Prepping For Spring // Backyard Edition

No matter where you live (but especially here in SoCal!) outdoor entertaining at your home becomes more appealing as the weather warms and the days get longer.

With the start of Spring and the much-rejoiced arrival of day light savings, now may be the ideal time to prep (or update) your outdoor living spaces! Thanks to Pinterest & HGTV, the design and decor ideas are endless… which may have you feeling a bit overwhelmed.

The key is not to take on too much – just remind yourself that your main goal is to create a outdoor space that you can enjoy being in. We have gathered the following guidelines to get the gears turning and the inspiration flowing..

  • Be sure to create traffic patterns or designated ways to walk/move around. Due to the restricted lot sizes throughout most of the South Bay, this rule is especially critical if you want to make the most of a small or cramped space. This can be done in a variety of ways.. whether that be laying formal stone walkways or planting shrubs to help establish corners and borders.

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  • Add an outdoor fire source. Indoor fireplaces are great and all.. but when the mid-summer heat rolls around, you definitely do not want to be stuck indoors! Keep it low key with a portable firepit or firebowl (how cool are these!) or take things to the next level with a full fireplace. Just be sure to check your local building codes / fire safety rules… and to stock up on the s’mores supplies!

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  • Outdoor kitchens are an ideal way to extend your home’s living space into the outdoors. While detailed outdoor kitchens can easily become expensive, they don’t have to be! Remember, it is about creating an environment and the ability to eat outside, not necessarily buying all the frills and accessories. A charcoal grill and small outdoor dining table can be the start of your backyard dining experience.

Check out a few of the outdoor kitchens we are drooling over:

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  • Keep things practical and organized. Do not go over the top with accessories or details and have a designated area to put things (seat cushions, pillows, etc) when rain is in the forecast! Also, if you choose to incorporate an outdoor kitchen/dining area, be sure to have create a storage area for equipment to help keep the space cleared and available for enjoying.
  • Try out vertical gardening! Blank walls, covered patios and fencing can all benefit from the addition of vertical gardens. Succulents work best, and when coupled with found wood are a easy, affordable DIY project. We love  this charming vertical garden our Neighborhood Spotlight Anaïs and her husband build!

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  • Lastly, remember that a roof extends usability.  Overhead structures like a gazebo or screened porch provide comfort and protection from the elements, ultimately giving you more opportunities to spend time outdoors. However, the roofing does not have to be a permanent structure – pop-up tent over your deck or out in the yard can be just as effective in blocking the sun or rain!

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Women Who WOW Us

With today’s celebration of International Women’s Day and March’s designation as Women’s History Month,  we felt it was only fitting to highlight South Bay women whom we have found to be both influential and inspiring.

But first, a short background On International Women’s Day:  IWD has been celebrated for over a hundred years and has gained recognition in as an official holiday in a number of countries, including Uganda, Cuba, Russia and Vietnam. The United Nations began sponsoring International Women’s Day in 1975, designating a new theme each year. 2017’s appointed theme is “Be Bold For Change” or if you frequent social media, #BeBoldForChange


We are honored to highlight five local women who we have had the privilege of getting to know over the past year. Each of these women have created a way to pursue their unique passions and seek careers that give them personal fulfillment. Their stories inspire us and remind us that we are capable of shaping our own futures.

Aaaaand here they are:

Amy Errett, founder and owner of E3 Vehicles – a custom Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (golf cart) retailer based in the South Bay. Amy is a passionate about living the ultimate South Bay Lifestyle, one consisting of jaunting around town enjoying the sunshine while going green and saving money. Amy and E3 Vehicles help people realize their dream lifestyle by offering  custom made-to-order electric vehicles that are substantially under competitors prices.

In Amy’s words,

“I am amazed and pleasantly surprised by the support I have experienced from all areas of the community, both businesses and city governments.  The local business people, in particular, are very supportive of E3V’s concept and mission.  They have all offered recommendations to help me spread the word and come up with creative ideas to collaborate in the future. I have a lot more work to do when it comes to connecting with more people and businesses, but it has been such an encouraging process, so far.”

