‘We’ve Been Caught in a Death Spiral’: Could This Simple Tax Reform Help Struggling Home Buyers?

Homes at dusk

Getty Images

It’s tough to understate how difficult it is to be a home buyer in today’s real-estate market.

There are so many people looking to buy homes — some families are deciding to move because of lifestyle changes brought on by COVID-19, while others are simply looking to buy as they get married and have kids.

The trouble is there simply aren’t enough homes to go around. After the last recession, home builders slowed construction activity such that it didn’t keep pace with the country’s growing population. And now, with this recent surge in demand, homes are flying off the market in a blink of an eye.

As a result, prices are skyrocketing at a record pace, and buyers are being forced to consider taking risky steps to make their offers more attractive. Case in point: MarketWatch editor Steve Kutz decided to buy his home after viewing it for 15 minutes.

Veteran real-estate economist Ralph McLaughlin doesn’t mince words in describing how challenging this market is.

“We’ve been caught in a death spiral that started at the onset of the pandemic-induced recession,” McLaughlin, who is chief economist and senior vice president and real-estate finance company Haus, told MarketWatch. “And it’s spiraled out of control.”

Politicians could make matters worse, McLaughlin argues. Lawmakers, including President Biden, have proposed a range of policies related to real-estate that may boost demand without adding more supply into the market.

Rethinking the capital gains tax

McLaughlin argues that lawmakers should think of ways to improve the supply situation nationwide. His proposal: Reforming the capital gains tax.

In a recent blog post, he outlined how changes to the capital gains tax could make it a “carrot” to lure sellers into the market, while at the same time benefiting first-time buyers. Under his approach, the capital gains tax would be exempted for property sellers, especially real-estate investors, if they specifically sell the home to a first-time buyer.

Such a policy could be particularly attractive to investors who bought up homes in the wake of the last recession and converted them into rental units. These investors might feel burned by their holdings, since the rental market has struggled in many parts of the country as a result of COVID-19.

“You’re enticing a swap of ownership from investors to the people who are renting those homes,” McLaughlin said.

If the policy gained traction, McLaughlin believes that Americans could see more momentum from existing homeowners listing their homes on the market. What’s more, McLaughlin argues that such a policy could see bipartisan support, since various elements would appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike.

The carrot vs. the stick

McLaughlin’s vision differs significantly from the tax policies President Joe Biden proposed last month to pay for his broader economic agenda.

The White House has called on Congress to increase the capital gains tax rate for households making over $1 million to 39.6%. The Biden administration also proposed other changes, including eliminating the Section 1031 exchange program that allows real-estate investors to defer taxes in certain scenarios.

McLaughlin described the proposal as “a double-edged sword.”

“I fear the policy may lock in investors for a much longer period of time than with the current rate, and thus be counter-productive in helping free up investor inventory,” he said. “When it comes to housing supply, history suggests carrots work better than sticks.”

Some economists agreed, saying that investors may opt to hold onto the homes they own for longer in the hopes of a more favorable policy if Biden’s plan becomes law. Others, though, argued that tax policies in and of themselves may not ultimately influence the housing market a whole lot.

For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump eliminated the deductibility of state and local taxes from federal taxes. At the time, some believed it could lead to a mass exodus from pricey real-estate markets on the coasts, where taxes are higher. While there has been some migration from high- to low-tax states, these markets haven’t bottomed out either.

“There was concern of negative effects on high-cost markets, but these seem to have been overcome by the more important supply and demand dynamics,” Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, told MarketWatch.

“Fundamentally, that’s not going to make things any better for buyers in the long run,” McLaughlin said.

The problems with a $15,000 tax credit

Policymakers, meanwhile, are looking for ways to make home-buying more accessible to a wider swathe of Americans, but without addressing the supply-side challenges matters could get much worse.

Last year’s election cycle was unusual in how often candidates brought up the topic of housing. During his campaign, President Biden floated the idea of creating a $15,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers to use toward the down payment for a property.

While the $15,000 tax credit did not ultimately form part of the recent economic plans the White House has rolled out, Democratic lawmakers in Congress have run with the idea. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Jimmy Panetta, both Democrats, last week introduced the “First-Time Homebuyer Act.”

The bill would create a tax credit worth either up to 10% of the purchase price for a home or up to $15,000. To be eligible, a household cannot have owned or purchased a home within the past three years.

