7 Simple Home Improvements to Beat the Winter Blues
Winter can be a tough time of year for many of us, especially after all the holiday excitement dwindles down. Itâs cold. Itâs dark. Itâs gloomy. And this is when many of us start to feel the winter blues settling in.Â
But there is good news. By planning out a few simple home improvements you can easily transform your space into a happier and cozier place to be, while also enjoying time spent inside. Sprucing up your home can feel good during any season, but certain projects are perfect for giving you a much-needed mood boost during this time of year.Â
So, if winter is getting you down, consider these home improvement projects to help you beat those winter blues, no matter how short the days are or how low the temperatures drop.
1. Repaint living spaces
Feeling like your home is in need of a dramatic change? A new coat of paint can be a cheap and effective way to switch things up in no time. During this time when many of us need a mood booster, take a page out of the psychology book, and surround yourself with colors that help you relax and increase happiness. In general, cool colors have a calming effect, while warm colors add comfort and can be invigorating. White can help brighten rooms by reflecting light. It makes a small space feel larger and more open, which can help you feel more energized.
Painting can require some patience, especially if you are considering a brand new color, but it’s easy enough for even a DIY beginner to accomplish. And, with the right attitude and a few friends or even some favorite music, you can make repainting your walls fun, too. If youâre feeling overwhelmed by your painting project, consider hiring a local painting company to tackle it for you.
2. Update your homeâs lightingÂ
What better way to brighten and warm your spirits this winter than with the perfect lighting. Not to mention itâs an easy and affordable way to make your home a more comfortable place to spend time.
Instead of sticking with whatever fixtures came in your home when you bought it, you can use the doldrums of winter as an excuse to try this simple home improvement. Light fixtures are affordable and can often be installed without an expert. Whether you repurpose your holiday string lights or invest in a daylight lamp, the options are endless. You can also completely change the ambiance in your home simply by replacing any harsh white bulbs with calming yellow ones.
3. Maximize natural light with windows or skylights
With the shorter days and gloomy weather, one of the main factors leading to winter blues this time of year is the lack of natural light. The best solution for this is to increase the amount of sunlight in your home. If your current windows aren’t letting in enough light or air, it may be time to upgrade.Â
Skylights can also be an excellent way to improve natural light. This is true even if you live somewhere like Miami, where the sunlight is abundant. Skylights can be installed in many areas of your home, with kitchens and baths being among the most popular choices. Adding more light and sun can go a long way in making the winter darkness a little easier to manage.
4. Install a sound system
There’s nothing like a great song for instantly lifting the spirits. Playing some of your favorite tunes at home is the perfect remedy to help fight your winter blues. It’s a bit less impactful, though, when you’re listening to music through tiny laptop speakers. If you want to really immerse yourself in the sound of your favorite songs, invest in a home sound system.
Setting up a surround sound system or a sound system that plays across multiple rooms is quite simple. Modern technology allows for easy connectivity with Bluetooth, ensuring your home is ready for fun without a costly or complicated setup process.
5. Improve organization
After spending months inside due to the pandemic, followed by the holidays, your home may be overrun by clutter. Think about how good youâll feel when youâve cleaned your house, and everything has been put back in its rightful place
Improving the organization of a space can occur in a number of ways, from purchasing storage boxes and bins to custom pieces for the closet. A few simple home improvements can go a long way. Whether thatâs just going through old mail, sorting clothing to donate, or filing papers, organizing can help create a nicer living space. If youâre feeling overwhelmed with the process, bring in a professional organizer or declutter to help.
6. Add greenery to beat winter blues
Plants are amazing gifts of nature. In both work and home environments, live plants can boost your mood, productivity, concentration, and creativity. Plants come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny succulents to large potted plants, making greenery a functional and flexible option for everyone. You can choose from flowers, greek plants like ferns, or even herbs to add color and life to any room.
If you have a large living area, potted trees can also be an excellent addition and one of the simplest home improvements you can do. Available from local nurseries and mail order services nationwide, plants make it easy to add a dynamic living focal piece to any room.
