We’re in the thick of autumn now, with Thanksgiving just days away. That means it’s time to start considering how to best showcase your home before the calendar shifts fully into winter. One of the cheeriest bits of fall is the shifting colors that bring a canopy of rustic rainbow hues to a walk through the neighborhood. You can bring that cozy feeling inside yourself with some golden-dipped creativity.
Gilded Pears – Use real or fake pears, whichever you prefer, spray paint gold, and allow them to dry completely. You can add little flags to the top if you’re really feeling crafty.
Magnolia Wreath – Collect some Magnolia branches and use a wreath frame as a base. Spray paint the green side of each leaf with gold and then assemble using wire. Supposedly it’s not as complicated as it looks!
Dipped Pinecones – First, you’ll want to make sure your cones are clean and dry. Apply gold leaf adhesive using a foam brush; deciding how much you add will determine how much of the cone is covered in gold. After they dry, it’s time to add gold leaf, which comes in whisper-thin sheets about 5” square. Wrap it around the cone and use a clean foam brush to rub it into the adhesive. Then give it a light spray with sealant and allow them to dry.
Gold Acorns – Hand pick your acorns, clean, and oven-dry them to make sure they are pest-free. Paint them gold and then add a layer of clear shellac for a shiny look. Lastly, you’ll want to use a hot glue gun to attach the caps since they naturally fall off after the acorns dry. You can use these as filler in a glass vase or simply scatter them on a tabletop.
Shimmering Maple Garland – All you’ll need is a bag of artificial leaves, bought at any craft store, some Elmer’s glue, glitter, and string. Use a paintbrush to apply glue to each leaf and sprinkle lots of glitter over them. Let the glue set, then shake off the excess glitter, punch a hole at the top and attach a ribbon. Tie them all to a large strand and voilà, a perfect garland for the holidays.
Petite Pumpkins – If you are still head over heels for pumpkins, then using small ones for place cards will add some spice to your table. Tape each pumpkin halfway with painters tape, it can be horizontal, diagonal, you pick! Next paint the bottom portion with gold craft paint (may need multiple layers) and with the last layer still wet, generously sprinkle gold glitter over the painted half. After your pumpkin is dry and you’ve shaken off the excess glitter, wrap beading foil tightly around the stem. Leave a little extra at the end for you to bend for your place card.
Americans spend $400 billion per year remodeling their homes.
So, which remodeling investment gives the best return when it comes to resale value?
It should come as no surprise, especially leading up to Thanksgiving, that the best money to spend upgrading your home is in the kitchen.
It’s the place where most homeowners spend most of their waking hours.
According to the research from the National Association of Realtors, it’s where remodelers will see the biggest return on investment.
Here is the ranking of various projects in terms of the value it adds to the home:
- Complete kitchen remodel
- Kitchen upgrade
- HVAC replacement
- Owner’s suite renovation
- Bathroom renovation
- Finishing a basement
- Adding a bathroom
Image source: Shutterstock
Whether you’re planning on having visitors fill your home with holiday cheer or keeping the holiday celebrations to a minimum, there are steps you can take to reduce the stresses of gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many homeowners have become accustomed to applying the following principles to their at-home lifestyles thus far this year, and this holiday season is no different.
The first step in getting your home ready for the holidays is to disinfect. When preparing to host, it’s natural to tidy up your home and give everything a cleanse with soap and water. However, additional measures need to be taken this year to reduce the risk of spreading germs.
- Proper disinfectants: The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends a 70% alcohol solution—or four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water—for reducing the chance of spreading COVID-19. Be sure to ventilate your home as you prepare to disinfect to avoid any harmful effects of toxins. After applying the bleach solution, let it stand for up to ten minutes before wiping it off.
- Surfaces: The most problematic surfaces for germs are high-touch areas. Doorknobs, banisters, toilets, sinks, refrigerator and door handles, light switches, and faucets are all likely candidates for spreading germs, so be sure to direct your disinfecting attention there.
