Category Archives: Uncategorized

Best Practices for Using Storage to Organize a Home

September 25, 2023

Design & ArchitectureDesign Trends

By: Barbara Ballinger


ShareFall is the time to get organized. Help clients figure out how to store and stash their belongings with these best practices.

Photo of a bright living room and dining room with built in bookshelves

3 Key Takeaways:

  • Storage options should reflect a homeowner’s needs
  • Make sure to include storage options in every room
  • Keep storage placement, pricing and ease of use in mind

New homes are shrinking in size and storage space, and older homes have their share of storage woes as well, which makes it difficult for homeowners to keep their homes tidy and organized.

Though many homeowners in recent years have latched onto the decluttering philosophies of Marie Kondo and Swedish Death Cleaning, some didn’t organize and store what was left, leaving them with piles. Moreover, most homeowners continue to buy, making it unlikely that their rooms will have space for everything.

Designer Jacob Laws of Jacob Laws Interior Design and his partner know the trials of limited storage space. They own an early 1800s home in Charleston, S.C., and intentionally limit their possessions to ensure it stays tidy. “But it’s easier for us,” he says. “This is what we do professionally.”

The good news is that everyone from home builders and architects to professional organizers and designers are swooping in to help.

Bedroom decorated in gray and sea foam green with large walk-in closet that includes modern built-in storage

Commercial interior designer Mary Cook of Mary Cook Associates, who advises homebuilders, is seeing bigger closets emerge. Jeff Benach, principal of Lexington Homes, has altered the angle of a staircase in one townhouse model to accommodate a second hall closet and also angled the garage to make its ceiling higher to fit more storage. Wingspan Development Group offers extra closets as options in some of its multifamily units, including walk-in styles and pantries off kitchens. Many pros such as salesperson Aleks Videnovic of Compass, a founder of and, make visualizing possibilities easier with renderings.

Fall is a good time to encourage clients to organize their storage, and a few best practices can help so the task doesn’t become overwhelming. Doing so also helps when they sell since well-planned storage shows buyers how their houses can work efficiently, says Allison Bond, a salesperson with Cummings and Co. Realtors, which is headquartered in Maryland.

Best Practices

Before organizing, homeowners should declutter, basing their decision on the traditional rule of if something hasn’t been used in three to five years or offers great sentimental value, it goes.   

Figure Out How and Where

Every homeowner should factor in how long they hope to stay since built-ins, including closet systems, can be more costly than many freestanding furnishings, which may be transported to a future home. “Live in your space for a few months before you commit to any storage investment,” Laws says.

The best questions for homeowners to ask themselves, says architect Bob Zuber, AIA, principal at Morgante Wilson Architects, are: What am I storing? How accessible does it need to be based on frequency of use? Does what’s being stored involve special considerations such as temperature control?

Trends come and go. Big entertainment centers and armoires are passé while “Costco Closets” in suburban homes for bulky items are now in, Cook says.

Any systems installed should be adjustable whether shelves in a bookcase or clothing rods in a closet since needs change.

Dining area with built in storage along the wall and modern, danish furniture

Keep It On Brand, But Not Personalized

Storage should reflect a home’s design style and price point, which means more expensive wood shelves rather than wire in mid-priced to luxury homes.

Think carefully about which materials to use. In general, metal costs more than wood, except for exotic species; stained wood is more expensive than painted; and melamine and similar materials are the least expensive yet still very durable, says designer Rebecca Pogonitz of GoGo Design Group. Wood offers the advantage of being able to be customized, says designer Suzan Wemlinger, principal of Suzan J Designs.

Homeowners should avoid over-personalizing storage unless what’s stored warrants extra expense. This rule may apply to a fine wine collection in a custom cellar. An alternative is a refrigerated wine cooler that can be taken to another home.

Keep the Space in Mind

Storage should never be placed so it blocks doors, windows, furnishings and traffic flow; its purpose is to support daily life rather than make it harder.

Future needs should be considered by not filling up every storage option. That happened during the pandemic when many homeowners hunted for space for a home office. Some found it by converting an extra closet into a functional cubicle.

Off-site public storage should be avoided when possible since it’s costly and often becomes an excuse for delaying decluttering, says Videnovic.

Every room should have some storage. “People will notice if there’s none,” says Amanda Wiss, a stager, organization expert and founder of Urban Clarity.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling.

Navigate the Sale of Smart Homes: A Guide for Real Estate Professionals

August 18, 2023

Sales Tips & TechniquesReal Estate TechnologySmart Homes

By: Brandon Doyle


ShareKnow what entices buyers and what needs to go when it comes to smart home features.

