Click Below to learn more about the incredible Issaquah Farmers Market!
Click Below to learn more about the incredible Issaquah Farmers Market!
(RTTNews.com) – Amazon.com Inc. ( AMZN ) plans to grow its Seattle headquarters to almost 14 million square feet of office space, an addition of more than 2 million square feet from the last time the company updated its local real estate plans, the Seattle Times reported.
As Amazon continues its search for a second headquarters, the retail giant has increased its forecast for the size of its campus in Seattle by about 2 million square feet, the equivalent of three additional skyscrapers.
Amazon now occupies more than 10 million square feet of office space in Seattle, according to a tally the Downtown Seattle Association released in a report Monday and the company confirmed. The retail giant plans to have almost 14 million square feet upon the completion of current and planned construction.
Back in September, when Amazon started its search for its so-called HQ2, the company’s footprint stood at 8.1 million square feet, with plans to grow to about 12 million square feet. At the time, Amazon’s was already the largest presence of any company in a major U.S. city. The company, with more than 40,000 employees in Seattle, is the city’s largest employer.
Amazon has continued to scoop up real estate since, leasing all of the office space planned for a downtown skyscraper called Rainier Square, most of the Macy’s building, and two mid-sized buildings in South Lake Union.
Amazon’s voracious appetite for real estate, taken for granted in Seattle for most of the decade since the company announced its South Lake Union campus, has taken on a new importance after the announcement that it planned to build a second, “equal” headquarters somewhere else.
The company has said it plans to staff that campus with up to 50,000 workers, in a campus of up to 8 million square feet. Amazon hopes to staff HQ2 with its first employees next year.
The real-estate listing company Zillow surveyed dozens of housing experts and economists on what city they believe could land Amazon HQ2, the company’s $5 billion headquarters.
Atlanta, Georgia and Northern Virginia are their top picks.
The survey’s conclusions are similar to other HQ2 analyses, many of which have also pointed toward the Washington, DC area and Atlanta as top contenders.
Earlier this year, Amazon said that it selected the 20 metropolitan areas to move to the next phase of the selection process for the company’s second headquarters. The company planned to invest over $5 billion and grow the second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.
Mortgage rates have risen about half a percentage point since September. What does that mean for you if you’re buying a home now or plan to buy one soon?
For starters, don’t panic.
When you’re buying a home, the mortgage rate matters, but it shouldn’t monopolize your attention, says Robert Frick, corporate economist for Navy Federal Credit Union. “You shouldn’t focus on the rate and let that scare you into making a hasty decision about buying a house,” he says.
The average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.54% on Feb. 16, 2018, according to NerdWallet’s daily rate survey. It averaged 3.99% on Sept. 26, 2017 — meaning it has gone up more than half a percentage point in less than five months.
While a half-point increase doesn’t have a major impact on the monthly payment, the added cost does add up over time. On a 30-year loan for $200,000, the monthly payment would be nearly $59 more at a 4.5% interest rate than at a 4% interest rate. That adds up to more than $21,000 over 30 years.
Mortgage rate fluctuations have been catching home buyers off guard for generations. Your forebears have developed tried-and-true strategies to cope with rising rates. Here are some things you can do when mortgage rates trend higher:
No. 1: Lock your mortgage rate. With a mortgage rate lock, the lender promises a defined combo of interest rate and points. If you close the home loan by the specified date, the rate can’t go up. You can use this tactic after the lender has approved you for a mortgage for a specific house. Some lenders offer a one-time “float down” option allowing you to secure a lower interest rate if rates go down; this option is more common for construction loans and long-term rate locks.
No. 2: Buy “points” to reduce the interest rate. If you have the cash, you can pay for discount points — in effect, prepaying some of the interest in exchange for a lower mortgage rate. One point equals 1% of the loan amount. The discount you get for one point varies as mortgage rates fluctuate. But as a rule of thumb, paying one point often gives a rate cut of one-quarter of a percentage point.
No. 3: Revise your price range. A higher mortgage rate brings higher monthly payments. When you begin your home search, determine a range of interest rates that will still allow you to afford the type of home you want without stretching your budget past the point of reason. Or, rising rates might force you to adjust your home-price range downward. Start with this loan affordability calculator and click “Edit rate” on the right side.
This recent rise in mortgage rates arrived in two stages:
The tax cuts and the wage report were both regarded as inflationary, because when people have more money in their pockets, they tend to spend it, driving up prices. (Classic supply and demand.) And higher inflation tends to bring higher interest rates for everything, including mortgages.
On top of that, futures traders expect the Federal Reserve to raise short-term interest rates at least two, if not three, times this year, which could exert upward pressure on long-term mortgage rates.
Frick says businesses and governments around the world are ramping up their borrowing. As they compete with one another to borrow money, they bid up interest rates. This upward pressure trickles down to consumers, who end up paying higher interest rates for everything from credit cards to mortgages.
