Home Security Guide: How to identify your risk level and finance the investment.

Home security guide: How to identify your risk level and finance the investment

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A home burglary happens every 23 seconds in the U.S.

If that sounds like a lot, it is — but it still pales in comparison to the burglary rates of years past. In fact, FBI data shows that burglaries have dropped by 37% since 2008, and property crimes overall? Those are down a whopping 50% since 1993.

But that decline didn’t happen by accident. One reason for the drop in property crimes is the increasing accessibility (and affordability) of home security devices. From self-installed video doorbells and phone-activated alarm systems to motion-detecting lights and even just better privacy fences, the number of home security options are now endless.

Since these items can often improve both the value and appeal of real estate in today’s market, there’s even more reason to explore security options as a homeowner.

Are you thinking of increasing the security and privacy of your property? This guide can help.

The value in home security

Obviously, the big benefit of installing a home security device is that it can better protect your home, your belongings, and your loved ones. But on top of this, your home security choices could enhance your ability to sell your property for top dollar down the line.

If you’re making big security changes, like upgrading to a taller, more secure fence or installing a full-scale security monitoring system, you can also increase the perceived value of your home, making it more marketable and easier to sell.

As an added benefit, upping your home’s security might also qualify you for certain home insurance discounts, so check with your insurer once installations are complete.

How to determine if your home is at risk

Any home is vulnerable to break-in, but certain properties present more risk than others. For example, statistics show that homes in rural states see more crime than those in more metropolitan ones.Properties in New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have the highest rates of burglary in the country.

Additionally, burglaries are more common in the middle of the day and in the summer months. If your home is regularly left unattended during these time frames, your property may be at higher risk. You also might want to consider your neighborhood crime rates, as well as the belongings you have in the home. If you live in a particularly high-crime area or keep cash, high-dollar jewelry, electronics, or other valuables on the property, taking extra security measures can be a smart way to protect your investment.

Fortunately, if you are going to take that extra step to protect your home, you have lots of options. Let’s break down a few now:

Physical security measures

There are a number of easy, low-cost changes you can make to your doors, locks, and other entry points to make your home more secure.

Some of these include:

  • Hardwood or reinforced doors – Solid wood doors or doors reinforced with metal are your best choices for preventing a break-in. Make sure you add one at both the front and back entrance.
  • Adding a deadbolt lock – Deadbolt locks can’t be forced to open as traditional, spring-bolt locks can. They’re typically affordable and fairly easy to self-install, too.
  • Installing motion-detecting lights – These turn on when someone enters their range and can be good at scaring off thieves in the dark of night. Make sure you install them so they’re pointing at walkways, driveways, doors, and any other potential entry points.
  • Adding a storm door – A storm door adds an extra barrier to entry for a thief. You can also add extra locks to up your security even more.
  • Adding a reinforcement plate – Reinforcement plates help prevent burglars from kicking in your door. They’re easy to install (you only need a drill and some screws) and cost just a few dollars.
  • Installing additional window devices – Adding pin, key, or wedge locks to your windows can make it harder for burglars to enter through this route. You can also add sensors that chime when opened, or insert a bolt or rod that blocks some of the window track, thus limiting how far it can open

Technological security measures

Thanks to advances in technology, there’s a slew of devices you can use to better control, monitor, and secure your property. Many of these even allow for remote use via a mobile phone or tablet app.

Some technology options you might explore are:

  • A video doorbell – Video doorbells help you monitor who approaches your property, as well as who rings the doorbell. Many also allow you to speak through the device remotely and record your front-door interactions for later playback.
  • A security system – You can also get full-scale security systems that help you safeguard all entry points, including windows, doors, your garage, and more. These are typically controlled by a main keypad in your home, though many come with mobile apps as well. Many of these systems employ a central monitoring company.
  • Camera systems – Cameras positioned at your front stoop, back patio, and driveway can help deter potential burglaries, There are motion-detecting options, live/24-7 systems, and even fake cameras you can opt for, depending on your budget.
  • Smart locks – High-tech locks can help you better protect your property, as well as enable remote locking and unlocking capabilities. Just make sure you choose a deadbolt-style one that can’t be manipulated or kicked in.

Outdoor security improvements

There are a number of exterior changes that can increase the security of your property as well. These include things like:

  • Installing a privacy fence or privacy wall – If your yard is fence less or you have chain-link or another low-style fence, upgrading to a 6- or 8-foot privacy fence can increase security immensely.
  • Getting creative with your landscaping – Intentional landscaping can help keep burglars out, too. Consider adding thick, hard-to-traverse shrubbery around any windows, and use tall trees and foliage to create a living fence of sorts.
  • Putting up an alarm monitoring sign – Having a security company’s sign in your yard can serve as a deterrent to thieves. Even if you’re not able to afford a full alarm system or constant monitoring, head to Amazon and snag a faux monitoring sign for extra safety.
  • Getting a dog – Finally, if you’re a fan of furry friends, consider adopting a dog to help better protect your home. Sometimes, even the mere sound of a dog can send burglars running for the hills.

Financing your home security updates

Protecting your home and improving its marketability will come at a price — but that doesn’t have to mean draining your bank account and spending those life-savings. There are many low-cost ways to up your home’s security, as well as a few financing options that can help lighten the load.

For example, you can utilize:

  • Cash-out refinancing – If you have significant equity in the home, a cash-out refinance can help you tap that and use it toward your security efforts. Given today’s low mortgage rates, you may even cut your monthly payments with a lower interest rate.
  •  Home equity loans and lines of credit – Home equity loans and HELOCs can be an option too if you have equity in your property. Just remember that these are second mortgages and will require monthly repayment.
  • Personal loans – A personal loan might be an option for financing your security upgrades, though it will come at a higher interest rate than the other options on this list. Just make sure you have good credit before applying, or your rate will be even higher.
  • Credit cards – Credit cards can be a good option, especially if you use ones that offer cash-back rewards or discounts at home improvement stores.

