4 Simple Tricks to More Happiness

Who doesn’t want to feel happy?

What I’ve found is there are some simple ways to add little bursts of happiness into your day. Next time you need a cheery pick-me-up, try doing more of this…

:: Show some humility. Laughing at yourself not only releases endorphins, but it helps you take yourself less seriously.

:: Get stuff done. Crossing things off your to-do list is not only cathartic, but having less weighing on your mind relieves stress. Have too much on your plate? See what you can outsource off your list, like house cleaning and grocery shopping, then create a schedule to help you better manage your time and tasks.

:: Learn to let go. We’ve all made mistakes, but beating yourself up over the small stuff isn’t helping your emotional state. While they’re no fun to deal with, the best thing you can do is to stop dwelling on your mistakes and try to learn from them instead.

:: Give yourself a break. Think about how many hours you spend sitting and staring at the screen every day. Moving more throughout the day, like taking lunch outside or going for a stroll before driving home from work, will help you feel more refreshed.

I’d love to know how to you turn your frown upside down. Share your tips in the comments here!

Happy child with smiley on hands against green spring background



Home renovation shows are fascinating glimpses into the creativity and hard work it takes to transform the worst looking houses into architectural splendors. The vision that the designers need in order to see the character of a home beneath the bad renovations, poor decoration, or just sad neglect is an amazing talent.

These renovations remind me that sometimes we need to dig a little deeper and scrub a little harder to find the beauty in things. When looked at more closely, a brick wall may be hiding a stunning original fireplace just waiting to be carefully restored to its former beauty.

It may not always be easy to discover the true beauty within, but it’s always worth it. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve uncovered recently?

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I’ve made little mistakes. Big blunders. Sometimes I’ve outright failed. And that’s OK.

Because the thing about getting something wrong is that learning how *not* to do things is just as important as getting them right. If you never mess up, how can you look back, learn and improve yourself?

Sometimes when you make a mistake, you get a second chance to get it right. But you have to be willing to reflect on your missteps, no matter how scary that may be. It’s far worse to hold yourself back because you’re too afraid to fail.

Remember that mistakes are proof that you’re trying. So go ahead and try, then try again in a better way.

Whenever I’m faced with a new challenge I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Ask yourself the same thing the next time you want to take a leap in life. I promise, you won’t regret it.




As long as you are walking in fear you’re never going to be truly free!

If you’re afraid of something, name it. Call it out. Take a really good look at it, even if it scares you.

Often if you just name and sit with your fear — if you really feel it — that will be enough to release it.

Other times you need to ask questions about that fear. Why are you really worried? Will worrying about something really change it? Ask that fear, “Why are you here?”

The trick is to stop avoiding it. Drag the monster out of the closet and look at it. Once you do, your fear will start to lose its power and disappear!



Closing On A Home? Tips For Understanding the HUD-1

When you agree to purchase a home and begin the closing process, you’ll be issued an HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The HUD-1 will detail the costs associated with the purchase of the property and will identify which party is responsible for which cost. On this form, however, some charges are aggregated together so that only the total is shown, thus it won’t provide specific details on that category of charges. Real estate professionals involved in the transaction, like a real estate agent, broker or attorney can help answer any questions regarding these closing costs.

The details of the HUD-1

The first page of the HUD-1 is divided into two columns. These are sections J and K. Section J is a summary of your transaction and section K is a summary of the seller’s transaction. This page will show you how much you owe the seller and includes settlement charges and adjustments to the transaction. At the bottom of the page are lines 303 and 603. Line 202 shows how much the buyer owes or is owed and Line 603 will detail how much the seller owes or is owed.

Settlement costs are found on page two of the HUD-1 under section L. These costs are broken into a number of categories including real estate broker fees, items required by the lender to be paid in advance, items payable in connection with the loan, reserves deposited with the lender, title insurance charges, government recording and transfer charges as well as additional settlement charges. The totals of charges are found at Line 1400 at the bottom of the page and are referenced on lines 103 for the borrower and 502 for the seller on the first page.

The third page of the HUD-1 Settlement State shows the charges from the buyer’s Good Faith Estimate issued by the lender to allow buyers and their real estate agent to see any increases in charges. While increases in charges are not uncommon fees under the “Charges that Cannot Increase” section are a tolerance violation and the lender is required to pay those fees. There’s also a section titled “Charges that in Total Cannot Increase More Than 10 Percent” and any fees greater than 10 percent must be paid by the lender. Buyers should remember that there is a section that includes charges that can change and the buyer is responsible for any of these increases.

Loan terms on the third page include the loan amount, term, interest rate and other payment information.

-from First American Exchange Newsletter -The Exchange Update





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Don’t Jeopardize Your 1031 Exchange – from First American Exchange Company – Exchange Update Newsletter

When completing a §1031 exchange there are some little-known requirements that could potentially disqualify your tax-deferred transaction.  Here are a few that could put your exchange at risk.