7. Create a bedroom sanctuary
Thereâs nothing quite like having a cozy place to escape to on a cold winter day. From fluffy blankets and bedding to essential oils and warm, ambient lighting, your bedroom can be a place of peace from the moment you walk in. Flannel sheets can keep you nice and warm while a plush rug to sink your toes into will add comfort.Â
Making it through yet another winter may seem tough, but a few simple home improvements can be just what you need to turn a cold-weather frown upside down. From a little repainting to installing skylights, there’s plenty you can do to increase your happiness and take your home from bland to beautiful this season.
The post 7 Simple Home Improvements to Beat the Winter Blues appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.
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Remote-Work Boom During Covid-19 Pandemic Draws Real-Estate Startups
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A group of real-estate startups is aiming to cash in on the remote-work phenomenon.
With many corporate offices closed because of the pandemic, manyÂ young professionals have left citiesÂ like New York and San Francisco for warmer, cheaper places. A number still plan to return after their offices reopen, leaving them reluctant to buy homes or sign long-term apartment leases.
That situation is creating fresh demand for furnished housing on a short-term basis, a fast-growing niche that many property startups and their venture-capital backers are rushing to fill.
One of them is Landing, which runs a network of furnished apartments across the U.S. When it launched in 2019, the Birmingham, Ala., and San Francisco-based company initially planned to operate in about 30 cities last year. Instead, it expanded to 75, largely because demand grew much faster than expected, said Landing Chief Executive Bill Smith.
âCovid has taken a decade of change that I was thinking was going to happen between now and 2030 and kind of compressed it into a year,â he said.
Legions of remote workers also offer these firms a chance to make up for reduced tourist and corporate business. San Francisco-based Sonder, which rents out furnished apartments by the night, ramped up its marketing of extended stays during the pandemic, according to Chief Executive Francis Davidson. Stays of longer than 14 days now account for about 60% of the companyâs business, up from less than a quarter before the pandemic, he said.
Kulveer Taggar, CEO of corporate-housing operator Zeus Living, said his firm experienced a steep drop in demand as companiesÂ hit the pause button on employee travelÂ and relocations. But he was able to make up some ground by renting apartments to individuals. People working from home now account for about a quarter of the companyâs business, Mr. Taggar said, up from virtually nothing before the pandemic.
Unlike Sonder and Zeus, remote workers were a key part of Landingâs business before the pandemic. Its customers pay an annual membership fee, which gives them the right to rent furnished apartments in any city. The minimum length of stay varies from 30 to 60 days, and the company asks for a monthâs notice before a customer moves out.
The company is popular with college-educated young professionals who donât want to be tied to a single location. Since the start of the pandemic, it has seen a growing number of customers leave New York and San Francisco and move to cities like St. Petersburg, Fla., and Denver, Mr. Smith said.
In November, Landing raised $45 million in venture funding from a group of investors led by Foundry Group and including Greycroft and Maveron, along with $55 million in debt. Mr. Smith said he hopes to expand to 25,000 apartments by the end of this year, up from around 10,000 today.
That growth carries risk if demand from remote workers were to disappear again after the pandemic is over. Still, Chris Moody, a partner at Foundry Group, said the number of furnished apartments available under flexible terms is still so small that he doesnât worry about a lack of customers.
âEven at the end of 2021, we wonât really have scratched the surface,â he said.
The post Remote-Work Boom During Covid-19 Pandemic Draws Real-Estate Startups appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Zillow study illustrates home value disparity between races
Typical values for Black and Latinx-owned homes still lag behind overall U.S. home values, but the gap is narrowing.
A new Zillow analysis shows homes owned by Black and Latinx households are worth 16.2% and 10.2% less, respectively, than the typical U.S. home. Homes owned by non-Hispanic white and Asian families, meanwhile, have typical values 2.9% and 3.7% higher than the typical U.S. home.
While inequity in home values continues to persist, the data show them steadily, albeit slowly, converging. Since homeownership is the single largest driver of wealth for many households, the value and appreciation of a home is extremely impactful for families.
Before the Great Recession, the gap between Black-owned home values and all home values was about 15%, but grew to 20% by March 2014. Similarly, Latinx-owned homes saw the largest home value gap in May 2012 at 14% — 2 percentage points larger than before the housing bubble. Now, nearly a decade later, home values for Black- and Latinx-owned homes are back at pre-bubble levels, and continue to narrow despite the current economic crisis.
