Bet on These Home Improvements in 2015

If you’re considering giving your home an upgrade this year, it can be overwhelming to choose what home features need an overhaul. Trends seem to change all the time, and the last thing you want is to spend money on costly improvements that will soon be out of date.

What’s Hot In Design?

21 Hot Housing Trends for 2015

Designers, Builders Reveal Hot Trends for 2015

The Next Big Home Feature Buyers Want?

Real estate brokerage Redfin recently analyzed home features that are most desirable to potential home buyers. First, they asked local real estate agents to take note to what features were cropping up the most on home tours. Then they searched for those design keywords and took note of what trends experienced the most growth in popularity in the last five years.

So what seven home improvements made their list of the safest bets?

  1. Quartz Countertops: For years it was all about the granite counters, but it appears that quartz is all the rage these days for buyers. According to Redfin, quartz has experienced a huge increase since 2012, due to its durability and overall buyer granite fatigue.
  2. Smart Homes: While Smart Home design is overall still a niche with buyers, it’s a phrase that has experienced an explosion in listing mentions since 2012. Redfin agents caution that buyers really need to choose a smart home system with the most up-to-date software since smart home technology is rapidly evolving.
  3. Stainless Steel Appliances: This trend is here to stay, and it has only increased in popularity since 2011. According to a Redfin agent, stainless steel is “the gold standard for kitchens these days” and it appears to be a very safe home improvement bet.
  4. Fire Pits: Buyers are still interested in turning their backyards into relaxing areas with multiple focal points that encourages interaction and socializing, and adding a fire pit remains a popular upgrade.
  5. Tasting Rooms: In the high-end and luxury market, the term “tasting” has slowly increased in listings over the last five years. In the past, buyers hid their wine cellars away from the main focal point of the house, but these days they’re requesting tasting rooms that are adjacent to the main socializing rooms of the house, such as the kitchen and living rooms.
  6. Outdoor Kitchens: Along with fire pits, outdoor kitchens and multi-use backyard areas have only gained in popularity, especially for high-end buyers who mention socializing in the home as a priority. According to Redfin, “Backyards are becoming places to lounge during the summer, with full kitchens, fireplaces and televisions.”
  7. Freestanding Tubs: The days of the space-saving combined shower and tub are over, at least for luxury buyers. Redfin reports that the term “freestanding tub” has increased dramatically since 2011, as buyers want a bathroom that’s more reminiscent of a spa.

And lastly, one trend that is seemingly on its way out? Exposed brick. According to Redfin, mentions of exposed brick in listings peaked back in 2013, and they caution that other than loft homes, buyers’ interest in exposed brick is waning.

Source: “7 Home Improvement Projects That Are a Safe Bet for 2015,” Redfin (Feb. 4, 2015)

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6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

While you’d like to get the best price for your home, consider our six reasons to reduce your home price.

Home not selling? That could happen for a number of reasons you can’t control, like a unique home layout or having one of the few homes in the neighborhood without a garage. There is one factor you can control: your home price.

These six signs may be telling you it’s time to lower your price.

1. You’re drawing few lookers.

You get the most interest in your home right after you put it on the market because buyers want to catch a great new home before anybody else takes it. If your real estate agent reports there have been fewer buyers calling about and asking to tour your home than there have been for other homes in your area, that may be a sign buyers think it’s overpriced and are waiting for the price to fall before viewing it.

2. You’re drawing lots of lookers but have no offers.

If you’ve had 30 sets of potential buyers come through your home and not a single one has made an offer, something is off. What are other agents telling your agent about your home? An overly high price may be discouraging buyers from making an offer.

3. Your home’s been on the market longer than similar homes.

Ask your real estate agent about the average number of days it takes to sell a home in your market. If the answer is 30 and you’re pushing 45, your price may be affecting buyer interest. When a home sits on the market, buyers can begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with it, which can delay a sale even further. At least consider lowering your asking price.

4. You have a deadline.

If you’ve got to sell soon because of a job transfer or you’ve already purchased another home, it may be necessary to generate buyer interest by dropping your price so your home is a little lower priced than comparable homes in your area. Remember: It’s not how much money you need that determines the sale price of your home, it’s how much money a buyer is willing to spend.

