A contemporary waterfront estate on Florida’s ultra-exclusive Star Island has floated onto the market for $40 million. The top-tier price tag makes the Miami Beach property this week’s most expensive new listing on realtor.com®.
The 14,762-square-foot luxury mansion on the guard-gated island last sold in 2011 for $25.5 million. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Miami Beach residential sales ever.
Post-purchase, the new owners remodeled and expanded the residence. According to the listing agent, Jill Eber with Coldwell Banker Realty, they added a professional chef’s kitchen, another bedroom, a home office, and a laundry facility.
The property is held by an opaque Delaware corporate entity (E&A Estates), and the elusive owners are now ready to sail away from the waterfront retreat, which comes with 100 feet of water frontage and a wood dock. Eber told us that the sellers live overseas and don’t spend as much time in Miami as they used to.
With the stand-out price comes a stand-out property.
“It’s the most sought-after view that you have in Miami. It’s direct bay, out to the downtown skyline,” Eber says.
She adds, “Everybody’s looking for the best of the best location. That is what this is. And then, the house itself is beautiful. It’s a trophy property.”
Along with those Biscayne Bay and Miami skyline views, the spacious spread contains 10 beds, 10.5 baths, a living room and formal dining room, a chef’s kitchen, library/den, wine room, and a great room that opens to the pool area.
Upstairs, the master suite features a sitting room, office, and two large terraces, plus a bathroom with an onyx and glass steam shower, a walk-in closet, and custom spa tub.
Other luxe interior details include stone floors, Venetian plaster walls, and an elevator.
On the almost 1-acre lot, the manicured grounds include a pool with a hot tub, cabana bath, covered bar, and multiple seating and sunning areas.
“It’s really a timeless design,” Eber says. “The whole layout is open. It’s very much indoor-outdoor living.”
The current listing is at the top of the price point for the island, but it joins several other properties on the exclusive Miami Beach enclave that are up for grabs.
A renovated 1920s villa that came on the market in 2016 for $65 million dropped to $40 million last year. Each time it was listed, the estate was named our most expensive listing of the week. The property is still available.
In one more note, the singer Gloria Estefan has had a home on the market for years, first listed in 2015 for $40 million, now available for $32 million. She and her husband, Emilio Estefan, live nearby, and initially bought the place for Emilio’s mother. After her death, the couple rented out the property before deciding to sell it.
Considered one of the most sought-after locations in Miami, Star Island has attracted many A-listers to its shores, including Cher, Jennifer Lopez, and Ricky Martin.
There is at least one bright spot for home buyers, sellers, and owners amid the economic mayhem brought on by the novel coronavirus. Mortgage interest rates have fallen to a new record low, a boon to homeowners who may want to refinance and save money, and buyers (if anyone feels like buying a home right now).
Rates have been on a wild ride since this crisis began, and the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit 3.23% for the week ending April 30, according to Freddie Mac. That’s the lowest it’s been since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971. The average rate was 4.14% a year ago.
The drop may not seem all that substantial, as it’s not even a full percentage point. But the lower rate will save borrowers $132 a month for a $320,000 home (the national median home price) if they made a 20% down payment. That’s $1,584 a year—which adds up over the life of that 30-year loan.
Mortgage rates could continue falling as the pandemic continues wreaking havoc on the economy.
“Rates are not in a hurry to move back up from here,” says Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. “Unless there is a sudden and significant change in the global economy in response to a sudden and significant development in the fight against coronavirus, we likely haven’t seen the lowest rates yet.”
Those ultralow rates aren’t likely to save the slumping housing market, though.
“In a normal market, that would be great news for buyers,” says realtor.com® Senior Economist George Ratiu. “In today’s market, rates are likely to have little impact.”
More than 30 million people are out of work as businesses across the nation have been forced to temporarily close to stem the spread of COVID-19. Even those that remain functioning have seen their revenue plunge, raising the prospect of more layoffs.
That should give both buyers and sellers pause. Add a severe shortage of properties for sale, with double-digit drops over the past few months, and it’s clear that this year’s spring home-buying season, already well underway, will end up far slower than usual.
Can borrowers snag these low rates?
Though rates have reached record lows, not everyone will be able to snag them. Mortgage rates can fluctuate throughout the day as well as vary quite a bit among lenders—by as much as 0.5%.
Riskier borrowers with lower credit scores, higher debt loads, or lost income due to the crisis may get stuck with higher rates, if they’re granted a loan at all.
