Madisonville is a quite small town outside of a big city so why would the town need to expand its two-lane bridge? If you are a resident or are familiar with Madisonville, then you know about the two-lane swing bridge crossing the Tchefuncte River along Louisiana 22. Traffic is a nightmare so many commuters come through that way. Will changing the bridge to accommodate the traffic hurt the quaint town?

Mandeville Mayor Clay Madden discusses the bridge and says it is the topic of discussion for two years in a row at a traffic summit that he organized. He goes on to explain that the small bridge plays a big part in Western St. Tammany Parish’s traffic problem. Rep. Mark Wright of Covington has put forth a resolution to the state Department of Transportation and Development to conduct a study on how traffic can be alleviated over the Tchefuncte River. He backs it up by saying that St. Tammany has been rapidly growing and the Madisonville bridge is a detournement to economic development. No matter what the study shows, the bridge is part of the town’s landscape.

“What can be done to a two-lane bridge in a small town? I don’t know,” says Madisonville Mayor Jean Pelloat.

The town does not want a huge high bridge, which is what would happen if they turned the bridge into a fixed bridge with more lanes. Boats have to pass beneath the bridge if it does not swing to give clearance. “No one wants to make a high rise over Madisonville,” replies Sharp. St. Tammany Parish Council member Michael Lorino says this just might have to happen to accommodate the traffic pile-up. He feels that raising the bridge height to allow most boats to go through without having an open bridge can be done by keeping the quaint town atmosphere.

Some relief has already come in the form of a new bridge opening schedule which will begin in April. Instead of opening on-call every half-hour, it will open every hour on-call. This will help with the morning and afternoon rush. There are also several projects that will improve traffic flow that will be done in the surrounding areas. This will include a roundabout at Louisiana 1085 and Louisiana 22, rerouting Main Street traffic to Cedar Street along with a roundabout at the intersection with Louisiana 22, the state also plans to add a turning lane on Louisiana 22 from Tangipahoa Parish line east to Perrilloux Road.

“You can’t make the traffic disappear, because you can’t make the houses disappear. But you can make it move a little better, says Lorino.

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The current housing market is starting to cool along with the buyer frenzy. Professionals in the industry have three trends that can benefit a buyer when they go to buy a home.

1. More Homes To Choose from

For the past several years, the housing market has hit a record low in housing inventory. This coupled with high buyer demand made it hard to even find a home to purchase. The Calculated Risk reported that homes for sale increased by 39.5% in the last week of October 2022 from the same time in 2021. It is still a seller’s market, but the good news for buyers is that there is more inventory to choose from when finding your new home.

2. Bidding Wars Have Eased

With the demand for buyers over the past several years came huge bidding wars. Luckily, for buyers today, things are different. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) the offers on sold homes have declined recently. This fall, September showed the average was 2.5 offers per sale, which was down from the 3.7 offers per sale from last September 2021. Since this has started to slow down, the bidding wars are as well, making it a great time to get back into the market and search for a home without the huge influx of competition.

3. More Negotiation Power

When there is less competition for buyers, then there is more negotiation power on your side. The last couple of years has seen buyers willing to skip things like appraisals and inspections in order to win a bidding war. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyers in today’s market are not waiving all contingencies. Appraisal and inspection are two very important factors when it comes to purchasing a home. A survey from Realtor.com shows that 95% of current sellers are accepting a house inspection from a buyer. Sixty-seven percent of sellers negotiated with buyers on repairs found during an inspection.

There are still challenges buyers must face in today’s market, but they are becoming more scarce. Now is a great time to purchase a new home, first find a local realtor who can help you on your journey to getting your dream home.

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The building that once used to be Rouses will now be redeveloped as a fun, family entertainment venue. The center will be two venues including a trampoline park and a swim school. The businesses are expected to draw in patrons from a sixty-mile radius.

The Rouses, which closed last month, is a 58,000-square-foot building located at 50 Park Place and sits next to Home Depot. Gulf State Real Estate and Construction Services purchased the building making it a multi-million-dollar acquisition. The company will handle the construction of the two venues that have been in the works for five years. Rouses came to the company and asked them if they would like to do a project in one of the sites that they wanted to exit. Gulf State Real Estate and Construction Services built several of the Louisiana grocery store chain’s locations.

Mike Saucier of Gulf State Real Estate and Construction Services, says the plan is to start the redevelopment project at the beginning of 2023. They will break up the space into two spaces, one for Urban Air which will be 48,000 square feet and one for Goldfish Swim School which will be 10,000 square feet.

