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Planning To Sell This Year? Start Getting Your Home Ready Now

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Yes, it may still be winter but the home buying and selling season has already begun. If you're thinking of putting your home on the market, now's the time to whip it into shape.

Below are the top preparations to address... why not start now!

Update your home

With asking prices at an all-time high, most of today's buyers are looking for turnkey, not a project. You know, all those things you wanted to change in your home but never got around to doing! Well, here's your chance. Consider giving your home a refresh, with new countertops, appliances, and flooring. Change out vanities and plumbing fixtures in your bathrooms and if your cabinets are dated, it might be time to have them painted or refaced along with new hardware. Not only will this give your listing some appeal, it may also aid in increasing what goes in to your pocket.

Declutter, Organize, and Clean

No one wants a messy home. If you're serious about selling this year, now is the time to get rid of any unwanted or unused items sitting around the house taking up valuable storage space. Remember, the goal is to show how much space your home has not how cluttered it feels. You want buyers to be able to come through and focus on the space and not the stuff in it!

Windows and Screens

When was the last time you had the windows and tracks cleaned both inside and out? Are there any windows that appear clogged or are difficult to open and close? Very few sellers take the time to check their windows and screens. So to get a leg up on your competition, by cleaning, repairing and making all of them look and work great, will help you justify asking top dollar.


Overgrown bushes, trees and old plants can hide a homes exterior and make it look tired and unnecessarily worn. Don't forget to give your home as much attention on the outside as you do on the inside. Now is the time to have bushes and trees cut back or removed altogether. And when the weather permits, don't forget to freshen up your ground cover as well with new mulch, pine straw or river rock. In the meantime...

Call us

We offer free market analysis of your home. It will determine the value of your property based on other properties, similar in nature that have sold or are currently on the market. 

List with us 

Our team of agents provide professional, courteous service that you can rely on from beginning to end. We look forward to hearing from you!

Melanson Real Estate

Office: 603-569-4488

Mobile: 603-651-7228


Supply-Chain Issues Leave New Homes Without Garage Doors and Gutters

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Pandemic-related factory closures, transportation delays and port-capacity limits have stymied the flow of many goods and materials critical for home building.

House under construction with home wrap

(Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal)

By Nicole Friedman

Supply-chain backlogs are roiling the new home market, upending efforts to accelerate construction, limiting home-buyer choices, and causing some new owners to move into unfinished homes.

Home builders have increased activity in the past year in response to robust home-buying demand and a shortage of homes in the existing-home market. In many cases, the surge in demand in late 2020 and early 2021 overwhelmed builders, forcing many to halt sales in some markets while they caught up.

Now the industry is struggling with global supply-chain woes. Pandemic-related factory closures, transportation delays and port-capacity limits have stymied the flow of many goods and materials critical for home building, including windows, garage doors, appliances and paint. Freezing weather and power outages in Texas in February led to a shortage of resin, which is used in many home-building products.

While supply-chain delays for some products showed signs of easing at the end of last year, builders say it is still taking weeks longer than normal to finish homes. About 90% of home builders surveyed by housing-market research firm Zonda in November said they were experiencing supply disruptions, up from 75% in January 2021.

Delivery delays can cause a domino effect of rescheduling work crews, which is worsened by a shortage of skilled tradespeople in many markets.

Many builders so far have been able to pass increased material costs along to home buyers. But with home prices higher than ever—the median price of a newly built home in November rose 18.8% from a year earlier to a record $416,900—some builders are concerned about pricing out potential buyers.

Housing development under construction

Coby and Tierrah Finger recently moved into a housing development in Fresno, Texas. (Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal)

Builders are scrambling to find new suppliers, stock up on building products and use substitute materials. Some are scouring retail big-box stores for products they can’t find through the normal supply channels.

That was the case with builder Epcon Communities in Dublin, Ohio, which bought metal shower grab bars online because they weren’t available through its typical commercial suppliers, said Stew Walker, Epcon’s vice president of construction. The company’s electrical subcontractor resorted to buying electrical boxes in hardware stores, he said.

“From one week to the next, the only thing we know is that we’re going to get notified of something else that is unavailable,” Mr. Walker said.

Epcon sold some homes last year without gutters and downspouts, then installed those features after buyers had already moved in, Mr. Walker said.

Homes by WestBay LLC in Riverview, Fla., has started ordering windows six months in advance, up from the typical 60 days of lead time, said President and CEO Willy Nunn. The company’s homes are 30 to 60 days behind their normal schedule.

“About the time we’re getting ready to pave streets in a new subdivision…we’re ordering windows for 100 homes,” Mr. Nunn said.

Unfinished home construction

The Fingers signed a contract with their builder in January 2021 but were unable to move in until December. Building-supply issues forced the couple to select brick three times. (Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal)

Many builders are selling houses later in the construction process, when they can better predict their costs and schedule, said Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda. Some are limiting options for floor plans or design features.

“In the home-building industry, timeline is king, because there are so many moving parts,” Ms. Wolf said.

California-based Williams Homes Inc. planned to build about 500 homes last year but only completed 400 due to supply-chain constraints, said Chief Executive Lance Williams.

“It was spotty and across the spectrum—just hiccups in the supply chain that we just historically haven’t seen,” he said. A shortage of garage doors, in particular, prompted the company to “scour the Western United States” to find more, he said.

Garage-door delays in Sacramento, Calif., prompted city officials in November to establish a provisional policy allowing builders to close homes with temporary garage doors.

The delays are causing havoc for buyers who are planning moves. And if mortgage-interest rates continue rising, buyers might face higher borrowing costs if their home closings are delayed.

Coby and Tierrah Finger signed a contract with M/I Homes Inc. to build a new home in the Houston suburbs in January 2021 and expected it to be completed by August or September. That was convenient because their apartment lease was up at the end of September, and Mrs. Finger was due with their second child in October.

But construction was delayed by city permits, freezing weather in Texas and materials shortages. M/I Homes asked the Fingers to choose new exterior bricks three times, because the options they had selected were no longer available. The family moved in with Mr. Finger’s parents after their lease ended and were living there when their baby was born.

“It was incredibly frustrating,” Mr. Finger said. They closed on their home purchase Nov. 29.

M/I Homes said it faced similar supply-chain issues to those of other builders in the Houston market, and it has been upfront with buyers about delays.

Home builders have built up a huge backlog of uncompleted homes. The number of single-family homes currently under construction surged 28.3% in November from a year earlier to the highest seasonally adjusted level since 2007, according to the Commerce Department.

Homes by WestBay’s Mr. Nunn expects demand in his market to stay robust as more remote workers relocate to Florida. “This is a terrific environment for us long-term, but we have to get through this supply chain unraveling,” he said.

Finished home with family outside

“It was incredibly frustrating,” Coby Finger said of the construction delays on the family’s new home. (Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal)


By Nicole Friedman, writer for®


Housing Market Predictions for 2022

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Learn what factors are at play that will influence real estate sales in the year ahead.

2022 housing market predictions

©Urupong - Getty Images

by Rose Morrison

The housing market is a complicated machine with close connections to the U.S. economy. Changes in one will affect the other, and vice versa. Because these two entities are connected so closely, even the slightest shift can have far-reaching implications for home buyers and real estate agents.

Looking for patterns and understanding the relationships between different economic factors can help real estate professionals anticipate where the housing market may go next. As the new year approaches, here’s what experts are saying.

The Housing Market Now

Coinciding with the pandemic in early 2020, supply chain shortages and underbuilding across the nation made it increasingly difficult for Americans to find new homes. Underbuilding has been a growing problem for years, as construction companies have faced more restrictions and obstacles on how they can build.

COVID-19 has compounded this issue and impacted spending and production. Building materials were bought up early in the pandemic as eager homeowners used their extra time for home renovations. Meanwhile, new products could not reach stores—either because they weren’t being produced or because of backups in the supply chain. 

This lack of supply was exacerbated by a rise in demand for homes over 2020 and 2021. Many people changed their lifestyles and moved outside the city. Low supply and high demand created a strong seller's market, which led to higher prices. Even though houses cost more, bidding wars broke out as buyers tried to secure a residence.

High competition meant homes were selling in a matter of days or even hours, giving sellers the upper hand and reducing room for any negotiation from buyers. However, homebuyers kept engaging with the market since lower mortgage rates and remote work made homeownership a possibility for many.

The Future of the Housing Market

Experts agree that the housing market will continue to favor sellers for some time, possibly for years, but with slower growth in home prices and decelerating inflation. The large discrepancy between supply and demand for new homes will take a while to balance out, and the supply chain will need to work smoothly for some time before things can settle.

Market Competition

Although many other factors also create a seller’s market, the power dynamic between supply and demand is the main predictor of how things will turn out. Except in extreme cases, buyers and sellers can reach their goals regardless of who has the upper hand. However, sellers will get a better deal overall.

Seasonally, competition for homes and bidding wars tend to slow down in the winter. However, because competition has been so high overall, lowered levels this season are still high compared to years before the pandemic. Prices are expected to keep rising, so finding a home over the winter is probably wiser than waiting until spring.

Interest Rates

Another factor predicted to cause major shifts moving forward is the adjustment of interest rates by the Federal Reserve. The American housing market is sustained through a complex system of loans and interest rates, flowing down from the federal level. When inflation is high, the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, which affects loans like mortgages in an aim to prevent further growth.

Higher mortgage rates mean buyers will have to pay more for homes, which could slow down the housing boom by discouraging some people. However, investors will benefit from these higher rates since they’ll be making back larger amounts of money from banks and homeowners.

Financial Security

After the pandemic caused many people to lose their jobs and experience financial insecurity, the government and banks responded with loan forbearance programs to protect individuals from being evicted or going into foreclosure. However, most of these will come to an end in early 2022, so experts like National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist Dr. Lawrence Yun predict some stimulation to the housing market as more homes come up for sale.

Consumer Confidence

Another factor that affects the housing market is consumer confidence. When people are optimistic about the future, they spend more and invest in long-term goals like houses. The early months of the pandemic caused a lot of uncertainty about the future and made many people question their goals and financial stability.

However, according to Kuba Jewgieniew, CEO of Realty ONE Group, consumer confidence and investments are growing as the pandemic era evolves. Looking forward, people will likely continue to move out of high-population areas because they’re seeking more space and homes with a smaller environmental impact.

Supply and Demand

Experts expect demand for homes to outpace supply for some time, so high competition and rising prices will continue to factor into buyers’ decisions. Rising interest rates may preclude some people from buying, which could tone down high competition rates. However, as incomes increase and employment rates move back to normal levels, the market should begin to balance out.

Changes in economic conditions are already affecting buyers. For instance, in 2021, lumber prices skyrocketed as demand for this building material outpaced supply. However, according to Kuba, lumber prices are expected to stabilize over the next year. This will make building new homes a more affordable option for many people. 

Zoom RVs

With the ability to work remotely, some would-be homeowners have decided to hit the road in their RVs, using Zoom to connect to work along the way. This trend could potentially continue due to a combination of the challenging housing market and remote work becoming normal for many people and industries, according to Kuba.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a seismic shift in how individuals relate to their jobs. It’s allowed many home buyers to move farther away from their offices. While some companies may decide to bring their employees back to the office, others will likely establish remote work as a permanent option.