Qualified Intermediary Selection


Someone who is acting as your agent at the time of the transaction is disqualified from acting as a Qualified Intermediary.  Who is considered an agent? Someone who has acted as your employee, attorney, accountant, investment banker or broker, or real estate agent within the two-year period ending on the date of transfer of the first relinquished property. These persons are disqualified because they are presumed to be under the Taxpayer‘­s control.  Thus, the Taxpayer is deemed to have control of the exchange funds, otherwise known as “constructive receipt”. Constructive receipt by the Taxpayer invalidates the §1031 exchange. See here for exceptions to this rule.


If exchange funds are set aside or otherwise made available to you, it is also considered to be constructive receipt. Of course, if you actually receive the exchange funds you will invalidate your exchange.


Identification Deadlines


The most common reason an exchange fails is missed deadlines.  Potential replacement property(ies) must be identified by midnight of the 45th day after the relinquished property transfer.  Therefore, it is advisable to begin searching for the replacement property as soon as possible. In addition, the replacement property must be received by the taxpayer within the exchange period which ends on the earlier of 180 days from the date on which the taxpayer transfers the first relinquished property, or the due date for the taxpayer’s federal income tax return for the taxable year in which the transfer of the relinquished property occurs.  Extensions may be available for Taxpayers within a Presidentially Declared Disaster Area, or in active service in a combat zone. See here for exceptions to these deadlines.


Same Taxpayer Rule


Another mistake someone could inadvertently make would be to change the manner of holding title from the relinquished property to the replacement property. As a general rule, the same Taxpayer that transferred the relinquished property should be the same Taxpayer that acquires the replacement property. There are a variety of reasons you might want to change how title is held in an exchange and some changes are allowed, but you must be sure to talk it over with your tax advisor first. You can read further details on vesting title in a §1031 exchange, here.


Related Party Exchanges


You must also give serious consideration to any relationship you might have with the seller of the replacement property. Acquiring replacement property from a related party is potentially problematic, so the facts of the transaction should be reviewed by your tax advisor before proceeding.  The IRS could view the transaction as an abusive shift of basis between related parties resulting in tax avoidance and disallow the exchange.  Exchanges involving related parties are allowed, but both parties must hold their newly acquired properties for at least two years or both exchanges will fail.  For more information on exchanging with related parties, click here.


First American Exchange has helped thousands of taxpayers successfully complete even the most difficult transactions. While we don’t provide tax or legal advice, we make it our business to keep you informed of your exchange deadlines and other potential pitfalls that could jeopardize your exchange.

– See more at: http://firstexchange.com/June2013Newsletter#sthash.7dRJR7Vh.dpuf

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Top Ten 1031 Exchange Misconceptions

1.  Like-kind means I must exchange the same type of property, such as apartment building for apartment building.


All real property is like-kind to other real property, but personal property

like-kind requirements do have some restrictions. Real property and personal property are not like-kind to one another.  To read more about like-kind real estate, go here.


2.  My attorney can handle this for me.


Not if your attorney has provided you any non-exchange related legal services within the two-year period prior to the exchange. To read more about qualified and disqualified parties, go here.


3.  I must literally “swap” my property with another investor.


No. A 1031 exchange allows you to sell your relinquished property and purchase replacement property from a third party. Watch a short video on the basic process of a 1031 exchange.


4.  1031 exchanges are too complicated.


They don’t have to be. An experienced Qualified Intermediary will work with you and your tax and/or legal advisors to make sure the process is as seamless as possible.  Go here to read frequently asked questions and answers about doing a 1031 exchange.


5.  The sale and purchase must take place simultaneously.


No. The taxpayer has 45 days to identify the new replacement property and 180 days to close.

If you would like more information on the identification time period, go here.


6.  I just need to file a form with the IRS with my tax return and “roll over” the proceeds into a new investment.


No.  A valid exchange requires much more than just reporting the transaction on Form 8824.  One of the biggest traps when not structured properly is the taxpayer having actual or constructive rights to the exchange proceeds and triggering a taxable event.  For more information on tax filing requirements, go here.


7.  1031 exchanges are only for real estate.


No. Almost any property, whether real or personal, which is held for productive use in a trade or business, or for investment, may qualify for tax-deferred treatment under Section 1031. For more information on personal property exchanges, go here.


8.  All of the funds from the sale of the relinquished property must be reinvested.


No. A taxpayer can choose to withhold funds or receive other property in an exchange, but it is considered boot and will be subject to federal and state taxes.  To understand more about boot, go here.


9.  1031 exchanges are just for big investors.


No. Anyone owning investment property with a market value greater than its adjusted basis should consider a 1031 exchange. To find out how to use 1031 exchanges as a retirement planning tool, go here.


10.  I must hold property longer than a year before exchanging it.


The 1031 regulations do not list a time requirement on how long you must hold property, but it does say that property must be “held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment”.

