Millions of Americans have relocated this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Pew Research Center. New data released this week shows that 22% of Americans either moved or know of someone who did.
From Realtor Magazine
The reasons vary, researchers say, such as college students moving out of dorms as schools closed abruptly, homeowners and renters leaving communities perceived as unsafe, and people moving from housing they could no longer afford. The findings are based on a survey conducted in early June of nearly 10,000 people.
Young adults have been the most likely to move. Thirty-seven percent of those ages 18 to 29 said they either moved, someone moved into their home, or they knew someone who moved because of the pandemic.
Overall, 28% of those who have moved during the pandemic say the most important reason was to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. An additional 23% say it was because their college campus closed, 20% said they wanted to be with family, and 18% said it was a financial decision driven by either a job loss or another money-related reason.
TIMBER! Structures are being made from engineered wood known as mass timber. The wood is fire resistant and 80% lighter than concrete or steel but just as strong.
What Greener Homes Are Made Of
By Joy Choquette
Tune in to the materials and practices fueling resilient, eco-friendly construction. “Being green” has become more than a catchphrase. It’s a filter through which some people, including real estate buyers, are making life choices.
As consumer interest grows in the benefits of eco-friendly, resilient commercial and residential properties, REALTORS® are getting the message. In the 2020 REALTORS® & Sustainability Report, 70% of residential agents and 74% of commercial practitioners found that promoting energy efficiency in their listings was somewhat or very valuable. Almost 60% of commercial pros said they are comfortable answering questions from clients about building performance.
In addition to finding properties that meet clients’ wants, savvy real estate pros are paying attention to construction practices and materials that are being used for sustainability features in both new and older structures.
Which green building practices should you showcase? Which cutting-edge and resilient materials are most popular now? And what’s the potential return on investment? As you share information with clients, consider three factors: location, consumer priorities, and building trends.
Know Your Area
While some things—like low-VOC paint and energy-efficient lighting—are important no matter where one is located, other aspects of green building are more location-specific. Considerations differ for building in, say, Alaska versus Alabama.
As an example, the majority of homes in Tennessee have below-ground crawl spaces rather than full basements, notes Alan Looney, president of Castle Homes in Brentwood, Tenn. They can be damp and musty despite vents to the outdoors.
To prevent moisture and increase efficiency, Looney says, owners should seal crawl spaces and floors and then place foam around the foundation. Likewise, it’s useful to bolster the insulation in attics. “By foaming the roof deck and having your mechanical systems in an air-conditioned space, the system doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the entire house,” Looney notes. The bottom line: When you’re serving green clients, you need expertise on the housing stock, as well as the green practices and materials, common in your area.
Providing a cost-benefit analysis can help determine the payoff for homeowners keen on adapting efficient systems. Looney notes that while underground rain harvesting, geothermal, and solar systems are all options, it can take years to see a return on investment. For instance, a recent geothermal project cost approximately $85,000, Looney explains, whereas a standard air-source HVAC system would have been closer to $45,000. The EPA estimates that homeowners save 30% to 70% on heating bills and 20% to 50% on cooling costs by choosing geothermal over conventional systems. With a 30% tax rebate (a federal incentive that drops to 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021), the system will take an estimated 12 years to see a financial benefit.
With so many environmental considerations, how do you help clients sort through competing priorities? Kate Stephenson, a partner at Helm Construction Solutions in Montpelier, Vt., believes the top concern for both residential and commercial clients should be air quality. Why? It affects all aspects of life, from the quality of sleep one gets at home to an employee’s ability to concentrate at work, says Stephenson, whose company focuses on sustainable project management.
Air quality issues should be addressed when older buildings are retrofitted. “As air leakage is reduced to save energy and improve comfort, adding mechanical ventilation brings in fresh air,” Stephenson says. These systems are most important in kitchens and bathrooms, where air can be stale or moist.
Castle Homes targets another overlooked part of homes for air cleaning: closets. Installing exhaust fans in closets clears the air of chemicals used by dry cleaners.