“These rates are really available, but the catch is the restrictions are tighter at many lenders for things like lower credit scores … and other risk factors,” says Graham. “These either make for higher rates or flat-out unavailability, depending on the scenario.
Why rates are falling again
As the economy shifted into a downturn in early March, rates reached then-record lows of 3.29% in the week ending March 5. But just two weeks later, they had risen back to 3.65% despite the Federal Reserve slashing mortgage rates to between 0% and 0.25%. They’ve since fluctuated, sometimes multiple times a day.
They’re settling down again, thanks to changes the U.S. government has made to the secondary mortgage market. Lenders typically don’t want to keep a mortgage on their books once it’s made, as that ties up money that could be used to make new loans. So they sell the mortgages, which are bundled together into mortgage-backed securities, to investors in the secondary market.
With so many people out of work and unable to make their mortgage payments, many investors have shied away from these securities, also called mortgage bonds. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now permitted to buy these riskier loans in forbearance. That’s boosting investor confidence in these securities and driving up prices due to demand.
When mortgage bonds prices are up, mortgage rates go down. Hence, the lower rates.
“These low rates are driving higher refinance activity and have modestly helped improve purchase demand from their extremely low levels in mid-April,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “While many people are benefitting from low mortgage rates, it’s important to remember that not all people are able to take advantage of them given the current pandemic.”
In the past few days, several states have begun the highly controversial process of loosening stay-at-home orders and restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. In the coming days and weeks, many more states, counties, and cities will follow examples set by states such as Georgia, Texas and Colorado as lockdowns expire at the end of the month or in early May.
The impact of these changes won’t be felt just by the small-business owners who choose to reopen and the customers who begin resuming their lives in this new normal. The easing of these restrictions will also be felt by the housing markets in these places. But how quickly—and strongly—will they rebound from their period of deep freeze?
Real estate professionals are already reporting that the easing of these orders is resulting in a small boost in the number of listings coming online, and in a slight uptick the numbers of prospective buyers shopping around. This gives these markets a stronger start to what will certainly be a much slower than anticipated spring market.
“There’s a clear link between the extent of the stay-at-home orders and the amount of buyers and sellers in the real estate market,” says Javier Vivas, realtor.com®’s director of economic research. “The markets that reopen will see more listings come back onto the market. And then very shortly after that, we’ll see more buyers at open houses.”
The benefits to easing up on restrictions may give both buyers and sellers something of a psychological boost, too.
Sellers may feel more secure in allowing buyers to walk through their properties. And with local economies beginning to rev back up, buyers may feel more confident in their finances to pull the trigger on investing in a new home and moving. Both groups may believe that the worst of the deadly health threat is behind them, regardless of whether that proves to be true.
Part of that bump will come from the spring and summer being traditionally busier months for home sales, says Norm Miller, a real estate finance professor at the University of San Diego. Parents often want to move before the kids go back to school.
However, health experts have warned that allowing people to freely circulate again could lead to a rash of new cases, which would take a couple of weeks to emerge. And no one should expect the real estate market will get fully back to normal—even when the U.S. is open for business again. In the absence of a vaccine, there’s still a deadly pandemic terrorizing the world, which will discourage many folks from listing or buying homes. More than 30 million people have lost their jobs or income, or have been furloughed, since the crisis began—and that number is expected to rise. As a result, it’s now going to be harder for many folks to score a mortgage. Even those who are still employed may worry about the security of their jobs. And they may hold off on making what could be the biggest purchase of their lives until the economy improves.
That means there will be fewer listings, buyers, and sales even as the nation heads into what’s normally the busiest seasons for real estate: spring and summer.
“When you get a sense that things are back to normal, [there could be] an initial boost of energy” in the housing market, says Vivas. “But pretty quickly there will be a reality check. You look at your finances and what’s available on the market, and you do the math, and it pretty quickly turns into a difficult decision.”
“We’ll see buyers be more cautious,” he says.
More homes are going on the market where lockdowns are eased
One of the biggest issues facing the national housing market is the lack of homes for sale.
Inventory is down annually just about everywhere, hitting a new low in supply for April, according to realtor.com data. But in most states that have allowed more businesses to reopen, inventory is beginning to trickle back onto the market again, even if just by a little.
“Places that have fewer physical restrictions and fewer [COVID-19] cases tend to see more sellers act as if this was just a regular spring home-buying season,” says Vivas.
