If you’re not familiar, upcycling is the process of taking something old and turning it into something awesome. And once you start, it’s kind of hard to stop. Instead of buying a bunch of new things, find ways to upcycle everyday items you already have on hand, like old mason jars or tea cups.
2. GO NEUTRAL.
Ever notice how high-end showrooms or homes have a neutral color scheme? It’s because neutrals feel clean, clutter-free, and classic. Once you have a neutral base, it's easy to accent the room with accessories and pops of color. Kicking up the contrast also gives the room a sophisticated upgrade that’s both modern and fresh.
3. FAKE A BUILT-IN LOOK.
The library shelf look is so chic and can really make a home look upscale–– but if you’re like me don’t want to splurge on a custom design, use bookcases to create the appearance of floor-to-ceiling built-ins. This stacking bookcases from IKEA is a great (and affordable) way to achieve the perfect library effect (just make sure you secure the bookcases to the wall with anchors).
4. DON'T OVERPAY.
While statement pieces can make all the difference, they’re not always wallet-friendly. For online purchases, try using the Honey shopping tool, which can save you hundreds on West Elm, Crate & Barrel, and Amazon. For those who aren’t familiar, Honey is a free browser app that applies every promo code on the Internet to your shopping cart (in seconds!).
The joys of homeownership are many: Your own house is a place to make sweet memories, build a financial nest egg, and whittle down your tax bill. Wait, what? Yep, it’s true: Your home can save you a bundle on April 15.
We’ve rounded up every last way to take advantage of the tax benefits of owning a home. Read on for the full rundown just to make sure you aren’t missing any, then pat yourself on the back for all the moolah you’ll save!
Tax write-off No. 1: Your mortgage interestThis is the biggie tax benefit of owning a home: the ability to deduct the mortgage interest you pay over the course of a year. And the more recent your mortgage, the greater your tax savings.
“The way mortgage payments are amortized, the first payments are almost all interest—so that’s why the mortgage interest deduction is worth the most in the first few years of the loan,” says Wendy Connick, owner of Connick Financial Solutions. (See how your loan amortizes and how much you’re paying in interest with this mortgage calculator.)
Here’s how this deduction looks for a married couple in the 28% tax bracket (that means a joint annual income between $151,201 and $230,450) who bought a home with a $300,000, 30-year mortgage at a 4% interest rate. They will pay $11,904 in mortgage interest their first year. Once you add in the other itemized federal deductions below, these homeowners can expect to save at least $3,333 in taxes during their initial year of ownership.
Tax write-off No. 2: Your property taxes
Generally, your property taxes are deductible on your tax return, says Brian Ashcraft, director of compliance at Liberty Tax Service. And that could be a hefty savings. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average household property tax is $2,127. If you have a mortgage, your taxes are built into your monthly payment.
You can also pay property taxes early and write off the entire expense if you’re staring down a large tax bill for any given year. Just note that you must claim the deduction in the year you wrote the check. For example, if you paid your 2017 property tax in 2016, claim that tax benefit on your 2016 return. Here’s more info on how to calculate property taxes.
Tax write-off No. 3: Private mortgage insurance
If you put less than 20% down on your home, odds are you’re paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI, which costs from 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan. But Uncle Sam’s willing to give you a tax break here by allowing you to deduct this amount from your income, too.
How much you’ll save: If you make $100,000 and put down 5% on a $200,000 house, you’ll pay about $1,500 in annual PMI premiums and thus cut taxable income by $1,500.
Note: The deduction is due to expire this year, says Connick. “Unless Congress renews it, the deduction will not be available for the 2017 tax year.”
Tax write-off No. 4: Energy-efficiency upgrades
Don’t miss out on tax credits for any “green” updates you’ve done to your home in the past year, says Michael Banks, founder of FortunateInvestor.com. The Renewable Energy Efficiency Property Credit allows you to claim a credit for up to 30% of the cost of equipment you purchased that uses renewable energy sources (e.g., solar panels and wind turbines).
Other home upgrades like new HVAC systems, energy-efficient windows, and storm doors can also earn a tax credit of up to $500. For example, if you installed central air conditioning, you can claim a $300 credit. This credit for residential energy-efficiency improvements expired at the end of 2016, so hopefully you made these improvements last year. If not, there’s still time for solar panels, since this credit runs through 2019.
