St.Tammany is keeping Mardi Gras 2021 alive this year in a special kind of way. Two Northshore krewes spread the “house float” idea that a New Orleans resident originated. Megan Boudreaux, an insurance agent in New Orleans, came up with the idea to keep Mardi Gras going through decorating her house as a float. She posted on social media to share her idea with a few friends and the idea spread from local New Orleans up to the Northshore and now has made its way to parts of Alabama and Mississippi.

“Everyone loved the idea and wanted to jump in to make their own house floats,” she said. “A shop owner decided to call her theme Yardi Gras, and it just exploded from there.”

The idea has been making its way through neighbors and friends who have been decorating their homes and office buildings to resemble floats. Many residents are also decorating their yards calling it Yardi Gras and for animal lovers, Mardi Paws is decorating doghouses and will have an animal costume competition.

Covington residence Gina and Buddy Campo decided to decorate their house as a part of the “Northshore House Floats” and Covington-centric “Rollin’ on the Three Rivers” krewes. The Northshore House Floats theme is special vacation spots so the Campo’s decked their home with a Jamaican flare calling it “Jamaican Me Crazy.”

To keep with their Jamaican theme, they created a thatched roof dog hut in honor of their three doodles Bourré, Dani and Gabbie Roux. The three were dressed up and photographed for the Mardi Paws’ Mardi Gras Costume Competition.

The community wants to lift Carnival spirits and is doing a great job of keep Mardi Gras alive this year.

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The housing market began with a bang in 2021 but with the demand for new homes came some uncertain challenges. Builder’s confidence is strong with such buyer’s high demand. The shortage in home inventory and low mortgage rates coupled with buyer’s high interest and a new generation of buyers hitting their peak home-buying years makes for a great time for new home construction.

Zillow reported in their New Construction Consumer Housing Trends Report 2020 that 40% of those buyers who purchased a new construction build, were only interested in buying a new construction home. On the negative side, these new construction buyers hit more obstacles this year than in the past.

Close to half (45%) new construction buyers are under 40 years of age and 70% of new construction home buyers are first-time home purchasers. This shift in demographics has changed what a first-time home buyer might find challenging and what this demographic might struggle with.

This young generation struggled with several top challenges during the purchasing process. A fair price for a home seems to be a challenge. It was sighted that 30% of new construction buyers found that determining a fair price for a home was hard in 2019 and this rose to 37% in 2020. Many blame COVID-19 for this reason. The transaction of coordinating the build of a new home with the sale of their current home was also hard to handle for 36% of new construction home buyers.

The relationship between the sales agent and the home builder has become extremely important. In 2019 84% of new construction home buyers relied on their sales agent to communicate with the builder. In 2020 this rose to 90% which was a 17 point increase over last year.

Challenges can be overcome with help from a Realtor. A Realtor can help a buyer with pricing and financing. They can also be a great mediator between the buyer and home builder. A professional sales agent will help both the building process and purchasing process become an easy streamlined process.

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St. Tammany Parish Development District hired Chris Masingill in May 2018 to be the CEO of St. Tammany Corp. St. Tammany Corp. was developed to create partnerships and opportunities to help the parish prosper. The company is the lead economic development organization in St. Tammany Parish.

When Masingill began his position as CEO, St. Tammany was on an uphill path with a great local economy, many prospects and partnerships in the works that could bring the parish additional jobs and the parish’s performance was well above standards. Today, the parish’s prosperity has taken a hit by the stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines the novel coronavirus has brought on.

Masingill is being proactive and has a plan in place to hopefully return to pre-pandemic levels of prosperity and keep on a positive track for the future. Masingill is focusing on what can be done in the future to best ensure the parish remains a place of choice to work, live and play for decades to come.

St. Tammany’s unemployment rate dramatically rose in 2020 because of COVID-19. During the height of COVID-19, 50,000 St. Tammany residents sought unemployment benefits. Many of the parish’s industry sectors were hit very hard. Those that were hit the hardest were hospitality, tourism and restaurants. The Ceo explains that the parish’s revenue has been reduced but some of it is slowly returning. The parish might not see as much motel/hotel sales tax nowadays but taxes from grocery stores and hardware stores have spiked.

Masingill reports that there are some companies that are busier than ever because of the change in spending habits due to the novel coronavirus. In St. Tammany, the logistics, transportation, warehousing and distribution sectors have boomed. The parish has thrived in this industry because of its geographic positioning and the talented workforce it has living among it. Masingill believes this shift is because the global supply chain has changed. “Even with the vaccine coming online and the economy getting energy behind it, there’s little doubt that some things about the way we do business have fundamentally changed forever,” he relays.

