Here are four housing predictions for 2018

Entry level home prices could increase up to 11%.

2017 is now officially over and 2018 has begun. As the year comes into full swing, many experts continue to give their predictions for the housing market during the new year.

American Enterprise Institute’s Center on Housing Markets and Finance Co-director Edward Pinto gave four points he expects to see from the housing market in 2018.

Many of his predictions, including low inventory and rising home prices, are shared by other housing experts. However, Pinto forecasted home prices will increase at a faster rate in 2018, while other experts expect they will slow down.

1. The historically tight supply of single-family homes will tighten further in 2018 after hitting a record low in November 2017: On December 21, 2017, the National Association of Realtors announced that November 2017 remaining inventory of existing homes for sale hit a record low of 3.4 months, eclipsing the prior record of 3.5 months reached in both January 2005 and January 2017. Expect new lows to be recorded for December 2017 and January 2018. January is projected to come in at around three months.  This tight supply trend has been going on for more than five years.

2. The national home price boom that began in mid-2012, will continue, and given the unprecedented low levels of inventory, will even accelerate further: Expect year-over-year increases of 6.25% to 6.75%, up from about 6% to 6.5% in 2017. The substantial reduction in the utilization of the mortgage interest deduction and commensurate reduction in subsidies, will somewhat reduce upward pressure on home prices. Without the tax act, the prediction for 2018 home price increase would have been even higher: 6.75% to 7.25%.

3. First-time buyers will face even higher home price gains for entry level homes: Expect year-over-year gains for the bottom third of homes to come in at 10.5% to 11% for 2018, December 2018 over December 2017 based on 16 tiered HPI from CoreLogic Case Shiller. At current levels of wage growth, this boom in entry level home prices is ultimately unsustainable.

4. First-time buyers will continue take on even more leverage in an effort to keep up with the out-sized home price gains on entry level homes: The AEI First-Time Buyer National Mortgage Risk Index is expected to rise to 17.1% for September 2018 agency origination’s, up from to 16.4% for September 2017. Risk scores above 12% have a high risk of default under severe economic stress.

Source: housingwire.com ~ By Kelsey Ramirez

Comprehensive NAR Report on the Tax Cut Bill and Homeowners

Source: NAR

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) worked throughout the tax reform process to preserve the existing tax benefits of homeownership and real estate investment, as well to ensure as many real estate professionals as possible would benefit from proposed tax cuts. Many of the changes reflected in the final bill were the result of the engagement of NAR and its members, not only in the last three months, but over several years.

Introduction

While NAR remains concerned that the overall structure of the final bill diminishes the tax benefits of homeownership and will cause adverse impacts in some markets, the advocacy of NAR members, as well as consumers, helped NAR to gain some important improvements throughout the legislative process. The final legislation will benefit many homeowners, homebuyers, real estate investors, and NAR members as a result.

The final bill includes some big successes. NAR efforts helped save the exclusion for capital gains on the sale of a home and preserved the like-kind exchange for real property. Many agents and brokers who earn income as independent contractors or from pass-through businesses will see a significant deduction on that business income.

As a result of the changes made throughout the legislative process, NAR is now projecting slower growth in home prices of 1-3% in 2018 as low inventories continue to spur price gains. However, some local markets, particularly in high cost, higher tax areas, will likely see price declines as a result of the legislation’s new restrictions on mortgage interest and state and local taxes.

The following is a summary of provisions of interest to NAR and its members. NAR will be providing ongoing updates and guidance to members in the coming weeks, as well as working with Congress and the Administration to address additional concerns through future legislation and rulemaking. Lawmakers have already signaled a desire to fine tune elements of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well as address additional tax provisions not included in this legislation in 2018, and REALTORS® will need to continue to be engaged in the process.

The examples provided are for illustrative purposes and based on a preliminary reading of the final legislation as of December 20, 2017. Individuals should consult a tax professional about their own personal situation.

All individual provisions are generally effective after December 31, 2017 for the 2018 tax filing year and expire on December 31, 2025 unless otherwise noted. The provisions do not affect tax filings for 2017 unless noted.

Major Provisions Affecting Current and Prospective Homeowners

Tax Rate Reductions

  • The new law provides generally lower tax rates for all individual tax filers. While this does not mean that every American will pay lower taxes under these changes, many will. The total size of the tax cut from the rate reductions equals more than $1.2 trillion over ten years.
  • The tax rate schedule retains seven brackets with slightly lower marginal rates of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.
  • The final bill retains the current-law maximum rates on net capital gains (generally, 15% maximum rate but 20% for those in the highest tax bracket; 25% rate on “recapture” of depreciation from real property).

Tax Brackets for Ordinary Income Under Current Law and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2018 Tax Year) Single Filer

Current Law Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
10% $0-$9,525 10% $0 – $9,525
15% $9,525 – $38,700 12% $9,525 – $38,700
25% $38,700 – $93,700 22% $38,700 – $82,500
28% $93,700 – $195,450 24% $82,500 – $157,500
33% $195,450 – $424,950 32% $157,500 – $200,000
35% $424,950 – $426,700 35% $200,000 – $500,000
39.6% $426,700+ 37% $500,000

Tax Brackets for Ordinary Income Under Current Law and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2018 Tax Year) Married Filing Jointly

