Tech Up Your Style

 

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

ces-logoThe mega consumer electronic showcase, CES, lands in Las Vegas this week. It may not be the place you typically go to for décor trends, but technology is having an undeniable influence in home design, like see-through refrigerators and smart lighting.

Consumers look to you for expertise too. Forty-two percent of Americans say they would look to their sales agent to provide suggestions about how staging their home with smart home products could impact the sale of their home, according to a newly released Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey of more than 3,000 Americans.

So what do we see that has potential this year to spice up some designs? Here are a few picks from CES 2018.

Accent Wall Light Show

 

Photo credit: Nanoleaf

Photo credit: Nanoleaf

Nanoleaf’s color-changing Aurora light panels would make for an attention-getting accent wall in small or big doses. Connect them in any configuration you like. They just stick to the walls. The panels change colors, and you can sync the lights to music and also with one of your AI’s, Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. The panels are touch-sensitive so with a tap you can turn them on and off, dim them, or change the color.

Statement Refrigerators

Refrigerators just keep getting smarter. LG’s new InstaView ThinQ smart refrigerator features a 29-inch touchscreen that becomes transparent if you knock on it twice. You can also use the touchscreen to manage your food and get automatic reminders when items are running low.

Photo credit: LG

Photo credit: LG

Samsung has a similar model in appearance with its 2018 version of its Family Hub smart refrigerator. This year’s model offers support for Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant to handle voice commands. It can connect to other third-party devices for the smart home too. So you can actually view what’s happening outside your front door from your refrigerator door.

Photo credit: Samsung

Photo credit: Samsung

Notice both the Samsung and LG models are both featured in black stainless, which we still believe will be a growing competitor to traditional stainless steel.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall … 

Photo credit: Kohler

Photo credit: Kohler

Check out this smart mirror. Kohler is introducing a new Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror, which is a bathroom mirror that has Amazon’s Alexa built-in. It features a dual-microphone solution for accuracy in voice-control and speakers are housed in the casings. There is also a motion-activated wayfinding nightlight for safety, and LED lights for makeup application or other grooming needs. It can also communicate with other connected products in your Wi-Fi network.

Is that an AI in your ceiling? 

Photo credit: GE

Photo credit: GE

Talk with your ceiling lights. You’ll be able to with GE’s Smart Ceiling Fixture. It is a large disk that boasts a speaker in the middle. You can give it voice-driven tasks on anything, like adding an item to your grocery list or telling it to play music. You can also tell it to adjust the warmness or coolness of the lights. It responds to your commands. Flush mount or recessed can lighting options will be available.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine’s award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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

 

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Existing-Home Sales Soar 5.6 Percent in November to Strongest Pace in Over a Decade

WASHINGTON (December 20, 2017) — Existing-home sales surged for the third straight month in November and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions except for the West saw a significant hike in sales activity last month.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 5.6 percent2 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.81 million in November from an upwardly revised 5.50 million in October. After last month’s increase, sales are 3.8 percent higher than a year ago and are at their strongest pace since December 2006 (6.42 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales in most of the country expanded at a tremendous clip in November. “Faster economic growth in recent quarters, the booming stock market and continuous job gains are fueling substantial demand for buying a home as 2017 comes to an end,” he said. “As evidenced by a subdued level of first-time buyers and increased share of cash buyers, move-up buyers with considerable down payments and those with cash made up a bulk of the sales activity last month. The odds of closing on a home are much better at the upper end of the market, where inventory conditions continue to be markedly better.”

The median existing-home price3 for all housing types in November was $248,000, up 5.8 percent from November 2016 ($234,400). November’s price increase marks the 69th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory4 at the end of November dropped 7.2 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.7 percent lower than a year ago (1.85 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 30 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.0 months a year ago.

“The anticipated rise in mortgage rates next year could further cut into affordability if these staggeringly low supply levels persist,” said Yun. “Price appreciation is too fast in a lot of markets right now. The increase in homebuilder optimism must translate to significantly more new construction in 2018 to help ease these acute inventory shortages.”

First-time buyers were 29 percent of sales in November, which is down from 32 percent both in October and a year ago. NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released earlier this year5 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 34 percent.

Matching the highest share since May, all-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in November, which is up from 20 percent in October and 21 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in November, up from 13 percent last month and unchanged from a year ago.

“The elevated presence of investors paying in cash continues to add a layer of frustration to the supply and affordability headwinds aspiring first-time buyers are experiencing,” said Yun. “The healthy labor market and higher wage gains are expected to further strengthen buyer demand from young adults next year. Their prospects for becoming homeowners will only improve if more lower-priced and smaller-sized homes come onto the market.”

