Last Week’s Economic News in Review

January 27, 2021
Existing home sales grew, as did housing starts. Meanwhile, layoffs declined, but remained at extremely high levels. 

Existing Home Sales 

Existing home sales rebounded in December with transactions of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops ticking up 0.7 percent from November to an annual rate of 6.76 million, according to last week’s report from the National Association of Realtors. 

“Home sales rose in December, and for 2020 as a whole, we saw sales perform at their highest levels since 2006, despite the pandemic,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted in comments accompanying NAR’s report. “What’s even better is that this momentum is likely to carry into the new year, with more buyers expected to enter the market.” 

Looking at price, December’s median price for all existing homes of all types was $309,800, which marked a 12.9 percent increase over December 2019’s median price of $274,500. This was the 106th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. 

The number of existing homes for sale at the end of December dropped to 1.07 million units, which represented a 1.9-month supply at December’s sales pace. December’s inventory was 16.4 percent below November’s and 23 percent below December 2019’s supply of 1.39 million units.
Housing Starts 

Starts on the construction of private housing in December reached an annual rate of 1.669 million, which was 5.8 percent over November’s rate of 1.578 million, according to last week’s report from the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development. When compared to the same period a year ago, this was 5.2 percent higher than December 2019’s pace of 1.587 million. 

Most notably, starts on single-family homes shot up to an annual rate of 1.338 million in December, which was 12 percent over November’s pace of 1.195 million. This was the highest increase since 2006 and further proof that while COVID-19 caused pandemonium in other sectors of the U.S. economy, housing remained surprisingly robust. 

“We expect single-family construction to move up 9 percent in 2021 – a much-needed relief valve for homebuyers,” Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com, remarked to HousingWire. “While buyer demand has slowed since December, it remains notably higher than one year ago, giving builders a strong incentive to keep building.” 

Stars on buildings with five units or more dropped to a rate of 312,000 in December, which was 15.2 percent lower than November’s rate of 368,000.
Initial Jobless Claims 

First-time claims for unemployment benefits filed by recently unemployed Americans during the week ending January 16th declined to 900,000, which was 26,000 claims down from the preceding week’s total of 926,000, the Employment and Training Administration reported last week. 

The four-week moving average – regarded as a more reliable measure of jobless claims – grew to 848,000 claims, which was 23,500 claims over the previous week’s average of 824,500. 

To give an idea of how bad layoffs continue to be, initial claims for this same period a year ago totaled just 282,000 (consistent weekly claims below 300,000 indicates a growing job market). 

“It’s staggering, and it was worse than I thought,” Diane Swonk, chief economist for accounting firm Grant Thornton, told the New York Times. “This makes stimulus more urgent.”
This week, we can expect::Tuesday – Consumer confidence for January from The Conference Board.Wednesday – Durable goods order for December from the Census Bureaus.Thursday – Initial jobless claims for last week from the Employment and Training Administration; new home sales for December from the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development; fourth-quarter GDP from the Bureau of Economic Analysis; leading economic indicators for December from The Conference Board.Friday – Personal incomes and spending for December from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Thank you, Randy Tickle!
Officer, Mortgage Banker
Office: (303) 318-6066
tickle@bokf.com

Oh, by the way ®…if you know of someone who would appreciate the level of service I provide, please call me with their name and contact information. I’ll be happy to follow up and take great care of them.

Design Trends to Try in 2021

January 12, 2021

ENGEL & VÖLKERS

In 2020, people spent on average 10-20% more time at home than in previous years.  As people find themselves at home more, many have invested in home improvement projects, new furnishings, and updated decor. The beginning of 2021 is the perfect time for homeowners to update the interior design of their homes and energize their spaces in preparation for another unprecedented year. From Cottagecore to Industrial Stylings, here are some of our favorite trending design styles to try to make your home more comfortable, stylish, and easy to manage this coming year.

Industrial Style Decor

According to Kobi Karp, principal designer and founder of Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design, industrial style decor is expected to rise in popularity this year. Industrial style decor is defined by a bold contrast between modern luxuries and timeworn, traditional design elements. Inspired by the lofty look of warehouses, industrial design is often marked by exposed stonework, high ceilings, wood and metal furnishings, and the use of salvaged or recycled materials. Minimalist decor and neutral colors seamlessly blend these contrasting elements to make a unique space that inspires creativity. To play into this style, focus on spotlighting exposed piping and brickwork and incorporate wood and metal as primary materials while placing vintage furniture carefully to highlight open spaces.

