Popcorn Ceilings – No Night At The Movies…

Please enjoy my candid journey through homeownership at http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com where I share my personal stories of being a young homeowner.  My newest blog is about Pop Corn Ceilings… Enjoy!

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

San Mateo County Homebuyer Assistance Program

Music to my ears.  Just came across this program to help homebuyers living and working in San Mateo County.  Please visit their website for updates.

Homebuyer Loans

Downpayment assistance loans for first-time homebuyers
in San Mateo County

Together with Meriwest Mortgage, HEART has created a customized loan package that is not offered by any other lender. Our goal is simple: to help you buy a home with a 5% downpayment.

Working with Meriwest Mortgage, a wholly owned subsidiary of the not-for-profit Meriwest Credit Union, HEART has created an entirely new loan package that helps qualified moderate-income families earning not more than $150,000 and who have not owned a home in San Mateo County in the last 3 years and meet other qualifications, buy their first home in San Mateo County, or to move substantially closer to transit in the county. This program does not apply in Daly City.

* Guidelines current as of July 2012. Subject to change based on rapidly changing market conditions. Check back often for updates, or call John Souza at Meriwest Mortgage at (408) 849-7115.

How does the Opening Doors Program work?

Together with a Meriwest Mortgage first home mortgage loan, HEART of San Mateo County offers a below-market rate second loan up to $78,225 to help facilitate a home purchase with a minimum of 5% downpayment. This program does not apply in Daly City. You may purchase a home or condo anywhere else in San Mateo County.

Based on the maximum sales price of $521,250, with a conforming first mortgage amount limit of $417,000, the maximum 2nd mortgage loan is  up to $78,225. Borrowers can put more money down on a home purchase above the $521,250 limit, however, the first and second mortgages remain at the previously described limits.

The 2nd mortgage allows for an 80% loan to value ratio on the first mortgage. The purchaser is not required to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI) for this loan. This results in significant savings to the homeowner of thousands of dollars in annual mortgage insurance premiums.

The Meriwest Mortgage first loan products that will be available for this special program are:

a 30-year fixed rate

a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) 30-year full amortizing

and a 5/1 ARM adjustable 40-year loan fully amortizing.

In combination, these loans reduce the monthly payment to the homeowner. Note the maximum loan is subject to change depending on market conditions. The first mortgage may be up to 80% Loan to Value.

Who Qualifies?

In order to qualify for this loan, you must meet a few specific requirements. There aren’t many of them, but they are important, and you must be able to prove that you meet each and every one of them. Please review the list below and check those to which you can answer “yes.”
Guidelines current as of July 2012. Subject to change based on rapidly changing market conditions. Check back for updates, or call John Souza at Meriwest Mortgage at (408) 849-7115.

Do you and your family earn $150,000 or less each year?

Do all borrowers have good credit – FICO score 680 or higher?

Is the purchase price of the property you want to buy $521,250 or less?

Do you currently live or work in San Mateo County? If you live or work in Daly City, you may apply for this program, but you cannot purchase a home or condo in Daly City.

Is the home you are purchasing in San Mateo County? This program does not apply in Daly City.

Have you NOT owned a home during the past 36 months, OR, if you have, will you be selling your current home and buying one that is substantially closer to transit in San Mateo County?

Will the total household debt to income ratio be less than 45%?

Will you be able to make a down payment of 5% of the purchase price?

Will you be able to demonstrate continuous employment for 24 months prior to application?

Do you have 5% downpayment available?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may qualify for Opening Doors. To begin the application process and find out for certain if this program is right for you, click on the APPLY NOW button. You will be taken to the website of Meriwest Mortgage, a subsidiary of Meriwest Credit Union, and you will be asked to begin an application for a mortgage loan

Click Here to Apply

If you have problems accessing the site, have questions, or need further information, please call HEART at (650) 872-4444 ext. 4#, or email pstinson@heartofsmc.org.

FAQ

Q: What do I do if I have more questions?

A: You can download a full set of Frequently Asked Questions here

Q: What are the interest rates?

A:  Please call John Souza at Meriwest Mortgage, 408-849-7115 for today’s rates.

Q: How is the program funded?

