8 Ways to Make Your Backyard a Summer Paradise

Summer is the season to be outdoors. It’s the perfect time for backyard barbecues, neighborhood socials, and late-night evenings on the patio. You don’t need to travel to a luxurious and exotic location to enjoy spending time outdoors. Make your own backyard a summer paradise with these eight simple suggestions.


Inspect and update wooden decks

To make your backyard a summer haven, take some time to inspect and update your deck. Wooden patios and decks can be warped by cold weather, so you’ll want to replace loose or missing slats as needed. Sand, stain, and seal your deck once you’ve made sure it’s structurally sound. If you have a stone patio, check for missing pieces and update as needed. Once this is complete, you’ll have a shiny and appealing deck you can decorate with patio furniture—creating a relaxing sitting area for summertime.

Purchase patio furniture and essentials

Once you have a designated patio or deck space, you’ll want to add some patio furniture so you can sit down, mingle with friends and family, and relax. Consider purchasing weatherproof patio furniture that is both comfortable and durable. Patio furniture can be exposed to harsh, seasonal weather, so you’ll want to make sure it lasts for years.

Get the basics including some lounge chairs, an umbrella, a hammock, and an outdoor table so you can enjoy meals or games outside. In addition to patio furniture, you may want to buy or build an outdoor fire pit. It’s a simple feature that adds so much to your backyard. Sit around the fire and socialize, roast marshmallows or even cook dinner on your own backyard fire place.

Add colorful cushions and pillows

You’ll want to add a splash of color to your patio so it’s eye-catching and sings of summertime. Buy some bright-colored, and comfortable throw pillows and cushions to spice up the furniture. The bright colors and fun patterns will entice people to sit down, relax, and enjoy your backyard paradise.

Get a rug for the patio

Consider adding a rug to the patio or deck area to make the space feel cozier. Outdoor rugs vary in material, size, and shape and are generally made to last in all types of weather. They make a great addition to your space, and can also protect your deck.

Install outdoor lighting

Nothing is more magical than twinkling lights against a royal-blue evening sky. Add strands of tea lights or other innovative lights to create a fairy-tale effect in your backyard. In addition to the decorative lighting, you’ll want to consider adding sensor or smart lights to your backyard for added security. Smart lights are a great way to ensure the backyard is lit—you can even control smart lights with your smart phone.

Make the backyard private

You may love your neighbors, but that doesn’t mean you want them always peeking into your backyard. Be creative when thinking of ways to ensure better backyard privacy. One easy way to create a private, secluded backyard paradise is to install a fence. Not only does it ensure privacy, but it is an essential safety measure. Install a strong, secure fence to create a private and safe backyard.

Update your landscaping

Landscaping can make or break your backyard. It’s essential to take time to update your landscaping to create an outdoor paradise. You don’t need extravagant plants or trees to make your backyard grand. Take some time to cut back unruly trees and bushes, pull the weeds, water and trim the lawn, and plant flowers around the yard. These simple updates will make a world of difference. You’ll have your own secret garden in no time! 

Secure outdoor belongings

Once you’ve created a magical backyard space, you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your belongings. Make sure your garden tools and supplies are in a locked shed—away from kids, pets, and burglars. Take time to assess the backyard for any security breaches. This will keep your family safe and protect your backyard, patio, and deck from major damages.

Summer is a wonderful time to relax and enjoy being outdoors. Update your own backyard and you’ll have access to a private paradise any time you want.

By Sage Singleton


Millennials Most Rent-Burdened Generation

Each generation faces its own set of challenges. When it comes to home-buying, millennials are finding it difficult to reach their homeownership goal, which for many is a huge step in achieving the American Dream. High student loan debt is just one obstacle standing in the way, keeping millennials from saving enough money for a down payment—and the longer they wait, the more they fall behind with rising interest rates and home prices.

But, with all the focus on homeownership, those who sign a lease every year tend to forget that they’re spending a ton of cash on renting. Millennials are spending the most, according to a recent report by RentCafé, which analyzed each generation’s total income and rent paid during an eight-year period—from 22 to 29 years of age—using Census data for single people paying the average monthly rent on their own.

The findings? Millennials spend a whopping $92,600 on rent before they’re even 30. Gen Xers spent $82,200 and baby boomers paid just $71,000. However, millennials may not be on top for long. Gen Z renters will spend an estimated $102,000 within that same age range, according to the report.

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Of course, rising income plays a role too, having increased from a median of $195,700 for baby boomers to $202,100 for Generation X individuals and $206,600 for millennials aged 22 to 30. However, the small increase of $4,500 between median income for Generation Xers and millennials doesn’t make up for the $10,400 increase in rent paid between the two generations.