Cottagecore Style Decor

With the uncertainty that 2020 brought upon us all, many are seeking comfort in the idyllic rural atmosphere of Cottagecore style homes, distinguished by vintage character details that invoke nostalgia for simpler times. Cottagecore usually works best in homes that already have unique features like exposed beams, original floorboards, or paneled walls. These architectural features are combined with a muted pastel palette and carefully curated antiques and vintage items to design a home that celebrates pastoral life. The best place to start when transforming your home into the perfect Cottagecore hideaway is by re-flooring with warm, weathered-looking wood that creates a peaceful ambiance. Choose rustic furniture pieces made of natural materials and antiques to build on this atmosphere. Dried flowers, floral patterns, and soft cotton/wool fabrics tie together the room into a cozy oasis free from the bustle of modern life. 

Multipurpose Spaces

As COVID-19 has significantly increased rates of remote work and virtual learning, makeshift home offices and classrooms have become a necessity in many homes. With limited space, many homeowners have been reinventing rooms to serve more than one purpose. When creating a functional and organized multipurpose room, it’s essential homeowners take advantage of limited space. L-shaped furniture or shelving units are an easy way to store items in previously unused space and open up the rest of the room. Expanding vertically by using walls for storage will also increase the square footage available in a multipurpose room. 

Durable and Easy to Clean Materials

COVID-19 has also emphasized the importance of cleanly and healthy practices in the home to prevent the spread of germs. Designers predict that in 2021 there will be a resurgence of easy-to-clean materials such as glass and metal to make homeowner’s increased cleaning habits less time-consuming. Homeowners are also more likely to invest in antimicrobial materials like linoleum flooring or materials like stainless steel that can be cleaned with just soap and water. Further, kid-friendly and durable materials designed to resist stains are predicted to become even more popular as remote learning causes children to spend more time at home than ever before. As the pandemic continues into 2021, the increased investment in these materials is unlikely to change. 

Natural Materials

Natural materials saw a renewed interest in 2020 which will more than likely continue well into 2021. Designers have predicted that wood will be the most sought after material this coming year. Jute, leather, and ceramic will retain their popularity as well. When choosing what natural materials to use, reflect on your own personal style, and select materials you identify with most. Using wood furniture or wood accents is the easiest way to incorporate natural materials. Choosing marble or stone as primary materials helps to create a more luxurious atmosphere that still highlights the natural beauty of the material. Add depth and texture to any room simply by layering the natural finishes of different materials and adding live plants to bring nature indoors.

HOW TO FIND CHEAP OR FREE KITCHEN CABINETS

🌟 Remodeling your kitchen? 👍 Kitchen cabinets can be expensive, but here are several ways to find cheap – or even free – kitchen cabinets.

REPLACE YOUR KITCHEN CABINETS ON THE CHEAP

When remodeling a kitchen, as much as a third to half of your budget can be spent on buying new kitchen cabinets. While the cabinets make up a big part of any kitchen, it needn’t cost an arm and a leg to replace them. 

Below, we let you in on a well-kept secret: several ways to find cheap – and even free – kitchen cabinets!

CHEAP AND FREE KITCHEN CABINETS FROM LOCAL GROUPS AND/OR LISTS

The Internet makes it very easy to connect with other like-minded people in your area, and many homeowners doing remodels use the internet to advertise gently used items like furniture, clothing – and yes – kitchen cabinets. 

The downside to this kind of shopping, however, is that competition can be fierce. Everyone likes to get something for nothing, so if you’re lucky enough to find cheap or free kitchen cabinets online, you must move fast. Some good places to look for cabinets include Facebook local groups, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. Check to see if your area has a Buy Nothing Initiative as this limits the advertising area to just your local area, which can lessen competition. 

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORE

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a great place to find kitchen cabinets on the cheap. With hundreds of stores nationwide, there’s probably a ReStore near you, and because kitchen cabinets take up a lot of precious space, you’re likely to find them at jaw-droppingly low prices. 

COMMERCIAL SALVAGE YARDS

Commercial salvage yards are where gently used pieces of houses go to find new forever homes. From bathtubs, countertops, and flooring to sinks, mirrors, and kitchen cabinets, you can find just about any type of home element you need there. Be aware, though, that although the prices are cheaper than buying new, you’ll pay a higher price at a commercial salvage yard than the other methods discussed here as selling used home elements is what they do to earn a living. 

