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What’s Trending Next? A Dozen Home and Design Ideas for 2020

What’s Trending Next? A Dozen Home and Design Ideas for 2020

From building and decorating materials to room sizes, colors, and lighting, gift your clients with the knowledge gleaned from crystal ball gazers as we look ahead to 2020’s trends.

December 20, 2019

Almost everyone enjoys making predictions for a new year—and certainly for a new decade. How about cooking appliances that tell you how to roast and broil to perfection? Or, better yet, new homes that come with a personal chef?

REALTOR® Magazine asked our favorite real estate trend watchers and influencers what to expect in 2020 and beyond. For starters, most agree that gray is on its way out, while deep hues are becoming the stars in interior paint. And more homeowners are following the craze of decluttering and tidying up popularized by Marie Kondo so they can focus on experiencing joy in their home.

While some fads are natural evolutions and others are more far-fetched, we’ve whittled it down to a dozen that are sure to inspire your buyers and sellers alike. Plus, don’t miss five up-and-coming kitchen trends that are bound to spark interest and maybe a remodel.

modern dining room

© Morgante-Wilson, Werner Straube Photography

1. Comfortable Dining Rooms

Homeowners have decided they don’t want to give up their dining rooms—that’s in the past. Now they want dining rooms to be less formal and more functional, says architect Elisa Morgante of Morgante-Wilson in Chicago. The best way to do this is by investing in a multipurpose table that can take wear and tear, comfy chairs with high backs and armrests, and washable fabrics. Fun light fixtures are replacing delicate ones, and some traditional dining room furnishings are disappearing—such as china cabinets used for fancy entertaining, says real estate broker Jennifer Ames, partner at Engel & Volkers in Chicago.

dramatic curved staircase in foyer

© Morgante-Wilson, Werner Straube Photography

2. Fabulous Foyers

Homeowners know the importance of exterior curb appeal, but now they’re taking advantage of the foyer as another opportunity to impress, says Liz Brooks, vice president of sales and marketing for Belgravia Group, a development firm in Chicago. At Belgravia’s condo building Renelle on the River, foyers are “gracious” in size with walls to hang a mirror or art or offer views through to a living room and beyond. The architects at Morgante-Wilson like foyers in multilevel homes to incorporate a dramatic stairway with wider or more curved treads, risers, and railings fabricated from novel materials. Some include a clerestory or skylight at the top to flood the area with light, says Morgante.

Wood Clad Apartment Building

© Joaquin Corbalan – AdobeStock

3. Mass Timber

Mass timber is beginning to receive recognition as a smart building material because its production generates less carbon emission than steel or concrete, says sustainable architect Nathan Kipnis of Kipnis Architecture + Planning in Evanston, Ill. The material is also fire-resistant and strong and performs well during seismic activity, according to the Mass Timber Code Coalition. Plus, it’s cost-efficient and can be constructed faster since it’s prefabricated, and it can be used on walls, floors, and roofs—even in innovative sculptural forms. “With mass timber, there’s no waste on a site that must go into a landfill,” says Sam Ebersol, general manager of Mid-Atlantic Timber Frames, a heavy timber construction company in Paradise, Penn.

home elevator

© Morgante-Wilson, Werner Straube Photography

4. Home Elevators

As the baby boomer population ages, first-floor master bedroom suites are becoming more popular. But not every house or townhome provides space to include them. In cases where a home has multiple levels, an elevator provides help for those who have trouble climbing stairs, says Kipnis. He recommends building the feature in new homes, or at least leaving adequate space—3 1/2 feet by 4 1/2 feet on each level for future installation. The cost will vary depending on materials, finishes, and an electrician’s hourly labor charge, but the total expense might run about $15,000 per floor.

rooftop common area

© ARX Solutions, Dranoff Properties

5. Communal Oases

Developers of multifamily buildings now recognize that homeowners want a green space to garden, even after they’ve vacated suburban homes. And while rooftop gardens have become more prevalent, other green spaces are popping up, too, as more developers note their health benefits. Carl Dranoff, founder of Dranoff Properties based in Philadelphia, planted a two-level garden at his newest project, Arthaus Condominiums in downtown Philly, which will include a greenhouse to grow orchids, outdoor plots to raise vegetables, flowers, and herbs, and an extended lawn off a communal event space. A horticulturalist will offer residents professional expertise. The architecture and interior design firm CetraRuddy in New York has focused on adding greenery in another way—through large terraces that bring more light and air and a sense of space into the interior of its ARO building in Manhattan, as well as its surrounding block. Such tactics are more important in denser urban environments, say the building’s principals, Nancy Ruddy and John Cetra.

geometric bathroom tile

© Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist

6. Graphic Bathroom Floors

Boldly patterned floors are adding a spark of interest in bathrooms that were recently trending very monochromatic and spa-like. Staging and design expert Kristie Barnett, aka The Decorologist, in Nashville, took this approach in one client’s homes. She used an encaustic, graphic floor tile, similar to those that show up along kitchen backsplashes. But Barnett adds one caveat for bathrooms: “When choosing this kind of pattern, it should be the lead actor in the show while other elements play supporting roles. A bathroom should still be a personal sanctuary, and too much visual noise could weary the eye.”