Many people are thriving with the increased flexibility, lack of commute, and control over their work environment. The Zoom RV craze may eventually calm down, but working from home will continue to impact real estate in unprecedented ways for years to come.

The Housing Market in 2022 and Beyond

The housing market has been dynamic over the last two years. The pandemic highlighted how even small changes can have a ripple effect on the opportunities available to home buyers and investors.

However, the market’s close connection with the economy also offers hope as 2022 approaches. Over time, supply and demand will balance out, and the tides will eventually turn to favor buyers again in the future. In the meantime, sellers can make the most of this time in history.


Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated, a home living site where she shares the latest home renovation news and market trends. Throughout her writing career, Rose has been a regular contributor to a number of sites, such as the National Center for Construction Education & Research, the American Society of Home Inspectors, and the International Code Council. 

The New Rules for Homebuyers and Sellers in the Age of Omicron: What To Expect in 2022

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The homebuying and selling season typically kicks off right now. Will the newest stage of the COVID-19 pandemic wreck the market? Here’s the scoop.

Omicron and the housing market

( / Getty Images)

By Janet Siroto

Omicron has indisputably put a damper on early 2022 and as COVID-19 infection rates continue to climb, many may wonder whether we’re headed toward another nationwide shutdown of schools, businesses, and other #lifegoals that may have just begun sputtering back to life.

Meanwhile, homebuyers who’ve vowed that this is the year they’ll finally buy a house might feel as if a wrench the size of a Mack truck was thrown into their plans. Will open houses even be allowed? Will home sellers pull their listings, thinking it’s not worth the risk?

In an effort to shed some light on the year ahead, we surveyed real estate experts on what homebuyers and sellers should expect in the coming weeks and months.

How omicron will affect the housing market

Before the omicron variant of COVID-19 appeared on the scene, the 2021 housing market was rebounding healthily from previous waves of the pandemic and turned downright bullish as the end of the year approached. In spring 2021, a® survey found that only 10% of homeowners planned to sell within 12 months. By fall, that number had ballooned to 26%.

These factors had portended a tidal wave of home sales in the new year. And then the new omicron strain hit in November, followed by a December dip in new listings.

Was this sudden drop due to omicron, or just the typical holiday season lull?

George Ratiu, manager of economic research at, isn’t sure, but feels optimistic that omicron won’t halt the housing market’s momentum, particularly since this variant appears milder than its predecessors.

“We are not through it yet, but so far, this virus seems to be a lot more contagious, but also a lot less negatively impactful in terms of sickness and death,” Ratiu says. He also points out that data from epidemics in 1918 and the 1950s have also shown that viruses become more contagious but less severe over time.

Indeed, indications from South Africa, where the COVID-19 strain was first detected, showed a steep surge in cases followed by a rapid decline. So there’s some reason to expect that this latest wave of the pandemic in the U.S. will follow suit.

Omicron doesn’t seem to have hit the economy as hard as previous waves, either.

“The GDP and economy have survived fairly well,” Ratiu explains. “We’re seeing housing weather the variant so far. Retail sales, consumer confidence, and other indicators show guarded optimism in the road ahead.”

Bottom line: Even as COVID-19 infection rates climb, most experts aren’t bracing for a shutdown like we saw during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020.

“I do not believe that omicron will have much impact on the selling season,” says Cara Berkeley, a personal financial expert at Penny Polly. “The delta variant did not seem to slow things down here [in Tennessee], so omicron should not either. The number of homes sold in Nashville in November of this year was higher than the number sold in November of last year. The upwards trend both in sales and in the median price per home is continuing.”

Why omicron isn’t stopping home sellers from listing today

Even in the face of high COVID-19 infection rates, many home sellers are still eager to list in the new year because, frankly, they’ve been waiting long enough.

“My husband is already retired, and we’ve been dreaming of moving to Maine for a while,” says Meg Rooney, 63, of Fairfield, CT. “But we’ve felt paralyzed by the pandemic. The time didn’t feel right in the middle of the crisis. But I think omicron will be the last surge, and our real estate agent says people are ready to tour and buy despite this current uptick in cases. So we’ll finally put our house on the market.”

Most listing agents we spoke to see no shortage of buyers in their respective markets—particularly with more people taking on remote jobs than ever before.

“There continues to be huge pent-up demand,” says Tami Bonnell, co-chair of EXIT Realty Corporate International.

The take-home lesson for sellers: Those who list should expect plenty of offers—although only time will tell whether we’ll see a repeat of the frenzied bidding wars of 2021.

Why omicron isn’t scaring off homebuyers

Meanwhile, omicron doesn’t seem to be deterring homebuyers much.

“I will be hitting the open houses hard this month,” says Alison Levine, a mom of a toddler and a 6-year-old in Cleveland. “I know how high the infection rates are. But the pandemic has also shown me that our apartment is too small for remote learning plus working from home—and I need a backyard.”

Many of today’s homebuyers, much like Levine, have put their house hunts on hold for the past two years of the pandemic. By now, they’ve had it with their cramped quarters, and are willing to take a few calculated risks to upgrade to a place that better fits their lives today.

“Younger parents may be having a first or second child and need a bigger house, or a different school district,” explains Ratiu. “I see a bright future for the suburbs in 2022.”

In addition to outgrowing their homes, homebuyers have another urgent reason to hazard some home tours right now even with omicron lurking: Mortgage interest rates are expected to rise soon.

“Buyers are acutely aware that the current mortgage rates are just above 3%,” says Ratiu. “While they have been flat, rates are expected to rise, so people are in a hurry to capitalize on this.”

Homebuyers this year should brace themselves for plenty of competition.

“There is huge demand, [but] there’s still short inventory,” says Bonnell. “I believe the first half of the year will be tighter with more bidding wars than the second half.” 

One reason omicron likely won’t slow down homebuyers is that so much of home touring today is happening virtually rather than in person. In 2020 during the first wave of COVID-19, video and virtual tours were more of a novelty that certain buyers and sellers resorted to when in-person viewing wasn’t safe. By now, though, virtual tours have matured into a far more sophisticated and commonplace experience

“We’ve had a year and a half to practice virtual tours and marketing,” says Norman Miller, a real estate and finance professor at the University of San Diego. “We’ve taken some of the fear out of the process.”

To succeed in early 2022, buyers will need to bring their A-game and start preparing now. This means making sure you have a current mortgage pre-approval (they expire over time), watching interest rates closely, and getting ready to pounce once your dream house appears.

“My agent and I frequently text about what she’s seeing in the market, things like how quickly things are selling and where the winning bid is compared to the asking price,” says Levine. “That way, I know how high to bid.”

Real estate in the wake of omicron: What’s ahead?

While many experts anticipate that omicron will be more of a blip than a bomb on this year’s real estate forecast, the one real wild card is whether more variants are on the horizon.

“It’s hard to project, but on broad balance, we’re likely to see continued variants in 2022,” says Ratiu.

Yet putting our lives on hold forever just isn’t something humans are meant to do, a fact that homebuyer Levine keeps in mind as she forges ahead.

“Omicron isn’t softening things so far,” she says. “So I am getting my ducks in a row.”


Janet Siroto is a journalist, editor, and trend tracker. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and other publications.

Five Paint Colors That Will Increase the Value of Your Home

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Along with making a space more attractive to buyers, certain paint colors can help your home sell faster—and often, for more money.

Three rooms with different paint colors

By Caroline Biggs

A crisp coat of paint can make a big difference when you're preparing to sell your home. "It gives potential buyers a good first impression and instills the belief in a buyer's mind that the house has been well taken care of," says agent Karen Kostiw of Warburg Realty. Along with making a space more attractive to prospective buyers, certain paint colors can help your home sell faster—and in some cases, for more money.

Bright Living Room


"A buyer needs to be able to envision their furniture coordinating with the chosen paint color," Kostiw adds. For this reason, agent George Case of Warburg Realty recommends selecting a neutral shade of paint when staging your home, which he says will appeal to the largest base possible. "The most important thing is to use paint color to create a space that feels fresh and relevant to any aesthetic or style," he says. So, which paint colors can increase both the appeal and value of your home? There are a number of good options.

Warm Grays 

For an elegant paint color that's versatile enough to use in any room, our experts say to look no further than a warm shade of gray. "When selling your home, you want high-traffic spaces to feel welcoming, so people can envision themselves living in them," says Sue Wadden, Director of Color Marketing at Sherwin-Williams. "Mindful Gray SW 7016 is a timeless, warm, greenish gray that suits a variety of interiors, while Agreeable Gray SW 7029-is our most popular, light soft gray." For a warm gray that will complement just about any color of furniture, Ashley Banbury, Senior Color Designer at Pratt & Lambert Paints suggests Row House 408B. "It's a slightly more mid-tone neutral that provides the perfect balance of warm and cool," she explains.

Soft Whites 

Light and airy, our experts say a coat of white paint can make a big impact on buyers when selling your home. "White walls allow a buyer to see how their furniture, artwork, and fabrics can seamlessly fit into their potential new space," explains Patrick O'Donnell of Farrow & Ball. "Soft nuanced whites, such as School House White No. 291, or the perennially popular Wimborne White No. 239, create a clean backdrop for anything." For a bright shade of white that will stand out in listing photos, Wadden recommends Pure White SW 7005. "Think about how color will translate [virtually]," she says. "Certain colors can appear different in person than they do online."

Light Pastels 

If you want to introduce some color into a room, O'Donnell says to consider a mid-to-light-tone pastel that can supply a dash of drama without overpowering the space. "A soft muted pink, like Setting Plaster No. 231, or a pale silvery blue or green, such as Light Blue No. 22 and Mizzle No. 266 are interesting enough to bring a pop of personality to a room, but gentle enough to read as a warm neutral," he explains.

Velvety Beige 

Wadden says that a fresh shade of beige paint is a foolproof way to make a space feel more inviting to buyers. "Spaces painted in beiges are seen as versatile across various design styles," she explains. "Accessible Beige SW 7036 has a gray undertone that works well with differing wood tones, while bringing depth and dimension to open floor plans."

Creamy Off-Whites 

According to Banbury, you can always count on cream-colored paint to make a stark space feel cozy and welcoming. "Shades of cream work wonders when selling a home, because they make a space feel comfortable but adaptable," she explains. "Milk Glass WH31brings a sophisticated touch to a room while creating a warm backdrop for furniture and accessories." For a creamy shade of off-white that will complement both warm and cool color palettes, Wadden suggests Dover White SW 6385. "Spaces painted in off-white are seen as versatile across various design styles," she explains.


Caroline Biggs is a freelance writer for

Expert-Approved Tips for Prepping a Home That'll Sell Fast

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Here's what you need to do in order to make a good impression with potential home buyers.

Prepping a Home to Sell Faster


By Nancy Mattia

Maybe you need more space for your growing family or you're ready to downsize and move to a warmer climate. Whatever the reason, when the time is right to put your home on the market, you hope it'll be a swift sale. But it's going to take more than baking a batch of aromatic chocolate-chip cookies right before potential buyers arrive to make your home as irresistible as possible. For example, you'll have to, and this may hurt, rid your home of any trace that people actually live there. "If I walk into your house, and you have 50 pictures of your family and dog, I see your life there and I can't imagine mine," says Santiago Arana, a real estate agent and developer with The Agency in Brentwood, California, who oversees the staging of homes.

