about changing is their driveway. Over the years, a lot of people have learned that they can expand their driveway to hold more cars. This is especially useful if you have multiple vehicles that members of your family drive.

In the average neighborhood, there is simply not enough space for more than a few cars. It is a small investment to expand the driveway of your home, and the potential future buyers will love this feature.

New Cabinets

The kitchen is one of the most important areas of the home when it comes to selling. Cabinets are a central point of any kitchen. If you want to improve or replace your cabinets, it is vital to work with a company that has experience in the field. Look for cabinet refinishing companies near you through online sources.

The cabinets in your kitchen should flow with the rest of your home. With such a large investment of both time and money, make sure that you have conducted research on the best cabinets for your current home.

Tile in Bathroom

Another vital room in your home is the master bathroom. You will spend a lot of your time in this room, so it is important to make it as inviting as possible.

Upgrading the floors in your bathroom is a great choice. Tile is the most common piece of material to use. Not only does it last longer, but it looks much better than other options as well.

Heated tile is another feature that many people enjoy. In the cold mornings of the winter, heated tile can be a nice luxury. As soon as you walk on the tile, your feet will be heated and you will enjoy the bathroom experience much more. This is new technology that a lot of people are upgrading to.

Smart HVAC System

Everyone knows that a new HVAC system is not cheap. However, there are new HVAC systems that focus on reducing your total energy consumption. Although these units are still expensive, you will save some money every month on lower electricity bills.

With so many options on the market today, it is vital to spend some time finding the right model for your home. If you live in a cold area, make sure the heating unit is large enough to heat your entire home. In many areas, the upstairs part of the home is difficult to heat in the winter without a large unit.

New Paint

Perhaps the easiest way to improve the value of your home is to simply paint the walls. New paint on the walls can really improve the look and feel of your home. Although you can do the painting yourself, it makes sense to hire someone who has experience painting.

Painting an entire house is a long process. Although it will not be cheap, it will improve the value of your home greatly. This is one of the best things to do right before you list a home on the market.

Investing in your home is one of the best financial decisions that you can make. As the housing market continues to improve in value, investing in your home will help you financially. You can even use the equity in your home to pay for the new upgrades that you want.

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The VA Funding Fee Explained

VA loans are reserved for a select set of borrowers. These include veterans of the armed forces, active duty personnel with at least 181 days of service, National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve members with at least six years of service and unremarried, surviving spouses of those who have died while serving or as a result of a service->

Closing costs for VA loans are restricted for eligible borrowers. Borrowers can only pay for an appraisal and credit report, title insurance, origination fees and recording fees. In areas where surveys are required, borrowers are eligible to pay for a survey. One of these costs, the largest one as a matter of fact, is the VA funding fee.nbsp;

The funding fee is in essence an insurance policy the borrowers pay for in favor of the lender. This fee can vary based upon the term of the loan, re-use and any down payment. Its important to note here however that VA loans do not require a down payment, but borrowers may choose to provide one voluntarily. For first time buyers taking out a standard 30 year fixed rate term, the funding fee is currently 2.15 percent of the sales price of the home. For a 300,000 mortgage, thats 6,450.nbsp;

Thats quite a bit but remember the lender is approving a mortgage without any down payment. Should the loan soon go into default, there wont be any equity. There are also legal fees involved in such an instance so typically the lender is automatically upside down if the lender is forced to foreclose. However, this is rare as VA loans are some of the highest performing financing products in the industry.

The guarantee to the lender is 25 percent of the loss. Again, with an outstanding mortgage balance of 300,000, the lender is paid 75,000. This guarantee can also allow a lender to approve a zero down loan that it may not have approved with a low down payment conventional loan. Its the funding fee that finances this guarantee to the lender.

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Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2019

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