6 Easy Projects to Personalize a Cookie-Cutter Home

Value-boosting ideas for your home’s interior to make it really yours.

There’s so much to love about a brand new home! No worries about an aging furnace or the source of a stain in the carpet.

Yet, it can also feel a little, well, uninspired. Like that neighborhood in “The Truman Show.” Your home can feel like a carbon copy of everyone else’s.

But just like Truman, you don’t have to succumb to the sameness. It’s quite easy to take something ordinary in your home and make it a little bit special, something unique. Some examples to get you started:

#1 Paint Your Ceiling Fan

Wood ceiling fan bladesBefore
Dry-brushed wood ceiling fan bladesAfter

Image: Nicki Decker

Homeowner Nicki Decker and her husband banished a ‘90s-era builder-grade brass fan from their master bedroom by simply spray-painting the metal with an antique finish. Decker lightly dry-brushed two shades of mineral chalk furniture paint onto the medium-toned wood blades — delivering a whitewashed effect that enhances the room’s rustic, beachy mood.

“I got to use my creativity to turn a dated eyesore into a beautiful and functional centerpiece that really brings the room together,” she says.

#2 Frame a Window

White window bracket in a kitchenImage: Amy Chalmers

A window over the kitchen sink is a common feature in homes new and old, but it doesn’t have to be ordinary.

Seeking to “add some cottage-style detail to our very standard builders’ kitchen,” interior designer Amy Chalmers fastened vintage cast iron brackets to the cabinetry on either side of her window to create a framing effect.

The brackets support a stamped tin-covered plywood shelf, heightening the room’s one-of-a-kind charm.

#3 Add Classic Molding

In this new San Francisco home, Geoff Gibson, a partner with Winder Gibson Architects, installed molding inspired by the city’s classic architecture. “To keep it from being too busy or too boring,” his firm carefully selected the 5-inch-wide window and door casings and 6.5-inch-high Baseboards should be taller than casings are wide. Be sure all molding won’t feel squeezed by electric outlets, light switches, or adjoining walls. – Geoff Gibson, architect baseboards.

 

#4 Paint the Door

When the blah, beige-gray paint on his front door began to show signs of wear, homeowner Paul McLandrich says, “I figured I may as well use it as an excuse to spice up the outside of the house a little bit.”

Three coats of Behr’s “Red Pepper” semi-gloss exterior paint, and no one has trouble spotting his house from his neighbor’s.

#5 Upsize Your Cabinets

Like many people, Detroit-based home stylist Sarah Macklem had dreams of replacing the basic birch cabinetry in her kitchen with tall, custom creations, but had a budget that required more modest measures. To achieve the look, she capped her existing wall cabinets with 1-by-4-inch boards and thick, decorative crown molding.

“Adding height to the top made my short cabinets look taller and more like expensive, custom cabinetry,” says Macklem. “It was a small detail that made a huge difference in the feel of my kitchen.”

#6 Paint the Floor

When you’re seeking to create a big personality in a space, don’t stop until it’s got the right look from head to toe — including under your toes.

This adorable retro kitchen still had floors just like everyone else’s. Thankfully, Dallas-based interior designer Janet Gridley righted the wrong. She lightly sanded and primed the laminate floor, then applied white porch paint and in striped layers to create a whimsical, checkerboard pattern.

The peacock blue is unexpected, Gridley says, while the overall design does something that average laminate flooring likely never would: “It makes everyone smile,” she says.

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Midyear Forecast: Home Sales, Prices to Rise Despite Inventory, Affordability Challenges

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2018) – A stronger economy, wage growth and an improving job market are expected to march home sales and prices higher in 2018, but low supply and weakening affordability will tamper the rate of increases, according to speakers at a residential real estate forum during the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, presented his 2018 midyear forecast and said despite headwinds a moderate and multiyear increase in home sales is likely ahead. After accelerating 3.8 percent in 2016, existing home sales rose only 1.1 percent to 5.5 million in 2017 and are forecast to finish 2018 at a pace of around 5.6 million (up 1.8 percent). He projects 5.7 million sales for 2019.

“Overall fundamentals remain solid, driven by a growing economy and steady job creation, which will sustain home sales in 2018 slightly above last year’s pace,” said Yun. “The worsening housing shortage means home prices are primed to rise further this year too, hindering affordability conditions for homebuyers in markets across the country.”

