You likely have forged relationships with real estate lawyers, bankers, and appraisers, among other professionals, calling on their expertise when you and your client need help navigating an aspect of the transaction. Have you considered when you might need an architect’s point of view?
Recently, a real estate agent called me about a house she had listed that had a “unique” floor plan. The first floor was awkwardly designed, and there was no place that leant itself to an intuitive seating arrangement to simply relax and watch television. As soon as buyers walked in, they turned right back around and walked out. The agent told me that none of her buyers could envision living in the house.
Here’s where my perspective came in handy. As an architect, I’m an “idea guy,” and where people see problems with a home’s layout, I see opportunities. Like most architects, I have a vivid imagination and the ability to think and visualize in three dimensions. So when agents need a fresh set of imaginative eyes to look at a property, I’m the guy they often call.
So this agent wanted some ideas about how the house could be adapted to become more appealing to buyers. We spent an hour doing a walkthrough together, and I was able to visualize a simple renovation plan that she could present to her clients. I advised taking down a wall, moving a door to an adjacent room, and creating a proper entry foyer. The job would be far less extensive than she expected, and now armed with ideas, she was able to present the house in a new light. She had something to be excited about, and she could convey that excitement to her clients.
Focus on the Positive With Older Properties
Home inspections are designed to show buyers all the flaws in a home so they can make an educated decision about whether they want to purchase. Even if they like the location of a home, the home inspection report can take the wind out of their sails if it needs a lot of work. Soliciting the advice of an architect at this moment could help buyers keep their vision alive and refocus them on the positive aspects of the house.
I don’t tell them about rotted window trim or leaky gutters; I tell them about how they can open up the kitchen, let more light into the great room, add more garage space, add on a first floor master suite, or create outdoor living spaces, all while reassuring them about the structural integrity of the house. I advise on the feasibility of remodeling and the opportunities that lay hidden within a home. That feedback can help a buyer see the pros more than the cons and keep the transaction on track.
Build the Vision for New Construction
If you sell building lots or raw land, you know how important visualization can be. I’ve walked building sites with agents and their clients, and I ask the buyer what they would like their new house to be. Will it be private or will it make a statement? Will it need a walk-out basement? How large will it be?
Then we discuss the opportunities for each property. We talk about where the sun rises and sets. Which way will they approach the house? Where would the garage and driveway be? Is the lot too steep or does it have a drainage problem? Where are the view opportunities? Through this discussion, we end up determining which lot suits their goals for their new house best. The buyers can now more easily make a choice and buy a property with confidence.
Architects help practitioners and their buyers unravel the uncertainty that can block them from submitting an offer on a property. We don’t sell anything; we remove doubts and open doors to new opportunities. If you’re wondering whether architects “give away” free advice like I do, I can say that the smart ones will. For a few hours of their time, the architect can be introduced to potential clients who may be building or remodeling a house and need their services. Beyond that, the architect and agent get to know more about how they both work and relate to clients. If that goes well, it leads to valuable networking and mutual referrals.
If you don’t already know an architect, contact builders in your area for referrals or contact your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The AIA will have a membership directory that often describes each architect’s specialty. When you make friends with an architect, you will broaden your vision for properties while helping your clients be more confident in their decisions.
William Hirsch, author of Designing Your Perfect House, is a member of the American Institute of Architects. He’s the former president of the Delaware Society of Architects and a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
Adults spend more time in their bedroom than in any other room in their house. But you wouldn’t know it from the home sales process. Buyers and sellers alike often pay more attention to kitchens, master bathrooms, closets, and yards than they do to this vital space where they will usually spend more than a third of their 24 hours each day.
“Who spends that kind of time in the kitchen?” asks sleep expert Nancy H. Rothstein, founder of The Sleep Ambassador in Chicago, a source for education, consulting services, and resources that optimize healthy sleep.
Yet more attention is being paid to the importance of getting adequate sleep, from high-profile advocates like Arianna Huffington, who recently published her book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time (Harmony, 2016), to medical professionals. “Fewer than six hours [a night] can lead to diseases — a higher rate of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, and even shorter life spans,” says Dr. Susheel Patil, clinical director of Johns Hopkins Sleep Medicine in Baltimore.