Eyes on Mass Timber
An up-and-coming construction material with potential to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint is known as mass timber. This category of engineered wood is gaining attention in the U.S. for its resiliency and efficiency—so far, mostly for large-scale construction projects. Mass timber products consist of fibers, shavings, and other thin layers of wood bound together using resin or industrial glues to make large slabs that fit together easily. The layering process makes an engineered wood stronger than traditional wood, as well as fire- and earthquake-resistant.
Though mass timber, also known as cross-laminated timber, was introduced in Europe in the 1990s, the U.S. construction industry is still learning about it. Projects using the material are moving forward, especially in the multifamily sector, but building code and supply issues remain impediments to major expansion. At the start of 2020, the U.S. had 784 mass timber multifamily, commercial, or institutional projects constructed or in design, according to the Wood Products Council.
Industry observers say as familiarity increases and materials become more available, mass timber has the potential to replace masonry, concrete, and even steel as a go-to material for flooring, walls, or entire buildings. It’s also cost-effective, as large prefabricated panels can be assembled quickly at a building site. Akin to giant Lego pieces, the panels are constructed to fit the precise dimensions needed for a project.
“We had to find a way to build smarter with science and innovation to create engineered wood products,” says Scott McIntyre, North American business director for performance materials manufacturer Hexion. The company creates resins for engineered wood products that are environmentally responsible and thermally stable. “In building and construction, we manufacture resins that allow you to use a solid tree,” notes Sydney Lindquist, sustainability leader at Hexion. “Prior to engineered wood products, only about 60% of the tree was used and the rest would be waste.”
A common environmental question around mass timber is whether forests are being cleared to produce it. Lindquist says that’s not an issue. “Sustainably harvested wood is grown very quickly. It’s not a well-known fact that sustainable forestry helps increase new growth,” she says.
Joy Choquette is a freelance writer based in Swanton, Vt.
Whether you’re hearing about low interest rates or longing for more space, you might be wondering if this is a good time to buy. Here’s what you need to know.
Are You Missing Out if You Don't Buy Now?
Not necessarily. There are many factors to consider beyond the current shifts in the market.
Zillow economists predict that home prices will most likely decrease between 2-3% through the end of the year from pre-COVID levels and slowly recover by late 2021.
The predictions include two other possible scenarios: Prices decline as much as 4% and take longer to recover, or as little as 1% and recover more quickly. For example, a home priced at $250,000 in February 2020 could be priced between $2,500 and $10,000 lower, at least through the end of the year, according to the forecast.
Which scenario plays out depends on many things, including how quickly the market reopens and whether interested buyers can still afford to purchase a home.
What the forecast doesn’t change is whether buying now or in the foreseeable future is right for you. The decision to buy depends on your personal circumstances. Trying to time the market for the best deal is something even professional investors aren’t very good at.
According to Zillow economists, the current environment poses both opportunities and challenges.
New opportunities for buyers might be out there
If demand stays strong and the crisis passes relatively quickly — both big “ifs” at this moment — then we can probably expect price growth to accelerate like it was earlier this year. If that’s the case, it might be a good time for some buyers in some markets to get ahead of any growth in home prices. Other factors that could help buyers:
Mortgage interest rates are very low, which has the potential to significantly boost your buying power.
There could be less competition for the still-limited pool of homes for sale, with many people putting plans on hold and staying home.
Sellers may be more flexible on pricing and/or timing in order to close a sale, especially if letting their home stay on the market will cost them or delay their own plans.
But the challenges could be daunting
Even with the best forecasting, we can’t know for sure how things will unfold over the coming months. If the crisis persists and social-distancing and other behaviors last through the bulk of the year, home prices may fall somewhat in response to the lack of demand from buyers. It could make sense for some buyers to wait to see if the home they’re eyeing today is available at a lower price tomorrow. Additional considerations:
Inventory is already low, and it’s unlikely that many would-be sellers will list their homes right now. That could make it harder for you to find the right home.