Close up hand of woman holding phone and use to control electronical multimedia mobile of real estate

When it’s time to sell a smart home, unique considerations come into play. This article will take you through essential steps to successfully selling a home outfitted with smart technology, using insights from a home that was recently listed for sale.

Decide What Stays and What Goes

The first step in preparing a smart home for sale is determining which devices stay with the home and which go with the seller. Some features are considered personal property, like hubs and voice assistants. Some automations and features may not work without the hubs or an active account that is connected to the internet. These are the items sellers would take with them.

Other features are considered a value-add and are big draws for buyers. Video doorbells, for example, are generally recommended to be left behind, providing an attractive feature for the next homeowner. Likewise, smart thermostats, switches and locks are big draws for buyers. These are usually better left behind, with sellers understanding that they can purchase a new one for their next home.

When you’ve determined what will stay and what will go, make a thorough inventory of all smart products in the home, with the aforementioned determination clearly noted by each product. Items that connect to the internet need to be reset for the new owner. Creating a complete listing of these items ensures a clean handoff.

Factory Reset and Privacy

Before listing, a seller will want to think about they want to leave behind and what they want to take with them. A smart lock, for example, is a device that sellers might leave behind. If they do, they must reset the master code and ensure the new owner can reconnect it to a new Wi-Fi network.

When dealing with devices that have a master code written on them, as some smart locks do, ensure this is covered or the device is secured. Always factory reset all smart devices so the next owner can maintain their privacy and set them up from scratch. Sellers may need to do this using the device’s app while it is still connected to the seller’s home network.


Smart homes often include infrastructure designed with the future in mind, such as wiring for a security system or Ethernet. When selling, ensure that prospective buyers are aware of these features, as they represent significant value. Even setups for potential future additions, like a NEMA 14-50 outlet for a potential electric vehicle charger, can be a selling point, especially for buyers considering an electric vehicle in the future.

Determine Value

Evaluate whether certain smart features add value to the home or are better off removed. For instance, smart locks, doorbells and thermostats generally enhance a home’s appeal, while buyers generally have varying opinions on security cameras or smart lighting.

In some instances, the cost of removing and replacing certain features, like smart switches, may outweigh the benefit of taking them to a new home. These switches can often still function as regular dimmers even without the smart capabilities, providing added value for the new owner whether they want to make use of the smart feature or not.

Selling a smart home is a process that calls for careful consideration of what adds value and what needs to be reset or removed. By following these steps, agents can help ensure a smooth and successful sale, benefiting both the seller and the new owner.

Brandon Doyle

Brandon Doyle

Brandon Doyle, ABR, e-PRO, is a second-generation real estate pro with RE/MAX Results in the Twin Cities.

NAR Economist: ‘Housing Recession Is Over’

July 27, 2023

Working With BuyersFirst-Time HomebuyersWorking With Sellers

By: Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Contract signings picked up the pace last month, and home buyers are increasingly facing multiple offer situations. NAR releases its housing forecast for the remainder of the year and 2024.

Hands grabbing for a house to illustrate supply and demand

Pending home sales rose slightly in June, and the latest indicators are showing a housing market on the mend. Median existing-home sales prices in June soared to their second highest on record in the last two decades, and more buyers are facing multiple offer situations once again, the latest reports from the National Association of REALTORS® shows. NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index—a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings—rose 0.3% in June, the first increase in four months.

“The recovery has not taken place, but the housing recession is over,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The presence of multiple offers implies that housing demand is not being satisfied due to a lack of supply. Homebuilders are ramping up production and hiring workers.” 

Housing inventories remain at historical lows, down 13.6% from even last year’s low levels. “There are simply not enough homes for sale,” Yun said in a recent report. Seventy-six percent of existing homes sold in June were on the market for less than a month, NAR’s data shows.

Home buyers are faced with limited choices, higher home prices and higher mortgage rates. But they may find some relief soon: Mortgage rate increases may be mostly over, and that would bode well for home-buying, Yun says. 

“With consumer price inflation calming close to the Federal Reserve’s desired conditions, mortgage rates look to have topped out,” Yun says. “Given the ongoing job additions, any meaningful decline in mortgage rates could lead to a rush of buyers later in the year and into the next.”

NAR forecasts that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage could reach 6.4% by the end of the year, followed by 6% in 2024. Over recent weeks, mortgage rates have been nearing 7%, far from their ultra-low 2% or 3% averages just over a year ago. 

