An Important Step in Staging

There are a lot of little things that you can do to increase the appeal of your home to buyers. Many of the tips you’ll find to improve your home’s appeal focus on things inside the house, ranging from paint colors to furniture and a variety of other little tweaks. There is something else that you can do to improve the appeal of your home that’s often overlooked, though: add some plants (inside and out).

A lot of people don’t put much thought into the plants around their home when prepping for a sale, and this can be a huge missed opportunity. From fixing up your lawn and planting colorful flowers out front to adding splashes of greenery indoors, there are several ways that you can leverage plants to help sell your home when the time comes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Increase Your Curb Appeal

While interior staging is important, it’s easy to forget that the outside of your home is the first impression that potential buyers are going to get. Sometimes they’ll form an opinion about the house, before they even get out of the car. There are obviously a few external things that you can do, such as slapping a fresh coat of paint on the door and cleaning up the windows a bit. However, one of the biggest boosts to your home’s curb appeal comes in the form of improving your lawn and external plants.

As soon as you start considering selling your home, it’s time to treat brown spots or thin areas on your lawn so that everything is lush and green. Cleaning up flower beds, adding decorative plants on the porch or along the walkway, and otherwise sprucing up the look of the outside will go a long way toward capturing the attention of potential buyers. Just like a shabby exterior can dampen buyer enthusiasm, a well-manicured lawn and decorative flowers or trees can get buyers excited before they even step inside.

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Bringing in a Touch of Nature

Exterior landscaping isn’t the only way that plants can help you sell your home. Potted plants, vases with fresh flowers, and even small decorative potted trees or other tall plants can add both color and a sense of freshness to your home that are hard to replicate. It’s the same reason that a lot of grocery stores have fresh flowers near the entrance to the store; when people see plants and flowers, their brains immediately focus on the idea of freshness and life. In stores, this makes people assume that the produce is all fresh, and in your home, it helps potential buyers to picture themselves living in the house.

If you choose flowers or other plants with pleasant scents, bringing them in can add to the overall freshness of the air without the need for artificial air fresheners or incense. This can let your plants serve double duty, improving the quality of the air while also adding a splash of color and life to your home. Just make sure to avoid plants that produce a lot of pollen or else you may have some cleanup to take care of before potential buyers come for a tour.

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Call Some Help if Needed

It’s possible that you won’t really be able to take care of everything you want to do all on your own. Perhaps you have trees on your property that need trimmed or have to have dead limbs removed. Maybe you want to revitalize a flower garden but don’t really have the time. It’s even possible that you’d love to add some floral touches to your home, but aren’t really sure what would go best with your house. It’s okay, we’ve got you covered.

HomeKeepr can connect you with landscaping and trimming pros in your area that can take care of whatever issues you’re having. Creating a HomeKeepr account is completely free, so there’s no reason not to reach out to professionals if you need the help. Sign up today and you’ll be one step closer to taking your home from “For Sale” to “Sold.”

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Sometimes as amateurs we leave more waste

Many reasons to take on a DIY projects

You may decide to do something yourself because you think it will be an easy project, or because you enjoy working with your hands. You might even consider doing a DIY project because you think it would save you a lot of money over hiring a professional to do the same thing. Regardless of your reasoning, there’s one thing about DIY that a lot of project guides and instruction sets leave out: what you should do with all the left-overs once you’re done with the project.

DIY waste can be a real concern, since depending on the project there might be a lot of waste produced. Given the nature of the materials involved with most DIY projects, you shouldn’t just throw away everything that you didn’t use in your project. Here are some things to think about regarding how you can reduce the amount of waste that your DIY projects produce and what you can do with those waste materials that are produced. By changing the way that you think about DIY waste, you can change the way that you approach projects, and maybe even save some money in the process.