Only homeowners who made 160% of the area median income or less would be able to take advantage of the credit, and there would also be limits on how expensive the home would be.

“We need to do more to create opportunities for those who’ve been locked out of homeownership by creating incentives for first-time homebuyers,” Blumenauer, who represents Oregon’s 3rd district, said in announcing the bill.

“This legislation is just one element of the big, bold housing agenda that we are promoting to combat the housing affordability crisis, and address centuries of overtly racist and discriminatory housing policies that have left massive wealth, homeownership, and opportunity gaps between white communities and communities of color,” Blumenauer added.

The problem with such a proposal, McLaughlin argues, is that it could end up hurting the communities it’s intended to serve given the restricted supply of homes for sale in many markets today.

“That kind of policy was much more suited to a 2010 or 2012 housing market where there was plentiful supply and not enough demand,” he argued.

With the sudden boost a policy like that would offer renters, many could flood into the market looking to buy, especially at the lower-end of the price range where supply is already tightest. The added competition could push prices even higher, and end up pricing these very buyers out of the market again.

“A $15,000 tax credit in the short-to-medium term is likely to make the supply crunch more intense,” he said.

The post ‘We’ve Been Caught in a Death Spiral’: Could This Simple Tax Reform Help Struggling Home Buyers? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Best Bromine Tablets for Your Swimming Pool and Spa

Relax while you soak - your pool and spa water is working to protect you.

Relax while you soak – your pool and spa water is working to protect you. (Pixabay/)

We all grew up using chlorine as the go-to sanitizer for the family pool. But these days, more homeowners are finding that bromine – more commonly used in hot tubs, indoor pools and spas – can also double for use in the larger outdoor pools.

Bromine has a few advantages over chlorine. It allows water to stay balanced for longer periods of time. Like chlorine, it can be dispensed in automatic feeders. It also causes less skin irritation and fewer bouts with red eyes.

There are some disadvantages as well – mainly, bromine can’t be stabilized against the sun’s UV rays, so it can require more of the chemical to be used for outdoor use. (Indoor spas and hot tubs that are covered are protected from regular sun exposure, which is why bromine is preferred for those.)

Whether you’re looking at bromine for indoor or outdoor use, here are the products we prefer.

These slow-dissolving caplets produce sparkling clear, odor-free water for your family.

These slow-dissolving caplets produce sparkling clear, odor-free water for your family. (Clorox/)

These brominating tablets are designed to work without a stabilizer, saving you money and aggravation. They also don’t produce the nose-burning odor that chlorine can cause. There are about 36 tables per 1 1/2 pound container.

For heavy-duty jobs - or just fewer trips to the store - this bucket has 1 1/4-inch tabs.

For heavy-duty jobs – or just fewer trips to the store – this bucket has 1 1/4-inch tabs. (Spa Depot/)

There’s a lot to appreciate with these bromine tablets from Spa Depot. It starts with the bucket, which is easy to carry but also safe for the family thanks to a child-resistant lid. The tablets are designed to be slow-dissolving so they’re ideal for warmer water.

Use these with a floater or brominator for optimal use. A shock/oxidizer should still be used in conjunction.

Use these with a floater or brominator for optimal use. A shock/oxidizer should still be used in conjunction. (Spa Essentials/)

These 1-inch tablets from Spa Essentials are slow-dissolving, so plan to use more than the usual amount at first to get your water back into good shape. Once your water is properly sanitized, cut back the use of the tablets. Like their competitors, they produce none of the odor you get with chlorine products, and they’re less pH-sensitive.

If you crave the hydrated and clean feeling of water, this option delivers the sensation.

If you crave the hydrated and clean feeling of water, this option delivers the sensation. (HTH Spa/)

One big difference between outdoor pool vs. hot tub water is the amount of time between changing the water. Hot tubs and spas can sometimes recommend changing water as often as monthly. Pool water only gets changed out every 5 years or so. That’s why it’s important to maintain the water quality with chlorine or bromine or similar sanitizing agents. These tablets from HTH Spa create a “soft water” feel that feels cleaner on your skin and hair. They’re designed to fit in any sized floater or dispenser.

Best Hamster Cages for Your Furry Friends

Looks like someone is hunting for a new home. Help him out.