updated bathroom

© Renovation Sells

7. Remodeling Before Listing

Many homeowners don’t want to take on the work and extra cost of fixing up their home before they list. Yet many buyers don’t want to invest in a home where they know there are walls to paint, countertops to replace, and floors to resand. Consider the latest trend that helps remove buyer objections: a contractor who tackles the work and fronts the cost or who partners with a firm that provides financing. Sellers then pay back the funds at closing. The big reward usually is a higher price and speedier sale, says Mike Valente, a licensed general contractor who works with many homeowners through his Renovation Sells firm in Chicago. Compass, a national real estate firm, has established its Compass Concierge service to deliver a similar revamp option. A calculator on the company’s website helps suggests how much sellers might spend.

living wall in outdoor courtyard

© ArchiVIZ – AdobeStock

8. Living Walls

For homeowners downsizing to a property with a smaller yard—or for those who have trouble bending down—living walls offer a way to connect to greenery by growing plants, vegetables, and herbs along the walls of a home, garage, or outbuilding. Landscape designer Michael Glassman of Michael Glassman & Associates in Sacramento, Calif., says, “Gardening is going up rather than out for aesthetics and consumption.” He recommends vines like star jasmine and creeping fig, edibles such as tomatoes and cucumbers, and herbs like rosemary and basil. “Plant walls” resembling art are also showing up inside, especially when homeowners don’t have an outdoor space, says David Dynega, CEO of Detail Renovations in Great Neck, N.Y. 

fabric swatches

© Sunbrella®

9. Better Looking Performance Fabrics

Instead of looking only at fabrics that appeal for color, pattern, or texture, homeowners want materials that will last and perform—hence, the name they’ve earned: performance fabrics. Originally, they were designed for outdoor spaces, where the sun, wind, water, or inclement weather took their toll. But as the fabrics have become more attractive, designers and homeowners have started using them indoors, where they can withstand the wear and tear of pets and people, says Chicago designer Rebecca Pogonitz of GOGO Design Group, who’s a big fan of the trend. Greg Voorhis, executive design director of Sunbrella, well-known for its performance fabric designs, says his firm is seeing the rise of more textured chenilles, boucles, and chunky wovens. “They bring new energy into familiar spaces without sacrificing comfort or durability,” he says.

floorplan

© Lendlease

10. Downsizing Homes, Rooms, and Ornate Features

The McMansion craze has been dead for years, resulting in more homeowners looking to downsize and millennials never planning to go big. “They favor experiences over owning large high-maintenance, high-cost homes filled with lots of stuff,” says Ames. “It’s the Marie Kondo version of shedding stuff.” Many home shoppers are also looking for simpler architectural detailing that pares maintenance and cost, as well as fewer rooms that will go unused, Ames says. Lendlease, a development company that created the new Cirrus building in downtown Chicago, heeded this mantra when it planned its range of scaled-down units and beefed up its many shared amenity spaces, says Ted Weldon, executive general manager. Sheri Koones’ new book, Downsize: Living Large in a Small House (The Taunton Press, 2019), offers an abundance of information for homeowners looking to pare down

Navy accent wall in dining room

© Sherwin-Williams

11. Deeper Hues

You can read into the emerging palette of deep hues a desire to counter global unrest, as some designers speculate, or you can take the colors as an antidote to years of pale grays. Either way, the darker hues are coming on strong. Pantone anointed “classic blue”—a very royal tone—as its color of the year. Could it be a nod to the Sussexes or appeal of The Crown? Sherwin-Williams’ Sue Wadden, director of color marketing, touts her company’s “naval” (SW 6244), “anchors aweigh” (SW 9179), “ripe olive” (SW 6209), and “dard hunter green” (SW 0041) as choices to visually mitigate stress. Another emerging trend: monochromatic rooms, donning a single paint color on the walls, trim, and ceiling.

billiard room

© Mary Cook Associates, Toll Brothers Apartment Living

12. Hipsturbia

Live/work/play has become a way of life for millennials who aren’t willing to compromise when they have children. As they move to the suburbs for more space, they choose communities with urban amenities—thriving walkable downtowns with dining, shopping, entertainment, public transportation, and jobs. “Success has a way of spreading,” the Urban Land Institute noted when it coined the term “hipsturbia” in its Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020 report, says Mary Cook, founder of Chicago-based Mary Cook Associates. “Every development we work on today is located in areas that fit this formula and foster community interactions,” she says. One example is Toll Brothers’ Apartment Living Oleander building outside Atlanta, which offers residents flexible community spaces equipped with state-of-the-art technology to accommodate events, co-working spaces, and more. The building sits on Emory University’s expanding Executive Park campus near new medical complexes designed to attract health care professionals.


