Too Much Clutter?

Got a spare hour of so?  Make some time to start tossing.  Get a trash bag, your recycling bin and a few boxes for donations and get down to business.  Working room by room, here are the things you can get rid of right away.

Kitchen

  1. Expired food in your fridge and pantry.  Check those condiments – they    don’t last as long as you think.
  2. Recipe books, cards and printouts you don’t use.
  3. Old or one time use cleaning supplies under the sink.
  4. Bottles of alcohol collecting dust.
  5. Old, stained and tattered sponges, dishrags and hand towels.

Living Room

  • Magazines you’ve already read.
  • DVDs that no one watches anymore.
  • Knickknacks that you are tired of looking at.
  • Extra throw pillows and blankets.
  •  Old toys and electronics that aren’t being used.

Bathrooms

  1.  Expired medications.
  2.  Old makeup, nail polishes and other skin care products.
  3.  Half-empty bottles of soap or soap remnants in the shower.
  4.  Hotel soaps, shampoos, lotions, sample packets.
  5.  Hair accessories, curlers, hot tools that are no longer used.

Bedrooms

  1.  Extra sets of sheets (you only need 2).
  2.  Clothes that don’t fit or you no longer wear.
  3.  Shoes that are worn out or never worn.
  4.  Broken, unused jewelry.
  5.  Extra buttons, clothing tags, safety & bobby pins.

Office

  •  Old instruction manuals.
  •  Print-outs you don’t have a use for.
  •  Books you’ve already read, don’t like, or won’t realistically get to.
  •  Shred old tax documents, bills and pay stubs.
  •  Extra pens, pencils and other office supplies.
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Why Are Homeowners Removing the Fireplace?

Some homeowners are viewing the fireplace as more of a liability than an asset—and they’re opting to remove it. After all, there are an average of 22,300 fireplace, chimney, or chimney connector fires each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some owners are removing them because of those potential dangers, but others’ reasoning is more design-oriented—they don’t want a fireplace because it’s taking up too much space in their home or even dating their home’s look.

Fireplaces can be conducive to open floor plans. “Recently, I had two clients remove their fireplaces because they were used as dividers between rooms,” Tamara Heidel, a real estate broker at Heidel Realty in Las Vegas, told realtor.com®. They were able to open up the space by removing the fireplace.

Home builders have reported that they’re adding fewer fireplaces into new homes they build. 

But losing a fireplace can affect a home’s appeal and possibly even its resale value, real estate pros say. A fireplace can particularly be viewed as a valuable amenity in colder climates, and removing one could even reduce the number of buyers drawn to a property, some agents say.

Fireplaces can add warmth and cozy vibes to listings. “Imagine sitting around the fireplace on a cold night to warm up or marking s’mores with your kids,” says Brett Ringelheim, a real estate pro with Compass in New York. It can be a sought-after amenity among buyers.

That’s why removing it seems absurd to some real estate pros. “You don’t want your home to be labeled ‘the house without a fireplace,’ especially in cold climates,” Benjamin Ross, a real estate professional with the Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, Texas, told realtor.com®.

Removing a fireplace isn’t easy, either. “The removal would not only be expensive but could compromise the home’s stability,” Katina Asbell, associate broker at Real Living Capital City Realty in Atlanta, told realtor.com®. The masonry base and chimney tend to be a big part of a home’s structure.

For owners who feel like their fireplace looks dated, it could be cheaper to renovate it, even with just a new coat of paint. Paint it white or replace the mantel, agents suggest.

Jared Greenberg, a real estate pro with Keller Williams Premier Realty in Katy, Texas, told realtor.com® that he’s never had buyers who didn’t purchase a home because it had a fireplace. “Even if someone doesn’t plan on using it, they can turn it into a decorative fireplace and put candles or stacked wood in it,” he says.

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New-Home Sales Surge to 12-Year High

More home shoppers purchased newly constructed homes in November, bringing new-home sales to their best three-month performance since 2007, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Monday. Economists credit low mortgage rates, low unemployment, and strong income growth for the sales uptick.

