Safety

Security guards used to be required on site when a home was fumigated in California, but that has not been the case since the 90s.  Seems that some clever bad guys have decided, in Southern California, that this makes a home “easy pickings” (apparently gas masks are not that hard to come by).  Sadly, crime often comes in waves and ideas catch on, so it would be wise for us to be prepared to have this happen here.  The solution is simple: bring back paid security, or stay on site yourself (rent or borrow a motor home, camper etc.)

Check out the news video from Los Angeles’ KABC TV station and see if you don’t agree that having someone there with watchful eyes isn’t a good idea.

 

  1. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,207 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,458 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,102 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,018 sqft
  3. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 2,619 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,757 sqft
  4. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,481 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.17 ac
  5. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,147 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,501 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,910 sq ft
    Lot size: 42,863 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,500 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,893 sqft
  8. 6 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 2,989 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,026 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,497 sq ft
    Lot size: 18,687 sqft
  10. 6 beds, 6 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,427 sq ft
    Lot size: 43,560 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Saratoga.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Federal Pacific Electrical PanelSometimes things seem to come in waves, and this last week the waves that found me seemed to all be about unsafe electrical panels in homes which are either risky or potentially risky.  I read a home inspection report for a house with a Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) panel that encouraged home owners to replace that type because of the risk of fire.  Then I met with a potential seller client who was aware of a fire on his block due to a panel failure and was experiencing issues with his Zinsco electrical panel which seemed dangerous.

Tonight I happened to find a website which discussed both the Zinsco and FPE panels.  This site includes photos of what happens when one of these electrical panels fails.

http://www.ismypanelsafe.com/fpe.aspx

For safety’s sake, please go check the type of panel you have, and sub panel too, if there is one. DO NOT attempt to pull off the dead front (the part which is gray in the image to the right) – only a licensed, qualified electrician should do that.

If you have a Federal Pacific Electric Company or Zinsco panel, you may want to investigate replacing it.  Ditto that for an outdated panel.  Please do some research on this topic if you have one of these panels in your home, especially. It may not be universally believed that they should be replaced but this is something to check out, at the very least, if you have one of these in your home.

A friend of mine, who’s a Realtor in the Buffalo-Niagara area of New York, wrote about this awhile ago, particularly in regard to the FPE Stab-Lok panel.  For more information, please also read her blog post:
http://bestbuffalohomes.com/federal-pacific-electrical-panel/

  1. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,678 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,897 sqft
  2. 1 bed, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 864 sq ft
  3. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,863 sq ft
    Lot size: 16,117 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,850 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,145 sqft
  5. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,015 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,829 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,514 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,022 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 2,715 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.01 ac
  8. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,691 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,003 sqft
  9. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,574 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,003 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,747 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,051 sqft

See all Real estate in the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno community.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Most homeowners have a smoke detector, at least one, in their home.  Ideally, everyone has them in each bedroom, too.  But what kind is it, and does it matter?

Smoke Detector There are two main types of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric.  Usually we find ionization types in homes, but the photoelectric is superior.  It does cost more, but the photoelectric one will not go off from steam in a laundry room or coming from the bathroom (which makes it tempting to simply remove the battery since it’s an annoyance to get a false alarm!).  Additionally, the ionization type responds faster to smoke.

Some home inspectors suggest that it’s a good idea to replace all of the ionazatation types with the photoelectric types for this reason. Interestingly, not everyone shares that opinion.  The National Fire Prevention Association suggests using both types in the home (see 2nd article below), noting that each type is better in certain areas of smoke detection.  The Allstate insurance blog likewise sees pros and cons in both types, stating that ionization types pick up the smoke from a flaming fire faster (as opposed to a smoldering fire, which apparently is better detected by photoelectric types).

Related reading:

http://www.structuretech1.com/2012/04/ionization-smoke-alarms/

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/fire-and-safety-equipment/smoke-alarms/ionization-vs-photoelectric

http://blog.allstate.com/ionization-vs-photoelectric-smoke-alarm/

 

  1. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 4,015 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.99 ac
  2. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,489 sq ft
    Lot size: 29.54 ac
  3. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,678 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,897 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,814 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.21 ac
  5. 1 bed, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 864 sq ft
  6. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,863 sq ft
    Lot size: 16,117 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,850 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,145 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,606 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,141 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,015 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,829 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,514 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,022 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Gatos.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

 

waterfallFor four years we have worried about the lack of rain and increased our conservation efforts.  Today lawns everywhere are dead, or hanging on by a thread.

