Thursday, July 7, 2022

Rising rates yet to cool overheated home price appreciation

Increasing mortgage rates have yet to offset demand enough to deter the price gains, says expert


Double-digit home price growth will slow over the next year, likely decelerating to a 5% pace, CoreLogic said in its May Home Price Index (HPI) forecast.

Despite a surge in interest rates and low housing supply, US home prices in May climbed 1.8% from April and were up 20.2% from a year ago. However, CoreLogic predicts that elevated prices will decline to 5% by May 2023 as rising rates continue to dampen demand.

“With monthly mortgage expenses up about 50% from only a few months ago, fewer buyers are now competing for continually limited inventory. And while annual home price growth still exceeds 20%, we expect to see a rapid deceleration in the rate of growth over the coming year,” said Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic. “Nevertheless, the normalization of overheated buying conditions should bring about more of a balance between buyers and sellers and a healthier overall housing market.”

Will Doerner, supervisory economist in FHFA’s division of research and statistics, pointed out that the low inventory of homes on the market continued to keep upward pressure on sales prices.

“Increasing mortgage rates have yet to offset demand enough to deter the strong price gains happening across the country,” Doerner said.

All states and Washington, DC saw annual appreciation, with Florida posting the highest year-over-year gain at 33.2%, followed by Tennessee at 27.4%. Arizona ranked third with a 27.3% annual increase, while Washington, DC ranked last at 4.3%.


07 Jul 2022

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

White Boxing May Encourage Sales

Home staging is all about arranging furniture and enhancing the setup of decor to help present a home in its best light. But some real estate pros are turning to “white boxing” for certain properties—the complete opposite of home staging. White boxing is about removing everything from a property and showing an empty space of just bare floors and white walls.

For homes that are not in the best shape—whether damaged, neglected, or aged—white boxing can be a good strategy, Kimberly Jay, a broker with Compass in New York, told Apartment Therapy.

After all, “staging these kinds of homes is like putting lipstick on a pig,” Jay said. “Buyers know the home needs a gut renovation, so price accordingly.”

Jay has used white boxing for some high-end homes as well, even for units in brand-new luxury buildings. Sometimes a completely blank canvas allows buyers to better visualize designing the space to their preferences.

But some buyers may need help imagining where everything would go. Also, sometimes an empty room can look smaller than if it were finished. It also can feel less welcoming.

“Furnishing a home typically gives the eye perspective and helps a prospective buyer see how a room can be laid out,” Steven Gottlieb, an agent with Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York, told Apartment Therapy. But “if the seller’s stuff is an eyesore or creates too much clutter, it can hurt the sale, as the buyer might be distracted and can’t imagine their own things in the space.”


Source: “Ever Heard of ‘White Boxing’? Here’s Why Some Real Estate Agents Love It,” Apartment Therapy (April 9, 2022)

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Will Virtual Staging Replace Traditionally Staged Rooms

The business of home staging is under transformation. Though physical staging has long dominated the market, virtual staging is quickly becoming a go-to option, but whether it’s the better option depends on several factors.


When Barb Schwartz introduced the concept of home staging in 1972, inspired by her background in theater, the idea was novel.

Instead of having buyers view rooms as homeowners had lived in them, salespeople removed any contents—from art to furnishings—that cluttered, dated, or personalized spaces. This purging made it easier to see a home’s architecture and scale. New buyers, it was thought, would have an easier time envisioning themselves in the space.


A bright living room and dining room staged with mid-century furnishings

©Amanda Wiss, Urban Clarity

Traditional staging is a costly but effective way to showcase the architecture and potential of a room.


The concept gained a following, as well as sophistication in process, and led to a profession of trained specialists. With their arsenal of furnishings, baubles, and art, these specialists made a job of staging homes to sell. Sellers usually paid for the service, since many staged listings sold faster and for higher dollars than those not staged.

Staged homes continue to sell well, and the service is in great demand as a result. In the  National Association of REALTORS® 2019 Profile of Home Staging, one-quarter of buyers’ agents said that staging increased the dollar value offered by between 1% and 5%.

When Demand and Competition Increase

Nowadays, staging has become almost de rigueur, and professionals with the skills are experiencing an uptick in business. Professional organizer Amanda Wiss of Brooklyn-based Urban Clarity added staging to her repertoire and has seen her business grow by 80% over the prior year.


