All Posts By



Understanding the Housing Market (without a Crystal Ball) Part II

August 23, 2019

Last time we talked about the status of the housing market in general, as well as the factors to look at when trying to understand it. 

As a reminder, here are the indicators you should keep an eye on to better understand the future of the housing market:

  • Home prices (covered in Part I)
  • Home sale volume
  • Home Construction
  • Available housing inventory
  • Mortgage rates

Today we’re going to be talking about the remaining four factors. As always, if you have any questions at all, give us a call or email and we’re happy to help!

Home Sale Volume

Soaring home prices usually dampen sale volumes. In January 2019, National Association of Realtors (NAR) recorded about a one percent monthly decrease in the number of sales, which, nationally, totaled roughly 5 million transactions. Year-over-year, the drop was 8.5 percent, with the greatest decline in sale volume occurring in homes that sold for $250,000 or less.

 “In the past, when housing went down for a long period, it dropped the rest of the economy down,” Yun says. “But when housing retreats only for a short period and recovers, then the economy is fine.”

With positive job growth and mortgage rate reductions, sales – which usually peak in spring and summer – may improve.

As you read about home sales, be sure to note if the data is based on all sales, existing sales or new home sales. As a reflection of only new construction properties, new home sales capture an exclusive segment with higher prices and can mean different things for the local market.

“New-home sales are a very small part of the market, generally less than 10 percent,” Yun says. “Sometimes it can be as low as 6 or 7 percent of all transactions.”

Home Construction

Residential construction, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau and HUD, offers a barometer for future supply. More than one million housing units reached completion in 2018, or more than two percent more than the 2017 tally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The year-over-year boost obscures labor shortages and material-cost surges, some of which emanate from the Great Recession, when construction halted and the industry shrank overall.

Available Housing Inventory

The quantity of homes for sale hinges on disparate factors. Recently escalating prices, for instance, surpassed the means of many potential buyers, especially first-time homebuyers, letting the number of available homes rise.

In December 2018, new home inventory – at 344,000 – accounted for a six-month supply, according to HUD information. Existing housing shaped a harder market with 1.59 million properties, a pace that kept less than four months of inventory on the market. This, though, is better than earlier in 2018.

“The spring of last year was one of the tightest market conditions – just not enough homes for sale,” Yun says. “(S)ome loosening in the inventory is a welcoming sign.”

Today’s still modest inventory counters the boon that defined the mid-2000s. There are various explanations why stock has hovered at historic lows ever since. Construction is consistently down. Owners, according to NAR’s “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” live in their homes for nearly a decade, several years longer than prior to the 2008 bust.

Mortgage Rates

After reaching a nearly eight-year high in December, at 4.55 percent, mortgage interest rates are now sliding, forging a more favorable financial outlook for buyers.

“The Federal Reserve has changed its policy from December to indicate it is going to be patient and the way to read that is to say that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates in 2019,” Yun says. “Hence, just change in that tone has led to a fall in mortgage rates.”

Mortgages also shift with the appetite for 10-year Treasury bonds. When risk grows, investors prefer safe, government-issued securities. As a result, prices shoot up and interest, including mortgage rates, goes down.

Other Tools & Considerations

  • While home prices, sales, construction, stock and mortgage rates are all essential indicators for the real estate market, others also harbor insights. Household-formation and homeownership rates reveal prospective demand. So do job creation and wage growth. Student debt, which could affect purchasing power, is another useful metric, alongside buyers’ changing preferences.
  • On the supply side, trade deals and building regulations impact construction, while financial and personal matters may motivate sellers.

So as you can see, no one-stop shop exists for you to get a handle on the housing market but if you look at all the factors here, you’re going to be a housing market pro (even if you need to call and ask us a question or two!).


Understanding the Housing Market (without a Crystal Ball)

August 16, 2019

Hi. Welcome to a 2-part series on Understanding the Housing Market (without a Crystal Ball). Part I talks about the housing market as it stands today, the factors you can be aware of to better understand it and a deep dive into the first two factors. If you have any questions about this information or the status of the housing market, we’re only a phone call away!