Home Sales Outlook

NAR released its latest forecast showing what they believe will be the trajectory of the market over the coming months: 

  • Existing-home sales: NAR predicts existing-home sales to fall 12.9% in 2023 compared to 2022, and then climb by 15.5% in 2024.  
  • Prices: National median existing-home prices are expected to remain mostly steady, likely ending this year just 0.4% down compared to 2022, reaching $384,900 for 2023. Home prices are then expected to rebound by 2.6% in 2024 to $395,000, NAR predicts. The West—the nation’s priciest region—likely will see prices reduced more, while more affordable regions, like the Midwest, are forecasted to post moderate increases, NAR’s report says. 
  • New-home sales: Sales of newly constructed homes are forecasted to be a bright spot for home sales, as more buyers search for greater inventory options. New-home sales are expected to rise by 12.3% in 2023, and by another 13.9% in 2024, NAR predicts. The national median new-home price is expected to fall by 1.9% this year, to $449,100, before jumping by 4.2% the following year to $468,000.  
  • Housing construction: Economists have been calling on the new-home market to make up for the supply deficits in the real estate market. But NAR is forecasting that housing starts will fall 5.2% in 2023 compared to 2022 (reaching 1.47 million). Housing starts are expected to ramp up in 2024, however, rising 5.4% to 1.55 million. 

“It is critical to expand supply as much as possible to widen access to home buying for more Americans,” Yun says. “Home prices will be influenced by how much inventory is brought to market. Increased homebuilding will tame price growth, while limited construction will lead to home price appreciation outpacing income growth.”

Regional Breakdown on Contract Signings

Meanwhile, the latest housing market conditions show a market much slower than last year’s brisk pandemic-fueled pace. Overall, pending home sales were down in June by 15.6% compared to last year, NAR’s data shows. But market performance did vary regionally. Month over month, contract signings increased in the Northeast and Midwest, while falling in the South and West. Nevertheless, all four major regions of the U.S. posted year-over-year decreases in transactions in June. 

A map of the U.S. on a gradient color scale showing a snapshot of pending home sales for June 2023.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, editor of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog, and produces a segment called “Hot or Not?(link is external)” in home design that airs on NAR’s Real Estate Today radio show. Follow Melissa on Instagram and Twitter at @housingmuse.

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9 Hot Home Design Trends This Summer

June 28, 2023

Design & ArchitectureDesign Trends

By: Melissa Dittmann Tracey


ShareFind out what home styles—both interior and exterior—are seeing dramatic increases in online searches.

Homeowners are trying to maximize their space by taking on remodeling projects geared toward creating new living areas while overhauling their property’s style, according to the 2023 Houzz U.S. Emerging Summer Trends Report. Houzz, a home improvement site, analyzed the latest search insights from homeowners, designers and contractors to identify the following top trends. 

A Basement Refinish

Finished basement
Eric Lucero © Thomas Sattler Homes

Online searches for “finishing a basement” have increased significantly over the past year as more homeowners look to turn their large, open spaces into a family or recreation room. Basements are being refinished to create a spot for watching movies, playing games and exercising, according to the report. The search term “basement golf simulator” posted one of the biggest upticks among home improvement-related searches, the report shows.

Rooftop Lounging

rooftop deck
MVCC Inc. and Jacob Lilley Architects © Greg Premru

More homeowners are looking up to expand their spaces. Houzz found that “rooftop deck” and “rooftop patio” searches increased by 90% and 40%, respectively. The trend is mostly occurring in metro areas where outdoor space is a hot commodity, the report notes.

Bathroom Accessibility

age-in-place bathroom
© Genesis Homes NW

More homeowners are showing an interest in renovating their bathrooms to include accessible features that enable them to live in their homes longer as they age. Houzz found that searches for “age-in-place bathrooms” and “handicap-accessible bathrooms” more than doubled compared to a year ago. Popular add-on features include handheld shower heads, ADA-compliant bathroom vanities and curbless showers.

Industrial-Style Kitchens

industrial kitchen
© Emerick Architects

A greater number of homeowners are showing a desire to swap out their pristine, all-white kitchens for something a little more rugged. “Industrial kitchens” are generating greater interest, particularly for features like “kitchen track lighting,” “pull-down kitchen faucets,” “stainless steel countertops” and a “brick kitchen wall.” Houzz researchers also noticed a growing interest for “concrete countertops” and “copper kitchen backsplashes” that fit within this style.