Talk to any housing economist about mortgage rates, and you’ll hear that rates have been abnormally low in the decade since the housing crash.
“I remember in the mid-’90s, getting a 7% rate, being happy with that,” says Dean Baker, senior economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The rates we’re looking at today are still, by any measure, pretty low. So it’s basically the economy getting back closer to normal.”
Frick says: “People have gotten kind of lulled into these low rates, and a lot of people think this is normal, but this is not normal. We’re returning to normal, and that’s still going to be a painful process because we’ve gotten used to low rates.”
The Spring selling season is on, and if you’re considering listing your house, it’s time to get it in tip-top shape. You may think your home is already listing ready right now, but a real estate agent may not agree. These eight activities will help you put your best house forward.
Clean up that yard
You can’t underestimate the power of curb appeal. An unkempt yard, chipping paint, even a mailbox that’s seen better days can turn off a potential buyer – or turn one into a bargain hunter. And you don’t want either.
“Your home’s curb appeal is the first thing buyers see when they drive up to the property. Buyers immediately start assessing the exterior and landscaping, forming a knee-jerk first impression,” said Professional Staging. “This initial reaction is very powerful. It instantly sets the tone of the tour and will have an effect on how buyers perceive the rest of the property. If their first impression is a negative one, then the rest of the home will suffer for it. The state of a home’s exterior usually matches the interior. If the grass is long or patchy, the paint on the house is faded or peeling, and there are cracks in the driveway, then buyers are going to be very wary of what other kinds of maintenance issues could be awaiting them inside and in places that they can’t see. These issues instantly translate to dollar signs and stress for home buyers, so it’s likely they will move on to the competition to avoid them both.”
Chances are, you don’t look much at your front door because you come in and out of the garage. A buyer approaching your house will notice if your door isn’t pristine and may project the lack of pristine-ness onto the rest of the house. A fresh coat of paint is inexpensive but the impact is dramatic.
A cluttered house can mask its best qualities and also make potential buyers feel like it’s not as spacious as they want it to be. “Resist the urge to roll your eyes at this one,” said Family Handyman. “It is imperative that your home looks livable. Potential buyers may not be able to see past your clutter. Think of it this way – don’t move things you no longer want or need. Make decisions now and your house will sell faster and your move will be easier. Take one room, or even part of one room, at a time and dive in. Recycle or shred paper. Donate books, toys, clothing and duplicate household items. If you’re getting frustrated and you can’t deal with one more stack of papers or shoebox of old photos, put them in a plastic tub, label the tub and stack it somewhere out of the way.”
You want your home to be memorable, but for the right reasons – not because of your wall full of crosses or bookcase overflowing with antique figurines. Pack them away to neutralize the space. “The next step on your declutter list? You want to remove any distractions so the buyers can visualize themselves and their family living in the property,” Kipton Cronkite, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York, told Realtor.com. “He says that includes personal items and family photos, as well as bold artwork and furniture that might make your home less appealing to the general public. The goal is to create a blank canvas on which house hunters can project their own visions of living there, and loving it.”
Light bulbs, handles, and hardware, oh my!
Burned-out bulbs, loose handles, and hardware that’s worn, scratched, or rusted is easy to take care and can help your place look finished.
Give everything a good dusting
Look up! How’s that ceiling fan? You’d be surprised how a little thing like a dusty fan can impact a buyer and turn them into a non-buyer. Get out that duster and hit all the corners and window sills you never notice. And then clean all those windows so when you open all the blinds and drapes to let the sun shine in, the light doesn’t get blocked by smudges and fingerprints.
Walk through your home like you’re seeing it for the first time
Come in through the front door and examine every inch of the house. You’ve probably been ignoring little things that have just become part of the landscape. A scuffed baseboard here. A broken switchplate there. Even the pile of shoes in the front hall that you don’t even notice anymore. Potential buyers will, and these little things could be enough to turn them off.
“Once you’ve decided it’s time to sell your home, start to look at it with an objective eye,” said Family Handyman. “If you were the potential buyer, what red flags would you see when you walked around your house and yard?
Clean out your closets, your cabinets, and your pantry
Don’t fool yourself into thinking people won’t open doors and drawers and look through everything (Side tip: Hide your valuables before showings, just to be safe!). You don’t have to worry about being judged for your fashion sense—although, you might want to pack away those ‘80s parachute pants! You should be more worried about whether buyers will walk away because they think there isn’t enough closet or storage space, or it’s not efficient space.
You have to pack anyway since you’re moving, so start early. Empty out closets, cabinets, and storage areas so the space looks sufficient and nicely organized. For closets, the idea is to make them look filled, but not overfilled. Create space between hangers and fold other items neatly on shelves. Make sure there is ample space for shoes because, let’s face it, this could be a deal breaker for some people.
WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI
New York, San Francisco and Boston top the list of the 10 best cities for public transit according to the updated Transit Score® rankings by Redfin. Transit Score, a tool by Redfin company Walk Score®, rates locations based on how convenient they are to public transportation. Each of the top three cities has a Transit Score above 70, meaning it has an excellent transit rating, with transit being a convenient option for most trips.
