This year has demonstrated, perhaps more than ever, the importance of our family, friends, neighbors, and community. It truly “takes a village” to keep a community functioning effectively, whether that’s by keeping our waterways clean, feeding the hungry, teaching our kids, or supporting small businesses.
With the holidays right around the corner, December offers the perfect opportunity to give back to the place we call home. You might want to focus your efforts near home, expand to our larger community, or even help support the people closest to you. Whether you’re passionate about a particular cause or just want to get more involved in general, let these 10 ways, both big and small, inspire you to do good in your town.
GIVE BACK NEAR HOME
1. Attract local wildlife. By making your neighborhood more wildlife friendly, you’re helping to create a balanced and healthy ecosystem. Plus, many of the animals you can attract help with pest control and pollination.1
Take action: While you might not be able to “break ground” until spring, start researching native plants now to design a landscaping plan that provides food, shelter, and water for local wildlife.
2. Clean up our community. Besides beautifying the area, picking up trash keeps it out of our local waterways, which means a cleaner water supply for all of us.
Take action: Check with your local municipality to learn about environmental clean-up efforts in our community, as well as recycling and composting.
3. Organize or join a neighborhood watch. According to a recent report, neighborhoods with Neighborhood Crime Watch programs experience roughly 16 percent less crime.3 Keeping an eye out for each other instills a sense of safety and security in your neighborhood by increasing surveillance, reducing opportunities, and enhancing information sharing among residents. Even if your neighborhood doesn’t have an official program, you can still share crime information via a neighborhood Facebook group or apps like NextDoor.
Take action: Some police forces use online mapping tools that provide crime alerts to people in neighborhoods where recent criminal activity occurred.3 Share this information with your neighbors.
HELP OUT LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS
4. Boost your civic engagement. Regardless of your politics, you can get more involved as a citizen to make a positive difference in our community.
Take action: Do you know who our local leaders are, such as our mayor or city councilwoman? Get to know their names, their policies, and their stand on issues that affect our community. Subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on social media.
5. Support local businesses. Our community has been impacted by the pandemic, with many businesses being forced to limit capacity, instill social distancing efforts, and even shutter entirely in some cases. Help keep money in our local economy by shopping local instead of relying on online shopping from national chains.
Take action: If you’re concerned about shopping in person right now, many of these businesses, though small, offer online shopping, with options for in-store pick-up, curbside delivery, and/or mail options.
6. Donate to local charities. Nonprofits could always use your financial support, so consider making a monetary donation to help them carry out their mission in our community. But if money is tight (or you want to support in other ways), think beyond just donating dollars.
Take action: Many collection efforts run by charitable organizations and businesses take place during the holidays. Look to see what’s already taking place in our community and choose one or more to give to this season.
CARE FOR YOUR NEIGHBORS
7. Organize a holiday food drive. This year, in particular, people are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table. The pandemic has caused many businesses to close or reduce their staff size, putting many people out of work.
Take action: Take advantage of your grocery store coupons and buy-one-get-one offers to inexpensively stock up on nonperishable goods.
8. Adopt a family or an individual. The holidays can be a struggle, especially financially, for some families. They might not be able to buy a Christmas tree or presents for their children. Maybe their holiday meal consists of boxed macaroni and cheese because they can’t afford a turkey and fresh vegetables. You can make a difference by “adopting” a particular family (or even just a child) to help make their holiday special.
Take action: This works great as a family project. Get the kids in your life involved to help make holiday cards and pick out toys to give to the children in the adopted family.
9. Volunteer. Depending on your schedule and your preferences, you might be able to volunteer in-person or from home, whether it’s a one-time effort or ongoing project. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people in your community as you make a positive impact together for a shared cause.
Take action: Start with your local community to see where its needs are the greatest. Make a point to help this holiday season, perhaps extending your commitment throughout 2021.
10. Perform random acts of kindness. Don’t think you need to “go big or go home” in your give-back efforts. You can make a big difference one small act at a time.
Take action: Need more ideas? Visit randomactsofkindness.org for hundreds of inspiring ways to make someone’s day a little brighter.