5. You can’t make upgrades.

Maybe you’re plum out of cash and don’t have the funds to put fresh paint on the walls, clean the carpets, and add curb appeal. But the feedback your agent is reporting from buyers is that your home isn’t as well-appointed as similarly priced homes. When your home has been on the market longer than comparable homes in better condition, it’s time to accept that buyers expect to pay less for a home that doesn’t show as well as others.

6. The competition has changed.

If weeks go by with no offers, continue to check out the competition. What have comparable homes sold for and what’s still on the market? What new listings have been added since you listed your home for sale? If comparable home sales or new listings show your price is too steep, consider a price reduction.


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Solar Tubes Beat Traditional Skylights for Low-Cost Daylighting

 Let me start by saying…we have these and we LOVE them!!!

By installing solar tubes, you’ll get the natural light that skylights provide — but with less cost and less hassle.

If you’ve been thinking of adding more daylight to a kitchen or dark hallway, a solar tube may be the way to go. At a fraction of the cost of a skylight, a solar tube provides plenty of warm, indirect light.

How It Works

Known variously as a sun tube, sun tunnel, light tube, or tubular skylight, a solar tube is a 10- or 14-inch-diameter sheet-metal tube with a polished interior. The interior acts like a continuous mirror, channeling light along its entire length while preserving the light’s intensity. It captures daylight at the roof and delivers it inside your home.

On your roof, a solar tube is capped by a weather-proof plastic globe. The tube ends in a porthole-like diffuser in the ceiling of a room below. The globe gathers light from outside; the diffuser spreads the light in a pure white glow. The effect is dramatic: New installations often have homeowners reaching for the light switch as they leave a room.


A light tube costs about $500 to $1,000 when professionally installed, compared with more than $2,000 for a skylight. If you’re reasonably handy and comfortable working on a roof, install a light tube yourself using a kit that costs about $200 to $400. Unlike a skylight, a light tube doesn’t require new drywall, paint, and alterations to framing members.

How Much Light?

A 10-inch tube, the smallest option, is the equivalent of three 100-watt bulbs, enough to illuminate up to 200 square feet of floor area; 14-inch tubes can brighten as much as 300 square feet.

Popular locations for a light tube include any areas where constant indirect light is handy:

  • Hallways
  • Stairways
  • Walk-in closets
  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Laundry rooms

The only place you don’t want a light tube is above a TV or computer screen where it might create uncomfortable glare.

Bringing a Light Tube Through Multiple Levels

Channeling light down to the first floor of a two-story house is feasible if you have a closet or mechanical chase through which you can run the tube. The job can quickly become more complicated if there’s flooring to cut through, or if you encounter wiring, plumbing, and HVAC ducts.

Is Your House Right for a Light Tube?

Because installation requires no framing alteration, there are few limitations to where you can locate a light tube. Check the attic space above to see if there is room for a straight run. If you find an obstruction, elbows or flexible tubing may get around it. It’s relatively easy to install a light tube in a vaulted ceiling because only a foot or so of tubing is required.

Make these evaluations in advance:

  • Roof slope: Most light tube kits include flashing that can be installed on roofs with slopes between 15 degrees (a 3-in-12 pitch) and 60 degrees (a 20-in-12 pitch).
  • Roofing material: Kits are designed with asphalt shingles in mind, but also work with wood shingles or shakes. Flashing adapters for metal or tile roofs are available.
  • Roof framing spacing: Standard rafters are spaced 16 inches on-center; gap enough for 10- or 14-inch tubes. If your home has rafters positioned 24 inches on-center, you can special order a 21-inch tube for light coverage up to 600 square feet.
  • Location: A globe mounted on a southwest roof gives the best results. Choose a spot requiring a run of tubing that’s 14 feet or less. A globe positioned directly above your target room can convey as much as 98% of exterior light. A tube that twists and turns minimally reduces the light.
  • Weather: If you live in a locale with high humidity, condensation on the interior of the tube can be a problem. Wrapping the tube with R-15 or R-19 insulation greatly cuts condensation. Some manufacturers offer sections of tubing with small fans built in to remove moist air. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, opt for an extra-hardy polycarbonate dome.


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How Long Before You Can Buy a Home After a Short Sale, Foreclosure or BK

Recently, I was working with a client who was looking forward to buying a home after having sold his home by short sale a couple of years ago. The rules for qualifying and the time frames change so fast it’s hard to keep up.  The rules differ depending on the type of loan, as well as personal circumstances.  Here is a guide with the current requirements for each loan type for 2015.

