A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel

By Susanne Dwyer

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(Family Features)—Apprehension and inexperience keep many homeowners from pursuing renovation projects that would make their homes more functional, enjoyable and comfortable. Getting your hands dirty on the front end—with some planning and preparation – is the best blueprint for a successful home remodeling project.

To help you start your remodel on the right track, consider these tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services.

Start with a plan
Although it may sound obvious, the first step really is to decide what you hope to accomplish with your renovation. At the least, begin to outline rough ideas to discuss with an expert. Reaching out to contractors before you’ve determined a basic idea for your project can waste time and money. Spend time listing the features you must have, as well as some nice-to-haves if budget allows. Also think about overall functionality, design and layout. If you get overwhelmed or need ideas, don’t hesitate to turn to online showrooms or magazines for inspiration.

Set a budget
If the sky is the limit, skip ahead, but if you’re like most homeowners, money matters. Have a clear idea of what you can afford to invest in your renovation before you get started, and if necessary, research the financing options available to you. Look for financing that provides deferred interest or low monthly payments to help manage the project cost. Setting a clear budget can help keep your contractors accountable, and it goes a long way toward ensuring you can enjoy your finished project without regret.

Draw up the plans
To help set your plan in motion, there are numerous online tools you can utilize to simplify each step of the process including design, budgeting and more. If you’re planning a home remodel, it can be helpful to find a comprehensive resource that offers a one-stop-shop for bathroom remodeling, countertops, custom window treatments, flooring, heating and cooling, water heaters and whole-home water treatment.

Involve a professional
Unless you have the time and skills, you’ll want a licensed and insured contractor to lead the project when you’re ready to get your renovation in motion. It can be wise to solicit multiple bids, not only to ensure you get the best value, but also to find someone whose work, style and experience is most in line with the needs of your project. After all, this person will be a big part of your life during a fairly stressful time period. Always check references and verify the contractor’s standing with local associations.

Get ready for work
Remember that you’ll need to create a work environment that is safe for your contractors and protects your valuable possessions. Establish a clear path to the project space for easy access and removal of debris. Furniture, appliances, room furnishings, valuables and breakable items should be removed from both the path to the work site and the work site itself. If your renovation project will involve an essential room, such as the kitchen or a bathroom, make alternate arrangements such as creating a makeshift kitchen with the bare necessities in another part of the house

Countertops 101
Kitchens and bathrooms are among the most common renovation projects, and countertops are often a focal point of these redesigns. However, choosing the right countertop can be overwhelming. Here are two of the most popular choices:

Granite countertops have long been the mainstay of a beautiful kitchen or bathroom. Granite is a natural stone, quarried from large stone deposits around the world. It can have many different variations of patterns and colors, giving each slab a unique appearance that is visually rich and dynamic.

In addition to its distinctive beauty and classic elegance, granite is also extremely durable. Granite is highly resistant to heat and scratches and, with proper sealing, offers good water and stain resistance and is easy to clean.

Granite typically needs to be sealed, both prior to installation and at least once per year. If properly maintained, a granite countertop will last for as long as you own your home, making it a potential long-term investment.

Quartz is another popular choice for countertops due to its durability, stain resistance and ease of maintenance.

It’s an engineered product made mostly from up to 93 percent quartz, a non-porous natural stone, combined with a small amount of binder and color. Small particles of glass or reflective metal flakes can also be added to some quartz designs to achieve a more unique look. The result is an attractive slab that can be made in a wide variety of tones and colors, and can be finished to duplicate high gloss polished stone.

Quartz is one of the most durable countertop materials and one of the easiest to maintain. It is highly resistant to heat, water and stains, including stains from coffee, wine, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and more. Unlike granite, quartz does not need to be sealed, making it easier to maintain over time.