Take South Carolina. A stay-at-home order was issued on April 7, later than most other states, and has been extended through May 15. But the Palmetto State began loosening restrictions on April 20, allowing beaches and retail stores to begin reopening. Stores must operate at a reduced capacity.
In South Carolina, showings reached their lowest point around Easter weekend, says Charleston-based real estate broker Owen Tyler, of the Cassina Group. He’s also president of the South Carolina Realtors®, the state’s Realtor association. Since the restrictions have been loosened, he’s seen a slight pickup statewide in the market—but nowhere near the normal numbers of buyers, sellers, and sales.
“They’re ticking up slowly but surely,” Tyler says. “We can see a light at the end of the tunnel. … It does not feel like a forever situation.”
Since Colorado started easing up on its own restrictions, Aurora-based real estate broker Cindy Dassinger has also seen listings nudge up in areas where in-person showings can resume. Real estate agents in Douglas County, near Denver, were allowed to give home tours since Monday. However, they’re still not permitted in Denver County.
Many more listings, currently classified as coming soon, are likely to hit the market once showings resume in their respective counties, she says.
“The faster we can get small businesses open, the faster we can recuperate,” says Dassinger, of Metro Home Finders in Aurora. “There are [fewer] buyers out there, but the buyers that are there are serious.”
The restrictions on in-person home tours haven’t discouraged buyers who need to move, say, for a job transfer. Folks have bought homes they’ve never set foot in, Dassinger says. They’ll add clauses to their contracts stating they have the right to view the properties in person before the closings take place. This allows them to back out of any bad deals without losing money.
“We’ve had houses go on the market in the middle of this thing and go under contract within 72 hours, and some with multiple offers,” says Dassinger.
Atlanta-area real estate broker Tim Hur is also seeing a few more listings go live and expects to see more as Georgia eases up on restrictions. However, he doesn’t expect the normally brisk, spring buying seasons of years past.
“We’ll see a little more activity,” says Hur, who’s with Point Honors & Associates, Realtors. “But it doesn’t change the fact that people are still unemployed, they’re furloughed, or there are fears of COVID-19. … There’s a lot of more people sitting on the sidelines wanting to see how it all pans out.”
More buyers may also return to reopening markets
Blue Ridge, GA–based real estate broker Faron W. King is also seeing a bit more interest from prospective buyers ever since Georgia let up on some of its restrictions. King, of Coldwell Baker High Country Realty, sells homes in the vacation area, which is popular with folks from Atlanta and Florida for its mountains and lakes.
“A lot of this is people with cabin fever” dreaming of leaving the city behind and moving to or buying a second home in the mountains, says King. He is also the president of the state’s Realtor group, Georgia Realtors®.
But it could lead to even a slight uptick in sales, particularly as the country heads into the warmer-weather months when vacation homes are particularly appealing.
The demand is still there from buyers, many of whom have been stymied by the lack of homes for sale even before the crisis and sky-high prices. But those who’ve lost jobs and income may no longer be able to afford to get into the market. And many more may choose to wait out the crisis until they’re more sure of their financial footing.
Being allowed to go back to work again may give at least a few potential buyers the psychological and even financial boost they need to pull the trigger.
Buyer “interest has been piling up,” says realtor.com’s Vivas. “By reopening, you’re opening the door to that backlog.”
However, the areas suffering from the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases will take longer to reopen. And while sales are expected to be down nationwide this spring and summer, these more affected real estate markets will be off to a slower start and take longer to rebound.
“There’s going to be some uncertainty in areas that have had a worse experience with the virus,” says Edward Goetz, an urban planning professor at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Real estate markets [don’t] like uncertainty.”
While the kids are out of school, the adults are doing everything they can to keep their little ones safe and healthy at home – and find creative ways to alleviate the boredom and frustration they may be feeling after weeks away from their school friends or grandparents.
With just a few materials you can order online (or pick up curbside at the home improvement store) and some tools you likely have lying around the house, you can keep those little hands busy while giving your house some TLC.
Here are five DIY projects to improve your home and give your kids a productive outlet for their energy.
Build raised garden beds
It seems like everyone is jumping on the gardening bandwagon and creating “victory” COVID-19 gardens. A garden not only gives you the benefit of fresh herbs, vegetables or flowers, it’s also a natural outdoor classroom for your kids – helping them learn measurements, basic botany facts and giving them a boost to their mental and physical well-being.