People are currently hiring and job postings for the month of November 2020 were at 7,000 unique postings. St. Tammany residents are still spending money and there is a rebound in consumer confidence but the recovery will be slow. We should understand that there will be ups and downs to the long-term recovery. “There is no quick fix. We’re talking several more months, and some people predict several years, before we see the same level of economic activity we saw in 2019,” Masingill states.

St. Tammany is very lucky that it is home of some of the most educated people in the area. It is reported that 40% of the residence in St. Tammany hold a college degree. Masingill wants to focus on keeping its residence local to work and not go out of the parish for employment.

It is in the perfect location and the parish has access to things people want. The parish is in the top 10% of the most populous counties/parishes in the United States. Masingill continues to keep the area in the top 10% and believes that quality of life is just as important as sustainable growth, job creation and business development. “You want a nimble and resilient community. If you have that, you can rebound that much more quickly when things like a pandemic happens, when a hurricane happens.”

Overall Masingill feels that balance will be the success of St. Tammany’s robust economy. “There’s a balance. (You have to be in the middle.) That’s the sustainable and smart approach. We want our kids and grandkids to either stay here or have a place to come back to where they can reap the benefits and enjoyment of a place where they can have access to the things they want. That’s educational opportunities, job growth and expansion, a place to enjoy all the things our community has to offer,” says Masingill.

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CoreLogic, a company that provides consumer, financial and property data analytics and services to business and government, forecast a downturn in home prices in 2021. Even though COVID-19 has not affected the current housing market, the company suggests a dip this summer because of the negative impact the coronavirus has had on the economy as a whole.

June 2020 saw a rise in home prices annually 4.9% and 1% month-over-month. According to CoreLogic’s Home Price Index, June 2020 saw the highest growth rate for the month of June since 2013. Part of this growth stemmed from the respective year-ago price growth rate of 3.6%. The Home Price Index has been on the up ever since bottoming out in March 2011.

Their prediction for June 2021 is a decrease by 1% in home prices. CoreLogic feels their prediction is relatively strong because of the housing market’s reliability on entertainment, tourism and hospitality. They forecast Las Vegas to have an 11.3% drop in home prices by June 2021.

“Home price appreciation continues at a solid pace reflecting fundamental strength in demand drivers and limited for-sale inventory,” Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in a press release. “As we move forward, we expect these price increases to moderate over the next twelve months. Given the economic outlook, housing remains a bright spot for the foreseeable future.”

So far, this has the housing market has not seen a dip in prices. The record-low mortgage rates and buyer demand has fueled the current market. Surprisingly, homes are very affordable even though there has been a steady price growth.

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Bogue Falaya Park in Covington will get an ADA-compliant playground this winter. Last week David LeBreton of Digital Engineering, city councilman Mark Verret, mayor Mark Johnson, city engineer Callie Baker and Hunt Ragusa of Brunt Construction let a groundbreaking ceremony for the new playground.

Bogue Fayala Park is located on the south end of New Hampshire Street and Park Drive. The park holds many community events and has a pavilion available for rent. Residents can enjoy the playground and the new boat launch where they can canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle along the Bogue Falaya River which winds through the park.

Plans for the ADA-compliant playground will include ramps that will lead up to the structure along with rubber surfacing around the structure which will make the playground wheelchair-accessible. There will be shade provided by shade canopies and play structures that incorporate core strength. The walking path that circles the interior perimeter of the park will also be paved.

The new handicapped-accessible playground and paved walking path are slated to be done in early February. Covington is funding half of the project while the other half will come from a Land Water Conservation Fund grant. The total project will cost $443,026 and will be constructed by Brunt Construction.

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Mortgage rates have been dropping now for twelve weeks in a row. The last week of November was no exception. Mortgage applications increased 3.9% in volume the last week of November according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.

“Weekly mortgage rate volatility has emerged again, as markets respond to fiscal policy uncertainty and a resurgence in Covid-19 cases around the country,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of industry and economic forecasting.

Refinance applications rose 5% which was the highest since last April. The volume of refinancing was 79% higher than this time last year. In fact, refinance was 71.1% of the total mortgage activity. According to Black Knight, a mortgage technology and data provider, today’s average mortgage rate is about a full percentage point lower than it was a year ago.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year-fixed-rate dropped to 2.92% with the points falling to 0.35 for loans with a 20% down payment. Even with the higher home prices, buyers are still on the winning side with such low rates. Mortgage applications to purchase a home were 19% higher than this time last year.

“Amidst strong competition for a limited supply of homes for sale, as well as rapidly increasing home prices, purchase applications increased for both conventional and government borrowers. Furthermore, purchase activity has surpassed year-ago levels for over six months,” Kan said.

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As with everything supply and demand also impacts the housing economy. In today’s economy, there is still uncertainty because of the pandemic. As we reach the end of 2020, home prices are still on the rise and are predicted to keep on the same path into the new year.

