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The value is in the brokerage

Re: 'Real estate fees inflated by $30 billion' (Oct. 11)

Dear Editor:

Once again, we have a person outside the real estate profession commenting on fees that they don't understand. Attorneys use a fee-based business model, and therefore apparently feel that all professionals should use the same.

The value of "brokerage" is almost never discussed when fees are the issue. Real estate professionals do not work by the hour for the most part, so where is the value in charging a full 3 percent commission on each side of the transaction? The value is in the "brokerage" side of the business, the bringing together of a willing buyer and willing seller to consummate a deal. This action is not a simple or easy one. Much negotiation and skill is needed to put most deals together. The paperwork that follows is also important, but the need for the paperwork would not exist if successful "brokerage" does not happen first.

Maybe attorneys should be limited on the contingency fees they charge in some lawsuits? How can they justify taking 30 percent or more of these massive settlements we all see?

Ed Steinbeck
Broker associate
RE/MAX Parkside Real Estate

Dear Editor:

People don't think about the unpaid work agents do when people ask for advice on how to improve a home's value or estimates of value for estate purposes, or all the time that is spent helping people decide whether they like an area well enough to move there. There's also the people who come in to "discuss real estate" so they can write a trip off on taxes -- just to mention a few.

Kathy Kershner
Portland, Ore.

Real Estate Connect NYC 2007
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Tips for maximizing bathroom remodel

Don't be afraid to relocate fixtures, forego fashion

Friday, October 13, 2006

By Arrol Gellner
Inman News

People do lots of thinking when they remodel a bathroom. They agonize over colors, countertop materials, and choosing the latest lavatory sink, but too often they overlook the kind of improvements that would matter most.

Simply upgrading your bathroom with fancy fixtures and materials won't do a thing to improve its function. You'll just be trading a lousy old bathroom for a lousy new one. So make sure you don't miss these basics:

1. Don't rule out relocating a toilet, a sink, or even a bathtub if doing so would definitely improve the room's layout. The old notion that moving plumbing fixtures will break the bank simply isn't true in most cases -- in a major bathroom remodel, the biggest expense is in finishes, not in rough plumbing.

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A common example: Building codes allow a toilet to be centered in a space as little as 30 inches wide. Yet many older bathrooms have much more space than that between the toilet and adjoining cabinets or walls. In a case like this, moving the toilet to the modern minimum may gain you a nice chunk of counter space.

2. Stay away from hard-to-clean fixtures, no matter how fashionable. The usual suspects include topmount lavatory sinks, whose raised rims prevent puddled water from being wiped directly into the sink. And the cleaning headaches inherent in those oh-so-trendy, free-standing-bowl-style sinks hardly need pointing out.

Likewise, while sparkling glass shower enclosures look great in designer magazines, in real life they're a drudge to keep clean. For my money, a shower curtain -- which won't obstruct the room when not in use, and which can be easily replaced -- is a more practical choice.

3. In the shower, provide a niche for storing shampoo bottles and the like. Make sure the soap dish is high enough to avoid the need to stoop down, and provide a hook or bar for hanging a washcloth. A small built-in bench or at least a ledge will be welcome, too.

4. Set aside some wall space for both 18-inch-wide face-towel bars and 24-inch bath-towel bars. Ideally, the bath towels should be within arm's length of the tub or shower, and the face towels should be right beside the lavatory sink. If space is tight, either can be mounted on the inside of the bathroom door, or you can use towel rings instead.

5. Building codes require an exhaust fan only if the bathroom doesn't have an openable window, but you should plan to include one regardless. Insist on a top-quality, super-quiet model -- not one of those howling bargain-basement jobs. Better yet, consider a remote-mounted fan, which will be even quieter.

6. If the bathroom feels cramped and there's no way to physically enlarge it, try an optical illusion: Use a large sheet mirror on the wall behind the lavatory, extending from corner to corner and from countertop to ceiling, to visually double the room's volume. Although it takes a little extra effort to incorporate a mirror this big, the result is far more dramatic than the usual scrap of mirror screwed to the wall.

7. Lastly, don't forget storage for bulky items like toilet paper. To this end, a vanity cabinet is more practical than a pedestal sink, though it may not necessarily suit the style of your house. Here again, you might wish to trade fashion for function.


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Copyright 2006 Arrol Gellner


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