Month: January 2017

5 ways the housing market will be different in 2017

By Devon Thorsby

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A view of the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO neighborhood on June 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.Drew Angerer/Getty Image

 

The end of a year always has people wondering what the next will bring. And after a year like 2016 – with its political upsets, social uncertainty and international instability – many are desperately looking forward to a change in 2017.

Unlike other major points of discussion in the news, real estate maintained an overall positive trend throughout 2016, with home prices increasing 4.8 percent over the course of the year through November, according to real estate information site Zillow. Results from Zillow’s most recent Home Price Expectations Survey of more than 100 economic and housing experts shows home values likely increasing by 3.6 percent in 2017 – continued growth, but slower than the past year.

Real estate functions in a cycle – both seasonally and over several years – and 2017 isn’t expected to break that pattern in any significant way. However, the year will most likely lead us into a new curve of the cycle, with higher interest rates supported by faster wage and job growth than recent years.

Many expect President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to ease some lending restrictions, which would make it easier for lenders to issue mortgages, but nothing is certain in the lead-up to Inauguration Day. While we wait to see how policy changes may affect the real estate industry and homeownership, here are five things to expect from housing in 2017.

 

1. Interest rates will go up

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And don’t hold your breath for them to go down in the foreseeable future. To properly follow inflation rates and support a positively functioning economy, interest rates have to tick upward, meaning we’re likely going to see an increase of as much as a full percentage point by the end of the year. On Dec. 14, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates by 25 basis points, with expectations to increase rates three more times by the end of 2017. Recent memory is filled with near-historically low interest rates, so any increase may seem like a big deal.

“It’s going to crimp some of those first-time homebuyers,” but negatively affect a relatively small group due to general economic growth, says Steve Rick, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group, which builds financial products for credit unions nationwide.

Luxury real estate, where new property development has been largely focused following the recession, remains mostly unaffected by increasing mortgage rates, as the hikes aren’t significant enough to make a major impact.

“One thousand dollars for somebody who’s buying a $4 million apartment does not make a difference. It does make a difference to a $1 million buyer, because $290 [more in your mortgage payment] is your car, your school, your transportation costs or your monthly internet bill,” says Victoria Shtainer, a luxury real estate agent for Compass in New York City.

Those who should act fast to take advantage of current interest rates are homeowners with an adjustable rate mortgage. Rick suggests refinancing your mortgage to secure a fixed rate and avoid what’s expected to be at least three years of increasing interest rates.

“Even though [your rate] might be slightly higher now, in the long run you’ll be better [off],” Rick says. “Your rates by 2019 could be 2.5 percent higher than they are now, and nobody wants that.”

2. Cities will increase in density, leading to more buyers in the suburbs

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Flickr/Timmy Caldwell

Continuously growing property values means many homebuyers and renters will have to choose between prime location, space and affordability.

“When they’re looking for new homes, they want something they can afford, and oftentimes that means settling for something that’s a little bit smaller,” says Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist.

Zillow predicts development in cities will remain focused around key points for public transportation, and as a result of limited space, this will create denser housing options in city settings.

But as prices continue to climb in those already pricey urban centers, millennials – who Gudell expects to be the largest buyer group in 2017 – are likely to look to the suburbs for more affordable alternatives.

 

3. New development will ease demand

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An aerial view of The Villages retirement community in Central Florida.Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Low inventory of available housing has been a key factor in the rapidly increasing housing costs following the recession, but the coming year should bring some easing of that demand. The National Association of Home Builders predicts 1.24 million housing starts in 2017, compared to the projected 1.16 million starts in 2016.

New development for multifamily housing, including apartments and condominiums, also remains high. “New apartments are hitting the market all the time, and that’s easing some of the supply constraints we’ve seen. It’s going to make rents grow at a slower pace,” Gudell says.

Shtainer notes she has finally begun seeing more properties coming to the market in New York at a slightly more affordable price because many are one-bedroom apartments. Still, she says smaller units are in such high demand that they get snapped up quickly.

“Most of the products like that get eaten up and digested quickly because we haven’t had that product in a long time, because the majority of development was three bedrooms, $15 million and up and super-luxury,” Shtainer says.

