Why Are So Many Millennials and First-Time Buyers Getting Left Behind?

Millennials represent the largest demographic group of first-time homebuyers,  yet in recent years,  according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), their share of home purchases has dropped to a 30-year low.   Why? . [Read More]

The Best of the 2014 Kitchen and Bath Show


There’s a different kind of cabin fever breaking out — the kind you catch when you’re stuck inside staring at your walls during a cold, wicked winter. When you realize you don’t have quite enough storage space. Or your kitchen is really dark and dingy. And your bathroom? Well, let’s not go there.

There’s no better cure than highlights from the kitchen and bath show and the international builder show held earlier this month.

The major takeaway from the shows? A strong focus on practicality, durability, and elegant space-saving solutions — three features we love for their value-adding potential.

Long-Lasting Beauties

There were some really interesting products that seemed to successfully meld beauty, practicality, and durability. Take kitchen sinks, for example.

One uber-durable option rising in popularity is granite composite, a mix of granite and resin ($200-$500).

Pros of granite composite:

  • Uniform look and color throughout.
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    Big Flood Insurance Price Hikes Rescinded


    Imagine getting an annual insurance bill in the mail that rose from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. That’s what happened to some homeowners across the country after Congress passed flood insurance reform legislation two years ago that raised premiums by more than 25% in a single year.

    Thankfully, Congress and the President just rescinded big parts of that law and decided homeowners and businesses shouldn’t face annual flood insurance bills that rise more than 18%-25% a year. (Here’s what we wrote about that rate increase.)

    What’s the Takeaway for Homeowners?

    1. Relief for those who purchased a property under the 2012 law. These folks typically saw rates jump immediately to the much higher ones, sometimes reaching tens of thousands of dollars per year. Many buyers weren’t told of the rate spike before purchasing the property.

    In addition, many of the new quoted rates turned out to be mistakes: Homeowners were asked to pay more than was needed to cover the true risk of flooding in their areas.

    Premium increases were so high and sudden that it was preventing homeowners from selling in some areas.

    Now: The rates for those who bought under the 2012 law will reset to pre-2012 levels. And if you paid the higher rates, you’ll be refunded the amount in excess of the 18%-25% capped increase.

    2. The revision grandfathers owner-occupied homeowners whose flood insurance bills rose suddenly when the Feds adjusted flood maps, putting those homes into higher-risk areas. For example, your home might have been built to 10-foot elevation standards. But then the area was remapped to 13 feet, causing huge premium increases.

    Now: You’ll keep your lower rate even if your property is remapped since your house was built to the standards or the time. And if you sell, that rate transfers to the buyers.

    Premiums will Still Rise

    Of course, everyone’s premiums can still go up 18%-25% a year until you’re paying enough to make the National Flood Insurance Program self-sustaining.

    But buyers won’t see rate increases at the closing table. And owners won’t see sudden jumps because of remapping. Rather, capped increases will occur annually when your policy renews. That means catching up to the full-freight rates could take decades.

    What About the Financial Viability of the Flood Insurance Program?

    To pay for the changes in the new law, homeowners will incur an annual surcharge on top of their premium:

  • Owner occupants: $25 fee
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    How Much Do You Love Your Home? Enough to Turn Down a Million Dollars?


    Do you love your home as much as Edith Macefield, the 84-year-old Seattle woman whose story is remarkably similar to the plotline in the movie “Up”? She turned down a $1 million offer in 2006, then forced developers to build their five-story shopping mall around her little cottage.

    Do you love your home as much as my friend Anne Robinson who turned down $5 million for her home and 18-acre lot abutting a 1,000-acre wildlife conservation area in suburban Baltimore?

    Robinson chased more than one would-be buyer off her property. Once she literally swept a determined developer out of her house using her broom. Just as determined, she held on to her home until her death, eventually leaving it to the county so it could build a nature center there.

    I wish I shared in this sentimentality. I can’t because I’m the mother of a high school junior who keeps finding things to like about very expensive private colleges. If you know a developer who’d pay $1 million for my 3-acre lot and 1970s ranch home, give him my number. I could have my family packed up and out of here by this weekend.

    It’s not that I don’t love my home. I do. In fact, I love it more than pretty much anyone I know. But what I really love is homeownership itself and all its possibilities. Being a homeowner has surrounded us with neighbors who became true friends and brought my family financial stability.

    My husband and I were serial home renovators for years. We’d buy a fixer-upper and live in it for two or three years, remodeling on the weekends. When the home was updated, we’d rent it out and move on to the next project.

    We finally stopped because moving homes, and therefore schools, made our daughter unhappy. Now that she’s a high school junior, Hubby and I are discussing where we’ll move when she leaves for college.

    She, meanwhile, is going all Anne Robinson on us. She tells us we can’t move because she needs to be able to come home to this house for at least five more years. My argument that home is any place the people you love are living doesn’t fly with her.

    I think most people tilt toward Anne on the home-love scale. Selling the home would mean walking away from a place with treasured memories of raising their children, or even of their own childhood.

    I actually still own my childhood home, a townhouse, which I inherited. Now, I rent it out. It’s just a few minutes from where we live. Hubby and I might just end up moving there after Emily leaves for school. After all, we loved that house and those neighbors, too.

    What about you? How much do you love your home?


    Getting the Most Value Out of Your Outdoor Spaces

    Walkway lighting, colorful plantings, and a tidy lawn are all features of good landscaping. And if you're selling, this kind of curb appeal can cut your home's time on the market by 10% to 15%. Image: August Landscape Design

    If you’re thinking of sprucing up your yard, install what you love; but also pick upgrades that will increase your home’s value and, someday, attract buyers.

    The new “2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey” by the American Society of Landscape Architects clues you in on what outdoor features are trending up:

    1.  Outdoor lighting (98.3% of architects rated this as very popular): With today’s solar and LED lights, it’s a low-cost upgrade, too.

    2.  Terraces, patios, and decks (97.7%): Adding any of these features is like adding another room to your home for much of the year.

    3.  Low-maintenance landscaping (95.4%): Landscaping done right can add 28% to the value of your home and cut its time on the market by 10%-15%.

    4.  Fire pits and fireplaces (95.4%): Building your own fire pit is an easy, low-cost DIY project.

    5.  Built-in seating (89.6%): Adding built-ins to your deck or patio increases the usability of your outdoor spaces, which is like adding square footage to your home.

    Other popular items include:

  • Fencing (88.5%)
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    Interested in buying or selling a home in the Bradenton, FL area? Call Us Today! (941) 251-4949 • Email: rebeccasamler@gmail.com