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2018 Real Estate ~ What Will it Bring?

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Real Estate 2018: What to Expect

 

As we head into a new year, the most common question we receive is, “What’s the outlook for real estate in 2018?”

It’s not just potential buyers and sellers who are curious; homeowners also want reassurance their home’s value is going up. The good news is that a strong U.S. economy, coupled with low unemployment rates, is expected to drive continued real estate growth in 2018. However, changes on the horizon could significantly impact you if you plan to buy, sell or refinance this year.

 

HOME VALUES WILL CONTINUE TO RISE

Get ready for another strong year! U.S. home values and sales volume will continue to rise in 2018.

 

Experts agree that home prices will increase in 2018, but predict a slower rate of appreciation than 2017, which clocked in at nearly 7 percent nationwide. National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts a growth rate this year of 5.5 percent,1 while Freddie Mac’s September Outlook Report forecasts a rate of 4.9 percent. Either way, all indicators point towards continued growth in 2018.2

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re a current homeowner, congratulations! Real estate proves once again to be a solid investment over the long term. And if you’re considering selling this year, there’s never been a better time. Contact us to request a free Comparative Market Analysis to find out how much you can expect your home to sell for under current market conditions.

 

If you’re in the market to buy this year, there’s good news for you, too. Although prices continue to rise, the rate of appreciation has slowed. Still, don’t wait any longer. Prices will continue to go up, so you’ll pay more six months from now than you would today. Call us to setup a free, no-obligation property search and get notified about listings that meet your criteria as soon as (or before) they hit the market.

 

 

NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL MAKE REAL ESTATE MORE ACCESSIBLE
Lack of inventory in the housing market has been a primary impediment to homeownership for many Americans. “Ten years ago, the problem in the housing market was lack of buyers,” says Yun. “Today, the problem is lack of sellers. Inventory levels are near historic lows.”3

 

Yun also notes, “The lack of inventory has pushed up home prices by 48 percent from the low point in 2011, while wage growth over the same period has been only 15 percent. Despite improving confidence [in 2017] from renters that now is a good time to buy a home, the inability for them to do so is causing them to miss out on the significant wealth gains that homeowners have benefitted from through rising home values.”1

 

The good news? Yun expects a 9.4 percentage point increase in single-family new home construction starts.4

 

Economists at Freddie Mac make a similar prediction. “Existing home sales are unlikely to increase much going forward. Limited inventory will remain a consistent problem … Growth in home sales will be primarily driven by new home sales, which should continue to grind higher with single-family construction.”2

 

Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, agrees. “The markets that are going to grow are ones where builders can add that entry level product.”5
What does it mean for you? If you’ve been frustrated by lack of inventory in the past, 2018 may bring new opportunities for you to find a budget-friendly home that suits your needs. Give us a call to discuss options for new construction in our area.

 

 

MILLENNIALS WILL MOVE TO THE SUBURBS

 

The new entry-level construction will come with a catch though … it will be located in the suburbs, where the availability of land and fewer zoning requirements make it more cost-effective to build. Economists predict that’s where millennials and first-time buyers will flock for the greater variety of homes at affordable prices.6

 

Rising home prices, a sluggish job market, and an increase in student loan debt made homeownership largely unattainable for many millennials in past years. However, there’s significant evidence that this trend is turning around. For the fourth year a row, the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends survey found that millennials were the largest group of homebuyers.7

 

As millennials age, they are settling down and having families, which has prompted an increasing demand for larger but affordable homes. Thus, many are flocking to the suburbs, with 57 percent of millennial buyers opting for a suburban location.

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re a millennial who has been priced out of urban living, or is looking for more space for your growing family, a number of suburbs in our area have a lot to offer. We can point you towards the communities that will best meet your needs.

 

And if you’re a suburban homeowner with plans to sell, give us a call. We know how to market your home to millennials … and can help you sell quickly for top dollar by appealing to this growing market segment!

 

 

BOOMERANG BUYERS WILL RETURN TO THE MARKET

 

“Boomerang buyers” comprise the nearly 10 million Americans who lost their homes to foreclosure or short sales during the housing recession of 2006 to 2014.

 

According to MyFico.com, a foreclosure remains on a credit report for seven years. It takes many boomerang buyers at least that long to raise their credit score and save up enough cash to qualify for a new mortgage.8

 

With this “seven-year window” in mind, RealtyTrac predicts that the largest wave of boomerang buyers – more than 1.3 million – will be eligible to re-enter the housing market in 2018.9

 

Markets likely to see the highest influx of boomerang buyers are those that had a high percentage of foreclosures AND have remained affordable. The majority of boomerang buyers are middle-class Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Expect to see even more competition for entry-level homes in those markets.

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re a boomerang buyer, we understand your unique circumstances. We can help you navigate the real estate process and write competitive offers that will play to your strengths. Contact us to discuss your options.

 

 

NEW TAX LEGISLATION WILL IMPACT HOMEOWNER DEDUCTIONS

 

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” passed at the end of 2017 nearly doubles the standard deduction, so far fewer Americans are expected to itemize this year. For those who do, however, it could mean less homeowner deductions are available than in the past.

