New homes which are “green-built” to reduce energy consumption have several benefits to new home buyers.  Many people don’t know that tax credits are still available for the use of energy efficient home features. First of all, because of the usage of the proper insulation, tightly sealed caulking and weather stripping, the home’s interior temperature is more comfortable.  Through the control of air and vapor through the use of air/vapor retarder systems, the humidity of the home is reduced significantly making it a more dry environment.  Because of5-Lot 91 Maison du Lac Rustic Kitchen Design with Granite the insulation and tightly sealed yet ventilated structure of the home, there is a reduction of a significant amount of noise as well.  All of these factors contribute to a peaceful and comfortable living environment for our new homeowners.

At Ron Lee Homes, we use many different energy efficient building techniques.  Because he is Green Building Certified through the National Association of Home Builders, Ron Lee is an expert on applying the latest trends and technologies in building green homes.  Currently, the federal government is offering tax rebates for two different types of energy efficiencies: the Residential Energy Efficient Property Tax Credit, which benefits those who have incorporated renewable energy features into their home, and the Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit, which benefits those who have installed materials that meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards.

Energy Efficient Materials

In order to clarify exactly which types of materials will help you in renovating and updating your home, saving you money on your utility bills, and receiving money off of the annual taxes you pay, Ron Lee Homes has provided a description of all of the potential changes or new building techniques you can use that are considered energy 1-Lot 859 Beau Chene Front Exteriorefficient enough for the IRS.

First of all, for new home building, you will want to make sure that your thermal envelope is designed and installed to help reduce moisture and air from flowing through your home.  Your thermal envelope includes the wall and roof, insulation, air / vapor retarders which reduce water vapor condensation, windows, weather stripping, and caulking.

A typical home loses more than 25% of its heat through its windows.  In addition to using Energy Star® rated double or triple-paned, energy efficient windows, something as simple as roof overhangs are excellent at providing shade keeping the heat and sun glare off of the sides of the house as well as the windows especially here in Southeast Louisiana.

Amazingly, properly applied caulking and weather stripping will reduce a home’s utility costs by 50%.  Sealing all of the potential places that air and moisture can escape or come into your home can enormously change your home’s environment – creating a less humid place to live with more stable temperatures.

Choosing the properly-sized heating and cooling system and then creating ventilation and air re-usage opportunities throughout the home will let the home “breathe,” which helps with reducing hot and cold air when it is not necessary.

Energy Star® water heaters, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, lighting, and room air conditioners should be chosen to decrease entergy usage which makes it cost less to use your home appliances.

For more information about building a new home with energy efficient features or renvoting your current home with these features, Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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Among the many reasons for remodeling your home, the National Association of Home Builders surveyed homeowners and found that the top reason for a remodel was a desire for better / newer amenities.  In conjunction with this reason, homeowners’ second reason for remodeling their current home was a need to repair / replace old components.

In order for a home to feel like “brand new,” homeowners can largely do an overhaul of their existing space, 003replacing or adding trim, repainting, putting down different flooring, replacing cabinets and countertops, and installing new fixtures, lighting, and appliances. The desire for new and better amenities includes all of these activities and also includes installing new components whether they be new faucets, sinks, toilets, tubs, showers, shower stalls / doors, kitchen islands, and much, much more.  Unused wall space can include new cabinetry, a kitchen desk or mini-office, a butler’s pantry, or a built-in wet bar designed specifically for entertaining, complete with ice maker, refrigerator, and / or wine cooler.

Other reasons for remodeling your home can include wanting to avoid moving or buying a new or existing home for sale, the ability or desire to stay where you are – age in place.  If you have children, you may love the area in which you live, your kids love their school, and you like the school district, your neighborhood is desirable and 1-Lot 52 Windermere Remodel Overviewyour neighbors are your friends, and other reasons for “staying put.”  Your home may not no longer be meeting your expectations for comfortable living, but remodeling your home to give it a fresh look or even adding on more space in the form of an expanded family room area, a new sun room, a new patio / screened-in porch, a mother-in-law suite, or even an upstairs apartment above your garage could make your life and your family’s life more enjoyable.

