Could Driverless Cars Drive Real Estate Values?

Imagine a world where humans never have to worry about wasted commute times. Imagine being able to use that time to work, spend quality time with your kids, plan dinner, or catch up on some much-needed z’s.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? That magic could be coming to a street near you, as driverless cars are poised to become mainstream technology worldwide.

As Tesla, GM, and BMW clamber to get their fleets on the streets, these autonomous cars could have a far-reaching effect on industries other than auto.

When the human is removed from behind the wheel, the potential for error diminishes. Therefore, safety precautions such as auto insurance, parking tickets, speed traps, and law enforcement may no longer be needed.

These vehicles could also have a significant impact on the real estate market. When autonomous cars become the new norm, public transit will no longer be the go-to for those who are unable to drive.

The loss of public transit could have a domino effect on the real estate industry, since cities would no longer be built around transit systems. What was once considered less desirable residential real estate may become more popularbecause of the distance from transit hubs. According to an article in Forbes, these areas could offer a “greater appeal [that] could translate into increasing demand and rising property values.”

The long-reaching impact these cars will have on society is still being mapped, but it should make for an interesting ride.

Prepping Your Home for Sale: Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Every seller wants to maximize his or her profit. Partnering with a real estate agent is a great start. Homeowners can further increase their bottom line with a few simple steps. To get the most out of your house, complete the following before you list.

Hire your own home inspector. If a buyer’s inspector finds issues with your home, you can expect your profit to shrink. Stay one step ahead by hiring your own home inspector to unearth any potential issues.

Invest in repairs. In addition to addressing any trouble the home inspection reveals, it’s a good idea to have cosmetic issues addressed. Prospective buyers notice things like cracked tile, chipped baseboards, or a squeaky floorboard, and this will be reflected in their offer.

Upgrade where it counts. You don’t have to renovate your whole house to turn a healthier profit. Make small, impactful swaps, such as switching out lighting, cabinet hardware, or shower heads for cleaner, more contemporary options.

Add a few new accessories. Fresh flowers and potted plants go a long way in making a room feel inviting. For a cozier living room, drape a cable-knit blanket over the couch. String Edison bulb lights over a patio and put an Adirondack chair on the front porch. These small touches add major warmth.

Treat it like a model home. To sell your house quickly and for the most money, treat it like a house you’ve been hired to stage. Put personal effects into storage, declutter, remove artwork that could be seen as too loud, and make sure the house is absolutely spotless.

Want to Sell Your Home Faster? Try These Tips

When you’re getting ready to list your house, the goal isn’t just to sell – it’s to sell quickly! The longer your house is on the market, the less likely it is to fetch top dollar.

Want to sell your house as quickly as possible? These tips are essential.

Hire a Real Estate Agent and follow their advice

Some sellers are tempted to go it alone. But for a quick sale that maximizes profit, go with a Real Estate agent – and listen to their suggestions. Their market knowledge is invaluable when it comes to pricing and marketing your home.

Boost your curb appeal

Give your front door a fresh coat of paint (punchy red, blue, or yellow is a nice way to switch it up), add hanging baskets and planters to your front stoop, and resod your lawn. A home that looks well cared for is more inviting to prospective buyers.

Stage it

If you really want to sell fast and you have the budget required, allow a professional stager to come and work their magic. Can’t swing the cost? Borrow some of their tricks: Get rid of all personal items, use mirrors to create the illusion of light and space, add throw pillows and blankets to seating, and put fresh flowers or small potted plants in each room.

Be flexible

Selling fast means maximizing the number of buyers coming to see your house, so be willing to vacate at a moment’s notice. Work with your agent to create as many viewing times as possible.

Is Remodeling Worth the Effort for Resale?

At some point during the chaos of every remodel, one question is asked. “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the upheaval? Is it worth the cost? Most important, is it worth the effort when it comes time to sell?

The answer: it depends.

It depends on where you live and what you choose to remodel. For example, the West Coast sees a higher return than does the Mid-Atlantic, according to CNBC.

With regard to specific projects, the 2018 cost-vs.-value report from Remodeling Magazine shows that smaller upgrades vs. larger remodels get you the most bang for your buck.

According to the report, those who remodel on a massive scale should expect a return of 56%. This is less than the steady return of 64% over the past two years.

Why the drop? Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling Magazine, believes it is because some real estate professionals suspect their local market may be reaching its peak. He explains, “Consequently, spending a lot of money does not automatically mean your house will just ride the escalator up and be worth a lot more.”