 

Previously, homeowners could deduct interest paid on the first $1 million of mortgage debt, but that threshold has been lowered to $750,000 for new mortgages. (Existing mortgages will not be impacted.)

 

Additionally, taxpayers will no longer be able to fully deduct state and local property taxes plus income or sales taxes. The new legislation restricts this deduction to $10,000. It also eliminates the deduction for moving expenses (except for members of the Armed Forces) and interest on home equity loans unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.10

 

It’s yet to be seen how the tax bill will impact the real estate market overall. While some economists predict a price reduction in certain markets, Republican lawmakers project the bill will increase take-home pay and stimulate the economy overall. According to Realtor.com Senior Economist Joseph Kirchner, “Some house hunters—particularly wealthy buyers—will see an increase in after-tax income, making an already tough housing market even more competitive. This increased demand could drive prices up even higher than they are already.”11

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re an existing homeowner, be sure to consult a tax professional if you’re concerned about the impact the new tax bill could have on you.

 

And if you’re planning to buy or sell this year, we can help you determine how the tax bill could affect demand in your current or target neighborhood and price range.

 

 

INTEREST RATES WILL RISE
No one knows exactly what will happen with mortgage rates this year, but the Mortgage Bankers Association anticipates the Federal Reserve will raise rates three times in 2018, with Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed rate mortgage reaching 4.8 percent by the end of Q4, up from around 4 percent at the end of 2017.12

 

Kiplinger.com Economist David Payne also predicts interests rates will rise this year, with short-term rates outpacing long-term rates as the Fed aims to curb inflation in a tightening job market. He predicts the bank prime rate that home equity loans are based on will increase from 4.25 percent to 5 percent by the end of 2018. 13

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re in the market to buy, act now. Rising interest rates will decrease your purchasing power, so act quickly before interest rates go up. Give us a call today to get your home search started.

 

And if you’re a current homeowner who is considering refinancing or a home equity loan, don’t wait. We can help you estimate your property’s fair market value so you’ll be prepared before contacting a lender.

 

 

2018 ACTION PLAN
If you plan to BUY this year:

 

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide an advantage over other buyers in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow and budget accordingly.
  2. Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.
  3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!

 

If you plan to SELL this year:

 

  1. Call us for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it’ll also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property … and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.
  2. Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.
  3. Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage … and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!

 

 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

 

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big-picture” outlook for the year, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market, and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighborhood. If you have specific questions, or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our area, please give us a call! We’d love to discuss how issues here at home are likely to impact your desire to buy or a sell a home this year.

 

Sources:

  1. Inman News –
    https://www.inman.com/2017/11/03/what-to-expect-from-the-2018-housing-market/
  2. Freddie Mac September Outlook Report –
    http://www.freddiemac.com/research/outlook/20170921_looking_ahead_to_2018.html
  3. org –
    https://www.marketplace.org/2017/07/05/economy/tight-inventory-slows-housing-market-down-0
  4. National Association of Realtors Press Release –
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/existing-home-sales-to-grow-37-percent-in-2018-but-inventory-shortages-and-tax-reform-effects-loom-300549447.html
  5. Fox Business News –
    http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/11/27/entry-level-buyers-drive-solid-new-home-sales.html
  6. Zillow Research –
    https://www.zillow.com/research/2018-predictions-17217/
  7. National Association of Realtors’ Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report –
    https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends
  8. com –
    https://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/questions/foreclosure-fico-score-affect.aspx
  9. RealtyTrac –
    http://www.realtytrac.com/news/foreclosure-trends/boomerang-buyers/
  10. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/taxes/tax-reform/the-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-what-it-means-for-homeowners-and-real-estate-professionals
  11. com –
    https://www.realtor.com/news/real-estate-news/tax-cuts-survey/
  12. Mortgage Bankers Association Economic Forecast –
    https://www.mba.org/news-research-and-resources/research-and-economics/forecasts-and-commentary
  13. Kiplinger Economic Forecast –
    https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html#iOf4mkSFvvTmi2wr.99
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10 Reasons to Get a Fire Pit

On the fence about adding one? Find out the benefits and which type is right for you

By Laura Gaskill

Photo by Michael Prokopchak, ASLA – Discover patio design inspiration

1. Fire pits are crowd-pleasers. Lighting up a fire is a natural way to create a focal point at an outdoor gathering. Whether it’s the hypnotic dancing flames or some sort of primal memory, the fact is that people love to gather around fire. And if you’re looking for an excuse to invite people, all you need to say is “We’re lighting up the fire pit tonight. Want to come over?”

 

Photo by Michael Tebb Design – Look for landscape design inspiration

2. A fire pit doesn’t have to be wood-burning. Wood fires are glorious, and in the right conditions, a wood-burning fire pit can be the perfect backyard addition. But if you have close neighbors or live in an area with restrictions on wood burning, you’re not out of luck. Just make yours a gas or propane model instead of wood-burning.