Looks like someone is hunting for a new home. Help him out. (Unsplash/)

The plain pet cage has been boring ever since the 1980s when the novel Habitrail model arrived on the scene and changed hamster homes forever. Make your hamster’s house a home with our favorite hamster cages.

The cage portion comes away from the plastic base so it’s easy to dump and sterilize.

The cage portion comes away from the plastic base so it’s easy to dump and sterilize. (Ferplast/)

Upstairs features the dining area with an included contrasting food dish and water bottle. Then when it’s naptime, your pet can head down the hamster-friendly ramp for some repose. Downstairs, your hamster can burrow into the bedding hidden under the top floor. Your pet will enjoy the exercise wheel hopefully as much as we love watching our hamster run around it. This hamster cage can host parties by using the port, even letting you connect your cage to others. We love how easy it is for your kids to clean this cage.

At almost 3 feet long, it will provide plenty of square footage and room for your friends to roam.

At almost 3 feet long, it will provide plenty of square footage and room for your friends to roam. (Prevue Pet Products/)

The heavy wire cage is chew proof, and the wires are spaced 3⁄8 inches apart to keep pets in and keep everything else out. We love the deep, over 6-inch, hamster cage base, so the mess stays in the cage and off the counter. The spacious interior offers you lots of areas to put in toys, feeding stations, and maybe an exercise wheel. There are two big doors on the top and side, so it’s easy to put both hands in and get your hamster out safely.

Bright colors, fun toys, and a matching food bowl and water bottle are included.

Bright colors, fun toys, and a matching food bowl and water bottle are included. (Midwest /)

Treat your hamster to a hoedown. It’s like two cages in one. The deep base provides a great place for your hamster to rest and relax after a fun day at play. The top has a little hamster hang out, an exercise wheel, and a couple of play tubes to crawl through. The see-through side on the top of the play area comes out for easy disinfecting. We love how there are connector tubes so you can hook this hamster cage to other ones for hamster play dates.

Designed to keep your pet from getting stuck on the ramps, ladders, or sides, you can feel confident you’re providing an enriching home.

Designed to keep your pet from getting stuck on the ramps, ladders, or sides, you can feel confident you’re providing an enriching home. (PawHut /)

With several levels of fun, this multi-level hamster cage is brightly colored and comes with everything you need to start caring for your hamster. If you’re looking to provide a stimulating environment for your pet, look no further. We decided if we were hamsters, this is where we’d like to live. Ladders, lots of play tunnels including the big one at the top, and a little house are all provided with this set. We love that your hamster can find a way to exercise, explore, and relax.

Best Travel Wallets For Painless Globe-trotting

Tuck your vital documents away in a safe place. Travel wallets are perfect for this.

Tuck your vital documents away in a safe place. Travel wallets are perfect for this. (Unsplash/)

Remember when travel meant grabbing an overnight bag, heading to the airport, and taking the next flight to anywhere? We do. But global excursions have changed, and so have travel practices. Keeping your passport, credit cards, IDs, and vital info safe and yet accessible is now of paramount importance.

The outer pocket is great for keeping your phone or your boarding passes handy.

The outer pocket is great for keeping your phone or your boarding passes handy. (defway/)

Rather than asking that fashionable traveling mom where she got her family’s travel wallet, we’ll save you the trouble by suggesting this organizer. The entire wallet blocks the RFID – the radio frequencies that unsavories use to get your information. There’s only one you, and this blocking technology works to keep it that way. This tough, large-size wallet unzips to open wide for accessing four passports, credit cards, zippered cash, and keys. It will fast become an indispensable travel tool.

Tuck in a passport or two, eight credit cards, a SIM card depicted pocket, ticket, or receipt, and still have room for your phone.

Tuck in a passport or two, eight credit cards, a SIM card depicted pocket, ticket, or receipt, and still have room for your phone. (Zoppen /)

Do you keep a little yen or some quarters tucked in your wallet? That’s yet another reason you’ll appreciate this well-designed travel wallet because it also has a zippered coin compartment. The tri-fold style and the eco-friendly bright blue faux leather make it easy to locate in your purse. But there are dozens of other colors to choose from, too. This phone-size travel wallet is cute enough to use every day, not just for trips. And best of all, it’s RFID repellent. Once you get used to that feature you’ll never want to be without it.