Top 5 Kitchen Trends

kitchen

© Dave Burk, de Giulio Kitchen Design

Instead of adding a 13th trend to the list, we decided to give kitchens their own section because they remain the number one focus in the home. The new fads being cooked up are giving this room an update in style, appliances, materials, and colors, as well as a way to enhance surrounding spaces since many are part of the open plan living-dining-kitchen area. While white may still dominate cabinets and countertops, other colors and materials are popping up—so are new technologies that help homeowners prepare food more effortlessly and healthily. Here are five kitchen trends to watch in 2020.

  1. Materials. GE appliances are showing an uptick in more white and black matte finishes as well as a new look of glass-covered stainless steel fronts that’s emerging. These new materials fit in better with other room furnishings, too, says Marc Hottenroth, executive director of GE’s industrial design division. Also showing up in kitchens is a greater mix of metals, such as brushed bronze and copper to help freshen appliances, which generally last about 10 years.
  2. Technology. Voice assistants now read recipes and cooking directions for homeowners so they don’t have to turn cookbook pages with flour-coated fingers. Appliances with gourmet guided cooking technology provide recipes and tutorials through an app that communicates with the appliance via Bluetooth. The chef no longer has to turn knobs to adjust temperatures. For instance, a rack of lamb might be roasted, then finished with a broil, which would all be adjusted automatically. And a new wall oven with hot air-fry capability is offering a healthier alternative to deep frying.
  3. Function. A new kitchen island is emerging, which combines an island with a dinette, according to Gena Kirk, vice president of design at KB Home, a national home builder based in Los Angeles. The island features a place to prepare meals at one height and an additional countertop that slides out at a lower level for people to eat around when desired. Scaled-down appliance sizes are becoming popular in smaller open-plan homes and condos. In its new Cirrus building, a 47-story tower going up on Lake Michigan, Lendlease camouflaged appliances behind millwork paneling, says Linda Kozloski, creative design director. The company also went with smaller, more European-size appliance choices because of the units’ smaller sizes, which helps counter rising construction costs. Example: a 24-inch-wide refrigerator was selected instead of a 48-inch model.
  4. Workspace. After so much buzz about whether to stay with granite or switch to quartz or quartzite, KB Home offers another idea: natural wood cutting boards for a portion of the countertop surface. The wood area provides a convenient workspace without having to pull out a cutting board or leave one out all the time.
  5. Details. Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio, principal of de Giulio Kitchen Design, is introducing design character in novel ways to surprise and contradict. One example includes the hand-hammered finish on a stainless steel Bacifiore sink to add sophisticated sparkle instead of a plain-Jane stainless or ceramic white model. Another is the instillation of polished stainless steel toe kicks at the bottom of cabinets that hardly show the dirt, scuffs, or mess that painted wood ones do.

Trends are meant to inspire rather than make agents and their clients feel the need to rush into a renovation to make a house hip or more marketable than another. These points represent what’s new or coming through the pike. In the future, for example, there may be more technology that will warn homeowners about natural disasters before they occur. And before clients invests in any updates, make it clear that it’s best to do so for personal enjoyment rather than to boost salability.


Trend to Watch: Car Charging Stations

The jury may still be out when it comes to electric car charging stations at home. They’ve become a popular amenity at multifamily buildings, and now some single-family homeowners who have invested in electric cars to shrink their carbon footprint are seeing the wisdom of installing charging stations in their garages, says architect Nathan Kipnis of Kipnis Architecture + Planning in Evanston, Ill. The cost is relatively modest, perhaps $500 for the charging box and an electrician’s hourly charge to bring a 220-volt line into the garage. The outlet is best installed on the side of the garage where a homeowner plans to park their vehicle to avoid stepping over a cord, he says. But not everyone is convinced that it’s a huge trend. According to a recent survey from Erie Insurance, only 6% of respondents said they would want one, 55% would not, and 39% took a noncommittal stand and said they might. Sounds like a trend definitely to watch.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

Why Are Homeowners Removing the Fireplace?

 

December 17, 2019

Some homeowners are viewing the fireplace as more of a liability than an asset—and they’re opting to remove it. After all, there are an average of 22,300 fireplace, chimney, or chimney connector fires each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some owners are removing them because of those potential dangers, but others’ reasoning is more design-oriented—they don’t want a fireplace because it’s taking up too much space in their home or even dating their home’s look.

Fireplaces can be conducive to open floor plans. “Recently, I had two clients remove their fireplaces because they were used as dividers between rooms,” Tamara Heidel, a real estate broker at Heidel Realty in Las Vegas, told realtor.com®. They were able to open up the space by removing the fireplace.

Home builders have reported that they’re adding fewer fireplaces into new homes they build.

But losing a fireplace can affect a home’s appeal and possibly even its resale value, real estate pros say. A fireplace can particularly be viewed as a valuable amenity in colder climates, and removing one could even reduce the number of buyers drawn to a property, some agents say.