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Allison Gander, owner and principal of AGA Design – an architectural consulting firm, recognized early on that with her drawing abilities and aptitude for geometry a career as an architect would be the perfect fit. With over 12 years of experience in the profession to-date, Allison prepared for her career not just with a Bachelor’s of Science in architecture, but also with a year at Ecole d’Architecutre de Paris-La Villette and a Master’s of Architecture from Georgia Tech. Lucky for us, Allison relocated from Georgia to Los Angeles where she promptly began working as a Project Architect consultant for Levin & Associates. (If you have ever been to the Dodger Stadium or the John Anson Ford Ampitheatre – you have likely marveled at some of her work!) Allison’s next step brought her to creating AGA Designs, is a full-service architecture firm which allows her to stay involved with each project from start to finish.

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In Allison’s words:

“I’ve always loved to draw and sketch.  Eventually I headed in the architecture direction because I could use those talents and couple them with my geometric brain and curiosity and find out how things should be put together. Meeting with clients, sketching out their ideas while assisting in some fundamental design approaches is my favorite part.  I bring along my roll of trace paper to every meeting because you have to document those brainstorming sessions.”


You may have noticed this Jen Carpenter around the South Bay .. as shes is usually accompanied by 6-8 dogs she is hard to miss! Recognizing the busy schedules of South Bay-ers (not to mention the time spent in traffic for those of us commuting!), Jen founded Jen’s Dog Walking, a service that not only gives her furry customers their needed walks, but the love and attention that they deserve. Fueled by affection from her own three 3 dogs, Jen Carpenter is passionate about providing other canines with regular walks in order to ensure their health and happiness.

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In Jen’s words:

“I have been a dog walker for 12 years and it’s a very personal small business. I am pretty close with my clients, as I am taking care of their babies! I enjoy being a small local business because I’d like to maintain that personal family like feel with my clients.”


 

Growing up a harpist and a pianist, Anaïs de la Morandais eventually realized and decided to pursue her love for choral conducting. With a Master of Arts in choral conducting from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria and a Maîtrise of Musicology from the Université de Haute-Bretagne in Rennes, France, Anaïs has the education to match her passion. While she works primarily with children, Anaïs has taught men and women of all ages throughout her career. From leading workshops on physical body training in support of the voice, to teaching youth choirs the basics of rhythm, Anaïs has experience in all realms of the musical world. Since her arrival in California, Anaïs has founded Atelier Musical in an effort provide music education services to Santa Monica, Redondo Beach and all areas in between. She offers piano lessons and vocal technique lessons, as well as French language support for students.

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In Anaïs’ words:

“Since I’ve created Atelier Musical, my goal is to be able to work in the area that I reside. I mostly bike to my clients and that is such a pleasure! I hope in the next months, I will be able to create a vocal group for the South Bay and maybe incorporate French and German into the music! Since I speak both languages fluently, this would be a great opportunity for singers to practice a language they learned at school.”


With a Communication Design degree from OTIS, as well as experience as both a marketing director and an art director, Cat Landry is the independent graphic designer and owner behind Cat Landry Design. Beyond her impressive resume, however, Cat has also honed a skill set that helps her to evaluate and determine not just the needs of her clients, but also their personal style.  What stood out to us about Cat was her dedication to truly getting to know her clients and creating work that embodies who they are. She is especially passionate about working with local business and supporting the “South Bay Bubble.” What could be better than working with a designer who really knows the community your business serves and the audience you’re trying to reach?

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In Cat’s words:

“In 1999, I decided that the best way for me to continue to enjoy my work was to do it my way… with a smile. I put in my two-weeks notice and left the corporate world to start my own business. Cat Landry Design was “born” on my birthday in July 1999. Although freelance design has its ups and downs (financially and logistically), I’ve never regretted the choice to enjoy my work every single day.”