Keep it right in your arm or attach the crossbody strap or wristlet – both included – for an added layer of protection.

Keep it right in your arm or attach the crossbody strap or wristlet – both included – for an added layer of protection. (Valantr/)

When we take our kids’ friends to the tournaments and meets, we used to scramble at the airport counter getting everyone checked in with boarding passes and IDs. That’s why this travel wallet made our preferred travel list. It’s spacious to comfortably hold six passports and has two zippered pockets for cash, two letter-size pockets for documents, an external zippered phone pocket – 21 pockets in all. Not only does it offer premium RFID protection, but as an added measure, it’s also waterproof. Because you can’t turn in wet receipts for reimbursement.

Feels more like a planner and at a little under 10 inches tall, it ticks all the boxes.

Feels more like a planner and at a little under 10 inches tall, it ticks all the boxes. (Vemingo /)

We enjoy it when our pre-planning and organization allow us stress-free travel time. This wallet feels like it’s designed by travelers. It’s got an accordion design that keeps four passports within easy reach, has room for 13 credit and insurance cards, a clear ID pouch, zippered pouch, and a few pockets for all the mementos of spending receipts. You can handily put your phone in either the inside or exterior pocket. Made from nylon, this wallet will take you from Rome to Rio.

Made to hold six international passports and sort different currencies, this handy option simplifies your trip.

Made to hold six international passports and sort different currencies, this handy option simplifies your trip. (Zero Grid /)

The maker is so confident in their RFID protection, they’ll give you $300 if something goes awry.The little pen is a nice extra so you don’t have to scramble to fill out customs and immigration forms. One large zippered pocket secures bills and tickets, and the multiple cardholders keep track of everything else. It’s water-resistant, too, so you can pull it out in the marketplace or bazaar without worry. Also, you can put the ReturnMe recovery tags on your phone and wallet for added security.

Our Favorite Ping Pong Tables

Grab a paddle and enjoy some table tennis.

Grab a paddle and enjoy some table tennis. (Pixabay/)

Ping pong has been around since the early days of the 20th century and came to us from England. Its more formal moniker of table tennis was adopted in the 1920s when the official Ping Pong Association came into its own. And today we still love to play it, in our family rooms, garages, patios, community centers, dormitories, and even on cruise ships. With a small investment you can create years of enjoyment.

Separate halves allow for playback, and both sides lock in place for safety.

Separate halves allow for playback, and both sides lock in place for safety. (JOOLA /)

The Joola Nova table is designed for your patio, community center, or school playground. Built for the outdoors, this table includes large, heavy duty casters to glide easily over almost any terrain. The undercarriage is powder coated, and the table top is constructed of an aluminum plastic composite to resist warping and chipping from the weather. It includes a plastic net for durability. Sets up and breaks down in minutes so it can be stored out of the way when not in use. The adjustable leg levelers keep things on a level playing field even if you’re on uneven surfaces.

Features independent caster beams, so the table can be easily separated into two halves.

Features independent caster beams, so the table can be easily separated into two halves. (STIGA /)

The Stiga Advantage table is competition-ready for your home, office, or community center. The 5/8″ thick table top provides an optimum playing surface and is finished with multiple roller coats and silk screen striping. When not in use, the Stiga table can be stored, or each half can be used for other purposes.

At 6’ X 3’ it is big enough to be competitive, yet small enough not to dominate the entire room.

At 6’ X 3’ it is big enough to be competitive, yet small enough not to dominate the entire room. (GoSports/)

The GoSports table is perfect for any environment where space is at a premium. Sets up almost instantly. It has handles you can access when folded and it’s light enough to be carried by one person. While it’s smaller and lighter, the table is constructed with a heavy-duty aluminum frame that keeps it sturdy during play. A great addition to your home, office break room, or apartment.

It includes an Abacus scoring system and ball storage underneath the table on each side.

It includes an Abacus scoring system and ball storage underneath the table on each side. (JOOLA /)

The JOOLA is a full-size 9′ X 5′ competition-ready table. The 5/8″ thick medium-density fiberboard is mounted on sturdy 1.5″ steel legs with height adjusters for stability. Perfect for even the most competitive matches, yet easy to fold and store out of the way by rolling it in place on its 3″ locking casters. Designed for indoor use.

This regulation ping pong table provides the top only, which is designed to place over the top of your pool table.