So, if you are planning a remodel in 2018, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Forgo a major kitchen overhaul for a simple upgrade that could recoup you 81.10% vs. 53.50%.

Instead of building that addition to the master suite (ROI 48.3%), consider something with more curb appeal, such as a new garage door (ROI 98.3%), manufactured stone veneer (ROI 97.10%), or a wood deck (ROI 83%).

When asking yourself if all the effort is worth it, keep your real estate agent in mind. This professional knows your market inside and out and can best advise you about whether your potential remodel will help sell your home quickly. Seek his or her input before starting your next project.

Closing Costs: It’s about More Than Your Down Payment

The first step in buying a home is deciding on a budget. How much house can you afford? Within what price range will you shop?

A down payment is, unfortunately, only one part of that budget. To correctly determine the affordability of a home, it’s essential that prospective buyers consider the costs that arise at the time of closing.

Closing costs vary from state to state. There are different kinds of closing costs, too: lender costs, including origination and document preparation fees, and nonlender costs, including appraisal and survey fees. Some of these costs are required in certain states, while others are not. It’s also important to note how the market can impact closing costs. In New York City, for example, home prices are higher, which can result in higher lender fees.

In today’s market, buyers seeking a conventional loan typically need a 20% down payment to receive optimal rates. As buyers plan their purchase, it’s important to factor in closing costs on top of this 20%.

The final total is dependent on the location of the property. Here’s a look at how approximated closing costs add up in a handful of cities across the country, assuming a loan amount of $200,000. Consult with your real estate agent about closing costs in your area – he or she knows the local market best.

    • Denver, Colorado: $1,980
    • New York, New York: $6,843
    • Minneapolis, Minnesota: $2,417
    • Portland, Oregon: $2,122
    • Los Angeles, California: $2,197
    • Birmingham, Alabama: $2,112
    • Anchorage, Alaska: $2,138

Is Remodeling Worth the Effort for Resale?

At some point during the chaos of every remodel, one question is asked. “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the upheaval? Is it worth the cost? Most important, is it worth the effort when it comes time to sell?

The answer: it depends.

It depends on where you live and what you choose to remodel. For example, the West Coast sees a higher return than does the Mid-Atlantic, according to CNBC.

With regard to specific projects, the 2018 cost-vs.-value report from Remodeling Magazine shows that smaller upgrades vs. larger remodels get you the most bang for your buck.

According to the report, those who remodel on a massive scale should expect a return of 56%. This is less than the steady return of 64% over the past two years.

Why the drop? Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling Magazine, believes it is because some real estate professionals suspect their local market may be reaching its peak. He explains, “Consequently, spending a lot of money does not automatically mean your house will just ride the escalator up and be worth a lot more.”

So, if you are planning a remodel in 2018, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Forgo a major kitchen overhaul for a simple upgrade that could recoup you 81.10% vs. 53.50%.

Instead of building that addition to the master suite (ROI 48.3%), consider something with more curb appeal, such as a new garage door (ROI 98.3%), manufactured stone veneer (ROI 97.10%), or a wood deck (ROI 83%).

When asking yourself if all the effort is worth it, keep your real estate agent in mind. This professional knows your market inside and out and can best advise you about whether your potential remodel will achieve the return you desire. Seek his or her input before starting your next project.

Downsizing Happens at All Ages Now: Here’s How to Ace It

Downsizing is often associated with empty nesters and retirees, but as it turns out, more and more homeowners of all ages-including millennials-are looking for smaller residential footprints.

As New York Real estate agent, Tyler Whitman, points out in a recent article inuexpress.com: “Downsizing isn’t just for empty nesters. To meet their goals, many millennials must go through this challenging process too.”

Downsizing dilemmas

Getting rid of belongings that won’t fit in your smaller space is challenging. The upside-of particular interest to millennials-is the opportunity to dump old inherited pieces for trendy modern furniture.

Measure your new home before moving day, and decide what to take before you start packing. If there’s a too-big item that you can’t bear to part with, store it. But not at mom and dad’s, say experts; they may be downsizing soon themselves.

Emotional attachment can make it hard to decide what you should throw out. Ask a straight-talking friend or family member to help with an unbiased second opinion on tough decisions-like whether your bookcase or king-sized bed is way too big for your new digs.

Once you’ve rounded up everything you won’t be taking, have a garage sale. You’ll feel less guilty about parting with so much, and you can make a surprising amount of money to help with moving expenses.

Trying to dispose of all the items you can’t sell can be overwhelming. Hiring a pickup service for junk removal or to take to a charity can be well worth the expense.