Luxury residential development is still expected throughout the U.S. But with slowing demand, prices likely won’t increase at the same pace they have over the last few years.

 

4. Rental affordability will improve but remain tough

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Rental rates are expected to slow in 2017, according to Zillow, but it’s important to keep in mind that many major cities for renting like New York and San Francisco are already considered unaffordable for many renters.

“Even as rental affordability won’t deteriorate further, it’ll still remain bad. So a lot of these markets will remain unaffordable in a rental sense for this coming year as well,” Gudell says.

 

5. Optimism will have a big impact

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Despite 2016 being a year full of surprises – some good and others bad – expectations for the economy remain positive, which is positive for housing.

“Even though rates are up, which is going to choke off a little bit of housing demand, what’s upsetting that is strong job growth, strong wage growth and strong optimism,” Rick says.

Confidence is half the battle when it comes to real estate, as people don’t want to move or purchase a new property if they’re concerned values will go down.

Shtainer says she expects to see a resurgence of international investors in U.S. real estate, despite a decrease in overseas buyers in recent months caused by political uncertainty both in the U.S. and abroad.

“They see that the economy is booming, and they see a lot of optimism going into 2017,” she says.

 

 

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From the Credit Check to Getting the Keys: Answers for the Big First-Time Homebuying Questions

By Brittney Morgan

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New to the home-buying process? If you’re ready to start looking for your dream home—or if you’re just looking to learn more about how buying a home works for the future—there’s a lot you’ll need to know. The process is long and can be as stressful and confusing as it is exciting. Sometimes you’ll feel like celebrating, while other times you’ll feel like you’re drowning in paperwork, but in the end, when you finally close on your new home, it’ll all be worth it. In the meantime, you’ll probably have a lot of questions come up, so here’s what you need to know.

What’s the first step in the process?

If you haven’t started doing research about homes and mortgages or saving up money, those should be your first steps. But, if you’re ready to really get into the home-buying process and have some down payment money saved up, your first step is to talk to your bank and different mortgage companies and mortgage brokers to find out your lending options and get pre-approved for a loan.

Can I buy a home if I don’t have great credit?

If your credit score is below 700, you’ll be at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, or you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan if you have poor credit that’s still above a score of 580, but you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance (which protects the lender) which will cost you.

What are points?

Points, or discount points, are fees that the buyer pays to the lender during closing in exchange for a reduced interest rate on their mortgage. One point is the equivalent of 1% of your mortgage amount, and while they cost money up front, they can save you potentially thousands of dollars in the long run.

What is a foreclosure?

When a homeowner fails to pay their mortgage, their home is foreclosed on—it’s a legal process in which the homeowner gives up the rights to their home. If the homeowner can’t pay the balance or sell the home, it goes to auction. Prospective homeowners can buy foreclosed homes—it’s one option for getting a great deal on a home, but it can also be extremely risky. If you’re considering buying a foreclosure, HomeFinder has a great breakdown of all the related issues.

What does a Realtor do?

Realtors handle negotiations between home buyers and sellers. When Realtors represent buyers, they help their clients find the best property for them at the best price, and navigate them through the offer and closing process. Realtors representing sellers market their client’s property, help them find qualified buyers, and help them get the best price for their property.

Who pays the Realtor?

According to Realtor.com, the seller is generally responsible for paying the Realtor’s fees and commissions, since the Realtor represents them and helps them make the sale. The seller’s realtor typically splits their commission with the buyer’s realtor—that’s how the person representing the buyer makes money on the deal.

What is earnest money?

An earnest money deposit, or good faith deposit, is a deposit the buyer makes once their offer is accepted in order to show the seller they’re committed to buying the property. The deposit means that it’s unlikely a buyer would enter into multiple purchase contracts on multiple homes at once (which would take all of those homes off the market). Once the sale goes through—a.k.a. at closing—the earnest money deposit is applied towards the down payment.

How long does it take to close?

A 2016 study from Realtor Mag shows that the average closing time is around 50 days, and the time to close depends on funding, appraisal disparities, and more. You can help speed up your closing by addressing any title issues and repairs.

What happens at closing?