Current Law Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
10% $0 – $19,050 10% $0 – $19,050
15% $19,050 – $77,400 12% $19,050 – $77,400
25% $77,400 – $156,150 22% $77,400 – $165,000
28% $156,150 – $237,950 24% $165,000 – $315,000
33% $237,950 – $424,950 32% $315,000 – $400,000
35% $424,950 – $480,050 35% $400,000 – $600,000
39.6% $480,050+ 37% $600,000+

Exclusion of Gain on Sale of a Principal Residence

  • The final bill retains current law. A significant victory in the final bill that NAR achieved.
  • The Senate-passed bill would have changed the amount of time a homeowner must live in their home to qualify for the capital gains exclusion from 2 out of the past 5 years to 5 out of the past 8 years. The House bill would have made this same change as well as phased out the exclusion for taxpayers with incomes above $250,000 single/$500,000 married.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

  • The final bill reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after 12/14/17. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.
  • Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on 12/14/17 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
  • The final bill repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through 12/31/25. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans (or second mortgages) if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1 million / $750,000 limits.
  • The House-passed bill would have capped the mortgage interest limit at $500,000 and eliminated the deduction for second homes.

Deduction for State and Local Taxes

  • The final bill allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. This $10,000 limit applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.
  • The final bill also specifically precludes the deduction of 2018 state and local income taxes prepaid in 2017.
  • When House and Senate bills were first introduced, the deduction for state and local taxes would have been completely eliminated. The House and Senate passed bills would have allowed property taxes to be deducted up to $10,000. The final bill, while less beneficial than current law, represents a significant improvement over the original proposals.

Standard Deduction

  • The final bill provides a standard deduction of $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. The new standard deduction is indexed for inflation.
  • By doubling the standard deduction, Congress has greatly reduced the value of the mortgage interest and property tax deductions as tax incentives for homeownership.Congressional estimates indicate that only 5-8% of filers will now be eligible to claim these deductions by itemizing, meaning there will be no tax differential between renting and owning for more than 90% of taxpayers.

Repeal of Personal Exemptions

  • Under the prior law, tax filers could deduct $4,150 in 2018 for the filer and his or her spouse, if any, and for each dependent. These exemptions have been repealed in the new law.
  • This change alone greatly mitigates (and in some cases entirely eliminates) the positive aspects of the higher standard deduction.

To illustrate how the above-listed changes can affect the tax incentives of owning a home for a first-time buyer and a middle-income family of five, please see these examples:

Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs)

  • The final bill retains current law.
  • The House-passed legislation would have repealed MCCs.

Deduction for Medical Expenses

  • The final bill retains the deduction for medical expenses (including decreasing the 10% floor to 7.5% floor for 2018).
  • The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for medical expenses.

Child Credit

  • The final bill increases the child tax credit to $2,000 from $1,000 and keeps the age limit at 16 and younger. The income phase-out to claim the child credit was increased significantly from ($55,000 single/$110,000 married) under current law to $500,000 for all filers in the final bill.

Student Loan Interest Deduction

  • The final bill retains current law, allowing deductibility of student loan debt up to $2,500, subject to income phase-outs.
  • The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for interest on student loans.

Deduction for Casualty Losses

  • The final bill provides a deduction only if a loss is attributable to a presidentially-declared disaster.
  • The House bill would have eliminated the deduction for casualty losses with limited exceptions.

Moving Expenses

  • The final bill repeals moving expense deduction and exclusion, except for members of the Armed Forces.
  • The House-introduced bill would have eliminated the moving expense deduction for all filers, including military.
  • (Taxpayers) or $315,000 (for couples filing jointly), then the personal service restriction will not apply.
  • Above this level of income, the benefit of the 20% deduction is phased out over an income range of $50,000 for singles and an income range of $100,000 for couples[2].
  • For those with non-personal service income above these thresholds, the bill provides a second exception that may still allow a full or limited 20% deduction. This second exception (the wage and capital limit exception)places a limit on the deduction of the greater of:
    • 50% of the W-2 wages paid by the business, or
    • The total of 25% of the W-2 wages paid by the business plus 2.5% of the cost basis of the tangible depreciable property of the business at the end of the year.

Examples of How The New Law Will Affect the Tax Incentives of Owning a Home

Example 1 – First-Time Homebuyer. To illustrate how the changes to the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions, mortgage interest and state and local taxes might affect a first-time homebuyer, consider the example of Barbara Buyer. Barbara, an accountant making $58,000 per year, is single and currently rents an apartment. She also pays state income tax of $2,900 and makes charitable contributions of $2,088, but the total of these is lower than the standard deduction, so she claims the standard.

Barbara’s tax liability for 2018 under the prior law is as follows:

Salary income $58,000
Standard deduction ($ 6,500)
Personal exemption ($ 4,150)
Taxable income $47,350
Tax $ 7,491

Under the new law, Barbara would get a tax cut, computed as follows:

Salary income $58,000
Standard deduction ($12,000)
Personal exemption ($ – 0 -)
Taxable income $46,000
Tax $ 6,060

Tax Difference Under New Law. Even though Barbara would not get the benefit of the personal exemption under the new law, her higher standard deduction would more than make up for the loss. In addition, the lower tax rates of the new law would help deliver the total tax cut of $1,431 ($7,491 – $6,060) as compared with the prior law.

However, let’s take a look at what happens to Barbara if she were to purchase the condo that she likes costing $205,000. She takes out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4% interest, putting down 3.5%. Assuming she buys early in 2018, her first-year mortgage interest would total $7,856 and she would pay real property taxes of $2,050.