Tax write-off No. 5: A home office
If you work from home, your office space and expenses can be deducted from your income, too. According to Vincenzo Villamena, managing partner of Online Taxman, you can take a $5-per-square-foot deduction for up to 300 square feet of office space, which amounts to a maximum deduction of $1,500. Understand, however, that there are strict rules on what constitutes a dedicated, fully deductible home office space. Your accountant can lead you through it.
Tax write-off No. 6: Home improvements to age in place
Many older homeowners plan to stay put and age in place—and if that entails renovations such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars in slippery bathrooms, the cost of these improvements for you, a spouse, or dependent results in a nice tax break, says Jayson Mullin, owner of Top Tax Defenders.
“You can deduct the amount by which the cost of the improvements exceeds the increase in your home’s value,” says Mullin. To break that down, let’s say the cost of installing a ramp totals $10,000 and increases your home’s value by $7,000. Then the allowable deduction would equal $3,000.
Just remember, these “aging in place” deductions must cost more than 10% of your adjusted gross income. So if your AGI is $60,000, there’s no deduction for the first $6,000 of medical home improvement expenses. But if you’re 65 and older, the expense must exceed only 7.5% of your AGI.
Tax write-off No. 7: Interest on a home equity line of credit
If you’ve tapped into your home equity by taking out a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, the interest you pay on the loan is also deductible provided you use this money to pay for home improvements or repairs.
How much you’ll save depends on the amount borrowed, but let’s crunch some sample numbers: If you take out a four-year $20,000 HELOC at 4%, you’ll have an $800 deductible that will save you about $205 in the first year of your loan. Use this calculator to see how much you’ll save.
Our first president, George Washington, lived a vagabond’s life while he fought to establish America’s independence. According to Smithsonian Magazine, he “spent the night in so many inns and private houses that ‘George Washington Slept Here’ became a real estate cliché.”
These testaments to the ingenuity of home builders of the 1700s still stand strong today, and all of them are move-in ready—which is more than we can say for homes of more recent vintage. McMansion, anyone?
Take a stroll back into the 1700s and have a look at these 11 homes from Colonial times. They all offer a welcome place to hang to your tricorn hat, even if Washington never darkened their doorstep. … Or did he?
207 Hulsetown Rd, Chester, NY
Built in: 1775
Presidential potential: A couple of hours north of Manhattan, Quail Ridge Farms has stood tall since before the U.S. was the U.S. Original post-and-beam construction is visible in the home’s kitchen and throughout the living spaces. You’ll also find an extremely cool etching left by a contemporary of the nation’s first president—home builder George Duryea—which simply reads GD 1775.
327 Still River Rd, Harvard, MA
Built in: 1782
Presidential potential: Known as Flintlock Farm, this home was built over a hundred years after the founding of Harvard University in 1636. We can imagine early patriots crowding around one of the home’s fireplaces to keep warm through the brutal New England winters.
67 Arnold Rd, Pittston, ME
Built in: 1763
Presidential potential: Built alongside the Kennebec River, this four-bedroom Cape Cod-style home sits on 4 acres of land. And it’s a bargain! For only a quarter-million dollars, a buyer can step back in time and imagine life as it was in the 1700s.
6132 Gordonsville Rd, Keswick, VA
Built in: 1764
Presidential potential: Positively presidential, this opulent estate is known as Castle Hill. Decorated with attention to period detail, this mansion is all about the old money still floating around the East Coast.
701 Caroline St, Fredericksburg, VA
Built in: 1776
Presidential potential: Located downtown and right along the Rappahannock River, this classic home has had a number of incarnations. It’s been a tavern, an oyster bar, and post office. An intrepid buyer could set sail down the Rappahannock and wind up in Chesapeake Bay, at the very mouth of the Potomac.
1351 Warwick Furnace Rd, Pottstown, PA
Built in: 1782
Presidential potential: This listing details for this fabulous stone mansion offer a shout-out to the founding father. The home is “set in the heart of the historic French Creek Valley, where General Washington brought his army to rest after the Battle of the Brandywine.” Works for us!
5 Stone Mill Rd, Claverack, NY
Built in: 1787
Presidential potential: Less than million bucks for a home listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Count us in. This historic home features wide-plank wood flooring, four fireplaces, and a working cooking hearth.
Sooner or later, life will call for you to store your stuff. Maybe you’re selling your home and need to declutter, or are in the dreaded “between places” mode, where you’re perched in a temporary crash pad until you can put down roots. Whatever the reason, you’ll be glad to know that your options for stashing your belongings are greater than you might have imagined.
