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The Modern Wallpaper

Modern Wallpaper

Centuries ago wallpaper made its debut as a cost saving alternative to wall tapestries used by well-to-do homeowners for decoration. Today’s wallpaper is a stark contrast to the busy floral patterns of yesterday. Modern homeowners desire patterns and hues beyond the white, beige, and gray neutrals of recent, says Chicago-based designer Tom Segal.

Realtor Magazine explains that today’s manufacturers such as Brooklyn, N.Y.–based Flavor Paper have introduced modern, sometimes funky patterns that include Andy Warhol floral prints and nature motifs. “[Wallpaper] lets my client start and end the day in a joyful way,” says interior designer Phillip Thomas. One of the reasons for the uptick in interest, he says, is because so many artisans now design papers that resemble exquisite works of art. “It gives homeowners an opportunity to create interest in certain rooms and differentiate spaces.”

Developers such as Lexington Homes in Chicago are now using this new trend to their advantage. Enticing buyers to its upscale communities. But as Chicago designer Jessica Lagrange points out, wallpaper is expensive and highly individual. There’s always the chance that the choice may not be a good fit for every buyer. If a resale is in a homeowner’s immediate future, they should have a game plan for its potential removal, she says.

To help buyers or sellers who are curious about using wallpaper to complement an interior without making it look dated, here are some tips on products, trends, and techniques from design experts.

Choosing the room.
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Wallpaper is agreed upon by many design professionals as an exciting way to spice up a few rooms, in moderation of course. Just as painting every room in your home a vastly different color is overwhelming, wallpaper can do the same thing if not done right.

Rebecca Pogonitz of GOGO Design Group outside Chicago points out that wallpaper is best used in master bedrooms, entryways, dining rooms, and half baths. Remember to be mindful of adjoining rooms and how they flow together. Connect rooms using the same paint color, this helps to eliminate any choppiness and create fluid transitions.

Experts say that due to its small size, half baths are easily the most popular room to wallpaper. Use dressier, or more fancy paper in dinning rooms to help it feel more special. In the master bedroom, choose a calming pattern and color. After all, the goal of this room is to unwind and sleep. And remember, just because you love a print doesn’t mean it belongs in every room. Los Angeles–based designer John McClain said, “You love a jungle print but you may not want to lie in your bed and stare at it.”

Placement makes perfect.
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While it’s still common to see wallpaper applied to all four walls, a growing trend is to just apply it to one wall as an accent. Designers and homeowners will often place this accent wall behind a bed, around a fireplace, or even on a ceiling. Beware of using it below chair rails or as a room border though. This can date the look.

There are also removable peel-and-stick versions of wallpaper. This is perfect for those renting, not looking to stay in their home long term, or just don’t want to commit. Now more than ever, there are more colors and patterns to choose from, often less expensive than the traditional papers.

The color that warms your soul.
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It doesn’t appear that any single color has dominated this trend. Rather, a rainbow of saturated hues rather than pale neutrals are experiencing a growing popularity. Designer Tom Segal says that neutrals still have their place though, especially when the patterns are small or paired with a texture. And many manufacturers will make custom color papers when you can’t find that exact color. 

Pattern and scale.
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The most popular patterns continue to be oversized, bold geometrics and florals over diminutive, sweet prints. Placement of this look requires some forethought though. Placing these bold patterns on a wall that homeowners spend a lot of time facing, such as behind a television, can be distracting and put strain on the eyes.

In dinning rooms landscape murals and natural motifs are a popular trend. Similarly, digital printing of supersized images and simulations of natural materials, from wood grains to striated stones, has gained traction, says Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist for imaging supplies with Canon Solutions America in the Chicago area. “Home owners now can buy standard images off the shelf or turn their own high-quality photos into wall coverings,” says Georgiou. “It makes it easier for consumers to order online and install products themselves without wallpaper paste. Then, later, they can more easily take them down.”

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Today, wallpapers are made with a variety of textures. Grass cloth, leather, vinyl, silk, linen, suede, and even mother of pearl are just a few. They create excitement and counter the flatness of most paint finishes. Some textures are even woven onto metallic paper so there’s a glint of sheen in the background.