The Entertainment Kitchen

entertaining kitchen
© Kitchen Kraft

More than half of renovating homeowners surveyed say they’re designing their kitchens for entertaining. Searches over the past year have grown for “open-concept kitchen to family room” and “island cooktop and ranges,” the survey says. These features allow hosts to prepare a meal as they engage their guests. Searches also have doubled for a “walk-in kitchen pantry,” with a space to not only tuck away kitchen goods but also hide toasters, coffee makers and other smaller appliances.

Carving Out Some Division

open space division
Sharon Risedorph © John Lum Architecture

Open-concept design is popular in the kitchen, but homeowners still desire some privacy. Houzz researchers saw an uptick in interest in design elements that create temporary separation like a “living room divider,” “Shoji screen” or “partition wall.”

Painted Ceilings

painted ceiling
BrightRoomSF © The Home Co

The fifth wall is becoming the new place for an accent wall. Paint and texture are dressing up more ceilings. The trends report shows searches have spiked over the past year for “high-gloss ceilings,” “painted ceilings” and “black ceilings.” “Tongue-and-groove ceilings”—which are wooden planks that fit side to side across a ceiling—are also up significantly, with searches growing by 73% over the past year, Houzz reports.

A Historical Revival

Alexis Adams © Saffron Case Homes

Classic architectural elements are being mixed in with contemporary ones. Notably, search trends are up for features commonly associated with Colonial and Spanish Colonial styles. For example, homeowners are searching for Colonial design elements like “front porches” and “formal living rooms” as well as “Spanish Colonial exteriors.” “Homeowners are hiring architects and designers to help them honor the roots of their homes, while updating them with a cohesive, intentional look,” the report says.

Enhancing Outdoor Style

tiny pool
© Texas Tiny Pools

Homeowners are making the most of their outdoor space and aren’t letting limited size shrink their plans. Searches for “small swimming pool,” “small plunge pool,” “small pool house” and “small screened-in porch ideas” grew over the past year, the report notes. Also, researchers report that searches for “small outdoor kitchens” have more than doubled over the past year.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, editor of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog, and produces a segment called “Hot or Not?(link is external)” in home design that airs on NAR’s Real Estate Today radio show. Follow Melissa on Instagram and Twitter at @housingmuse.

Use These Staging Tips When Working With Sellers



By: Monika Bhondy

The most important rule when it comes to furnishing a home is that there is a distinct difference between decorating a house to live in versus staging a home to sell. Sounds much the same, but one key factor makes these two décor styles very different: personal preferences work well for owners but not necessarily for potential buyers. Staging to sell, just like curb appeal, has always been important, but current data shows that getting it right is more important than ever.

When staging a home to attract potential buyers, we really don’t know their personal preferences, so custom styling isn’t an option. On your initial walkthrough of the property, determine the style of home—whether it’s a colonial, farmhouse, Cape Cod, contemporary, etc.,—and assess the neighborhood’s features (family-friendly, first-time home buyers, retired community) and go from there. These staging tips should get you started.

Neutral Palate

The safe bet is to keep all décor a neutral shade, with no vibrant colors that might be an eyesore to potential buyers.  You want well-fabricated furnishings that don’t feel cluttered so as not to make the home appear smaller potentially. Regarding furnishings, take a minimal approach and remember: quality over quantity makes the difference.


This brings me to the next tip; don’t over-accessorize the home! Allow the property to feel open and airy. Too many items can feel messy and, worst of all: unkempt. Your goal is to allow the potential buyer to be able to envision themselves in the home, with their own personal property in there so kitchen countertops, living areas, garages and especially outdoor spaces like backyards and patios. Keep things neat and tidy. If needed, see if the current owner can remove and store their belongings if there are too many.


Here size does count. The bigger, the better. Instead of filling your walls with floating shelves or a dozen small picture frames that can look busy, opt for 1-2 oversized paintings or exclusive prints that fill the space. Note: choose artwork that’s preferably not from HomeGoods where there’s a multiple of the same. If budget is a factor, check out Esty or local vintage stores for more unique, one-of-a-kind pieces to give the home an elevated touch.


Make sure all your lighting is the same color. There’s nothing more off-putting than walls and rooms looking different with different shades of light. Check bulbs and fixtures to make sure everything matches up and is in working order.


This is a big one if you want to elongate the room and create a touch of elegance. The rule is to go from ceiling to floor and not window height to make the ceiling height appear higher. Remember to keep the neutral palette in mind, but you want to make sure you’re not washing out the room with window treatments. It’s a fine balance, so don’t be afraid to try a couple of options before settling on something.