- Your guests: In any event itinerary or reminders you send out, make sure to emphasize the importance of frequent hand washing, especially before and after touching communal items and eating. On the day your visitors come over, provide plenty of disposable towels and hand sanitizer in eating areas, food-prepping stations, and bathrooms. Place garbage cans nearby to reduce contact.
Keep a Distance
As the host, you have the opportunity to create a cozy, comfortable environment that still leaves room for practicing social distancing and other preventative measures. Know that indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose a greater risk than those with good ventilation and that indoor gatherings are altogether more risky than outdoor. Members of different households should remain six feet apart to reduce the chance of spreading infection. Encourage masks to be worn at all times except when eating.
If you are planning an outdoor gathering, get creative with your lighting décor while adding some warmth for your guests. Space heaters, patio heaters, parasol heaters, and propane fireplaces have become more popular as homeowners look for ways to entertain safely and comfortably.
If in-person gatherings are too risky for you and your family, virtual gatherings are a way to celebrate with friends and extended family members while being apart. Here are some ideas for hosting virtually this holiday season:
- Choose fun activities for the group to share virtually. Arrange a time for a virtual gift exchange, sharing the gifts you’ve bought each other.
- Try a virtual recipe share with friends and family. Send out a recipe for everyone to enjoy and schedule a video call to share in the cooking process.
- Select a movie and showtime to have everyone settle in with their cup of hot cocoa or tea and enjoy a flick together.
No matter the size of the gathering in your home, these steps will help you navigate the stresses that come with hosting celebrations. For more information and advice for gatherings during what will be a unique holiday season, visit the CDC’s website here: CDC Guidelines for Holiday Celebrations
In 2007, November was declared National Homeless Youth Awareness Month to shine a light on the homeless experiences of young people and their families. The Windermere Foundation supports the following organizations dedicated to supporting youth in their communities, all of which are providing ways to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic. To support these organizations, donate to the Windermere Foundation through your local Windermere office to ensure community funds help community needs.
New Avenues for Youth – Oregon
The Windermere Foundation has supported New Avenues for Youth in their mission to address youth homelessness in Oregon, providing services like education, job training, counseling, and supportive housing.
Partners Mentoring Youth – Colorado
Based in Fort Collins, Partners Mentoring Youth has empowered youth and community members to reach their full potential through mentoring, prevention, education, and strategic partnership since 1978. Since that time, the organization has continually expanded their mission and programming to fit the needs of their community and are continuing to do so in the face of COVID-19.
The Mockingbird Society – Washington
The Mockingbird Society is dedicated to getting youth into safe, supportive and stable homes by transforming foster care. Magnifying the inequalities faced by young people and families experiencing foster care and homelessness, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for the organization’s work. The Mockingbird Society is supporting young people who have lost jobs and/or housing, while providing trauma training and delivering emergency policy guidance to families.
Supported by the Windermere Foundation across our network, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America enables young people in need to reach their full potential. During the pandemic, the organization has partnered with local clubs to develop a national strategy to serve their local communities.
Present in neighborhoods throughout our footprint and more than 10,000 communities nationwide, the YMCA is committed to helping communities to learn, grow and thrive, while empowering youth to reach their full potential. The Y has stepped up their emergency food services programs to address increased community need.
Beyond the organizations highlighted here, the Windermere Foundation also supports YouthCare (Seattle, WA), Bridge Meadows (Portland, OR), and the North East Youth Center (Spokane, WA), all dedicated to serving youth in their communities. For more information on how you can support homeless youth in your community, talk to your Windermere agent about what organizations are being supported locally.
To find out more about the Windermere Foundation or to make a donation, please visit windermerefoundation.com.
The holiday season can bring joy and peace, but it can also bring package thieves and burglary. Stay safe this winter by taking a few precautions with your home security. From old-school security tricks to new digital home monitoring tools, there are many options when it comes to keeping our homes safe and preserving that sensibility.