Is Lack of Space Cramping Your Green Thumb?

If your green thumb is out of joint thanks to limited (or nonexistent) outdoor space, try some out-of-the-yard thinking, and you’ll soon be digging in the dirt. You can garden anywhere if you’re resourceful.

Go vertical: If you’re in an urban setting, take inspiration from the high-rises that surround you. When there’s no room to spread out, go up. Use tiered planters and a trellis to create a living wall or a “room” divider on your balcony. Add wall pockets to grow small plants such as herbs. When you think of your outside walls as garden space, you suddenly have lots of room!

Think outside the window box: Who says plants only grow on prairies and in pots? Create a unique arrangement of washbasins, bowls, cookware, repurposed rain boots, previously loved furniture – nothing’s off limits for the innovative container gardener.

Automate it: If you have neither the space nor the green thumb, this solution may be for you. The recently invented Modgarden is a small indoor farm in a cabinet, and it’s fully automated. You simply fill the water reservoir, add seeds, and wait for your veggies and herbs to grow. Some restaurants in colder climes are trying it to grow off-season produce.

Redefine the fruit basket: Fit a large wicker basket with a plant-friendly container filled with potting soil, and add your favorite herb and edible flower seeds. Soon you’ll have a microgarden that’s useful, decorative, and different all in one.

Bring the outdoors in: If you love greenery but lack green space, why not bring the garden inside? Add small potted trees to sitting areas. Integrate potted plants into your décor. Fill your foyer with foliage. You may not have much square footage, but you can transform the space you do have into a garden that flows from room to room. Just remember to provide your plants with the right soil and lighting conditions, water regularly … and enjoy!

Is Lack of Space Cramping Your Green Thumb?

If your green thumb is out of joint thanks to limited (or nonexistent) outdoor space, try some out-of-the-yard thinking, and you’ll soon be digging in the dirt. You can garden anywhere if you’re resourceful.

Go vertical: If you’re in an urban setting, take inspiration from the high-rises that surround you. When there’s no room to spread out, go up. Use tiered planters and a trellis to create a living wall or a “room” divider on your balcony. Add wall pockets to grow small plants such as herbs. When you think of your outside walls as garden space, you suddenly have lots of room!

Think outside the window box: Who says plants only grow on prairies and in pots? Create a unique arrangement of washbasins, bowls, cookware, repurposed rain boots, previously loved furniture – nothing’s off limits for the innovative container gardener.

Automate it: If you have neither the space nor the green thumb, this solution may be for you. The recently invented Modgarden is a small indoor farm in a cabinet, and it’s fully automated. You simply fill the water reservoir, add seeds, and wait for your veggies and herbs to grow. Some restaurants in colder climes are trying it to grow off-season produce.

Redefine the fruit basket: Fit a large wicker basket with a plant-friendly container filled with potting soil, and add your favorite herb and edible flower seeds. Soon you’ll have a microgarden that’s useful, decorative, and different all in one.

Bring the outdoors in: If you love greenery but lack green space, why not bring the garden inside? Add small potted trees to sitting areas. Integrate potted plants into your décor. Fill your foyer with foliage. You may not have much square footage, but you can transform the space you do have into a garden that flows from room to room. Just remember to provide your plants with the right soil and lighting conditions, water regularly … and enjoy!

Our Future Homes: Easy Care and Open Plan

Thanks to an exhibition organized by Japanese retailer Muji, we can peek into the home of the future. And according to a recent article in Houzz, we can expect to live with new materials, adaptable spaces, and open-concept floor plans.

The exhibition, House Vision 2, introduced the ideas underlying tomorrow’s homes as seen by companies in the housing industry, architects, and designers. Ten life-sized prototypes offered insight into the way housing may go in the future. Here are a few examples:

  • “Open House with Condensed Core” was a collaboration between architect Shigeru Ban and Lixil, a Japanese building materials manufacturer. Their prototype addressed the limitations of traditional plumbing, which make layout changes difficult. In their vision, the plumbing is installed in the ceiling, making it easier to reconfigure. The house also features glass windows that can swing up and out of the way for a truly indoor-outdoor space.
  • Commissioned by Daito Trust Construction, Sou Fujimoto’s installation explored new types of multi-dwelling residences in his “Rental Space Tower.” It rearranges both private and shared spaces of a typical apartment to reduce the square footage of private zones and maximize public areas, creating new shared amenities like libraries and theater rooms.
  • Airbnb and architect Go Hasegawa teamed up on “Yoshino-sugi Cedar House,” a wooden dwelling that brings a new meaning to house-sharing. It’s part community space, part temporary residence, which is used, maintained, and operated by the community, not a private individual. On the first floor are a meeting space and communal kitchen; upstairs are bookable sleeping quarters for guests.

