Can HGTV’s ‘Home Town Takeover’ With Ben and Erin Napier Help Turn This Town Around?

Courtesy of HGTV

HGTV upended the way its legions of fans look at real estate. In its almost 30 years on the air, the cable network helped to make open floor plans all the rage, turned small-time home flippers into celebrities, and helped a couple of struggling towns transform into real estate powerhouses.

Now the network is attempting to re-create that magic in a condensed form with its latest spinoff, “Home Town Takeover.” The six-episode limited series, which premieres on Sunday, will follow two of its biggest stars, Ben and Erin Napier of “Home Town,” as they renovate the small town of Wetumpka, AL, with the help of celebrity guests, including singer Sheryl Crow, along with well-known HGTV personalities.

Having fallen on hard times, the town was eager for the help and publicity that come with a major HGTV production. Many of the roughly 8,400 people who call Wetumpka home hope the show will help the town by attracting new businesses and residents. But can renovating a dozen local buildings and public spaces, and producing basically a six-episode advertisement for Wetumpka, alter its fate?

It’s certainly possible. Waco, TX, saw its fortunes—and real estate market—soar over the years that Chip and Joanna Gaines renovated homes there on their HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” The success of that show helped replace Waco’s national image as the site of a deadly government standoff against a cult in 1993 with that of a charming small town that’s become a vibrant tourist destination.

“Anytime a small town gets some type of exposure through a program that’s known nationally, [it] creates a high level of energy and excitement,” says real estate and finance professor Reid Cummings, at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. “If a town can continue to promote itself to be a good place to live, raise a family, or retire, then it will do well over time.”

In other words, the national exposure the town is set to receive is likely worth more than the renovations. The Napiers have already followed in the Gaineses’ footsteps, boosting the national profile of their hometown of Laurel, MS, as they remodeled neglected homes there. Now, millions of their fans will be introduced to Wetumpka, which is less than a 30-minute drive from Montgomery, AL.

“It’s too bad that small towns are so often undervalued, because you can live a beautiful life in them,” Erin Napier said in a statement.

Until now, Wetumpka’s claim to fame was a crater created by a meteor at least 80 million years ago. However, like many smaller towns, Wetumpka fell on hard times in the mid-20th century as larger employers closed and newly built highways siphoned shoppers away from local businesses. The town intensified its revitalization efforts in recent years, incorporating art into its public spaces.  But a tornado that hit in January 2019 destroyed about 30 homes, several businesses, and  the historic First Presbyterian Church, which had become something of a local landmark.

The town’s fortunes changed last July, when it was plucked from about 2,600 towns that had applied to be featured on the new HGTV show. “Road to the Takeover,” a digital series taking a look behind the scenes of Wetumpka’s renovation, debuted on April 25. “Tales From the Takeover,” featuring the Napiers’ perspective on each episode, will be available on May 3.

“We wanted to take all of the things we’ve learned in 12 years of historic revitalization here [in Laurel] and teach another small town,” Erin told People magazine. “Every episode will have people in tears, because you see that when an entire community believes in a place, it can be changed.”

Change seems to be inevitable for Wetumpka, a town that seems ready for its 15 minutes of fame. Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee has seen firsthand what the power of an HGTV show can do for a small town. Since the Napiers’ show “Home Town” premiered in 2016, interest in both Laurel and its real estate prices have soared.

“Wetumpka, get ready for the ride,” Magee says.

Wetumpka is already benefiting from the HGTV buzz

The business district in Wetumpka, AL, has strived to rebuild itself over the past few years.

The Alabama Group

Even though “Home Town Takeover” hasn’t aired yet, Wetumpka is already receiving an economic boost from the buzz around the show.

Visitors began descending almost immediately after HGTV announced in July that the town had been chosen for the series. Within three days of the news, the town ran out of its tourism brochures, says Shellie Whitfield, executive director of the Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce. Local business is also up 30% to 40% over last year—despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she says.

“The announcement has been like white gas on a fire,” says Whitfield. HGTV “took what we were doing and made it beyond what we could imagine. … Here’s people driving around, there’s people taking pictures of houses.”

When Whitfield moved to the town, about 3.5 years ago, nearly a third of the buildings in the business district were vacant and boarded up. No one wanted to go down there on a Friday or Saturday night.

Fast-forward to a recent Saturday evening, when she waited two hours to get into a restaurant downtown. When she got inside, the restaurant was filled with faces she didn’t recognize—in a town where everyone seems to know everyone else by name. She wasn’t surprised, though—she knew that some of the local hotels had been selling out of rooms. There are also fewer empty storefronts downtown these days.

Thanks to the publicity, Wetumpka received about double the number of new business inquiries that it did last year, says Lynn Weldon, the town’s economic development director. This included interest from boutiques, restaurants, pet stores, a book store, “businesses we never thought we’d get here.” Today, the downtown business vacancy rate is closer to 15%.

“The idea is to go throughout the community and change all these spaces so people want to be here again. And while they’re here, they can learn about the local history and appreciate the art,” says Jenny Stubbs, executive director of Main Street Wetumpka, which launched in 2016 to spur the town’s revitalization. The show “is helping us finally reach our potential.”

Wetumpka’s real estate market has picked up

The spotlight on Wetumpka comes as many people are looking to leave big-city life during the pandemic.

“It put us on the map and has more people talking about Wetumpka and wanting to check it out,” says local real estate broker Beverly Wright, of Re/Max Cornerstone Realty. “You walk down the street, and you’re bound to see someone you know. It offers a lot of that small-town feel that a lot of people are hungry for these days.”

All the interest has boosted home prices, in a pattern seen across the country as buyers battle it out over a very limited supply of properties for sale.

Median home list prices in Wetumpka were up nearly 11.1% from July, when the show was announced, to March, according to Realtor.com® data. Nationally, they rose only 6% over the same period.

“It’s crazy,” says Wright, who’s now receiving multiple offers, sometimes 5% to 10% over asking price, on homes the day they go up for sale. “We’re in a market we’ve never seen before.”

Most of the real estate for sale in Wetumpka is three- to four-bedroom, single-family homes with at least two bathrooms on a third to a full acre of land. The homes range from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, many with covered carports. The sweet spot for her buyers are homes on the outskirts of town priced between $250,000 and $300,000.

But buyers can still find new construction for less. In certain subdivisions or just outside of town, they can snag smaller, brand-new homes, in the 1,300- to 1,800-square-foot range, for $180,000 to somewhere in the $250,000s.

As a result of the newfound interest in the town, economic development director Weldon has also been fielding inquiries from builders interested in putting up new housing developments. One of these developers is interested in potentially building around 250 to 300 single-family homes in the $250,000 to $275,000 range within the city limits.

“We’re seeing a growth in everything from businesses to land development,” says Weldon. “It’s wonderful.”

The HGTV effect on the housing market in Laurel, MS

Ben and Erin Napier on a stroll in Laurel, MS

Getty Images

The Napiers’ hometown of Laurel is a case study in what happens when a TV show comes to town and becomes popular.