Here are four types of storage to consider, and the pros, cons, and costs of each.
The most obvious option is self-storage—aka the storage unit. It’s a secure, flexible, and generally affordable choice. Self-storage is commonly used by clients when they’re packing up while the house is for sale, or if they are in between homes and staying at a hotel or with family, says Matt Casady, marketing manager for STOR-N-LOCK Self Storage in Salt Lake City.
Pros: Many self-storage facilities offer 24-hour access, seven days a week, which can be helpful when you’re finishing up your packing in the wee hours of the morning. In addition, says Casady, facilities typically have 24/7 video and alarm monitoring and gate access that only permits current customers to enter.
Cons: You have to be able to provide your own transportation to the storage unit.
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Costs: Self-serve storage unit prices can vary greatly depending on which city you’re in, what features are offered (high-end storage units include a controlled climate or drive-up access), and of course, the size. A family looking to store the entire contents of a four-bedroom house will probably want a unit that’s 10-feet by 20-feet or larger, which typically runs between $150 to $230 a month, says Casady. One site that lets you compare sizes, amenities, and costs is Sparefoot.com.
Pros: Pods can be more convenient and less time-consuming than a storage unit, because you use the same container to store items and then move it to a new location (the pod company swings by to hitch it up to a truck). And since the pod is located on your property, you can pack it at your convenience.
Cons: Pods tend to be smaller than storage units, and can be seriously unsightly in your yard—a problem if you’re trying to sell your home.
Costs: The “original” PODS company has a quote finder on its site; for a 16-foot container, which is billed as storing the contents of three or four rooms, it’s about $175 a month, plus a $65 delivery and pickup charge (each way).
The name alone sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? This option is what’s known as “full-service” storage, which means that someone comes to pack and store your items; then will deliver them if, say, you have an unexpected need for your scuba gear or snowboard.
Pros: It doesn’t get any easier than this: The company will sweep in, and take a full inventory of items, says Nimrod Sheinberg, vice president of sales for Oz Moving & Storage in the greater New York area. You’ll get a list that includes a description of each item recorded by the number on the label, which means you can easily call to retrieve those golf clubs for a last-minute visit to the links.
“New Yorkers are typically busier and don’t have their own vehicles to haul items, so full-service storage providers are particularly appealing,” he says. Some companies will then provide moving services, which streamlines the process and saves both time and hassle.
Cons: You won’t have the flexibility to grab things out of your unit on a whim or at odd hours.
Costs: Costs vary, since the storage price is directly correlated with local real estate costs. This means that storage in New York is obviously much more expensive than it might be, for example, in Detroit. But according to the full-service storage company Clutter, its “apartment plan,” which covers a 9-foot by 27-foot space, costs $349 a month in Los Angeles.
In today’s peer-to-peer world, you knew someone would have had the ingenious idea of renting out their extraneous space—Airbnb for your stuff, so to speak. Here’s how it works: You go to a site like Roost or StoreAtMyHouse, and see if there’s anyone nearby with a basement, attic, or closet they are willing to “rent out.”
Pros: Renting someone’s extra space can be a very cost-effective solution, and since you’re dealing one-on-one, you can work out details with your host about your particular situation. “We have noticed that most hosts are very flexible in negotiating terms, once they find someone interested in renting their space,” says Fred Shaw, CEO of StoreAtMyHouse.
Cons: The cities where this service is available are still relatively limited. You’ll have to be flexible as to when you can retrieve your stuff.
Costs: The costs vary by area and are negotiable by host and guest, but Shaw says that he commonly sees spaces listed at around 50% less than the cost of commercial units for a comparable size and location.
Teles Executives Peter Loewy, Sharran Srivatsaa, Peter Hernandez and Bill Grasska discuss the 2017 Real Estate Outlook. Listen here:
1. Housing Market Normalization
2. Rising Interest Rate Landscape
3. Converging Millennial and Boomer demographics prime the engine
4. Lack of affordability drives new growth markets
5. Rent v. Buy: Overcoming Analysis Paralysis
6. Wildcard: Trump
Housing Market Normalization
It has been a long time since we can all remember a “normal” market, where buyers generally have access to an inventory of homes, sellers are used to a more predictable timeline to sell a home, interest rates are fairly predictable so you can lock in mortgage payments, and there is pricing and value stability in the market.
