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Zero-Energy-Homes-240x170There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the zero-energy building trend, especially in California, which recently mandated that all new residential buildings must be built to zero-net energy specifications by 2020. If you’re not up-to-speed with the zero-energy building concept — relying on a home’s extraordinary energy conservation and on-site renewable energy to meet heating, cooling and energy needs — here is some info from RIS Media on what you can expect to see when builders start taking green homes to a whole new level:

• These high-performance homes will produce as much energy as they consume by incorporating a photovoltaic system (a linked collection of solar panels) — or other renewables — into the mix. With the majority of these homes still connected to the grid, any excess energy that’s accumulated throughout the day is fed back to the grid, so it can be used at night or on cloudy days.

• Not only are zero-energy homes designed and built as energy-efficiently as possible, residents can look forward to zero energy bills — other than the monthly fee required to connect to the grid — and zero carbon emissions.

• While zero-energy homes look like any other home from the outside, their exterior walls tend to be thicker than those found in traditional homes. They also incorporate heating and cooling systems that are a lot more efficient than typical systems, affording homeowners the luxuries they would expect in a home today.



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luxuryhomebuyers-240x170From posh outdoor living spaces to decked-out wine cellars, these luxurious features can transform ordinary homes into dream homes. According to real estate brokerage company Redfin, luxury home sales increased in fourth quarter 2015 and ended a nine-month slump, with an average luxury home sale price of $1.62 million. Sales in 2016 also are predicted to climb and attract a new wave of luxury homeowners. So, with that in mind, you might be thinking about how to attract homebuyers who are hunting for a property with a little something extra-special. If that’s the case, consider some of these popular trends emerging of late for some inspiration. While there are some simple fixes you can make — like landscaping and lighting —these amenities are the ultimate in luxury and creature comfort.

1. Think Smart

Wired high-tech spaces are in high demand, and according to a Smart Home Survey by Coldwell Banker and CNET Smart Home, 81 percent of current smart-home device owners said they would be more open to buying a home with connected technology already in place. Many high-end offerings let consumers control items in their homes remotely using a smartphone or tablet — including comforts like heating and ventilation —but consumers also can lock and unlock gates, windows and doors, and monitor encrypted security cameras from anywhere they’re online. In the future, expect sci-fi-level technology — like sensors embedded in your bed that record health-related data such as heart rate and body temperature and analyze it to make dining and recipe recommendations on a screen in the kitchen.

2. Wine Cellars

Remember the typical wine rack? It had individual square openings that you inserted the bottles into and then you had to pull each bottle out one by one just to read them? They have come a long way, baby. Today’s spacious wine cellars have custom drawers that can be pulled out to reveal multiple wine bottles for easy viewing and access, as well as rotating lazy Susans specifically designed to hold wine bottles and wooden wine cases — all installed behind climate-controlled glass doors. Homebuyers also are looking for complete tasting rooms that combine the cozy comfort of a den with restaurant lounge ambience to host friends and family. Add soft lighting, a fireplace and your best wine collection to complete the look.

3. Home Theaters

While home theaters have been around for a while, they now are being updated with actual theater seating — like a recliner, but with a bit more “theater” quality and feel — as well as theater-specific furnishings like popcorn and concession stands, theater “now showing” marquees, and even IMAX screens. There’s even tell of many a themed theater space — including a $300,000 pirate-ship-shaped home theater with leather seats on the ship’s deck and a movie screen for a billowing front sail, along with a keg disguised as a microwave and a door that appears to lead to the ship’s lower deck but actually masks a refrigerator.

4. Outdoor Living Spaces

Outdoor spaces can be as comfy and inviting as indoor areas. More homebuyers are seeking fully loaded, stand-alone outside entertainment areas for cooking, dining, playing and entertaining. Some examples include high-end tree houses; garden rooms; and spacious metal or wooden gazebos complete with climbing flowers pergolas, built-in fireplaces, kitchens, elegant seating areas and fire pits.