While there’s no magic figure for the amount of sleep one should get, Patil suggests adults try for seven to eight hours on average. Dr. Michael Breus, a board-certified sleep specialist in Los Angeles known as The Sleep Doctor, uses his household as an example of the variation. “I need between 6 1/2 and 7 hours while my wife needs between 8 and 8 1/2,” he says.
Buyers and sellers alike should strive to furnish a master bedroom that contributes to high-quality sleep. Updating or remodeling the room offers another benefit, says certified color consultant Michelle Mohlere, a salesperson with Gibson International in Los Angeles. A nicely designed bedroom is likely to bring in more money at resale than one without these touches, she says.
Sellers looking to better stage this room will also gain from the following six steps:
1. Stage the bed in a choice spot. Connecticut architect and author Duo Dickinson prefers the bed be set away from the room’s entrance to keep it out of the main circulation path. Kathryn Baker, vice president of design services with Polaris Pacific, a real estate sales and marketing firm in San Francisco, likes to place a bed in a spot so occupants can enjoy the best view — whether that’s inside (maybe toward a fireplace or favorite piece of art) or outdoor (with views of trees or water where possible). Chicago designer Michael Del Piero suggests pairing a bed with an upholstered headboard for those who like to sit up in bed and read; she dresses up the bed with decorative pillows, a duvet, and a throw to personalize it and make it more welcoming to tuck in for sleep.
2. Install the right window treatments. Minimal is the design mantra when it comes to much of the standard room décor today. But while no coverings in some rooms, such as kitchens and living rooms, allows in more light and views, some amount of treatment in a bedroom is needed to block outside light and provide privacy. Del Piero likes to use a blackout shade behind a transparent shade or drapes or a woven wood shade with blackout drapes. Baker favors motorized shades to make opening and closing a task that can be performed from the bed or set by a timer.
3. Use the right lighting. Dickinson discourages installing recessed cans since they chop up a ceiling and aren’t attractive to look at while in bed. He prefers task lighting from lamps on night tables or wall-mounted sconces. Michigan designer Francesca Owings likes hanging one decorative fixture in a ceiling’s center for an aesthetic punch. Sensitive sleepers might appreciate the new Good Night Biological LED bulbs that claim to help regulate a body’s natural circadian rhythm through the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps control sleep and wake patterns, says Breus.
4. Conceal or banish electronics. For years, scientists and health professionals have known about the danger of the blue light that comes from certain electronics equipment and adversely affects melatonin production, says Patil. But only recently have they suggested that you can enhance unwinding and falling asleep by turning off TVs, smartphones, and iPads at least an hour before bedtime. Shutting them off also helps train the brain that the bedroom is primarily a place to sleep rather than stay awake, Patil says. If the temptation is too great, home owners might consider making the master bedroom a no-electronics zone. Baker’s company furnishes model bedrooms in its residential projects without TVs and other electronics technology to demonstrate this idea. “People have responded favorably, and some put TVs in a second bedroom or home office” instead, she says.
5. Pick a soothing palette. Of course, color is a personal preference, but color experts can offer guidelines. “You can’t say one is soothing for all and will make a person feel calm,” says Jessica Boyer, a Chicago designer with Susan Fredman Design Group. Sue Wadden, director of color marketing for paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams, says colors that aren’t extreme are more restful. “They’re neither too bold, dark, bright, or intense. Rather, soft and calming,” she says. Designer Kimba Hills of Rumba Style in Los Angeles prefers a palette of pale blues, greens, beiges, grays, and whites for the bedroom. Boyer also likes to bring in bedding in white and light creams because she finds they’re calming. “It’s the equivalent of sleeping in a cloud with nothing to distract me. What’s important isn’t what’s trendy but nurturing,” she says.
6. Add creature comforts. If the room’s size allows, consider adding a chaise, chair and ottoman, and night tables. Also, a large area rug or wall-to-wall carpeting can help deaden noise and provide warmth underfoot, says Owings. If the room is located so it opens directly to the outdoors, play this up. Mohlere says real access to bucolic scenery can contribute to a sense of tranquility even more than just viewing the outdoors can. If outdoor access isn’t possible, check to see that windows are operable for fresh air. Other amenities worth considering: a gas- or log-burning fireplace for coziness, artwork for eye candy, and good storage for tidiness. “Too much clutter is distracting,” Rothstein says.