Yun said the widespread shortage of homes for sale is the major factor limiting sales from being higher. While home sales have risen modestly since the start of the year, Yun said without more supply to fully satisfy demand and alleviate the upward pressure on prices, contract activity is likely to remain flat and will more or less continue sideways through the end of the year.

Total housing inventory at the end of March was 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, which is 7.2 percent lower than a year ago (1.80 million). Inventory has trended down steadily for the past five years, said Yun, and the country is now experiencing the lowest inventory levels in a generation; unsold inventory is at a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.8 months a year ago.

Yun was joined onstage by Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®, who agreed there is an acute shortage, especially of affordable inventory. According to realtor.com® data there are 250,000 fewer starter homes, those priced under $200,000, now than there was two years ago, in May 2015. Millennials, boomers and investors may all be going after the same affordable inventory of homes, so competition is great, said Hale.

“There is reason for optimism ahead though. We are starting to see new listings grow in recent months; the inventory shortage isn’t over, it took us years to get into an inventory rut, so it’s going to take us years to get out of it, but we do see signs of a turnaround,” she said.

Home price growth, up 48 percent from 2011 to 2017 and likely to rise an additional 4 percent in 2018, is far outpacing income growth, up only 15 percent during the same timeframe. Increased home prices on top of rising mortgage rates – Yun anticipates rates will rise to 4.6 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 – puts affordability at a six-year low, according to NAR’s Housing Affordability Index, and will likely continue to fall in coming months.

“Challenging affordability conditions have prevented a meaningful rise in the homeownership rate after having fallen to a 50-year low a few years ago,” said Yun. “To increase homeownership, more home construction is needed, which could be boosted by delivering regulatory relief to community banks, removing the lumber tariff, re-examining stringent zoning laws and training more workers for the construction industry.”

On the topic of homeownership rates, Jessica Lautz, NAR’s director of demographics and behavioral insights, presented findings during the forum from her thesis from Nottingham Trent University: “Is the Dream Still Alive? Tracking Homeownership Amid Changing Economic and Demographic Conditions”. According to Lautz’s doctoral work, the affordability crisis has impacted some segments of homebuyers more than others, specifically African American and Hispanic/Latino buyers and those with student debt.

Student loan debt has risen dramatically and is a massive barrier to homeownership, said Lautz, and it is delaying home purchases among millennials who are paying their debt by a median of seven years. Her research found that consumers with student loan debt who were successful in buying purchased a home costing 17 percent less than those without any student debt.

“The homeownership rate amongst some ethnic groups hasn’t rebounded since the recession, and the ongoing affordability crisis has hampered potential buyers under 35, especially those with student debt, from accessing mortgage credit and making home purchases,” said Lautz.

Yun said consumer optimism that now is a good time to buy a home has fallen the past two years, according to data from NAR and other industry consumer sentiment surveys. While the lack of supply and challenging affordability conditions is chipping away at homebuyer optimism, Hale said buyers aren’t giving up their dreams of purchasing a home. New survey data from realtor.com® found three-fourths of recent shoppers started their home search in 2017 and are still in the market in 2018.

“Buyers know it’s tough, 35 percent of shoppers anticipate a lot of competition, but they remain optimistic, and more than 70 percent expect to close in 2018,” she said.

Yun said affordability conditions would improve measurably if homebuilders increased their production of homes, especially in the affordable price ranges. He forecasts starts to come in around 1.3 million in 2018 and reach 1.4 million in 2019, but that is barely above ye

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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17 Things to Never, Ever, EVER Do to Your House

What may seem like a good idea, often isn’t.

Here are 17 common mistakes new homeowners often make that prove it.

#1 Get Rid of Your Only Tub

If resale value is important to you, don’t get rid of your only bathtub no matter how dreamy that walk-in shower looks.

It will make it harder to sell when the time comes. You’ll flat-out lose buyers who love a good soak or need a tub to bathe little ones (both human and four-legged).

#2 Leave Cabinet Doors on While Painting

Painting your kitchen cabinets pays off big at resale — it’s a small investment for a big “wow.” But the job’s time-consuming, so it’s tempting leave the doors on.

RESIST. At all costs.

Because no matter how hard you try, it’s not going to look good. Even the pros don’t do it. That should tell you something.

