The holidays are fast approaching and many call it the season of giving. It is a time of not only giving to friends and family but also giving to those in need. One St. Tammany mom has organized a way not only to give during the holidays but all year round. Wendy Keller and her close friend Tina Billiot started an wendykellerorganization this year called Our Friends Closet which helps students in need.

Although St. Tammany is an affluent area, there are 316 students within the St. Tammany Parish public school district that are currently homeless and a projected 1,000 or more will be homeless by the end of the school year. There are not only homeless students in need, but also students who might not be able to afford essentials.

The catalyst to Keller’s idea was her 14-year old daughter who is a student in the St. Tammany Parish public schools. One day Keller’s daughter asked her for extra hygiene products to take to school for her friends that were homeless. After calling the school office at St. Tammany Junior High, she confirmed that this was a true need.

“It ate at me,” she said. “Then, in church one Saturday the homily was ‘If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?”’wendykeller2

That is when both Wendy Keller and Tina Billiot started to collect basic hygiene supplies and made their first delivery to two schools, St. Tammany Junior High and Salmen High School.  From then on word begin to spread through social media.

Currently the Billiot’s home has a room that is filled with supplies such as socks, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes and even quarters for the laundromats. Crews fill the supplies up into bags and they are delivered to the schools. There is no contact with the students, all the work is done through the counselors at each school.

Our Friends Closet is now registered as a nonprofit and now delivers to schools in St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes and Ocean Springs, Mississippi.


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Curved breakfast bar with solid surface counter tops. The hardwood floors to through the kitchen. This is an open floorplan.

After the housing market struggled to make a comeback after the Recession, the supply of homes for sale and new homes for sale available in the real estate market has continued to decline. Because of this the supply of homes and new homes available to buy has decreased to a crucial point. That is that there is now more demand for homes to buy than there are homes and new homes on the market for sale.

Because of the lopsided nature of supply and demand in real estate, home prices have not only continued to increase, but they are still increasing at a rapid pace. According to Core Logic, a real estate analysis company which tracks housing trends nationwide, the price of homes for sale increased by 6.8% in June, 2018, compared to June, 2017. May, 2014 was the last time that housing prices had such a high year-over-year percentage increase, which was during one of the fast-paced recovery years of real estate after the Recession.

The price of homes continuing to go up is unsustainable as mortgage rates are also on the rise, putting the cost of theCurved breakfast bar with solid surface counter tops. The hardwood floors to through the kitchen. This is an open floorplan. monthly note out of reach for some home buyers. However, as long as demand continues to outpace supply, the prices will continue to have a “seller’s market” mentality for home buyers who are able to qualify for loans.

Another factor in the increase in home prices is that prices are now double that of the growth of individual’s growth in salary. However, there are signs that home prices will start to see a slow down as the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index had less growth during May, 2018 than May, 2017. There are also other trends that show an overall economic slowdown that have probably not translated to the real estate housing market just yet.

What you can take away from this news is that if you have a home to sell and are wanting to buy a new home or a home for sale, you will want to make sure you are able to move quickly on buying a home and actually moving out since it truly is a seller’s market out there. If you are buying a home in the St. Tammany Parish area, Contact Ron Lee Homes about our Homes for Sale or to build the home of your dreams in Mandeville, Madisonville, Covington, Abita Springs, or Folsom! Call 985-626-7619 or email


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Home buyers have faced a challenging environment for being able to qualify for home loans since the real estate market crashed over 10 years ago. Since then, the main program offering affordable home loans has been from the Federal Housing Authority which offers FHA loans. Now, government sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are offering additional loan programs to home buyers with less than stellar portfolios to make it possible for them to buy a home.

One of the programs offered by Fannie Mae is the HomeReady program which allows a credit score as low as 620 or a debt-to-income (DTI) of as much as 50% with only a 3% down payment. While other factors are taken into account of a potential home buyer’s credit profile, these two factors separately don’t automatically decline the home buyer from being able to buy a home. For people who are within the income limits of this loan program, it is a viable alternative to the FHA loan which can incur high mortgage insurance premiums which can last for 5 to 15 years on payments of the loan. This program also counts rental income as a true source of income and allows co-borrowers to be people not actually residing in the home – think a parent or grandparent co-signing on the loan.