There are also differences in spending within each generation. According to the report, younger millennials between 22 and 29 years of age have paid more in rent than those aged 30 to 40. Regardless of earning a higher income than older millennials, the younger segment paid $6,900 more in rent. According to the report, the recession and social factors are to blame for longer rental periods.

With so many funds going to rent, compounded with market challenges and high student loan debt, millennials are struggling to save for homeownership. Will future generations decide to stay at home with their parents longer to save on rent and achieve their homeownership dream?

How Long Do You Need to Work for That Down Payment?

Although some renters may currently be locked out of the housing market, 2015 data from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) shows more than 80 percent of renters do dream of one day becoming a homeowner. The top hurdle for many? That pesky down payment. While some first-time buyers are able to score down payment rates of as little as 5 percent, most are expected to sock away at least 20 percent, which can be difficult, especially in cities where the cost of living is high. So how long do most people have to hustle to save enough nickels for their down payment?
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New data from SmartAsset looks at just that—examining and ranking the cities where the average workers need to save the longest to afford a down payment.

To reach their findings, the company studied the 50 largest cities in the country, noting how many years it would take to afford a 20 percent down payment on the median home in each city if workers earning the median income were able to save 20 percent of their salary annually.

Results in some states are not surprising. California claimed six of the top eight cities where adequately saving is most difficult.

Renters in Texas, on the other hand, have it easier. Average residents of Fort Worth, San Antonio, Arlington and El Paso would need to save for less than three years to stash the down payment on an average home.

The following infographic runs down the top 15 cities where it will take renters the longest to save up for that down payment:

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Posted on Apr 27 2018 – 10:08am by Zoe Eisenberg

Home Sales Overcome Inventory, Price Woes

Inventory shortages and pressing affordability issues didn’t suppress home sales activity in March. Total sales of existing homes, including single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, increased 1.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.6 million, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. However, home sales are still 1.2 percent below a year ago.

“Robust gains last month in the Northeast and Midwest—a reversal from the weather-impacted declines seen in February—helped overall sales activity rise to its strongest pace since last November,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The unwelcoming news is that while the healthy economy is generating sustained interest in buying a home this spring, sales are lagging year-ago levels because supply is woefully low, and home prices keep climbing above what some would-be buyers can afford.”

Here’s a closer look at some key indicators from NAR’s latest existing-home sales report for March:

  • Home prices: The median price for existing homes of all types was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from a year ago. “Although the strong job market and recent tax cuts are boosting the incomes of many households, speedy price growth is squeezing overall affordability in several markets, especially those out West,” Yun says.
  • Inventories: Total housing inventory rose 5.7 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, but that’s still 7.2 percent lower than a year ago. Inventories have fallen year over year for 34 consecutive months. At the current sales pace, unsold inventory is at a 3.6-month supply.
  • All-cash sales: Cash transactions comprised 20 percent of sales, down from 23 percent a year ago. Individual investors tend to account for the bulk of all-cash sales. They purchased 15 percent of homes on the market last month, down from 18 percent a year ago.
  • Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales made up 4 percent of home sales. Broken out, 3 percent of sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.
  • Days on the market: Fifty percent of homes that sold in March were on the market for less than a month. Properties stayed on the market for an average of 30 days, down from 34 days a year ago.

“REALTORS® throughout the country are seeing the seasonal ramp-up in buyer demand this spring—but without the commensurate increase in new listings coming onto the market,” Yun says. “As a result, competition is swift, and homes are going under contract in roughly a month, which is four days faster than last year and a remarkable 17 days faster than March 2016.”

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

10-Year High Profits for Sellers

Homeowners are profiting when selling—and their average earnings haven’t been this high since 2007.

At the close of 2017, the average home seller gained $54,000, or a 29.7 percent return on investment (ROI), in the transaction, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ recently released Year-End and Q4 2017 U.S. Home Sales Report. Contradictory, however, is their length of stay: 8.18 years—the longest since 2000.

“It’s the most profitable time to sell a home in more than 10 years, yet homeowners are staying put longer than we’ve ever seen,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

The best rates of ROI are clustered on the West Coast, the report reveals. The San Jose, Calif., market has the highest return, at 90.9 percent, followed by San Francisco, Calif., at 73.7 percent, Merced, Calif., at 64.6 percent, Seattle, Wash., at 64.4 percent, and Santa Cruz, Calif., at 59.8 percent.

Appreciation, generally, improves the potential for profit. Annual appreciation has been highest in Ocala, Fla. (+14.3 percent), Kansas City, Mo. (+13.4 percent), San Jose (+13.3 percent), Salem, Ore. (+12.9 percent), and Nashville, Tenn. (+12.5 percent), the report shows. Additional areas are considerably growing, as well: Las Vegas, Nev. (+12.3 percent); Salt Lake City, Utah (+10.9 percent); Seattle (+10.8 percent); and Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. (both +10.7 percent).