A staged kitchen featuring cherrywood cabinets

©Christine Golman, Visual Edge

A traditionally staged kitchen


An increase in the demand for staging also translates into an increase in higher expectations from the clients. To stay relevant in a competitive market, stagers have come to spend more time and money to fashion staged rooms that outdo one another. What’s more, stagers must have a well-rounded and working understanding of what’s necessary to fit a property’s architecture, location, and trending decor. From clean contemporary to mid-century modern, and farmhouse, stagers need to know it all, says Beth Franken, broker-associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Chicago, who earned staging credentials from industry trainer ASP.

The increased competition has also spurred stagers to charge more, sometimes 8% to 10% of a listing price, though this varies based on the work involved.

Wiss recently staged a listing in the New York City area with multiple bedrooms and charged in the mid-$20,000 range, and just like when the staging trend originally picked up steam, sellers are still paying for the service.

The Rise of Virtual Staging

Of late, staging has evolved to include the digital realm. Now, rather than physically staging each room in a home, virtual staging allows a company to use a program to map out the home and choose proper furnishings for the space. The increase in the virtual option is due in part to a few factors, including:

  • Advances in technology that produced more realistic results

  • The influx into the marketplace of millennials, who are more comfortable shopping online than any previous generation

  • The pandemic, which made looking at homes online more popular to keep everyone safe

More companies specialize in virtual staging nowadays, allowing salespeople or homeowners to pick from an expanding library of design choices. Want a mid-century modern room with Herman Miller furniture? Check. How about a modern Italian look? No problem.


Close-up photo of a couch with warm-toned pillows and matching window treatments behind

©The Decorologist


In some cases, stagers digitally remove furnishings or decor like wallpaper. To make it clear to prospective buyers that the space might not look exactly as it does in the virtual staging, however, salespeople attach a “virtual design” disclaimer, so there’s no misunderstanding.

Cost-Friendly and Adaptable

Virtual staging offers flexibility new to the industry. The time saved over using a truckload of furnishings also makes it more sustainable, says Atlanta-based salesperson Christopher Matos-Rogers with Coldwell Banker. The price skews far lower than physical staging, spurring more practitioners to pick up the tab as part of a marketing budget, says Ilaria Barion, founder of Barion Design.

Since 2005, Barion has staged more than 50,000 properties and is focused on the luxury market. She switched from working as a physical to a virtual stager in part because of the specific needs required in the luxury space.

“Unless you’re going to spend a lot of money, the rental furnishings may cheapen a property’s look. The cost of luxury home staging has skyrocketed. It also takes time to assemble the furnishings,” says Barion. The sheer number of people searching for homes online—95% of home shoppers, according to a report from Properties Online—makes virtual staging a useful option.


An empty room with windows and brown built-in bookshelves flanking the windows

©Barion Design

Before virtual staging


Also, on the plus side, she’s found that virtual staging allows “you to do amazing things and fast—move in a baby grand piano, for example.” Her company charges per photo, taking into consideration the size of the room. Clients can expect prices from $49 to $399. If furnishings need to be digitally removed from the space, it charges between $20 and $90 per image. Additionally, and unlike in physical staging, Barion’s company typically delivers within a few days.

Thanks to virtual staging, Barion also offers a special custom staging service from scratch. With this service, she offers renderings, and she can offer an express service that’s less expensive for small dwellings.


A room with two queen size beds with white comforters and gold throw blankets, la

©Barion Design

After virtual staging, an Australian digital staging firm that also performs photo edits and redraws floor plans, charges even less—$24 per virtual image with a turnaround of 48 hours for a new design. It will remove images within 24 hours. The firm, the pitch battle winner at NAR’s inaugural Investment, Opportunity & Innovation Summit in 2018, also has a large inventory of photos in different styles, says Tabitha Thomas, general manager.

Some companies work both ways, as does Atlanta-based No Vacancy Staging. The company charges $39 per virtual photo if the salesperson or homeowner opts for self-service. If they seek advice, the cost is $60. It also offers a two-business-day turnaround and can provide an online quote and contract within 15 seconds, says co-founder Krisztina Bell. As different spaces in a home take on greater importance, it stages them, too, such as more outdoor areas, Bell says.

Virtual staging also offers the advantage of presenting variations on the same space to show flexibility. Throughout the pandemic, buyers have wanted to see that a space might function as a home office, classroom, or gym.

Choosing the Right Staging Option

While its popularity trends upward, not everyone’s convinced that virtual staging is always the best choice. Some experts recommend studying a potential hire’s portfolio to see if they offer adequate digital choices and professional quality software and photos that accurately portray dimensions, perspective, and scale, Franken says. “Some images look fake,” Barion says.