Another thing you'll want to do, even if you're eager to sell, is to adjust your mindset. "The minute you decide to sell your home, it is no longer your home," says Robin Kencel, an associate real estate broker at Compass Real Estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. Thinking of it as a product that's for sale will remove your emotions and benefit the entire selling process. Read on for more of their expert advice and you'll hopefully soon be hearing that beautiful word: "Sold!"

Get a pre-inspection. 

Before listing your home, hire a building inspector to conduct a mini-inspection and identify (and take care of) any problems they find. "Having fewer issues identified in [the real] building inspection will reinforce the idea that care and attention have been given to this home," says Kencel.

Give your agent all the answers. 

"Buyers ask about things like property boundaries, annual maintenance/utility fees, and what year the kitchen was last renovated," says Kencel. "Your agent's ability to give concrete answers is another opportunity to create the impression that this is a property that will be easy to step into."

Do a deep clean. 

If your home is thoroughly scrubbed and polished, buyers will fantasize about living there-who doesn't want to hang out in a spotless place? Also, a clean, organized house shows that you've taken good care of it and gives a potential buyer more confidence in the health of the house.

Declutter, or at least get the junk out. 

Crowded, messy rooms take away the buyers' ability to fantasize about where they would put their own things, says Daniel Rash, managing director of REAL New York in New York City. That's why you should take some time to go through every closet, drawer, and bookcase, and donate anything you don't use or wear anymore. "Storage is a big selling point," says Jeffrey Phillip, a professional organizer and interior designer in New York City. "Buyers should be able to see the available storage space without any of it bulging at the seams."

Define every room's purpose. 

"Help a potential buyer see what a room could be by staging it as an office, a guest room, a craft room," says Phillip. Just don't let it be a temporary storage space for any junk you intend to get rid of.

Color your walls. 

Painting your home in neutral colors is one of the most effective and affordable staging strategies, says Arana. "It gives a fresh, clean look to a home and smells good. "But you don't necessarily have to do the entire house. Sometimes painting just one wall can make a huge difference in how a room is perceived. Too many colors in a house can overstimulate the senses and cause buyers to flee rather than explore their surroundings. "Make the room feel welcoming by using monochromatic colors or analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel) in soft, calming hues," says Phillip. This will create a more relaxed atmosphere than using complementary colors (opposite one another) or bold analog.

Create a flow. 

Rearrange furniture throughout your home in welcoming configurations that highlight the optimal flow for a room. Buyers should feel comfortable, not confused, by a room's layout. You'll also want to create a comfortable, welcoming environment from the first moment buyers walk in by giving the entryway some love. "You don't want them to open the door and the entryway is empty," says Arana. He suggests setting up something simple but attractive like a console table topped with flowers or books.


Make your home not be about you. Besides removing personal photos, says Rast, put away your vacation souvenirs, trophies, and anything else that may prevent buyers from imagining themselves living there.

Seduce their senses. 

"Wouldn't you rather be greeted by fresh air or something that appeals to your senses than the smell of last night's dinner?" asks Kencel. But be careful to not overdo the scent-stick with lemon, lavender, or another soothing fragrance. "But nothing beats an open window." Another easy, effective way to establish ambience is with music. "I'm very conscious of setting a mood and playing something from the Great American Songbook or something that's light and happy to fill the air," says Kencel.

Increase the light. 

A home that gets good light is what many buyers are looking for, says Phillip. If your home is dark, you can increase the natural light in a room by replacing heavy, dark drapes with something in a pale color or that's lightweight. Adding a table lamp, floor lamp, or new ceiling fixture will also help brighten up the space.


Nancy Mattia - Nancy is a freelance writer for

2 Factors That May Impact the Real Estate Market in 2022

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2021 was certainly a wild ride for real estate, and 2022 may have some new realities in store— including increasing interest rates and competition from foreign investors.

Real Estate market 2022

By Mia Taylor

It's no secret that 2021 has been a hot year for the real estate market. Houses are selling at record prices, bidding wars are frequently taking place for the limited inventory available, and it's not unusual for buyers to pay for home purchases entirely in cash. 

Though the market appears to be normalizing somewhat as more listings become available, 2022 is poised to have some unique issues and challenges of its own when it comes to real estate sales. Two factors in particular are likely to impact the market in the year ahead: 

  • The Federal Reserve's decision in November to scale back its pandemic-era economic stimulus efforts. 

  • Foreign investment returning to the U.S. real estate market as American borders open.

Here's a closer look at exactly how these factors will impact real estate over the coming 12 months, and your ability to buy or sell a home.

Feds announce an end to pandemic-era stimulus measures 

In early November, the Federal Reserve announced plans to taper off its $120 billion bond-buying program and begin winding down its historic effort to stabilize the U.S. economy amid the rollercoaster ride of COVID-19. The decision comes in response to the significant economic rebound the country has experienced in recent months. As federal stimulus measures end, the central bank will be reducing bond purchases by $15 billion each month through January.

"The Federal Reserve's decision to scale back asset purchases represents an attempt to normalize monetary policy, which shifted into crisis mode as the pandemic tightened its grip on the U.S. economy," says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst and Washington bureau chief for Bankrate. 

That's all well and good, but what does it mean for you, the homebuyer or seller? The end of asset purchases is viewed by many industry experts as a precursor to rising interest rates. And higher mortgage rates mean home buying becomes less affordable for many Americans.

"The Fed's tapering means that less mortgage bonds and treasury debt will be purchased. As a result, mortgage rates will go up," explains Edward Mermelstein, a real estate consultant and founder of One and Only Holdings, a boutique advisory firm catering to investors. "As mortgage rates go up, homes become more expensive to carry if you are financing the purchase."

Heading into 2022, it's likely mortgage rates will increase anywhere from 0.25 to 0.5 percent, which could make a big difference for some potential homebuyers.

"Currently, mortgage rates are between 2.5 percent to 3 percent, so an increase in 0.25 percent would increase your monthly expense by 20 percent, which is significant. Therefore, it is always best to buy now, instead of six months from now," Mermelstein continues.

Interest rate increases are likely to have the most significant impact on the lower end of the market, where a half point can mean the difference between affordability and unaffordability, says Frederick Warburg Peters, CEO of Warburg Realty.

"In the higher ends of the market, increased interest rates will probably put a damper on price increases, but they're unlikely to significantly impact volume," says Warburg Peters. 

It's also worth noting that the predicted rate hike is not exactly ideal at a time when home prices were already sky high. According to a Redfin report released in November (which covered the four-week period ending November 14), median home-sale prices had increased 13 percent year over year to $357,881 by last month. They were up 30 percent from the same period in 2019. In addition, asking prices of newly listed homes for the time period covered in the report were up 13 percent from the same time a year ago, and 27 percent from 2019, to a median of $354,725.

"Higher rates will hurt just that much more as real estate prices have climbed by 20 percent or more in the past year," says Melissa Cohn, regional vice president and executive mortgage banker for William Ravels Mortgage. "The combination will be hard on the real estate market. People will still be able to buy—but they will be able to afford less space."

Foreign investment returns in 2022 

Because the nation's borders were largely closed during much of the pandemic, the housing market was essentially protected from an even bigger run-up in purchase prices that might have been driven by foreign investors dabbling in the market. This reality is poised to shift quickly in the opposite direction as American borders reopen. 

Foreign investors have been waiting for almost two years to get back into the U.S. markets, say experts. As flights are added and foreign visa bottlenecks subside, there will be an acceleration of money from abroad flowing into U.S. real estate. It's a development that will benefit some, but not everyone.

"Major markets, such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles, should benefit well from the return of foreign investors. Specifically, sellers in these cities benefit the most because as foreign investors enter the markets, prices increase," adds Mermelstein.

If you're a prospective buyer, however, this run-up may not be ideal, especially when combined with the increased interest rates on the horizon.

"Between increasing mortgage rates and the return of foreign investors, the cost of housing will most certainly get more expensive," says Mermelstein.

Still, not all real estate experts are convinced there are such significant changes ahead, at least not with regard to foreign investors flooding the market come 2022—especially now that a new strain of coronavirus is threatening any return to normalcy.

"With the advent of the Omicron strain of COVID, I think a lot of bets are up in the air, if not off," says Ellen Sykes, a broker for Warburg Realty. "It's unlikely most people anticipated the renewed waves of possible quarantines, shutdowns, and the impact on travel. Consequently, I do not see as great an influx of foreign investors as we used to expect in New York City, and elsewhere in the country. There will always be the larger consortiums and big players coming and going, but the individual investors will be laying low for a while. It is just too difficult at this point."

Takeaways for homebuyers 

The experts at Opendoor continue to predict that the spring 2022 homebuying season will see high demand across the United States despite any potential market changes looming. Even with increased interest rates and the possibility of more buying competition from foreign investors, there will still be plenty of options for buyers and sellers alike and the market will continue to move quickly. 

"While we don't know what the interest rates will look like, we always recommend to customers that they have a firm understanding of their finances to determine their individual needs," says Nadia Aziz, Opendoor's general manager for mortgages. "Researching options is important in order to find the best financing product that meets your needs. There are many different mortgage products available, including low down payment options, that may help home buyers achieve their dream of home ownership."


Mia Taylor is a staff Finance Writer for Real Simple, Health, Parents, and Better Homes & Gardens. She is an award-winning personal finance and travel journalist who has also covered wildlife conservation, sustainability, eco-tourism, climate change, the hospitality industry, technology, AI, robotics, and single parenting.

This Winter Will Be a "Frosty Flip-Flop," According to the Farmers' Almanac

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The Farmers' Almanac has officially released their 2021-2022 winter forecast in our region.

By Lauren Wellbank

While the Farmers' Almanac predictions won't delight those who hate change, expect back-and-forth weather patterns across the country. For the most part, winter will be relatively normal this year. Ahead, we spoke to Sandi Duncan, philom., the managing editor of the Farmers' Almanac, to discover exactly what you need to know before Old Man Winter shows his chilly face.

Here's what to expect in the Northeast and New England 

New Englanders who dread seeing snow will be particularly happy. "Average winter [temperatures] and average-to-below-average snowfalls" are predicted, notes Duncan. "Interestingly, and unlike last year, we are predicting more storms and snowfall in January in 2022 with a marked deficit in February," she adds. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a flurry on the horizon: According to Duncan, there could be a post-Valentine's Day storm that produces quite a bit of powder in this region.

Overall Expectations 

Duncan says the Farmers' Almanac long-range forecasts are pointing towards a "frosty flip-flop" season—which means that the temperatures in many areas will change from warm to cold to warm to freezing to above normal (and back again!). This might mean that precipitation could fall in the form of ice and cold rain, as opposed to snow—which, depending on how much you like the frosty stuff, could be very good or very bad news.