We predict a continued healthy trend of inventory balancing across markets, where demand and supply are starting to find common ground given the current market price points. Months Supply of Inventory (MSI) is a good metric to track the health of inventory, where a low MSI signals a seller’s market and a high MSI signals a buyer’s market, with a general balanced market indicated by an MSI of 6 – 7 (months). It is crucial to note that a more balanced market will mean smoother sailing for everyone with less overall volatility in emotions and pricing (modest 4-6% increases), both for buyers in search of “value”, and for sellers who want to unlock equity value and even turn around and become buyers themselves.
Rising Interest Rate Landscape
How long have we been talking about mortgage rates being poised to rise? No more crying “wolf” as 2017 will witness rate increases by the Fed and it will have a trickle down impact on consumer mortgage rates. Consumers often forget that mortgage rates track closely to the 10-year treasury and also to the demand/supply and trading in the mortgage securities market. While we are tracking with the Fed and predicting a 0.25% increase in the overnight rate quarter over quarter, the corresponding impact in the mortgage rate market will lag based on the overall health of the US economy (particularly related to the demand of the 10-year Treasury). However you slice it, we are marching into higher, but still historically low, rate territory and we advise consumers to act on any rate-based financial decisions sooner rather than later. With chatter of banking regulations possibly loosening, more creative mortgage products may also become available to consumers.
Converging Millennial and Boomer demographics prime the engine
We believe that studying aggregate demand is the key to tracking various structural changes in our ecosystem. In addition to traditional market demand for housing, we join various economists in predicting that 2017 will kick off the convergence of two unique demographic trends in Millennials and Boomers, creating an unprecedented reshaping of the real estate consumer for the next 5 years.
Now representing more than 1/3 of the workforce, we expect Millennials to dominate the first-time home buyer category and begin to represent the largest share of homebuyers (approximately 42%) beginning in 2017 and continuing to do so for many years to come. On the other hand, Boomers make up 35% of the homeowner population, and their growing numbers and associated life-change events are going to result in multi-dimensional transactional volume (sell and buy), especially as they leave areas where they currently live and work and move to areas where they may want to retire. One uniting trait of these two diverse groups is their belief in the value of homeownership and its role in the pursuit of the so-called American Dream.
Lack of affordability drives new growth markets
The luxury markets of California seem to have an interesting phenomenon that has become more apparent in recent years: people who live here love living here; people who don’t live here yet want to live here. This creates an inherent imbalance in the supply/demand equation and this has been exposed in recent affordability trends where first-time home buyers are coming to the realization that they may not be able to live in their first choice of neighborhood as inventory thins and organic demand steadily increases year over year. At some point, these buyers are going to buy elsewhere and we project that this “pricing out” will spawn the establishment and rapid growth of new real estate markets in the years to come.
As we discuss new growth markets, we are continuing to track a trend that we have been watching for a few years now that we call “The Emerging Lifestyle Homebuyer”. We believe that this profile of a Lifestyle Homebuyer will continue to be an uncorrelated demand driver over the next decade. With the war for talent and the rise of the internet entrepreneur, employers are being extremely flexible with working remotely, which has begun the era of truly distributed human capital in organizations where people are choosing to live where they want to live as opposed to being forced to live near their workplace and commute in every day.
Rent vs. Buy: Overcoming Analysis Paralysis
Over the last 5 years, there has been a significant dislocation in Rents v. Home Values which priced out several buyers and forced them to rent. In several markets rents increased 10-20% while home values increased 25-35%.
We are moving into a market where we have visibility on the three factors related to the Rent v. Buy analysis: (1) Rents are stabilizing (2) Home values / Pricing is less volatile and (3) Rates are poised to increase, but still historically low. This means that droves of buyers are crunching the numbers on what it means to continue to rent, what they can afford to buy now, and how much their purchasing power will be reduced if the rates increase. While looking for a rental, 58% consider buying a home instead, and as these aforementioned factors are time-bound and have not occurred simultaneously since the 2008 downturn, we predict increase in organic buyer demand from renters who feel like this is an opportunity of a lifetime to grab the American Dream.