 

Photo by Urban Oasis – Browse patio ideas

Fire Pit Fuel Options

Wood Fire Pit

  • Pros: Wood-burning fire pits are straightforward to build, with many options available at all price points. If you’re DIY-savvy, you can even build your own.
  • Cons: Wood fires contribute to air pollution, and their use is banned or restricted in some areas. Sparks flying out of the pit can also increase fire dangers; using a protective screen can help minimize this risk.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

  • Pros: Lighting the fire in a gas fire pit is as easy as flipping a switch, which may mean you use it more often. Gas fire pits can often be installed where wood fire pits cannot, such as on decks.
  • Cons: Installation is more expensive and is dependent on being able to connect to an underground natural gas line. Once installed, you cannot move the fire pit.

Propane Fire Pit

  • Pros: Like natural gas, a propane-burning fire pit is quick and easy to light. Some propane fire pits are free-standing and can be moved easily.
  • Cons: You will need to monitor propane levels and haul the (heavy) canister back and forth to the store regularly for refills. Some (but certainly not all) propane fire pits look a bit clunky. It’s not easy to hide a bulky propane tank, and some pits do this better than others.

 

Photo by Outdoor Dreams – Browse patio photos

3. A fire pit lights up the night. All the fancy landscape lighting in the world can’t compete with the flickering blaze of a real fire. Use the warm light emanating from your fire pit to light up a far corner of your yard without having to fuss with electricity.

 

Photo by Tierney Conner Design Studio – Browse patio ideas

4. A fire pit can work in spaces both large and small. Even a compact urban yard or patio can handle a fire pit. In fact, it’s sure to become the centerpiece of a small yard. In a large yard, sprawl out with a big fire pit surrounded by bench seating for a crowd.

 

Photo by Urrutia Design – Discover patio design ideas

5. A fire pit is an outdoor feature you can use year-round. You would be hard pressed to find a backyard feature as versatile as the fire pit. In the summer, roast s’mores by starlight. In fall and winter, wrap yourself in a thick blanket and sip hot cider or cocoa while gathered with friends and family around the cozy blaze.

 

Photo by Hsu McCullough – Browse patio photos

6. A fire pit creates a cozy atmosphere for two. Fire pits aren’t just good for parties, they are equally suited to romantic nights for two. You may be tempted to skip the wine bar when you can sip vino beside the fire in your own backyard as stars twinkle overhead.

 

Photo by Maric Homes – Discover patio design inspiration

7. Fire pits are available at all price points. From simple fire bowls and DIY projects to elaborate custom designs with built-in bench seating, there is sure to be a fire pit that fits your budget. Whichever style you choose, don’t skimp on safety, and be sure to place the fire pit on a nonflammable surface.

 

 

Photo by Michael Kelley Photography – Discover landscape design inspiration

Fire Pit Safety Tips

  • Fire pits should be at least 10 feet from your home or other structures. Some city and county codes may require an even greater distance, so be sure to check before you build.
  • Don’t place a fire pit beneath a tree or overhang.
  • Don’t burn on “spare the air” days if these are used in your area.
  • Don’t put a wood-burning fire pit on a deck. A gas fire pit won’t send out dangerous sparks, making it the safer choice.
  • Educate your kids about fire safety, and always supervise children around an open flame, even when you’re sure they know the rules.
  • Keep a container of water, a hose, a fire extinguisher or all three on hand whenever you light up the fire pit.

 

Photo by Design by Misha – Browse landscape photos

8. You can even use a fire pit to make dinner. Make a backyard campout feel even more authentic by cooking dinner over the open flames. Cooking over a gas fire pit is not advised, but if you have a wood fire pit, you’ve got options: Place a grill rack over the fire to cook above the flames, or wrap up foil packets and tuck them among the coals. Then pull up a seat and dig in. Food always tastes better outside!

9. And, of course, a fire pit is perfect for s’mores. Kids (and kids-at-heart) know that making s’mores is one of life’s great pleasures. With a fire pit in your own backyard, why not make every Friday night s’mores night?

 

Photo by Ward-Young Architecture & Planning – Truckee, CA – Browse patio photos

10. A fire pit may help you sell your home. According to a recent Houzz survey, fire pits are among the three most popular backyard additions by renovating homeowners. In other words, fire pits are hot. Having an attractive and well-maintained fire pit in your yard could give your home an edge if you decide to sell. But once you have that cool new fire pit, you probably won’t ever want to leave.

 

 

10 WAYS TO MASTER NAVY BLUE AND GOLD DECOR, PINTEREST’S NEW FAVORITE COLOR SCHEME

01


A GILDED BAR CART

Give your cocktail fixings a pretty place to perch with a classically cool, golden bar cart. Style it against a statement blue wall, as Park and Oak Interiors did here, and it will immediately draw the eye — and the desire for a tasty drink.

Park & Oak

02


A SLEEK OFFICE SPACE

A moody color palette keeps the vibe of this home office, created by Emily Henderson, contemporary. Dark blue walls set the tone, while subtle details like gold-plated desk legs and office supplies complete the look.

 

Zeke Ruelas

 

03


GLAM BATHROOM ACCENTS

This double bathroom by Leslie Cotter Interiors shows just how chic and minimalist a navy and gold color palette can be. Tone down your bold cabinets with elegant marble countertops and gold faucets, mirrors, and lighting.

 

Tim Furlong Jr.