Another program that is available is being offered by Freddie Mac. It is called the HomePossible program. It also allows a 3% down payment, and is specifically designed for home buyers with a lower income level. Repeat buyers qualify for this loan program as well. Freddie Mac is also offering a new loan program called HomeOne. HomeOne’s advantages are that there are no income limits, and there are also no geographic restrictions. A credit score of at least 640 is required for this loan, but that it still well below the “perfect” credit score require by a regular conventional loan.

Where before, home buyers had to account for every penny in their bank account before being able to get approval for their loan, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now allowing home buyers to crowd source fund a down payment for their loan. With home prices going up, a 3% down payment is turning into a higher and higher amount, so being able to raise money to buy a home, just like you would raise money for other things in your life, is a huge advantage. An program called Loftium actually has a unique “forward-thinking” program for home buyers. They allow a home buyer to rent out a room of their home, calculate the potential income for the rental and then “front” a percentage of that income as part of the down payment on the loan. This is a truly innovative way of “getting a home buyer into a home.”

Fannie Mae is also in the trial stages of a lease-to-own program for home buyers where a buyer begins as a renter and then has a deadline to buy the home for an agreed-upon price in a designated number of years. This program is not an official loan program yet, as it is just in the beginning stages.

So, however you are trying to buy your new home, there are programs out there to assist you if you don’t have the upfront money or need a little “mercy” because of bad credit or a high debt-to-income percentage. Ask your lender about these programs to see if you qualify.

For more information about buying a home for sale in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Us Today at 985-626-7619 or Email


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One of the most important career paths many can take is a job that helps mold and raise the next generation.  St. Tammany Parish public school district sees the importance of its employees and is proposing an increase by $2.8 sttammanypairshschoolteachermillion in salaries for the 2018-2019 school year.

The $235 million that will total the salaries in the district is part of a proposed $416.6 million budget that St. Tammany Parish School Board has agreed to and developed alongside the St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees.

The district will also use the allotted monies for special revenue funds, capital project funds and debt service funds.  Typically, the School Board accepts a spending plan in September, but this proposed budget is set for the school district’s fiscal year that began July 1, 2018 and will end July 31, 2019.

The money projected for the budget will be granted by the state through the Minimum Foundation Program, State funding, and local funding.  There will be a projected $890,000 increase in the Minimum Foundation Program, with $212.3 million from state funding and local funding will represent $203.8 million of the budget.

This is a reasonable proposal for the St. Tammany Parish Schools.  The district runs 55 schools with more than 5,600 employees and 39,000 students.  According to Superintendent Trey Folse and Director of Business Affairs Terri Prevost, the budget will not affect local sales or property tax revenues.

To learn more information or for any questions you might have about the proposed budget, the School Board has scheduled a public hearing Thursday August 23, 2018 at 6pm. The hearing will be held at the School Board’s office located at 321 N. Theard St., Covington.


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Sometimes wording can easily get lost in translation. Thursday, August 9, 2018 questionable wording was the reason for a proposed ordinance to be placed on hold.  Councilman Mike Pulaski stated, “I have no idea what we’re voting on.” According to Mayor Donald Villere, the current way it is written will create unintended problems for residential zoning districts. The Mandeville City Council struggled with what to do with the proposed ordinance that prohibits bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) in a single-family residential neighborhood.

Several community members voiced their concern saying it brought about unnecessary restrictions on use of private property. Even though there were concerns, most of the community are in favor of the prohibition. Acoldmandevillecording to Council Chairman Clay Madden, who sponsors the ordinance, the majority of residents who reside in residential neighborhoods do not want B&Bs in their subdivision. Currently Mandeville’s Comprehensive Land Use Regulation Ordinance allows B&Bs in residential zoned districts. Under the proposed ordinance, B&B’s are prohibited in single-family residential zoning districts, with the exception of Old Mandeville’s Historic Preservation District. The B&B’s that currently reside in residential areas will be grandfathered in.