Upgrade your locks:
A poorly installed deadbolt can make it easy for an intruder to kick in your door. Start by making sure that your door frames are in good condition and then look into getting a higher quality deadbolt. You’ll find everything from classic models with keys, or digital options that require passcodes or a fingerprint.
It’s also a good idea to check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks. It goes without saying, leaving windows open during the summer is a bad idea – especially those that can be easily accessed.
Exterior and interior home lighting:
Having your exterior lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime snoopers. Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.
If you will be gone from your home for an extended period, consider using timed lighting options in your home to make it appear someone is around. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas. Also, you can program a radio to turn on and off for sound.
If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems. If you choose to do-it-yourself, you will want to install motion detectors on doors and windows – especially those that can be easily accessed on the ground floor. In most cases, these kits also offer a 24-hour call service for an extra fee.
Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors/ fire prevention system. These services are expensive up front but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. And keep in mind, having a home security system installed can also reduce your insurance rates.
If installing an alarm system is cost-prohibitive or does not fit your lifestyle, consider purchasing stickers and a sign that state that your home is monitored by a trusted security system, and place them so they are visible at every entrance.
Security cameras are readily available for home installation. You can install these in prominently viewed places to deter burglars. There are do-it-yourself install options and professional systems that come along with monitoring services. There are even options that will work with your smartphone.
If the cost of security cameras is too steep for your budget, you can purchase fake cameras to act as a visible deterrent for intruders.
Build your community:
Programs like Neighborhood Watch are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.
Image source: Shutterstock
VA loans provide a path toward homeownership for active service and veteran personnel and their families. The following serves as a guide to understanding what they are, who they are available to, and what types of loans are available to them.
VA loans can be confusing, so talk with your Windermere agent as you prepare to discuss your options with your lender. “Even people in the military have misconceptions about (VA loans),” said Windermere agent and Veteran Gervon Simon in a recent episode of our “Ask An Agent” series.
What are VA Loans?
The VA loan program was established by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help active service members, veterans, and surviving spouses become homeowners. VA loans are backed by the federal government yet provided by private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies. VA loans can be used to buy, build, or improve a home, or to refinance a current home loan.
How do VA Loans work?
VA loans have appealing characteristics for homeowners including lower-than-average mortgage rates, zero down payment on the purchase price, no-prepayment penalties, limited closing costs, and no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). They are typically easier to qualify for than standard home loans. With VA-backed loans, they guarantee a portion of the loan from a private lender. This means less risk for the lender, often resulting in more favorable terms for the homeowner. You do not have to be a first-time homebuyer to receive a VA loan. VA loan limits vary by county, so be sure to work with your Windermere agent to determine the limit in your area.
Which loans are available?
- VA-backed purchase loans may be used to buy a single-family home, condo, manufactured home, or land. They also may be used to make energy-efficient changes to your home. Additionally, you can use a purchase loan to build a new home.
- They offer no down payment, as long as the home’s sales price does not exceed its appraised value.
- There is no need for PMI or mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).
- For Veterans who are either Native American or have a Native American spouse, the NADL can help to buy, build, or improve a home on federal trust land.
- Beyond basic requirements of eligibility and credit standards, to be considered for the loan your tribal government must have an agreement—or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—with the VA. For more information on MOUs, visit this page: MOU Info
- The IRRRL is a refinancing tool for those with VA-backed home loans that are looking to reduce their monthly mortgage payments.
- The IRRRL replaces a current loan, giving homeowners the ability to stabilize their repayment plans.
- A VA funding fee may be required. Loan interest and closing fees will be charged by your lender but including these costs in your IRRRL will help you avoid paying the costs upfront.
- The cash-out refinance loan allows homeowners to take cash out of their home equity or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA-backed loan.
- In addition to your Certificate of Eligibility (COE), you’ll need to provide additional federal income tax information to your lender.