Goldfish Swim School teaches swimming and water safety for infants to 12-year-olds and this will be their first Louisiana location. The goal is to open the swim school in the summer. This location will hold a 3 to 4-foot deep indoor pool explains franchise owners Rachelle Nurse and her husband Joe Goodly who also owns Urban Air Adventure Park.

Urban Air Adventure Park will be the second Louisiana location and will open in November. The first Urban Air Adventure Park is located in Denham Springs. The trampoline park not only includes trampolines, but also a zip line, climbing walls, virtual reality and much more. The franchise is particular when it comes to choosing a location for one of their franchises. They take into consideration how many children live in the area and if a site can provide a regional draw.

Saucier is excited about the new projects and believes it will only enhance the desire for corporate relocations to St. Tammany. “This checks the entertainment box,” Saucier said. “It fills a gap and brings us up to the level of other cities.”

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The pandemic changed the way we lived and used the spaces in our homes. Homeowners across the board wanted to add privacy and space to their homes. A great and practical piece that will do both is a stylish barn door. Here are three ways you can transform any room with a barn door.

1. Add Privacy

During the pandemic, the stay-at-home orders meant that we were all in our homes 24/7. Privacy and concealing unattractive space became very important. A barn door can add a good-looking feature to your space that can keep clutter out of view. A great example is concealing a children’s playroom. A barn door can hide the jumble of toys, games and books that can create chaos. A barn door can cover an open shelved kitchen pantry or create a door to an en-suite bathroom.

2. Refresh Your Style

Barn doors are a great look and are more design-forward than you might think. “Homeowners often consider barn doors a solution only in rustic homes,” Michael Truelove, senior product manager for interior doors at Masonite says, “but today’s styles can be anything from modern to industrial to classic and more. The great thing about barn doors is they cover a cross-section of design trends. I wouldn’t say one style is more versatile than the rest, since it depends on style preference and use case.”

3. Save Space

Even if you have a big home, a barn door can help with space issues. For example, if you have an area where a conventional door will not work like a narrow hallway. If you want to give a guest bath, a closet or even a small mudroom privacy and they flow out to a narrow hallway then a barn door will fix the issue. In the past, pocket doors have been our only option but they are not as easy to install or maintain. “Like pocket doors, barn doors take up less space than hinged doors, but in this case, all of the hardware, including the track, is outside of the wall and easy to access,” Truelove says.

Masonite is the perfect company for the job. “We make a few recommendations to ensure the best and safest installation of our doors,” Truelove says. “First, measure the width of your opening and available horizontal and vertical wall space to be sure you purchase the right size door, and read the instructions carefully before you begin.” Keep in mind the kits are designed to work as a total system and any modifications will void the warranty and may cause the unit to work improperly. Truelove recommends that, due to the weight of the doors, you don’t try to go it alone. “And don’t forget to wear appropriate personal protective equipment like gloves and safety goggles,” he says.

