Southern California Real Estate Market Update

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The markets covered by this report, which include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, and Riverside Counties, added 279,600 new jobs between November 2015 and November 2016. With this shift toward “full employment”, the area’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.5% to 4.7%.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were a total of 46,075 home sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. This was 7.9% higher than the same period in 2015, but 12.3% lower than the third quarter of 2016. This can be attributed to a seasonal drop as we wound the year down.
  • The average number of homes for sale remains well below that seen a year ago (-6.8%), but the drop in listings is not as substantial as we have seen in the past.
  • Home sales were up across the board with substantially higher home sales in Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties. Reasonable growth was also seen in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties.
  • Even with a relatively slim difference in the number of homes for sale compared to a year ago, we are still in need of inventory. We should see a minor increase in listings in 2017, but it is unlikely that the market will return to being balanced in the foreseeable future.HOME PRICES
  • When compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, average prices in the region rose by 5.9% and are 2.6% higher than the third quarter of 2016.
  • When comparing the third and fourth quarters, all markets saw average prices rise, including San Diego County, where the average price rose by 5.4% to $634,300.
  • San Diego County saw the greatest annual appreciation in home values (+7.8%). This was followed by Los Angeles County, where the average price rose 6.0% year-over-year.
  • Pending sales were also higher across the board which, when combined with lower listings, means the market is clearly out of balance.

 

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • When compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, average prices in the region rose by 5.9% and are 2.6% higher than the third quarter of 2016.
  • When comparing the third and fourth quarters, all markets saw average prices rise, including San Diego County, where the average price rose by 5.4% to $634,300.
  • San Diego County saw the greatest annual appreciation in home values (+7.8%). This was followed by Los Angeles County, where the average price rose 6.0% year-over-year.
  • Pending sales were also higher across the board which, when combined with lower listings, means the market is clearly out of balance.

 

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average time it took to sell a home in the region was 54 days. This is a drop of 10 days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, and one day below the time it took in the third quarter of 2016.
  • The biggest decline in days on market was seen in Riverside and Orange Counties, where it took 14 fewer days to sell a home compared to a year ago.
  • Homes in San Diego County continue to sell at a faster rate than the other markets in the region. In the fourth quarter, it took an average of 34 days to sell a home, which is five days less than seen a year ago.
  • All five counties saw a drop in the amount of time it took to sell a home between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the fourth quarter of 2016.

 

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates and larger economic factors. The Southern California economy continues to add jobs, which in turn increases demand for housing. The region remains a seller’s market; however, it will be interesting to see what effect the recent rise in interest rates will have on the growth of home prices, especially in the more expensive Orange County and Los Angeles County areas. Given further anticipated increases in interest rates, I have moved the speedometer a little more in favor of buyers, but it still remains a seller’s market.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

12 Tips for Making Your Bedroom Cozier

 

At the end of a long day, your bedroom should be a sanctuary of comfort that welcomes you in. But, as a room that guests rarely see and in which homeowners spend most of their time with their eyes closed, its upkeep frequently gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Thankfully, there are some little design tricks that can make a big difference. Turn your bedroom into a restful retreat when you up its coziness factor with a few of these easy ideas.