“While home sellers on the West Coast are realizing the biggest profits, rapid home price appreciation in red state markets is rivaling that of the high-flying coastal markets and producing sizable profits for home sellers in those middle-American markets, as well,” Blomquist says.


By Suzanne De Vita

Buyer Demand for Green Homes Trends Up

If you ask the REALTORS® who work with them, buyer demand for green homes is trending up.

Homebuyers are interested in sustainability, according to 61 percent of REALTORS® in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) REALTORS® and Sustainability 2018 Report—and, in many markets, they have options. Eighty percent of REALTORS® report their market has solar panels, and 23 percent report their market has tiny homes, or homes less than 600 square feet.

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Approximately three-quarters (71 percent) of REALTORS® believe energy-efficient features are a highlight when marketing listings, cited as either “somewhat” or “very valuable,” and 40 percent of REALTORS® report their MLS has “green” data fields to showcase them, the report reveals. When it comes to communicating energy efficiency to homebuyers, 39 percent of REALTORS® are “comfortable” or “extremely comfortable” answering questions about efficiency and/or performance, even though 30 percent also believe there is a lack of materials for REALTORS®. Forty percent are “confident” or “extremely confident” that they can connect their homebuyers to a “green” lender.

Based on client feedback, homebuyers are looking for neighborhoods to have access to highways (according to 82 percent of REALTORS®), commutes that are short (81 percent) and walkability (51 percent), the report shows.

“Consumers continue to make it clear that environmentally-friendly features and neighborhoods are an important factor in deciding where and what home to buy,” says NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “REALTORS® are leaders in the conversation about real estate sustainability, energy conservation and resource efficiency, and will continue to promote environmentally-conscious strategies and best practices that benefit not just our clients, but also our communities.”

NAR’s Sustainability Report coincides with a realtor.com® report that found that as energy-efficient homes increase in popularity and prices rise, green homes are not commanding as considerable a premium.

“Although Southern and Western states still lead the way in green technology adoption, eco-friendly features have grown in popularity across many regions of the United States,” said Javier Vivas, director of Economic Research at realtor.com, in the report. “Many buyers have come to expect standard features, and homes integrating specialty green features are becoming more mainstream.”

By Suzanne De Vita

How to Prevent a Low Appraisal

Many buyers are offering more than the asking price on properties undergoing bidding wars, but when the appraisal reveals the true market value of the home, they may find they’ve agreed to pay too much. Home sales commonly fall through when a property appraises for less than the price the buyer offers; the seller may be unwilling to accept a lower offer, and the buyer may decide the deal isn’t worth it.

Appraisal issues are still one of the most common causes of delayed settlements, according to March data from the REALTORS® Confidence Index. Real estate professionals report that appraisal issues delayed 19 percent of closings in March, which was the second most reported problem behind “issues related to obtaining financing.” Bankrate.com recently offered some tips for protecting your transactions from low appraisals.

Buyers likely will want to ask their lender to find an appraiser who works regularly in the county where they’re purchasing. Appraisers who know the area are less likely to evaluate properties based on flawed data. Buyer’s agents should be present during an appraisal appointment in order to provide the appraiser appropriate comps and explain any information that could be skewing the comps.

In some cases, sellers are being preemptive—getting an appraisal before listing their home and using that appraisal to set a realistic list price. If they’ve done this, they’ll want to give a copy of their prelisting appraisal to the buyer’s appraiser.

Also, remember that your clients can contest a low appraisal. The appraiser or a supervisor may consider taking into account any new or overlooked information when an appraisal has been questioned.

Source: “How to Avoid a Low Home Appraisal,” Bankrate.com (May 2, 2018)

Homeownership Rate Roadblocked

…And That’s Not a Bad Thing

With distressingly low supply and unprecedented price surges, the homeownership rate is stalling: 64.2 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to the government—no improvement quarter-over-quarter, and negligible progress year-over-year. Is the nonstarter worrying?

In the first three months of 2017, the homeownership rate was 63.6 percent; in the last three months, it was 64.2 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Report shows.

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“It may be tempting to read the lack of movement in the Q1 2018 homeownership rate as a negative, especially on the heels of a string of incremental quarterly gains throughout 2017… but expecting consistent growth in the homeownership rate is unrealistic, and holding steady in the face of headwinds that emerged in the first quarter—including rising mortgage interest rates and continued lack of inventory—should be considered good enough, at least for now,” said Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, in a statement.

“A national homeownership rate around the 64 percent level we’re at now is much more in line with historic averages, and feels sustainable given current conditions,” Gudell said.

“The homeownership rate continued its steady annual ascent to 64.2 percent in the first quarter of 2018, up from 63.6 percent this time last year, but unchanged from last quarter, in the face of fierce headwinds for homebuyers,” says Cheryl Young, senior economist at Trulia. “While demand is buttressed by healthy consumer fundamentals, such as low unemployment and robust job growth, chronically low inventory and skyrocketing prices plague the housing market.”

