Susan Trotta

Don't Cut Corners on These 6 Things When Renovating Your Home

A home renovation is expensive, and it’s tempting to want to do projects yourself or hire contractors on the cheap. Or you might just want to put off the whole thing.

By Ana Durrani

A survey from Consumer Affairs found that the average homeowner waits 10 months to make a critical repair. But cutting corners on certain renovation projects—or putting them off altogether—can end up creating bigger problems and cost you even more in the long run.

Whether it’s choosing cabinets that’ll add value to your kitchen or investing in quality windows, here are the top renovation projects you should never skimp on.

1. Kitchen drawers and cabinets

Photo by Fisher Gross Kitchen & Bath Studio

Well-made kitchen cabinets will stand the test of time and impress future buyers (should you decide to sell your home down the line).

“When viewing a home, buyers often touch the kitchen drawers and cabinets,” says Michele Dugan, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group. “They are inspecting them to see the quality the seller chose, and will gauge the rest of the renovations on that choice. If there is a high quality of cabinetry selections, chances are the rest of the house will also be of a high grade.”

2. Plumbing work

Photo by Nunley Custom Homes

Shoddy plumbing work can come back to bite you in some of the worst possible ways: mold behind walls, messed up flooring, water leaks. Always hire a licensed plumber with good references, and don’t buy cheap pipes, faucets, and fixtures.

Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, says people who don’t understand the complexities of plumbing might choose a fixture that doesn’t have the proper drain P-trap or an improperly vented fixture. Both of these mistakes could lead to a sewer gas leak or a line clog.

3. Permits

Photo by Krownlab

There’s no getting around it: Permitting your home renovations is a pain. You have to deal with county regulations and inspections that might increase your property taxes.

“They definitely delay the building process as you have to schedule the building inspector at various stages of the project, and that means holding up the build,” says Trish Morgan Tilley of Sisters Selling Vegas with Realty ONE Group.

But do not skimp on getting permits. Doing so can cause all kinds of problems in the long run. If you decide to sell your home, you will have to spend time and money to permit the work and redo improvements that aren’t up to code.

4. Electrical work

Photo by Inplace Studio

Let’s make this as clear as we can: Electrical work is not something you should try to do yourself. Got that?

“Not only is working on electrical systems dangerous, but completing the work incorrectly can have catastrophic consequences down the road,” says Ben Kolo, owner of Mr. Electric of Central Iowa.

Cutting corners on electrical work can create problems like shorting out circuits or lights that flicker and could lead to a fire or explosion.

“In many instances, work completed near or around the sale of a home is required to include documentation proving a licensed electrician completed the work,” says Kolo. “It’s best to leave electrical work to the experts.”

5. Buying and installing windows

Photo by Lucy Interior Design

Windows are a critical component when it comes to the insulation of your home.

“Homeowners should invest in quality windows that are energy-efficient and, depending on where you’re located, storm-resistant,” says Mitch Barton, director of product marketing at Leaf Home.

Older or less expensive windows can bring problems and may require investing in extra window coverings or solutions to add insulation, adds Barton.

“Windows incorrectly installed can lead to unwanted drafts and gaps and cause issues with the windows being able to operate normally,” says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor.

Roberson recommends windows be professionally installed and be double-paned or meet Energy Star standards for energy efficiency.

6. Flooring installation

Photo by Monsen Collins Builders

Flooring is one of the things that define a home, so make sure to choose one that you can enjoy for years.

“There are budget-friendly hardwood options, like luxury vinyl flooring, that are fairly easy to install,” says DeLisa Dawkins, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group Freedom in Greenville, SC.

But, just because you’ve opted to save on the cost of your flooring material doesn’t mean you should cut corners on the labor. Be sure to hire a licensed flooring professional for installation.

And if you decide to go with real hardwood, you definitely want to put the work in the hands of an experienced contractor. “Natural wood flooring is most pricey, especially with the cost of lumber, therefore professional installation is in order,” says Dawkins.

Courtesy realtor.com

Anayat Durrani is a freelance education reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Her work has been featured in Military Officer, California Lawyer, the American Scholar, and PracticeLink magazines.

 

5 Tips for Participating in "No Mow May" to Help Bees in Spring

What's the Buzz? Letting flowers in your lawn feed pollinators until other plants start blooming, that's what!

feeding pollinators in May

CREDIT: COURTESY OF ANNE READEL

by Anne Readel

What is No Mow May? 

The idea behind No Mow May is to leave your lawn alone for the month of May. This allows lawn flowers to bloom and feed hungry native bees emerging from hibernation when other flowers are scarce. Several studies done in areas of Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Massachusetts have shown that lawn flowers can support a high diversity of bees and other pollinators.

I learned about No Mow May when I was looking for ways to make my own yard more bee-friendly. I had recently read that one in four bee species in North America is at risk of extinction, in part because of habitat loss. Neatly kept lawns typically provide little food for bees but No Mow May made me realize that it doesn't have to be this way. I helped organize No Mow May in my own community and documented its rise in Wisconsin. As part of this effort, I spoke with bee experts, city officials, and residents. Here are the most helpful tips for making No Mow May a success that I learned along the way.  

Tips for Participating in No Mow May 

For some people, going a whole month without mowing their lawn can seem like a wild idea. When participating in No Mow May, you and your neighbors will have the most positive experience by following these tips: 

  1. Educate your neighbors. 

After a few weeks of not mowing, your neighbors are going to wonder about the long grass (and perhaps if you've moved away or died!). Free, print-at-home signs are available through the Xerces Society. There's even a kids' version that can be colored in so the whole family can be involved in helping the bees. Once your neighbors understand why you're letting your lawn get "weedy", they may even want to participate in No Mow May themselves.  

  1. Check your local rules. 

Many cities and homeowner associations (HOAs) restrict grass height to eight or ten inches. If grass height rules are in effect, you might end up getting fined if your lawn gets too tall. Find out if your city or HOA has any grass height rules before you participate in No Mow May.

  1. Involve your community leaders. 

Contact your city officials or HOA board members and ask them to adopt No Mow May in your community. Communities that adopt No Mow May will suspend enforcement of grass height rules for participating residents. And even if your community doesn't have grass height rules, an official endorsement may make other residents more comfortable with participating.  

Remember, even if your neighbors, city, or HOA do not embrace No Mow May now, they may warm to the idea over time. Ana Merchak, a resident of Stevens Point, Wisconsin participated in No Mow May last year. "Our lawn probably had the most dandelions in the neighborhood but a lot of people on our street and in the surrounding residential neighborhood were participating with us," says Merchak. "Now that it's more of a commonplace type of thing to participate in No Mow May, I don't think people look at our lawn like it's eyesore anymore and I certainly don't either." 

  1. Cut back your lawn gradually

Lawns can grow pretty shaggy after a month of not mowing. When it's finally time to mow, the best strategy is to reduce the height of your grass in stages. Paul Koch, an associate professor and turf grass extension specialist at the University of Wisconsin, explains that "you never want to remove more than one-third of the green leafy tissue at any one time." Depending on how tall your grass has gotten, it could take a few weekends with the mower to get back to your usual lawn height. "As long as you're taking care to go back down at a gradual level to normal mowing height, I don't think there are any long-term effects that you're going to have on the health of the lawn," says Koch.  

  1. Consider if "No Mow April" makes more sense. 

No Mow May is a catchy phrase. However, depending on where you live, it might make more sense to practice "No Mow March" or "No Mow April" instead. The idea is the same, though: Bees emerging in spring need food. So, whatever your climate, refrain from mowing when lawn flowers start blooming. 

CREDIT: COURTESY OF ANNE READEL

Create a Permanent Pollinator Garden 

No Mow May lasts one month, but there are many other ways you can help pollinators all year long.   

Manage your lawn as a "bee lawn.

Allow your lawn to flower throughout the growing season by raising your mowing height or mowing less often. "Just raising your mowing height to four or four-and-a-half inches really keeps the majority of flowering plants intact," explains Koch. One study also found that lawns mowed once every two weeks attracted more bees than lawns mowed every week.  