Wildcard – Trump
We have no idea what Trump is going to do. Period. However, we see that more as a positive than a negative for the real estate industry because whatever initiatives are being put in place the fundamentals of demand, supply, demographics, and rates are going drive the housing engine in the meantime. We recommend a deep focus on market fundamentals with an eye toward consumer confidence. This means there is no excuse to not track key ongoing metrics in each micro-market, specifically at a neighborhood / zip code level and understand its impact on the demand and pricing for your home based on guidance from your real estate professional.
As a firm, we are focusing more on the questions than we are the answers at this time. We, of course, all know that Trump has a real estate background and has proposed growth oriented infrastructure spending and has also proposed loosening banking regulations, so we surmise at this time, that the Trump Presidency will not negatively affect the real estate industry. But how will Trump’s $550 Billion transportation and infrastructure plan work and will it be a demand driver for housing? What stance is Trump going to take on immigration and how does that impact foreign direct investment even though the US is still considered a flight to quality? Is Trump serious about creating more regulatory ease for builders to bring more new inventory to the market especially given that most of the regulations that impact builders are at a local level, where his administration will have minimal influence? Is the Trump administration going to have a collaborative relationship with the Fed given his public dislike for Chair Janet Yellen? Where do Fannie and Freddie fall on his priority list and is he going to deliver them to private hands? These are just a few of the unknowns, so hurry up and wait to see what happens.
How Rising Interest Rates Can Help Homebuyers
If a real estate buy is in your near future, rising interest rates are bad news. Or so you thought. Rising interest rates are not necessarily evil, however.
This post explains how an increase in rates won't necessarily thwart your home-buying ambitions, and how it might even help.
Click to see today's rates (Jan 31st, 2017)
1. Rising Interest Rates Signal Economic Improvement
The Fed raises short-term interest rates when inflation is a concern. Inflation is not normally an issue when the economy is uncertain or in poor condition.
An improving economy means more consumer activity. In fact, two-thirds of the US economy is based on consumer spending. More spending equals more jobs, higher wages, and competition for employees.
2. Investments Pay Off
Right now, stock market investors are earning excellent returns. The Dow Jones Industrial Average set records this week, topping 20,000 on January 25, 2017.
If your down payment funds are invested in stocks or mutual funds, you could hit your savings goal sooner.
You could also find yourself earning more as competition for employees heats up.
3. Rising Interest Rates Get People Off The Fence
If you're negotiating a home purchase right now, chances are good that the seller is as worried about increasing interest rates as you are. This might get you a decent deal if you're already in the market.
In December 2016, after the post-election jump in mortgage rates, sales of existing houses dropped 2.8 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
However, there is no proven correlation between increasing interest rates and falling home prices in the long term.
What happens is that when rising rates are part of an overall economic improvement, housing prices are pulled along with everything else.
More people working, more money to spend, more competition for houses -- these all tend to push prices up over time.
Sooner is better than later if you're considering a real estate purchase.
Click to see today's rates (Jan 31st, 2017)
4. Rising Interest Rates Make Government Loans A Better Deal
Mortgages backed by the FHA, VA and USDA have an advantage in a rising rate environment. They are assumable under their original terms.
This means that a homebuyer can "take over" the seller's existing mortgage as long as he or she qualifies for financing.
You may be able to assume someone else's government-backed loan at a below-market rate. There are homeowners out there with government-backed loans at 3.25 percent or so.
If you finance a house today with an assumable loan, you may be able to command a higher price when you sell, if interest rates continue to increase.
If you can offer an assumable loan at a 4.25 percent interest rate when you sell, and market rates are in the 5.25 percent range, you have a benefit that's worth four to eight percent of the loan amount, depending on lender pricing.
You can get a higher price for your home, or sell it faster.
5. Lenders May Be More Willing
Rising mortgage rates have caused a steep drop in home refinancing, and mortgage lenders not operating at 100 percent face a decision.
They may cut profits to compete for customers, or relax guidelines in order to increase the pool of clients.
If you're a top-drawer applicant, make lenders give you their best offer. You have options, and they know it.
And lenders with shrinking pipelines may be more willing to approve the "just-missed" applicants they turned down last year.
What Are Today's Mortgage Rates?
Today's mortgage rates depend on several factors. The strength of your application, type of loan you choose and the amount you wish to borrow all matter.
One major factor over which you have complete control is the number of lenders you contact. It's a proven fact that getting several bids from competing lenders saves money.
Show Me Today's Rates (Jan 31st, 2017)
Thinking about replacing your floors? Especially if you have carpet, the choice seems clear: Hardwood floors are preferred by home buyers and renters across the United States.
