What’s Involved in Building a "Green" Roof?


Homeowners are typically open to any efforts that will effectively help to reduce their utility bills as well as their imprint on the environment, and green roofs can help do exactly that.

Creating a “green roof” with plants can slow down and filter out rainwater runoff, which can help protect natural waters from harmful residue. Plantings on green roofs also absorb pollutants in the air to keep the environment clean.

Green roofs also help to regulate the interior temperature of a home by keeping it as much as 6 to 8 degrees cooler throughout the summer and warmer in cooler winter months, which can slash utility costs. They also tend to last approximately twice as long as a traditional roof, which means less expense and hassle of replacing a roof prematurely.

Many homeowners are also fond of the heightened esthetic appeal that a green roof covered in plantings can provide, which just adds to the mounting number of reasons why green roofs are becoming more popular among the environmentally- and budget-conscious homeowner.

A basic green roof is made of a waterproofing membrane, a root barrier, a drainage system, and a growing medium for the greenery. More elaborate green roofs are lighter and thinner and are often planted with “sedum,” or stonecrop. All sorts of different plant species can be used, including ornamental grass and colorful flowers. 

They can be installed on any type of roof, even if it’s sloped. That’s because there are various ways to set up media and drainage systems to keep the green roof from shifting.

Green Roof Myths Busted

There are certain misconceptions about green roofs, namely that they are potentially leaky and a hassle to maintain. The truth is, leakages can happen with any type of roofs, whether conventional or green, and have nothing to do with the plants themselves. If the roof is leaky, it’s only because of faulty installation and an improper waterproofing layer.

In fact, some evidence shows that the plants serve as natural protection to the elements. When properly designed and installed, a green roof will include a durable root barrier that helps prevent plant roots from going too deep.

As far as its maintenance, a green roof will certainly need water on occasion during the first year, and may require weeding every few months. However, the next year it should not require any water, and after the second year, it will only need to be weeded a couple of times a year and fertilized once a year.

The Process

Before adding plants to the roof, a structural engineer will make sure the structure is strong enough to support the weight of the growing medium and plants. Each tray can add as much as 30 pounds of load per square foot when fully saturated, which can put a lot of stress a conventional roof.

The roof is then covered with a waterproofing membrane, then a layer of rubber roofing membrane is added to prevent the roots of the plants from penetrating too deep and damaging the roof. Edging is placed around the perimeter of the roof to cover the sides of the trays, then planted trays are placed in rows within the edging starting at the lowest end of the roof and moving across and up the slope.

The trays are placed carefully so that seams are eliminated to reduce fluctuations in temperature. Ideally, there should be feet built on the underside of the plant trays to keep them slightly elevated so that water runoff can flow seamlessly toward the gutters. Trays are usually cut to fit between the last full tray in a row and the edging.

How Much Does it Cost?

You can expect green roof construction and installation to start around the $15 per square foot mark for a basic system. Once you start adding more intricate greenery, increased water storage, and an increase in media depth, the cost increases from there. The slope of the roof will also impact the final price of a green roof, which can reach as much as $45 per square foot. Many city incentives and government grants are offered for homes with green roofs, which can help to cut down on the overall cost of installation.

The Bottom Line

Green roofs are becoming increasingly popular among residential properties, and aren’t just reserved for large ecological structures. Their growth in popularity comes with good reason, considering the lower utility costs, minimal impact on the earth and environment, and improved esthetics. And as long as they are designed and installed properly, there’s no reason for a green roof not to outlast any other type of roof out there.

INFOGRAPHIC: California’s Third Quarter Housing Affordability Stats


8 Traits That Homebuyers Will Love


When it comes time to sell your home, take a close look around and see if your place has the goods that buyers are looking for. Considering the magnitude and expense of such a purchase, buyers want to fall in love with the home they plan to buy, and certain characteristics can help make that happen.

It might be worth your while to add or upgrade features in your home to help attract more buyers, and thereby draw in more offers.

Here are 8 traits in a home that buyers look for before making an offer.

1. Eat-In Kitchen

Just about every buyer expects to see an eat-in kitchen when they’re searching for a new home, especially if they’ve got kids. The kitchen is the hub of the home and is much more than just a space to prepare meals. If your kitchen doesn’t currently have the space for a table and chairs, you might be able to create this space by removing a wall rather inexpensively, as long as there is no additional repair work that has to be done.

2. Open Concept Layout

Newer homes offer spacious floorplans and soaring ceilings that older homes simply don’t have. Homeowners love to be able to entertain guests and converse with them no matter where they happen to be, and parents love the idea of being able to see their kids from every angle of the living space. An open concept layout is a must-have for situations like these. 

