Spring Has Sprung in the Nation’s Housing Markets


Much of the country is looking at one more very big bite of winter before spring officially begins, but for the residential real estate market, spring is already underway—and new home buyers are sprouting everywhere.

Job creation so far this year is 30% stronger than in the same period last year. Unemployment is close to a low of more than nine years. Wages and income are also starting to pick up to growth levels we haven’t seen since 2009.

 And with more money in their bank accounts, consumers are feeling a boost in confidence that leads to big purchases … like homes! This year’s economic growth gives them another reason to buy sooner rather than later,  because stronger economic growth also means higher interest rates.


5 Home Improvements that Pay For Themselves


One of the biggest questions homeowners ask themselves when it comes to renovations is, should it be replaced or remodeled? To answer that question you first have to ask yourself how long you plan to live in your current home. If it’s over five years, then it should probably be replaced rather than remodeled. If you plan on staying less than five years, you will want to redo improvements that will pay for themselves. Take a look at the top five home improvements that will guarantee a return of investment.

1. Insulation

Adding insulation to the attic will keep your home energy efficient throughout the year. The savings from your monthly expenses will offset the costs.

2. Paint

Painting is the easiest and cheapest way to change things up. By picking new colors you can transform the mood of the room. Add a few new pillows and throw blankets and you’ll have a new living room. If you plan to sell soon keep the color neutral so potential buyers can picture themselves in your home.

3. Doors

Transform your homes curb appeal by replacing your garage door. Adding a new steel entry door can provide you with safety and security while also giving your home a facelift.

4. Landscaping

Homes need to make a great first impression. The attractiveness of your outdoors shows the potential your home holds. Installing patios or walkways, known as hardscaping, shouldn’t be the last thing you do, but rather one of the first steps on your home improvement list so you too can enjoy the upgrade.

5. Resurfacing

Remodeling bathrooms and kitchens can be tricky because trends are always changing. The return on investment tends to be lower since styles change every few years. Unless your bathroom or kitchen is severely out-of-date, we don’t recommend this. For resale purposes you may want to stick with refreshing the surfaces, having grout cleaned, caulk repaired, and wood floors refinished. Similarly, resurfacing worn porcelain, replacing countertops, and re-staining or painting old cabinets can give rooms a fresh look.

Fixing up the home shows that it is well maintained and gives the feeling of new. A well-maintained home also gives fewer reasons for the buyer to negotiate a lower price, creating more value for your home.

How to Match a Paint Color Without a Sample (Yes, It Is Possible)



How many times has this happened to you? After spending hours agonizing over the perfect shade of paint, you gleefully coat every wall in your home in that shade. Then, years later, when there’s a swath in your bedroom that needs retouching, you can’t remember if the color was Phantom Mist or Dinner Mint. Panic sets in!

What’s a forgetful homeowner—who can’t exactly carry a wall to the hardware store—to do? Not to worry, we tell you everything about how to match paint color without a sample.

Grab a spool of thread

A digital snapshot from your cellphone can never quite capture the exact shade (and you don’t want to end up with an ugly color). But an ingenious way to find the true depth of a tone is to match it to a spool of thread.

“Maybe you have the various spools in your house,” says Sandy Levin, home staging expert and owner of Beautiful Interiors Design Group in Freehold, NJ.

If you don’t routinely sew, buy several different shades that seem close at your neighborhood crafts store. Once you have a range of spools, place them against your paint color and see which is the best match. Bring that spool to the paint store, and ask staff to match the color.

Or a swatch of fabric

Another way to match color without a paint chip is to find the shade you need on a piece of fabric in your house.

“Maybe the color is one of several in a print pillow, or maybe the color matches a piece of clothing in your closet,” says Levin. Use that fabric to then find the corresponding paint chip in the hardware store.

There’s an app for that (naturally)

Almost every major brand of paint has a free app to help you nail a shade you’ve forgotten the name of. It usually works like this: Take a picture of your existing color and upload it for analysis. The app will then identify the hue and find the closest shade in the manufacturer’s palette.

A few popular choices for your smartphone are Behr ColorSmart, Benjamin Moore Color Capture, and  ColorSnap Visualizer from Sherwin-Williams. Just remember that each app provides matching paint colors only for their specific brands—so here’s to hoping you remember at least that much. If not, proceed to our next step.


New Bixby Knolls shopping center made from shipping containers opening

SteelCraft, a new food-focused shopping center in Bixby Knolls where repurposed shipping containers take the place of buildings, continues a commercial revival of the area long in the making.

Although a grand opening is set for the first weekend of February, the uncommon development has already started to shape up as a place of business. Steelhead Coffee began serving coffee from its container last week, and Smog City Brewery has opened its taps.

Other businesses will follow quickly this month. DeSano Pizza Bakery, from Santa Monica, is set to open Friday. In mid-January there will be openings of Waffle Love, from Utah, specializing in Belgian waffles; Tajima Ramen House from San Diego; and Fresh Shave, serving Hawaiian shave ice. The end of the month should see the openings of Lovesome Chocolate and a gourmet hamburger restaurant still to be named.

