Top Home Trends
Americans are spending more time at home and are spending their time and money to make their homes comfortable, efficient and beautiful. Just look at how many do-it-yourself and home makeover shows are on television and cable television as well as the growing popularity of home-improvement stores such as Lowe’s, Expo and The Great Indoors, just to name a few. Some new trends we are observing involve green construction and special-use rooms.
Owners today are designing their interiors with more detail than before. They are paying special attention to finishes using a variety of materials, colors and textures. They are mixing stone, glass, wood, copper, concrete, tile and man-made materials. More attention is being paid to details on windows, doors, and moldings. Homeowners are paying extra attention and dollars to large elaborate front doors and entranceways, the first impression of the home. Large double iron doors with glass inserts are very popular. Owners are paying attention to the interior doors as well -- they are much taller to match the scale of the still popular high ceilings. Lighting is being used for ambiance and safety, and attention to energy saving is popular. High-tech smart homes with electronics to operate lighting, temperature control, and security systems are also popular.
Consumers are using products that are designed to keep our homes healthier. Green products are designed to be healthier and conserve our limited resources. The use of green products is expected to exceed $12 billion this year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Products include recycled countertops, renewable bamboo surfaces, and furniture made from recycled auto seat belts. Rain water collection tanks and filters for gray water are also being used to conserve water.
The kitchen has always been the center or heart of the home. The kitchen trends includes beauty as well as function. It is the best investment in terms of adding value to your home! Function today is a lot more high-tech than ever before. Chef-quality appliances have found their way into the home. Many kitchens have zones: an area for preparation, a different area for baking, a zone for serving and an area for cleaning. Many kitchens include areas for the kids where there are lower counters with space to do homework and cabinets at kids’ levels for snacks and lunch making. There are kitchens for those who like to entertain -- many include beverage zones that have icemakers, wine chillers, and coffee/espresso bars.
Designers suggest a kitchen design should be updated but not too trendy so that it stands the test of time. Who can forget the harvest gold and avocado colors that were the trend in the ‘70s? Stainless steel appliances and natural and man-made stone countertops are good choices that won’t look dated.
Islands have become a big trend! Some are used for food preparation and others are for entertaining guests. Consider having two levels on an island -- this helps hide clutter when cooking/cleaning and keeps guests out of the cook’s way while allowing them to watch.
Cabinets are what define your kitchen’s personality. Darker wood finishes have passed maple in popularity. Furniture-style cabinets are a big trend and new glazing techniques are being used to finish cabinets, especially in the Old World and Tuscan-style kitchens. Glass upper cabinets are very popular. Be careful to install lights and glass shelves so that your items can be seen. Be sure you have beautiful things to display in them and that you have enough closed cabinet space for unsightly items. Frosted and obscure glass is an option. A focal point of many kitchens is the hearth over the cook center. Metallic tile is a popular option for back-splashes, and hoods are now a big design element. Beyond venting, they include warming lights and filters that can go into the dishwasher for cleaning. Hidden features like spice towers, pop-up appliance shelves and dish caddies that allow you to easily carry dishes to the table or the dishwasher are an appreciated convenience. Today’s kitchens have more than one sink -- one for food prep and another for cleanup. Many have inserts that are colanders, cutting boards, and drying racks.
Technology is part of the modern kitchen. Convection ovens convert traditional oven recipes and are quicker and more energy efficient. Some have probes that when inserted into meat tells the oven to stop cooking when the meat is the precise desired temperature. A new oven acts as a refrigerator, and at the programmed time turns into an oven so that your dinner is done before you arrive home. New dishwashers are available that release soap without having to fill the soap after each use. Dishwashers, microwave ovens and refrigerators now are offered with drawers which can be customized to meet a family’s needs. Sinks can be equipped with filters for drinking water and a light to let you know when it is time to change the filter.
Heating and cooling are at the top of most consumers’ priority lists. There are new heat pumps that control temperature, humidity, ventilation, air quality and fan speed. These can be controlled from one key pad and each room can be customized to fit the use of the room and the times the room is used. This unit also tells you when it is time to replace the humidifier pads and the air filters.
Hardwood floors are bigger and better than ever. The new floors are easy to install and maintain. Many are pre-sanded and pre-finished at the factory and are tongue and groove that is easy to snap into place. Exotic woods are often being seen including Brazilian Cherry, and Cork and Bamboo are also frequently used.