Properties typically stayed on the market for 40 days in November, which is up from 34 days in October but down from 43 days a year ago. Forty-four percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.

Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time on the market data and listings views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in November were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.; San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.; and Stockton-Lodi, Calif.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage increased for the second straight month to 3.92 percent in November from 3.90 percent in October. The average commitment rate for all of 2016 was 3.65 percent.

On the topic of tax reform, NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty, says it’s good news homeowners can continue to count on tax incentives such as the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction.

“Only 6 percent of homeowners have mortgages exceeding $750,000, and only 5 percent pay more than $10,000 in property taxes, but most homeowners won’t itemize under the new regime,” she said. “While we’re pleased that important homeownership incentives such as the capital gains exclusion survived in conference, additional changes are required to truly incentivize homeownership in the tax code.”

Distressed sales6 – foreclosures and short sales – were 4 percent of sales for the fourth straight month in November, and are down from 6 percent a year ago. Three percent of November sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales grew 4.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.09 million in November from 4.87 million in October, and are now 3.2 percent above the 4.93 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $248,800 in November, up 5.4 percent from November 2016.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 14.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 720,000 units in November, and are now 7.5 percent above a year ago. The median existing condo price was $242,500 in November, which is 8.8 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

November existing-home sales in the Northeast leaped 6.7 percent to an annual rate of 800,000, (unchanged from a year ago). The median price in the Northeast was $273,600, which is 4.0 percent above November 2016.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 8.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.42 million in November, and are now 6.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $196,100, up 8.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South expanded 8.3 percent to an annual rate of 2.34 million in November, and are now 4.0 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $216,200, up 4.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in November, but are still 2.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $375,100, up 8.2 percent from November 2016.

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.

# # #

NOTE: For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.

1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.

Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

2November’s monthly increase of 5.6 percent is the largest monthly gain since December 2015 (12.1 percent), which was influenced by delayed closings resulting from the rollout of the Know Before You Owe initiative in late 2015.

3The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.

The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.

4Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

5Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.

6Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at nar.realtor.

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

 

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Millennials & Silent Generation Drive Desire for Walkable Communities

WASHINGTON (December 19, 2017) — It is no longer just millennials propelling interest in walkable communities. According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®, members of the silent or greatest generation, those born before 1944, also prefer smaller homes in neighborhoods with easy walks to shops and restaurants.

The 2017 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, www.nar.realtor/reports/nar-2017-community-preference-survey, which polled adults from across the U.S. about what they are looking for in a community, found that 62 percent of millennials and 55 percent of the silent generation prefer walkable communities and short commutes, even if it means living in an apartment or townhouse. Gen-Xers and baby boomers still show a strong preference toward suburban living, with 55 percent of both groups saying that they have no problem with a longer commute and driving to amenities if it means living in a single-family, detached home.

“Realtors® understand that when people buy a home, they are not just looking at the house, they are looking at the neighborhood and the community,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “While the idea of the ‘perfect neighborhood’ is different for every homeowner, more Americans are expressing a desire to live in communities with access to public transit, shorter commutes and greater walkability. Realtors® work tirelessly at improving their communities through smart growth initiatives that help transform public spaces into these walkable community centers.”

According to the survey, the majority of Americans, 53 percent, would prefer to live in communities containing houses with small yards but within easy walking distance of the community’s amenities, as opposed to living in communities with houses that have large yards but they have to drive to all amenities. This up from 48 percent in 2015.

However, responders with school-age kids in the home, regardless of their generation, show a greater preference for conventional suburban communities. Sixty percent of all responders with kids in school said they prefer larger homes and yards that require driving, and that number jumps to 63 percent for millennials with kids in school.

The survey also found that a majority of Americans, 88 percent, are very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of life in their communities, and 51 percent of those people believe that the walkability of their neighborhood contributes to that quality of life.

The report found that women, particularly young women, prioritize walkability and public transit more than older or younger men. Fifty-four percent of young women said that sidewalks and places to take walks is a very important factor in deciding where to live, and 39 percent said the same about having public transit nearby. However, when it comes to a short commute to work, youth was a greater indicator of preference than gender; 49 percent of young women and 48 percent of young men said being within a short commute to work was a very important factor in deciding where to live.