Just remember that in the end, it’s important you choose your projects wisely. Focus on ones that either improve your home’s marketability or increase its appraised value. This will ensure a return on your investment when it comes time to sell the house.

Posted on September 10, 2019 at 6:42 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

IBuyers cost sellers up to 15% of a home’s value, study finds

iBuyers: A new choice for home sellers but at what cost?

by Dr. Michael Sklarz* and Dr. Norman Miller** | August 07, 2019

Download a PDF file of this research paper here.


iBuyers offer quicker closings for sellers who would like to avoid the uncertainty of knowing when and if their home will sell. For motivated sellers who want a predictable sale date and need to move, perhaps a long distance from the current location, there is no question that iBuyers have provided a welcome alternative to traditional brokerage. Rather than compare iBuyers to traditional brokerage, as if the market was required to offer only one choice, we welcome a plethora of choices for home buyers and sellers. A robust and competitive market will provide different levels of services and charges to compensate providers for cost of service and risk. Here we address the question “Who are the iBuyers, how do they make money, what risks do they face, and what are the benefits for sellers?”

iBuyer background

The largest iBuyer, based on capital raised to date, is OpenDoor, but there are several others including OfferPad, Zillow Offers, Redfin, Knock, Realogy CataLIST, Perch, Keller Offers from Keller Williams, and many others. Some of these are local brokerage firms like SDCountyhomebuyers.com and we can expect a few localized iBuyers in every major metro. In fact, iBuying can be viewed as comparable to corporate relocation companies that have been around for many years, providing a guaranteed a sale for employee transfers, but now offered to the general public and paid for directly by sellers.

When did they start?

OpenDoor, now with over 1300 employees, headquartered in Phoenix, started in 2014 and is available in at least 20 major cities as of July, 2019. OpenDoor has been reported to have raised at least $1.3 billion dollars and purchased over 10,000 homes in 2018, more than three times the number of homes as the next closest competitor, OfferPad.[1]  They also sold more than double the number of homes as OfferPad.[2] OpenDoor has now teamed up with Redfin.

OfferPad started in 2015. Another iBuyer, Knock is slightly different, in that it provides a home trading platform, assisting the seller by temporarily buying your new home and then selling your old home. As such Knock is combining the functions of a short-term banker with those of a brokerage firm. Zillow Offers jumped in after witnessing the growth of OpenDoor and is on pace to enter more markets by 2020 than OpenDoor and OfferPad combined, based on their listing data base presence throughout the United States.

The industry is still in its infancy and represents an extremely small part of the overall market, but one can’t ignore any financial innovation that has been growing in market share at over 25% per year. Eventually the most efficient firms, that make the fewest mistakes, with enough capital to reach significant market share will remain. At the same time, traditional brokerage firms are likely to add this option for sellers, if they have not already done so.


What do iBuyers charge compared to traditional transactions?

Traditional brokers fees generally range from 5% to 7% of the sales price, with 1% to 4% charged to sellers and 3% typically paid to buyer’s agents, known as a co-op fee. In addition to this cost, buyers typically pay some closing costs including lender related charges in the range of 1% to 3%. Aside from direct transaction costs, the sellers must often spend time and money on home repairs, frequently clean and leave their home for showings, and bear the uncertainty of not knowing when and if the home will sell.

iBuyers charge sellers a “convenience fee” of 6% to 9.5%, some also charge the seller for fees typically paid by buyers at closing adding another 1% or more. Most iBuyers will inspect the home, assess a generous home repair allowance and negotiate a (an additional) credit to handle such repairs.3 Some iBuyers like OfferPad will pay for moving costs within 50 miles and allow a few extra days after closing of residence. Overall the total direct costs, ignoring repair credits, will run 7% to 10% for an iBuyer, versus the typical 5% to 9% combined seller and buyer costs with a traditional broker. Yet, that is not the end of the story or comparison.

iBuyer Prices Versus Traditional Market Prices

Comparing the transaction costs above of iBuyers, one might conclude that for 2% to 5% more than a traditional agency, I can sell my home with certainty, avoid the hassles of showing and shift the risk of not knowing when the home will sell to the iBuyer.  iBuyers are well aware of the risks inherent in selling a home. Using their data analysis, they should, hopefully, know about competing inventory, how long it takes to sell on average, and how much they will need to sell below market, if they wish to sell fast. iBuyers also need to be compensated for their capital costs for typically 60 to 80 days. Because of these risks and costs, iBuyers cannot afford to buy all homes offered at all times of the year, without a conservative offer price. The more unique the home, the worse the season for selling, or the more competing inventory is present in the local market, the more conservative will be the offer price.

Using public record data to identify iBuyer and non-iBuyer purchases, Exhibit 1 below shows quarterly median single family prices paid on a per square foot of living area basis in the Phoenix metro for two of the larger iBuyers compared to the rest of the (non-iBuyer) market. It should be mentioned that these prices represent the purchases which we could easily identify and totaled approximately 4000 transactions.

Exhibit 1: Phoenix, AZ Metro Single Family Prices Paid Per Square Foot by Buyer Type


While the graph above in Exhibit 1 is a good way of seeing trends in home values and purchase prices by buyer type, a more accurate way of measuring iBuyer discounts paid is to control for size, age and a host of other variables influencing value on both the iBuyer purchased properties and all other buyers of similar properties.

To do this, we compared the purchase prices with our CA (Collateral Analytics) Value AVM (Automated Valuation Model) since the latter correlates very well with actual market values. Here we analyze four active markets.

Exhibit 2 below summarizes the analysis and includes approximately 6000 transactions.  Here we see the median discounts of 4.5% to 6.9% for iBuyer1 and 2.0% to 3.3% for iBuyer2. Exhibit 2 shows quarterly median values of this ratio for the two iBuyers along with the same for purchases of non-iBuyer transactions for four major iBuyer markets, – i.e. Phoenix, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Las Vegas. The difference between the top line and the iBuyer lines represents the average spread from our estimate of market value.