A: HEART’s donations from local employers fund the program. HEART continues to raise funds to enable this program to grow and serve even more local employees. Please click on the Donate Now button to make a gift, or contact Paula Stinson at (650) 872-4444, ext. 4#, pstinson@heartofsmc.org Thank you!

I read this article at: http://www.heartofsmc.org/programs/homebuyer-assistance/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Home Prices Rebound According to CNN Money – enjoy this shared article…

Home prices rebound

By Chris Isidore CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In another sign of a turnaround in the long-battered real estate market, average home prices rebounded in July to the same level as they were nine years ago.

According to the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index, which covers more than 80% of the housing market in the United States, the typical home price in July rose 1.6% compared to the previous month.

It marked the third straight month that prices in all 20 major markets followed by the index improved, and it would have been the fourth straight month of improvement across the full spectrum if not for a slight decline in Detroit in April.

The index was up 1.2% compared to a year earlier, an improvement from the year-over-year change reported for June. While home prices have been showing a sequential change in recent months, it wasn’t until June that prices were higher than a year earlier.

The July reading matched levels last seen in summer 2003, when the market was marching toward its peak in 2006. The collapse of the market after that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

“The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Single-family housing starts are well ahead of last year’s pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing.”

Record low mortgage rates and a tighter supply of homes available for sale have helped to lift home prices. Lower unemployment also has helped with home prices, although job growth in recent months has been slower than hoped.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve announced it would buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds a month for the foreseeable future. This third round of asset purchases by the central bank, popularly known as QE3, is its effort to jump start the economy through even lower home loan rates.

Related: Best home deals in Best Places

Mike Larson, real estate analyst with Weiss Research, said part of the improvement in the housing market is due to investors using the low mortgage rates to buy up homes that are in foreclosure and renting them in a strong rental market.

But he said that he doesn’t think there’s much chance of housing prices forming any kind of new bubble in the foreseeable future.

“Clearly the worst is behind us for this market., but this is not a market that is going to take off again,” he said. “While you have a firming up, you still have tight lending standards and people who have been burned are reluctant or unable to get back in the market.” He predicts it will take several more years before housing prices can gain more than 1% to 2% a year.

Related: Buy or rent? 10 major cities

But that is good news for a housing market that was plagued by plunging home values and high foreclosure rates for much of the last six years. And the good news has the potential to build on itself, said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank.

“Housing remains a rare bright spot in an economy that is otherwise muddling through,” he wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “The price trend for housing is significant, because it provides economic stimulus via stronger household balance sheets.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that home prices had reached a 9-year high. In fact, they rebounded to the level last seen in summer 2003, before their peak several years later.

Curious about the local real estate market on the San Francisco Peninsula?  Email me! 

I read this article at: http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/25/real_estate/home-prices/index.html?source=linkedin

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Susan Caton – of The Caton Team Realtors – Interviewed by the Daily Journal – Article by Sally Schilling

Please enjoy this article below, my partner and mother-in-law, Susan Caton was interviewed by Sally Schilling of the Daily Journal regarding the local San Francisco Peninsula Real Estate market.

First-Time Home Buyers Beat Out By Cash

By Sally Schilling – Daily Journal Correspondent 9.17.12 5am

Low interest rates and low housing prices have first-time buyers feeling optimistic about purchasing a good home. But people who have saved up enough money for a sizable down payment are finding they are still not in the most favorable position in the housing market.

Cash buyers are often beating out first-time home buyers who are taking out loans.

“They’re being beat out, but not necessarily priced out,” said Anne Oliva, president of the San Mateo County Association of Realtors. Sometimes, cash buyers get preference over buyers with home loans, even if their cash bid is lower, she said.

Traditional home buyers with a 20 percent down payment are struggling, said Oliva, who is currently working with a couple for whom she has put in nine different offers. Her clients have enough for a 20 percent down payment, but sellers are thinking it is better to go with the cash buyer for the sure deal.

The challenge may be even greater for first-time buyers of units in complexes, such as condominiums or apartments. Investors are buying up units with cash and turning them into rentals, said Oliva.