3. Spacious Laundry Room

Homebuyers want a laundry room that’s not just conveniently located, they also want it to be spacious enough that they can do all the pre-washing, folding, and ironing all in one space. Having a space like this can help keep the mess out of your bedroom or living space, and prospective buyers will see that as a major advantage.

If you don’t currently have an existing laundry room, you don’t necessarily have to create an addition to get one. The basement is typically the easiest place to put one and can cost as little as $1,000 to create.


4. Energy Efficiencies

Homebuyers are much more environmentally conscious these days, and anything that they can do to contribute to the health and protection of the planet is a welcomed idea. One of the most effective ways to minimize their carbon footprint on the earth is having a home that operates much more efficiently. In particular, energy efficient appliances and windows can help to significantly reduce wasted energy, and even slash utility bills. The combination of saving the planet saving money is something that just about every buyer finds extremely attractive.

5. Garage Storage Space

Storage is often a huge issue for homebuyers, especially those with growing families. Of course, smart indoor storage options are critical, which include walk-in closets and oversized linen closets. However, added garage storage space is a bonus, especially when it comes to storing larger items, such as Christmas trees, lawn furniture, and large tools. This added space helps to cut down on the clutter inside the home and is just a few feet away for easy access.

6. Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring offers a more modern, clean look compared to other flooring options. It’s durable, easy to maintain, and doesn’t induce allergies like carpeting can. Good quality hardwood can last a lifetime and can be easily refinished every so often to achieve a new look. Buyers have come to expect hardwood in the homes they plan to purchase, so if your home currently has dated flooring, you might want to consider installing hardwood. The cost to install 120 square feet of hardwood is approximately $1,400, which you can easily recoup come sale time.


7. Exterior Lighting

Having your home beautifully lit up on the outside provides a welcoming feel and can easily draw the attention of buyers before they even reach the front door. Not only does exterior lighting create a wonderful look and ambiance, it’s also a security feature for your home.

8. Patio

Considering the mild climate in California, there’s no reason not to enjoy the outdoors year-round, and having a patio can make it a lot easier and more convenient to spend time outside. While the condition and esthetics of the interior of a home are critical, so is the outdoor living space which is quickly becoming one of the most important traits of a home for buyers. 

The Bottom Line

When you’re thinking about selling your home, it’s helpful to understand exactly what buyers are looking for. If your home is currently not equipped with any of these highly coveted features, you might want to consider making a few upgrades to your home before listing it for sale. Done right, they could increase the value of your property and allow you to command more money when you sell. Just make sure you seek out the advice from an experienced real estate agent to make sure the changes you plan on making will bring you the return on investment you’re looking for.

Best Spots in California to Invest in a Vacation Home


If ever there was a state in the country that’s riddled with amazing vacation homes, California is certainly it. But when it comes to purchasing a vacation property for investment purposes, you’ve really got to look at the dollars and cents, along with all the amenities that each location has to offer. In many areas, the tight housing inventory and sky-high prices can make investing in a vacation home extremely challenging.

Investing in a vacation property can be hugely profitable through vacation rentals and future sales to those looking for a place to retire in. If you’re looking for somewhere to invest, consider the following places in the Golden State that are more affordable than many of the more popular beach towns, yet still offer breathtaking scenery and a fabulous lifestyle. 

Big Bear Lake

With a median home sale price in Big Bear Lake currently at $299,400, affordability really isn’t an issue here. Considering the fact that home values have increased 7.5% over the past year, that means there is real potential for gains in equity through appreciation. In fact, it’s estimated that prices of homes in the area will rise anther 6.2% over the next year.

Big Bear Lake is located in the San Bernardino mountains, offering visitors snow sports in the winter season and all the summer activities one loves to partake in during the warmer months of the year. There are many vacation homes to choose from in Big Bear Lake, whether it’s a quaint cabin in the mountains or a large family home for the whole brood to enjoy. One of the biggest draws of Big Bear Lake is the benefit of living in comfort and getting to and from the lake quickly and easily.

Lake Tahoe

Easily one of the most popular lakes to vacation at in California, Lake Tahoe offers plenty of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. The pristine turquoise waters of the lake are laid against a stunning backdrop of greenery that provides one of the most breathtaking views in the state. After enjoying the day at the lake, there are plenty of amenities to take advantage of in the city, including restaurants, shows, and events.