Raised garden beds help plants thrive because they’re easier to maintain, and they are a fairly easy project for children to assist with. To make a 4×4 raised garden bed, all you need are the following:
Eight untreated 2x4s that are 4 feet long
Four untreated 12-inch 4×4 corner posts
A box of 4-inch wood screws
To construct the rectangular box, attach two 2x4s to each corner post (stacking them vertically). Have your older child hold the boards securely in place as you drill. When you’re finished building your structure, kids of all ages can assist you with picking out a sunny spot in the backyard for your raised garden bed and help you pour in the soil and plant your veggies or flowers.
Give your mailbox a makeover
Brighten up your humdrum mailbox and give your heroic postal worker something to smile about when they deliver your mail. This project is best suited for those kids who can comfortably wear a face mask and use a spray paint can responsibly. To give your mailbox a facelift, you’ll need the following supplies:
Metal paint spray paint in a vibrant color
Tag team sanding off rust and old paint on your mailbox while wearing protective masks. Then, have your child assist you with placing painters tape over any address numbers or the mail flag to protect them from being painted. Spray primer and allow it to dry before applying the metal spray paint. To customize your mailbox and make it stand out, use stencils to create flowers, letters, or let your mini Van Gogh freehand different designs.
* If you don’t already have masks on hand, consider waiting on this project until masks and other personal protective equipment are more readily available. Or, if you’re purchasing a new mailbox, you can do this project entirely freehand, no mask required.
Construct a birdhouse
Though birds aren’t required to shelter in place, it’s nice for them to have a safe spot to land in your backyard – and exciting for the whole family to watch as they come and go. You can either construct a birdhouse using a pre-cut birdhouse kit (available to order online at most home improvement stores) or you can make the cuts yourself on a 2×6 or even a spare fence post. Have older kids help you nail or wood glue it together and have little ones personalize it with paint to give the birds in your backyard a truly unique home to call their own.
Or, if you want to give your neighborhood squirrels a place to kick back, you can repurpose almost any kind of wood to make an adorable miniature picnic table.
Stencil paint your tile floor
Want to give your tile floor a new look but don’t want to invest the money, time or intensive labor it takes to rip up and lay down a new one? While this project requires patience and attention to detail, your children can pitch in and help out to make it go a little faster. Here’s what you’ll need for this tile stenciling project:
Semi- or high-gloss latex paint in both a base color and a design color
A chosen stencil (create your own or look up one that you like online)
Begin your project with a deep cleaning of your bathroom floors (and cue the complaints from your kids). Once your floors are squeaky clean, tag team a floor sanding with your kids to help the tiles take paint. Then, tape the perimeter of the room, underneath your vanity cabinet and around your toilet.
Apply primer to the floors and let them dry. Then, paint your base color. Once these coats have dried, you’re now ready for your stenciling. Have your kid help you tape the stencil in place and then paint your design color onto the floor. If your older kids have a steady hand, using two stencils will speed the process along and reveal a beautifully designed floor even quicker. This example can help you visualize a finished product.
Restyle your bathroom drawer pulls
You’d be surprised at how much of a design impact changing the drawer pulls on a bathroom vanity can have. This inexpensive DIY project is quick to complete and perfect for little hands who can help you hold the hardware while you handle the screwdriver.
All you need for this project are new drawer pulls or knobs (have your child assist you with the measurements to see what size you need) and a screwdriver. Remove the old drawer pulls and have your kid at the ready to put all of the old pieces in a single pile and hand you the screws and the new drawer pulls as you need them.
Feeling more ambitious? Change out the hardware on your kitchen cabinets for an easy upgrade. Or do this project on a small scale and swap out the handles or knobs on an old dresser to give it a new style.
Like many homeowners, you may have eyed a home improvement project in the past only to come up short on time or inspiration.
Don’t feel bad. Nearly half (43%) of all homeowners say their biggest challenge around home improvement decisions is finding DIY time, which also may explain why the same percentage of people say they have unfinished home improvement projects – typically two.
Since many of us are spending much or all of our time at home, now might be a good time to channel some of that cabin fever into a project that could add value to your home or infuse it with new energy.
Here’s a sampling of projects you can tackle alone – or with a pint-sized assistant in need of a play date.
Attention to detail is key for this project – you don’t want to flood your kitchen because you forgot to turn off the water valve – but no previous plumbing skills are required, and a shiny new faucet can generate a lot of day-to-day pleasure for a little effort. These instructions walk you through the steps to install a kitchen faucet (and the process is just the same for a bathroom sink).
