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4 Tips to Become a Successful Landlord

Monday, September 24, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

   Owning a piece or real estate with the objective of earning regular cash flow is probably the best known and most common form of real estate investing.   The rental property is the way a lot of people in the “middle class” have found a real opportunity to make a fortune, if they know what they need to be successful.

Thousands of distressed and vacant properties, historical low interest rates and rapidly increasing rental rates have converged and created a great opportunity.  If you are considering becoming a landlord, focus on 4 basic fundamentals to insure profits and success.

1.  Paying Tenants-  This may sound obvious, but the first fundamental you need to be a successful landlord is a good quality tenant who can pay the rent.

One of the biggest challenges for a landlord is keeping good paying tenants and avoiding vacancies.  If a property is vacant, it usually results in the loss of at least one month’s rent while the place is being freshened up and a new tenant is found.   We highly recommend that all prospective tenants be screened, including a background and criminal record check.   Landlord screening services are available to assist you or your property manager.

One of the best way to keep your rental occupied at all times is to invest in a location that attracts a lot of renters.  Neighborhoods near colleges and universities are filled with students who rent while they attend school…and for the most part, parents insure the rent will be paid.   Homes near education facilities are also in high demand and landlords can usually charge a rent premium for these properties.  Any area with a lot of employment opportunities will also have very good rental demand.  In many markets, larger, 4 or more bedroom homes are scarce.   Find a niche in your market that provides a stream of ready tenants. 

2.  Keep Expenses Low – Contolling costs are one of the basic fundamentals of successful real estate investing.  Some costs of property ownership are known, such as taxes and insurance…but, others are often beyond an investors ability to control. 

Property taxes and insurance are expenses that are determined by third parties.  Combined, they can easily cost at least one months rent each, or more.  On average, budget about one months rent to cover your insurance premium.  Property taxes are another matter and they can vary greatly.  High property taxes helped trigger the housing collapse in Florida, when landlords couldn’t earn any cash flow on rental property.  When searching for an investment property, make sure you verify the taxes because tax rates can easily cost as much as two or three monts rent.

3. Property Maintenance – Keeping your property in good working condition is a big part of managing a successful investment.  Again, screening tenants is key in keeping costs down.  A good tenant will certainly have normal wear and tear and your property, but they won’t do much damage.  However, a bad tenant can cause thousands of dollars in property repairs in a very short period of time.

As far as controlling expenses  is concerned…it is cheaper in the long run to address maintenance issues as they arise.   For example, a roof leak can cost a few hundred dollars to fix, but the price can quickly escalate to thousands of dollars and lost tenants, if ignored.   Although no one likes to pay maintenance expenses, being a slum lord is a costly proposition.  Deferred maintenance brings down the value of the entire property, increases ownership costs in the long term, decreases the amount of monthly rental income that can be charged and atracts renters with less than stellar references or ability to pay.

4.  Reduce Mortgage Costs – Refinance and lock in historical low interest rates.  Current quotes for investor loans for residential property are under 4%.  If you can reduce the amount of interest you pay for your money, it immediately increases your bottom line.  It is also a good idea to appeal tax assessments.  Contact your local taxing authority to see the procedure required.  Most people who go to the tax office armed with recent comps and educate themselves, can get some tax relief.

If renting is so great..why does your landlord own? For all the challenges of owning investment real estate, earning income while owning an asset that someone else pays for is still one of the best ways to create wealth.   If you get really good at it, you can make a good money, decrease the amount of taxes you pay and increase your networth multi-fold.   Lucky you.  Timing has never been better.

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Visit our site to search for homes, place a free listing, purchase an MLS or Realtor.com listing or buy marketing tools to assist you with sales or rentals.  Like InfoTube on Facebook for up to the minute news, marketing tips, design and staging idea’s.  You will LOVE it!      

Proof the Real Estate Market Has Turned Around

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

The cover story for the September 10th weekly magazine Barron’s is on the recent surge in real estate and how the rise in property prices is no fluke.  We agree with the many experts and professionals that believe the recovery is real…and that is will continue in the foreseeable future. 

First take a look at the chart below.  You can see that housing starts (crucial to rebuilding our economy) bottomed in 2009 and have been trading in a healthy base pattern for 2 years.  In February of 2011, we finally started moving up off the bottom and the trend is continuing.