2015 FHA Guidelines

  • Bankruptcy – You may apply for a FHA insured loan after your bankruptcy has been discharged for TWO (2) years with a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  You may apply for a FHA insured loan after your bankruptcy has been discharged for ONE (1) year with a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure - You may apply for a FHA insured loan THREE (3) years after the sale/deed transfer date.
  • Short Sale / Deed in Lieu – You may apply for a FHA insured loan THREE (3) years after the sale date of your foreclosure. FHA treats a short sale the same as a Foreclosure for now.
  • Credit must be re-established with a 640 minimum credit score

2015 VA Guidelines

  • Bankruptcy Ch 7 - You may apply for a VA guaranteed loan TWO (2) years after a chapter 7 Bankruptcy
  • Bankruptcy Ch 13 - If you have finished making all payments satisfactorily, the lender may conclude that you have reestablished satisfactory credit.
    • If you have satisfactorily made at least 12 months worth of the payments and the Trustee or the Bankruptcy Judge approves of the new credit, the lender may give favorable consideration.
  • Foreclosure - You may apply for a VA guaranteed loan TWO (2) years after a foreclosure
  • Short Sale / Deed in Lieu - You may apply for a VA guaranteed loan TWO (2) years after a short sale, unless it was a VA loan then restrictions apply
  • Credit must be re-established with a minimum 620 credit score

2015 USDA Guidelines

  • Bankruptcy - You may apply for a USDA rural loan THREE (3) years after the discharge of a Chapter 7 or 13 Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure - You may apply for a USDA rural loan THREE (3) years after a Foreclosure
  • Short Sale / Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure – If you had big issues the deed in lieu of foreclosure will be viewed as a foreclosure and you would want to wait no less than 3 years if the score is under 640.  Over 640 your UW will make the call but typically not less than one year.
  • UPDATED 12/2014 – Mortgage debt included in Bankruptcy will go by BK discharge date, and subsequent foreclosure, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure will not count as an additional waiting period, as long as you are off title for any defaulted mortgages.

2015 Conventional (Fannie Mae) – UPDATED 12/2014

  • Bankruptcy – You may apply for a Conventional, Fannie Mae loan after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy has been discharged for FOUR (4) years, TWO (2) years from the discharge of a Chapter 13
  • Foreclosure - You may apply for a Conventional, Fannie Mae loan SEVEN (7) years after the sale date of your foreclosure.  Additional qualifying requirements may apply,
  • Short Sale / Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure –
    • UPDATED – Effective 7/29/2014:  Waiting period for subsequent foreclosure that was included in Bankruptcy is waived.  If mortgage is included in Bankruptcy, waiting period defaults to FOUR (4) from the discharge date.
    • UPDATED – Effective 8/16/2014:  Short Sale or Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure not included in a Bankruptcy has a new Waiting Period of FOUR (4) years from date your name is removed from title.  This replaces the ability to buy in 24 months with 20% down payment and minimum 680 credit score
    • SEVEN (7) Years above 90% Loan to Value | with less than 10% Down Payment – Subject to Private Mortgage Insurance underwriting guidelines.

Credit must be re-established with a minimum 620 credit score.

Fannie Mae has reduced waiting periods in cases of extenuating circumstances – The death of a primary wage earner seems to be the only one I have been able to identify up to this point.

2014 Jumbo Mortgage Guidelines

  • Bankruptcy – You may apply for a Jumbo mortgage loan once any chapter of bankruptcy has been discharged for FOUR (4) years, FIVE (5) years if multiple bankruptcy occurs on credit profile.
  • Foreclosure - You may apply for a Jumbo mortgage loan SEVEN (7) years after the sale date of your foreclosure.  Additional qualifying requirements may apply,
  • Short Sale / Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure – You may apply for a Jumbo mortgage loan:
    • FOUR (4) Years from Short Sale or Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure with Maximum 80% Loan to Value

NOTE:  If hardship is the result of an extenuating circumstance, waiting periods may be reduced.  Contact lender for details.

Preparing to Buy Again

You should begin looking at your credit at least six (6) months before you are ready to buy again.

Quite often there are things left over on your credit report that can delay your ability to qualify.

With a little head start and good advice, you can get your credit in line, qualify for financing and buy again in the lowest priced real estate market that California has seen in years and years!

