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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Boca Raton real estate

Pros and Cons of Self-Insuring For Wind Coverage

Hurricane Wind Damage
On average, the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida has gone up by 32.5% since 2016. This is more than three times higher than the average rate change than the rest of the country experienced during this time (10.9%).
More and more of my clients are analyzing the pros and cons of self-insuring instead of carrying a wind insurance policy. Self-insurance entails setting aside money for a potential loss in lieu of purchasing a third-party insurance policy. Depending on the losses your home faces, this could either save or cost more money than conventional insurance coverage.
The logic behind self-insurance is that providers calculate premiums based on forecasted risk. These figures are designed to profit the insurance company by bringing in more money than they are likely to pay out. Under this reasoning, a homeowner should theoretically be able to set aside funds in case an incident occurs, thereby protecting themselves without an insurance company taking a cut. Even with wind coverage a homeowner has a minimum deductible of 2% that they will have to pay out-of-pocket before insurance covers any damages.
All forms of insurance are essentially risk transfer strategies. When you purchase an insurance policy, you are paying a third-party to shoulder some of the risk. If you self-insure, however, you are choosing to retain the risk yourself.
Pros:
Interest: The funds you earmark for self-insurance can accumulate interest until you need them, growing substantially if you don’t have infrequent losses.
More Control: With self-insurance, you’re not bound to insurance policy fine print that contains specific exclusions and stipulations. You can spend the designated funds to cover virtually any wind incident.
Cons:
Potential for Significant Loss: Some types of claims can be extraordinarily expensive. That’s a very risky proposition for most people.
Self-insuring is normally only an option if there is no bank mortgage on your home. When you have a mortgage held by a financial institution, they want to make sure their investment is protected. The mortgage holder will insist on seeing proof of insurance coverage, so dropping your coverage is not typically an option.
How high could repair costs go?
Even for the people with no mortgage, self-insuring is a risky strategy and requires you to have liquid assets set aside for repairs.  It’s hard to plan for the financial impact of hurricane damage. In South Florida, we can go several seasons without getting a wind event; but when a major storm hits, like Andrew (1992), Wilma (2005) or Irma (2017), it’s impossible to predict in advance how much damage will be left in the storm’s wake.
You may have heard how construction costs are already sky-high due to material shortages. Just imagine how high those costs will climb if a major storm hits our area. Replacing a tile roof in South Florida is one of the most expensive repairs a homeowner can face. That cost could easily double after a storm. Without insurance, will you have enough cash or liquid resources on hand to pay for that, let alone cover months of temporary housing in this ultra-competitive rental market while you make repairs?
Other Options:
Talk to your homeowner’s insurance agent to explore other options like raising your hurricane deductible (typically 2% in Florida to 5%). Also, consider wind mitigation measures like impact glass windows and doors and installing a whole home generator, which can help protect your home and reduce premiums. If your home is located east on or near the water, hefty insurance costs may simply be a fact of life. The only way to reduce costs may be to relocate to a less hurricane-prone area ( which is not South Florida).
And one final thought – don’t forget the importance of flood insurance.  Without flood insurance, you are not protected from rising water. In past years, 25% of actual flood claims have been on properties classified as low flood risk. A small investment in insurance can protect you from major expenses.
Pocketing extra money instead of paying a premium to an insurer sounds like a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t always work out in the long run. The cost of your monthly premiums over the years could end up being less than what you’ll pay for rebuilding your home on your own.
Consulting a qualified insurance professional can help you decide whether self-insurance is a viable option in your situation.

Caveat Emptor- Buyers Beware!