As always, it is quite humbling when we look back at the incredible women that we have had the opportunity to mingle with. We applaud Cat, Amy, Anaïs, Allison & Jen for following their calling, while also using their abilities to contribute to their community.

While these women give us plenty of reason to celebrate today and look forward to the future, this Forbes article provides 7 (More) Reasons To Be Optimistic This International Women’s Day!

Bringing The Sunshine Inside

With one of the grayest, rainiest winters the South Bay has seen in years behind us (hopefully!) the forecast shows blue skies ahead! This weather has us feeling inspired to bring the sunshine inside and give our own living spaces a spring makeover.

We are also pulling inspiration from this Avenue C listing (3 Bed, 3 Bath, 6,084) which perfectly exemplifies a light and bright style, while still remaining the ideal blend of comfortable and stylish.

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While it may be hard to completely capture a newly constructed house’s fresh feel in your home, we have gathered a few tips to help brighten things up this spring! Some are simple and some are more detailed, but even just one or two subtle changes can spring-ify your home!

  • Mirrors aren’t just for checking your hair! Place a large mirror directly across from a window to reflect light all around the room.  Or hang a few small ones on a wall perpendicular to the window to subtly bounce light around a room.
  • Just add white..or off white.. or eggshell. A fresh coat of paint around door frames, stair case banisters and window paneling will do wonders! HackIf you aren’t up for painting, just give frames, banisters and paneling a good scrub down to get rid of finger prints and accumulated dust. 
  • Change out those curtains. Get rid of any heavy or insulated curtains that you were using during the winter and replace them with light-colored airy ones. This can be applied all around your home – from the kitchen to the living room and even your bedroom (lighten up your bedding colors and fabric for a full transformation!)
  • Raise the roof (not literally). Many homes (especially those in the Golden Hills) have vaulted painted ceilings or even wood paneled ceiling applications. While these higher ceilings do create a larger feel in the room, without the correct lighting and appropriately located windows they can leave a room feeling dim. Recessed lighting fixtures or commonly referred to as “can lights” help to brighten up the ceiling without being obtrusive to the eye. Some options even include a dimmer switch to allow for flexible lighting control.
  • Keep it low. According to Designer Blair Gordon “Streamlined furnishings with low-slung profiles help rooms feel more spacious.” While you are at it, opt for white furniture, rather than dark colors. Think white bookcases, cream couches, and white tables… especially if you have dark wood floors!
  • While it would be nice to put in a few windows or a sky light, it is much easier to add some artificial lighting! Try Bright White LED bulbs to maximize the brightness coming from your lamps. Or add a table lamp to your current decor to help add a bit more brightness.
  • Bring in the Green! Indoor plants (whether flowers or green leafy plants) bring a breathe of fresh air into your home. Just be sure to water them regularly so you don’t end up with brown, wilting plants 🙂

Have any other simple “home-brightening” tips? Please share them with us! info@weberaccetta.com

We are excited to Spring Forward in a few weeks and wish you all a very happy March!

 

(Not So) Extreme Fireplace Makeover

Nothing beats a warm, roaring fire on a snowy winter’s night!

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But with winter weather in Redondo Beach hovering around a sunny 60 degrees, that cozy fire may not have the same appeal. For some SoCal families fires are a novelty saved for Christmas day and the fireplace goes unused the other 355 days of the year.

Luckily, there are many creative ways to transform that otherwise unused space and turn it into a focal point for your home. Here’s a look at some “fireplace makeover” ideas we are dying to test out.

1. Use your fireplace to freshen up the room! Artfully arranging flowers and other potted plants inside your fireplace can add color, dimensions and scents to your living space. A fireplace garden can satisfy your green thumb..without having to go outside. Succulents or ferns are hearty, low-maintenance options that will make your room come alive!We also love the idea of adding seasonal plants during the holidays, such as holly branches or poinsettias.