#3 Put Starchy Food Down the Disposal

Today’s garbage disposals can handle more challenging foods than earlier models, but starchy comestibles like potatoes, rice, and oatmeal still stump them.

Fun fact: Every Halloween, plumbers see an increase in calls because people are dumping pumpkin guts into the disposal.

Starchy foods clump when they hit water, clogging disposals and pipes. Instead, put them in the garbage can or, even better, your compost pile.

#4 Plant a Tree Close to Your House

Large tree planted too close to a houseImage: Blend/Offset

That young sapling just a few feet from your door seems so harmless. Until it grows up.

In addition to the risk of falling limbs, tree roots from mature trees can weaken your home’s foundation and clog plumbing and sewer pipes.

Plant medium and large trees at least 30 to 50 feet from the house. Put small trees (30 feet tall or less) at least eight, preferably 10, feet away.

#5 Flush “Flushable” Wipes

Sewer systems are facing a growing menace: flushable wipes. Despite the name, most don’t disintegrate, even after 10 minutes (compared to a few seconds for toilet paper).

Until a truly flushable wipe exists, don’t flush them — or anything non-organic, for that matter. Stick with good, old TP instead.

#6 Cover Wallpaper with Water-based Paint

You don’t have to remove that dated wallpaper – simply paint over it. But don’t do it with water-based paint. It can reactivate wallpaper glue and cause the paper to peel. Instead, use oil-based primer, let it dry completely, and then apply your latex paint over it. Oil-based primer has long been the industry standard and works well with oil and latex paints.

#7 Paint Exterior Brick

Painted brick on a home exteriorImage: Vera Lair/Stocksy United

Brick needs to breathe. Paint chokes it.

Paint can destroy the brick and mortar, and even cause the foundation to crumble. Talk about a hidden cost!

If you’re itching for a new exterior look, try new shutters, paint the front door, or update your landscaping. Those moves can scratch your itch and boost your curb appeal. If you just can’t live with your brick color, try brick stain, which bonds with the brick, allowing it to breathe.

#8 Skip the Last Mow Before Winter

Tempting as it is to skip that last mow before winter, leaving the lawn too tall in cold months gives mice and other rodents good cover from predators, like hawks. Which means they’ve got safe passage to work their way into your warm and cozy home for the winter. Plus, keeping grass short, keeps it healthier.

#9 Let Ceiling Fans Run Forever

Ceiling fans don’t decrease the temperature in a room; they increase how quickly your sweat evaporates, making you feel cooler.

Since it’s only beneficial to run the ceiling fan when people are in the room to enjoy the breeze, save money by turning them off when you’re out.

#10 Tear Out Original Architectural Features

Historic home with stained glass windowImage: GreenRose Fine Homes, Glen Ridge, NJ

Custom millwork, tin ceiling tiles, and mid-century modern brick give your home its character, so keep them if you’re remodeling (assuming they’re not in awful condition). Buyers appreciate these one-of-a-kind details, and preserving them sets your home apart. They can put your house at the top of house-hunters’ lists when it comes time to sell.

#11 Change Your Mailbox Without Checking with Your HOA

Or make any other change to your home’s exterior, such as replace your front steps, add shutters, etc. Homeowners associations work to keep neighborhood elements maintained and consistent in an effort to protect everyone’s home value.

That often includes seemingly small details, so let your HOA know of your upgrade plans. Otherwise, you could risk a citation or fine. Or worse, be told to undo it.

#12 Leave Hoses Connected in Winter

When you retire your lawnmower each fall, disconnect hoses and store them, too. Leaving them attached during cold weather can trap water in the pipes, causing them (and possibly the faucets) to freeze. BTW, it also ruins the hose.

#13 Keep an Old-Fashioned Thermostat

Vintage wallpaper with outdated thermostat in a homeImage: T.S. Berry, photo

Install a programmable thermostat, stat. One in the $150 range saves a typical household $131-$145 annually, so it’s practically free.

#14 Put a Brick in Your Toilet

To decrease water use and save money, many people put bricks in their older, high-water-use toilets. But bricks crumble in water and can damage or clog pipes.

Replace the toilet ($350 or less) or fill a half-gallon milk jug with sand and drop it in the tank instead (saving about half a gallon per flush).

