Friday, October 15, 2021

What's Happening This Weekend




Historic Downtown Art Walk


Art Walk


Treasure Coast Events

Date: Event occurs the third Friday of every month.

Time: 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Location: Treasure Coast Events IRC

Address: , , FL,

Price: Free

Category: Cultural


Every 3rd Friday, the rendezvous is at Downtown Fort Pierce, 5-8 PM! Join your local arts community on March 19 for the next Art Walk. Artists will line up the historic streets, and musicians and other performance artists will further entice you to visit art galleries and businesses. Plus, get discounts from participating retailers and much more. Mark your calendar! 3/19/21


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Touch A Truck


Date: Saturday October 16, 2021

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Location: Indian River County Fairgrounds

Address: 7955 58th Ave, Vero Beach, fl 32967

Price: $5

Category: Kids / Family


Touch a Truck is a family friendly interactive event. Semi-trucks, monster trucks, military vehicles, excavators, backhoes, cranes, bulldozers, box trucks, fire engines, police cars, tow trucks, and more… are all welcome!!! They’re all SO COOL in the eyes of little (and big) kids. Touch A Truck celebrates learning, literacy, and family engagement through play. Please join us for this day of family fun.


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Fall Garden Festival



Date: Saturday October 16, 2021

Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Location: Heathcote Botanical Gardens

Address: 210 Savannah Rd., Fort Pierce, FL 34982

Price: Free admission

Category: Arts / Exhibits


Spend a beautiful day at Heathcote Botanical Gardens and enjoy our Fall Garden Festival. There will be plants for sale, food available for purchase along with fabulous vendors to shop as well as family activities, educational presentations and of course loads of fun! So, bring the family and join us!


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Freestyle Summer Fest


Freestyle Summer Fest Flyer


MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center

Date: Saturday October 16, 2021

Time: 3:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Location: MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center

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

Price: Tickets at the door

Category: Concert / Live Music



Freestyle Summer Fest is brought to you by the Puerto Rican Association for Hispanic Affairs on October 16! Freestyle Summer Fest Flyer


Bringing the 90’S Freestyle Dance Music and the new school together on one stage feat Nyasia, & MORE, Giggles, Fascination, DJ MDW and DJ Morenito.




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Celebrating 50 Years of Ocean Science for a Better World®


Date: Thursday October 14, 2021 through Saturday April 30, 2022.

Time: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Location: Elliott Museum

Address: 825 NE Ocean Boulevard, Stuart, FL 34996

Price: Adults 13-64 – $14, Seniors 65+ – $12, Children 6 to 12 – $6, under 6 – free

Category: Arts / Exhibits


The Elliott Museum and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute are partnering to bring this one-of-a-kind exhibition with our community and visitors from around the world. From November 1,2021 through April 30, 2022, this display will include an up-close look at Harbor Branch’s famed Johnson-Sea-Link submersible and highlights from the organization’s rich history and current research. Special lectures and activities will be held at the museum during the exhibition starting in November.



Thursday, October 14, 2021

Where to Find Deepest Seasonal Discounts on Homes




Home buyers nationwide tend to see the lowest premiums during October and during the winter months, according to a new analysis from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm, of more than 33 million single-family home and condo sales over the past eight years.


Buyers may be more likely to find the deepest discounts in certain states during certain months of the year. ATTOM Data Solutions’ study reveals when. Most states see these opportunities in winter, but buyers in Hawaii should prepare for June as the summer heat begins.


The states that see the biggest discounts below full market value are:



  1. Delaware: –7.9% in February

  2. Tennessee: –7% in January

  3. New Jersey: –4.9% in February

  4. Maryland: –4.8% in November

  5. Ohio: –4.8% in January

  6. Michigan: –4.1% in November

  7. Hawaii: –4% in June

  8. Connecticut: –3.5% in December

  9. Illinois: –3.1% in February

  10. New Hampshire: –3.1% in January






A bar chart showing the top 10 states where would discover the biggest discounts and the best months to take advantage of them..






Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Buyers Are Realistic About Housing Shortage Challenges




House hunters are realizing they may need to expand their timelines to find a home. While they’re still anxious to buy, they are getting the messages about the competitive housing market and fierce bidding wars that they realize may delay their plans.







The share of consumers who hoped to buy a home in the next six months plummeted from 34% a year ago to 21% this year, according to a newly released homebuyer flash survey conducted by Point2 Homes, an online real estate marketplace.


But it’s not from a lack of eagerness: 50% of respondents said they were determined to buy as soon as they find the right property.


As one survey respondent from Dallas said, “I’ve been looking since December 2020 for a home but everyone keeps taking them off the market or increasing their pricing at a ridiculous amount.”


Concerns about housing shortages are increasing. But fewer respondents this year appear worried about their personal financial stability.