While the rank order for the six best cities for public transit has stayed the same since 2012 when Transit Score first launched, there was a lot of movement at the bottom of the top-10 list.
In 7th place, Seattle has a Transit Score of 59.6, up 2.6 points since 2016, the biggest jump among the top 10. In the past two years, Seattle has expanded its Link light rail service, adding two new stations in 2016, making it easier and faster to get to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. A 2017 survey by the Seattle Department of Transportation found that public transit use had increased by 48 percent in the past seven years.
“Seattle is not only the coolest city in the country – we are now one of the most transit-friendly cities,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “For our visitors, commuters and residents, public transit is safe, affordable, and a vital component in making sure our city is accessible to all. With the opening of new light rail stations and one of the highest bus riderships in the country, Seattle is making significant strides towards becoming a world-class transit city.”
Honolulu gained 1.6 points of Transit Score since 2016 and entered the top 10 list for the first time, replacing Miami. More than 69 million passengers in Honolulu ride TheBus annually and the city is planning a new rail system to further improve public transportation.
“Honolulu has been a public transportation city for many years now and the fact that our residents and visitors use TheBus an average of 214,000 trips every weekday is a testament to this fact,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “The new Transit Score ranking announced today by Redfin is proof that the nearly 2,000 workers who keep our bus system running strive for excellence each and every day, and our commitment to a transit system that covers all of O‘ahu will only improve once our rail project begins service along our busiest and most populated corridor.”
Below is a ranking of the top 10 U.S. cities (with populations of more than 300,000) for public transit.
|Rank||City||Transit Score||Change from 2016||Previous Rank (2016)|
Top 5 Biggest Transit Score Increases
Raleigh, NC had the largest Transit Score increase, up 6.3 points from 2016 to 28.9 this year.
Top 5 Biggest Transit Score Decreases
Washington D.C. had the largest decrease among all major cities in Transit Score, dropping 2.2 points to 68.5 in 2018. The decrease can be attributed to changes in Metrobus and Metrorail scheduling, where some bus routes were discontinued and the frequency of trains during rush hour was lowered.
“Once touted as the gold standard for public transit, D.C.’s Metro is now reckoning with decades of deferred maintenance,” said Redfin Washington D.C. agent John Marcario. “Tough decisions to reduce service and shut down lines for extended periods for repair are causing short-term frustration, but will hopefully make the system better in the long run. Despite the fall in Transit Score, access to transit remains a top priority for D.C. home buyers, who are still willing to pay a premium to live near a metro station.”
New Cities Added
With the addition of 600 new U.S. cities and more than 4,000 new neighborhoods, Transit Score ratings are now available for more than 900 cities and nearly 15,000 neighborhoods on walkscore.com. Among the newly added cities are big ones like Jacksonville, FL (22.4) and Charlotte, NC (27.4), along with smaller cities with Transit Score ratings like Hartford, CT (54.2) and Syracuse, NY (44.1).
To see how your home, neighborhood or city stacks up, search issaquahrealestate.com
The Transit Score algorithm calculates a score by summing the relative usefulness of public transit (bus, subway, light rail, ferry, etc.) routes near a given location. Usefulness is defined as the distance to the nearest stop on the route, the frequency of the route, and type of route (with twice as much weight given to heavy/light rail than to bus service). Transit Score is based on data published in General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format by transit agencies across the country.
An ultimate timeline ensures the smoothest transitions.
A real yard. Closets bigger than your average microwave. The freedom to decorate however you darn well please! Making the switch from renting to owning is exhilarating, but many rookie homebuyers find the process trickier to navigate than they expected.
This is why we created our First-Time HomeBuyer Checklist. The 12-month timeline will help you sidestep common mistakes, like paying too much interest or getting stuck with the wrong house. (Yep, it happens!)
Check your credit score.Get a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you’re ready to make an offer. And work diligently to correct any mistakes.
Determine how much you can afford. Figure out Lenders are happy to lend you as much as your debt load allows. But will that amount make you house poor? Ask yourself, how much house do I really want to afford?Read More In5 Surprising (and Useful!) Ways to Save for a Down Paymenthow much house you can afford and want to afford. Lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 43% of your gross monthly income (called the debt-to-income ratio). This figure includes your future mortgage and any other debts, such as a car loan, student loan, or revolving credit cards.
There are plenty of calculators on the web to help you determine what you can afford. If you’re pushing the limits, start reducing your debt-to-income ratio now. To get a reality check on what you may actually be spending every month, use this worksheet.
Make a down payment plan. Most conventional mortgages require a 20% down payment. If you can swing it, do it. Your loan costs will be much less, and you’ll get a better interest rate. If, however, you’re not quite able to save the full amount, there are many programs that can help. FHA offers loans with only a 3.5% down payment. But they require mortgage insurance premiums, which will drive up your monthly payments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a list of nonprofit homebuying programs by state. Also check with credit unions; and your employer might even have an assistance program.