5. Underground Garages

The garage is not just a place to keep cars anymore. More and more people are looking for massive subterranean garages (most climate-controlled and with car elevators) that include everything from wet bars to TV lounges to maintenance bays … not to mention plenty of room to show off their prized car and motorcycle collection, and maybe even a golf cart or two.


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singlefamilyimproves-240x170This could finally be the year that production of single-family homes outpaces apartments in the U.S., according to the National Association of Home Builders’ 2016 Spring Construction Forecast.

On the downside, factors that stand to hinder a full rebound include a shortage of build-able lots and labor, along with limited access to acquisition, construction and development loans.

“Builders remain cautiously optimistic about market conditions,” says Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist. “2016 should be the first year since the Great Recession in which the growth rate for single-family production exceeds that of multifamily. And we see single-family growth accelerating in 2017 as the supply side chain mends and we can expand production.”

Steady job growth mixed with affordable home prices, low mortgage rates and pent-up demand have bolstered consumer confidence, with the single-family housing market expected to make a recovery during the next year and into 2017.

NAHB forecasters predict that single-family production will see an increase of 14 percent this year (to 812,000 units), and then rise another 19 percent in 2017 (to 964,000 units).

Referring to the 2000-2003 period as a healthy benchmark when single-family starts averaged 1.3 million units annually, NAHB estimates that single-family production — which bottomed out at an average of 27 percent of normal production in early 2009 — will reach 64 percent of historically normal levels by the fourth quarter of this year and rise to 77 percent of normal by the end of 2017. Single-family production now stands at 58 percent of normal activity.

“Consumer surveys suggest the ultimate goal of millennials is to purchase a single-family home in the suburbs,” says Dietz. “We see growth for single-family looking ahead. The recovery continues and is dictated by demand-side conditions and supply-side headwinds.”

On the multifamily front, production was recorded at 395,000 units in 2015, above the rate of 331,000 that is considered a normal level of production. Multifamily starts are expected to decline by 4 percent (to 379,000 units) in 2016 and increase 6 percent (to 402,000 units) in 2017.

Residential remodeling activity also is expected to increase 3.3 percent in 2016 compared with 2015 and rise an additional 1.3 percent in 2017.


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newsuburbs-240x170A generation ago, the American dream was based in the suburbs. After an economic downturn and a housing crash, the upcoming generations have their own version of the American dream, and it looks decidedly more urban.

In fact, while more people are moving back to cities in search of better jobs and more conveniences, suburbs have been struggling to survive. That is why more suburbs are turning to urbanization to revitalize their communities.

This process of urbanization is taking place across the country from New Rochelle, New York, to San Ramon, California. These suburbs have lost a lot of residents in recent years, leading to structural decay and economic stagnancy. To combat dwindling population numbers, these suburbs have changed the community focus. Shopping malls are being exchanged for office buildings. High rise buildings are replacing empty storefronts, combining commercial space with apartments.

More commercial development attracts businesses, which is critical in a time when workers are in desperate need of jobs. By including downtown living space, these communities can appeal to younger workers, who have an interest in keeping their lives simple. Smaller apartments are not only more affordable, but they give these young people more flexibility while they get their financial standing.

This urbanization is still a relatively new phenomenon so it is impossible to say how long it will last or how successful it will be. However, as society continues to evolve, this new definition of the suburb may still be part of the American dream after all.


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10bestfornewhomebuyers-240x170While some cities are as unaffordable as ever, there are still places that offer reasonably priced residences as well as desirable amenities. The top 10 best cities for today’s new homebuyers range from Philadelphia to Virginia Beach.


With homes priced at around $220,000 and low unemployment rates, Philadelphia is becoming the place for New Yorkers to move to when they become overwhelmed by the Big Apple’s cost of living.

Baton Rouge 

Affordably priced homes make Baton Rouge a tempting place to live. This traditional Louisiana city also has a low median resident age of just 34.7, so Baton Rouge tends to cater to a younger crowd.


