The Abita Springs Town Hall is a historical building that dates back one hundred years. The building is also the home to the Abita Springs Opry and is slated to be renovated. The plans for the renovation have been shared at a community meeting.

The plans for the design include a new foyer that will connect the original town hall to the town hall annex. The annex also has a history as it was once a fire station to the community. The annex serves as the office space for several departments including planning and zoning, finance and events.

The chosen architect, Ron Blitch of Blitch Knevel Architects also shared the other upgrades that will happen. The faces of the building will get a new exterior along with a larger porch and covered side gallery. Also, there will be a larger stage added for performances and space for concessions. For weddings, there will be a bride’s room now and a courtyard that will be added that will make a perfect spot for a reception garden.

This will be a great benefit for Abita Springs, and now the timeline and budget just need to be agreed upon. The rain runoff which has also been an issue, will also be remedied.

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According to CNN, US homebuilding is on the rebound. This comes after the drop seen in August of what was reported the lowest levels since 2020. This can be blamed mostly on the climbing mortgage rates. 

September saw a 7% jump in new home construction housing starts. The housing starts measure new home construction and rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.358 million. The Census Bureau predicted a rate of 1.38 million, higher than data proved.

The number of units was also lower than a year ago by 7.2% as well as the building permits at the same 7.2%. Building permits declined 4.4% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.473 million.

“September numbers were a mixed bag, with starts up and permits down, but both remain low by historical standards, suppressed by high mortgage rates,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union.

“Builders continue constructing smaller homes using less land, and offering incentives, but to build our way out of the housing shortage we’ll need mortgage rates well below current levels,” he said.

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Tile can last throughout time in bathroom designs and really never goes out of style. Tile can make it easy to clean your space. “The appeal of an all-tile bathroom is multifaceted. The look conveys luxury and is on trend right now,” says designer Morgan Farrow of Morgan Farrow Interiors. Here are several tips when creating an all-tile bathroom. 

Pick your look.

“I first consider how the space is being used. A Jack-and-Jill bathroom shared by siblings should be treated differently than a primary bathroom shared by siblings should be treated differently than a primary bathroom used by adults, both in terms of materials and colors,” explains Tess Twiehaus of Tess Interiors.

If you are focusing on a kid’s space, start with using ceramic or porcelain tiles which are the least expensive. They are easy to clean and kid-tolerable. For a master bathroom, going with a higher-end tile like marble or travertine is a plus. They do require more maintenance so be picky about where you install. Tile shops around offer tons of materials from natural stone to ceramic to porcelain. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Mix it up.

“We love mixing tiles, and often use two or three in a single space,” says Farrow. You do not have to worry about the colors and textures clashing but you just have to make sure the color tone in tiles that will be adjacent meshes.

“The benefit is that mixing allows you to get layers of color and pattern,”says Farrow. You can mix and match high-end pieces with budget-friendly pieces to help with the cost.

An accent tile can add intrigue but isn’t required.

When adding an accent tile, it can brighten the space and elevate the room. This is just a bonus but you do not have to add accents to have a great-looking space. Remember that there’s no need to check every box on some imaginary design checklist. “If the room feels special with it, then go for it. But if the addition feels random, take it out,” adds Farrow.

Don’t underestimate your order.

This can be a little tricky because you do not want to order too much tile or not have enough. A rule that Twiehaus offers is to order 20% more than you think you will need. “I wouldn’t stress about it being too much. You will absolutely need extra tile in case you have a discoloration or a few pieces break,” she says. You want to confirm with your designer about any specifications before you order.

Following these tips can be a great way to get your bathroom up -to-date in a great style that is easier to maintain and clean.


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Your finances play a huge part when it comes to buying a home. Sometimes it can be an unexpected move, a company relocation can happen and you need to be ready. Here are several tips on getting your finances up to par.

1. Know What Lenders Look For

Knowing what a lender will want to see can really help you along the way. Be familiar with what they look for on a home loan application. Basically, they will want to make sure you are able to afford to pay back the loan and closing costs. Not only will you need money in your pocket, but will also need to be credit-worthy. The better your credit score, the better the interest rate. Lenders will want to know your income, employment history, recent banking activity, debt-to-income ratio, credit score, estimated down payment and assets.

2. Boost Your FICO Score

A FICO score is high on the list for lenders to look at when it comes to a loan. As mentioned before, the higher your credit score the better your interest rate. If you need to boost your score, make it a priority to pay your bills on-time, keep a diverse mix of credit, and keep the balances low.

3. Pay Down Your Debt

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is also important because it can determine how much home you can afford. It can also play a factor in the terms and rates you will receive. This basically is the total monthly debt divided by your gross monthly income. The goal is to keep your DTI around 43% or below. Lenders would like to see you keep your DTI under 36%. Many say to keep it around 28% that will go towards housing.