As a first-time homeowner, her tax liability under the prior law would be computed as follows:

Salary income $58,000
Mortgage interest $ 7,856
Real property tax (1%) $ 2,050
State income tax (5%) $ 2,900
Charitable contributions (3.6% of income) $ 2,088
Total itemized deductions ($14,894)
Personal exemption ($ 4,150)
Taxable income $38,956
Tax $ 5,393

Note. Under the prior law, Barbara would lower her tax liability for 2018 by $2,098 ($7,491 – $5,393) by purchasing the condo. This is the financial effect of the prior law’s tax benefits of buying a home. This amount effectively lowers her monthly mortgage payment by $175 per month.

Now, let’s take a look at what her tax situation would be under the new law as a first-time homebuyer:

Salary income $58,000
Mortgage interest $ 7,856
Real property tax (1%) $ 2,050
State income tax (5%) $ 2,900
Charitable contributions (3.6% of income) $ 2,088
Total itemized deductions ($14,894)
Personal exemption ($ – 0 -)
Taxable income $43,106
Tax $ 5,423

Tax Difference Under New Law. Even though Barbara would still be able to claim all of her itemized deductions under the new law, she would lose the benefit of her personal exemption. This would mean that her taxes would actually go up under the new law by $30 ($5,393 – $5,423). But far worse, look at the tax differential between renting and owning a home. This difference, which was $2,098 under the prior law, has now shrunk to just $637 ($6,060 – $5,423), or $53 per month. In other words, under the prior law, Barbara was given a strong incentive to move into the ranks of those who own their home. The new law still offers her an incentive, but it is a shadow of what it was, and is unlikely to be very compelling.

Example 2 – Middle-Income Family of Five:

To illustrate how the changes to the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions, mortgage interest and state and local tax deductions, and increase in the child credit might affect middle-income family of five, consider the example of Steve and Melinda. Steve is a store manager making $55,000 per year, while Melinda is a school principal, earning $65,000. They have three children, ages 17, 14, and 9. Steve and Melinda recently relocated from another city, and while they are getting to know their new community, they are leasing a home. But they would like to purchase as soon as they identify which area is the best fit for their family. As renters, they pay state income tax on their salaries, totaling $6,000, and also make some charitable contributions equaling $3,120. Since these itemized deductions do not reach the level of the standard deduction, they do not itemize, but they expect to do so when they purchase their home.

Here is a look at Steve and Melinda’s tax liability for 2018, computed under the prior law:

Salary income $120,000
Standard deduction ($ 13,000)
Personal exemptions (5 x $4,150) ($ 20,750)
Taxable income $ 86,250
Tax before credits $ 12,870
Child tax credits (2 x $1,000 less $500 phase-out) ($  1,500)
Net Tax $ 11,370

Under the new law, Steve and Melinda, as renters, would get a tax cut, computed as follows:

Salary income $120,000
Standard deduction ($ 24,000)
Personal exemption ($ – 0 -)
Taxable income $ 96,000
Tax before credits $ 12,999
Child tax credits (2 x $2,000) ($   4,000)
Net Tax $ 8,999

Tax Difference Under New Law As Renters. Steve and Melinda lose the big benefit of the personal and dependency exemptions for the two adults and three children. And the increase in the standard deduction is not enough to make up for this loss. However, the big increase in the child credit for the two younger children and the lower tax rate are enough to deliver them a tax cut of $2,371 ($11,370 – $8,999) as compared with the prior law.

Let’s now consider how Steve and Melinda’s tax situation changes if they were homeowners, rather than renters. Assume they find an ideal home in a nice neighborhood that costs $425,000, and after offering a 10% down payment, Steve and Melinda take out a 30-year fixed mortgage at a 4% rate. Let’s say that their real property tax for the year totals $4,250, which is just 1% of the home’s value.

Here is how their 2018 tax liability would be computed as homeowners, under the prior law:

Salary income $120,000
Mortgage interest $ 15,189
Real property tax (1%) $  4,250
State income tax (5%) $  6,000
Charitable contributions (2.6% of income) $  3,120
Total itemized deductions ($ 28,559)
Personal exemptions (5 x $4,150) ($ 20,750)
Taxable income $ 70,691
Tax before credits $  9,651
Child tax credits (2 x $1,000 less $500 phase-out) ($  1,500)
Net Tax $  8,151

Note. Under the prior law, Steve and Melinda would lower their tax liability for 2018 by $3,219 ($11,370 – $8,151) by purchasing their home instead of renting. This is the financial effect of the prior law’s tax benefits of buying a home. This amount effectively lowers their monthly mortgage payment by over $268 per month.

Now, let’s take a look at what her tax situation would be under the new law as a home-owning family instead of renters:

Salary income $120,000
Mortgage interest $ 15,189
Real property tax (1%) $   4,250
State income tax (5%) (limited by $10,000 cap) $   5,750
Charitable contributions (2.6% of income) $   3,120
Total itemized deductions ($ 28,309)
Personal exemptions ($ – 0 -)
Taxable income $ 91,691
Tax before credits $ 12,051
Child tax credits (2 x $2,000) ($  4,000)
Net Tax $  8,051

Tax Difference Under New Law As Homeowners. For Steve and Melinda, most of their itemized deductions from the prior law are preserved by the new law. They are limited slightly ($250) by the $10,000 limit on the deduction of state and local taxes. However, they lose big by the repeal of the personal and dependency exemptions, which equal $20,750 for this family. Even so, Steve and Melinda receive a small tax cut of $100 ($8,151 – $8,050) under the new law, thanks to the much larger child credit and lower tax rate. But as renters, they received a tax cut of almost $2,400. Thus, buying a home becomes a net tax change of almost $2,300.