As such, the higher home prices aren’t scaring them away. Fifty-one percent of the more than 2,600 respondents said they were confident that the steep price hikes would not be a problem in their house hunt. On the other hand, 45% of consumers surveyed said they did not believe they’ll be able to keep up with the price hikes.


Also, buyers are still showing an interest in virtual home tours to shop for homes, but that interest does seem to be waning in favor of a return to in-person viewings. Interest in online pictures declined, while 11% of respondents expressed an interest in going to showing this year compared to just 4% last year, according to the Point2 Homes survey.


“Home seekers all across the U.S. remain positive about the home buying process, and seem more determined than ever to find the perfect home,” the report says. “Although the competition is fiercer than it has been in the past, many Americans are keeping their eyes on the market and are willing to play by the new rules—which imply more preparation, higher offers, and going through bidding wars without losing hope.”







 


Source: “Changes in Homebuyer Behavior & Expectations 1 Year Into the Pandemic,”





















Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Greenhouses Grow in Demand as Gardening Takes Off









As more homeowners sheltered during the pandemic, they explored outside activities, with gardening growing into a favorite pastime for many. To grow gardeners’ newfound love for plants and gardens, greenhouses are popping up in more backyards.


Greenhouse manufacturers are reporting surging website traffic and demand over the past year.


Bunny Williams, who maintains an interior design practice in Manhattan, told The Wall Street Journal that the greenhouse has become a place of solace for her and her husband during the pandemic. They use their greenhouse to care for a variety of plants, such as orchids, succulents, passion flowers, and geraniums.


The greenhouses can be as elaborate as homeowners desire, from luxurious 25-by-50-foot metal-framed glass enclosures costing thousands of dollars to pop-up units of a few hundred dollars that homeowners purchase online.


But greenhouses are bringing their users more purpose than just plantings. They also double as places to entertain or even to work from.


“Greenhouses have a different smell, temperature, light, and humidity than that of being outside,” Kathryn Herman, a landscape designer who built a greenhouse on her property in Fairfield, Conn., told The Wall Street Journal. Herman spent about $324,000 to build her home’s greenhouse. “When you step into one, you are in a totally different environment, which makes them magical.”







 


Source: “Backyard Greenhouses Are Growing on Homeowners,” The Wall Street Journal



Monday, October 11, 2021

First-Time Buyers: Don’t Blow the Budget









Over the last few months, high competition and the limited housing stock for sale have brought double-digit annual gains to home prices. That has locked out many buyers, particularly first-time home buyers, or forced them to stretch their budgets to the maximum.


Amid those dynamics, the median price of an existing home reached $356,700 in August—a nearly 15% uptick compared to a year earlier, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.


Lately, more inventory is coming onto the market, but first-time buyers are still struggling to afford today’s higher home prices and the costs of homeownership.


First-time buyers comprised 29% of sales in August—they usually make up about 40% of the housing market, according to NAR.


In general, buyers are typically in good financial shape. But many first-time buyers in particular have to keep their eyes on their budget to afford homeownership. Overextending themselves can lead to regret and financial hardship later on. Nearly two-thirds—or 64%—of millennials, aged 25 to 40, say they have at least one regret about purchasing their current home, according to a Bankrate poll from earlier this year. The top regrets are that maintenance, mortgage, and other costs are too high. Thirteen percent believe they overpaid for their property.


To feel more prepared, creating a budget and considering all the costs of homeownership are essential, financial experts say.


The typical first-time home buyer makes a 7% down payment, on average, on a home purchase, according to NAR data. But some loan offerings may allow them to put down much less, like 3% or 3.5%, or even 0% with loans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, for those who are eligible.


After calculating the down payment, first-time buyers should factor in expenses like property taxes, homeowners insurance (which averages about $1,000 a year but can vary greatly), association fees, utilities, and maintenance costs.


“Something may break once you are in the home or you may want to decorate it or change the finishes within the home,” Jessica Lautz, NAR’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, told CNBC.


About 23% of buyers waived inspections in August, according to NAR, but that can lead to unexpected, expensive repairs. “That is the biggest budget buster to me,” Jacqueline Cooper, president and CEO of Financial Education Associates in Dorchester, Mass., told CNBC. “These are things we don’t notice and we don’t have the experience to determine if this is an OK thing or not.”


Another big expense buyers need to prepare for is closing costs. Those include costs like the appraisal, title insurance, credit reports, loan origination fees, and more that first-time home buyers ought to brace for. They can add up to between 2% to 5% of the home price and are due at closing.







 


Source: “How Much House Can You Afford? Here’s What First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know,” CNBC (Oct. 6, 2021)





















Thursday, October 7, 2021

What Homeowners Should Know About Solar Panels




Increasing energy costs are spurring more homeowners to go solar, but an abundance of choices in the field can make the decision daunting. Help homeowners weigh the options with these five considerations.