Caveat Emptor
Caveat Emptor, “Let the buyer beware.” is a real estate principle that warns buyers to “beware” and do their due diligence. It is of paramount importance, for Florida real estate buyers, since the majority of real estate agents are transactional agents.  When a purchase contract for property says the buyer is to take the property “as is,” the seller truly means “as is.” Under the doctrine of caveat emptor, property buyers are held responsible for inspecting the quality and condition of the land or building before the final execution of the purchase contract.
If the buyer does not exercise due diligence during the Inspection Contingency Period and fails to examine the property, then the seller is shielded from liability for any defects. Additionally, the burden of proof is on the buyer to show that the seller actively concealed a material defect.
Florida courts continue to adhere to caveat emptor, which was reaffirmed in the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals decision for Florida Holding 4800, LLC v. Lauderhill Mall Investment.There are three exceptions to the caveat emptor doctrine in Florida, including (1) where the purchaser has been prevented from making an independent inspection of the property due to a trick or artifice, (2) where the purchaser does not have an equal opportunity to become apprised of the fact, and (3) where one of the parties attempts to disclose facts and fails to reveal the whole truth. Nonetheless, these exceptions are difficult to claim in court because the buyer has the burden of proving that the seller actively hid the material fact to sidestep any “as-is” language of a contract.   Additionally, oral representations by the seller regarding the property’s condition are explicitly contradicted by any “as is” language in the written agreement. This notion rests on the buyer’s inherent ability to inspect the property and withdraw from the property agreement if the quality of the land or building does not meet their expectations.
There are two forms of representation available under a Broker license held by a real estate professional according to Florida law: the Single Agent and the Transaction Broker. These two relationships entitle the buyer or seller to different upheld duties by the real estate professional.  Full disclosure applies exclusively to single agent brokers. Limited confidentiality is a transaction broker duty.
A Single Agent is defined by Florida Statutes Chapter 475, Part I as a broker who represents either the buyer or seller of real estate, but not in the same transaction. It is the highest form, providing the most confidence to the customer that the Realtor represents only the customer’s interest. In the case of an Exclusive Buyer Agent the buyer is their CLIENT and the single agent owes the buyer a fiduciary duty.
The duties of a single agent that must be fully described and disclosed in writing to a buyer or seller in agreements for representation include the following:
  • Dealing honestly and fairly
  • Loyalty
  • Confidentiality
  • Obedience
  • Full disclosure
  • Accounting for all funds
  • Skill, care, and diligence in the transaction
  • Presenting all offers and counteroffers in a timely manner, unless a party has previously directed the licensee otherwise in writing
  • Disclosing all known facts that materially affect the value of residential real property and are not readily observable
Disclosure of these duties must be made before or during entrance into a listing/representation agreement, or before the showing of property.
A transactional agent is defined as a real estate agent who provides limited representation to a buyer, a seller or both, in a real estate transaction, but does not represent either in a fiduciary capacity or as a single agent.
Section 475.278(1)(b), Florida Statutes, presumes that a licensee is operating as a transaction broker, unless the customer and broker establish a single agent or no brokerage relationship, in writing.
Most U.S. states now require a Sellers Disclosure Form, often called “disclosure notices,” “property disclosures,” or “property condition statements.” On these forms, sellers must advise the potential buyer of any material defect they’re aware of in the home — usually within a few days of finalizing the purchase agreement or sales contract. Filling out this form is NOT a legal requirement in Florida and many real estate transactional brokerages are taking the position that they are not going to provide a written disclosure from the Seller.
Before deciding to finalize a Contract for Sale the Buyer is provided with an Inspection Contingency Period. You are advised to include some of all the following in your due diligence.
·      Conducting professional inspections of the building and its systems. This could include roof inspections, electrical inspections, HVAC inspections, WDO Inspections, and more.
·      Reviewing the property’s records, including its past owners, title, deed, property survey,  and other important documents. Make sure to look for past code violations, too.
·      Having the property’s value professionally appraised. Your lender might require this anyway if you’re financing the property.
·      Reviewing the property’s compliance with local zoning and land-use regulations.
·      Having an environmental assessment conducted on the lot and the building.  Are there hazardous materials in the building, like lead-based paints? You’ll also want to know if the property is in a flood zone.
·      If you plan to renovate the property you’re buying, bringing in a contractor or consultant is also a smart move. You’ll want to assess the property’s condition as well as the potential repair costs and structural feasibility of the project.
As a home buyer in Florida, you should only seek out an Exclusive Buyer Agent. They owe you a fiduciary duty and are charged with full disclosure of all known facts regarding the property, community and hold your interest in strict confidence. They will work for you to get all the answers you need to make a valid and informed purchase decision.

Helping Your Pet Cope With Fireworks

 

The 4th of July is here, and if your pet is afraid of fireworks and loud noises, you may need just a little more preparation to make sure your pet stays happy and relaxed during the celebration.