Whatever your reason for remodeling your home, Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish can help.  We have added entire outdoor space, completely reconstructed kitchens and bathrooms, and created private master suites for more comfort while you age in place.  To get more information on renovating your home with Ron Lee Homes, call 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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Certain pricing requirements, mortgage types, and age requirements are considered a trend for first-time home buyers.  Different housing market statistics are indicating that first-time home buyers may soon be increasing to pre-Recession levels. The first indication was a slight uptick in FHA (Federal Housing Authority) backed loans. 5-Lot 34 Autumn Creek Back Patio With the recent easement of FHA loan requirements including a lower percentage required for the down payment, more first-time home buyers are able to qualify for FHA mortgages.  The increase in FHA-backed mortgages went up to a 17% market share for a quarterly count of 23,000 FHA loans in the 1st quarter of 2016.

Pre-Recession Trends

Interestingly, in 2002 – 2003, well before the Great Recession, FHA backed mortgages were only 10% of the market share where in 2010, FHA loans had a 28% share of the housing market.  These statistics show a steady presence of FHA loans in real estate transactions.  It also indicates the necessity of a government supported loan program for struggling Americans who need assistance with their new home purchase.

Conventional home financing still makes up the majority of home purchases in America today.  For the first quarter of 2016, Conventional loans made up 68% of the homes achieved by home buyers.  The reason for this may be another market statistic which showed an overall increase of in personal income in the United States.  a 2.2% year-over-year increase for 2014 was reported with median income reported at $28,757.  This is 5.4% less than its high in 2007 right before the Recession, and it is still lower than income reported in 20000, but statistics show the trend of the total of personal income is and has been on the rise since it bottomed out in 2012.

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The value of homeownership has just been assigned a number based on information regarding homeowners in 2013 in the United State.  Owning your own home in America can save $100 billion in tax savings and deductions. Statistics showed that only approximately 11.4% of Americans who had a mortgage by owning a home that they occupied in 2013 did not take advantage of being a homeowner by deducting the mortgage interest that they paid from their federal taxes according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) and National Association of Home2-54 Maison du Lac Exterior 2 Builders (NAHB) analysis.

It cannot be emphasized enough the huge advantages of becoming a home owner in today’s economy.  In addition to the $296.2 billion that was claimed on Americans’ taxes, there was also the amount of $174.3 billion in real estate taxes that were claimed on taxes as well. Overall, people who owned homes in the U.S. in 2013 were able to trim their tax bills by over $100 billion dollars.  Mortgage interest deductions accounted for $72.4 billion in savings on taxes while real estate taxes equaled $30.2 billion.

These numbers don’t include individual state programs for making improvements and installing energy efficient, “green” products in their homes.  These deductions are specialized each year by both the state and federal government and typically have timelines and requirements on the amount of money that can be deducted.  The bottom line is that if you own your own home, you have a significantly better chance of saving money on certain 1-Lot 52 Windermere Remodel Overviewhome improvements than if you were renting your home.

Another advantage to owning your own home is that on-time mortgage payments will vastly improve your credit.  Just by owning real estate, your credit score will improve as soon you close on your home and log your first mortgage payment.  With better credit, you can expand your opportunities for loans and investments, thereby creating even better credit for yourself and your family.  As you pay more and more principle on your mortgage payments, you will see your home equity rise as well.  You can use an equity line of credit to make improvements to your home (and get those tax deductions!) which also increases your home’s value.  Real estate can be one of your greatest assets that continually increases in value, appreciation, equity, and opportunity if it is handled correctly as one of your greatest investments.  So, what are you waiting for – discover the possibilities of becoming a homeowner today!