Another option is to reseed your lawn with a "bee lawn" seed mix, which combines turf grass with low-growing flowers, such as white clover and creeping thyme. This option may be more palatable to folks who don't like the look of dandelions or creeping Charlie. Over time, you might grow to appreciate the new wild aesthetic of your lawn and wonder why you ever did all that mowing in the first place.

Avoid pesticides and weed-killer. 

If you're trying to grow lawn flowers and feed the bees, avoid applying chemicals that will harm them. For example, "weed and feed" products will blitz your lawn flowers. And some products designed to kill grubs contain toxins that are deadly to bees and other pollinators, such as neonicotinoid insecticides.  

Grow native flowers. 

Think beyond the lawn and try some native plants in your beds and gardens. You'll be amazed at the variety and beauty of the plants from your area that bees and other pollinators love.

Even if No Mow May isn't possible for you, taking any of these steps can help both native bees and honeybees, as well as a variety of other important pollinators. If nothing else, you're sure to make a buzz!

 

Anne Readel is a writer and photographer with a Ph.D. in conservation biology. Her stories often highlight the incredible animals and plants that live in our own backyards. A believer in the power of stories to create change, Anne uses her writing and photography to promote conservation. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Audubon, and Better Homes & Gardens, among others.

 

How to Make Your House Look Expensive: 10 Sneaky Living Room Decorating Ideas

Wondering how to make your house look expensive? Well, next to the kitchen, the living room is arguably the most important room in the home. True to its name, it’s where life happens. It’s where guests gather, where you spend lazy evenings by the fire (or basking in the soft glow of Netflix—no judgment here), and, in most floor plans, one of the first spaces you see upon entering your home.

By Holly Amaya

Don’t you want your home to look luxurious? We thought so. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend busloads of cash to make it look like you spent a lot of money. We’ve consulted with our stable of design experts to uncover the sneakiest ways to create a plush-looking living space—all without emptying out your 401(k). In some cases, you won’t need to spend a thing! You’re welcome.

How to make your home look expensive? Check out the best living room decorating ideas

1. Incorporate layered lighting

Photo by Bravo Interior Design

“Lighting is one of the most important concepts in a space, and one that’s often overlooked,” says Jessica Davis, owner of JL Design Nashville.

You want to have a variety of light sources to add depth to the room. But you don’t have to empty your wallet to go glam on lighting. Davis loves hitting up Goodwill for lamp bases and Target for lampshades.

You could also hang a great pendant light in place of a traditional table lamp, says Christina Hoffmann, owner of luxury curated goods site Epitome Home. She also loves placing candles in pretty, reflective hurricane containers.

Another cheap trick that won’t require any labor: Try plug-in sconces, says Chicago-based interior designer Clare Barnes.

“Placing these next to furniture arrangements can be an affordable way to update a space without bearing the cost of rewiring a wall,” Barnes says. “Adding dimmer switches is another way to make a room feel expensive—this lets you adjust the lighting so a space feels warm and cozy.”

2. Add in textiles

Photo by Abbe Fenimore Studio Ten 25

“One of the easiest and best ways to dress up a room is with great pillows, “Hoffmann says. “But they can be soexpensive.”

Don’t fear—there’s a workaround: Hit up your local fabric store, where you can often find beautiful scraps for a discount—usually 60% to 90% off what it would cost if you purchased yardage off a bolt on the floor. Then find a tailor on Craigslist—Hoffmann estimates you can expect to pay $10 to $20 per pillow, depending on the size. You could also sew them yourself if you’re crafty. Pick up some feather inserts (Hoffmann loves Ikea’s) and you’re set! In the end, you can get a pillow that would easily retail for $100 or more for $30 or less.

Extra credit: If you find a remnant piece of fabric that’s 2 yards or longer, get an equivalent amount of a cheap, soft backing and make a throw.

“An oversized, beautiful throw casually draped in the room will make it feel more luxurious and expensive,” Hoffmann says.

3. Make sure your curtains hit the floor

Photo by Geoff Chick & Associates

A good window treatment can add instant luxe factor to a room, which is why it’s one of the best living room decorating ideas. But there’s one cardinal rule: Never, ever buy draperies that are too short.

“They look so cheap and store-bought,” Hoffmann says.

Make sure to measure the window before you head to the store. You could also make your own on the cheap—just pick up a sheer, lightweight cotton fabric, and take it to your tailor or dry cleaner.

“You’ve got beautiful, billowy drapes for less than $35 each,” Hoffman says.

She recommends Ikea for curtain rods and brackets: “They are basic black, inexpensive, and aren’t distracting or noticeable.”

4. Invest in large-scale art

Photo by Brendan Wong Design

Another great living room decorating idea? An oversize, attention-grabbing piece of art can both spark conversation and imbue your living space with an instantly cool, luxe feel.

Resist the urge to hit up Bed Bath & Beyond for an anonymous beachscape, though—experts agree that the best art has personal significance. Check out secondhand shops and estate sales for pieces with a backstory. If you’re on a budget, get creative and do it yourself (all you need is a giant canvas from an art supply store and the medium of your choice).

5. Don’t shy away from texture

Photo by Tara Benet Design

When in doubt, mix it up. Design experts recommend incorporating a variety of woods, glass, metals, and woven materials to create a look that’s collected, not matchy-matchy.

“The tactile feel of a wool sofa, the soft hand of a silk velvet pillow, or the supple texture of a quality leather are unmistakable luxury that you not only see but any guest can feel,” says Summer Thornton of Summer Thornton Design in Chicago.

If you’re on a budget, toss a faux-fur blanket or sheepskin throw on your couch, jazz up leather chairs with fun pillows in chunky knit cases, or incorporate brushed brass accent pieces on a reclaimed wood coffee table.

6. Roll out a large rug

Photo by WETSTYLE

Small rugs dwarf your rooms, Hoffmann says. So if you’re wondering how to make your house look expensive, opt for a larger, less expensive rug over a smaller, expensive one—especially if you have kids and pets, both of which can wreak havoc on wool rugs.

“When your room feels bigger and airier due to a larger rug, it will feel more expensive automatically,” Hoffman says.

And just because it looks luxe doesn’t mean it can’t be durable. Jute rugs are a great option, Hoffman says, and can often be found at discount home furnishings stores.

“They offer great texture and a grounded, earthy feel,” she says.

7. Use metallics

Photo by Heather Garrett Design

It turns out a little heavy metal never hurt anyone.

“A metallic desk clock, pedestal table, or decorative accent can instantly add wattage to a room and up your fancy quotient,” Hoffmann says.

“Adding a little bit of glitz and glam can really add wow factor,” Thornton adds. In her bag of tricks: high-gloss paint, metallic wallpaper, and light fixtures with metal finishes.

8. Replace or add moldings

Photo by AM Dolce Vita

“One of the easiest ways to make a home feel more expensive and luxurious is to improve its interior architecture,” Thornton says.

You don’t have to knock down any walls, though. If you have narrow baseboards and molding, replace them with something thicker to achieve a more elegant look. (Potential buyers will love it too.)

Similarly, it doesn’t cost much to add applied moldings (wainscoting, anyone?) to any wall to create more charm and character. If the idea of cutting into baseboards and walls makes you queasy, hire a pro.

9. Paint walls and trim the same color

Photo by Rachel Reider Interiors

This one’s simple: A couple of coats of paint can dramatically change your space. And here’s a fun trick: Barnes recommends painting your walls and trim the same color.

“Avoiding contrasting trim is easy on the eyes, adds more focus to decorative accents and accessories, and simplifies the room’s architectural details,” she says. “It also allows you to use a stronger color since the deeper hues will appear softer and a bit lighter.”

Alternatively, Barnes recommends painting doors and trim a dramatic color such as black. “This can help add interest to the space and enhance those architectural details,” she says.