Housing Market Status (at least as of today!)

In late 2018, there were discussions about an impending slowdown, possibly even a recession. After home prices skyrocketed earlier in the year, the back half of last year ushered a softening that invoked comparisons to the real estate crash of a decade ago. Yet by the onset of this year, it seemed people were more at ease that nothing was actually going to topple the market afterall.

“The U.S. real estate market looks like it is on solid ground” this year, says Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist at business intelligence firm CoreLogic.

It seems, in the immediate future, another market crisis isn’t going to happen primarily because the trouble-prompting factors of the mid-2000s aren’t present today. In the pre-bust period, subprime loans stirred up demand and hurled the market into overdrive, whereas today, tight supply reigns, coupled with stern mortgage requirements.

With this comes high home prices and low inventory, which dominated 2018, which erodes affordability that further suffers when mortgage rates spike. Such “pain points,” McLaughlin says, often fester rather gradually, as the real estate market moves slowly compared to the stock market.

Even with a slow-moving market, certain industry indicators offer a prognosis to buyers, sellers and investors alike.

Here are the indicators you should keep an eye on to better understand the future of the housing market:

  • Home prices
  • Home sale volume
  • Construction
  • Available housing inventory
  • Mortgage rates

Home Prices

In December 2018, national resale value for all housing types neared $254,000, growing three percent from 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Alongside a national trajectory, home prices, like most economic indicators, chart independent tracks in regional markets, creating unique micro characteristics. While every state logged value increases in 2018, some – such as Idaho and Nevada – experienced the largest upswings, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index. Others, including North Dakota and Connecticut, hardly saw a 1 percent growth in the FHFA House Price Index.

The distinction between national and local trends reveals differences in the overall performance of the U.S. housing market.

“Some places had prices that really went up during the boom in the early part of (the) 2000s and then seriously went down in the bust,” says Kurt Usowski, deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “(In other places, prices) went up some but didn’t fall as much. Most places have recovered their house prices from before the housing bust.”

When comparing long-term price changes, however, the nuances between seasonally adjusted and unadjusted numbers could distort conclusions. Unadjusted values in  seasonal shifts, such as winter slumps, could imply a market downturn when it’s simply a part of the annual cycle. Hence, McLaughlin advises to contrast any value data with those of a year earlier, rather than the prior term.

“It is the same as the leaves falling off the tree – it doesn’t mean that the tree is dying,” McLaughlin says. “It will come back in the spring.”

 Stay tuned for Part II when we do a deep dive into the remaining factors of understanding the Housing Market.



Top 10 Most Expensive Homes in the World

August 8, 2019

Let’s have some fun and look at some of the most expensive homes in the world. To give you some perspective, the average home in the U.S. is worth $226,700.


most expensive houses in the world antilia

This house might not look like much in the picture, but it may just be the most extravagant house on the planet. Owned by Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, the incredibly large home is 27-stories high, and it boasts a whopping 400,000 square feet of live/play space. Sitting 570 feet tall, it’s more than half of the height of the Eiffel Tower. The home was designed by Chicago architects Perkins and Will, and it features amenities such as an ice cream parlor, six floors for cars, a snow room, a salon, and a private movie theater large enough to hold 50 people. No idea what a “snow room” is…

Luxury developer Bruce Makowsky’s 38,000 square-foot home is extreme to say the least. It has 12 bedrooms (including two master suites), and 21 bathrooms. With 7,000 square feet of entertainment decks, 10 huge guest suites, three separate gourmet kitchens, and five bars, you could probably fit a neighborhood comfortably in the home. It also has cool amenities such as a massage studio, a fitness center, an infinity swimming pool, a theater and a bowling alley. It’s like a modern-day Great Gatsby home.


most expensive houses in the world middle gap rd hong kong2This home is relatively humble when you consider its price tag. At 6,200 square feet, it has four bedrooms, four full-bathrooms, and one partial bathroom. But, it comes on a large lot, has a pool, and it’s in an incredibly desirable area in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world.