Sales of new single-family homes increased 1.3% to an annualized pace of 719,000 in November. “Fueled by the limited number of resales available for purchase, low interest rates, and low unemployment, new home sales are finishing the year strong,” says Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. New-home sales are running 10% higher than in 2018. Plus, builder confidence is high, indexes show, which bodes well for 2020, adds NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

Low inventory of new homes, however, continues to put pressure on prices. The median sales price of a new home rose 7.2% compared to a year ago, reaching $330,800 in November. Inventory of new homes stand at a 5.4-month supply. There are 323,000 new single-family homes for sale (but just 76,000 are completed and ready to occupy).

New home sales are performing strongest in the South, up 14.5% from a year ago in November, followed by a 12% increase in the West. In the Northeast and Midwest, meanwhile, new-home sales are down 10.4% and 7.6%, respectively.

Inventory remains a pressing issue for the overall housing market in both the new-home and existing-home markets. Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, says that housing starts are short by 135,000 compared to the long-term average—and well short of the 5 million to 6 million that is needed to fully end the housing shortage.

“More home construction appears to be on the way as we move into 2020, as reflected in the very high confidence of home builders,” Yun said last week. “They are clearly recognizing an improving business opportunity. Overall, more construction will mean more housing inventory to choose from for consumers. Home sales can then easily rise while taming the fast growth in home prices.”

Last week, NAR also released a report that showed sales of previously owned homes fell in November, likely due to inventory constraints. Yun said existing-home sales likely will be “choppy when inventory levels are low,” but a strong economy should help keep demand strong.

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

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What Does ‘Active With Backup Offers’ Mean?

By Terri Williams | Dec 17, 2019

Like any other type of business, the real estate world is filled with lingo that might not be discernible at first blush. Terms such as “pending” or “contingent,” commonly seen in online listings, may be familiar, but what about “active with backup offers”? According to Clara Nicolosi, a broker and owner at Re/Max of Hot Springs Village, AK, “active with backup offers” is also known as “taking backup offers.” 

It’s a scenario in which all parties allow the seller to continue advertising and entertaining additional offers, in case the first accepted offer falls through. But why would a seller keep the property active after accepting an offer?

“In most cases, you see this situation when the buyer has a home to sell, and it has an accepted offer but has not closed,” Nicolosi says. This contingency would release the purchaser out of the contract should his previous residence not sell.

Other reasons sellers will accept backup offers

Understandably, many buyers don’t want to juggle two house mortgages.

“In today’s market, some buyers have a stipulation that they have to sell their house in order to buy the new one and their old house isn’t under contract yet,” says Jennifer Murtland, team leader for Team Synergi Real Estate in Cincinnati.

There are other reasons a seller may take backup offers, but they similarly relate to circumstances that indicate the best offer might not pan out.

“’Active with a backup offer’ could mean the seller accepted an offer but doesn’t feel sure that the buyer is a strong candidate, so they want backups in case the first offer falls through,” says Alejandro Figueroa at Keller-Williams Realty in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Backup offer process

So what happens when you want to submit a backup offer? According to Rick Snow, a broker at EXIT East/West Realty in El Paso, TX, when a backup offer is submitted, it is negotiated as if it were primary, but with the understanding (in writing, on a backup addendum form) that there is already a contract in place and that the second offer would become the primary offer only if the first one fails to perform or terminates within a certain time period.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when submitting a backup offer. For one thing, it’s legally binding.

“It is best for buyers to treat submitting backup offers no differently than submitting a regular offer,” says Amy Sanford of Amy Sanford Real Estate, in Nantucket, MA. The only difference is that your offer is less likely to be accepted.

Should you submit an offer?

All of our experts agree that you should indeed submit an offer on a house whose status is active with backup offers.

“In the event that the primary offer does not go through, the second offer will go to contract without the house going back on the market,” says Jamie Safier, a licensed real estate salesperson at Douglas Elliman in New York.