What happened? What happened is that the new law is taking away most of the tax benefits of owning a home. Under the prior law, this benefit was $3,219 for Steve and Melinda. But under the new law, they enjoy only a benefit of $948 ($8,999 – $8,051). This gives them a benefit of just $79 per month, which is obviously a far weaker incentive to own.

[1] Meaning one does not have to itemize deductions in order to claim it.

[2] This means that for single individuals, the benefit of the deduction would be fully phased out for taxable income levels above $207,500 and for married couples filing joint returns, the benefit of the deduction would be fully phased out for taxable income levels above $415,000.

[3] With the exception of some restrictions on the deductibility of entertainment expenses, the normal business expenses of real estate professionals were not changed by the bill.

[4] The new law provides single individuals with a $12,000 standard deduction.

[5] The prior law provided a tax credit of $1,000 for each child.

[6] The new law increases the standard deduction for married taxpayers filing a joint return to $24,000. Since this is higher than Andy and Emma’s itemized deductions, they will claim the higher standard deduction.

[7] The new law doubles the child tax credit to $2,000 per child.

[8] At this income level, Bobbie and Emil’s personal exemptions would be phased out.

[9] At this income level, Bobbie and Emil’s itemized deductions are reduced by 3% of the excess of their AGI ($445,000) over the 2018 phaseout threshold of $320,000, or by $3,750. $28,000 – $3,750 = $24,250.

[10] The new law repeals the itemized deduction phaseout (so-called “Pease” provision).

[11] These are made up of mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions.

[12] At this income level, David and Valerie’s personal exemptions would be phased out.

[13] At this income level, David and Valerie’s itemized deductions are reduced by 3% of the excess of their AGI ($450,000) over the 2018 phaseout threshold of $320,000, or by $3,900. $35,000 – $3,900 = $31,100.

[14] The new law repeals the itemized deduction phaseout (so-called “Pease” provision).

For more information AND the entire article:  nar.realtor

Homeowners: Here’s what’s in the tax bill for you

That’s down from the current $1 million threshold, but higher than the $500,000 limit the House proposed in its tax overhaul in November.

Current homeowners would not be affected by the lower cap.

The deduction has helped make home buying more affordable for some homeowners. While the median home price nationwide is currently $254,000, buyers in some cities face much higher price tags.

The lower limit could make it harder for house hunters in expensive cities. For instance, in New York City, nearly 64% of mortgages on homes sold this year were over $750,000, according to data from ATTOM Data Solutions. And in San Francisco, 58% of home loans exceeded the new cap.

Some experts worry the increased threshold could keep people from selling their homes, which could squeeze the already short supply of housing.

“The mortgage interest deduction change will put downward pressure on prices as well as sales,” said Joe Kirchner, senior economist at Realtor.com.

Current homeowners might hesitate to trade up to a more expensive house if the price tag is too high to take full advantage of the deduction.

The new cap would also apply to mortgages on second homes. The original House bill wanted to eliminate the deduction on second homes.

Less reason to itemize

Homeowners must itemize their taxes if they want to claim the mortgage interest deduction. But since the final bill calls for nearly doubling the standard deduction, far fewer Americans are expected to itemize come April.

“In my generation, before we had a home we took the standard deduction, but as soon as we bought a home we started itemizing because that mortgage interest deduction was so significant,” said Kirchner. “Now with the higher standard deduction very few people will itemize. It will virtually eliminate the deduction on a practical level.”

The final tax bill also eliminates the deduction for interest on home equity loans. Currently that’s allowed on loans up to $100,000.

Limit on property tax deduction

Taxpayers will no longer be able to fully deduct state and local property taxes plus income or sales taxes.

Instead, the legislation allows individuals to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local income and property taxes or state and local property and sales taxes.

That means homeowners living in high-tax states like New York, California and New Jersey could see an increase in what they owe Uncle Sam in April.

Nationwide, 4.1 million Americans pay more than $10,000 in property taxes, according to data from ATTOM Data Solutions.

Tax break stays for home sellers

Both the House and Senate bills originally wanted to scale back a tax break for homeowners when they sell their home for a gain.

Taxpayers will still be able to exclude up to $500,000 (or $250,000 for single filers) from capital gains when they sell their primary home, as long as they’ve lived there for two of the past five years.

Earlier tax reform proposals would have increased the live-in requirement to five out of the last eight years.

Source: money.cnn.com ~By Kathryn Vasel, CNN’s Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly contributed.

2018 Predictions: The Inventory Crisis Will Drive the Market

In most markets around the country, inventory of homes for sale has become so tight that housing is now a game of musical chairs: Nobody wants to stand up from the home they’re currently living in and list if for sale, for fear they won’t be able to find another home to buy. This inventory crisis leaves few options for millennials, a huge generation just entering the market that genuinely wants to become homeowners, but can’t find anything to buy.