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The place residents and tourists go in downtown Covington is North New Hampshire Street where the Southern Hotel is located.  The Southern Hotel not only is a place for visitors, but also holds several movie houses that show all genres of films.  Within the next couple of years, The Southern Hotel will see another expansion. The project will take The Southern Hotel and expand it to cover the entire block.A patterened wall paper sets this powder room apart. The fixtures in this powder room are simple and handsome in design.
Along with the expansion there will be a new restaurant by BRG Hospitality and a renovated Star Theater. The Star Theater will offer a boutique bowling alley, upscale lounge and music stages.  The expansion has around $17 million in new investments and will be considered the largest transformation of the historic district since the renovation of The Southern Hotel in 2014.
The Southern Hotel boasts 48 rooms and is a boutique style hotel in the heart of downtown Covington.  With the expansion, it is planned to add additional rooms, condos and retail space.  The retail space will be modeled after the 1940s-era storefronts and there will be an additional 43,000 square-foot Mission-style building built on land.  The new building will be named the Summer House and have retail space on the first floor,  hotel rooms on the second floor, a full-service spa on the third floor and four condos on the fourth floor.  The total new building will cost around $11 million.
The Star Theater, a 1942 movie house, will be renovated and will be the largest of the downtown Covington Theaters.  The theater has been vacant since Katrina and before was split into two theaters in the 1970s. The $3 million to $5 million project will include a six-lane boutique bowling alley, and an upscale lounge.  Eventually there will be plans for a roof-top lounge with stages for small acoustic bands.
“We had gone past it so many times, I tried for six months to negotiate a purchase,” said Warren Salles referring to the Star.
The new restaurant by BRG Hospitality will be called TAVI and will be housed in a former barbershop and law office.  TAVI will be under Fariz Choumali, who has been leading the kitchen at Shaya, and will offer a Israeli-Lebanese inspired menu.
“Downtown is becoming a night-time destination, and we have to embrace that,” says Covington Mayor Mark Johnson.  The area has already begun to see an increase in activity since the restrictions from the pandemic were lifted.  “We’re not Mayberry anymore. We’re Mayberry on steroids,” says Johnson.
Everyone thinks of downsizing once they are empty nesters or many homeowners just might want a change.  Downsizing your home does have many financial advantages as well as less upkeep but is it the best way to go when it comes to taxes?  When you downsize more than likely you will end up with cash from the sale of your larger home which could end up adding to a big tax bill. 
Currently if you sell your home (principal residence) for a profit, you could qualify to  knock off $250,000 ($500,000 for married filing jointly) of your capital gain.  In order for you to benefit from the maximum exclusion you will need to pass the ownership and use test by the IRS.  The IRS will want to make sure you have owned the home for the last two years and that you have lived in the home as your principal residence for the past two years (ending on the date of the sale).
The IRS does have exceptions to the rules when it comes to the ownership and use test.  For example, if you are moving before owning the home for two years because of a job change (seen as unforeseen circumstances) it is exempt.  Other unforeseen circumstances the IRS has are divorce or natural disaster.  In circumstances such as these, the IRS will allow the homeowner to prorate the exclusion.
A homeowner does not have to live in the home for two consecutive years just as long as a homeowner has lived in the home 24 months out of the five years prior to the sale of the home.  Also, you can only claim and exclusion once every two years.
Before you decide to sell your home, you will want to calculate your cost basis.  Do this by figuring out the capital gains on the sale of your home then subtract your cost basis from the selling price.  Your cost basis includes the purchase price along with settlement fees, closing costs and commissions associated with both the purchase and the sale. Take these and add to the cost of all the improvements you have done to the home which will be your cost basis.
Determining if something is a capital improvement or repair is also important because capital improvement can be added to your cost basis but repair cost cannot.  Why?  A capital improvement will increase the value of your home, while a repair will just restore your home to its original condition.  For example, a new deck is a capital improvement while fixing your plumbing is considered a repair.  A new roof would be a capital improvement however, just replacing a  few shingles is just a repair.
If you are looking to downsize, you may want to consider whether to buy or rent.  Renting will release you from all the obligations of owning a home but you will not be building equity and you will have to answer to a landlord.  There is no right or wrong answer, it is a personal preference which is right for you.

The housing crash of 2008 was a devastation to the U.S. housing market.  Currently, the economy is slightly taking a negative turn.  The slowdown in the U.S. economy is having many homeowners concerned with the state of the market.  Fortunately, data reveals that today’s slowdown is nothing like the crash in 2008. One of the biggest factors for it not to crash down is the low inventory supply which comes from current homeowners putting their homes on the market, newly built homes being listed, and short sales or foreclosures. 