We all know that real estate can not thrive in an environment where lenders will not lend money.  Tracking real estate loans is a good indicator for the future direction of housing.  As you can see in the chart below, there has been a dramatic increase in lending, which has pushed the housing market higher over the past year.  We believe this trend will continue and will improve as lenders work there way past non-performing assets and bad loans liablities.

Finally, we show a chart of home prices since 1991.  The chart shows that home prices are certainly on a sustainable upward trend, since the 2006 crash.

 

In conclusion, we believe conclusive evidence shows that there is immediate long-term opportunities for homebuyers and investors in the housing market.  InfoTube is BULLISH on housing and the stocks of home builders, some REIT’s and home improvement giants like Home Depot and Lowes Hardware.

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  We are Made in the USA manufacturers of the InfoTube and InfoBox real estate marketing tools.  If you have a home to sell…you need this product.  Exposure is everything in this market!!!  Show and Sell! 

Thanks to Barrons and Seeking Alpha for giving us facts and charts for this story.

New Rules for Comparable Sales and Apprasial Info

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

The real estate meltdown has changed many things about the way we think about real estate and property values.  

Recently, we watched 3 home sales close in the same neighborhood.  Typically, the price per square foot and price range for all 3 homes would be similar…given that the ranch style homes were of similar age, size and were located in the same small neighoborhood.    What we learned today was that the 3 homes sold in a range from $200,000-$400,000…or from $100-$200 a square foot.  

The vast difference in the prices tells us a story about why comps (or comparable sales data) is not the indicator of true value that is has been in the past.   Today, we have essentially 3 housing markets, thus 3 price ranges in every neighborhood. 

    First, we have the bank owned home that sold for $200,000.   This is the home that no one cares about.  The lawn is 2 foot tall…the air conditioner has been pilfered through for copper and spare parts, the appliances have been stolen and the home has been abandoned.     This property was purchased by a rehab company, who will put a lot of money into its restoration, then resell it for a profit, at an estimated $400,000.

   Second, is the home that sold for $300,000, but, far short of the loan balance owed against it.  This house was always lived in and had never been vandalized, but all maintenance had been deferred and no updating had taken place in years.  The seller knew they were losing the home and had no money available to properly maintain the residence.    This home was sold to a young couple who didn’t mind doing some cosmetic work in order to save money. 

The third home located right around the corner from the other two closed for $400,000.  This home was meticulously maintained.  The interior and exterior had been upgraded with high end finishes and colors.   The home was move in ready.     The only thing this move up buyer had to do was unpack their personal belongings and enjoy themselves. 

As these 3 properties illustrate, we have 3 different real estate markets developing across the USA.    Typically, homes in the same neighborhood were very similiar to one another, so sales data was easy to compare.  Today, there may be 3 distinct markets in every neighborhood, so beaware that price ranges can vary greatly.  

If you are attempting to value property today, you must look at the category your home is in…ranging from bank owned/abandoned to high end/move in condition to determine the average price per square foot in your neighborhood.   Eventually, all this upheavel will work itself out… and houses in a neighborhood will once again be more similiar than different…but until then, make sure that you compare apples to apples when buying or selling

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Visit our website to place a FREE home listing, view great deals on all types of property, place an MLS listing or feature your property on Realtor.com.

Is Your Property the Pinball Listing??

Thursday, August 23, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

   What is a Pinball Listing?

A pinball listing is a house that is listed for an unrealistic asking price.  It pulls in a lot of showings by agents and home shoppers, but receives no offers.  Real estate agents, including the listing agent for the home, use the overpriced house as a negative example to sell similar homes that are listed for lower prices.

Any pinball listing is basically a set up.  Listing agents show clients these homes to make realistically price homes look like fantastic deals, which is why the traffic for pinballs is high…but no sale will ever take place until the price is drastically reduced. 

What Happens to the Pinball Listed Home?   Unless it is being used by Realtors as a set up…they stop showing it until the seller agrees to reprice it at a realistic number.

Is it Ethical for a Broker to Accept a Pinball Listing?   NO!  It is not ethical to list a property at a price that an agents knows it will not sell.  If they do, they are intentionally misleading the seller.  Do agents list unrealistically priced houses to use as a set up, anyway?  YES, all day long.