Whether your offer is accepted depends on a number of factors—including your local real estate market and the condition of the property—but it could happen.

“We have had as many as five backups in position, and the fifth ended up the winner,” says Michael Edlen at Coldwell Banker Residential Edlen Team in Los Angeles.

Should your backup offer be higher than asking?

Some people might think it’s strategic to sweeten the pot by submitting a backup offer that’s higher than asking price. This all depends on your budget and how much you want the house, but some experts would endorse this strategy.

“If the winning offer ends up being $5,000 over the asking, would you be kicking yourself if you didn’t offer that price?” says Fiona Dogan, real estate agent with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, NY.

Safier agrees, and says if this is a house you’re excited about, make sure you have a good offer on the table.

“Sellers are allowed to take more than one backup offer, and if it’s your dream house, submit what you’re most comfortable with. In a hot market, you want to be the first in line should the primary buyer’s deal fall through.”

However, Snow is against offering more, unless that’s what the market dictates. And, according to Nicholas Oliver, principal broker at HomeDax Real Estate in New York, submitting a high backup offer may not persuade a seller to accept it.

“The seller may simply give the current accepted offer the opportunity to match the higher bid,” he says.

Terri Williams is a journalist who has written for USA Today, Yahoo, the Economist, U.S. News and World Report, and the Houston Chronicle. Follow @Territoryone

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

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The Biggest Changes Coming in 2020 Real Estate—and What Buyers and Sellers Need to Do


It has, in fact, been the most consequential stretch in American real estate history, one that has fundamentally altered the landscape. Cosmopolitan coastal cities are out; affordable midsize cities are in. Baby boomers and Gen Xers are no longer the dominant forces in buying, ceding that turf to millennials. Yet after all this time, it seems that home buyers still can’t get much of a break, according to a new report from realtor.com®.

“In 2020, there will be opportunity for buyers, but in many ways the challenges they’ve faced for years are going to persist—challenges like difficulty finding the home that’s right for them, and competing with other buyers, especially in affordable price points,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com, whose team pulled together a forecast of housing trends for 2020.

In other words: The more things change, the more they’ll stay the same. A lack of homes for sale has been making things difficult for buyers since 2015, and next year, inventory could reach historic lows. And although single-family home construction is expected to increase 6%, it still won’t be enough to keep up with demand.

There is a bright side, though: Mortgage rates are expected to remain reasonable, at an average 3.85%.

Let’s take a closer look at the biggest factors that will shape the real estate market in 2020.

Affordability, affordability, affordability

OK, it’s not as catchy as “location, location, location,” but achievable price points will be key in the coming year, especially as millennial buyers solidify their position as America’s main home buyers (more on that later).

Now that we’ve apparently hit the ceiling of crazy price growth, it seems that buyers are just over overpaying.

“Many people would prefer to live in the San Franciscos and [other] big cities, but for the right price they will make the decision to go to another city,” says Hale.

Perhaps a city like, say, McAllen, TX, where sales are expected to rise 4.4% and home prices to appreciate 4% in 2020. Compare that with a 9.5% drop in sales for Las Vegas, and 1.1% decrease in home prices.

Texas, Arizona, and Nevada are expected to welcome an influx of home shoppers priced out of California. Meanwhile, would-be buyers from pricey Northeastern markets will likely head to the Midwest or Southeast. There, they can find affordable housing as well as solid, diversified economies.

Millennials mature into home buying

“The largest cohort of millennials will turn 30 in 2020—historically, that’s when people tend to think of buying their first home,” says Hale. The oldest millennials will be turning 39. By the middle of the year, she says, this generation will account for more than 50% of mortgages taken out in the country. Yes, that’s more than all other generations, combined.

Surprised? Well, the popular notion that millennials aren’t interested in settling down just isn’t proving true as members of this generation, born in 1981 through 1997, partner off and start families.

