Whatever type of home construction you are planning – a new, custom home or a complete remodel / renovation of your existing home – you will want to pay attention to the trends that are showing up in remodeled or newly built new homes.  Below are several trends that are popular among contractors, builders, and homeowners.

1. Luxurious garden tubs or jetted garden tubs have held steady in home construction for years, but for 2016, the trend is shower stalls or walk-around showers with shelving and seating.  There are some really unique shower designs that include multiple shower heads and even massage sprays.

2. For your backsplash, trim, or even walls and floors, ceramic tile is not as popular now among renovators and builders as glass tile.  The glass tile comes in many different colors as well as designs with multiple colors, so choose your matching design and go crazy!

3.  When stepping up to the gourmet kitchen or luxurious master bath, granite countertops used to be the ultimate material that reflected the type of construction of your new home or remodel.  There is a new material that is called engineered quartz that is not only tougher than granite and lasts longer, but it has the same timeless, classic, and upscale design for your custom counter work.

4.  Toilets naturally came in lower to the floor sizes for decades, but now there are choices of toilet heights that are available to new home buyers, and buyers are choosing height over flow.  The new, higher toilets are also more water efficient and modern, saving some homeowners on utility bills.

5.  Along with ornate, custom-built, real wood cabinetry; home buyers and remodelers now have a choice of painted, stained, and dark wood cabinetry vs. the traditional oak cabinets that 003were standard for new home construction projects.  Choose and contrast these colors as well with a two-toned look in the kitchen or bathroom.

6.  Even though, we as a custom home builder still encourage you to buy reliable appliances throughout your home, the industry has caught up with technology, so some home buyers and home renovators are now going with a mid-range level of appliance vs. a high-end appliance package.  The appliances themselves seem to have the same duration of service, and you can also purchase upper end looking fixtures, such as stainless steel to achieve the look you want without all of the cost.

7.  Back to the basics – homeowner and savvy new home buyers know to renovate and build their homes with real wood flooring such as solid oak or pine instead of engineered flooring.  While the look and cost of an engineered floor is great for the first few years, the results after many years of wear and tear don’t stand the test of time, weather, and constant use.  Homeowners and new home buyers will be looking to find affordable real wood choices for their flooring.

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During the first month of the year 2016, home buyers have a lot to be excited about when considering buying a new home for sale.  Home pricing, consumer confidence, and home construction starts and permits are all up!  The housing market has been seeing a steady incline since it bottomed out between 2009 and 2011.  With sharp, record-breaking price increases in 2012 and 2013, the housing market almost seemed to be expanding too fast for consumer demand, consumer affordability, and consumer credit.  However, home pricing trends have “flattened” in 2014 and 2015 creating stability in the real estate market.

During the month of October, 2015, home prices rose at 6% and 11% depending on which report buyers were 028seeing.  The Case Shiller (CS) National Home Price Index released by S&P Dow Jones Indices showed an 11% increase in October while the more conservative Home Price Index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) rose 6%.  Either way, home pricing has stabilized and is on the upswing which is good for both buyers (a smart investment) and sellers.

Meanwhile, the vote of confidence from consumers showed an increase of approximately 4 points in December after 2 months of declining numbers.  The Consumer Confidence Index by the Conference Board rose from 92.6 to 96.5 from November to December.  The index shows that consumer confidence is growing back to pre-Recession levels.

Finally, construction housing starts and permits for 2015 were up 10.8% year-over-year to equal to 1.11 million.  Single-family home starts were up 10.4% and multi-family housing starts were up 11.4%.  The single-family home starts numbers came to 715,300.  Increases were seen in all 4 reported regions of the United States for single-family homes.  Housing permits were also up compared to 2014 by 12% with a total of 1.18 million.  Single-family home permits were up by 7.9%, and multi-family home permits were up by 11.4%.  In December, single-family home permit numbers were up by 1.8% compared to November as well.