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU?
As real estate experts in our local community, we’re tuned into the unique needs of the place we all call home. Reach out to us today to discuss more ways to make a positive impact in our community—this holiday season and beyond. And we want to make sure you’re taken care of, too. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home now or in the near future, let us help you!
Add Value To Your Home With These 9 DIY Improvements
Whether you’re prepping your house to go on the market or looking for ways to maximize its long-term appreciation, these nine home improvement projects are great ways to add function, beauty, and real value to your home.
The best part is, once you’ve secured the materials, most of these renovations can be completed over the course of a weekend. And they don’t require a lot of specialized skills or experience. So grab your toolbox, then get ready to boost your home’s appeal AND investment potential!
1. Spruce Up Your Landscaping
Landscaping improvements can increase a home’s value by 10-12%.1 But which outdoor features do buyers care about most? According to a survey of Realtors, a healthy lawn is at the top of their list. If your lawn is lacking, overseeding or laying new sod can be a worthwhile investment—with an expected return of 417% and 143% respectively.1
Planting flowers is another great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal. And if you choose a perennial variety, your blooms should return year after year. For an even longer-term impact, consider planting a tree. According to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers, a mature tree can add up to $10,000 to the value of your home.2
2. Clean The Exterior
When it comes to making your house shine, a sparkling facade can be just as important as a clean interior. Real estate professionals estimate that washing the outside of a house can add as much as $15,000 to its sales price.3
A rented pressure washer from your local home improvement store can help you remove built-up dirt and grime from your home’s exterior, walkway, and driveway. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully—and only use it on surfaces that can withstand the intensity. When in doubt, a scrub brush and bucket of sudsy water will often do the trick.
3. Add A Fresh Coat Of Paint
New paint can have a big impact on both the appearance and value of a property. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to revitalize a home’s exterior, update its interior, and make it appear larger and brighter. The best part? Painting is relatively easy and inexpensive!
To get the maximum return at resale, stick with a modern but neutral color palette that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. According to a recent survey of home design experts, cool neutrals are a safe bet when it comes to interior paint. And respondents chose white and gray as the best exterior paint colors to use when selling a home.4 However, it’s important to consider a property’s architecture, existing fixtures, and regional design preferences, as well.
4. Install Smart Home Technology
In a recent survey, 78% of real estate professionals said their buyer clients were willing to pay more for a home with smart technology features.5 The most requested smart devices? Thermostats (77%), smoke detectors (75%), home security cameras (66%), and locks (63%).6
The good news is, many of these gadgets are fairly easy to install. And some of them, including smart thermostats and light bulbs, will pay for themselves over time by making your home more energy efficient. In fact, many manufacturers report that smart thermostats can cut back on heating and cooling costs by 10-20%.7
If you already own a smart speaker, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, choose devices that will pair with your existing technology. This will enable you to create a truly integrated (and in many cases voice-activated) smart home experience.
5. Modernize Your Window Treatments
Smart—or motorized—blinds are also growing in popularity, and several manufacturers make models you can order and install on your own. But they’re not the only way to modernize your window treatments.
If you have old aluminum blinds, consider replacing them with plantation shutters, which are energy efficient, durable, and have strong buyer appeal.8 Roman and roller shades are another stylish alternative, and they come in a variety of colors and fabrics, which you can personalize to meet your design and privacy preferences.
Fortunately, upgrading your blinds has gotten easier and less expensive in recent years. There are a number of retailers that specialize in affordable window coverings that are simple to measure and hang yourself.
6. Replace Outdated Fixtures
Drastically transform the look and feel of your home by swapping out dingy and dated fixtures for contemporary alternatives. Start by assessing your current light fixtures, faucets, cabinet hardware, door knobs, and even switch plates. Then prioritize replacing those that are particularly outdated or in highly-visible areas, such as your entryway or kitchen.
Even if your home is fairly new, consider trading your builder-grade fixtures for higher-end options to give it a more upscale appearance. And forget the old rule about sticking to one metal tone throughout your property. According to designers, mixing metal finishes can add interest and character to a space.9
For more designer insights and decor trends, contact us for a free copy of our recent report: “Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade.”