Mortgage interest rates are low but volatile — and lenders are working through a flood of refinance applications. For would-be buyers who secured financing in early March, this may not be as big an issue. It’ll be a lot tougher if you have not yet started the mortgage process.
Logistical hurdles need to be addressed. It may be difficult to complete the sale on time if some of the connected businesses, such as appraisals, inspections and title services, are temporarily closed due to public health orders.
If you have the time and willingness to face the current challenges, now could present some interesting opportunities. But you should have a plan to ensure you can back off or reevaluate as the situation unfolds. If you’re risk-averse or don’t feel ready, you’re likely to be more comfortable waiting until the situation is more clear.
For the most up-to-date housing market analysis, data and commentary on how the market is responding to this situation, visit Zillow Research.
Every day that passes, people have a need to buy and sell homes. That doesn’t stop during the current pandemic. If you’ve had a major life change recently, whether with your job or your family situation, you may be in a position where you need to sell your home – and fast. While you probably feel like timing with the current pandemic isn’t on your side, making a move is still possible. Rest assured, with technology at your side and fewer sellers on the market in most areas, you can list your house and make it happen safely and effectively, especially when following the current COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You may have a new baby, a new employment situation, a parent who moved in with you, you just built a home that’s finally ready to move into, or some other major part of your life that has changed in recent weeks. Buyers have those needs too, so rest assured that someone is likely looking for a home just like yours. This year, delayed listings from the typically busy spring season will push into the summer months, so more competition will be coming to the market as the pandemic passes. Getting ahead of that wave now might be your biggest opportunity.
Bottom line, homes are still being bought and sold in the midst of this pandemic. If you need to sell your house and would like to know the current status in your local market, contact us to create a safe and effective plan that works for you and your family.
Check out our "Buyers & Sellers" tab at the top of this page for more information on how to go about it!
For the past five years in a row, it has been determined that due to the Millennial generation, who represent the largest share of the home buying market, has resulted in a seismic shift in the real estate market.
Now that Spring is in full swing, Home Sellers wanting to make that fabulous first impression towards Millennials (and anyone else for that matter looking to buy a new home) a memorable and successful one, now is the time before the hot summer months arrive.
Following is an article addressing those key improvements a homeowner can make to capture the eye of young adults searching for that perfect home.
By Patti Stern
Millennials, who make up the largest share of home buyers, are looking for properties in move-in condition and want to avoid the expense of significant repairs, according to National Association of REALTORS® most recent Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study. As such, sellers may want to invest in updates that will be most appealing to these younger buyers. Our list below features the top modest home improvements to get your home noticed and boost its perceived value in a competitive market.
Enhance Curb Appeal
Make the best first impression for buyers—even before they step foot in the door—by investing in the exterior of the property by sprucing up curb appeal:
Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report lists replacing siding, garage doors, entry doors, and windows as the upgrades with the greatest return on investment.
Refresh landscaping by trimming bushes, weeding, eliminating dead shrubs/trees, and manicuring the lawn.
Power-wash and make any necessary repairs to siding, windows, walkways, and steps.
Enhance the entry with a fresh coat of on-trend paint color for the front door, and update or clean all outdoor light fixtures. Finish with a colorful welcome mat, fresh wreath, and seasonal potted plants.
Refresh the Heart of the Home
The 2020 Cost vs. Value Report also lists minor kitchen remodels as a top investment for resale. Our top kitchen upgrades for an instant boost include:
Introduce modern lighting options with fixtures in different materials (metals, woods, rattan) and geometric shapes.
Swap out dated faucets and cabinet hardware for more contemporary, full-functioning styles in trending finishes, such as matte black, brushed brass, or polished nickel.
Rather than completely replacing dark, dated, and worn cabinets, simply repaint them in a bright white or soft gray hue to brighten and enlarge the space.
Replace or refinish damaged or dull hardwood floors to make the room shine.