Lauren is a freelance writer for

Why List Your Home with a Real Estate Agent

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According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report, a whopping 89 percent of sellers list their home with a real estate agent. The sellers surveyed listed trustworthiness, responsiveness, local market knowledge, a good reputation in the community, and a strong sales track record as the most important attributes in a top-notch agent.

Here at Melanson Real Estate, rest assured, we fulfill all of theses!

Real Estate Agent and Seller

Photo by Shutterstock

A great real estate agent can make a huge difference in many aspects of your selling experience, from your stress level to your profits. Read on to explore the many benefits of selling with a local agent, and discover what it will cost you.

Benefits of using a listing agent

You might ask yourself, “Why use a real estate agent to sell my home?” There are a number of services and plenty of expertise a real estate agent can provide, so it’s important for each seller to take a look at the list of benefits and decide if an agent is worth the expense.

1. Real estate agents provide local housing market expertise

  • They have access to a comprehensive list of comparable homes and understand the value of homes in your area.

  • Taking into consideration the current market conditions, they can strategize ways to craft the optimal selling approach, with the goal of earning the highest possible return on your home.

  • They can guide you to setting the right price for your home, one that will allow you to both pocket as much money as you can while selling in a timely manner.

  • They understand local housing codes and can point out any red flags on your property that buyers (and their home inspectors) will find. 

  • They can recommend the specific home improvements that matter most to buyers in your area.

2. Real estate agents market your listing

  • They can provide recommendations for staging your home.

  • They can hire a professional photographer to take great listing photos.

  • Creating an enticing listing description of a property is an art form, and a skilled agent can call out features local buyers are looking for.

  • They list your property on the MLS and online real estate sites like Zillow. In fact, agents have access to more listing outlets than sellers who are listing on their own. 

  • They host open houses and showings, physically showing your home to buyers.

  • They serve as a buffer between you and all potential buyers, fielding calls, answering questions, and scheduling showings.

3. Real estate agents network with other agents to increase buyer interest

  • They may show your home to an agent-only crowd to increase buzz. 

  • They talk to other agents about your home, positioning it as a match for their buyers. 

  • Homes sold by agents are typically more appealing to buyers agents, as they know they’ll get a commission on the sale.

4. Real estate agents handle your negotiations

  • They vet all potential buyers, identifying the serious offers. 

  • They skillfully work with the buyer’s agent to get you an offer that meets your needs in terms of price, timing, and repairs. 

  • They help you make smart decisions on negotiating counteroffers. 

5. Real estate agents ease the selling process

  • Selling a home comes with a lot of paperwork, and your real estate agent will handle it all. 

  • Professional real estate agents keep an eye out for deal loopholes and unusual requests, and read all the fine print. 

  • In a multiple-offer situation, they’ll help you identify the pros and cons of each offer, making your decision easier. 

  • They’ll recommend when you should counteroffer and when you should accept the deal.

When you hire a real estate agent to help sell your home, you benefit from their expertise and experience.


Courtesy Zillow Group


Research Suggests That People Who Decorate Their Homes for the Holidays Seem Friendlier to Their Neighbors

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Looking to make more friends on your street? Going all-out, if you haven't done so already, during the holiday season could be a good starting point.

Decorating Your Home for the Holidays Make You Seem Friendlier to Their Neighbors


By Madeline Buiano

Decorating for the holidays is a tradition for many families—stringing up twinkling lights, hanging wreaths on doors and windows, and wrapping garland around your fence posts are all ways to prepare your home's exterior for the holly jolly season. Beyond making your own house look extra special, it's also fun to see what your neighbors have chosen to display. However, if you see a nearby house that's not decorated, it may change the way you feel about the people who live there.  According to research highlighted by ABC 27 and published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, people who hang up holiday decorations appear friendlier to their neighbors.

The study is based on previous research which showed that United States residents may use holiday decorations to communicate friendliness to their neighbors. To determine this themselves, researchers in this study examined whether strangers can accurately identify a friendlier resident, and what part of their home contributes to their impressions. They also examined the possibility that residents who decorate for Christmas use their display as a way to make more friends on their block. 

To obtain their findings, researchers asked participants to rate the friendliness of strangers based on pictures of their houses. The homeowners reported their own sociability by rating their social contact with neighbors as either low or high. When participants saw a photograph of a home that wasn't decorated, the raters were more likely to infer that the family living there had low sociability. When they were shown photos of houses decorated with lights and wreaths, participants were more likely to give a high sociability score—even if the people living there weren't social—saying that the houses looked more "open" and "lived in." 

The findings highlight the social aspect of Christmas decorations and how they're used to communicate friendliness to neighbors. Researchers also note that decorating your home's exterior for the holidays can possibly be a way to integrate yourself into your neighborhood's social activities and gatherings.


Madeline Buiano is a digital staff writer for Martha Stewart and Martha Stewart Weddings.

13 Home Trends Stealing the Spotlight in 2022

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While buyers are still seeking homes that offer safe, enjoyable shelter, new wish list items are emerging that give houses better design and function.

gray living space

©Jennifer McNeil Baker - Maestri Studio

by Barbara Ballinger

Home design trends that are expected to loom large in 2022 are an evolution of what started during the pandemic when life was disrupted, and more homeowners started reevaluating their surroundings. Cases in point: The rise of the home office and backyard pools.

Some hot trends started years earlier: energy efficiency, conservation of natural resources (especially in fire- and hurricane-ravaged areas), and affordable housing.

In addition, each cohort has its own wish list: Baby boomers want lower maintenance and millennials want strong broadband connectivity.

One caveat: Know that there’s no universal agreement about what’s in and what’s out, even among our pundits who offered these ideas.

1. High-Speed Internet and Broadband: A home office or workspace remains essential for many home buyers, but if a house doesn’t have a good digital infrastructure, work-from-home buyers may not be interested, says associate broker Lori Hoffman with Compass in Chappaqua, a suburb of New York.“Young buyers coming from urban areas expect it, yet it’s not always available,” she says. Her advice is to make sure high speed is available for your buyers, and if it’s not, find an alternative before they invest.

home office workspace high speed internet and broadband

©Kitchen Magic

2. Quality, Quality, Quality: Location may still be king, but buyers want quality in building materials, systems, and appliances since they know how hard it is to secure materials due to supply chain disruptions and find a contractor who’s available and can get the work done right. “They don’t want inexpensive gray and white vanities with a composition top. They prefer something like a dark navy or sleek modern dark wood with a thick porcelain top, something that echoes Mid-Century style,” Hoffman says. They also want items personalized that suggest quality, such as a kitchen island that resembles a piece of furniture, says J.T. Norman, business development, product, and design innovation at Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Pa. Buyers also prefer that original brick is left unpainted but with trim that’s accented with a dark color, says architect Eddie Maestri, founder of Maestri Studio in Dallas.

home theatre yoga studio and sophisticated lounges

©Venjhamin Reyes, Fava Design Group

3. An Encore for Home Theaters, and a Welcoming to Yoga Studios and Sophisticated Lounges: After losing appeal because they took up too much space, home theaters are popular again as homeowners seek more at-home entertainment. Most are constructed on the first floor or lower level, says designer Joe Fava, CEO of Fava Design Group in Miami. A newcomer to the trends list is a yoga studio as homeowners look for ways to unwind and stay fit at home, he says. Maestri also has received more requests for an intimate living space—what he terms a lounge or parlor—that includes club chairs and a bar, but no TV.

Purple is the New Grey or Black living spaces

©Julia Buckingham Interiors

4. Purple is the New Grey (or Black): Once considered the color of royalty, purple has become one of the “reigning” requests in the increasingly colorful world of home design, says Scottsdale, Ariz.-based designer Julia Buckingham of Julia Buckingham Interiors. “It’s a jewel tone that is both rich and neutral as a base for bright or more earthy hues.”

In one project, she mixed it with a lively red and a natural stone chandelier. “It plays well with both vintage and modern, which makes my 'Modernique' heart very happy,” she says.

Norman says an earthy, khaki green is also a current favorite choice. Color expert Amy Wax of Your Color Source predicts the popular colors in 2022 will relate to nature. She anticipates softer greens, earthy taupes, warm browns, and off whites. We may also see a nod to happier times and a carefree lifestyle in the form of brighter teals, Kelly greens, peaches, and oranges.

yard or balcony outdoor living spaces

©NanaWall Systems

5. More Outdoor Changes: Having a yard or balcony remains a big draw for buyers, which gained ground during the pandemic. As homeowners spent more time outdoors, their wish list for that space evolved. Hoffman finds that buyers want a flat yard that’s more usable versus a hilly one. More people want a pool, so much so that many installers are booked into next year. Huntsville, Utah-based landscape architect Laurie Van Zandt of The Ardent Gardener says she usually designs one or two a year, but in 2021 she designed eight. A fire pit is also still high up on wish lists, but an elaborate outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and beer tap has waned in popularity—many found they rarely use these bells and whistles. What’s needed is a good 42” grill and cabinetry, says Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design.

When it comes to furnishings, Van Zandt says several clients have asked for nostalgic items that belonged to their grandparents such as a porch swing or wanted to reflect their heritage through plant choices, colors, or design items. They also favored less manicured gardens and yards with native grass seed blends.

Greenwich, Conn.-based landscape architect Janice Parker says she has started incorporating lighting that looks like it comes from a natural source, such as candles. In climates where bugs are prevalent or homeowners want to extend their outdoor enjoyment, there’s greater interest in screened porches, says home staging expert Kristie Barnett of Nashville-based The Decorologist. To connect outdoor or quasi-outdoor spaces to indoors, more homeowners are replacing windows with movable glass walls, says Norman.

6. Mid-Century Modern + Contemporary Chic: Design styles vary but there’s agreement that a house with Mid-Century Modern architectural details and home furnishings stay a favorite, followed closely by contemporary so long as the latter is warm and inviting rather than cold and spare, says Fava.

First-Floor Bedroom

©The Plan Collection

7. First-Floor Bedroom, Yes or No? Some experts say a house without a first-level bedroom is challenged. Not so, says Hoffman, who says it depends on who’s sleeping there. “It’s more important to boomers. My younger buyers considering a two-story home want all the bedrooms to be together on the upper level,” she says.

8. Open Plan Living? Yes, But… While there’s no single plan that appeals universally, Hoffman finds that most of her buyers still want an open concept plan. “A choppy plan with rooms broken up takes longer to sell, and the kitchen has to open to some sort of family room. However, the dining room can be its own room,” she says. When there’s a separate traditional living room, she finds her buyers ask, “What do I do with this room?”  Others say the openness between rooms is closing a bit. “Homeowners still want sightlines from a kitchen to family room, but they no longer need rooms in a row and prefer some separation, maybe, with pocket doors or an island,” says Maestri.

 maximalism rooms filled with comfortable furnishings, rugs, art, and collections with character

©Jennifer McNeil Baler - Maestri Studio

9. Maximalism: The minimalism of the last few years is fading, while maximalism is soaring. What that means is rooms are being filled with comfortable furnishings, rugs, art, and collections with character, according to Laurel Vernazza, home design expert at The Plan Collection, a company that sells house plan designs. The fresh look doesn’t mean crowded, overstuffed spaces. One way to achieve the look is by mixing materials together, like stones, metals (lots of bronze and less polished chrome and brushed nickel of recent years), fabrics with a nubby feel, different woods, and trendy matte black hues. “It’s a way to add richness,” says Fava, who finds clients want cocktail tables with several metal finishes or sofas with a metallic base. Another way to inject the look is to use curved elements instead of straight lines, such as arched openings, barrel-vaulted ceilings, curvy furniture, and curved walkways, says Vernazza. There’s also more architectural detail like fluting, Maestri says.