The median home price in Lake Tahoe is $392,700, which has gone up 9.2% over the past year and is predicted to increase another 5.6% over the next year. This price point is still a highly affordable while providing the possibility of any rental income covering the cost of homeownership.

Huntington Lake

Located in Fresno, Huntington Lake is a popular lake vacation spot for anyone looking for a quiet and relaxing holiday without the smog and noise of the big city. Couples, families, and retirees alike enjoy the lake and its stunning surroundings. Visitors and residents can enjoy everything that lake life brings, including swimming, boating, and even sailing. In fact, the Fresno Yacht Club hosts many sailboat races that enthusiasts can participate in. During the colder months of the winter, there are plenty of snow sports to enjoy that the landscape is seemingly designed for. After participating in outdoor activity all day, a stroll into nearby Lakeshore offers shops, eateries, and plenty of amenities to take enjoy.

The median home price in Huntington Lake hovers around the $432,700 mark, which offers some wiggle room to make a profit after peak season rental income comes in.

Morro Bay

For something a lot closer to the ocean, there are still areas in California that are affordable enough to leave some room for profit potential. Located in San Luis Obispo County, Morro Bay is a traditional waterfront city in the Central Valley. The median home price in Morro Bay is $578,600, which is up 3.1% over the past year and expected to increase 2.5% over the next year.

Morro Bay features one of the state’s biggest remaining coastal wetlands and offers beach-front scenery and activities to enjoy. Although the climate is somewhat cooler than your typical L.A. beach, it still has all the tourist amenities and attractions that allow for an enjoyable vacation.

Pismo Beach

While more expensive than Morro Bay with a median home price of $772,300, Pismo Beach is in a warmer beach zone at the southern tip of the Central Coast. There are tons of tourist activities and amazing restaurants that the sophisticated vacationer would expect.

Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco along Pacific Coast, Pismo Beach offers long white beaches for strolling, sunbathing, swimming, or simply to enjoy the incredible views. There are even spots on the beach for surfing, body boarding, ATVing, and horseback riding! There’s also an award-winning boardwalk right next to the Pismo Beach pier for plenty of shopping opportunities and spots to grab a bite to eat.

For those who are interested in investing in one of the many vacation properties in California, there are still a few affordable options available. These particular areas offer just about all the vacation amenities tourists would expect with real estate that still make it possible to turn a profit through rental income, or at least for long-term wealth building. There are many real estate agencies out there that can help organize seasonal rentals, find tenants, collect rent, supervise cleaning between rentals, and deal with basic maintenance to make the investment both profitable and convenient.

What Exactly is Involved in a Short Sale?


The opportunity to get a great deal on a property through a short sale is very real. However, many times there’s no money to be saved in this type of real estate transaction, and the process can be a lot more complicated that your average contract.

Before you go out looking for short sales in an effort to get a deal on a home, there are a few things you should know about this unique scenario, and as always, be sure to team up with an experienced real estate agent to help you navigate these potentially murky waters.

What is a Short Sale?

Many people may confuse short sales with foreclosures, but they’re not the same thing. A foreclosure occurs when the lender takes possession of a home after the homeowner fails to make the mortgage payments. It’s essentially the last option for the lender who takes the home as collateral on the mortgage.

A short sale is arranged before the home goes into foreclosure when the lender and borrower both agree that this option is better than completely defaulting on the mortgage and entering foreclosure. When real estate prices either stagnate or even decline, and homeowners in these markets are unable to keep up with their mortgage payments, they may enter into a short sale.

With this type of arrangement, the net proceeds from the sale of the home will won’t entirely cover the amount that the homeowner still owes on the mortgage, but a sale can take place anyway. If the lender agrees to a short sale, the homeowner can sell the property and pay off part or all of the home loan balance with the net proceeds, depending on how much was still left to be paid back to the lender.

Short sales can be complicated and can take months to complete. Not only that, not every lender will necessarily agree to a short sale.


The Process

Before a mortgage company considers a shorts sale, the homeowner needs to be having a hard time keeping up with the mortgage and is already in default. The lender needs to be advised of this financial distress or else the foreclosure process will start once the mortgage is in default.

A hardship letter will need to be submitted to the lender which specifies why such financial hardship has occurred, such as an illness or the loss of a job. Proof of income and assets will also need to be provided, including bank statements, investments, or other real estate.

Before the home is listed as a short sale, local real estate sales prices in the area that the home is located in will need to be verified. After a buyer is found, the seller will have to supply a copy of the listing agreement and purchase agreement to the lender. A short sale is only approved after all parties – including the buyer, seller, and lender – agree on all the terms of the contract.

What’s in it For the Buyer?