And finally, Sustainability.
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Many companies are now aiming to enhance indoor air quality by introducing new breathable wall coverings. Some even offer the environmental sourcing information of these products. “I think we will see more of these, though it’s still a very niche market,” McClain says.


23 Questions to Ask Your Home Builder…

New Construction
New Construction
New Construction

Thinking about new construction for your next home? The best advice I could give would be to bring along your favorite Realtor to the meetings. Builders are in the business of making money. Not only is a Realtor on your side, but they’ll make sure you get the best home for your money. And remember, the buyers don’t pay the Realtor, the sellers (aka the builders) pay the Realtor……So what do you have to lose?

But, if you insist on taking the new construction journey solo, here are some questions to keep in mind when your talking with your builder.

  1. First, how many years have you been in business, and in the last year, how many homes have you built?
  2. Are you licensed to build in this area?
  3. What types of insurance does your company have, and are the limits?
  4. How will I be protected from subcontractor liens on my home?
  5. Do you have past buyers and Realtors that I may contact for references?
  6. What sets you apart from other builders in the area?
  7. For a home this size, how long does it usually take to build?
  8. How many homes are you currently building, and how do you manage the crews to get everything done on time?
  9. Will there be a completion date and penalties for not being on time included in the contract?
  10. Will I have a dedicated project manager?
  11. Is there a backup person in charge of building my home if something happens to the current person?
  12. What energy-saving features do you offer?
  13. Do you only build from your floor-plans or can I supply my own?
  14. If needed, when and how am I able to make changes during construction?
  15. Will our new construction agreement include a complete list of detailed specifications and allowances?
  16. What permits and fees are required, and are they included in the price?
  17. Does the community have an HOA? If so, what are their rules and fees?
  18. When and how will the final price for my home be determined?
  19. How often and when will I have access to the home during construction?
  20. What is your process for quality inspection during construction and at final walk through?
  21. Will we be allowed to check for defects before we release the final payment?
  22. What type of warranty do you offer?
  23. And finally, how will our deposit be handled if we decide to cancel the contract before the start of construction?

Florida Realtors Magazine Online:

Snowbirds Can Be Taxed as Florida Residents: Here’s How…


Recent changes made Florida a great destination to escape taxes as well as winter, but snowbirds don’t have to completely give up their summers in New England.   

NEW YORK – Shorter days, leafless trees and frost on the ground are all signs that it’s time for snowbirds to head south for the winter. Of course, I’m not talking about real birds – “snowbirds” are people who live up north during the warm months and head south during the winter. And if you’re one of the thousands of snowbirds heading to Florida this year, I bet you’ll hear a lot of chatter about the tax benefits of being a resident. After all, it’s one of only nine states without an income tax.

So if your summer home is in one of those high-tax states up north you can potentially save thousands of dollars each year if you can establish residency in Florida instead.

But you can’t just say “I’m a Florida resident” and have the income tax bill from your summer state magically disappear. You need to show that FL is your primary and permanent home. It’s your actions, not your words, that count the most.

That means cutting as many northern ties as possible and putting down roots in FL. But no matter how rooted you become, don’t be surprised if your summer state still wants you to pay taxes as a resident on all your income (instead of paying tax only on in-state income as a nonresident). Tax agencies in many high-tax northern states have well-earned reputations for fighting wealthier snowbirds who suddenly claim to be Florida residents. So, if you’re going to make that claim, be sure you can back it up.

Here are 15 things you can do to show that you are, in fact, a resident if your summer state challenges your residency status.

Spend most of your time in Florida

The majority of states have what’s called a 183-day rule. This basically means the state will tax you as a resident if you own a home there and spend at least 183 days during the year in the state. Some states require more in-state days to be considered a resident. The days don’t have to be consecutive, and even part of a day can count as a full day.

Obviously, if you spend more than half your time in Florida, you won’t reach the 183-day threshold in your summer state. Can’t spend that much time here? Then take a vacation, visit, or otherwise spend time in some other location. Anything to avoid spending 183 days or more in your high-tax summer state.

It’s also a good idea to keep a log of where you are each day of the year. This is just in case the tax agency from your northern state picks you for a residency audit. Keep receipts from the time you spend here too. This will also helps if you’re audited. For instance, if you had dinner at a FL restaurant, the receipt will help prove that you were here on that particular day.

