Creating a clean and modern aesthetic in this kitchen.

The landscape of mortgage rates has been a rollercoaster, especially following the near 8% peak witnessed last fall. Presently, there’s a silver lining as rates have exhibited a downward trend, a critical shift for those in the market to buy or sell homes.

Despite the day-to-day fluctuations driven by various economic factors like inflation and the consumer price index (CPI), it’s important not to get sidetracked by short-term volatility. According to industry experts, the overall trajectory for mortgage rates is expected to continue downward throughout the year.

Dean Baker, a Senior Economist at the Center for Economic Research, highlights, “While we may not revisit the pandemic-era lows, we could see rates dip below 6% soon, which would be considerably low by standards set before the Great Recession.”

Supporting Baker’s assertion, recent projections from Fannie Mae also suggest the possibility of mortgage rates falling below the 6% mark by year’s end. These forecasts, regularly updated in response to ongoing market and economic developments, reinforce the optimism that rates could ease, particularly if inflation continues to cool down.

Implications for Prospective Homebuyers and Sellers

For potential homebuyers and sellers, the key takeaway is the broader market trend rather than momentary rate changes. If you’re contemplating purchasing a home and have found one that aligns with your budget and requirements, attempting to “time the market” for a further rate decrease might not be advisable. Given the current lower rates compared to last fall, acting now could prove advantageous, as even minor reductions in rates can significantly enhance your buying power.

Acting Now Could Be Beneficial

For those who postponed their homebuying plans last year with hopes of lower rates, this could be your moment to reevaluate and act. Engaging with a real estate professional can provide you with updated information and guidance tailored to your specific situation.

In conclusion, while navigating the housing market can seem daunting amid fluctuating mortgage rates, focusing on the long-term trends and consulting with experts can help you make informed decisions. With the possibility of rates dipping further, staying informed and ready to act could position you favorably in the current market landscape.

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The much-anticipated $45.8 million Costco warehouse is on track to open its doors by the end of this year, marking the Fortune 500 company’s first entry into St. Tammany Parish. This development, positioned off Pinnacle Parkway, is expected to significantly bolster the local economy and provide numerous job opportunities.

Chris Masingill, head of St. Tammany Corporation, the parish’s economic development agency, revealed that construction for the sprawling 159,000-square-foot facility is slated to commence in the second quarter of this year. While Costco has remained tight-lipped about the project specifics, Masingill hints at a potential opening towards the late third quarter.

Strategically located in the bustling Nord du Lac shopping district adjacent to Interstate 12, the new store is anticipated not only to enhance the shopping landscape but also to generate substantial employment. The opening of the store is expected to bring about 75 full-time jobs offering an average annual salary near $60,000, alongside 75 part-time positions.

The introduction of Costco into the region is projected to inject $60 million in new sales and property taxes into the local economy over the next decade, according to St. Tammany Corporation. This new establishment joins Costco’s existing location in Mid-City, New Orleans, expanding the retailer’s footprint in the region.

The Covington area, particularly the Nord du Lac and adjacent River Chase shopping districts, is already a retail hub featuring stores and restaurants like Kohl’s, Academy Sports and Outdoors, and Texas Roadhouse. The addition of Costco is set to amplify this retail synergy, attracting more shoppers and potentially spurring further developments.

Commercial real estate circles are abuzz with the news, as evidenced by Hayden Ingram, a commercial agent with Property One, noting increased interest in nearby properties due to the impending Costco launch. “Investors are excited that Costco’s going to be a neighbor,” said Ingram, highlighting the positive ripple effect expected from the store’s opening.

Moreover, the region is undergoing significant infrastructure improvements with a $189 million state project to expand Interstate 12. This enhancement aims to alleviate traffic congestion, particularly from shoppers frequenting the Nord du Lac and River Chase areas, further facilitating access to the new Costco.

As western St. Tammany’s commercial corridors continue to grow, the arrival of Costco represents a significant milestone for the community, promising a blend of employment opportunities, enhanced retail offerings, and increased tax revenues. Local residents and businesses alike are eagerly anticipating the doors opening to what promises to be another anchor in the parish’s flourishing commercial landscape.

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A large window offers a view of the serene, forested outdoors, complementing the bathroom's clean and peaceful design.

Deciding whether to rent or buy a home is a significant choice that impacts your financial future. The Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) provides compelling data that may help you in making this crucial decision. According to the SCF, the average homeowner’s net worth is almost 40 times greater than that of a renter. This striking difference highlights the potential financial benefits of homeownership.

One of the key reasons behind this wealth gap lies in the nature of homeownership itself. Owning a home allows individuals to build equity over time as property values appreciate and mortgage payments are made. This process acts as a kind of forced savings plan, contributing significantly to a homeowner’s net worth. In contrast, renters do not benefit from housing appreciation or equity gains, as monthly rent payments do not contribute to any form of personal equity. Ksenia Potapov, an economist at First American, emphasizes that renters miss out on the wealth generated by house price appreciation and the equity gains from consistent mortgage payments.

The importance of home equity in building wealth is further underscored by data from First American and the Federal Reserve. Regardless of income level, home equity is a significant component of a homeowner’s net worth. This suggests that homeownership can be a critical step in wealth accumulation for individuals across various economic backgrounds. Nicole Bachaud, a Senior Economist at Zillow, points out that for many, a home is likely to be the largest asset they will ever own. Homeownership provides not just a place to live but a foundation for stability and intergenerational wealth.

The current real estate market presents unique opportunities for potential buyers. Recent trends indicate that mortgage rates are decreasing, which could enhance your buying power. Additionally, an increase in housing inventory means more choices are available, making it an opportune time to find a home that fits your needs and budget.

If you’re on the fence about buying a home, consider the long-term impact on your net worth. While the upfront costs and responsibilities associated with homeownership may seem daunting, the financial benefits can be substantial over time. To navigate the complexities of the housing market and understand how homeownership fits into your financial plan, consulting with a local real estate agent can be an invaluable step. They can provide insight into the market and help you explore the options available to you, guiding you toward making a decision that aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle preferences.

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In recent developments, consumer prices have surged unexpectedly, leading to a consequent increase in mortgage rates this week. The economy’s robust performance early this year has prompted predictions that high rates could persist, potentially impacting the upcoming spring homebuying season. Freddie Mac data reveals a noteworthy trend: in 2024, mortgage applications for buying homes have decreased across more than half of the states compared to the previous year. This shift suggests a cooling effect on the housing market, attributed mainly to the climbing rates.The image captures a spacious open concept area that combines a living space with a fireplace and a modern kitchen.

This situation underscores the delicate balance between economic growth and affordability in the housing sector. As the economy strengthens, inflationary pressures can prompt the Federal Reserve to maintain or increase interest rates to keep inflation in check. While this is generally a sign of a healthy economy, higher mortgage rates can sideline potential homebuyers, especially first-timers who are more sensitive to changes in monthly payment costs.

The current climate presents a mixed bag for the real estate market. On one hand, a strong economy bodes well for employment rates and wages, potentially boosting buyer confidence. On the other hand, if mortgage rates continue to rise, this could lead to a decrease in affordability, causing some potential buyers to delay or forgo purchasing a new home.

Freddie Mac, a leading source for housing market analysis, cautions that while their data provides essential insights, the market’s future remains uncertain. Their research, reflecting a combination of opinions, estimates, and forecasts, suggests a landscape shaped by varying economic factors. It’s crucial for prospective homebuyers and industry stakeholders to stay informed and navigate these changes with caution.

The implications of this shift extend beyond individual buyers to the broader housing market. Realtors, lenders, and policymakers must consider the potential for a slower homebuying season and its impact on the housing industry and overall economy. Strategies may need to adjust, focusing on maintaining market stability and supporting prospective buyers through these fluctuating conditions.

In conclusion, while the current rise in mortgage rates reflects broader economic trends, its impact on the housing market is nuanced. Potential homebuyers should closely monitor the situation and seek advice from financial and real estate professionals. As the year progresses, the interplay between consumer prices, mortgage rates, and the housing market will be critical to watch. Adapting to these conditions, while challenging, will be essential for those looking to navigate the complexities of buying a home in 2024.

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It is situated in a residential area with tall pine trees in the background, signifying a blend of suburban living and natural surroundings.

Covington, Louisiana, is gearing up for a floral spectacle as the Northshore Camellia Club prepares to host its 15th annual Camellia Show at the newly renovated Greenwood Event Center on January 7. This eagerly awaited event promises to showcase a stunning array of camellia blooms, featuring both new varieties and beloved classics.

The show, scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., invites the public to immerse themselves in the beauty of these exquisite flowers. Located at 75082 La. 25, in Covington, the Greenwood Event Center provides the perfect backdrop for this botanical celebration.

One of the highlights of the Camellia Show is the participation of exhibitors from throughout the Gulf region, who will proudly display their prized camellia varieties. This year’s event aims to present blooms that have never been seen before, offering attendees a rare opportunity to witness the latest in camellia breeding and cultivation.

Novice and local growers are encouraged to participate, fostering a sense of community and knowledge-sharing. Club members will be on hand to guide newcomers in showcasing their blooms and assist in identifying any unknown varieties. This inclusive approach ensures that enthusiasts of all levels can engage with the world of camellias, making the event not just a showcase but also a learning experience.

For those looking to bring a piece of this floral magic home, the Camellia Show goes beyond the visual spectacle. More than 100 camellia plants will be available for purchase, starting at 9 a.m. This presents a fantastic opportunity for gardening enthusiasts to enhance their collections with carefully selected and sought-after camellia specimens.

The choice of the newly renovated Greenwood Event Center adds an extra layer of charm to the event, providing a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing environment for both participants and visitors. The venue’s ambiance will complement the vibrant colors and intricate patterns of the camellia blooms on display.

The annual Camellia Show has become a beloved tradition in Covington, drawing plant enthusiasts, gardeners, and nature lovers from the region. Beyond the visual appeal, the event fosters a sense of community, where individuals can share their passion for camellias, exchange tips on care and propagation, and celebrate the beauty of these remarkable flowers.

Whether you are a seasoned camellia enthusiast or just starting your journey into the world of these captivating blooms, the Camellia Show in Covington promises an enriching experience. Mark your calendars for January 7, and join in the celebration of nature’s artistry at this delightful event.

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The housing market is set to undergo a significant transformation in 2024 after facing two years of sharp declines, according to insights shared at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) virtual Real Estate Forecast Summit. Despite a rocky 2023, where existing-home sales are projected to be 18% lower than those of 2022, experts are optimistic about a rebound in the coming year.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, along with other housing analysts, discussed the projections for 2024, highlighting key factors that are expected to shape the real estate landscape. One of the pivotal factors contributing to this positive outlook is the expected easing of borrowing costs. Mortgage rates, having likely peaked and now on a downward trajectory from their recent high of nearly 8%, are anticipated to improve housing affordability.

NAR predicts the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to average 6.3% in 2024, while realtor.com® projects 6.5%. This drop is expected to entice more home buyers back into the market. Rates near 6.6% enable the average American family to afford a median-priced home without exceeding the commonly used threshold of 30% of their income devoted to housing, as per NAR’s data.

The projections indicate a positive shift for existing-home sales, with an expected rise of 13.5%, and new-home sales, which have defied market trends by increasing about 5% this year, potentially seeing a 19% increase by the end of 2024.

Several U.S. metro areas are identified as having the most pent-up housing demand for 2024. Markets such as Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Nashville are among those expected to experience higher sales upticks, driven by job growth as a determinant for long-term housing demand.

However, the optimistic forecasts come with a wildcard – inflation. While experts are hopeful about improvements in overall inflation, concerns arise about its potential impact on long-term interest rates. If inflation doesn’t continue to improve, there is a risk of discouraging homeowners from selling and prolonging inventory bottlenecks. Younger generations may face challenges as higher housing costs keep them on the sidelines as renters.

Inflation, though easing overall, is still influencing shelter inflation, a factor crucial to housing costs. The rise in apartment units may help control inflation by bringing rental rates down, providing some relief. Panelists at the summit stressed the importance of monitoring inflation data closely to understand its implications for the housing market.

Challenges persist in the housing market, particularly for first-time buyers and amid record low inventory. Homeowners remain hesitant to sell, and homebuilders have underproduced for decades, resulting in a nationwide shortage of 5 million housing units.

Despite these challenges, current homeowners stand to benefit. Rapid home appreciation in recent years has positioned homeowners to grow their nest egg in 2024. Even in markets expecting slight dips, homeowners have accumulated significant housing wealth. NAR data shows that the typical homeowner has amassed more than $100,000 in housing wealth over the past three years. Comparatively, homeowners have a substantial wealth advantage over renters, with a typical homeowner having $396,200 in wealth versus $10,400 for renters, according to Federal Reserve data.

While challenges persist, the 2024 housing market holds promise for recovery and growth, presenting opportunities and considerations for both buyers and sellers.

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Downtown Covington is a popular spot, especially on the weekends. Parking spots are scarce during busy times and special events. City officials have been looking into this problem and have come up with a good solution.

The solution is to borrow the St. Tammany Parish Courthouse garage when large crowds plan to be in the area for a special event. A very popular event in the area, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, brings in crowds from all over.

The good news for the courthouse parking garage is that it is going to get a bit of a facelift. The city will start by improving the one-block area of the Tammany Trace that provides access to downtown from the courthouse parking garage. In its current state, it is not conducive for wheelchair-bound visitors.

“We all know that parking in downtown is one of our biggest challenges,” Mayor Mark Johnson said. By enhancing the walkway, “people will be able to park at the justice center (parking garage) and have easy access to downtown. It’s a win-win, win for us.”

The two hundred thousand dollar grant that was given to Covington from the state capital will pay for the improvements to the part of the Tammany Trace that runs between North Theard and East Lockwood streets. This area sits behind the old train depot and is at the north end of the pathway that runs from Covington to Slidell.

Since the courthouse is not open during the weekends, this is a great solution for the time being. The city does know that there is a need for more parking especially since there are many redevelopment projects underway in downtown Covington.

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Both wood siding and fiber cement siding are popular materials to use on the exterior of your home. Although both are popular, they are both quite different.

When it comes to weather protection fiber cement siding such as James Hardie siding wins. Wood siding is great for insulation but as it gets older it will split, crack and splinter. This makes the material a bit more vulnerable to the elements. Hardie siding is built to withstand the outdoor elements including freezing temperatures, blizzards, hail storms, heat, humidity, rain and wind.

Hardie siding is moisture resistant due to the material that it is constructed out of. Hardie siding is a blend of sand, cement, water and cellulose fibers and will not swell, crack or warp from moisture. Wood siding will contract and expand when exposed to moisture. This is what causes it to crack and split which leads to deterioration. Mold, mildew and algae growth is also harbored in the damp wood.

To make a fire outdoors, you usually need wood, so with that being said, wood siding is not fire resistant. There are flame retardants that can be used on wood siding but have to be reapplied in order to be effective. Hardie siding is made from fireproof materials and is fire-resistant to a point. If exposed to a direct flame, it will not ignite or combust.

Wood will also attract a wide variety of pests. Natural wood is loved by termites, woodpeckers, squirrels and many other little critters. Hardie siding however is not a desirable material for any pests. It cannot be eaten or burrowed in.

Natural wood is beautiful and a timeless material to use for the outside of a home, but it does come with a lot of upkeep. It has to be painted or stained and well-maintained. Hardie siding comes with the look of natural wood with ColorPlus Technology. This means the fiber cement has the color baked on and factory-applied so it is resistant to cracking, chipping and fading.

Hardie siding is a perfect choice because it looks like natural wood with all of the benefits of the fiber cement. With Hardie siding you will have a timeless look for all types of designed homes.

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Breakfast area has a nice view of the backyard.

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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The image shows a modern kitchen with white cabinetry, a large central island with an undermount sink, and contrasting black fixtures.

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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