Photo of a bedroom with a queen sized bed, large window and chair. The bed is decorated with maroon, white, and beige linens.

©Mary Cook Associates

Traditionally staged bedroom


Conversely, some digital versions are so persuasive that, after seeing photos online and later entering the home, buyers are disappointed by seeing empty rooms or the seller’s furnishings instead.

“It may initially raise buyers’ expectations and set them up for a let-down when they see rooms in person,” says Kristie Barnett, whose Nashville firm, The Decorologist, runs in-person and online staging seminars through her Expert Psychological Staging firm.

In contrast, she feels that traditional staging makes spaces appear larger and more valuable. “Done properly, it puts the emphasis on the selling points (the architecture) rather than the decor, and helps buyers know how their furnishings will fit by seeing how comparable items look,” she says.

Which route to go may also depend on the age of potential buyers and how they like to shop, says Chicago commercial interior designer Mary Cook of Mary Cook Associates. Cook has merchandised thousands of model homes and apartments for discerning builders and developers of residential properties.


An empty dining room and kitchen


Before virtual staging


“Many millennials are very comfortable shopping for a home or apartment using virtual reality, digital renderings, or virtual walk-through renditions online, and even buying without stepping foot inside. But that’s very different from how many boomers like to purchase. They want to see rooms and furnishings in-person to know what works,” she says.

For example, she cites the repurposing of the Tribune Tower in Chicago, which transformed from offices to condominium residences. “Initially, the developer opened for sales before the model units were complete. Potential buyers were interested, but once furnished models opened, sales quickly accelerated. It made a huge difference for the older age group buying to see how rooms might be used, including turning a massive foyer into a gallery,” she says.


A dining room and kitchen staged with bright furniture and abstract art in gray tones


After virtual staging


Salesperson Franken had a similar experience taking over a condo listing in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. It was virtually staged and sat unsold. Franken decided to use contemporary furnishings she collected to physically stage the home. “I charged the seller $2,700 and dropped the listing price $6,000. It sold within four days,” she says.

But those like Bell of No Vacancy Home Staging say there’s room for both approaches. “Virtual isn’t meant to replace home staging but [to] offer another option. Both have evolved and will continue to do so,” she says.

BONUS: Starting the Conversation

One of the toughest parts of the staging process is starting the conversation with sellers. It’s not easy to ask that they remove all or some of their objects to make space for new furnishings, especially if they’re still living in the space. “Many are still reluctant, and you have to be careful never to say anything that’s insulting or seems a putdown of what they own,” says salesperson Beth Franken.


Staged dining area with full back chairs in cream colors and a white table

©Mary Cook Associates

Traditionally staged living space


Instead, she suggests using stats and stories to share how staging can help before listing a house. “You can’t put something on the market twice,” Franken says. Staging expert Kristie Barnett agrees. “First impressions are felt, not thought, and take place almost instantaneously when someone enters a property.”

Both also suggest pointing out simple staging ideas that a salesperson or homeowner can do on their own:

  • Get rid of what won’t be moved to the next home.

  • Use hangers that match.

  • Remove about 60% of the items from closets and bookshelves.

  • Declutter glass-fronted cabinets and counters in full view.

“The eye needs to have an uninterrupted take on a room, and too many things, patterns, and colors distract,” Barnett says.

Showing photos of staged homes makes a significant difference, says salesperson Christopher Matos-Rogers. He uses his area MLS to pull up examples of other listings in their neighborhood that demonstrate how much better a well-staged, well-photographed home presents and performs. “Helping people see the difference is everything,” he says.

More ideas to share are in NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Staging:

  • The median dollar value spent on staging was $400.

  • Twenty-eight percent of sellers’ agents said there were slight decreases in the time on market when a home is staged.

  • All rooms don’t need to be staged, but the most common to stage are the living room, dining room, kitchen, and owner’s bedroom and bath.


Barbara Ballinger Barbara Ballinger – Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space. Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Wishing you a Happy and Safe 4th of July

Freedom does not come easily. We are all indebted to our national heroes who made this country what it is today.  Our diversity should not be seen as a weakness but as our greatest strength. It is only by working together that we can build a resilient and thriving nation.

Mortgage Masters Group wishes you and your family the best the nation has to offer as we celebrate our country’s independence!

Mortgage Masters Group

Friday, July 1, 2022

4th of July Holiday Happenings

Farmers Market and Craft Show at the Fort Pierce Marina

Farmers Market

St. Lucie County

Date: Event occurs every Saturday of every month.