While 60 percent of adults surveyed live in detached, single-family homes, 21 percent of those respondents said they would rather live in an attached home and have greater walkability. Sixty percent of those surveyed also said that they would be willing to pay a little or a lot more to live within walking distance of parks, shops and restaurants.

When selecting a new home, respondents indicated that they would like choices when it comes to their community’s transportation options. Eighty-six percent of survey participants said that sidewalks are a positive factor when purchasing a home, and 80 percent place importance on being within easy walking distance of places.

When it comes to respondents’ thoughts on transportation priorities for the government, 73 percent indicated that maintaining and repairing roads and bridges should be a high priority, with expanding roads to help alleviate or reduce congestion as the next highest priority, at 54 percent.

The survey of 3,000 adult Americans living in the 50 largest metropolitan areas was conducted by American Strategies and Meyers Research in September 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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12 Simple Home Repair Jobs to Lift You Out of Winter’s Funk

Accomplishments — even little ones — go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter.

For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip. On your work days, put the basics in a caddy and carry it from room to room, checking off completed tasks as you speed through them.

#1 Sagging Towel Rack or Wobbly TP Holder

Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

#3 Stop Creaky Floor Boards

They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

#4 Remove Rust on Shutoff Valves

Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most.

Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

#5 Repair Blistered Paint on Shower Ceilings

This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

#6 Fix Loose Handles and Hinges

You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

#7 Replace Batteries on Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

#8 Test GFCI Outlets

You’re supposed to test ground-fault circuit interrupters them once a month, but who does? Now’s a great time. You’ll find them around potentially wet areas — building codes specify GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and for outdoor receptacles. Make sure the device trips and resets correctly. If you find a faulty outlet, replace it or get an electrician to do it for $75 to $100.

Another good project is to replace your GFCIs with the latest generation of protected outlets that test themselves, such as Levitron’s SmartlockPro Self-Test GFCI ($28). You won’t have to manually test ever again!

#9 Clean Exhaust Filter for the Stove

By washing it to remove grease, you’ll increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

#10 Clean Out Clothes Dryer Vent

Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

Related: How to Maintain Your Dryer

#11 Drain Hoses

Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

#12 Check Electrical Cords

Replace any that are brittle, cracked, or have damaged plugs. If you’re using extension cords, see if you can eliminate them — for example, by replacing that too-short lamp cord with one that’s longer. If you don’t feel up to rewiring the lamp yourself, drop it off at a repair shop as you head out to shop for your repair materials. It might not be ready by the end of the day. But, hey, one half-done repair that you can’t check off is no big deal, right?

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

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Homeowners Say Tax Reform Would Hurt Them

Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A majority of recently surveyed homeowners say that changing homeownership tax incentives would restrict their mobility and cause them financial strain, according to new data from the National Association of REALTORS®’ fourth-quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey.

Proposed tax bills currently in the House and Senate could “undercut the incentive of owning a home and would have a detrimental effect on many homeowners’ financial situation and future desire to move,” NAR states on a release about the survey’s findings.

The current House and Senate bill weaving its way through Congress differs in content, but includes a call to limit the mortgage interest deduction on new mortgages and eliminate it outright for second mortgages and new home equity lines of credit. The bill also contains potential implications for the capital gains exclusions on the sale of a principal residence and caps on property taxes.

Eighty-five percent of the homeowners surveyed by NAR say they would deduct both mortgage interest and property taxes if they bought a new home. Forty-eight percent of homeowners surveyed say that if changes to the tax code are made they would experience financial strain due to the changes. Also, 30 percent say they would then be reluctant to move.

“Homeownership is an aspirational goal for millions of Americans, but getting there isn’t always easy,” says NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “Middle-class families count on tax incentives like the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction to make homeownership a more affordable prospect. REALTORS® will continue to advocate for these and other important provisions as the tax reform debate continues.”

NAR’s full findings from its fourth quarter HOME survey will be released Dec. 18.

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

 

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11 Easy-Up, Easy-Down Décor Hacks for Stress-Free Holidays

Give or take a Scrooge or two, everybody loves the holidays: Decorating the tree, hanging lights, hanging holly … all those things! But you know what nobody loves? Taking all those things down.

Because, wow, what an unorganized mess.

Before you go all Scrooge, get your jolly back with these simple holiday decorating hacks.

#1 Protect Ornaments With Holiday Recyclables

Small colorful ornaments in a yellow egg cartonImage: Anne Arntson for HouseLogic

Trimming the tree should feel like the happy ending of a Lifetime holiday movie, not a game show guessing which box will contain broken memories.