One might look at Exhibit 2 and conclude that the spread below market value paid by iBuyers is declining. This may be true, or it could be that the pressure to deploy capital has reduced the spread as the iBuyer market matures. Ultimately, the spread will be at an appropriate level to compensate the iBuyers for liquidity risks and capital costs.

Exhibit 2: Median Purchase Price-To-AVM Ratio for iBuyer and Non-iBuyer Transactions

The median purchase price discounts for the four markets studied are shown on an annual percentage basis in Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 3: Median iBuyer Purchase Price to Market Value Discounts


Other iBuyer Risks: Vacant Property Signals and Adverse Selection

iBuyers face two risks not inherent with most traditional brokerage sales. The first, is that as iBuyer for sale signs become known, the public will know these are vacant properties. Home break-in’s became more common when borrowers departed from negative equity homes during the housing crisis of 2008-2010. Empty homes became targets for vagrants and criminals stealing appliances, copper wires and more.

In some cases, fake buyers are able to gain access to the homes with a phone app which opens the lock box, and because iBuyers do not have agents accompany potential buyers into homes for sale guarding against fake buyers that only wish to steal from the home may require new safeguards.

The second significant risk for iBuyers is one of adverse selection. Sellers know the nuances of their homes better than anyone. They will know if the pit bulls next door will make it harder to show the home without terrifying visitors. Valuation models used by iBuyers have a range of accuracy, just like all appraisals, and when this value estimate happens to be on the high side of market value, sellers are likely to recognize this and be more willing to accept the offer. When the offer is too low, the sellers will turn to other iBuyers or other more traditional selling options. If sellers know the values of their homes better than the iBuyers, then there will be a problem of adverse selection for the buyers. Sellers tend to accept offers, even those considered conservative by the iBuyers, when they are close to or above market value and reject those which are too low. Not all sellers are better informed than the iBuyers. Still, there is some risk of informed sellers taking advantage of relatively high offers.


The kind of spreads observed, from our market value estimates to the prices paid by iBuyers, apparently makes sense for the iBuyer companies. The iBuyers do have carrying costs involving significant amounts of capital, safeguarding the home risks, and adverse selection risks. They also bear significant risks if prices decline. A downturn in home prices, not forecast by the iBuyer market analysts could be devastating as they ramp up their business platforms, particularly if the cost of capital increases. At the same time, downturns are precisely when the most sellers would want this option.

These preliminary empirical results suggest that sellers are paying not just the difference in fees of 2% to 5% more than with traditional agencies, and a generous repair allowance, but another 3% to 5% or more to compensate the iBuyer for liquidity risks and carrying costs. In all, the typical cost to a seller appears to be in the range of 13% to 15% depending on the iBuyer vendor. For some sellers, needing to move or requiring quick extraction of equity, this is certainly worthwhile, but what percentage of the market will want this service remains to be seen.


[1] See https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/20/opendoor-raises-300m-on-a-3-8b-valuation-for-its-home-marketplace/

[2] See https://magazine.realtor/technology/feature/article/2019/05/you-can-t-afford-to-ignore-ibuyers

[3] The Zillow web site suggest a service fee of 7% or more will be required, although there is no charge to receive an offer.

Posted on August 9, 2019 at 2:59 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

Debt & The Failure Of Monetary Policy To Stimulate Growth

Debt & The Failure Of Monetary Policy To Stimulate Growth

Written by Lance Roberts | Jul, 18, 2019

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A fascinating graphic was recently produced by Oxford Economics showing compounded economic growth rates over time.

What should immediately jump out at you is that the compounded rate of growth of the U.S. economy was fairly stable between 1950 and the mid-1980s. However, since then, there has been a rather marked decline in economic growth.

The question is, why?

This question has been a point of a contentious debate over the last several years as debt and deficit levels in the U.S. have soared higher.

Causation? Or Correlation?

As I will explain, the case can be made the surge in debt is the culprit of slowing rates of economic growth. However, we must start our discussion with the Keynesian theory, which has been the main driver both of fiscal and monetary policies over the last 30-years.

Keynes contended that ‘a general glut would occur when aggregate demand for goods was insufficient, leading to an economic downturn resulting in losses of potential output due to unnecessarily high unemployment, which results from the defensive (or reactive) decisions of the producers.’

In such a situation, Keynesian economics states that government policies could be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity and reducing unemployment and deflation. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.”

Keynes’ was correct in his theory. In order for deficit spending to be effective, the “payback” from investments being made must yield a higher rate of return than the debt used to fund it.

The problem has been two-fold.

First“deficit spending” was only supposed to be used during a recessionary period, and reversed to a surplus during the ensuing expansion. However, beginning in the early ’80s, those in power only adhered to “deficit spending part” after all “if a little deficit spending is good, a lot should be better,” right?

Secondly, deficit spending shifted away from productive investments, which create jobs (infrastructure and development,) to primarily social welfare and debt service. Money used in this manner has a negative rate of return.

According to the Center On Budget & Policy Priorities, roughly 75% of every tax dollar goes to non-productive spending. 

Here is the real kicker. In 2018, the Federal Government spent $4.48 Trillion, which was equivalent to 22% of the nation’s entire nominal GDP. Of that total spending, ONLY $3.5 Trillion was financed by Federal revenues and $986 billion was financed through debt.

In other words, if 75% of all expenditures is social welfare and interest on the debt, those payments required $3.36 Trillion of the $3.5 Trillion (or 96%) of revenue coming in. 

Do you see the problem here? (In the financial markets, when you borrow from others to pay obligations you can’t afford it is known as a “Ponzi-scheme.”)

Debt Is The Cause, Not The Cure

This is one of the issues with MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) in which it is assumed that “debts and deficits don’t matter” as long as there is no inflation. However, the premise fails to hold up when one begins to pay attention to the trends in debt and economic growth.

I won’t argue that “debt, and specifically deficit spending, can be productive.” As I discussed in American Gridlock:

“The word “deficit” has no real meaning. Dr. Brock used the following example of two different countries.