IKEA

If you’re the DIY type, you may want to make a trip to your local Ikea store for kitchen cabinets. Ikea kitchen cabinets come flat-packed and ready to assemble, which is easy to do. They come in a variety of designs and color choices, and they are surprisingly good quality for the price. 

SHOWROOM DISPLAY CABINETS

If you’re patient and take the time to notice, you might find showroom display cabinets on sale at a discounted price. Display cabinets are designed to give you an idea of what a kitchen full of said cabinets might look and function like. They are often packed with extras like bread boxes, slide-out spice racks, etc. to entice buyers to spend more. If a certain model becomes discontinued, its display model usually goes on sale at an extremely discounted price. If you’re not against cabinets that others have touched and used for months, this is a great way to save a lot of money on your kitchen remodel.

HOW TO MAKE A TRENDIER GRAY KITCHEN

💡 Looking for a fresh, new look for your kitchen?👍 Take a look at the suggestions for using gray. Once thought to be a drab, boring color, gray is the perfect choice for any modern kitchen.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR USING GRAY IN YOUR KITCHEN

Choosing a color for your kitchen can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many color combinations that would work, but when you’re looking for something a little different, a little exciting, the typical white kitchen just won’t do. 

If you’re looking for a fresh vibe in your kitchen, consider incorporating gray. Gray cabinetry combined with white accents and other color combinations works well in nearly any kitchen design. Once thought to be a boring, drab color, gray is the new white, and here are a few ideas for using it in your kitchen. 

MIX AND MATCH GRAY AND WHITE CABINETS

Gray doesn’t have to be boring, safe, or drab, especially when you mix and match it with white to create a gentle contrast. Try painting all your cabinets gray and then installing a white countertop. Or, another option is to paint the lower cabinets gray and the upper wall cabinets white. Either look is fresh, contrasting, and exciting. 

PAIR GRAY WITH WARM COLORS

The kitchen is supposed to give off a warm and inviting vibe, but gray can be somewhat cold, so try pairing it with warm textures and colors like wood and wood accents, red, yellow, and gold. 

A good rule of thumb to remember is:

1. Darker shades of gray work well in modern kitchen designs

2. Gray and white combinations are well-suited for minimalist kitchen design

Gray can be an extremely fun and exciting color in the kitchen, as is evident by its popularity in home décor these days. Whether you’re remodeling your kitchen or building a new home, consider using gray as one of the colors as it is anything but drab and boring.

5 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE SELLING YOUR FIRST HOME

🏠 Putting your house up for sale? ⭐ Here are a few tips to help you get the most money out of your home.

MAXIMIZE YOUR HOME’S SELLING POTENTIAL

So, you’ve decided it’s time to sell your house. What an exciting, and often overwhelming, time. Selling a home takes time and effort, from running a successful open house to bringing in serious offers, you’ll need to stay on top of things. Below, I’ve put together a few tips to help you with the selling process, so you get the best deal possible when selling your first home. 

1. DON’T FORGO THE REAL ESTATE AGENT – ME

Although it’s tempting to not hire a real estate agent when selling your home, resist the temptation. A local agent knows your neighborhood inside and out. I know the other homes for sale in the area and what yours is up against. Furthermore, I will handle all the hard work, from running the open houses to finding potential buyers, which can take a lot of stress off the table for you. 

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

The Internet is an important tool when selling your home. There is a lot of information at your fingertips including the going prices for other homes in the neighborhood, average time on the market and current inventory in your price range.

3. DON’T LET EMOTIONS GET IN THE WAY

Without a doubt, selling a home is an emotional event, but emotions have no place in the home selling process. That’s why it’s best to leave it up to the professionals (me and my team) to handle as much of the sale of your home as possible. After all, I have no sentimental ties to the property, and getting the highest dollar in the sale is my job. It’s just another day at the office for a real estate agent, so let me do what I love to do…. Take care of YOU!

4. SPRUCE UP THE PLACE

First impressions are everything, so make sure the outside of your home looks tidy and welcoming. Keep the grass mowed, pressure wash the outside of your home, and place plants and flowers outside the front entrance to make it appear as if buyers are entering a warm and welcoming home. 

On the inside of your home, give the walls a fresh coat of paint and get rid of any clutter to create a blank slate that interested buyers can use to picture themselves and their belongings in your home. 