How to Protect Yourself?  Interview several real estate agents before signing any listing agreement.  Get as much information as you can about CLOSED sales prices of comparable homes in your neighborhood.   If you are inclined, you can always push a little on the listing price, but if you get greedy, or try to go overboard…you may unknowingly become the set up, pinball, out of touch with the competition listing…that everyone loves to visit, but no one will buy.

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Visit our site to place a FREE property listing, search for great deals, MLS and Realtor.com flat fee listing packages, InfoTubes, InfoBoxes and More.

Awning Canopy Made From Recycled Soda Bottles

Thursday, July 26, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

Garth Britzman’s installation, called (Pop)culture, is a colorful canopy made recycled soda bottles that are filled with a little bit of colored liquid. The bottles, which are suspended by strings, create undulating waves of color that almost remind me of the Dale Chihuly ceiling at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Visit our website to view, list and sell property, place an MLS listing or buy an InfoTube or InfoBox.

The Perforated House by Kavellaris Urban Design

This once vacant site is nestled at the eastern bookend between a row of single fronted Victorian terraces and a double fronted Edwardian weatherboard house.   The strategy was to critique and respond to ongoing research into the Terrace typology.   The built form is essentially an urban infill within a 5.5×14.4m envelope.  The perforated house is our response to establish an alternative language to the accepted notion of our cultural attitude towards critical questions of identity and heritage.

Kavellaris wanted the house to be more than just a facade.   More than just a message or a graphic stuck to a building.  The building was not an urban canvas paying tribute to Venturi’s “decorated shed”, instead the external facade could be experienced internally and is also a multi functional device that constantly transforms the built form from solid to void, from private to public, from opaque to translucent.

By day the building is heavy and reflective and by night inverting into a soft translucent permeable light box. The operable wall or the absence of the facade enabled us to remove the idea that houses are static.

The use of operable walls, doors, curtains and glass walls enables the occupants to change the experience and environment. This architectural manipulation of space blurred the boundaries between inside and outside, the public and private realm. The manipulated spaces overlapped and borrowed the amenity and context of it’s surrounding environment.

The plan inverts the traditional terrace program with the active living zones on the first floor opening onto a north facing terrace thereby generating a primary northerly orientation to a south facing block.  The perforated house incorporates passive sustainable interventions by orientating north glass bifolds doors and louvers for cross ventilation as the primary means of cooling.  In addition, solar hot water and 5 star rated sanitary ware fixtures were incorporated. The north facing terrace redefines the “family” backyard, reinforced by the childlike mural reminiscing on a past era and making commentary on the changing demography of the family unit and ultimately the inner city house typology.   The mural also hides a not so attractive view of the back of the neighbors house.

InfoTube Loves this house…and the way it transforms to fit the life of the owners.  We need to see a lot more of this type of architecture in the USA.   If you aren’t a Friend of InfoTubes Facebook page, you are missing a lot smart, fun and cutting edge stuff.  Click the button at the top right of the page and never be out of the loop again.

How to Stop a Draft in 60 Seconds.

Thursday, July 19, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

Use foam gaskets to seal electrical boxes

According to energy experts, electrical boxes that hold switches or outlets are major sources of heat loss.  Foam gaskets ($3 for a pack of 12 at home centers) won’t completely seal the boxes, but they’ll help.  They’re quick to install— just take off the cover plate, stick the gasket over the box, then put the plate back on.

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Visit our Free website to search for great deals on property or place your listing for FREE.

Some New Very Cool Bathroom Sinks

Monday, July 9, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

If you are considering a bathroom redesign, take a look at some of these new sinks.  Why just buy the “same old” when you can install an art piece?

Taking inspiration from Nature  is the Ammonite Sink, named after the extinct marine animals that have left such bewitching fossils for us along the shorelines of the world.  It is fashioned from concrete to a variety of widths, and will give you hours of fun chasing dropped bars of soap out of its depths.

The Artic Sink bowl is looking especially tranquil on a sm0king hot summers day.

Don’t know how hard this is too clean…but it is very relaxing to look at.   The Moody Aquarium Sink is from Italbrass. It’s all the rewarding work of a fully-functional fishtank, coupled with the odd sensation of washing your hands in it.  The soap dishes on either side of the watertight main basin conceal entrances into the tank, allowing feeding and maintenance, and the whole structure is mounted on an integrated chrome finish brass stand.

