Home Furnishings Trend: Brass is Back

After years of chrome, stainless steel, and nickel being the shining stars of interior metals, brass is back and starting to steal the show.

As with many home furnishings trends, the comeback was inspired by what’s occurring in fashion. In this case, gold and rose gold watches became influencers a few years ago, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal Design, who thinks that home furnishings styles tend to be cyclical. Now he’s adding small brass details to rooms in the same way a gold watch might peek out of a shirt cuff.

Using brass now is an easy, affordable way for homeowners to customize and stay on trend.  “Many people want a warmer look, which is also visible in fabrics as warmer colors return,” Segal says.

Erin Imhof, showroom supervisor at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Lansdale, Pa., has noted an increase in brass finishes. She attributes it to how they complement a wide range of colors and other finishes. “Many of today’s top color trends for kitchens and bathrooms, including all-white, blue, and black, pair beautifully with brass fixtures,” she says.

Others concur that brass is a universal mixer. “Our designers like to integrate brass into their designs, whether it’s an accent like a decorative bowl, object of art, light fixture, or metal base on an end table,” says Julie Sprouse, design sales manager at Ethan Allen, the home furnishings chain based in Danbury, Conn.

Caitie Smithe, a design coordinator and stylist at the Walter E. Smithe Furniture + Design retailer based in Itasca, Ill., also considers brass a material that can be used throughout a home, including light fixtures, hardware, and even light switches and vent controls. Other good places to use brass include bathroom hardware, plumbing fixtures such as sinks, and accessory details like candleholders or picture frames.

Here are five tips for using brass that you can pass on to your clients.

1. Use sparingly. Brass works best when used in small doses. Too much can create a “too matchy-matchy” look, according to Smithe. Overuse can make it start to look cheap, says Segal. “Moderation is key,” he says.

2. Mix finishes. Brass appears more timeless rather than trendy when it’s matte, brushed, or aged, which helps soften its sheen, Segal says. But be careful, Smithe says, when mixing brasses in a single space from different manufacturers. “There is a huge range in color and brightness. Some take on a bright yellow color while others can be more of an aged gold,” she says.

3. Combine warm metal colors. Brass, gold, and bronze can work well together since they share similar warm values versus shiny nickel, which leans toward the colder side, says Sprouse.

4. Mix metals. Some designers also think brass, satin, brushed nickel, stainless steel, and oil-rubbed bronze can be used together. But Imhoff still offers some caution. “Go with similar warm, muted undertones for some consistency,” she says. Chicago designer Summer Thornton likes mixing metals, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms where she might use brass, nickel, and steel combinations.

5. Consider longevity. How long brass will stay fashionable is unknown. When it becomes too ubiquitous in retail stores, shelter magazines, and on design websites, it may be time to move on. The good news is that brass touches are easy to add in and switch out.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

Home Offices Expected to Become Essential for Buyers

As more people shift to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate professionals predict that a home office will become a hot amenity for the long term. Fifty-five percent of homeowners and practitioners recently surveyed by remodeling website Houzz say they have a home office. A quarter of respondents say they work from their dining room or kitchen table, and 11% work from their sofa.

Respondents report that the top challenges of a sudden shift to working from home include finding a private or quiet location away from high-traffic living areas (30%), securing a computer with a strong Wi-Fi connection (25%), and creating a comfortable work space (25%).

Houzz U.S. editor Anne Colby offers tips for setting up an efficient work space at home, including:

  • Pick the right location. If you don’t have a dedicated space for a home office, consider transforming a spare bedroom, dining room, den, or even a backyard shed. Consider whether you want to be near family while working or need a quieter corner, Colby suggests.
  • Pay attention to the lighting. Diffuse the lights and position fixtures just right to avoid eyestrain from glares on the computer screen, Colby says. Layer lights from multiple sources—like an overhead light, desktop light, and natural light—to create the right ambiance.
  • Make it ergonomic. Keep your home office efficient and safe with the arrangement of your chair, desk, computer, keyboard, mouse, and phone. Make sure you’re comfortable. It will keep you working more productive and also prevent repetitive injuries, Colby says.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

Washington State NWMLS Market Snapshot for March 2020

Like many sectors of the economy, residential real estate is experiencing disruption and uncertainty just when the vigorous spring market was ramping up. Not surprisingly, the March activity report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which covers 23 counties across Washington state, was mixed as guidelines affecting how brokers conduct business evolved.

Housing activity around Western Washington in March showed the volume of new listings added during the month surpassed February’s total, as did both pending and closed sales. Year-over-year prices increased. However, commenting on the latest report, Northwest MLS brokers emphasized the numbers do not yet reflect the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on local real estate.