  • Set up a safe space in advance.Create a “happy place” where your pet can retreat to and feel secure. Choose a spot in your house where your pet usually likes to relax that will also buffer the sights and sounds of the fireworks, such as a walk-in closet or a room with blackout curtains. Fill it with comfortable beds and some favorite toys and make it extra awesome with playtime or treats.
  • Drown out the sound. Leave music playing in the safe space throughout the firework display to help block the booms. Closing all windows and doors in the house will help as well.
  • Provide plenty of distraction. Pull out your pet’s favorite toys or stuff toys with treats to give your pet something fun to focus on during the celebration.
  • Don’t make a fuss. When your pet is distressed, it’s hard to ignore the urge to comfort them, but excessive comforting may reward your pet’s behavior or (even worse!) validate their fears. Besides a few calm pats, carry on as if nothing special is happening.
  • Consider calming supplements or pheromones.  Starting some before the fireworks begin may help relax your pet and reduce their reactivity.

 

 

Summer Energy Saving Tips!

Summer
Summer
With higher temperatures often comes…higher energy bills, as we attempt to combat the heat outside with cool, air-conditioned interiors. To help you shave a few dollars off your energy bills all summer long, here are some tips and tricks for reducing your energy consumption and saving some money. From little fixes to some more major projects, these changes will help you stay calm, cool, and collected this summer.
Install a Smart Thermostat. Smart thermostats can automatically adjust your home’s temperature when you’re asleep or away to whatever your preferences are. While these high-tech gadgets require an initial investment, they have the potential to reduce your cooling bill by about 10 percent!
Use Your Ceiling Fan(s). Have ceiling fans in your home? Use them! Ceiling fans utilize about 10 percent of the energy that an A/C unit does. Make sure your fans are set to a counterclockwise direction to push the cooler air down.
Shade Your Windows. Sunlight entering through windows can significantly heat up your house, causing your A/C unit to work overtime. Keep your blinds shut or install heavier shutters or curtains to keep the heat out this summer!
Set the Temperature Higher — and Leave It. Set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can comfortably live in. And keep it there! The less you change the temperature, the less your unit must work to adjust. Remember that each degree you raise your thermostat equals more savings… up to 5% on your monthly cooling costs.
Add Insulation.Adding insulation to your home can reduce heating and cooling costs. Homes built prior to 1982 were not required to have insulation. If your home was constructed before 1982, you may benefit from adding the proper insulation.
Regularly Replace Your Filter. Dusty and dirty filters can block airflow and make your system work harder. Replacing your filter once a month can reduce your energy consumption by 5–15 percent!
Turn Off the A/C When You Leave. When you leave for summer vacation, make sure you turn off your A/C — or set it to 80 degrees. While you may return to a warm house, you’ll be thankful you saved all that money on your monthly bill.
Properly Maintain Your A/C System. The better you take care of your system, the better it will run — and the more money you will save. Schedule a routine maintenance checkup at the start of both the hotter and colder months to make sure everything is running smoothly!
Seal it up. Make sure your refrigerator has a tight seal. If you don’t have one all the way around the door, it’s almost the same as leaving the door open.
Get Outside and Grill: Cooking on the grill helps you save energy. It doesn’t heat up your home and make your air conditioning system work harder than necessary.
Upgrade to LED light bulbs. Lighting used to be a common source of unwanted summertime heat, but in this age of affordable LED lighting, there’s no need to sit in the dark. LED light bulbs stay cool to the touch, all while drawing a fraction of the power used by incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Make a plan to upgrade all the bulbs in your home, even if you just buy a few bulbs per month.
Enjoy your Summer!

How To Win A Bidding War!

A bidding war is when at least two prospective buyers have made legitimate offers for a home that are similar and the Seller wants to select the best offer and terms for themselves. Bidding wars are common—in most of 2020, over half of home offers presented have faced competitive bids, according to Redfin’s study. Although historically low interest rates have sparked buying activity recently, some neighborhoods are always sought-after and attract multiple offers whenever a home comes up for sale.  Exclusive Buyer Agents are experts in winning bidding wars and getting credits during the due diligence period.

Expect to be in a bidding war In a hot housing market, it’s often not enough to quickly make an offer on a house but to have the highest price and best terms.

Here are a dozen ways you can get an edge on the competition.

  1. Offer to Pay in Cash

If you have the ability to offer an all-cash bid, you gain a distinct advantage because you eliminate the possibility of a mortgage falling through before closing. Buying with cash will make the process go quicker because you won’t need to go through the approval process with a lender, who would also request an appraisal. If you can’t cover the entire purchase price in cash, you could agree to a larger down payment on the house, which increases your approval odds and might make your bid more attractive.