  1. Layer textures. Sheepskin rugs, a down comforter, plush pillows and knit blankets can add a softness to the room that will make you want to sink right in. Lift these textures upward, with a canopy, tufted headboard, billowy curtains and hanging textiles (like a weaving) so even the walls and ceiling feel snuggly.
  2. Pick the right paint. Dark, saturated colors make a room feel like it’s embracing you, which is ideal for setting a sleepy environment. But if you’re nervous to commit to a dark color on the wall, choose a pale dusty blue, sage green or another light natural color for a soothing tone (just steer clear of energetic hues). Have you ever wanted to sleep on a cloud? Go with all-white paint and decor which makes even a basic bedroom feel soft and spa-like.
  3. Personalize it with reminders of the places and things that make you feel at home. Do you have a fondness for flowers? Bring floral patterns in on your textiles. Do you dream of vacation at the lake? Frame a photo of your favorite spot! Photos or paintings of uncluttered natural landscapes—like a sunset reflecting on water or a hammock under the shade of an oak—can rekindle memories of relaxation and are perfect for creating a sense of calm.
  4. Add mood lighting. Soften the light to mimic dusk for an intimate mood with dimmer switches, lamps, lanterns or even string lights. Just make sure you can reach the switch from bed, so you don’t have to disturb your peace to get up and turn it off when you’re ready to roll over and fall asleep.
  5. Skip metallic finishes. Choose warm natural decor options like wood and fabric instead of cold, manufactured metallics. This goes for everything from your bedroom furniture to window treatments. Faux wood blinds, especially when paired with floating curtains, fit with a cozy aesthetic and let you filter out harsh sunlight and maintain privacy for a truly sheltered slumber.
  6. Bring on the books! Stacks of good reads invite you to snuggle in and get lost in another world. A true retreat is a room with plenty of books that begs you to stay.
  7. Fix up—or fake—a fireplace. If your bed sits hearthside, embrace this romantic accent with styled logs and a decorated mantle. If you don’t have such a luxury, create a faux fireplace to add comfort and warmth through your décor: Arrange oversized candles and lanterns safely within a homemade hearth to bring in that cozy fireside feeling without changing the structure of your home.
  8. Keep the room uncluttered. When you want to settle in, a mess distracts you from finding comfort, so minimize the amount of stuff that makes it to your bedroom. Watch your nightstand, which often becomes a catch-all, by making a point to rehome any wandering wares now, and put things away as soon as they enter the room in the future. If you’re apt to let laundry pile up, keep it behind the closed doors of your closet so it doesn’t crowd your peace.
  9. Create a sense of timelessness. Tuck clocks and electronics away so they’re nearby if you need them, but their wires and harsh silhouettes aren’t reminding you of life outside your sanctuary. The hush that falls in a room devoid of gadgets will allow you to easily disengage from the stresses of reality.
  10. Rethink your bedding. Add a pillow-top pad to your mattress so it feels like your bed is hugging you when you climb in. Or, bring in a contoured body pillow which actually can hug you! Linen sheets feel luxe compared to cotton and are a simple swap to boost your bower. Many people also swear by skipping the top sheet while dressing their beds, which allows them to burrow directly into a fluffy comforter.
  11. Appeal to your sense of smell. Aromatherapy can have a huge impact on your perception of a space, so find some soothing essential oils or a sweet candle to blanket the room with an ambiance you adore. As soon as you open the door, you’ll be eager to plunge into your little oasis.
  12. Nestle into nooks. A window seat, a reading nook or an upholstered seating area are all inviting spaces that can draw you in from the doorway. The more intimate alcoves you can create, the cozier your bedroom will feel!

Flooded with soft lighting, plush textures and other comfy touches, your bedroom environment will envelope you at day’s end. And, perhaps even better than the idea of your bedroom refresh itself, is knowing that none of these tips take longer than a weekend to complete! So, slide into your slippers as you settle on which cozy updates you’ll select for your new favorite room of the house.

 

Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com and a frequent public speaker on Social Media Marketing, Social Customer Care and profitable company culture. An active blogger and early social technology adopter, you can find her online as ‘happykatie’ sharing home décor, yoga, parenting and vegetarian cooking tips.  If you're interested in faux wood blinds like those described by Katie, please go to the Blinds.com website.

Windermere Donates $35,000 To Help #TackleHomelessness

 

The regular football season is officially over, and while the Seahawks didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, they did take home the title of NFC West champs. We can think of a number of reasons to be proud of the Seahawks, but the biggest one for us is the $35,000 they helped us raise to #tacklehomelessness.

As the Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks, Windermere and the Seahawks decided to partner on a cause that is important to our community. The result was our #tacklehomelessness campaign which saw Windermere donating $100 for every Seahawks home game tackle during the 2016 season. An additional donation was made in honor of Bobby Wagner, the NFL leader in tackles this season, for each of his 167 tackles. All of these tackles added up to an impressive $35,000.

The recipient of the $35,000 donation is YouthCare, a non-profit organization that provides essential services to homeless youth. The money raised will help fund YouthCare’s Residential Care Programs, which provide both housing and tailored support services to youth transitioning from homelessness to stability and independence.