The show premiered in January 2016, and median home list prices soared 56.5% from March 2017 through March 2021, according to Realtor.com data. Nationally, they jumped 39% over the same time span.

“The impact has been tremendous. People are calling from all over the country, all over the world,” says longtime Laurel real estate agent Karen Rasberry, of Howard Johnson Properties. She’s also Erin Napier’s mother. “They’ve seen the town [on TV] and maybe want to buy a house.” “

Before “Home Town” aired, most of her clients were locals, plus a few who were relocating for work or family. Now the overwhelming majority are from out of state, many of whom are fans of her daughter’s show. There are even some investors who purchase homes to rent out on platforms like Airbnb.

“When the show began, there was an abundance of homes in the $50,000 to $80,000 range,” says Laurel’s Mayor Magee. Many of those residences needed work. “Those are mostly nonexistent now. Homes sales are better than they have been in a long time.”

The median list price in the town was $159,650 in March, according to the latest Realtor.com data. That’s a 45.1% increase in just one year. Nationally, list prices were up 16% over the same period.

The downside of being in the spotlight

A bridge in Wetumpka, AL

Provided by Main Street Alabama

While there may be no such thing as bad publicity, there are a few downsides to a town suddenly becoming well-known.

Locals may become priced out of their own real estate market, finding themselves competing against deep-pocketed out-of-state or even foreign buyers and investors.

Even those who already own their homes may see an increase in their property taxes, which often go up in tandem with home prices. That was a common complaint of Waco homeowners.

An increase in tourism can also lead to more traffic, less downtown parking, and longer waits at local restaurants. An influx of visitors and increase in investor-owned properties can also change the character of a place.

In addition, the HGTV effect will eventually fade—likely faster in this case, since the town won’t be featured in an ongoing series, says TV and popular culture professor Robert Thompson, at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY.

He also points out that the show is airing on a cable network in the age of streaming when audiences are incredibly fragmented. While it will also run on the subscription streaming service Discovery+, that doesn’t have the reach of a major TV network 30 years ago.

“Just one show is not going to be seen by everyone,” says Thompson.

However, it could give Wetumpka the push it needs to get back on its feet.

“We wanted to say to the people of Wetumpka, ‘You have carried this burden a long time. We’re going to pick it up. We’re going to run a few miles with it and really get you ahead, and then we’re going to give it back to you,’” Ben Napier told People.

The post Can HGTV’s ‘Home Town Takeover’ With Ben and Erin Napier Help Turn This Town Around? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Meet the Software Engineer Who Used Crypto to Buy His $650,000 Dream Home

Terrance Leonard

Courtesy of Terrance Leonard

When Terrance Leonard first started seriously investing in the cryptocurrency space in 2019, his original goal was to achieve financial independence.

The long-term plan was to invest enough in crypto that he could cash out of some of those investments, purchase real-estate assets and rent those out to earn additional income. That way he wouldn’t necessarily need to a work a traditional job to make ends meet.

But then his ideal home came on the market. Leonard, who works as a software engineer in Washington, D.C., already owned a row-home. But he wanted a home with a larger yard for his dog to play in and a garage.

“I thought, ‘This is exactly what I want,’” Leonard said. “And I’m ready to pull the trigger right now.”

To afford the $650,000 home, Leonard opted to use his cryptocurrency investments to cover a down payment and as proof of funds for the mortgage he took out to buy the home — he opted for a mortgage, rather than buying the home outright, because of the low interest-rate environment.

The process, as he would find out, wasn’t as simple as transferring his cryptocurrency holdings to the relevant parties. “There was back and forth between the lender and the title company making sure that was OK,” Leonard said.

The winning crypto strategy: Think of the dot-com bubble

Around two years ago, Leonard went all-in on crypto, taking a big bet on the relatively new asset class. “When I realized the potential of crypto — and I realized how well it was doing for me in the beginning — I sold all of my stocks, my 401(k), everything and moved it all into crypto,” Leonard said.

Today, he attributes his ability to purchase his “perfect” home to the success of the investing strategy he adopted. “Without investing in crypto there would have been no way that I would have been able to buy this at the time when it came on the market,” he said.

So what was that strategy? To take a long-term approach and target coins that are well-positioned for longevity. That means no meme coins, like Dogecoin.

Instead, Leonard likes to think of the crypto market as being in a similar position as the dot-com boom was in the 1990s, before the bust. “I’m looking for the Googles, the HPs, the Oracles, ” he said.

He looks at the top 10 coins, and goes from there. Some of his investments were in bitcoin and Ethereum, but the bulk of his money went toward purchasing Chainlink, a cryptocurrency launched in 2017 that sends real-world data to blockchains.

Terrance Leonard, pictured in front of the home he recently bought in Washington, D.C.
Terrance Leonard, pictured in front of the home he recently bought in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of Terrance Leonard

Using cryptocurrency to get a mortgage isn’t foolproof

When Leonard bought his first home, the process was quite standard. As a veteran, he was able to take advantage of the VA loan program and the process was “pretty seamless.”

Originally, he reached out to his lender, Veterans United Home Loans, to see if he could refinance the loan on his first home to convert it into an investment property, which would allow him to get a VA loan for his new home. Ultimately, that wasn’t possible.

So when Leonard had to get another loan to purchase the property that caught his eye, he figured he would use his crypto profits for his down payment and the earnest-money deposit. This time around, the process wasn’t as seamless.

“There were some issues with proof of funds,” Leonard said. “I just wanted to be able to say, ‘Here’s my wallet.’”

He couldn’t just transfer over the crypto investments or show his account on Coinbase to satisfy the lender and his title company. Instead, he needed to cash out into a bank account, like someone might do with money earned in the stock market.

The process might have been easier had Leonard sought out a home from a real-estate broker who specializes in transactions involving cryptocurrency. Some brokerages have begun listing properties where the seller only wants to be paid in cryptocurrency, sometimes specifying a specific investment vehicle. Unfortunately for Leonard, those brokerages didn’t have the types of properties he wanted, plus he wasn’t necessarily inclined to make an all-cash (or rather, all-crypto) deal.

“We had the lowest interest rates in a very long time, so I was not going to pass up on that opportunity,” he said, adding that he’s more likely to see a better return on his crypto investments, even after taxes, than he would if he sunk all his money into the home.

For lenders, the paper trail is key

In the mortgage and real-estate industries, the use of cryptocurrency investments to purchase homes is still very much a novel concept. And lenders are still wrapping their heads around how to treat those assets.

Crypto is such a new concept that even determining how many loans have involved home buyers with crypto investments is a challenge, said Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United. “Mortgage origination software doesn’t have fields for tracking something like this,” Birk said.

Right now, lenders are flying blind with these prospective borrowers, as regulators and other mortgage entities are only just beginning to put out guidelines for how to gauge the soundness of crypto assets.