  1. Get Pre-Approved

Pre-approval is a step most buyers will take anyway, but it’s absolutely essential for anyone in a competitive bidding situation. Pre-qualification is not enough, as it doesn’t show that the lender conducted the same amount of due diligence—such as checking your earnings and doing a hard credit check—that a pre-approval would require.

  1. Know Your Financial Limits

When you’re preparing for a bidding war, think of it like an auction—you need to know how much house you can afford before you actually bid. Once you know the maximum amount you’re willing to bid, you can include an escalation clause in your purchase offer to ensure you can instantly counteract any other bid. An escalation clause lets you increase your bid to avoid being outbid by another buyer up to a specified amount.

  1. Provide More Earnest Money

Buyers typically provide 1% to 5% of the purchase price as earnest money—a form of a security deposit—in a purchase contract, which gives sellers the assurance that you will follow through with the purchase. If you bail out on the contract without citing a contingency, you will likely lose the earnest money. If you put down more than the typical earnest money amount, it will tell the seller that you’re determined to follow through to the closing.

  1.  Be open to making offers sight-unseen

Speed is key in a seller’s market as competitive as this one. If you’re interested in a home but live far away or just haven’t been able to tour it, you can still throw your hat in the ring. Video tours and 3D walk-throughs have made sight-unseen offers much more feasible. Almost two-thirds (63%) of people who bought a home last year made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person.

  1.  Remove Some or All Contingencies

When you make an offer to purchase a house, you know the deal could fall through for numerous reasons, and you don’t want to lose your earnest money because of it. That’s why you include contingencies in the purchase contract; if the home inspection uncovers major problems or you can’t sell your current home in time to close on the new one, you can get out of the contract without penalty. Almost no offers contingent on the sale of a home will win a bidding war. Sell your home, rent and then start trying to get a home under contract. Simultaneous closings are so 1990’s.

If you can’t waive contingencies, sweeten them for the seller. Opt to expedite the contingency timeline.

  1. Be Flexible on the Move-in Date

First-time home buyers and those who have already sold their previous home might be in a position to be flexible with the sellers on their move-in date. A seller might ask for more time if they have concerns about potential delays for a new home build. In this case, they could go through the closing and then rent the home back from you for a few weeks or a month. This flexibility could be as valuable—if not more valuable—than a higher bid on the house.

  1.  Start low, bid high

A lot of successful buyers today win by making an offer that exceeds the asking price…in fact it is expected. This also means that a lot of buyers end up exceeding their budgets. To prevent this, only search for homes that are listed 10-15% below what you can afford, so that you can make an over list price offer.

  1.  Offer to pay some of the seller’s costs

Home buyers can make their offers more competitive by offering to pay for expenses that are typically covered at least partially by the seller.

  1. Write a Personal Note

Home sellers, especially ones who have lived in a home for a long period of time, can sometimes be swayed by a personal note that explains why you believe this is the home of your dreams. For example, you might know that the current owner raised a family in the home, and you can discuss how you hope to do the same. It might seem a bit over the top, but it’s certainly worth a try when not much separates your offer from others. And yes—sometimes it works.  Avoid putting any personal information in the letter that may expose the Seller of real estate agents from violating Fair Housing laws.

  1.  Prepare to lose before you win 

With more than half of offers facing competition these days, it’s more likely than not that you’ll get into a bidding war if you’re in the market for a home. It’s also wise to know when to walk away. It’s OK to put your search on hold if you reach the point where you’re not comfortable making the aggressive offers that are often necessary to win in today’s market. You don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse, after all.

  1.  Use an experienced Exclusive Buyer Agent that has been successful with winning bidding wars and speak with their references. Be prepared to ask to be in a Back Up position if you lose the bid. The market is too competitive and offers move too fast for novices to be effective at winning bidding wars in a multiple offer situation.

Pros and Cons of Escalation Clauses

An escalation clause is language inserted into a purchase offer for a home that’s intended to make sure a buyer is the highest bidder. It’s typically used when a buyer and their real estate agent strongly believe a house will receive multiple offers.

An escalation clause states that the buyer will pay a certain amount of money above the highest offer the seller receives. It generally includes a ceiling cap to make sure the buyer doesn’t agree to pay more money than they can afford.

An escalation clause can be a powerful technique when used correctly, but unfortunately it is seldom used as effectively as it could be. Such a clause increases, or escalates, a contract above its originally offered Sales or Contract Price when the Home Seller has received another Contract.  The intent of the Clause is to crush competing contracts by automatically and incrementally increasing the buyer’s offer price by a pre-determined amount above other offer(s).