We hope that seeing these wonderful sinks will get your creative juices flowing.  For daily inspirations and great new product photo’s and reviews…Like our Facebook page.    We update it at least once everyday with something unusual or smartly designed.

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.

                If you think that the world will not end in your lifetime, then this condominium project is probably not for you.   But, it is definitely an interesting project, nonetheless.

A score of billionaires have recently caused a run on condo units at the Survival Condominiums project based in Kansas.  The facility is built deep underground in an old, 1960’s nuclear missile silo, and is said to be self-sustaining in the event of a nuclear attack. 

A few of the Doomsday ammenities include:

This project offers is much more than just a “Survival Condo Unit”.   This “Package” includes mandatory training, a five-year per person food supply, fully furnished and custom designed interior, special equipment for registered members, computer access to condo systems, and much more. Only a portion of the total fee is for the actual Survival Condo Unit. 

Each Full-Floor $2 Million Dollar Unit Includes these Key Features:

  • Approx. 1820 sq. ft. of Living Space (accommodates 6 to 10 people)
  • High-end floor and trim packages of your choosing.
  • 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms, Kitchen, Dining room, and Great Room.
  • LED Big Screen TV in every unit.
  • State-of-the-art Kitchen: Stainless steel kitchen appliances include refrigerator, dishwasher, dual-fuel (electric & propane) professional range, wall oven, professional ventilation hood, wine cooler or beverage center. Granite or custom concrete countertops.
  • State-of-the-art energy efficient washer and dryer in each unit.
  • Built in recessed full spectrum LED lighting.
  • Kohler bath fixtures and jetted Jacuzzi tub in each master bath.
  • Digital HVAC controls.
  • State-of-the-Art Home Automation System with structured wiring throughout including closed circuit security system camera viewing, public address/intercom system, digital weather station access, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, satellite TV feeds, public and private Internet access.                             
  • Outdoor “simulated view” window in each unit. Window simulates “Life-Like” outdoor views complete with varying light levels that reflect time of day, creating a normal living experience as if you were above ground.
  • Biometric Key locks (you won’t need to worry about losing a key).
  • Elevator and Stairwell Accessibility to all Units.
  • The $1 million units offer the same ammenity with the half the square footage and serve 3-4 people.

    The infrastructure also offers features and ammenities to shield owners from armageddon.  

  • The Missile Silo is capped by a type of monolithic dome known as a Torus. This dome is capable of withstanding winds in excess of 500 MPH, well beyond the winds of the most powerful F-5 Tornodos which produce winds up to 300 MPH.
  • The air supply for the entire facility is filtered by Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) filters and the physical air intakes are protected by what are known as blast valves. Blast valves function to prevent an overpressure air wave created by a nearby explosion from entering the facility and killing those inside.
  • The facility has a military grade security system that includes visible spectrum cameras, infrared cameras, proximity sensors, microphones, trip sensors, passive detectors, as well as confidential defensive systems both automated and manually operated.
  • The facility has two floors of hydroponic gardens that will provide fresh produce as well as an aquaculture system designed to provide fish for food.
  • Additional amenities include a minor medical/surgery center, an indoor pool with waterfall, a workout room, a home theater, a classroom & library, pub & game room, bulk storage, walk-in freezer, elevator, security & communication control center, spare parts, machine shop, high-speed fiber optic network, both online and offline Internet and computer communications.
  • And, finally, there is a full-sized pool featuring a massive wall mural and curved ceiling to enhance the feeling of space and height.  
  • Of course, there will be plenty of guns and ammo, too.  

If you think that this project is just a dream of a crack pot…think, again.  The developer, Larry Hall, reported that every one of the $2 million full-floor units have been sold…and only a few of the $1 million, half floor units are still available.   Doomsday Prophets with an extra $1 million on hand may want to inquire today.  Evidentally, these units are selling like there is no tomorrow :)

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Visit our website to learn about all the marketing tools we offer to sell your home and save a ton of money.

Nearly 1 in 10 Homebuyers are Foreigners

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

   The 6 year slide in U.S.  home prices and the dollar weakness against some currency are driving a property buying binge with Asians, Canadians, Europeans & Latin Americans eager to own a piece of America. 