Fireplaces can add warmth and cozy vibes to listings. “Imagine sitting around the fireplace on a cold night to warm up or marking s’mores with your kids,” says Brett Ringelheim, a real estate pro with Compass in New York. It can be a sought-after amenity among buyers.

That’s why removing it seems absurd to some real estate pros. “You don’t want your home to be labeled ‘the house without a fireplace,’ especially in cold climates,” Benjamin Ross, a real estate professional with the Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, Texas, told realtor.com®.

Removing a fireplace isn’t easy, either. “The removal would not only be expensive but could compromise the home’s stability,” Katina Asbell, associate broker at Real Living Capital City Realty in Atlanta, told realtor.com®. The masonry base and chimney tend to be a big part of a home’s structure.

For owners who feel like their fireplace looks dated, it could be cheaper to renovate it, even with just a new coat of paint. Paint it white or replace the mantel, agents suggest.

Jared Greenberg, a real estate pro with Keller Williams Premier Realty in Katy, Texas, told realtor.com® that he’s never had buyers who didn’t purchase a home because it had a fireplace. “Even if someone doesn’t plan on using it, they can turn it into a decorative fireplace and put candles or stacked wood in it,” he says.

Cincinnati City Council Approves 15 New Special Tax Districts for Poor Neighborhoods

Cincinnati City Council Approves 15 New Special Tax Districts for Poor Neighborhoods

Dan Horn, Cincinnati Enquirer

December 18, 2019

City Council approved 15 new special tax districts Wednesday that will shift some money from property taxes to struggling Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Construction of the Washington Park underground parking garage spurred development documented in the “Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine” film

Proponents of the tax increment financing districts, known as TIFs, say they will help poor neighborhoods repair streets, build sidewalks and encourage private investment and development.

Critics, though, say TIFs steal money that otherwise would go to schools and other public services.

Council voted 7-1 to create the new districts, with Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard voting no on all but the one in the West End. She said she spoke to community leaders in that neighborhood and was comfortable the money would be well spent.

TIFs also will be created in parts of these neighborhoods: Camp Washington, College Hill, the eastern riverfront, Mount Airy, Mount Auburn, North Fairmount, Northside, Pleasant Ridge, Riverside, Roselawn, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, Spring Grove Village and Westwood.

Click here for more details about TIF districts, what they do and why some people object to them.

Reprint provided as a Government Affairs service

of the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS®.

How Big Is the Gender Divide in Housing?

How Big Is the Gender Divide in Housing?
Find out what home features women really care about and how they differ from their male counterparts.

November 22, 2019

by Barbara Ballinger

One in five consumers buying a home today is a single woman. This cohort is the second largest group of home buyers in the country, trailing only married couples. What’s more, women now control nearly 60% of all personal wealth in the U.S., according to the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Small Business Administration. Understanding this mighty buying force and their housing preferences will help real estate professionals better serve their clientele.

Meyers Research in Costa Mesa, Calif., conducted a survey analyzing the buying preferences of 33,000 home shoppers, including both men and women with a variety of locations and price points. They found that the influence of the female buyer segment goes further than expected. Not only are women involved in buying their own homes, but they also help guide many single men who seek advice during a home search.

Following the purchase, women often take the reins in deciding what goes into the home, whether they’re buying solo or with a spouse. The interior is considered a reflection of her success and who she is, said Mollie Carmichael, principal and lead strategist with Meyers Research, who presented the survey results during a webinar on “What Women Want in Community and Houses” in October.

At the top of their wish lists, women want a supersized pantry, a tub in her bathroom, a first-floor office, and a front porch. The survey results are also helpful in understanding how female preferences compare to those of their male peers.