Councilman John Keller voiced his concerns on “another restriction on people’s property,” and has never heard of any complaints regarding B&Bs until recently.  City officials commented that the issue arose when a recent B&B was permitted by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission in the New Golden Shores subdivision.

Keller’s comments led to a discussion on individual neighborhood associations allowing B&Bs through convents.  Madden however, says that is not feasible because many of the city’s neighborhoods have allowed their convents to expire or the associations are now inactive.

Once the ordinance is redrafted, the city council will revisit any action on the ordinance.

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Anecdotal evidence shows that home buyers will pay up to 10% more for a home that they buy that is in a good school district.  In fact, many people buy homes in good school districts even in the family planning stages before they ever have kids.  Therefore, if you have children or are planning to have children, and you are interested in your children being able to get into a good school, you will need to make sure you have the time and budget to plan your home or new home search.

The first thing you need to do is to decide whether you want your kids to go to public or private schools.  Private schools don’t have districts, so buying a home in order to be close to a private school or knowing that your child will be attending private school will make your home buying decision more flexible.  If you are planning on sending yourMandeville High School kids to public school, then you need to get serious about figuring out which is the best school district for you, your kids, and your family. It’s not just about test scores and ratings when it comes to schools. There are other factors to consider such as extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, friends and lifestyle expectations.

Once you have narrowed down the school district in which you would like to live, be sure that you have allocated enough time before the next school year to find a new home to buy.  Expect there to be competition for homes going on the market in a good school district.  Because, not only are the homes going to probably sell quickly, there are other benefits to buying in a good school district such as home values which make the homes more desirable and a better real estate investment.

When choosing the right home to buy, make sure that all of your finances are in order.  Get pre-qualified with a realistic lender, so that you look better to the seller once you make an offer.  Being able to close quickly on a home can make a seller more interested in working with you.

Be ready for the price tag of living in a better school district when it comes to property taxes.  Property taxes help pay for your kids’ public school education, but when your home is located in a better district, you “get what you pay for.”  Other than that, buying a home in a really good school district is a way to invest in not only your childrens’ futures but also in your financial future with great equity in the resale value of your home.

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Sometimes you like the idea of having a yard with no boundaries, where you can see everything from your front or back porch with nothing obstructing your view.  Or, if you have pets who also like freedom or maybe neighbors you’d rather not have seeing you, you might want to install a fence in your front yard or backyard.  Believe it or not, getting a fence installed can take quite a bit of work on your part when it comes to selection of material, parameter of the fence, and finding the right fence contractor.

Here are some tips that will help you get started on the process. The look of your fence and its requirements are totally up to you!

Fence Purpose
What is the purpose of your fence? Do you want more privace and need a wood-slatted or vinyl privacy fence? Do you have pets that are just as smart as you are and need a secure fence to keep them from “visiting” everyone else in the neighborhood?  Do you need boundaries for your neighbors where they can see you and you can see them, but1-Lot 48 Terra Bella Exterior they can’t just walk on over?  Whatever type of fence you need, you need to begin there when making the next decision steps of your process.

Materials & Aesthetics
The next thing you will need to decide is how you want your fence to look.  There are several decorative fence styles that are popular in St. Tammany Parish. There is the “farm fence” which is a 1/2 to 2/3 tall fence with horizontal poles or boards, typically painted white.  There is the popluar picket fence which is seen around many homes in Madisonville and Mandeville.  There is the horse fence with is like the “farm fence” but is actually used as a fence to keep horses or cattle in.  This fence typically is taller with more horizontal rails.  It is also popular in north Covington and Folsom.  There is the 6′ or 8′ privacy fence which completely covers the area to make it…private.  You can also upscale your fence with a mixutre of materials including stone columns and wood slats or brick columns and wrought iron pickets.  Whatever type of fence you choose, be sure to be budget conscious and buy what you can afford.