Give the Bathroom an Update
Potential buyers evaluate bathrooms both functionally and visually—the colors, the style, the layout, the amenities, and the fixtures.
Start by fixing leaky faucets and shower heads, worn caulking, broken toilets, or chipped tile.
Replace outdated lighting in modern designs and finishes to instantly set the mood and add sophisticated style. Pair with matching hardware and faucets to complete the look.
Change out damaged and dated countertops with marble or quartz and/or paint darker-colored vanities with an on-trend neutral or soft color (the robin egg blue pictured above is a perfect example).
Be sure the wall and/or tile color is soft and soothing to give the room a spa-like appeal.
Revive the Dining Room
Buyers want to envision where they can entertain guests. Be sure to present the dining room as spacious, inviting, and elegant.
The best way to make the space feel larger and enhance the room’s features is by covering dark walls with neutral paint. It will also pair well with bright white crown molding and/or wainscoting for an added touch of elegance.
Replace traditional chandeliers with chic, contemporary fixtures to set a more sophisticated tone.
Spruce up your dining room table with a stylish table setting to help buyers envision their own dinners here.
Create a Master Bedroom Retreat
Make the master bedroom feel like a cozy getaway with these simple changes:
Remove and/or replace heavy draperies with simple, sheer white curtains or shades that allow for a little privacy while letting in natural light.
Install stylish ceiling and bedside table lighting.
Deep-clean soiled carpeting to restore plushness, or add a neutral, textured area rug to hardwood floors.
Layer fluffy, white bedding with accent pillows and soft throws in different colors and patterns.
Once all the updates are complete, you can hire a professional home stager to add in some finishing touches before listing the home for sale. Home stagers can add inviting, modern furnishings and accents that set out to help buyers emotionally connect with a home.
Patti Stern: Patti is a principal of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating.
Not only will homebuyers consider moving out of the city and into the suburbs, we can expect a surge of out-of-stater's looking to get away from the more populated neighboring southern states and venture to more rural surroundings. Partly due to the fact, they've come to the realization they can still perform their jobs by working remotely from their homes! So, why not live where you play!
Homebuyers who enter the market after the risk of COVID-19 has diminished will have a whole new set of priorities for their home search.
There's no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed our way of life. It's shifted our priorities in everything from work to love. Even once the virus subsides, the effects of this experience will be long-lasting.
In particular, sheltering in place has made us think about the concept of home in a new light. There's little doubt that homebuyers who enter the market after the risk of COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror will have a whole new set of priorities in place for their home search.
Here are seven priorities you can expect to become prevalent in future home searches:
1.) Let There Be Light (and Space)
When city dwellers who never spent much time at home were expected to make their homes their sole destination, many quickly discovered a newfound appreciation for sunlight and living space. It wouldn't be surprising to see a lot of studio apartment dwellers hoping to upgrade to larger abodes in the months following the pandemic. In general, expect a trend toward light-filled, airy homes with views of something other than the neighboring alley.
2.) A Space for Cooking
If social media is any indication, there are a lot of us becoming newly acquainted with our kitchens as the virus has eliminated the ability to go out to eat, and even trimmed our takeout options. While kitchens are often called the heart of the home, after we've grown accustomed to cooking several meals a day, expect a continued trend toward large open kitchens where families can gather to cook together. A pantry and abundant cabinet space will be critical for storing large quantities of food and easy-to-use, efficient appliances will make the entire process – from prep to clean-up – a breeze.
3.) The Quest for Privacy
Anyone sheltering in place with loved ones knows that privacy is precious these days. Those who once considered separate bedrooms for each kiddo a luxury might have a new set of priorities in a post-coronavirus world. Even a den, bonus room or finished basement can be a boon when family members need a timeout from non-stop family time.
4.) Energy Efficiency
People who normally spend long hours away from home might be surprised to see a bump in their utility bills during shelter-in-place. Working from home, cooking more often and binge-watching Netflix all adds up in terms of electricity, water and gas use, and even trash collection. As temperatures get warmer, the impact on electric bills will be even more apparent. Future homebuyers would do well to consider the energy efficiency of their new house, and even small touches like proper weatherstripping and double-pane windows can lead to sizable savings.