Typically, there are three distinct parts to any escalation clause that’s included in a real estate contract.

Proof of a bona fide offer: You can rest easy knowing that sellers can’t just use an escalation clause as an excuse to make you pay a higher sale price. When the contract asks for “proof of a bona fide offer,” it means that the listing agent must be able to prove that another offer came in with a purchase price higher than your original suggestion. Typically, the listing agent will send over a copy of the page from the other buyer’s purchase agreement that shows the higher price. However, any identifying information for the other buyer will be redacted.

An escalation amount: The escalation clause should also include an amount by which you’d like to outbid any higher offers.

A price cap: The price cap represents the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the property, or how high you’re willing to allow your offer to go. If an offer is submitted that is higher than this amount, be aware that your offer may be taken out of the running.

Pros of Using an Escalation Clause

  • Including an escalation clause in your offer indicates to the sellers that you’re truly invested in buying the property. It shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond what’s required in order to become the home’s new owner.
  • Some buyers love the idea of negotiating; others don’t. If you fall into the latter group, including an escalation clause in your offer might be a smart idea. Since it gives the seller a solid idea of your positioning upfront, it cuts down on the back-and-forth that needs to happen between you and the sellers.
  • If the market conditions are highly competitive — a “Seller’s Market” — or the particular property is head and shouldersabove the rest, or both, you as a Home Buyer are likely going to find yourself competing for the home against other would-be homeowners.
  • Using an escalation clause will continually bump up the price you pay, but only if there are other offers that trigger it.

Cons of Using an Escalation Clause

  • If a buyer includes a maximum price in an escalation clause, the seller will immediately know the buyer’s top price thereby compromising the buyer’s bargaining position. By providing a price cap for your escalation clause, you’re essentially telling the sellers how much you are willing to pay for the home, and there’s nothing to stop them from simply presenting you with a counteroffer at that price.
  • An offer containing an escalation clause may not become enforceable until a specific price is entered into the contract and the buyer sees the price the seller has specified.
  • The seller may fabricate a fictitious offer in order to drive up the sales price for a buyer who uses an escalation clause.
  • Real estate brokers are prohibited from drafting escalation clauses, because doing so would constitute the unauthorized practice of law. Hiring an attorney is recommended but will increase the buyer’s costs.
  • If multiple buyers were to include escalation clauses in their offers, a bidding war may follow. If no buyer is willing to commit to a specific price, then no contract is ever formed and no property is sold.
  • Since the use of an escalation clause implies that a prospective buyer is willing to pay more than other buyers, it may motivate sellers to seek higher prices, a disadvantage to the buyer using the escalation clause.
  • While the use of escalation clauses may lead to higher sales prices, a benefit to the sellers, they could also discourage buyers who do not want to use escalation clauses.
  • A broker who discloses the price/terms of an offer without the buyer’s consent or otherwise gives one party an unfair advantage over another risks disciplinary action by the Commission. A seller’s best response in a multiple offer situation where one or more of the buyers is using an escalation clause will likely be to invite all buyers to make their highest and best offers.  That way, each buyer is given an opportunity to buy the property at the price and terms he or she is willing to pay and the seller will receive the best offer from each buyer rather than an incremental offer from a buyer who wants to offer slightly more than a competing buyer.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the Highest Contract Price will always win; other TERMS of a contract can often prove more valuable to the Sellers.

Having a knowledgeable Exclusive Buyers Agent is invaluable for situations like this and for understanding the risks and possible benefits of opening negotiations in this manner. The seller has the right not to respond to any offer, whether or not it contains an escalation clause.

Tips for Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

Seller's market
Seller's market

Buying a home in a Seller’s market always has its challenges. But when you’re trying to do it in a seller’s market, the difficulty can reach a new level. When the market favors the seller, time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a seller’s market than a buyer’s market, because a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and a surplus of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer.

In a seller’s market, you should always assume you’re competing against several other offers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new home in a seller’s market, when there are more buyers than homes, and sellers can afford to hold out for higher offers. You just need to make sure you do it right and arm yourself with the right information:

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your offer when buying in a seller’s market:

Choose an Experienced REALTOR: In sports and in business, it’s important to have the best players on your team when facing fierce competition. In a seller’s market, that means choosing a real estate agent who not only has proven expertise in the neighborhoods you’re interested in but is also highly responsive and efficient. Make sure to use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent that owes you a fiduciary and works in your best interest.