Even with the uptick in housing supply, resales are still low.  Data shows that inventory is up 27.8%  which was the same time last year but compared to 2019 it is down by 42.6%.  This means that the current inventory is still super low because current homeowners are still hesitant to put their homes on the market.  This does not mean however that there are not enough houses on the market to cause a crash or prices to drop.  This would take a flood of current homeowners that would want to put their house on the market at the same time for this to happen.
Ironically even with such low inventory, homebuilders are slowing down their production currently.  “It has become a very competitive market for builders where they are trying to offload any standing inventory,” says Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zonda.
The slowdown is a reaction to the higher mortgage rates and softening buyer demand. Builders do not want to overbuild like they did before the 2008 crash occurred.  Those in the industry say it is a sign that builders are being intentional about not overbuilding homes like what happened during the bubble before the 2008 crash.  The latest report from the U.S. Census states that at today’s current pace, we’re headed to build a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.4 million homes this year. This is the perfect mix to make a stable market.  This will add more inventory at a pace that does not create an oversupply of inventory that the housing market can not absorb.  This is due to the builders being cautious about how much and how fast they are producing.
Distressed properties which are both foreclosures and short sales are another place inventory is pushed out in the market from.  In the 2008 housing crisis, there was an influx of short sales and foreclosures to flood the market in a short period.  This crisis was mainly due to the lenders allowing people to secure a loan they really could not afford the home.  Today’s market does not have to worry about this as much because lending standards are much stricter today than they were back then.  These tighter standards are pushing out more qualified buyers and fewer foreclosures.
Around the time of the 2008 crash, there were well over a million foreclosures per year.  When the lender’s tightened their reigns on lending standards the amount of distressed homes started to decline.  Also, the introduction of the forbearance program in 2020 and 2021 has aided in preventing a repeat crash.  This program gave homeowners the option for loan deferrals and modifications that were not there in the past.  And data on the success of that program shows four out of every five homeowners coming out of forbearance are either paid in full or have worked out a repayment plan to avoid foreclosure.
These three factors are the biggest reasons we will not see another big crash as we had in 2008.  Even though our housing supply is growing in 2022, it will not even touch the amount of homes that would need to hit the market to saturate it and make home prices drop.  If you are in the market for a new home, contact a local real estate agent who can help you with the purchase of a new home.
A stand alone tub is the focal point of the master bathroom.
The former Hilton Homewood Suites located in Covington will be turned into an apartment complex called the Fairlane and the rent at the Fairlane will start around $900 a month.  This is according to Zachary Kupperman who along with his partners purchased the property and plans to turn it into an 86-unit apartment complex.
Zachary Kupperman is no stranger to a project like this.  He is responsible for developments such as The Hotel St. Vincent and the Drifter Motel in New Orleans.  Covington is a perfect area for a project like this because so many works remotely and can rent or purchase farther away from New Orleans.  “In bedroom communities like Covington something like (the Fairlane project) can solve all three problems at once,” said Kupperman.
The closing of the hotel was mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortage of travelers during the stay-at-home orders. This has been seen all around the country and not just locally.  Renovating closed-down hotels due to COVID has become a trend.  This coupled with the strong growing need for affordable housing has piqued many developers’ interest in such ventures.
The Homewood suites is a type of lodging that is becoming rare to find these days with not only a place to sleep but a kitchen and living area as well.  This kind of accommodation came around for the business traveler who might need a place to stay for weeks at a time.  Although in the past Hilton has offered this type of room, they are now moving away from this sector and refocusing on a more boutique hotel.
The former Covington Homewood Suites is located at 101 Holiday Square close to Interstate 12 junction with Frontage Road.  It is a perfect spot because it sits between a Honda dealership and The Collins (an apartment community that rents from $ 1,300 plus).  As mentioned earlier, The Fairlane will start one-bedrooms out at $900 a month which is very affordable in this area.
“There is no heavy construction and the conversion is fairly light touch, with some painting, carpeting, adding some appliances,” he said. “So spending has been much less.”
The total acquisition and renovation will cost around $9 million which is less than half of what a comparable complex would cost to build from ground up.  Many of the rooms in the hotel were already being used as long-stay accomodations.  The apartment complex will be able to use the existing pool, hot tub and gym area for the amenities.  The unties will be designed by Covington-based Crown Designs and New Orleans-based Key Real Estate will be managing the complex.

What is causing more buyers in the current housing market?

The competition between buyers is slowing causing an increase in buyer activity.This custom built home is close to New Orleans in Covington.

In the second quarter of 2022 there was a increase to 49% in the share of prospective home buyers who are actively seeking a home to purchase. This comes after a decline for three straight quarters in a row. Rising interest rates have pushed many prospective home buyers righ tout of the market.

According to the NAHB’s Housing Trends Report each region saw a different share of prospective home buyers who are actively searching for a home to purchase. The South was the only region that did not see a rise. As for the remaining three, the Northeast went from 50% in the first quarter to 54% in the second quarter, the Midwest went from 40% in the first quarter to 51% in the second quarter and the West saw an increase of 57% in the second quarter from the 46% that was reported in Quarter one.

The housing market has also seen a rise in availability expextations. We have seen a fall for the last five consecutive quarters so this is good news as it grew from 17% to 22% between the first and second quarter of this year. Along with availability expectations affordability expectations also increased. This has been the first increase since 2020 going from 19% to 23% from the first quarter to the second quarter.

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When was the last strong growth increase in single-family starts?

The last fast pace of single-family starts grew in 2021 which is the fist time an increase had occured since 2013.

According to the NAHB’s Eye on Housing New single-family starts grew exponentially in 2021. In fact this is the fist time since 2013 there has been such a fast pace in single-family new home starts. NAHB’s Survey of Construction (SOC) reported 1,133,145 new single-family were started in 2021. This is 14% higher than reported in 2020.

The South Atlantic, West South Centeral and Mountain Divisions saw the most new single-family units starts which represented 20 states plus Washington DC. This accounted for 41% of the country and over two-thirds of the total new single-family housing starts in 2021. The Pacific Division increased to 106,240 accounting for 9% and the East North Central Division went to 93,693 accounting for 8%.

The other divisions including East South Central, West North Central, Middle Atlantic and New England made up the remaining 16%. Four of the division grew faster than the national level which were the Middle Atlantic with a 26% increase, the East South Central Division with a 23% increas ehte West South Central Division with a 19% increase.

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