10. Scour thrift stores for heirloom-quality pieces

Photo by Ruth Richards, Allied ASID

True life: As I struggled to decorate my new home, I found a gorgeous crystal decanter at a local thrift store for less than $10. A comparable piece sells at department stores for many times that, plus it lacks the mystique and (imagined) backstory.

“The inlaid wood of an old dresser, the unique shape of a vintage chandelier, and the patina on an antique metal cabinet are unmistakably beautiful, timeless, and never confused with something new from a catalog,” Thornton says.

Hoffmann likes to scour consignment and thrift stores for barware, glassware, mirrors, and art.

“If you hate the art but love the frame, buy it anyway and frame an unexpected object or black and white photos you can print yourself,” she says.

Don’t be afraid of mixing your antique-looking finds with your newer store-bought pieces—it’ll all come together for a collected, luxe vibe. We promise.

 

Courtesy of realtor.com®, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues.

8 Crucial Kitchen Improvements You Should Make Before Selling Your Home

Preparing to list your house? If you want to get top dollar, start sprucing up your kitchen now.

By Lauren Sieben

“The kitchen is often the centerpiece in a home and the place where most of the entertaining happens,” says Tony Rodriguez-Tellaheche, owner and managing broker of Prestige Realty Group in Miami. “Sellers should not cut corners.”

A killer kitchen is one of the best ways to sell your home. Before you list your place, start making some of these improvements to help swing buyers in the right direction.

1. Refresh your cabinets

If your cabinets are looking drab and dated but are still in good shape, you don’t need to replace them. Instead, pick up some good paint and brushes or a paint sprayer.

“Sometimes a quick ‘face-lift’ to the kitchen cabinets can go a long way,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says. “Refinishing existing cabinets is more cost-effective than replacing them completely, and can make a big difference when updating a kitchen.”

Before you start putting down the dropcloths, be mindful of your color palette—you’ll want to stick with neutrals to appeal to most buyers.

“If cabinets are darker natural wood or a polarizing color, we recommend painting either soft white or greige,” says Julie Busby, founder of the Busby Group in Chicago.

2. Upgrade to quartz countertops

Photo by Marble of the World 

Today’s buyers aren’t so keen on granite, and they’re definitely not looking for laminate. If you splurge on one upgrade in the kitchen, make it quartz countertops.

“I recommend using quartz in the kitchen,” says Brad Whittaker, an agent with Realty ONE Group Pacifica in Longview, WA. “It is always a nice, hard surface, and there are so many designs and colors to choose from.”

Plus, quartz is more durable and environmentally friendly than other materials, which is especially important in a busy kitchen.

“More sellers are incorporating quartz into their kitchens than traditional material like marble, because it is less porous and therefore less likely to stain,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.

3. Update the lighting

Photo by Wynne Taylor Ford

If your light fixtures are old enough to vote or order a beer in a bar, it’s time to replace them (or at least give them a very thorough dusting).

Swap in new fixtures over the island and kitchen sink, or increase your kitchen’s appeal by installing recessed lighting on a dimmer.

“Under-counter lighting also adds a nice touch,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.

4. Invest in a good (quiet) dishwasher

If your appliances have seen better days, replacing them with midrange stainless-steel appliances is a safe bet, Whittaker says. Top-of-the-line appliances might not be worth the splurge—you won’t always see a return on that investment.

The one appliance that’s worth spending a little more? The dishwasher.

“Always spend good money on your dishwasher—$700 plus to make sure that it is quiet,” Whittaker says.

5. Bring in a crisp, new backsplash

Photo by Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design 

Installing a neutral, clean backsplash can win you points with prospective buyers.

“Backsplashes can make a huge difference,” Busby says. “If the current one is busy or dated-looking, we recommend going with a classic white subway tile or any other neutrally colored tile.”

Plus, a new backsplash paired with upgraded countertops “can even make dated appliances look more current,” says Simon Isaacs, broker and founder of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, FL.

6. Brighten up the color palette

“Dark kitchen cabinets with dark granite is a thing of the past and can make a home hard to sell, especially to millennial buyers,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.

Aside from painting dark cabinets and replacing countertops, choose a bright, neutral paint color for the walls. A light color can also help make modest-size kitchens look a little more airy and spacious.

7. Add premium touches

Photo by Studio Dearborn 

Quarantine has turned many of us into home cooks, and that means buyers are looking for luxe touches throughout the kitchen where they’re spending more time than ever.

“Most of today’s buyers are self-proclaimed foodies and expect a well-thought-out kitchen,” Isaacs says. “Sophisticated wine fridges, filtered water spouts, and pot fillers are becoming the norm nowadays.”

Busby agrees: “If you have space for a beverage or wine cooler, buyers love this added bonus.”

8. Give the kitchen a serious deep clean

Nothing turns buyers off quicker than a kitchen with the “yuck” factor: food stains, filthy fridges, and even junked-up baseboards.

“Keep it clean, bright, and shiny,” Whittaker says. “There are lots of gloss surfaces in a kitchen, and to see them dull, scratched, scuffed, or chipped is a turnoff to most buyers.”

A sparkling-clean oven is also nonnegotiable, Whittaker adds.

“No one wants to bake inside your gunky oven,” he says. “Remember, if you want top dollar for your home, you need to sell it as if you have taken top-dollar care of it.”

 

Lauren Sieben is a writer in Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Washington Post, Milwaukee Magazine, and other outlets.

The best time to list your home is only a few weeks away! Are you ready for #Listapalooza?

Let the Countdown to Realtor.com® Listapalooza Begin!

With strong buyer demand, high prices, quick sales and less seller competition, April 10-16 will be the sweet spot for sellers who want to put their home on the market this year.

Home sellers on the fence waiting for that perfect moment to sell should start preparations, because the best time to list a home in 2022 is approaching quickly. The week of April 10-16 is expected to have the ideal balance of housing market conditions that favor home sellers, more so than any other week in the year.

With 2022 anticipated to be a whirlwind year for buyers, it can be hard for sellers to know when the optimal time is to put a home on the market. Realtor.com® crunched the numbers in its fourth annual Best Time to Sell Report and found this year's best week to list nationwide is April 10-16. Sellers who list during this week – newly named Realtor.com® Listapalooza – will take advantage of the Spring buying season's top lineup of strong demand, high asking prices, quick home sales and less competition from other sellers.1

"Every year, to help sellers better navigate the spring buying season, we take a look at recent market conditions to determine the optimal week to put a home on the market. And that perfect moment is just weeks away for 2022 sellers, with data indicating that home prices and demand are rising earlier than in a typical year," said Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "Homeowners who are thinking about selling this Spring still have time to get ready, with the majority of recently surveyed sellers indicating that listing preparations took 2-12 weeks. A good first step when selling your home is to understand your options, such as those available via the Realtor.com® Seller's Marketplace, and find the best approach based on your family's needs. This way, you'll be able to immediately start your listing process as soon as you're ready. Preparation is especially important this year, since market dynamics could shift quickly along with factors like rising mortgage rates, inflation and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine."

By listing April 10-16, sellers can expect a top lineup of Spring buying competition 
With buyer interest accelerating weeks before the usual start of the Spring buying season, getting a head start on the competition will likely pay off for 2022 sellers. Mortgage rates have been rising more quickly than expected, adding fuel to the fire for buyers hoping to find the right home and lock-in relatively affordable monthly payments. While a high number of home sales are expected throughout the Spring, Realtor.com® found that the seasonal sweet spot to list a home in 2022, or Realtor.com® Listapalooza, is April 10-16, based on:

  • Surging buyer demand: With buyer activity typically rising heading into the Spring, homes added to the market during the same week in 2021 received 29% more views on Realtor.com® than the average week in 2021 and 18.6% more interest than the average home listed in 2018-2021. As a result, sellers who list their homes during Listapalooza may be able to expect more offers and bidding wars, which can result in higher asking prices and a faster sale than later in 2022.