Planning Away Waste

One of the first things you should do when trying to reduce your DIY waste is to stop for a moment and rethink your measurements and calculations. If the project involves wood or other materials that are cut from a larger piece, make sure that your cuts are efficient and made to preserve as much of the surrounding material as possible. If you’re going to need single-use items that come in a lot of packaging, consider whether you’ll have use for similar things in the future, and if so, buy a multi-pack if available so that you’ll have one on hand without even more packaging waste. If you’re going to paint or stain the project, select colors that you’ll likely be able to reuse for future projects. You can probably see where this is going.

Basically, spend a little bit more time during the planning phase of your DIY project to make sure that you aren’t creating excess waste that could otherwise be avoided. Ideally, you’ll end up with larger pieces of scrap that can be saved for the future, as well as other materials that either you or someone else might have a use for. Even if you only manage to reduce your project waste by a little, every little bit helps, and those waste reductions can really add up if you end up doing a lot of DIY.

Need a Professional?

There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from doing something on your own as a DIY project. Not every project is ideally suited for DIY, though. If you don’t have the time or experience to tackle a project correctly, keep in mind that there’s no shame in calling in some help to get it done. HomeKeepr can help you with this; sign up for our free app today to connect to pros in your area that can help you get your project list done. They’ll even take care of the waste afterward. HomeKeepr is the only platform where homeowners can discover home service pros powered entirely by real referrals from real people – not reviews.Search

Reusing Waste Materials

When it comes to reusing scrap material from past DIY projects, you aren’t always going to get a perfect match to what your current project calls for. Sometimes you’ll have different types of wood on hand, or a color of stain that doesn’t quite match what you’d planned on. That’s okay; if what you have is a good substitution, then you can use it and save some money on your materials. If it’s not, don’t try to force a match and end up creating a substandard result. Just save your scrap and excess materials for a future project, because if you’re active in DIY, then there’s always going to be another project.

One thing that’s important to remember is that you should keep your scrap and waste material well organized. That might even be a DIY project of its own. Create an organization solution to hold scrap wood, piping, paints, and other materials that you kept out of the waste bin, so that you can always find what you’re looking for.

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Discount Real Estate Service

Are you really receiving a discount in the end?

There are many tempting ads out there for discounted or even FREE real estate listing services. Everything from “1%” or “3% total listing commission” to “Pay No Commission…because we’ll Buy it Cash”. They all sound wonderful on the surface (or in the ad).

While you may be tempted to “Save Thousands in real estate commissions”, lets look at the whole picture.

Do they work for Free?

All businesses have costs to keep their doors open and/or support themselves and their families. I can almost guarantee you that no one is doing it out of the goodness of their heart. Note; I say “almost”, because someone will come along and do it, then sue me for my statement. 🙂 There are phones to be paid, car payments and insurance, business licenses/permits/dues to be paid, computers/office equipment, legal contracts and that luring advertising. So, no matter who it is, they’re making thousands of dollars on the sale of your home.

There are training ads, similar to this one, to teach some agents how to get money out of sales….

Plus, there is a plethora of other training courses to help inadequate agents, bilk unsuspecting sellers (and buyers).

Beware of the Hidden Fees

In order to make a living, most of these discount service providers make it up in other ways. Some agents require you to use their service providers in your transaction. These providers may be charging way more than normal service providers, in order to compensate the agent for the referral. Some agents charge additional fees, like Transaction Coordinators or assistance, to do the work that is expected of (and normally provided by) your Realtor.

If they are so willing to give away their money up front, how hard are they going to fight for your money?

We’ll Pay Cash

Profit margins are also figured into purchases by companies who say: “you’ll pay no commission”, “close quicker”, “no hassle”, “no showings”, “no keeping the house clean”. How can they do this, you ask? Most will pay you far less than than your home is worth. Then still charge you transaction or processing fees.