Country A spends $4 Trillion with receipts of $3 Trillion. This leaves Country A with a $1 Trillion deficit. In order to make up the difference between the spending and the income, the Treasury must issue $1 Trillion in new debt. That new debt is used to cover the excess expenditures, but generates no income leaving a future hole that must be filled.

Country B spends $4 Trillion and receives $3 Trillion income. However, the $1 Trillion of excess, which was financed by debt, was invested into projects, infrastructure, that produced a positive rate of return. There is no deficit as the rate of return on the investment funds the “deficit” over time.

There is no disagreement about the need for government spending. The disagreement is with the abuse, and waste, of it.”

The U.S. is Country A.

Increases in the national debt have long been squandered on increases in social welfare programs, and ultimately higher debt service, which has an effective negative return on investment. Therefore, the larger the balance of debt becomes, the more economically destructive it is by diverting an ever growing amount of dollars away from productive investments to service payments.

The relevance of debt versus economic growth is all too evident, as shown below. Since 1980, the overall increase in debt has surged to levels that currently usurp the entirety of economic growth. With economic growth rates now at the lowest levels on record, the growth in debt continues to divert more tax dollars away from productive investments into the service of debt and social welfare.

The irony is that debt driven economic growth, consistently requires more debt to fund a diminishing rate of return of future growth. It now requires $3.02 of debt to create $1 of real economic growth.

However, it isn’t just Federal debt that is the problem. It is all debt.

When it comes to households, which are responsible for roughly 2/3rds of economic growth through personal consumption expenditures, debt was used to sustain a standard of living well beyond what income and wage growth could support. This worked out as long as the ability to leverage indebtedness was an option. Eventually, debt reaches levels where the ability to consume at levels great enough to foster stronger economic growth is eroded.

For the 30-year period from 1952 to 1982, debt-free economic growth was running a surplus. However, since the early 80’s, total credit market debt growth has sharply eclipsed economic growth. Without the debt to support economic growth, there is currently an accumulated deficit of more than $50 Trillion.

What was the difference between pre-1980 and post-1980?

From 1950-1980, the economy grew at an annualized rate of 7.70%. This was accomplished with a total credit market debt to GDP ratio of less 150%. The CRITICAL factor to note is that economic growth was trending higher during this span going from roughly 5% to a peak of nearly 15%.

There were a couple of reasons for this.

  1. Lower levels of debt allowed for personal savings to remain robust which fueled productive investment in the economy.
  2. The economy was focused primarily on production and manufacturing which has a high multiplier effect on the economy.  

The obvious problem is the ongoing decline in economic growth. Over the past 35 years, slower rates of growth has kept the average American struggling to maintain their standard of living. As wage growth stagnates, or declines, consumers are forced to turn to credit to fill the gap in maintaining their current standard of living. (The chart below is the inflation-adjusted standard of living for a family of four as compared to disposable personal incomes and savings rate. The difference comes from debt which now exceeds $3400 per year.)

It isn’t just personal and corporate debt either. Corporations have also gorged on cheap debt over the last decade as the Fed’s “Zero Interest Rate Policy” fostered a scramble for cash for diminishing investment opportunities, such as share buybacks. These malinvestments ultimately have a steep payback.

We saw this movie play out “real-time” previously in everything from sub-prime mortgages to derivative instruments. Banks and institutions milked the system for profit without regard for the risk. Today, we see it again in non-financial corporate debt. To wit:

“And while the developed world has some more to go before regaining the prior all time leverage high, with borrowing led by the U.S. federal government and by global non-financial business, total debt in emerging markets hit a new all time high, thanks almost entirely to China.”

“Chinese corporations owed the equivalent of more than 155% of Global GDP in March, or nearly $21 trillion, up from about 100% of GDP, or $5 trillion, two decades ago.”

The Debt End Game

Unsurprisingly, Keynesian policies have failed to stimulate broad based economic growth. Those fiscal and monetary policies, from TARP, to QE, to tax cuts, only delayed the eventual clearing process. Unfortunately, the delay only created a bigger problem for the future. As noted by Zerohedge:

“The IIF pointed out the obvious, namely that lower borrowing costs thanks to central banks’ monetary easing had encouraged countries to take on new debt. Amusingly, by doing so, this makes rising rates even more impossible as the world’s can barely support 100% debt of GDP, let alone 3x that.”

Ultimately, the clearing process will be very substantial. As noted above, with the economy currently requiring roughly $3 of debt to create $1 of economic growth, a reversion to a structurally manageable level of debt would involve a nearly $40 Trillion reduction of total credit market debt from current levels. 

This is the “great reset” that is coming.

The economic drag from such a reduction in debt would be a devastating process. In fact, the last time such a reversion occurred, the period was known as the “Great Depression.”

This is one of the primary reasons why economic growth will continue to run at lower levels going into the future. We will witness an economy plagued by more frequent recessionary spats, lower equity market returns, and a stagflationary environment as wages remain suppressed while cost of living rise.

The problem of debt will continue to be magnified by the changes in structural employment, demographics, and deflationary pressures derived from changes in productivity. As I showed previously,this trend has already been in place for the last decade and will only continue to confound economists in the future.

“The U.S. is currently running at lower levels of GDP, productivity, and wage growth than before the last recession. While this certainly doesn’t confirm Shelton’s analysis, it also doesn’t confirm the conventional wisdom that $33 Trillion in bailouts and liquidity, zero interest rates, and surging stock markets, are conducive to stronger economic growth for all.”

Correlation or causation? You decide.

Posted on July 18, 2019 at 5:21 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

4 Simple Tips to Help You Build an Office in Your Small Home

Are you dreaming of creating a functional home office, but you’re limited by the size of your house or apartment? We have some tips that will help you address those space limitations so you can create the stylish home office you’ve always dreamed of.