One reason for the wide gap is that the housing bust hit communities of color especially hard. Subprime loans were targeted to take advantage of the most vulnerable communities, and the ensuing wave of foreclosures hurt homeownership and home values disproportionately for Black and Latinx homeowners. Fast forward 12 years, and homeownership rates and home values are still recovering for these communities. While home value growth turned positive for U.S. homes in August 2012, it took an additional two years for Black and Latinx homes to see this same growth.
“It has taken nearly a decade for the home value gap to return to pre-recession levels, but still, the gap remains very large,” says Zillow economist Treh Manhertz. “With Black and brown communities and jobs hit disproportionately hard in the pandemic, there has been reason to worry another dip may be on the horizon that could slow or stop the progress. However, this is not the case, as the same factors that widened the gap in the Great Recession are not surfacing this time. Thanks to rock bottom rates on the most secure mortgages, extended forbearance programs, and rising home prices, there are no signs of another widening of the gap coming this year. However, through these turbulent times, continued vigilance and targeted intervention by policymakers is crucial to keep the progress going for communities of color.”
Home value inequality varies greatly in different states and metropolitan areas. Large metros with the smallest spread between Black-owned home values are Riverside (1% value gap), San Antonio (3%), Las Vegas (3%), and Portland (4%). Among the most unequal are Detroit (46% value gap), Buffalo (43%) Birmingham (43%), St. Louis (41%), and Milwaukee (40%).
Black homeownership rates are also on the rise since the Great Recession, despite challenges for Black homebuyers to secure a mortgage. Telework has the ability to expand the opportunity for homeownership even further for Black and Latinx renters, providing the flexibility to own a home in a less-expensive area.
The post Zillow study illustrates home value disparity between races appeared first on RealtyBizNews: Real Estate News.
Social media influencers are being paid to promote real estate
Some real estate agents have had the novel idea of partnering with social media influencers in order to get younger, first-time buyers checking out their listings.
A story in Bloomberg last week revealed that agents are turning to social media influencers to sell the idea of a better lifestyle, with Instagram posts or YouTube videos featuring some of their listings to help prospective buyers picture themselves living there.
Christine Blackburn, a sales director with Compass, told Bloomberg that she believes younger home buyers âtrust these influencers â thatâs what it comes down to.â
Blackburn has used the tactic herself, teaming up with three well known Instagram influencers to decorate condo units she is selling in Brooklyn, N.Y. One influencer, whoâs known for her houseplant tips, helped to outfit the condo with various potted plants and shared the photos on her profile. Some influencers have hundreds of thousands of followers that will see such images.
The National Association of Realtors says its data suggests that younger buyers are more likely to take advice from close friends and relatives when it comes to buying a home. And theyâre also more likely to respond to word-of-mouth marketing, and the NAR includes social media influencers in that category.
âWeâre seeing that social media has played quite a big role in home shopping,â StreetEasy Economist Nancy Wu told Bloomberg. StreetEasy has taken it onboard, and recently launched its own TikTok account that features home tours.
Bloomberg said the real estate pros it interviews that have used social media influencers declined to say how much they paid to get their listings featured. But they unanimously said that the posts resulted in a big increase in the number of people who viewed their listings.
Itâs likely that real estate agents will leverage content creators more often in the coming years, Thomas Fialo, vice president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, told Bloomberg.
âPeople can identify with them,â Fialo said, referring to social media influencers. âItâs about thinking outside the box and bringing a home to life.â
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New study: These are the best months (and days) to list your house
Want to list your house soon? According to a new study, homes listed in April and May sell the fastest and bring in the most profits.
Fannie, Freddie Overseer Looks to End Federal Control Before Trump Leaves
Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTONâThe federal regulator who overseesÂ Fannie MaeÂ andÂ Freddie MacÂ is pushing to speed up the mortgage giantsâ exit from 12 years of government control but has yet to reach an agreement he needs with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mark Calabria, a libertarian economist who heads the Federal Housing Finance Agency, has made it a priority to returnÂ Fannie and Freddie to private hands, a goal shared by Mr. Mnuchin. How that is done could affect the cost and availability of mortgages backed by the companies, which guarantee roughly half of the $11 trillion in existing home loans.