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2. If you love the flickering effect of a fire, as well as that alluring wood scent, an arrangement of candles inside your fireplace can help you achieve a similar feel. Home goods stores offer a wide range of candle scents, from Campfire Smoke WoodWick Candles  to Tory Burch’s Cedarwood Candles. The beauty of this option is that you swap out scents and holders to keep the arrangement appealing and smelling heavenly! It also mimics the romantic fire vibe without generating the smoke, mess or hassle of tending a fire.

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3. Create more storage by adding shelving into your fireplace. Beyond giving your another place to store books or trinkets, this option adds a focal point to the room. This is an easy way to add a mini library to your home or to display those family photos that never quite got hung up. To jazz things up, consider painting the backdrop of the fireplace a bright color or line it with patterned tiles!

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4. Showcase an art piece or family heirloom. When properly cleaned, the inlay of a fireplace creates a perfect place to  display a singular item. This tactic works best with a sculpture, but could also be used to feature a framed piece of art. The simplicity of this setup will add a sophisticated, museum-like feel to an otherwise unused space!

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5. If you are one of those “we use our fireplace once a year” families, then completely transforming your fireplace may not be the best ideas. (We don’t want to see those books caught on fire!) However, one easy way to transform your fireplace and achieve a rustic, homey ambiance is to stack it neatly with firewood. Use logs that are the same length but have varying diameters, and be sure to pack them tightly to fill the whole space. And hey, when that “one day a year” rolls around you will already have firewood on hand!

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The beauty of owning your own home is that you can transform it into whatever you want it to be! You can take each space and make it into something functional that works for your family and individual style. With a little creativity (and the help of the internet), your  fireplace transformation could be the start of a complete home-make-over!

 

A Property Tax Guide for New Homeowners

 

Now that the distraction of a highly publicized presidential election is over, it is time to turn our focus on a topic that is (almost) equally as fun! Property Taxes.

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First, it is helpful to understand the process and how your property tax and who determines it. Your home is assessed by a county property assessor, who then assigns your home a certain value. Then your local taxing authority sets the multiplier, or the rate at which your home will be taxed. So, for example, if your home is assessed at $800,000 and the tax rate is set at 1.25 percent, each year you would need to pay $10,000 to your local taxing authority.

Next, be sure to familiarize yourself with tax due dates – delinquent penalties are harsh and expensive. Mark the following dates on your calendar:

Installment             Due Date            Delinquency Date*            Penalty, if delinquent

1st                   November 1               December 10                 10% of amount due
2nd                   February 1                     April 10                     10 % of amount due + $10.00 Cost

At first glance (and for most situations) these dates and payment amounts are straight-forward – as a homeowner you will receive clear instruction for how much you and when it is due by. However, as taxes get a bit confusing when you purchase or sell a home and are want to ensure that you are not held responsible for paying taxes before (or after) you actually own the home!

Here is a helpful step-by-step guide from SF Gates on how to calculate the property taxes you will owe:

  1. Refer to the most recent tax bill or municipal and county tax records to determine the total property tax due for the fiscal year. California’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. Divide the total bill by 360, which is California’s customary measure of a year for the purposes of real estate transactions. This figure is the amount of property tax due for each day of the fiscal year. For example, a $12,600 tax bill divided by 360 days equals a daily tax amount of $35.00
  2. Count the number of full months from July 1 through and including the day before closing. Multiply that figure by 30, which is California’s customary measure of a month for the purposes of real estate transactions. For example, there are three full months if a closing is scheduled for October 15: July, August and September. Three months multiplied by 30 days equals 90 days.
  3. Count the number of days in the partial month in which closing is to occur, but don’t include the closing date. In the October 15 example, there are 14 days. Add this number to the number of days in the full months. Using this example, the total is 104.
  4. Multiply the total number of days by the daily tax amount. Using the same example, $35 per day for 104 days equals $3,640. This is the amount of prorated tax the seller owes at closing.
  5. Count the number of full months from closing day to June 30. Multiply the number of months by 30 days. For an Oct. 15 closing, there are 8 full months, or 240 days.
  6. Subtract from 30 the number of days the seller will own the home in the closing month. The answer is the number of days the buyer will own the home during closing month. Using the Oct. 15 example, the buyer will own the home for 16 days in October.
  7. Add the total number of days the buyer will own the home during the fiscal year. The sum for this example is 256 days. Multiply that figure by the daily tax amount to determine the buyer’s tax proration. In this example, the buyer owes $8,960.

