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Oct. 26, 2017

Welcome to America's Boomtowns

Cities all over the United States are experiencing unprecedented population swells. Fueled by a general migration to urban areas, these boomtowns are supported by steady job growth and thriving home markets. Here are four standouts whose numbers are on the rise.

 

Seattle-Tacoma

A healthy tech industry seems to be tempering the rain in the Pacific Northwest. The promise of employment in the Seattle-Tacoma area is strong and home price growth is even more robust, and together they help make this soggy city one of America's fastest-growing regions.

 

Cape Coral-Fort Myers

Occupying the peak spot in Forbes' 2017 list of America's fastest-growing regions is Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida. This area is especially popular among retirees. With the near year-round sunshine, exceedingly low tax rates and virtually nonexistent crime, it's not hard to see why.

 

Dallas-Fort Worth

In terms of projected job growth, the DFW area is proving everything is bigger in Texas. The housing market is also solid, which may explain why four out of five of the fastest-growing southern cities are in the Lone Star State. Perhaps not surprisingly, two of them are Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.

 

Denver

Farther west, Denver takes the prize for highest home price growth. The strong economy and seasonal amenities make this Colorado capital a go-to for savvy real estate investors.

 

 

Of course, thanks to a tech economy that's growing at breakneck speeds, these four cities aren't the only ones undergoing serious expansion. As tech industries continue to advance, expect to see more parts of the country experience new growth and development.

Posted in Home Buying
Oct. 17, 2017

7 Ways to Save Energy

 

October isn't just about pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween celebrations; it's also Energy Awareness Month. Find out how you can reduce your household's energy consumption this fall while preparing for the seasons ahead.

Reducing Home Energy Use
The average U.S. household consumes tens of thousands of kilowatt hours of electricity each year, and much of it is completely unnecessary. Making changes as simple as adding a few energy-efficient appliances and turning off gadgets when you're not using them can save you a significant amount of money while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Don't fret if new Energy Star-labeled appliances aren't in the budget. Instead, try working in a few small changes from this Home Energy Checklist to help you save throughout the year. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Unplug electronics, gaming consoles and chargers when not in use.
  • Insulate your water heater with a blanket and turn the temperature down to at least 120 degrees.
  • Replace bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs and turn them off anytime you leave a room.
  • Schedule an energy audit and replace your thermostat with a programmable unit.

 

Prepping Your Home for the Cold
During cooler months you can save additional money and energy with simple, inexpensive fixes like:

  • Using insulating drapes to help diffuse winter chill. Just make sure to open any south-facing drapes to take advantage of the sun's natural heating capabilities.
  • Finding and sealing air leaks. Check your windows, doors and pipes, and use weatherstripping or caulk to stop cool air from seeping in.
  • Closing fireplace dampers when not in use. You can also have the entire flume completely sealed off if you use your home's heating system exclusively.

 

Reducing your energy consumption not only makes a positive contribution to our planet, it also leaves money on the table for fun fall pastimes. With just a few of these small changes, you can get more from your energy budget.

Posted in Home Tips
Sept. 29, 2017

5 First-Time Building Mistakes to Avoid

 

Designing your own home can be exciting, but it's a lot more work than buying an existing house. With so many moving pieces involved, knowing what works and what doesn't is key. Protect your home's long-term value by sidestepping these five avoidable pitfalls of building a new home.

 

1. Forgetting About Storage Space

From seasonal items to extra bedding, everything requires a temporary home when not in use. For that, you'll need plenty of storage space. Some simple solutions might include a few extra closets, a sizeable garage space or built-in cabinets and shelving.

 

2. Skimping on Materials

Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and new home construction is no exception. Even if you're watching your pennies, try not to scrimp on quality, especially when it comes to important things like flooring. The materials you choose can have a huge impact on your home's overall value.

 

3. Overlooking Energy Efficiency

For an energy-efficient home design, make sure to use earth- and wallet-friendly features like well-sealed windows and green materials during the build. These are your strongest assets in keeping heating and cooling costs down long-term.

 

4. Losing Sight of Current and Future Needs

Design for your current needs, but keep the future in mind, too. For instance, do you plan to have children? Are you going to pursue a specific hobby, such as woodworking, when you retire? Whatever the future holds, work with your builder to create a dream home that will support your evolving needs.