Obviously, a short sale can be beneficial for the seller because it helps to avoid full foreclosure on a credit report. Even lenders can benefit from a short sale transaction by recouping more of what the borrower owed on the home through a short sale compared to foreclosure, the latter of which tends to be more time-consuming and riddled with liabilities since many foreclosures often come with delinquent taxes, code violations, and problematic titles. Lenders more often would prefer to just write off the amount that the borrower owed on the mortgage as opposed to foreclosing.

But there’s obviously a potential benefit to the buyer as well: getting a home at a reduced price. If the lender is eager to go through with the short sale in order to get back the money loaned out, there may also be a chance of getting favorable financing terms.

Taking over possession of a property sold through a short sale is much easier compared to a foreclosure. You’ll have the seller’s cooperation with the short sale process, but that’s not necessarily the case with a foreclosure.

However, the property will likely have a fair share of problems and will have a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to make the deal happen. After finding a property and viewing it, you will need to do some in-depth research on it and find out about all the liens that may be on title and how much was left to pay on the mortgage. The lender will then require a detailed short sale application to be completed and submitted, and a proposal will need to be put together.

This all comes after the seller has submitted the necessary documents and information in order to convince the lender to go through with the short sale. If the seller makes it difficult to provide this information, the short sale won’t go through. Your real estate agent should push for full honesty from the seller’s agent before spending any more time on a particular property.

The Bottom Line

No matter how you find out about a potential short sale, this is a process that absolutely warrants the assistance of an experienced real estate professional. There’s definitely the potential to realize a sizeable discount on the final price of a short sale, but you absolutely need to consult with an expert who comes into the game with a solid track record with short sales.

5 Reasons Why Multi-Family Housing Makes For a Great Investment


Real estate investing offers plenty of options for those looking to build wealth through this particular avenue. With mortgage rates as low as they are today, now is a great time to get into the real estate investment market, and a multi-family property is something you might want to consider for many reasons, including the following.

1. You Can Live in One Unit and Rent Out the Other(s)

If you’re just starting out in the world of real estate investing, a multi-family unit can be the perfect way to get your feet wet. You can live in one unit while you rent out the other unit(s) to generate cash flow. Buying a duplex, triplex, or four-plex will give you the unique capability of giving you a place to call home for yourself while boosting your real estate portfolio and building wealth.

2. Managing Multiple Units in One Location is Easier

If you plan on buying more than one property to rent out, having them all in one convenient location makes it a lot easier for you to maintain them all. It’s a lot simpler and less time-consuming to maintain three properties all under one roof compared to three properties spread out across the city.

You can make one stop to pick up the rent checks, mow the lawn, handle any repairs, and so forth. Even if you hire a property manager to handle the maintenance for you, you’ll only need one to handle multiple units in the same complex versus units that are miles from each other.

3. You Can Get a Tax Break From a Multi-Family Property

The government actually appreciates your efforts to provide safe, clean, affordable housing to people. As such, you’ll be able to take advantage of some tax breaks. Your investment in a multi-family complex is considered to be a business, which means there are certain tax deductions that you’ll be able to make. You can depreciate many items in a rental property come tax time. 

Depreciation refers to the actual cost of the complex, which is not fully deductible the year that it was actually bought and paid for. You can get back the cost of your investment property through this depreciation, which involves deducting a portion of the property’s cost over many years.

You can also deduct interest from your mortgage, cost of repairs, traveling for rental activity, property insurance, and legal and professional services associated with the property.

4. They’re Easier to Finance Than a Single-Family Home

For the most part, multi-family properties are more expensive than single-family homes for investment purposes. Obviously, a typical one-bedroom condo unit would be a lot cheaper than a 12-unit apartment complex.

While it might be easy to assume that getting a mortgage for a single-family home would easier than raising money for a much more expensive multi-unit complex, in reality, the latter is more likely to be approved by for a loan than the typical residence.

Why? Multi-family housing can generate a healthier cash flow consistently each month, even if there are some vacancies in the complex. The more units in a complex, the better. For instance, if a tenant moves out of a single-family home, that investment property would be completely vacant. Instead, a four-unit complex with one vacancy would only be 25% vacant in comparison. For this reason, the chances of the multi-family complex going into foreclosure because of vacancies is a lot lower than with a single-family home.

5. You Can Make the Property Appreciate Faster Compared to a Single-Family Property

Appreciation is something that owners of real property can take advantage of over the long run. However, not all locations and properties appreciate at the same rate. In many instances, property values are stagnant or even depreciate over certain time periods. However, appreciation often occurs after improvements have been made, either to the property itself, or the surrounding neighborhood.