04


GOLDEN FIXTURES

Dark blue is the perfect color to use when creating an accent wall in any room, especially the bedroom. Alex Evjen of Ave Styles collaborated with Decorist to create this modern boho master bedroom, full of original pieces, including a mid-century-inspired pendant light.

Rennai Hoefer

05


A COLORFUL WELCOME

Greet guests with a fancy vintage gold doorknob, set against a shiny navy blue door. Choose a sparkling white paint for the door molding and line the nearby walls with chic white and navy wallpaper for a stylish entrance, just like Erica Burns did here.

 

Erica Burns

 

06


STATEMENT CABINETS

What better way to pull off a two-tone kitchen than using navy blue for your cabinetry? It’s an unexpected color choice that still feels neutral and inviting. The geniuses at E. Interiors added gold faucets, lighting, and decor to give this particular design some depth.

 

E. Interiors

 

07


DON’T FORGET LIGHTING

Bright white rooms are perfect for those seeking a clean and tranquil space, but small pops of color here and there never hurt. Cathy Poshusta of the Grit and Polish added in navy blue pillows against the white bedding and cream headboard, but kept the gold decor minimal by add a simple bedside sconce.

 

 

Grit and Polish

 

08


A RANGE OF HUES

From the velvet couch to the modernist painting, Marks & Frantz played with a range of blues in this cozy but stylish living area. Take his lead and experiment with more than one shade of blue,and then inject some regality into the space with gold underpinnings, like this grand coffee table.

 

 

Marks and Frantz

 

09


PRECIOUS KITCHEN DETAILS

Designers at Grit and Polish transformed their old and outdated kitchen into a bright and airy cooking space. The top cabinets were kept white to match the walls, while the bottom set were painted a gorgeous navy blue and accented with gold hardware. The crisp white backsplash, along with a few plants, make for a lively but minimalist kitchen.

 

 

10


THE PERFECT VELVET SOFA

This spacious master suite — the work of Leslie Cotter Interiors, and shot by Tim Furlong Jr. — draws from both vintage design and contemporary decor. Add a few industrial touches, like these golden bedside lamps, and a little old-world charm with romantic furniture like this divine blue velvet sofa.

 

Tim Furlong Jr.

This spacious master suite — the work of Leslie Cotter Interiors, and shot by Tim Furlong Jr. — draws from both vintage design and contemporary decor.

Add a few industrial touches, like these golden bedside lamps, and a little old-world charm with romantic furniture like this divine blue velvet sofa.

 

This 116-Year-Old Home Is the Original Tiny House

Old-school proportions didn’t constrain its style.

                                                                                                                                       NGOC MINH NGO

Faced with a lack of light and lots of architectural quirks, Sarah Bartholomew refreshed a historic Georgetown rowhouse with neutrals, fool-the-eye details and an aviary’s worth of feathered friends.

Celia Barbour: Tiny houses are a trend now, but this home is 116 years old! How did its size influence you?

Sarah Bartholomew: I always let a house tell its story, and this one was clear about what it needed to be: a pretty, all-American home in beautiful, historic Georgetown. Whoever built it was not especially wealthy, so I tried to keep the style simple: fresh, eclectic and easy- going, but not loose or casual.

Was a 1,200-square-foot house with just four rooms — two downstairs, two up — a design challenge?

Yes. For example, it has no foyer — you walk right off the street into the living room. I wanted to create a moment by the front door where you could pause and hang your coat, but it had to feel cohesive with the room. That’s why there’s a bird print over the entry console instead of a mirror. The kitchen doubles as a dining room. I had the table custom built to a specific size: It’s big enough to accommodate six but small enough that one can move around it.

Your furnishings, too, are often multipurpose.

I like things to be both/and, not either/or. I’m drawn to furniture that’s sculptural, as it adds graphic drama while still being useful. For instance, the Regency-style chairs by the front windows have interesting silhouettes and can serve as pedestals for objects or books, then they can be cleared off when needed as seating. Similarly, the bull’s-eye mirror and Chinese stools add visual impact without making the room feel busy or crowded.

                                                                                                                                       NGOC MINH NGO

These owners could have afforded a bigger house. Why did they opt to go small?

They prefer tiny. This is their second home; their main residence is in California, but that one is not large, either. Having spent time in Japan, the wife believes in living well but compactly. They are always on the go — Europe, Asia, the West Coast — and she doesn’t want a lot to maintain. And no need for a home office: The husband, who is in the tech field, can work anywhere as long as he has a tablet.

Yet it doesn’t feel like a dainty little doll’s house.

Well, he’s tall — he played basketball— so I didn’t want petite settees and French chairs everywhere. The living room needed a comfortable sofa and welcoming lounge chairs. The bedrooms had to feel calm and restful.

What issues did you face updating an old rowhouse?

Houses built a century ago didn’t have things we now consider necessities, like plumbing and electricity. These amenities were added over the years and, as a result, there are all these quirks in the walls and ceilings. To mask them, I hang groups of repetitive (but not identical) items, which draw the eye and distract from the asymmetry. The living room has bird prints by Olof Rudbeck, a 17th-century Swedish scientist and artist. In the guest bedroom, I filled the wall above the bed, which juts out, with brackets holding shells and coral.