  • High home prices: Home prices already broke the 2021 record in February, accelerating earlier in the Spring buying season than in previous years. As a result, sellers who list from April 10-16 could secure asking prices that are 10.9% (+$39,000) higher than at the start of the year and 1.4% (+$5,000) above the average annual listing price, based on 2021 trends.

  • Fast-moving homes: So far in 2022, homes have been flying off the market at an increasingly fast pace, reflecting early signs of Spring seasonality. In fact, the year kicked off with the fastest-moving January ever (61 days), followed by even lower time on market in February (47 days). During the week of April 10, homes sold six days more quickly than the 2021 average and nearly a month faster than in 2019 (-27 days), before the onset of COVID.

  • Less competition from other sellers: With demand outpacing supply, inventory continues to fall short of previous years, but also reflects regular seasonal patterns. From April 10-16, there were fewer sellers with homes actively listed than in the average week in 2021 (-12.9%). With the number of for-sale home options available to buyers historically rising further into the year, seller competition will increasingly be a key factor to consider.

Key trends for sellers to watch moving further into the 2022 buying season
Sellers can generally expect to hold the upper hand when the right time for them comes along this Spring, as 2022 buyers have been largely accepting of higher asking prices and quick sales. Even so, sellers' odds of success are greater if they list during Listapalooza compared to later in the year, due to a number of shifting market dynamics. Some of the factors sellers should keep an eye on are:  

  • Buyers price sensitivity rises along with mortgage rates: Mortgage rates remained historically-low throughout 2021, giving home shoppers more flexibility to meet higher asking prices. However, mortgage rates have jumped significantly since the start of this year and are expected to continue rising, particularly with the Fed planning on an interest rate hike as soon as March. As buyers grapple with higher monthly costs, some may tighten their budgets or take a break from the market, resulting in cooling price trends. For instance, by early May in 2021, the number of sellers making price adjustments2 climbed by 17.8% from the start of the year.

  • New supply gives home shoppers more negotiating power: While supply will remain historically low relative to demand in 2022, buyers are expected to have more options later in the year. Builders are accelerating production and will begin to make progress against the new home supply gap. Additionally, new listings trends are improving in line with the typical seasonality, as warmer weather and upcoming summer breaks attract more homeowners into the market. Historically, by mid-August, the number of sellers with actively-listed homes increased 17.4% over the beginning of the year, which means more options for buyers and therefore more competition among sellers.

  • Sellers also buying face trade-offs: As conditions become more favorable for sellers, those who are also buying face a cart-before-the-horse dilemma: Holding out for peak asking prices on their listing could also mean paying a premium for the home they buy. Listing prices typically reach each year's highest level in the Summer, as they did in July of 2021. Realtor.com® analysis indicates a similar timeline in 2022, with historical data suggesting home prices will be up double-digits over the start of the year by late May (+12.3%). However, with new sellers historically rising 48.4% over the start of the year by late May, seller-buyers who delay also face more competition from other sellers and the possibility of missing out on buying opportunities.

"We all know that homes are selling lightning fast right now. But that doesn't necessarily mean your house will sell itself," said Rachel Stults, Managing Editor at Realtor.com®. "Before you list your home this spring—or any other time this year—make sure you've taken steps to get ready, including cleaning and decluttering, getting cost estimates on repairs you might need to make, and talking to agents to see who would be a good fit for your needs. No matter when you decide to list, whipping your home into shape beforehand will help you sell faster and for more money."

1 In this release, the 2022 Best Time to List week and related metrics are based on historical trends vs. forecasted projections. See more details in the methodology below.
2 In this release, price adjustments are defined as home listings that had their price reduced.

Methodology
Listing metrics (e.g. list prices) from 2018-2019 and 2021 were measured on a weekly basis, with each week compared against a benchmark from the first full week of the year. Averaging across the years yielded the "typical" seasonal trend for each metric. Percentile levels for each week were calculated along each metric (prices, listings, days on market, etc.), and were then averaged together across metrics to determine a Best Time to List score for each week. Rankings for each week were based on these Best Time to List scores.

Please note: The Realtor.com® Listapalooza described in this release is based on the national best week to list, which overlaps with 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metros (see details here).

About Realtor.com®
Realtor.com® makes buying, selling, renting and living in homes easier and more rewarding for everyone. Realtor.com® pioneered the world of digital real estate more than 25 years ago, and today through its website and mobile apps offers a marketplace where people can learn about their options, trust in the transparency of information provided to them, and get services and resources that are personalized to their needs. Using proprietary data science and machine learning technology, Realtor.com® pairs buyers and sellers with local agents in their market, helping take the guesswork out of buying and selling a home. For professionals, Realtor.com® is a trusted provider of consumer connections and branding solutions that help them succeed in today's on-demand world. Realtor.com® is operated by News Corp [Nasdaq: NWS, NWSA] [ASX: NWS, NWSLV] subsidiary Move, Inc. For more information, visit Realtor.com®.

 

Media Contact
rachel.conner@move.com 

SOURCE Realtor.com

Graphics Courtesy; Listapalooza infographic

One of the Oldest and Most Respected Real Estate Firms in the Lakes Region

Cindy Melanson, Broker, 603-651-7228

Melanson Real Estate, Inc.

34 North Main Street

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

 

 

Put Down the Mug: Green Drinks for St. Patrick's Day That Aren't Beer

St. Patrick's Day is the perfect excuse to party in the middle of March. There's no better time to sip a green drink. From nonalcoholic drinks like smoothies and mojito mocktails and more, here's a lineup of delicious St. Patrick's Day drink ideas.

 

Mint Matcha Milk Shake

Combine matcha powder with mint chip ice cream and almond milk for a slightly healthier version of your favorite seasonal mint shake. Use a shamrock cookie cutter to create the adorable matcha powder shamrock that sits on top of a dollop of whipped cream. Matcha tea has a number of health benefits, and also includes caffeine so we don't recommend making these shakes as a bedtime snack!

CREDIT: CARSON DOWNING

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

 

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Whisk together 1 tablespoon matcha powder and 1/2 cup milk or almond milk until no lumps remain.

  • In a blender combine matcha mixture, 1 pint slightly softened mint-chocolate chip ice cream, and 3 tablespoons choped fresh mint; cover and blend until combined. Top with whipped cream and, if desired, dust with additional matcha powder.

* For a shamrock on top, lightly place a 1 3/4-inch shamrock-shaped cookie cutter on top of the whipped cream. Lightly sift matcha powder inside the cutter. Gently lift cutter away.

 

Honeydew-Basil Nojitos

Fill sugar-rimmed glasses to the brim with fresh basil leaves, lime juice, and sweet honeydew melon. Slice into spears or use a melon baller ($11, Target) to make perfectly rounded honeydew balls for a green St. Patrick's Day drink garnish.

CREDIT: BLAINE MOATS

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  •  

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • In a large pitcher, combine basil leaves, lime juice, and granulated sugar. Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, mash ingredients together well, making sure most of the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

  • Place about one-fourth of the melon cubes in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Press puree through a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids. Repeat with the remaining melon cubes, one-fourth at a time (you should have 4 cups total juice). Add melon juice to the pitcher.

  • If desired, rub a lime wedge around rims of eight glasses and dip rims in superfine sugar. Fill glasses with ice. Pour juice mixture into ice-filled glasses. If desired, add a splash of carbonated water to each glass. If desired, add melon spears or balls to each glass. Serve immediately.

 

Minted Cucumber Nojitos

Time to pucker up! This minty St. Patrick's Day mocktail features a double dose of lip-smacking lemon: a squeeze of lemon juice and icy-cold lemonade. Slices of cucumber make a refreshing (and green!) garnish.

CREDIT: BLAINE MOATS

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  •  

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • In a large pitcher, combine lemon juice and lime juice; add mint leaves and Simple Syrup. Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, crush leaves and stir together well. Add cucumber and ice. Pour lemonade and club soda into pitcher. Serve immediately.

 

Pineapple-Spinach Smoothies

Start your St. Patrick's Day with a refreshing pineapple smoothie. The drink gets its green hue from fresh spinach and its creamy texture from Greek yogurt. Top the finished drink with a sprinkle of chia seeds.