Fannie Mae, one of the two government-sponsored enterprises that securitizes a majority of the mortgages nationwide, requires proceeds from bitcoin and other digital currencies to be converted into U.S. currency for them to be eligible assets when underwriting a loan. Fannie also requires documentation showing the digital currency was owned by the borrower.

However, Freddie Mac does not consider cryptocurrency to be an eligible source of funds. And other agencies have yet to provide any specific guidance. The Department of Veterans Affairs has no regulations in place that specifically reference cryptocurrency, an agency spokesman said. But the VA does require verification of deposits.

Lenders will generally request a paper trail, demonstrating a 30- to 60-day transaction history for the crypto account. But, as Birk noted in a recent blog post, cryptocurrency accounts don’t always provide monthly statements as a bank would. And for the time being, lenders will expect borrowers to cash out their crypto investments early in the process.

“You can’t pay your closing costs with a Van Gogh — it’s the same with your bitcoin,” Birk said. “It’s going to have to be converted, it’s going to have to be seasons and there’s going to be documentation to satisfy the lender.”

In part, this strict approach is reflective of mortgage companies’ responsibilities to flag potential criminal behavior, including money laundering. Underwriters need to be able to see potential red flags, which isn’t as easy with crypto wallets per se.

Despite the hassles he faced with buying his new home, Leonard isn’t deterred from investing in crypto. Right now, he still earns enough from his remaining crypto investments to cover the mortgage payments on his former home.

“I’m not in a rush to sell,” Leonard said. “I want to make sure that I make the right financial play.”

The post Meet the Software Engineer Who Used Crypto to Buy His $650,000 Dream Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Bette Davis’ Former Oceanfront Mansion Is the Week’s Most Popular Home

most popular homes 4/30

Realtor.com

Take a dash of the O.C. and mix in a legendary actress—and clicks will surely follow.

Not all old-school stars stayed in Hollywood: Legendary actress Bette Davis once owned a lavish oceanfront mansion in Laguna Beach, CA. That home recently landed on the market, and real estate gawkers made it this week’s most popular home on Realtor.com®.

It’s easy to see why. Sitting next to sapphire blue water stretching as far as the eye can see, this beautiful beach house features exquisite craftsmanship, perfectly tailored spaces, and room to luxuriate in your surroundings.

Besides Davis’ former beach house, you also clicked on a Georgia home seen in the Netflix hit “Cobra Kai,” a different Georgia home that won HGTV’s “Rock the Block,” and an enormous 60-acre property with a midcentury modern home in the hills of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Another highlight is a bland Ohio home with a single listing photo and a fairly hilarious listing description. A local agent may have taken a cue from a recent Florida listing that went viral and let loose with a humorous stream of consciousness where you’d normally find a straightforward rundown of beds, baths, and backyard.

While we ponder the inspiration behind the oversharing agent in Ohio, we’ll ask you to simply scroll on down and enjoy this week’s 10 most popular properties.

10. 702 S Hayne St, Monroe, NC

Price: $350,000
Why it’s here: This Colonial dates to 1901 and is filled with handcrafted details such as the original flooring, corbels, columns, and a 100-year-old brass lock and skeleton key. The three-bedroom, 2,658-square-foot home sits on a large lot close to downtown. We think it might be worth the price simply for the dreamy front porch alone.

Monroe, NC
Monroe, NC

realtor.com

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9. 221 Claypole Hill Road, Ford City, PA

Price: $182,000
Why it’s here: Sitting on a bucolic acre and a half on Crooked Creek, this two-bedroom stone house is a bit rustic.

It features an open floor plan with a big family room, floor-to-celling windows, and handcarved woodwork. The private retreat includes a dock so you can take your rowboat or kayak out on the Allegheny River.

Ford City, PA
Ford City, PA

realtor.com

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8. 1405 Dabbs Bridge Rd, Dallas, GA

Price: $635,000
Why it’s here: This charming home scored the big win on Season 2 of HGTV’s “Rock the Block.” It sits alongside the other three homes featured on the popular show.

Professionally designed by HGTV stars, the camera-ready, six-bedroom home features a sleek kitchen with emerald green pops of color, a mudroom, built-ins, and a finished basement highlighted by a pink pingpong table.

Dallas, GA
Dallas, GA

realtor.com

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7. 614 W Seven Stars Rd, Phoenixville, PA

Price: $950,000
Why it’s here: Spanning nearly 5.5 acres, this property features a 19th-century barn that’s been converted into a contemporary home.

Featuring work done by a local craftsman, the five-bedroom home is filled with natural light and features two-story ceilings, a fireplace, original stone barn walls, and a large bedroom in the barn’s former silo. The property comes with a one-bedroom carriage house, a three-stall stable, a chicken coop, and two fenced animal pens.

Phoenixville, PA
Phoenixville, PA

realtor.com

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6. 653 N 3565 E, Menan, ID

Price: $425,000
Why it’s here: This home built from rocks dates to 1898.

It was once a hotel frequented by actors and musicians passing through town. Eventually, the solid structure was turned into the town banker’s home. Today the extraordinary five-bedroom, 4,176-square-foot home still features its original hardwood floors, molding, and woodwork.

Menan, ID
Menan, ID

realtor.com

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5. 921 W Beverly St, Staunton, VA

Price: $789,000
Why it’s here: Historic Allen Chapel was built in 1924 and served for generations as the sanctuary for a prominent African Methodist Episcopal church.

Now, thanks to a glorious conversion, it’s an elegant five-bedroom home. It comes with a two-bedroom apartment with kitchen, which could easily be used as a rental unit or in-law apartment.

Staunton, VA
Staunton, VA

realtor.com

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4. 1 Los Arboles, Richmond, CA

Price: $4,098,888
Why it’s here: In the East Bay hills, this 60-acre property is surrounded by Wildcat Canyon Regional Park and offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The main house is a midcentury modern with Asian influences built by a local doctor in 1963 and filled with quirky treasures collected over his life. They include knickknacks and objets d’art, which could be negotiated into the home’s sale price.

Richmond, CA
Richmond, CA

realtor.com

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3. 2444 Killian Rd, Uniontown, OH

Price: $135,000
Why it’s here: The listing agent for this ho-hum three-bedroom home, Eric Cooper, seems to be workshopping a potential stand-up act in the listing details he provided.

He definitely doesn’t attempt to oversell the home’s lack of charm. In fact, the listing details are hilariously devoid of any flowery language about light or location. In a rambling paragraph accompanying the home, he stuck to the facts.

Uniontown, OH
Uniontown, OH

realtor.com

“This is a house, numerous people have lived in this house since 1979,” he wrote. He then overshared about his marriage, canines, and a lack of celebrity connections to the property. Read it for yourself, and let us know if you think Cooper has a future comedic career.

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2. 130 Woodlawn Dr, NE, Marietta, GA

Price: $2,650,000
Why it’s here: Called Villa Flora, this mansion is also known by Netflix fans as the LaRusso mansion from “Cobra Kai.”