Demonstrate Credit Worthiness: You should get Pre-Approved for a home mortgage with a local lender before touring homes if you need to get financing. By obtaining a pre-approval for a mortgage before you start home shopping, you’ll know how much buying power you have. Your offer may have far more credibility than competing ones where buyers didn’t take this step.

Lower Your Expectations: When the inventory of homes is limited, you probably can’t afford to wait for the perfect house to hit the market. Prepare yourself to adjust your expectations. It makes the most sense to make exceptions to your criteria for things that can be changed. For example, you can renovate or add a bathroom someday, but you can’t change the home’s location or lot size.

Make your Best Offer first, be Ready to Bid: Make your best offer but be prepared for it not to be your final offer. High home prices can lead to home appraisals that don’t climb as fast, leaving lenders to not fund the loan. Home buyers should have money set aside the pay the difference between a contracted purchase price and the appraisal.

By Prepared to Make Concessions: Your relative lack of power in a seller’s market doesn’t just affect the question of price. It carries over to every other aspect of the deal, too. Shorten the inspection period, be flexible on closing dates; you should be prepared to accommodate the seller’s needs even if it is an inconvenience to you.

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good, fast, and clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared or is unrealistic on price.

Finally, don’t get carried away with the pressure to buy, even in a seller’s market. Remember that a home decision has a long-term impact on your financial future. It may be better to let a house go than make a poor decision that’s expensive to change.

Housing and Interior Design Trends for 2021

Accessory dwelling Unit

Accessory dwelling Unit

Design trends for 2021 include multi-zone kitchens, upgraded lighting, and oversized rectangle tiles according to home design website Houzz. The online resource recently released the following trends it expects to get hotter in 2021 as well as other home design sources.

Sconce lighting. Interest is growing in swing-arm and other sconce fixtures. Besides adding to decor, sconces have the benefit of adding task lighting around a sink or range

The multi-zone kitchen. Kitchens traditionally use a three-zone “work triangle” setup with a connection between the fridge, sink, and range, Houzz notes. More homeowners are adding touch points and creating additional work zones. Houzz refers to the trend as a “work trapezoid,” which might include dedicated areas for baking, prepping and chopping, or separate stations for snacks, drinks, and homework.

Rejuvenating bathroom design. Bathrooms are being designed to help reduce stress. Forty-one percent of homeowners who have undergone a bathroom renovation say they wanted their new space to evoke more of a relaxing vibe and adding steam showers, aromatherapy shower heads, and bathtub fillers that can hold a cup of tea or glass of wine.

Oversized rectangle tile. Large rectangular tiles can help visually expand a small space, and fewer grout lines means less cleaning. Houzz says the larger tiles are being used in several classic patterns, such as herringbone, stacked, and brick. Houzz designers recommend using a matte finish on bathroom floor tiles to reduce slipperiness.

Browns and beiges return. “Warm taupes, beiges, sands—basically any earth tone is surging in popularity,” Houzz notes. “Some designers say the trend is an evolution from popular whites and grays of recent years and that brown as an accent color works well to bring warmth to a palette heavy with those colors.”

Home offices and nooks. Homeowners are creating efficient spaces for offices, work nooks, and even backyard cottages as remote work grows and likely remains elevated in 2021.

Video conference-worthy backgrounds. Homeowners are feeling the need to have an aesthetically pleasing background for their video meetings and are even converting living rooms into video conferencing rooms with large screens and improved lighting and audio equipment.

Open floor plan scrutiny. “Perhaps no other design element was put under the microscope this year more than the open plan,” Houzz reports. “Anyone who had multiple family members attempting concurring video meetings in an open layout quickly saw the disadvantages to a lack of walls.” While this trendy floor plan isn’t likely to go away, many homeowners are considering sliding doors or partitions that can close off rooms for privacy.

Pergolas. To extend usable living space, homeowners are turning their attention to the outdoors.  These structures can add shade for dining, lounging, and other outdoor activities.

Backyard cottages and ADUs. For more privacy, some homeowners are adding a dedicated area to their backyard that’s separate from their main home. Accessory Dwelling Units ( ADU) are standalone structures are used as home offices, gyms, meditation areas, or extended living spaces to house relatives or kids who had to stay home from college due to the pandemic. No need for an architect, there are numerous sources that offer pre-fabircated sheds for multiple purposes from gardening to “sanity sheds”.