While you can force some amount of appreciation of a single-family home through various improvements, you can only do so much because you are forcing the appreciation of only one property. A multi-family complex, on the other hand, can increase in value much faster than a single-family home simply because you’ve got more units to deal with.

Boosting curb appeal, adding in-suite laundry amenities, making repairs to the units and common areas, and replacing all the windows and doors, for instance, can drive up the value of the property more aggressively. By making such improvements, you’ll be making your property more attractive to tenants compared to another nearby building, which will make it easier to fill vacancies and keep good tenants sticking around for longer.

The Bottom Line

Looking directly to single-family housing is quite common for newbie real estate investors. While this might be the right option under many circumstances, multi-family properties shouldn’t be ruled out. There are certainly plenty of benefits of purchasing a multi-family complex that should be considered before you make your purchasing decision. An investment like this can prove to be a very lucrative one if made with due diligence and the right team of real estate professionals behind you.

5 Things to Consider When Buying a Luxury Home


Luxury homes come with a host of ornate and opulent amenities and features that might tickle your fancy. Whether it’s a massive beach house overlooking the ocean, a sprawling expanse backing onto the 9th hole on a golf course, or a penthouse perched high above the city scapes with its own private elevator, properties valued in the millions will offer features that will leave you mesmerized and even completely overwhelmed.

If you’re paying big bucks for your new luxury home, you want to make sure it’s money well spent. While the buying process has its similarities with your average home, it’s also got some different aspects about it that will need to be dealt with.

Here are 5 tips to help you make the right purchasing decision that will get you the estate you want at a fair price and will leave you with no regrets.

1. Work With a Local Real Estate Agent

A real estate expert who is well-versed in the neighborhoods you have your eye on will have their finger on the pulse of any potential movement on certain properties, including high-end ones. Luxury homes typically don’t have many open houses, and you’ll likely have to visit them more than once in order to gain a clear perspective on them. Local professionals will know just what’s out there and what fits your criteria, including amenities and price.

You also want to make sure the expert you work with has experience buying and selling luxury homes. The listing and buying process is somewhat unique with $1 million-plus homes, and an agent who has a healthy history working with these high-end properties can give you the insight you need.

2. Get Familiar With This Specific Buying Process

Don’t assume that all luxury homes will make it to the MLS or be vastly marketed across all online platforms. Plenty of luxury homes are often not listed in order to protect the privacy and identity of the seller. Many times homes in this category are bought and sold through networking between agents, which is yet another reason to work with an experienced local agent with ties in the real estate community.


3. Get to Know Different Neighborhoods

You might have your heart set on a specific neighborhood, but don’t count out other communities. When it comes to finding the right luxury home, sometimes it’s wise to broaden your circle to increase the odds of finding something you’ll fall in love with. Take the time to become familiar with other neighborhoods. You just never know if you’ll find something that you’ll develop a real emotional connection with that’s outside the neighborhood you initially had your sights on.

Of course, location is the most important factor when looking for a house, especially when you consider how much you’ll be spending on it. Think about the type of amenities you want in your location, whether it’s being close to downtown, on a water front, or backing onto a golf course. Whatever your desires are, it’s important to have a good understanding of amenities, trends, and future plans of the area in question.

4. List the Priorities You Want in a Home

When you’re spending millions of dollars for a home, you’ll likely want to have as many desired amenities on your wish list as you can, and rightfully so. Before you even start-house hunting, make yourself a list of your needs and wants. You would likely be doing this even if you were looking at a $200,000 condo, but the list will likely be a lot longer with a luxury property. Depending on your exact budget, you might just be able to get everything you want.

Your agent will certainly make an effort to find a property within your price point that will allow you to check off every item on your list. Luxury homes tend to be very unique, so finding that right house that meets all your needs could take some time, but it’s out there.

5. Be Patient

On that last note, a little bit of patience is generally needed when you’re in the market for a luxury home. These types of properties require a lot more time to sell compared to lower priced homes because of their high prices, as well as their exclusive traits. While you might be lucky enough to find the home of your dreams right away, you’ll probably be looking for quite a while, as much as a few months or more.

The Bottom Line

Not everyone can afford a luxury home, but if you are able to, you should absolutely take the time and make the effort to ensure the home you buy is the right one for you. Get familiar with the luxury home buying process, understanding housing trends in various neighborhoods, and practice some patience as you go from house to house in search of the perfect home.

INFOGRAPHIC: California’s Housing Market Forecast For 2017