But consider carefully whether hardwood floors are the right choice for every room in your home—and what type you might want to install for the best resale value.
As you weigh investing in your floors, you’ll need to evaluate your budget, the preferences and traditions in your community and your own personal taste. Some people only want to step on soft carpet, while others prefer hard surfaces. In some warm climates such as Florida, ceramic tile flooring rivals hardwood in popularity.
In more traditional markets, tastes still lean toward oak floors, but some owners of more contemporary homes are choosing to stain their wood floors in different colors. Other trends in hardwood include wider planks, the use of reclaimed wood or hand-scraped wood that looks antique and exotic species of wood such as hickory or walnut.
Homeowners on a tight budget also may want to look into laminate flooring, which offers the look of wood at a lower price point.
Keep in mind that people with allergies typically want a hard surface that won’t hold dust. You should also think about the care and maintenance required for your floor surface since you’ll need to take care of it for years. Hardwood flooring lasts longer than carpet, can be easier to keep clean and can be refinished.
In the end, though, the decision about whether to install hardwood or carpeting in a bedroom should be based on your personal preference, at least if you intend to stay in the home for years.
Hardwood Flooring: It’s What Buyers Want
According to HGTV, the top request of home buyers and renters when looking for a home is hardwood flooring. In fact, a study of homebuyer preferences by USA Today using data from the National Association of REALTORS® found that 54% of home buyers were willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring.
Installing hardwood flooring can cost between $9 and $12 per square foot, compared with about $3 to $5 per square foot for carpet—so some homeowners opt to install hardwood only in some rooms rather than throughout their home. However, carpet typically needs to be replaced if it becomes stained or worn out. Good quality carpet can last about 10 to 15 years, while hardwood can last forever.
The return on investment for installing hardwood will vary according to your market and other factors, but hardwood flooring can often help your home sell faster.
Reasons to Install Carpet
While many buyers and homeowners prefer hardwood flooring throughout their home, some people prefer carpet in the bedrooms—because they like a softer surface. When you live in a two or three-story home, carpet also helps reduce noise.
If you would still prefer hardwood floors throughout your home, you could use put area rugs in your bedroom.
Buying a house in 2017 will feel kind of like you’ve jumped onto the subway just as the doors were closing. Your heart’s pounding and you’re winded from the race, but you made it—just in time.
Interest rates have begun to rise and will likely climb higher. Inventory is low and could shrink more. And home prices? Well, home prices are increasing—and they’re not predicted to fall any time soon.
“It’s tough to buy a home today in most places in the country because there are so few homes for sale,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. “But if you wait to buy, then you’re gambling that the market will be better for you to purchase in the future.”
And that’s not a smart gamble, our real estate experts say. If you’ve been toying with the idea of buying, or you anticipate a life change that might force you to move—such as a new baby or a job transfer—you should be “buying as urgently and as soon as possible,” Smoke says.
So finish reading this, then start looking for a house. Here’s why.
1. Rates are rising
In 1981, when mortgage rates hit 18% and seemed to rise every day, single-digit rates seemed like an impossible dream.
Last August, however, rates on 30-year mortgages bottomed out at 3.55%. Now that the Federal Reserve finally decided to raise its key interest rate, mortgage rates have been climbing slowly. Today, the average rate is just above 4%; by 2019 or 2020, rates could easily climb to 6%.
“All signs point to this trend continuing,” says Richard DeNapoli, managing director for Coral Gables Trust and a former Florida real estate commissioner.
Before you freak out, take heart: Rising rates aren’t necessarily a deal breaker for buyers. The National Association of Realtors® calculated that a rise from 4.2% to 5% would increase average monthly mortgage payments by $90—not nothing, but not a catastrophe, either. And if you take the long view, those higher rates are still historically low.
“For buyers there still is opportunity,” says Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research for the NAR. “For those who are still able to get into the market, these low rates continue to be helpful.”
Another upside: When rates go up, competition and prices often go down.
“I’d tell buyers not to panic, because higher mortgage rates eventually cause sellers to be more flexible on pricing,” DeNapoli says.
2. Inventory is shrinking
In November 2016, there were only 1.85 million homes for sale. That’s a nearly 10% drop from the year before. And it continues a trend of steady decline since just before the housing crash, when inventory peaked.