These dynamics will lead to both predictable and creative responses from homeowners, buyers and builders in 2018:

  • Inventory shortages will drive the housing market: Inventory will remain a major concern in 2018, continuing to play a significant role in pushing up prices. It will create particularly strong headwinds for first-time home buyers, who don’t have the benefit of profits from a prior home sale to boost their down payments and make them more competitive. There are 12 percent fewer homes to choose from nationwide than there were a year ago. And the homes that are available are not accessible across the market: As of September 2017, more than half (51 percent) of U.S. homes for sale were in the top one-third of home values – largely out of reach for typical younger, first-time, millennial buyers.
  • Builders will turn their focus to entry-level homes: You can build your way out of an inventory crisis, but to date, the number of new homes built each year has remained well below historical norms – and it’s been concentrated in more profitable, higher price segments. In 2018, that dynamic will change for a simple reason: Builders cannot and will not ignore a hungry market. They’ll respond to the demand of more first-time buyers entering the market by increasing construction of new, entry-level homes.
  • Millennials will move to the suburbs: Those more-accessible homes will come with a catch: They’ll likely be farther from urban job cores. Escalating land and construction costs – along with zoning laws – make it prohibitive for builders to add affordable housing in cities near jobs, so they will look to the suburbs. As a result, that’s where millennials and first-time home buyers will flock for the greater variety of homes at relatively lower prices.
  • Many homeowners will remodel rather than sell: Still, inventory overall will remain very tight, and the musical chairs phenomenon won’t fade quickly. Wary of becoming buyers in such a limited market, many homeowners will choose to remodel their homes instead of moving – decisions that collectively may worsen the inventory crisis.
  • Baby Boomers and millennials will drive home design: These newly constructed and renovated homes will feature livable, comfortable designs that appeal to both millennials and Baby Boomers. For example, they might boast wide hallways that can accommodate both strollers (for young families) and/or wheelchairs (for aging Boomers). Homes also will be built using frameworks that make it easy to add elements later, including extra support beams behind shower walls to which grab bars can be added as older generations age in place.
  • Homes prices will continue to grow, but at a slower pace: In part because of the continuing inventory shortage, home prices are expected to climb 4.1 percent in 2018, according to more than 100 housing experts and economists surveyed in the latest Zillow Home Price Expectations survey. That is still fast compared to “normal” annual appreciation closer to 3 percent, but is slower than the current 6.9 percent annual pace of home value growth.

Source: zillow.com ~ By: Svenja Gudell

17 Holiday Decoration Ideas ~ Thanksgiving to Christmas

Make a Mercury Glass Statement

Add holiday shimmer to your home with a quick grouping of mercury glass vases — and if you don’t have any on hand, just click below to learn how to make your own! Create a variety of vessels in different shapes and sizes, then group them together for a quick and classy table display. A few sprigs of greenery (with red berries, once Thanksgiving has past!) provide delicate color.

Craft a Fruity Wreath

Place this lush, harvest-themed wreath on your mantel for a fresh-and-fruity take on holiday decor. To form the leafy wreath, we bunched lemon leaves and secured them around a wreath frame with floral wire. A little hot-glue joins faux pears, oranges, and nuts together, and a quick wrap in floral wire binds the fruity grouping to the wreath. You can use real fruit, if preferred, but we recommend faux fruit for long-lasting cheer.

Make Your Mantel Glow

Sometimes the best holiday light displays are indoors. To make your mantel merry and gorgeously bright, just spray-paint a faux leaf garland in light-reflecting shades of silver and gold. Glimmering metallic votives team up with an oversized mirror to magnify the sheen. Round out your transitional mantel with a couple evergreen boughs (easily scrounged from yard clippings!) for color, balance, and a nod to the season.

Pick a Pretty Palette

Need a color scheme for your mantel that’s impressively festive but not too Christmassy? You can’t go wrong with gold and green. String bold, shiny magnolia branches with green floral wire to create a lush garland, then layer in eye-catching accessories like gold birds, starbursts and towering paperwhites in metallic containers.

Take a Forest Stroll… Indoors!

Craving the lushness of evergreen foliage, but not quite ready to put up your Christmas tree? Put it on a plate! To get the look, print images of pinecones and evergreen boughs onto decal paper, then spray the print-outs with acrylic clear coat spray. After the paper dries, cut around the edges of each image and place decals in a shallow, water-filled dish. When decals begin to curl away from the paper backing (after 2 to 3 minutes), remove each decal from the water and slide the image off, placing it face up on a plate. Smooth the image onto the plate with a wet paper towel, removing any bubbles by gently pressing. Allow images to dry completely before displaying.

Display New and Old Photographs

Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditionally times of gathering for family and friends, so when better to display a collection of photographs that’s often hiding in an album or on the computer hard drive? Label the ever-changing groupings in this low-cost display — made with clothespins and twine — with metal scrapbooking label corners, and mount the photos onto pieces of cardstock using photo corners.

Dress Up Inexpensive Ornaments

Paint and glitter can be fantastic helpers to create miniature focal points around your house. For example, classic gray paint and a dusting of glitter add contrast and sparkle to ordinary decorations. Wrap a tiny box in neutral paper and add pinecones and greenery for color.

Maintain Your Existing Decor

Ensure your decorating feels at home from holiday to holiday by enhancing everyday spots with cheery details. For example, here a bit of greenery on the table and hung as a wreath offer a subtle nod to the time of year. A chain of jingle bells adds sound effect to the decor.

Gather Ornaments in a Bowl

It’s never too early to unpack a pretty collection of ornaments, especially when you have a handsome way of displaying them. Take this silver bowl: It’s a lovely receptacle for ornaments. A few striped balls add just a pop of color.

Editor’s Tip: Try changing the color, finish, or shape for visual variety that blends seamlessly with your non-holiday decor.