Our partnership with the Seahawks and YouthCare fits perfectly with the mission of the Windermere Foundation, which is to support low-income and homeless families in the communities where we have offices. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide additional support to homeless youth in our area thanks to the Seahawks, YouthCare and the #tacklehomelessness campaign.

See you next season and GO HAWKS! 

Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State finished the year on a high with jobs continuing to be added across the market. Additionally, we are seeing decent growth in the area’s smaller markets, which have not benefitted from the same robust growth as the larger metropolitan markets.

Unemployment rates throughout the region continue to drop and the levels in the central Puget Sound region suggest that we are at full employment. In the coming year, I anticipate that we will see substantial income growth as companies look to recruit new talent and keep existing employees happy.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 19,745 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2016—up by a very impressive 13.4% from the same period in 2015, but 18.7% below the total number of sales seen in the third quarter of the year. (This is a function of seasonality and no cause for concern.)
  • Sales in Clallam County grew at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with home sales up by 47%. There were also impressive sales increases in Grays Harbor and Thurston Counties. Jefferson County had a fairly modest decrease in sales.
  • The number of available listings continues to remain well below historic averages. The total number of homes for sale in the fourth quarter was down by 13.7% compared to the same period a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 will continue to be a seller’s market. We should see some improvement in listing activity, but it is highly likely that demand will exceed supply for another year.

 

HOME PRICES

  • Demand continued to exceed supply in the final three months of 2016 and this caused home prices to continue to rise. In the fourth quarter, average prices rose by 7.1% but were 0.4% higher than the third quarter of the year. The region’s average sales price is now $414,110.
  • In most parts of the region, home prices are well above historic highs and continue to trend upward.
  • When compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Kittitas County. In total, there were eight counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%. We saw a drop in sales prices in the notoriously volatile San Juan County.
  • The aggressive home price growth that we’ve experienced in recent years should start to taper in 2017, but prices will continue to increase at rates that are higher than historic averages.

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by 15 days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • King County was the only area where it took less than a month to sell a home, but all markets saw decent improvement in the time it took to sell a home when compared to a year ago.
  • In the final quarter of the year, it took an average of 64 days to sell a home. This is down from the 78 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, but up from the 52 days it took in the third quarter of 2016. (This is due to seasonality and not a cause for concern.)
  • We may experience a modest increase in the time it takes to sell a home in 2017, but only if there is a rapid increase in listings, which is certainly not a given.

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the fourth quarter of 2016, I actually moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers, but this is purely a function of the increase in interest rates that was seen after the election. Higher borrowing costs mean that buyers can afford less, which could ultimately put some modest downward pressure on home prices in 2017. That said, the region will still strongly favor sellers in the coming year.

 

Windermere Foundation Raises $2,246,829 in 2016

 

The Windermere Foundation had another banner year in 2016, thanks to the continued support of Windermere franchise owners, agents, staff, and the community. Over $2.2 million was raised in 2016, which is an increase of seven percent over the previous year. This brings our total to over $33 million raised since the start of the Windermere Foundation in 1989.

A large amount of the money raised last year is thanks to our agents who each make a donation from every commission they earn. These funds enable our offices to support local non-profits that provide much-needed services to low-income and homeless families in their communities.

 

SUMMARY OF FUNDS, GRANTS & DONATIONS IN 2016
   
Organizations served: 410
Number of individual grants fulfilled: 664
Average grant amount: $2,581
Average donation to the Windermere Foundation: $122.05

 

FUNDING BREAKDOWN  
   
Total funds provided in 2016: $1,951,878.78
Scholarships:              4.79%
Youth/Child Programs: 32.65%
Emergency Assistance: 25.67%
Shelter:     12.85%
School Assistance:   6.76%
Education/Counseling:    5.10%
Administrative Expenses:  2.74%
Fundraising Expenses:   9.44%

 

So how are funds used? Windermere offices get to decide how to distribute the funds their agents raise so that they may help organizations in their communities. Our offices have helped to fund school lunch and afterschool programs, supported non-profits that provide housing assistance to homeless families, donated to food banks, purchased school supplies, provided meals and gifts for families in need over the holidays, fulfilled wishes for children through Make-A-Wish programs, and purchased shoes, clothing, blankets and other items to help keep families warm during the winter months.