Light fixtures and switches
Few things can change the atmosphere of a room as quickly as lighting. Swapping out an old fixture for a new one – or an on-off switch for a dimmer – can provide a mood for any occasion. Here’s an easy guide to change a light fixture. Switches use the same types of wires, so if you can swap a fixture, you can handle a switch.
This is a great one to tackle with kids. Celebrate the finished product with a s’mores party. Plus, the sales price premium on homes with fire pits is 2.8%, according to a Zillow analysis of thousands of home listings and sales prices.* Build you own backyard fire pit in 7 easy steps.
Smart tech upgrade
There are countless smart home products you can choose from, and some require little more than changing a light bulb or plugging in a device. A few to consider:
Smart doorbell/camera: Installing one is similar to changing out a light switch. The process involves removing your old doorbell and connecting the device to your Wi-Fi.
Smart locks: Do you have a family member who is always losing their house key? Replacing a traditional door lock with a keyless entry you access using a touch pad or smartphone app is an easy solution.
Smart home hub: Amazon, Google, Apple, Nest, Samsung and others offer smart home hubs, which allow you to interact with compatible devices through a central system. The hub itself is typically “plug and play” and easy to set up. But you may need to do some initial troubleshooting to get all of your devices connected.
Smart lights: This project is as simple as buying and installing light bulbs. However, the upgrade requires coordination with a smart home system because each one has its own requirements and controls. If you already have a home system, be sure the lights you choose are compatible. If you’re thinking of buying a new system, keep in mind that it needs to work harmoniously with the products you already have.
Updating your kitchen doesn’t have to involve major renovations. You can create a whole new look by changing out the door and drawer pulls, painting your cabinets or removing cabinet doors to create an open-shelving effect. Or, if you have too much wall space and too few cabinets, you can easily install open shelving from scratch. An added bonus: Homes with open shelving sell for 4.2% more than expected. For cabinet tips and other ideas, here are seven ways to upgrade your kitchen without remodeling.
Switching out a traditional swinging door or a closet slider for a barn door that glides on a rail can give your room a striking look, as well as open up space and change the furniture arranging possibilities. And your effort might pay off in other ways: Barn doors are associated with a 5% price premium. You’ll need a few tools, another pair of hands, and these step-by-step instructions which cover all the details of how to build and install your own sliding barn door.
Board & batten
You may not be familiar with the term, but you’ve probably seen this classic design feature in a number of homes. Precision is required for this one, and that means you need the right tools, namely a measuring tape, a level and a miter saw. Also patience. But if you can imagine a 3D element atop your drywall, you’re ready to go, and this guide will walk you through each step of the process.
If you have the know-how to build a garden shed, you can find any number of plans and tutorials online to suit your taste. And if you’re not quite up for that challenge, you can still improve the one you’ve got or buy a garden-variety one and make it your own. Start by imagining whether you need it for storage or extra work or living space, and go from there. Homes with a “she shed” are associated with a 3.6% price premium. Here’s some inspiration to create your own custom garden workspace.
This is the kind of project you can tackle if you missed out on your real vocation and ended up in a desk job. Labor-intensive and requiring the confidence of an accomplished tradesperson (and some math skills), your success in warming your dwelling from the bottom up will make you a hero or heroine in your own home. This project is ideal if you already planned to replace the flooring in a room and have the opportunity to add a heating element in the process. Learn about the different types of radiant flooring and tips for DIY success. Homes with this feature sell for 4.9% more than expected.
Whatever you decide to do, measure twice and have fun!
*Home sale data is based on a Zillow analysis of listing language and the sales performance of thousands of homes nationwide in 2018 and 2019. Adding these design features to a home does not guarantee or definitively cause the ultimate sale price to increase as much as observed.
In this current moment when many of us are staying home, one of the best remedies to help alleviate some of the stress is to head outside and get some fresh air – preferably at least six feet or more away from your neighbor. If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space, whether you have a sprawling backyard or a smidgen of a patio, make the most of it with these seven ideas for improving your outdoor area.
Curate an outdoor lounge space
Had to cancel a beach vacation you planned for spring break or summer? Set up an outdoor lounge space on your patio or in the yard to give your outdoor space a tropical feel. You can either scour the internet for lounge chairs, chaise lounges, hammocks and outdoor sectionals, or create your own, like a one-of-a-kind outdoor lounge bed. All you need to complete this project is a platform bed frame, a futon mattress and outdoor fabric to cover it. (If you’re not handy with the sewing machine, this would be a simple task for a local upholsterer to tackle.) Plop some outdoor pillows on top for added comfort and style.