5.) Space for Working Out
For many in quarantine, a significant decrease in activity is more than a vanity issue – it's a mental health issue. While a home gym fully stocked with the latest equipment is a dream-home scenario, a small space with a TV, floor mats and weights can still provide a much-needed break during tense times.
6.) Outdoor Space
Private outdoor space is a godsend when leaving your home can seem downright dangerous. Even a small balcony provides the ability to bask in sunlight and fresh air. Those with larger yards will feel especially grateful that kids and pets have space to stretch their legs. One thing to keep in mind for expansive yards, however, is the ability to maintain them if service providers are unable to visit your home. States and municipalities have disagreed when it comes to designating landscapers and pool maintenance providers as essential, so homeowners should be prepared to handle basic tasks on their own.
7.) Home Office Space
Well before COVID-19, the American workforce had been leaning toward freelance work and jobs that can be done, at least part-time, from home. Now that shelter-in-place orders have made long-term working from home a necessity for many, homeowners will be on the lookout for properties that effortlessly accommodate business needs. This will usually start with a private, quiet space for an office or dedicated work area. Technologyis also crucial, so homes with ample electrical outlets and high-speed Wi-Fi equipment or hardwired Ethernet connections will earn high marks.
Life after the coronavirus pandemic will no doubt require a long period of economic recovery and personal adjustment. For many, new homes to suit our new normal will be the first step in that transition.
Lisa Larson is a licensed associate real estate broker for Warburg Realty in New York City. Ranking as a Top 5 broker firm-wide for each of the past four years, including Warburg Realty's No. 1 Top Producer in 2017, her strong command of the market has led her to sell an average of $50 million in residential sales per year.
If you are owed a refund, the IRS asks that you file your taxes as soon as possible. Most refunds are still being issued within 21 days, according to the agency.
"Even with the filing deadline extended, we urge taxpayers who are owed refunds to file as soon as possible and file electronically," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a press release last week. "Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds. Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical operations to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds."
If you do need more time, however, there's no penalty for filing your taxes up until July 15. If you need more time beyond that, you can request an extension by filing Form 4868 through your tax software, your tax professional or the Free File link on IRS.gov.
After years of chrome, stainless steel, and nickel being the shining stars of interior metals, brass is back and starting to steal the show.
As with many home furnishings trends, the comeback was inspired by what’s occurring in fashion. In this case, gold and rose gold watches became influencers a few years ago, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal Design, who thinks that home furnishings styles tend to be cyclical. Now he’s adding small brass details to rooms in the same way a gold watch might peek out of a shirt cuff.
Using brass now is an easy, affordable way for homeowners to customize and stay on trend. “Many people want a warmer look, which is also visible in fabrics as warmer colors return,” Segal says.
Erin Imhof, showroom supervisor at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Lansdale, Pa., has noted an increase in brass finishes. She attributes it to how they complement a wide range of colors and other finishes. “Many of today’s top color trends for kitchens and bathrooms, including all-white, blue, and black, pair beautifully with brass fixtures,” she says.
Others concur that brass is a universal mixer. “Our designers like to integrate brass into their designs, whether it’s an accent like a decorative bowl, object of art, light fixture, or metal base on an end table,” says Julie Sprouse, design sales manager at Ethan Allen, the home furnishings chain based in Danbury, Conn.
Caitie Smithe, a design coordinator and stylist at the Walter E. Smithe Furniture + Design retailer based in Itasca, Ill., also considers brass a material that can be used throughout a home, including light fixtures, hardware, and even light switches and vent controls. Other good places to use brass include bathroom hardware, plumbing fixtures such as sinks, and accessory details like candleholders or picture frames.
Here are five tips for using brass.