As one of the country’s fittest cities, Minneapolis is the place to live if working out is a priority. Outdoor spaces are in abundance throughout the city while a low median home price increases its livability rating.


According to recent reports, Allentown is on its way to economic redevelopment. A number of multinational companies have moved to Allentown making work options abundant.

St. Louis 

Access to higher education and the opportunity to take in plenty of Cardinals games make St. Louis an amazing place to live. With homes priced at around $164,000 and its low unemployment rate, the city offers a warm welcome to homebuyers.


Reasonably priced homes and ample job growth in the tech industry make Harrisburg a desirable place to live. This midsize city features outdoor spaces and quaint architecture.


As the largest city in Maine, Portland features amazing restaurants and plenty of nightlife. The city’s average home prices are slightly more than $300,000 while its unemployment rate is low at 3.3 percent.


Albany is currently experiencing an economic recovery with a number of tech companies moving into the area. Making the locale even more tempting for new homebuyers is the city’s median home price, which is at $238,000.


Dayton offers affordably priced homes and a large number of biking trails. These features are inspiring new homebuyers to move to the city.

Virginia Beach 

In Virginia Beach, the unemployment rate is low as is the median home price. With access to the beach and low-density neighborhoods, Virginia Beach is the city for those who dislike living in crowded conditions.

Despite the rising prices of homes across the nation, a number of cities continue to offer value with affordably priced residences and plenty of amenities.


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bestmonthbestdaytosell-240x170March is now the advent of the spring home-buying season. As the supply of available properties continues to lag demand in most areas of the country, competition between buyers is growing. This situation is changing many of the longstanding rules of real estate. Where the spring buying season once started in early May, more buyers are beginning their search earlier in places like Miami and Washington, D.C. due to the tight housing markets. Despite the extended buying season, a home must be listed for sale at the right time and price to generate multiple offers and a quick sale.

Even in today’s tight market, homebuyers are becoming more knowledgeable and do not want to overpay. As a result, selling a home in today’s dynamic market still requires a well-planned and orchestrated listing strategy. For most sellers, early May is still the optimum time to sell a home. Listing in early May results in selling a home 18 days faster for approximately 1 percent more than other times of the year in 18 of the country’s 25 largest housing markets. Buyers are more eager as their earlier offers fell through and they may be willing to pay a bit more. To increase the odds of selling your home even faster, list it for sale on a Thursday. Because many potential buyers tour homes over the weekend, they begin their search preparations the previous Thursday and Friday. Thursday listings are more likely to sell faster at above list price than those listed over the weekend.


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energyefficient-240x170Thanks to increased awareness and education, saving energy is something valued at all levels of society. Without a doubt, bolstering energy efficiency is crucial for preserving the future of our shared natural environment. However, there are plenty of more practical, down-to-earth reasons for making upgrades that improve your home’s energy efficiency. Besides reducing your monthly energy bills, these improvements can positively affect any home’s resale value.

For example, you can always save energy by getting rid of gaps and holes that allow heat and treated air to escape from your home. Older, drafty windows are especially prone to gaps. Replacing these windows with newer, energy-efficient windows can save money while improving residents’ personal comfort levels. Walls and vents are other major sources of energy-draining gaps. If installed with care, a new roof can reduce your energy expenses and bolster your house’s overall resale value. Many people experience savings as they add insulation to attics and foundations, which can drastically reduce energy consumption rates.

Replacing siding is one of the most cost-effective energy improvements you can make to your home. To experience great returns on your siding investment, make sure all corner wraps and underlayments used are certified through the ENERGY STAR program. Finally, make sure your home’s furnace is energy-efficient. These days, homebuyers prioritize maximally airtight homes with modern furnaces. An aged furnace won’t just lower your home’s resale value; believe it or not, any prospective buyer might well demand you replace your furnace before they sign on the dotted line.

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