The Tuscan-inspired, six-bedroom home was built in 2008 by a couple who were inspired by their time on the Amalfi Coast. The result is a home that offers luxe indoor-outdoor living, gardens, and a terra-cotta roof. The stone shower in the master suite is a showstopper.

Marietta, GA
Marietta, GA

realtor.com

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1. 1991 Ocean Way, Laguna Beach, CA

Price: $19,995,000
Why it’s here: Legendary actress Bette Davis used to own this six-bedroom oceanfront mansion built in 1929.

From the home’s perch above the sands in Orange County, the ocean views spread out forever. The French Normandy design is understated, so it doesn’t compete with the crashing waves and gorgeous natural beauty outside. The residence is ringed with balconies, decks, and patios for soaking in the ocean air and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Laguna Beach. CA
Laguna Beach, CA

realtor.com

The post Bette Davis’ Former Oceanfront Mansion Is the Week’s Most Popular Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Try Booking a Florida Boat Stay this Summer

You won't have to worry about crowded elevators with these options.

You won’t have to worry about crowded elevators with these options. (Unsplash/Amber Kipp/)

Vacations will definitely look a little different this year. While we continue to social distance and limit our group gatherings, we know one thing is for certain—we could all use a break to get out of town. For some, crowded hotels and grand resorts are still a bit too much to handle, so why not look at a boat stay?

Houseboats and yachts have long been a staple for lodging along coastal towns. They’re a perfect way to enjoy a vacation while keeping mostly to yourself. Many have access to marina amenities and can often be within walking distance to a bustling city center. Keep in mind that staying on a boat is very different than a hotel, so it’s important to carefully read the house rules to avoid any unpleasant surprises before booking. Let’s take a look at a few cool boat options listed by Superhosts through Airbnb. Here are 4 boats to book for all budgets.

*Prices indicated were associated with listings at the time of publishing; they may be subject to change

  • Stuart, Florida
  • Key West, Florida
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Stuart, Florida – Sleeps 2

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$139/ night – This modern houseboat features ample room for 2 and is an excellent choice for a couple on a budget. Designed with all of the conveniences you could want, you’ll feel instantly at home with its clean and comfortable interior. Located at Sunset Bay Marina & Anchorage, it’s an easy walk to downtown Stuart where you’ll find plenty of options for dining and shopping.

Things to note:

  • No smoking
  • No children under 12
  • Free parking
  • 2 bikes available for use

Key West – Sleeps 6

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$283/ night – Take your time off to the southernmost point of Florida, it’s a long haul but you’re basically on a tropical island. This gorgeous boat is docked at Stock Island Marina Village, home of The Perry Hotel, where you’ll have full access to the pool, restaurants, and private restrooms complete with showers. Though there are 2 private cabins on board, each with its own bathroom, the boat’s owner has specific requirements around restroom usage. Best of all, this boat is not only for sleeping, consider booking a sunset sailing trip to experience unforgettable views.

Things to note:

  • No smoking
  • Free parking
  • Walk to restroom

Fort Lauderdale – Sleeps 10

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$743/ night – Okay, now we’re getting into the higher-end options. This fully-equipped yacht has 4 luxurious bedrooms and 2 common areas for entertaining or sleeping. Comfortably accommodating 10, this floating beauty is immaculate inside and out, though the main attraction here is definitely the hot tub. This yacht stay would be a fun choice for a small group getaway to split costs. Docked along the Las Olas River, you are just steps away from fabulous restaurants and an array of nightlife.

Things to note:

  • No smoking
  • Free parking
  • Private entrance
  • No washer

Fort Myers Beach – Sleeps 12

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$1,164/ night – A family vacation to remember…that’s what this The Six Toed Cat is known for. This massive yacht underwent a complete restoration in 2020 and boasts 6 bedrooms and 6.5 baths. All staterooms are stocked with toiletries you’d expect to find while lodging at a hotel. A commercial kitchen, full bar area, dining room, and living room offer beyond comfortable community spaces for lounging. When your day winds down, head to the upper deck to sip a cold drink and watch the sunset at the large horseshoe-shaped bar. Easy walking distance to shops and restaurants.

Things to note:

  • No smoking
  • Close to the beach
  • Free parking
  • Outdoor grill

Best Tree Swings for the Backyard

There's nothing like a tree swing for family fun.

There’s nothing like a tree swing for family fun. (treeswing/)

You can get that feeling of nostalgia back, while adding a lovely accessory to your yard, garden, or lake cottage. We’ve found several amazing tree swings that will have you and your kids kicking up your feet and breezing through the air in no time.

With an industrial-strength steel frame and weather resistant material, it’s covered in an oxford fabric that’s user friendly and looks nice in your yard.

With an industrial-strength steel frame and weather resistant material, it’s covered in an oxford fabric that’s user friendly and looks nice in your yard. (Royal Oak/)

No more fights over whose turn it is, or who goes next. The durable swing can handle multiple kids at the same time, holding up to 700 pounds all at once. Adjustable straps make it work wherever you want to hang it. Waterproof and lead-free, it’s safe for everyone in the family and the neighbor kids who will want to come over. You won’t worry about this durable swing enduring the weather or wearing out anytime soon. Easy to take down if you winterize.

You can literally put it together in minutes or take it down as quickly for easy storage.

You can literally put it together in minutes or take it down as quickly for easy storage. (SUPER DEAL/)

Sit, stand, or lie back in the hand-braided platform net swing, and let the motion melt your cares away. Made from high quality materials, the Spider Web tree swing is a festive addition to your backyard, sure to please kids and even adult kids. The frame holds up to 660 pounds, great for parties and large gatherings.

There are handles around the swing for little ones to grasp onto, and the ropes are mega durable.

There are handles around the swing for little ones to grasp onto, and the ropes are mega durable. (Juegoal Saucer/)

Enjoy family time outdoors again with the Juegoal tree swing seat for kids and adults. It’s spacious enough for a few children or a couple of adults, and easy to set up or take down. The saucer detaches so you can take it indoors, and the oxford cloth is resistant to weather and UV rays, meaning it will last long and won’t fade. Enjoy daydreaming or relaxing in this platform saucer.

You can adjust the length and height of the saucer as well, making it easier for shorter riders to get in and out of from the ground.

You can adjust the length and height of the saucer as well, making it easier for shorter riders to get in and out of from the ground. (PACEARTH /)

Fun meets high-quality engineering in this swing seat for kids and adults. The ropes on this swing are amazing, with colorful fabrics and heavy duty, adjustable straps. You and your kids and a few others can swing safely and comfortably in this swing that boasts a 660-pound capacity. The sturdy oxford material is also UV resistant and tear resistant. Colorful and durable, it’s as much fun as it looks.

Adjust the ropes to lower or raise the seat to your liking, then hop on and touch the sky.

Adjust the ropes to lower or raise the seat to your liking, then hop on and touch the sky. (Pellor Wood/)

Lovely to look at, enchanting to use, the functional Pellor wood tree swing looks beautiful indoors or outdoors. The classic style rope swing with traditional wooden seat will take you back to a time when life seemed simple and easy. Made from sturdy authentic materials, it’s easy to install and can be painted to look decorative in any environment. It’s strong enough for adult and children riders alike, and can either be hung on a branch or from a beam. You can’t beat a classic.