#15 Water Grass at Night

It may seem smart to water in the evening – especially if you have a sprinkler system, because electrical rates are lower. But without sun to evaporate it, water is more likely to cling to grass at night, promoting fungus. Instead, water in the morning when the air is cool, the sun is arriving, and there’s less wind than midday.

#16 Clean Windows on a Sunny Day

Doesn’t a warm, sunny day seem like the perfect time to wash windows? Counter-intuitively, it’s the worst because the sun dries windows too quickly and causes smears. Instead, save this chore for a cloudy day.

#17 Pour Bleach or Drain Cleaner Down Pipes

Bleach seems like a great agent for keeping pipes unclogged and smelling fresh — and drain cleaner is literally for pipes, right?

Unfortunately, bleach can react with substances in your pipes, and cause more clogs than it prevents. Even drain cleaner is rough on pipes — and both are environmentally awful (plus, as little as a teaspoon of drain cleaner can destroy a septic field).

Instead, use a pipe snake, or augur, to keep pipes running smoothly.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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7 Household Expenses You’re Probably Wasting Money On

There are better ways to spend.

The washer/dryer combo was perfect! Such a delightful way to brighten laundry day — with a cheerfully colored front-loader set. They could actually make laundry fun!

“They were this gorgeous, greenish-teal, and they looked great in my laundry room,” says Eliesa Prettelt, avid DIYer and author of “A Pinterest Addict” blog.

But after barreling through three sets in four years, she knew she’d made a mistake. “They looked so pretty, but I had nothing but problems with them,” she says.

She eventually gave up and got nondescript, white, commercial-grade top-loaders she scored for less than half the cost of her original machines. They may be plain, she says, but “I’ve had no problems since.”

Lesson learned. The hard way. Now for learning the easy way. Here are seven common money mistakes homeowners make — and now you won’t.

1. Contractor House Calls

Think you need a pro to fix that leaky toilet? You’d be surprised how easy it can be to fix it yourself — and save the typical $45 to $150 per hour plumbers can charge (and don’t forget the boost in your can-do attitude!). You can often find home remedies for small jobs like a leaky faucet or broken garbage disposal on YouTube. Just be sure it’s a reputable source. And check out several videos on the same repair. That’ll help make sure no crucial step is missed.

“We save a couple hundred dollars per year by doing small home repairs ourselves,” says Lauren Greutman, frugal living expert and author of “The Recovering Spender: How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life.”

For those who prefer an expert, Greutman suggests smaller, local retail appliance stores. “It’s a little-known secret that they usually have repair men that are very inexpensive,” she says.

2. Extended Warranties

It’s tempting to insure your new, big purchase, but according to Consumer Reports, you’re probably already as covered as you need to be.

How’s that? Most major appliances come with at least a 90-day manufacturer’s warranty. Buy with a major credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express) and it will likely double that standard warranty.

Combine that with the fact that “Consumer Reports” found most products won’t break during the standard two- or three-year service contract period. When they do, the repair cost is usually just a few dollars more than the cost of the warranty.

Instead of paying for an extended warranty, stash the cash in a savings account earmarked for home repairs. When you need it, it’ll be there.

3. Flashy Feature Appliances

The newest appliances come with super fun features. Who wouldn’t want an oven that talks, remote access to your A/C, or bottle jets in the dishwasher (paging new parents!)? Still, it may not be financially wise to replace a fully functioning older model just to gain modern perks. So says Arthur Teel, owner and operator of The Handyman Plan in Asheville, N.C.

Circuit boards break, and energy efficiency numbers don’t always add up,” he says.

Yup. That’s even true for some energy-efficient appliances that boast cost savings. “Spend $1,000 on a new, energy-efficient stove and it could take 10 years of energy savings to offset the cost of the new stove,” he says. “Unless you have a really old appliance, it’s probably efficient enough for your needs. Also, putting the appliance into the landfill isn’t exactly great for the environment.”

4. Budget Bulbs

Incandescents may be easy on your everyday household budget, but they’re tough on your energy bill. Start replacing them now with LEDs. To help swallow the initial costs, just replace them as they die out. A typical LED bulb can recuperate its cost in a little over a year (at least according to manufacturers, so in reality it’s probably a bit longer, but not enough to quibble about). Even better, since LEDs can last a decade or more, you won’t have to buy bulbs as often, and your energy costs will be lower!

