Downsizing is on the minds of many homeowners today. Some are ready to retire, others want to live more simply, and many want to save money and say goodbye to home maintenance. If you can relate to any of those sentiments, ask yourself these five questions:
Have you done the math?
The financial savings that can be generated by downsizing can be significant – especially as they add up over time. When doing the math, make sure the move will save money, rather than spend unnecessarily.
Have you researched elder-care options?
Many homeowners hold on to their current home longer than they should because their parents / parents-in-law may need to come live with them in the future. While a noble gesture, there are many excellent elder care living options available today. Often, all it takes is a tour of those facilities to realize that your loved one may actually be happier, and far better served, in a place devoted to their care and happiness.
Have you considered off-site storage?
You don’t need to immediately discard a big chunk of your belongings in order to downsize. In fact, trying to do so in one fell swoop only creates needless stress. Most people find it works much better to move some of their belongings into off-site storage for six months. During that time, you can gradually incorporate some of those items into your new living arrangement, and slowly figure out what to do with the others.
How do you feel about sharing costs and decision-making?
Townhomes and condominiums are popular downsizing options. But both require that you share the decision-making and expenses associated with any maintenance and improvement projects with your neighbors and potentially an HOA. If you’re a people-person and agree that two heads are better than one, and you like the idea of sharing the cost/responsibility for expensive repairs, you’ll enjoy condo living. If not, this may not be the best option for you.
Have you consulted with a real estate agent?
Many homeowners don’t think to consult with a real estate agent until they’ve made the decision to downsize. This leads to guesstimating about some of the most important factors. The truth is, your real estate agent is someone you want to talk with very early in the decision-making process.
If you try to call or stop by a Windermere office today you’ll notice that we’re closed for business. That’s because the entire Windermere network of agents, franchise owners, and staff are volunteering for our annual Community Service Day. For the past 35 years, our agents have taken one-day-a-year off to dig into hands-on community service projects, volunteering more than one million hours of time in the process.
So, what do we do on Community Service Day? This year, we can be found doing a variety of projects, such as weeding community gardens, cleaning and landscaping at various parks, sorting donations and cleaning up warehouse spaces at local nonprofits, cleaning animal shelters, building and auctioning off Adirondack chairs to benefit school district programs for homeless students, cleaning elementary schools, sorting/distributing food at food banks, preparing land for the growing season at food pantries, and helping to build a playground at a homeless shelter for families. This is just a sample of the projects that our offices have selected to complete on Windermere’s annual day of giving.
Community Service Day is something our company looks forward to every year because it gives us the opportunity to come together as a team to make a positive difference in the communities where we live, work, and play.
Photo by MyDomaine
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep the room uncluttered. When you want to settle in, a mess distracts you from finding comfort, to 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 envelop 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.
Photo by letsbemates.com.au
Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes effort. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to get into work mode.
Having a designated workspace helps you set the tone for your day. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to continue working late into the night. However, maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for your overall wellbeing. These five tips can help you create the perfect home office:
- Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
- To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
- Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
- Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
- Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
What’s your home worth?
It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.
There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $35,000 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services (MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.
Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.
Nationally, sales of new homes are stronger than they have been in a long time. March was the best month since 2007 and April was the third-best month in that same time period.
This research comes from the National Association of Home Builders who show that we are on pace to sell 673,000 new homes this year across the Country. 5 years ago there were roughly 450,000 sales of new homes.
For the first four months of 2019, new home sales are 6.7% ahead of the sales pace of the initial four months of 2018.
What is interesting is that those gains have distinct regional clustering. Year-to-date sales are up 10.3% in the South, 6.7% in the West (concentrated in the Mountain states), and 1.3% in the Midwest, while recording a 17.6% decline in the Northeast.
The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market (which now includes Clear Creek, Gilpin, and Park counties) 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.
Colorado’s economy continues to grow with the addition of 44,800 new non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months. This represents a reasonable growth rate of 1.7%. As stated in last quarter’s Gardner Report, we continue to see a modest slowdown in employment gains, but that’s to be expected at this stage of the business cycle. I predict that employment growth in Colorado will pick back up as we move through the year, adding a total of 70,000 new jobs in 2019, which represents a growth rate of 2.6%.