At the end of the day — or the beginning of a new one — real estate pros can emphasize the master bedroom as one more “fabulous room where you spend time in your new home,” Rothstein says.
Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space(Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).
Young people come out of the gate facing two hurdles to home ownership — high student loan debt and tough rules for using FHA financing for condominiums, which are often the most affordable homes on the market. However, progress is being made on both fronts, according to speakers at the 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington.
On the condo front, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro used the meetings as an opportunity to announce progress on a rule implementing improvements to FHA condo financing.
The rule is under review at the Office of Management and Budget — typically a last step before finalization — and Castro said it would help make condo financing easier to obtain. “HUD’s rule is out the door,” he told REALTORS® yesterday.
The rule will be open for public comment after it makes it through OMB review and is published as a proposed rule. NAR’s priorities include easing owner-occupancy and commercial-space ratios, and making it easier for condo boards to get certified by the federal government each year.
Student loan debt remains a large problem, and it’s grown rapidly in the last decade. Today 42 million Americans have an average of $29,000 in federally backed student loans outstanding, according to Rohit Chopra, an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education who was also on hand at the meetings. Of these borrowers, 7 million are in default, and each day 3,700 additional borrowers go into default. “We have a lot of work to do,” Chopra told REALTORS®.
It’s not just millennials who are racking up the debt; baby boomers, either because they’re taking out loans on behalf of their children or they’re going back to school themselves, hold a significant portion of it, said Meta Brown, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who joined Castro and Chopra at a session titled “The Impact of Student Debt on Housing Choices: Regulatory Issues Forum” on Tuesday.
The debt load, along with affordability challenges that only grow as home prices rise, could be playing a role in the drop in first-time home buyers. Jessica Lautz, NAR’s director of member and consumer survey research, says 32 percent of home buyers last year were first-time buyers, a 10 percent drop from historical norms.
To help pave the way for home buyers, Castro said in his portion of the session, the FHA is reducing the amount of deferred student debt, from 2 percent to 1 percent, that counts against a borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. That means someone with $10,000 in deferred student loan debt would have a $100-per-month repayment obligation in calculating DTI, rather than $200.
Looking to the longer term, legislation is in the works to address the issue. Among the bills, the “Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act,” H.R. 3179, would help ensure students are better prepared to handle debt, and the “Access to Fair Financial Options for Repaying Debt Act,” S. 1948, would provide more repayment options.
Mabel Guzman, chair of a working group on student loan debt NAR launched in 2014, said the group is making policy recommendations to the Board of Directors this week to help position the association on the issue.
Robert Freedman is the director of multimedia communications at NAR.
Design changes, as does architecture. Trends don’t emerge as rapidly here as they do in say, food or fashion, but the economy, the environment, and demographics all spur shifts in the choices of materials, designs, layouts, and construction methods for single- and multifamily dwellings.
These 12 trends reflect ways to cope with environmental challenges, incorporate new building materials and methods, and alter the looks and functionality of our homes. Hear top designers and architects explain why these emerging trends are important and how they’ll influence real estate choices in the near future.
1. More Resilient, Sustainable Homes
Why it’s important: Mounting climate change pressures mean buildings need to better withstand natural disasters. Similarly, because our natural resources are dwindling, it’s increasingly important that structures be designed and built sustainably. Industry professionals are finding materials and construction techniques to meet both challenges. The Fortified Home Certification standard—created by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety and Architectural Testing Inc.—represents engineering and building levels that provide sturdier structural envelopes that are more resilient against the worst weather conditions than those found in most current building codes. And the trends of making better use of natural resources and generating energy on site—for a double win of more energy and less money spent—will continue into 2016.