California law states that if the same owner keeps the property, that the assessed value of a property cannot increase by more than 2 percent per year. However, when a home is sold or transferred, it becomes subject to be reassessed at current market value  and in most cases is assigned a new base tax value. As California real estate historically appreciates over time, the base value generally increases with each reappraisal which results in increased property taxes. (Some exceptions apply – See our post on Propositions 60 and 90)

New homeowners: be expected of receiving a supplemental tax bill approximetely 6 months after your purchase. A supplemental bill is based on the difference between your home’s old assessed value and the new assessed value (generally the purchase price). This amount will be prorated from the purchase date and calculated by the number of months left in the fiscal year. However, if the property is reassessed at a lower value than the previously assessed value, you should be on the lookout for a refund. Supplemental tax bills are your responsibility and will be mailed directly to you by the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office approximately 6 months after your purchase.

There is some good news in all of this! This chart by the LA Times ranks Redondo Beach as the 75th least expensive county taxation rate out of the 88 cities in Los Angeles. Note – the stated rate is the calculated median amount, so your home’s rate may be higher or lower. Further, the rate does not include taxation for direct assessments for services which is charged by cities and includes lighting, sewage and others.

For more specific information concerning your home, we recommend checking out the Los Angeles County Property Tax Portal –  where you can find:

  • Information for new home and business owners.
  • Property data and maps.
  • How to read your tax bill.
  • How much your taxes are, and how to get a copy of your current tax bill.  How to appeal your value.
  • Areas of responsibilities of the four property tax departments with direct links to each of their websites.
  • A public inquiry form and contact information.
  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions about property taxes.

 

One quick reminder:

If you own and occupy your home as your principal place of residence, you are eligible for a Homeowners’ Exemption that reduces your property tax by about $70 annually. Be sure to file for this exemption and put that money towards something fun for your family!

 

– Cathy Strini

Creating An Eco-Friendly Home

From solar panels to green-lifestyle dating sites (yes, those are a thing!), it is hard to miss the emergence of new products/lifestyle options that take eco-friendly living to a whole new level!

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While it is inspiring to see more Californians opting for a less harmful existence, many still view taking on a greener lifestyle as a daunting and expensive endeavor! We have devoted this week’s blog post to putting together a list of simple, cost-effective, and in a few cases, fun tips to help make your home more eco-friendly. You do not have to implement all the suggestions below, but try to pick one that seems feasible and go for it!

Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. – Carl Sagan

Upgrade Your Insulation & Windows

Adding insulation to prevent leaky  walls, windows, doors and duct can reduce your home’s energy usage up to 20 or 30 percent. If totally updating your insulation is too expensive for your fall budget, consider trying out thermal shades. These shades are made not only to block the sun in the summer, but also to retain heat in the winter! Energy-efficient windows also help to better insulate your home. Check out this article by House Logic to learn more about the importance of efficient windows and to find the best models for the most reasonable prices.

Opt for Fragrance-Free Products

Conventional fragrances often contain chemicals that may be harmful to the ecosystem when washed down the drain. If you like your soaps, cleaning products, or cosmetics to smell good (we certainly do!) read the labels to find ones that are made with essential oils. Real Simple offers a huge selection of all-natural cleaning solutions! This helpful blog post also provides a list (and reviews!) of the best eco-friendly cleaning products for your home.