Installing solar panels or modules to convert sunlight into electricity and conserve energy is not a new concept. Back in 1954, researchers at Bell Laboratories demonstrated the first practical silicon solar cell.


But solar power has been heating up over the last 10 years, with a 50% average annual growth rate in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. This is due, in part, to the Solar Investment Tax Credit put in place in 2006 that now reimburses 26% of the cost for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. Other factors have also played a role, including low interest rates. Homeowners can bundle the cost of panels into their mortgage, says Amy Tovel, marketing manager of Ichijo USA, a company that installs modules on many Pacific Northwest homes.






Home with solar panels




Many homeowners are becoming more energy conscious, says architect Nathan Kipnis, FAIA, LEED AP, whose Kipnis Architecture + Planning offices are in Chicago and Boulder, Colo. It’s rare for one of his company’s major projects not to include solar panels or wiring for installation later, largely because of increasing efficiency, he says.


Still another reason is that more areas are enacting mandates. California regulators recently voted to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in new commercial and high-rise residential projects, as of Jan. 1, 2023. The state of Washington now requires new homes to have energy credits, as of Feb. 1, 2021, and solar panels represent one option to attain them. Homes greater than 5,000 square feet require additional credit. To meet those criteria, MN Custom Homes doubles the amount of solar panels for its larger homes, says vice president Ben Brittingham.







Lastly, the panels have become less of an eyesore due to improved aesthetics, whether on a roof or in a yard stationed on the ground—sometimes preferred due to the absence of trees—says Suvi Sharma, founder and director of Solaria Corp., a Fremont, Calif.-based solar manufacturer focused on the residential market.


But as the field grows crowded with manufacturers and installers touting longer-lasting solar systems with greater efficiency and less cost, deciding which one to choose requires research.


“The promises some companies make are wildly flowing,” cautions Madison, Conn.-based architect Duo Dickinson. Another caveat is the cost fluctuation of panels due to tariffs on imports, now at 18%. Though these are set to expire next February, China remains a top location for manufacturers.


But home buyers seeking a new home may not have to make choices as more developers and builders incorporate solar during construction.


That’s the case with Pearl Homes’ new community, Hunters Point, in Cortez, Fla. Owner Marshall Gobuty wanted to construct the first NetZero LEED certified community in the U.S. “Anybody can build a house but not everybody can reduce the carbon footprint,” Gobuty says, adding, “Our goal is to build homes that generate more power than they consume.”






Hunters Point home rendering





When completed by early 2022, all 86 homes, averaging 3,300 square feet, will have roof panels, WaterSense plumbing and fixtures, and GE EnergyStar appliances. Though the company is still deciding which panels to use, they are going with installer my-RESI out of Millstone Township, N.J., and sonnen’s ecoLinx energy storage system, which Gobuty believes offers the most efficient, safest battery, and a 25-year warranty. Homeowners will pay a fixed fee to the HOA for a set amount of power and backup.






Utah home with solar panels





But homeowners should be aware that having solar power doesn’t eliminate an electric bill since there’s still a fee to be connected to the grid, says James O’Connor, director of marketing for Salt Lake City-based installer, Go Solar Group.


Here’s what home buyers who are working with a builder or architect on a new home—or retrofitting an existing home—should consider when choosing components from various providers to make solar work.


1. Roof and house orientation. How much surface solar modules cover on a roof or how big the installation is on the ground makes a difference in the amount of energy produced. Generally, they are placed facing south or west to be exposed to the most sunlight, optimizing power, says Dickinson. Pearl Homes’ will cover 88% to 92% of a roof surface. Covering 100% may produce more power than occupants can use.


2. Panels. In recent years, panels have become more efficient, thinner, and better looking, thanks to monocrystalline designs that use a single photovoltaic cell rather than several cells that the older polycrystalline designs relied on. As a result, the updated panels can occupy less roof space because they pack in more power, O’Connor says.


The number of panels installed is generally based on the amount of electricity occupants use, which is why an installer often asks for 12 months of electric bills, says Mike Koehler, vice president and solar business developer for Gardner Capital, St. Louis. If the next owner of a solar powered house uses more electricity, they might request a larger array, he says.


What this means for a homeowner who chooses a newer 400W panel, for example, versus older 370W panel, is that they may only need to install 38 panels instead of 41 and save about 33 square feet of roof space, Koehler says. And because the 400W panel is more efficient, it will generate more electricity, he says.


Installers also need to know local ordinances. For example, Evanston, Ill., doesn’t allow panels to stick up past a roof’s ridge line or be visible from the street if the roof is flat, says Kipnis. They also need to know local utility rules since some will buy back excess power, Koehler says. Rocky Mountain Power, which services most Utah customers, gives credit for excess energy, says Scott Cramer, president of Go Solar Group.