Weather experts now say that there’s a 90% chance of an El Niño winter ahead.  Not only that, but they expect it to be a doozy.

My suspicion is that most of us are not really ready for all that water and the flooding that may ensue, so I wanted to suggest a little preparation for the rainy season (and the deepest hopes that it will refill our reservoirs and aquafers).   Here are a few suggestions from me, based on decades of attending home inspections:

  1. If it’s been more than 3 years since your roof was inspected, get a roof inspection done now, during the dry season. (Use a licensed roofing contractor to do it, not a handyman.) It’s better to do it before you discover a leak, and it’s better to do it before the roofers are booked out a few weeks!  The cost is probably going to be around $100 – $150.  Most homes need “tune up” work every few years, and that’s normal, so have the inspection understanding that some of your vent pipes may need resealing, a few shingles may need replacing, or other small items may require adjustment or repair.  If the roof is younger, that’s all it should be.  The old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here.
  2. Make sure that the grading around your house or townhouse is correct and that the land slopes toward the yard & away from your home.  Grading is incorrect a lot of the time – I probably see my home inspector write that up more than half the time.  It matters because the water that comes down will follow the slope of the soil and you do not want it aimed at your structure.  You want the water to go away from your home.
  3. Your downspouts should direct the water away from the house, ideally 6′ or more.  This is super important, as the entire surface of your roof collects water and pushes it off through just a few openings, and in heavy rains this is a ton of water!  You do not want it lingering near your foundation because our clay soils are expansive when wet and that puts unfriendly pressure on foundations and may cause cracking and the exposure of the rebar inside to moisture.  That rebar is important for the foundation’s strength, and if it rusts, the integrity of the foundation is at risk.  So protect the whole system by getting the water away from the home.
  4. If you have a drainage system, make sure that the grates over it are cleared of leaves to allow the water to filter into it.
  5. If you have a sump pump, consider upgrading from the standard type that operates on electricity only to one that works with a battery backup.  In really big storms, we can lose power and then the regular sump pump won’t work, just when you need it most!  If you already have a battery backup, consider keeping a replacement battery on hand.
  6. Most Silicon Valley homes have power lines rather than underground utilities.  Have a look at yours, if applicable, and see if there are tree branches too close to the lines.  Often P, G & E will trim them for free if you spot a problem and let them know.
  7. Do keep spare batteries, water, food, medicines, and other essentials on hand in case of a prolonged power outage.  I recommend getting cell phone or other electronic device battery backups.  Again, if you’re out of power for 3 days, you may need something to juice up your mobile phone!  I have a couple of these “bricks” but my favorite is called a PowerStrip and it has a solar charger.
  8. If you are in an area which is heavily wooded, or the access to your home is heavily wooded, consider purchasing power tools to clear trees that may fall on your route.  Being able to get in and out is crucial in case of an emergency.

Due to an avalanche of spam comments, I have had to turn off comments on this blog, but if you think I have missed anything, please email me and I will edit this article to help others be better prepared for the rains that we hope and pray are coming soon.

  1. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 4,015 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.99 ac
  2. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,489 sq ft
    Lot size: 29.54 ac
  3. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,678 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,897 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,814 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.21 ac
  5. 1 bed, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 864 sq ft
  6. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,863 sq ft
    Lot size: 16,117 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,850 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,145 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,606 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,141 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,015 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,829 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,514 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,022 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Los Gatos.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

FlameMost homes require smoke detectors, but where do they go?  The California Fire Marshall is in charge of this regulation.  The CalFire site states the following, which applies to most dwellings:

Placement
Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, in the hallways leading to the bedrooms, and on each level of your home, including the basement. Smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceiling 4” from the wall; wall mounts should be 4-12” from the ceiling. Do not install near draft areas (windows, vents.). Call your local fire department if you are unsure about placement.