5. STAGING – IT’S A GOOD THING!

Creating a blank canvas inside your home doesn’t mean it should be empty, however. If you’ve already moved your things to a new location, consider adding a few pieces back in for staging. Staging a home can help your home sell up to 80 percent faster and for as much as 20 percent more money. 

If you’re selling a home for the first time, take the tips above into consideration. They will help you get the most out of the home selling process. And, of course, call me!

5 HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS TO DO BEFORE LISTING YOUR HOME

HOME IMPROVEMENTS TO MAKE BEFORE LISTING YOUR HOME

If you’re like most homeowners, you want to get the most money when you sell your home. To do that, you need to put some effort forth to make your home as appealing as possible to potential buyers. Here is a list of five important home improvement projects you should make before listing your home. 

1. UP YOUR HOME’S CURB APPEAL

First impressions are everything, so the first thing you should do is up the curb appeal of your home. Give the exterior a fresh coat of paint, trim the hedges, keep the grass mowed, and power wash wooden fences. Give potential buyers a reason to want to come inside for a closer look. 

2. GIVE THE INTERIOR A NEUTRAL, BLANK SLATE

When selling your home, you want potential buyers to be able to picture their belongings in your home. To make this easier, you should create a blank slate that enables them to use their imagination. 

Give the walls a fresh coat of paint using neutral tones such as gray, beige, and white. The nice thing about light, soft neutral colors is they also make rooms appear larger, too. 

3. UPDATE LIGHTING FIXTURES

If the light fixtures in your home haven’t been updated since the 1980s, it’s time to do it now. Take a look at Pinterest for trendy inspiration and replace those old light fixtures with something modern and fun. 

4. GIVE FLOORING NEW LIFE

Your home’s floors make a big statement, so if yours is dingy, pet-stained, or otherwise unattractive, make it a point to replace it with something warm, shiny, and inviting. 

Dark-stained hardwood floors are always a plus, but there are many laminate flooring options that are just as beautiful and more cost-effective. Just be sure to allot more of your flooring budget to high-traffic areas such as the kitchen and living room to ensure durability and beauty. 

5. GET RID OF POPCORN CEILINGS

Popcorn ceilings have exceeded their appeal, so if your home has any, be sure to get rid of them before putting it on the market. While no one wants to spend an entire afternoon scraping the ceiling, the result is so worth the effort. Not only will the ceiling look better, but buyers can’t use it as a reason to not make an offer on your house. 

Like most homeowners, you want to get the most money possible when you sell your home. To do so, you need to consider addressing all the areas listed above before placing your home on the market.

THE BEST WAY TO CLEAN A FIREPLACE

🔥 Not sure how to keep your fireplace looking and working well?➡️ Here’s a step by step guide to cleaning it.


HOW TO CLEAN A FIREPLACE THE RIGHT WAY

Regardless of how clean the room is, a dirty fireplace can make it look unkempt. Cleaning the fireplace might be a dirty job, but the result is worth it, and it’ll keep it in good working order. 

Cleaning the fireplace regularly will make it easier to clean. Here’s what you’ll need when cleaning your fireplace.

  • Broom and dustpan
  • Paper towels
  • Dropcloth or tarp
  • Coffee grounds (optional)
  • Scrub brush
  • Vacuum with the brush attachment
  • Gloves
  • Cleaning solution
  • Goggles

STEP 1: DON PROTECTIVE GEAR

You’ll be surprised at how far soot and dust from your fireplace can travel, so be sure you wear gloves and protective eyewear while you clean. 

Also, cover the hearth with a drop cloth or plastic tarp to protect as much area in front of the fireplace as possible. 

STEP 2: REMOVE LOGS AND ASHES

Remove any unburned logs and use a dustpan to scoop out the ashes. To keep dust from spreading too far, cover the ashes with coffee grounds first and then scoop it all into a bucket to dispose of later. 

STEP 3: SWEEP AND VACUUM

Sweep out the inside of the fireplace and then use your vacuum with a soft brush attachment to get all the ashes and debris from every nook and cranny. 

STEP 4: MIX THE CLEANING SOLUTION

Ideally, you’ll want to use a green cleaning solution on your fireplace as they are gentler on the brick and better for the environment. You can try a solution of warm water and trisodium phosphate, baking soda and detergent, cream of tartar, or plain water and vinegar. 

STEP 5: SCRUB THE FIREPLACE

Starting at the top of the fireplace and working your way down, dip the scrub brush in the cleaning solution and begin scrubbing the brick. Use small, circular motions to loosen soot and ash. You may need to repeat this step a time or two to get the interior of your fireplace clean. 

