Real wood panel is used for the ship lap ceiling found in the foyer of this custom home.

The U.S. housing market is still going strong. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the total number of single-family permits issued year-to-date nationwide reached 276,110 in March, up 25.3% over the March 2020 level of 220,416 and total number of multifamily permits issued year-to-date nationwide reached 131,227 in March, up 20.4% over the March 2020 level of 108,977.

Single-family permits were high in all four regions. The Midwest reported a 40% increase, next the Northeast with a 27.3% increase, followed by the West with a 23.9% increase and the South saw a 23.1% increase. There was also an increase in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

The highest growth rate was 300% from 20 to 80 in the District of Columbia between March 2020 YTD and March 2021 YTD. The top 10 states on the list accounted for a total of 62.8% of the total single-family permits issued. The top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest number of single-family home permits were Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (13,094), Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland (12,745) and Austin-Round Rock (6,189), and two were in Florida; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (5,219) and Jacksonville (3,391).

All four regions also saw a gain in multifamily permits in March 2021. The South reported the highest at 22.1%, the Northeast 21.3%, the West 20.3% and the Midwest 13.5% increase. During the time between March 2020 YTD and March 2021 YTD 36 states saw an increase in multifamily permits.

The highest was seen in New Mexico with an increase of 1,267.7%. The top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest number of multifamily home permits were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (9,222), Austin-Round Rock, TX (7,359), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (6,661), Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington,TX (5.594), Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA (5,555), Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (5,183), Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-ME (3,881), Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ (3,095) and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN (2,888).

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One of the most popular reasons to downsize is becoming empty nesters but this is not the only reason to downsize. Many homeowners just want a smaller home or move to the city into a high-rise condo. If you are considering downsizing your home for whatever reasons, making an informed decision is best. Before taking the leap, do an honest evaluation of what you feel your outcome will be if you decide to downsize. Here are several questions Realtor.com advises those who are seeking to downsize need to ask themselves.

Does it make financial sense to downsize?

Just because you downsize doesn’t mean you are saving money. If you are downsizing to a condo, there will be additional condo fees that will add to your monthly expenses. Homeowner association fees for townhomes and condos usually include things such as landscaping, maintenance of common areas, trash and pest control.

“Consider the amount you will spend on these fees, and be mindful that HOAs tend to go up every year,” says Susan Bozinovic, a Realtor® with Century 21 Town & Country in Troy, MI.

Also, there are many other factors that can increase your expenses such as your new mortgage, taxes, cost of insurance, home maintenance and upgrades. You might be moving into a more expensive area of town or your smaller new home might need upgrades or renovations before moving in.

2. What are the financial implications of selling my home?

“Sellers need to be aware of how this sale affects their overall financial picture in regard to possible property tax increases or basis transfers and capital gains tax, and how that fits into their long-term financial planning,” says Wendy Gladson, a real estate consultant at Compass in Los Angeles.

You need to take into consideration other expenses that will occur when selling your home. These other expenses include local real estate transfer taxes, loan payoffs, home warranty, commission fees. You might be selling your home for $50,000 more than you paid for it but these fees will affect your bottom line.

3. What am I most excited about leaving behind?

Leaving a home that has many memories is hard. A smaller home means less cleaning and maintenance but make sure you are ready to leave your bigger house. If you dream of sitting outdoors on your patio instead of cleaning rooms that are rarely ever used then it is time to downsize.

4. Where will I park?

If you are downsizing to live in the city, then parking might be an issue. In the city, you might have to rent a space in a parking garage or park on the side of the street. This is not the only issue, if you are still moving in the suburbs, some smaller homes only have a one-car garage. It would not be fun to have to move cars each time you need to go somewhere.

5. What will I do with all my stuff?

A smaller living space will mean fewer rooms. If you currently have a home office, a gym, guest room or two living rooms then you will need to get rid of some of your furniture. Go through your stuff and determine what you want to keep. If you do not have enough space in your new home, then a storage unit might be the answer.

6. Should I consider a condo instead of a smaller house?

There are pros and cons to both a condo and a single-family home. There is less privacy in condos but you do not have to keep up with a yard. There is less maintenance with a condo but there are higher HOA fees associated with condo living.

7. Is the floor plan practical for your needs?

When you are downsizing, every square inch is a place to put your stuff. The floor plan is very important when it comes to getting the most space out of a smaller home.

8. Where do I want to move?

This is determined by several factors. If you are not yet retired then you will probably want to be close to work. Those that can work from home need to make sure to have some space for a home office.