For perspective, the tiniest flats in Hong Kong can be as small as 123 square feet and cost a fortune. South China Morning Post reports that home prices in Hong Kong were HK$13,561 ($1,728 USD) a square foot, as of October 2018.



most expensive houses in the world 220 central park 2Billionaire Ken Griffin made headlines when he purchased this four-story condominium in New York for $238 million, just a few days after being in the news for purchasing a different home near Buckingham Palace in London for 95 million pounds (about $122 million). The New York Penthouse has almost 24,000 square feet and overlooks New York Park. Get this: Griffin plans to use it as an occasional home. It’s not even his primary residence!

So whether you’re looking for a “snow room,” an underground/indoor pool or a waterslide from the second story, give us a call. We’ll help you find your dream home!


Make Your House a Home Part IIIb: Kill the Smell

July 25, 2019

Let’s face it. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where the trash hasn’t been taken out, some smell has crawled under the couch and laundry might be piling up a little too high for comfort. And then we get a text that friends are in the neighborhood and they are gonna stop by and say hello!  But something smells fishy…and it’s the fishy that you made last night still hanging around the house.  Here are several tips to help you and your house smell like a bed of roses!

Air it Out

Open up windows, turn on ceiling fans or the heat/AC and let the new air take over the stinky air!

Candle Warmers

Candles are great, but they’re not for everyone. If you have little kids or pets running around, they’re a legit safety concern.Thanks to candle warmers, you no longer have to worry about soot, smoke or remembering to blow it out. In addition, scented wax will often retain their scent longer because you’re heating the wax rather than burning it.There are thousands of different scents on the market (you can even pick them up at Target and most retailers that sell candles), so choose your favorite and your home could be filled with the aroma of pumpkin pie, sweet vanilla or fresh linen in a matter of minutes.

Fruit the Garbage Disposal

Take lemons or limes and cut them up. Dump them in your garbage disposal and turn it on for a few seconds. You’ll clean the disposal of anything gross and it will start to help the room smell nice and fruity.

Use Your Favorite Cleaners

Take a rag and spray some of your favorite smelling household cleaners. Do a once over on counter tops and table tops where your guests are going to be. It cleans up the smelly dust (yes, dust smells) and it keeps the clean scent lingering.

Quick Preemptive Tips
There are easy things you can do that will keep your home smelling fresh that take a little more time than the last minute ones above but will keep you smelling the roses.
  • If you have dogs, brush and vac regularly
  • Clean your washing machine every two weeks
  • Have fresh flowers around
  • When you’re done with your mop, put it away with the mop head up not down and it will dry faster and smell better
  • Have Poopourri or other room deodorizers handy in each of your bathrooms




Make Your House a Home Pt IIIa: Your House Smells…

July 18, 2019

None of us wants that sentence to end there, do we? But we also don’t want it to end with “stale” or “weird.” Keeping your home smelling wonderful all the time is impossible but smell is a very powerful sense that’s quite emotional really. If your goal is to make your home inviting and welcoming, smell has to be part of that consideration.  In Part IIIa we have several tips for you as far as natural ways to make your home smell amazing. These are things that you can make, they don’t have chemicals and additives that you find in store-bought items and you can tailor the smells to the ones you love. In Part IIIb we’ll talk about when you just need to make your place smell better-to-great stat!

The best place to start is with a list of smell culprits:

  • Stinky pet beds/homes
  • Gunky garbage disposal
  • Unclean upholstery
  • Damp laundry
  • Ancient leftovers in the fridge
  • Ruined produce
  • Mildewed bathroom corners or windowsills
  • Neglected oven or microwave
  • Kitchen and bathroom sink drains
  • Untended trash cans/diaper pails
  • Dirty throw rugs
  • Musty pillows
  • Really dusty places

Keeping those in mind, here are some natural ways for you to snuff out the stink!

Have a Ball with Oranges & Cloves

Oranges are great for many things including Vitamin C, of course. But they also have an amazing, strong smell to them. Then there are cloves — remember that amazing smell of the ham baking with the cloves inside. Well, can you imagine if you put oranges and cloves together? It’s super easy, just grab some small to medium oranges and stick the cloves through the peel. Set them in a bowl and you have a fantastic room refresher.