At closing (also known as the settlement) the buyer provides a check for what they owe on the home, the seller signs over the deed to the home to the buyer, the title company registers the new deed to the home, and the seller receives any proceeds they earned from the sale. According to the Home Buying Institute, it’s a lot of paperwork and you’ll likely sign your (full) name anywhere from 10 to 30 times. Get your arm ready.

Who pays closing costs?

Both the seller and the buyer have closing costs to pay, but they differ a lot. According to Zillow, the seller’s costs are usually higher (since they pay the Realtor’s commission) but they cover less costs in general. The buyer, on the other hand, pays for more line items. Those items include several fees, from appraisal fees and origination fees to bank processing fees and title insurance.

How much does the inspection cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a home inspection in 2016 was $318, but could cost as low as $200 or as much as $470.

Who pays for the inspection?

Since the inspection is to benefit you, the buyer, you’ll pay the cost of the inspection (it’ll likely come out of pocket ahead of your closing)—although you may be able to negotiate to have the seller pay it, but it’s unlikely.

What and when is the final walk-through?

The final walk-through takes place after the inspection and is usually scheduled for the day before closing. This is your opportunity to check the house before the settlement, to make sure everything is in good shape and that any repairs the seller was required to make were completed.

Do I need homeowners insurance?

It’s often required, but not always (although, even if it’s not required in your area, it is a good—nay, really good idea). Homeowners insurance can help protect your home in case of damage from fire and natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, also from liability in case someone gets injured on your property, and it generally doesn’t cost that much to get a policy.

When do I get the keys?

Usually, you’ll get the keys to your new home at closing, or after closing if you need to wait until your county officially records the title (which could take a few days) or if there’s a delay with your loans. It all depends on local laws and your mortgage.

NYC real estate agents turn Snapchat into a listing tool

By Sean Barry

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Dive Brief:

  • A handful of real estate agents in New York City are using the mobile image messaging application Snapchat to show homes for sale or rent, including multimillion-dollar properties, according to CNBC.
  • The Snaplistings account gives followers an inside look at available apartments and allows them to connect directly with the real estate agents to learn more.
  • The account’s founders told CNBC that the majority of leads coming through the app are focused on the lower end of the market, since those properties are more accessible to Snapchat’s younger audience.

Dive Insight:

The recent increase in investment and development concerning mobile, web-based tools for real estate is being driven by competitive market conditions and an influx of tech-savvy homebuyers and renters. Younger buyers and renters are more likely than previous generations to engage with internet tools when looking for a new property, a recent Zillow survey found.

Last month, real estate listing website Zillow announced that it had revamped its app to feature iMessage functionality. Now, users with iOS-based mobile devices can use the app to share photos and information concerning a home for sale or rent with their regular contacts via text messaging.

Meanwhile, Realtor.com launched an automated response application for Facebook Messenger that allows users of its Doorsteps rental listing website to receive new home listings that meet their preset criteria at a set time each day through the social media platform’s web and mobile app.

 

Should I Refinance My Mortgage Even if It Only Saves Me $50/Month?

By Mark Fitzpatrick updated January 11, 2017

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Does it make sense to refinance your mortgage if you are only saving a small amount a month, like $50? The best way to answer this question is with an answer to another question.

Answer this question first: How long do you plan on keeping your property?

It’s best to try and answer this question because the answer will have everything to do with whether or not refinancing with a small monthly savings makes sense for you.

Many people refinance to lower their payment, which helps their overall monthly obligations. Others look to refinance in order to pay less interest over the life of the mortgage, since even a small reduction to the interest rate can mean savings tens of thousands over the long-term.

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Let’s Look at an Example

If you are in a position where you don’t need the monthly savings to help your monthly obligations, then you should apply that savings to your new mortgage. If you apply the monthly savings to your new mortgage principal balance, it has a tremendous benefit to your term.

Let’s use the example of a 30-year mortgage with a balance of $150,000 that was taken out about a year ago, at an interest rate of 4%. The new mortgage rate would go down to 3.5% and reduce the monthly payment $77.81.