How this will impact real estate: Increased durability means more lives and buildings will be saved, costs to rebuild will be pared, and insurance premiums will be lowered. The trend is happening nationwide, not just in hurricane-prone locales like Florida, says Jacqueline Nunez, founder of WonderGroup LLC in Boston. Her Allandale Residences project, designed by Merge Architects in Boston, will be among the first residential developments in New England to be receive Net-Zero and LEED Platinum certifications. It will include 16 townhomes and four condos on a two-acre site in West Roxbury, Mass. “It’s responsible to build environmentally correct,” Nunez says. Such projects have the potential to change real estate offerings as home buyers ask professionals not just about square footage and amenities but also about materials and methods, especially in areas where climate change is most destructive— “where sea levels are rising and strong hurricane winds are blowing,” Nunez says.
2. Classics, Made More Affordable
Why it’s important: More home owners want quality, luxurious materials, but the finest choices aren’t always in the budget, says architect Michael Prifti, principal with BLT Architects in Philadelphia. “Home owners seem to prefer stone, for example, over brick, over clapboard, and over vinyl, but not everyone can afford stone,” he says. With construction and material costs increasing, the need has emerged for less expensive options that still look luxe and hold up well. For example, instead of solid stone facades, architects may opt for stone veneer on studs and drywall instead of plaster inside. Or, rather than go with terra-cotta, a timeless but expensive material, they can select a handsome thin terra-cotta veneer applied to manufactured panels, Prifti says. Both examples are less costly and reflect modern building methods, particularly for constructing multiunit developments.
How this will impact real estate: Smart real estate professionals should explain to cost-conscious fixer-upper clients that there are new materials out there that might better fit a tight budget. After all, architects and builders are constantly being challenged to find value for clients in both residential and commercial development, says Prifti. “We research to find new products and new ways to use existing materials, so they’re durable, affordable, and offer more colors and textures,” he says. According to colleague and BLT Senior Project Architect Jennifer Burnside, “Many of the new products, materials, and methods lend themselves to fabrication in large modular configurations in weather-controlled factories, are shipped on trucks to a site, and are erected with a crane, which saves time and labor.” Working this way also saves your clients money.
3. Drought Awareness
Why it’s important: Droughts continue to affect large areas of the U.S., making water more expensive and decreasing its availability, especially in the Southwest and California. Water-saving fixtures such as low-flow toilets and showerheads have become standard—even mandated—in many areas, but architect Gita Nandan, with architectural firm thread collective in Brooklyn, N.Y., says buyers are looking for more. In the backyard and rooftop of a four-unit Brooklyn building her firm designed, there’s a rainwater harvesting system with modular vertical tanks connected to a drain from the rooftop. The rainwater is used to irrigate the roof gardens and the yard. The building also features low-flow fixtures. Since these features were added, the building has seen a 30 percent drop in water consumption.
How this will impact real estate: Water conservation will become as important as energy conservation, and homes that collect as much water as they consume will be as popular with buyers as Net-Zero–energy homes now are, Nandan predicts. She expects that real estate professionals will see more demand for water-saving measures such as water-smart irrigation sensors, composting toilets, gray-water recycling systems, and rainwater harvesting.
4. Digitized Manufacturing
Why it’s important: Sustainable materials such as glass, in conjunction with new manufacturing technologies, are expanding the choice of colors, textures, and sizes of materials available for home design. At the same time, 3-D manufacturing, what some call the third industrial revolution, has created a new panoply of readily available, prefabricated materials as an alternative to more expensive custom choices, says architect Cecil Baker, founding partner of Cecil Baker + Partners in Philadelphia. One example Baker cites is a new manufactured technology for glass, which makes it possible to incorporate patterns and etched surfaces directly into the glass. This new process means that glass can also be manufactured with LED lighting built in, which adds sophistication and also illumination, a double win, Baker says.
How this will impact real estate: The glass-and-LED combination is just one new technique that can result in a product that incorporates a sustainable material into a sturdy, practical, energy-efficient, and glamorous new surface for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Such choices greatly personalize rooms much more than another granite, laminate, or Corian top might do, and help to distinguish listings in a crowded market.