In February, the state unemployment rate was 3.7%, up from 2.9% a year ago. The increase is essentially due to labor force growth, which rose by more than 84,000 people over the past year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, unemployment rates in all the markets contained in this report haven’t moved much in the past year, but Boulder saw a modest drop (2.7%), and the balance of the state either remained at the same level as a year ago or rose very modestly.
- In the first quarter of 2019, 11,164 homes sold — a drop of 3% compared to the first quarter of 2018 and down 13.5% from the fourth quarter of last year. Pending sales in the quarter were a mixed bag. Five counties saw an increase, but five showed signs of slowing.
- The only market that had sales growth was Adams, which rose 4.9%. The rest of the counties contained in this report saw sales decline, with a significant drop in the small Park County area.
- I believe the drop in the number of home sales is partially due to the significant increase in listings (+45.6%), which has given would-be home buyers more choice and less need to act quickly.
- As mentioned above, inventory growth in the quarter was significant, but I continue to believe that the market will see sales rise. I expect the second half of the year to perform better than the first.
- Home prices continue to trend higher, but the rate of growth is tapering. The average home price in the region rose just 2.1% year-over-year to $456,243. Home prices were .3% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2018.
- I anticipate that the drop in interest rates early in the year will likely get more buyers off the fence and this will allow prices to rise.
- Appreciation was again strongest in Park County, where prices rose 21.9%. We still attribute this rapid increase to it being a small market. Only Clear Creek County experienced a drop in average home price. Similar to Park County, this is due to it being a very small market, making it more prone to significant swings.
- Affordability remains an issue in many Colorado markets but that may be offset by the drop in interest rates.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in Colorado rose five days compared to the first quarter of 2018.
- The amount of time it took to sell a home dropped in two counties — Gilpin and Park — compared to the first quarter of 2018. The rest of the counties in this report saw days-on-market rise modestly with the exception of the small Clear Creek market, which rose by 26 days.
- In the first quarter of 2019, it took an average of 42 days to sell a home in the region, an increase of four days compared to the final quarter of 2018.
- Job growth drives housing demand, but buyers are faced with more choice and are far less frantic than they were over the past few years. That said, I anticipate the late spring will bring more activity and sales.
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.
For the first quarter of 2019, I have moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers. I am watching listing activity closely to see if we get any major bumps above the traditional increase because that may further slow home price growth; however, the trend for 2019 will continue towards a more balanced market.
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.
Throughout the years, the Windermere Foundation has donated more than $38 million to hundreds of organizations throughout the Western U.S. We’ve helped homeless shelters, food banks, schools, hospitals, community centers, and other nonprofits that provide services to low-income and homeless families.
Most of this funding comes from our agents who give a portion of every commission they earn to the Windermere Foundation. In addition to this, Windermere has a number of vendor partners that do their part by donating a portion of the business they receive from Windermere, back to the Windermere Foundation. Examples of these partners include Bumblejax, Complete Office, Fran’s Chocolates, glassybaby, Knack, Loop & Tie, Morrison Craig Apparel, Posie Turner, Sozo, and Windsor Vineyards.
One partner in particular that we’d like to give special recognition to is trueIMAGE Publishing. Since 2007, trueIMAGE Publishing has provided Windermere agents with beautiful calendars that showcase exclusive images from award-winning photographers. These calendars are popular gift items that agents send to their clients. Through these calendar sales, trueIMAGE Publishing has generously donated over $247,000 to the Windermere Foundation! We cannot thank them enough for all they’ve done to help us continue our tradition of giving.
We are so grateful for all of our “true-ly” wonderful vendor partners who share our passion for helping those less fortunate. Their contributions have helped us continue to provide funding for things such as diapers and formula for babies, housing assistance for families with critically ill children, shoes and school supplies to students in need, and scholarships for low-income adults seeking to continue their education in order to be able to provide more for their families.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, or to make a donation, please visit windermerefoundation.com.
When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
First-floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.
Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
- Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it or zone-approval requirements.
- Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
- ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
The last time we saw a balanced market was late 1990s, meaning many sellers and buyers have never seen a normal housing market. Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner looks at more longer-term averages, what does he see for the future of the housing market?