Normally, a $77.81 monthly savings wouldn’t make sense to most people, but the trick is to apply that to your new payment. Doing this will reduce the term just over 5 years! Yes, that is like turning your mortgage into a 25-year term. Most people don’t realize that they should look at refinancing, even if the monthly savings is very small. Applying even the smallest amount to your mortgage will reduce the term and pay it off earlier.

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Conclusion

Does it make sense to refinance your mortgage, even if you are only lowering your payment a small amount? Absolutely! If you plan on keeping the property for a long time, just applying a small savings to the new mortgage payment will reduce the term, pay less interest, pay off the mortgage sooner, and build equity faster.

The Renovations That Will Pay Off the Most for Your Home in 2017

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New year, new home improvement projects? Whether you’re dying to update your kitchen, add a half-bath, or kick back on a brand-new deck, it pays off big-time knowing just what kind of return on investment your dream renovation might deliver. And you’re in luck, because Remodeling magazine has just released its annual Cost vs. Value report, which analyzes what you’ll pay for various upgrades—and how much you’ll recoup on that investment when you sell your home.

For this much-read report (which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary), researchers scrutinized 29 popular home improvements in 99 markets nationwide, polling contractors on how much they charge for these jobs as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features boost a home’s market price. From there, they divided each project’s upfront cost by the home’s resale value; the resulting percentage gives you a sense of how well each particular reno “investment” pays off.

There wasn’t a lot of change between the 2017 report and its 2016 predecessor, with most projects retaining their value.

But what is noteworthy is that the value of pricier projects rose significantly over last year, says Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling. He believes this indicates that the housing market is healthier and more bullish than ever.

“When the market is hot, Realtors® are more likely to give value to more expensive renovation projects, because they expect that the market will stay hot and people will pay the price,” he explains. “When the market is cool, Realtors tend to put less value on those big-dollar projects, because they have concerns about whether the house will get sold in any state.”

Still, the perennial chart toppers for ROI are the cheapest to pull off. This year (as last), the No.1 finisher was installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic. Not exactly sexy, but boy, is it cost-effective! In fact, this is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.

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This pink insulation won’t put you in the red.DonNichols/iStock

Next up is replacing a run-of-the-mill entry door with an attractive yet tough steel replacement at 90.7%, followed by manufactured stone veneer at 89.4%. Glamorous, no. Valuable, very.

Yet homeowners all need to come to grips with the fact that most renovations won’t pay them back in full. On average, in 2017, you can expect to get back 64% on every dollar you plow into home improvements (same as last year).

Plus, your returns will vary widely by project—and sorry to bring your expectations down another notch, but the payoff on big, alluring, “HGTV-ready” renovations isn’t so great. Adding a bathroom, for instance, will bring only a 53.9% ROI when you sell; a master suite, 64.8%.

Top renovation trends nationwide
Remodeling’s report also points to broader renovation trends that seem to be catching on nationwide. One definitely worth watching is energy efficiency—including simple jobs like adding insulation.

“We added [the category of] attic insulation only last year, and we were surprised at how well it did,” Webb says. Similar projects are installing better-insulated windows and doors.

One new category this year speaks to another hot trend: universal design, which ensures that a home’s features can be used just as easily by the elderly and disabled as anyone else. That means things like grip bars in showers, lever-style doorknobs, and wider, wheelchair-friendly doors. A universally designed bathroom, for instance, reaps a respectable 68.4% ROI.

“This is the first year we’ve included universal design, and it’s truly a rising category,” says Webb. “It’s based on a growing desire to age in place and a greater awareness of people with disabilities.”

Last but not least, the 2017 data suggest that “curb appeal” projects (such as new doors and exterior siding) generate higher returns than improvements done on a home’s interior. In other words, it really isn’t what’s on the inside that counts. If you’re trying to sell, pretty up the outside and it’ll pay off in spades.

How to decide if you need to renovate

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Fancy new garage doors could be a good investment depending on where you live.hikesterson/iStock

So if you’re now sitting there scratching your head wondering which upgrades to make, take a step back and ask yourself this question first: How long do you plan to live in your home?