7. Upgrade Your Bathroom Mirror
A minor bathroom remodel offers one of the best returns on investment, with a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1 you spend.10 We’ve already explored several improvements you can make to your bathroom: new paint, fixtures, and hardware. Now complete the look by upgrading your vanity’s mirror.
Before you purchase a new mirror, examine your existing one to see how it is attached to the wall. Some vanity mirrors are glued to the wall and difficult to remove without shattering the glass or damaging the sheetrock behind it.11
If you prefer to keep your existing mirror, you can paint the frame—or add one if it’s currently frameless. There are several online retailers that will send you the frame components cut to your specifications, which you can assemble and mount yourself. Much like a work of art, your vanity mirror serves as a focal point for your bathroom, so let your creativity shine through!
8. Shampoo Your Carpet
Carpet is notorious for trapping dust, dirt, and allergens. It’s one of the reasons that most buyers prefer hard surface flooring.12 But if you love your carpet, or you’re not ready to invest in an alternative, make an effort to keep it clean and odor-free.
To properly maintain your carpet, you should vacuum it weekly. Experts also recommend a deep shampoo at least every two years.13 Fortunately, this is a cheap and easy DIY project you can knock out in about 20 minutes per room. According to Consumer Reports, you can rent a machine and purchase cleaning fluid and supplies for around $90. With an average return on your investment of 169%, it’s well worth the effort and expense.14
9. Customize Your Closet
Real estate professionals estimate that a closet remodel can add $2500 to a home’s selling price. And while a professional renovation can cost upwards of $6000, there are many high-quality DIY closet systems you can customize and install yourself.15
Experts recommend taking a thorough inventory of your wardrobe and accessories before you get started. Make sure frequently-worn pieces are easy to reach, and store seasonal and seldom-used items on high shelves. Place shoe racks near the closet entrance so they are easy to access.16 A little planning can go a long way toward building a closet that you (and your future buyers!) will love.
GET A COMPLIMENTARY ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT
We’ve been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual impact of a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighborhood. Before you get started, contact us to schedule a free virtual consultation. We can help you determine which upgrades will offer the greatest return on your effort and investment.
In today’s economy, everyone seems to be searching for signs that a recovery is coming soon. Many experts agree that it may actually already be in motion or will be starting by the 3rd quarter of this year. With the housing market positioned to lead the way out of this recession, builder confidence might be a bright spark that gets the recovery fire started. The construction of new homes coming right around the corner is a huge part of that effort, and it may drive your opportunity to make a move this year.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):
“New home sales jumped in May, as housing demand was supported by low interest rates, a renewed household focus on housing, and rising demand in lower-density markets. Census and HUD estimated new home sales in May at a 676,000 seasonally adjusted annual pace, a 17% gain over April.”
In addition, builder confidence is also rising, opening up opportunity for newly constructed homes in the market. The NAHB also notes:
“In a sign that housing stands poised to lead a post-pandemic economic recovery, builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes jumped 21 points to 58 in June, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Any reading above 50 indicates a positive market.”
As noted above, this upward trend is supported by builders reporting an increase in demand for single-family homes in suburban neighborhoods with lower-density populations, a result of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Moreover, the most recent Monthly New Residential Construction Report from the U.S. Census indicates that authorized building permits for new residential construction increased by 14.4% month-over-month from April to May, and housing starts were also up 4.3% over the same time period. (See graph below):Although housing permits and starts are both considerably lower than they were at this time last year, indicating the new construction market is still working on building its way back up, the trends are moving in the right direction when it comes to having an impact on the U.S. economy. They’re also poised to create the much-needed new homes for Americans to purchase in a time when inventory is so scarce.
Dean Mon, Chairman of the NAHB notes:
“As the nation reopens, housing is well-positioned to lead the economy forward…Inventory is tight, mortgage applications are increasing, interest rates are low and confidence is rising. And buyer traffic more than doubled in one month even as builders report growing online and phone inquiries stemming from the outbreak.”