“Family changes tend to drive home-buying decisions,” Hale notes. “Millennials are going to be active in the housing market not just because they’re just at the age when they’re thinking about becoming first-time home buyers, but they’re also in the age range when they’re having kids.”

But while they may be motivated, they’ll face a lot of competition for the scarce homes on the market—from roughly 71 million of their peers nationwide.

Where are the homes?

While millennials are raring to buy, Gen Xers and boomers are pretty comfortable where they are, thank you very much. Boomers are living longer, healthier lives, and staying in their houses longer. Gen Xers often aren’t quite done with raising kids or ready to retire, so except for the lucky ones trading up, they also aren’t inclined to move.

Since older owners aren’t quite chomping at the bit to give up their houses en masse—and with levels of new construction still low in most parts of the U.S.—there just won’t be enough housing to meet the demand. And while in previous years this scarcity has driven up home prices, home price appreciation is finally flagging, with predicted growth of just 0.8%.

After the housing crash in 2008, which wiped out quite a few builders, those who remained have largely focused on higher-end developments with bigger profit margins. Although they’re finally showing signs of a shift toward building more entry-level homes, faced with overwhelming demand, it will take a few years for a significant number to come to market.

How to buy a home in 2020

Those looking to buy an entry-level home will face a tough search, so they should be prepared for it to take a while—and to act quickly when needed.

“Finding a property that is right for you and snatching it up before someone else does is going to be the primary challenge,” Hale says.

Those with a bit more to spend will have more to choose from, less competition, and possibly more motivated sellers.

How to sell a home in 2020

Sellers of entry-level homes should be sitting pretty, as those will continue to be the most in-demand properties next year. If anything, those sellers should be prepared to move out quickly!

Others should brace themselves for a longer wait, especially as the price point moves up. The number of existing-home sales is expected to dip 1.8% next year. Higher-end sellers should do their homework: “They might need to think about the competition and pricing their home competitively,” Hale says.

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

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Community Bans Cars to Test Walkability

A 1,000-person rental development underway in Tempe, Ariz., will be a carfree zone. Tenants’ leases will not allow cars parked onsite or in the surrounding area. The development is testing the demand for walkable neighborhoods, which young adults claim they desire. The Arizona development will be urging residents to ditch their cars and take advantage of bikes, scooters, ride-hailing, and nearby public transit.

Culdesac Tempe will consist of three-story buildings and, instead of parking spaces, will feature retail and open spaces, such as communal fire pits. The development is near a light rail station that will connect residents to Arizona State University, downtown Phoenix, and the airport.

“Transportation has changed a lot over the last decade and real estate hasn’t kept up,” Ryan Johnson, co-founder and chief executive of the Culdesac development, told The Wall Street Journal. “Now there’s the chance for us to build the first post-car development.”

A 2010 survey by the National Association of Home Builders showed 60% of home buyers say they want to live in a walkable neighborhood.

Young adults like to drive less and have been leading the calls for greater walkable neighborhoods. Fewer 16-year-olds are getting their drivers licenses. In 2017, only about a quarter of 16-year-olds had a driver’s license, down from half in 1983, according to a study by transportation researcher Michael Sivak.

Culdesac developers hope to use the Tempe project as a model for other parts of the country, such as Denver and Dallas.

But not everyone believes carfree neighborhoods will take off.

“‘Quirky’ is probably the right word,” Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, told The Wall Street Journal. “People are more adaptable in terms of taking Uber and public transport, but a lot of households still want one car.”

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Designers Sound Off on the Worst Bathroom Colors

Nothing ruins a bathroom like a bad hue, and the gray trend may be one of the worst offenders, designers say.

“Bathrooms tend to be enclosed spaces, so greige-y muddy colors can make the space feel smaller and dingy,” Ariel Okin, an interior designer in New York City, told Apartment Therapy. “Lighter colors like bright crisp whites, powder blues, and spring greens always play really well in a bathroom, as do moodier shades such as inky navy and hunter green.”