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Both the pace of new home sales and new home inventory are up according to the numbers reported for February, 2016.  New home sales went up by 2% bringing the seasonally adjusted amount to 502,000.  Standing new home inventory also moved upward slightly to a 5.6-month’s supply of homes meaning it would take this amount of time to sell off all of the standing supply of new homes for sale nationwide.  New home inventory has struggled to 1-Lot 207 Singing Rivers Front Exteriorrebound because of three factors: lots, construction workers and sub-contractors, and lending standards.

Lots available for building have actually been a problem for builders in pockets around the country as builders are ready to “get back to work” and build new homes for sale.  The lack of supply of ready lots have them searching more rural locations or building completely different floorplans to accommodate certain lot plats.

Construction employment demand has skyrocketed as opportunities begin to be more and more prevalent because of the surge in new construction.  Employees and sub-contractors seem to be now flooded with work, which leaves builders waiting on certain subs’ industries to come out to work on their new homes under construction.

Lenders have found ways to ease the home buyer’s woes by offering better standards of down payments with new FHA loan packages and rural development loans.  However, the kink in the industry came in late October and the beginning of November, 2015, when the new Closing Disclosure was implemented for real estate closings.  Banks, lenders, mortgage companies, and even title companies are on a fast learning curve to master the new system and get home buyers into their new homes fast.

In reality, it is better that the real estate industry is undergoing these types of struggles rather than a complete lack of demand and over 1.5 year’s inventory on the ground like it felt during the Recession.  The lack of all of the items mentioned above are actually a good problem for new home builders to have.  If you are interested in building a new, custom home in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Ron Lee Homes today to set up a meeting regarding new home plans and construction.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail to set up your appointment.

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The buzz word in the real estate industry today for new homes being built and existing home remodeling is an open floorplan.  What exactly does that mean?  The open floorplan refers mainly to the entire living area and possibly even the sunroom, screened-in porch, or patio area on the bottom or single floor of the home.  Open floorplans typically include the Family Room / Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Sunroom, Keeping Room, Breakfast Room, and/or Porch / Patio.

Open floorplans discourage compartmentalization by encouraging each room or area to flow into the next.5-Lot 25 Woodstone Open Family Room & Kitchen  Kitchens in an open floorplan can be expansive with a full working island in the middle as well as an additional breakfast bar that can have extra space for family social gatherings.  The kitchen island may have an additional sink, icemaker, dishwasher, trash compactor, or even a wine cooler. The island can also include cabinet space and drawers for additional kitchen storage of utensils, dishes and appliances.

Most of the time, the kitchen will overlook the Family Room with a view of the floor to ceiling fireplace for a vaulted ceiling floorplan and the television, letting the cook enjoy shows and games while have to cook, clean, and entertain.  The kitchen may have additional bench seating against the wall of what typically would be a Breakfast Room or Keeping Room in order to create a place for people to talk if they are not watching television.

Family Room space flows into what would have been the formal Dining Room, so homeowners have the option of 2-79 Oleander Living 1buying a bigger living room set or adding built-in bookshelves, an informal office, or even a kids play area.  If there is enough room in the open floorplan, a screened-in or glassed-in porch may be easily accessible from the Family Room, or custom home buyers may choose to insulate a sunroom for a greenhouse effect for those that are plant lovers.

The obvious point here is that the days of separating out the “Formal Dining Room, Formal Living Room, Family Room, and Kitchen” are pretty much over – much like the disappearance of the “Parlor” in the ’50’s.  Home buyers and homeowners love their sprawl and space and having access to everything in the main living area of their home.

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Whatever type of home construction you are planning – a new, custom home or a complete remodel / renovation of your existing home – you will want to pay attention to the trends that are showing up in remodeled or newly built new homes.  Below are several trends that are popular among contractors, builders, and homeowners.

1. Luxurious garden tubs or jetted garden tubs have held steady in home construction for years, but for 2016, the trend is shower stalls or walk-around showers with shelving and seating.  There are some really unique shower designs that include multiple shower heads and even massage sprays.

2. For your backsplash, trim, or even walls and floors, ceramic tile is not as popular now among renovators and builders as glass tile.  The glass tile comes in many different colors as well as designs with multiple colors, so choose your matching design and go crazy!