“If you see yourself keeping the house for at least five years, you shouldn’t worry about value at all,” Webb says. The reason: Housing trends and fads can change dramatically in this amount of time, so what’s hot today could be passé all too soon. So if you plan to stay put, renovate however will make you happy, period.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to sell in less than five years, “then looking at the return makes sense,” says Webb. Just keep in mind that tastes vary widely by location, so it’s important to pinpoint what’s hot in your area (which is why Remodeling breaks down its data into nine U.S. regions). For instance, composite decks may be big in the Midwest, whereas the South is gaga over new garage doors. As Webb points out, “Every one of the 29 projects had at least one market where the payback was over 100%. So every project got love somewhere.”

Check out this chart below to get a sense of how much various midlevel renovations will cost, and pay you back down the road.

 

4 Ways to Survive Future Real Estate Market Crashes

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BY LARRY ALTON

The real estate market may be very healthy compared to what it was five years ago, but that doesn’t mean we’re in some sort of eternal bliss. There will be rough patches ahead — and likely a couple more crashes in your lifetime — but how can you as an investor safeguard yourself against them?

4 Ways to Protect Yourself

“Historically, economic activity rises and falls in marked business cycles,” senior market strategist Susan Green explains. “Periods of recession appear and recede approximately every 5-10 years.” Thus, it’s reasonable to expect that we’ll encounter some economic issues in the next few years. They may not be as dramatic as what happened in 2008, but reverberations will likely be felt in the real estate market.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can protect yourself.

1. Buy properties that rent below the median.

You have to think one step ahead of the market. While it’s a good rule of thumb to have the best property on the street, you don’t want to be stuck charging a rent that’s higher than the median in the area. This may be fine during times when the market is healthy, but you’ll get swallowed up when the market falters.

People still need a place to live in a down market, but they’re naturally going to gravitate towards what they can afford. By purchasing properties that rent below the median, you can maintain steady occupancy rates, regardless of what’s happening in the larger economy.

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2. Be the best landlord possible.

It pays to be a good person. When you’re a likeable landlord who works with people, deals with maintenance issues in a swift manner, and charges affordable rent, people are more likely to stick with you when the market turns.

Related: How to Make Money in Real Estate — Whether You’re in an Up OR Down Market

On the contrary, if you’re a jerk and tenants are just renting from you because you were the only option at the time, they’re going to bolt the moment they can. Focus on building a strong reputation now so that you’re better equipped to survive a potential crash.

3. Be realistic with cash flow numbers.

When purchasing a new property, it doesn’t do anyone any favors to plug in vague numbers to determine monthly cash flow. Be conservative and honest.

“You should sit down at the computer, open a spreadsheet, and factor in all your expenses,” real estate investor Jason Hanson says. “What is insurance going to cost? Is there an HOA fee on the house? Are you getting a home warranty? You want to know down to the penny what your cash flow will be on a property.”

When the market does eventually take a downturn and rental rates decrease, you’ll at least know that you have some play in your numbers. On the other hand, if you were liberal with your computations, you’ll find yourself underwater in very little time.

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4. Pay down mortgages when possible.

There’s always the question of whether it makes more sense to pay down on an existing mortgage or put that money into a new piece of real estate. While there are schools of thought that apply to both, consider paying down rental property mortgages when you can. This gives you some leverage if the market crashes and you have difficulty making payments.

Related: The Best and Worst Markets for Residential Real Estate Investors, 2016

 

Never Put All of Your Eggs in the Same Basket

At the end of the day, financial diversification is your friend. Real estate may be one of the more stable and appreciation-friendly investments you can make, but don’t put everything you have into real estate. Spread yourself out a bit and diversify as much as possible. This mitigates your risk and provides more tolerance in a down market.

Applying for a Mortgage Loan? Do These 3 Things Ahead of Time.

BY MARK FITZPATRICK

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There’s no question that applying for a home loan can be a paperwork intensive process. If you’re in the market to refinance or purchase a 1-4 unit residential property in the near future, the following are some good things to do ahead of time to help streamline and speed up the loan application process.

1. Run your credit.

Credit plays a big role in qualifying for a home loan, so it’s important to check your credit report before you apply to make sure there aren’t any mistakes or inaccuracies that could hinder your chances of getting the loan.