Spotlight on Ceilings

©Werner Straube - Julia Buckingham Interiors

10. Spotlight on Ceilings: Periodically, the fifth wall of a room gains prominence. Now is one of those moments. The ceiling is being designed to stand out and be more attractive. Dated ceilings, such as those with the popcorn look, textured Styrofoam, or bumpy stucco are being targeted by homeowners for remodeling. Ted Speers, president of The Patch Boys, a national drywall, ceiling, and plaster repair franchise, suggests owners first test for asbestos, then scrape off the texture, repair the ceiling with drywall compound, and sand.

In upper-level rooms, designers like Buckingham make lighting fixtures the focal point of a ceiling or stairwell to create a modern art display that adds height, volume, and a light play when lit. But the caveat, she says, is that it can be a “beast to navigate the correct proportions and heights.” That’s where an interior designer can help. What’s out, she says, are small, mass-produced, lantern fixtures in an industrial or farmhouse style. Maestri likes to use high-gloss paint for reflectivity or wallpaper.

11. Smaller, But Not Tiny: Ever since author and architect Sarah Susanka published her first book on smaller homes in 1998, The Not So Big House, there’s been interest in how smaller homes can offer comfortable, functional living. Author Sherri Koones’ book, Bigger than Tiny, Smaller than Average, also explores the subject. Smaller houses—2,000 square feet or less—are in high demand but short supply. The reasons for their popularity, Koones says, are that people are getting married later, having fewer children, and boomers are opting for smaller houses if they downsize. Certain features help spaces look larger and function better, such as integrated outdoor areas, high ceilings, light-colored walls, open floor plans, well-placed windows, and niches and hallways that serve as workspaces.

all-electric homes,decarbonizing everything

©Al Brown - Kipnis Architecture + Planning

12. All-Electric Homes: More homeowners understand the importance of “decarbonizing” everything from products to transportation, and especially their homes, says Chicago- and Boulder, Colo.-based architect Nate Kipnis, FAIA, LEED AP of Kipnis Architecture + Planning.“The way we can best do this is by eliminating all fossil fuels use from houses and including induction cooktops rather than gas for cooking, which offers safer, faster, and more even cooking,” he says. Kipnis recommends using either an air-source heat pump (mini-split) for the HVAC system or a ground source system (geothermal). The big payoff, he says, is that renewable energy has become the cheapest form of electricity generation.

flexible, shared spaces for socializing and work, termed breakout rooms

©Brompton House Signature Collection - Murn Management

13. Multifamily Breakout Spaces: The pandemic taught developers and managers of multifamily buildings the importance of flexible, shared spaces for socializing and work—termed breakout rooms by some. All the buildings that Keith Gillan’s Maryland-based firm Murn Management runs include such spaces for shared use, plus smaller conference rooms on each residential level. Another change in his company’s buildings is bigger residential units to enable working from home. “It’s not that much more expensive to do so at the beginning of the design process and be sure every apartment has a den,” Gillan says.


Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

Home Buyers Eager to Act Sooner Rather Than Later

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Despite rising mortgage rates, home buyers appear undeterred by higher financing costs and home prices.

Home Buyers Eager to Act Sooner Rather Than Later

© anyaberkut - iStock / Getty Images Plus

Courtesy REALTOR Magazine

Contract signings climbed 7.5% in October, and home sales for 2021 are on pace to hit a 15-year high, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported Monday. Pending home sales rebounded after a decline in September.

Contract activity increased month over month in all four major regions of the U.S. NAR’s  Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings.

“Motivated by fast-rising rents and the anticipated increase in mortgage rates, consumers that are on strong financial footing are signing contracts to purchase a home sooner rather than later,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “This solid buying is a testament to demand still being relatively high, as it is occurring during a time when inventory is still markedly low.”

Yun notes that the gain in October assures that total existing-home sales in 2021 will exceed 6 million. That will mark the top performance in home sales in 15 years, Yun says.

He does forecast, however, home prices will increase at a “gentler pace” over the next several months and expects demand to be milder as mortgage rates increase. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.10% last week, up from a 2.72% average a year ago, Freddie Mac reports.

Last month, contract signings increased at the strongest pace in the Midwest and South regions. The Northeast increased 6.9% in October, but contract signings are still down 10% from a year ago. The Midwest saw contract signings climb 11.8% in October; pending home sales are up 5.1% from a year ago.


Source: National Association of REALTORS®


6 Home Office Trends to Watch

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Find out what buyers are looking for when it comes to this increasingly important feature.

The home office is one of the most coveted spaces in a home. Find out what styles are trending for this room or how to create one when square footage is tight.

By Dave Adams, BDI Furniture, VP of Marketing

1. Home buyers are looking for homes with dedicated office spaces.

dedicated office space, man at desk on laptop

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture

With the housing market exploding, many home buyers who work remotely need a dedicated office space. Home offices are no longer an afterthought; it’s now essential, and you should pay attention to staging this room.

2. Dedicated spaces can be created in shared rooms.

Dedicated spaces created in shared rooms

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture

For homes without dedicated office space, you can create workspace nooks in bedrooms, living rooms, and dining areas. The dining table no longer cuts it as a place to work long-term. For office nooks in shared spaces, consumers are using room dividers, shelving, or even topiary walls or living planters to help create separation. This can help people mentally get into work mode—and then leave it behind at the end of the day.

3. Hybrid furniture solutions can offer multiple functions.

woman using laptop on living room couch

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture

In many households, more than one person may be working from home, which requires getting more creative with space. Many with smaller floorplans are turning to hybrid designs with furniture that plays various roles. For example, coffee tables can convert to a workstation, laptop tables can easily be transported room to room, and storage furniture can double as accents in open spaces.

4. Standing desks are gaining popularity.

man using Standing desks for work

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture

Consumers have started to embrace standing desks—well-known for their health benefits—at home over the past year. If you’re opting for a standing desk, some important features to consider are wire management (make sure the desk has a place to tuck away cords), keyboard storage, cabinets, antiglare desktop surfaces, and lifting mechanisms for monitors and other items.

5. Less storage is needed.

less storage needed in office space

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture

Remote workers have fewer requirements for large storage units like filing cabinets, which has shifted demand away from big, bulky office furniture. To be sure, office furniture still needs to serve a function. But today’s digital age provides a greater ability for furniture to be creative and reflect personal style.

6. Create a “Zoom room.”

remote workers using video conferencing or zoom room

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture

Most remote workers will need a place appropriate for video conferencing. Ideally, you want your “Zoom room” to be in a quiet area of the home. You want your background to be professional but infused with some items that show your character. You can enhance the natural light in the room with lamps or ring lights to get the right look. You also want to sit with good posture so your face is at the right level and angle to the camera. An ergonomic chair can help.

woman sitting on ergonomic chair using apple computer

Photo courtesy: BDI Furniture


BDI is a premier designer and manufacturer of innovative home furnishings. 

11 Steps to Winterize a House

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Keep your house warm and damage-free all winter with these tips. Whether it's for your primary residence or a second home you're leaving vacant, here are tips for winterizing your house. mother lifting baby in living room

Getty Images

By Devon Thorsby

Extreme winter weather can leave neighborhoods and communities without power or other public services for long periods of time, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns.

With the risk of damage to your property or personal injury, it's a smart idea to prepare your home for such winter weather emergencies as well as cold weather throughout the season that can cause minor issues or even evolve into larger problems.

Whether it's for your primary residence or a second home you're leaving vacant, here are tips for winterizing your house:

Prepare Your Plumbing

Ensure your plumbing is set up to withstand the cold, and consider utilizing sensors to let you know when there's a problem. "Burst pipes have become one of the most common issues experienced by homeowners in the winter months, and can be very costly to repair due to the extent of water damage that can occur," wrote Steve Wilson, senior underwriting lead for insurance company Hippo, which is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, in an email.

In Northern states where freezing temperatures are expected during a portion of the year, housing codes require insulation and for pipes to be properly protected from the cold. Places that don't see regular frost, however, won't always have a basement for plumbing to stay warmer or effective insulation to keep heat from escaping. As a result, a day or week of freezing temperatures in parts of North Carolina, Georgia and even Texas can cause a lot of damage, says Anne Cope, chief engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety in Richburg, South Carolina. 

If your plumbing runs through a crawl space, consider insulating the pipes or the crawl space itself. "It can be a do-it-yourself project, or it can be a hire-a-handyman project," Cope says.

Wilson also stresses the importance of draining and disconnecting hoses on the exterior of your house to avoid freezing there. "You can purchase a cover for your exterior faucets inexpensively from your local hardware store," he says.

For additional protection, you can get water-leak and pipe-temperature sensors. The former will let you know if pressure inside the pipe suddenly decreases, indicating a burst pipe, while the latter will notify you of dangerously cold pipes so you can prevent a burst pipe.

Additionally, automatic water shutoff valves are becoming more popular in homes. They stop the flow of water should a pipe freeze and burst to reduce the amount of damage to the home.

If the house is vacant: If your home will be vacant for a long period of time, sensors and a remote water shutoff valve could help prevent damage in the house before you can get there.

Clean Out Gutters and Clear the Roof

Leaves, sticks and other bits of nature make their way onto your roof and into your gutters during the fall. Before the first heavy snowfall, be sure to clear debris from your roof and gutters to prevent a buildup of ice and snow, also known as an ice dam, that can get under shingles and cause leaks and water damage inside your house. 

Preventing ice dams and other issues on the exterior of your home should be periodically checked throughout winter as well, Wilson says.

If the house is vacant: Clear as much debris as you can before you close up the house for the winter, but you may need to have a local friend or contractor finish the job when you're away.

Insulate the Attic

Another way to reduce the chances of an ice dam forming is to insulate your attic floor. This helps keep the living areas of your house warmer, Cope explains.

Cope recommends going up
to your attic before the winter weather sets in to examine attic vents, check for leaks and get a look at the insulation. "If your insulation looks terrible, now is a great time of year to get that taken care of," she says.

If the house is vacant: Insulation will help you avoid hefty heating bills during the months that you're not staying in the house. Good insulation that leads to lower heating and cooling bills can also be a plus when you sell the house.

Have Your Heating System Serviced

Have your heating and ventilation system checked and cleaned before the weather gets too cold. If you wait until the first cold snap or snowstorm of the season, many service professionals will be overbooked.

Beyond keeping you warm, a functioning HVAC during the coldest days of the year is key to avoiding frozen pipes, which can burst inside your walls and cause significant damage.

If the house is vacant: Having your HVAC system serviced before you leave for the season is important so cold temperatures don't cause a bigger issue like a burst pipe.