This regulation ping pong table provides the top only, which is designed to place over the top of your pool table. (JOOLA /)

If you have a billiard table, or can’t decide whether you enjoy ping pong or pool the most, this is a great choice for you. The foam backing protects the billiard table underneath, and the net is designed to clamp in place without touching the billiard table. The table top is comprised of two halves for easy storage, but it’s still 5/8″ thick and offers a full-sized regulation option for your game room, bar, or office.

Best Bets for Electric Scooters

Take a closer look at these electric scooters.

Take a closer look at these electric scooters. ( Pixabay/)

We’ve come a long way from the radio scooters of the 20th century, but people have enjoyed experimenting with this type of mobility since the 1800s. Early scooters were made with four wheels and wood bases similar to skateboards, and were human powered by pushing off the ground.

Advanced features include front LED lights, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, and a mobile app.

Advanced features include front LED lights, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, and a mobile app. (Segway/)

This scooter is everything you would expect from Segway. The 350W motor allows for speeds of over 18 mph, and the battery gets you around for up to 40 miles. The Segway MAX experience is also tough, with a maximum weight rating of 220 pounds, a mechanical and electric braking system for safety, front and rear wheel shock absorbers, and self-healing 10 inch pneumatic tires for rough road surfaces. And talk about extras. Charges fast with a single cord. The one-step folding system is portable and easy to store. This next-generation electric scooter is an excellent choice for quality, riding comfort, speed, range, and even connectivity.

The digital display shows speed, battery life, and a switch for the headlight.

The digital display shows speed, battery life, and a switch for the headlight. (Gotrax/)

The Gotrax XR Elite Scooter is designed with the discerning commuter in mind. The 8.5″ pneumatic tires provide traction and comfort. The 300W motor has a top speed of 15.5 mph and the lithium ion battery supports a range of 16-18 miles, recharging in around 4 hours. It also includes a disc brake and anti-lock braking system for safety and responsiveness. Folds and locks down for easy storage.

The customized cruise and speed control mean smooth acceleration and cruising.

The customized cruise and speed control mean smooth acceleration and cruising. (Hiboy/)

The powerful 350W electric brushless motor allows for speeds up to 19 mph, and its high capacity battery gives you a range just over 25 miles. The solid 10″ tires and dual rear shock absorbers offer a more comfortable ride, easing tough surfaces and speed bumps. Electronic features include a digital display, cruise control, and a mobile application to customize acceleration and brake response, as well as for locking your scooter. LED lighting includes a headlight, tail light, and even side lights for added safety after dark. A great value and experience to enhance your commute.

Rear-wheel drive provides better stability for your young rider and a steady ride.

Rear-wheel drive provides better stability for your young rider and a steady ride. (Razor Power Core/)

The Razor Power Core E90 Electric Scooter is a great value for your kids. Its 85W maintenance-free, high-torque hub motor delivers smooth acceleration up to 10 mph – a better speed for the younger set. The 12V rechargeable battery lasts for up to 80 minutes of continuous operation. It’s easy for anyone to use – just step on, kick off, and go.

There’s even a convenient luggage rack on the back for your groceries, backpack, or picnic supplies.

There’s even a convenient luggage rack on the back for your groceries, backpack, or picnic supplies. (Razor/)

This model combines the efficiency of a lightweight electric scooter with the comfort of a seat and even a bamboo deck for your feet. The Razor EcoSmart Metro Electric Scooter is a step above the standing scooters, with a 500W high-torque motor and 16″ air-filled tires. Rear wheel drive gives it enhanced driveability, traction, and ease of steering. You can reach speeds of up to 18 mph and the 36V rechargeable battery is good for a range of 12 miles.

Our Favorite Shuffleboard Tables for the Home

This isn't your grandparents' shuffleboard game.

This isn’t your grandparents’ shuffleboard game. (Amazon/)

Initially a land game, shuffleboard was later adapted to be played on a table, floor, or hard outdoor surface. Now two or four people play at a time. The shuffleboard most of us are familiar with was defined in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1924. The game was mostly enjoyed in retirement communities, but in more recent years shuffleboard has become popular with younger crowds all over the country and a cruise ship staple. These days you’ll find shuffleboard tables at bars and restaurants, in people’s homes, and enjoyed by all ages.