 

This year was also marked by a new partnership between Windermere and the Seattle Seahawks to help #tacklehomelessness. During the 2016 football season, Windermere donated $100 for every Seahawks home game tackle to YouthCare, a non-profit organization that provides essential services to homeless youth. At the end of the season, the #tacklehomelessness campaign raised $35,000, which is being used to help fund YouthCare’s transitional housing program. 

 

Thanks to our agents, offices, and everyone who supports the Windermere Foundation, we are able to continue to make a difference in the lives of many families in our local communities. And not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click on the Donate button.

 

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation

 

 

6 Dramatic Bathroom Makeovers You Won’t Believe

 

Maybe it’s that 1980s soaking tub with the giant surround, or maybe you’re prepping for resale, or perhaps an overhead flood is to blame. Maybe it’s just time for a change. Whatever the motivation behind them, bathroom renovations are one of the projects homeowners put the most effort and investment into. Here are 6 of the most dramatic before-and-after bathroom stories from Houzz, from budget-friendly to luxe.

 

Related: Mini Bathroom Makeovers You Can Complete in a Weekend

 

Bath Makeovers 1: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

1. The Bathroom That Helped Sell a House in One Day

 

BEFORE: In this Massachusetts bungalow, over 100 years old, the 1960s bathroom renovation wasn’t offering much help to real estate agents.

Bath Makeovers 2: Copper Dot Interiors, original photo on Houzz

 

AFTER: Interior designer Karen Goodman had resale in mind, as she was redoing the house to flip. But it was important to her to preserve and restore the original 1902 feel. She found a claw-foot tub at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and painted it green, added a wall-hung sink and used subway tile befitting the home’s turn-of-the-century aesthetic. A unique shower curtain adds color and personality, while the classic fixtures have widespread appeal.

 

Great tip: Goodman shared her philosophy about painting the original wood with Houzz contributor Annie Thornton. “If it’s painted, it’s getting painted. If it’s wood, it’s staying wood,” she said. “It wasn’t my place to decide what should be wood and what shouldn’t be in a place I don’t plan to call home.”

 

Shower curtain: Danica Studio; tub paint: Moss Green Rust-Oleum spray paint; claw-foot tub: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

 

Bath Makeovers 3: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

2. Dilapidated 1970s Bathroom Gets Inspiration From a Dilapidated Mansion

 

BEFORE: The state of the bathroom in this 1912 Colonial-style home in New Jersey was sending the whole family up to the third floor to use the facilities because they couldn’t stand the cracked tiles, 12-inch-high tub, awkward layout and dated colors in the main bath. While walking through a once-grand old house during an estate sale and seeing its fabulous colors and tile patterns, homeowner Jody Suden had a clear vision for the bathroom makeover in her own home.

 

Bath Makeovers 4: Tracey Stephens Interior Design Inc, original photo on Houzz

 

AFTER: Interior designer Tracey Stephens worked closely with Suden to help her achieve her vision, using classic fixtures and completing lots of complicated tile drawings to get the details just right. The tiles are based on historical patterns and colors and were handmade in Arkansas by American Restoration Tile.

 

The overall style suits the home’s age and style, mixing mint green, white and black with vintage apothecary style.

 

Great tip: Even if you have a strong idea of what you want your room to look like, hiring a designer is key — you just have to find one who gets it. Suden told me she couldn’t have done it without Stephens, who told me she considered herself the “midwife” helping Suden achieve her vision.

 

Bath Makeovers 5: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

3. The Bathroom Where 2 Doctors Take Deep Soaks After Long Days

 

BEFORE: This Cincinnati bathroom was dark, dated and awkwardly laid out. Because of a lack of smart storage, the countertop had become a magnet for clutter.

 

Bath Makeovers 6: Ryan Duebber Architect, LLC, original photo on Houzz

 

AFTER: Architect Ryan Duebber stole about 16 inches in length for the bathroom from the master bedroom, then moved the toilet to the back of the room. This allowed space for a spacious shower and a Japanese soaking tub.