Streamline Your Stuff for More Office Space

If you live in a small home, you already know that clutter can kill the positive vibes in your place. Aside from taking up valuable real estate in your small home, having too much clutter can also cause you stress, which can take away from your productivity. Before you start adding your office furniture and decor, try to downsize and declutter as much as possible. If you are limited on storage space, you may need to rent storage outside of your home. The cost of storage units in Salt Lake City can be a little steep, but some businesses offer valuable discounts and incentives for new clients. For example, you can get half off of your first two full months for many units when you rent with Security Pro Storage here in Salt Lake City.


Be Smart When Choosing or Creating Furnishings

If you’re not up for renting a storage unit, try upcycling housewares for your home office to cut down on clutter in a fun and practical way. You can upcycle a tissue box into a pencil holder or wooden crates into shelves for an eco-friendly spin on your home office decor. These projects can be a great way to add some unique style to your workspace, but you should also incorporate some additional pieces of practical furniture. A desk that you can neatly nestle into a corner is a creative way to incorporate a small workspace into your home, or you can look for wall-mounted desk models that will make it easier to free up additional space when company comes over. Many of these desks fold into the wall, but all of them are built with small spaces in mind.


Select an Area that Makes Sense Inside Your Home

You know you need to get the right furniture and declutter your office space, but before you begin all that hard work, you have to decide which space in your home to use. Since you are working with limited room, a good option may be to combine your office and bedroom. Using natural, soft colors will help keep your bedroom peaceful enough for sleep while giving you a spot to hustle during daylight hours. If you prefer to keep your home office out of sight and out of mind when you’re trying to relax, you could consider using a spare closet.


Be Willing to Take Your Home Office Space Outside

You may be able to free up some square footage in your bedroom or closet to create a dream home office. If your home is truly on the tiny side, though, you may not be able to squeeze any more functionality out of your living areas. When this is the case, it’s still possible to build a home office that will work for you. Check out these ideas for contemporary home offices, studio spaces and guest rooms created from backyard sheds. You can get handy and build your own, or you can look for prefab models that can easily be delivered and set up for you. Does your home lack indoor and outdoor space? Then you may need to look for another option, like a coworking space, to get your work done.

Fitting a functional yet stylish office into your small house or apartment takes some finesse. You can use our tips to make the most of your small home office, but also think about changing up your home. Real estate professional Scott Rabin can help you find a home that fits your lifestyle and your need for more space.

Posted on June 10, 2019 at 2:15 pm
Windermere Utah | Category: Uncategorized

Is now a good time buy a home?

Is now a good time to buy a home or not?

63 percent of people surveyed by NAR said yes, but that’s the lowest number since 2015

The number of people who believe now is a good time to buy a house is dropping, according to findings released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

In a survey, NAR found only 34 percent of homebuyers strongly believe the last quarter of 2018 is a good time to buy, down from 39 percent in the third quarter and 43 percent from a year ago. 63 percent believe that now is a good time to buy – 34 percent believe that strongly and 29 percent believe that moderately.

Meanwhile, 37 percent believe that it is not a good time to buy. Confidence in buying a home has not been this low since NAR began measuring consumer sentiment in 2015.

The change is fueled mostly by years of unabated growth in home values in many parts of the country, according to NAR. Between 2012 and 2018, median home prices rose 44 percent while average hourly wage earnings only grew by 16 percent.

“Consistently fast-rising home prices well in excess of income growth over recent years have left buyers frustrated while slowly enticing would-be sellers to consider listing,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a statement.

Still, many people are holding out hope that the situation will improve in the coming months and years. Of the 2,710 households polled, 59 percent believed the economy would improve and increase their chances of buying a home in the future.

The optimism, however, is strongest among those living in urban areas and making more than $50,000 a year. Only 29 percent of those who do not presently own a home said it would be “very difficult” to qualify for a mortgage while 30 percent believe buying one would be “somewhat difficult” given their financial situation.

The findings suggest that buyers are not simply holding off for a better deal on a house, but, instead, believe homeownership is out of reach due to high home prices, lack of affordable options and their inability to qualify for a mortgage, Yun said. One solution could involve taking advantage of so-called “Opportunity Zones,” a program passed by Congress as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage investment in low-income communities.

“Perhaps some communities designated as Opportunity Zones can draw real estate developers using tax incentives to build affordable housing,” Yun said

Posted on December 18, 2018 at 8:14 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

Flips decline to lowest level since 2015


In sign of cooling market, flips decline to lowest level since 2015

The number of home flips in 2018 hovered around 45,000 — a 12% decline from the third quarter of 2017

A cooling housing market has pushed U.S. home flips to its lowest level in over three years, according to a new report from Attom Data Solutions.

Over the past nine months, a total of 45,901 homes were flipped, which represented 5.0 percent of all home sales — a 0.2 percent quarter-over-quarter and a 0.1 percent year-over-year decline. The numbers are a stark change from May and June of this year, when the home flipping rate hit its highest levels in years.

“Home flipping acts as a canary in the coal mine for a cooling housing market because the high velocity of transactions provides home flippers with some of the best and most real-time data on how the market is trending,” said Attom Data Solutions Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist in the report.

“We’ve now seen three consecutive quarters with year-over-year decreases in home flips,” he added. “The last time that happened was in 2014 following the mortgage rate jump in the second half of 2013, but it’s still far from the 11 consecutive quarters with year-over-year decreases in home flips extending from Q2 2006 through Q4 2008 and leading up to the last housing crash.”


In Q3, the average gross return-on-investment (ROI) for flipped homes dipped to 42.6 percent, marking a 1.5 percent decline from the second quarter, and a 5.5 percent decline from this time last year — the lowest seen ROI since 2012.

Despite this, investors at the higher end of the market are still raking in the dough with the average gross ROI for homes priced $5M+ reaching 186 percent.

This past quarter, the percentage of homes purchased with financing dipped 1.9 percent quarter-over-quarter, to 38.8 percent, a reversal of the previous quarterwhen investors shied away from all-cash deals as purchase prices began to rise.