Source: JCPenneyhomeservices.com

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Bring Calm to the Chaos in Your Business

By Susanne Dwyer

As the selling season continues to pick up, many agents find themselves busy and struggling to fit everything into their days. Although they’re grateful for the business, they worry that other important people and tasks are falling through the cracks. As a result, they may work long days in an effort to squeeze it all in and boost productivity, only to find themselves tired, frustrated and less productive. Here are some best practices for bringing calm to the chaos in your business…

  1. Prioritize
    When you have your priorities in place, you know where to spend your time. What are your priorities? On the business side, it could be to expand your database 25 percent or to surpass last year’s sales figures.

On the personal side, your priorities may be your children’s sports games or plays, a weekly lunch date with your spouse, a weekly morning meeting with a community group, or volunteering with a favorite organization. Your priorities are the things you don’t want to miss, no matter what. Pencil these in to your schedule before anything else.

  1. Organize
    Once your priorities are set, you can then organize everything else. Breaking the process into these four segments will allow you to regularly review your schedule so that you’re focusing on the things that are most important to you instead of becoming bogged down by less important tasks. This will help you become more productive, serve your clients better and honor your priorities.
  • Your year: Throughout the year, take out your calendar and pencil in your priorities—a family vacation, a long weekend, your children’s activities, industry workshops, client parties and other important days. Although nothing needs to be set in stone, including these things in your calendar will help you plan the rest of your year and ensure they don’t get overlooked.
  • Your month: Each month, review the priorities you’ve already accounted for on your annual calendar and add in other important activities that have come up since, such as workshops and seminars, holidays perfect for getting social with clients, etc.
  • Your week: At the beginning of the week, review what you have scheduled and include any important meetings, client lunches, etc.
  • Your day: In addition to making time for lead generation and your personal and business priorities, fill in the rest of your day accordingly. If you find yourself putting out a lot of fires, make time at the end of the day to handle all the unexpected challenges that arose during the day.
  1. Systemize
    A system will help you commit to both your priorities and your newly organized schedule. It provides a framework to follow so that you never have to wonder what you need to do each day to optimize your business. Over time, you’ll build the successful habits that are sure to cause your business to thrive. Remember to rely on a good CRM to help ensure you stick to the system and track your progress toward your goals.

Along the way, a is a valuable person to have in your corner as you try to calm the chaos. A good coach will provide an objective perspective on your business each step of the way; from helping you define your priorities to helping you organize your week. Additionally, they can help you pinpoint the aspects of your system that may prove the most beneficial to your business and help you achieve your goals within your desired timeframe. In short, a coach will help you reach your potential, optimize your productivity and build a thriving, successful business.

For more information, visit buffiniandcompany.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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At Home in Retirement: Boomers Facing a Hard Truth

By Susanne Dwyer

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Baby boomers are on the cusp of retirement, but the ability to afford their desired lifestyle is at odds with their preferences, according to a recent report by The NHP Foundation (NHPF), an affordable housing nonprofit.

Of the boomers surveyed for the report, 85 percent want to be in the home they have now in retirement, but, of those, 76 percent have no budget for retirement, or anticipate half of their income will be Social Security—not enough to sustain, according to The NHPF. Despite the disconnect, 83 percent are confident their current home will be their home in retirement; just 17 percent believe they will have to move.

There are boomers who are concerned about housing, however; in fact, housing is one of their three top worries: being unable to afford healthcare (cited by 36 percent), being dependent on their kids (28 percent), and having to live in a home outside their standards (22 percent). For boomers, affordability is the No. 1 factor in their housing in retirement.

One-thousand Americans aged 50 and older (non-retirees) participated in the report.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

$1 Million: What It Buys in the U.S. Housing Market

By Susanne Dwyer

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One-million dollars is a lot of money to most of the world’s population, but it’s a drop in the bucket to a billionaire. The housing market in the U.S. seems to have a similar relationship with homes valued between $900,000 and $1.1 million: Some of them are sprawling estates, while others are considered middle-of-the-road homes.