Obtain a Florida driver’s license

Getting a FL driver’s license is a must if you really want to be a Florida resident. In fact, this is something you should do right away, since you’ll need the license to vote, apply for property tax breaks, and do other things that will help you establish residency.

New residents must apply for a FL driver’s license in person at any local office offering driver licenses services. The fee for an initial Florida Class E license is $48. You’ll also need to submit specific documents to obtain a REAL-ID compliant driver’s license. The list of required documents for U.S. citizens can be found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website.

Register your vehicles in Florida

When you’re getting your driver’s license, make sure you register your car or truck here, too. If you own an RV or boat, register it in Florida as well. This is further evidence that you consider Florida your permanent home.

You’ll have to pay a registration fee. The amount is based on the type and/or weight of the vehicle. A list of the various motor vehicle registration fees can be found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website.

Should You Relocate to Trim Taxes in Retirement?

Northerners are struggling. They love winter sunshine and low taxes, but a decision to move 1,000 miles to Fla. isn’t easy. Will homesickness set in? How much does a trip “back home” to see family cost? And how much tax savings are we talking about?

Learn More ►

Vote in Florida

Where you’re registered to vote says a lot about the place you see as your permanent home. So, to be seen as a Florida resident, make sure you register to vote – and actually vote – in Florida.

You can register to vote in Florida by completing a paper application and delivering it in person or by mail to the Division of Elections, any supervisor of an elections’ office, an office that issues driver’s licenses, or a voter registration agency (e.g., public assistance office, center for independent living, office serving persons with disabilities, public library, or armed forces recruitment office). You can also register online at You’ll need a Florida driver’s license (or ID card) and the last four digits of your Social Security number to complete the online registration.

Buy or rent a bigger home in Florida

Let’s face it … it doesn’t really look like you intend to make Florida your permanent home if you own a giant house up north but only rent a tiny apartment here. That’s why New York, for example, considers the size of each home a snowbird owns or rents to be an important factor in determining residency. So, if possible, get a home that’s at least roughly the same size as your northern home – although it’s better if your home in Florida is larger.

If your summer home is in New York, at least the state will consider home size in the context of the geographic area in which each residence is located. For example, while a 3,000 square-foot apartment in Manhattan may pale in comparison to a palatial home in Florida, it nevertheless may still be spacious by New York City standards.

Enroll your children in Florida schools

If you have minor children, have them enroll in a Florida school. Why? Because the quality of the local schools is usually an important factor for parents deciding where to live. This is true whether the schools are public or private. So, for example, if your children attend a boarding school up north and rarely visit your Florida residence, this could be evidence that you don’t consider Florida to be your primary and permanent home.

Tell people you’re a Florida resident

Yeah, we told you in the introduction that you can’t just say “I’m a Florida resident” to change your residency for state tax purposes. And that’s true – you can’t just declare that you’re a Florida resident. But even if you do all the other things we’re recommending here, you’ll never convince a tax auditor from up north that you’re a Florida resident if you don’t present yourself as a one to the rest of the world. So, if you meet someone new, tell them you’re from Florida. If you’re filling out a form that asks for your address, use your Florida address. And update your Facebook page so that your Florida town is listed as your current home.

Auditors will look for any indication that you don’t really think of Florida as your primary and permanent home – don’t give them any ammunition.

Tell the State of Florida that you’re a resident, too. File a “Declaration of Domicile” with the clerk of circuit court in the Florida county where you live. (“Domicile” is a legal term that generally means the place that you intend to be your primary and permanent home.) There isn’t a standard, statewide form that you can use. Instead, each county will have its own version – as an example, click here for the Broward County form.

Keep important personal items in Florida

Tax auditors know that most people keep prized personal possessions in their primary home. So, bring your most treasured items down here for safekeeping to show that you consider the state to be your primary and permanent home. This includes all things that are near and dear to your heart, including photo albums, wedding dresses, family heirlooms, stamp or coin collections, works of art, rare books, and any other item that has sentimental value. Pets fall into this category, too.