Completing the complex process before President Trumpâs term ends on Jan. 20 is a long shot, and President-elect Joe Biden is considered unlikely to continue the effort. But Messrs. Calabria and Mnuchin could succeed in taking steps that would be difficult to reverse, such as significantly restructuring the governmentâs stakes in the firms.
The Treasury secretary must agree to any move to alter the terms of either the companiesâ bailout agreement or the governmentâs stakes. One person familiar with the effort said Mr. Mnuchin is supportive of locking in a path to private ownership but mindful of steps that could disrupt the housing-finance market.
Mr. Calabria has met twice recently with Mr. Mnuchin to discuss an expedited exit of the companies from government control, most recently the week of Nov. 9, according to people familiar with the meetings, which also involved Larry Kudlow, the director of the White Houseâs National Economic Council. Mr. Mnuchin was noncommittal about the push, the people said.
Fannie and Freddie donât make home loans. Instead, they buy mortgages and package them into securities, which they then sell to investors. Their promise to make investors whole in case of default keeps down the price of home loans and underpins the popular 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.
The government seized control of Fannie and Freddie to prevent their collapse during the 2008 financial crisis through a process known as conservatorship, eventually injecting $190 billion into the companies. In exchange, the Treasury received a new class of so-called senior preferred shares that originally paid a 10% dividend. It also received warrants to acquire about 80% of the firmsâ common shares.
One option under discussion would entail a complex capital restructuring that would eventually reduce the governmentâs stakes in the firms. Such a move would be aimed at opening the door to new, private investment.
Still, it is a delicate issue because U.S. officials donât want to cause investors to doubt the governmentâs backing of the firms, which have helped pin mortgage rates at record low levels during this yearâs pandemic-induced economic slump. Moreover, it is politically sensitive because depending on the design, it could effectively moveÂ Wall Street investorsÂ ahead of taxpayers in line to receive any future profits.
As part of that set of decisions, Mr. Mnuchin would have to determine whether to write down the governmentâs more than $220 billion of senior preferred shares in the firms. Because those shares give the Treasury first claim on profits, private investors will have little incentive to take new stakes in Fannie and Freddie as long as they exist in their current form.
Such a move would likely push up the value of shares that investors acquired at fire-sale prices after the 2008 crisis. Some lawmakers are worried taxpayers would be short-changed.
In a letter to Messrs. Calabria and Mnuchin last month, Sens. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Mike Rounds (R., S.D.) said taxpayers must be paid a fair market value for whatever stake they give up.
âAny other means of reducing their investment would be tantamount to a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers who stepped in to save [Fannie and Freddie] to private investors looking for a windfall,â they wrote.
It is unclear how seriously officials are considering another legal move that Mr. Calabria has raised in the past: an order formally ending the conservatorships but requiring the companies to operate with significant limitations on their businesses until they raise enough capital to operate independently through retained earnings and possible future stock sales. Supporters say the move would be akin to downgrading a sick patient from the emergency room to a regular hospital room.
One person familiar with the matter said the policymakers arenât considering such an order, fearful it could upend markets.
Any single step, such as restructuring the governmentâs stakes in the firms, would normally require dozens of employees across the White House, Treasury and other agencies many months to complete, according to current and former government officials.
Industry officials warn that an abrupt overhaul to the companyâs legal status could spook risk-averse investors in mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, which are seen as nearly as safe as Treasurys.
âAn end to conservatorship would be a material change from what weâve had, and it will take time to explain to investors what risks do and do not exist,â said Michael Bright, CEO of the Structured Finance Association, whose members include investors in Fannie and Freddie securities.
In a sign that Mr. Calabria is eager to complete unfinished work quickly, theÂ FHFA on Wednesday completed a ruleÂ requiring the companies to hold as much as $280 billion in capital once they exit conservatorship, up from $35 billion currently.
âNick Timiraos contributed to this article.
The post Fannie, Freddie Overseer Looks to End Federal Control Before Trump Leaves appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Orchard expands to Houston, East Coast
Orchard announced Tuesday its immediate availability to consumers in Houston, as well as future expansion into Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and the Washington, D.C. suburbs in the upcoming months.