First-time buyers with a 3.5 percent down payment on a condo, for example, may get pre-approved for the loans and have their offer accepted. But they could lose final approval of the loan once the lender sees that the complex has a high number of rentals.

“Every lender looks at the renter-to-owner ratio,” said Oliva, who ran a program for first-time home buyers in San Bruno. “If the renter-to-owner ratio is high, they will not lend.”

While she understands that buying and renting condos is a good move for investors, Oliva worries about how this trend will affect the number of homeowners.

“We could have a huge problem with increasing homeownership if this keeps happening,” she said.

Abundance of cash

“There’s a lot of cash out there,” said Susan Caton, a Realtor based in Redwood City. “It’s amazing, even over $1 million there’s a lot of cash.”

Caton worked with a client who was outbid several times on homes priced at more than $900,000. “They kept getting beat out, and beat out,” she said.

One home priced at more than $1 million in San Francisco had 25 offers on it. A client offered with 60 percent to 70 percent down and had excellent credit. They were beat out by an all-cash offer that was less than asking price.

The all-cash offer closed in nine days, whereas the client’s offer which would have closed in 30 days.

“In San Mateo County, it’s the same thing,” she said. “With 40 or 50 percent down or better, you are still beat out by cash offers.”

Caton agreed that the low housing inventory is a big part of the problem, along with the conditions that come with first-time home buyers with loans.

“Fifty percent down is a darn good offer and a good loan,” she said. “But the sellers or agents are saying ‘take the cash, it’s a sure thing,’ especially with no financing or property conditions.”

Many home buyers do get discouraged.

“It’s a hard battle,” said Caton. “It takes a lot of patience, but they can’t give up.”

But she sees a silver lining in the dark cloud.

“In each instance when a buyer is beat out a number of times, when they finally get a house they are so happy they got the one they got,” she said.

Strings attached

There are many reasons for sellers to prefer all-cash offers from prospectors over a down payment from a home buyer with a loan. Many strings are attached to a deal with a first-time home buyer; the sale may take longer to close, an appraisal is needed and sometimes sellers are required to do repairs. And on the other hand, a cash offer may have no conditions.

“If you’re up against cash offers, it’s very difficult,” said Diane Viviani, a longtime real estate agent in San Mateo County.

The cash-buyer trend is especially apparent in the $500,000 to $700,000 range, where inventory is low, said Viviani.

Recently, a home on Oneill Drive in San Mateo had 30 offers on it, she said. The listing price was $525,000 and it sold for $675,000, after being on the market for just eight days.

“I’ll tell a buyer to make the best offer you can,” she said.

For those taking out Federal Housing Administration loans, the down payment only needs to be 3 percent, said Viviani. But with such a low down payment, the lender’s liability is higher and the buyer seems less attractive.

“It’s doable,” said Viviani of FHA loans. “But when something comes at or below market [price], they’re seeing them go [to cash buyers].”

Fading trend

Joe Rodden, a longtime real estate broker based in Redwood City, has seen this trend. A home on 18th Avenue was recently sold to a cash buyer, despite the offer being 5 percent less than the other offers from people taking out loans, said Rodden.

“[The seller] felt more comfortable taking cash because it was a sure thing,” he said.

When asked what happens to the houses after they are bought with cash, Rodden said this is up to the buyer. Cash buyers could potentially close a deal with cash and then take out a loan, but the contract would still say all cash.

The cash trend has become less common in the past couple of months because prices have bumped up, said Rodden.

“Now cash buyers don’t see the same bargain,” he said.

I read this article at:

http://smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=1754902&title=First-time

Sabrina’s 2 cents…

Reading this article, it is clear – the local San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate market is highly competitive – so really nothing has changed.  We live in one of the greatest places on earth!

Though the focus of this article made it clear how tough it can be – The Caton Team has seen the light at the end of the tunnel.  After our clients experience writing multiple offers and being out bid – we reevaluate the situation and get back into the market.  I’m happy to say in the end, we find the right home for the right client.  Each experience is different though… thus our ‘Cinderella Story’ blog entires.  ENJOY!