Best Foosball Tables for Some Retro Fun

No need to head to a bar to enjoy foosball.

No need to head to a bar to enjoy foosball. (Pixabay/)

The 1960s brought many new things to popularity and culture, memorable and not so memorable. But one of the great arrivals of that time was the foosball table. Initially introduced by a U.S. military man who became enthralled with table soccer while in Germany, the devoted fan imported coin-operated machines after his return and spread the joy, even starting some of the first known U.S. tournaments.But it was a bar owner from Montana who kicked the game into high gear and made foosball a national phenomenon, promoting the game through high stakes tournaments that eventually hit cities across the country. If you’re ready to join the legend of foosball devotees, here are the tables to consider.

Play bowling, table tennis, chess, and other games for the ultimate entertainment experience.

Play bowling, table tennis, chess, and other games for the ultimate entertainment experience. (Best Choice/)

This foosball table features stable construction and measures approximately 48 inches long by 24 inches wide. It stands roughly 30.5 inches high. Each of the foosball figurines are carefully designed to look stunning and to endure hours of gameplay. If you’re not feeling foosball, you can easily switch to one of 10 other game options, including ping pong, chess, checkers, bowling, shuffleboard, hockey, and more. You can fit this compact table in a children’s room, game room, or other smaller space area around your home.

It's full-sized and heavy-duty, with chrome-plated steel rods and wood handles.

It’s full-sized and heavy-duty, with chrome-plated steel rods and wood handles. (Rally and Roar/)

A robust, full-size foosball table that’s great for bars, arcades, or home game rooms. This table is specifically designed for the pro level with its weighted player figurines, ergonomic handles, smooth turf, and solid wood bead scorer. The table is easy to assemble so you be ready to play in no time. Put this table in your man cave, game room, or outdoor living area. It will look great and easily integrate into the surrounding décor with its wood finish and black trim.

This compact model features an adjustable height to work for players of all ages.

This compact model features an adjustable height to work for players of all ages. (Tornado/)

The Tornado foosball table features a contemporary look that can match a variety of environments, whether it’s a game room, basement, or family room. The adjustable commercial-grade leg levelers let you change the table height to fit your preferences. The natural solid-wood handles look amazing and provide an ergonomic grip for maximum comfort. These player figurines have specially upgraded and redesigned feet for better ball control (who knew they had that?) so your games will be more competitive than ever. Tornado designed this foosball table to be heavy-duty so it doesn’t deteriorate or decline in quality for a long time.

The slide scoring and convenient ball return at the end of each table make it easy to keep score and keep pushing the limits of your skills.

The slide scoring and convenient ball return at the end of each table make it easy to keep score and keep pushing the limits of your skills. (KICK/)

KICK offers a fun and unique looking foosball table with rounded edges and a modern looking twist. The table features a 1/2 inch thick playing field, 26 uniformed player figurines, plus two premium and two standard soccer balls to equip you for plenty of play. The 5-inch leg levelers are adjustable so you won’t have to deal with the hassles of an unbalanced table. It also comes with eight durable semi-solid stainless steel chrome-plated rods that are built to withstand many rivalries and championships. You can even request lubricant for the rods to keep them spinning smoothly and the manufacturer will send it to you gratis.

It’s sturdy and attractive, in black with red and white trim and the contrasting green playing field.

It’s sturdy and attractive, in black with red and white trim and the contrasting green playing field. (ESPN /)

Who doesn’t know sports like ESPN? And their take on the foosball table doesn’t disappoint. It’s made with PVC laminate and MDF construction – a high grade composite material that won’t warp or crack like wood potentially can. This is great if you have rambunctious teenagers or those players who hit with so much force they rock the table. The 5/8 inch chrome-plated metal rods mean they won’t bend or break after prolonged use. The oversized 5-inch leg levelers help keep the table stable, even if players get a little unstable during intense matches. The traditional bead-style scoring is just like the original.

Skip the Bidding Wars and Head To the 10 Best Towns for Home Buyers

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Just in case you haven’t heard, snagging a well-priced home in today’s real estate market can feel a bit like winning Powerball. It’s all about beating sky-high odds. Scant inventory, worsened by a pandemic-crush to buy new homes, has led to prices reaching new records and competition bidding them up even higher. All-cash bids and multiple offers way above asking are pricing many would-be homeowners right out of the market, or leaving them feeling hopeless.

“Demand has actually been growing stronger than supply going all the way back to 2014,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. “It’s just that in 2020, incredibly low interest rates augmented that demand.”

In other words, we’ve found ourselves in an extreme seller’s market.

But not everywhere. The Realtor.com® data team found the places where buyers could actually have the advantage. Buyers in these spots—which tend to be smaller cities and college towns—have more properties available to choose from, and prices haven’t risen too much (if at all) compared with where they were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This doesn’t mean home prices haven’t risen and the competition isn’t fierce in these cities—they’re just better than the rest of the country.

Looking ahead, buyers may get some more relief in the coming months as sellers become more comfortable listing their homes. Rising mortgage rates and the increase in inventory could slow down price gains. And while prices likely won’t drop, or at least by much, it could lead to a bit less competition.

But where can buyers get at least a little relief right now? To come up with our list of places, we looked at cities where home prices had not risen more than 10% in the past year (compared with 16% nationally) and calculated the number of homes for sale per 1,000 households—the more the better. All of the cities had at least 50,000 residents, and we limited the list to one city per state to achieve geographic diversity.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean there are a ton of homes on the market in these places—it’s just that the situation isn’t as tight as it is in other areas. Only Miami Beach, FL, which snagged our No. 1. spot, has a higher number of homes per 1,000 households than the historical national average. That’s thanks to builders putting up lots of condos, which can be lower-priced than single-family homes in some cases.

So let’s take a look at the best markets for buyers right now.

The best markets for buyers right now

Tony Frenzel for Realtor.com

 

1. Miami Beach, FL

Median listing price in March: $495,000
Year-over-year price change in March: -5.7%
Listings per 1,000 households: 50

The reason Miami Beach tops this list is because of condos. Lots and lots of condos.

Before the 2008 housing crash, Miami Beach was one of the hottest markets for new construction. Then the bubble burst, shutting down most new builds. But the lull didn’t last for long, and more than 50 condo complexes were built in the area during a construction boom that lasted from 2012 to 2015. Meanwhile, in the past year, COVID-19 restrictions severely limited the number of international buyers coming into the area. All those condos and less competition from people abroad mean more chances a seller will accept an offer.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t competition. According to Abraham Ash, a real estate broker at Multivest Realty, lots of the people who want condos right now are looking for units they can list on short-term rental sites like Airbnb. There are only a few buildings that allow that, so those units move quickly. The others? Not so much.