Rowhouses can be dark. How did you bring in the light?

The previous owners had put plantation shutters on the front windows, but I wanted more daylight. I installed linen curtains with a sheer lining; they provide privacy but let about 80% of the light through. And I replaced the solid wood panels in the front door with glass panes.

So the whole facade becomes a source of light! What about the interior of the house?

Because the living room is a long, narrow space, it needed overhead lighting, but the ceilings were too low to install cove fixtures — I used flush mounts for ambient light. I didn’t want lamps to stick out too much, so I went with slender brass ones. In the kitchen, the ceiling consists of the floor joists of the master bedroom upstairs. Pendant lamps hang from the support beams, the only place where we could run electrical wire. I also added under-cabinet lighting and sconces on the walls.

sarah bartholomew living room                                                                                                              NGOC MINH NGO

Tell me about your use of color.

The client wanted the main rooms to be neutral. She said, “I’m on the go all the time. I want the house to feel soothing.” I love neutrals, too, but I didn’t want the palette to feel boring or flat, so I layered in a lot of textures and patterns. The sofa has a hand-blocked Carolina Irving Textiles print, the chairs a leafy pattern, the pillows a stripe. There’s even a faint pattern in the rug. Natural textures include vellum, wicker, leather, brass and marble. I added blue whenever we needed a pop of color. I love blue and white — always have, always will — and used the combo in the master bedroom with a traditional floral on the headboard, bed skirt and curtains. Then I added little touches of black to the room with the lampshade and artwork. Black keeps blue and white from going over the edge into sweetness.

You said that a house tells its own story, but this one turned out more like a poem.

Every detail counts: A functional object can become a beautiful moment to look at and enjoy whenever you walk by. Each gesture is an opportunity to tell a little story within the larger story.

See more photos of this gorgeous home »

This story originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of House Beautiful.

20 “One Room Challenge” Makeovers That’ll Inspire You to Roll Up Your Sleeves

Over the past six weeks, a brave group of designers raced against the clock to refresh their least-favorite rooms — or update an entire home. Check out the jaw-dropping results for yourself, and then visit their blogs to see more of each space.



02 of 21

AN OPEN KITCHEN

No, you don’t really need upper cabinets after all. Abby Manchesky never kept many dishes in her tiny kitchen anyway, so she now stashes her pieces right out in the open. The new shelves also set the stage for trendy green cabinets.

See more at Abby Manchesky »



04 of 21

A SERENE NURSERY

With a baby on the way, Chris and Julia needed a space for their youngest daughter. A textured poof brings the cloud wallpaper into the third dimension — and provides a place for tired parents’ feet.

See more at Chris Loves Julia »


05 of 21

A BRIGHT BASEMENT

Christine Covey used three different Farrow and Ball shades — All Black, Wimborne White and Slipper Satin — to create her neutral backdrop.

See more at Christine Dovey »


06 of 21

A FRESH START

The nonprofit Dwell With Dignity completely overhauled this family home, bringing in new furniture and art with the help of design duo Gordon Dunning and almost 90 volunteers.

See more at Dwell With Dignity »


07 of 21

A CHARMING GUESTHOUSE

Erica Reitman reimagined her backyard guesthouse as a “cozy luxe boutique hotel room” for visiting Airbnb-ers. She kept her storage-savvy banquette (which holds sheets and towels) but added a new wallpaper “mural.”

See more at Erica Reitman »


08 of 21

A SLEEK KITCHEN

The corner window made hiding ventilation impossible, so Erin Williamson knew she needed a showstopper hood. The custom piece features tiny metal rods welded in a chevron pattern, just like the floor.

See more at Erin Williamson »


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A MARBLED BATHROOM


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4 Things First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know

My wife and I are hoping to be first-time home-buyers this year. We’ll likely blow our savings on the down payment and closing costs. What’s the best way to handle the costs for home renovations? Private loan? Just wait a year or two for our savings to replenish some? –Brian & Emily, Jersey City

Congratulations on your adventure into becoming homeowners.

Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, and it’s not always an easy one.

Low inventory has pushed home prices up in cities throughout the country, giving sellers an advantage. Homes sell fast, bidding wars break out and offers above the asking price are common.

All of this means that buyers need to be on their game and have their finances in order before entering the market.

Here’s what experts said first-time buyers need to know:

 

1. What you can actually afford

Before buyers start their house hunt, it’s important they know how much they can afford to spend.

“Start with a plan,” said Chantel Bonneau, a financial adviser at Northwestern Mutual. “Don’t let your imagination take over and don’t let what you see from friends’ houses drive your budget.”

Buyers should list out all of their monthly expenses. Don’t forget to include items like groceries, transportation, and discretionary spending, like gym memberships and nights out.

Related: Should real estate be part of my retirement plan?

A general rule of thumb is that housing costs shouldn’t take up more than 30% of your before-tax income.

But experts said that the percentage can vary, especially if you have other debts, like student loans or car payments.

Spending too much on monthly housing payments can leave homeowners house poor, and unable to afford other expenses — like saving for retirement.