The current housing market is lacking still in inventory. The high demand for housing combined with the lack of inventory is pushing home prices up. Bidding wars are becoming the norm and homebuyers are willing to pay the hefty price tag in today’s real estate market.

According to housing experts, the new year will continue to see home prices rising due to the continued lack of home inventory on the market. Showtime, which tracks the average number of buyer showings on residential properties, reported that buyer showings are up 61.9% this fall compared to the fall of 2019.

“Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in March, nearly 400,000 fewer homes have been listed compared to last year, leaving a gaping hole in the U.S. housing inventory,” according to ShowingTime.

If you are in the market to purchase a home, reach out to a Realtor. A Realtor will be able to help you navigate the current face-paced housing market.

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Photo by Marissa Daeger on Unsplash

The pandemic has changed the way people view their homes. From the stay-at-home orders to the scare of spreading the virus, the home is everyone’s safe haven. Luckily today’s technology has enabled many Americans to work from home. More and more people are reassessing what they want in a home such as a home office, flex space and outdoor living space.

The housing market is booming in fact, home sales are higher than they were before the pandemic. The existing and new home sales are the highest level we have seen in over a decade. With the increase in home sales, comes an increase in the demand for building materials and labor.

Lumber has been in very high demand during recent months. Not only are builders building new homes but many homeowners are remodeling their current homes. Home offices and remote work locations have also spiked the demand for this hot commodity. The November 2020 Random Length Lumber contract shows a low set during the height of COVID in April at 277 but then in August lumber was set at 820.

The copper market has also been greatly affected by the booming housing market. Looking at the September 2020 copper futures contract, we witness a low set on March 19 at 1.99, followed by a big move up to 3.08 by September 15. Copper is also valuable to the technology industry where it is used for building servers, semiconductors and switches.

Currently, sales of single-family homes are up 24% from the spring, existing condominiums and co-ops are up 32%. Lumber and copper numbers are a great way to measure and predict the direction the housing industry will go, knowing which markets are directly affected by the growing demand for single-family units can be important for every trader and investor.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Building Permits Survey, since the beginning of 2020, there have been 525,623 single-family permits issued YTD. They go on to report that this is a 5.8% increase over July 2019’s 496,726.

Across the country’s four regions the outcome was both an increase and decrease in certain areas. The South saw an 8.6% increase while the Northeast saw a 1.7% decrease. From July 2019 to July 2020 35 states reported an increase in single-family home permits and 14 states and the District of Columbia reported a decline.

Louisiana did not see a change while South Dakota saw the highest growth rate from 1,508 to 2,050, a 35.9% increase. The District of Columbia reported a 41% decline from 117 in 2019 to only 69 in 2020.

The top 10 metro areas with the highest single-family permits issued were Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX with 25,577, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX with 23,535, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ with 16,584, Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA with 14,505, Austin-Round Rock, TX with 11,649, Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC with 10,071, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL with 8,924, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL with 8,244, Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN with 8,000 and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV with 7,592.

Multi-family permits saw different statistics from July 2019 YTD to 2020 YTD. Reports showed a 2.3% decline from July 2019. Half of the states saw an increase while the other half saw a decline. North Dakota had the highest rise from 218 to 760, which was a 248.6% increase. New Hampshire saw the sharpest decline from 577 to 265 making it a 54.1% decrease.

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Freddie Mac announced another round of record-low mortgage rates. This will be the ninth record low since March 2020. The first full week of September saw a 2.86% drop in the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and a 2.37% drop on a 15-year fixed-rate.

“Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to a late-summer slowdown in the economic recovery,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Home sales remain very strong according to Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s associate vice president of economic industry and forecasting. Both the loan size and applications for new mortgages rose. For the week ending on September 4, applications were up 3% and the average loan size was the highest amount since the Mortgage Bankers Association began recording at $368,600.

“Homebuyers continue placing offers on homes, pushing existing inventory toward historic lows,” said George Ratiu, Realtor.com’s senior economist. “Would-be sellers are stuck in their homes, struggling to find their next house amid a dearth of supply, further contributing to the decline in inventory.”

The limited supply of homes for sale is driving the price higher. Home prices are 11% higher than they were a year ago. Homebuyers have to purchase less home at a higher price.

Refinancing for homeowners has also been on the rise. The record-low interest rates makes it more affordable for homeowners who would like to refinance.

Black Knight, a mortgage data company, says there are approximately 19.3 million high-quality refinance candidates. This number includes 43% of all 30-year mortgage holders, making this the largest group of this kind there has ever been.

Whether you are looking for your first home, a new home or refinancing your current home, now is the time. The mortgage rates are very low and FHFA also announced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will exempt refinance loans with balances under $125,000 from the fee. The housing market is the strongest we have seen in a long time and only proves to make a great investment for the future.

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