5. Commercial Cleaning Supplies

Even if you’re buying off-brand products to save costs, you’re still wasting money. You don’t have to spend anywhere near the cost of commercial products.

“Vinegar will clean a lot of things, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying pricey cleaning supplies,” says Prettelt. She also likes baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, each of which can be found for just a fraction of the cost of their popular store-bought equivalents.

“You can use these natural products in your dishwasher, in your garbage disposal, in your wash,” Prettelt adds. Easy peasy. And it’s super cheap.

That’s right. You can make dishwasher soap from a cup each of borax and washing soda, a half-cup kosher salt, and five packets unsweetened lemonade mix. Or whip up your own window cleaner with these simple ingredients:

  • half-cup white vinegar
  • rubbing alcohol
  • two cups of water
  • two tablespoons of cornstarch

All those ingredients cost pennies. And to think you were paying $2-$4 for the commercial kind.

6. A Storage Unit

If it doesn’t fit in your home, is it really worth keeping? Ditch nostalgia and think with your bank account: At a cost of between $50 and $300 per month, it may be time to purge the junk.

If you can’t bear to part with something you don’t use regularly — say, great-grandma’s heirloom china — rethink your home’s organizational storage. Clean out the closet, craft shelves beneath the stairs, or build window seats with drawer storage. You’ll be investing in your home instead of giving money to a storage vendor.

7. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Bought your house with less than 20% down? You’re probably paying for PMI (a type of insurance that guarantees your mortgage lender will be covered if you default). It costs between $600 and $1,200 per year for a typical home. But once your loan-to-value ratio drops to 80%, you’re not required to pay it. But the lender isn’t required to drop it until it reaches 78%.

That 2% difference could cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars, depending on your home’s mortgage balance. So, keep an eye on your statement and whip out that calculator when you’re getting close. Then, if you’re feeling really savvy, keep paying that amount every month — but apply it to your mortgage principal instead. Do that, and you could recoup your PMI fees. Because as you pay down your principal, you’ll pay less in interest, potentially saving thousands. Now how savvy is that?

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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7 Projects That Make Your Backyard Staycation-Worthy

But not all are equal when it comes to investing in your home.

Mow the grass, weed the garden, seal the deck, rake debris. You may spend plenty of time in your backyard, but if it’s all boot camp and no getaway, you may not be feeling the love for your home you once did.

Time for a second honeymoon with these ideas that’ll turn your labor-loving yard into a leisure-loving one. Some will even enhance your home’s value. Others, at least, won’t ding it. (You definitely don’t want to do that.)

Let the backyard staycations begin with these ideas:

#1 Al-Fresco Dining

Ample, built-in seating and wood-fired pizza on-demand. And while wood-fired ovens are famous for pizza, this isn’t a one-note investment: You can serve up any meat, veggie, or bread — making this a full-on outdoor oven. Low-maintenance hardscaping means you can focus on your party, instead of mowing grass.

Or go for the full farm-to-table concept:

Pluck some veggies from some chic, metal raised beds (easy to maintain), prep them in an outdoor cooking island with a built-in grill (and green roof, which keeps it cooler underneath), and treat yourself to the freshest cuisine around for your backyard staycation.

Even better, since the entire ground area is pea gravel, you can spend less time mowing and more time dining.

But does it add value? Outdoor living and cooking spaces (rooms, really) almost always do. As do low-maintenance hardscaping features — like the patio. Raised steel garden beds, not so much, though.

#2 An Outdoor Room Just for Leisure

Spend Saturday afternoon napping in your outdoor space — not laboring over it. Easy-care plants look lush with minimal intervention, including ground cover and stone to replace grass.

Install horizontal privacy fencing, and you’re ready for one legendary siesta (adorable dog recommended, but not required).

But does it add value? See above about outdoor rooms (and the lovely plants definitely boost it, too). Win-win.

#3 A Yard for Playing

You don’t have to give up playing in the backyard just because you’re an adult. Make your yard a grown-up rec center with a fire pit and bocce ball court (or cornhole, ladder ball, even giant Jenga).

Wood-paneled privacy fencing elevates the adults-only aesthetic, and low-maintenance gravel keeps the focus on fun instead of maintenance.

But does it add value? Seriously doubt it (except for the fence). But it’s your yard. Remember, joy is an ROI of a different sort. Plus, the court is easy enough to erase with some basic landscaping (always a good value add).