A “gold beige” is a color that design consultant Kelly Bernier told Apartment Therapy she avoids as a bathroom color. “It’s not a current color, doesn’t work with any recent tile, and will make your room look dated,” she says. “Greige” is a range of colors combining grey and beige; some tones are warmer and some are cooler.

On the other hand, bright and neutral paints—like blues and whites—work great in bathrooms when paired with textures and color in the finishes, Sara Raak, a lifestyle and product stylist, told Apartment Therapy.

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

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Home Improvement Projects Are Worth Cost and Time

WASHINGTON (October 3, 2019) – Homeowners who decide to undergo a home improvement project, whether it be interior or exterior modifications, often find that the task was worth the investment and time, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®, with insights from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, an examination of 20 projects, surveyed Realtors®, consumers who have taken on home renovation projects and members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The report examines a variety of remodeling projects, using responses to rank the appeal of a given project, rank the value of the project in terms of resale and determine its overall functionality. The findings also reveal the reasons for remodeling, the success of taking on the various projects and the increased happiness reported in the home upon completion of the job.

October 2019 Remodeling impact infographic

After completing a remodeling project, 74% of owners have a greater desire to be in their home, 65% say they experience increased enjoyment, and 77% feel a major sense of accomplishment, according to the survey. Additionally, 58% report a feeling of happiness when they see their completed projects, while 38% say they have a feeling of satisfaction.

“Realtors® and homeowners alike recognize the value of taking on a major home remodeling project,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota, and broker at Edina Realty. “While these tasks can be time-consuming and costly, the projects are well worth the temporary inconveniences, as this report shows, and the final products ultimately reward us, with feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction and higher home values.”

NAR calculated what it refers to as a “Joy Score” for each project. The score is based on the happiness homeowners reported with their renovations; the more pleased with a given project, the better the Joy Score, with the highest possible score being 10. Interior projects that received some of the higher Joy Scores are complete kitchen renovations, closet renovations, full interior and individual room paint jobs, kitchen upgrades and basement conversions to living areas. Exterior jobs with the highest Joy Scores were new fiberglass or steel front doors, new vinyl and wood windows and new roofing.

“The NAR report shows us that people often remodel for resale purposes, but it also reminds us that homeowners remodel, too, with the desire to make a home their own,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Kitchen Renovation

A complete kitchen renovation received a top Joy Score of 10. Ninety-three percent of those polled said they have a greater desire to be at home since the completion of their kitchen, and 95% said they have an increased sense of enjoyment when at home.

“The kitchen is a space homeowners frequent regularly throughout the course of the day,” Yun noted. “So when that area is remodeled to owners’ exact preferences – as they enter and exit the room – they continually experience the satisfaction of a job well done.”    

The most important result of a kitchen renovation is improved functionality and livability, according to 46% of those polled. As to the reasons why they decided to take on the project, 24% say they wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces and materials. Another 20% report they had recently moved into their home and had a desire to customize the kitchen to their particular tastes.

“Kitchens serve as the “heart of the home” for many, and whether you like to entertain or cook, updating a kitchen ensures greater access and use as homeowners age, especially when the upgrades take accessibility into account,” said NARI 2019-2020 President of the Board, Robert Kirsic, (CKBR) certified kitchen and bath remodeler. “No matter the size of the kitchen, a certified professional can guide the design and build process in a way that will yield joy and happiness for the homeowner.”

Closet Renovation

Upgrading home closets was another task that received a 10 Joy Score. This is due in part to the inconvenience of a disorganized closet, which is something a homeowner encounters daily, often at the start of their day. When a closet renovation is finished, the sense of achievement is immediate. Thusly, 68% of those surveyed say they feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think about the completed project. Nearly three-quarters, 72%, report having a greater desire to be at home since finishing the job.

With a closet redesign, 56% say the most important result is better functionality and livability. Fifty-four percent say the top reason for doing the job was the need to improve organization and storage. Fifteen percent answered that it was time for a change.