As you’re planning your savings strategy, keep in mind that banks like you to “season” your money. That is, they like to see that you’ve had stable funds in your account for 60 to 90 days before applying for a loan. Don’t worry: You can still use a financial gift from a family member or bonus received near the time you buy.
Prioritize what you most want in your new home. What’s most important in your new home? Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? You’ll make a much better decision on what home to buy if you focus on your priorities. If it’s a joint decision, now is the time to work out any differences to avoid frustration and wasted time. Perhaps most important: Know what trade-offs you’re willing to make.
Research neighborhoods and start visiting open houses. But now’s when the fun begins, too. Use property listing sites, such as realtor.com, to find out about neighborhoods, public transport, and cost of living.
Start visiting open houses to get an idea of what kind of homes are in your price range and what neighborhoods appeal the most. Seeing potential homes will also keep you motivated to continue reducing your debts and saving for your down payment.
Budget for miscellaneous homebuying expenses. Buying a home has some miscellaneous upfront costs. A home inspection, title search, propery survey, and home insurance are examples. Costs vary by locale, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars. If you don’t have the cash, start saving now.
Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies. It’s bad enough to have to call a plumber. It’s worse if you’re paying credit card interest on that plumbing bill.
Collect your loan paperwork. Banks are very particular when it comes to mortgage loans. They demand a lot of paperwork. What they’ll want from you includes:
If you start collecting these documents now, it’ll lessen the stress when it’s time to get your loan. Bonus: Looking closely at your loan documents each month will also help you stay focused on saving for your down payment and keeping your debt-to-income ratio low.
Research lenders and REALTORS®. Start interviewing REALTORS®, specifically buyers’ agents. A buyer’s agent will work in your best interest to find you the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent, and shepherd you through the closing process. Your agent also can be instrumental in finding a lender who’s familiar with first-time home buyer programs.
Even better, look for a mortgage broker, who will shop for a competitive loan rate for you among multiple lenders, unlike a bank, which can only offer its own products.
Get pre-approved for your loan. At this point, if you’ve been following this timeline, your credit score, paperwork, and down payment should be on track. You’ve done your research on lenders and buyers’ agents. Now it’s time to start working with them. First you’ll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Make an appointment with your lender or mortgage broker and bring all your paperwork. He’ll run a credit check on you and tell you how much of a loan you’re approved for. It often makes sense to borrow less than the maximum the lender allows so you can live comfortably. Draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and everything else you have going on in your life.
Start shopping for your new home. One you’re pre-approved, the buyer’s agent you’ve chosen will be able to target homes that meet your priorities in your price range. This way you won’t be wasting time looking at homes you can’t afford.
Make an offer on a home.It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. So if you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing.
Get a home inspection. One of the first things you’ll want to do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that’s a common example of something that can delay closing.
Triple-check that all your financial documents are in order and review all lending documents before closing. You’re in the home stretch! If you’ve been keeping your documents up to date, and your down payment is in reserve, these final steps are the easiest. Reviewing the mortgage documents is probably the most difficult. Your agent can help guide you through them.
Get insurance for your new home. Don’t forget to secure insurance before closing. You’ll need to bring proof of insurance to closing.
Do a final walk-through. Do a final walk-through of your new home, usually a day or two before closing, to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon.
Get a cashier’s check or bank wire for cash needed at closing. Make sure you get an exact amount of cash needed for closing. You’ll get that number a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier’s check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren’t accepted.
That’s it. Congratulations!
WRITTEN BY BECKY HARRIS, HOUZZ
I’ve never really shared my own home with you before, and I’m a little nervous. But I learned so much from my recently completed bathroom renovation that I wanted to tell you about it.
The project started out as a fairly light makeover but blew up quickly as it evolved. I am not an interior designer, but the wealth of information and inspiration I’ve gleaned from interviewing hundreds of them over the years was a big help throughout the process.
It all began with this grungy shower stall. I dreaded showering in here. First of all, it was tiled in travertine. Not super-pretty vein-cut travertine but just yucko builder’s-special travertine that was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. No matter how well it was sealed and scrubbed and resealed over the years (an expensive process), it was porous and a magnet for mold. And then there was no cleaner I could use to get the reddish iron marks from Atlanta’s water out of the grout without removing the sealant. A built-in (moldy) bench made the shower feel cramped. The dated framed translucent glass surround never felt clean and made it feel even more cramped and dark. And there was just no way to get some of the grunge out of that frame.
I really liked this vanity, and I wanted to try to preserve the countertops. They were made of reclaimed pine boards from my attic floor and were about 80 years old. (That’s a good trick to know, by the way. An older home’s attic floorboards are a great source of reclaimed lumber.) The mirror frame is made of the same wood. Although I knew that tiling the wall and placing mirrors atop it would be a more updated look, I loved having this huge mirror and decided to keep it. It bounces so much light around and makes it easy to get ready in here and check my hair and makeup.