Although the home flipping market is tough in much of the country, investors are finding success in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana and Michigan. In the third quarter, Pennsylvania (96.7) and Ohio (90.4 percent) continued to yield some of the highest average gross flipping returns on investment.

Email Marian McPherson.

Posted on December 6, 2018 at 3:29 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

Bathroom trends: Tubs are out, new faucets are in

Bathroom trends: Tubs are out, new faucets are in

Removing bathtubs and adding new faucets were popular changes this year, as baby boomers led the way in renovating their restrooms

Move aside millennials — baby boomers are the leading the way in what’s hot and what’s not in the 2018 Bathroom Trends Report from home furnishings marketplace Houzz, released on Wednesday. Boomers represented the largest share (52 percent) of bathroom renovators over the past year, and 56 percent of them focused on making upgrades that would make it easier to age in place.

Continuing the trends seen in Houzz’s 2017 report, Baby Boomers changed their bathroom’s layout (47 percent), removed the bathtub (34 percent), and installed other features such as seated showers (62 percent), grab bars (55 percent), low curbs (40 percent) and non-slide floors (32 percent).

Bye, tubs! Showers are in. (Photo credit: Holly Marder for Houzz)

“Baby Boomers today account for the largest share of renovating homeowners and the largest share of renovation spend,” said Houzz principal economist Nino Sitchinava in the report.  “Insights reveal that a significant proportion of Boomers are aware of pending aging needs and are proactive about integrating universal design features during renovations.”

“That said, it is also clear that there are considerable opportunities to further educate the market on accessibility, and that the demand for universal design features will continue to grow,” Sitchinava added.

Beyond Baby Boomers anticipating future accessibility needs, the bathroom renovation market was also driven by homeowners who simply didn’t like their current bathroom (37 percent), who finally have the funds to make a change (30 percent), or whose bathroom was no longer functional (25 percent). Also, new homeowners bolstered market demand as they wanted to put their mark on a new home (24 percent in 2017 vs. 26 percent in 2018).

Where’s the money going?

New faucets are a focal point in the bathroom. (Photo credit: Margot Hartford)

On average, homeowners spent $16,000 to remodel bathrooms exceeding 100 square feet. That cost drops to about $7,000 for homeowners with smaller bathrooms that are less than 100 square feet — much cheaper than last year’s average of anywhere from $12,300 to $21,000.

Renovators put most of their dough towards new faucets (92 percent), wall finishes (89 percent), flooring (88 percent), lighting fixtures (85 percent), showers (84 percent), countertops (84 percent), sinks (83 percent), and vanities (83 percent). Windows were the least popular change (26 percent).

Other special features include undermounted sinks (63 percent), built-in (42 percent) or custom (55 percent) vanities, rainfall showerheads (57 percent), and high-tech toilets (28 percent).

Gray continues to rule the bathroom

Gray and neutral palettes continue to rule home design. (Photo credit: Angela Flournoy for Houzz)

When it comes to design, gray color schemes continue to dominate homeowners’ imaginations. This cool, muted hue tends to be the top choice for walls (32 percent) and flooring (30 percent) while white is the color of choice for cabinets and vanities (35 percent).

A contemporary design style led the way in 2018 (20 percent) followed by transitional (16 percent), modern (15 percent), and traditional (14 percent). But, the farmhouse style, which is defined by natural wood finishes, neutral color schemes with pops of green or blue, and simplistic prints, grew in popularity by three percentage points (4 percent in 2016 vs. 7 percent in 2018). Meanwhile, eclectic (4 percent), craftsman (3 percent) and beach (3 percent) designs fell flat.

Homeowners also favored nickel (38 percent) and chrome (28 percent) hardware and loved brick tile patterns (66 percent) for their shower walls and vanity backsplashes.

About the report

Houzz conducted an online quantitative survey of 1,100 registered Houzz users regarding bathroom renovation projects, fielded between June 30 and Oct. 17, 2018.

Posted on November 15, 2018 at 3:31 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

What’s hot and what’s not: 10 luxury housing trends you can’t ignore

What’s hot and what’s not: 10 luxury housing trends you can’t ignore

5 fads that are hitting the mark with affluent homebuyers and 5 that are past their expiration date

The premier event for luxury agents and brokers
Luxury Connect | Oct. 16-18 | Beverly Hills

This summer we’re looking at the state of the luxury agent and broker in today’s increasingly complex real estate market. In October, we’ll gather in Beverly Hills at Luxury Connect to share best practices, network and create a blueprint for the luxury agent/broker of tomorrow. Don’t miss it.

The 2018 luxury home market was initially riddled with uncertainty due to tax reformtariffs and a predicted slow down in demand. However, all markets are local, and what happens in one geographic sector can be completely different than what happens another.

What defines luxury is also hyperlocal given varying price points, styles of homes and who the buyer audience is for properties in the are.

Are they move-up buyers, primary or secondary residences, purely vacation homes or simply trophy purchases?

In many areas of the country, 2018 has continued to defy expectations as buyers are deciding now is the time to pursue that dream property whether it is $1 million, $100 million or somewhere in between.

Income tax-free states like Florida are seeing a surge in luxury home sales as more buyers seek desirable weather and a better financial climate.

Whether today’s luxury buyer is seeking a more favorable tax shelter or something to accommodate their upwardly mobile and jet-setting lifestyle, there are certain trends that have emerged as what’s hot and what’s not.

Here’s a peek at what affluent buyers are looking for from leading luxury sources, such as Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Report Luxury in ReviewThe Institute for Luxury Home Marketing’s Luxury Home Report and Mansion Global.

What’s in

1. Smaller properties

Today’s luxury buyer desires exceptional quality, but does not have to have thousands of square feet to show it off. They desire just the right size with thoughtful use of space and would rather have a better lot with breathtaking views.

2. Tech-savvy homes

In today’s there’s-an-app-for-that society, being at home is no exception. Modern luxury buyers want their home equipped with the latest technology to control everything from utilities, appliances, security, window shades and entertainment systems — all from the comfort of their phone.