- A home appraisal will be ordered by your lender. Similar to an IRRRL, a VA funding fee may be charged at closing. Follow their closing process and pay all closing costs.
For more information on the different types of VA Loans, eligibility, and more, visit the Veterans Affairs website here: VA Loans
As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:
Cracks & Leaks
Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.
Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.
Windows & Doors:
Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.
Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.
Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.
Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.
Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.
Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.
Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.
Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves:
Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.
Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.
If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.
What a difference a quarter makes! Following the massive job losses Colorado experienced starting in February—the state shed over 342,000 positions between February and April—the turnaround has been palpable. Through August, Colorado has recovered 178,000 of the jobs lost due to COVID-19, adding 107,500 jobs over the past three months, an increase of 4.2%. All regions saw a significant number of jobs returning. The most prominent was in the Denver metropolitan service area (MSA), where 78,800 jobs returned in the quarter.
Although employment in all markets is recovering, there is still a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic employment levels. The recovery in jobs has naturally led the unemployment rate to drop: the state is now at a respectable 6.7%, down from a peak of 12.2%. Regionally, all areas continue to see their unemployment rates contract. I would note that the Fort Collins and Boulder MSA unemployment rates are now below 6%. Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, which is troubling, but rising rates have only slowed—not stopped—the economic recovery. Moreover, it has had no noticeable impact on the state’s housing market.
- In the third quarter of 2020, 15,065 homes sold. This represents an increase of 20.4% over the third quarter of 2019, and a remarkable 52.7% increase over the second quarter of this year.
- Home sales rose in all markets other than El Paso compared to the second quarter of 2019. I believe sales are only limited by the number of homes on the market.
- Inventory levels remain remarkably low, with the average number of homes for sale down 44.5% from the same period in 2019. Listing activity was 17.8% lower than in the second quarter of 2020.
- Even given the relative lack of inventory, pending sales rose 17.8% from the second quarter, suggesting that closings for the final quarter of the year will be positive.
- After taking a pause in the second quarter, home prices rose significantly in the third quarter, with prices up 11.9% year-over-year to an average of $523,193. Prices were up 7.4% compared to the second quarter of this year.
- Interest rates have been dropping. Although I do not see there being room for them to drop much further, they are unlikely to rise significantly. This is allowing prices to rise at above-average rates.
- Year-over-year, prices rose across all markets covered by this report. El Paso, Clear Creek, and Gilpin counties saw significant price appreciation. All but four counties saw double-digit price gains.
- Affordability in many Colorado markets remains a concern, as prices are rising at a faster pace than mortgage rates have been dropping.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the markets contained in this report dropped one day compared to the third quarter of 2019.
- The amount of time it took to sell a home dropped in nine counties, remained static in two, and rose in one compared to the third quarter of 2019.
- It took an average of 29 days to sell a home in the region.
- The Colorado housing market continues to demonstrate solid demand, and the short length of time it takes to sell a home suggests buyers are competing fiercely for available inventory.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
Demand for housing is significant, and sales activity is only limited by the lack of available homes to buy. Prices are rising on the back of very competitive mortgage rates and a job market in recovery. I suggested in my second-quarter report that the area would experience a “brisk summer housing market” and my forecast was accurate. As such, I have moved the needle a little more in favor of home sellers.
ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER
As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.
Image Source: Canva
A trope as old as horror movies: a family moves into a beautiful house that they bought for well under market value. They’ve put all their savings into the move, and they’re looking for a fresh start. When they meet the neighbors and other townsfolk, they quickly learn that there’s a history to the home that they weren’t aware of.
When they start to experience the abnormal, it’s easy to brush off as new home jitters. The children who hear noises in the closet, and a husband who starts sleepwalking, are chalked up to stress and anxiety from the move. It’s only when the experiences escalate beyond control that the family finally realizes the extent of the haunting.