The best way to keep your fireplace looking good and working properly is to clean it regularly. Wait a day or two after burning a fire before attempting to remove the ash and sweep it out. Plan a thorough cleaning as outlined above regularly throughout the year to keep your fireplace in good working order.

🌳 THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT OUTDOOR SPACE WHEN BUYING A NEW HOME

🏡 When buying a new home 🌳 Here are a few things you should consider about outdoor space 

With the COVID-19 pandemic still underway and people still quarantining at home, there’s a growing new appreciation for private outdoor spaces. If you dream of owning a home with a big yard and plenty of room to relax and play, make sure you consider the following to ensure you get exactly what you want. After all, COVID isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we all need some space to get out and enjoy the sun and fresh air. 

WHAT TYPE OF OUTDOOR SPACE WORKS BEST FOR YOU?

Your outdoor space is what you make it, but if having somewhere in the sunshine to spend time is important to you, the type of outdoor space you envision can help narrow down your search for the perfect home. 

Do you like to entertain? Perhaps you just need a patch of yard for a swing set? Maybe you’re happy to have a simple quiet patio or balcony with a table and chairs for watching sunsets with loved ones and a nice glass of wine. Take a moment to think about what kind of outdoor space suits your lifestyle and preferences best and use that knowledge to find the right home for you.

HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE?

Whether your outdoor area dream space includes a sprawling backyard or a small balcony off a second-floor apartment, you need to decide how you’ll make the most of the space you have. If it’s a large backyard, are you financially and physically capable of caring for it? If it’s just a terrace off your apartment, will you do more than just watch sunsets there? 

HOW OUTDOOR SPACE ADDS VALUE TO YOUR HOME AND YOUR LIFESTYLE

As the pandemic rages on, more and more people are coming to realize how important having an outdoor space is to enhance the stay-at-home orders issued by the government. 

In years past, you may have used a gym membership to workout and swim laps, but these days, staying home means staying safe. Can adding a pool in your backyard add value to your life? 

Homeowners with spacious backyards are now creating backyard oases to make spending time at home more fun and functional to keep themselves and their families safe (and sane). 

Ultimately, it comes down to how we can make our homes enjoyable and comfortable places to pass the time, both inside and out.

WHY SKYLIGHTS ARE AN EFFICIENT WAY TO LIGHT A HOME

☀️ If you’re looking for green ways to upgrade your home, consider skylights throughout the residence. 🏡 Skylights are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time. Here’s why.


THE MANY BENEFITS OF INSTALLING SKYLIGHTS IN YOUR HOME

Most interior design experts agree that the more natural lighting that enters your home, the warmer and more appealing its ambiance. While windows do an alright job of allowing natural light in, skylights give you more options for allowing natural lighting to flood your home. At the same time, skylights can reduce your dependency on artificial lighting, heating and cooling systems, and save you money on your utility bills. As a result, your home is more sustainable and eco-friendlier. 

BENEFITS OF HAVING SKYLIGHTS IN YOUR HOME

Skylights can be installed in virtually any room in your home. The natural light they allow in enhances the atmosphere throughout the house. No matter where you put skylights in your home, the benefits are the same. 

REDUCED NEED FOR ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING

Obviously, one of the biggest benefits of having skylights is your decreased need for artificial lighting throughout the day, and at night when the moon is full and bright, you won’t need to turn on the lights then, either. 

CONTROLLED LIGHTING SOURCE

Skylights come with some additional equipment that makes them extremely versatile. They often include blinds and/or covers so you can control how much light enters your house and when. If the sun entering a skylight is too hot, simply close the blinds to block it out. 

Another benefit of having a skylight is that you can choose what angle it faces to increase or decrease the amount of light and heat that enters your home. Flat skylights let in the most natural light, while angled skylights reduce the amount of light and heat that comes into your home. 

PASSIVE HEATING SOURCE

Since skylights allow for direct sun exposure, you can heat rooms naturally simply by opening the skylight’s blinds. Even on cold days, if the sun is shining, you can heat a room significantly simply by allowing the skylight to do its job, thus reducing the need to run your furnace. 

Skylights reduce your need for natural lighting and decrease your dependency on your home’s heating/cooling systems. As such, you reduce the impact running your home has on the environment. As a result, your home is eco-friendlier, and you save money each month on your utility bills.