Locals and those who are looking to live in Miami full time are gravitating more toward other parts of Miami, like the Brickwell neighborhood downtown, where a one-bed, 1.5-bath condo can go for $242,000.

“Brickell offers newer buildings at the same price as old buildings in Miami Beach,” Ash says. “It’s more convenient, it’s central, and it’s only a 10-minute drive to the beach.”

2. Newburgh, NY

Median listing price in March: $259,000
Year-over-year price change in March: -5.6%
Listings per 1,000 households: 12

Newburgh has gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. A decade ago, it was known as the “murder capital of New York.” But this historic, formerly industrial city on the Hudson River which had fallen on hard times is seen as an up-and-coming suburb, thanks to its scenic views, affordability, and access to New York City, about 75 miles north.

For those who love a project, Newburgh has plenty of historic homes dating to the 1800s, though those tend to move pretty quickly. A more modern single-family home with five beds and three baths will run buyers about $330,000.

When offices do open up again, the two-hour-plus commute may be a bit much for a daily trip. But those working in the office a couple of days a week can take a ferry (or drive) across the Hudson to the nearby arts destination Beacon, NY, where a train runs every hour to Manhattan.

3. Odessa, TX

Median listing price in March: $232,500
Year-over-year price change in March: -10.4%
Listings per 1,000 households: 11

Located in West Texas, Odessa is an oil town once home to former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Because of its reliance on the oil and gas industries, the area has had its share of booms and busts over the years.

Pre-pandemic, in 2019, the price of oil dropped, leading to mass layoffs and devastating the local economy. The situation widened and worsened during the pandemic. Things are becoming more stable now, but  the unemployment rate here is still nearly double what it is nationally.

That affects the demand for housing, as there aren’t as many people with good jobs moving in or who can afford homes. That leads to more inventory and lower prices.

4. Springfield, IL

Springfield, IL, has more homes for sale than the national average, making it a good option for buyers to consider.

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Median listing price in March: $121,450
Year-over-year price change in March: -4.2%
Listings per 1,000 households: 11

Once home to Abraham Lincoln, Springfield is a government town with most of its residents employed by the state or city. But it’s also home to the University of Illinois Springfield and three major health care facilities.

Like the rest of the state, Springfield has experienced a drop in population in recent years due to high taxes and retirees heading to the Sun Belt, where the weather is warmer and the cost of living is lower. From 2019 to 2020, Illinois recorded its largest population decline since World War II.

All this means there are more homes to choose from and prices are way below the national median. This recently renovated three-bedroom home is currently listed at $179,900, while a historic home in the Isles Park neighborhood is going for $122,900.

5. Iowa City, IA

Median listing price in March: $309,950
Year-over-year price change in March: 8.8%
Listings per 1,000 households: 11

Iowa City recently ranked No. 2 on our list of best markets for first-time home buyers, thanks to its low unemployment rate and large population of young people. The median listing price last month was $305,000—significantly lower than the national average.

Students from around the Midwest flock to the University of Iowa, but some stay after graduation thanks to plenty of job opportunities. Walkable downtown neighborhoods with single-family homes are popular here, especially for young buyers.

Still, while there may be more homes on the market compared with other places in the country, prices have risen here year over year as white-collar workers who can work from anywhere have planted roots. This newly built four-bedroom home is currently on the market for $329,900.

6. Stamford, CT

Stamford, CT, offers quick access to Manhattan by train.

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Median listing price in March: $520,000
Year-over-year price change in March: -8.6%
Listings per 1,000 households: 9

Stamford, CT, is the headquarters of many blue-chip companies and home to their employees. It has good schools, low crime, beaches, and an easy train ride to Manhattan, all while having lower taxes than New York City.

But about half of the listings in this Fairfield County city are for condos or townhomes, which became less appealing during the pandemic than homes with big yards and room for an office. They also became less attainable for lower-income workers who may have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

During the first three months of this year, the number of listings for single-family homes in Stamford was about half of what it was the same time a year ago, according to a report by real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller and brokerage Douglas Elliman. As a comparison, condo listings fell by only 13%.

“We’re seeing less of a decline in supply at the lower price point than we are in the rest of the market,” Miller says. That means there’s less demand for condos, which are generally more affordable than single-family homes.

Right now, a two-bedroom condo near downtown is on the market for $289,000, while a renovated Colonial home in the Waterside neighborhood is listed for $489,000.

7. Las Cruces, NM

Median listing price in March: $241,120
Year-over-year price change in March: 5.1%
Listings per 1,000 households: 9

Though it’s the second-largest city in New Mexico, Las Cruces is considered a suburb of El Paso. This college town on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert is home to New Mexico State University, one of the largest employers here.

Enrollment declined last fall due to COVID-19 uncertainty and remote learning, and that dragged down the local economy. But area economists forecast schools will go back to full enrollment starting in the fall of 2022, so now may be the time to buy.

Single-family homes are most popular here, especially in the classic Southwestern Pueblo style, including this two-bed, one-bath starter home for $236,000.

8. Hoboken, NJ

Hoboken, NJ, is located just across the river from New York City.

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Median listing price in March: $784,500
Year-over-year price change in March: -12.5%
Listings per 1,000 households: 9

Hoboken is another city with easy access to New York City—and plenty of condos for sale.

But since the pandemic, employees who could work from home no longer needed that quick commute into Manhattan. So plenty of good housing options are up for grabs. Prices here aren’t cheap but certainly offer a more affordable alternative to Manhattan prices. And with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, there’s lots to do on the weekends or on days working from home.

9. Sioux Falls, SD

Median listing price in March: $259,900
Year-over-year price change in March: 5.5%
Listings per 1,000 households: 9

Sioux Falls has become a desirable place to live in recent years, largely due to its strong economy and plenty of outdoor activities to choose from.

Prices have risen and demand is high since the start of the pandemic, but there are still more homes to choose from than in other parts of the country and better chances of finding a job. South Dakota’s largest city had an unemployment rate of 3.2% in February, compared with a national rate of 6.2%, thanks to its booming health care and banking sectors. At the end of last year, Amazon announced it would open its first South Dakota fulfillment center in Sioux Falls, which it says will add 1,000 full-time jobs by 2022.

To make up for demand, builders have been ramping up construction with a focus on condos and apartments, especially downtown. Still, there are many single-family homes to choose from, including this two-bed, two-bath for $240,000.

10. Tuscaloosa, AL

Median listing price in March: $248,700
Year-over-year price change in March: 3.2%
Listings per 1,000 households: 8

A college town to its core, Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama and the school’s more than 38,000 students. Enrollment has spiked in the past decade, thanks to the school’s stellar football team (Roll Tide!), so builders ramped up construction to keep up with demand.

“A lot of the country underbuilt over the last decade, but we didn’t,” says Alan Tidwell, a real estate and finance professor at the university.

Sales and prices did rise in March, while inventory is about a third of what it was the same time a year ago. But homes are sitting on the market for 46 days on average, higher than what we’re seeing in some other places across the country.