You can obtain a copy of your credit report for free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.

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2. Pull together a “real estate owned” spreadsheet.

If you own multiple properties, it will greatly streamline the loan application process if you pull together a spreadsheet ahead of time with the following information about the various properties you own:

  • Property address
  • Type of property (single-family, multi-unit, condo, etc.)
  • Disposition (rented, pending sale, or sold already)
  • Loan balance
  • Estimated market value
  • Gross monthly rent
  • Principal and interest mortgage payment
  • Annual taxes and insurance
  • Monthly mortgage insurance or HOA payment if applicable
  • Loan number and lender (for matching it up to your credit report)

This information is required on the standard 1003 loan application, and your loan consultant will need to match properties to loans on your credit report. Putting this together ahead of time will save you and your loan consultant time and will help streamline the application process.

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3. Gather up qualifying documentation.

Yes, there is a lot of paperwork that goes into a home loan. And yes, it can be kind of a pain to pull it all together. That’s why I recommend assembling it ahead of time and keeping it in a file you can grab quickly if you’re going to be applying for a loan in the near future.

The following is what a lender will generally need from you to get the ball rolling on a new loan:

  • Full tax returns for the last two years for all borrowers
  • Last two years W2s (if applicable)
  • Most recent month’s worth of pay stubs (if applicable)
  • Last two months’ worth of statements for asset accounts (if the loan you’re applying for is for an investment property, the lender will need to document adequate reserves)
  • Recent mortgage statement for all properties you own (to verify the payment amounts)
  • First page of homeowner’s insurance policy (if a refinance) or contact information for the insurance company (if a purchase)
  • Purchase agreement and real estate agent contact information (if a purchase)

Additional documentation may be requested depending on your situation and qualifications, but this is typically the minimum needed.

If your tax returns are complex and you don’t have them pulled together in one place already, a good way to save yourself time is to have your loan consultant work directly with your accountant to get the needed documentation.

10 Beautiful Kitchens with Dark Hardwood Floors

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Hardwood is one of the best types of flooring that you can choose for your kitchen. It instantly lends kitchens classic beauty, warmth, and an upscale flair, plus it never goes out of style. Dark hardwood flooring has the potential to have a huge design impact and it will wear well throughout the years — if you have kids or pets, you’ll be thankful to have it. Those who cook or bake often will also find hardwood invaluable when it comes time to clean.

Though there are numerous benefits to going with dark hardwood floors in the kitchen, many homeowners steer away from it because of the perceived design troubles that will follow. Will you have to get dark cabinets to match? Will going too dark with the flooring overwhelm the space? The answer to both questions is “no”, as this type of flooring looks great in kitchens of all sizes and styles. Here are ten beautiful kitchens with dark hardwood floors that will make you want to upgrade your kitchen.

1. Modern farmhouse style

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The finish on the flooring in this kitchen is the perfect match for its laid back, relaxed modern farmhouse style. A varied tile backsplash and white cabinets were chosen to pair with the flooring, and overhead exposed beams featuring dark wood mirror what’s below. Pops of color placed throughout the space keep things interesting and cheery, and the metallic light fixtures in the center of the kitchen are the perfect touch.

2. A grand island

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The only thing more noticeable than the gorgeous dark hardwood floors in this kitchen is the massive island near the middle of it. This would be a dream for anyone who thinks they currently lack counter space, and the many storage nooks and drawers integrated into it provide ultimate convenience. Elsewhere in the room are cabinets that match the style of the island, stainless steel appliances, and white subway tiles.

3. A striking pair

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A bold floor can handle a bold area rug, such as this huge Aztec inspired one. The floor underneath it features a very dark stain, as do the open shelves near the kitchen sink. It was a good idea to choose white cabinets to balance out the color of the flooring, and adding in the area rug was even more brilliant. It’s so lively and vibrant that little else in the way of decoration is needed in this kitchen.

4. Simply chic

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If you like classic, timeless designs that are simple and elegant, you can’t go wrong by choosing dark hardwood floors for your kitchen. As this space shows, it’s the perfect complement for traditional decor. A farmhouse style sink, white cabinetry with clean lines, and gorgeous marble and tile work together to create a kitchen that’s not only attractive but inviting. A few well placed floral arrangements complete the look.