To learn more about holding period requirements, go here.

from First American Exchange Company “The Exchange Update”


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Analysis Blames Slow Recovery on Tight Credit Market

Daily Real Estate News |      Monday, September 17, 2012

High lending standards are preventing a full economic recovery, according to new survey findings and an analysis of historic credit scores and loan performance by the National Association of REALTORS®. The group estimates that the U.S. economy would reap significant benefits if mortgage lending conditions were to return to normal.

“Sensible lending standards would permit 500,000 to 700,000 additional home sales in the coming year,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.  “The economic activity created through these additional home sales would add 250,000 to 350,000 jobs in related trades and services almost immediately, and without a cost impact.”

This view appears to be shared by real estate professionals as well. According to the REALTORS® Confidence Index, based on more than 3,000 responses by NAR members, there is widespread concern over the tight credit conditions for residential mortgages.  Respondents report that lenders are slow to approve applications, and that banks request information from borrowers that is considered to be excessive.

Some expressed the belief that lenders are focusing only on loans to individuals with the highest credit scores. The survey found that 53 percent of loans in August went to borrowers with credit scores above 740.  From 2001 to 2004, only 41 percent of loans backed by Fannie Mae went to borrowers with FICO scores above 740, while 43 percent of Freddie Mac-backed loans went to such borrowers. In 2011, about 75 percent of total loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now a smaller market share, had credit scores of 740 or above.

Yun said the financial industry has not recognized that the market has turned in the wake of an over-correction in home prices.

“There is an unnecessarily high level of risk aversion among mortgage lenders and regulators, although many are sitting on large volumes of cash which could go a long way toward speeding our economic recovery. A loosening of the overly restrictive lending standards is very much in order,” he said.

Yun added that lenders’ high aversion to risk was unnecessary because default rates have been abnormally low since 2009.  Fannie Mae default rates have averaged 0.2 percent while Freddie Mac’s averaged 0.1 percent. The association deemed such rates especially notable due to higher-than-usual unemployment levels.

“These findings show we need to return to the sound underwriting standards that existed before the aberrations of the housing boom and bust cycle, and thoroughly re-examine current and impending regulatory rules that may cause excessively tight standards,” Yun said.

Source: “Home Sales and Job Creation would Rise with Sensible Lending Standards,” National Association of REALTORS® (Sept. 17, 2012)

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More Home Owners Lifted From Underwater

Daily Real Estate News |      Thursday, September 13, 2012

As values rise, more home owners are finding equity in their houses again, surfacing after being underwater on their mortgage for the past few years, according to the latest data from CoreLogic.

In the second quarter, 10.8 million, or 22.3 percent, of home owners owed more on their mortgage than their house is currently worth, which is down from 11.4 million — or 23.7 percent — in the first quarter, CoreLogic reported Wednesday.

Often, the fear among the industry with underwater home owners is that they will be much more likely to stop making their mortgage payments and walk away from their properties. However, the majority of underwater home owners — 84.9 percent — are up to date on their mortgage payments despite the decrease in the value of their homes, according to CoreLogic.

“The level of negative equity continues to improve with more than 1.3 million households regaining a positive equity position since the beginning of the year,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Surging home prices this spring and summer, lower levels of inventory, and declining REO-sale shares are all contributing to the nascent housing recovery and declining negative equity.”

The highest number of underwater home owners are in Nevada (59 percent), Florida (43 percent), and Arizona (40 percent).

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The Market Gets Competitive for Home Buyers

Daily Real Estate News |      Thursday, September 13, 2012



More home buyersare finding they’re losing their power position in the real estate market and that when they submit an offer for a home, they may not be alone in the bidding. In fact, buyers who submit low offers may not even get a courtesy of a callback nowadays.One Florida couple says they put in seven offers on homes over two months — most at or above asking price — before they were finally able to get a $365,000 Sarasota home.

A drop in the inventory of for-sale homes around the country is prompting more competition among home buyers. Inventory in June is 24 percent below year-ago levels.

“I’ve had listings get 45 offers,” Sin-Yi Chao Lambertson, a real estate broker in Glendora, Calif., told Money Magazine.

Money Magazine recently offered potential buyers the following tips if they want to get the winning bid on a home:

  • Get pre-approved, not prequalified: Pre-approval for a loan based on a buyer’s credit, income, and assets is viewed as better than getting pre-qualified, which is just an estimate of how much that buyer may be able to borrow.
  • Find an experienced REALTOR®: Money Magazine advised home buyers to find a real estate professional who knows how to handle multiple-offer situations and can advise how much to offer and help buyers determine if they’re getting a home at a fair price.
  • Watch the contingencies: “The best offer isn’t always the one with the best price,” says George Miller, a Sarasota, Fla., real estate agent. Buyers who put in too many contingencies with their offer may lose out.

Source: “Winning in a Seller’s Housing Market,” Money Magazine (Sept. 12, 2012)

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