This high-quality table boasts 1-3/4" butcher-block wood and pro style climate adjusters for exceptional game play and style.

This high-quality table boasts 1-3/4″ butcher-block wood and pro style climate adjusters for exceptional game play and style. (Playcraft /)

The Playcraft Woodbridge table is all about elevating your game and your game room space. The butcher-block playfield is gorgeous, finished with multiple coats of satin polyurethane for a smooth, glossy, and fast surface. The black finish fits with any color scheme in your room. No need to worry about buying pucks and scoring devices. The table comes with deluxe pucks, wax, and a matching abacus so you don’t have to compromise style. With shelves for storage and pro style climate adjusters, this shuffleboard table is a real statement piece.

Sturdy in design and classic in look, this table comes assembled and built to last.

Sturdy in design and classic in look, this table comes assembled and built to last. (Barrington Billiards/)

Want a game table that’s both sleek and functional? One that actually looks like it belongs in your room? We think the Barrington Collection model does just that. It takes the game of shuffleboard to a whole new level. In addition to how fine it looks in your game room, den, or bar area, it’s also well made with lined walls and gutters to protect the pucks and muffle noise. It features furniture-quality legs and paneling, and a durable scratch-resistant playing field. This table also comes with 8 pucks and 1 can of speed powder. Now all you have to do is invite your friends over to play.

It comes with 10 bowling pins, a pin setter, and 8 chrome metal weighted shuffleboard pucks, so all you have to do is set it up and play.

It comes with 10 bowling pins, a pin setter, and 8 chrome metal weighted shuffleboard pucks, so all you have to do is set it up and play. (American Legend/)

Who doesn’t love things that light up? The Kirkwood LED Light Up Table gives you extras in both fun and style. With both shuffleboard and bowling options, the table is perfect for your next game night. The lights on the rails give it a classic arcade feel. Its quality doesn’t waver, with wood finish and carpeted gutters.

This clever table is designed to save space with stackable surfaces and easy storage.

This clever table is designed to save space with stackable surfaces and easy storage. (Best Choice Products/)

There’s a game for everyone with this tabletop. Imagine, no more complaints from the kids about “what we can do now” on a rainy day or with a houseful of neighbor kids. There are plenty of ideas to keep everyone busy with this table: slide hockey, foosball, pool, shuffleboard, table tennis, chess, cards, checkers, bowling, and backgammon. Worried about how to fit all these games in one room? Its wood-like exterior also gives it a classic game room appearance, which will look great in your family or bonus room.

Comes with a built-in storage cabinet that will compliment any room. And who couldn’t use more storage?

Comes with a built-in storage cabinet that will compliment any room. And who couldn’t use more storage? (Fairview Game Rooms/)

A timeless game with functional built-in shelves, the Signature Shuffleboard Table looks impressive and plays great in any game room. There’s a nostalgic look to this piece, with its maple veneer construction and polymer finished playfield. The shelves are perfect for storing pucks, sand, and wax. The stabilizing support of leg levelers and locking nuts help you create the perfect level of play. You’ll want to start planning your next party right now.

Our Favorite Espresso Machines

Who doesn't love a fresh espresso? You can make them at home with ease with the right machine.

Who doesn’t love a fresh espresso? You can make them at home with ease with the right machine. (Pixabay/)

Espresso is the champagne of coffee. It’s more aromatic, more pungent, and let’s face it, it’s more elegant. We know there is nothing quite like sipping a demitasse of espresso with a twist of lemon to transport you to that sidewalk cafe in Paris’s 5th Arrondissement. We’re here to tell you to stow your passport away – good espresso can be made at home. Here are our picks for best espresso machines.

The burr grinder keeps your beans fresh until you’re ready to brew the best cup of coffee you’re going to enjoy this morning.

The burr grinder keeps your beans fresh until you’re ready to brew the best cup of coffee you’re going to enjoy this morning. (Breville /)

Just one button gives you all the ground coffee beans you need. In less than 60 seconds this stainless steel machine turns your whole beans into espresso, partially because the speedy heat-up time gets to temperature in 3 seconds. The LED screen allows you to choose and brew just the beverage you’re craving.

The reservoir has a modern-looking pattern and is also easy to remove and reinstall.