To complete your lounge, add in some side tables, a few candles and maybe a glass of wine to create that all-inclusive atmosphere.
DIY outdoor movie theater
The movie theaters may be off limits for now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t re-create the experience in your own private outdoor space. Though you’ve likely seen elaborate backyard movie theater setups, it doesn’t have to be complicated: All you need is a white sheet that can be tautly mounted on a flat surface (a shed or siding on your apartment patio will do just fine), a projector and your phone to play movies, TV shows or whatever else you’re binging these days.
Don’t have access to a projector? It’s surprisingly simple to make one out of a shoe box, some cardboard and a magnifying glass. Round up your favorite patio chairs or arrange your outdoor cushions, make some popcorn and enjoy your movie with the background noise of the crickets chirping.
Create an outdoor bar
It may be a while before you can go back to your favorite dive bar or swanky cocktail lounge, so why not create your own for your outdoor space? You can, of course, buy a bar online, or you can repurpose an old table or desk – or even get crafty with some cinder blocks, concrete glue and a few 1 x 6 boards to create your very own. Gather your Bluetooth speaker, your favorite cocktail ingredients and a few glasses to get the ambiance of your favorite bar right at home. Here are a few ideas for inspiration, including bars you can squeeze into the smallest of outdoor spaces.
Beautify a barn or shed
A barn or a shed is a utilitarian structure, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an eyesore. Spruce it up by painting it a bold color, attaching some shutters, adding some flower boxes, installing a stone path or even stringing up some lights to zhuzh up that forgotten space in the backyard.
DIY fire pit
Just because many of the state parks or campsites are closed doesn’t mean you have to miss out on everyone’s favorite camping activity: the campfire. You can easily create a DIY fire pit for your backyard in seven steps, which only requires a few supplies you can pick up curbside at your local home improvement store. Not a big DIYer? You can always buy a prefab fire bowl that’s just as effective at creating that warm, cozy campfire glow.
Make an al fresco dining destination
We’re all getting a little tired of eating in our kitchens (or, maybe in front of our televisions) night after night. Mix it up a little by making an al fresco dining destination in your backyard or patio. In addition to an outdoor dining table and chairs, lay down an outdoor rug and string up a strand of lights or craft yourself an outdoor chandelier to transform your evening meals.
Create a meditation zone
Missing your yoga studio? You can still do a restorative practice and a shavasana at home – and make it even better by creating a meditation zone in your backyard. Plant a garden with calming scents like lavender or jasmine, create a stepping stone path to your meditation spot or even build yourself a standing tent or cabana with curtains that blow in the warm, calming breeze.
Now that many of us have spent several weeks living inside, we’ve become quite familiar with our homes – in some cases, maybe too familiar. If you were planning to move before COVID-19, and still plan to do so when the timing is right, you might want to take this time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not in your current home. For instance, those stairs you’ve climbed 10 times a day may have kept you moving while you’ve stayed home, but maybe you’d like stair-free living in your next home. Or perhaps the yard you thought you could do without has now become a must-have.
We’ve come up with a list of questions to help you pinpoint what you like and don’t like about your current home so you can find more comfort and pleasure in your next one.
What’s working for you – and what’s not?
On a scale of 1-10, how do you like your current home?
What’s your home’s best quality?
And its worst quality?
Do you like the style of your home? If not, is there an architectural style or era you prefer?
What’s your favorite room, and what makes spending time there pleasurable?
Space and flow: How do you feel when you’re at home?
Do you have enough space or too much? Where could you use more/less space?
How would you describe the layout – an open floor plan or more compartmentalized? Does it suit your lifestyle?
Do you have enough or too many bedrooms? Bathrooms?
Do you like the number of levels (single or multistory)?
Are you happy with the windows (enough natural light, well-placed, too sunny)?
Do you like the fixtures and finishes?
Is there a specialized room you’ve never had but have always wanted (such as a home office, workout room, sewing room, laundry room or mudroom)?
What’s outside – and how does it affect your experience of home?
If you have an outdoor space, do you enjoy spending time there?
If you don’t have one, do you feel like you’re missing out?
Do you enjoy taking care of a yard… or feel burdened by it (be honest!)?
Does your home have curb appeal? If not, what needs to be improved?
Do you have adequate parking? Is a garage or carport a must-have?
How much time and effort does the exterior require for upkeep (painting, staining, etc.)?