 

The sapele wood at the back of the room draws the eye and makes the room look deeper, while a new skylight, lots of reflective white, clear glass, a floating vanity and a strategic lighting scheme bathe the room in light. (For example, check out the glow on the floor provided by the LED tape lights underneath the vanity.) In addition, there’s a place to store everything so the counters can stay clean, maintaining the minimalist look the homeowners love.

 

Great tip: Having a specific place for everything you use in the bathroom will keep the clutter at bay. Give it a lot of thought early on in the design process. Where will your hairdryer go? Which products do you use every day in front of the mirror? Are you a toothbrush-out or a toothbrush-put-away kind of person?

 

Bath Makeovers 7: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

4. Saving the Best for Last

 

BEFORE: These San Francisco parents worked on the spaces the whole family could enjoy before tackling their awkward master bathroom.

 

Bath Makeovers 8: Hulburd Design, original photo on Houzz

 

AFTER: Taking over an unused terrace space gave architect Holly Hulburd plenty of room to work in a new bathtub, a generous separate shower stall and a long vanity complete with dressing table. The room is a study in lines and scale, from the way the tub surround extends into a shower bench to the careful use of different sizes of rectangular tiles.

 

Great tip: When using strong lines, lining things up is important. In order to have the tiles meet the ceiling and floor without any cuts, Hulburd dropped the ceiling a little to make the geometry work.

 

Bath Makeovers 9: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

5. The Bathroom That Makes the Most of Burgundy Floor Tiles

 

BEFORE: For the 2012 D.C. Design house, Christopher Patrick decided to embrace the existing tile and plumbing configuration in order to stick to a budget.

 

Bath Makeovers 10: Christopher Patrick Interiors, original photo on Houzz

 

AFTER: He chose a neoclassic wallpaper that complemented the burgundy tones in the floor, and added a more modern vanity to blend old and new.

 

Setting the sink and mirror asymmetrically on the right side of the vanity left ample room on the counter.

 

Great tip: Don’t get stuck in a bathroom design rut. Patrick had an “antibathroom” attitude, styling the room more like a living room or den and adding open shelves instead of a typical medicine cabinet.

 

Bath Makeovers 11: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

 

6. Adding Laundry Makes Way for a Guest Room in a Toronto Pied-à-Terre

 

BEFORE: The converted loft in this 1905 eyeglass factory offered a decent-sized laundry room that didn’t get much use, but it didn’t have an extra bedroom. By integrating the laundry into the bathroom, there’s now room for guest bunks in the former utility room.

 

Bath Makeovers 12: Affecting Spaces, original photo on Houzz

 

AFTER: This shows the opposite wall from the one in the “before” photo; to see the complete makeover, click over to the story. Architect and designer Gillian Lazanik removed a linen closet and planned a layout that made the most of the space. This included room for a stackable washer-dryer and a new walk-in shower stall with a clear glass divider that opens up the room.

 

By Becky Harris, Houzz

 

Tiny Houses – A Big Trend

If you are even a casual fan of TV channels like HGTV, you’re sure to have noticed our nation’s current real estate obsession: Tiny Houses. Tiny House living can offer more financial freedom, more mobility, a lower environmental footprint, and an emphasis on experience over stuff. People who have adopted this lifestyle typically want to live a simpler, more pared-down life, and the rest of us want to watch them do it.

These homes have come a long way in the past five years. Designs for them have gone from extremely simple structures that are more affordable than the average new car, to extensive thought and design – including “Smart” Tiny Homes that can live “off the grid” using solar power and water recycling.

To the contemporary Tiny House purist, the structure is very small and simple. This usually means less than 300 square feet and a loft for the bed.

The “Tiny Living” model (shown below) is offered by Tiny Home Builders. They offer everything from pre-built homes and basic shells to tiny house plans.

 

 

Keeping the home on wheels allows everything from moving whenever the mood strikes you, to overcoming issues with building codes that require permanent structures to have a larger square footage.

 

 

Interiors are designed to be simple, providing basic needs and amenities without a lot of flourish or detail.

 

 

Sleeping lofts are the norm, so if you have an issue with climbing stairs or ladders then a larger model with a main floor sleeping option is definitely a better choice.

A great example of how far they have come with regards to space and amenities is the Farallon model by the Tumbleweed Tinyhouse Company.