5. Contemporary flair

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Even contemporary kitchens can look amazing with dark hardwood floors, and this one takes it a step further by including cabinets that are dark as well. It’s a daring move that pays off in terms of style. Another standout feature of this kitchen is its coat of rich orange paint, which beautifully complements the tone of the wood. Stainless steel appliances and a large piece of art work tie everything together and keep the design fresh.

6. The perfect mix

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If you can’t decide between whether to go with light or dark cabinets after getting dark hardwood floors, why not choose both? This stunning kitchen has an island with dark cabinets that matches the tone of the wood as well as white ones. The interesting detail is the tops of the cabinetry: the white cabinets feature dark tops while the dark island has a white top. The look is incredibly well balanced and the other fixtures and finishes throughout the space give the kitchen even more style.

7. Casual and relaxed

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The warmth of dark hardwood floors is what makes them so suitable for kitchens with a casual and relaxed vibe. This design is very stylish and trendy, but it’s also a welcoming space that anyone would feel comfortable being in. The tones of the floors, table, and bar stools work well together, and they’re complemented by the style of the light fixtures in the space. Not only does this design look gorgeous, the kitchen is very well organized to make cooking, entertaining, and socializing a breeze.

8. Open and bright

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The floors in this kitchen are quite dark, but it’s a stunning contrast to the gleaming stainless steel, white cabinets, and marble seen elsewhere in the space. A coat of light beige paint and ample sunlight streaming in through the windows allow the kitchen to feel spacious and airy. Vibrant accents in turquoise and shades of green also brighten up the room.

9. Simply well done

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You don’t need a huge kitchen to have dark hardwood floors or to obtain a beautiful look. This kitchen is rather compact, but it’s still well organized, chic, and dripping in style. Its clean look is part of what makes this design so notable, as was the choice to go with slate lower cabinets to contrast with the wood flooring. The upper cabinets are white, but they have slate colored shelves to tie the look together.

If your kitchen is modestly sized, follow the example set in this design and keep it simple on your counters and with your decor. Too much decor will overwhelm the space and look cluttered, but a carefully curated selection of accessories will look fantastic.

10. Beautiful marble

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Marble pairs exceptionally well with dark hardwood floors, as this design shows. The counters and backsplash are a beautiful marble, while the floors have a deep and rich stain. The contemporary space gets a boost from plenty of color placed throughout the room in the form of pottery, and an area rug near the sink adds another element of visual interest. Choosing natural window treatments helped the kitchen look more modern and balanced.

How to Create a Warm, Inviting Winter Listing

By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

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A Welcoming Curb Appeal

Maintain a polished look by keeping gutters clean and shrubs trimmed. Be sure to also remove any hazards by shoveling, sanding, and removing any ice or snow from the driveway, walkways, and sidewalks. To engage buyers on a gloomy day, keep the front porch well lit, use potted evergreens or berry branches, a wreath on the door, lanterns, and a seasonal welcome mat.

Simple and Elegant Holiday Decor

Do not overdo! Buyers want to see the home’s permanent features and a fireplace or window covered with too many ribbons and stockings will distract from key focal points. Instead, incorporate elegant finishing touches such as mercury glass votives and ornaments for some sparkle paired with candles, pine cones, berries and twigs.

Create Warmth With Lighting

Use modest lighting as an accent to create an inviting ambience. Scatter a few lightly scented tea lights in votives, candles in varying heights on beautiful pillars or lanterns and soft white string lights on the front porch, entry stairway or fireplace.

Splashes of Minimal Color

Too much traditional green and red can compete with existing decor and command a room’s attention. A couple of red plaid throw pillows or a red wool blanket draped on the sofa will add just enough festive pop. We also love using silver and gold paired with fresh, white seasonal flowers to complement freshly painted neutral walls that appeal to nearly all buyers.

Keep It Bright

With shorter days, let in as much natural light as possible by opening blinds and curtains. Make sure that all lights are working, light bulbs have been changed, and be sure that the property is well lit both inside and out for late afternoon showings.