Your neighborhood: Community connections can make life all the sweeter
Are you happy with your neighborhood? Think about all its characteristics, including walkability, parks, nearby activities, density, noise level and neighbor involvement.
Do you have to travel far for basics such as groceries or a doctor’s appointment?
Are you happy with your commute?
Are there enough activities going on around you – or too many?
With social distancing mandates in effect across much of the country, many people working in industries deemed “non-essential” are doing their work from home. And while the constant stream of COVID-19 news, in addition to caretaking or homeschooling responsibilities, can make it hard to stay focused on work, modifying your space can help. An organized and visually appealing work area can help you feel more productive – and more relaxed.
Here are five tips for elevating your home workspace.
Commit to your space
For those of us who don’t have a home office – which is a lot of people – work-from-home routines can easily get derailed. Designating an area for work, even if that place is the bill-paying area in your kitchen, is a way to stay in your routine and get yourself in the work mindset. Whatever spot you choose, just make sure it feels like a dedicated and functional work area. That means adequate lighting, a comfortable chair – the right height for typing without strain – a seamless tech setup that allows you to take and make video calls without having to fiddle with plugs or wires, and an overall lack of clutter on your desk and the surrounding area.
This seems obvious, but let’s level with ourselves. When do we really get around to cleaning our desks? Well, now’s the time. Toss anything that needs to be thrown out, pair like items with like, contain those stray pens in one nice decorative cup, and make sure you have all your workday essentials close at hand and non-essential items moved elsewhere.
Curate an inspiration board
Now that you’ve set the stage, it’s time to look ahead. And that wall you’re looking at beyond your laptop should inspire you. This is as good a time as ever to put together an inspiration board and fill it with what makes you happy, from images of your favorite people and pets, to pics of your goals (like that fabulous vacation you are going to take once we’ve all gotten through this tough time!). And yes, you can put your to-dos and important reminders up there too – but keep the focus on the positive and uplifting, and keep it right in your line of sight.
Do a background check
If video calls are part of your new day-to-day, think about what your colleagues are seeing behind you – like that pile of laundry or those mostly empty wine glasses. Keep things clean and uncluttered. And if you have the space, show off your style. Some good background options might be your favorite art piece, interesting souvenirs or a not-overly-stuffed bookcase. Lastly, remember lighting: Your space should be adequately lit, or it’ll look like you’re dialing in from a submarine.
Set the mood
Never got your dream office? This is your moment. We bet scented candles aren’t allowed in your regular workspace, but you get to make the rules at home. Aromatherapy diffusers are another option if you’re worried about curious kids or pets. And now your playlist can softly waft overhead rather than through earphones. Similarly, set out some healthy snacks to avoid refrigerator trips, and nosh away. It’s OK for your home office to feel like your home, and especially now, it’s important to take time to indulge yourself with some creature comforts that feed your soul and make you feel calm and inspired.
If you were counting on crowded open houses (or any open houses, for that matter) to sell your home, you’ve probably been rethinking your strategy. Nearly the entire country is following public health orders to stay at home through April or May, traditionally the prime selling season. As a result, online for-sale listings have taken on more importance than ever, and it all starts with increasing your home’s screen appeal.
Stage your space
The first step in staging your home is aggressive decluttering. Put away all the kids’ and pets’ toys, store or recycle loose magazines and box up your picture frames and mementos for now. You don’t want to erase all the personality from your home, but you do want it to feel neutral so potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Plus, the less random stuff on display, the more spacious your rooms will look.
Next, consider the layout. You may love how your rooms are arranged, but your furniture placement might not maximize space on screen. Take some test photos to see if the current layout photographs well. If you’re planning on creating a recorded or live video tour, do a video chat walkthrough with a friend and see if you have a clear path between furniture pieces. You definitely want to avoid tripping over an ottoman while doing a live tour.
Finally, clean and dust every surface in sight, and replace all the lightbulbs so that rooms are as bright as they can be – even the most beautiful spaces won’t read well on camera if they’re too dark.
Consider virtual staging
If your current home is empty, you have a few options:
You can leave it empty. (But staged homes tend to sell faster.)
You can purchase furniture, if you’re able to have it safely delivered to your home. You just need a few key pieces to show the scale of a room – a couch, coffee table and rug establish a living room’s size, for instance. You can always resell or donate the pieces to charity later if you don’t want to keep them.
You could try virtual staging, which digitally adds furnishings to your space. It’s come a long way and can make a home look very attractive. There are many online services as well as DIY apps to choose from.