Despite limitations, Northwest MLS brokers added 10,291 new listings to the database during March, outgaining February by 2,505 listings (up 31.2%) and nearly matching the year-ago number (10,516). At the end of March, there were 9,418 active listings in the NWMLS database, a drop of nearly 22% from twelve months ago, but a gain of 23% from February. Area-wide, there was 1.4 months of supply, but it ranged from less than a month in both Snohomish and Thurston counties to more than nine months in San Juan County.

Pending sales (mutually accepted offers) slowed during March, dropping about 13.5% from a year ago. Brokers reported 8,880 pending sales during the month, which compares to 10,261 for the same month a year ago. Compared to February, pendings rose by 525 transactions.

Median prices on last month’s completed transactions rose 10.3% from a year ago, increasing from 415,950 to $458,900. Only two counties (San Juan and Ferry) reported year-over-year price drops. Northwest MLS representatives were generally upbeat about the adjustments being made and the prospects for recovering as brokers navigate through the crisis, although one broker noted the high-end market has been affected in a negative way.

Source: NWMLS 4/6/20

What Buying a Home Looks Like This Spring

Here’s how agents are helping clients adapt to homebuying under social distancing orders.

Streets may be quieter these days and open houses are on pause, but as people retreat inside to do their part in keeping the community healthy, they’re bringing their home search with them.

“Our online traffic is way up, more people are at home and have more time to look at properties,” says Mark Pietig, an agent with RE/MAX Lakes Area Realty in Nisswa, Minnesota. “We have not seen a slowdown in sales at all.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. real estate market showed every indication of heading into another strong spring market. Many buyers who had spent the previous months or even years preparing to buy a home this spring probably share the same question: What now?

According to Pietig, there’s still opportunity to buy a home this spring or summer, but working with an experienced agent has never been more important.

“We are fully capable of adapting to a new environment,” Pietig says. “Accommodating a new style or approach is something experienced agents, like RE/MAX agents, are great at.”

Preparing for Every Situation

A real estate transaction has always been complex – and even more so today. Many buyers are wondering how they can possibly plan for anything in 30 days, let alone closing on a home, when even the world’s top health experts are unable to predict when a sense of normalcy will return. The key for agents and other professionals is to adjust their business accordingly.

Agents are taking this into account, and while Pietig says he currently hasn’t seen a change in buyer timelines, steps are being taken to prepare for longer contingencies.

“As long as you’re working with quality agents, you’re not going to see any delays,” Pietig says. “If anything, there’s more collaboration between buyers, sellers and their agents than ever. Everybody truly has to work together to get a transaction done.”

John Manning, Owner and Managing Broker of RE/MAX on Market in Seattle, says the local MLS (the primary listing service of homes) has taken it a step further to help protect clients from the unexpected.

“They took an extraordinary step – they put together a ‘force majeure’ addendum to include in contracts.”

A ’force majeure’ is a legal term often referred to as, quite frankly, “an act of God.”

“It essentially allows our contracts to stretch as a result of unforeseen circumstances,” Manning says. “Let’s say we have a closing next Tuesday and we find the county recording office is closed because of staffing. This addendum allows for an extension of the closing, so we don’t have people refusing to leave their homes or ending up homeless because they can’t move into their new property.”

Opening Up Opportunities in a Competitive Market

Even with contingency plans in place, many buyers are putting their plans on hold while they wait out what the next few weeks could bring. At the same time, sellers are continuing to list their homes.

“We’ve been seeing more of an increase in new listings over the past few weeks, which is providing more opportunities for buyers,” Pietig says.

But Pietig doesn’t expect this to be a permanent reprieve.

“In the grand scheme, this isn’t going to last forever,” Pietig says. “You could remove a third of the buyers from our market here, and we would still have a seller’s market. Right now we have pent-up demand from earlier this spring with some people deciding to hold off until they’re comfortable again.  This will mean increased competition down the road.”

For the next few weeks, current buyers could find more options available in their price range, and score a deal while others are sitting out.

Buying in a Time of Uncertainty

One thing has not changed: It’s impossible to predict what the real estate market is going to do next. But that hasn’t stopped buyers from trying. Manning says over the course of his career, he’s found that homebuyers tend to move in groups.

“What tends to happen is buyers get spooked and they all rush out together, and they all wait together,” Manning says. “They say they’re going to buy at the bottom – but they don’t know where the bottom is.”

Once prices appear to be moving up, all the buyers that were on the sidelines rush back in, Manning explains. Competition – and home prices – end up right back where they started.

Pietig advises homebuyers to focus on their personal goals of wanting to own a home, and not worry about trying to time the market.