Plowing money into real estate may sound like a risky venture to many Americans.  But to a growing number of foreigners, U.S.  housing has never seen a smarter investment. 

International buyers accounted for $82.5 billion, or 8.9%, of the $928 billion spent on residential real estate in the 12 month period ended in March, according to a survey released Monday by National Association of Realtors.   (Article by the Wall Street Journal)

How does this news impact your potential home sale and your marketing efforts?  

Simply, if you are not on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or Realtor.com, you miss out on 1 of every 10 homebuyers looking for property in your area.   International buyers primarily use these services to locate property and if you’re not listed there…they can’t find you.   

BONUS:   Foreign buyers also pay in CASH .  No Loan Qualifications.  No Apprasials.  No Delays and No Waiting.  CASH NOW!

The cost of listing your home on the MLS or Realtor. com is only a few hundred dollars for a 6 month listing.   The summer selling season is well underway.  Get your house on the MLS and Realtor.com today.  There is no other way to get your property in front of all the homebuyers in the marketplace….and Time is ticking!!!

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Homes are definitely moving this year.  Don’t miss the season or you may be sitting for a while.  Contact us for help with your MLS listing today.

                           The recession/depression and housing crash have certainly altered the old American Dream…at least for the foreseeable future.   The ongoing foreclosure crisis will drive another 3 million families to rent single family homes before 2015.

These millions of people are not typical renters, either.  They are older.  They have furniture, appliances, kids and pets.  They are not interested in apartment living.  They are looking to move back into single family homes, after foreclosure.   This new growth in single family rentals is the fastest growing part of the rental market and the pace is unprecedented.

A Nation of Renters Appears to be the Plan?

Private Equity groups smell the blood in the water.  They are buying up billons of dollars in distressed property, which they will in turn rent back to American families.  Colony Capital, for example, has purchased over 1ooo single family homes since December of this year and plans to invest at LEAST $1.5 BILLION more this year. 

In the next 5-10 years, investment firms will gobble up hundreds of billions of dollars of single family homes, at basement prices.  They will Raise rents every chance they get over the next 3-5 years.  Then, they will dump these properties for a profit and move on something else.

How does a Renting Society change the American neighborhood? 

The combination of transient families and declining home values will take a huge toll on American neighborhoods.    A rentership society is much less likely to spend money on plants, a fresh coat of paint, new carpet or a fenced yard—as they would if they owned the home they live in.   

Renters also mean shifts in student populations and present more challenges for our school systems.  Many schools in the Phoenix area report that 50% of their students will be new this year, a far higher percentage than normal.   Everything slows down when a new student enters a classroom and parents are less likely to be involved, when they are not sure they will be there for long.

Is American homeownership still the American Dream?

Thankfully, the answer is YES.  83% of people who lost their homes to foreclosure or distress sales say they want to own their own home again.  Most say they will buy something smaller than they had.  Many promise they will never again tie up so much of their income for a home.  Many who are forced to rent feel displaced.  They feel that they are living in someone else’s house.   They are fearful of entering retirement without having a home that is paid for…which only owning and paying off a mortgage will accomplish.    So, yes, neigborhoods are changing…new homeowners aren’t families, but are investment firms…but appears for all the right reasons… the American dream is alive… at least for now. 

Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  We have been helping homeowners, builders and investors market their properties since 1988.  We can help you, too.  Please visit our website for details.

Curb Appeal is the general attractiveness of a house or other piece of property from the sidewalk. 

Why is Curb Appeal so Important when Selling Your Home?  Curb Appeal is crucial  because it is what motivates a Buyer to look inside.  If the house turns them off at the curb…they won’t get out of the car and come in.  Thus, you have no chance to sell them on the property. 

Take this property for example…nothing about it stands out…nothing about it is welcoming…nothing about it motivates me to want to see more.

There are many things that can increase the curb appeal of a piece of property.   A new paint job, landscaping and siding can go a long way towards accomplishing this.   Though not as easily measured as something like square footage, curb appeal plays an important role in property valuation.  In the case of this home…the seller greatly improved the curb appeal by changing out a boring, unattractive garage door.

In this case…the seller greatly improved the appearance of this home by spraying mold off the roof.