3. Batteries. Extra energy can be stored in batteries. Different solar panel manufacturers prefer different battery companies. For example, Solaria buys batteries from Sonnen, Sharma says.


4. Installers. Installation costs have dropped as more installers have entered the niche and become more experienced, says O’Connor. Besides the modules and batteries, homeowners who go solar need an inverter to hold panels, wiring in place, and a meter. Sharma suggests homeowners ask installers which modules they use, the price of each panel, number needed, what they look like, how much shipping to the site will be, and if permits are needed.


5. Costs and return on investment. A typical panel system might run between $15,000 and $25,000, which includes ancillary equipment and labor, Koehler says. Yearly savings vary greatly depending on the utility and if it offers incentives, he says. The good news is that a typical warranty lasts a long time; Solaria’s is 25 years, Sharma says.


How much money is saved also depends on how a purchase is made. “If someone pays out of pocket, it may take seven to 10 years for a payback, but if someone leases the system, the savings will be less per month, but the homeowner has no upfront investment,” Koehler says.


One caveat relates to whether a solar system will increase a home’s value. One study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the panels are viewed as upgrades and home buyers have been willing to pay a premium of about $15,000 for an average-sized solar system. Additionally, the homes sell faster than those without solar.






Yellow house with solar panels





Brittingham of MN Custom Homes thinks that the ethical rather than financial reasons are becoming a bigger buyer incentive. “A return on investment is still longer term since there are still big out-of-pocket expenses,” he says.


Another caveat is that not all homeowners benefit equally from having a solar system. Those who live in a house with a lot of trees that block sunlight will see less benefit, as will those who already use little electricity or have inexpensive electricity.


Questions to Ask


To help your clients make the best decision, share these questions for vetting solar companies.



  • Is my roof designed so it can accept panels?

  • Does it face the right direction for optimal efficiency?

  • How much of the roof surface needs to be covered, or how many panels are needed?

  • Is the roof in good shape for panel installation or should it first be replaced?

  • Does my community have restrictions about aesthetics, such as not allowing panels on a house in an historic district or visible from the street?

  • What are the pros and cons of leasing or buying panels?

  • How long has your company been in business and how many installations do you regularly do? What accreditations do you have? Are you NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified?

  • If we’re not ready to install solar yet, is it worthwhile to prewire to save on costs later?

  • What warranties do you offer and for how long?

  • What, if any, snafus can happen when going solar?







 


Barbara BallingerBarbara 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 (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).



Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Why This Fall Is a Big Opportunity for Buyers









The housing market has been fiercely competitive over the last few months, but hopeful buyers who keep getting shut out may soon find better luck. Several signs in the housing market point to a potential opening to buy this fall, housing analysts say.


For one, competition is reportedly cooling and listings are receiving fewer offers. In September, the real estate brokerage Redfin reported that bidding wars reached their lowest level this year.


Also, more listings are coming to market, offering buyers more choices. A recent realtor.com® report shows housing inventory is at a high for 2021. Nearly one-third of the 50 largest metros saw increases in the number of newly listed homes compared to last year.


“This September, buyers had more options than they’ve had all year and while that’s typical of early fall, that’s not what happened in 2020,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “Still, it’s important to remember that while buyers may have an easier time this fall than they did in the spring, the market remains more competitive than it has been historically at this time of year.”


There are still fewer homes for sale than a year ago, and less than half as many two years ago before the pandemic, Hale says.


Hopeful buyers will want to watch days on the market to indicate whether now could be a better time to buy. Buyers will also want to keep an eye out for the median days on the market for neighborhoods, cities, and metro areas, Terri Robinson, a real estate professional with RE/MAX Distinctive in Ashburn, Va., told NerdWallet. “If things are staying on the market a little longer versus staying for a couple of days then it might be time for [buyers] to get back in the market,” Robinson says.


Robinson says home inspectors also are reporting to her that the demand for walk-and-talks is lessening. A walk-and-talk is an abbreviated home inspection that is completed while a potential buyer is viewing the property. Many home buyers have been waiving formal home inspections to try to compete in the market from multiple offers. But fewer home buyers waiving home inspections “indicates that sellers are more amenable now to a buyer coming in and asking for a home inspection, so that’s good news for buyers,” Robinson told NerdWallet.


Potential buyers will never be able to wait out the market perfectly. “If you’re trying to wait for the perfect time, I feel like you’re going to sit and wait forever,” Rob Heck, head of origination at the online mortgage broker Morty, told NerdWallet.







 


Source: “Hopeful Home Buyers: Here Are Some Signs That You Should Make Your Move,” NerdWallet (Oct. 4, 2021)