Garages are not just a place to store the car any longer; they are incorporated into the overall design of the home. It makes sense since they make up 30% of the exterior of the home. Wood garage doors are popular and many have the look of an old carriage house. These doors look like they swing open but operate like a standard garage door and have higher-end hardware reminiscent of the carriage house.
Outdoor kitchens are still very popular and resemble the kitchen inside more than ever. They include ovens, stoves, sinks and refrigerators in addition to the grill.
A new trend is the spa or Zen master bathroom. Families are bringing the spa home by outfitting their bathrooms with luxuries including jetted showers, foot baths, steam rooms, and jetted tubs to relax in. They are decorating using the Asian influence with materials that mimic nature like bamboo, frosted glass, and wood.
Flexible floor plans are more popular that ever! Lifestyles are changing and the home design needs to accommodate this. Home theatres, game rooms, libraries, meditation rooms, home management centers, and hobby rooms are very popular. Guest quarters remain very popular and outdoor living is still big. In addition to outdoor kitchens, many homeowners are building outdoor entertaining areas that incorporate outdoor theatres and fireplaces.
It is no wonder Americans are spending more time at home. Going home to a gourmet kitchen and spa-like retreat bathroom, add the conveniences of today’s technology, and home-sweet-home resembles a visit to a resort!
Does Your Dream Home Exist?
Consider Creating It
Discerning buyers in search of their dreams are oftentimes frustrated with the homes offered for resale since it is practically impossible to find an existing home with the features they desire. The only way to live in the home of your dreams may be to build it yourself. Building a home is a remarkable project and most likely the most expensive project you will ever invest in. Extensive research and diligent homework done before undertaking a project of this magnitude will save time, frustration and money.
To begin this process, a lot must be located that will fit your needs. Look for one that will accommodate the size home you desire and have your builder check out its suitability. If your dream includes having horses, an irrigated flat lot may be the best choice. If views are important, a mountainside desert lot would fit. Gated communities in the area are now offering lots for sale. Lots in the South Mountain and Laveen Villages vary tremendously – a one-acre lot ranges in price from $200,000 to $500,000 and up. Factors affecting the value are location, views, and improvements or the lack of improvements on the property. If the lot is on the preserve or has fantastic views, it will be more expensive. A lot that is improved, for example, with water, sewer, and electricity will cost more than one that doesn’t. Required improvements must be added to the lot price to compare lot prices justly.
Many buyers have a dream home design in mind before they find a lot. The lot should be the largest consideration when designing the home and how it will be situated on the lot. Is the home designed to capitalize on the good views or downplay unattractive views? Is it situated to best avoid the summer sun beating in on rooms frequently used in the heat of the day? Is the design in keeping with the natural surroundings of the area or will it look out of place? The lot should determine the design and style of the house and time should be spent discovering the lot at different times of the day to realize its full potential. If a buyer has their heart set on a particular home style and floor plan, they can make adjustments to the home to take advantage of all that the lot has to offer.
The design phase is the most important in determining the scope of the project along with all of the details necessary to make it happen successfully. Take the time not to rush through this process. The cost of the home is approximately 70% of your budget. Permitting cost and impact fees can run 5-10% and professionals including architects, surveyors and engineers can account for from 15-20% of the budget. Take the time to investigate government building regulations and any homeowners association restrictions that could limit your possibilities. Your home will also have an impact on your neighbors; it is a good idea to talk with them and keep the impact on their home as little as possible! Having great neighbors is a big part of living in your dream home!
Recommendations are key in choosing a good builder! Many horrible building experiences could have been avoided by getting the name of a good builder from trusted friends and professionals. Interview builders by phone and once you have narrowed it down to two or three, look at homes they have built that are similar to what you are building. Talk to the homeowners about their experience working with the builder.
Get a fixed written bid and don’t choose based on price alone. Use the builder you feel you can trust and communicate with honestly. This is a long-term project and you want to have a good relationship with your builder.
Although most families building their dream home think they will live there forever, statistics will prove them wrong. It is a good idea to consult a Realtor to find out what buyers are looking for in a home in the area and keep these things in mind while designing your home. Things change and it is always good to have a home that will appeal to buyers.
The cost to build in our area ranges from approximately $175 to $250 and up per square foot. Experts advise to set aside 20% in addition to your budget for the unexpected. The time involved in building a home can be up to a year for design and another year for construction; keep in mind your family’s schedules and discuss realistic timelines with your architect and builder.