 

 

They offer two sizes with a useable space option of 218 square feet or 246 square feet and the roof is just begging to have solar panels installed.

 

 

Not only does this model provide what looks like a decent amount of counter space, it also has a main floor bed and bath, unlike many other tiny homes that only provide a sleeping loft.

 

 

The cost for this kind of tiny living starts at $62,950 - $72,950.

 


 

Many people who adopt the tiny house lifestyle say that communities are the key to a happy and successful living environment. Another trick to living large in small spaces is to have great public places to go to – preferably by foot or bike. Creating a micro-friendly community requires careful planning, walkability, and dedicated public spaces, but for those who achieve this trifecta of tiny living, the rewards can be anything but tiny.

This blog originally appeared on Windermere Spaces and Places.

Artfully Organizing Your Bookshelf

 

When it comes to organizing a bookshelf, there are a multitude of directions you can go. For example, a simple Pinterest search will turn up endless results of bookshelves stylishly organized by color, but what if that entails separating books from within a series? For some of us, that’s like separating our children. Ultimately, how you organize your bookshelf is a personal choice based on your own aesthetic, but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some tips to help give your reading space photo-worthy style.

 

Sorting by color:

  • One color per shelf (a blue shelf, a green shelf, and so on). If you're having trouble filling a shelf, wrap some of the books in craft paper.
  • A gradual "rainbow" flowing from one color to the next or from the most saturated colors to pastels.
  • A pattern that creates a flag or other simple image when the whole bookcase is filled. This is time-consuming, but impressive.

 

 

Sorting by size:

  • Large, heavy books should be shelved on sturdy shelves, below head height.
  • Start by placing the tallest and largest books on the lowest shelf, placing smaller and smaller books as you move upward. This creates a tidy, organized appearance. On some bookcases, this is a necessity to adapt to the height of each shelf.
  • Large decorative objects and oversized books look best if they are spaced out between different spots in the bookcase, leaving plenty of space between them to create separate focal points. They also make excellent bookends and will help to keep books in place. A zig-zag pattern works well.

 

 

Design effects to consider:

  • Create a dark backdrop. The bookcase will look more striking if the backdrop is darker than the surrounding walls and shelves. Consider painting the back of the bookshelves to create this vivid effect. This can be anything from basic black to pale beige. For open-backed bookshelves, hang a cloth between them and the wall.

 

 

  • Stack books on top of each other on some shelves, and vertically next to each other on others. Shelving books in different orientations by varying the position of the books is eye-catching and chic.

 

 

  • Try a pyramid of books, topped with a small trinket.

 

 

  • Leave plenty of empty space. Gaps often look better than a shelf clogged with paperbacks and origami. This is especially important for open-backed bookcases placed in the middle of a room, which need a large amount of space to let light through.

 

 

This blog originally appeared on Windermere Spaces and Places.

How to Get Through the ‘Punch List’ Stage of Your Remodel

When I say “punch” a house, I’m not talking about putting holes in your drywall. I’m referring to the writing of the “punch list,” which is created at the very end of a project and details any outstanding items that need to be taken care of.

Punch lists are usually made continuously by your construction manager throughout the project to avoid a lengthy list at the end of the project. However, the time when homeowners are involved is usually toward the end, right around the time when you’re able to use your newly remodeled space again. The punch list ensures that both you and your building professional agree that the project is completed. Typically, a signed-off punch list also ensures that the builder will be paid any remaining money owed by the homeowner, so this goes hand in hand with both parties agreeing that the project is complete.

It’s important to keep track of any items you find by adding them to a punch list as well as noting them throughout the house with a small piece of painter’s tape (not duct tape or electrical tape, which could damage finishes). This makes it easier on your memory as well as on your contractor. No one has to go hunting for that one corner with the ding in the drywall.

Punch lists are normal for almost all contractors. No matter how much protective product your remodeler lays down, no matter how good the painters and plumbers and trim carpenters are, there is bound to be at least one thing that will need to be taken care of at the end of the day. And, just like nearly every other aspect of remodeling and home building, how your building professional will resolve punch items varies based on where you live, what type of work your contractor is doing, how big the firm is and so on.