#4 A DIY Pool and Pit

A stock tank pool and a fire pit with seating in a backyardImage: John and Caley Duffty of Home Wood Designs

An affordable, stock-tank soaking pool paired with a DIY fire pit and seating is everything good about a Funny how something most of us love can actually make a house harder to sell. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.Read More InDo Swimming Pools Add Value to Homes? pool (laps, shmaps, right?), without all the cost and maintenance.

Add a little wood-fired heater, and it’s a hot tub, too (just make sure it’s one designed for hot tubs — for obvious reasons).

But does it add value? Only to you. And since it’s easy enough to remove, it’s not hurting it either. If you love it, then you’re getting a whole different kind of ROI — where dollars don’t apply.

#5 A Me-Only Retreat

A Malibu spa day may not fit into your schedule (or budget) this year, but stealing away to this hideaway for 30 minutes at a time can be easily penciled in. Now where’s the “Do not disturb” sign?

Colorful backyard shedImage: Megan M. Greene, photo/Amber Lee Garrison

But does it add value? Not really, especially since the shed isn’t plumbed and lacks power. But backyard sheds-as-rooms never seem to disappoint buyers.

#6 An Epic Slide

A modern treehouse with a purple slideImage: Ryan Garvin

Jack up a playhouse with a slide that makes their friends go “Whoa.” And while they’re spending a few hours running up the stairs (or climbing up a cargo net) and racing down the slide, you get some much-deserved “me” time: not a lousy ROI.

But does it add value? The slide, no. The playhouse? Again, no plumbing, no electricity, probably no gain — but the landscaping is a sure-fire win.

#7 Lighting for After Dark

A backyard with pool and covered patio at nightImage: Donny Mak

Do resorts shut down at dusk? They do not. To make your backyard an all-hours destination, incorporate outdoor lighting into your vision. Forget tiki torches; opt for permanent overhead, task, and mood lighting — just like you would indoors. Efficient solar and LED lights are great for outdoors. With the right glow, you can squeeze even more hours of delight out of your backyard staycation.

But does it add value? Oh, yeah. A no-brainer. Outdoor lighting is great for curb appeal (and safety).

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Metro Home-Price Growth Quickens to 5.7% in the 1st Quarter

WASHINGTON (May 14, 2018) – Inventory levels hovering at all-time lows weighed down home sales and fueled faster price appreciation during the first three months of the year, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®.

The national median existing single-family home price in the first quarter was $245,500, which is up 5.7 percent from the first quarter of 2017 ($232,200). The median sales price during the fourth quarter of 2017 climbed 5.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016.

Single-family home prices last quarter increased in 91 percent of measured markets, with 162 out of 178 metropolitan statistical areas1 (MSAs) showing sales price gains in the first quarter compared to a year ago. Fifty-three metro areas (30 percent) experienced double-digit increases, up from 15 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says record low inventory levels caused the housing market to get off to a slow start in 2018. “The worsening inventory crunch through the first three months of the year inflicted even more upward pressure on home prices in a majority of markets,” he said. “Following the same trend over the last couple of years, a strengthening job market and income gains are not being met by meaningful sales gains because of unrelenting supply and affordability headwinds.”

Added Yun, “Realtors® in areas with strong job markets report that consumer frustration is rising. Home shoppers are increasingly struggling to find an affordable property to buy, and the prevalence of multiple bids is pushing prices further out of reach.”

Total existing-home sales2, including single family and condos, decreased 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million in the first quarter from 5.59 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, and are 1.7 percent lower than the 5.60 million pace during the first quarter of 2017.

At the end of the first quarter, there were 1.67 million existing homes available for sale3, which was 7.2 percent below the 1.80 million homes for sale at the end of the first quarter in 2017. The average supply during the first quarter was 3.5 months – down from 3.7 months in the first quarter of last year.

The national family median income rose to $74,7794 in the first quarter, but overall affordability decreased from a year ago because of rising mortgage rates and home prices. To purchase a single-family home at the national median price, a buyer making a 5 percent down payment would need an income of $55,732, a 10 percent down payment would require an income of $52,779, and $46,932 would be needed for a 20 percent down payment.