The challenging conditions are not deterring first-timers and Hispanics, with the homeownership rates for both segments up year-over-year. The under-age 35 homeownership rate was 35.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, up from 34.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017, while the Hispanic homeownership rate was 48.4 percent, up from 46.6 percent.

“The homeownership rate among those 35 years old or younger is up a full percentage point compared to a year ago, indicating first-time buyers are finding some success, despite difficulties,” said Gudell. “The Hispanic homeownership rate was up substantially from the norms of the past few years and is closing in on 50 percent. The black homeownership rate, while still lagging well behind other groups, held steady and maintained the gains made over the past year.”

“Millennials have emerged as the most dogged homebuyers, with those under 35 far outpacing the overall annual homeownership rate change, despite contending with the most vexing portion of the housing market,” Young says. “Millennials make up the largest share of those seeking starter homes, a portion of the market that saw inventory plummet 14.2 percent and prices leap nearly 10 percent year-over-year in Q1 2017.”

Though the general homeownership rate is roadblocked, the demographic drivers can be the motivator for new starter stock.

“The homeownership rate climbing out of its 50-year low should be seen as an opportunity for builders in the for-sale space,” says Young.

By Suzanne De Vita

Home Prices Up 7% from Last Year

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index, national home prices have appreciated by 7.0% from October 2016 to October 2017. This marks the second month in a row with a 7.0% year-over-year increase.

Home Prices Up 7% from Last Year | Keeping Current Matters

A lack of supply of homes for sale has led to upward pressure on home prices across the country, especially in areas where both existing and new home inventory have not kept up with buyer demand.

CoreLogic’s Chief Economist Frank Nothaft elaborated on the significance of such a large year-over-year gain,

“Single-family residential sales and prices continued to heat up in October. On a year-over-year basis, home prices grew in excess of 6 percent for four consecutive months ending in October, the longest such streak since June 2014.

This escalation in home prices reflects both the acute lack of supply and the strengthening economy.”

This is great news for homeowners who have gained over $13,000 in equity in their home over the last year! Those homeowners who had been on the fence as to whether or not to sell will be pleasantly surprised to find out that they now have an even larger profit to help cover a down payment on their dream home.

CoreLogic’s President & CEO Frank Martell had this to say,

“The acceleration in home prices is good news for both homeowners and the economy because it leads to higher home equity balances that support consumer spending and is a cushion against mortgage risk. However, for entry-level renters and first-time homebuyers, it leads to tougher affordability challenges.”

Any time the price of a home goes up there will likely be concern about the affordability of that home, but there is good news. Mortgage interest rates remain at historic lows, allowing buyers to enter the housing market and lock in a low monthly housing cost.

Rents Are Also Rising

The report went on to mention that over the same 12-month period, median rental prices for a single-family home have also risen by 4.2%.

With rents and home prices rising at the same time, first-time buyers may find the task of saving for a down payment a little daunting. Low down payment programs are available and have been a very popular option for first-time buyers. The median down payment for first-time buyers in 2017 was only 5%!

Bottom Line

If you are looking to enter the housing market, as either a buyer or a seller, meet with a local real estate professional who can explain exactly what’s going on in your neighborhood and discuss your options!

Buyers Stretch Budgets to Be More Competitive

Buyer demand is high but the number of homes for sale is low. This is prompting more shoppers to stretch their budgets, put less money down, or turn to adjustable-rate loans to prevail in a bidding war for a home.

“The frustration with the lack of inventory is, so many of the houses are going in bidding wars, and so you know you really have to step up to the plate and you have to do your homework to be a competitive buyer,” Patrick Clark, a real estate professional with Long & Foster in Philadelphia, told CNBC.

Higher mortgage rates and escalating home prices are prompting more home buyers to consider adjustable-rate mortgages, which offer lower initial rates for a set time before rising. Borrowers are being tempted on low down payment loan options, such as Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed 3 percent down payment loans. They’re also being lured to private lenders offering “nonprime loans” (the reimagined subprime loans). Read more: ‘Nonprime’ Loans Expand Mortgage Options

Buyers are feeling confident enough in their own finances to put more at stake to break into homeownership.

“When they’re more confident they are willing to stretch a little further,” says Mike Graff, a mortgage consultant with Prosperity Home Mortgage. “I think that some people realize, look, they’re not going to be in this house for 30 years, so moving to an ARM, when the rate is fixed for a period of time, they’re definitely more comfortable with something like that to lower their payment or to kind of stretch their budget a bit, so we have seen an uptick in that.”

Banks are showing more willingness to take on greater risk in jumbo loans, too.

Source: “Homebuyers Are Stretching Their Budgets and Mortgage Limits to Win Bidding Wars,” CNBC (April 24, 2018)