New multifamily amenities. With gyms, pools, and communal kitchens in multifamily buildings now periodically closing to keep residents safe, new spaces—indoors and outdoors—are emerging that are designed for fewer occupants such as

  • Quarantine stations. These designed rooms permit people who test positive for COVID-19 (but don’t need a hospital) to recuperate and avoid infecting family or neighbors.
  • Recording studios. There’s rising demand for studios that supports residents’ musical pursuits, podcasts, and videoconferencing.
  • Bicyclists’ havens. Whether it’s bike lockers or a bike-share program, multifamily experts expect this trend to accelerate due to the pandemic and communities reducing on-site parking.

Resilient landscapes.  Due to greater weather volatility, landscaping needs to better handle heavy rains and flooding, snowstorms, and drought. Multifamily waterfront communities are being designed or retrofitted with strategic landscaping and elevated public use area to address shifting shorelines and storm surges.

Health-minded building certifications.  The latest generation of certifications, rating systems, and design standards is based on scientific and medical research that affects human and occupant health such as programs like the WELL Building Standard, from the International WELL Building Institute, and Fitwel, according to the BuildingGreen site. Both suggest ways to gain a variety of benefits, from extensive natural daylight to good indoor air quality, filtration, and low energy use. Unlike LEED, these programs consider emotional wellness, too, which translates into greenery, gardens, and other biophilic design elements.

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to 2021, especially when it comes to the home design. After a year that guided many of us to spend more time at home,  the new year is an opportunity to bring comfort and creativity to our living spaces.

What We Need From A Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

Home Buying and COVID-19
Home Buying and COVID-19
It is safe to assume that COVID-19 or other lethal viruses are going to be a part of our lives for years to come. Homes, businesses, schools, travel entertainment and more will all have to adapt for keep people safe and productive. The one area that we all can control is where we live. Our homes are increasingly becoming our refuge, work place, school, and sources of entertainment. Our needs have changed as well as the stresses in our lives and our homes should be an area that provides us with restorative releases from the stresses that living with a pandemic produces.
Our needs are tied to our emotions, which are themselves influenced by our surroundings. The pandemic we’re living through has intensified certain emotions and shaken up our priorities. Emotional needs are translating into new demands on our interiors and how good design can help address the new challenges.
Multipurpose Rooms:
Home isn’t just home anymore. With the pandemic and lock down, it has become an office, a school, a gym, a play area, a restaurant, a dormitory and a place to retreat and relax. Hybrid designs, detachable units and convertible pieces are the keys to creating a home suited to the “new normal.”
Rooms that can be closed off for offices, playrooms, and individual spaces are helping homeowners better manage playtime for the kids, conference calls for work, and peaceful alone time
Sanitation and Disinfection:
Before COVID-19 there was already a growing awareness of the importance of healthy air, but today it has really become a priority as we spend more and more time at home. Homeowners are looking for all possible means to improve indoor air quality: furniture that doesn’t emit VOCs or other pollutants, sensors that monitor air quality and air-purifying treatments.
 In order to keep homes safe and clean, entryways will become clearly defined transitional spaces where one can remove their shoes, hang their jackets and sanitize their hands before entering.
There is a new emphasis on contact-less ways of stopping germs from multiplying on certain surfaces or limiting their proliferation in the home. This includes solutions for disinfecting clothing, such as with disinfecting wardrobes; antimicrobial products and fabrics for children and bedding; soaps that change color when you’ve washed your hands long enough; and self-disinfecting features such as door handles.
There are few materials that we can use that are more sterile than others, and will be used even more in the future of design.
  • Metals such as copper, brasses, and bronzes are natural antimicrobial materials that have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. Not only are these metals hygienic, but they are great accents to warm up your home.
  • Quartz is one of the hardest non-precious stones on earth, therefore countertops made from quartz are hard, stain and scratch-resistant, and the most sanitary. Quartz is already popular, and that will only increase post COVID-19.
  • Woods like bamboo, oak and cork stop bacteria and microorganisms from growing. We love the look of warm lighter oak woods for flooring, and think this will continue to be a big trend in home design.
Restful Environments and Wellness:
Our homes have also become our refuges, a place to rest and recharge our batteries.Responding to this need are products that ensure high-quality sleep, helping us process our daily emotions and protecting our immune systems, such as sleep and breathing monitors and sound insulation. It also means keeping bedrooms areas for rest and finding other areas in the home for work and school.
Going to gyms and fitness class outside the home are no longer safe options. This search for well-being also includes physical activity at home, with a focus on equipment and furniture resilient enough to withstand daily use, including stain-resistant, waterproof, warming and anti-odor products that can be used for exercise.
Closed off Spaces:
Now that people are having to live, work and play all in the same confined space the need for sound proofing and privacy has grown. There are a large percentage of people who may never return to a full time office environment and home offices are a mandate now instead of an afterthought. There will be a rising need for functional private offices to be an integral part of the home.
the benefits of making your office space aesthetically appealing —something that often comes second to function. “Whatever your home office space is, make it beautiful. Face something beautiful,” she said. “I like to face into the room, or you could look out of a window. Have a comfortable desk chair — spend money on that; it’s where you sit every day.”
Outdoor Space:
Since the onset of the pandemic, our appreciation of the outdoors and nature seems to have greatly increased. The act of simply going for a walk or sitting in a park has been a monumental source of reprieve. However, in the midst of a lock-down scenario, these activities don’t guarantee safety and aren’t universally accessible.
As a result, the demand for home designers to provide private outdoor spaces for every type of home looks set to increase. It will be up to architects to work out how to integrate the outdoors into even the most compact of homes, experimenting with roof gardens, micro backyards, porches and balconies. People may also seek a closer connection between their living spaces and the natural world, with folding glass doors merging these two zones together.
Tech Infrastructure:
Designers anticipate not only an increased need for smart home technology, but also a need for that technology to be touch-less, in order to reduce the spread of microbes.
“Automation will no longer be an indulgence but will help keep people safe,” MacEwen says. “As the memory of the pandemic fades, I do think the ‘best practice’ for hygiene will remain and change the way we interact in the world and what we expect from our home.”
In the end, whatever becomes of the changes to home design as a result of COVID remains to be seen. The question for housing is how might we create spaces that adapt flexibly for how people want to live, and where they can see and touch hygiene in new ways and feel safe as a result.