5. Reclaimed Wood Floors
Why they’re important: Many home owners crave authenticity, no matter how durable, affordable, and convincing the imitations may be. A case in point: the increased demand for reclaimed wood boards, which wear well, show the patina of age, and reveal visual character, says Jamie Hammel whose The Hudson Co. custom mills and finishes flooring, paneling, and beams at its mill in Pine Plains, N.Y. “People like knowing the history of their materials and products — the provenance — and these materials tell a story,” Hammel says. He adds that consumers are drawn to the sustainability of reuse as well as the health benefits of choosing older materials that don’t off-gas. “There’s a parallel with what’s happening in the food industry,” Hammel says.
How this will impact real estate: The type of wood flooring found in many homes will take on greater importance for many segments of the homebuying population, and it may be that soon not just any wood will do. The crème de la crème of wood flooring —reclaimed boards—may become the equivalent of once sought after granite and now quartz or marble. You may also see more home owners favor this option when they replace existing floors. Finally, be aware that the latest generation of reclaimed boards displays a lighter, Scandinavian matte finish that looks better with contemporary furnishings that are becoming more in vogue than traditional furniture.
6. Softening Modern Severity
Why it’s important: With so many home owners now favoring modern design, yet not wanting a harsh, laboratory look, designers search for alternatives. Architects Ada I. Corral and Camille Jobe, of Jobe Corral Architects in Austin, Texas, are among those with a solution: Select materials that offer a handcrafted, warmer style rather than an “off-the-shelf,” cold, mass-produced look for their modern settings. “We’re trying to bring craftsmanship back while maintaining a clean, crisp overall look,” Corral says. One favorite choice is burnt wood, a Japanese technique that works well with cypress and cedar and makes the wood look older, yet also strengthens its resilience against rot, pests, and fire. Another favorite is metal that’s shaped into thin, elegant veneers for shelving, beams, drawer handles, around doorframes.
How this will impact real estate: Keep this trend in mind while staging modern-styled properties or alerting buyers and sellers to new decor ideas. These types of materials and new applications add surprising touches and warmth in modern dwellings — a feeling of a more lived-in, loved setting. And their appeal will only grow, pundits predict. “So many people have tired of having their houses look like spare hotels. These choices differentiate — and warm — rooms and homes,” Jobe says.
7. The Tiny House Movement on Wheels
Why it’s important: Downsizing is big, reflected in part by the growth of the tiny house movement. But flexibility and mobility are also sought after, and many desire a hipper method of attaining this than RVs can offer. Enter the “Escape Sport”, an 8 1/2-foot-by-20-foot, 170-square-foot house on wheels that meets these challenges and more. It can comfortably sleep up to four people and can withstand bad weather with its steel frame, aluminum siding, and weather-resistant wood. It’s also environmentally friendly with a solar power system, composting feature, incinerating toilet, gray water irrigation hook-up, rainwater integration, advanced electric fireplace, and energy-efficient induction cooktop. And its toilet and sink are full sized, which is not always the case with RVs. Developer Dan Dobrowolski says this option will appeal to home owners who want to travel in smaller spaces, but don’t want to feel claustrophobic or give up the comforts of a bigger home.
How this will impact real estate: The design profession keeps looking for options beyond traditional, stick-built houses, hence the uptick in prefabricated, manufactured housing. This brand-new example offers shelter to those who are keen on smaller houses, but don’t like the idea of always staying put, Dobrowolski says. It also offers other possibilities for the real estate industry. It allows some home owners to “test drive” small-scale living. And if the trend continues to expand, landowners may find empty lots in vacation areas to be the perfect spot to rent out to these home owners on wheels.
8. Walk-In, Universal Design Pantries
Why it’s important: Currently there are 78 million baby boomers and the aging population is increasing — in fact, it’s expected to rise by 50 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to Aging in Place, a state survey of livability policies and practices. A deep, wide walk-in pantry allows a walker or wheelchair to maneuver through easily. If the pantry also has a flexible shelving system that can be lowered through special hardware that’s another boon for home owners seeking to remain independent, says Rosemarie Rossetti, an expert in universal design who constructed a demonstration home and garden with her husband in Columbus, Ohio, after she had a spinal cord injury at age 44, 11 years ago. “A pantry with proper shelving has a lot of benefits for seniors lacking mobility and not able to open folding doors or reach high items,” she says.