Socialize in Florida

To show that your life is now centered in Florida, join clubs, take up hobbies, volunteer and meet new people in the state. Tax auditors are going to question your resident credentials if you’re constantly heading back up north to socialize. You can keep your northern friends, but make new ones in Florida, too. (Invite your Yankee friends down to Florida for a week of winter sun and sand … they’ll love you for it!) If you’re already a member of a national organization like the Lions Club or VFW, change the address on file to your Florida address and attend meetings in Florida.

Visit doctors, lawyers and CPAs in Florida

It can be hard leaving a family doctor up north that you’ve been seeing for decades. But you need to do just that if you want to convince a tax auditor that you’ve really settled down here. The same goes for dentists, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals – you should replace them with new people in Florida.

It’s probably OK to see a specialist once in a while outside Florida, but your regular doctor (or other professional) should be in the Sunshine State. If you want to go to the extra mile, start seeing a barber or hair stylist here, too.

Do your banking in Florida

Even in today’s world of online banking, tax auditors know most people park their money in banks near home. So, if you’re claiming to be a FL resident, move your money to a Florida bank. It can be a national bank, but there should be a branch close to your FL home. You should be able to do your banking in person (including renting a safe deposit box). You’ll also want to make sure all bank statements are sent to your Florida address.

This advice extends to all your financial activities. Start working with Florida-based brokers, financial planners, insurance agents and the like. And, again, make sure all statements, payments and notices are sent to your home here, including credit card statements. If you’re retired, have your Social Security checks or retirement plan distributions mailed here as well, or deposited into a FL bank.

Pay taxes as a Florida resident

Sure, there’s no state income tax, but that doesn’t mean residents don’t pay other taxes. For example, you still have to pay federal income taxes as a Florida resident. So, when filing your next federal 1040, make sure you list your Florida address as your home address. You should also change your address on file with the IRS by submitting Form 8822.

As for taxes, make sure you pay your local real estate taxes on time and in full. If you own a business, are self-employed, or rent out property, you might also owe personal property taxes. If you’re not paying these taxes as required, your standing as a resident will be diminished.

Apply for a Florida Homestead Property Tax Exemption

In addition to paying taxes, take advantage of the state’s tax breaks for residents. If you own a home here, apply for the homestead property tax exemption. Not only could your home’s taxable value be reduced by as much as $50,000, but it’s further evidence of you’re a FL resident. That’s a win-win!

To apply, submit Form DR-501 and all required documentation to the property appraiser in the FL a county where the property is located. You can also use the form to apply for property tax breaks. Some are available to disabled or blind persons, senior citizens, widow(er)s, veterans, and first responders.

If a similar tax break is available in your northern state, don’t claim it. Especially if it’s only available to residents. If you do, you’re telling your summer state that you are a resident there, not in Florida.

Work in Florida

Do you work at home or in multiple locations? Make sure you list your Florida address as your home of record. Paychecks and W-2 forms should be sent here, and all your benefits should be based in the state.

Are you an independent contractor? All invoices and other correspondence should include your local address. Payments and 1099 forms should be sent here, too.

If you’re a doctor, lawyer or other professional, get licensed to practice here.

Move your business to the sunshine state

Own a business up north? Moving it here will certainly help your case if your status as a Florida resident is challenged.

If moving your northern business down here isn’t possible, running it from Florida might be an option. However, business owners in Florida who are deeply immersed in their company’s operations up north can have a hard time establishing residency here. Even if you’re running your business from a Miami Beach cabana. Tax auditors up north will see substantial involvement in the management of a business in their state as evidence of residency. It will be weighed along with all other factors though. This type of evidence can persuade a court that you’re not really a FL resident.

The degree of your involvement in the business’ day-to-day operations will be looked at closely. You don’t necessarily have to sell the business or relinquish your management role. By taking more of a “hands-off” approach will definitely support your claim for Florida residency.

2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors

By Rocky Mengle, The Kiplinger Washington Editors


Understanding Homestead Exemption Portability….

Homestead Exemption Portability

When you declare a home as your primary residence, you’re eligible for a homestead tax exemption in most states. While varying state by state, generally, declaring your primary residence as your homestead means you only pay property taxes on a value lower than the appraised value of your home. Your home is then protected from creditors in the event of a spouse death or bankruptcy. Some states automatically apply a homestead exemption, while others require that you file for it.