“Prospective buyers in many markets are realizing that buying a home is becoming more expensive in 2018,” said Yun. “Rapid price gains and the quick hike in mortgage rates are essentially eliminating any meaningful gains buyers may be seeing from the combination of improving wage growth and larger paychecks following this year’s tax cuts. It’s simple: homebuilders need to start constructing more single-family homes and condominiums to overcome the rampant supply shortages that are hampering affordability.”

The five most expensive housing markets in the first quarter were the San Jose, California metro area, where the median existing single-family price was $1,373,000; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California, $917,000; Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, California, $810,000; urban Honolulu, $775,500; and San Diego-Carlsbad, $610,000.

The five lowest-cost metro areas in the first quarter were Decatur, Illinois, $73,000; Cumberland, Maryland, $86,200; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, $91,300; Elmira, New York, $100,800; and Binghamton, New York; $103,000.

Metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 61 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $231,700 in the first quarter, up 5.9 percent from the first quarter of 2017 ($218,800). Eighty-five percent of metro areas showed gains in their median condo price from a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

Total existing-home sales in the Northeast slipped 8.5 percent in the first quarter and are 8.1 percent below the first quarter of 2017. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast was $267,400 in the first quarter, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales fell 6.9 percent in the first quarter and are 1.8 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest grew 5.9 percent to $187,100 in the first quarter from the same quarter a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South increased 3.7 percent in the first quarter and are 0.7 percent higher than the first quarter of 2017. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $220,400 in the first quarter, 5.5 percent above a year earlier.

In the West, existing-home sales in the first quarter declined 1.1 percent and are 2.2 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West increased 8.2 percent to $371,300 in the first quarter from the first quarter of 2017.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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Quick Home Sales in Kennewick & Richland

Homes in Kennewick and Richland averaged 31 days on the market in 2017.  These statistics put them at the top of the national 2017 list for quick home sales.  The average days on the market in over 200 metropolitan areas in 2017 was 67. This is a large reduction from 2011 when the average days peaked at 120.  In some local housing markets the conditions are much faster with average sales transactions taking less than 40 days to go under contract according to a report from Nationwide Economics titled Health of Housing Markets.

Source:  Nationwide Economics

 

 

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The Everything Guide to Buying Your First Home

How to find exactly what you want, and how to work with the experts who’ll help you get it.

So you’re thinking about buying your first home. Your very own house (and mortgage). A place to call — and make — your own.

It’s a big move, literally and figuratively. Buying a house requires a serious amount of money and time. The journey isn’t always easy. It isn’t always intuitive. But when you get the keys to your new home — that can be one of the most rewarding feelings pretty much ever.

The key to getting there? Knowing the home-buying journey. Knowing what tools are at your disposal. And most importantly? Creating relationships with experts who can help you get the job done.

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ll show you not only the major steps you’ll take during the home-buying process, but also explain the relationships and experts you’ll need along the way.

You ready to live the dream? Here we go.

Do Your Homework

Oh sure, everybody wants to jump right into open houses. But before you even set foot into a foyer, you should identify your list of “musts” and “wants.” This list is an inventory of priorities for your search. And there’s so much to decide: Price, housing type, neighborhood, and school district — just to name a few.

If you’re planning to buy a home with a partner (in life or in real estate), you want to be on the same page while buying a house. If you’re not, you’ll be less able to give agents or lenders the information they need to help you. And you risk wasting time viewing homes you can’t afford — or don’t even want in the first place.

Start Shopping

Once you know what you’re looking for, the next step is to start looking at listings and housing information online. (This part? You’re going to crush it.)

Find a Great Agent

Your relationship with your real estate agent is the foundation of the home-buying process. (And your agent = your rock.) He or she is the first expert you’ll meet on your journey, and the one you’ll rely on most. That’s why it’s important to interview agents and find the agent who is right for your specific needs.

Choose a Lender

Once you’ve found your agent (AKA, your new best friend), ask him or her to recommend at least three mortgage lenders that meet your financial needs. This is another big step, as you’ll be working with your lender closely throughout the home-buying process.

Pick a Loan

Once you’ve decided on a lender (or mortgage broker), you’ll work with your loan agent to determine which mortgage is right for you. You’ll consider the percentage of your income you want to spend on your new house, and you’ll provide the lender with paperwork showing proof of income, employment status, and other important financials. If all goes well (fingers crossed) you’ll be pre-approved for a loan at a certain amount. (Sweet.)