Finally, it seems we don’t have to bid goodbye to open-concept living just yet; open floor plans were featured in many installations. They’ll just look a little different down the road.

Improvements That Increase Your Home’s Value

This year, if you’re looking to increase the value of your home but are unsure what home improvements to make, think curb appeal.

According to a recent report from Remodeling magazine, curb appeal projects, such as changes to windows, siding, and doors, lead to a higher return on investment (ROI) than interior improvements.

Over the past 30 years, Remodeling has compared the average cost of improvement projects with their value at resale, based on the experience of real estate professionals. The magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report supports the generally held opinion that today’s home buyers, while still enthusiastic about the bells and whistles, want to ensure their homes are structurally sound with all systems functioning efficiently.

Remodeling’s projects include a basement remodel, an entry door that was replaced with 20 gauge steel, and the addition of stone veneer. All of the 29 projects tracked returned on average 64.3 cents per dollar spent.

Among the trends, the higher return of curb appeal projects and projects that required the replacing of windows, doors, etc. Replacement projects generally scored higher than remodeling projects; the ROI of replacement was 74% and of remodels was 63.7%.

As in the previous year, adding loose fill insulation to the attic returned 107.7% and was the only project on the list whose value exceeded its cost. Steel door replacement and addition of stone veneer also paid off, at 90.7% and 89.4% respectively. Interestingly, these are among the cheapest projects, although their costs were up over the previous year.

Those who want to tackle an interior project might do well to consider a basement remodel, providing it’s done well; a high-end basement remodel was perceived as high value, returning 7.4% more than the same project last year, while a mid-range basement remodeling project only increased in value by 3.3% over the previous year.

Something to consider when you’re planning your next home improvement project.

Should You Sell Your Home Yourself?

Despite the prevalence of online tools that can facilitate DIY sales, fewer Americans are choosing to go the route of “for sale by owner” when it comes to selling their homes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), for-sale-by-owner sales represented only 8 percent of 5.25 million real estate transactions in 2015. Why? An economy in recovery, a challenging real estate market, and strict laws and regulations could all have Americans looking for security and peace of mind when it comes to selling their homes.

The for-sale-by-owner approach does have perks. Private sellers can set their own price. They deal with the buyer directly. At the end, they keep the proceeds instead of paying a commission to a Realtor. However, those very same perks have significant drawbacks.

Setting your own price means missing out on the expertise that a real estate agent has when it comes to pricing a home to sell and encouraging multiple bids. You don’t have the know-how that comes with dozens of successful sales. It’s easier for buyers (and their agents) to undercut private sellers, and it’s difficult for sellers to remain neutral about their own property.

Private sellers also miss out on the strategies and industry knowledge provided by an experienced agent. A real estate agent knows how to market a home properly, how to work with other agents, and how to fulfill the obligations and respect the laws of the real estate industry. It’s very easy for private sellers to misstep, costing themselves time and money.

As a seller, you want every advantage available. That means having an agent by your side.

How to Set the Stage for Home Buyers

In a hot market, selling your home may be easy. Selling it for top dollar takes a little more work. To achieve this, staging is the way to go. This is the process of beautifying your home to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.

Many people can’t visualize the possibilities within a room, so staging helps the buyers as they view your home. The goal of staging is to transform your home into an environment so inviting that buyers can imagine themselves living in your space.

Creating this buyer-ready environment takes talent, and it can be a critical step for a fast sale.

What does a stager do?

A good stager improves the interior and sharpens curb appeal as well. Today, most buyers see pictures online before choosing which homes to tour. Staging ensures that yours is seen in the best possible light. It makes your listing stand out from the competition.

While some people actually replace all the furniture, smart staging may mean anything from stripping your home of personal photographs and knick-knacks to cleaning the rugs or polishing floors. You may need to deep-clean bathrooms or clear kitchen counters. The stager may suggest painting everything a warm and inviting – but always neutral – color.

How much does staging cost?

The cost of staging ranges from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, depending on the reputation of the stager, the size of the property, and the quality and quantity of fixes required. The final results can be well worth the investment. If you live in a neighborhood where several homes are listed, staging may mean a quicker sale at a better price.

Can I stage my home myself?