CREDIT: BRIE PASSANO

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  •  

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Place all ingredients in a blender in the order given. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses.

 

Melon-Basil Prosecco Sparklers

This St. Patrick's Day drink idea gets plenty of sparkle from bubbly prosecco. Top each glass with fresh mint and melon for a light and sweet green cocktail. This green goddess of a cocktail deserves all the attention it can get!

CREDIT: MATTHEW CLARK AND HANNAH BIGOT

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • In a food processor combine half of the melon chunks and the 1/2 cup basil. Cover and process until smooth. Set a large sieve over a large bowl. Pour pureed melon into sieve. Repeat with the remaining melon chunks; pour into sieve. Cover and place in the refrigerator about 1 hour to allow melon mixture to drain.

  • Using the back of a large spoon, press melon pulp through sieve, draining additional liquid (you should have about 3 1/2 cups liquid). Discard solids.

  • For each drink, fill a cocktail shaker three-fourths full with ice. Add 1/3 cup melon liquid. Cover and shake until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty. Strain into a chilled glass. Slowly pour in 1/3 cup Prosecco; stir gently. If desired, add a melon slice and/or additional basil.

 

Courtesy Better Homes & Gardens, Sarah Martens

Sarah Martens is the digital holidays and entertaining editor at Better Homes & Gardens where she has a pulse on all things worth celebrating. 

Regret Buying Your Home During the Pandemic? How To Bounce Back

We’ve all bought things we regret, but if there’s one purchase you don’t want to get wrong, it’s a home. Once you’re in, you’re in—no return policies allowed.

(Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted thousands of Americans to move and buy a new home. You’re probably familiar with some of the forces at work: People in cities wanted to have more room, maybe even a yard. Working remotely meant many would need a home office, or could move out of commuting distance entirely. Some who lost their jobs went searching for locations with a cheaper cost of living. Others moved closer to relatives, seeking comfort via proximity to their clan.

All told, these factors conspired to put a whole lot of homebuyers in motion, some even purchasing new abodes sight unseen.

For many, this leap of faith into unknown environs turned out great. Yet as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, stories have been swirling about people who actually wished they’d stayed put and hadn’t moved at all.

Entering the valley of buyer’s remorse

Homebuyer regrets assume many shapes and forms, depending on the reason people picked up and moved in the first place. Urbanites who moved to a more rural setting may have ended up bored, missing the bustling cafes and nightlife only a city can offer. Those who moved close to family may have quickly lost enthusiasm for their in-laws “dropping by” whenever they felt like it. Folks who bought a home way out of commuting distance may be dealing with a “come back to the office” command from their employers, setting themselves up for a soul-draining commute.

Further compounding this regret could be the high price they paid for their new house, especially since many markets across the U.S. have been experiencing record highs.

“Many people have experienced some form of buyer’s remorse, especially those who paid well over asking price during the pandemic,” says Jason Gelios, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Birmingham, MI, and author of “Think Like a Realtor.”

“The pandemic had many homebuyers making an emotional purchase at the drop of a hat, because the competition was so fierce, not remembering that purchasing a home is a big decision that should not be rushed into,” adds Gelios.

Desperate to persuade sellers to accept their offer over others, many buyers also failed to do their due diligence on the property, which came back to haunt them later.

“In this seller’s market, many buyers have had to waive home inspections or limit it to health and safety items only,” says Elizabeth Sugar Boese, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Boulder, CO. “Then the new homeowners are shocked by the expenses to repair or maintain their home, causing many to regret the purchase.”

Or even if they were aware of problems, many buyers just didn’t take them seriously.

“Many homeowners do not understand what mold is, what water damage is, or what termite/wood rot is before they purchase,” says Jameson Tyler Drew, president of Anubis Properties in Whittier, CA. “They end up walking into a landmine and not realizing it until four months after the purchase.”

Now what? What to do if you regret a home purchase

If you’re one of those unlucky folks mired in homebuyer remorse, chin up—you are not stuck! While leaving a property purchase behind isn’t as easy as ditching a rental, there are still ways to reverse course.

Renovate your place to your tastes: Have you seen just how astoundingly different a home can look after those makeovers on reality TV? This should give you hope that, if you like the neighborhood but have grown to hate the house, you can renovate your way to something that works for you.

Even if this home purchase has left you financially tapped out, some financial assistance in the form of a loan or grant could be hiding nearby.

“Check with your bank to see if they are offering any programs offering financial assistance,” says Chantay Bridges, senior real estate expert at EXP Realty. The programs often cater to first-time homebuyers, teachers, firefighters, and other workers who benefit the community.

“While you are on a hunt, don’t forget to speak to your tax professional,” Bridges adds. “There could be tax deductions for home renovations.”

Doing a little homework can open doors to salvaging your investment and making you much more comfortable at home.

Relist it: Even if this hot market forced you to make a home purchase you regret, the good news is that the market’s still hot. So even if you haven’t lived there for long, your home may have already appreciated in value, with plenty of buyers eager to move in there next.

“The market is still a seller’s market, and you could relist and sell for probably more than you purchased it for,” says Boese.

Even with mortgage interest rates rising, demand is still outstripping the supply of homes for sale—especially right now.

“The first half of the year will be tighter with more bidding wars than the second half,” says Tami Bonnell, co-chair of EXIT Realty Corporate International.

You can get an estimate of your home’s value through an online home value estimator. But just be sure to account for the costs of selling a house, including a listing agent’s real estate commission and closing costs. Even if you take a slight loss on the sale, it might be worth it if you really want to get out of there.

Rent it out: If you don’t like the place but aren’t ready or able to sell it, renting it out can be a solution, at least for a time.

The rental market is on overdrive in many places, just like the home-selling sector. Also, as the pandemic winds down, people are traveling more, upping the demand for short-term stays. Whether you look for a long-term tenant or take the short-term route, this path will bring in income that you can use to pay bills as you move elsewhere.

“Renting a home on Airbnb has become really popular over the last several years,” says Josh Trubow, a certified financial planner and senior financial adviser at Sensible Financial. “However, managing an Airbnb can be a full-time job, especially if you do not live in or near the property. Property managers can help handle some of the hassle, but you should then expect to give up 15% to 25% of the income.”

You will also need to carefully track income and expenses, possibly working with an accountant to make sure you are well-prepared come tax time.

 

Courtesy realtor.com®

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

 

Comments

  1. Cliff Homes on

    Home buy and sale is a perfect example of how demand in our market has soared in this high-end range with homes that have been on the market for quite some time all of the sudden being snatched up. Thank for sharing the post and information.

    Wood-Look Tile vs. Wood: Which Type of Flooring Is Better?

    If you love the look of hardwood flooring but not the cost, then wood-look tile is a trendy alternative. Here’s more on the pros, cons, and costs.

    alfexe/iStock

    By Kayleigh Roberts

    What is wood-look tile? Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like: tile that looks an awful lot like wood, at least from a distance. Up close, you can tell it’s not real wood, but wood-look tile is nonetheless trending now and comes with some unique advantages.

    Here’s everything you need to know about wood-look tile to determine whether it’s the right flooring for you.

    Photo by Stonica LLC

    Wood-look tile vs. wood: How much does each cost?

    Wood-look tile (which can also go on walls, like in bathrooms) comes in ceramic and porcelain. According to online estimates from FloorCritics.com, ceramic tile runs between $2 and $8 per square foot on average, while porcelain averages anywhere from $4 to $12, with installation averaging around $5 per square foot.

    In comparison, real hardwood flooring costs an average $5 to 10 per square foot with installation running an additional $4 to $8 per square foot.

    Photo by Mary Cook 

    Pros of wood-look tile

    The biggest and most obvious advantage of wood-look tile for most homeowners is the cost. In most cases, tile is significantly cheaper than a traditional hardwood floor. But there are other advantages, too. Homeowners looking to refurbish a property in a humid climate, for example, should consider wood-look tile.