We’ve all heard the saying that “first impressions last.” Well in the case of scent, it’s absolutely TRUE! To help a home give off the right vibe, make sure you have a pleasing scent throughout the home. Some tried and tested favs: clean linen, floral, pine/fir.  It’s also a great way to neutralize any smells—cooking, pets, etc.—that might have been lingering. Burning a candle an hour before having company removes any odors and sets up showings and open houses for success.


Bedrooms are an important part of staging and not to be forgotten. Potential buyers almost always place emphasis on the bedrooms, especially the main one. In this space, the bed is the focal point, so that’s where you want to maximize your efforts. To create a luxe feel, opt for white linens with huge, full cushions and make sure the bed is wrinkle-free. If there’s a large wall above the bed, make sure to use some oversized artwork when possible, and if there’s a window above the bed, follow the drapery tips to bring the space together.


Bathrooms need to look clean and fresh. Again, using white gives that touch of elegance. Your instinct might be to hang towels on the towel racks, but for a well-kept, clean and tidy look, fold them instead and place them in a basket. Surfaces should be clean and dry, and make sure any touches like shower curtains and rugs make the space feel light and airy.

Remember that when staging a home, the goal is to create a space in which potential buyers can imagine themselves. Once staged, walk through the space as though you are a client, and visualize the home as though you’re seeing it for the first time. Use these staging tips and keep an open perspective, and you won’t go wrong!

Monika Bhondy was born Brit who moved to North America and now resides in the Chicagoland area. Monika comes equipped with vast life experiences with over 20 years of experience in the service industry under her belt. Her attention to detail, a keen eye for esthetics and uncanny ability to connect with others has seen her passion for styling evolve into a lucrative real estate business. A licensed REALTOR® since 2016, Monika accomplished $2 million in sales in her first four months in the industry, earning her Million Dollar Guild™ status, which she has held since 2017. She’s a Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist® and a member of the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing™. Want to know if your home is priced right? As a Pricing Strategy Advisor, she’ll get you there. One of the few real estate professionals who is also a Certified Staging Consultant (held by less than 1500 brokers in Illinois as of 2020), she proves her passion for exquisite styling and knowing what works is always on point.

2023 Westwood Home Tour

Sponsored by Westwood Historical Society

Sunday, April 30

1:00 to 6:00 pm

Starts at James N. Gamble Montessori High School

(former Mother of Mercy High School)

3036 Werk Road at Epworth Avenue

Use Epworth Avenue Entrance

$25 Day of Tour (available at Gamble High School beginning at 12:30 pm)

$20 Advance Sale** Ticket Vouchers (available through Saturday, April 28th)

Huntington Bank-Cheviot branch (4018 Harrison Avenue) during their normal business hours.  Cash or check

(9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Friday;  9:00 am – noon Saturday;  closed  Sunday)


$20 Advance Sale** Online Purchases (available through Friday, April 28th)


**NOTE:  Evidence of payment for all Advance Sales in the form of vouchers or payment confirmation must be presented at Gamble High School the day of the tour to exchange for ticket  

Parking information available at the school.  Epworth Avenue lot is for ticket pickup parking only.

Shuttle buses are NOT availlable.

Questions?  See FAQs   or   email   or   leave a message at 513-268-7066


Frond,  Hoeting Realtors,  Maple Knoll Communities,  Adam Sanregret – Keller Williams, 

Leah Slicer – Coldwell Banker,  Neidhard Minges Funeral Homes, Rylea Design + Build, WonderCade, Steve Gardner – Coldwell Banker


Baby Boomers Edge Out Millennials as Top Buying Force

March 28, 2023

Working With BuyersWorking With Sellers

By: Melissa Dittmann Tracey Older adults who have built equity over many years are in the best position to purchase homes in today’s roller coaster market, NAR data shows.

Real Estate Agent shaking hands with older couple outside house for sale
© Ariel Skelley – DigitalVision/Getty Images

Baby boomers are proving to be the big movers in real estate, comprising the highest share of buyers and sellers nationwide, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report. Older adults may have been more insulated than other generations from the roller coaster housing market over the last year, tapping into record equity to sell their homes at premiums. Baby boomers also have been motivated to downsize and move closer to family.

Baby boomers—people ages 58 to 76—accounted for 53% of sellers and 39% of buyers between July 2021 and June 2022, the most of any generation, NAR’s report shows. “Baby boomers have the upper hand in the homebuying market,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s deputy chief economist and vice president of research. “The majority of them are repeat buyers who have housing equity to propel them into their dream home, be it a place to enjoy retirement or a home near friends and family. They are living healthier and longer lives and making housing trades later in life.”