Keep ornaments safe for next year by stowing them in leftover party cups, hot-glued onto a piece of foam board cut to fit inside a storage bin, recommends Lisa Woodruff, a Cincinnati-based professional organizer.

Or pack ornaments away using bubble wrap from holiday packages, or egg cartons from those countless cookies you made.

All of these options make for shock-absorbent padding that’s more durable than paper towels or tissue paper.

You dream of decking every hall, every year, but when the holidays roll around, you’ve got a brisket to bake and cocktails to clink.

So focus your festive energy on just one iconic focal point — a wreath on the front door or greenery on the mantel — something that easily changes with the seasons.

Or, create a display that makes you feel merry year-round. (Try repurposing storefront letters to spell out “LOVE” or “JOY” — sentiments that never go out of season.)

#3 Create a Decorating Toolbox

Before you can hang a single strand of lights or sprig of mistletoe, you have to find the gosh-darn zip ties, track down the floral wire, and repurpose a few extension cords.

Just thinking about the prep work makes you ready for a long winter’s nap. But this year’s gonna be your prep for next year, and the years to follow.

As you put everything up, keep a running checklist of what you need. Then stock a toolbox that gets replenished every year.

#4 Leave Your Light Hooks and Nails in Place for Next Year

If you like to trim your home’s roof and siding with holiday lights, you know what a hassle it is to find last year’s nail holes while balancing on a ladder with your extremities slowly freezing.

So, this year, use hooks that match your siding (not nails because they fall out easier) or paint them so they are indistinguishable from your siding or trim before you put them up.

Then leave them up when you take down your lights.

Come next year, just rehang your lights and bask in your twinkling success.

#5 Wrap Lights Around Gift Boxes

Holiday lights wrapped around a piece of cardboardImage: Christina Hoffmann for HouseLogic

There’s nothing like a multicolored knot of lights to put a damper on your bright holiday spirit.

So as you take down this year’s lights, wrap them around empty gift boxes or cardboard. Make a small notch on each side to keep the ends snugly in place.

Next year you’ll spend less time untangling your lights and more time basking in them.

#6 Hang Wreaths in the Rafters

Colorful DIY wreaths hanging on a bar in a closetImage: Russell Gregory

All year you look forward to hanging that wreath you got for a steal at an after-Christmas sale.

Rather than tossing it in a trash bag, where it can too easily get seriously mushed or even forgotten, hang it from 4-inch nails hammered into the attic rafters or garage walls, Woodruff recommends.

It will be easy to find, and will be in pristine shape for next year.

#7 Store Your Tree With the Decorations on It

A fake Xmas tree with decorations wrapped in shrink wraImage: Chris Baldwin

No, seriously.

If strategizing the placement of skiing Garfield and his 107 dangly friends is your least favorite part of holiday decorating, skip it after this year.

Ask someone to help you tightly wrap this year’s decorated (artificial) tree — yep, ornaments and all — with heavy-duty stretch plastic wrap (the type that professional movers use, which you can find at home improvement stores).

Next year, just cut the wrap and reshape the branches.

Happy holidays indeed.

#8 Or Give in and Buy a Tree Bag

Every December 26, you begin to dread awkwardly wrestling your artificial tree back into its original packaging.

This year, go ahead and spend the 50 bucks on a tree bag or box, Woodruff says. It will seal out dirt, dust, and bugs, won’t smash the branches, and some styles even allow you to store your tree fully or partially assembled.

Plus, just knowing you can skip the reassembly next time makes for an extra happy New Year.

#9 Trim Those Trimmings

Getting out decorations should be a welcome walk down memory lane — not a guilt trip through items you “should” display but … ugh.

So when you take down this year’s decor, follow the old rule for paring down your wardrobe and get rid of anything you didn’t use — you know, that carol-singing mounted fish from your dad or Nana’s crocheted coaster set — and donate them.

“If it’s a sentimental item, take a picture of it,” Woodruff says.

You won’t waste storage space and, come next year, you’ll be greeted only by items you love and use.

#10 Organize By Room

If you’ve got snowmen in every bathroom and a jingle bell on every drawer, you may end up with mountains of half-empty boxes piled everywhere for longer than you spend enjoying the decor.

Get your halls decked more efficiently by sorting your boxes of trimmings by room, Woodruff suggests.

Then, label each light strand by location — mantel, doorway, tree, etc. Decorating is merrier when you can grab a bin and make an evening of it, one room at a time.