Make Your Own Oil Diffuser

The oil diffusers you buy at home decor stores or Target work well but they also have a lot of additives in them. Some even need heat or electricity to work which drains energy. You can make your own and it’s very easy. Purchase some bamboo skewers, your favorite essential oil and a carrier oil such as sweet almond or safflower oil. Take a glass vase and fill it with 60 drops or so of the essential oil. Then add the carrier oil and bamboo skewers. The oil sent will come right through the skewers.

Trash Your Coffee

Waking up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee is way better than waking up to the decaying trash, am I right? Well, coffee has such a powerful smell to it that it can kill other odors. So if you want to keep your trash can smelling fresh, dump  some ground coffee in the bottom of it!


Make Your House a Home Part II: Get to Know Your Home Again

July 11, 2019

The 2nd part in our series, “Making a House a Home,” doesn’t have a single thing to do with your decor or the design of your space and nothing costs a dime – it’s all totally, 100% free! This post is about how to make your home feel like a refuge for you and your family.

Stay Home:  Saying no to things in the outside world can be hard. It’s almost a badge of honor these days to rattle off your itinerary for the day which leaves little or no time spent at home other than the 6 hours of sleep you try to force in. You can’t have the feelings of a safe harbor within your walls if you’re never there. If it’s merely a place to lay your head and hang your coat then it can feel more like a hotel room than your home. Dust off the games you love, pop some popcorn and make family game night a new/rebooted tradition.

Interact with Your Home:  When we’re on auto-pilot it can be really hard to break the home-dinner-TV-bed routine. But when you do, it can awaken your senses and renew hobbies, motivate you to create new looks and uses for areas of your home and more. So, use your table, sprawl out on the floor, cook, bake, clean, paint a picture… do something that forces you to interact with the things in your home. You’ll be reminded of treasures that are personal and right under your nose.

Mood Music: It’s easy to think about music while we’re doing certain things: on the treadmill or on the commute. But we should also be turning up the jams at home, too! Some of the strongest memories you can make often involve music. Open the windows, add a breeze and choose your tunes to match or change your mood.

No Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Parties: The times we’re most aware of all the things that need fixing or some attention in our home is when we have guests over. It’s easy to spend our time apologizing or talking about the things that aren’t quite right that we still plan to fix. Spend the time enjoying each other and getting caught up on each other’s lives. With social media and the craziness in the world, human face-to-face time is becoming less of a commodity. But it’s priceless. So don’t worry about the dust they might see or the things that didn’t get done. Commit to attacking that list as soon as you can so you don’t have to worry about it and your house feels more complete. Then create some wonderful memories with the people you love.

Make Your Walls Say Kind Things: You know the saying, “If these walls could speak”? Well, wouldn’t you want them to say nice things? There’s something to be said for creating an atmosphere of love and kindness where wonderful memories are made. Do your best to make them kind, wonderful thoughts because tone, attitude, and spirit go a long way to making your environment one that is comforting and a refuge away from everything else.



Make Your House a Home Pt 1of4: How to Make it Cozy Regardless of the Weather

June 28, 2019

Welcome to the first part of our “Making Your House a Home” Series. Today, we’re going to talk about ways to make your home warm, cozy and inviting. Other parts of the series include “Feeling at Home in Your Home,” and more.

Part I:

Regardless of the season or the temp outside, making your home feel warm and inviting is always a good approach.  There are ways to add small decorating touches to make your home cozier and more welcoming regardless of what type of style you prefer. Here are a few ideas:

Make “Conversation” Areas

When arranging furniture pieces, look for ways to create cozy conversation areas. Pair chairs together, or combine a sofa or a loveseat with a chair. Avoid simply lining up your furniture against the walls. Instead, make small islands of furniture throughout the room. By doing so, you’ll make the entire room look warmer and more inviting.

