North America’s Luxury Home Market Is Booming

As the economy recovers, luxury properties are very much in demand, particularly in large urban areas. Homes or vacation properties worth $1 million or more are selling quickly, often at or just below asking prices. And they’re taking the housing markets in many areas along with them.

It’s been a long haul. While in the largest North American cities the luxury market never totally disappeared, during the worst of the recession many buyers were holding on to their properties. The result has been a shortage of inventory, which is pushing prices up. As of mid-October, the S&P/Case-Schiller home price index showed major growth in the average sales price of homes across the U.S.

Foreign investors have also been spurring on the market for luxury properties, as Asian buyers, in particular, look to North America to invest: Many are putting their money into the real estate market.

As noted, luxury buyers usually look to large urban areas to purchase homes, while those looking for a getaway often look north to cottage country, or south to warmer climes. Areas located near big cities offer the best of two worlds: These neighborhoods provide easy access to transit and highways for commuters and nearby shopping, restaurants, and entertainment venues, as well as good schools, safe communities, park-like settings, and elegant homes.

According to recent research, upscale purchasers still believe home ownership is a great investment. So luxury homebuyers are prepared to spend time, money, and energy on a house that reflects who they are.

While size matters, it’s increasingly less important than upgrades and amenities such as larger lots, pools, and high-end landscaping. Outdoor living rooms, chef’s kitchens, spa bathrooms, and spacious garages are also important. As owners renovate and re-build, the economy receives a boost. Small wonder the luxury market has a stimulating effect on real estate markets and the economy in general.

Make 2014 the Year You Complete That Home DIY Project

Many people are planning to complete a much-awaited home DIY project in 2014. However, turning your home into a haven can make your life – and your family’s – a long-term nightmare. It’s important to stay on time and on budget. But you can do it. Here’s how.

Do your research. Know what you want to do – and whether you can do it. Talk to experts at home-building stores. Watch video tutorials. Read books. Find out how long it should take and avoid unnecessary delays by ensuring you have the proper equipment before you begin. Buy wisely from stores with good reputations and lots of experience. And as much as you want to do it yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Know why you want to make changes to your home; a full-blown re-build may not be necessary. A fresh coat of paint or new tiles can bring new life to a bathroom or kitchen. New light fixtures or curtains can enliven a room. Putting new wallpaper on one wall can be as effective as re-decorating the whole space.

Re-use and change: You may be able to make better use of what you have by re-purposing (old doors can become table tops, for example) or re-arranging.

Don’t rush to buy new. Shop at thrift stores. Ask friends or family for furniture they don’t want. Host an up-cycling party; everyone can share ideas. But wait until you’ve completed your project; after all your hard work, you’re going to want to show it off.