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  Sat Oct 22

How Landscape Design Can Boost Home Value

(Family Features) A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) found that sustainable, low-maintenance designs are top trends among residential landscape projects. The study, which asked landscape architects to rate the expected popularity of outdoor design elements, points to a great demand for ecologically sensitive upgrades intended to preserve the environment, conserve water and reduce landscape maintenance.

According to the study, the top five upgrades are native plantings, adapted drought plantings, food or vegetable gardens, fire pits and fireplaces and low-maintenance landscapes. If you'd like to incorporate these ideas into your outdoor space, it’s best to hire a professional. Here’s why:

1. A landscape architect is well equipped to design an outdoor living space that will add value to your home, extend your living space and allow you to enjoy all that nature has to offer in a controlled setting. From arbors to fountains, they can create a space that is both inviting and environmentally sustainable.

2. Hiring a landscape architect is a terrific investment for your home. Research from Virginia Tech shows that landscapes literally grow in value over time, while traditional home additions or remodels start to lose value the minute the dust settles.

3. Landscape architects are licensed professionals who often work with landscaping or other construction companies to install their designs. Think of the fashion designer imagining an outfit while a clothing manufacturer makes the apparel, or an artist designing a wall poster that's printed by another company.

4. Landscape architects are trained to think about landscapes as systems. They will assess your property's problem areas, as well as possibilities, and create a solid plan that addresses both the big picture and exact details of how your landscape will look. They will handle all the details, saving you time and stress.

5. Landscape architects will deliver a finished project that you will love and that will comply with regulations and codes. It will be a special place that you and your family and friends will enjoy for years to come.

  Fri Oct 14

2016 Predicted to Be Housing’s Golden Year


2016 Predicted to Be Housing’s Golden Year


Officials from mortgage giant Freddie Mac have made a bold prediction: This year housing starts and home prices will reach their highest levels since 2006.

The main reasons behind its bullish forecast is low mortgage rates, an improving job market, and a gradual increase in housing supply.

Read more: March/April 2016 Market Pulse

“Housing markets are poised for their best year in a decade,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “In our latest forecast, total home sales, housing starts, and home prices will reach their highest levels since 2006.”

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remains well-below 4 percent this year. This week it averaged 3.71 percent.

“Expect the 30-year mortgage rate to remain very attractive throughout the spring home-buying season, staying below 4 percent until the second half of the year,” according to Freddie Mac’s monthly Outlook for March.

For home sellers, they’ll be able to enjoy more home price increases. “In 2015, house prices increased about 6 percent on a year-over-year basis,” Freddie notes in its outlook. “Expect house prices to continue to rise, but at a moderating pace, with annual price appreciation slowing to 4.8 percent in 2016.”

Also, gains in employment across the country will help to fuel hotter housing markets, according to Freddie Mac. The unemployment rate dropped below 5 percent recently.

  Fri Oct 14

President Signs Appropriations Bill Into Law


Omnibus Appropriations Bill Real Estate Provisions

Source: NAR
Congress has passed and the President has signed into law, sweeping legislation of more than two-thousand pages to fund the Federal Government for Fiscal Year 2016. The new legislation will put an end to the series of stop-gap funding measures known as “Continuing Resolutions” that have funded the government since the start of FY 2016 on October 1, 2015. This new bill will expire in September 2016. The real estate related provisions are listed below:

Federal Tax Policy

  • Mortgage Debt Forgiveness: Authority extended for two years (2015 & 2016)
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium Deductibility: Provisions allowing the deductibility of mortgage insurance premiums were extended for two years (2015 & 2016)
  • Immediate Expensing of Business Equipment and Certain Real Estate: The expensing provision for equipment and certain real estate used by small- and mid-sized businesses is made permanent (section 179). The real estate includes leasehold improvements, certain restaurant improvements, and certain retail improvements. Moreover, the $250K cap on this qualified real estate (which is half that of personal property) is being removed starting in 2016, so all business assets (real and personal) will have the same $500K limit each year, and indexed for future inflation.
  • Energy Tax Credit for New Homes: The expired credit of $1,000 to $2,000 for energy-efficient new homes is extended for two years (2015 & 2016).
  Wed Jun 07


The Housing Market is Doing Just Fine

There are some that think that housing affordability is a challenge. Historically, that’s not true. Others think that home prices are approaching bubble values. If we look back over the last sixteen years, that is also not the case. As a matter of fact, the numbers show that the U.S. residential real estate market is doing just fine.

Here are two articles and excerpts that make this point:

The Housing Market Is Finally Starting to Look HealthyThe NY Times

It has been an excruciatingly long time coming, but the housing sector in the United States is finally getting healthy. Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand.”