The gap between homes to buy and the high demand from purchasers may be narrowed by new construction, and the data shows that these homes are on their way into the housing market.
So, if you’ve debated whether or not to sell your house this year because you’re not sure where to move, a newly-built home – designed to your specific liking – may be your answer.
With new residential construction right around the corner, you can feel confident about selling your house and having a place to move into. Maybe it’s time to finally design the home you’ve always wanted. Let’s connect today to discuss selling your house while demand from eager buyers is high.
Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate?
Traditionally, spring is one of the busiest times of the year for real estate. However, the coronavirus outbreak—and subsequent stay-at-home orders—led many buyers and sellers to put their moving plans on hold. In April, new listings fell nearly 45%, and sales volume fell 15% compared to last year.1
Fortunately, as restrictions have eased, we’ve seen an uptick in market activity. And economists at Realtor.com expect a rebound in July, August, and September, as fears about the pandemic subside, and buyers return to the market with pent-up demand from a lost spring season.2
But given safety concerns and the current economic climate, is it prudent to jump back into the real estate market?
Before you decide, it’s important to consider where the housing market is headed, how it could impact your timeline and ability to buy a home, and your own individual needs and circumstances.
WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE HOUSING MARKET?
The economic aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak has been severe. We’ve seen record unemployment numbers, and economists believe the country is headed toward a recession. But people still need a place to live. So what effect will these factors have on the housing market?
Home Values Projected to Remain Stable
Many Americans recall our last recession and assume we will see another drop in home values. But the 2008 real estate market crash was the cause—not the result—of that downturn. In fact, ATTOM Data Solutions analyzed real estate prices during the last five recessions and found that home prices actually went up in most cases. Only twice (in 1990 and 2008) did prices fall, and in 1990 it was by less than one percent.3
Many economists expect home values to remain relatively steady this time around. And so far, that’s been the case. As of mid-May, the median listing price in the U.S. was up 1.4% from the same period last year.4
Demand for Homes Will Exceed Available Supply
There’s been a shortage of affordable homes on the market for years, and the pandemic has further hindered supply. In addition to sellers pulling back, new home starts fell 22% in March.5 In fact, Fannie Mae doesn’t foresee a return to pre-pandemic construction levels before the end of 2021.6
This supply shortage is expected to prop up home prices, despite recessionary pressures. Fannie Mae and the National Association of Realtors predict housing prices will rise slightly this year7, while Zillow expects them to fall between 2-3%.8 Still, that would be a far cry from the double-digit declines that occurred during the last recession.9
Government Intervention Will Help Stabilize the Market
Policymakers have been quick to pass legislation aimed at preventing a surge in foreclosures like we saw in 2008. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress gives government-backed mortgage holders who were impacted by the pandemic up to a year of reduced or delayed payments.10
The Federal Reserve has also taken measures to help stabilize the housing market, lower borrowing costs, and inject liquidity into the mortgage industry. These steps have led to record-low mortgage rates that should help drive buyer demand and make homeownership more affordable for millions of Americans.11
HOW HAS THE REAL ESTATE PROCESS CHANGED?
As the pandemic hit, real estate and mortgage professionals across the country revised their processes to adapt to shifting safety standards and economic realities. While these new ways of conducting business may seem strange at first, keep in mind, military clients, international buyers, and others have utilized many of these methods to buy and sell homes for years.
New Safety Procedures
The safety of our clients and our team members is our top priority. That’s why we’ve developed a process for buyers and sellers that utilizes technology to minimize personal contact.
For our listings, we’re holding online open houses, offering virtual viewings, and conducting walk-through video tours. We’re also using video chat to qualify interested buyers before we book in-person showings. This enables us to promote your property to a broad audience while limiting physical foot traffic to only serious buyers.
Likewise, our buyer clients can view properties online and take virtual video tours to minimize the number of homes they step inside. Ready to visit a property in person? We can decrease surface contact by asking the seller to turn on all the lights and open doors and cabinets before your scheduled showing.
The majority of our “paperwork” is also digital. In fact, many of the legal and financial documents involved in buying and selling a home went online years ago. You can safely view and eSign contracts from your smartphone or computer.