The reservoir has a modern-looking pattern and is also easy to remove and reinstall. (Ninja /)

From rich iced coffee to cappuccinos, this coffee maker really looks cool while whipping up your favorite coffee drinks. Put in your ground coffee beans, fill up the reservoir, then you’re ready to make a cup or fill the 50-ounce glass carafe with your hot fresh brew. The included portable foamer completes your milky blend and has a nice long 2.5-foot cord.

The simple dial takes the guesswork out of making your java. Just choose from one shot, two shots, steam, and hot water.

The simple dial takes the guesswork out of making your java. Just choose from one shot, two shots, steam, and hot water. (Calphalon /)

Use the warming tray on the top of the espresso maker to preheat your cups or just keep your coffee warm while you make another. Put the grounds into the one- or two-cup filter and tamp with the included tamper, install, and brew. This espresso machine has an Italian pump to provide the perfect pressure for your coffee, even giving you those coffee bubbles on top of your espresso, the “crema.” Put milk in the stainless steel milk pitcher and let the powerful steam wand make foam to order.

The pictures and words make it easy for all ages to make elevated coffee drinks.

The pictures and words make it easy for all ages to make elevated coffee drinks. (Mr. Coffee/)

Mr. Coffee knows what he’s doing. Want an espresso to sip with that croissant? How about a latte with oat milk? This espresso machine allows you to customize your beverage. Cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos can all be specialties of your house. The automatic frother is an accessory we hadn’t seen before and we love it. It means that maybe the hardest part of the latte, the frothing, will be perfect every time. Make sure to clean it after each use.

If you have a divided house where one is a black coffee purist and one loves espresso drinks, this is your product.

If you have a divided house where one is a black coffee purist and one loves espresso drinks, this is your product. (barsetto/)

This espresso maker has two separate controls, allowing you to steam milk on one side and brew coffee on the other. You can also make two coffees at the same time. We like how the boiler is large so we can have more coffee and more steam. When you’ve finished your coffee and rinsed your cup, let the machine hold it on the drip tray.

Best Corded Electric Lawnmowers

A good electric mower can tackle a tough lawn just as effectively as a gas mower.

A good electric mower can tackle a tough lawn just as effectively as a gas mower. (Amazon/)

Do you enjoy having your lawn look well maintained, but hate the noise and exhaust that comes from gas-powered lawnmowers? Maybe you’re just concerned with reducing emissions. The electric lawnmower offers you a viable alternative.

No more trips to the station with the gas can because you ran out in the middle of a mow.

No more trips to the station with the gas can because you ran out in the middle of a mow. (Greenworks /)

Greenworks’s electric mower provides the power you need with the convenience you want. The 3-in-1 capabilities include mulching, rear collection, or side discharge. Its powerful 12 Amp motor provides plenty of energy for cutting and mulching. The mower is height adjustable to 7 levels with the ease of a single lever. Ten-inch rear wheels and 7-inch front wheels make this mower highly maneuverable and easy to push.

The wide 18” cutting area is attached to a 19” deck that is rust resistant.

The wide 18” cutting area is attached to a 19” deck that is rust resistant. (LawnMaster/)

The LawnMaster corded electric lawnmower provides another eco-friendly alternative to gasoline mowers. The LawnMaster is an efficient 2-in-1 mower capable of side-discharge or mulching, and has easy start and easy height adjustment features. Over 6-inch wheels makes it good at maneuvering around your area, and at 35 pounds it folds and stores away easily. This mower lets you to take your yard back the clean way.

The power-drive transmission provides all the strength your mower needs for tough mowing conditions.

The power-drive transmission provides all the strength your mower needs for tough mowing conditions. (BLACK+DECKER/)

Keep your lawn in great shape with one tool for all your needs. This Black & Decker model is a mower, a trimmer, and an edger all in one. The 12″ cutting area is enough for most small to medium yards. The convenient automatic feed spool means no stopping or bumping to feed more line while you’re in the middle of the job. It’s lightweight, efficient, and great at getting into tight areas around your beds. An all-in-one timesaver that makes your yardwork just that much quicker and easier.

Height adjustable to 5 levels, this mower also has a 2-in-1 system for mulching or rear-discharge bagging.