The official grand opening of SteelCraft will be on Super Bowl weekend, Feb. 3-5.



11 Sanity-Saving Storage Hacks for Your Holiday Decorations


Christmas is barely over, and the new year is just around the corner. So we don’t mean to be a buzzkill while you still enjoy the last vestiges of your holiday stupor, but it’s probably time to think about putting away those holiday decorations you so painstakingly put up. (Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who keep your lights up all year ’round, in which case … keep doing you.)

We know it isn’t fun, no matter when you decide to undeck the halls. It’s a slog, an annoyance, or (if you went a wee bit overboard this year) a downright nightmare.

But if you’re smart about storing your holiday decorations, you can make the whole thing a little less painful next year. Try these easy hacks to keep things in order and crack open the eggnog a little earlier next time around.

1. Take a photo

OK, this first point isn’t strictly storage-related, but it promises to make next year’s decorating process 10 times easier. Before tearing down your holiday decor, take a photo of your favorite setups.

“That way, you can more easily replicate the look next year,” says professional organizer Jamie Novak. Less time spent fiddling with your staircase garland means more time with family and friends. And isn’t that what the holidays are really about? That and the eggnog.

2. Inventory everything

On a related note, you should keep an inventory of all of your holiday decorations. Not only will it make replacement much simpler in case of disaster, but it will also simplify next year’s setup. No more “Oh, I forgot Shira the Schnauzer ate the tinsel” last-minute shopping runs.

“Packing up items is the perfect time to make a note that you need to replace the tree topper, but you don’t need one more snow globe,” Novak says.

Store your inventory on your phone or computer. Consider keeping a paper backup in a safe place.

3. Invest in some real storage

Tucking away your miniature Christmas trees in old waffle boxes (true story, starring my mother) might seem like a good idea. But after the new year, they’re going into the attic, not to be seen again for 11 months. Why does it matter how you stow them?

Because attics and garages are full of nasty ornament enemies: Moisture, pests, the February freeze, all conspiring to destroy your expensive decor.

“If you are making an investment in decorations that you want to keep from year to year, you will want to find the right storage bins to contain them,” says interior designer Annie Draddy of Henry & Higby. Try clear, plastic boxes, which let you “see the goods inside without opening the box,” she says.

4. Designate an ‘open first’ box

Setting up everything at once can be overwhelming. Your kids will freak out without their Advent calendar, and you’re desperate for the scent of pine. And those holiday cookbooks have to be somewhere…

“Create a single box labeled ‘open this first,’ complete with the decorations you like to put up first,” Novak says. That way, you can save the major decorating for a free winter weekend without sacrificing some early season holiday cheer.

5. Pack in reverse

The other decorations should be packed according to your holiday timeline, too. What goes up next, after the Advent calendar and wreath? If your exterior string lighting is step No. 2, keep it neatly arranged in an easily accessible box.

“If you don’t put up a tree until a few weeks in, then make a box of tree stuff,” Novak says. “Group like with like, and label each box on every side and the top.”

That goes for any necessary accessories, too, such as outdoor extension cords or pumps for your inflatables. Make sure they’re all grouped together so they’re easy to find next year.

6. Reuse your gift packaging

Your kid received three Hatchimals, you got a dozen new necklaces, and that beer-brewing kit came with an apartment’s worth of packaging. Don’t throw away all the cardboard and clamshells yet—they might be useful.

“Before you recycle all those product boxes, check to see if any are just the right size for storage (for other items),” Novak says.

7. Use ribbon and hangers to keep string lights straight

Attempting to untangle your string lights is the holiday horror show you find yourself repeating year after year. Take away the pain! And stop struggling.

Save a piece of ribbon from this year’s gifts and tie it to the end of the string of lights to save yourself time spent searching for the plug amid a sea of small lightbulbs. Then, wrap the string of lights around a hanger to keep it from getting tangled.


2017’s Housing Market Predictions

3d render image of houses with graph growing

As the year comes to a close we look to the future and what it holds for us. 2016 has been full of ups and downs and is one for the history books. The real estate market has graced us with low-interest rates, but tight inventory and rising prices have hurt us. With the Fed raising interest rates for the second time in a decade and a new year beginning, here are a few predictions you can expect for 2017.

  1. Cities will focus on denser development and smaller homes close to public transportation and urban centers.

A movement toward revitalized downtowns are creating surban, the collide of suburban and urban.

  1. More millennials will become homeowners

Half of all buyers in 2016 were first-time buyers, and this is expected to increase. Millennials are also much more racially diverse, meaning more people of color will become homeowners. Even with affordable housing decreasing, the alluring desire to own a home is increasing amongst this younger generation.

  1. Rents will become more affordable as incomes increase

Apartment rental growth rate is expected to flatten out in the next coming years. Rising incomes and slowing rent appreciation is projected to make renting a home more affordable in 2017.