3.  When stepping up to the gourmet kitchen or luxurious master bath, granite countertops used to be the ultimate material that reflected the type of construction of your new home or remodel.  There is a new material that is called engineered quartz that is not only tougher than granite and lasts longer, but it has the same timeless, classic, and upscale design for your custom counter work.

4.  Toilets naturally came in lower to the floor sizes for decades, but now there are choices of toilet heights that are available to new home buyers, and buyers are choosing height over flow.  The new, higher toilets are also more water efficient and modern, saving some homeowners on utility bills.

5.  Along with ornate, custom-built, real wood cabinetry; home buyers and remodelers now have a choice of painted, stained, and dark wood cabinetry vs. the traditional oak cabinets that 003were standard for new home construction projects.  Choose and contrast these colors as well with a two-toned look in the kitchen or bathroom.

6.  Even though, we as a custom home builder still encourage you to buy reliable appliances throughout your home, the industry has caught up with technology, so some home buyers and home renovators are now going with a mid-range level of appliance vs. a high-end appliance package.  The appliances themselves seem to have the same duration of service, and you can also purchase upper end looking fixtures, such as stainless steel to achieve the look you want without all of the cost.

7.  Back to the basics – homeowner and savvy new home buyers know to renovate and build their homes with real wood flooring such as solid oak or pine instead of engineered flooring.  While the look and cost of an engineered floor is great for the first few years, the results after many years of wear and tear don’t stand the test of time, weather, and constant use.  Homeowners and new home buyers will be looking to find affordable real wood choices for their flooring.

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During the first month of the year 2016, home buyers have a lot to be excited about when considering buying a new home for sale.  Home pricing, consumer confidence, and home construction starts and permits are all up!  The housing market has been seeing a steady incline since it bottomed out between 2009 and 2011.  With sharp, record-breaking price increases in 2012 and 2013, the housing market almost seemed to be expanding too fast for consumer demand, consumer affordability, and consumer credit.  However, home pricing trends have “flattened” in 2014 and 2015 creating stability in the real estate market.

During the month of October, 2015, home prices rose at 6% and 11% depending on which report buyers were 028seeing.  The Case Shiller (CS) National Home Price Index released by S&P Dow Jones Indices showed an 11% increase in October while the more conservative Home Price Index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) rose 6%.  Either way, home pricing has stabilized and is on the upswing which is good for both buyers (a smart investment) and sellers.

Meanwhile, the vote of confidence from consumers showed an increase of approximately 4 points in December after 2 months of declining numbers.  The Consumer Confidence Index by the Conference Board rose from 92.6 to 96.5 from November to December.  The index shows that consumer confidence is growing back to pre-Recession levels.

Finally, construction housing starts and permits for 2015 were up 10.8% year-over-year to equal to 1.11 million.  Single-family home starts were up 10.4% and multi-family housing starts were up 11.4%.  The single-family home starts numbers came to 715,300.  Increases were seen in all 4 reported regions of the United States for single-family homes.  Housing permits were also up compared to 2014 by 12% with a total of 1.18 million.  Single-family home permits were up by 7.9%, and multi-family home permits were up by 11.4%.  In December, single-family home permit numbers were up by 1.8% compared to November as well.

All signs point to a solidly recovering housing market nationwide, and here in St. Tammany Parish, the custom home business is thriving with many new exciting projects for 2016.  If you are interested in building or buying a new, custom home, Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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Real estate is selling fast and prices are still competitive.  Builders and homeowners alike have taken advantage of the great rates seen after the 2008 economic crunch. These record low interest rates might soon be a thing of the past.  The Federal Reserve has decided it’s now time to rethink the rates because the economy is stronger, and more people are in a position to borrow money.  The Fed already bumped the key interest rate up by 0.25% in1-lot-199-bedic-creek-exterior-front-1 December 2015.