Bottom Line

Please do your homework. If you think one of these non-traditional transactions is for you, dig deep. Ask for all fees to be laid out, disclosed and agreed to up front, before you sign any listings. Ask for at least 3 service providers for each of the areas of ancillary transaction services. As a Realtor with 27 years of experiences helping sellers/buyers and training agents to handle transactions the proper way, I’ve seen a lot of hokey things. A great Realtor is a professional (like a doctor or a lawyer), well trained and experienced to get you the most amount of money for one of the biggest investments you may ever have.

I’m Scott Stephens and I’m here to Help. (714) 801-6230

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Ever Heard of a Mesh Network

Do you need one in your house?

You probably use the internet a number of different ways during the day. It plays a key role in everything from gaming and entertainment to social interaction and even work these days, so it’s important that you have a reliable internet connection. Depending on the layout and even the materials used in your house, though, it isn’t always easy to stay connected everywhere within the home.

If your Wi-Fi coverage isn’t quite what you wish it was, replacing your existing setup with a mesh network might be the answer. Mesh networks have become increasingly popular in recent years due to how easily they solve some connection and coverage problems. If you’re curious as to whether your home would benefit from a mesh network, please read this.

How Mesh Networks Work

Traditionally a Wi-Fi network has a wireless router that serves as an access point, and perhaps a few additional access points connected to the network via extenders, etc. All of the data routing is handled by the router, and both signal strength and network speed vary depending on how far away you are from the router and/or the access points. Some materials can also block signals from the access points, explaining why it may be harder to connect to your network in some rooms than others (especially if you only have a single wireless router as your only access point).

Mesh networks remove the need for a central routing device and distribute access much more evenly throughout your home. Multiple network nodes are placed around your home, with each acting as an access point and playing a part in routing your connection through its most efficient path to the internet. One node connects directly to the Internet in much the same way that a wireless router would, but it also connects to every other node within its signal range. Each of those nodes also emits a signal, boosting your network so that it more easily covers your entire house. Your phone, computer, and other wireless devices all connect to the node that is closest to them, and the nodes automatically route the connection through the most efficient path to the internet at large.

Do You Need a Mesh Network?

There are real advantages to implementing a mesh network. For one, if a single node goes down, the other nodes will automatically reroute their connections to ensure that coverage isn’t lost. Likewise, when multiple devices connect to a single node, the network can reassign some of those devices on the fly to prevent network congestion. If you have a lot of devices spread out across the entire house, or are trying to provide fast and reliable coverage throughout a large house or across multiple floors, this sort of smart routing and internet sharing will definitely make things easier.

Mesh networks are not necessarily right for every one. For instance, if you have a small or single-floor home and are able to install your wireless router in a centrally located area, you can likely save money by installing a single fast wireless router instead of buying and installing multiple mesh nodes. This is especially true if you have a mostly open floor plan, as there will be little that would interfere with the wireless signal in most rooms.

Are you Moving?

Mesh networks can be a life saver (certainly a time & frustration saver). Yet they do require a little more installation and removal, when you decide to move. Moving is hard, but I’m here to help! Use my FREE concierge service to help you get up and running faster in your new home. It’s quick and easy.Learn More

Mesh Network Installation

Installing and setting up a mesh network is doable as a DIY project, it’s not a bad idea to talk to an electronics pro to make sure that you’re getting all of the equipment that you need to get yourself set up. You may also find yourself in need of an electrician to add additional outlets if you want to install nodes in areas where power connections are at a premium. Regardless of your need, HomeKeepr is here to help; sign up for a free account today to get in touch with pros that can help you get the network you want without breaking the bank. My Homekeepr account has 260 vendors, that I and my teammates have personal used. They do NOT pay to be included in this list. They simply continue to provide great service to my clients.

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FSBO Buyer Pitfall #17

Many unsuspecting buyers have no idea that they may have to withhold some of a sellers proceeds and send them to the IRS or the state taxing agency.