Court Cunningham, chief executive officer and co-founder, said he’s excited for Orchard to help consumers in the new markets, where demand has outpaced inventory.
“Weâll make it easier for home buyers in these markets to secure their dream home as soon as they see it, while still selling their old home for top dollar,â he said.
Cunningham added that the Move First initiative, Orchard’s program allowing homeowners to buy their next home before selling their old one, proved popular during the COVID-19 pandemic because it let consumers avoid living in their old home while potential homebuyers toured it.
âBuying and selling homes the traditional way isnât sufficient in todayâs hyper-competitive market,” he said. “With demand at an all-time high, people need to make offers – ideally in cash – without contingencies.”
Houston, according to multiple listing service data, is selling homes above price at triple the rate of 2019, and Cunningham added that the number of homes going under contract within 30 days of listing has increased by 50%.
Orchard adds Houston to a service area that includes Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Denver, and Atlanta.
Originally called Perch, Orchard branched into the lending business in July. This followed the creation of a title and escrow unit, dubbed Orchard Title, in the fall of 2018. It also closed on a $69 million Series C round led by Revolution Growth in September.
In October, Orchard announced the launch of a digital platform that enables homeowners to manage the entire real estate transaction in one place.
The post Orchard expands to Houston, East Coast appeared first on HousingWire.
Coliving amidst the challenges of COVID-19
There is no other way to say it: Real Estate as an industry did not have it easy in 2020. Big plans had to be put on hold, and business growth shrunk. The sub-segment of coliving within the Real Estate industry was especially susceptible to the damage that the world-wide lockdown did to businesses.
At the beginning of this month, my team and I at TheHouseMonk launched the Global Coliving Report 2020. It was the culmination of several months of research within the coliving industry around the world, and us trying to understand how the industry dealt with this impact.
We found comfort in data that we collected directly from operators, and our analysis of geographies and their markets. There are three big takeaways from the report to touch upon here.
Coliving industry growth slowed down
The industry which was estimated to be worth $7.5B in 2019 stood at a market value of $7.9B in 2020. The industry was growing steadily at a pace of 20% YoY but slowed down to 6% this year.
We found that both occupancy rates and rental prices reduced across most parts of the world, giving rise to the new ârevenue-sharingâ model between operators and landlords to help soften the blow of sudden churn, and also reduce liabilities.
China sustains its position as the largest coliving market, followed by the USA and India respectively. While Europe as a collective region presents a reasonably large market, no individual country within the EU presents a large opportunity by itself.
Drop in the occupancy rates and rental prices around the world
The USA and India experienced high drops in occupancy rates and were worst impacted, but South East Asia and China have shown remarkable stability in times of tough lockdowns. Their occupancy rates have remained nearly stable, and they have shown the lowest drop in rental prices.
Funding and IPO news
The year opened up with IPOs for Chinese industry leaders Danke & Qingke, but now their market value is shrinking significantly. This combined with the pandemic slowed the movement of late-stage PE capital into the coliving industry by the end of this year.
On the bright side, multiple companies raised Series B, C, and D rounds of financing. About $200M was invested in coliving companies across the globe this year.
Most early-stage companies pushed their growth plans to 2021, hence seed and Series A rounds were infrequent this year.
The Coliving industry is still bullish on growth
We knew that Global Coliving Report needs a direct connection with operators to represent their voice in all its authenticity. The Coliving Operators Survey featured in the report does just that.
The survey observes that despite stiff challenges, the sentiments of over 100 operators from around the world suggest they are still confident that the industry is going to bounce back, albeit in its own time.
48% of respondents in the survey said they were as bullish about the industry as they have ever been, with another 45% suggesting that they remain confident in the long-term prospects.
It also noted that 48% of coliving operators continued to expand their portfolio in 2020, while 20% had to let go of certain properties and reduce their portfolio size. The remaining 32% of respondents had neither increased nor decreased their footprint this year.
Further, 72% of coliving operators feel that it would take more than 1 year for the industry to recover and get back to pre-Covid growth levels.
For those interested, the full Global Coliving Report goes to the depths of the market, understanding the industry and its major players to analyze growth in the year of the pandemic, and also what the future looks like for the coliving industry.
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