Be sure to check out your contract (take a look at any sections containing the words “substantial completion,” “inspection” or “warranty”) for information on how your contractor handles these issues. If you’re still unsure about issues such as costs associated with punch lists, how quickly punch items are resolved or whether anything is too small to punch, clear the air by having a conversation with your contractor.

 

Punch List 1: Jamie Keskin Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Paint

Let’s start with paint. Mistakes involving paint are typically the easiest for homeowners and pros to spot, primarily because paint is so aesthetic. If your walls are a different color than the one you selected, that should be pretty easy to pick up on.

However, there are other, smaller details that can be overlooked. One of my best painters once taught me to check the paint on woodwork with my hands instead of my eyes.

Walk up to your trim and cabinetry, look the other way and run your hand over it. Is it rough or bumpy? Can you feel any blemishes, paint drops or brush strokes? Does the finish make you grimace? If you answer “yes” to any of the previous questions, add this to your punch list of “to-do’s.”

Keep your eyes open for sheen variances. Is one spot of the wall shinier or duller than the rest? Also, note any cut-ins. Is the paint line where the wall meets the ceiling straight?

Depending on how many paint punch items are found, the paint crew may have to touch up a couple of spots on a wall here or there, or it may need to repaint entire sections. Again, this all depends on your contractor. Repainting entire rooms could constitute a change order for some, while others see it as a warranty item. Communication is key in determining where your builder stands on these issues.

 

Punch List 2: Rafe Churchill: Traditional Houses, original photo on Houzz

 

Sheetrock

Sheetrock (also known as tape, bed and texture) is another aesthetic finish that can be pretty easy to punch (both in the punch list sense and in the physical sense).

One of the best tips I’ve learned is that Sheetrock is easiest to punch after the paint primer has gone up but before the actual paint color hits the walls. Dings, dips, crooked edges and texture inconsistencies stand out like a sore thumb.

So ask your construction manager whether you can stop by after primer is applied. With your blue tape handy, walk through the construction area and take a look. Turn the lights on and inspect texture. (Is it too heavy in some places or too light in others? If you selected a smooth texture, are there any bumps that stand out?) Take a look at wall corners. (Are they straight and square from bottom to top?) Scan walls and ceilings for scratches and dents.

I’ve got to take a second here to make a small point: I know that every part of your home is important and worth time and attention. But consider this: Is a ding in a bottom corner of a coat closet really worth the same as one at eye-level in a kitchen?

I’m not saying that your contractor shouldn’t put time and effort into making your house your dream home, but if you feel like you’re getting carried away with the blue tape, take a step back and reevaluate. I can promise you that your dinner guests aren’t going to get on their hands and knees and inspect the Sheetrock in the corner of your pantry. And if they do, that’s another conversation entirely.

 

Punch List 3: Lauren Jacobsen Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Tile

Like paint, tile can be inspected by sight and touch. Take a minute to make sure that everything looks flat and level, and that grout lines stay a consistent size. Then, if the tile is on the floor, take your shoes and socks off and walk around to make sure everything feels nice.

A creative tip I picked up from a homeowner is to walk throughout the house bouncing a tennis ball. Anywhere the ball hits the tile and makes a hollow sound is a place you’ll want to tag with tape. Tiles that aren’t well-secured will sound hollow and could lead to cracks or loose tiles in the future. Whether you do it during the punch phase or later when the tiles come loose or crack, the tiles will need to be replaced.

I’ve worked with several customers who decide that a loose tile in a corner somewhere isn’t worth the effort. I’m not saying to just throw in the towel on little things like a loose tile, but in the end, it is your house. If you don’t want anyone coming back to fix it and you can live with it, that’s perfectly fine too.

 

Punch List 4: Best Builders ltd, original photo on Houzz

 

Electrical, Audio and Video

Punching electrical, audio and video work is a lot less visual than some of the other finishes we’ve covered so far. With electrical and A/V, you’ll want to turn everything on and off. And then turn it on and off again. And then do this one more time.

Then, turn everything on and leave it on for a while. (This makes sure that lights don’t “freak out” when they’re on for extended periods of time.) Next, test the dimmer switches to make sure they dim correctly. Dimmers that aren’t properly paired to the lighting source can cause flickering. (Strobe lights can be cool, just not in your kitchen.)