If there are taxes owed on the sale of a property, taxation agencies require the buyer (or qualified substitute) to withhold some or all of the seller’s proceeds. Why? Because real estate contracts are between buyer and seller. Whether there are attorneys, title, escrow or other settling agents involved or not. So ultimately, the buyer will be paying the seller for the property, and this is the only sure-fire way for the government to get their cut. Yes, taxes may be due, even if the transaction is part of a “1031 Exchange”.

Should you withhold 3 1/3% of the sales price or the seller’s income tax rate % of the gain? What if the property is in a trust? Does it matter if the property was the seller’s primary residence? Who is liable if you’re not purchasing it by yourself?

Additionally, some states, like California, don’t always adopt all of the federal tax laws. More information can be found at and (real estate withholding).

There are limitations on withholdings, possible penalties and fines for buyers as well as sellers, and proper paperwork filing needs. If you hire a Real Estate Escrow Person (REEP), they usually handle these withholding and paperwork needs (collecting all social security numbers, calculating alternative withholdings, forward funds & vouchers to the proper agencies, etc.).

When buying a home from a private seller, its just as important to use a Realtor as when you’re buying one that is listed by an agent. In most cases I’ve talked a seller into allowing me to represent my buyer in these Private Seller Transactions.

There are Many pitfalls in buying a home and for most people its the most expensive item they will ever buy, with the most possibilities of something going wrong and the most headaches of any other purchase.

I have 27 years of experience working in real estate, trained other agents, managed and served on boards. Please allow me to use that experience to help with this most important transaction.

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Common Causes of Smelly Dishwashers

Quite often we have bad smells lurking throughout our homes—and I don’t just mean in your refrigerator’s moldy veggie drawer or your musty closet. One such culprit is the dishwasher. Here are four common causes of smelly dishwashers and tips from cleaning pros to send the stink on its way.

1. A Clogged drain filter – to clean your dishwasher drain filter, follow the owner’s manual instructions to remove it from the appliance. Then rinse the filter thoroughly under warm water. If any sticky food debris remains, soak the filter in hot, soapy water for several minutes and gently clean it with a soft brush before rinsing it.

2. Kinked or clogged drain hose – If a hose is kinked, simply smooth it out. But if there is no knot in your hose, it’s time to move on and look for any clogs. If you can’t reach the clog, it might be time to call in a professional.

3. Trapped food – remove all parts of the dishwasher that can be easily removed and cleaning them in hot, soapy water. Parts to wash include your dishwashing racks, spray arms, utensil holder, and filter. Repeat cleaning with vinegar and baking soda monthly to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.

4. Or a dirty seal – Once every two weeks, wipe the area with a damp cloth dipped in diluted dishwashing liquid. If there are stubborn food stains, use an old toothbrush to scrub them off gently. Avoid using steel wool as it may damage the seal


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Wonderful World of Insurance Claims

Filing a claim means that something has gone horribly wrong at home. Maybe it’s damage from a storm, or a frozen pipe that burst, or some other unexpected problem. Whatever the cause, the damage was severe enough that you need to make a claim on the policy that up until now you’d hoped would never actually have to be used.

What’s involved with filing a homeowner’s insurance claim, though? While the filing process is similar to that with other forms of insurance, there are a few things about homeowner’s insurance that might seem confusing if you’ve never really dealt with it before. To make sure that everything goes smoothly, here’s some advice on what to expect when filing a homeowner’s insurance claim.

Contacting the Insurance Company

The first thing that you need to do to file a homeowner’s insurance claim is to contact your insurance company. This doesn’t mean that you should drop everything and call your insurance, though. Depending on the situation, there may be a few other things that your insurance company tells you to do before they can actually start working on a claim, so you may want to at least get them started first.

If your claim involves burglary, criminal damage to your property, or any other legal matter, you’re likely going to want to go ahead and call the police, because your insurance company will require a police report. You’ll also want to shut off the water or gas if necessary and take any other actions that are required to make your home safe. Take pictures (ideally with timestamps on) before you take any action, so that you can show the insurance company what the situation looked like before your intervention, then take additional pictures once you’ve shut things down. This documentation will be important to your claim once it gets started.