Fencing Cost & Care
Which brings us to the next point – cost. Not only do you need to consider the cost of the materials but also the cost of installation. In Louisiana especially, you need to consider the elements when installing your fence because the weather here can wreak havoc on your materials.  Vinyl, aluminum, brick, & wrought iron will definitely last longer than wood (even treated wood) any day.  Going with a cheaper product, such as landscape timbers, may save you money in the short term, but you will definitely be replacing that fence in the near future.

Map Your Fence
If you are located in a neighborhood, you will want to be very clear where your property lines are located so as not to intrude on your neighbor’s property. That is a definite way to keep the peace between you and your neighbor.  You will also want to walk the proposed fence line with your installer to be sure that he or she is very clear as to where the fence needs to be installed.

Homeowners Association
Some homeowners associations have very strict rules as to where a fence can be constructed and even what materials may be used.  Be sure to check with them before beginning your project to make sure your fence proposal falls into their guidelines.  In some areas, you may have to get a letter from your HOA to get a permit from the city or parish before you begin.

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When building a fully custom home, the sky’s the limit as to what type of features, customizations, materials, and new home design you would like to use.  One of the options that home buyers forget they have is the exterior and interior architectural style that is available to them when designing the facade and different rooms of the home. Architectural style can truly define the way a home looks and feels both on the outside and the inside. The outside look is more obvious, such as the French and Spanish architecture you see on the many homes and townhomes in the French Quarter.  The interior architecture can be more subtle and less well known to other people and even your builder.  If you have your heart set on a specific architecture or floorplan layout based on an architectural style, don’t hesitate to let us know during the floorplan design of your custom home.

Several architectural styles are well-defined and easy to recognize and are listed below:

Just like it sounds, this type of home makes use of exterior spaces in order to soak up the feel of the Mediterranean (or in this case, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain in the Greater New Orleans Area).  These types of floorplans will have extensive verandas, courtyards, patios, sun rooms, or covered screened porches. The exterior finish typically includes plaster or stucco with low slope or flat roofs.  Interior details include decorative tile and exposed wood beams.

In order to compensate for the extreme heat of southern climates, southern architecture emphasizes protecting the exterior of the home with wide covered porches around the entire home, long overhangs, functional shutters, 1657 Ox Bow Gorgeous Modern Farmhousecovered verandas, elevated, open living spaces and sometimes decorative columns in the front.

Introduced during the ’50’s and 60’s, modern architecture becomes more simplistic with less ornamental design.  Horizontal windows, plain fireplace surround – basically ranch-style homes with low roof lines.  However, this simplicity is offset by high-quality material finishes, such as stone, wood flooring, and marble.

Just like they sound, cottages are designed to be smaller, lower maintenance homes with incredible use of square footage space.  The term cottage brings to mind a cramped, small home with a lower mortgage, but builders have been quite innovative in building cottages with excellent use of space in the floorplan. Built-in window seats and shelving utilize empty walls to create more space for “stuff.” A spacious front porch also adds to the size of a cottage home.

At Ron Lee Homes, we have built numerous styles of architecture and have many different floorplan styles from which to choose.  You can bring us your ideas and pictures, and we can design the style of home that you want.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes to make an appointment to create your floorplan design today!

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As a builder, we offer an in-depth building process from design and layout to the final punchlist.  We try to put ourselves in the shoes of our home buyers to make sure we anticipate the questions and needs you will have during the home building process, especially if this is your first new home build or custom home build.  However, we also want to give you as much industry advice as possible to make sure that you feel comfortable with working with us as a builder. Below are some tips to following when working with a builder.

Use a Realtor Who Represents Your Interests
While we, as a builder, don’t use an on-site sales representative, some builders and developments do.  Make sure that you find a Realtor who is used to working with new home sales and knows the ins and outs of information that you,18-713 Night Heron Backy Entry as a home buyer, will need to know during the building process.  That way, if your builder does not explain something to you in full or there is missing information, your buyer’s representative will know the questions to ask and information to get.

Research Your Builder
One way to know if you are using an excellent, quality builder is to view their work, while it is under construction. As we constantly have new or custom homes under construction, we can take you on a tour of our homes to show you the craftsmanship and quality construction in person and answer any questions you may have. Another way to vette your builder is to read any testimonials or reviews. We have multiple testimonials on our website as well as reviews on social media of our satisfied customers. Finally, we have an extensive list of Completed Projects on our website which show in-depth pictures of the finished homes and remodels we have done.  You can get a a good idea of the features and fixtures that we offer in all of the new homes and custom homes that we build.