Millennials, once the leading drivers of the housing market, are now playing second fiddle, comprising about 28% of buyers, according to NAR data. Millennials were the largest homebuying force from 2014 to 2022.

First-time home buyers, who don’t have the advantage of leveraging a previous sale for a down payment on a new home, have faced headwinds in the latest housing cycle, like higher mortgage rates. Seventy percent of younger millennials, ages 24 to 32, and 46% of older millennials, ages 33 to 42, were first-time home buyers. These age groups were more likely to fall within this segment of buyers than others, according to the report.

NAR 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends

Baby boomers, who are most likely to use equity from a past home to make a new purchase, may be in a better position to move. They’ve tended to be in their current home the longest, which lends itself to being in a better equity position. They’re highly motivated, too. Baby boomers increasingly say they are purchasing a home to live closer to friends and family due to retirement or a desire for a smaller home. Eighteen percent of home buyers ages 68 to 76 say they purchased a multigenerational home, according to the study.

They also tend to be drawn to newer homes. The typical home purchased by a baby boomer was built in 1996, which is a newer property than those purchased by other generations. The national average age of a recently purchased home was 1986, according to NAR. Boomers tend to be drawn to newer housing inventories because they want to avoid renovations or potential problems with household systems, like plumbing or electricity. Baby boomers also are more likely than other generations to say they’re purchasing their “forever home.”

Relying on Real Estate Agents for Help

All generations favored working with real estate agents to help buy or sell. Eighty-six percent of home sellers worked with a real estate agent to sell their home, a consistent percentage across all age groups. Referrals from a friend, neighbor and relative were the most common method for finding an agent, according to the survey.

All generations also pointed to numerous skill sets they look for in an agent. Buyers indicate they want an agent who can educate them about the homebuying process, point out unnoticed features or faults with a property, provide a list of service providers, and negotiate better terms in a sales contract. Sellers say they favor agents who have a strong reputation, are honest and trustworthy, are a friend or family member, and understand the seller’s neighborhood.

NAR 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends
NAR 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, editor of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog, and produces a segment called “Hot or Not?(link is external)” in home design that airs on NAR’s Real Estate Today radio show. Follow Melissa on Instagram and Twitter at @housingmuse.

What Homeowners Can Do With All Their Stuff

January 23, 2023

Working With SellersSales Tips & TechniquesDesign & Architecture

By: Barbara BallingerWhether selling or staying put, most homeowners could benefit from a little decluttering.

Garage full of trash, old things and clutter

Key Takeaways:

Decluttering makes moving easier for everyone—and less costly, too. It is also helpful for those who want to live more simply in their current residence. In fact, homeowners who have less clutter and are more intentional about what they bring into their space find that a positive for both their mental and financial health.

Many saw the wisdom of doing so during the pandemic when they were stuck at home, looked around, and wondered: Why do I have all this stuff that I never use?

Now, in the dead of winter when many again are indoors for long stretches, can be a good time to encourage clients to begin. Advise them to think of it as an adventure they pursue gradually rather than feel pressure to tackle all at once.

Truly effective—and lasting—decluttering represents a multistep process that varies according to each person’s situation. Those who have inherited a roomful of brown furniture from the 1950s and ‘60s and stacks of books, photo albums, crystal, and more may feel overwhelmed if they don’t want or can’t fit these furnishings into their home or apartment or find consignment shops interested in selling pieces, often because they have so much that’s similar from others hoping to unload possessions.

The following toolbox is offered up as a resource so that anyone can get started on their decluttering journey.

Share What Experts Advise

Marie Kondo became a world-touted expert on the benefits of decluttering with her first book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. It extolled the virtues of owning fewer belongings to have more space to display belongings that spark joy. Kondo went on to write more books, including one for children(link is external), and developed two Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo.” She also opened an online store, KonMari, and started a certified-consultant training business(link is external).

If the Marie Kondo method doesn’t quite spark joy, there are alternatives, such as the “Swedish Death Cleaning,” which involves getting rid of anything not needed, in order to relieve others of the task of discarding a loved one’s possessions after they’ve died. Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives More Pleasant, says the practice offers an underlying message of caring for our heirs.

For those who want more than decluttering and are interested in a minimalist lifestyle, resources(link is external) abound as well.

Cheer On the Downsizers

Decluttering, even if moving isn’t on the immediate radar, is a great idea for many reasons. First, you never know when a move might be necessary. An intentional approach to decluttering well before moving ever becomes a question takes a lot of stress out of the moving process when it finally happens. Doing so can save time packing, slash moving costs and help reduce the amount of new living space someone might require. Even before it’s time to move, there’s the listing process to think about. Decluttered settings help present a better visual, which helps maximize sales, says Christopher Matos-Rogers, AHWD, GREEN, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Realty in Atlanta. 