Visit Open Houses & Look Around

Now that you have both an agent who knows your housing preferences and a budget — and a lender to finance a house within that budget —it’s time to get serious about viewing homes. Your agent will provide listings you may like based on your parameters (price range, ZIP codes, features), and will also help you determine the quality of listings you find online. Then comes the fun part: Open houses and private showings, which give you the unique opportunity to evaluate properties in a way you can’t online.

Make an Offer

Once you find the home you want to buy, you’ll work with your agent to craft an offer that not only specifies the price you’re willing to pay but also the proposed settlement date and contingencies — other conditions that must be agreed upon by both parties, such as giving you the ability to do a home inspection and request repairs.

Negotiate, Negotiate

Making an offer can feel like an emotional precipice, almost like asking someone out on a date. Do they like me? Am I good enough? Will they say yes? It’s stressful! Some home sellers simply accept the best offer they receive, but many sellers make a counteroffer. If that happens, it’s up to you to decide whether you want your agent to negotiate with the seller  or walk away. This is an area where your agent can provide real value by using their expert negotiating skills to haggle on your behalf and nab you the best deal.

Get the Place Inspected

If your offer is accepted, then you’ll sign a contract. Most sales contracts include a home inspection contingency, which means you’ll hire a licensed or certified home inspector to inspect the home for needed repairs, and then ask the seller to have those repairs made. This mitigates your risk of buying a house that has major issues lurking beneath the surface, like mold or cracks in the foundation. (No one wants that.)

Ace the Appraisal

When you offer to buy a home, your lender will need to have the home appraised to make sure the property value is enough to cover the mortgage. If the home appraises close to the agreed-upon purchase price, you’re one step closer to settlement — but a low appraisal can add a wrinkle. Not one you can’t deal with.

Close the Deal

The last stage of the home-buying process is settlement, or closing. This is when you sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork and make this whole thing official.

When it’s all said and done — break out the rosé. You’ll have the keys to your new home!

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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5 Things That Will Totally Ruin Your Bathroom Remodel

There is one paint color you must avoid at all costs (see #5)

A clean, well-planned, and stunning bathroom is every homeowner’s goal. But creating it can be a bit of a sticky wicket.

All that water, humidity, and artificial lighting, and those tight corners make the space a real challenge. Don’t make it worse by wasting money on materials that won’t withstand the task or will need replacing when they don’t work out. Dodge bad bathroom decisions by avoiding these five things:

#1 Wallpaper

Bathroom with red wallpaperImage: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock

In a high-steam area such as a bathroom, wallpaper may start to peel in a few years, according to some designers. In fact, steam is used to strip old wallpaper off walls.

Despite the many photos of stylish, wallpapered bathrooms in magazines, unless it’s a half-bath or guest bath that’s seldom used, skip it. Really want the unique look wallpaper

#2 Laminate Flooring

Love the look and affordability of laminate flooring? Use it in another room. Water and laminate floors don’t mix. Even tiny amounts of water will seep between the planks, causing them to expand, peel, swell, and lift from the floor.

Even laminate manufacturers advise against installing in high moisture areas. The good news? There are plenty of other products out there that work extremely well in bathrooms. Take another look at linoleum. It’s eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and comes in a wide variety of looks.

#3 Slippery or Glossy Tile or Stone

Bathroom with a slippery tile floorImage: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock

Many ceramic, porcelain, and stone floors will become slippery in wet conditions. The more polished a tile, the more likely it will become slippery when wet.

Solution: Select your bathroom floor surface carefully, vetting each against slippery conditions. Look for tiles certified to meet slip-resistance standards specified by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

#4 Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Man removing carpet from a home bathroomImage: Michelle Roth Writes

If you really want the cozy touch of carpet in the bathroom, fluffy bath mats add color and comfort — and can be regularly laundered.

#5 Yellow Paint

When selecting paint colors, remember that color will appear more intense on your bathroom walls than it would in most other rooms, especially if the bathroom relies heavily on artificial lighting.

“In that smaller space, where the mirror multiplies the impact of the lighting, the walls tend to reflect and magnify color from other walls,” says Amy Bell, an interior decorator and owner of Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, N.C. Be especially wary of yellow or other colors that contain yellow — even neutrals — as yellow can feel brash in a bathroom, and you won’t like what you see in the mirror. Instead, opt for grays with a hint of green or blue, which can feel spa-like.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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