The problem is affordable housing, Tidwell says. Last fall, the city voted on a moratorium on putting up megacomplexes for student housing (buildings that accommodate 200 or more students) to focus on more traditional housing like single-family homes and townhomes.

The post Skip the Bidding Wars and Head To the 10 Best Towns for Home Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Best Training Pads for Dogs

Keep your home's floors clean by investing in dog training pads.

Keep your home’s floors clean by investing in dog training pads. (Pixabay/)

You’ve decided to help train your new puppy with training pads, but which ones should you buy? There are a lot of options on the market. Here are the ones we recommend.

These are built to be leak-proof thanks to a plastic lining.

These are built to be leak-proof thanks to a plastic lining. (Amazon/)

These training pads are of a smaller size and thickness, so not recommended for larger dogs, but they are great for use among small dogs and puppies. The smaller size also makes these a convenient choice for use in dog crates and carriers. Simply lay the pads down in the desired area and the plastic-lined pad will absorb any liquid from the wastes without allowing it to reach the flooring of your home or the dog’s crate or carrier. Note, however, these are designed as one-use training pads for dogs and should be removed as soon as possible from the dog’s area after they have eliminated on it.

These pads feature quilted top, inner cushion, carbon tissue, polymer tissue, and finally a leak-proof durable plastic liner.

These pads feature quilted top, inner cushion, carbon tissue, polymer tissue, and finally a leak-proof durable plastic liner. (Glad/)

What is unique about this Glad product is that it includes a pheromone attractant that attracts puppies and can help senior dogs find their way to the pad. This attractant serves to further reduce accidents elsewhere in the house that is caused when the puppy or dog doesn’t know where to go. The other unique feature about Glad’s training pads is that it uses carbon as a method to filter and absorb the urine. This carbon layer works well at eliminating smells, but because it means the urine is slower to be absorbed, it can cause fluids to pool and slide off the top due to if the training pad isn’t properly secured or a plastic tray is not used.

These are suitable for puppies and senior pets and can be used both in kennels or crates and outside them.

These are suitable for puppies and senior pets and can be used both in kennels or crates and outside them. (American Kennel Club/)

The American Kennel Club is arguably the most trusted brand for dogs thanks to their long history of working only to improve the lives of dogs and their owners. This training pad for dogs and puppies is built to offer an incredible 24 hours of leak-proof protection for any puppy or dog up to 50 pounds. Unlike other training pads for dogs and puppies on this list, this product comes scented. Buyers can choose from fresh, citrus, eucalyptus, or lavender scents. Definitely monitor your dogs’ behavior with these pads – some might find the scents distracting. If so, you’ll want a non-scented pad instead.

When the dog uses the grass layer, urine drains to a second insert where it is collected and can later be disposed of.

When the dog uses the grass layer, urine drains to a second insert where it is collected and can later be disposed of. (PETMAKER/)

Artificial grass training pads for dogs and puppies like this one by Petmaker are the best option for dog owners who need a long-term solution and want a product that looks and is more hygienic. This is especially true for those users who double-layer with a simple training pad secured into the plastic insert layer. One caveat: This type of training pad requires the replacement of the artificial grass over time. This makes it the best choice for owners of small dogs who have incontinence issues or who otherwise can’t get outside often enough and for owners of older dogs.

Works fast to immediately turn liquid waste into a gel that will be locked in to prevent messy leaks and ugly smells.

Works fast to immediately turn liquid waste into a gel that will be locked in to prevent messy leaks and ugly smells. (Hartz/)

The Hartz’s FlashDry Technology works to resolve the core issue that most dog owners have with other brands’ training pads for dogs and puppies of liquid not being absorbed fast enough. Here, urine and liquid waste gets immediately changed into a gel. This stops any type of roll-off or even roll-through leakage onto one’s flooring. The drawback is that this gel does take up more space and so some puppy and dog owners may find themselves having to replace the Hartz training pads more often than others.

Best Green Screens for Zoom Meetings and Digital Photography

A green screen behind you gives you a myriad of production options for online conferences, videos and digital photography.

A green screen behind you gives you a myriad of production options for online conferences, videos and digital photography. (Amazon/)

So what do you do if you’re green screening something already green like The Incredible Hulk? Good question. If filming, recording, or photographing something green, then an equally unnatural blue screen is used. Isn’t it amazing what we can do these days from our own homes? A green screen is great fun for the budding digital photographer in all of us. Here in a flash are our award-winning green screen selections.

The thick fabric is top quality for all your video conferencing needs.

The thick fabric is top quality for all your video conferencing needs. (LimoStudio/)

Another factor to consider when choosing a green screen is keeping low reflectivity so your screen stays green. This muslin screen helps you be able to edit your photos simply. The large 9′x15′ green chromakey color is a backdrop. It’s similar to a large drape and has a pre-stitch loop that slides the rod into place to fit most photography stands. The three clamps open to secure the screen in place. Then let the special effects begin.

This smaller background actually attaches to the back of your chair.

This smaller background actually attaches to the back of your chair. (Qtto/)

Open it up and then use the adjustable velcro straps to fit it into your office chair. The fine-textured fabric limits reflection for all types of recording or filming, including gaming, streaming, and video meetings. It opens and closes like an automobile front window reflector. At 4.5 feet by 5.2 feet, it’s small, collapsible, and a handy portable tool for all your office needs.

Also great for creating a background for food photography, gaming, and videos.

Also great for creating a background for food photography, gaming, and videos. (Emart/)

The fully adjustable backdrop green screen has all you need to stand and support a large background. At 8.5 feet x 10 feet, the green all-cotton muslin screen is professional. The carry bag comes with everything to set up this high-quality green screen: four crossbars, two support stands, and two clamps. Goes together in a few quick minutes. It’s fun and easy to be able to swap out backgrounds on digital photos, so you can set up the portable green screen at parties and family reunions.

Use with your existing photographic setup, to add a professional touch to vlogging, digital portraits, and broadcasting.

Use with your existing photographic setup, to add a professional touch to vlogging, digital portraits, and broadcasting. (Neewer/)

Pops up for quick use. Comes with three hooks, so you can hang it where needed or attach to a stand. At 5 feet by 6.6 feet, you can prop this pop-up backdrop against the wall, with either a clean blue or clean green screen showing. Use it both horizontally and vertically. Folds up and stores in the carry bag, where you can also keep the user manual.

One side is muslin and non-reflective, while the other has a satin finish.

One side is muslin and non-reflective, while the other has a satin finish. (Yesker/)

If you’re video broadcasting or making a Claymation-type video, this large rectangular backdrop is ready to help. At about six feet by nine feet, the anti-wrinkle fabric folds up for transport and offers two finishes. This green screen comes as screen-only with a pocket at the top for hanging it from your existing stand. It’s a great tool for creating different backgrounds when taking product photos, too.

These Are Emerging as the New Top Real Estate Markets of 2021

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Everyone wants to get in early on the next big thing, whether it’s the latest electronic gadget or an online currency that’s about to take off. And real estate is no different.