How this will impact real estate: Walk-in pantries and pocket doors, which are easier to open and close than traditional doors and save 10 square feet of floor space, are just two of many universal design features becoming more desired and even edging into the mainstream. “Children and those who are shorter also will be able to reach shelves easier, and when outfitted with better lighting, pantries are safer,” Rossetti says. Homes that have universal design features will be in greater demand by both the senior market and younger informed home buyers, says Joseph Mezera, a Seniors Real Estate Specialist who focuses on this niche through his Seniors First Realty in Columbus, Ohio. “Some may not want big doorways and high toilets that they associate with nursing homes, but those who are smart will listen to trained salespeople explain that it’s better to take preventive measures.”
9. Better Integration of Indoors and Outdoors
Why it’s important: Screened porches once were the prime quasi-outdoor space in a home that could protect occupants from bad weather yet offer a feeling of the outdoors. But many porches block daylight and views, and they can only be used part of the year in some climates. Now, well-designed, large-scale door panels that fold up like garage doors or open into a home’s walls via big pocket doors are becoming more readily available at affordable prices, says architect Elizabeth Demetriades of Demetriades + Walker in Lakeville, Conn. Some have highly functional, retractable insect screens, too.
How this will impact real estate: These new bigger openings permit better views of the outdoors, greater enjoyment, and easier access between indoors and outdoors. “Blurring the distinction seems to be a leitmotif for many of our clients these days,” says Demetriades. And the trend may further increase interest in landscape design since the greater connection will make yards more a part of homes rather than separate entities, only to be enjoyed in prime weather.
10. Softer, Layered Color Palettes
Why they’re important: Color trendsetter Pantone typically debuts only one superstar color of the year. But in 2016, two are taking center stage: “rose quartz” and “serenity.” Both reflect the rise of softer colors, along with the continued use of whites and creams. Some designers think this color direction and its layered palettes lead to a more personalized, sophisticated design. Cheryl Kees Clendenon of In Detail Interiors in Pensacola, Fla., is a fan. “I like the layered approach since it evokes a more emotional response and doesn’t read as a single, stark color,” she says. Clendenon attributes the situation to current affairs as much as to design. “When people get more nervous, which many are because of what’s happening in the world and [it being] an election year, they want colors that aren’t wild and crazy but calming, which these are,” she says. Time will tell if a non-election year and fewer terrorism threats may inspire a return to bolder hues.
How this will impact real estate: These new colors are already turning up inside homes in countertops and backsplashes, as seen by Prexury by Cosentino’s “rose quartz,” a durable, easy-maintenance manmade aggregate of semi-precious stones. Elsewhere in homes, the more complex color palettes will inspire buyers and sellers when making selections for everything from paint to fabrics and furnishings. But pairings are key. Clendenon suggests using Prexury’s rose quartz with off-white or cream cabinets. Along with this approach will come more textures and patterns, but again in subtle combinations, she says.
11. Copper Chic Surges (Even More)
Why it’s important: The old standby of copper—think of those pots your parents, grandparents, or Julia Child used—started its re-emergence last year. And the reason that it’s becoming a more widespread alternative to stainless steel, wood, and other materials isn’t all surface. Yes, copper can add sheen, sparkle, and a 1940s Hollywood glamour. But an equally big impetus is that it reduces more than 99.9 percent of bacteria in between routine cleanings, important because antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, according to The Copper Development Association, based in New York.
How this will impact real estate: This shiny, goldlike hue will become more prevalent in homes as concern grows about buying healthy houses without mold, toxins, and bacteria. To help, U.S. manufacturers are producing more options in copper than just refrigerator, oven, and other appliance fronts, the developments that initially helped revive the trend. Throughout homes, buyers can add copper sinks, door handles, light switches, and trim. To enhance its appeal, manufacturers are also expanding the types of hues available. Already, there’s a copper-penny color, brushed nickel, yellow brassiness, and bronze on the market.