    Photo by Synergy Design & Construction 

    “In Florida, we saw this trend starting in 2014,” explains Kurt M. Westfield, managing partner at WC Equity Group. “Florida features moist, humid climates and pests that can wreak havoc on improperly installed natural wood or laminate. Tile is simple to install, waterproof, and gives the appearance that many are seeking, without the cost and care associated with wood.”

    Wood-look tile may also be a good option for people with allergies, since tile doesn’t harbor allergens the way carpets and even hardwood can. It’s also great for pet owners. Hardwood is more durable in many ways, but tile stands up to scratches from the paws of furry friends better than wood.

    Photo buy Johnson + McLeod Design Consultants 

    Cons of wood-look tile

    Like any other tile, wood-look tile will have grout lines, which require special care if you want to keep them looking clean and pristine.

    “As a builder, we encourage homeowners to seal the grout after they move in,” explains Amy Cooper, marketing manager for Highland Homes in Lakeland, FL. Generally wood-look tile can be swept and vacuumed prior to wet mopping, although you should avoid cleaners with acid, bleach, or harsh scouring aids.

    Other downsides include issues that come with any kind of tile, like its tendencies to feel cold on bare feet and get slippery when wet. And while wood-look tile is durable and will last a long time—typically decades—hardwood could last a lifetime if well-kept.

    “Real hardwood will always be a highly desired amenity, not only for appearance but for longevity—it can be sanded down, regraded, stained, and even covered in tile or carpet,” Westfield explains.

    Another consideration is that wood-look tile may be cheaper, but typically does not add resale value to a home. Westfield agrees that real hardwood will always win in terms of long-term value, but if you want to cut costs upfront, wood-look tile is your ticket.

    Photo by Giffin & Crane General Contractors, Inc.

     

    Courtesy realtor.com® 

    Kayleigh Roberts is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Marie Claire, and Elle, among other publications.

     

    A Transparent Look at Energy-Efficient Windows: Cost, Effectiveness, and More

    Energy-efficient windows have been touted as a way to reduce your home’s energy loss. After all, your average pane of glass doesn’t do much to keep heat or cold inside your home, depending on what’s desired for the season. So energy-efficient windows are well worth considering for homeowners who want to control their costs.

    (Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

    By Terri Williams

    “Homeowners should know that including energy-efficient windows will not only keep your home comfortable and your residential heating and cooling costs down, but they will also raise the resale value of your home,” says Brian Gow, president of Scheel Window & Door.

    In fact, 25% to 30% of cool air and heat escape through windows, according to Energy.gov, which can force your system to work harder and your bill to shoot up.

    But is it actually worth investing in energy-efficient windows? Here’s what you need to know.

    What are energy-efficient windows?

    So, what differentiates an energy-efficient window from a regular window? A low emissivity (or “low E”) window coating made from nearly invisible metallic oxides on the glass pane suppresses the radiant heat flow throughout the window, according to Robert Himmaugh, manager at Acadian Windows and Siding. Such windows can range from $100 to over $1,000 depending on the size, he says.

    But buying energy-efficient windows is not as simple as going to the store and asking for them; you need to know which type of windows would be best for your situation.

    “Choosing the right energy-efficient windows depends on the region you live in, the severity of your weather, and if your house is exposed to extreme weather events,” says Anne Fairfax, co-founder of architectural firm Fairfax, Sammons & Partners, which has offices in New York City and Palm Beach, FL.

    “We favor custom wood windows, with true divided light panes, double-glazed, for our high-end projects,” Fairfax says. “For our more budget-minded projects, we like to use Brosco windows, which is a traditional, well-priced wood window, which has optional interior storm panels.”

    Understanding efficiency ratings

    Double-glazed. U factor. What do all of these terms mean, and how do they affect the efficiency of your windows? Here are the key indicators of energy performance for windows:

    • U-factor: The lower the number, the more energy-efficient the window is. Michael DiMartino, senior vice president of installations at Power Home Remodeling, says you always want to look for a U-factor of 0.30 or lower.

    • Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC): This measures how well a window blocks heat from sunlight. Again, a lower rating is the sign of a more efficient window.

    • Air leakage: This rating measures how much air passes through the joints of a window. A lower rating means less leakage occurs.

    • Visible transmittance: Sometimes, a higher number is important. Visible transmittance measures how much light a window lets through, and it’s ideal to get as much as you can.

    • Condensation resistance: This measures how well the window resists water buildup. Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing at Ply Gem Windows, says homeowners should look for a higher rating in this case, as that marks a window that allows for less buildup.

    • R-value: This indicates the material’s resistance to heat flow, so the higher the better. Fairfax explains that a window with single glazing will have a lower R-value than a triple-glazed window.

    • Energy rating: This is a measure of the balance between the U-factor, SHGC, and air leakage.

    Alternatives to replacing your windows

    Energy-efficient windows can help you save money, but completely replacing your windows might not be in the cards right now.

    Applying a low-E coating on your existing windows (on the interior or the exterior) can improve their energy efficiency, according to Himmaugh.

    There are other ways to improve energy efficiency. For example, Fairfax says, your window treatments can make a difference.

    “Insulated curtains can help increase energy efficiency by keeping out the cold,” she says. “For dealing with heat gain, inexpensive natural blinds can be installed on the exterior of the windows.”

     

    Terri Williams is a journalist who has written for USA Today, Yahoo, the Economist, U.S. News and World Report, and the Houston Chronicle.

    Is the Housing Market Stuck? Why Buyers Are in a Rush and Sellers Just Won't Budge

    The tough housing market just keeps on getting tougher.

    By Margaret Heidenry

    The number of homes listed for sale took a nosedive in January, falling 28.4% compared with a year earlier, according to a recent Realtor.com® report. And if that sounds bad, consider that two years ago—in pre-COVID-19 times—the number of active listings was a whopping 60% higher than it is today.

    Granted, December and January are traditionally slow months, with many sellers waiting for spring’s warmer weather to put their property on the market. But so far, early 2022 is looking significantly worse than the usual winter slump, with the number of new listings dipping 9.1% from a year earlier and down a full 16.8% compared with pre-pandemic years spanning 2017 to 2020. 

    Why home sellers aren’t selling

    So why aren’t home sellers selling, given those that do stand to make a tidy profit today? Nationwide, the median home price has climbed to an eye-watering $375,000, a price hike of 25% from a year earlier. 

    Nonetheless, the fact that home sellers today can make a killing isn’t persuading many to budge, perhaps because once they sell, the question remains: Where will they live? Most sellers, after all, are also buyers. 

    “In a recent survey we conducted, more than 1 in 4 potential sellers who were choosing not to sell in the near term said it was because they couldn’t find a home they wanted in their price range,” says Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “With housing costs rising, as home prices and mortgage rates both increase, affordability is more important than ever to households. Data suggests that this may be as true for sellers, many of whom will also purchase a new home, as it is for homebuyers.” 

    Why homebuyers are rushing to close the deal

    Despite a limited selection, homebuyers are snapping up whatever they can find—and they’re doing it fast. In January, homes sold in an average of 61 days, down 10 days from last year and 24 days from January 2020. 

    One reason home shoppers are closing deals nearly an entire month faster may be the rush to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates before the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, which could happen as early as March. Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate loan were 3.55% on Friday, according to Freddie Mac.  

    Facing a shortage of available homes for sale, some homebuyers are also resorting to paying more money for less house. In January, the median listing price per square foot shot up by 13.5% year over year, with the median cost of a 2,000-square-foot, single-family home rising 18.6%. 

    Cities where homes are selling fast

    Some cities and their surrounding suburbs are feeling the housing crunch more than others. Florida led the charge, with homes getting snapped up in 29 fewer days in Miami and 24 fewer days in Orlando, both compared with a year earlier. Raleigh, NC, came in third, with homes spending 17 fewer days on the market. 