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The Claims Process

Once you contact your insurance company, you’ll need to go through the specifics of what happened in as much detail as you can provide. If you had to shut off the water or take any other action, be sure to describe exactly what you did and let them know that you have before and after pictures as well. Point out any safety concerns such as broken windows that need to be boarded up, or any other safety-related repairs that might need to be made, so that your insurance agent can make note of them before you take any additional action. Be sure to take before and after photos of those repairs as well.

After your initial call, and any temporary repairs or changes that your agent approved have been made, you’re going to have to fill out some paperwork and take additional pictures and videos to document everything you can about the claim. The insurance company will likely send someone out to inspect your home in person as well, and you may have to go over all of these details again with them. Make copies of all your pictures and videos, and save every receipt related to the incident, including both any materials that were needed for temporary repairs, and things like hotel receipts if the house isn’t safe to stay in until repairs are complete. It may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, but once the company approves your claim, you’ll be glad that you documented everything.

Making Repairs

When your claim is finally approved, you’re going to need someone to make the repairs that your home needs. While your insurance company may have some suggestions, in many cases you’ll be free to choose your own contractors and other pros that will work with your insurance company throughout the repair process. HomeKeepr and I can help with this.

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Home Trend Dos & Don’ts

Sorry Folks…This Covid business has messed me up these last 2 years. I’m back now and ready to help.

We’ve all seen plenty of trends in home decorating come and go over the years. Some of them look pretty nice and create something of a timeless look, others may only be temporary trends. Like them or hate them, though, following home trends can sometimes have a positive impact on the value of your home if you’re looking to sell. That is, of course, if you strike while the iron is hot.

If you’re not actually looking to sell at the moment and just like the way one trend looks? Will going all-in on some big trend hurt your home’s value down the line if you do decide to sell later? This could be a legitimate concern depending on the trend. After all, even if you’re on the market and don’t manage to sell right away, you could find that going too far with certain trends will bite you before you find a buyer.

Home Trend Dos

There really isn’t anything wrong with following home trends, either to bump up the value of your home in the current market or just because you like the look of them. If you’re thinking of making some changes around the house because of a current trend, here are a few things to think about:

  • Evaluate the cost of a trend before jumping all in; some are surprisingly cost effective, while others will give you a bit of sticker shock
  • Keep an eye on trending paint colors and the “hot colors” that paint manufacturers announce every year to stay ahead of color trends, so that your home can stay trendy without you having to pay a premium for trendy colors
  • Pick and choose the trends you want to follow, and take only the parts that you like if you’re not committed to the entirety of a trend

Don’t be afraid to make some changes and upgrades in trendy styles, but don’t go overboard with it. This is especially true if you’re just looking to make some trendy home improvements before you sell your home.

Need a Professional?

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Home Trend Don’ts

While some trends can really bring up the value of your home if you catch them at the peak of their popularity, others can cost you money in the end. These are the trends that you should avoid unless you really like them. Here are a few things to look out for when considering home trends:

  • Avoid trends that require major structural changes or construction merely for aesthetic purposes
  • The overuse of bright, bold colors occasionally comes into fashion but will almost certainly go out just as quickly
  • Unless it’s just a minor expense, stay away from trends that you just don’t “get” because there’s a decent chance that you’ll implement it incorrectly or miss the height of its popularity and not even realize it
  • Even if it’s popular, watch out for trends that will be difficult for future homeowners to undo; potential buyers might see your trendy changes and start wondering how much it will cost to change them, and that could potentially spoil the sale

Basically, trends can be fun. Think twice about them though if they’re going to be too expensive, create too many headaches for future homeowners, or are likely to come across as garish or ugly.