Your home looks great –now share it
There are a few ways of showcasing your home online to generate more interest, even when having an agent or professional photographer doing the legwork is not an option or involves creative solutions.
With the majority of Americans following stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus, our homes are now working overtime to fulfill the roles of offices, classrooms, gyms and community centers – and it’s easy to feel uninspired by your surroundings after occupying the same space day in, day out. But all hope is not lost: There are simple and inexpensive ways to transform your home into a fresh and stimulating environment.
Give your home some TLC with these seven tips from interior decorators, feng shui experts and design enthusiasts.
Break it up
If you’re working at home, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by conflicting responsibilities. To help stay on track, designate different areas for specific activities. “It’s important to ‘compartmentalize’ your living space,” says Harry Heissmann, an interior designer based in Brooklyn, NY. Now working remotely from his apartment with his partner and their pup, Heissmann has assigned specific areas for fitness, work and leisure: “We dug out a yoga mat from under the bed and dedicated an area to working out. The desk in the living room was cleaned and organized and serves as a ‘command station’ for going online and making phone calls. The bedroom doubles as another workspace and is perfect for napping or watching movies in bed.” If you live in a studio, you can simulate separate “rooms” by splitting up the space with curtains, bookshelves or other furniture.
Experiment with color
Painting the walls is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to immediately invigorate any home. For a classic look that will hold up against almost any decor, opt for cool neutrals; if you prefer something more dramatic, consider adding a pop of color to a feature wall. Reiko Gomez, a feng shui expert and interior designer in the Hamptons, NY, recommends greens and blues: “They are most associated with health, calm and well being.” If you’re not ready to commit to paint, Gomez suggests using accessories like throw pillows, an area rug, curtains or artwork to bring color into your space.
Streamline and declutter
With millions of us now living and working alongside family members, significant others and roommates, our homes may suddenly seem more cramped than ever before. According to Gomez, there’s no better way to create spatial harmony than decluttering: “It works a powerful magic in that it gets your entire space up to speed with you.” She recommends starting small with a contained space like a bathroom, which “will give you a quick feeling of accomplishment and encourage you to do the next space.” The benefits of a tidy space extend beyond aesthetics – research has found that clearing clutter can lower stress levels.
Do a digital detox
The digital detox movement is not new, but it’s worth revisiting in this climate of constant COVID-19 news and social media chatter. Though it’s important to stay informed about the health crisis, it’s easy to slip from a healthy level of engagement to compulsive checking. To reduce screen dependence, set up manageable boundaries based on time or place. For example, designate dinnertime as phone-free, or remove mobile tech devices from your bedroom for a daily reset.
Invigorate with scents
Scent is a powerful vehicle for uplifting your mood. According to Mindy Yang, the owner of Perfumarie, a fragrance lab in SoHo, NY, “Every room should have a different scent track to score your moment.” Yang uses woody scents like cedar, palo santo, oud, copal and frankincense to feel grounded; rosemary for invigoration; and incense to focus and meditate. There are many ways to suffuse a room with scent – candles, oil diffusers, air mists and fresh flowers, to name a few. For a more subtle effect, crack open a window to balance out your chosen fragrance with fresh air.
Greenify and purify
While you’re staying put, there’s no better time to bring the outside world in. Summer Rayne Oakes, host of Plant One On Me, says, “If there’s one thing that makes a space feel livable, it’s some elements of green.” Not only do plants bring light and color, they also add oxygen to your home – something that many of us could use more of as we hunker down indoors. Consider the level of care you want to give: “Some folks may find something less fussy to be easier to deal with, whereas others may want a more ‘high-maintenance’ plant that requires attention every day.” Whichever plant you choose, she says that the ritual of maintaining it can be deeply healing. To find a plant shop near you that’s delivering during coronavirus closures, you can visit Oakes’s database, Plant One Forward.
Natural light is the top office perk, according to a study of workplace benefits published in the Harvard Business Review. If your home is now your office, you have more control than ever over the light conditions of your workday. To maximize your exposure to natural light, position your desk near a window and keep drapes and shades open during the daytime. If you don’t have much natural light coming in, Heissmann recommends affixing aluminum mini-blinds to your windows: “You can direct or cut out light (and inquisitive neighbors across the street) as needed, and when the sun hits them just right, you can use them to throw light into the room without getting blinded.” He also recommends adding reflective surfaces – like a mirror, lacquered table, or chrome lamp – to enhance the light in dark rooms.