Know Your Specs
When you view a completed home or model home of a builder, there may be upgraded features or thoughtful extras 13-713 Night Heron Opulent Master Bathwhich may or may not be included in the floorplan that you select or design.  As a builder, we try to be as thorough as possible to cover every detail in your new or custom home, so that you know exactly what types of features, fixtures, and trim that your home will have once it is built.  However, if you want to go room-by-room asking about the features of each room to ensure that you understand all of the specific details that will be built in your home, we have no problem with that either.

Written Agreement
Once you are comfortable with everything that will be included in your home, make sure that everything we put in our agreement with you is to your complete satisfaction.  We pride ourselves on finishing our projects on time and on budget, barring any unforseeable weather events. Therefore, our agreements have specific budgetary and timeline parameters that are defined specifically in our contracts.  Make sure that if you are working with another builder that they offer you the same.

Building a new home is more complicated than shopping for a previously-owned home. However the flexibility of having choice of selection of flooring, cabinets, countertops, paint colors, fixtures, appliances, and so much more can make the building process a very rewarding experience.  So, whether you use us as a builder or someone else, we hope that you find these tips useful.

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When most people think of a walk-through, they think of buying a new home and walking through with a builder to go over the punchlist of items which need to be completed, tweaked, or fixed before closing on the home.  However, there is another type of walk through that can be done by you as the home buyer which will help you decide if you even want to put an offer in on a home.  And, you don’t have to be an expert at construction to evaluate the merits of the home you are buying – you can just use the common sense tips below and all of your senses!

1. The first thing you will want to notice about a home for sale is how it smells. Some homeowners are smart and will install air fresheners which emit a smell throughout the home, but pay attention to any odors which seem out of place.  This could indicate a long term problem like mildew or decay.

2. Check out the paint job. See how well the paint job has aged and how well it has withstood the test of time.  If it is peeling or chipping, that might mean that there is a problem with moisture or sagging in the construction.

3. Popcorn ceilings COULD be a warning sign, but not necessarily.  Depending on the age of the home, you might want to avoid older homes which have popcorn ceilings because they were originally applied with asbestos material.  Since asbestos is a cancer-causing agent, you will not want to purchase an old house with popcorn ceilings without either absolutely loving the house or having that checked out.

4. Look around at all of the walls, ceilings, and baseboards for the presence of water stains to make sure that there are no leaks in the roof or the exterior siding.

5. How well is the home maintenanced?  This can be a big indicator as to how well the home was taken care of by the current owner.  Just like you want to buy a car with one owner (who took good care of the car and had it 17-713 Night Heron Double Vanities with Undermountsmaintenanced often), the same goes for a house.  If the home has long term cleaning problems or simple problems were not repaired before the home was put on the market, the more likely it is that the home was not maintenanced, which could lead to problems for you as the buyer further down the road.

6. Depending on the part of the country in which you live, as well as the season of the year, keep a lookout for bugs.  In Louisiana, many houses, no matter how well sealed and insulated, may have bugs present in the house, just because of the climate and the weather here.  However, if you can tell there are bug “droppings” and spider webs everywhere, there may be more “leaks” in the actual structure of the home which indicate an energy efficiency problem.

7. Pay attention to the type of floors in the house. Even if you fall in love with the house itself, be mindful of the condition of the floors as they may need to be repaired or replaced in the future.  You will want to be ready and realistic about the cost.

8. Renovations can be a good thing or a bad thing for home buyers.  Properly completed renovations in order to sell the home like new carpeting, an excellent paint job, exterior landscaping, and replacing deck boards or trim can be a good thing.  If the homeowner offers the information about renovations, question that information closely to make sure that it was done correctly, not last minute, and is now completed.  Poorly done construction renovations will not last, and unfinished renovations should be required by your contract to be finished before you close on your home.

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