“A home is not a good excuse to be reckless with the rest of your financial situation,” said Bonneau.

In competitive markets, it’s common for buyers to get pre-approved for financing to get a leg up. But experts said that just because a bank approves you for a certain amount, it doesn’t mean that’s what you should spend. Stick to a price limit you’re comfortable with.

 

2. You need a buffer

While it may be tempting to throw everything you’ve got at your offer to stay competitive, experts recommended having at least some money left over after you close on a home.

“If buying a house takes your checking account down to $1,000, it’s probably too expensive,” said Bonneau.

Experts advised having at least three to six months in savings the day you become homeowners. One reason is that you’ll need emergency savings now more than ever.

 

“You don’t want a flat tire or a deductible on a medical plan to throw you into financial turmoil,” said Bonneau. “When you are a homeowner, you have a lot more things that can go wrong.”

If a home purchase leaves you with no liquidity, it might be worth considering waiting to increase your savings or lowering your price point, advised Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner with Exencial Wealth Advisors.

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Brian and Emily are looking to buy their first home.

3. The true cost of owning a home

The down payment tends to be the biggest financial hurdle to owning a home, but there are many other costs that pop up along the way: appraisal, origination, credit report and notary fees can all add up.

And the costs don’t stop just when the keys are handed over. There’s the move, new furniture and costs like lawn care and utility payments that former renters might not be used to paying.

“I don’t know if anyone truly understands the total cost of owning a home,” said Krishnaswamy. “Things just continually come up that you want to do, either buy something to fill a room or fix or improve something. Most people underestimate the cost.”

4. Renovations are not as seen on TV

Buying a fixer-up might allow you to snag a bigger home or afford one in a more desirable area, but experts warned there are huge risks.

“Know that it is always more expensive than what you are imagining … or what you see on TV,” said Bonneau.

If a home needs renovations, factor that into the total cost of buying, recommended Krishnaswamy.

A private loan is an option to finance the project, but can be difficult to secure, especially after just taking out a mortgage.

If your home appraises for more than you purchased it for, you could have the option of tapping your equity to help pay for renovations.

There are some mortgage options that include renovation expenses. For instance, 203k FHA loan allows homebuyers to finance the sale and rehabilitation on a single mortgage.

Another option is asking a friend or family member for a loan.

“If you are trying to secure the best low-rate loan, look at those closest to you, but be mindful of your relationship status if you can’t pay back the loan,” said Krishnaswamy.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage and Roof Leaks?

By Margaret Heidenry

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Whether you’re dealing with a slow leak in the basement or a steady drip from a hole in the roof, water can wreak havoc on your home—and your bank account. Once the water recedes, one of the first questions you’ll have is whether your homeowners insurance covers water damage and roof leaks. Well, we have you covered with the answers below.

Is water damage covered?

In a word, yes! A standard homeowners insurance policy will cover water damage and roof leaks unless they’re the result of gross negligence on your part. Even if the roof leak is caused by a windstorm or a tree crashing through the shingles, you’re covered.

Roof leaks are typically covered if a windstorm damages a home and creates an “opening” in the roof, says Stacey A. Giulianti, a lawyer in Boca Raton, FL. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover any “preventable” damage to a property, so the key here is determining if the leak is caused by a sudden and unexpected event. For example, rain that drips in through a pre-existing hole is generally not a covered loss, because the insurance company would likely say you should have fixed the hole.

If a broken or frozen pipe turns your basement into a swimming pool, you can file a claim with your homeowners insurance and the policy will cover damages. Of course, each policy’s terms may include specific coverages and exclusions, so always read the fine print.

When is water damage not covered?

Water damage due to sewage and drain backups generally requires additional insurance coverage beyond a standard policy, says Joe Vahey, vice president and product manager at Erie Insurance.

Say your rain gutters are clogged because you haven’t cleaned them. With nowhere to go, water flows down the sides of your home and pools around the foundation, causing interior water damage.

“This type of claim, known as seepage, is a maintenance issue and often isn’t covered under your home insurance policy,” says Vahey. That’s because the damage is due to neglect that could have been prevented through proper home maintenance. Damage caused by manufacturing defects in your roofing material or installation errors are also not covered.

Another type of water damage homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude is that from flooding caused by a natural disaster (e.g., a hurricane). But you can purchase a separate flood policy.

Flood insurance premiums are pricey, however, and depend on the risk of flooding in the area where your house is located as well as the value of the home and its contents, says Thomas J. Simeone of Simeone & Miller in Washington, DC.

How to protect yourself from hidden costs

According to a study by Erie Insurance, nearly 27% of homeowners mistakenly believe their insurance will pay for damage that occurs to their roof through normal wear and tear. So proper home maintenance (clean your gutters!) and routine inspection (check and maintain your roof!) can go a long way to ensure any pooling water and roof leaks are caught early and fixed. If left unchecked, bigger—and potentially damaging—problems are likely to occur.

9 innovative gadgets that will make cleaning your home so much easier

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Is anyone actually this happy when they vacuum? didesign021/Shutterstock

Like working out, cleaning often feels more rewarding after than during the act itself. In fact, studies have even shown a link between clutter and elevated stress levels.