Earth Tones Keep You Grounded

It’s certainly possible to create a warm and inviting look using cool colors, but warmer shades usually work best. Look for appealing color combinations that focus on the warmer end of the color spectrum. Warm shades of taupe and beige can be used to create an appealing backdrop. Then use vibrant warm shades such as pumpkin, espresso, goldenrod, deep red and brown as accent colors. If you need some inspiration when choosing a color palette for a room, check out paint strips and brochures at your local hardware or paint store.

Choose Warm & “Fuzzy” Fabrics

Fabric and textures are very important when creating a warm and inviting look in a room. Upholstery, pillows, throws and other fabric accents shouldn’t look too fussy, high-maintenance or prim. Instead, they should inspire you to sit down, get comfortable and relax without worrying about messing things up. Easy-care fabrics that look great and don’t wrinkle easily are the best choices. Look for fabrics that feature beautiful warm shades, interesting prints and patterns, and intriguing textures. Fabrics and textiles can also be used to accentuate the overall theme of your room.

In addition to looking great, fabrics should also feel great. If you’re trying to achieve a warm and inviting look in a room, choose fabrics that aren’t stiff, scratchy or uncomfortable to sit or lie on. After all, if your chairs and sofa aren’t comfortable to use, how comfortable are you going to feel in any house?

Make an Entrance & Light the Way

Lastly, earth tones in the entry way, dramatic lighting and a sign that sells “Welcome” is the perfect way to make people feel, well, welcome the moment they step inside your home. Use soft white candles instead of overhead lights to illuminate key social areas for intimate conversations with family and friends.



7 Online Resources to Help Estimate the Value of Your Home

June 22, 2019

When it comes time to sell your home, you have one burning question: What is my home worth?

In recent years, a proliferation of online resources has emerged to provide you with an answer — an estimated answer —  before you ever actually consult a human. But while homeowners have access to more information than they could have dreamed of a decade ago, that doesn’t mean you can expect a computer or smartphone to deliver the final word on your home’s value.

Whether you are punching your address into an online estimate tool or getting a detailed report from an appraiser or realtor, the results can be different every time.

As Stan Humphries, chief analytics officer for Zillow, which pioneered the practice of estimating and publishing home values in 2006, says, “If you sold your home 100 different times with different buyers and sellers, it would close at a different price.”

Computers and humans may disagree, for example, about which recently sold homes are truly comparable and how significantly recent updates add value to a property. Plus, when it comes time to do the deal, the negotiation skills of agents may come into play.

That means if you are looking at estimates for your home’s value, you have to consider what kind of data went into that estimate. If your home is unique compared with others in the neighborhood, for example, the choice of “comps,” or comparable homes, would be a challenge to find. Your estimate may also be less accurate than if you lived in a neighborhood where all the homes are similar. If there have been lots of recent home sales in your area, there is going to be more data to work with and therefore you’ll get a more accurate estimate.

The representatives of all seven online resources below stress that their numbers are merely estimates, based on the available data plus a number of assumptions about comparable sales. While all the services throw out a number for the home’s estimated value, most provide a range of values, which sometimes gets overlooked by consumers who focus on the number in big type.

Here are seven online tools you can use to help estimate the current estimated value of your home:

ZillowThis is the pioneer of the home value estimating tool, and the company continues to refine how it arrives at its Zestimates.

Redfin: This tool shows you photos and listing information for the exact comps used to arrive at the value of your home. This site uses data from public records and lists homes sold recently nearby.

Bank of America: This tool shows comparable neighboring sales on a map. It provides only a range of values, not a single number.

Chase: This tool allows you to change the information about the house to arrive at a more precise estimate, plus provides information on recently sold homes and neighborhood trends. You can also use it to estimate the value of improvements you’re considering. The My Home tool allows you to track a variety of information about your property, including the home value, displayed to you as a graph to see its progress over time.

ForSaleByOwner.comThis site’s Pricing Scout tool gives you the average of a regression analysis and a comparative market analysis to estimate the worth of your home. It also shows recent sales of comparable properties on a map. You have to register to use it.