#11 Create a “Must-Have” Bin

A gray Tupperware with a note of holiday supplies enclosedImage: Anne Arntson for HouseLogic

Put all your favorite decorations in one “first-up, last-down” bin.

Next year, you’ll spend more time enjoying your cherished menorah or manger and less time rummaging to find it.

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

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Pending Home Sales Strengthen 3.5% in October

WASHINGTON (November 29, 2017) — Pending home sales rebounded strongly in October following three straight months of diminishing activity, but still continued their recent slide of falling behind year ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions except for the West saw an increase in contract signings last month.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* www.nar.realtor/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 3.5 percent to 109.3 in October from a downwardly revised 105.6 in September. The index is now at its highest reading since June (110.0), but is still 0.6 percent below a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says pending sales in October were primarily driven higher by a big jump in the South, which saw a nice bounce back after hurricane-related disruptions in September. “Last month’s solid increase in contract signings were still not enough to keep activity from declining on an annual basis for the sixth time in seven months,” he said. “Home shoppers had better luck finding a home to buy in October, but slim pickings and consistently fast price gains continue to frustrate and prevent too many would-be buyers from reaching the market.”

According to Yun, the supply and affordability headwinds seen most of the year have not abated this fall. Although homebuilders are doing their best to ramp up production of single-family homes amidst ongoing labor and cost challenges, overall activity still drastically lags demand. Further exacerbating the inventory scarcity is the fact that homeowners are staying in their homes longer. NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased last month – revealed that homeowners typically stayed in their home for 10 years before selling (an all-time survey high). Prior to 2009, sellers consistently lived in their home for a median of six years before selling.

“Existing inventory has decreased every month on an annual basis for 29 consecutive months, and the number of homes for sale at the end of October was the lowest for the month since 19991,” said Yun. “Until new home construction climbs even higher and more investors and homeowners put their home on the market, sales will continue to severely trail underlying demand.”

With two months of data remaining for the year, Yun forecasts for existing-home sales to finish at around 5.52 million, which is an increase of 1.3 percent from 2016 (5.45 million). The national median existing-home price this year is expected to increase around 6 percent. In 2016, existing sales increased 3.8 percent and prices rose 5.1 percent.

The PHSI in the Northeast inched forward 0.5 percent to 95.0 in October, but is still 1.9 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index increased 2.8 percent to 105.8 in October, but remains 0.9 percent lower than October 2016.

Pending home sales in the South jumped 7.4 percent to an index of 123.6 in October and are now 2.0 percent higher than last October. The index in the West decreased 0.7 percent in October to 101.6, and is now 4.4 percent below a year ago.

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.

# # #

1Inventory at the end of October was at 1.80 million existing homes for sale, which was the lowest October reading since NAR began tracking in 1999.

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.

NOTE: NAR’s November Housing Minute video will be released November 30 at 2:00 p.m., Existing-Home Sales for November will be reported December 20, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be December 27; all release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

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

 

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6 Near-Genius Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home

Your home: You love it, but sometimes you have to leave it.

Whether it’s the eight hours a day or eight days on a dreamy beach, allowing your biggest investment to fend for itself can be stressful. And it’s a legit concern; when your home looks empty, break-ins happen. A lot. Ugh.

You could deter burglars by never leaving your house again. Or you could do the next best (OK, way better) thing, and just make it look like someone is there all the time. Here’s how.

#1 Light Up a Room (From the Road)

Your parents may still rely on their lighting timer — on at 8 p.m., off at 7 a.m. That old-fashioned option still works, but apps are more fun. They not only turn your lights on and off, but can do so randomly for a more realistic effect. And you can decide to flip on your porch light while sipping a mojito in Fiji.

You can Google your options, but one affordable example is the Lutron Caséta Wireless system (about $80 for the device and $55 per switch). You replace your current wall switches with these wireless ones and “talk” to your lights from afar.

#2 Fake a Netflix Binge

Nothing says “we are definitely home” like the colorful glare of a television dancing in the window.

Put the little FakeTV gizmo where it can project light onto a curtain, and that’s exactly what your home will say to passersby.

The device (which runs between about $20 and $40 depending on size) plugs into an adapter and can either work on a timer or with a light sensor, so it can switch on when it gets dark.

#3 Change Up Your Shades Remotely

Leave your window shades down while you’re gone and you might as well put out a “Gone Fishin’” sign.

Check out wireless options to throw some shade on the go. Several companies have systems — including Hunter Douglas PowerView, Pella Insynctive, and Lutron Serena — that allow shades to go up and down at your command for about $300 to $500 a window.