3. Spectacular kitchens 

home space / Flickr

Regardless of whether a luxury buyer cooks, a well-appointed and spacious kitchen with the highest quality finishes and state-of-the-art commercial-grade appliances is a must.

Having a grand island is also important as an ideal gathering space for everyday meals and entertaining. The kitchen is the crown jewel of the home, and in the luxury sphere, it must stand out.

4. Uniquely special

Today’s high-end buyers want a home filled with custom finishes and features that reflect their personality and taste.

Whether it’s custom-designed furniture, items incorporated into a home’s design from the owners’ travels or purchased elsewhere for a one-of-a-kind feel, they don’t want what everyone else has — so look for hand-crafted and specialty-sourced pieces.

Luxury homeowners want their home to tell a story when guests walk through it.

5. Amenities

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

Whether it’s within the home or nearby, today’s luxury buyers want easy access to beaches, pools, fitness, spas and massage rooms.

Specialty rooms or living spaces tailored to interests like meditation rooms, sports courts or collection garages to house specialty cars are also of importance.

Proximity to private beach or country clubs that offer it all are also quite attractive for buyers relocating from another area as a way to be able to connect with other like-minded individuals.

What’s out

1. Oversize, overdone and ostentatious

No longer does having a ton of square footage define a luxury home. Neither does over-the-top finishes that are too taste specific and perhaps outdated, such as swirled marble floors, walls of glass or custom mirrors or an abundance of garish metal-toned hardware.

The custom window or wall treatments that cost six figures to go with custom-made furniture pieces for the current owner may not mesh so well with another buyer looking to incorporate their taste and spin.

Photo by Aaron Huber on Unsplash

2. Inconvenient and far removed

Today’s luxury buyers crave convenience. They don’t want to have to travel unnecessary distances for shopping, dining or services, and the same goes for a commute to work or an airport.

An extra 10 or 20 minutes to get from a property to the main entrance of a gated community, for example, can negatively impact how buyers feel about the neighborhood and home. The same goes for proximity to amenities and activities they enjoy.

3. Lack of quality finishes

With luxury real estate, details matter. Today’s high-end buyers are attune to quality at every level and look closely at walls, ceilings, woodwork (or lack thereof), stair treads, railings and spindles.

They also pay attention to things like the quality of the kitchen cabinets, soft close drawers, pantry size, closets and storage throughout the home.

Buyers are easily turned off by properties that lack these features and display poor workmanship, especially in regards to upper-end new construction spec homes where short cuts are often taken by builders who overlook details that would make the difference.

Buyers typically perceive these homes has having inflated asking prices relative to the lack of quality being offered.

Photo by Daniel Barnes on Unsplash

4. Functionally obsolete

Homes that have awkward or choppy layouts, wasted space, floor plans that go on and on, steep staircases and no elevator (or a way to put one in) are not perceived as in vogue by the luxury buyer.

Rather than trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, buyers are more apt to simply tear the house down and start over, particularly when it sits on a gorgeous lot with incomparable views and an unbeatable location.

5. Pie-in-the-sky overpricing

The luxury market is certainly one where pricing can defy logic as sellers believe there is a unique demand for what they have and what a hypothetical buyer may be willing to pay for.

Pricing far beyond the upper range ultimately leads to higher-end properties lagging on the market for quite a while, which can make them seem less desirable.

Thinking of bringing your team to Luxury Connect? There are special onsite perks and discounts when you buy those tickets together too. Just contact us to find out more.

Cara Ameer is a broker associate and global luxury agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted on September 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

8 graphs that show how much real estate has changed since the crash

8 graphs that show how much real estate has changed since the crash

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman shares his reflections 10 years on from the global financial crisis

The premier event for luxury agents and brokers
Luxury Connect | Oct. 16-18 | Beverly Hills

The following is a reflection from Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, on the years since the 2008 global financial crisis. It has been republished from the Redfin blog with permission. 

Ten years ago, on September 15, 2008, the great financial crisis began with Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy. I remember a board meeting in which an investor said her husband was loading the car with bottled water, in case our civilization collapsed.

I remember learning in a lunch line that we had just hired another real estate agent, when I’d already begun thinking about a lay-off. I remember the lay-off. And I remember that many of the houses that I saw on home tours got uglier, because their owners had left in a hurry or in anger, or just knew there was no point in fixing them up. History had arrived.

As a technology-powered real estate start-up at the center of it all, we experienced the crisis in the way a toddler might experience a hurricane: intensely. Everyone knew the world would never be the same, but the changes weren’t what we anticipated. Even now, many of those changes are clear to Redfin only because at different times we’ve been their eyewitness, their beneficiary, their target, or their propagator. Here are the eight that stand out to us.

1. Progressive policies widened the wealth gap

The financial crisis contributed to a massive wealth gap, larger even than the income gap. The income gap is a well-understood phenomenon with many causes, but it’s the wealth gap that matters more: because wealth is accumulated through capital gains and not just income, and because it’s wealth, not income, that is transferred from one generation to another, creating long-term class divisions.

And what no one has noticed about the wealth gap is how it was exacerbated by progressive reforms designed to limit the financial leverage available to the middle class. The government printed money for people to borrow at almost no cost, but passed laws that ensured only the wealthiest half of Americans could borrow it, all at a time when houses and stocks were at rock-bottom prices.

Rich people began buying homes from poor people just when those homes were most affordable. Without easy credit to mask stagnant wage growth, middle-class Americans began to feel poor.

2. A landlord nation

Mortgage interest rates dipped as low as 3.3%, a bonanza that seemed relatively short-lived at the time but that will in fact haunt the housing market for the next 30 years: homeowners have become loathe to give up the loan they got in 2012, and can easily find renters to pay the mortgage on their old place, sometimes by renting out the whole house if they want to move, otherwise just a garage that has been converted into a bedroom.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb became the marketplace for this arbitrage between low mortgages and high rents. Between 2006 and 2018, the fraction of Americans renting their home increased by 13%.