Among the many points Carmichael discussed in her webinar, seven are especially key to help brokers and agents work with clients to identify their ideal home.
1. Why they buy. Among women’s top motivations for purchasing a home are family, safety, price, and schools. For men, the prime factor is prestige, but they also care about fitness and family, according to the survey. Single women are more willing to commit to buying than men because they view a home as a wise investment and a way to spend their monthly living expenses wisely, especially since interest rates are low. Women also see homeownership as a way to help lock in their financial security. “They have confidence in the market now and consider it a good time to buy.” Carmichael said. “Waiting would cause a greater sense of insecurity.” Single men, however, are less willing to commit to buying since they’re more transient. They’re more likely to move for a job or relationship, Carmichael said.
2. The importance of location, size, and convenience. Overall, both women and men prefer a suburban location, though men are more willing to consider city or rural living. A male buyer is also more willing to drive longer distances to his job. Women are more likely to work from home, which is why the home office feature is important to female buyers, Carmichael said. When it comes to a home’s size, women prefer smaller—under 2,500 square feet—with more functional design. For men, a bigger home is preferred because they believe it’s more likely to guarantee a “better” lifestyle, Carmichael said.
3. What matters more: indoors versus outdoors. A female buyer loves the interior of her home—it’s one of the prime motivations for her to buy, according to the survey. She seeks a place to socialize with others and alleviate stress. And if it has a large walk-in closet, all the better. While the female buyer cares about outdoor space—and likes the idea of a front porch—it’s an area she’s willing to compromise on for greater intimacy and affordability, according to the survey. A male buyer, however, typically favors the outdoors for socializing and barbecuing. He also likes the idea of a backyard or rooftop deck, though he’s also looking for a larger garage and a media room.
4. Design influences. Countless images on sites like Pinterest and Houzz have opened home shoppers’ eyes to a variety of housing aesthetics. When it comes to favorite looks, both women and men lean toward the modern touch, according to the survey, but his modern is more modern than hers. Men also like Spanish and English Tudor, while women veer more toward casual contemporary and modern farmhouse styles. She’s more willing to consider attached housing and multilevel than he is. The interior design of a home matters greatly to both, and builders have taken note by focusing more attention on interior choices, Carmichael said. Regardless of gender, white remains the top color choice—almost twice as much as other choices. Comfort is also a big selling feature for both women and men.
5. Making changes. The ability to personalize the interior of a home so that rooms reflect the owner’s taste matters more to women than to men. Female buyers favor having utility space, an upgraded kitchen with cabinet “jewelry” and quartz countertops, a bathroom with a tub, guest space to accommodate parents or visitors, and a smart-home hub with remote access to everything from the front door and security systems to appliances. Male buyers prefer keeping costs down and making upgrades later, but when they do personalize, they want wine storage and granite countertops over quartz, the survey found.
6. The pet factor. According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2017 “Animal House: Remodeling Impact” report, 81% of potential buyers said that animal-related considerations will play a role in deciding their next living situation. But the Meyers Research survey found that women, more than men, want to have pets and treat them like family members by giving them a dedicated space in their home with a pet door, bed, and area to wash them. Women also more frequently look for homes in communities that have a dog park, Carmichael said.
7. Bells and whistles. Extra touches in a house or amenities in a community are sometimes the tipping point for a sale. Women care about having a safe place for package deliveries more than men. “This Amazon phenomenon continues to grow,” Carmichael said. Men care more about being able to work out and enjoy healthy living while also have a place to disconnect when they get home. In their community, female and male buyers seek a resort-style pool, fitness center (she likes workout classes; he prefers to exercise independently), and Wi-Fi. A nearby sports park is a preference favored by men, though both men and women say they’d like a basketball court.

Not all properties include the features cited above, but female buyers understand that they’ll have to make tradeoffs, Carmichael said. Heed the tips from this survey and you’ll help more clients find the home of their dreams.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

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What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online

By: HouseLogic

Published: February 27, 2018

It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s important to take everything with a grain of salt!

Oh, let’s just admit it, shall we? Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s Shangri-La. The elegantly decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues.

Browser beware, though: Those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.

That perfect split-level ranch? Might be too close to a loud, traffic-choked street. That handsome colonial with the light-filled photos? Might be hiding some super icky plumbing problems. That attractively priced condo? Miiiight not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold.

So let’s practice some self-care, shall we, and set our expectations appropriately.

  • Step one, fill out our home buyer’s worksheet. The worksheet helps you understand what you’re looking for.
  • Step two, with that worksheet and knowledge in hand, start browsing for homes. As you do, keep in mind exactly what that tool can, and can’t, do. Here’s how.

You Keep Current. Your Property Site Should, Too

First things first: You wouldn’t read last month’s Vanity Fair for the latest cafe society gossip, right? So you shouldn’t browse property sites that show old listings.

Get the latest listings from realtor.com®, which pulls its information every 15 minutes from the {{ start_tip 71 }}Multiple Listing Service (MLS),{{ end_tip }} regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale. That means that realtor.com®’s listings are more accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often. You wouldn’t want to get your heart a flutter for a house that’s already off the market.

BTW, there are other property listing sites as well, including Redfin, which is a brokerage and therefore also relies on relationships with brokers and MLSs for listings.

The Best Properties Aren’t Always the Best Looking

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, busted boilers, and leaky pipes. So while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features.

Each realtor.com® listing, for example, has a “property details” section that may specify important information such as the year the home was built, price per square foot, and how many days the property has been on the market.

Ultimately though, ask your real estate agent to help you interpret what you find. The best agents have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties. If a listing seems too good to be true, your agent will likely know why.

Explore More Topics:

Find an Agent & View Homes

Buy a Home: Step-by-Step

Treat Your Agent Like Your Bestie

At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. All that data will give you a working knowledge, but it won’t be exhaustive.

To assess all of this information — and gather facts about any home you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest Soul Cycle is — talk to your real estate agent. An agent who can paint a picture of the neighborhood is an asset.

An agent who can go beyond that and deliver the dish on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to save you the time of visiting a random listing (when you could otherwise be in the park playing with your canine bestie).