Focus on Neutrals

Colors that are festive without being exclusive to one season are a great way to ensure your decorating accents remain transitional from month to month. For example, cheery silver and gold orbs add welcome textural contrast to end-of-season landscape items, such as pine cones, displayed under glass cloches.

Bring the Outdoors In

Transitional pieces that work year-round take center stage at holiday time when paired with in-season items. Evergreens offer a rich counterpoint to these glossy white containers, one accented with chalkboard paint. Berry picks covering the soil lend a welcome pop of color. When the holidays are over and the weather warms, plant the evergreens in your yard or in a larger container outside.

Use Greenery for Color

Strategically placed greenery adds warmth and welcome texture to nearly any spot in the home from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Draw the eye up by draping greenery over a cabinet, or keep the focus on a tablescape or sideboard with a similar garland.

New Ways to Display Holiday Greetings

Displaying holiday cards is a beloved tradition. Here, a collection is paired with an evergreen garland to decorate an inside doorway that leads from the living room to the kitchen. Add a few small holiday balls or ribbon for additional color.

Start the Welcome at Your Door

This fun holiday door decoration will welcome guests with the festive scent of evergreen and a friendly message. Fold over the top of a wide burlap ribbon and cut a slit through both layers to slide over a doorknob. Use adhesive letters to spell  a message, and use wire to attach bits of evergreen and pine cones.

Combine Greenery and Ornaments

Trays filled with ornaments make a great holiday centerpiece. For warmth, temper the shine with small sprigs of greenery and miniature pinecones tucked between the ornaments or even inside small vases. Keep the vibe casual with a smattering of larger pinecones placed around or underneath the container.

Enhance Your Staircase with Twigs

Tie bundles of bare tree and winter berry branches to the spindles on your staircase for an autumnal look. After Thanksgiving, tie pine boughs to the branches with pretty velvet ribbon, and wire Christmas ornaments around the velvet ribbon for extra color.

Focus on Flexibility

To get the most use from your indoor holiday decorating accents, choose materials and ideas that can transition from day to night or from quiet family evenings to larger festive gatherings. These mini trees, wrapped in plain kraft paper and adorned with a single felt star, work just as well on their own as they do when adding holiday cheer to a nighttime dessert party. Footed ceramic platters hold bite-size appetizers and sweets that can change with the occasion.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens

 

 

9 Updates Your Home Needs Every 10 Years

Approaching your 10th home-iversary? Congrats! It’s probably time for a little maintenance.

No matter how much you love and care for your home, things are bound to wear out and need fixing — especially when you hit the 10-year mark.

To keep your house in tiptop condition, consider making these updates every 10 years or so.

Get new carpet
The average medium-grade carpet has a life expectancy of approximately 10 years. Of course, that depends on several factors, including the number of people and pets.

Signs that you need to replace your carpet: rips, tears or stains, and odors that remain even after a good cleaning. And even without any of those, you carpet might just look old and worn out. An update wouldn’t hurt.

Replace hot water tank
A water heater may not show many symptoms before it leaks or fails, so it’s important to know its age. If the manufacture date isn’t shown, then it may be embedded in the serial number on the tank.

A good rule of thumb: Any tank that’s been around for 10 years or more is a candidate for replacement.

Update ceiling fans
A midrange ceiling fan should last about 10 years, if it’s running frequently. A common sign that it might be time for a new one: the lightbulbs seem to burn out more quickly than usual.

And since a ceiling fan is about style as well as function, you may just want a more modern model.

Buy a new dishwasher
Like your water heater, consider replacing your dishwasher if it’s 10 years old. You’ll likely get a more energy-efficient model that’ll pay for itself over time.

Signs that you should replace your dishwasher sooner rather than later are an unresponsive control board, poorly cleaned dishes and cracks in the tub.

Replace garbage disposal
You’ll know you need a new garbage disposal when it doesn’t work as well as it used to. This is because the blades dull over time.

The average garbage disposal should last about 10-12 years with regular use, so if yours is around that age, consider replacing it.

Replace washer and dryer
The average lifespan of both appliances is about eight years. So, if your set is 10+ years old and running without any issues, consider yourself fortunate! That said, think about replacing them before you have any real problems or leaks.

Repaint inside and outside
There’s no hard and fast rule about when to repaint your home. It depends on where you live, humidity and many other factors.

People often repaint certain areas, such as a heavily used living room, every three to five years. But if some areas of the home haven’t been repainted in 10 years or more, now’s definitely the time to do it.

Re-caulk showers, bathtubs and sinks
Few jobs offer as much bang for your buck as re-caulking. Whether you just haven’t gotten around to it yet or you’re moving into a 10-year-old home, go ahead and re-caulk the tub, shower and sinks. You can easily do this yourself, and it makes everything look so much brighter.

Re-glaze windows
Re-glazing old windows is easier and more cost-effective than replacing them. And generally speaking, re-glazing should be done about every 10 years or so.

But check your windows every year before the cold weather arrives to make sure you don’t have any leaks or cracks.

Source: zillow.com ~ By: SEE JANE DRILL

11 Reasons Why Your Home Isn’t Selling

When you first put your house on the market, you might be hopeful for a quick sale—especially if you’ve put a lot of money into improving the house over the years and if the neighborhood is one that has historically attracted a lot of buyers. While you shouldn’t panic if the house doesn’t sell the moment you list it, you should begin to worry if the months start flying by without any real offers. If this is the case, here are 11 reasons why your house may not be selling.