When you sell your current home or change primary residences, you’re eligible to transfer your benefit (accrued property tax savings) from one property to another. You must check your state’s regulations for exact values, but usually this allows you to lower the assessed value on your new residence. 

Florida Homestead Portability:

In 1992, Florida enacted the “Save Our Homes” (SOH) Constitutional Amendment. This limits the annual increase in assessed property value to no more than 3%, or the Consumer Price Index for the previous year. 

According to the Florida Department of Revenue, “If you are moving from a previous Florida homestead to a new homestead in Florida, you may be able to transfer, or “port,” all or part of your homestead assessment difference. If you’re eligible, portability allows most Florida homestead owners to transfer their SOH benefit from their old homestead to a new homestead. This lowers the tax assessment and, consequently, the taxes for the new homestead.  

  • “To transfer the SOH benefit, you must establish a homestead exemption for the new home within two years of January 1 of the year you abandoned the old homestead (not two years after the sale).” 
  • “You must file the Transfer of Homestead Assessment Difference (Form DR-501T) with the homestead exemption application. The deadline to file these forms is March 1.” 
  • “Complete all the forms and applications required for the exemption and file them with your county property appraiser. If the property appraiser denies your application, you may file a petition with the county’s value adjustment board.” 

Homestead portability is a misunderstood benefit. It applies to many homeowners that are either upgrading or downgrading residences. Are you purchasing a new home as your primary residence? If you want to learn about homestead portability in your area, reach out to a mortgage expert or property appraiser.


10 False Assumptions People Make About Real Estate Agents

Everyone either knows a real estate agent, or is connected to one through six (probably less) degrees of separation. Between friends and relatives, and the stereotypical representation of real estate agents on television and in pop culture, the general public has adopted some assumptions about agents that are very far from the truth.

Here are ten things that people assume about real estate agents that just aren’t true:

1. They make “easy money”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. The only people who could ever possibly make the case that being an agent is an easy way to make money are those who have never done it. It’s hard, uncertain work, with many instances of months wasted on a deal that doesn’t ever close. The only thing easy about it is reading the Lighter Side of Real Estate.

2. They’re required to show you homes even if you’re not pre-approved

There are definitely agents who will show you houses without a pre-approval (or at minimum a pre-qualification), but an agent is not required to, and most experienced agents probably won’t. The ability to qualify for financing dictates whether or not a deal is even possible, so an agent is simply saving you from disappointment (or worse) by asking you to get pre-approved.

3. Zillow is more accurate

It would be wonderful if Zillow (and similar websites) were accurate in their home valuations, but if you compared their results to actual appraised values, in most cases you’d burst out laughing. Real estate agents want you to get as much money as possible for your house, but oftentimes reality gets in the way. Trust your realtor to give you a fair market assessment for your house…at least more than you trust Zillow.

4. They make huge commissions

Popular real estate flipping shows have given everyone the impression that real estate agents are rolling in the dough. Most agents dream for that, but reality is much different. The median US home sale price in December 2016 was $234,900, this means after splitting the commission with the other agent involved and paying their broker, an agent will take home about $3500 from the transaction, not including all marketing and other related expenses that were spent on the listing. As for the average agents monthly income, this usually adds up to about $40,000 per year. Not exactly the huge number that you would expect.

5. They’re an unnecessary evil

Many people have made the argument that real estate agents are unnecessary and are merely an impediment to a more efficient “For sale by owner” model of real estate. The best way to eliminate this misconception is to try selling your house yourself. There is nothing more sobering than desperately Googling state and federal real estate laws as some unkempt stranger is knocking on your door asking you questions about your FSBO house.

6. They’re sleazy

Unfortunately, real estate agents have joined the ranks of lawyers, politicians, and salespeople in some of the public’s assumptions about their trustworthiness. The financial collapse of 2008 exacerbated this perception. Thankfully, the market correction also weeded out most of the unsavory’s of the business. Truth is, real estate agents are honest, hardworking people, making a living like any other profession. And just like any other profession, there are a few bad apples that unfairly give the others a bad name.