I used to have beadboard wainscoting around the room. But what I had noticed was that dust and grime would collect in the grooves of the paneling and be hard to get out.
The meeting: So on day one of the construction process, several of us crammed into my bathroom. My brother, Clark Harris; his second-in-command, Eric Bain; my project’s day-to-day manager, Junior Zenil; and Clark’s amazing office manager, Aisling Bell. They looked at what would be changing and approximated the schedule.
Eric, whom I know pretty well and know to be fairly fiscally conservative and often a man of few words, kept looking at me and saying, “Radiant heat would feel really nice.” I mean, if Eric was in favor of heated floors, that was powerful. As they looked at the adjacent closet, which was carpeted, they suggested extending the heated tile floors in there as well. Now the closet became part of the project, just like that, and I was going to go for heated floors. The radiant heat portion added about $1,500 to the budget. And I can’t wait for it to get cold outside.
What I learned: Be prepared for a mistake. One thing my brother said to me as he very officially went over everything we were going to do was, “I tell all my clients that there is probably going to be a big mistake made along the line. Just know that when it happens, we will fix it, and it will be fine.” I thought this was a very smart thing to say. Also, the morning after a mistake did happen, Eric brought me an Egg McMuffin and a regular Coke, the first one I’d had in many years. And the team fixed it that day.
Liria Negro encaustic cement tile: The Tile Shop
What I learned: Living at home through a renovation will make you feel like John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. They prepped by laying down cardboard over my floors along the path from the front door to the bathroom and creating a plastic tunnel that led upstairs from the front door to keep the house from filling with dust. Zipping and unzipping plastic doors to get to certain places in my house became the norm.
They also vacuumed and swept their way out the door each day. Ask your contractor if the team does this when you’re getting your estimate. Also make sure items like the dumpster and the port-a-potty are included, along with their servicing. You’ll find that unrealistic low-ball offers leave out necessary line items like this.
What I learned: Demo day is crazy. It was good to get out of the house to shop for faucets and fixtures because the noise from demolition was unreal. Earplugs were fine while I was writing stories, but I don’t know how I thought I could attempt phone interviews with Houzz pros while this was going on. I had planned to make the calls from my porch, not remembering that my porch is just below my bathroom and it was even louder out there.
What I learned: While you have a dumpster in your driveway, make good use of it. Although I did not go full-on Marie Kondo, I completed a major purge, donating and recycling whatever I could along the way, but throwing a few things that were no good for anyone into the dumpster. It felt great to get rid of so much. When I was done, I also had 15 lawn bags full of stuff for two charities that picked up the donations on my doorstep. Both of these charities send email alerts about once a month with dates they’ll be in the neighborhood. Ever since the big purge, I keep a donation bin going and try to sign up every time, knowing that it will spur me to clean out another closet or cabinet by the deadline.
What I learned: I am not much of a techie, but project management software was helpful. Innovative Construction set me up with an app, which was a great tool for all of us to communicate. I could keep up with the schedule, invoices, paint colors, lighting choices, work order changes and everything else right from my phone.
Aisling provided me with a thorough checklist of what I’d need to procure for my project, with vendor and showroom suggestions and other tips on the app.
What I learned: Sometimes the highway falls down! Around day six, the portion of Interstate 85 where I usually hop off and on caught fire and collapsed, which put a crimp in my plans for running around Atlanta looking for tile and faucets and lighting. I was able to check out a lot online before braving the crazy traffic to hit the showrooms and walk to stores.
What I learned: I saw the true power of the traffic-navigation app Waze. I also learned to order things way ahead of time. Almost everything I ordered was on back order, double back order, triple back order or we-have-no-idea-if-it-will-ever-be-ready back order — or it was made-to-order, broke on the way to the store, got lost within the store once it arrived intact or is still missing in action and untrackable. There is still one toilet for the downstairs bath I was going to have installed while I had a plumber in the house that surely must have taken a route via Timbuktu.
Had I been less picky and ordered way ahead of time, the renovation would have taken about five weeks. Due in large part to a chandelier I simply had to have, the job ran from April 1 to mid-July, though the bulk of it was done in two months. This was solely due to my back-order curse.
What I learned: Be flexible and find a great associate at showrooms to help you. I was really set on all antique brass, but I also knew that I wanted some graphic black and white in the bathroom. Beth Moon at Plumbing Distributors, or PDI, was instrumental in the decision to mix in matte black fixtures by Jason Wu for Brizo in the shower. I also learned to always use the restroom at a bathroom showroom; PDI has a luxury toilet that does everything except hand you toilet paper, and it is quite an experience.
What I learned: In your initial meeting, ask the plumber which brands he or she loves to work with. They will have good insights about which fixtures they install with ease, which may have the rough-ins ready and which will have replacement parts readily available if you need a repair down the line. It can help inform your decisions when you are shopping for fixtures.