You may be tempted to turn off utilities like gas, power and water if you plan to be away for months at a time. However, a home left to the elements can sustain a lot of damage that you may not see right away. If any water is left in the plumbing, for example, it can easily freeze and cause problems when you return to the home and turn on the utilities, so you would have to be sure all plumbing is thoroughly drained.

Adjust Your Thermostat

The cost of your heating and cooling bills often plays a part in the temperature you stick with during summer and winter – in summer, you may be willing to keep your house at 72 degrees or higher, while in winter you may lower the target temperature to 68 degrees. However, make sure the interior of your home doesn't get too cold as exterior temperatures drop – at the very minimum, the heat should kick on before it dips to 50 degrees Fahrenheit inside.

If the house is vacant: It's important to keep a vacant house at a temperature well above freezing; the standard is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Call a Chimney Sweep

Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, make an appointment for your chimney to be inspected annually to see if cleaning or repairs are necessary, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. In wood-burning fireplaces, a professional will clean out creosote buildup, which comes from burning wood and can cause a fire hazard inside the chimney if it's not cleaned. In any fireplace, it's important to clear animal nests that might be blocking the chimney and to check for issues in the masonry.

If the house is vacant: Be sure to close the chimney flue as well as any hearth doors. That way you'll keep cold drafts from making your furnace work harder and prevent animals from entering through the chimney and getting into other parts of the house.

Check for Drafts

As the weather cools, walk around the house and check for drafts or air leakage, particularly around windows and doors. Use caulk to seal cracks and weatherstripping to help insulate around door and window frames.

If the house is vacant: Checking for drafts and leakage will help cut down on the work your furnace has to do by keeping cold air out.

Keep Rodents Out

The National Pest Management Association reports that rodents get into an estimated 21 
million U.S. homes each winter. Your work to seal holes and weatherstrip around doors and windows will also help eliminate points of entry for small animals or insects.

Move any upholstered furniture from your patio or garage into the house to keep them from becoming rodent nests. Firewood should be kept elevated and away from the exterior walls of your home.

If your house is vacant: Be sure you've removed all food from your pantry before vacating the place, so pests don't have something to feed on if they do get inside. If you have a friend or hired help checking on the property while you're gone, he or she should check for signs of pests inside your home during visits and contact an exterminator if any are found.

Have a Friend on Call

If you go away for vacation or on a business trip, it's good to have a friend, relative or neighbor on call for your temporarily vacant house. Especially if a winter storm occurs while you're gone, this person can make sure your power stays on and even shovel the sidewalk to prevent slipping hazards.

If the house is vacant: Your HVAC may be in perfect condition with everything insulated, but you still shouldn't leave the house unchecked for the entire winter.

"I wouldn't want someone to think that a property can sit vacant for months at a time without someone coming to check on it. You wouldn't do that with your car," Cope says.

If you have friends or relatives nearby who can check on the house every few weeks, ask them to do so. Otherwise, hire a local handyman to regularly check in and ensure the heat continues to work, the power stays on and no critters manage to break their way into the living space. Even if you have security cameras and sensors, line up someone who can come by on short notice.

Move Plants Elsewhere

If you have outdoor potted plants, fall is a good time to bring them inside if you want to keep them alive during the colder months.

If the house is vacant: Any houseplants you want to keep alive should come with your, unless you're planning to have someone visit the house often enough to water them.

Have Monitoring Devices Installed and Updated

Water-leak sensors and automatic water shutoff can help save your house from massive damage due to a burst pipe, but there are plenty of other tools to help monitor your home to keep it running right throughout the season.

"In the winter months, smart devices will serve as your best friend to ensure your home is adequately protected from intruders and that all systems are working properly while you're away," Wilson says. "Some of the most common smart home devices today can track movement, water leaks, smoke alarms and temperature shifts in and outside the home."

If the house is vacant: Make sure any devices you have installed will be able to continuously monitor for long periods of time. "Before leaving your property, ensure you've checked and changed the batteries in your devices, including smoke alarms," Wilson says.


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor for U.S. News & World Report, and has worked for the company since 2015, reporting and editing on all manner of real estate topics, from homebuying and selling to home improvement, mortgages, tenant rights and the housing market. 

Updated on Nov. 30, 2021: This article has been updated with new information.

The New Normal of Selling a Home Today

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If you’re selling your home right now—or thinking about doing it soon—you should know that today’s housing market is unlike anything we’ve seen or experienced lately, maybe ever.

Buying or selling your home sign

Getty Images

In the past, home sellers might have waited weeks or months to get an offer that might not be as high as they’d hoped. Buyers may have lowballed, or driven a hard bargain asking sellers to make certain repairs or other concessions before closing the deal.

Today, however, many of these realities are no more: In many areas of the country, homes are getting snapped up fast, sometimes within days of going on the market. Buyers mired in bidding wars are pushing their offers over asking price, and often waiving inspections and other demands to sweeten their offer.

In general, this is all good news for sellers—but it also means that it’s more important than ever to understand the market and play your cards carefully to fetch the best offer and terms for you. Here’s what sellers need to know about the real estate landscape today.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the housing market today

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of our lives, and real estate is no exception.

“We’ve all been through a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime experience that dramatically changed the way we lived, worked, and went about our daily lives,” says Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “Even as we move forward and get back to living the way we used to, it’s likely that these experiences will stick with us and shape the way we make decisions for years into the future.”

For one, pandemic lockdowns made many people realize that their current living spaces just aren’t working for them anymore.

“One of the major motivations of homebuyers is the desire to have a larger, more functional home,” says Jason Gelios, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Southeastern Michigan.

This is particularly true for people who started working remotely during the pandemic—who, after cramming their desks into dining rooms, “cloffices,” and other corners, are ready to upgrade to a bigger house so they can work at home with more privacy and comfort.

“This allows for people who are permanently remote-working to be more productive in their home,” explains Gelios.

And since remote workers may no longer need to commute to the office often or at all, many are now house hunting in areas that they hadn’t previously considered.

“With remote work flexibility becoming the new normal, buyers sought out areas like South Florida where they could enjoy the outdoors, extra space, and the tax benefits that come with living here,” says Chad Carroll with The Carroll Group at Compass, in South Florida.

Home inventory is low

Although buyers are out in droves, there are many fewer homes on the market than usual—which is creating a highly competitive market for buyers nationwide.

“Sellers are benefiting from the historically low inventory levels and record demand,” Carroll says. “This combination has fueled bidding wars and led to properties going under contract at an insane velocity.”

These low-inventory conditions may improve somewhat over the next year. But Hale warns, “the market is so out of balance that even with improvement, the number of homes for sale will remain low.”

Home prices are high

With fewer homes and high demand for them, many sellers are seeing multiple offers that, in turn, are driving up prices.

“The ongoing increase in housing prices makes it a great time for a home seller to cash out on their homes now,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at online real estate transaction company Opendoor.

Often, buyers are making offers above the listing price.

“Faced with few homes available for sale, buyers intent on owning are pulling out all the stops,” says Hale.

However, this highly beneficial market for sellers comes with a big caveat if selling means you’ll need to buy a new home yourself.

“Sellers searching for their next home will face the same fierce competition,” warns de Jong.

What’s more, home prices are seeing some early signs of leveling off—or at least not be rising at the breakneck pace of the past. So if you want to sell at the top of the market, it may pay to list sooner rather than later.

Interest rates are at record lows

Even though home prices are high, mortgage interest rates have hit record lows. And since even a 1% lower interest rate could lower monthly mortgage payments by up to 20%, it make homes more affordable for buyers, which is driving them into this competitive market.

“While the cost of a home is on the higher side, the cost to obtain the financing is much lower and oftentimes offsets the higher price, spurring a huge demand for buyers to go out and shop for homes,” Gelios says.

It’s a seller’s market

“There are many ways to define a seller’s market,” says Hale. “But a few key hallmarks are limited availability of homes for sale, fast-selling homes, rising home prices, and competitive buyer offers such as offers over asking price, waiving contingencies, and flexible closing terms.”

All that said, most buyers are looking for a new home because it’s the right time for them—not because of market conditions.

“They’re getting married, moving in with a partner, expanding their family or planning to do so,” Hale explains.

And the same wisdom applies to deciding whether to sell your house: Even though market conditions are in your favor, you should make sure it’s the right time to sell your house for you. Weigh your own personal circumstances, including any current or upcoming life changes such as a new job, retirement, the arrival or departure of family members within the home, and more.




7 Credit-Building Myths First-Time Homebuyers May Hear (and Believe) Today

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People love to dole out unsolicited advice. Some of it is actually useful. Other tips you hear, though, may do more harm than good—particularly when it comes to your credit score.

Young girl on cell phone examining her credit score

(Getty Images)

By Erica Sweeney | Nov 16, 2021

Establishing credit and maintaining a good credit score (also known as a FICO score) is essential if you hope to get a mortgage to buy a home someday.

“Good credit proves to lenders that you’re a reliable and trustworthy person who will pay back the money you owe,” says Ace Watanasuparp, national director of strategic sales at Citizens Home Mortgage.

Having good credit helps you not only get a mortgage, but one with a low interest rate, which will lower your monthly payments and the overall amount you pay for the home. And even if your credit score isn’t stellar right now, Watanasuparp says it’s never too late to start repairing it.

Yet this is where bad advice from uninformed yet well-meaning friends and family could lead you astray. Want some guidance separating fact from fiction? Here’s a look at some of the worst credit-building advice floating around out there that actually isn’t true.

1. To build credit, you’ve got to use credit—lots of it!

Many may insist that the only way to establish good credit is to use it—liberally. While it’s true that utilizing some level of credit is important, more is definitely not better.

“Carrying a high balance on your credit card has the potential to hurt your score,” says Stephen Rosen, head of sales at the mortgage company Better. “And on top of that, you will end up paying more each month, due to interest.”

Credit utilization, or the amount of credit you’re using, makes up 30% of your FICO score. The higher your credit card balance, the higher your utilization rate, which hurts your credit score. So pay as much as you can on your credit card bill each month.

That said, keeping a modest credit card balance can help, Watanasuparp says. A good rule is to use only 30% to 40% of your maximum credit line. So, for a credit card with a $10,000 limit, keep the balance to no more than $3,000 or $4,000.

2. Close your credit cards once you pay them off

Closing a credit card once you’ve paid it off may seem like a logical thing to do—that way, no more debt! Yet in reality, closing cards is a bad idea.

“Closing recently paid off accounts can shorten your credit history, especially if it’s one of your oldest accounts to date,” Rosen says.

Credit history, or how long you’ve had credit accounts, makes up about 15% of your credit score.

Instead of closing the cards, Watanasuparp suggests keeping them open and using them from time to time—and always paying off the balance whenever possible.

3. The occasional late or missed payment is no big deal

Late or missing bill payments happen to just about everyone, and therefore may seem like NBD. On the contrary! Paying your bills on time has a huge effect on your credit, accounting for 35% of your FICO score.

It doesn’t matter how much credit you have, as long as you can manage it, meaning you have enough money to pay your bills and that you’re paying them on time, Watanasuparp says.

“It becomes a problem when you are not able to responsibly manage these lines of credit, and you start falling behind on payments, and you no longer have the funds to back your credit,” he says.