Because interest rates have dissuaded so many people from selling their homes, the laws of supply and demand no longer work in housing. From 2010 to 2017, even as home prices increased nearly 50%, the number of homes for sale per household declined 37%, and are still 38% below the historical average.

3. The builders never came back

That so few re-sale listings are reaching the market would normally make the opportunity for builders only larger but the construction industry never recovered: the number of single-family homes we started to build in 2017 still hadn’t reached half the level of twelve years earlier, in 2005.

Before the crisis, George W. Bush appealed to voters in new developments at the edge of every American city with his vision of “the ownership society.” Today, there’s no longer a broad consensus that we owe each generation the roads, schools, houses and credit to make the American Dream possible.

Builders are cautious about big, risky projects and wary of reforms that make homeowner lawsuits easier to win; many simply shrug when vilified by citizens and local governments that used to be their partners in housing the middle class.

4. The rise of the second city

Cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Providence and Milwaukee were left for dead, but when demand returned to a country that was no longer investing in more housing, these were the cities with the housing reserves to take people in.

The folks who could no longer afford San Francisco, New York, Washington, Seattle and Chicago moved, in a trickle at first and then in a great wave. This has turned the fundamental narrative of 20th century American migration on its head, prompting Oklahoma City’s mayor at one point to say, “it’s like the Wrath of Grapes.” Migration patterns now shift from city to city in search of affordability, driving up prices in Seattle before moving to Denver, then to Portland, then to Nashville, then to Salt Lake City, with long-time residents starting to leave a city even while the number coming is still rising.

This cycle will continue for years to come, straining the social fabric of one city after another, but also bringing prosperity to America’s once-forgotten places.

5. The disruption of the real estate industry

The financial crisis sapped the resources of many real estate brokerages and their standing among consumers. At the same time, Middle-Eastern and Asian money flowed into private technology companies at almost unprecedented rates, creating the so-called unicorn bubble of billion-dollar private companies.

Before the crisis, Redfin was virtually the only technology-powered real estate brokerage and no one wanted to fund us. Now, Wall Street has come to the firm conclusion that technology is going to change how people buy and sell homes. The private capital invested in real estate technology companies increased from $28 million in 2008 to a projected $3 billion in 2018, with almost all of it going to disruptive brokerages, not ad-driven listing-search sites.

Over that same five-year period, a boom for real estate, the largest holding company of traditional real estate brokerages, Realogy, lost nearly 60% of its market value, despite five straight years of increasing revenues.

6. Wall Street buys Main Street

The new capital hasn’t just funded the development of new technologies, but also the outright purchase of houses. Instead of just brokering a sale, companies like RedfinOpendoorOfferpad and Zillow are now buying homes directly from their owners, renovating the properties, and then trying to sell them at a profit.

In markets like Phoenix, more than 5% of home sales are now to institutional buyers, and the number is growing fast.

A decade ago, we were undone by a system-wide failure in deciding who could get a home loan; if there is going to be a system-wide failure in the housing market’s future, it could be in the algorithms institutional buyers now use to price homes.

7. The internet consolidates

The free-money stimulus that followed the fiscal crisis has benefited the companies best able to raise capital, funding the growth of titans like Uber and Amazon over a decade. An Amazon investor would shrug at the company’s continued reinvestment of potential profits because she couldn’t get 3% interest on her money without taking unusual risks.

These equity investments in companies that grew in size without having to generate significant profits or dividends funded the creation of near-monopolies in e-commerce, cloud computing, and transportation. It created a mindset where capital itself was the competitive weapon, not just the technology you could build with it. It has made the technology industry nearly an oligopoly.

8. The end of the middle

The fiscal crisis also engendered a deep feeling that the system was broken, spawning the Tea Party and Trumpism on the right, and Occupy Wall Street and Sandersism on the left.

Millions lost their homes, but to rebuild the system, the government chose not to prosecute the bankers and traders behind a global economic collapse.

The political and economic order survived 2008, but Americans on all sides spent the next ten years trying to tear it down. Faith in our institutions had already begun to wane before 2008, but the economic anger engendered by the crisis sharpened this trend.

But perhaps what’s most remarkable is what didn’t happen. America created the global financial crisis, but emerged as the world’s strongest economy. T

he country seemed poised for a major redistribution of wealth but then resumed the focus we’ve had for the last 30 years, on creating wealth, even if much of it remains concentrated in the hands of a few. The economy recovered better than we could have hoped, and still American society has fractured more than we could have imagined.

Posted on September 20, 2018 at 5:28 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized

The Cost of Selling Without a Real Estate Agent

Hands grabbing $100 bills

© Somsak Bumroongwong – EyeEm/Getty Images

The Cost of Selling Without a Real Estate Agent

July 16, 2018

You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse; but without your market expertise and sales skills to back them up, sellers who choose to sell their home on their own just may experience “seller’s regret” when they see how much less they get for their properties. FSBOs earn an average of $60,000 to $90,000 less on the sale of their home than sellers who work with a real estate agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Here’s the breakdown:

  • All agent-assisted homes: $250,000 (median selling price)
  • All FSBO homes: $190,000
  • FSBO homes when buyer knew seller: $160,300

With this kind of discrepancy, why would any seller choose to go it alone? Some may want to avoid paying an agent’s commission—but even factoring that in, FSBOs still stand to make less on their home sale. “Talk to an agent and find out what they suggest for the commission, and then do the math yourself,” researchers write on NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog. “The closing price for the agent-assisted seller is likely going to be way above a FSBO. [But] in reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall.”

Homeowners seem to be hearing the message: Only 8 percent of sellers last year—an all-time low—chose to sell their home themselves, according to NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That figure has been falling since 2004, when 14 percent of homeowners sold their own homes.

Of the share of FSBOs last year, 38 percent of the homes were sold to a buyer that the seller knew, such as a friend, neighbor, or family member. The majority of FSBO transactions, however, were sold to buyers the owner did not know.

Posted on July 26, 2018 at 10:31 pm
Scott Rabin | Category: Uncategorized