Why the U.S. Housing Market Is Good and Getting Even BetterThe Street

“Interest rates are so low now that a family can buy the median-priced U.S. home on income of less than $45,000 a year -- about $11,000 less than the median household income. And half of America's houses are cheaper than that.” 
There are those worried that all this positive talk resembles what was being said in 2004 and 2005. Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at, explains the difference very simply but effectively:
“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.” (emphasis added)
  Tue Apr 04

Spring Home Trends

A deep cleaning of your home isn't the only way to usher in spring. It might also be time to peel back those winter layers and give your home a fresh new look with some on-trend décor and design.

Get in the spring of things with this season's hot new trends.

If you can't get enough gingham, enjoy the black-and-white look, or are heralding the return of fringe, you're in luck. These are just a few of the styles that are in for spring, says HGTV.

1. Gingham

There's no need to go traditional with the classic check print.

"To put a gender-neutral spin on gingham, choose a feminine color such as pink or coral for tailored upholstery and use chrome nail heads," said HGTV. "The combination will create a menswear-inspired look that's also female-friendly."

2. Fringe

The flirty look that's all over the runway is also a designer's favorite element for spring. Elle Décor used a Proenza Schouler runway as inspiration for a "multicolored fringe wall hanging." Fringe is also popping up in carpet borders and pendant lighting.

3. Black and white

"The classic color combination makes any room - from bathrooms to bedrooms - sophisticated, chic, and timeless," said House Beautiful.

Whether you use it on the floors, the walls, for bedding, for a backsplash, or a smattering of accessories, black and white brings interest and glam potential.

4. Oversize art

Forget the gallery. For spring it's all about statement pieces.

"Just as we were starting to perfect the Tetris-like picture placement of gallery walls, oversize art has become the wall statement du jour," said POPSUGAR. "Supersized paintings, blowup photographs, and gargantuan art of every sort are dominating huge swaths of walls to stunning effect."

5. Shibori

POPSUGAR also loves the shibori print, a "tie-dye-esque look (that) is growing rapidly, jumping from pillows and bedspreads to curtains and rugs."

Shibori is a Japanese technique "that typically involves folding, twisting or bunching cloth and binding it, then dyeing it in indigo," said Design Sponge. "Whatever is used to bind the fabric will resist the dye, resulting in areas of the cloth that take the distinctive blue dye in patterns created by the resistance, and other areas of the cloth that remain white." Check out some DIY shibori techniques here.

Check out more spring home trends on Pinterest.

  Thu Mar 30

Renting a room out? Make sure you check credit scores.

Regardless of whether or not you own your home, at some point you may choose to sublet or rent to a stranger. If you do, be sure you check their credit to make sure they can pay.


Recommendations for finding the right subletter or roommate for your apartment:


  • At some point in your life as a renter, you’ll probably need to find a new roommate or sublet your place for a few months.

  • Too often, renters looking for a short-term sublet or roommate rely on a Craigslist post and in-person meeting. While personality is important, so is a potential renter’s ability to pay rent on time. If your name is on the lease, you’re responsible for timely rent payments, regardless of whether or not your sublease tenant has paid you.

  • According to the most recent studies available, roughly 50% of Americans spend more than the government-recommended 30% of their household income on rent. It’s important for you to know income information upfront, so you can make an informed decision about their risk (particularly if the person is a stranger you met through a classified ads website, or you’re subletting your place and won’t be there in person for the duration of their tenancy).

  • A credit score and screening application can help you vet your potential housemates without wasting too much time. You don’t need to worry about figuring out what questions to ask or collecting private information like Social Security numbers to run a credit report.

  • Cozy, and services like SmartMove, put everything in one place: an easy-to-read credit report that’s free for you and just $19.95 for applicants, to help you judge their financial viability. With Cozy, you also get a free online rental application you can use for tenant screening, already full of common questions you should be asking.

  Thu Jan 26


 Education & Experience

You don't need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person. For the most part, they all cost roughly the same. Why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We're all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.

Agents are Buffers

Agents take the spam out of your property showings and visits. If you're a buyer of new homes, your agent will whip out her sword and keep the builder's agents at bay, preventing them from biting or nipping at your heels. If you're a seller, your agent will filter all those phone calls that lead to nowhere from lookie loos and try to induce serious buyers to immediately write an offer.

Negotiation Skills & Confidentiality

Top producing agents negotiate well because, unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they are skilled. It's part of their job description. Good agents are not messengers, delivering buyer's offers to sellers and vice versa. They are professionals who are trained to present their client's case in the best light and agree to hold client information confidential from competing interests.


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