“If we look at things day to day, it’s not going to feel like the right time to buy,” Pietig says. “I would advise people to take a long-term approach and don’t get caught up with the short-term mindset.”

More importantly, stay positive as you navigate the new process with an agent.

“I know right now people could use a little nudge saying that it’s going to be okay,” Pietig says. “If you wake up each day and focus on the good in life, you’re going to be fine.”

Source: ReMax.com

A few home upgrades you can do without leaving

With the uncertainty in the world at the moment, you’re likely spending a lot more time than usual in your home. Sharing smaller spaces with family 24 hours per day might be emphasizing areas of mess or chaos around the house. Use this time to do some much needed, always dreaded home maintenance. But no need to change out of your house slippers – all of these upgrades can be done using what you already own.

  1. Spring cleaning

While staying safe indoors, there’s really no way to avoid spring cleaning this year. And spending more time at home may reveal how much unnecessary clutter is taking up space. It’s the perfect time to purge clothes, knick-knacks, papers, books, etc. Give your closets and drawers a proper cleanse and prepare boxes or bags of clothes to donate in a few weeks.

On top of typical surface sanitation, deep clean areas in your home that need some extra TLC. Scrub the shower grout, make the windows shine, and wipe down the inside of cupboards that haven’t seen daylight in years – just to name a few.

  1. Paint touch-ups

Did you hold onto the can of paint you used on your home’s interior? If so, unearth it from the depths of the garage and touch up spots like baseboards, wall corners, nail holes, or anywhere else that has been subject to wear and tear.

  1. Rearrange furniture and decor

Experiment with the layout of your furniture and décor. Chances are, your living room is positioned the same way it was when you first moved in. Give your space a fresh new look by moving around wall hangings and art, and even rearranging staple furniture pieces.

Deconstruct – then reconstruct – your bookshelf. Remove every book, then rearrange them in an updated, creative way. Try stacking some shelves with books vertically and some horizontally. Bookshelves also function as a display case for treasured keepsakes, lamps, photo frames and decorative candles.

  1. Change smoke detector batteries

This is a tedious task – but it’s better than being awakened at dawn to the screech of the smoke alarm on low-battery. Use this time to complete less-fun chores like swapping out smoke alarm batteries. If you also have spare bulbs on hand, replace light bulbs that have been dimming, flickering or even burnt out.

  1. Keep track of any items you’ll want to fix later

Walk around the house and inspect each room for future fixes to complete at a later date when it’s easier to get to your local hardware store. Create a checklist, including tasks like: steam clean the carpet, repaint the front door and swap out cabinet hardware.

Great News for the Real Estate Industry in WA

On Saturday, March 28th, in cooperation with Washington Realtors, Governor Inslee agreed to certain modifications to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order for the real estate industry.  Due to the fact that the vast majority of real estate brokers are abiding by the Order, several of the original restrictions on in-person activities have been revised – provided that strict protocols for social distancing are implemented.

The protocols that must be followed for the permitted in-person activities include:

  • In-person activities must be by appointment only
  • No more than two people, including the broker, may be at the property at any one time
  • Those two persons must strictly follow social distancing guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.

The revisions to the Order are limited to allow the following in-person activities, provided the above protocols are followed:

  • Previews and showings of listings by appointment only
  • Listing presentations, photography, and creating virtual tours for new listings [Note: professional photographers are not considered “essential,” thus all photos must be taken by the broker or seller]
  • Inspections for pending transactions
  • Appraisals for pending transactions
  • Buyer “walk-throughs” for pending transactions prior to closing
  • Providing keys to buyers at closing

The Order strictly prohibits all other real estate brokerage services that are not conducted remotely from the broker’s home. Also, please note that staging and moving services are not considered essential and also remain prohibited by the Order.

Source: NWMLS 3/28/20

RE/MAX National Housing Report for February 2020

Representing the last full month before the coronavirus became a global pandemic, February saw the third consecutive month of year-over-year increases in U.S. home sales – a streak not seen since 2015. At the same time, inventory across the report’s 53 metro markets plunged 15.8%, marking the fourth successive month of double-digit percentage, year-over-year declines.

Before the coronavirus struck the U.S. on a large scale, home sales in February – which enjoyed an extra weekend day for Leap Year – increased 7.5% year over year, following strong increases of 13.5% and 10.5% in December and January. The previous streak of increasing year-over-year sales of three months or longer began in December 2015 and continued seven months into June 2016. That was also a period of large inventory declines, like the current stretch of year-over-year drops in inventory that is now at eight months.