    “In Raleigh, all signs point to a growing market where the supply of housing isn’t keeping up with demand,” says Hale. “Data suggests that Raleigh has attracted a lot of interest from big-city households looking for affordability who are able to relocate … thanks to workplace flexibility that has outlasted the pandemic.” 

    Indeed, a growing number of homebuyers are on the move. In the fourth quarter of 2021, more than 50% of the views on homes for sale in Raleigh; Nashville, TN; and Virginia Beach, VA, came from people living somewhere else, says Hale. 

    “Each of these areas is growing and seeing a lot of interest from incoming home shoppers,” adds Hale. “All of this interest can lead to fast-growing prices that sometimes paradoxically cause existing owners to hesitate to sell.” 

     

    Courtesy Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.

    How Homeowners Can Make the Most of Their Yards—Even in Winter

    After almost two years of pandemic life, homeowners understand the significant value of having a yard. Here are 8 ideas for getting creative with outdoor space.

    ©Trevor Tinker - Getty Images

    by Barbara Ballinger

    Spending time outdoors at the height of the pandemic was a way to get fresh air, exercise safely, and expand living quarters. Now, nearing two years later, an outdoor retreat has become even more sought after, causing homeowners and design professionals to get creative in maximizing square footage.

    Whether homeowners have a big suburban yard, rural acreage, or a small urban balcony, there are multiple ways to take advantage of the space, even in winter. They can pile on layers or follow the Swedish mantra of Friluftsliv, which translates to “open-air living and the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical well-being.”

    The key isn’t the size of their space, or which activities homeowners do, but taking advantage of Mother Nature’s gifts—air, sky, clouds, sun, and greenery.

    Millennials and other new homeowners have become particularly adept at using their yards for almost everything—from camping out with a tent and fire pit to organizing a staycation, or setting up an alternative office when they need a break from their indoor space, says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of TurfMutt Foundation, the education arm of the Alexandria, Va.-based Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, which encourage enjoyment of nature.

    Kiser says there’s even a new term for this trend, which doesn’t need translation: Backyarding!

    ©AleksandarNakic - Getty Images

    Here are eight ideas to help make the right investments in furnishings, landscaping, appliances, and more for your yard.

    1. Link the indoors and outdoors by blurring lines. The most common way to do this is to add more windows and doors to connect the spaces and make the glazing bigger to achieve better views. It can also be done by using more colors and textures found in nature inside the home and bringing in plants. Homeowners can also decorate outdoors as they do inside, according to the online design resource, Houzz. The company’s search data shows that people want their backyards to be relaxing extensions of their interiors, which can be handled with stylish, durable materials, as well as by adding a fireplace or fire pit, outdoor TV, sound system, and comfortable seating, pillows, and rugs.

    2. Set up an outdoor office. Many people made do with cramped makeshift offices during the pandemic. Others created separate indoor spaces but working outdoors can literally offer a breath of fresh air to ramp up creativity. Flowers, bushes, and trees can become the living backdrop on conference calls instead of the kitchen counters or office bookcases. Essentials to make it work include strong Wi-Fi, an electrical outlet or two for equipment that’s not wireless, a sturdy table for a laptop, a comfortable chair, lighting for night-time work, and a rug to add warmth underfoot. Some may want a small portable generator to keep power running, Kiser says.

    3. Dine al fresco. Homeowners shouldn’t limit themselves to only eating dinner outdoors. Any meal—breakfast, brunch, lunch, cocktails, and snacks—can be enjoyed plein air. They should have a nice flat area, whether a balcony, terrace, or deck, to set up a table and chairs with enough space to navigate around them. Homeowners also should choose a material that won’t need frequent repainting—many closely resemble real wood and stone and are sustainable. Add the right equipment—a grill, pizza oven, running water from a spigot that won’t freeze (or a sink), and firepit—to make the experience more enjoyable. They can hang some lights, maybe a curtain, and if there’s room and funds, construct a pergola for an overhead cover. If the homeowners like the sound of running water, they can add a recirculating fountain so the water won’t freeze in the winter.

    4. Add entertainment. All work and no play isn’t fun, and the outdoors is a perfect place for classic games like croquet and badminton, and board games such as Monopoly and Clue, or jigsaw puzzles. Many families are also investing in large-screen outdoor TVs and movie projectors. And then there are all the pools being built. If there is no room or funds, they might consider a less costly above-ground pool or smaller hot tub. Suggest they position it close enough to the house so they’re not trekking far in the cold or snow.

    5. Establish a wildlife habitat. Attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds by planting the right flowers and plants. Add a greenhouse if there’s room, which will allow homeowners to garden all year. A birdhouse and feeder or two, are great additions; even a chicken coop is becoming more commonplace.

    6. Make a yard pet friendly. Dog owners could add a fence of some type, maybe a sandpile for digging, a doghouse that’s large enough so Fido doesn’t feel cramped, and perhaps an agility course so he or she gets good exercise. Hardscape like bricks, concrete pavers, or stone can be an alternative spot to urinate that won't ruin your lawn. Also, homeowners can consider some faux lawn choices—many look authentic—and avoid planting things that are toxic to dogs and people, according to The Spruce.

    7. Store neatly. Even outdoor spaces can become cluttered. A shed or closet in a garage can be set up with shelves, bins, and hooks to hang rakes, bicycles, helmets, and more. This will also keep tools out of reach of young children, and provide a place to store fuel safely, too, says Kiser.

    8. Create some privacy. While homeowners may want to have a friendly relationship with their neighbors, they may also want some privacy at times, especially when working from home or throwing parties. Fences work well, but so can living screens of greenery—rows of trees, bushes, or vines. They should choose native materials that don’t require a lot of watering and consider materials that provide color or texture year-round. Start small with plantings that will grow over time, which is less costly than investing in big, mature plants.

    While many of the tips on this list can be undertaken by a skilled DIYer, homeowners should also consider contacting a contractor, landscape designer, or architect sooner rather than later since many are booked far in advance.

     

    Courtesy Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling

     

    Home sales slow in January, but median price still hovers near $400k

    January is a slow time for real estate sales, but things were really slow last month. Only 870 homes were sold in New Hampshire, a 15.5 percent fewer Granite State homes were sold than January 2021, according to the latest data from the NH Realtors Association.

    by Bob Sanders

    Yet, prices rose 14.2 percent from a year ago, although the median price of a single-family home dipped to $399,700 from December 2021, only the second time since last May that the median has dipped below $400,000.

    Condos? Pretty much the same thing. Sales went down 17.2 percent, but the median unit price rose 18.8 percent, to $300,000.

    As usual, the problem was not the lack of buyers but a lack of sellers. Those homes that do go on sale are on the market for an average of 33 days. There were only 931 homes for sale in January, a 35.4 percent decrease from the previous year, and there were 706 new listings, a 25.3 percent decrease.

    Homes were selling for 1.4 percent more than the asking price, the Realtors said.

    Homes in Carrol County appreciated the most, at a median price of $445,000, a 33.9 percent increase from a year ago.  Rockingham County homes sold for a median $540,000, a 17.4 percent increase.  The biggest slowdown in sales came in Sullivan, where 28 homes were sold, – a 47.2 percent decrease from 2021.

    -------------------

    As inventory continues to sink, what next?

    Housing remains scarce, and it continues to hit new lows. 

    “In terms of inventory, it has been the lowest and it certainly feels that way,” said Adam Gaudet, president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors board of directors and founder of 603 Birch Realty in Concord.

    No crystal ball

    Observers and stakeholders say the end of New Hampshire’s housing market spike is impossible to predict. 

    The Realtors Association uses one metric above others when assessing the health of the housing market, Director of Communications Dave Cummings said. That measurement is the time it would take to sell all of New Hampshire’s housing inventory if no new houses came on the market. The hypothetical number – which factors in both inventory and demand – can speak volumes, Cummings said. A healthy market would take six months to sell all houses. Currently, New Hampshire sellers would take only 26 days. 

    But Cummings argued it was only a matter of time before the pattern must reverse, if only because the state’s housing stock can’t get much lower.