Showings on this home nearly doubled after the seller painted the front door a contrasting color and added seasonal flowers in front flower bed. 
This homeowner did a fantastic job of covering up old ugly brick by adding wood slats..and magically made old dated windows look cool again with some trim paint. 
The real estate market has gotten hot from south Florida to California and all the stops in between.  If you aren’t getting showings, you need to step back and take a close look at the impression your home makes from the street.  Buyers will look inside a home that is slightly overpriced…but they will not consider a home that doesn’t speak to them.
Thank you for visiting InfoTube.net.  Check out our website for great deals on homes, flat fee MLS, Realtor.com listings and outdoor info dispensers.  
If you are replacing your American Flag this Memorial Day…make sure you buy one Made in the USA or don’t buy one at ALL.  Veterans Flags sells only Made in the USA flags.

How to Speed Up a Home Closing

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

Some home-sale transactions close quickly, while others can take months. Two significant factors that affect most home sales are inspections of the property and financing the purchase.

Inspections should be done within the first couple of weeks after the offer is ratified, i.e., accepted by both buyer and seller. Usually, the day after ratification is day one of the contingency and closing time periods. This may vary from one location to the next.

When transactions fall apart soon after ratification, the cause is usually something discovered during the buyer’s inspections. It’s a good idea for sellers to get presale inspection reports so that the buyers have as much information about the property as possible before they make an offer.

Most home inspection reports make recommendations to consult other specialists such as a roofer, furnace contractor, drainage specialist or engineer. Few sellers have these additional inspections done. Even if they do, the buyers might want a second opinion.

Inspections are also somewhat subjective. One inspector might say a roof needs to be replaced; another might say it has a few years of life left as long as it is properly maintained. Transactions fall apart because the buyer and seller can’t come to an agreement on inspections, which means the sale doesn’t close, the house goes back on the market and the buyers renew their home search.

If the inspection issues are worked out satisfactorily, the next major hurdle that could delay your sale, or crater it, is the loan contingency. Cash buyers bypass this rigorous process; however, they do need to provide the sellers with evidence that they have sufficient liquid funds to close the sale.

All-cash deals can close whenever the buyers and sellers agree, after all inspection issues are resolved. Closing can occur in a week or two. Some all-cash buyers include an appraisal contingency in their contract to confirm that they’re not paying over market value.

In this case, it would take longer to close because an appraiser would need to visit the property and work up an appraisal report. If the property didn’t appraise for the purchase price, the buyer might be able to back out and have the deposit returned.

Both buyer and seller would start all over again. However, if they negotiated a resolution, the sale could close quickly and would take far less time than it does to close a sale involving a mortgage.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Purchase contracts include contingencies and time periods for them to be met. To avoid having to ask for extensions, make sure that the time periods you request are reasonable. An extension might not be granted if the seller has a backup offer for a higher price.

Buyers should get preapproved for the financing they need to close a home sale before their offer is accepted. This way, they are assured of what they can afford to pay. Preapproval can cut a few days off the loan approval process.

Loan approval can go relatively quickly if you present all required documentation promptly and your financial situation is not complicated. It can be more time consuming for buyers who are self-employed or are using other than W-2 income to qualify.

Part of loan approval involves an appraisal on the property by a licensed appraiser. This can slow the process down depending on the lender, how backlogged they are and the loan amount. A large loan amount can prompt the need for two appraisals, which adds more time to the approval process.

THE CLOSING: If you’re buying in an area where homes are selling quickly, it may take 35 to 45 days from contract acceptance for final loan approval and closing.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of “House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide.”

CUMMING, Ga. (AP) — The government wants you to install solar panels at your house, and will even give you a tax break to do it. But your neighbors? Maybe not.

It’s a lesson Angel and David Dobs discovered when their homeowners association north of Atlanta denied their request to install solar panels on their roof. Neighborhood officials said the panels would look out of place and might lower home values in a community that regulates details as fine as the coloring of roof tiles, the planting of trees and the storage of trash cans.

“It’s like living under communism — someone gets to dictate every possible thing you do,” David Dobs said.

Homeowners associations around the country have banned or severely restricted the installation of solar panels, and the solar industry has pushed back to halt the practice. A recent attempt in Georgia to expand the right to go solar had support from environmentalists and some Republican lawmakers concerned about private property rights but it succumbed to opposition from developers and real estate agents.