You overvalued your property. If your house is overpriced, it’s simply not going to sell. Compare your property to similar properties that recently sold within your area to get a better idea of its true value. An experienced real estate agent can give you an accurate value of your home. Additionally, don’t make the mistake of tacking on the cost of any renovations you made. You can’t just assume that the cost of a renovation translates to added value.

Your listing is poor. If the listing of your home includes a poorly written description without any images, a lot of buyers are going to skip over it. Make sure you and your REALTOR® put an effort into creating a listing that attracts the attention of buyers. Make sure to add high quality photographs of both the interior and exterior of your home. Don’t forget to highlight unique features as well.

You’re always present at showings. Let your agent handle your showings. Buyers don’t want to have the seller lurking over their shoulder during showings, especially during an open house. This puts unwanted pressure on the buyer, which will make them uncomfortable and likely chase them away.

You’re too attached. If you refuse to negotiate even a penny off your price, then there’s a good chance that you’ve become too attached to your home. If a part of you doesn’t want to sell it, or you think your house is the best house in the world, odds are you’re going to have a lot of difficulties coming to an agreement with a potential buyer.

You haven’t had your home professionally cleaned. A dirty house is going to leave a bad impression on buyers. Make sure you have a professional clean your carpeting and windows before you begin showing your house.

You haven’t staged your home. If you’ve already moved out, then don’t show an empty house. This makes it difficult for buyers to imagine living in it. Stage your house with furniture and decor to give buyers a better idea of how big every room is and how it can be used. You want the buyer to feel at home when they are taking the tour.

You kept up all of your personal décor. Buyers are going to feel uncomfortable touring your house if you keep all of your family portraits up. Take down your personal décor so that buyers can have an easier time imagining themselves living there.

Your home improvements are too personalized. You might think that the comic book mural you painted for your child’s room is absolutely incredible, but that doesn’t mean potential buyers will agree. If your home improvements are too personalized, it can scare off buyers who don’t want to pay for features they don’t want.

Your home is too cluttered. Even if your home is clean, clutter can still be an issue. For example, maybe you simply have too much furniture in one of your rooms. This can make the house feel smaller than it is.

Your home is in need of too many repairs. The more repairs that are needed, the less likely a buyer will want your house. Many buyers simply don’t want to deal with the cost or effort of doing repair work, even if it’s just a bunch of small repairs, such as tightening a handrail or replacing a broken tile.

You chose the wrong real agent. In my opinion, choosing the right real estate is simply the most important decision you make in selling your home.  A good REALTOR® makes all the difference in selling your home within a reasonable time.

All these things can be fixed once you realize your mistake; however, the longer your property stays on the market, the less likely it will sell at listing price. One of the best ways to avoid making these common mistakes is by working with a professional real estate agent.

Source: blog.rismedia.com  ~  By Charles Muotoh

Do You Really Need to Rake? 8 Steps for Autumn Yard Cleanup

Your fall chore list might be lighter than you think. Check out these 8 steps for autumn yard cleanup.

Bad news: It’s time to get your act together and clean up your garden before winter makes the task more difficult. But the good news is, fall garden chores don’t have to be a pain. You might find you enjoy picking up branches or raking leaves in the brisk autumn air.

Whether you love or hate fall chores, here is a checklist of tasks and ways to make them easier.

Make a compost bin

Composting sounds like a lot of hard work, but it’s actually a perfect solution for lazy gardeners. Have a bunch of weeds, grass clippings and branches to get rid of? Don’t bother bagging it up and hauling it to the curb — just throw it in a pile and mix it up every month or so. Then surround the pile with landscape timbers or chicken wire to keep everything from blowing all over the place.

While you can make composting as complicated as you want, it doesn’t have to be.

Rake leaves — or don’t

That’s right, raking the leaves isn’t always necessary. But before you proudly share this news with your significant other to try getting out of your chores, here’s the full story.

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Leaves in the front lawn are not desirable, especially when they blow into neighboring lawns. Leaves in the garden, on the other hand, are totally desirable, and act as free mulch to protect roots and conserve moisture.

Another caveat: The soil around rose bushes and other plants that are sensitive to diseases like powdery mildew should be kept clean to prevent infection.

Collect fallen debris

We’ve all had a so-called ‘trash tree’ at some point. You know, the Bradford pear that drops branches at the drop of a hat — or the Osage orange that bombs unsuspecting passersby with rock-hard fruits.

If you’re one of the unfortunate souls with a messy tree, now is the time to collect all that debris for the year. Collect sticks and twigs, too, but once you’ve gathered them, leave them in the garden to serve as perches and homes for wildlife.

Mow the lawn

Cut the grass one last time, and mow it short to prevent diseases from spreading. Collect the grass clippings and add them to your compost pile.

Now is also a good time to complete your edging and string-trimming chores.

When you’re done mowing, winterize your mower and other outdoor power tools by draining the gasoline so it doesn’t become stale and gunk up your equipment for next year.shutterstock_203668357

Prune damaged branches

Fall is about using the anvil pruners rather than the hedge trimmers. Prune out any branches that are diseased, damaged or dead so they won’t succumb to winds or the weight of snow and ice.

If any arm-width branches meet those criteria, use a saw. If any large limbs or trees look as if they’ll break when loaded with ice, call a tree surgeon.

Look at it this way: If there’s anything that you think might fall to the ground on its own accord over the winter, remove it now.