4. Save For a Down Payment

The amount you put down for your down payment will depend on the type of mortgage you obtain. An FHA loan has the smallest down payment of 3.5% of the home’s purchase price. If you are dealing with a conventional loan, then you will want to try to put at least 20% down so you will not have to have private mortgage insurance (PMI). A USDA and VA loan will not even require a down payment.

5. Know How Much House You Can Afford

This can be tricky to determine how much you can afford. Remember that this is a big financial commitment for years to come. A good tool is to use an affordability calculator to see how much you can afford. Have your finances in order so you can have a good base for what you can afford in your home search.

When you start a home search, choose a local real estate agent who can help you with the home-buying process from start to finish. They can also recommend a lender who can help you with your mortgage needs.

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There are a ton of steps between choosing a home, making an offer and collecting the keys. Here are several tasks to do to make a smooth fast closing on a home.

1. Get All Contingencies Squared Away

This is a big part of the negotiations between the buyers and sellers. A contingency is a clause that can be added to a contract that allows a buyer to walk away from a contract without any penalties. Some of the most used contingencies are a mortgage contingency, an appraisal contingency, home sale contingency or a home inspection contingency. Before closing, you will want to make sure that any contingency in the sales contract has been resolved.

2. Review Your Closing Disclosure Form

Anyone who will be using a home loan, will get a closing statement before the closing happens. The closing disclosure will be given to you around three business days before the closing. It is a five-page form that lists out all the terms of your loan and tells you all the fees owed at closing. Take time to review everything on the closing disclosure and if you have any questions, make sure to contact your lender.

3. Do a Final Walkthrough

About a day before closing, do a walkthrough of the home with your real estate agent. Many professionals tell you that it is ideal to walk the property the morning of your closing to make sure the property is in the same or better condition as when you saw it last.

4. Bring the Proper Documents

Nothing is more frustrating than to not have all the documents at your closing. Before your closing gather your government-issued ID, a cashier’s check, and proof of home owner’s insurance.

5. Rope In Your Support Team

You want to have your support group who has been with you through the whole process at the closing. Having them attend the closing will help expedite the process if there are any hiccups. A lot of times the your real estate agent, loan officer, attorney, a title insurance rep and your closing agent will be required to be at the closing.

6. Schedule Transfer of the Utilities

Nothing is worse than getting the keys to your new home, and not having the utilities working when you open the door for the first time. Before your closing date, transfer your electric, gas, cable and internet and set them to be turned on in your name day of closing.

7. Sing On the Dotted Lines

There is a lot to sign at closing, so it will take time and be a little intimidating. Take your time and read through each document before signing. If you have any questions, ask them! Once the paperwork is signed there is no going back.

Remember if you are in the market for a home, start with hiring a real estate agent. They can get the ball rolling and can advise you on a lender who can help you with the mortgage process. Following these steps is a great way to help the transaction run quickly and smoothly.

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Purchasing a new home is one of life’s biggest events. It can be exciting but also very stressful. This is a big financial decision and you need to consider key factors including savings, credit score, income stability, and life circumstances. Only you can determine if it is the right time for you to buy a home.

Evaluate Your Savings

You need to be familiar with your savings. You do not want to push all of your savings into a down payment and closing costs. Figure out how much you will have left over after closing costs and your down payment. There will be home maintenance and repair costs that you have to think about.

Review Your Credit Score

If you want good mortgage terms, then you must have excellent credit scores. When a lender is working with you, they use your credit score to determine what rate you qualify for. Before you start the home-buying process, request a free copy of your credit report. You can review it and make sure there are no errors or discrepancies.

If you are in the market for a new home, follow this advice along with hiring a Realtor. A Realtor will help you with your home purchase from the start to finish.

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St. Tammany Parish is a desirable area to live in on the North Shore as it has been rapidly growing for a while now. In fact, the area had major road projects that were done and completed in 2019 along U.S. 190 between I-12 and Covington.

The project helped the flow of the northbound traffic on I-12 until it squeezed into one lane to go over the bridge at Bogue Falaya River. The old bridge was built in the 1940s and does not fit the traffic flow of today’s commute.

“It’s been an issue for years,” Parish Council member David Fitzgerald said. At times, he said, the congestion “is almost impenetrable.”

The parish’s population grew 13% between 2010 and 2020. Today there are around 270,000 residents with 330,000 registered vehicles. That means that U.S. 190 around the old bridge has around 70,000 vehicles on average a day.

They have begun a project to build a $30 million bridge to replace the current vintage bridge. The bridge will be done in two phases with the first being the one going northbound and the second will be southbound. The bridges will each have two 12-foot wide traffic lanes along with shoulders. The Department of Transportation and Development says the project is slated to be completed in 2025.

“We’re somewhat worried about the construction,” Colin Patrick, co-owner of the nearby Pat’s Seafood Market and Cajun Deli said, adding with a hopeful note: “I believe it’ll be good for business after it’s done.”

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Bush, Louisiana is the home to Wild Bush Farm & Vineyard where patrons can go and enjoy local wine. Their tasting room is quaint and even the place patrons can go to dine.

Chef Marcus Jacobs, co-founder of Marjie’s Grill and Seafood Sally’s, made the inaugural dinner over an open flamed grill that was next to the tasting room. Owners Monica Bourgeois and Neil Gernon are excited about the new possibilities for Wild Bush Farm & Vineyard.

Previously known as Pontchartrain Vineyards, Wild Bush, is just north of Covington in St. Tammany Parish. The scene is beautiful and looks like it has been plucked from a piece of land in California wine country.

In fact, currently, the wine that is produced at Wild Bush begins in the West Coast wine country. It is brought over and then finished at Wild Bush. The owners want to start growing grapes locally that can also produce wine. This Louisiana climate is tricky and it will take a “newly developed hybrid grape” to make it successful.

“It’s a playground for us,” Gernon said. “We don’t have rules for it. Does it taste good? How can we combine what grows here to make something that’s great, or does what we’re growing taste good enough to be a single varietal? There’s so much we can do here.”

So far, Wild Bush has four varieties that are grown on the property which include muscadine grapes, old-school Norton grapes and blueberries. “We want to change what people think about when they hear ‘Louisiana wine.’ We want to make something they can show friends from other places, and say this is what Louisiana wine can be,” Gernon said.

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A new retail and residential project will be proposed before the Mandeville City Council. The age-restricted community will be located on 15 acres on Mandeville’s lakefront at the location of Sucette Harbor.

There will be a meeting at City Hall where the council and residents can weigh in on the project. In fact, they are moving the voting event to a larger venue due to the size of the crowds. There will be many who will want to share their opinions about the project.

“We don’t want to wait forever on this, but there’s no reason to rush into a decision either,” says Chairman Rick Danielson.

The Mandeville Planning and Zoning Commission has already approved the project which will be around $150 million. It went through with a 4-3 vote so it was recommended to the City Council.

The LSU Health Foundation owns the land which is leased by the Sucette Harbor developer Woodward Interest. The land was originally dedicated to the foundation by Al Copeland’s family and Woodward Interests will use 60% of the lease money for cancer research and scholarships.

Many are against the luxury retirement community which will have 201 apartments for 55 and older, an 82-room boutique hotel, restaurants, an event center and a marina. Those that are opposed feel that the development will cause more traffic and congestion for the community. Mandeville is known for the beautiful oak treses which many on the land will have to be removed.

The council will take the votes and just move the project along for further discussion before a definite decision is made. “This has nothing to do with whether we (the council) want the project, do not want the project, like certain aspects or don’t like certain aspects,” Danielson told audience members.

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An amazing custom built home close to New Orleans.

Despite the increase in mortgage interest rates, home prices have remained stubbornly high for those real estate buyers who can still afford to purchase a new home for sale. The reason for this is that the market hasn’t recovered from the exceptional interest rates before and during the pandemic. Housing inventory remains low, which prompts bidding wars for available homes for sale. These bidding wars almost artificially inflate home prices, and the result has been a 1.4% increase in home value from April to May, which is the highest it’s been since June of 2022.

Even though this spring’s home buying season has been muted compared to the last two years, home buyers are still in the market to buy new and previously-owned homes in the Greater New Orleans area. Nationally, the average home value was at $346,856, almost 1% higher than a year ago and 3.4% more than the beginning of 2023.

During a normal real estate market, pricing tends to trend downward beginning in August, but experts are waiting to see what this year’s market brings. The Midwest had the highest monthly price increases, and New Orleans, considered one of the smallest markets, increased by .6%. The trend of abnormally low home inventory continues in 2023 with May showing a 23% drop in listings compared to May, 2022, and this percentage aligns with the same drop of inventory in March of this year of 22%.

In addition to the pandemic surge and buyout of existing land and houses, another factor in the abnormally low inventory has been the high mortgage interest rates. Homeowners don’t want to sell their home, which probably had a fantastic interest rate and buy a home at a significantly higher rate. Also, once they put their home on the market, and it sells, they may not be able to find a new home to move into. Overall, in a 4-year comparison of home inventory, May 2023, inventory is 3.1% less than May of 2022, and 45.7% less than May of 2019.

If you are looking to buy a new home or build a new home, Ron Lee Homes has available lots for sale and ready to build your new home. Consider getting started with your home building process and Contact Us Today!

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