And after writing “pebble tile feels wonderful underfoot” so many times for Houzz, I wanted my feet to feel wonderful too, so I found a reasonably priced granite pebble tile at Floor & Decor.
What I learned: Pebble tile feels wonderful underfoot. Also, I learned the hard way to make sure the grout is totally dry before you try to feel how wonderful the pebble tiles feel underfoot. Whoops.
Subway tile: Daltile; Absolute Black granite pencil-tile trim: Floor & Decor; Delorean Gray grout: Home Depot
What I learned: Although I had a very dark charcoal, almost black, grout picked out for the shower floor, the tiling crew made me realize that the pebbles were not black and that the grout I had chosen would look bad.
What else I learned: Some details don’t matter that much — let some things go. I had ordered a very design-y black square shower drain that worked well with my shower fixtures, but I forgot to communicate that with the tile installers or enter it on the app. When I saw they had installed a round one, I realized that it worked better with the pebbles anyway.
What else I learned: Sometimes when you think you’re being crafty and tracking down the exact Ladder Pull you want online, they accidentally send you a different item directly from China instead. But they eventually straightened it out.
Tub faucet: Fortuitously, I happened to choose a tub faucet with cross handles rather than lever handles. The plumber let out a sigh of relief, as he’d forgotten to let me know that levers may not have turned all the way on in the tight space where they were placed; they would have hit the shower’s half wall. The faucet is unlacquered brass. I can’t wait until a patina starts to appear.
Roman tub faucet : Newport Brass
I decided to go for a comfort-height toilet in the bathroom. This Memoirs model from Kohler has a really nice top on the tank with an edge that keeps things from falling off.
What I learned: This paint color changes dramatically from day to night. It’s a light gray, but at noon, it has a very bluish look. At night, it’s a true gray.
Gray Screen SW 7071 wall paint and Ceiling Bright White SW 7007 trim paint: Sherwin-Williams; bath mat: Urban Outfitters; shower glass: Chattahoochee Shower Doors; Memoirs Stately two-piece toilet: Kohler via Houzz; robe hook: Anthropologie
What I learned: Not many people can pull off looking fierce when hung over a toilet. But Diana Ross can.
“Diana Ross Goes Shopping, 1965” photograph: Michael Ochs Archive via One Kings Lane; light fixture: Restoration Hardware
Somewhere down the line, I realized that I didn’t want to have all this work done only to have my reclaimed-wood counters eventually rot and ruin the whole thing. They had put in a good 15 years but had some damage around the faucets, and, sadly, it was time for them to go. I planned for some practical, durable quartz instead.
What I learned: It’s highly likely that once you see Statuario Venato marble at the stone vendor, you’re not going to want quartz anymore. (I went for the marble.)
What else I learned: If you have a waterfall countertop with a prominent veining pattern like mine, have the installer place the template pieces continuously on the stone slab. That way the veining pattern continues down and across, uninterrupted. Also, make absolutely sure that you are present to approve the templating on the slab and that you take a photo of it while you’re there. I worked on the countertops with Simona Tivadar at Custom Kitchen. She has great taste, and with her keen eye, she also helped me figure out which backsplash tile was just the right white to complement the marble.
The photo: I need to get that photo on the wall professionally matted and framed, but I didn’t have time before photo shoot day. It’s an iconic photo within my family of my giant dad in a tiny claw-foot tub giving the victory sign back in the ’60s. My uncle Tommy Calder took it back then. He tracked down the negative and had it blown up for me.
Pewter Cast SW 7673 vanity paint: Sherwin-Williams; hardware and glass shelf: Anthropologie; Irvine double sconces: Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
What I learned: Unless you have really detailed drawings from an interior designer of where every piece of tile will go and how it should be cut, you want to try to be around during tile installation. There are small design decisions that will come up on the fly.
For example, I had pieces of marble cut for the shower threshold, the top of the half wall and the shower niche from the same slab as the countertops. I then had the tile installers put in a border of the same Absolute Black granite pencil-tile trim around the inside. There are also funky things that will happen around corners and in tighter spaces where you may want to give your input on the pattern, even with something as simple as subway tile.
What I already knew: I hoard. As was obvious from the “before” photos, I have a problem with countertop clutter. So I invested in a large medicine cabinet to hold everyday stuff. Also, the huge drawer clean-out I had to do on the vanities so that they could be removed and painted provided a ton of new storage space. I also knew that I was stretched for towel storage so I bought a train rack for them — no more towels shoved willy-nilly in a cabinet under the sink.
Make use of things or ditch them. I organized my shampoo, conditioner, lotion and face cream samples that were still usable in a hanging cosmetic bag. I hung it on the back of the door and vowed to use them every day. I haven’t had to buy a bottle of any of that stuff for several months now as I go through them all.
Savings: I reused the original vanities, mirror and bathtub. The planks were already on the ceiling, and I already had great doors with hardware that worked well with the new finishes.