Consistently paying late or not at all suggests that you might not be able to make your mortgage payments either, so it could be tough to get a home loan. Setting up automatic payments or calendar reminders will help you avoid missing payments.

4. You can boost your credit score by adding your spouse to your accounts

If your spouse has excellent credit—but yours is subpar—you may have heard that adding your upstanding partner to your own credit accounts will help raise your own score. Sorry, but it’s not that simple.

Credit scores are unique to each individual, Rosen says, so merging accounts won’t boost your credit. However, there isone way a high-scoring partner does work in your favor.

“When it comes to applying for new credit with your partner, such as filling out a joint application for a mortgage, each partner’s credit score is taken into consideration by the lenders,” he says.

Lenders will often average out a couple’s scores to determine your overall creditworthiness as a team. So in this sense, your partner could help you get a loan with good terms.

Once you’ve got a loan together—and if it gets paid on time—this will start reflecting positively on both your credit reports. This takes time, however, so don’t expect any miracles overnight.

5. You should constantly check your credit report

These days, sites like make it easy (and free) to check your credit score and report on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean you should.

Watanasuparp says you only need to check your credit score and report once a year—or every three to six months before getting a mortgage—to make sure there are no errors or late payments that you’re not aware of.

6. Getting a credit report will lower your score

The good news is that checking your credit yourself through an official report from one of the primary reporting agencies is a soft inquiry, which won’t affect your credit score.

However, loan applications for new credit cards or mortgages are considered hard inquiries, and will show up and stay on the report for up to two years, briefly lowering your score.

“My advice is to avoid loan applications for at least six months before you apply for a mortgage. This will ensure your best possible credit score is on file,” Rosen says.

Then, you can shop around with multiple lenders to find the one offering the best rate.

7. You need to hire a credit repair agency to clean up your credit

Credit repair agencies promise to repair your credit for a fee, by checking your credit report for errors and disputing them for you. However, it’s usually unnecessary.

You can dispute information on your credit report yourself for free, using, a federally authorized site.

Furthermore, no one can remove accurate information, such as a history of late payments, from the report, Rosen says.

“There’s nothing that a credit repair company can do for you that you can’t do yourself,” he says. “The only legitimate way to enhance your credit score is to practice good credit management.”


Erica Sweeney is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Parade, HuffPost, Business Insider, Money, and other publications.

7 ‘Design Therapy' Hacks to Improve Your Office

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A well-designed work area can improve your mental and physical health. Here’s how to create your best office space.

well-designed work area can improve your mental and physical health

by Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Could an inviting workspace make you feel better and work smarter? Jessica Shaw, interior design director of Turett Collaborative, believes it can. She offers steps to practice “design therapy” for your office space, factoring in colors, layout, lighting, and more.

Shaw draws from “neuro-architecture,” which explores how art, color, lighting, and design in your office space can affect a person’s mood, productivity, and health.

She offers the following tips for creating an office that boosts mental and physical health, whether it’s your work-from-home area or in-person workplace.

1. Use color smartly.

Color can potentially affect a person’s mood, emotions, concentration, and even physical health, according to a body of science called color psychology. Draw from some of these insights to outfit your workspace.

  • When to use brighter hues: For example, bold, bright colors like yellow have been linked to boosting positive thoughts and sparking creativity. Red can stimulate and energize. For detail-oriented work, you may benefit by adding red accessories to keep you focused, Shaw says.

bright colors boost positive thoughts and sparking creativity

©Turett Collaborative

  • When to use softer colors: Lighter shades of blue and green can bring a sense of calmness to a space. These colors tend to work best in lounge spaces and break areas, Shaw says.

  • When to use white: Use white sparingly in furnishings and accent pieces. Too much white can make a space feel cold and uninviting. Use white more as an accent color or within a more monochromatic color scheme, Shaw recommends. She suggests reserving white for more serious spaces in a workplace, such as conference or meeting rooms.

using white as an accent color or within a more monochromatic color scheme

©Turett Collaborative

A balanced composition of white and color brings visual harmony to the Turett Collaborative’s Civic Hall lounge area.

Use the color wheel for inspiration for the color of your workspace, Shaw suggests.

  • Choose analogous colors: Groups of three colors beside one another on the color wheel (e.g. blue, blue-green, and green)—to create harmony in your office.

  • Reserve complimentary colors: Opposite hues on the color wheel—for a bolder look (e.g. yellow and purple or orange and blue).

  • Consider triadic colors: Three colors equally spaced on the color wheel—for a more energetic, personality-filled space (e.g. red, blue, and yellow). 

  • Use color with intention: Pops of red energize this office space.

balanced composition of white and color brings visual harmony

©Turett Collaborative

Also, Shaw recommends strategically using different hues, tints, tones, and shades to draw attention to certain objects within the workspace.

using different hues, tints, tones, and shades to draw attention to certain objects within the workspace

©Turett Collaborative

An energizing palette of triadic colors adds an element of contrast to the Turett Collaborative Civic Hall dining area.

2. Don’t play it too safe.

You want your workspace to have a sense of harmony, but you also don’t want it to bore you, your agents, or staff. When using interior elements that are too similar, your space can appear dull. But you want a workspace that will visually stimulate. To do that, bring together pieces that juxtapose one another in color, form, or aesthetic to liven up the workspace, Shaw says.

“To break up the rigidity of a grid-based layout often seen in traditional offices, try incorporating organic, soft shapes to add a layer of dimension, dynamism, and visual complexity,” Shaw says. “Balancing masculine and feminine pieces is a great example of creating tension to achieve a cohesive, yet elevated look.”

incorporating organic, soft shapes to add a layer of dimension, dynamism, and visual complexity

©Turett Collaborative

Interior designer Jessica Shaw creates a bold, yet balanced atmosphere with the use of complementary reds and greens in her personal home office.

3. Go abstract with your art.

Abstract artwork could make you feel more creative and spur more innovation in the workplace. “Art is an incredibly influential aspect in impacting moods and the feel of an environment,” Shaw says. “In a sense, it can be a reflection and extension of your company or individual brand.”

Abstract artwork make you feel more creative and spur more innovation in the workplace

©Turett Collaborative

The colorful artwork on the wall of Turett Collaborative’s Civic Hall aim to project visual complexity and stimulation. Large abstract prints can command attention and make a statement.

A gradient tile art piece of geometric patterns composed of sage greens and blues adds texture to the space

©Turett Collaborative

A gradient tile art piece of geometric patterns composed of sage greens and blues adds texture to the space.

4. Maximize the light.

Factor in sunlight when determining the optimal layout for the office. Brighter work environments with natural lighting can help make workers feel more productive, according to a 2018 study conducted by Cornell University Professor Alan Hedge. Natural light also can help reduce eyestrain, drowsiness, and headaches, and even elevate a person’s mood.

Try to locate desks near windows to gain the benefits of natural light, Shaw says.

locate desks near windows to gain the benefits of natural light

©Turett Collaborative

5. Section off with the flooring.

The flooring can greatly enhance the overall look of a room. “Carpeting provides a softer feel to a space while hardwood floors create a strong, polished look,” Shaw says.

In the workplace particularly, different flooring can help section off spaces in the absence of walls. Use a variety of flooring as an alternative to physical dividers like cubicles. It can keep the space feeling more open, too.

“Lines also encourage movement; our eyes are trained to follow lines in the direction they flow,” Shaw says. “For instance, vertical lines promote movement and mobility, whereas horizontal lines create a grounded, secure feeling.”

Try vertical running wood or carpeting along hallways to bring about movement and then use horizontal lines in spaces for relaxation and lounging, Shaw recommends.

vertical running wood or carpeting along hallways to bring about movement and then use horizontal lines in spaces for relaxation and lounging

©Turett Collaborative

Opposing carpet patterns can liven up a monochromatic scheme for a hallway while also creating the perception of two work zones.

6. Minimize visual and noise distractions.

The more objects and items on display on a desk, the more visual and informational processing a person has to do. That can make it difficult to concentrate on work.

Visual clutter hampers organization and productivity. Noisy offices also can be a detriment to your mental health. This also applies to those who work from home, who may face noisy pets or neighborhood construction.

Consider furniture and design elements that can absorb sounds, such as carpeting, acoustic wall paneling, or drapery.

©Turett Collaborative

Pullout drawers allow for discrete organization, keeping the office of this apartment clean and uncluttered. Carpeting provides sound absorption.

7. Follow the principles of proxemics.

Let the law of proxemics be your guide to designing your office space. It states that various distances can serve different forms of interaction.

For example, a distance of 1.5 feet to 4 feet best facilitates friendly, casual conversation, while distances less than 1.5 feet promote a stronger connection between individuals.

“It is important to design a work environment that allows for these varying degrees of physical separation to help promote both individual work and collaborative efforts,” Shaw says. “Alleviating stress and fostering a safe environment contribute to employees’ overall well-being and comfort.”

This may be even more important as more people prepare to return to the workspace after working from home during the pandemic. Open hallways and additional spacing between workstations reduce visual congestion and naturally create social distancing and separation for employees who prefer that, Shaw says.

Turett Collaborative’s Civic Hall design layout includes both up-close and distanced working arrangements to suit the needs and comfort levels of all workers.

©Turett Collaborative


Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. 

Why Does Dust Accumulate So Quickly After You Clean?

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No, you're not seeing things—dust really does seem to build up faster on recently wiped-down surfaces. Here's how to slow the course.

woman dusting furniture


By Lauren Wellbank

If you examine your freshly dusted furniture, electronics, and knick-knacks a day after you clean, you might notice some residual debris. You didn't miss a spot: According to Vera Peterson, the president of Molly Maid, dust moves that fast. "On freshly clean, beautiful surfaces, you're more likely to notice dust when it accumulates," she notes. "However, if your dusting method isn't efficient, you might be stirring up more dust than you are trapping." Ahead, her best tips for removing this household nuisance—and keeping it at bay for longer.

To prevent more dust, change your cleaning method and use the right tools. 

The most efficient way to dust is with a top-down approach, notes Peterson. "When dusting, work from top to bottom—dust first, then vacuum, " she says, to prevent having to vacuum twice (before and after you dust). And while feather dusters were once a popular tool to sweep a variety of surfaces, a microfiber cloth is best: "This will gather the dust, instead of just pushing it around," she explains. Working with a cloth will also cut down on the amount of particulate you kick up and into your home—which tends to land on your freshly cleaned tables and appliances, leading to faster accumulation.

Identify any dust-enhancing culprits. 

If you have noticed that your home seems dustier than it should, there may be a surprise culprit: your HVAC filter. "An electrostatic-charged furnace filter attracts and captures dust particles which reduces the amount of dust floating in your home," Peterson explains. "Also, be sure you're dusting and vacuuming often (that's a given!) and regularly grooming your pets."

Dust often. 

Maintaining a dust-free space is so much easier than doing a deep clean after waiting too long. "If you really want to keep your home dust-free, dust at least twice per week, especially if you suffer from allergies," says Witulski. "That's not always feasible for everyone, so at least hit the areas you touch most (like furniture, remotes, and household technologies) once a week. Then, you can focus on those often-overlooked areas (think your ceilings, blinds, and doorways) less frequently. Aim to reach those about once a month!" 