7. They’re uneducated

This misconception really gets under most agents’ skin, because not only do many agents have degrees (and advanced degrees in quite a few cases), but the knowledge required to pass a real estate exam is substantial. There are many people who are unable to get their licensing because of an inability to pass the licensing tests, which makes the concept of an “uneducated” agent laughable.

8. They want you to pay more for a house so they can make more money

If you truly looked at the math involved in calculating real estate commissions, you’d never utter this falsehood again. An agent getting you to pay $10,000 more for a property will net that agent approximately $150, which barely covers the cost of gas required to drive to and from your appointments. The truth is that an agent absolutely wants you to buy a house. What’s not true is that they want you to pay more for one.

9. They’re mostly part-timers or bored housewives

If you ask the average person to describe the archetypal real estate agent, they’ll probably say it’s an older married woman who is looking for something to do in her free time. Ugh. This is stereotyping at its finest, and ignores the hundreds of thousands of male agents, the hundreds of thousands of full-time agents, and the hard-working primary bread winners that make up the real estate workforce. Sure, the stereotypical agents do exist, but they’re the exception to the rule.

10. All they want from you is the deal

Yes, agents want your business. But true professional real estate agents want to be your lifelong real estate advisor. They want you to think of them whenever you or your family and friends have any real estate questions. They want to see you and talk to you more than once a decade, and they want to make sure that you remember your interactions with them as being absolutely delightful.


The 10 Commandments of Selling a Home

31 Reasons why your Real Estate Agent is worth their commission. REASON 23:


REASON 23: They also broker.

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What exactly is a broker? The word broker is a noun that describes someone in a lot of different industries. There are mortgage brokers, stock brokers, franchise brokers, insurance brokers, online brokers, and many others. But in the case of Real Estate, ‘brokering’ takes on a different persona, as a verb.

Broker as a verb means that they negotiate or arrange a particular plan, settlement, or deal. Some synonyms are: organize, orchestrate, clinch, work out, and bring about. Notice the word ‘clinch’? If your agent is able to that for you, they’re definitely worth boasting about.

When talking about a Real Estate Broker, this person has elected to continue their education past the standard real-estate-agent level and has passed a state real estate broker licensing exam. This licensing allows the Real Estate Broker to now work as independent agents or have other agents work for them. The biggest distinction among a Real Estate agent/Realtor and a Real Estate Broker is that a broker can work under their own, while an agent has to work under a licensed broker.

When asking any investor who’s agent was able to maneuver and close a multiple offer deal by negotiating terms instead of price….they know exactly who that is.



-Sandra S. Sibley, P.A.,-150,724


Spreading the flu…..Flu Season


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Working in the real estate business I come in contact with a lot of people. Buying or selling a home can be a stressful and exciting time, but remember if your sick, it’s best to reschedule that showing or open house. Get your rest and protect others from getting sick as well. Stress can weaken the immune system and make us more susceptible to getting a bug. Getting sick is always a pain, in many ways. So whether it be a cold or the flu, special precautions need to be made so that you can protect yourself and others. Along with thinking about getting a flu shot, here is a notice from the CDC with some tips….

Hurricane Evacuation Centers and Transportation


Hurricane Evacuation Centers and Transportation

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It’s that time again folks. Hurricane season. There is more to this notorious season that stalking up on water, food, gas, and …well beer :-). Here is a list of Evacuation Centers in Sarasota County and a plan for if you aren’t able to transport yourself to these shelters. Keep it handy just in case…..

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31 Reasons why your Real Estate Agent is worth their commission. REASON 22


Reason 22: Their teamwork is essential

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Teamwork is essential in the real estate world. Saying like “We are better together”, “No man is an island” and “A three strand cord is not easily broken” are all timeless and very true points. Every Real Estate agent has a team behind them working for you to make the process as smooth as possible. Even if your agent is a one man show, they still have a team behind them. Every agent has a capable team of sign makers, mortgage brokers, contractors, inspectors, processors, attorneys, accountants, engineers, ad designers, auditors, and countless other key professionals that are necessary to facilitate in the home buying and selling process. From searching and assessing to sale prep and closing, they have someone they trust for every step of the way.

Let all of these valuable professionals work hard for you too.



-Sandra S. Sibley, P.A.,-150,724