HouseCanary examined homes valued around $1 million in different metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the country to determine what an “average” million-dollar home looks like, from San Francisco to Tuscaloosa, Ala. We found that what a million dollars will buy can vary widely from place to place—so if you’ve got $1 million to spend on a home, here’s what you can expect to get in return.

Where $1 Million Is Big Money
In most markets, $1 million will get you a lot of house, but they might not be considered mansion material. We found that in the preponderance of markets (110 out of 375 metro areas), a million-dollar home is somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. But there are also some markets where you can buy a true mansion or estate if you’re willing to spend between $900,000 and $1.1 million.

Those markets tend to be at least somewhat off the beaten path, so you may be sacrificing some shopping convenience, access to airports, or proximity to cultural, sports, or other local assets. And those markets may not also have relatively high household income, meaning you’ve got to save for a lot longer to make that million-dollar down payment. But the amount of room you’ll get to spread out and do your thing might make that kind of sacrifice well worth it!

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Ohio is one state with several big cities, but it’s in unassuming Lima, about 90 minutes northwest of Columbus, where you’ll find the best deals for $1 million. The average million-dollar home in Lima, Ohio, is 9,435 square feet and sits on a four-acre lot. It has five-plus bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 4-5 parking spots. For that million-dollar home, buyers pay about $105.99 per square foot.

In Lima, most homes are very affordable. To pay a mortgage on a median-priced home in Lima, the median-income household would spend 17.30 percent of its income. The median household income in Lima is $45,575, and you can still buy a home there for much less than $100,000. So it’s not surprising that the two million-dollar homes in Lima are much larger than average!

You’ll find similar bang for your million-dollar buck in Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Ala., about an hour and 20 minutes northeast of Birmingham, where the average million-dollar home is 8,354 square feet and sits on a five-acre lot. It has three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and 4-5 parking spaces. The price-per-square foot in this corner of Alabama for a million-dollar home is about $119.70.

Homes are also very affordable in Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, with the median household spending just shy of 17 percent of total household income ($41,954 annually) on a median-priced house.

Texas is another state with several big cities—Houston and Dallas are two of the biggest cities in the country. In Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours and change northeast of Dallas, your average million-dollar home comes on a whopping 60-acre lot and is 7,852 square feet. The price-per-square foot is about $127.36—still very reasonable. It has five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and four parking spots, and the median household in Wichita Falls spends just 13.94 percent of its annual $46,043 income on a median-priced home.

$1 Million in the Middle
Even though there are more homes between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet than between 4,000 and 5,000, the average square footage for a million-dollar home across all metros studied is 4,305 square feet—which is quite a bit of room to stretch out, but still only about half the size of the biggest million-dollar homes in the country.

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In the Nashville MSA (which also includes Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin, all in Tennessee), an average million-dollar home is 4,302 square feet, with 3-4 bedrooms, four bathrooms, and three parking spots nestled on a 0.96-acre lot. The price-per-square foot is $232.45—more than double the price per square foot in Lima, Ohio.

Affordability in Nashville is also middle-of-the-road: Most economists suggest that households spend no more than 30 percent of their total income on housing, and in Nashville, a median-priced house costs 30.5 percent of the median household income, which is $56,152 annually.

Richmond, Va., and St. Louis (spanning both Missouri and Illinois) are also relatively average markets. In Richmond, an average million-dollar house is 4,312 square feet on an 0.85-acre lot, with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot is $231.91, slightly lower than in Nashville. A median home for a median household in Richmond uses 29.17 percent of its $61,124 annual household income.

And in St. Louis, the average million-dollar home is 4,330 square feet on a 0.93-acre lot. It also has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot is very close to both Richmond and Nashville at $230.95. In St. Louis, the median household (which makes $56,726 per year) spends 21.83 percent of its income on a median-priced home.

Million-Dollar Babies
It makes sense that in areas where housing is more affordable, million-dollar homes are larger. But what happens when affordability starts to creep up (and up…and up)?