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Low-Flow Your Bathroom

Flushing toilets accounts for 30%  of indoor water use! An average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent and save $$ in water costs by replacing old toilets with newer WaterSense labeled models.  While you are in the bathroom, go ahead and install a low-flow shower head as well. Also, regularly check your toilets and faucets for leaks.

Replace Your Lightbulbs

Save up to 66% of energy by replacing all of your incandescent lightbulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs! Beyond saving energy, CFLs also last up to 6 times as long as incandescent bulbs. (Saving money and time!) Also, turn off the lights when you leave a room.. or consider installing automatic timers in your forgetful teen’s room!

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Cool Down Your Clothes.

According to Huffington Post a huge amount of energy goes into heating water to wash your clothes. Try selecting the “cold water cycle” on your washing machine next time you throw in a load! Also, always make sure you are washing a full load every time. Running a full cycle for just a few towels or a pair of pants uses a substantial amount of water!

Grow An Indoor Garden

Living plants such as the Gerbera Daisy can act as natural air filters and help to improve indoor air quality. Check out this full list of 15 houseplants that not only brighten up a room, but help to absorb harmful pollutants throughout your home!

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Create a Recycling or Compost Station

Nearly half of the trash that a home produces is made up of food scraps. Rather than sending these scraps to the dumb, why not get a compost bin at your house and use those scraps to make fertilizer for your garden?! Get creative and build your own…(or check out these top-selling Amazon options!)

 

We are working to implement these changes in our own homes, so we are open to any tips or suggestions  our readers have!

 

HOAs .. & YOU!

When you purchase a townhouse, condo or any property within a planned development, you are required to join that development’s homeowners’ associations (HOA) which includes paying a monthly or annual HOA fee.

Generally, the HOA is in charge of the upkeep of common areas, landscaping and the buildings themselves.  Each HOA is unique however, and the responsibilities (and fee amount) of each varies based on the development and the amenities that it has. A more upscale complex may include a wide range of facilities such as swimming pools, clubhouses, fitness rooms, security gates and tennis courts.

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Also, beyond keeping the grounds in good condition, an HOA also sets the “code of rules” that governs life within a development. This set of rules must be followed by all residents and is known as the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions & restrictions). CC&Rs may dictate a variety of things: from the types of vehicles that may be parked on the street to fence height restrictions to the color of your window frames. If you, as a homeowner, decide to break one of these rules, you must appeal to the HOA to grant you a variance.  While CC&Rs are a great way to keep a neighborhood consistent, they could pontially limit your creative juices when it comes to decorating your home!

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An HOA is beneficial, because it ensures that all residents are equally responsible for maintaining the condition of their community. This helps to guarantee a high quality of life, while also preserving property values for the units within the development.

However, HOA fees do tack on an additional cost when it comes to owning a home and it is essential to factor that cost into your price of living. Average HOA fees are generally around $400 a month, but could run less or more based on the amount of amenities.

Another responsibility of a homeowner’s association is plan for the long-term well being of the community. That means looking ahead to larger scale repairs and improvements that will need to be made in the future. Each HOA holds a reserve fund, which is kept to pay for these long term projects, as well as any emergencies that may arise. However, if the reserve fund is inadequate, the association may require all occupants to pay a “special assessment” in order to supply the necessary funds. Special assessments may occur at any time.. meaning another unexpected cost for development residents.

HOAs are either professionally managed or are run by residents within the development. There are pros and cons to both scenarios, so we recommend getting in touch with the HOA prior to joining the development. It is a good idea to get a feel for the way that the development is run and to evaluate who is making the decisions that will affect your daily life. You can also find out specifics about that exact homeowner’s association.

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Some good questions to ask:

                                          – What services are covered by your HOA dues?

– Are there any services for which you have to pay extra?

– How often do fee increases occur, and by what percentage?

– Are any special assessments planned for the immediate future?

As a homeowner (especially one paying HOA fees) it is always better to be over educated, than under educated. Stay involved in your community, be aware of the CC&Rs and take full advantage of the perks of having a homeowner’s association!