All signs point to a solidly recovering housing market nationwide, and here in St. Tammany Parish, the custom home business is thriving with many new exciting projects for 2016.  If you are interested in building or buying a new, custom home, Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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Real estate is selling fast and prices are still competitive.  Builders and homeowners alike have taken advantage of the great rates seen after the 2008 economic crunch. These record low interest rates might soon be a thing of the past.  The Federal Reserve has decided it’s now time to rethink the rates because the economy is stronger, and more people are in a position to borrow money.  The Fed already bumped the key interest rate up by 0.25% in1-lot-199-bedic-creek-exterior-front-1 December 2015.

Fortunately the Fed plans to raise the rates at a slow, steady pace.  In fact, this is the first rate hike in almost ten years. Even with the slow increase, everyone will be affected. Anyone who has a credit card, savings account, invest in a 401(k), invest in the markets, or wants to make a big purchase with a loan needs to know how the rate increases will affect them.

Just because there has been a raise in the rate does not mean you should rush out and make a big purchase tomorrow.  Owning a new home is a big deal and you should research to find the right one that suits you.  Even if the rates are higher in a year, they still will be lower than historical averages.

“Rates are pretty low and they’re not going to change much in the short term,” says Dean Croushore, a University of Richmond professor and former Fed economist. Do start your research now and pay attention to the Fed’s actions.  If they do start to increase rates out of your comfort zone, it might be time to make that leap into home ownership.

Years ago many remember the advantages of putting their hard-earned cash into a savings account.  It would yield them a little bit of extra cash on top of what they had saved – imagine that!  In the past decade there has been 2015 Parade of Homesalmost zero interest earned.  With the Fed’s rate change, we will also see a higher interest income on your deposits. So a benefit to the rate increase means an increase on the money you put away in your savings account.

Not so smooth sailing for the stock markets. This Fed hike could cause major ups and downs in the stock and bond markets.  This trigger coupled with failing oil prices, China’s continued economic slowdown and decisions made by central banks around the world should be of great concern. According to MSCI Emerging Market Index, the stock market performance was down approximately 20% at the end of 2015.

With the new year comes good news for the U.S. dollar. The increase in the interest rate is predicted to make the dollar stronger. While the dollar is gaining many other global currencies are lowering.  This will have a negative impact on the global economy. U.S. companies will lose money on products sold in other countries.  Investors are already putting all of their money in U.S. investments rather than putting some money into global investments. The U.S. manufacturing sector has already shrunk due to the weak global economy.

All in all it seems to be more good news than bad for those wanting to invest or make big purchases such as a new home. “We’ve come a long way from the depths of the recession, but we’re still not quite back to where we’d like to be,” says Croushore, the former Fed economist.

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For potential new home buyers, 2016 is the year to invest in the real estate market.  The housing market is still on the rise and there are still great deals to be found on new homes and resale homes. What is making real estate a hot ticket item for 2016?  There are many influences that are contributing factors to this year’s housing market. 20-79 Oleander Patio 1

Since the economic downturn’s departure, housing prices have been on the rise.  Zillow predicts home prices are going to rise a little slower in 2016.  According to Zillow’s Chief Economist Svenja Gudell prices are anticipated to rise 3.5%. This will give buyers who might not have had a chance in the competitive 2015 market an opportunity to purchase a home.

Jonathan Smoke, with Realtor.com believes this could lead to a succession of home buyers.  He states, “We have the potential for about six million home sales just through the months of April through September; that is basically impossible to do.”

Inventory will increase giving home buyers more options. “Because of the price appreciation they have experienced, you will have more sellers put homes on the market next year,” Smoke said.  Also the new home market will see growth in 2016 because builders are concentrating on the construction of starter and middle-range 79 Oleander Court Front Exteriorhomes.  This boost in both existing home and new home inventory will make it easier for potential home buyers.  More homes on the market will also contribute to a slower price increase and less bidding wars.

This year we might be kissing cheap mortgages goodbye.  The Federal Reserve is slated to increase interest rates making this one of the last opportunities to benefit from record low mortgage rates.  Home buyers will have to cut back on their new home budget because the borrowing cost and monthly mortgage payments will be higher.

“You are likely to get the best rate you will possibly see, perhaps in your lifetimes through the majority of next year, but certainly, the earlier the better,” said Smoke.