 

5. Letting Someone Else Decide

You don't need to keep up with the Joneses to have an ideal space. Only you and your family know what you need most in a new home, so choose and upgrade according to your preferences alone.

 

 

In the end, building your ideal home is about identifying both what you want and what you don't want. Choose wisely so your new abode will be comfortable, efficient and attractive to future buyers.

Posted in Home Design
Sept. 18, 2017

4 Projects Pros Should Do

When You Just Shouldn't Do It Yourself

 

A do-it-yourself project can be an empowering way to save money, provided you know what you're doing. But making even one simple mistake could put a strain on your back or your bank account. Often, it's best to put safety first and call a professional. Here are four types of home improvement projects that are best left to the experts.

 

1. Plumbing or electrical projects -- There's a reason these are skilled trades. Both systems are complex, no matter how straightforward a repair may initially appear. Even small leaks can cause serious water damage, and faulty electrical wiring can lead to a house fire. Don't risk flooding or electric shock. Call a plumber or hire an electrician to make sure these jobs are done right the first time.

 

2. Renovations with possible code violations -- Structural changes require a licensed contractor. Not only can shoddy craftsmanship severely affect your home's value, but it can also put your family in danger. Accidentally removing a load-bearing wall, for example, could cause an entire room to collapse. Why take the risk?

 

3. Repairs involving heights -- More than 130,000 ladder-related injuries are treated in emergency rooms each year. Whether you're looking at a roof repair or trimming a tree, consider calling a professional before attempting to complete the job yourself.

 

 

4. Time-sensitive projects -- Weigh your work and family commitments before embarking on a home improvement project. Even if you're confident in your abilities, the added pressure of a tight deadline can lead to unnecessary and often dangerous mistakes.

 

 

Remember, just because a DIY project looks simple doesn't necessarily mean it's safe. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and call a professional.

Aug. 30, 2017

Home Changes That Affect Insurance

 

Homes often grow and change alongside the people living in them. If you've added expensive furnishings or made substantial upgrades, it's important to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance and make sure your policy reflects those changes. Here are four instances when it may be beneficial to review and adjust your coverage.

 

Remodeling or Renovation Work

Home improvement projects typically increase the value of your home, which usually calls for more coverage. But that doesn't necessarily mean your insurance rates will automatically increase. In fact, some projects, like adding a new roof, may help you save on your monthly home insurance premiums. Just be sure to notify your provider before any work begins.

 

Adding a Pool or an Outdoor Trampoline

Because these fun home features come with increased risk of injury, they're labeled an attractive nuisance. Upping your liability insurance can help keep you protected if there's ever an accident on your property and a subsequent lawsuit.

 

Acquiring New Valuables

Whether you inherit them or purchase them, expensive goods such as jewelry, art, rugs and antiques should be added to your policy. Increasing your coverage is the only way to safeguard them in the event of damage or theft.

 

Starting a Home Business

Many home-based business owners don't realize they have little, if any, coverage from a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Since a new home business likely means purchasing new technology and expensive equipment, you may need to get additional protection.

 

You worked hard for your home. Secure your belongings by updating your coverage to match your circumstances.

Posted in Home Selling
Aug. 25, 2017

Take the Quiz!

Aug. 16, 2017

Adding Secret Spaces to Your Home

For decades, characters like Batman and James Bond have popularized hidden doors and clandestine passageways. Many homeowners have followed suit, adding secret areas to store valuables, provide a safe place in an emergency or create a fun playroom. Could a hidden feature make you feel safer, secure your possessions better or add to your home's appeal?

Conceal a Room With Books
Sometimes the best part of a bookcase isn't what's on the shelves but what's behind it. These large structures create the perfect veil for a secret door to an undisclosed room. An architect can help you work with the space you have and figure out the details, like which direction a door should swing.

Secure Valuables in an Inconspicuous Safe
A safe is an excellent option for storing and protecting assets like jewelry, passports and cash. But if leaving it in plain sight feels too vulnerable, try concealing it entirely. A wall cutout behind a picture frame, cabinet or mirror makes for an ideal hideaway.

Make a Stealthy Escape
Want an inconspicuous escape route? Consider installing an underground passage with a secret switch to activate it. For example, chess pieces moved into a specific position or a particular book pulled from a shelf can reveal the opening. You can also choose from biometric authentication such as a fingerprint or eye scanner.