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Cashing In on Home Trends

If you do want to make some home improvements or other changes to follow certain trends, it’s important that you find the right pro for the job here I can also give you professional opinion on whether or not a particular idea or upgrade will make you money or simply waste it.

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Covid19 Mortgage Relief

During these unprecedented times of uncertainty, Americans need help.  The Coronavirus (Covid19) continues to wreak havoc in our daily lives and for nearly 2 weeks now, pressures and worries have been mounting concerning our health and our finances.

With everything else going on, the last thing you should have to worry about is losing your home, for reasons completely out of your control.  You can now rest just a little easier, knowing that help is on the way.  A moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, at least  in California, was announced on March 25th.


Yesterday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that several major banks and other financial institutions have agreed to delay foreclosures and provide mortgage relief to California homeowners who are struggling to make their monthly payments due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.  This moratorium agreement is offered by lenders like Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, CitiBank,  J.P. Morgan Chase and possibly 200 others.  “The assistance comes as more than 1 million Californians have applied for unemployment benefits this month due to layoffs or reduced hours amid the pandemic,” Newsom said.  The story was posted at:

What is a “Moratorium”?  A moratorium period is a period during a loan term when the borrower is not obligated to make a payment. It is a waiting period before the borrower starts making payments again.  These are similar to delays offered by Mortgagers during natural disasters.

Robert Broeksmit, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association said,  “If homeowners have been laid off or had a drop in work hours, are ill or affected, there will be a program available to them to forbear mortgage payments. Generally it would be up to six months.”  More available at:

Eligible homeowners would be able to defer mortgage payments for at least three months and perhaps longer if they suffer hardship due to the pandemic. Late payments would not be reported to credit agencies.  However, they would more than likely be added to the back end of the loan with interest added on.

Previously, HUD ordered a 60-day moratorium of foreclosures due to Coronavirus.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also offering mortgage relief,  as seen in this article:  

Other notable reliefs for California residents are: No late fees for 90 days on mortgages, no new foreclosures for 60 days, no credit score changes.  There is also a moratorium making it illegal for landlords to evict residential tenants who are unable to pay rent because of loss of income from work, childcare costs related to school closures, healthcare costs, or “reasonable expenditures” related to COVID-19.  Several commercial landlords are helping out in similar ways.

For additional information of many relief efforts in California and how to apply for relief, go to:  There are also many other relief programs available at Need Help Paying Bills:

While mortgage delinquencies still remain near record lows, these steps will certainly go a long way toward staving off a severe downturn in the real estate market, caused by a flood of foreclosures.

We will all get through this and I am here to help in any way I can.  You have more important things to worry about, than the roof over your head.  My team and I may have just the answers you are looking for.  In the mean time we wish you and your family good health.  Call (714) 801-6230, email, browse a plethora of information at;

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Buyer loses $40,000 in Scam

In March the California Association of Realtors reported that a wave of earnest money deposit scams had reappeared and warned brokers and buyers to be vigilant. Here in June, these same scams are still occurring, and the perpetrators are absconding with even larger deposits.

This type of scam does not involve cybercrime, email phishing or identity theft. It’s an old-fashioned scam that appears to follow the same basic format.  An agent claims to have a listing for a short sale (or probate or other distressed property), but the property cannot be shown. After acceptance of an offer, the buyer makes an initial deposit usually in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, but as high as $40,000, into the listing broker’s non-independent broker escrow.

As with most short sale or probate properties, the process can take several months, and the buyer’s agent is assured that the listing agent is working towards lender approval – it is just taking more time.  Then the communication slows down, the selling agent begins to get concerned and calls the listing broker’s escrow.  There is no answer, no return call, no other number to contact, and the earnest money deposit is gone.

This scam is nearly the same as a series of scams that appeared in the Los Angeles area about two years ago. The Los Angeles County sheriff eventually arrested the wrongdoers but only after millions of dollars had been lost.

Use a reputable Realtor.

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