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As you might guess, when affording a home captures more and more of a median household’s income, the million-dollar homes get smaller. The smallest average million-dollar home in the country is in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., at 1,576 square feet, on a 0.13-acre lot. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two parking spots, and in this MSA, the median household spends 76.33 percent of its income ($100,469 annually) on a median-priced home. The price-per-square foot is an eye-popping $634.52, almost six times what you’d pay in Lima, Ohio, for a home.

In San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., you’ll find a slightly bigger average million-dollar home at 1,600 square feet, on a 0.13-acre lot, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot is $625, just $9.52 lower than in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. A median household in the Bay Area makes $85,947 per year and typically spends 80.20 percent of its total income on a median-priced home.

Honolulu is another market with small average million-dollar properties. In Honolulu, the average million-dollar home is 1,846 square feet on a 0.15-acre lot, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot for a Honolulu million-dollar home is $541.71—definitely more reasonable than its San Francisco counterparts, but still almost double what you’d pay in Nashville, Richmond or St. Louis. The median household in Honolulu (which makes $77,161 per year) spends 61.62 percent of its income on a median home—still more than double the recommended amount, but much more reasonable than San Jose or San Francisco.

In Boulder, Colo., you can get slightly more square footage for a million dollars than in San Francisco. The average Boulder million-dollar home is 2,270 square feet on a 0.24-acre lot, costing $440.53 per square foot. It has four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, with two parking spots, and the median household spends just over half (51.39 percent) of its $72,282 annual income on a median home.

If I Had a Million Dollars…
Would you rather have a vast estate in Lima, Ohio, or Wichita Falls, Texas, or a cozy family home in San Francisco or Honolulu? Maybe opting for something middle-of-the-road in St. Louis or Nashville makes more sense…and it’s less square footage to clean!

This was originally published on HouseCanary. For more information, please visit www.housecanary.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Zillow: $40 Billion to Flood Into Housing Market, Even as Homeowner Incentives Limited

By Susanne Dwyer

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Americans’ earnings, generally, have gotten a lift on payday as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With cuts come more discretionary spending—and, although there are changes to homeowner incentives, almost $40 billion of it is going into the housing market, according to a new report by Zillow.

“Despite new limits to two longstanding tax benefits for homeowners, the typical American taxpayer saw their tax burden fall in 2018 as a result of tax reform,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “Some of these tax savings will still find their way into the American housing market, even though they were not explicitly targeted there, as renters and homeowners decide to use their tax savings to rent or buy a bigger home, or renovate their existing home.”

Approximately $13.2 billion is estimated to flood into market as owners and renters trade up, while $24.7 billion is expected to be invested in remodeling projects, the report reveals. With an average $1,610 saved per taxpayer (according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center), homeowners are projected to spend 15 cents on the dollar to renovate; renters, 11 cents to trade up.

The disparity between dollars for remodeling and trading up is in line with a growing trend: homeowners are forgoing moving up and investing in projects instead of purchasing. While the existing housing stock is in need of updates, when homeowners stay put, inventory shrinks—and currently, inventory is at its lowest on record.

According to the report, compared to higher-income households, Americans in the bottom income tier—who average $60 in savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—are allocating more of those savings to trade up.

“Lower-income households will spend more of their tax cut on buying or renting a bigger home, adding demand to an already rapidly appreciating housing market,” Terrazas says.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Appreciation Linked to Population Rise

By Susanne Dwyer

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Appreciation and demand go hand in hand, and for investors, both are key to profit, according to a new report.

Assessing the association between growing interest and mounting prices, analysts at HouseCanary found that appreciation is higher where inbound migration numbers are swelling. Boise, Idaho, for example, has had a high influx of new residents, and a corresponding increase in prices across all property types—from 2010 to 2017, Boise greeted more than 57,600 new residents, while apartments appreciated 7.7 percent year-over-year, condo prices rose 7 percent year-over-year, and prices on single-family steepened 5.7 percent year-over-year.