Pull weeds

The last thing you want is a bunch of weeds spreading their seeds and taking over your garden in spring. Pull weeds on a pleasant day when it’s above freezing and the soil is a little moist so the weeds will come up more easily.

Since weeds have a tendency to shed their progeny all over the place, throw them on the compost pile or put them in trash bags.

Collect dead leaves

When cleaning and picking up indoors, you’d ideally leave things spotless. This is not the case in the garden, however, since seedpods, flowerheads and fruits add winter interest and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

Still, any dead leaves or other less-useful debris can be collected and composted.

Mulch beds

Mulching isn’t necessarily a cleanup task, but it is necessary nonetheless because it protects the plants’ roots over the winter and conserves moisture.

All of those raked leaves you saved will make an excellent mulch for your flowerbeds, or you can purchase the bagged stuff. Use a 1-  to 2-inch-deep layer of mulch, and resist the temptation to use landscaping fabric. Doing so might prevent weeds, but it will also prevent the soil around your plants from accessing rainfall or beneficial organisms.

Source: zillow.com ~ By: STEVE ASBELL

Reduce Your Homeownership Expenses With These Tips

Homes cost money.

Not just the mortgage and the taxes, or even the down payment, but all the myriad things—from the heating to the gutters—that sap your savings.

Aside from careful money management, how can you reduce your daily home expenses?

Think big

Your biggest regular expense is likely your mortgage. You may be able to shrink it, with and without the bank’s help.

  • Refinance to take advantage of low interest rates
  • Cut the time left on your mortgage. Consider taking on a 15-year option. You’ll save on interest over the long term.
  • Pay half of your monthly mortgage every two weeks. Doing so will also help you save on interest.
  • Reduce your private mortgage insurance. If you made only a small down payment, you may be able to drop some (or all) of the insurance after you pay down your mortgage to about 80%  of the principal, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Save on utilities

Your parents might have nagged you to turn off the lights when you weren’t using them. Now that you’re paying the bills, you get it. You don’t have to replace every appliance in your home to cut the bill, though—a few simple steps can help.

  • Keep the thermostat level, and make sure it works properly. If your house feels cold but you’ve jacked up the thermostat, you’ll want to figure out why quickly.
  • Set the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees in winter and no lower than 78 in summer.
  • Consider high-tech solutions. Some thermostats can be programmed to lower during times when no one is home. Set your lights on timers.
  • Close blinds in summer, and weatherproof windows in winter.
  • Monitor your fridge—keep your freezer full and clean the appliance’s coils regularly.
  • Run loads back-to-back in your clothes dryer so that the dryer will remain warm from the previous cycle.

Save on water

  • Bathroom: Fix any leaking toilets or faucets and install flow-restricting showerheads.
  • Kitchen: Run full loads in your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.
  • Laundry: Wash full loads as they use less water than multiple small loads.

Elsewhere, lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees. While most are factory-set to 140 degrees, you could lower the setting on yours and save up to 5% on your electricity bill.

Learn to DIY

Many large hardware stores, including chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, offer free home improvement courses such as repairing drywall or updating a dimmer switch—projects that would typically cost $50 an hour if done by a pro.

Some other projects you could learn to do yourself:

  • Curtains: They’re simple to sew if their design involves straight lines.
  • Cabinets: If you aren’t looking to replace your cabinets but want a simple update, try refinishing or repainting them yourself.
  • Gutters: If your gutters are easy to reach, it takes only a small amount of time to clear them of debris. Do this regularly, and you could spare yourself a significant headache down the road.

When times become flush for you, you could hire professionals to tackle these chores. But if your priority is keeping costs down, investing a little time now can pay off in the long run.

Source: Realtor.com ~ By: Anne Miller

Ready For Staging: 4 Repairs You Need Before Selling Your Home

Selling your home is a complex process that may take weeks to complete. This is partially because your house may need to be updated or renovated before it can go on the market. What are some of the most crucial fixes that you should make before listing your property?

Update the Exterior

The first thing that you will want to do is make sure that the home’s exterior is in good condition. This may involve landscaping work such as removing trees or shrubs that are dead or dying. It may also involve inspecting the roof, siding or other exterior components that may need to be repaired or updated to make the house easier to sell. At the very least, a fresh coat of paint should be applied before putting the house on the open market.

Check the Air Conditioning

If you have a central air conditioning unit in your home, make sure that it works properly. This means that it should start easily and produce an even amount of cool air throughout the house.

Ideally, you will have it inspected once a year by someone like Doctor Fix-It. However, inspecting it and making repairs prior to selling your home should be considered mandatory. It may also be a good idea to check the furnace and clean the ducts before you show the home to buyers.

Make Sure the Floors Are Adequate

Whether your home has wood floors or carpet, make sure that they are in good condition. If necessary, wax and clean the wood or put down new carpet in areas where it may be frayed or dirty. If you are going to replace your carpet, make sure that it is the same color and style throughout a given space.

Check the Plumbing and Electrical Systems

Buyers aren’t going to want to put an offer on a home that has poor water pressure. They are also unlikely to want to make an offer on a home that has dangerous electrical wiring. If the fixes to either system are relatively minor, you can do them yourself. However, it may also be a good idea to call a professional to make sure that the job is done safely.

Selling your home can be a great way to help you downsize or lock in profits. However, if the process is not done right, it could reduce the sale price of the home or result in the home staying on the market longer than you anticipated that it would.

Source: realtytimes.comBY MEGHAN BELNAP