#4 Make Some Noise

Burglars can change plans in a hurry at the first sound of life inside a home — they’re a bit tetchy that way. So one option when you’re just gone for the day is a noise app, like Sleep And Noise Sounds that can play on a homebound phone, tablet, or computer. With noises like vacuuming and a boiling kettle, it can deter a thief who cracks open a window.

#5 Make Them Ring And Run

“Burglars will often ring your doorbell, and if no one answers, they’ll go around back and kick in the door,” says Deputy Michael Favata with the Monroe County Sheriff’s office in New York. Now you can answer the door with the Ring Video Doorbell ($180 for the basic model).

If someone pushes the doorbell, you can talk to them through an app on your phone. Whether it’s your nosey neighbor or a sketchy stranger, you can say, “I’m in the basement” while you’re really on the slopes. They’ll never know. And even if they don’t believe you, they know they’re being watched (insert devilish laugh here).

#6 Try a No-Tech Technique

Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:

  • Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
  • If there’s snow, have a neighbor walk up and down the path to your door, shovel a passage up to the garage door and drive in and out of the driveway. If it’s hot out, ask them to keep your plants looking fresh with regular waterings. And don’t forget to bring them a nice gift from your getaway.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors to just be present on your property — use your patio, play in your yard, or bring in the mail.
  • Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway. During the holidays, they may be happy if they need overflow for visitors.
  • Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
  • Get a dog. A real dog. While you’re at work or running errands, nothing deters bad guys and gals like a barking, slobbery security guard. And when you go away, having a pet sitter stay can be as economical as some boarding facilities (especially if you have multiple dogs), and you’ll get the benefit of a human and canine sentinel.

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

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Senate Bill Cuts Property Tax Deduction

Daily Real Estate News | Friday, November 10, 2017

Yesterday, Senate Finance Committee Republicans released their version of the tax reform bill. Although it goes one step further than the House bill by preserving the $1 million cap on the mortgage interest deduction—rather than cutting it to $500,000—it eliminates the deduction for property taxes. These are among the important differences between the plans, both versions of which will lead to higher taxes for many middle-income homeowners and lower property values overall, NAR says.

“Simply preserving the mortgage interest deduction in name only isn’t enough to protect homeownership,” NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall said in a statement yesterday.

NAR’s concern is twofold. First, by almost doubling the standard deduction while repealing or limiting most itemized deductions, both plans would eliminate the current law’s tax incentives for buying or owning a home. Secondly, because both versions would also eliminate the personal and dependency exemptions, many middle-income families would end up paying more in taxes instead of getting a tax cut.

In addition to the differences between the two versions of tax reform on the MID and the property tax deduction, which the House bill keeps but limits to $10,000, the Senate plan features seven tax brackets. The House bill consolidates the brackets into four and raises the lowest bracket to a 12 percent tax rate from 10 percent. The Senate keeps the lowest bracket at 10 percent.

Both bills will drastically curtail the exclusion on the capital gain from the sale of a principal residence. The exclusion allows single individuals to disregard taxes on up to $250,000 and married couples up to $500,000 of gain from the sale. But in a change both plans seek, it would be harder to qualify. Sellers will have to live in the home for five of the last eight years to take the exclusion, up from two of the last five years in the present law. And, under the House bill, higher-income households would see the benefit reduced.

The House keeps the highest tax bracket at 39.6 percent, while the Senate plan cuts it to 38.5 percent. In other differences, the House doubles the exemption for the estate and gift tax, before repealing it altogether after six years, while the Senate doubles the exemption with no repeal. On the corporate side, both versions lower the top-end rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, but the House makes it effective for 2018 while the Finance Committee delays the drop until 2019.

Lawmakers in the Senate are constrained by budget rules to keep the net cost of reforms to $1.5 trillion over 10 years; otherwise they need a supermajority of 60 votes to pass the bill. As long as they meet the budget rule, they only need a simple majority to pass, a threshold that means it’s possible for them to pass the bill on a party-line vote.

NAR continues to analyze the Senate proposal as well as the House bill, which was passed by the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee yesterday. The House bill was amended in significant ways this week prior to passage, but provisions that will affect homeowners remain in place. REALTORS® will be on Capitol Hill next week letting members in both chambers know that homeowners should not be shouldering the burden of reform by paying higher taxes so corporations can get a tax cut.

“We are watching closely for changes to current law that might leave middle-class homeowners—and homeownership broadly—in a worse place than it is today,” Mendenhall said.

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

 

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