February’s Median Sales Price of $260,000 posted a year-over-year increase of 7.9% – the 14th consecutive month where home prices have shot up.

In the nearly 12-year history of the report, three February records were set last month:

·       Fewest Months Supply of Inventory: 2.8

·       Fewest Days on Market: 60

·       Highest Median Sales Price: $260,000

Read the full article

WA State Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order

Effective midnight on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, real estate brokers in the state of Washington are limited to providing services to their clients remotely from their homes using technology for a minimum of 2 weeks. You may read the document NWMLS created that provides details of how we’re effected. If you’re planning to buy or sell real estate soon, please reach out to me and I’ll be happy to explain what we may do to help you prepare to be ready when the order is lifted.

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Entryway Staging Essentials

Tips for staging a stellar entryway that will leave home buyers wanting to see more:

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression – and neither does your house. When potential buyers open the front door, they form an opinion within seconds. And it’s all based on what’s in plain sight. Whether the space is grand or petite, entryway staging can influence a client’s perspective on the entire house.

To avoid a negative first impression that sends potential buyers running out the door, consider these tips for staging a stellar entryway that hints at what’s to come during the showing.

1. De-Clutter

Touring a messy home won’t give potential buyers the opportunity to visualize their fresh start. After all, they’ll want to imagine their own shoes by the door without tripping over yours. Start by removing clutter from primary surface areas, including the floor, shoe rack, and table or hutch. Ensure that items like receipts, dog leashes and mail are out of sight. If you have an entryway closet, try to eliminate and relocate 50% of its contents (like coats) for showings. A half-empty closet will appear larger and more spacious.

Leaving a few garments behind looks polished while still being realistic. For example, try hanging a simple brown tote bag on a hook by the door. Consider which of your practical pieces look best on display and keep things very minimal.

2. Maximize Storage

There are plenty of multi-functional pieces available that serve as stylish furniture while providing sneaky storage. If you have a little square footage to spare, consider a bench with built-in storage – it provides a place to sit without wasting the space below and allows more room to accessorize. Additionally, look for pieces like this hutch designed specifically for shoes that still has ample surface area to serve as your main entryway table.

For truly tiny spaces, opt for creative storage alternatives like floating shelves and wall hooks. These highly popular, functional options still provide room for on-the-go essentials without usurping the limited floor space.

3. Refine Décor

A beautiful entryway will operate as a stand-alone space rather than an afterthought. Adding a cozy rug or runner – separate from the functional doormat – can be the framework to define an entryway’s space.

Make the transition from outside to inside more gradual with the addition of houseplants. Plants promote tranquility and fill space during showings after you have minimized personal décor, like family photos. While streamlining clutter is crucial, the space can’t end up looking neglected – a potted leafy plant, like a snake plant, atop your entryway table adds a pop of natural color, while preventing the surface from looking scarce. If you’re known to be an unsuccessful plant-parent, consider a realistic-looking artificial plant. Keep the space refined by having a small basket, jar or ceramic dish on the entryway table as the go-to spot for keys and other pocket-dwelling items.

4. Keep It Clean

Even the most masterful staging won’t distract from dusty surfaces and muddy floors. Regular cleaning of the floor, front door and tabletop will keep your entryway or mudroom from looking like a genuine “mud” room. If your house is on the market during rainy or snowy seasons, consider getting a doormat that will help prevent dirty shoes from stepping foot through the door.

Washington State NWMLS Market Snapshot for February 2020

Member-brokers added 7,786 new listings to the MLS database during February. That was a jump of nearly 25% from the same month a year ago when record snow hindered activity. Compared to January, last month’s inventory improved by 1,269 listings for a gain of nearly 19.5%.

February’s new listings (7,786) were the highest since October, but they fell short of matching demand. Brokers reported 8,355 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) for a YOY gain of more than 21%.

Inventory remained tight. At month end, there were 7,655 active listings in the 23 counties included in the MLS report. That was a 32% drop from the year ago total of 11,275. All but two counties (San Juan and Douglas) reported declines. Thurston County had the largest year-over-year drop, at 45.7%, followed by Snohomish (down 42%) and King (down 40.7%).

There is only 1.45 months of supply area-wide, according to Northwest MLS data. It is even more sparse in the four-county Puget Sound region where there is barely over a month’s supply (1.1 months). Snohomish and Thurston counties had the distinction of having the sparsest inventory, with both areas reporting less than a month (0.93) of supply.

The Northwest MLS report shows the median price system-wide for the 5,265 homes and condos that sold in February rose 9.34% from a year ago, from $407,000 to $445,000. Thirteen counties reported double-digit increases, while four counties had price drops.

Source: NWMLS 3/5/20