You don't have to be a superhero or a secret service agent to enjoy hidden spaces in your home. No matter what you have to hide, a secret room or passage can keep it concealed.

Posted in Home Design
Aug. 4, 2017

Home design trends of the next decade

 

Over 500 residential architects participated in the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends survey recently and the following emerged as the most significant home design trends for the next decade:

 

Smart home technology: everything from appliances to temperature control and security will see huge smart technology growth in the home designs of the coming decade.

Healthier homes: Expect an increase in earth-friendly, organic elements from paint to natural fiber, air purification systems and natural wood.

Disaster-proofing: They predict home homeowners will become interested in shoring up their homes against natural disaster with possibilities to include elevating homes, stronger windows, backup generators and even safe rooms, depending on the area of the country.

Energy-efficiency: This movement have been popular for quite some time, but the interest is expected to grow in solar panel, tankless water heaters and water reclamation systems.

Age-in-Place: Why not? Wider hallways, handrails, more one level living are convenient at any time, but especially for homeowners who want to age in place.

Home offices: As more people telecommute, home office space will receive a bit more attention.

Kitchens, both inside and out: The kitchen remains the heart of the home and they predict the open concept design will stay. In addition, outdoor kitchens/outdoor rooms are expected to become more popular with homeowners in the upcoming decade.

Posted in Home Design
July 27, 2017

Real Estate Trends and Perceptions

 

 

Whether you're interested in buying or selling a home this year, there's reason to be optimistic. See how a healthy real estate market and positive consumer sentiments are contributing to a buoyant housing sector.

 

Real Estate Trends

The U.S. housing market continues its recovery as home prices gradually increase, interest rates remain low and millennials represent the largest group of homebuyers for the fourth year in a row. There's been a slight increase in historically low interest rates, but that's an indication of an improving economy. Single women homebuyers exceed single men buyers in the U.S. by more than double, accounting for 17 percent of homebuyers (compared to single men at 7 percent). U.S. home values are expected to keep inching up while the inventory of available homes continues to decline.

 

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), there is considerable divergence among regions. Tighter federal regulations have reduced affordability and access to financing for potential homebuyers, sales are down and prices are trending soft. National sales activity is forecast to decrease 1.5 percent in 2017 and 0.8 percent in 2018.

 

Consumer Sentiments

The 2017 Q1 Housing Opportunities and Market Experience report published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows favorable sentiments among American consumers. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed thought it was a good time to buy, and 69 percent felt it was a good time to sell. More than half said they believed home prices in their community had increased over the previous 12 months. And renters and suburban homeowners, in particular, felt that prices would continue to rise in the second half of the year.

 

 

In another NAR report, the Aspiring Home Buyer Profile, nine in 10 nonhomeowners in the U.S. expressed a desire to own a home. Fortunately, if the market trends and consumer perceptions are any indications, 2017 could very well be the year many renters realize their dream of homeownership.

July 12, 2017

Ideas for Adding Shade

 

Adding Shade to Your Yard or Patio

 

Summer is a fun season to enjoy time outside with friends and family -- provided you have sufficient coverage from the sun. Stay cool and comfortable by adding shade to your yard or patio with the ideas below.

Overhead Hangs for the Patio
One popular way to create shade is to string up outdoor fabric and make a retractable awning or canopy. Shade sails are another versatile and inexpensive way to diffuse the sun's rays. If your outdoor space lacks the columns or posts to attach fabric, a large area umbrella is a fail-safe way to keep covered.

A Natural Solution
Like the idea of natural sun blockers? Potted citrus trees add a nice touch and can be moved around as the sun shifts. Wood structures such as a trellis or pergola also make a beautiful statement while creating shady areas. Both are designed to support climbing plants like ivy, morning glory, clematis and bougainvillea.

Surrounded by Shade
For a more closed-in arrangement, try canvas curtains, bamboo blinds or solar shades. Each of these sun blockers is adjustable, making it a breeze to raise them up or down (or to the side) depending on the sun's position and your desired level of coverage.

Whether you're looking to dine alfresco, relax outside with a good book or visit with friends and family, a covered patio is an ideal spot. Just remember: Before you start putting up structures to block the sun, review your homeowners association or rental agreement rules as some options may require permission.

Posted in Home Design