Fortunately the Fed plans to raise the rates at a slow, steady pace.  In fact, this is the first rate hike in almost ten years. Even with the slow increase, everyone will be affected. Anyone who has a credit card, savings account, invest in a 401(k), invest in the markets, or wants to make a big purchase with a loan needs to know how the rate increases will affect them.

Just because there has been a raise in the rate does not mean you should rush out and make a big purchase tomorrow.  Owning a new home is a big deal and you should research to find the right one that suits you.  Even if the rates are higher in a year, they still will be lower than historical averages.

“Rates are pretty low and they’re not going to change much in the short term,” says Dean Croushore, a University of Richmond professor and former Fed economist. Do start your research now and pay attention to the Fed’s actions.  If they do start to increase rates out of your comfort zone, it might be time to make that leap into home ownership.

Years ago many remember the advantages of putting their hard-earned cash into a savings account.  It would yield them a little bit of extra cash on top of what they had saved – imagine that!  In the past decade there has been 2015 Parade of Homesalmost zero interest earned.  With the Fed’s rate change, we will also see a higher interest income on your deposits. So a benefit to the rate increase means an increase on the money you put away in your savings account.

Not so smooth sailing for the stock markets. This Fed hike could cause major ups and downs in the stock and bond markets.  This trigger coupled with failing oil prices, China’s continued economic slowdown and decisions made by central banks around the world should be of great concern. According to MSCI Emerging Market Index, the stock market performance was down approximately 20% at the end of 2015.

With the new year comes good news for the U.S. dollar. The increase in the interest rate is predicted to make the dollar stronger. While the dollar is gaining many other global currencies are lowering.  This will have a negative impact on the global economy. U.S. companies will lose money on products sold in other countries.  Investors are already putting all of their money in U.S. investments rather than putting some money into global investments. The U.S. manufacturing sector has already shrunk due to the weak global economy.

All in all it seems to be more good news than bad for those wanting to invest or make big purchases such as a new home. “We’ve come a long way from the depths of the recession, but we’re still not quite back to where we’d like to be,” says Croushore, the former Fed economist.

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For potential new home buyers, 2016 is the year to invest in the real estate market.  The housing market is still on the rise and there are still great deals to be found on new homes and resale homes. What is making real estate a hot ticket item for 2016?  There are many influences that are contributing factors to this year’s housing market. 20-79 Oleander Patio 1

Since the economic downturn’s departure, housing prices have been on the rise.  Zillow predicts home prices are going to rise a little slower in 2016.  According to Zillow’s Chief Economist Svenja Gudell prices are anticipated to rise 3.5%. This will give buyers who might not have had a chance in the competitive 2015 market an opportunity to purchase a home.

Jonathan Smoke, with believes this could lead to a succession of home buyers.  He states, “We have the potential for about six million home sales just through the months of April through September; that is basically impossible to do.”

Inventory will increase giving home buyers more options. “Because of the price appreciation they have experienced, you will have more sellers put homes on the market next year,” Smoke said.  Also the new home market will see growth in 2016 because builders are concentrating on the construction of starter and middle-range 79 Oleander Court Front Exteriorhomes.  This boost in both existing home and new home inventory will make it easier for potential home buyers.  More homes on the market will also contribute to a slower price increase and less bidding wars.

This year we might be kissing cheap mortgages goodbye.  The Federal Reserve is slated to increase interest rates making this one of the last opportunities to benefit from record low mortgage rates.  Home buyers will have to cut back on their new home budget because the borrowing cost and monthly mortgage payments will be higher.

“You are likely to get the best rate you will possibly see, perhaps in your lifetimes through the majority of next year, but certainly, the earlier the better,” said Smoke.

The last influence to affect the 2016 housing market is rent vs. buy.  Renters beware; rent prices will still increase this year making it cheaper to buy a home.  The increase in mortgage rates will still outweigh rental pricing.  According to Ralph McLaughlin with Trulia, “Interest rates would need to rise to around 6.5% for the cost of buying to equal that of renting on a national level.” For those who want to purchase a new starter home, upgrade to a new home or larger home, and for those who want to downsize to a smaller new home, now is the time.

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