  1. The amount of commuters will increase

As more people move out of the cities and into the suburbs seeking more affordable homes, the number of commuters will increase for the first time in a decade.

  1. Home values are expected to grow 3.6 percent

Relief for buyers will come in the form of slowing home prices. 2017 will mark a new stage in the housing market economic recovery. In 2016 alone, home prices rose 4.8 percent, in the new year that number is expected to drop to 3.6 percent.


California housing market to see modest gains in 2017



California’s housing market will post modest gains next year amid tight supplies and the lowest housing affordability in six years, the California Association of Realtors forecast Thursday.

Sales of existing single-family homes – which make up about 68 percent of the overall market – are projected to rise 1.4 percent in 2017 to 413,000 transactions.

Next year’s small gain will follow a projected 2016 sales drop of 0.4 percent to 407,300 deals, the forecast said.

Meanwhile, the median house price – or price at the midpoint of all sales – is projected to rise 4.3 percent to $525,600. That’s the smallest percentage gain in six years.

By comparison, 2016 house prices are projected to be up 6.2 percent to $503,900 by the end of December.

“The net result will be California’s housing market posting a modest increase in 2017,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, the Realtor association’s chief economist. “The underlying fundamentals continue to support overall home sales growth, but headwinds, such as global economic uncertainty and deteriorating housing affordability, will temper stronger sales activity.”

Housing affordability will fall as price gains continue to outpace pay raises.

Just 29 percent California homebuyers will be able to afford a median-priced house next year, the association predicted. By comparison, more than half the buyers could afford the median-priced home in 2011-12.

In Southern California, house sales are projected to be virtually unchanged this year and next from 2015’s sales pace, the forecast said. Sales are projected to rise 0.4 percent this year and 0.7 percent next year.


5 Magical New Ways to Decorate With Holiday Lights

Tom Roberton/Getty Images

You haul them out of the basement each year. You spend long hours detangling them, replacing burned-out bulbs, and stringing up all their twinkle goodness on your tree. But if this holiday tradition feels a bit been there, done that, we hear you loud and clear. But brush away your holiday despair! It turns out there are a whole host of surprising and delightful ways to decorate with holiday lights.

1. Stick them in glass containers


First things first: No one said holiday lights have to be strung up. Instead, put them in glass containers to concentrate their blinking magic all in one place. A glass box or lantern, hurricane lamps, or wine bottles are all good picks. (To avoid having a cord stick out, use the battery-operated LED lights.)

“A bunch of battery-operated lights in several bottles would make a killer centerpiece lined up on a dining table,” suggests Carol Marcotte, an interior designer at Form & Function in Raleigh, NC. “Or try filling one large magnum bottle with twinkle lights in a bar or man cave.”

2. Festoon your kid’s room


Install a set of twinkles in a child’s bedroom, and it doubles as a new night light—what’s not to love? Let your kids dictate what shape they want (stars? hearts?), or else hang the lights around a bookcase, dangle them in a doorway, or go the DIY route and create a headboard where none existed before. You can also decorate your tot’s dresser, windows, and ceiling with lights.






3. Create a ceiling effect outside

Vivid Design Group

Jaimi Julian Thompson of the Artisan Design Group in San Diego notes, “One of the most unusual and fun uses I’ve seen recently includes stringing wires above a patio area and then wrapping the wires with lights to create an open ceiling effect.”

And while draping them on your pines and firs is a Christmas classic, covering the other trees outside can add an expansive, awesome touch.



Thanksgiving Table Decoration Ideas

You are probably spending enough time to stressing over what to cook, where to store it, and how many people are attending Thanksgiving to worry about what your table is going to look like. Here are some simple, yet festive table layouts that are perfect to all table sizes and shapes.

For the Imimate Dinner

This for the dinners that will be smaller in attendance and table size.




For the Simple and Elegant

This table for those who want to keep it simple yet elegant with pops of color.



For minimalist

This table is minimal, but is still gorgeous. It can also be used past Thanksgving and into the Christmas season.




For the Fall and Candle Lover

This table just screams fall and the accents of candles pull it all together.




For the Outdoor Dinner

We’re lucky in Southern California, we can enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner outdoors. Similar to the last table, this one screams fall with a more prompeniet candle display. We just love the use of tree stumps.



Half of US Homebuyers Are Millennials, Study Finds


A new survey by the online real estate firm Zillow shows that about one half of homebuyers in the United States are under the age of 36.

The Zillow study, released Tuesday, highlighted trends that the firm said are transforming the housing market. Among them: Forty-seven percent of homebuyers are millennials and 63 percent of people selling real estate are doing so for the first time.

“The Millennial generation is driving more of the housing market than we previously understood,” said Zillow Group’s chief economist, Stan Humphries, in the study’s forward.

The 200-page report surveyed more than 13,000 residents across the United States between the ages of 18 and 75. The average settled homeowner is white, a Baby Boomer and has a college degree; more than half earn less than $75,000 a year.