For more info:

http://www.ca.gov/HealthSafety/LawsAndRegs.html

 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/calawquery?codesection=hsc

  1. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 3,118 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,799 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,886 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,748 sqft
  3. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,182 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,280 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,560 sq ft
    Lot size: 4.99 ac
  5. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,322 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,092 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 982 sq ft
    Lot size: 435 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,470 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,617 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,445 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,007 sqft
  9. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 3,021 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,066 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,220 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,058 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Morgan Hill.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Residential Environmental Hazards Booklet - State of CaliforniaIt’s the end of the year and many people are making New Years Resolutions or New Years Goals.  Often these have to do with getting more exercise and losing some weight – in other words, getting healthier.  But there’s one very important aspect of health which is often overlooked: indoor air quality.

Could the air inside your home not be healthy?  You may be surprised.

One of the least known but perhaps one of the biggest risks involves gas cooking, as well as the use of other gas appliances, in the home. What many cooking aficionados do not realize is that every single time you cook with gas, you also should be using the vent to clear the gas fumes lest you contribute to a buildup of carbon monoxide (and other pollutants) indoors.  (Venting is also crucial with other gas appliances such as the furnace and water heater.)  Carbon monoxide detectors are now mandatory in California homes, not just at the point of resale but in all houses, condos, town homes etc. – but even the best devices can fail or have the batteries die, so best to avoid relying on them alone and make sure to use care in venting all gas devices whenever in use.  There are some studies indicating that gas cooking and the use of other gas appliances indoors may aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and increase pulmonary (lung) risk, too. Carbon monoxide is the best known, but not only pollutant, that may come with gas appliances.

Radon is thought to be a non-issue in California, but Silicon Valley is generally a moderate radon area. Care should be taken particularly in properties with basements and in homes where occupants smoke indoors.

Other issues include mold and dust, which are especially hard on people with allergies or lung disease, but can also irritate eyes. For structures built prior to 1978, lead may be present too.

When buying or selling residential property in California, the Residential Environmental Hazards booklet is provided.  It can be found online via a variety of sources, including the State of California’s website.  If you haven’t seen or read this booklet recently, I would like to suggest that you have a look and consider incorporating some of the suggestions and tips in the coming year to make your own home a healthier one:

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/CLPPB/Documents/ResEnviroHaz2005.pdf

A last point about this fabulous booklet: do not read right before going to bed!! 

Additional information from the World Health Organization can be found here:

WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Selected Pollutants (book, 2010)

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014!

  1. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,460 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,185 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,900 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,577 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,802 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,706 sqft
  4. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 5,200 sq ft
    Lot size: 16,857 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,681 sq ft
    Lot size: 20,516 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,552 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,655 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,400 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,009 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,780 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,660 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,044 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,920 sqft
  10. 2 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,152 sq ft
    Lot size: 522 sqft

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Small bedroom windowsIf you are buying or selling an older ranch style house in Silicon Valley, there’s a good chance that original bedroom windows may be smaller or higher than your home inspector might like.  What is the big deal with the height or size of the windows?  The inspection report may mention ingress and egress.  What is that all about?

For fire safety, it’s important that bedroom windows be an escape route for persons in the home (egress).  It’s just as important that fire fighters, with their large backpacks on their backs, can get in through the same openings (ingress).  When windows are too high, kids, and perhaps adults, cannot get out through them.  And no matter how low or high, if the windows are too small, emergency personnel cannot enter through them.

When remodeling your home and switching from single pane to dual pane windows, many people will be tempted to use the same sized windows with the new replacement set in order to save money, and in many areas, skip the need for permits and finals by not disturbing the stucco.  But rather than target the least expensive way to upgrade your windows, I’d like to suggest making safety a priority.  Upgrade not just your home’s energy efficiency, but its safety too.

I found many related articles on line with the particulars about size.  This one seemed especially good, so I’m including the link here:

http://www.finehomebuilding.com/how-to/articles/code-violations-emergency-egress-windows.aspx

  1. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,654 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,621 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,654 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,679 sqft
  3. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 846 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,265 sqft
  4. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,720 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,318 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,130 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,060 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,244 sq ft
    Lot size: 11,891 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,854 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,982 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,701 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,403 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,392 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,274 sqft
  10. 3 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,560 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,452 sqft

See all Real estate in the Willow Glen community.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Change for the betterMany times, homeowners look at the size of their home and assume that all living space is equally valuable on a price per square footage basis.  In Silicon Valley, though, we frequently see tract neighborhoods of smaller houses, say 1000 to 1500 SF, in which additions have been made.  Sometimes it’s an unattractive “box on the top” over the garage. Other times it’s a tasteful expansion into the overly large front yard or the expansive side yard where perhaps drying lines used to be found.