There are many financing options available to choose from depending on your needs. Lot loans are suitable if you are buying a lot to build on in the future. They require a larger down payment than on a home loan and will amortize over 30 years with a balloon payment in 3-5 years. Loans are available that take you from construction to a permanent loan upon completion of the home. This type of loan has one closing, one set of closing costs, and one set of paperwork. Bridge loans can use the equity in your current home as a down payment.
If this is the year to embark on building your dream home, take extra time and care in choosing the right lot and the best professionals to assist you in achieving your goals. Extra time that is spent planning will pay off greatly in enjoying your new lifestyle in your dream home!
Sure-Fire Secrets for Pricing Your Home to Sell
We all have heard today’s real estate market is a buyer’s market. What that means is the market is dependent upon the number of sellers and buyers in the marketplace -- good old supply and demand. When there are more buyers than sellers, it is considered a seller’smarket and prices rise. In a market with an equal number of buyers and sellers, you have a market in balance and prices level out and are stable. The current market has more sellers than buyers and is a buyer’smarket where prices are decreasing. The number of listings on the market in the valley is approaching 60,000; in a normal market that number would be closer to 20,000. These numbers do not account for a lot of the new home builders who have a large inventory of homes that would not show on the multiple listing services (MLS).
There are strategies that work to get homes sold in a buyer’s market. Serious sellers must recognize the market changes in order to get their homes sold given the current market conditions, not the conditions of a couple of years ago! Sellers need to evaluate whether they should stay or go. If they are not motivated, this is not a market to try to sell in!
There is a market value for a home; sellers need to decide if they want to price at the market and get it sold or not. The market is a moving target. The market value of a home is moving similar to the stock market. When pricing, home sellers should keep in mind that the initial price they set may not be the market price a week or a month later. The good news is the market will tell us whether it is priced correctly by the number of showings and the number of offers we are receiving. If a home does not get ten viewings in the first two weeks, that is telling us it is overpriced (assuming the home is in excellent condition). Immediate action is needed to drop the price until we see a spike in activity resulting in an offer. The first few weeks of marketing a home is the time the most buyers are in the market awaiting new listings to find that perfect fit. This is not a time to waste being priced over the market.
In this market the home must be in the top 10% in terms of condition and in the lower 10% , at least, in terms of price to get it sold. Assuming the condition is great, let’s get to price. Your real estate agent will determine price by using a CMA, Comparative Market Analysis. This gives us a snapshot of the market today and in the past. It looks at the active homes on the market, the pending homes, which have accepted offers but have not sold, sold homes and homes that were rejected by the market and have expired.
In today’s moving market we pay close attention to the pending sales. This is the pulse of the market; it lets us know that at the listed price a buyer in the market was willing to view the property and write an offer that was accepted by the seller. We do not know what the ultimate sales price is until it closes; however, we can guess it is lower than the asking price! Next we look at the active homes from a buyer’s perspective. We then position the home in terms of price and condition to stand out from all of the others as the best deal in terms of pricing and condition, and put a feeling in the pit of the buyer’s stomach that if they do not buy this house someone else is going to! The solds traditionally are used to price a home but in this market the actives and pendings give us a more current picture of the moving market now, not in the past! In order to sell a home it has to be seen by the buyers. Agents begin searching for buyers by price, and more than ever buyers are searching by price via the internet.
Pricing too high by even $1,000 may make you invisible to the agents and buyers searching for a home. Searches are almost always done using whole numbers; price should be set in whole numbers and in $5,000 increments. For example, pricing your home at $199,000 may be invisible to those searching for homes from $200,000 to 225,000. At $199,000 you will be seen by those looking up to $200,000 and those starting at $200,000 won’t even know your home is for sale.
Some common seller concerns I frequently hear are as follows:
- I have an appraisal for more than the price you recommend. Appraisals are done for different reasons -- commonly refinancing. This appraisal is different that an appraisal to purchase and tends to come in higher if you have a good payment history and are not seen as high a risk as a buyer obtaining a new loan. The only appraisal that matters is the one the buyer’s lender requires at the time of sale.
- We paid more than that for the home. Something motivated the seller to move, and sometimes that motivation exceeds the loss they may have to incur to get the house sold and move on. Oftentimes sellers say they are losing money, when in reality they have taken the equity out in the form of a line of credit and have already enjoyed the equity in their home and really are not giving it away.
- They can always make a lower offer. This is true; however, if they don’t know it is on the market they will not see it to make an offer. It is important to price the home without negotiation room in order to get it maximum exposure to the market. The lower the price, the more buyers will see it. Overpricing the home is also dangerous because buyers will compare your home to more expensive homes and your home may help sell the others.