Of course, you can try to stage your home yourself, but it’s hard to be objective about your own things. A fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference – which translates into dollars.

Is the Concept of Neighborliness a Thing of the Past?

Do you trust your neighbors? Results of a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicate that our level of neighborly trust is pretty depressing. Nearly half (48 percent) of the Pew survey respondents reported that they either don’t trust any of their neighbors or trust only a few.

Sadly, these results may have a link to safety concerns. As Suzanne De Vita posts on RISMedia’s Housecall, fewer than 20 percent of people interviewed for the Pew survey said they didn’t feel “at all” safe from crime walking in their neighborhoods at night but actually trusted the people next door. And, perhaps not surprisingly, those in rural areas were more apt to feel safer and trust their neighbors than urban dwellers.

Although most adults believe it’s important for neighbors to look out for each other, today’s neighborhoods are not as tightly knit as they were in the 1940s and ’50s, when neighbors knew one another well. In a related Pew survey, 54 percent of respondents said that they do not hold regular social gatherings with their neighbors. Indeed, today, people are more apt to recognize their neighbors’ cars and pets than the neighboring adults or their kids.

According to social scientists, the way we react and behave toward each other is less civil when trust is low, which is a vicious circle, as this only exacerbates the trust deficit. The problem is fixable, though; neighbors can rebuild community and strengthen civic life (perhaps by harnessing technology to widen their circle of acquaintances) and become more civically involved.

Attention Buyers: It Pays to Think Like Your Seller

Buyers who know how to think like a seller are ahead of the game. They’ll understand a homeowner’s bias; they’ll be more comfortable with negotiating, knowing it’s just another human being on the other side; and best of all, they may even save themselves money – just by being prepared.

Understanding bias

Often pride of ownership outweighs a seller’s objectivity; someone who has lived in the home for a while likely has an attachment to the property that could skew his or her sense of the home’s worth. This also happens when substantial improvements have been made to the property and the seller expects to recoup this investment in the sale price.

Bringing ‘reality’ to the table

Buyers – particularly if they are now or have been sellers themselves – will “get” this. But that’s not to say they’ll agree with the sellers’ valuation. Instead, with the help of their agent (and maybe some effort on the part of the listing agent to bring “reality” to the discussion) they’ll reference area comparables indicating the true market value of those improvements.

Condition savvy

Smart buyers will also know that sellers may attempt to cover up condition problems, and will walk around the foundation or check for evidence of water damage during the Open House.

Despite appearances, the seller does want to end up at the closing table. And he or she will have a good idea of what must be done to get there. The smart buyer will know this and be prepared for some degree of compromise.

Small Nest Egg; Big Dreams? Here’s How to Catch Up

If you’re dreaming of becoming a homeowner, or planning to upsize, you’ll need to tap your savings for a down payment and to support your mortgage application. Are you there yet?

If not, you’re not alone: Most adults over age 55 are behind on savings, according to a survey of 968 respondents conducted by Financial Engines. The survey showed that 68% of adults aged 55 and older have procrastinated when it comes to building a nest egg. And while most agreed that the best age to start saving is 25, many don’t start until 35…and it makes a difference.

The study provides a hypothetical example: This individual saves 6% of a $36,000 salary annually. The nest egg increases by 1.5% a year, due to raises, etc. If the saver begins at age 25, assuming a 3% employer-matching contribution and a 5% annual return, by age 65, he or she will have saved roughly $500,000.

But to reach the same goal when starting at age 35, the saver would have to contribute 12% of his or her income per year.

Making up for lost time isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible, thanks to the power of compounding. And if returns are compounded in a tax-deferred account, the potential income growth is even greater.

If you did get off to a late start, there’s still time. Talk to your advisor, and together you can build a solid savings plan to make your housing dreams come true. Just perhaps a bit later then you’d like.

Preparing to Sell? Consider the Tax Implications

If you’re planning to sell your home, here are some things you should know about taxes and the impact they may have on your decision to sell:

Primary residence: When you sell your primary residence, you can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains from your taxes. For married couples who file jointly, the exclusion is $500,000. Unmarried people who sell a jointly owned home can individually exclude up to $250,000, if each meets the criteria.

Criteria: You must have owned and lived in the home as your principal residence for at least two of the five years prior to the sale. And you cannot have sold a home in which you excluded capital gains for two years before selling your current home.

However, if you don’t meet these criteria, you still may be entitled to a whole or partial tax break in certain circumstances, such as divorce, change in employment status, change in health condition, or other unforeseen situations such as a death in the family.