While many find it tempting to put off the difficult decisions about what to keep and what to toss until after they move, gently explain the wisdom of being realistic about what can fit in their new home, says Barry Izsak, an Austin, Texas-based moving and relocation expert and founder of PackingMovingUnpacking, an online service(link is external) that helps those moving find movers in their area. “This is especially important for those moving long distances.,” he says. “Remind these clients about their new climate. They might be able to ditch most of their winter clothing and that snow blower, too,” he says.

Know When to Suggest Professional Help

Homeowners who can’t handle the task on their own should consider hiring a certified member of the National Association of Professional Organizers or the National Association of Specialty and Senior Move Managers, ideally a professional with years of experience, says Izsak. As a former president of NAPO, Izsak says the national hourly rate professionals typically charged ranges between $50 and $100, depending in part on their locale.

Rhea Becker—who, as the Clutter Queen(link is external), offers organizing services for homes and offices in Boston—says many of her clients appreciate how professionals speed up the process by keeping them focused on maximizing profits and avoiding digressions over each object’s history. “With a professional, you have the best chance to cut the time and get some money on the table since they know what will sell,” she says.

Group Items Into Categories

Whether your clients decide to bring in a professional or go it alone, it helps to have them categorize each item in a given part of their home into one of five groupings: keep, store, sell, donate or toss. Izsak says the litmus test he uses and shares with clients is to save an object only if it fits one of these three criteria: It’s useful, beautiful or loved. Becker suggests homeowners snap photos of favorite items that are difficult to part with to give them a visual memory they can retain rather than keeping the item itself. Here’s specific help you can offer them for each pile:


Midcentury modern furniture and contemporary art both appeal widely to buyers of all ages, especially if they’re of good quality and in decent condition. Create a list of estate sales specialists and consignment shops in your area that are known for fair dealing. However, be aware that many services that do the work of selling take a big cut, often half the sales price. If your clients are inclined to try to sell items themselves, suggest they try eBay for the best prices. However, if they’re not willing to go through the trouble of shipping sold items, encourage them to post goods on local online sites, such as neighborhood Facebook groups or Craigslist.


Remember the adage, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.” Suggest to older clients that they first ask their children to claim beloved items from their childhood. Becker says it’s important to set a time limit for those who are interested to pick up what they want. Donations is another area where you can be a hero by compiling a list of trustworthy sources in your neighborhood for your clients. Take note of what charities will accept and when, and even which ones will pick up donations, saving your clients time and hassle. Some charities have gotten choosier about what they accept. For instance, many won’t take mattresses, box springs, pillow cases, or sheets. Real estate salesperson Christopher Flores with Keller Williams Larchmont in Los Angeles suggests a local halfway house that helps troubled young adults stabilize their lives as a great destination for used goods. “That way, they provide furniture and clothing they don’t need to those who may have nothing,” he says. Remind sellers that they may be able to secure a tax donation from the IRS if they contribute to a qualified tax-exempt organization(link is external). Because of recent changes in the tax code, it’s best for clients to keep detailed notes of what they donate and to consult their tax adviser for the exact percentages they will be able to write off.


Clients may save themselves some work by calling a local trash-hauling company or 1-800-GOT-JUNK(link is external), a REALTOR Benefits® partner, which operates nationwide. Have information on pricing and what haulers won’t take on hand. Homeowners can also consult HomeAdvisor’s list of trash-hauling service providers by ZIP code. Also, it’s important to be aware of laws governing trash. Some municipalities allow homeowners to leave stuff by the curb with a sign that reads, “please take me,” while others levy fines for such activity. A more organized version of this idea comes in the form of local Freecycle(link is external) chapters, part of a grassroots nonprofit where local people post stuff for free pickup in their own towns to help keep usable goods out of landfills.

Store Off-Site

It may be tempting to store certain household items off-site, and one in three Americans do, according to StorageCafe(link is external). There are numerous reasons why. Aside from apartments getting smaller, people are unwilling to part with stuff permanently. The pandemic required a bit of a shuffle as well, requiring work-from-home space that didn’t exist previously. Some families moved in with one another and needed a place for the extra stuff.