    “You know, we’re still just seeing it level, level, level out,” he said. “It can’t get too much lower, because essentially you’d have zero inventory.”

    Contributor Ethan Dewitt , New Hampshire Bulletin

     

    Attention Sellers!!!

    When you list your property with our team of agents, you are provided with professional, courteous service from beginning to end. These services include, but are not limited to:

    A free current market analysis: Determining the value of your property based on other properties, similar in nature that have sold or are currently on the market.

    Listing your property: Entering the property in our MLS system, marketing through window displays, local and regional advertisements and various online media sources.

    Representing your property personally: Having an agent from our office present at ALL showings.

    Negotiating and closing the deal: Representing your requirements in the purchase and sale, while maintaining courteous representation throughout the closing.

     

    So, if you're thinking about selling your home, give us a call at

    603-569-4488

    At Melanson Real Estate, we'll be happy to assist you with all your real estate needs.

     

     

     

     

    How Much Does Air Duct Cleaning Cost, and Is It Worth It?

    You might be thinking about getting your house’s air ducts cleaned after watching a TV commercial that flashes pictures of dusty, moldy, dirty vents. It’s definitely enough to make you wonder what’s lurking in your ductwork. But is it worth it?

    Picture Windows

    Photo: Nataliia / Adobe Stock

    Written by Dawn M. Smith

    The average amount to clean your air ducts is $370 

    The typical cost to get air ducts cleaned is between $270 and $490.  But, depending on the duct’s condition, fees can climb to $1,000.

    Is Air Duct Cleaning Worth It?

    When you search the pros and cons of hiring a local air duct cleaners, you’ll find conflicting advice. 

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that from their studies, standard duct cleaning does not prevent health problems or reduce dust levels in your home. But they do recommend professional cleaning if there is visible (and confirmed by a lab) mold growth inside the vents or within the heating and cooling system. Wet insulation is a typical cause of a mold outbreak.

    They also recommend cleaning your ducts if they’re infested with rodents and insects or clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris that hampers your HVAC system and blows nasty particles through your home. If you have asthma or other respiratory issues, you might breathe better with clean ducts. You’ll have to think about your health situation to decide if you need air duct cleaning and if it's worth your money.

    How Much Does It Cost To Clean Air Ducts?

    Air duct cleaning costs an average of $400. But the price is affected by several factors like the size of the house, the total number of ducts, and how complicated the ducting system is. You could pay between $700 and $1,000 for a large home. 

    The good news is you only need to have your ductwork cleaned every two to seven years unless you notice an issue with pests, allergenic mold reactions, or have breathing problems that improve after a cleaning.

    Correct Air Duct Cleaning Costs More 

    The air duct cleaning company you hire should spend between three and four hours inspecting and cleaning all system parts, including the heat exchanger, blower, drain pan, plenum, and coils. Be cautious of companies that finish fast, especially if you chose a discount special. They may only clean some of the vents for a low price. 

    Be sure to ask if they use outdoor vented equipment. Most top air duct cleaning companies use this equipment, so all of the debris they capture is vented and contained outside the house. Inferior techniques used by cost-cutting companies could worsen the situation by damaging the ductwork or setting off more dust and dirt into the air inside your home. 

    Don’t be surprised if your vetted professional suggests repairs or upgrades to your furnace or blower motor. It’s common to find other issues during the cleaning process. 

    Here’s an idea of the costs of common repairs.

    • Furnace repairs: $130–$500

    • AC repairs: $160–$550

     

    What Factors Influence The Cost to Clean Your Air Ducts? 

    Don’t expect your costs to add up exactly like your neighbor's, even if they let you use their coupon. In addition to the size of the house and the number of vents, several other factors impact your final invoice.

    The Number of Vents 

    Vent cleaning costs can be broken down in various ways by your service provider. If the contractor charges per vent, expect to pay about $25 to $50 per vent. Other companies charge a flat fee in addition to the cost per vent. 

    To total the average amount, count your vents, grab your calculator, and multiply by $35. This figure takes into account that each vent connects to the central system through each room and the amount of work it takes to clean.

    The Appearance of Rodents 

    There’s not much you can do to avoid air duct cleaning fees if you have rodents. This is one scenario where the EPA says to seek help from professionals because droppings in the ductwork can cause breathing problems. Note, you’ll probably have to hire an exterminator first. Extermination costs run between $150 to $500. No doubt, it’s money well spent for a peaceful night’s sleep. 

    Vent and Duct Accessibility

    If your home has hard-to-reach crawl spaces and attics to access your central HVAC system, you could pay more for the extra work involved. Your cleaning crew will let you know of their additional fees. 

    Mold and Mildew Removal

    Another situation where the EPA recommends duct cleaning is after you’ve verified mold growth. Although mold removal in your ductwork costs more money, likely between $600 and $2,000, it could save you thousands if you stop the mold before it spreads further. Depending on the level of contamination, there’s a good chance your contractor will suggest a mold specialist do the cleanup if it's out of their realm of expertise. 

    Custom Designed Ducts

    Cleaning and repairing custom ductwork is typically more expensive because the specific sizing is challenging to work with, and it’s harder to find replacement parts. After the initial inspection, your air duct cleaning contractor will tell you to either clean or replace the air ducts. If your pro has to work longer or hire a bigger crew to do custom work, expect to pay 25% to 30% more.  

     

    The Middle Class Feels the Sting of the Housing Shortage and High Prices

    The turbocharged housing market is hurting middle-class homebuyers stymied by a double whammy of fast-rising prices and a dearth of properties for sale.

    (Getty Images)

    By Clare Trapasso 

    The analysis looked at how affordable homes listed for sale are for prospective buyers with different household incomes. It also looked at the number of homes for sale.

    “In a highly competitive real estate market, the best areas for buyers are areas that have relatively more home available. But in order to truly be available, the home has to be for sale and affordable,” says Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “A homebuyer needs to ask themselves: ‘With my income and what’s on the market right now, where do I have the best shot from an availability perspective?'”

    Buyers with a household income between $75,000 and $100,000 could afford only about 51% of the homes listed for sale. (Households include all adults living together, such as spouses and partners, extended families, and roommates.) That was compared with 58% in 2019. Those buyers are competing for just 245,300 homes nationally that are within their budgets.

    Meanwhile, there were just 165,280 homes across the country that buyers could afford with household incomes between $50,000 and $75,000.

    Even in the few places where housing became cheaper during the pandemic—such as the bigger, more expensive cities that became less desirable over the Past few years—the lack of homes for sale has made it harder for buyers to get an edge.

    “Due to rising home prices and the ongoing inventory shortage, homeownership attainment will become especially challenging for middle-class buyers unless significantly more entry-level housing units become available,” Nadia Evangelou, NAR’s senior economist and director of forecasting, said in a statement. “Otherwise, the wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income households may grow even further.”

    The 10 best metropolitan areas for buyers with household incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 were mostly in the South in less expensive areas that have had more new construction. These places all had more homes for sale at the right price for these buyers.

    Deltona, FL, topped the list, followed by Des Moines, IA; Augusta, GA; Atlanta; McAllen, TX; Baton Rouge, LA; Miami; Virginia Beach, VA; Youngstown, OH; and Scranton, PA. (Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.)

    “Homes are priced a bit lower so that your housing dollars stretch further,” says Hale. Also, “construction has done a better job of keeping up with demand.”

     

    Clare Trapasso is the deputy news editor of Realtor.com where she writes and edits news and data stories. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She also taught journalism courses at several New York City colleges.

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

    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.

    Landscaping

    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

    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 REALTOR.com®

     

    Housing Market Predictions for 2022

    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

    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

    (Realtor.com / 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 Realtor.com® 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 Realtor.com, 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

    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

    CREDIT: ANDREA CALO

    "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 MarthaStewart.com.

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

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

    Prepping a Home to Sell Faster

    CREDIT: FSTOP123/GETTY IMAGES

    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.

    Depersonalize. 

    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 MarthaStewart.com.