What counts? When calculating the gain from sale of your home, you may deduct, among other things, closing costs (such as prepaid interest or points and your share of prorated property taxes) and selling costs (including real estate commissions; title insurance; legal, escrow and inspection fees; and advertising and administrative costs)

For more information, see IRS Publication 523 (IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home). Also note: This information is not meant to replace advice from a professional real estate agent or a certified tax advisor or financial consultant.

Easy and Affordable: “Going Green” at Home

Green living isn’t limited to big projects like installing solar panels. There are simple and affordable ways to go green. The best part: Green living may also save money and make your home more comfortable. Here are three suggestions:

Use green products: All that seems “green” isn’t necessarily so; “green labels” aren’t regulated. So always check ingredients of cleaning products, paint, sealers, and even windows before buying. Many well-known manufacturers now offer green products (particularly house paint) with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some VOCs can be damaging to human health.

Reduce reuse recycle: It’s not just a slogan; there are lots of ways to make easy, everyday changes that can have an impact:

Wherever possible, purchase products and materials made from recycled materials.

Use reusables, such as washable cups and plates, instead of paper or foam, and washable rags instead of paper towels. Also reuse-don’t toss-plastic containers, glass jars, and paper or plastic bags.

Add compostable leftovers from meals to a compost pile for richer soil and a reduction in food waste. But check what’s compostable and what isn’t. Try:Sustainable Baby Steps

Find home products, like flooring, porch posts, countertops, cabinets, doors, and light fixtures at salvage yards and Habitat for Humanity ReStores.

Insulate and energize: Green homes are energy-efficient, and there are many energy savvy products available now to make your home green-many of which can be installed with tools you already have. Consider:

  • Having boilers/furnaces professionally cleaned.
  • Insulating water heaters and hot water pipes.
  • Looking for Energy Star labels on appliances and electronics, such as TVs.
  • Installing energy-efficient lighting and programmable thermostats.
  • Checking attics and home exteriors for leaks and torn insulation.

Home Sweet Home Meets 21st Century Design Trends

According to a recent Houzz survey, in which 1,700 people shared their home decorating dreams, desires, and intentions, home decorating decisions are now driven by age and gender. Here are a couple of salient survey results:

  • Seventeen percent of respondents under 35 expressed a preference for wallpaper, compared to only 3 percent of people over 65.
  • A quarter of the men surveyed said that trends influence their decorating decisions; and, maybe surprisingly, only 14 percent of women admit to being “trendistas.”

But there’s a disconnect here: Houzz editorial staff writer Mitchell Parker suggests that men aren’t trend followers because they want to be fashionable; more likely, they’re thinking about their home’s future resale value.

Of survey respondents who plan on hiring an interior designer or home decorator, roughly 12 percent said they would use online e design services rather than consult a professional directly.

The Houzz survey also revealed a clear trend toward loungier bedrooms, with 60 percent of respondents indicating that they plan to add seating in their “master suite,” 52 percent are looking to add a TV, and 8 percent are considering adding luxuries such as a fireplace or even a mini fridge.

In fact, TVs have become necessities just about everywhere; many people consider them essential in guest rooms, kids’ bedrooms, and even in formal dining rooms too. The exception is younger homeowners, who are ditching the traditional TV to watch programs on their devices.

You Can Compete (and Maybe Win) vs. an All-Cash Offer

Depending on location and market dynamics, cash buyers (those not requiring a mortgage) currently account for a third of all home purchases, according to CoreLogic, a firm that tracks real-estate trends.

As a buyer who needs a mortgage to purchase a home, it will be tough for you to compete against an all-cash offer, particularly in a market where multiple offers abound. From a seller’s perspective, an all-cash offer eliminates both hassle and risk, as do offers without appraisal or financial conditions, which, in a hot real estate market, can also reduce your chances of success. There are, however, some ways to make your offer more competitive. For example:

  • Try to avoid multiple-offer situations
  • Ask your agent to help you find off-market properties
  • Consider waiving the financing contingency clause, which allows you to cancel the contract if you don’t receive loan approval, or if an appraisal comes in below expected value
  • Increase your down payment

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, securing a pre-underwriting letter may make your offer more attractive. Unlike a pre-approval letter, this one has teeth. It contains deep income and asset documentation, which sellers like to see, as it means you are a serious buyer, plus it may move you through the approval process more quickly.

Many cash buyers are overly confident and therefore submit unrealistic, low-ball offers. So, while cash is worth a 2 percent to 3 percent discount, sellers annoyed by the low bid might just accept yours instead.