A Cinderella Story… Lisa and All Those Offers…. at:

https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/a-cinderella-story-lisa-and-all-those-offers/

A Cinderella Story… Jake  and Sophia…. at:

https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/a-cinderella-story-part-2-jake-sophia/

A Cinderella Story…Nisi and Rip… at:

https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/a-cinderella-story-part-1/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

10 Tax Tips for Home Sellers – great article – had to share…

10 tax tips for home sellers

Real Estate Tax Talk By Stephen Fishman

The IRS has recently issued a helpful list of 10 tax tips all homeowners should keep in mind when selling a home:

1. You are usually eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.

2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).

3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.

4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.

5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.

7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.

8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.

9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.

10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books.

I read this article at:  http://lowes.inman.com/newsletter/2012/09/10/news/200760

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Top 5 Homebuyer Regrets – Had to share this article…

Please enjoy this article I found…

Top 5 Homebuyer Regrets

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson

In life, and in real estate, there are decisions that, if we had them to do over again, we might do x, y or z differently. But all in all, we are not too upset about how things turned out. “C’est la vie,” as they say.

Then there are the decisions and actions we actively regret, worrying over their long-term consequences, wishing we could have a cosmic do-over, stewing and ruminating over what we did wrong. (In truth, it’s a sign of emotional maturity to see every experience as an education, and to be free from ruminating over even the worst of our regrets. But I digress).

Contrary to popular belief, my experience shows that the vast majority of homebuyers commit what they see as the first type of mistakes, but not those deep, dark regrets. However, those that do have serious regrets can lose many hours of sleep and many thousands of dollars trying to remedy them. Their only gain? Experience and gray hairs.

Here are the top 5 true, deep regrets of homebuyers and some insights for how to prevent them from taking over your own life:

1. Premature buying. This is not at all about timing the market or making sure you get in at the “just-right” moment. There’s not much you can or should do about that. But buying before your life or your finances are ready for homeownership is a transgression that ends up causing serious, long-term regrets for those who end up doing it. Premature buying takes several forms, the most common of which includes jumping the gun and buying before you’ve saved as much as you really need, or before you’ve paid your debt down to the level you really needed to.

Another pervasive form of premature buying is to buy before you’ve truly, deeply, seriously run all your own personal financial numbers, which puts you in the position of forced reliance on what the bank, lender or someone else thinks is affordable, which is often wrong.

Similarly, buying because you feel pressure to get in while the market is keeping prices and interest rates low, rather than because you want and can afford a home, is a surefire path to real estate regret.

2. Buying too small of a house. People who buy too large of a home often realize, several years in, that they simply aren’t using all of their rooms and many either sell and downsize or find ways to put the extra space they have to better use. People who buy too small of a home, on the other hand, are acutely aware of it from the moment their children start fighting, they find themselves and their energy levels deactivated by clutter or they end up realizing that there is no room at the inn for the family members or friends they’d like to house, short or long term.

Buying too large of a home is potentially wasteful of the money spent maintaining, heating and cooling the place; buying too small a home is uncomfortable and frustrating, sometimes intensely so, on a constant basis — hence, the regret it can create.

Avoid this regret by starting your house hunt with a visioning exercise: What do you want your home life to look like in 10 years? Who will live with you? Do you entertain or have overnight guests? What activities do you want or need to be able to do there? Do you want to practice yoga, crafts, have kid-sized homework spaces, work at home, collect classic cars or move your parents in? If so, seek to buy a home that can comfortably fit all these people and their activities, even though they might not all exist — yet.

3. Buying a home you can’t truly afford. You might think that one of the top 5 regrets of homebuyers would be buying at the top of the market. But that’s not the case — I know plenty of buyers who bought at the top, paid top dollar and are still upside down on their homes, yet are still happy with their homes because they can well afford the payment and bought homes that will serve their families very well for the very long term (which will allow their home’s value to recover).

It is much more problematic to simply overextend yourself on a home — no matter what the market dynamics are at the time you buy. People who both bought at the top of the market AND overextended themselves made up the large majority of folks who lost homes, as the mortgage gyrations they went through (i.e., taking short-term, interest-only, adjustable-rate mortgages) in order to qualify for the home in the first place also caused them to be utterly unable to sustain the mortgage once the market declined and their mortgages weren’t able to be refinanced.