1. Use sparingly. Brass works best when used in small doses. Too much can create a “too matchy-matchy” look, according to Smithe. Overuse can make it start to look cheap, says Segal. “Moderation is key,” he says.
2. Mix finishes. Brass appears more timeless rather than trendy when it’s matte, brushed, or aged, which helps soften its sheen, Segal says. But be careful, Smithe says, when mixing brasses in a single space from different manufacturers. “There is a huge range in color and brightness. Some take on a bright yellow color while others can be more of an aged gold,” she says.
3. Combine warm metal colors. Brass, gold, and bronze can work well together since they share similar warm values versus shiny nickel, which leans toward the colder side, says Sprouse.
4. Mix metals. Some designers also think brass, satin, brushed nickel, stainless steel, and oil-rubbed bronze can be used together. But Imhoff still offers some caution. “Go with similar warm, muted undertones for some consistency,” she says. Chicago designer Summer Thornton likes mixing metals, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms where she might use brass, nickel, and steel combinations.
5. Consider longevity. How long brass will stay fashionable is unknown. When it becomes too ubiquitous in retail stores, shelter magazines, and on design websites, it may be time to move on. The good news is that brass touches are easy to add in and switch out.
Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).
Don't let Hackers get the best of you. Following is an article from REALTOR Magazine alerting homeowners on their devious ways.
Cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies has found a surge in coronavirus-themed malware and malicious software that is targeting the growing number of people working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Cybercriminals are infecting home computers that may not have the same safeguards that employees use at their offices.
“The hackers are out in force, and they know that everybody’s home, so I think working from home without appropriate security is a risk,” Beth McCarty, owner of TeamLogic IT/Central Pinellas in Clearwater, Fla., told realtor.com®.
Phishing emails continue to prey on individuals, security experts warn. Hackers are sending out emails impersonating charities. They’re making requests for money or other personal information. For example, one reported scam purports to be an app by Johns Hopkins University that tracks the coronavirus and urges people to download a file or to click on the link, which contains malicious malware. Some cybercriminals are also hijacking video conferences, displaying pornography.
Check Point Software Technologies’ research shows that more than 4,000 coronavirus-related domains had been registered globally. Three percent were found to be malicious and 5% were labeled “suspicious.”
While companies offer in-house internet networks, many people who are working at home don’t have that same type of security in their home networks. Also, many households are now sharing devices among family members, and aren’t just using them for work. Children may be using devices to access classroom portals or for entertainment.
What can you do?
“Make sure you change that default password on your router,” McCarty told realtor.com®. “Many people have not.”
She also recommends enabling encryption on the router, using two-factor authentication to access programs, not storing any company information on your personal device, and using only approved company storage.
Don't fall prey to these scammers. Below is an article from REALTOR Magazine alerting homeowners of their tactics and how not to be a victim to their schemes!
Scam artists are reportedly using multiple methods, including spoofing tactics, to try to trick struggling homeowners with offers of financial aid. Freddie Mac warned this week that it learned of a scam where borrowers were receiving fraudulent calls impersonating the mortgage financing giant in offering low interest rates and other false promises.
Freddie Mac says it will never reach out to consumers over the phone with a refinancing opportunity or a new loan.
As some homeowners struggle from the economic toll of the COVID-19 outbreak, scammers are looking to take advantage of those looking for help. They may call owners offering immediate relief from foreclosure or relief from making mortgage payments.
Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and many lenders are offering programs to help homeowners at this time, but those calls need to be initiated by the owner.
“Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID in an effort to disguise their identity while pretending to be someone else,” Freddie Mac warns in a statement about the growing scam.
“During times of distress, it is important to be on your guard against fraud schemes,” Freddie Mac says in a post.
Here are some tips from Freddie Mac to help homeowners avoid being scammed:
If a call comes from an unknown number, let it go to voicemail. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message.
If you answer and receive a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Hang up.
Never give out any personal, financial, or other sensitive information unless you’ve verified the caller is a legitimate source.
Be cautious of numbers on your caller ID since scammers can make any name or number appear.