Real estate experts predict that inventory will continue to shrink, at least for the foreseeable future. That means that in most areas of the country, buyers have more homes to choose from today than they will next year.
Or even next month. If you get moving now (during the winter, which is largely considered to be real estate’s off-season), you’ll have less competition for those homes than you will in the peak spring and summer months.
Bottom line: Every day you wait to start looking for a new home, you face stiffer competition for fewer homes.
“If you think it’s bad right now, wait until April to August,” Smoke says.
3. Home prices are still rising
The bad news for buyers is that home prices now stand higher than before the 2007 crash, increasing 5% from 2015 to 2016. And housing experts expect an additional 2% to 3% jump in 2017, DeNapoli says.
“Prices continue to go up; we have yet to see that ceiling,” says Trevor Levin, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates in Los Angeles. “I think they have room to grow.”
How high prices will rise and how long they’ll remain high is anyone’s guess. Rising mortgage rates and the new Trump administration have introduced “uncertainty” into the real estate market, Levin says.
“And uncertainty is never ideal,” he says.
The good news? If you jump into the market pronto, you just might make it before those doors close.
With the start of 2017, we’ve said farewell to some tired interior decor trends that have worn out their welcome. Once considered innovative and edgy, those bad boys are now giving us the blahs.
But, when one trend goes out, another must come in. It’s the design circle of life!
So what’s replacing the old fads with fun, new ideas? Your friends will fawn over these eight trends—from “jungalows” to jewel tones—that promise to hit it big in 2017. Want to be a showoff (the good kind)? Be the first to integrate them into your home.
1. Geometric patterns
Say goodbye to soft, gentle curves—funky geometric patterns will rule the roost in 2017. Embrace your memories of high school math with geometric throw pillows, wallpaper, and quirky planters.
“Large, mod geometric designs made an appearance in 2016 and will be a front-runner in 2017,” says Jeffrey Weldler, an interior decorating expert with Vant Panels.
Scared this fun new style will feel out of place in your old-school home? Don’t be.
“Don’t feel like your home needs to have all modern design in order to add geometric patterns,” Weldler says. “Geometrics even have a place in an industrial farmhouse–style home.”
2. Jewel tones
Last year welcomed the bold return of art deco–inspired designs, and with them come luxurious jewel tones. Indulge your regal side with rich emerald chairs, bold sapphire walls, and amethyst accents.
“These colors offer depth and a richness that will make a space feel cozy, yet luxurious,” says designer Liz Toombs.
Pair the designs with neutral, minimal wall colors for a toned-down take on the trend, or go wild and slather your entire living space in vivid color.
It’s 2017. Isn’t it time to fully embrace our eco-friendly side? Cork walls are “not only trendy, but also functional,” says Than Merrill, a real estate investor with FortuneBuilders.
Swap out your old chalkboard wall for cork, and pick up some fun pushpins (try fabric, flowers, or even teeny rabbits). Keep track of to-do lists, notes, reminders, and your favorite recipes on your cork board (aka the original Pinterest).
Not sure where to put a cork in it? Merrill recommends “livening up dead space” in a home office or kitchen.
4. Tropical influences
It’s the year of the “jungalow.” Your new, jewel-toned walls will look fabulous alongside lush tropical plants: spider plants, Dracaena, and gorgeous ferns.
Cursed with the blackest of thumbs? You can still embrace the tropical trend, which “mixes printed and embellished textiles ranging from novelty fruits to animal print to palm fronds,” says textile designer Caroline Cecil. Add accents in bright yellows, deep greens, and earthy oranges and reds to bring this creative look home.
5. Rich blues
Pantone’s Color of the Year might be an interesting yellow-green, but its spring trend forecast is “all about the blues,” says Weldler. Dressing your home in shades of sky—from sapphire (another one of those glorious jewel tones) to teals and soft baby blues—has never been so fashionable.
Whether you want to express confidence and strength or calm down after a long day at work, there’s a blue tone perfect for your space. And when those tones are mixed together, it’s the ultimate in relaxation.
6. Wood accents
We’re moving away from metal and back to an earthier feel. Wood accents will be everywhere in 2017, says Erika Dalager of home design startup roOomy.
No, we’re not talking about wood paneling (although that’s sneaking its way back, too). Look for modern wood clocks, sculptures, trays, and furniture that pair perfectly with today’s streamlined aesthetic. And yes, a lot of that wood will be reclaimed—so we can keep our wonderful forests.