If you have any questions give us a call!


Information and Data from Find My Way Home
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If you are selling your home, it may sound like a heck of an idea to hire Aunt Marlene as your listing agent.  Sure, she’s new to real estate and lives in a distant suburb, but why not give her a shot?  After all, she could discount her commission and still make money, you reason.

 Error No. 1:  Trying to make Aunt Marlene happy could make you miserable.  Green as she is, she’s likely to do a less than splendid job marketing your home.  And her lack of expertise in your real estate market means she will have a harder time pulling in the buyers than a good agent who works the territory regularly.

Hiring a relative is one of the five most common, serious errors committed by home sellers.  Making this mistake could mean your home will sell more slowly and for less money than it otherwise would.

Error No. 2:  Falling into the “gotta get” pricing syndrome.

The market determines the price for which you’re going to sell–not what you need to get out of a deal.

Suppose, for instance, that a couple living in a modest three-bedroom colonial—call them the Wilsons–decided to trade up.

One Sunday, the Wilsons happen upon an open house at a new development for four-bedroom homes.  They’re taken in with the extra space, skylights, oversized bathrooms and walk-in closets.  In their enthusiasm, they sign a contract.

To buy the contemporary, the Wilsons determine, they must sell the colonial for X-amount.  Regrettably, the amount they need from the old house is $10,000 more than the prevailing price for similar homes in their neighborhood, and they price the colonial at the “gotta get” level.

But it quickly becomes apparent to buyers that the colonial is priced higher than its competition, and most won’t even bother to visit it.  That means that during the first 30 days of the listing–when the home should generate the most excitement–it gets few lookers.

Worse, the home becomes shopworn.  As it languishes on the market, people become suspicious that something must be wrong with it.

Sure, the property will probably sell when the Wilsons come to their senses.  But the selling price might even be lower than the Wilsons would have received by properly pricing the home at the outset.

Error No. 3:  Trying to “test the market” in terms of price.

Like the “gotta get” sellers, people who try a higher-than-market price with the notion that it can always be lowered hurt themselves.

Of course, it’s a free country.  You can charge what you want for your castle–ignoring the advice offered by any broker or appraiser you meet, but overpricing will sabotage your sale.

Asking just $2,000 or $3,000 more than market value could mean the difference between selling quickly at a good price and not selling for a while.  And remember, keeping your house on the market for a prolonged period imposes its own expenses, including carrying costs and upkeep.

Error No. 4:  Misrepresenting your property.

Sellers have a natural inclination to be positive about their property–and that’s perfectly appropriate.  On the other hand, misrepresentation works to the sellers’ disadvantage.

The “Miller’s”  home was described on the listing as having five bedrooms.  What the listing failed to indicate, however, was that the living room had been carved into two bedrooms.  The place had no living room at all.

It was like a dormitory.  While most sellers wouldn’t commit such an outrageous misrepresentation, there is a tendency to fudge about room sizes, screen porches, decks, or unfinished basements when they calculate a home’s total square footage–when only living areas should be counted.

What you’re doing is setting people up for a disappointment when you misrepresent your home on the listing, and once they’re disappointed, it’s awfully difficult to recapture their interest..

Error No. 5:  Putting a house up for sale before cleaning the yard.  Elements of yard clutter can be serious deterrents to selling a home.

Yard clutter lessens what’s known as “curb appeal,”.  Very likely the prospective buyer will be put off by the clutter even before getting out of the car.

Kristin Staton Century 21 Lois Lauer Redlands 

Any questions regarding this article may be sent to

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9 Easy Mistakes Homeowners Make on Their Taxes

Don’t rouse the IRS or pay more taxes than necessary — know the score on each home tax deduction and credit.

As you calculate your tax returns, be careful not to commit any of these nine home-related tax mistakes, which tax pros say are especially common and can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.

Sin #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes

You take a tax deduction for property taxes in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind — that is, you’re not billed for 2013 property taxes until 2014. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.

Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in that tax year, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, a tax department manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen homeowners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Sin #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid

If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200 or the amount of property taxes noted on the Form 1098 that your lender sends. If you don’t receive Form 1098, contact the agency that collects property tax to find out how much you paid.

Sin #3: Deducting points paid to refinance

Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your home. However, when you refinance, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan.

For example, if you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $2,000 divided by 15 years, or $133 per year.