The last influence to affect the 2016 housing market is rent vs. buy.  Renters beware; rent prices will still increase this year making it cheaper to buy a home.  The increase in mortgage rates will still outweigh rental pricing.  According to Ralph McLaughlin with Trulia, “Interest rates would need to rise to around 6.5% for the cost of buying to equal that of renting on a national level.” For those who want to purchase a new starter home, upgrade to a new home or larger home, and for those who want to downsize to a smaller new home, now is the time.

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Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish builds many new homes for couples that are considered baby boomer “empty nesters.” What this means is that we build many garden homes that have less square footage and either minimal or no maintenance on lots that either have a landscaping contract in place or are so small and built out with their own amenities that they don’t require much yardwork at all.  Some of these decorative amenities that we build on our garden homes are private courtyards, storage buildings, detached garages, and even fountains.front-elevation-2

Building new garden homes is an art because the floorplan requires an economy in efficiency – utilizing every square inch of a floorplan to maximize the home’s space and usability.  We have built many custom garden homes throughout the 20+ years we have been in business, so if you have an idea of a floorplan or simply need a recommendation, we can design or modify an existing floorplan to suit your home buying needs.

When downsizing from a much larger home to a smaller, less maintenance garden home, you have to know what to do with all of the “stuff” you have accumulated throughout your lifetime.  There are several avenues to take – some include being able to sell valuable pieces while others include handing down the personal items that have family value.  Whichever option you decide, you should follow the tips below when deciding on how to dispose of belongings that will not fit in your new space:

Value Your Valuables: For those items you are interested in selling, you will want to either hire an appraiser or use the Internet to find out what the “going rate” is for your pieces. An experienced appraiser that you trust will be able to give you incredible insight in a timely efficient manner while doing it yourself may take more time.

Appraiser Efficiency: If you do decide to use an appraiser, you will want to accommodate them as much as possible by getting everything ready in advance.  Many appraisers charge by the hour, so you don’t want them to have to go “digging” through your stuff to find the items you want appraised.  Make sure your items are on display (out of boxes) in good light and accessible.

Photo Documentation: Once the appraiser has given you a list to work with for a sale, you will want to take pictures of the items showing them at their best for online viewing of Internet sales.

Inherited Items: If you decide that you want to gift some of your belongings to your children immediately, then you can go ahead and disperse these items.  If there are items that are going to be handed down later, at the time of your appraisal would be a very good time to put in writing those items that are going to be given to specific family relatives.

Giveaways: If there are personal items or important items that you cannot bear to see sold, you may be able to post the pictures of these items to close friends or acquaintances to see if they would like to have them.  Giving your belongings a “good home” with someone you trust will give you much peace of mind.

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Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish is one of the elite builders in Covington, Louisiana, which builds fully custom new homes with spectacular finishes.  Inside or out, these new homes are built with intense attention to detail to make sure that every minute finish is construction with as much perfection as possible.  Many of the interior amenities of custom homes built by Ron Lee Homes are imported materials or custom built materials that are installed by specialty contractors.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), this type of new home construction actually Overview of 79 Oleander Courttrends with national averages in that 29.6% of the cost of construction is spent on interior finishes.  The rest of the breakdown in construction costs are as follows: framing (18.0 percent), exterior finishes (15.0 percent), major system rough-ins (13.1 percent), foundations (11.6 percent), final steps (6.8 percent), site work (5.6 percent), and other costs (0.5 percent).

When calculating the cost to build a new, single-family home, the NAHB surveyed builders with its Cost of Construction Survey and found that new homes built on approximately 1/2-acre lots with 2,802 square feet had a sales price of $468,318.  61.8% of that sales price encompassed the cost of the construction of building the new home which is only .1% higher than the costs reported in 2013.

Interestingly, the cost of the lot and the cost of finishing the lot made up a large chunk of the expense of building in the total percentages spent of the sale.  Land in St. Tammany Parish has a premium price compared to more 3-79 Oleander Living 2northern and western parishes in Louisiana as well.