Most of the time, the expansion will not be valued as highly as original square footage.  If it’s a very small addition, this may not be the case, particularly if this leaves the structure’s size still in line with the neighborhood.  But in general, the added living space will be valued by most home buyers (and appraisers) on a lesser scale.  If the addition was done without permits and finals, home buyers may still find it attractive, but appraisers will most likely count the value as zero.   One other factor has to do with the type of room that was constructed.  Bathrooms and kitchens are more expensive and therefore will be valued more heavily than bedrooms or family rooms or other space that does not involve plumbing or appliances.

How much less does the added square footage get counted?  It depends on many things, such as whether the house is now overbuilt for the neighborhood, the market conditions at the time, the quality of construction, etc.   Several times in my career I’ve seen homes which were added onto multiple times, such that it ends up feeling like a bit of a Winchester House.  At the other extreme, there are remodels which are so comprehensive that the whole house is nearly rebuilt.  In that case, there could be no discount for the addition at all.

Related Reading:

Assessed Property Value vs. Market Value of Silicon Valley Real Estate

Sometimes the List Price Isn’t the Expected Sales Price, So Run Comps!

  1. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,614 sq ft
    Lot size: 4,225 sqft
  2. 4 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,969 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,927 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 1,675 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,011 sqft
  4. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,222 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,363 sqft
  5. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 3,202 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,844 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,014 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,583 sqft
  7. 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,759 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,178 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,219 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,577 sqft
  9. 7 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,022 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,581 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 2,022 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,086 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Campbell.
(all data current as of 3/25/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

View from Campbell of Percolation Ponds and Coastal Hills

If you live near a creek, pond or lake, you may have more trouble with wild life

Recently I was in a Silicon Valley neighborhood forum where someone asked what to do about a mouse (“or something”) in the wall of a house.  For better or worse, I have a fair amount of experience with this both personally and professionally: birds in chimneys, mice and rats in homes (inside plus in the attics, walls, crawlspaces, and heating ducts) and even a bat that got into first an attic and then into the living area itself – that last story goes with the photo from a backyard in Campbell of a townhouse I sold some years ago.

Sometimes this can be a do-it-yourself project but often it’s better if you leave it to the professionals: a good termite & pest control company is normally going to be your best bet for removing rodents and other unwanted visitors and keeping them out.

What happens if you hire someone to get rid of your mouse, rat, bat, bird or other invading animal?

Usually it’s a 3-4 visit process over 3-4 weeks to catch the house guest, then do “exclusion work”, which means finding how it got in and making sure that or any other access points are cut off, then rechecking another time or two to make sure that the problem is taken care of.  (What you do not want to do is get a dead rat or mouse stuck in your wall, so the pros will usually use traps where they can retrieve them rather than poison in the house’s attic or crawl space.)  The cost is often a few hundred dollars for this multi-visit process. Continue reading

In case you haven’t heard, The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 13260 et seq.) is now law.  As of July 1, 2011, California homes need to have a carbon monoxide detector installed.  This is not a “point of sale” ordinance just for people selling their homes, but instead is for all houses, condominiums, townhouses etc.  (whether occupied by owners or tenants).  For apartment buildings the deadline is later, January 1, 2013.

These detectors look a lot like smoke detectors and can be run on either batteries or plugged into the wall, depending on which model you purchase.  Experts suggest that you place the detector in the sleeping area of the home and on every floor of it (including basement, if your dwelling has one).

To learn more, I suggest doing research online, and be sure to include the Consumer Reports information on carbon monoxide detectors too.  The Cal Fire news release regarding the requirement can be viewed online also.

Translation

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Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805


Selling homes in
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Mary Pope-Handy's Live in Los Gatos blog won the 2007 Project Blogger contest, sponsored by Inman News and Active Rain

2007: Mary Pope-Handy and Frances Flynn Thorsen win the Project Blogger Contest for Mary's Live in Los Gatos blog. The contest was sponsored by
Active Rain and Inman News.


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