Full Interior Paint Job

Completing a full interior paint job in the home scored a 9.8 Joy Score. A finished paint job is usually visible in every room in a home, which speaks to how important a task this is to respondents.

A vast majority, 88%, say they have a greater desire to be home since having their home freshly painted. Eighty-six percent report feeling a major sense of accomplishment when they think of the project.

New Fiberglass Front Door

As mentioned, the installation of fiberglass front doors is a highly rated exterior project, receiving a Joy Score of 9.7. Seventy-nine percent of polled homeowners say they have had a greater desire to be at home upon completion of the job. Sixty-seven percent say they have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home, and another 69% state that they feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think of the completed project.

New Vinyl Windows

New vinyl windows also received a very high Joy Score, 9.6, while 42% of those surveyed say the most important result is improved functionality and livability. As for the top reasons for doing the job, 47% say they had a desire to improve their home’s energy efficiency and 23% say they wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes and materials.

Cost Recovered

Remodelers often take on projects with resale in mind, rather than their own home preferences. The report found the top projects for recovering cost are new roofing, hardwood floor refinishing, and new hardwood floor installation. NARI Remodelers estimate that new roofing costs $7,500, and Realtors® estimate that new roofing helps sellers recover $8,000, on average. That equates to 107% of value recovered from the project.

Lastly, NARI Remodelers estimate that new wood flooring costs $4,700, with Realtors® estimating the project helps sellers recover $5,000, or a 106% value recovery. NARI Remodelers estimate that hardwood floor refinishing costs $2,600, and Realtors® estimate that the hardwood floor refinishing would help sellers recover $2,600.

“Using a trusted, professional remodeler paves the way for a successful project outcome,” said NARI CEO, David R. Pekel, MCR, UDCP, CAPS. “NARI members adhere to our code of ethics, and work to design the best solution for homeowners to deliver satisfaction.”

About NAR’s Survey

In June and July of 2019, homeownership site HouseLogic.com surveyed consumers regarding the last remodeling project they undertook. A total of 2,193 respondents took the online survey. The Joy Score was calculated by combining the share who were happy and those who were satisfied when seeing their completed project and dividing the share by 10 to create a ranking between 1 and 10. Higher Joy Scores indicate greater joy from the project.

In March and June 2019, NARI emailed a cost survey to its 4,400 members. A total of 378 responses were received. The survey had an adjusted response rate of 11.6%. Respondents were asked to consider certain parameters.

In July 2019, NAR emailed an interior remodeling project survey to a random sample of 52,491 members. A total of 2,485 responses were received. The survey had an adjusted response rate of 4.7%, (see report for full methodology).

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 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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Liven Up That Living Room’s Look

The living room—that main gathering spot in a home—is a critical part in your showings. Home stagers recently chimed in at Apartment Therapy with their favorite tips for creating a better-staged living room.

One of their biggest pieces of advice centered on the tendency to cram too much furniture into one space. Ensure the living room has proper flow with sizable walkways among furnishings. Nathan Thompson with Pavilion Broadway, a luxury interior design company with staging services in the U.K., told Apartment Therapy he has a rule of thumb to get the distance right: At least an 18-inch walkway between furniture pieces; with larger spaces, he recommends doubling that to 36 inches.

Getting the portions right is equally as important, designers say. Smaller furniture isn’t necessarily a way to make a space look smaller or inviting. Placing smaller furniture in a large room or one with high ceilings can cause the space to look out of scale, Thompson says. “Coffee tables should be about half the size of your sofa,” he says. A rug should be large enough that it at least touches the front legs of your furniture, he adds.

Designers also suggest avoiding the habit of wanting to be too matchy with your living room design. “If you purchase a matching sofa, loveseat, and chair, anything else you put with it will look like the odd man out,” Justin Riordan, interior designer and founder of the home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency in Portland. While he’ll match lamps, he says he doesn’t like to match furniture when trying to create a sophisticated, designed space.

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

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