If you really want to go above and beyond, test to make sure all the outlets are functional, and press the buttons on the GFI outlets — the outlets in wet areas like bathrooms or kitchens — to ensure that they trip (cut off the electricity) as they’re supposed to.

For appliances, make sure you have all the pieces that came with them and the warranty materials (all that paperwork that comes in the box). This is super important, as having the warranty information will be useful for any service you may need for your appliances in the future.

As with all other punch items, mark them with blue tape (if you can reach them; no need to strain yourself to put tape on a flickering can light in a 20-foot ceiling) and add them to your list.

 

Punch List 5: Kasper Custom Remodeling, LLC, original photo on Houzz

 

Plumbing

Like electrical, plumbing isn’t the easiest to check visually. There are a few things you can see, like scratches in the finish or straightness of plumbing fixtures, but there’s a lot behind the scenes that might only come to surface after use.

Turn on your hot water and let it run to make sure it gets hot, and turn on the cold water to make sure it stays cold. (It’s not unheard of to have the cold and hot switched.)

Plug your sink, fill it to the top and then drain it. This tests two things: 1) that the drain stopper works and 2) that there aren’t any leaks in the plumbing under the sink. The added pressure of all of the water leaving the sink at once tests the plumbing in a way that a normal stream of water can’t. You can do the same thing in your bathtub. Another good test for a tub is to fill it up to the overflow hole to make sure the overflow is connected properly.

With mechanical punch items such as plumbing and electrical, it’s likely that your building professional will try to lump all the punch items into one visit. This saves money and time. So if you notice that your toilet has hot water (it’s happened!) or a bulb in a closet is flickering and it’s not being attended to immediately, fear not! Your contractor may just be making sure to have a comprehensive list before calling in the cavalry to get it fixed.

 

Punch List 6: Decotick, original photo on Houzz

 

I know this all may sound like a lot of work. You may be thinking, “Isn’t this why I hired a general contractor or full-service builder in the first place?” And you’re absolutely right. But it’s my experience that homeowners like to get in on the action sometimes, and this is a great, productive way to do so.

Plus, everyone’s human. No matter how top-notch your remodeler or builder is, there is a chance (even if it’s just a .00001 percent chance) that something may be overlooked. Having a second set of eyes to make sure everything is up to their standards and yours doesn’t do anyone any harm. Now, get punching.

 

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz 

First Time Buyers, Millennials, and What to Expect in 2017

 

I believe that the big story for the coming year will be first-time home buyers. Since they don’t need to sell before purchasing, their reemergence into the market ensures that sales will continue to increase, even while inventory is limited. Thirty-one percent of buyers currently in the real estate market are first-time buyers, but it would be more ideal if that figure was closer to 40 percent.

Why don’t we have enough first-time buyers in the market? With Baby Boomers working and living longer, we aren’t making much room for Millennials to start their careers. Plus, the major debt that the younger generation owes on student loans ($1.3 trillion today) hugely impacts the housing market. But the bigger issue is lack of down payments. Before the recession, many Millennials could look to their parents for help with down payments; however, these days that is not as much the case.

I would also contend that the notion of Millennials being a “renter generation” is nonsense. In a National Association of Realtors survey, 75 percent of them said that buying a home would be the most astute financial decision they’d ever make; however, 80 percent said they don’t think they could qualify for a mortgage. I do believe that Millennials will eventually buy, but they’re delaying their purchasing decisions by about three years when compared to previous generations, which is about the same amount of time they’re waiting to start families as well.

Mortgage rates have risen rapidly since the election, and unfortunately, I do not see a turnaround in this trend. That said, they will remain cheap when compared to historic averages.  Expect to see the yield on 30-year mortgages rise to around 4.7% by the end of 2017. For those who have grown accustomed to interest rates being at historic lows, this might seem high, but it’s all relative.

If I were to gaze all the way into 2018, my crystal ball takes me to the dreaded “R” word. Like taxes and death, recessions are another one of those unwanted realities that inevitably comes to visit every so often. Irrespective of who was voted into the White House, my view remains the same: prepare to see a business cycle recession by the end of 2018, but, rest assured, it will not be driven by real estate, nor will it resemble the Great Recession in any way.