So if you can’t motivate yourself to start, or if you’re overwhelmed from cleaning advice like this three-wave system or this decluttering how-to with a cult following, you’re not alone.

Thankfully, hands-free options exist, and they’ll let you reap all the benefits of cleaning without lifting a finger. From a $10 air purifier to high-tech robotic vacuums, there’s something for everyone on this list of home cleaning gadgets.


 

This bright ball of fur rolls around collecting dust and dirt, thanks to a feat of Japanese engineering.

this-bright-ball-of-fur-rolls-around-collecting-dust-and-dirt-thanks-to-a-feat-of-japanese-engineeringThese double as a fun pet toy. GadgetFlow

The Mocoro Robot Cleaning Ball will roll freely around your apartment or home, trapping dust and dirt in its microfiber fur as it goes. Powered by three AA batteries, the ball changes direction whenever it hits something in its path, so it won’t get stuck under a couch or cabinet. It also has an internal timer that stops it from moving after 15 minutes; to keep the robot going, simply give it a gentle nudge or kick.

Judging from online reviews, this cleaning ball will also double as a fun toy for your cat or dog. Luckily, its fur coat — the ball’s, not your pet’s — can be easily removed and is machine washable.

Mocoro Robot Cleaning Ball, $37.19


 

This robotic mop scrubs your floors while looking like the top half of a delicious macaron.

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It will also release soothing scents as it cleans. Amazon

Another adorable Japanese invention, the Mopet Robot Mop comes in brown or pink and is only 8 inches wide — perfect for squeezing in and out of those hard-to-reach spots around your home.

Despite its small size, this mop will run for six hours in convenient, ten-minute bursts. Like the Mocoro Cleaning Ball, this robot’s microfiber fur coat rids your floors of dust and dirt and can be easily removed and machine washed.

You can also use the included stickers to customize your Mopet, or add an essential oil to the robot’s aroma tray to diffuse soothing scents throughout your home.

Mopet Robot Mop, $37.19


 

This automatic self-cleaning litter box literally does the dirty work for you.

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Who wants to clean the litter box? RobotShop

Compared to dogs, cats are a great, low-maintenance option if you’re looking for a fluffy companion. Regardless, no one enjoys cleaning out litter boxes, much less having their house (or, in NYC, tiny apartment) reek of cat pee.

While this self-cleaning litter box doesn’t come cheap, its patented sifting process — which separates waste from clean litter — may be worth the splurge. All you have to do is empty the carbon-filtered (read: odor neutralizing) drawer and refill the litter about every seven to 10 days.

However, don’t just take my word for it: If you’re not convinced by its many reviews, the Litter-Robot also comes with a 90-day Money Back Guarantee, so you can see for yourself if it’s a worthwhile investment.

Litter-Robot II (Classic), $349


 

An affordable alternative to more high-end models, this robotic vacuum cleans your house in three different ways.

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This guy has a pretty powerful vacuum. GearBest

With over 1,500 reviews and an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon, the ILIFE A4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is designed to deep clean thin carpets, hardwood floors, and tile. Its three-step cleaning system consists of a powerful vacuum suction to pick up dirt, rotating blade brushes to clean carpet, and side brushes to dust hard-to-reach spots.

The A4 also has smart, infrared, and cliff sensors that allow it to dock and recharge automatically, navigate tight spaces, and avoid falling off ledges or stairs. On a full charge, the robot will run uninterrupted for two hours, leaving you free to kick back and relax.

ILIFE A4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, $159.99


This high-performing robotic vacuum cleaner is designed to pick up pet fur and rid your home of allergens.

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Another great floor-cleaning option. Eufy

Like the ILIFE A4, the Eufy RoboVac 11 will deep clean your home at a price that won’t break the bank (at least compared to other models on the market). Unlike the ILIFE A4 however, the RoboVac has a HEPA-style filter that traps mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, and other microscopic allergens — making it the perfect option if you have pets or reoccurring allergies.

Just schedule one cleaning session per day, and this vacuum will use a combination of a rolling brush, side brushes, and powerful suction to clean your home for up to 1.5 continuous hours. Its low-profile design lets it clean where you can’t, its infrared sensors prevent it from colliding into furniture, and its self-charging feature lets you off the hook.

In fact, the RoboVac makes cleaning so easy and effortless, we’ve written about it once before.

Eufy RoboVac 11, $219.99


 

No list of hands-free home cleaning gadgets would be complete without a Roomba, and this model is a best-seller.

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No list is complete without the Roomba. Jonathan Chan/Reviewed.com

The Roomba has come a long way since its days as a DJ in Parks and Recreation. The number one best-seller of robotic vacuums in the US, iRobot has sold over 15 million robots worldwide since it launched its first model in 2002.

It’s easy to see why: The company’s top-selling model on Amazon, the Roomba 650 can automatically adjust to clean any floor type. With AeroVac™ Technology, its powerful vacuum will suck up everything from hair, to pet fur, to carpet fuzz, and more.