You will see that the information you get can be so shockingly different that you will need to get help from a realtor or a full appraisal on your home to get a more realistic idea of its value.  For example, here is research we did for a three-bedroom, three-bath house on double lot in Kansas City, MO (where the houses vary dramatically in size and condition so many, many variables):

Redfin: Not available
Zillow: $164,238 $78,643
Bank of America: $111,921 to $142,282
Chase: $161,000 $160,600 $69,720

This is a great place to start and we are the perfect second step. Give us a call and we’ll help you though every phase of selling your home.


Interior Design and Home Decor Initial Trends for 2019

December 10, 2018

Trends in interior design and home decor usually come straight from the fashion runways. So, we’re taking a look at some of the trends that will be hot in 2019, from a room-to-room trend overview to some of the more surprising trends.

Back to (Matte) Black
Let’s start with color. You’ll never guess, but the hot color for 2019 is going to be matte black. Yep, we’re going to be seeing bold designs utilizing matte black in kitchen appliances and home decor items everywhere. As far as other colors go, 2019 is going to be earthy — dark greens, watermelon red, rust, sienna, terracotta, bronze are going to be the it colors. All of these colors are a far cry from the ubiquitous “millennial pink!”

The progression of smart homes is still at a rapid pace, technology is going to be incorporated into more and more home decor items, namely mirrors!  That’s right.  Be ready to have your mirror tell you about your health, home security and more as “multi-tasking mirrors” are going to be the fairest (and smartest) of them all in 2019.
Modern design comfortable bathroom
All-black kitchens are going to be the bold statement of 2019. Also, more subtle marble such as brown and green versus more overstated, in-your-face marble. It’s going to be harder to find the major appliances in kitchens, however, as there is a growing trend of “hiding” those appliances in plain sight.
Bathroom Trends
Color. Color tiles. Color sinks. Color bathtubs. Soft plum, dark greens, browns, coal will be hot in the water closet. We’re going to see a lot of terracotta tiles and cork being utilized throughout bathrooms, as well.
Room Decor Trends
Think total, oversized comfort with sofas, chairs and ottomans, and then the shapes are going to be both geometric and organic. Within the geometric designs are the stripes, for example, and inside the organic forms, many curved armchairs and wallpapers painted by hand with watercolor. Other trends in room decor include upholstered headboards, industrial style metals,and private environments instead of the living room-kitchen-dining room-one-big-space trend of the past couple decades.
Sustainable Fabrics
Across homes and fashion, sustainable fabrics will be another key trend with a steep increase in products made from sustainable alternatives such as animal-free leather from genetically modified yeast or worm-free silk.

Vintage Style Decorations
Although it is a style that has been used for many years, it will continue to be valid this year. Art Deco or classic style furniture, updated with contemporary materials and textures, will be very present in the interior design.

Artistic Wallpaper|
Looks like works of art, such as watercolor brushstrokes or large painted flowers, as well as creating a striking appearance in the rooms, will also be one of the trends. It is about reproducing a work of art on a large scale.

We’ll keep you posted about other trends as we get into 2019.


U.S. Housing Market Could be Headed for Broadest Slowdown in Years

December 10, 2018

Ask any Millennial who’s been looking to purchase a house about how frustrating home bidding wars are getting, especially in cutthroat areas of the country such as Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Austin, TX.  I heard of one couple in Seattle who were only in their late 20s but had already lost two bidding battles and were ready to renew their current apartment lease. Then, in May, their agent called. Something had changed in the air. Sellers started to get jumpy, even in the hottest markets. Homes that used to vanish in days were sitting unsold for weeks. So this Seattle couple ended up getting a three-bedroom, 2 bath fixer-upper just north of the city at list price of $550,000 (down from $600,000 original listing). They closed on the house by the end of June.

All the signs are showing the U.S. housing market could be headed for the broadest slowdown in years. Home prices are climbing about twice as fast as income is and buyers are getting squeezed by rising mortgage rates.

 “This could be the very beginning of a turning point,” said Robert Shiller to Bloomberg News. Shiller is a Nobel Prize-winning economist who is famed for warning of the dot-com and housing bubbles, in an interview. He stressed that he isn’t ready to make that call yet.

A slew of figures released recently give ample evidence of at least a cooling.