All across the country, prices are rising to new heights as the number of homes for sale has dwindled to new lows. While offers of over asking price have become practically standard in this turbocharged market—one in which the COVID-19 pandemic has led many folks to seek out larger homes with more land—some housing markets are still doing better than others, and are likely to remain the places to be even when the worst of the pandemic has passed.

The Realtor.com® economics team and the Wall Street Journal’s data team identified the top markets of 2021, and beyond, in the inaugural Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Markets Index. They identified the areas with strong housing demand and rising prices combined with robust economies, lots of good-paying jobs, and the amenities that make a place desirable. These markets have lots of restaurants, bars, and shops as well as reasonable commutes to work. The quarterly index looked at a pool of the country’s 300 largest metropolitan areas, which include the main city and surrounding suburbs, towns, and smaller urban areas.

The top markets are a mix of higher-end, outdoorsy, resort areas; smaller cities that have been growing at a breakneck pace; and places that provide a more affordable alternative to larger urban areas that are still just barely within commuting distance. Coeur d’Alene, ID, a popular vacation spot, topped the list, followed by Austin, TX, an emerging tech hub that is growing by leaps and bounds.

“The areas that top our emerging housing markets list are places that have weathered the pandemic relatively well,” says Realtor.com’s chief economist, Danielle Hale. “Their economies are generally doing better than other markets, and they’re attracting a lot of home shoppers from other areas—likely in part due to the relatively widespread work-from-home flexibility in response to the pandemic.”

Note: Homes in the top 10 markets aren’t bargains. Median list prices have appreciated by an average 27% in the past year—compared with 14% across the rest of the nation. Prices were an average $519,100, about 42% higher than the $366,100 median price tag across the 300 metros that were analyzed.

For example, in the Coeur d’Alene metropolitan area, the median home list price was $799,000 in March, according to Realtor.com data.

These top markets can command these higher prices because there are buyers who can afford them.

Unemployment is lower in these metros, at 5.54%, than the rest of the country, at 6.3%. Median wages are also a little higher, likely to compensate for the higher cost of living. Many also appeal to buyers from other states and even other countries.

“By design, these are areas that are great places to live,” says Hale. “Many of these areas are smaller, and they all boast great nearby activities—places for hiking, boating, and enjoying the outdoors.”

The problem is these markets, like the rest of the country, simply don’t have enough homes for sale to meet the demand from buyers. That means prices are more likely to stay high—and even continue going up.

“Housing trends in these markets have fundamentals that should mean buying a home is a good investment,” says Hale.

The top real estate markets of 2021

  1. Coeur d’Alene, ID, $799,000
  2. Austin, TX, $520,00
  3. Springfield, OH, $144,900
  4. Billings, MT, $428,500
  5. Spokane, WA, $434,900
  6. Lafayette, IN, $297,450
  7. Reno, NV, $562,000
  8. Concord, NH, $362,450
  9. Manchester, NH, $419,950
  10. Santa Cruz, CA, $1,222,000

Vacation areas are popular with today’s buyers

Coeur d’Alene, ID, has emerged as a popular housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Popular vacation areas like Coeur d’Alene (No. 1), about 40 minutes east of Spokane, WA; Billings, MT (No. 4); and Santa Cruz, CA (No. 10), almost 90 minutes south of San Francisco, have also done well during the coronavirus health crisis. People want to be outdoors—on the lake, the ocean, the hiking trail, the ski slopes—as these are considered safer activities. That’s given these real estate markets a boost.

“We’re seeing price appreciation that is so incredible,” says Coeur d’Alene real estate agent Raniel Diaz, of Professional Realty Services Idaho.

About three-quarters of his buyers are now from out of state, many from California, compared with about half before the pandemic. They’re seeking out the area’s lakes and slopes and other outdoor activities. Others want second homes downtown they can also list on Airbnb when they’re not using them.

Last summer, three-bedroom, two-bath homes could still be found in the $330,000 range within the city limits. Now, those same homes are going for about $100,000 more. Buyers have to offer 5% to 15%—or more—over the asking price to secure a property. About half of the offers for homes are all-cash.

“It’s competitive,” he says. “A lot of people are giving up on their searches.”

Buyers are moving farther out from the big cities

Austin, TX, has become one of the hottest real estate markets during the pandemic.

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Some of the places on the list are more affordable alternatives to larger cities. For example, Springfield, OH (No. 3), with a median home list price of $144,900, is located within an hour of the larger cities of Dayton, OH, with a median metro list price of $179,500, and Columbus, OH, at $329,250. It’s also about a 75-minute drive (without traffic) to Cincinnati, where the median home list price is $347,900.

Lafayette, IN (No. 6), is about an hour northwest of Indianapolis. While both places will set home buyers back about $300,000, Lafayette is poised for greater real estate growth, according to the index.

Concord, NH (No. 8), and Manchester, NH (No. 9), are both just about an hour north of Boston. Yet the median home prices, $362,450 and $419,950, are substantially less than the nearly $695,000 in the Boston metro area,

“We’re getting Boston-area people and people from Connecticut and New York,” says real estate broker Pamela Young, of Re/Max Insight. She sells homes in the Concord and Manchester areas, now mainly to out-of-state buyers who have swooped in during the pandemic. “They’re escaping the cities and getting more space and being outside.”

Her buyers are seeking out three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom homes with a garage on a quarter to a third of an acre in a subdivision. Those run for about $350,000 to $400,000 in Concord and $350,000 to $450,000 in Manchester, she says. While that may be a stretch for many locals, it’s a relative bargain for many of those leaving the bigger cities looking to save money.

Buyers are seeking out smaller, more affordable alternatives to the expensive cities

Manchester, NH, is a cheaper alternative to Boston.

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Smaller cities such as Spokane, WA (No. 5), Reno, NV, (No. 7), and even Austin, TX (No. 2), have also become more desirable. While none of these places is cheap, they’re considerably more affordable than the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and the West Coast in general where many out-of-towners are hailing from.

And now that many white-collar professionals have been working remotely during the pandemic, they’ve become particularly appealing to folks seeking more square footage for less money.

It’s gotten so nuts in Austin that local real estate agent Jason Bernknopf estimates that about 90% of buyers are simply shut out of the market. Homes are selling within 24 hours. Almost everything on the market is selling for at least 10% over the asking price—if not more, he says. Buyers are signing appraisal waivers so if homes don’t appraise for what they’re offering, they’re agreeing to pay the difference. That’s particularly hard for first-time buyers who need down payments plus that difference.

He’s seen buyers offer $200,000 to $300,000 over the asking price of homes in the $800,000s and $900,000s in the most desirable neighborhoods—before the properties even hit the market.

“Buyers have stopped looking. They put in nine offers, they go 15% over asking, and someone is always going over that,” says Bernknopf, of AustinRealEstate.com.

Locals are competing with California buyers and investors, he says. “You have the tech people who are moving here who have lots of money and are buying luxury properties.”

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