Roughly two dozen states now forbid or limit homeowners associations or local governments from banning solar panels, according to a database run by North Carolina State University. Similar disputes have prompted lawsuits in Nebraska and California.

Angel and David Dobs supported the Georgia legislation after their run-in with the homeowners association. David Dobs had viewed the project as his personal contribution to prevent global warming.

Leaders of the Vickery Lake Homeowners Association in Cumming say the dispute is about architecture and aesthetics, not the merits of solar power. Homeowners automatically accept the community rules when they purchase a home there.

“We’re not going to debate whether it’s a good idea to have green energy or not,” said Jim Pearson, the association’s president.

These debates are likely to keep flaring as more people install solar energy systems because the equipment is getting cheaper and governments subsidize the cost. Taxpayers can now deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing solar panels from their federal tax bill. Other states and local governments offer additional incentives.

The fight is not new. Some solar rights laws date back to the 1970s, while other states have added similar measures more recently.

California’s law, first enacted in 1978, prevents homeowners associations from forcing residents to make aesthetic changes to photovoltaic panels that raise the cost by more than $2,000 or decrease a system’s efficiency more than 20 percent.

Most disputes in California are worked out privately, but a few have reached the court system. Last year, a California appellate court upheld a decision forcing a couple to remove solar panels that were installed in their yard without the approval of their homeowners association. They were allowed to keep other panels on their roof.

“They don’t like the way they look,” said attorney Michael McQueen, who represented the couple and others in similar disputes. “And (homeowners associations) are all about looks. Is your lawn green? Are your hedges trimmed?”

Ricardo Cestero, an attorney for the homeowners association, said neighborhood leaders were concerned the ground-level panels were not set back far enough from the street, were inadequately protected from damage and might cause erosion.

Texas adopted a law last year preventing homeowners associations from totally blocking solar panels. The law makes clear that residents can install them on roofs or in fenced-in yards or patios, subject to some limits. 

In Georgia, the fight between the Dobses and their homeowners association started in 2010. David Dobs said the rules required that he and his wife seek permission to build solar panels.

He first proposed installing 30 panels on two areas parallel to the slope of his roof. People could have seen sections of the three-by-five-feet panels as they walked or drove along the street.

The homeowners association rejected that request and three others from Dobs.

Board member Jim Graham said that to win approval, the panels would probably need to be out of view, perhaps mounted in a backyard and obscured by a fence — though fences too are subject to association approval.

Graham said that if people don’t like the rules, they are free to buy elsewhere.

“They chose to come into this community,” he said.

Lawmakers in Georgia tried to resolve the problem with legislation giving homeowners associations the rest of the year to decide whether to ban solar panels. Any neighborhood that did not set a ban by next year would be unable to stop a homeowner from installing solar panels in the future.

There were limits. Homeowners associations could restrict the panels to roofs or fenced-in backyards and patios. They could require that panels be installed parallel to the slope of a roof and ban any backyard solar equipment that rose higher than the surrounding fence.

Even in states that give homeowners the right to install solar panels, homeowners associations still ban them.

Neighborhood leaders in a Salem, Ore., subdivision rejected Larry Lohrman’s request to install solar panels on his roof because their rules banned the equipment, Lohrman said. He successfully argued that a 1979 solar rights law made that ban illegal, and he and a neighbor helped the association draft guidelines governing the installation of solar panels.

His panels were installed and started producing power in 2010, though Lohrman said he nearly abandoned the effort in frustration during the year it took to write the new guidelines for his homeowners association.

“They’re just afraid that someone’s going to put up this big, honking ugly thing that reflects light and just looks ugly,” he said. 

Associated Press reporter Kate Brumback contributed to this report. Follow Ray Henry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rhenryAP

InfoTube thinks some logical thought should prevail on this issue.   On one hand, we want to encourage US independence from fossil fuels that harm our environment and fund terrorism.  On the other hand, homeowner association rules are in place to protect the beauty, value and function of a neighborhood..  Restrictions against solar panels are common in most associations and those rules were in place when the homes were initially purchased. 

Wrong Garden by James Dyson

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
posted by Tommi Crow

Industrial designer of Dyson vacuums created this illusion of water running upward.

To view a chart of how he did it…CLICK HERE

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