Although I think a freestanding tub would best suit this space, I love the very nice Jacuzzi bathtub that came with my house, and the thought of anything less comfortable gave me pause. Plus, tubs are expensive.
What I learned: Keep your eye on the price of your back-ordered items. If you see that something has gone on sale while you are waiting for it to arrive, call the retailer.
This renovation experience was so educational and a lot of fun. Some days, I even miss the plastic and all the activity. If you have any questions, please ask, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Malibu beaded six-light chandelier: Regina Andrew via Horchow; train rack: Restoration Hardware
Decorating your home means personalizing your space, and it can be a lot of fun. It can also be very, very expensive. And since you’ve likely already got a mortgage or rent to contend with, spending thousands on an interior designer may not be realistic.
The good news is, it’s entirely possible to make your home appear much more expensive without breaking the bank. And best of all, it doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Incorporate a few of these easy decorating trends into your home design to give your rooms an instant “face lift.”
Have you ever noticed that nice homes tend to stick to neutrals? Neutrals look classic and elegant, creating a calm, clutter-free atmosphere.
Next: The crowning glory.
Crown molding increases the value of your home, and it definitely makes it look more luxurious. Better yet, it’s easy to install yourself.
Next: Go with gold.
Gold spray paint
If you want to add some glamour to a room, just grab a can of gold spray paint. Coat your picture frames, vases, and trays, or add some gold to your mirror frames.
Next: Go big.
Invest in a few large, abstract paintings that span across the back of your couch or your bed. They can be inexpensive prints, but their large size will make a big impact.
Next: This expensive-looking storage space can be faked.
You don’t have to splurge on a custom-installed set of shelves to get the built-in look. You can stack four tall bookcases and secure them to your walls to get the look of library shelves.
Next: Go minimal.
You may think that having an excess of artifacts and decorative touches is necessary to make your space look expensive, but sometimes clutter has the opposite effect. Minimalist design focuses on negative space and gives your eyes a place to rest. Besides, it never goes out of style.
Next: It’s all in the finish.
Coordinate the hardware finishes in your kitchen and bathrooms. Replacing mismatched accessories with new, coordinated pieces makes the space look more polished.
Next: First impressions matter.
Improving your home’s entryway is a great way to make your home look more elegant. Give the area a fresh coat of paint, add an area rug, and if you have the room, accessorize with plants.
My team and I regularly come in contact with first-time homebuyers looking for some guidance. The prospect of buying your first home can be an anxiety-inducing one, especially if you don’t know where to start. I’ve spent my career helping thousands of people find the perfect home so I’m happy to shed some light on the subject for those new to the process.
Patience is key.
Even after you spend hours searching through listings and going to showings, your journey is far from over. Getting a mortgage, having the home inspected and going through the closing process all take time. General wisdom suggests that the process could last from 30-90 days, but that depends on a lot of extenuating factors. Know going into the buying process that you’ll need to practice patience if you want to find the perfect match.
The neighborhood you choose is important.
We believe the neighborhood you live in is just as important as the home you live in. When you make a purchase based solely on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms or square footage, you’re missing out on the lifestyle component of your new home. Where you live will determine not only obvious factors like where your children go to school and how much you pay in taxes, but it also determines more nuanced factors, like how you spend your weekends. Spend time in an area before deciding to buy there, and see if you can really imagine yourself living there on a day-to-day basis.
Have your documentation ready.
Keeping everything digitally organized — rather than trying to keep track of a stack of papers — will help immensely. Have pay stub statements, proof of assets and any loan or credit card debt documentation readily available. Expect to present more paperwork than you might think they need to see. Like a Boy Scout, the key here is to always be prepared!
One sentiment that almost all of the homeowners we asked expressed is just that: the importance of being flexible. You may have a list of features that make up your perfect home but ultimately discover that you are unable to find all of those features within your budget. Know which “must-haves” you’re willing to compromise on and which ones you really need. If a short commute is most important to you, you may be willing to sacrifice an extra bathroom or granite countertops to be closer to work.
In other words, don’t buy beyond your means. Deferring principal payments in order to get into a bigger home is often a risky proposition that can lead to financial strain. Work out a budget that’s realistic, and then stick to it. Not sure how much house you can actually afford? NerdWallet provides a calculator to help you determine that based on location.
Like any other major purchase, it’s important when buying a home to weigh your mortgage options. Different banks may offer different rates, so getting a wide range of offers can save you money. Planning ahead is your friend in this scenario — as soon as you think you may be interested in buying a home, start the mortgage process. This will also help you determine how much you can feasibly afford.
Don’t let fear stop you.
There’s no doubt that the home-buying process can be daunting — and for first-time buyers, the uncertainty can lead to dread. You will experience a range of emotions in the pursuit of finding your perfect home, but it will be worthwhile when you finally settle in.
At the end of the day, buying your first home will be an intensive process, but it doesn’t need to be a scary one. If you go in with a strong plan and know your facts, you’ll avoid making the wrong choice or missing out on a great deal. Take the wisdom of homebuyers before you and let it guide the way.