When making a decision to move to a new city, state or country, make sure to determine if there are the services and lifestyle options you want in the new areas. A good idea would be to rent for a year in the new area to make sure that it is right for you.

9. Am I ready to downsize?

A good idea would be to take a look at homes in your desired area before you make a decision to downsize. You might envision yourself in a quaint one-bedroom bungalow but actually walking into one and visualizing you living there is the best way to determine if you could live in a smaller space.

“That’s when you’ll realize how small smaller really is. You’ll find yourself comparing what you have now to what you’ll have in the smaller home,” says ays Leneiva Head, principal broker/owner of Welcome Home Realty in Antioch, TN.

In a smaller home, you will have smaller rooms as well. You might be in a space that is more confined than you would want. Being mentally prepared for such a move is imperative. If you jump the gun and downsize without thinking through your decision, you could be making a big mistake.

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This is a custom built home close to New Orleans. This is a four bedroom, 3 bathroom home.The first two months of 2021 not only saw a strong housing market but 164,901 single-family permits issued year-to-date (YTD). The report shows that there is a 16.6% increase over February 2020.

Permits for residential single-family and multi-family 12 months change February 2021 year-to-date is different throughout each U.S. region. Single-family permits and multi-family permits increased in all four regions in February. For single-family Midwest had an increase of 24%, in the Northeast a 20.1% increase, the South had a 16.2% increase and the West came in last with a 13.6% increase. Multi-family saw the biggest increase in the West at 22%, next the South with an 18.4% increase, Northeast at 17.5% and the Midwest saw the lowest at only a 5.4% increase.

The District of Columbia saw the biggest increase in single-family permits issued YTD from February 2020 to February 2021 at 308.3%. Vermont saw a decline in single-family permits of 17.7%. The ten states that issued the highest number of single-family permits accounted for 63.8% of the total. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia had an increase in single-family permits between February 2020 YTD and February 2021 YTD.

Multi-family permits issued across the country in February 2021 YTD reached 83,110 which was 17.7% more than the reported 70,635 in February 2020. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia had an increase while 14 states had a decline. The highest increase was seen in New Mexico with a 714.3% increase and Nebraska saw a huge decline of 66.9%. The ten states that had the highest number issued accounted for 66.4% of the total.

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The latest National Home Builders Association/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) reported that builder confidence increased in April 2021. For newly-built single-family homes, builder confidence was at an 83 in April.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI surveys builders’ views on how the current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months. The builders’ rate as good, fair or poor. When asked about the traffic seen of prospective buyers, they rate it as high to very high, average or low to very low. Once the data is collected,  scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

Today’s market is seeing an 88 for current sales conditions even with the high lumber prices and supply chain problems. For the traffic of prospective buyers, there was a three-point gain to 75. As for the different regions the Northeast was at 86 points, the South at 83 points, the West at 90 points and the Midwest came in at 78 points.

“Despite strong buyer traffic, builders continue to face challenges to add much-needed housing supply to the market,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke. “The supply chain for residential construction is tight, particularly regarding the cost and availability of lumber, appliances, and other building materials. Though builders are seeking to keep home prices affordable in a market in need of more inventory, policymakers must find ways to increase the supply of building materials as the economy runs hot in 2021.”

“While mortgage interest rates have trended higher since February and home prices continue to outstrip inflation, housing demand appears to be unwavering for now as buyer traffic reached its highest level since November,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “NAHB’s forecast is for ongoing growth in single-family construction in 2021, albeit at a lower growth rate than realized in 2020.”

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High-performance homes are becoming more and more popular, but is the market up to date with appraisals for these specialty homes? Builders, sales agents and homeowners can take several steps to ensure local appraisers, lenders and the general public about what makes your durable, energy-efficient, healthier home stand out from the competition.

Step 1:

Make sure to highlight the home’s high-performance features when marketing the home. This can be done by advertising, educating, teaching, highlighting and displaying these high-performance features.

When advertising, make sure to include the features that make the home more comfortable, energy-efficient and water-efficient. Point out how these will help lower utility bills. For tips on verbiage to use or ideas on what to highlight, check out Home Performance Counts.

Educate and teach others about the results of an Energy Rating Index (ERI) which includes the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score or Home Energy Score (HES). All sales agents and sales staff should know what an ERI, HERS and/or HES rating means and how to articulate the ratings to consumers and others in the industry.