Ways Smart Home Technology Can Save You Money!

Smart Home Technology
With most of us spending more time in our homes today, you have undoubtedly seen increases in your utility bills, food costs, and more. We are paying more to be entertained at home as well. Smart home technology is now a highly desirable feature to be added to homes and will not only save you money, but will increase your home’s value when you go to sell. Green homes are becoming more and more in demand, especially by Millennials and younger home buyers.
Save on Water & Electricity:
You can save money on your home’s utility bills all year round while also adding comfort, convenience and control.
LED Lighting: 
Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LEDs can greatly reduce the amount of power your home consumes. “Smart” LED lights cost more but can join your Wi-Fi network for automation and app or voice control.
Wi-Fi Thermostats: 
Smart thermostats let you easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, and many can automatically optimize settings based on when you’re home and when you’re not.
By learning your schedule and detecting the weather, products like Google Nest ($249) or the Ecobee family of smart thermostats (from $169) can save you more than 20 percent on your annual heating and cooling bills.
Smart Switches, Power Strips:
Special switches and power strips also can cut off electricity on demand or via a timer. Belkin has a line of Conserve-branded switches, starting at $10, that shut off power to what’s plugged into it either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time.
Conserve brand power strips ($39) can cut off any residual power to a device after a specific time or with a wireless remote switch. Supporting up to eight devices, these power strips include outlets you want on all the time while shutting off other plugs.
Smart Shower Heads: 
Smart shower heads eliminate costly heat-up time and also adjust water flow based on where you are in the shower. Evadrop, for example, says it cuts water use in half .
Smart Sprinkler Systems:
Smart sprinklers are designed to optimize your watering schedule based on local weather conditions. They also detect leaks and monitor water flow to reduce overall costs. Most come with a mobile app that allows you to control your watering efforts on the go.
Energy Monitoring
By installing an energy monitoring system such as Sense, homeowners can identify appliances that are quietly adding to the monthly utility bills. The Sense monitor is installed in electrical panel, connected to Wi-Fi, and viewable in real time via a smartphone app. The device automatically detects items in the home in order to identify vampire loads and see how much they’re costing.
Advanced smart home technology users can take advantage of integrations with Alexa, Google, IFTTT, TP-Link, and Phillips Hue to setup additional energy-saving automation. Sense will help homeowners form better habits, identify problem appliances, and reduce always-on device consumption that may account for up to 20% of energy use.