At the same time as this data has been released by the NAHB, another analysis of construction spending says that total private residential construction spending for September increased 1.3% over August spending and 13% year-over-year.  The reason for this increase may also be the increase in the cost of materials as well. However, single-family home permits and starts are up as well, so the money put back into the economy in the form of materials purchases as well as employment is up across the board nationwide – a good sign for the real estate market.

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Remodeling a guest bathroom or master bathroom can change the entire look and usage of the room.  It can also change the functionality of the bathroom itself as well as the resale value of the house  Bathroom remodeling is one of the most popular choices of renovation projects that homeowners choose.  Nationally, today’s average price to remodel a bathroom ranges from $5,000 – $15,000, and some people spend as much as $20,000 on a bathroom remodel to create an oasis or paradise right inside their own home.

Whatever price you are able or willing to pay to transform your bathroom into a fully restored new room, there are many considerations of materials and projects to consider when beginning your renovation project.  One of the big 5-Lot 52 Windermere Studio Bathroomconsiderations is to repair and refinish vs. replace the fixtures in your bathroom.  Fixtures can include lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and carpentry fixtures such as cabinets and countertops.  If you need to stay within a tight budget, you might consider replacing faucets and sinks and then stripping and refinishing cabinets vs. tearing out and replacing the entire cabinet.  If you have a more flexible budget, and you decide to tear out and replace; you may also want to consider changing the floorplan of the bathroom to expand it and add new appliances such as a massage shower or a spa bathtub.

Increasing or changing a floorplan may take more time because you are getting into structural integrity as well as plumbing and electrical new systems or reconfiguration, so you will want to make sure that you budget your money and time accordingly. If you decide to increase your floorplan, make sure you used an Experienced Contractor who can help you make great use of all of your space and also make your new bathroom remodel as inviting and useful as possible.

If you are somewhere in between “sky’s the limit” and a limited budget, you may decide to replace old tubs and showers, tear out and replace bathroom cabinetry, and create an entirely new lighting package.  Depending on the scope of the project, this may cost you somewhere in the “middle” range of an average bathroom budget, but you will be surprised how just doing those minimal “invasive” tear-outs will transform your bathroom into looking brand new.

Ron Lee Homes Remodeling has a terrific team that is excellent about making recommendations that will fit 20-Lot 104 Maison du Lac Secondary Bathroom 1within your job scope and budget to make your bathroom remodel the perfect renovation for your life.  We listen to our clients’ needs and then try to “squeeze the budget” as much as possible to exceed your expectations.  Working with a builder also has its advantages as we know how to get “in and out” of your home as fast as possible with as minimal mess, noise, and hassle of living with a remodel while it is happening.  Contact Ron Lee Homes Remodeling today to get a quote on your project.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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What distinguishes Ron Lee Homes from other custom home builders in St. Tammany Parish is that Ron Lee is personally involved in almost all of the custom home projects that are completed in the cities of Mandeville, 2-1 Polo Farms ExteriorMadisonville, Covington, and Abita Springs. New custom homes require an almost daily review and critique, so Ron Lee’s hands-on approach to building new homes on the Northshore is the key to his success in building custom homes. With amazingly unique interior and exterior amenities, energy efficient green building techniques, and top-of-the-line building materials, the new, custom homes built by Ron Lee Homes stand above the competition in design as well as durability.

One of the main aspects of a home built by Ron Lee is the foundation. Ron Lee takes great care with each and every foundation of his new homes because of the shifting and sometimes unreliable soil in Southeast Louisiana. These foundations have a step-by-step meticulous process that requires attention to detail and experienced

sub-contractors that have worked with Ron Lee Homes for many years. Relying on sub-contractors is a huge part of being a successful St. Tammany Parish builder, and with 24 years building in St. Tammany Parish, Ron Lee has met and vetted many different types of subs. With Ron Lee personally overseeing the laying of the foundation, the framing, roofing, siding, and interior construction of your new home, you can count on the construction work to be quality as well as critiqued and corrected as the new home is put together.

Another benefit of having such a personally vested builder is that you will get to have one-on-one contact with your builder. Ron Lee answers his phone, e-mails, and requests as timely as he can. Also, he is backed up by a team of people at his home building company who have years of experience in the real estate industry as well as the St. Tammany Parish area. From the many testimonials from our satisfied homeowners, most of our new home buyers have been pleasantly surprised by the level of professionalism, communication, and follow up provided by Ron Lee Homes.