Time: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Location: Downtown Fort Pierce

Address: 1 Avenue A – Fort Pierce

Category: Other

Come enjoy the extraordinary Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market where there are over 70 friendly vendors that offer a wonderful and diverse selection of delicious foods, exotic plants, savory spices, and much much more!

For More Information




4th of July Community Boat Parade

City of Fort Pierce

Date: Monday July 4, 2022

Time: 12:00 am – 6:00 pm

Location: The City of Fort Pierce

Address: 100 North US 1, Fort Pierce, FL, 34950

Price: $0

Category: Community

Gather at 11:30 a.m. at the Turning Basin Fort Pierce, Florida. Boat Parade begins at noon, no need to RSVP and no cost. Decorate boats in a 4th of July theme.




4th of July Ultimate Experience

Freedomfest 2022 Flyer

MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center

Date: Monday July 4, 2022

Time: 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Location: MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center

Address: 9221 SE Event Center Pl, Port St. Lucie , FL, 34952

Price: Adults – $35 Children – $12

Category: Entertainment

The 4th of July Event you have been waiting for is BACK!!

The festivities kick off with a special DJ tribute to the Stars and Stripes followed by hours of endless fun for the entire family.

Get a taste of America’s down-home favorites at the Blazin’ BBQ Buffet! Menu options include pulled pork and pulled chicken smothered in barbeque sauce, baked beans, homestyle mac & cheese, old-fashioned coleslaw and decadent desserts.

Guests 21 years and older are encouraged to try the complimentary signature cocktail, The Patriot, a refreshing blend of vodka, lemonade and blue Curaçao topped with a splash of grenadine. A full-service cash bar will also be available.

The event will also feature an interactive Kid’s Zone with activities including face painting, balloon artists and much more!

Then when you think it can’t get any better, you will have special, reserved seating to view the fireworks!


$35 for Adults, $12 for Children (ages 3-12), Toddlers 2 & under are free (ticket prices exclude sales tax and ticketing fees).







Monday, July 4, 2022 | 4pm – 9pm

You and your family are invited to celebrate the Fourth of July at Tradition. Enjoy an evening of great music, fun family entertainment and the best fireworks show in the County!

Live performances by:

The Shakers | 4pm

The Boss Project | 7pm – The Premier Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band

Fireworks | 9pm





Stars Over St. Lucie 4th of July Celebration! Live music from 21 to Burn

Stars Over St. Lucie 4th of July Celebration! Live music from 21 to Burn


Come join us for Stars Over St. Lucie on the 4th of July! There will be live music, food vendors, and drinks. The live band is 21 to Burn!!  Mon Jul 04 2022 at 06:00 pm to 09:30 pm.  Fireworks will go off at 9pm.  Rain or shine!!

Event Location

Marina Square, ,Fort Pierce, FL, United States, Fort Pierce, United States




Red White & Beats

Red White & Beats


4th of July Celebration Event @ Terra Fermata. Bbq available – Live Music & DJ performances. 50 % of the proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Virtuosick – Violinist featured on the Oprah Winfrey showcasing his incredible skills as a child prodigy. Michael has travelled the world as a soloist, he was featured in an Aventura series aired on BBC about worlds great young musical prodigies. He’s now fused his classical skills with electronic music to curate the ultimate live experience.

Sofa Sound – Is an up and coming Producer, signed to San Holo label bitbird and featured in mixes by Alison Wonderland & San Holo. His track “Music Set Me Free” features Matt Johnson of Jamiroquai. Sofa Sounds most recent album “Forget About Me, I’ve Grown” can be found on Spotify and all streaming platforms.

Elektrip – DJ/Producer from South Florida. Elektrip is a Multi-Instrumentalist, Live Performance DJ. Influenced by artist such as – Avicii, Haywyre and Jeff Beck. Guitar & Synth leads combined with a fine blend of Electronic Music makes this a, must see set.

Thai Jesus – an Experimental Bass music producer from South FL, Specializing in deep, ethereal sound with distorted, spacey vocals and low overdriven basslines. Main influences include artists such as DMVU, Clams Casino, Parrotice & Supertask.

Petal Daze – Local favorite House music producer. Petal Daze offers Lo-Fi, Melodic House music that’s perfect for anytime listening. His latest EP “Thorns” can be found on all streaming platforms.

Event Location

Terra Fermata Tiki Bar, 26 SE 6th St, Stuart, United States


Monday, June 27, 2022

Results of National Call for REALTOR® Volunteerism Are Huge

At least half of the nation’s REALTOR® associations planned projects, from serving homeless shelters to community cleanup efforts, during the 2022 REALTOR® Volunteer Days.