12. Enhancing Entertainment Space With Niches and “Back Kitchens”
Why it’s important: Living keeps getting more casual, and this is certainly the case in the kitchen. “Everything happens in the kitchen, and people don’t want to be closed away from interaction with their families,” says Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design, author of Kitchen (Pointed Leaf Press, 2015). Consequently, they’re willing to put more into their kitchens — more space (500 square feet is not uncommon, he says), bigger budgets, better design, more windows and light, and the types of detailing, like moldings and beams, once reserved for more formal spaces.
How this will impact real estate: As open plans that incorporate more important kitchen space become commonplace, finding ways to keep the workspace neat becomes key, too. This may mean more niches and elements that hide small appliances built into the main kitchen. Home owners with more room and a bigger budget might consider adding a “back kitchen,” where preparations take place and small appliances like toasters and coffee makers are stored. To maintain the interflowing social feel, the spaces remain open to one another. A growing number of home buyers may be willing to forgo a dining room, says De Giulio.
Be on the lookout for these trends in 2016. You’ll be in better tune with buyers who are searching for these features in their new homes or want to add them as space and budgets permit. And staying aware of the latest trends can help you guide sellers to differentiate their listings beyond location, size, and amenities.
Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space. Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman
You can deduct all of the mortgage interest (not principal) payments you make on your home, up to a $1-million loan for a couple filing jointly. This applies to your home equity line of credit (on a loan up $100,000) and second mortgage as well.
If you own a second home, such as a vacation cottage or mobile home, you can deduct the mortgage interest for it as well, so long as you reside there for the longer of 14 days per year or 10 percent of the time it is rented out.
Mortgage points and insurance
In addition to the mortgage interest, you can also deduct the points you pay on your mortgage for your main home in the year you pay them, as well as points paid for a home equity loan. Points paid for refinancing your home mortgage generally have to be amortized over the length of the loan.
You can also deduct any premiums paid for private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your loan if you earned less than $109,000 in 2015 and the policy was taken out after 2006.
As strange as it sounds, you can deduct taxes on your taxes! Your property taxes are a deductible expense. Keep your property tax bills and proof of payment.
If you have some sort of home-based business, you may be entitled to a home office deduction on your taxes. There are several hoops to jump through to qualify for the deduction, the two biggest being that your home must be your primary place of business, and that you use the office space only for work. (The IRS spells out the rules for claiming the home office deduction in Publication 587.)
There are two ways to calculate your deduction. Under the simplified option, you can deduct $5 per square foot of your home office’s area, up to a maximum 300 square feet.
The more complex (but often more advantageous) option involves dividing the square footage of your office by the total square footage of your home; this yields the “business percentage” of your home. You then multiply allowable home costs — namely mortgage interest and utilities — by the business percentage to arrive at the deductible amounts.
If you implemented energy-efficient improvements to your home, you can get a credit of up to 10 percent of the cost of those improvements, to a maximum of $500. This covers expenses like new windows and doors, insulation, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. You could also get a credit for 30 percent of the cost of renewable energy systems, like solar power.
There could also be state tax credits for these items as well which you can stack on top of your federal credit.
Medical home improvements
If you have a medical condition that necessitates home improvements, such as adding a stair lift because you have arthritis or an air filter because your spouse suffers from allergies, you may be able to write off some of these costs as part of your medical deduction.
However, you can deduct only that portion of your medical costs that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you are 65 or older).
And in most cases, you can deduct only the difference between the cost of the equipment and the increase in value to the home from this improvement. Some improvements (such widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair) add no marketable value to the home but are fully deductible if you meet certain income requirements.
If you sold your home in the last year, you could be eligible for some tax savings resulting from that transaction. The costs of your real estate agent’s fees, advertising, and title insurance are deductible expenses. You can also deduct improvements you made to the home in order to sell it, but only if you have a taxable capital gain from the sale.
If your home was damaged by weather, fire, theft, or another disaster, you’ve suffered a casualty loss, a portion of which may be deductible. If your loss was greater than 10 percent of your income and was not covered by insurance, you can deduct the loss. You’ll need to be able to document the value of what was lost, however.
Credit to Brette Sember
Brette Sember is a former attorney and author of more than 40 books, including The Divorce Organizer & Planner, The Complete Divorce, and How to Parent with Your Ex. She writes often about law, parenting, food, travel, health, and more. Brette also writes for AvvoStories.