While sharing a home with the supernatural can be a selling point for some buyers, it’s quite the opposite for others. In fact, a 2017 survey by Realtor.com found that 33% of people were open to living in a haunted house, 25% would consider it, but 42% said it was a deal-breaker. So how do you make sure you’re fully informed about a home’s history? Knowing the right questions to ask is the first step:
Ask to see the seller disclosure form
In the famous 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, the new homeowner, Jeffrey Stambovsky, won a lawsuit against the previous owner for not disclosing the history of hauntings.
In this case, the previous owner had published stories about the family’s experiences in Reader’s Digest and their local newspaper. In her writings, she explained several interactions with ghostly beings in the home, including finding that her children had been given rings, which would later disappear, bed shaking, and conversations with the floating specters.
The court took this evidence and ruled the “defendant is estopped to deny [the ghost’s] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Setting a new standard, this case created a basis for future seller disclosers. In this instance, they found that the history of the home, and the seller’s experiences in the home, would have influenced the marketability, and therefore, omitting these facts was unfair to the buyer.
Fast forward to 2019, there is not a specific section on seller disclosure forms for hauntings or ghostly sightings, but thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sellers in many states are obligated by law to disclose things that affect a house’s marketability.
Ask Google about the history of the home
In 1991 when Mr. Stambovsky bought his haunted house, search engines didn’t exist. Today, we’re lucky enough to have things like Google which would have found the previous home owner’s stories in mere seconds. Search keywords like the address or town name, and words like “haunted” or “ghosts”, as well as “murder” or “news report” should help you start your dive into the history of the home.
Ask the neighbors and your agent
This is where nosey neighbors come in handy. When you find a place you’re serious about, contact the neighbors to see what they know about the home’s history. The same goes for your real estate agent; he or she can reach out to the listing agent to see if there is anything haunting you should know about prior to buying. While many states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity or deaths in the home, if asked, all real estate agents must, by law, answer truthfully.
Image Source: Getty Images
The pandemic’s influences on home life are far-ranging, prompting buyers to look at homeownership through a new lens. Remote work has created a paradigm shift in the wants and needs of homebuyers. Here’s what the remote worker should keep in mind when looking to buy.
The location, location, location cliché has taken on new meaning for homebuyers who work from home. Because remote work gives us the opportunity to work from anywhere, home searches are expanding. Work commute times typically play a significant role in the home buying process; however, many buyers now have the option to view homes further away from their places of work.
Those who previously dreamed of the quiet life, but didn’t want the commute that came with it, are now able to make a move toward a more suburban environment. If you prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of a downtown area but don’t want to feel isolated, search for properties in the suburbs with active town centers.
The proper space
When COVID-19 began sending workers home in the early months of 2020, homeowners worldwide discovered their varied level of preparedness for remote work. Some had spacious home offices and were able to make the transition easily. Others had to create makeshift workspaces out of living rooms or bedrooms. What we have learned is that a dedicated workspace is paramount to productive remote work, its importance emphasized by the unknown timeline of a return to working in-person in many parts of the country.
- When searching for homes, understand that a home office situated in an open floor plan is more prone to distraction.
- Look for features such as an additional bedroom, finished basement, or bonus room that offer ample space to create your remote work environment.
- Having a designated space you can associate solely with work will not only drive your focus but helps to balance your home and work life. It allows you to wrap up the workday, leave your home office, and easily transition back into the goings-on of your household.
- Light it up: You’ll want plenty of light in your home office to stay fresh throughout the workweek. If you are next to a window, let in as much natural light as possible. Add in desk and floor lamps to brighten your space.
- Work comfortably: While working at home, it’s easy to sit in one place for hours on end. Shop for comfortable desk chairs that provide proper lumbar support. Explore alternatives to desk chairs like yoga balls and standing desks.
- Personalize: Adding personal touches will help to make your home office feel comfortable. Inspirational quotes, your favorite artwork, and pictures of loved ones are all types of décor that will keep you inspired in your remote work.
For all these considerations and more, talk with your Windermere agent about how your remote work is shifting where you’re looking for a home and what you’re looking for when it’s time to move there.