Want to go deeper? Consider these sites and sources:

  • School ratings: Data from GreatSchools.org and the National Center for Education Statistics, and the school district’s website
  • Crime rates and statistics: CrimeReports.com, NeighborhoodScout.com, SpotCrime.com, and the local police station
  • Walkability and public transportation: WalkScore.com and APTA.com
  • Hospital ratings: HealthInsight.org, LeapfrogGroup.org, and U.S. News and World Report rankings

Just remember: You’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be an amuse bouche to the home-buying entree — a good way for you to get a taste of the different types of homes that are available and a general idea of what else is out there.

Once you’ve spent that time online, you’ll be ready to share what you’ve learned with an agent.

How to Be A Savvy Open House Guest

How to Be a Savvy Open House Guest

By: HouseLogic

Getting smart — about what to do, ask, and avoid — can move you ahead of the crowd.

Ah, the open house — a chance to wander through other people’s homes and imagine yourself knocking out walls and gut rehabbing their kitchens. This is what dreams are made of (or at least episodes of HGTV).

In all seriousness, going to open houses (and scheduled private showings) is one of the most exciting parts of the home-buying experience. Beyond the voyeuristic thrill, visiting houses allows you to assess things that you just can’t see online.

Anyone who has taken a super-posed selfie knows that a picture doesn’t always tell the whole truth. Professional listing photos can make small rooms look spacious, make dim rooms bright, and mask other flaws of a home — but you don’t know any of that until you actually see the house yourself.

You can tour houses at any point, but it can be helpful to first discuss your needs and wants with your partner (if you have one), do some online research, and talk with your agent and your lender. That way, you — and your agent — can take a targeted approach, which saves you time and can give you an edge over your buying competition.

So, before you start viewing, follow these tips to get prepared.

Make It Your Job to Know Which Houses Are “Open”

There are four ways to know when a house is available for viewing:

  • Ask your agent. He or she will have details on specific properties and can keep you informed of open houses that fit your criteria.
  • Use listing websites. A number of property sites let you search active listings for upcoming open houses. On realtor.com®, for instance, when searching for properties, scroll over the “Buy” tab and click the “Open Houses” link to see upcoming ones in your area.
  • Scroll social media. On Instagram, for example, you can search the hashtag #openhouse, or similar tags for your city (#openhousedallas, for example), to discover open houses. Many real estate agents and brokerages also post open house announcements on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; find ones from your area and start following.
  • Drive around. Cruise through the neighborhoods you’re interested in — it’s a good way to get a sense of the area amenities — and look for open house signs.

And while you’re searching, be sure to jot down the location, time, and date for any open house that strikes your fancy. It will make it that much easier to plan times and routes for hitting as many homes as possible.

Get There Early (and Say Hi to the Neighbors)

If you’re seriously interested in a home, show up to the open house early. That way you’ll beat the rush, and the agent showing the house (AKA the host) will have time to focus on you and your questions.

And don’t be shy! Many home buyers hop from one open house to the next without talking to the listing agent. But chatting up the host can help you learn information that you wouldn’t get by only {{ start_tip 79 }}touring the premises.{{ end_tip }}

If a house seems like a match, take a walk around the neighborhood. Strike up conversations with the neighbors to get an insider’s perspective on what life in that community is really like — families, singles, what the vibe on the block is like, and whether the homeowner’s or condo association (if there is one) is easy to work with.

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Ask Lots of Questions, But Avoid TMI

To make the most of your open house visits, have a list of questions in mind for the host — and take notes while you’re there, so you can keep track of what you learned.

At the same time, remember this: Your interaction with the host could be the beginning of negotiations with them. If you end up making an offer, you’ll use the information you’ve gathered to inform your bid. (They’ll also remember that you were an engaged yet courteous person, which can’t hurt your cause.)

Equally important: Oversharing could hurt your negotiating power.

Be careful about what information you share with the agent hosting the event. This person works for the seller — not you. The host can and will use stats they’ve gleaned about you to counter, reject, or accept an offer.

Keeping that in mind, here are eight questions you can ask a host to help determine whether a house is a good fit for you:

    1. Have you received any offers? If there are already bids on the table, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to make an offer. Keep in mind: Listing agents can’t disclose the amount of any other offers, though — only whether they exist.
    2. When does the seller want to move? Find out the seller’s timeline. If the seller is in a hurry (say, for a new job), they may be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price.
    3. When is the seller looking to close? Price isn’t the only factor for many home sellers. One way to strengthen your offer is to propose a settlement date that’s ideal for them. For example, a 30- to 45-day closing is standard in many markets, but the seller may want more time if they haven’t purchased their next home yet.
    4. Is the seller flexible on price? Most listing agents won’t tip their hand when you ask this question, but there’s always a chance the agent says “yes.” And, in some instances, the seller has authorized their agent to tell interested buyers that the price is negotiable. In any case, you might as well ask. (It’s kind of like googling for a coupon code when you buy something online.)
    5. How many days has the home been on the market? You can find this information on the internet, but the seller’s agent can give you context, especially if the house has been sitting on the market for a while. Maybe the home was under contract but the buyer’s financing fell through, or the seller overshot the listing price and had to make a price reduction? Knowing the backstory can only help you.
    6. Has the price changed? You can see if there’s been a price reduction online, but talking to the listing agent is the only way to find out why the seller dropped the price.
    7. Are there any issues? Have there been any renovations or recent repairs made to the home? Some upgrades, like new kitchen appliances, are easy to spot, but some are harder to identify. Specifically ask about the roof, appliances, and HVAC system because they can be expensive to repair or replace. BTW, repairs like a leaky faucet, aren’t {{ start_tip 92 }} things that need to be disclosed.{{ end_tip }}
    8. What are the average utility costs? Many buyers don’t factor utility bills into their monthly housing expenses, and these costs can add up — particularly in drafty older homes. Ask the listing agent what a typical monthly utility bill is during the summer and during the winter, since heating and cooling costs can fluctuate seasonally. Be prepared for higher utility bills if you’re moving from an apartment to a single-family home.

Now that you’ve got your answers, there’s one last thing to do: Thank the host before you go. You never know — you could be seeing them again at the negotiating table soon.

Outdoor Kitchens Continue to Be Major Draw

August 21, 2019

The appeal of outdoor living continues to be important to homeowners, and the outdoor kitchen is at the center of that. The latest American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey shows that outdoor kitchens are among the most wanted kitchen features in new architectural projects.

Nearly 50% of the architect respondents surveyed reported the popularity of outdoor kitchens is still growing. The popularity is seen in markets across the country, and not just in warmer climates like Florida, Texas, and California—outdoor kitchens are also taking hold in colder areas like the Northeast.

AIA outdoor living space survey. Visit source link at the end of this article for more information.

© American Institute of Architects

“Thanks to today’s design trends and technological advancements, the lines between indoor and outdoor kitchens are blurring—and in some cases disappearing completely,” Mitch Slater, founder and CEO of Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens and Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, told BUILDER. “While it’s now possible to maintain the same aesthetic for indoor and outdoor kitchens, it’s crucial to choose durable, low-maintenance materials that will withstand exposure to rain, snow, and the elements.”

Slater says that powder-coated stainless steel cabinetry remains a popular choice for outfitting outdoor kitchens.

Also, it’s not just barbecues and grills that are highlighting outdoor kitchen spaces any longer. Specialty appliances are also appearing in more outdoor kitchens, such as pizza ovens; smokers; drawer-style, undercounter refrigerators; kegerators; and wine refrigerators.

22 Kitchen Trends That Will Be Huge in 2019

Open shelving is going to change your life—trust us.

kitchen trends 2019

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MAX KIM-BEE
Standout Sinks

You don’t have to go nuts to achieve an on-trend kitchen. While an apron-front sink in a farmhouse kitchen isn’t exactly unexpected, a farmhouse sink in soapstone with brass hardware is a showstopper—especially when it’s set against white walls, wood cabinets, and stainless steel countertops.

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JIM WESTPHALEN
Tons of Texture

For those who fear color, focus on mixing up the finishes. Designer Cathy Chapman chose white beadboard on the ceiling and shiplap for the walls. She used unlacquered brass strap hinges and latches on the cabinets, black marble on the island countertop, and tons of warm woods on the floors, backsplash, and remaining countertops.

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MAX KIM-BEE
Swoon-Worthy Ceilings

When you want to maintain neutrality but still have some fun in the kitchen, shoot for the stars—or in this case, the ceiling. Here, the Madcap Cottage team chose to paint the ceiling a Southern porch-inspired blue (Blue Ground by Farrow & Ball) and added an elaborate antique lantern.

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JOHN ELLIS
Hints of Color

You don’t have to scrap an all-white kitchen to stay on trend. Dip your toe in the color pool instead, whether you store colorful pottery in glass-front cabinets, bring in colorful furniture, or paint a large piece like this kitchen island in Tropical Moss by Dunn-Edwards Paints.

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DAVID TSAY
Open Kitchen and Living Areas

Maximize living space by making the family room and kitchen one large room. A mix of lighting helps differentiate the areas, while a uniform wall color keeps everything cohesive.

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JOHN ELLIS
Pretty Pantries

Gone are the days of having a dark little pantry to house dry goods hidden away from prying eyes. Today’s kitchens boast roomy pantries with shelving aplenty for your cereals and collectibles. Proud of your organizational skills and want to show off? Finish the pantry space with a screened porch door painted in an eye-catching color, like this bright green hue.

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JOHN ELLIS
Range of Colors

Appliance makers like Lacanche, Big Chill, and Smeg offer up a host of practical pieces in a number of colors and finishes, which will definitely liven up your range.

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ANNIE SCHLECHTER
Copper Accents

If there’s one person who knows her way around a kitchen, it’s Martha Stewart. Her cooking area features copper pots and pans with an impressive collection of matching servingware.