If you can’t foresee being able to make the mortgage payment on your home 10 years in the future without refinancing it, that’s a sign you might be approaching the unaffordability danger zone.

4. Incompletely resolving co-buyer conflicts. Many co-buyers are couples, but I’ve also seen parents buy homes with their children, siblings buy homes together and even good friends team up to co-buy a home. Any time there is more than one buyer, there is a chance that the co-buyers will have one or more disconnects in their wants, needs and priorities. Often these are resolved almost effortlessly by the realities of the homes that are on the market (e.g., neither party’s dream home turns out to actually exist, or pricing realities require everyone to compromise); other times, people simply work things out like mature individuals, seeking first to understand their co-buyer’s position, then working out a compromise that works for everyone involved.

But in still other cases, the conflict is never truly, deeply resolved; even on closing day, one side feels completely misunderstood, or caves in for the sake of avoiding conflict, or someone simply throws a tantrum, insisting that they get their way. In these cases, it’s common for the party who feels undermined and trampled on to ruminate on it as they live in the property every single day, ending up with great resentment and anger over the years.

5. Taking on fixing beyond their skill, patience and resource level. It can be heartbreaking to tour one of the many homes on the market that was clearly the subject of a previous owner’s fixer-upper dream but was abandoned in the middle of a remodel. Often, these abandonments happen because the owner simply underestimated what the project would take and ran out of time, energy or, most commonly, money to get the remodeling completed. But it’s even sadder to tour the home of a frustrated fixer whose owner and family still lives in a half-done, very dysfunctional property, and who are getting more and more disgruntled with their situation every time they make a mortgage payment.

I read this article at:  http://lowes.inman.com/newsletter/2012/08/29/news/199628

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

The National Pest Management Association’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Missy Henriksen, shares the following tips for avoiding these pests while traveling.

Check Your Room. If you don’t want to let the bedbugs bite, thoroughly inspect your room for signs of infestation. Henriksen advises placing your luggage in the bathroom when you first arrive in your hotel room, because there’s no place for bedbugs to hide in most bathrooms. Next, says Henriksen, “Pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for pepper-like stains or spots or even the bugs themselves. Adult bedbugs resemble a flat apple seed.” Also look behind the headboard, inside chair and couch cushions, behind picture frames, and around electrical outlets. If you see anything suspicious, notify management and change rooms (or better yet, establishments) immediately.

Request A Different Room. If you do have to change rooms, don’t move to a room adjacent to or directly above or below the site of the bedbug infestation. “Bedbugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts and luggage or even through wall sockets,” notes Henriksen. “If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.”

Cover Your Bags. Even if you don’t see any signs of bedbugs, you should still take precautions. Never place luggage on a hotel bed or floor. Use luggage racks if available, and place your suitcase in a protective cover. Even a plastic trash bag will suffice.

Keep Everything Off the Floor. Despite the name, bedbugs lurk in many spots, not just where you sleep. Always be vigilant when you travel. Avoid putting your personal belongings on the floor of an airplane, bus, train, or taxi. Keep your small bag or purse on your lap at all times, and seal your bigger bags inside plastic or protective covers before checking or storing them in overhead bins.

Treat Your Luggage and Clothes After Travel. “The best way to prevent bedbugs is to remain vigilant both during travel and once you return home,” says Henriksen. The National Pest Management Association offers the following checklist to make sure you leave the bedbugs behind:
• Inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house, and vacuum all luggage before storing it.
• Consider using a handheld garment steamer to steam your luggage; this can kill any bedbugs or eggs that might have hitched a ride home.
• Immediately wash and dry all of your clothes—even those that have not been worn—in hot temperatures to ensure that any stowaway bedbugs are not transported into your drawers or closet.
• Keep clothes that must be dry-cleaned in a plastic bag and take them to the dry cleaner as soon as possible.
• If you suspect a bedbug infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional promptly. Bedbugs are not a DIY pest, and the longer you wait, the larger the infestation will grow. A trained professional has the tools and knowledge to effectively treat your infestation.

I read this article here:  http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/five-ways-to-stop-bedbugs-before-they-bite.html

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina