Real wood panel is used for the ship lap ceiling found in the foyer of this custom home.Fill dirt is used under all homes’ foundations as a structural component but it can also harm the foundation of a home. According to NAHB fill dirt is the leading cause of structural failures in new home building.

Walt Keaveny, a professional engineer and geoscientist for 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, explains that this is not only the most common cause of structural failure but is also one of the most expensive repairs. In fact, around the U.S. on average it cost over $50,000 and in some states over $100,000!

Keaveny discusses fill dirt problems and tips for minimizing the problems in Let’s Talk Dirt. Let’s Talk Dirt is a new resource put out by the National Association of Home Builders Construction Liability. Subjects covered in the publication are about fill placement, density requirements, testing, and the benefits of working with a geotechnical engineer.

Another subject explored in the Ultimate Guide to STOP Basement Water Leaks is moisture found in basements. It is said that over fifty percent of all basements have moisture issues. The most common areas where a basement sees moisture problems are leaks in the walls and floors. If water leaks are not resolved, then the soil around the foundation will be compromised, wood framing will rot, drywall and finishes will be ruined and mold will occur.

When purchasing a home, it is best to work with a Realtor who can help you determine if the home you want to purchase has foundation issues.

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A nice overview of the open floorplan in this home. The house has a nice hardwood flooring throughout. The kitchen has an oversized kitchen island.

Private soaking tub in the master bathroom that has a window above. There is a lot of natural lighting in this master bathroom.Chef Pat Gallagher is one of the most accomplished restauranteurs on the north shore. He is known for Gallagher’s Grill with the original location in Covington and two additional locations in Slidell and Mandeville and Band’s Grocery, a sandwich shop in Mandeville. Now he has opened Pat’s Rest A While in Mandeville.

This unique spot opened its doors in January 2021 and has different buildings and interconnected areas — from the cypress-lined main dining room, across the broad open-air
deck, into one cottage turned into a private dining area and to another turned into a cozy, club-like bar. The view from each area of the restaurant is a picturesque scene of Lake Pontchartrain. The lake is definitely the unifying characteristic of this restaurant that serves dishes that you can find at a laid-back beachfront hut to a refined white tablecloth restaurant.

The restaurant is housed in several 19th-century buildings that have been refurbished. Originally the Frapart Hotel, the property became known as the Rest A While when it turned into a summer camp for needy families and orphans.

Unfortunately, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the property was severely damaged. Jill and Barrett McGuire, local real estate developers, purchased the property and raised the elevation on the buildings. When they purchased the property, they pictured it as a restaurant and this came to fruition with the help of Pat.

This unique restaurant has many personal touches and intimate spaces. In the main dining room, there is a beautiful tapestry of local cypress and oak. The bar has a clubhouse feel under open rafters and there are room numbers along the walls throughout that show where the structure was once divided into different rooms. An old toboggan-like sled that used to be on the lake is displayed as well as a photo of a group of women who used to work at the Rest A While.

Patrons and pets alike can enjoy this Mandeville spot. This July an open-air bar opened with water bowls for visiting pets. Come by 2129 Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville and enjoy some local seafood and drinks.

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The past year has been a whirlwind for the housing market in a good way. There has been a boom in sales as seen in pending home sales up the highest level of sales for May since 2005. According to the National Association of Realtors, May 2021 was up 8% compared to April 2021 and 13% from the sales in May 2020.

“May’s strong increase in transactions – following April’s decline, as well as a sudden erosion in home affordability – was indeed a surprise,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The housing market is attracting buyers due to the decline in mortgage rates, which fell below 3%, and from an uptick in listings.”

All four regions saw an increase in pending home sales in May. The Northeast had a 15.5% increase, the Midwest climbed 6.7%, the South rose 4.9% and the West increased to 10.9% month over month.

Although the market is still hot, weekly mortgage demand did take a 7% downturn in May 2021.

“While these hurdles have contributed to pricing out some would-be buyers, the record-high aggregate wealth in the country from the elevated stock market and rising home prices are evidently providing funds for home purchases,” Yun said.

The could have stemmed from the home price increases. The S&P Case-Shiller National Home Price Index rose 14% year over year in April 2021. This increase was the largest gain in its 30-year history. The median home price has also increased which has made it harder for first-time homebuyers.

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A nice foyer with double entry doors.

The housing market is hot right now and there are more buyers than there are homes to purchase. The housing market is booming right now because of the low mortgage rates and a recovering economy. It is reported that 8.3 million to 9.2 million first-time homebuyers will hit the market by 2022. Even though this is a hot market, it might not be the best time for your family to commit to owning a home. Below are several things to consider before diving into the responsibility of homeownership.

1. Pre-approval is a must.

Getting a pre-approval will not only relay the message that you are a serious buyer but will also give you an idea of how much you can spend on a home. When you are pre-approved a seller knows you are a serious contender and puts you above offers with no pre-approval.

“There are two main things a seller wants to know about buyers: Are they willing to pay my price and can they close a deal if we agree?” says Dale Taylor, a realtor in Chicago.

A good place to start is by using an online home-affordability calculator to see how much money you should be able to borrow. Once you have established this, check out several mortgage lenders in your area. It is a great idea to shop around for the best rates and mortgage offers. You not only want the best bang for your buck but you also want to choose a lender who is happy to help answer questions, trustworthy and easy to reach.

2. Do not let emotions make the decision.

You might take a tour of a listing and say it is love at first sight but that doesn’t mean you need to jump right in. Look at all the features of the home from a practical point of view. A home on a hill might have awesome curb appeal but might not be the best choice for families with you kids who like to roller-skate or ride their bikes.

According to half of all homeowners find at least one or not more things they do not like about their current home. There might be a cute three-bedroom bungalow that you love, but it might not have any closet space or back up to a busy street. Remember, always think long-term when investing in a home.

3. A home costs more than just the mortgage.

There are many more expenses than just your monthly mortgage payment. There will be real-estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance on top of your principal and interest payment. Tax Foundation states that depending on the area you live in, your property taxes will average about 1.1% of your home’s value per year. If you need $250,000 worth of insurance coverage, that will be about $1,477. You will also need to add your utilities to the monthly cost.

There are also some upfront fees you will also have to consider. You will need to set aside around 2% to 5% of the purchase price for your closing costs. A local Realtor can help you through this process.

4. There is a big difference between an appraisal and an inspection.

Banks will need an official appraisal and you will need to hire a licensed appraiser. An appraiser will give the bank a firm value of the home. An inspection will let you know if this home is a reliable purchase.

A lot of times buyers will make their contract contingent on the home inspection. A home inspector has certain criteria the home must meet to be deemed satisfactory. It is always a good idea to have a professional inspector inspect the home you are about to purchase. An inspector can make sure everything is up to code before you go through with the contract.

5. Read the whole contract.

Purchasing a home is a long-term investment and one of the biggest milestones in your life. You need to make sure everything in your contract is in order. You might look at a home love it, put it under contract, close and discover they took the refrigerator. You have to make sure everything is listed in the contract. If you do not understand any wording, ask your Realtor to explain the meaning. Make sure you are comfortable with what you sign.

If you decide to go through with purchasing a home, go through a local sales agent. A Realtor can help you find the perfect floorplan that will fit your family, in a neighborhood you are comfortable in, and in the right school district.

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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 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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Nice new custom built home close to the city of New Orleans.

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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