Longer Timelines and Higher Mortgage Standards
The real estate process is taking a little longer these days. Both buyers and sellers are more cautious when it comes to viewing and showing homes. And with fewer house hunters and less available inventory, it can take more time to match a buyer with the right property.
In a recent survey, 67% of Realtors also reported delays in the closing process. The top reasons were financing and buyer job loss, but appraisals and home inspections are also taking more time due to shifting safety protocol.12
Securing a mortgage may take longer, too. With forbearance requests rising, lenders are getting increasingly conservative when it comes to issuing new loans. Many are raising their standards—requiring higher credit scores and larger down payments. Prepare for greater scrutiny, and build in some extra time to shop around.13
IS IT THE RIGHT TIME FOR ME TO MAKE A MOVE?
The reality is, there’s no “one size fits all” answer as to whether it’s a good time to buy or sell a home because everyone’s circumstances are unique. But now that you know the state of the market and what you can expect as you shop for real estate, consider the following questions:
Why do you want or need to move?
It’s important to consider why you want to move and if your needs may shift over the next year. For example, if you need a larger home for your growing family, your space constraints aren’t likely to go away. In fact, they could be amplified as you spend more time at home.
However, if you’re planning a move to be closer to your office, consider whether your commute could change. Some companies are rethinking their office dynamics and may encourage their employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.
How urgently do you need to complete your move?
If you have a new baby on the way or want to be settled before schools open in the fall, we recommend that you begin aggressively searching as soon as possible. With fewer homes on the market and a lengthier closing process, it’s taking longer than usual for clients to find and purchase a home.
However, if your timeline is flexible, you may be well-positioned to score a deal. We’re seeing more highly-incentivized sellers who are willing to negotiate on terms and price. Talk to us about setting up a search so we can keep an eye out for any bargains that pop up. And get pre-qualified for a mortgage now so you’ll be ready to act quickly.
If you’re eager to sell this year, now is the time to begin prepping your home for the market. A second wave of infections is predicted for the winter, which could mean another lockdown.14 If you wait, you might miss your window of opportunity.
How long do you plan to stay in your new home?
The U.S. real estate market has enjoyed steady appreciation since 2012, which made it fairly easy for owners and investors to buy and sell properties for a profit in a short period of time. However, with home values expected to remain relatively flat over the next year, your best bet is to buy a home you can envision yourself keeping for several years. Fortunately, at today’s rock-bottom mortgage rates, you can lock in a low interest rate and start building equity right away.
Can you meet today’s higher standards for securing a mortgage?
Mortgage lenders are tightening their standards in response to the growing number of mortgage forbearance requests. Many have raised their minimum credit score and downpayment requirements for applicants. Even if you’ve been pre-qualified in the past, you should contact your lender to find out if you meet their new, more stringent standards.
Is your income stable?
If there’s a good chance you could lose your job, you may be better off waiting to buy a home. The exception would be if you’re planning to downsize. Moving to a less expensive home could allow you to tap into your home equity or cut down on your monthly expenses.
WHEN YOU’RE READY TO MOVE—WE’RE READY TO HELP
While uncertain market conditions may give pause to some buyers and sellers, they can actually present an opportunity for those who are willing, able, and motivated to make a move.
Your average spring season would be flooded with real estate activity. But right now, only motivated players are out in the market. That means that if you’re looking to buy, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. And today’s record-low mortgage rates could give a big boost to your purchasing power. In fact, if you’ve been priced out of the market before, this may be the perfect time to look.
If you’re hoping to sell this year, you’ll have fewer listings to compete against in your neighborhood and price range. But you’ll want to act quickly. Economists expect a surge of eager buyers to enter the market in July—so you should start prepping your home now. And keep in mind, a second wave of coronavirus cases could be coming in this winter. Ask yourself how you will feel if you have to face another lockdown in your current home.
Let’s schedule a free virtual consultation to discuss your individual needs and circumstances. We can help you assess your options and create a plan that makes you feel both comfortable and confident during these unprecedented times.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.
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