Features such as independently verified green home certifications should be highlighted in the marketing materials. The National Green Building Standard is a great example that should be put on flyers and web pages. During open houses, display the ERI, HERS or HES ratings and an explanation of the potential energy savings. Also, display certification plaques that show the home is approved by the National Green Building Standard.

Step 2:

Buyers should choose a lender who is familiar with high-performance homes. Local mortgage lenders who have a separate appraisal panel of trained professionals with experience valuing high-performance homes are critical to get the value your above-code home deserves. It is important for a lender to choose an appraiser that is on the Appraisal Institute’s green registry. This way both the lender and appraiser will not be hesitant to appraise the home higher for its energy-efficient upgrades.

Step 3:

The sales contract for a high-performance home should include Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. What this means is the high-performance features that are behind the walls and cannot be seen will be included. This documentation will help the appraiser fully understand the higher price when it comes to an above-code home.

Step 4:

Just like interviewing a sales agent, interview the appraiser before you choose them to appraise the home. Not only ask about their appraisal experience but also ask if they are familiar with ERI scores and HERS ratings. Find out what classes or courses they have taken on high-performance valuation.  The Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac all require that the appraiser has requisite knowledge prior to accepting the assignment, and the only way to enforce that is to ask about their knowledge and experience upfront.

Including these steps in the appraisal process will ensure a high-performance home will be given the right amount the home is worth. Choosing a sales agent who is versed in energy-efficient homes will help buyers with the home buying process.

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The National Association of Home Builders NAHB recently did a survey that revealed 25% of home buyers have changed their home buying preferences due to COVID-19. The survey found that home buyers are looking to the suburbs because of the health crisis. Thiry percent of buyers are seeking a home in the outlying suburbs. Before the pandemic, only 26% of home buyers wanted to purchase a home in the suburbs.

This does not bode for other locations. All of the other location points saw no change or small declines in buyer’s preferences after the onset of COVID-19. Rural areas went from 24% down to 23%, downtown in a central city, dwindle from 12% to 11% and those who desired a home in the central city outside of downtown remained at 9%.

Buyers should enlist the help of a Realtor. A local sales agent will know the suburbs and can help you find the perfect home of your dreams. They will be able to help find a home in the perfect community for the perfect price.

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Exterior of this home features both brick and wood paneling. The front porch welcomes you with a covered area for outdoor seating.

The current housing market is on fire and will have even more support with the $1.09 billion disbursements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has never authorized such a large amount. In fact, this is double what was given last year.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) was established in 2008. The goal for the agency is to make sure that regulated institutions make good on their commitment. It is also there for a safe place for liquidity and funding for the housing finance market throughout the economic cycle.

Along with the agency, as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008, congress created the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and Capital Magnet Fund (CMF). Their purpose is to support affordable housing. HERA directed the Enterprises to set aside 4.2 basis points of each dollar of unpaid principal balance of its total new business purchases and then allocate those reserved funds following each fiscal year for. The funding is divided with the HTF receiving 65% and the CMF receiving 35%.For 2021 more than $700 million will be given to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of the Treasury for the CMF will receive $383 million.

This is good news for the housing industry altogether. Now is a great time to purchase a home if you are in the market or thinking of buying a home.

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The end of 2020 was chaotic with the pandemic mixed with the holidays. This did not slow down the housing market, especially when it came to increases in home prices. It was reported that home prices rose at the fastest pace we have seen in seven years.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices reported that nationally home prices rose 10.4% over the data collected in December 2019. Not only were the home prices rising at a record pace, but we saw the largest annual gains in the more than 30-year history of the index in December 2020.

“2020′s 10.4% gain marks the best performance of housing prices in a calendar year since 2013,” said Craig Lazzara, managing director and global head of index investment strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “From the perspective of more than 30 years of S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller data, December’s year-over-year change ranks within the top decile of all reports.”

The strongest gains were seen in Phoenix, Seattle and San Diego among the total cities surveyed. Phoenix showed a 14.4% increase year-over-year, Seattle had a 13.6% increase and San Diego was not far behind with a 13% increase.

COVID-19 has driven demand in homes because of the stay-at-home orders. People are more concerned with their homes now more than ever. A lack of inventory and the record low mortgage rates has made the current housing market very strong and desirable.

“These data are consistent with the view that Covid has encouraged potential buyers to move from urban apartments to suburban homes. This may indicate a secular shift in housing demand, or may simply represent an acceleration of moves that would have taken place over the next several years anyway,” Lazzara said.

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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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