- Let’s try a high price; we can always come down. The most activity occurs when you first put the home on the market because of the pent-up demand of buyers anxiously awaiting new additions to the market. If the price is too high, you will not be seen by the most possible buyers for your property. As time passes, the number of buyers decreased and the days on the market increased which makes some buyers wonder why it has not sold and if, since you are already dropping your price, you may not be at your bottom yet! This strategy typically gets sellers a price lower than the original market price.
- We need the money to move to our next house. Sellers often add what they paid, then add the cost of the improvements they put into the house, add cost of selling and what they need to put down on their next house to determine a price. This does not matter to buyers; would you pay over market for a home because the sellers needed the money? Another question is, would you do the same improvements again if you knew you were moving or would you take back the money you spent on the improvements if you could take the improvements back?
Great news for selling in a buyer’s market! When buying up in a buyer’s market, buying a home more expensive than the one you are selling, now is a great time to sell! Many homeowners tell me they want to move to a larger or more expensive home but are not taking action because they fear they will lose too much on the sale of their current home. The National Association of Realtors reports the average move-up buyer spends approximately 50% more than their current home on the next home. If your current home is worth $300,000 the move-up home is likely to be $450,000. If the market value is down 20% you would receive $240,000 on the existing home -- a loss of $60,000. The move-up home in the same market is now worth $360,000, saving $90,000. This actually amounts to a savings of $30,000. If a move-up buyer waits until it is a seller’s market, they will receive top dollar for their home; however, they will pay top dollar for the move-up home as well. In addition to the savings on the move-up home, sellers and builders are offering many incentives including pools, discount points, free upgrades, etc., to sweeten the pot!
Choose your price carefully and react to the market quickly! For motivated sellers, pricing is the most important factor to get your home sold and move on with your life. If you have been hesitant to buy that move-up home, now is the time to take action.
Southwestern Style Architecture
Do you know how to distinguish a Santa Fe style home from a Territorial, Adobe or Pueblo style home? I have found that we use these terms interchangeably and often incorrectly. I was not clear on the exact meaning myself and decided to do a little research. Southwestern architecture is a blend of three cultures – Native American, Hispanic and Anglo. These designs reflect great consideration to the environment and blend beautifully into the Southwestern landscape.
Hundreds of years ago, the Native Americans built homes by hand with flat roofs and thick walls. They were made of stone, straw and mud. Sometimes they combined skinned trees and branches. They were strong and could protect them from their enemies and the environmental elements. This style home is The Pueblo. These homes were designed to let in the heat of the sun in the winter while keeping out the intense summer heat. In the 16th century, the Southwest region became part of the Spanish Colony and the cultures combined the Pueblo technique of using mud with the European technique of using bricks and mortar to create mud bricks and began Adobe construction. The Spanish also introduced tools to assist in carving wood for doors and posts.
Today Adobe homes are often frame constructed since the labor involved in the building of a traditional Adobe is costly. The city of Santa Fe, New Mexico created a mandate in 1957 that strictly limited the architectural styles and the results of this zoning ordinance is referred to as Santa Fe Style. Pueblo and Adobe homes are frequently referred to as Santa Fe style because of their predominance there. Pueblo style homes feature soft lines and rounded corners; they historically have low doorways and small windows. Today Pueblo homes are updated with high ceilings and large, open floor plans. The old and new Pueblo homes share features such as vigas -- round logs used for ceiling beams; latillas -- small branches used as ceiling planking made of aspen, pine or cedar; niches – small shelves carved into a wall; canales – a roof spout to allow water off the roof; and bancos which are built-in benches made of adobe.
In the 1800’s, the railroad brought new building materials to the Southwest and saw mills were built changing the local building practices. The availability of materials, tools, and technology added to the adobe construction and evolved into the Territorial style. The simple, soft lines of the adobe pueblo homes were being embellished with Victorian details, had sharp corners, and were often multi-story and finished with wood or brick peeking out on top and highly finished details. Wood and molding are often seen as trim around doors and windows. Hacienda style shares many of the Pueblo features and typically has a large courtyard surrounded by the main house and a guest house, pool house, and a garage.
Today builders use a mix of the traditional elements of Pueblo style homes while adding more contemporary elements to create what we know of as today’s Southwestern style homes. This style is beautiful and in harmony with the southwestern environment. It is refreshingly different from the architecture found in most parts of the world.