The Roomba 650 can also seamlessly weave around and under clutter and furniture, avoid falling off ledges, and automatically recharge between cleanings. Just preset the vacuum to clean your home up to seven times per week, and let the robot take care of the rest.

iRobot Roomba 650, $299.99


Specifically designed to pick up all types of hair, this high-end robotic vacuum has a special brush that quietly cleans your home.

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This is great if you have lots of hair around your home. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There’s no doubt about it, Neato’s Botvac D85 robotic vacuum is an expensive investment.

What sets it apart from cheaper alternatives however, is its unmatched speed and efficiency. Using patented laser-guided technology, the Botvac D85 can scan any room and follow an optimized course — cleaning your home four times faster than most round models, even in the dark. Its precise edge cleaning side brushes and D-shape edges will also let it reach and clean the spots you can’t.

You can program the Botvac to clean your home daily or just push a button to have it clean one spot or multiple rooms on demand.

Neato Botvac D85, $499.99


Simple yet stylish, this small pouch offers a natural way to neutralize odors and absorb allergens from the air.

simple-yet-stylish-this-small-pouch-offers-a-natural-way-to-neutralize-odors-and-absorb-allergens-from-the-air

I was skeptical at first, too.Amazon

When I first found this small bag online last summer, I was more than just a little skeptical. But like the thousands of other pleasantly surprised customers on Amazon, I put a bag in my musty closet and woke up to find it significantly less smelly.

By no means can this pouch compare to an electronic air purifier, but it’s a fragrance-free, chemical-free, non-toxic, and extremely cheap alternative that actually works. The pouch’s bamboo charcoal composition allows it to absorb and remove unpleasant odors, allergens, and other harmful pollutants from the air. The key is to use it in small spaces like cars, closets, and bathrooms.

The best part is you can leave the bags out in the sun once a month to reactivate and reuse them for up to two years.

Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag, $9.95


 

Ideal for medium to large rooms, this 3-in-1 air purifier will remove odors, trap allergens, and kill airborne germs.

ideal-for-medium-to-large-rooms-this-3-in-1-air-purifier-will-remove-odors-trap-allergens-and-kill-airborne-germs

A life-changing gadget for anyone with allergies. Guardian Technologies

If you’re looking for a more high-tech air purifier that’s still reasonably priced, this Amazon best seller is probably your best bet. The Germ Guardian AC5000 features a True HEPA filter that captures 99.97% of dust and tiny allergens, recommended by doctors to reduce indoor exposure to allergy triggers.

The Germ Guardian also has a UV-C light that kills airborne bacteria, viruses, germs, and mold spores with titanium dioxide, as well as a charcoal filter that neutralizes odors.

GermGuardian AC5000E 3-in-1 Air Cleaning System, $124.11

WHEN TO BUY CHEAP FURNITURE, AND 9 OTHER HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS

Because we all love a sale.

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1 ~ OFFICE FURNITURE

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When To Buy: January

January is the ideal time to purchase office furniture because it will be on clearance. Not only do new furniture models debut in February, this is also the time when retailers target their bargains to entrepreneurs launching new businesses at the turn of the year.

2 ~ LINENS & BEDDING

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Best Time To Buy: February

While some may think February is a good time to binge on candy sales from Valentine’s Day (which it totally is), linens, towels and bedding are what you should be keeping an eye out for. With Presidents’ Day being February 19th, these items are always going to be on markdown at retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond.

3 ~ LUGGAGE

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Best Time To Buy: March

March is commonly known as the best time to buy luggage. The reason they go on sale at this time is because they appeal to a broad range of buyers: business people, spring-breakers, adventure travelers, the cruise set, and upcoming graduates, according to Retailmenot.com.

4 ~ MATTRESSES

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Best Time To Buy: May

Memorial Day mattress sales are really a thing, according to CNBC. The retailers get their new models in, so the previous year’s mattresses are super cheap. Check out Casper, Overstock.com or Sleepy’s for popular styles.

5 ~ KITCHEN WARE

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Best Time To Buy: June

Saving on cookware and dishes are popular around June because it’s wedding season. But you don’t have to be tying the knot to get a good deal on household essentials.

6 ~ TOOLKITS

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Best Time To Buy: July

With Father’s Day just passing in June, July is a great time to capitalize on the toolkit sales from all home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.

7 ~ LAPTOPS & DESKTOP COMPUTERS

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Best Time To Buy: August

August is back to school time for the kids, but everyone should be looking forward to it, especially if you’re in the market for a laptop or a desktop computer.

8 ~ AIRLINE TICKETS FOR HOLIDAY TRAVEL

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Best Time To Buy: September

September is a good month to buy many things, since retailers are trying to clear out space for the upcoming holiday season. And while it doesn’t take up any room on store shelves, cheap holiday airfare is the thing to keep an eye on during this month. The best time to purchase your flights are about eight weeks ahead of your trip, according to Cheapism.com.

9 ~ CAMPING GEAR

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Best Time To Buy: October

For all the outdoors lovers out there, October is your month to get a deal as it is the perfect weather for camping. The go-to places for sales, according to Today.com, L.L.Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

10 ~ TVS

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Best Time To Buy: November

It’s no secret that the biggest shopping day for deals is Black Friday. So if you are willing to face the madness, this is the best time to go, Consumer Reports says.