Turn to microfiber. 

Forget that old school feather duster—it only pushes dust around. A simple microfiber cloth and water will get the job done and won't introduce any unnecessary chemicals into your home. Thanks to the cloth's unique structure, fibers are able to grab onto dust, trapping it instead of swirling it around your surfaces. For light dust, you can use a dry cloth; if it's stubborn, a damp rag will work better, especially on glass.

Dust from top to bottom. 

"Always dust your room from top to bottom," adds Witulski. "This seems obvious, but many people forget this step which ultimately duplicates your work (or leaves your home dusty)." First, hit the ceiling, corners, molding, and light fixtures. Can't reach those high-up areas? Wrap a flat-top mop with your microfiber cloth "to get into those high crevices," she explains.

As you work your way down the walls, wipe down any décor or frames before moving on to lampshades, furniture, and objects (be sure to move furniture and objects around so you're getting to untouched areas, such as the space under your television or couch). Don't forget to dust past the edge of a surface as well, if the cloth stops on the edge it will leave a line of dust. Finally, it's time to vacuum. At this point, most of the dust has either been picked up by your microfiber towel or fallen to the floor, which is why you should vacuum last. Take your time, and make sure to move your machine in more than one direction to pick up all of the dust and dirt.

Focus on prevention. 

Want to dust less? Don't let it into the house in the first place. "Most dust is brought into your home through the front the door. Place a wipe-off mat at the entrance of your home to trap the dust before it spreads. These mats should be cleaned or shaken out once a week," says Witulski. "Besides dusting regularly, remove your shoes when you enter your home and change your vacuum bag and filter regularly. But do this outside, so you don't spread more dust!"

Call in the pros if you need to. 

While most homeowners are able (and willing) to stay on top of the maintenance that lowers the amount of dust and debris that accumulates on your furniture, electronics, and knick-knacks, nothing will beat the clean a true professional can provide, says our expert. They can target high-touch areas (which tend to be the dirtiest) and provide you with a fresh canvas. After all, keeping your home tidy and dust-free is a lot easier when you're simply touching up hot spots, as opposed to tackling deep cleans.


Lauren is a freelance writer for

As Boomers Downsize, Competition Grows for Simpler—but Not Always Smaller—Homes

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Older buyers seeking smaller or easier-to-maintain homes are crashing into younger buyers in a housing market where the competition is fierce.

Red, white and green shutter houses

(Getty Images /

By Julia Carpenter | Nov 1, 2021

Soaring home prices and new construction favoring bigger builds have interrupted traditional patterns of homeownership for buyers across the country. Smaller houses, desired by aging seniors and young couples alike, are among the toughest to find. The supply of homes up to 1,400 square feet is near a five-decade low, according to data from Freddie Mac.

In 2020, about 28% of real-estate transactions could be characterized as downsizing, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. The majority of these transactions are made by buyers 55 or older.

“We have a housing shortage,” Mr. Yun said. “Clearly from the age patterns, young people want to upsize, and the older generation is looking to downsize, but not greatly—only 100 or 200 square feet smaller than where they’d been living.”

The typical housing cycle for many families—kids go off to school, household sizes shrink, empty-nesters hand off their family homes to new households raising their own children—has been disrupted in recent years, said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. The large baby boomer population outnumbers the rising Gen X-ers, who would be the ones to traditionally take over the family homes.

Many boomers want to “age in place,” meaning living in their original home independently into their later years. A 2018 survey of 2,287 adults from the AARP shows seniors would prefer to stay in the communities where they already live.

“They like their grocery store, they like their doctor, they like their local options,” said Karan Kaul, senior research associate at the Urban Institute.

Once they decide to move to a smaller home, they end up competing with first-time buyers and limited supply, Mr. Kiefer said. Price growth has been strongest for smaller, less-expensive homes. “That works against you in terms of what you can get for your buck,” Mr. Kiefer said.

If they haven’t paid off their mortgage, older buyers might find they could sell their current home at a high price but then pay more in mortgage payments on a smaller place. The share of older homeowners with debt has steadily increased over the past decade, rising to 55.4% in 2019 from 33.2% in 2007. This rise is driven in large part by mortgage debt, according to data from the Urban Institute.

After retiring from working at the New York Department of Education for 33 years, Enid Maldonado-Salgado started to make a plan to move from her current home in Flushing, in New York City’s Queens borough, to further east on Long Island, where she and her husband can be closer to family.

The 60-year-old worked with a Realtor for a year before retirement. Ms. Maldonado-Salgado said her goal was to find a home valued at 80% of her current home’s worth. She found the house-hunting process difficult, even with the money she had saved from refinancing her existing home and the substantial profit she expects from selling it.

For Ms. Maldonado-Salgado, downsizing meant finding an affordable home that wouldn’t require too much maintenance or upkeep. She wanted the freedom to travel and to be closer to her grandchildren.

Ms. Maldonado-Salgado is now in the process of closing on a new house in Smithtown. The new house is nearly equal in square footage to her house in Queens.

“It wasn’t about finding something smaller, it was about finding something that benefited my budget,” she said. “We wanted to make things simpler for ourselves.”



Will Rising Mortgage Rates Make Homebuying More Expensive—or Less?

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It could become a lot more challenging to buy a home in the coming months—or it may have just gotten a whole lot easier.

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By Sharon Lurye for | Nov 3, 2021

After hitting historic lows, mortgage interest rates are creeping up. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s announcement on Wednesday that it will taper its purchases of bonds and mortgage-backed securities is expected to keep pushing mortgage rates higher.

Those higher rates could indeed make homebuying more expensive for many as their monthly mortgage payments get bigger. But in this paradigm-breaking market, higher rates could also prove to be a boon for buyers in some markets by keeping prices in check and lessening competition. That could make homebuying less expensive if buyers aren’t spending as much on their homes and engaging in crazy bidding wars—possibly a welcome lifeline for many first-time buyers who’ve been barred from homeownership by record-high prices.

Confused? Well, today’s COVID-19-fueled housing market is like nothing the U.S. has seen before. There is a dire housing shortage, builders haven’t been able to ramp up, and a massive generation of millennials is champing at the bit to become homeowners. And so depending on a variety of factors, these rising rates could be either a blessing or a curse for prospective homebuyers.

How can you tell which side of the equation you’ll wind up on?

Higher mortgage rates could hurt buyers struggling with high home prices

For some, higher interest rates are a double whammy of bad news. Home prices in most competitive housing markets will still remain high. And after buyers purchase homes, they will be paying more in interest. So buying a home will be more expensive all around.

“It’s going to be less affordable a year from now than where we are today,” warns Leonard Kiefer. He is the deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac, the government-backed organization that helps support the U.S. housing market.

His team forecasts that mortgage rates will reach 3.2% by the end of the year, and go up to 3.7% by the end of 2022 for 30-year fixed-rate loans. At the same time, housing prices will go up 7% in 2022, according to Freddie Mac’s price index—although that’s still better than the explosive 16.9% growth of 2021.

Low rates, which bottomed out at just 2.65% in the first week of January for 30-year fixed-rate loans, helped to fuel the explosion in home prices in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Homes could cost more, while monthly mortgage payments stay the same as they were a few years ago when rates were higher.

For example, the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home of $380,000 with a 2.65% mortgage rate would be $1,225 a month on a 30-year loan. That payment goes up about $80 a month with a 3.14% rate. Over 30 years, that can equal nearly $29,000. (This is for buyers who have a 20% down payment. It does not include property taxes, home insurance, or homeowners association fees.)

Rates averaged 3.14% in the week ending Oct. 28, according to Freddie Mac data.

But, historically speaking, rates even in the 3% range are still very low. It’s less than the current rate of inflation (5.4% in September, according to the Consumer Price Index). This means that banks aren’t even charging enough in interest to make up for the value that money loses over time due to inflation. With such low rates, there will still be plenty of buyers who want to jump in on a mortgage.

Plus, the majority of millennials are now in their 30s, the prime age to buy a first home. And they are the largest demographic group in the country. But instead of more housing going up to accommodate them, the number of available homes has shrunk with construction declining and investors turning single-family homes into rentals.

That will keep competition high as will the dearth of homes for sale.

“We are living in an unprecedented housing market,” says Jodi Hall, president of Nationwide Mortgage Bankers, a lender. “Housing prices will continue to rise because of the shortage of housing, specifically homes for first-time homebuyers.”

Higher mortgage rates could keep rising home prices in check

Other experts take a sunnier view. They argue that higher mortgage rates will finally cool down some of the cutthroat competition over housing and—eventually—help push down sale prices.

“Prospective homebuyers should actually be praying for rates to start creeping up,” says Katie Gatti, a personal finance consultant and founder of the Money with Katie blog.

The big picture suggests price increases will at least have to slow down. Median incomes have barely grown since 2000—while housing prices have skyrocketed. That means “price growth will almost certainly have to slow,” says Gatti. There just aren’t enough people who can afford current prices.

“As the prices get higher, that potential buyer pool shrinks,” says Gatti. “Simply put, our economy—and the average income— can’t support the cost of a home in most cities.”

Ultimately, homebuyers may still be out of luck if they want to see home prices actually go down.

“With how hot the market is, the rising rates will only slightly affect housing prices,” says Khari Washington, owner of 1st United Realty and Mortgage in Riverside, CA.

Price growth may slow down, meaning prices are still increasing, but at a more gradual, manageable pace. Offers over asking could also decrease, which would help buyers’ bottom lines.

Why mortgage rates matter to homebuyers

Mortgage rates aren’t just an esoteric statistic about the real estate industry. For most Americans, they determine how much it costs to own a home. Rates have been falling in the U.S. since the1980s. But when the pandemic hit, they became almost absurdly low thanks, in part, to the Federal Reserve’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities.

When lenders make mortgages, they typically bundle up the loans into these securities, otherwise known as mortgage bonds, and sell them on the secondary market to investors. This frees up money to make new loans.

When the pandemic struck the nation in March 2020, the Fed announced it would buy bonds to help stabilize the economy and the housing market. That led to a surge in demand, which pushed mortgage interest rates down to record lows. When the bond market is strong, mortgage rates fall.

As a result of these early pandemic moves, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell below 3% for the first time in July 2020.

Now that the economy has rebounded and unemployment has dropped, the Fed is diminishing its bond purchases. This weakening bond market should lead to rising mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates aren’t the only big factor driving the housing market. The main problem is a lack of homes for sale. Historically low rates encouraged more people to go out and buy a house. But the number of homes for sale, already well below what was needed, dried up even further. And the residential construction industry hasn’t caught up.

Freddie Mac estimates the U.S. needs 3.8 million more homes to fix this shortage. While an average of 418,000 new starter homes a year went up in the 1970s, that number plummeted to just 65,000 in 2020.

“Is there going to be relief? Probably not for some time,” says Freddie Mac’s Kiefer. “Fundamentally, the issue for the housing market is lack of supply. We just haven’t built a lot.”


Sharon Lurye is a freelance journalist based in New Orleans. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2018.


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