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RYANN FORD
Reclaimed Wood

To us, vintage will always be in. The owners of this Texas farmhouse show their love of repurposed pieces with matching reclaimed pine throughout the home.

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ALEC HEMER
Butcher Block Countertops

In this Massachusetts beach house, a savvy couple replaced linoleum with warm wood for a durable upgrade. Butcher block is virtually maintenance-free—it just needs an occasional coating of mineral oil—and the natural material is the perfect neutral to break up the sterility of an all-white palette.

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LISA ROMEREIN/ RIZZOLI
Two-Tone Cabinets

Feel free to mix it up: Unified cabinetry is a thing of the past. Here, Diane Keaton features contrasting white and gray storage in her beautifully rustic kitchen.

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RIKKI SNYDER
Colorful Accents

With stainless steel on the way out, color is making a big comeback. Take a cue from this homeowner’s lively kitchen, which features a retro-inspired mint greenrefrigerator and dishwasher, plus a series of Smeg countertop appliances.

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BRIAN WOODCOCK
Concealed Range Hoods

If you feel inclined to give more attention to your appliances, backsplash, or accessories, then you’re going to be the first to embrace this new trend. Let your other kitchen elements steal the show with a sleek and minimalistic range hood like this onefashioned to blend in with the former chicken coop cabinets.

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PHOTOGRAPHER: SIMON WATSON, DESIGNER: JEANETTE WHITSON
Darker Floors

If you choose a light paint for walls or cabinetry, select a dark floor stain to up the cozy factor of the room. Mix one-half Ebony and one-half Jacobean from Minwax.

Bonus idea: The addition of furniture-like “feet” gives cabinetry a softer, more custom feel.

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PHOTOGRAPHER: NATHAN KIRMAN, DESIGNER: ANGIE HRANOWSKY
Think Beyond “Greige”

Gray undertones lend a timeless, totally livable vibe to most paint colors—not just beige—whether it’s a sophisticated blue-gray seen in this photo (Oyster Bay by Sherwin-Williams), a purple-gray (like Grayish by Sherwin-Williams), or green-gray (like Dry Sage by Benjamin Moore).

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PHOTOGRAPHER: JEAN ALLSOPP, DESIGNER: JOANNA GOODMAN FOR CHRISTOPHER ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS
Heavy Up the Metal

The open shelving trend isn’t going anywhere, and in a kitchen void of upper cabinetry, the hood is inevitably the centerpiece. Dress it accordingly! Copper sheeting, with coordinating straps and rivets, adds age-old warmth.

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PHOTOGRAPHER: THOMAS KUOH, DESIGNER: GRANT K. GIBSON
Design From the Ground Up

Rugs, however durable, aren’t practical for a heavy-use kitchen. Enter statement floor tile. It’s a more subtle way to add impact than, say, a bold eye-level backsplash.

Bonus idea: Tired of the same old subway tile? This on-trend square shape has a charming shingle-like effect.

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PHOTOGRAPHER: JEAN ALLSOPP, DESIGNER: DANIELLE YANCEY
Pecky Cypress Finishes

If you can’t get enough of the reclaimed-wood look, here are two words you’ll be hearing a lot: pecky cypress. Seen here on the hood and island, it’s a type of wood that has a grainy texture thanks to long, narrow burrows or cavities.

Bonus idea: From boxy appliances and islands to linear shelves, kitchens tend to have a lot of straight lines. Soften the room with orb lights.

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COURTESY OF DEVOL KITCHENS
Look Across the Pond

The (addictive!) Instagram feed of Britain’s deVOL kitchens offers an endless stream of age-old English inspiration, from decorative “spot cutouts” to painted wooden knobs. Take a cue from the kitchen experts and hide modern appliances such as microwaves in cabinetry that runs flush with the countertops.

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ANNIE SCHLECHTER
Open Shelving

Open shelves allow you to showcase your beautiful kitchenwares among other heirlooms and antiques, as well as statement wallpaper like in this kitchen design. The ability to see through your storage also means everything is easy to find.

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PHOTOGRAPHER: EMILY GILBERT, DESIGNER: JENNY WOLF INTERIORS
Embrace Black Appliances

Plain old stainless steel has its merits, but in a small kitchen, a giant swath of silvery metal can quickly dominate the room. Appliance manufacturers such as GE, Samsung, and Whirlpool have wised up to this dilemma, introducing refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves in sophisticated shades of black and slate. We’re particularly fond of the new LG “Black Stainless Steel” series, a collaboration with designer Nate Berkus.

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PHOTOGRAPHER: ERICA GEORGE, DESIGNER: BARBARA WESTBROCK
Now, Get Decorating!

The kitchen is the most utilitarian room in the house, which is why you obsess over the appliances, the backsplash, the sink…But it’s also the heart of the home. Subtle touches such as slipcovers, decorative hardware, and prized collections serve up a little softness.

Bonus idea: Save the top shelf for precious collectibles, and leave the lower ones to everyday items.

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