Related: How to Deduct Mortgage Points When You Buy a Home

Sin #4: Misjudging the home office tax deduction

The deduction is complicated, often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return.

But there’s good news. There’s a new simplified home office deduction option if you don’t want to claim actual costs. If you’re eligible, you can deduct $5 per square foot up to 300 feet of office space, or up to $1,500 per year.

Sin #5: Failing to repay the first-time homebuyer tax credit

If you used the original homebuyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years.

If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then within 36 months you sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, you also have to pay back the credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Sin #6: Failing to track home-related expenses

If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. File or scan and store home office and home improvement expense receipts and other home-related documents as you go.

Sin #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains

If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. You can typically exclude $250,000 of any profits from taxes (or $500,000 if you’re married filing jointly).

So if your cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains.

However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523. And high-income earners could get hit with an additional tax.

Sin #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits

If you made any eligible improvements in 2014, such as installing energy-efficient windows and doors, you may be able to take a 10% tax credit (up to $500; with some systems your cap is even lower than $500). But keep in mind, it’s a lifetime credit. If you claimed the credit in any recent years, you’re done.

Installing a solar electric, solar water heater, geothermal, or small wind energy system can also make you eligible to take the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit.

To claim the deduction, you have to use the complicated Form 5695, which can mean cross-checking with half a dozen other IRS forms. Read the instructions carefully.

Sin #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction

Taxpayers are allowed to deduct mortgage interest on home acquisition debt up to $1 million, plus they can also deduct up to $100,000 in home equity debt.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: January 5, 2015


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I LOVE Football!

It’s almost time for the big game.  I don’t know about you, but football is a passion. Comes Sunday, everyone who knows me knows, if it dosent revolve around football, Im not doing it. This year Im planning on spending the big day with David and Cooper watching it on our big screen at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, but this year the idea of staying home sounds perfect.

I have thrown a Superbowl party or two in the past so I thought I would share a few of my favorite recipes and ideas in case you’re throwing a game day bash.

Game Day Garlic Parmesan Wings


  • 1 lb. chicken wing sections
  • 1/4 C salted butter, melted (for basting)
  • 1/4 C salted butter, melted (for topping)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. + 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Pinch (about 1/8 tsp.) onion powder
  • Pinch of chopped parsley (dry or fresh, optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cut up chicken wings at the joints (if necessary) into drums and flats. Place raw, cut chicken wings onto a lined baking sheet.
3. Brush melted butter over each wing section, then lightly salt and pepper them.
4. Bake on the middle rack for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until wings are browned and crisp.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining melted butter, garlic powder, onion powder and 1/4 tsp. salt. Mix well, as spices will sink quickly to the bottom.
6. Pour or brush mixture over cooked wings, stirring the butter frequently.
7. Sprinkle lots of parmesan cheese over the wings, then top with parsley. Serve.

Jalapeno Popper Wontons

1 package refrigerated square wonton wrappers
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Vegetable oil for frying
Coarse salt
1. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese. Arrange wontons in a single layer on a baking sheet.
2. Add 1 teaspoon of the filling to the center of each wonton (don’t overfill them). Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run your wet fingers around all edges of each wonton. Fold the wontons over the filling, pinching the edges to seal to make a triangle and removing any air bubbles.
3. Fry wontons in batches in hot oil until browned and cripsy. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve warm.

Bacon Double Cheese Burger Dip

Bacon Double Cheese Burger Dip

A hot cheesy baked dip with all of the flavours of a bacon double cheese burger that makes for some great game day snacking!

* 1/2 pound ground beef
* 6 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
* 1 small onion, diced
* 1 clove garlic, chopped
* 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
* 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
* 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
* 2 tablespoon ketchupDirections
1. Cook the ground beef in a pan over medium heat, set it aside and drain the grease from the pan.
2. Cook the bacon in the pan until crispy, about 6-10 minutes, set aside and drain all but a tablespoon of the grease.
3. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
5. Mix the ground beef, bacon, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella, cheddar, worcestershire sauce and ketchup and pour it into a baking dish.
6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top starts turning a light golden brown and then sides are bubbling, about 20-30 minutes.

Strawberry Footballs

Easy peasy.  Just dip your berrys in your favorite chocolate and pipe on some laces.

Whatever you do Sunday, make it a great day and stay safe. :)

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