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If you haven’t given much thought to selling your home this year, you might want to think again.
Real estate information company Trulia commissioned a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Poll, to get a feel for expectations and plans for housing and homeownership in 2018. The survey results show 31 percent of respondents expect 2018 to be a better year for selling a home than 2017 – and just 14 percent expect it to be worse.
Despite the enthusiasm, only 6 percent of homeowners surveyed plan to sell their home in 2018.
Real estate information company Zillow echoes these sentiments in its predictions for 2018, expecting inventory shortages to continue to drive the housing market. With too few homes on the market to meet buyer demand, prices increase and would-be buyers can’t afford the price or down payment needed to submit a winning offer.
Buyers are chomping at the bit. Eager homebuyers have been frustrated over the last few years, experiencing low inventory in most major markets, which is pushing them to start home shopping earlier in the year to try to beat out the competition and ensure they’re not missing out on any available properties.
Even before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s, people were already getting a head start on looking at buying or selling a home in 2018. Real estate information company HomeLight saw a 25 percent traffic spike on its website on Dec. 26, with continued high rates of traffic through the first part of the new year.
“Folks have generally turned their attention away from the holiday and time with family and friends, and moved onto the new year and what they want to accomplish,” says Sumant Sridharan, chief operating officer of HomeLight. “And for many people, that tends to be where they want to live.”
The best time to sell your home is traditionally between March and June, Sridharan notes, while warmer climates may see a longer time frame because they’re not restricted by weather. But cold weather isn’t keeping interested buyers from starting their home search at the start of the year. The fact that buyers take the day after a major holiday to start looking for new home means the traditional selling season could be even hotter.
And while the last couple years have proven beneficial for sellers, seeing many homes sell for asking price or above, it won’t last forever. Zillow predicts home builders will begin looking to construct more entry-level homes to meet demand later this year. If you wait too long to put your home on the market, you may find yourself competing with new builds that haven’t been a part of the market in large numbers since before the recession.
Interest rates are low … for now. For both the buyer of your home and your own next home purchase, low interest rates can help make a transaction possible. In the second week of January, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.17 percent, according to NerdWallet. Mortgage rate averages reached more than 4.4 percent in 2017, but closed the year out just below the current rate.
While mortgage rates aren’t expected to spike significantly this year, they are forecast to increase overall. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will rise to 4.6 percent this year, and it expects rates to rise to 5 percent in 2019 and 5.3 percent in 2020.
While increasing interest rates are a sign of a good economy, they can squeeze out some potential homebuyers from the market. The current low rates can serve as a catalyst for many potential homebuyers to get moving sooner rather than later. But as interest rates continue to rise, you’re less likely to see as many bidding wars – which is welcome news for buyers but not sellers.
You can move to find cheaper property taxes. The passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017 means a few significant home-related tax policy changes for the 2018 calendar year: Mortgage interest rates are only deductible up to $750,000 in debt and property taxes are only deductible up to $10,000.
While these limits don’t affect all homeowners, people who live in counties and cities with high property taxes are likely to feel the financial hit when they file taxes in 2019. If your household is going to struggle without the deductions you’ve had previously, it might be time to look elsewhere.
“For most of the world, I think it really creates a consideration of where I want to be and how I want to be there,” says Cody Vichinsky, co-founder of Bespoke Real Estate, based in Water Mill, New York.
Vichinsky expects housing markets in coastal states to be most impacted by the tax reform – and more specifically in the counties or towns with high-ranked school districts because their property taxes tend to be higher. While homeowners with school-age children may see the education factor weigh heavier than the financial burden, “You’re going to see an exodus out of these neighborhoods for people who don’t need to be there anymore,” he says.
You certainly shouldn’t have a hurried reaction to a policy change with an asset as large as a house, but also keep in mind that if you’re looking for the maximum price on your home, the longer the new tax law sinks in, the more likely it is to change feelings toward pricier neighborhoods in coastal markets.
“We do expect, potentially, in the longer term there may be lower demand at the higher price points because the tax [incentives] just aren’t there,” Sridharan says.
Renovations today won’t come back in full next year. Zillow’s 2018 predictions include the expectation that most homeowners will focus on renovations and updates this year rather than selling. If you’ve got remodeling on your schedule for the year, be sure it’s an update for you because it’s unlikely that renovations will have a 100 percent return when it comes time to sell.
“You’re going to get one shot at this,” Sridharan says. “Ultimately the additional money you’re going to spend to make your home look amazing is going to be far less than the amount of money [a buyer will pay].”
The key to taking advantage of the seller’s market this year is not taking the tight inventory for granted. Buyers will still expect effort from sellers in preparing a property for sale. While they may be willing to overlook a dated kitchen, it’s the clutter, deferred maintenance and lack of curb appeal that can still kill a deal. If you do decide put your house on the market, take the process seriously, and you’re likely to see ample interest.