In addition to Boise, HouseCanary found the migration pattern-price relationship in the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla., metros (a combined 404,000-plus new residents); the Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev., metro (approximately 181,900 new residents); the Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif., metro (approx. 99,200 new residents); the Salt Lake City, Utah, metro (approx. 71,200 new residents); and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., metro (310,560 new residents).

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Beyond the correlation between demand and prices, apartments and condos, generally, have faster-growing prices than in the single-family segment, according to the report.

For more information, please visit www.housecanary.com.

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Amazon Experience Centers Look to Transform Smart-Home Shopping

By Susanne Dwyer

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Amazon is making moves yet again. As a way to market its smart-home business segment without having to invest in conventional store locations, the online marketplace giant has partnered with Lennar Corporation to provide connectivity demos of Alexa-enabled products—everything from video doorbells and smart shades to lighting and scheduled deliveries—within the homebuilder’s model homes, calling these showrooms Amazon Experience Centers.

“Amazon’s ability to bring a home to life with Alexa smart-home experiences, entertainment and services—coupled with their obsession with customer experience—is a natural extension of our Everything’s Included approach to home-building,” said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, in statement. “We picked Amazon because of our shared commitment to customers, their Amazon experts across the country, and their ability to connect customers with thousands of service providers through Amazon Home Services.”

These Centers are already open to the public in certain Lennar communities, including in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Within these model homes, prospective buyers can test-control thermostats, lights, shades, locks, televisions and more using Amazon’s trademark smart speaker, Echo, and Alexa AI.

“We wanted customers to experience a real home environment that showcases the convenience of the Alexa smart-home experience, great entertainment available with Prime and Home Services,” said Nish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Services, in a statement. “We are excited to extend our relationship with Lennar with the launch of Amazon Experience Centers. As one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, Lennar offers the potential to enable this experience within easy driving distance of millions of customers.”

Along with its smart speaker offerings, Amazon is also promoting Prime and Home Services, creating an intelligent home environment that is being touted as a money- and time-saver. For example, with Amazon’s Dash series, homeowners would be able to simply press a button to reorder any essentials, such as household items, favorite snack foods, pet supplies and more.

No doubt Lennar will see increased traffic to its model homes because of the partnership, but is this just Amazon’s next step in a larger campaign to fully entrench itself in the real estate industry? Its recent progressions pointing to—yes—talks of a robot give a glimpse into Amazon’s planned future for AI-run households.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Voice Activated: Do You Talk to Your Tech?

By Susanne Dwyer

How many of us are talking to our tech on a regular basis?

Ken Olmstead at the Pew Research Center recently highlighted the fact that nearly half of U.S. adults (46 percent) say they use voice-controlled assistants and applications to interact with smartphones and other devices.

Just over half (55 percent) say “a major reason” they use voice assistants is to permit hands-free interaction with devices.

The Pew study affirmed that voice assistant technology is being widely used to remotely control connected systems, including “smart home” lighting and heating devices. In fact, more than a quarter (26 percent) surveyed use voice assistants to connect remotely to those apps and devices.

So where are the newest voice control technologies being integrated in 2018?

Kohler, the global designer of kitchen and bath products, has introduced Konnect. This new platform allows consumers to conveniently personalize their experience with a growing number of the company’s products through voice control.

Claiming to have delivered the first voice-activated product line for the kitchen and bath, Konnect offers support through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit.

Say the word and adjust the company’s lighted mirror, order up a soak with their voice-activated bathtub faucet, pick your spritz with their voice-command shower systems—and, yes, even apply a number of controls to the toilet!

Kristen Hicks at SeniorAdvisor.com says voice-activation improvements like these are helping countless homeowners age in place, by turning lights on and off, keeping grocery and to-do lists, reminding folks to take meds, changing interior temperature settings, using voice-activated technology to be sure doors are locked, and, most importantly, calling for help in an emergency. Hicks says while many home alert systems require reaching a phone or a button, a voice command can be issued without having to move.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893