From volunteering at local homeless shelters to community cleanup efforts, REALTORS® turned out in large numbers during the nationwide REALTOR® Volunteer Days, and the results of their giveback efforts are rolling in.

At least half of the nation’s 1,138 local and state REALTOR® associations planned volunteer projects and invited their members to join the efforts during the week-long nationwide event. The National Association of REALTORS® encouraged associations, brokerages and individual members across the country to participate in local volunteer activities during the REALTOR® Volunteer Days, which ran June 4-12. REALTOR® Volunteer Days is a yearly event in early June that is part of the REALTORS® Are Good Neighbors program.

“It’s inspiring to see stories from all over the country of REALTORS® coming together to uplift their communities,” says Sara Geimer, manager of NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards. “It’s not surprising, though: REALTORS® tend to be natural problem solvers, natural connectors, and, of course, they are deeply invested in making sure their communities are healthy and strong.”

But REALTORS® show up to give back to their communities far beyond the REALTOR® Volunteer Days event, Geimer says. NAR members volunteer in their communities nearly three times more than the average American, according to NAR’s C.A.R.E. (Community Aid and Real Estate) report.

Associations and members planned numerous events as part of the 2022 REALTOR® Volunteer Days to help benefit their local communities, such as through donation drives for food banks, Habitat for Humanity builds, neighborhood cleanups and more. Read more stories from the 2022 REALTOR® Volunteer Days at the REALTORS® Are Good Neighbors Facebook page, and take a peek at some of their many efforts.

Read more here:


Friday, June 24, 2022


Florida Realtors®: Florida’s single-family median price up 21.8% to $420K. Condo median price up 28.8% to $322K. Rising interest rates slow sales but new listings up.


Rising mortgage interest rates, high inflation and still-tight inventory levels were factors influencing Florida’s housing market in May, with fewer closed sales compared to a year ago, according to Florida Realtors®’ latest housing data.

“Households everywhere are feeling the pinch of high inflation,” says 2022 Florida Realtors® President Christina Pappas, vice president of the Keyes Family of Companies in Miami. “Homebuyers are also facing the challenges of rising interest rates and tight inventory of for-sale homes, causing some to hit the pause button on their plans. Still, the median time to contract for single-family existing homes in May was nine days – the same as it was in May 2021. The median time to contract for existing condo-townhouse units last month was 10 days compared to 19 days a year ago.

“Real estate market conditions are always changing, but buyers and sellers can turn to a local Realtor® for expertise, knowledge and support.”

Last month, closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 28,861, down 6.9% year-over-year, while existing condo-townhouse sales totaled 13,265, down 14.4% from May 2021, according to data from Florida Realtors® Research Department in partnership with local Realtor® boards/associations. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

Rising mortgage interest rates continue to depress sales of existing homes in Florida, according to Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor, who added that the current level of sales is more comparable to the pre-pandemic years of 2018 and 2019 than sales in 2021, when mortgage rates were still near their all-time lows.

“This slowdown in the rate of sales was accompanied by an increase in the rate of homes listed for sale in May,” he said. “New listings of single-family homes were up on a year-over-year basis by 10.2% – the largest such increase since August of last year. New listings of townhouses and condos were up more modestly, by 3.4%.”

Dr. O’Connor explains, “With sales levels falling closer to historical norms and new listings on the rise in May, inventory levels are starting to rise, as well. The number of single-family homes actively listed for sale in Florida at the end of May was up over 23% compared to the end of April, and up 31.5% compared to a year ago. However, townhouse and condo inventory was up by almost 16% month-over-month, but still down on a year-over-year basis by 20.5%.

“Remember, inventory in each category – single-family homes and also for condo-townhouse properties – has remained at a very low level for some time, which means we’re still deep in seller’s market territory. But we’re starting to see some progress back toward a balanced market.”

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in May was $420,000, up 21.8% from the previous year. Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $322,000, up 28.8% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

On the supply side of the market, inventory (active listings) of single-family existing homes showed some year-over-year improvement in May; it was at a 1.4-months’ supply compared to a 1.1-months’ supply a year ago. Condo-townhouse inventory was at a 1.5-months’ supply in May.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.23% in May, significantly higher than the 2.96% averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to the Florida Realtors Newsroom and look under Latest Releases or download the May 2022 data report PDFs under Market Data.


Source: Florida Realtors®