If you are not sure where to begin your new home building experience, Contact Ron Lee Homes today for a custom home consultation to learn more about the new home design and building process. Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.


The housing market is still on the rise and continues to improve according to the findings by the NAHB/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI).  The LMI was developed to record and monitor the recovery of select markets throughout the United States due to the Recession. There are three components (average permit, price and employment levels) that are scored in more than 360 metro areas over a 12 month period.  The scores for 7-Lot 104 Maison du Lac Family Room 2these components are then divided by each of their annual averages over the last period of normal growth.  The three component averages are then averaged together giving the overall score for each market.  For single-family permits and new home prices, 2000-2003 is used as the last normal period, and for employment, 2007 is used for the last normal period.

What all of this means in a nutshell is that major metro cities throughout the United States are being monitored for an increase or decrease in real estate activity following the Recession.  The percentages are calculated each month by the National Association of Home Builders and distributed amongst the public and real estate markets so that investors have an idea of how the real estate recovery is progressing nationwide.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana is one of the top recovering cities on the list of major metros on the LMI and is doing 47 9-54 Maison du Lac Living Room 2percent better than the last findings recorded for the normal market level.  Southeast Louisiana shows an 85 to 92 percent recovery to the normal market level.  In fact, 75 markets out of the 360 metro areas beat their last normal levels of economic and housing activity during the second quarter this year which showed a year-over-year net gain of 13 markets (66% of markets have shown an improvement year over year).  This quarter’s LMI shows that more than half the markets nationwide have reached a 90% or above their normal market level. We are almost back to 100% of normal economic and housing activity that we had before the recession.

“The markets are gradually improving and economic and job growth continue to strengthen, which bodes well for housing for the remainder of the year,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods.

Out of the three components of the LMI, housing prices have shown the strongest recovery with 345 markets at the same or above their last normal level. Behind that is the economic level where 64 markets are at their normal market level or have exceeded their normal market level. Housing permit level is lagging behind with only 26 markets at normal or above normal market level.

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Custom home building is going strong in Louisiana and at Ron Lee Homes in West St. Tammany Parish. The 2014 Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction (SOC) reports that 34 percent of the homes built in the South Central Region were custom built.  This means the home was built for you the owner, by a custom home builder, who will either build on your lot or build on a lot owned or purchased by the builder in the area of your choice in St. 1-54 Maison du Lac Exterior 1Tammany Parish. The other 66 percent were spec homes (speculatively-built homes) meaning they were houses built for sale or houses finished on a builders’ lot, ready for a home buyer to purchase. The house was sold to the potential buyer at one total sales price instead of selling the house and selling the land separately.

The SOC defines new home starts into several different categories which include houses built for sale, houses built by contractors, homes built by owners and for rent houses.  Not only does the SOC report if the houses are built for sale, by contractors, owners or for rent, they also report if the new home starts are being built in a community development with a homeowner’s association (HOA).  The HOA is created while the development is being built, and then ownership is turned over to a homeowner board which enforces private deed restrictions and maintains common areas.  In 2014 it is reported that 58 percent of single-family homes were built in a community with a homeowner’s association.

Why the uptick in the custom home market?  Many speculate that the limited builders’ means to borrow money 3-lot-199-bedic-creek-exterior-front-3via Acquisition Development and Construction (AD&C) loans have put a damper on their ability to purchase land, build a home on the land and sell the house to a potential buyer. Borrower restrictions are not new, so custom home building is the logical route to take for any builder that has vast experience and “comfort” in being able to build custom.  It was estimated that in 2014 one in four new home starts were custom homes. The custom home market is still on the rise and has reached levels above 2012-2013 but is still below the 2008-2011 levels.

At Ron Lee Homes, we build custom homes in many different subdivisions in the area including Terra Bella Village, Bedico Creek Preserve, Maison du Lac, and many more.  These communities also have established homeowners associations as well, and have lots available to buy and build a new custom home.  If you are interested in designing and having the home of your dreams built in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or e-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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