Picking self-storage requires homework. Advise clients to consider units that are locked, insured and climate-controlled and that offer access whenever they want. Prices can vary widely. Also remind clients that self-storage isn’t a great long-term solution, as months can extend into years and beyond. “Often storage is a matter of postponing the inevitable. It’s better to get rid of whatever you don’t need,” Izsak says. “If you know you’re storing something for a granddaughter who will use it in a year, that makes sense. Otherwise, get rid of it now!”

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling.

Hot Home Trend: ‘Wetroom Bathrooms’

Learn more about this open-concept trend.

February 6, 2023

Design TrendsKitchen & Bath

By: Melissa Dittmann Tracey

You’ve heard of the open-concept kitchen. How about the open-concept bathroom? It may sound slightly scandalous, but the idea centers on creating a private, waterproof space. It includes all the elements of a luxe bathroom, according to Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery’s 2023 Trends & Influences IX(link is external) report.

The report called out “wetroom bathrooms” as a hot trend for 2023. The trend has been popular in Europe for years, but is now taking hold in the U.S.

Some characteristics of these bathrooms include an open-concept layout; a frameless, zero-entry shower; floor-to-wall shower tile; freestanding tub; floating vanity; and an ADA-accessible design, such as with the hardware and lighting, according to the report.

See some examples below of the wetroom bathroom from Ferguson’s report.

Wetroom Bathroom
Photo credit: Signature Hardware and James Martin Vanities at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery / Linear Vanity and Lentz Faucet
Wetroom Bathroom
Photo credit: Kohler at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery / Kohler Statement Wand Handshower
Wetroom Bathroom
Photo credit: Kohler at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery / Kohler Veil WH Toilet
Wetroom Bathroom
Photo credit: Kallista at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery / Laura Kirar Freestanding Tub

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, editor of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog, and produces a segment called “Hot or Not?(link is external)” in home design that airs on NAR’s Real Estate Today radio show. Follow Melissa on Instagram and Twitter at @housingmuse.

5 Reasons This Isn’t a Repeat of the 2008 Housing Crash

December 15, 2022

Challenging Markets

By: Melissa Dittmann TraceyNAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun draws the distinctions between today’s real estate market and that of more than a decade ago.

Businessman pulling Jenga puzzle pieces from underneath house model
© BrianAJackson – iStock/Getty Images Plus

Many homeowners are still haunted by the 2008 housing crash when property values collapsed and foreclosures spiked. The memory of sudden catastrophe at a time when the real estate market had been riding high may help explain why 41% of Americans say they now fear a housing crash in the next year, according to a new survey from LendingTree.

Are their fears well-founded?

“It’s a valid question,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, said Tuesday at NAR’s Real Estate Forecast Summit. “People are remembering the crushing and painful foreclosure crisis. So, it has become a key question: Will home prices crash after the strong run-up in prices across the country over recent years?”

At the virtual conference, where leading housing economists offered their 2023 forecast for the real estate market, Yun offered assurance that current dynamics are nothing like during the Great Recession. He pointed to several key indicators of how this market differs.

  • The labor market remains strong. In the last major housing downturn, there were 8 million job losses in a single year. Now there are virtually none. Though layoffs in the technology and mortgage industries are occurring, they haven’t accumulated enough to form a net job loss, Yun noted. A strong job market bodes well for housing’s future.
  • Less risky loans. Yun also noted the subprime loans that were prevalent during the 2008 housing bust are basically nonexistent today.
  • Underbuilding and inventory shortages. New-home construction prior to the 2008 crash was amounting to 7.65 million units annually. Today, it’s 4.6 million. Yun points to “a massive housing shortage” from a decade of underproduction in the housing market.
  • Delinquency lows. About 10% of all mortgage borrowers were delinquent on their loans in the previous housing bust. The mortgage delinquency rate is now at 3.6%, holding at historical lows, Yun said.
  • Ultra-low foreclosure rates. Homes in foreclosure reached a rate of 4.6% during the last housing crash as homeowners who saw their property values plunge walked away from their loans. Today, the percentage of homes in foreclosure is 0.6%—also at historical lows, Yun said. He predicted foreclosures to remain at historical lows in 2023.
NAR 2023 home price chart

Overall, the fundamentals don’t point to a housing market that is operating similarly to the 2008 cycle, Yun said. While home sales are slowing, prices remain up nearly 6% as of October sales numbers compared to a year ago. Also, inventory remains low, which will keep home prices elevated, Yun said. “The chance of a price crash is very small due to the lack of supply.”

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, editor of the Styled, Staged & Sold blog, and produces a segment called “Hot or Not?(link is external)” in home design that airs on NAR’s Real Estate Today radio show. Follow Melissa on Instagram and Twitter at @housingmuse.