Height adjustable to 5 levels, this mower also has a 2-in-1 system for mulching or rear-discharge bagging. (American/)

The American corded electric mower provides an optimal blend of efficiency and power. The 14″ cutting area is powered by an 11-Amp motor to cut all types of grasses. As powerful as many gas-fueled mowers, it’s still quiet and planet-friendly. It’s also compact, and has folding handles for easy storage. Making outdoor tools since 1895, the American Lawn Mower Company is committed to creating products for a green environment and is dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint.

A unique bike grip handle makes this model easier to maneuver and more comfortable for you to push around the yard.

A unique bike grip handle makes this model easier to maneuver and more comfortable for you to push around the yard. (BLACK+DECKER/)

This Black & Decker corded mower offers high efficiency and plenty of power to plow through and cut your rough grass. The 10-Amp motor drives a 15″ blade to make quick work of mowing your yard. The enhanced clipping collection winged blade yields a 30% cleaner area when you’re finished. Clean lawn, clean energy, clean design.

Home Prices Have Hit a New High—Is the Housing Market About To Crash?

Getty Images

With home prices at a new record high and homes flying off the market in hours in some cases, it’s no wonder that Google searches for “when is the housing market going to crash” have spiked dramatically in recent weeks. After all, the mania seems reminiscent of the run-up to the housing bubble in the mid-2000s—and we’ve all been told that what goes up must eventually come down.

However, housing is likely to keep defying common sense. Experts say there’s no reason to prepare for a crash landing like we experienced in 2008 and 2009. This time around, the reason for the out-of-control prices is simply that there are many more buyers than there are properties for sale. Another simple rule: Prices rise when there is more demand than supply. Crazy, it seems, is the new normal.

“I find it difficult to say we’re not in a housing bubble, but I [also] find it difficult to say home prices are going to crash,” says Ali Wolf, chief economist at building consultancy Zonda. “Today’s prices feel unsustainable, today’s frenzy feels unsustainable. But that doesn’t mean there’s going to be a crash. That’s bad news for a lot of shoppers who are hoping for prices to come down.”

Nationally, median home list prices shot up 17.2% year over year in April, to hit a new record high of $375,000, according to Realtor.com® data. Meanwhile, incomes haven’t risen anywhere near as much.

Still, “There are a lot of people sitting on the sidelines desperate to buy a home,” says Wolf. “If the market stabilizes, there are a lot of [buyers] who are going to come out of the woodwork to soften the blow.”

What’s more likely to happen is that, over the next year or two, prices will continue to rise, but at a much slower pace. Bidding wars will taper off, and the astronomical offers over asking price will eventually come down.

But that doesn’t mean prices will return to their pre-pandemic levels. List prices are expected to continue rising to meet sale prices, but the annual increases won’t be nearly as brutal.

“There’s no way the double-digit price growth can continue long term,” says Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale.

The only way prices would drop by any significant amount would be if mortgage rates shot up substantially and a lot of homes flooded the market. Record-low rates have allowed buyers to purchase more expensive homes while keeping their monthly payments within their budgets. As rates rise, buyers won’t be able to afford the higher prices. Plus, an increase in inventory would give buyers more choices, meaning there would be less frenzied competition.

“As the pandemic winds down and the work-from-anywhere dynamic pulls back as office buildings reopen and interest rates normalize, that’s going to take the froth out of the market and may also result in corrections in some markets,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

While he believes there may be some price declines in the most “juiced” markets, “nationwide, I think prices just go flat.”

Why isn’t the housing market on the verge of crashing?

The fast-rising prices and market mania may feel reminiscent of the days leading up to the last housing crash. But the culprits behind the last meltdown aren’t as present this time around.

For starters, today there are far more buyers than homes for sale. That’s a sharp reversal from the late 2000s, when overbuilding yielded far more properties than there were buyers. Now, there isn’t enough new construction to meet demand and investors aren’t going wild driving up prices.

Most importantly, bad mortgages—the key factor in the financial crisis—have largely disappeared from the market. New regulation in the wake of the last calamity has ensured that only the most qualified borrowers can get mortgages and the riskiest loans, such as subprime mortgages, are largely no longer available to the masses.

Today’s buyers may be paying top dollar, but they’ve been vetted to ensure they can afford their mortgages.

“”The commonality is the FOMO (fear of missing out) and the overall frenzy,” says Zonda’s Wolf. “But I don’t think that alone is enough to cause the market to crash.”

The economy is also improving, and forbearance programs have kept a flood of homes from going into foreclosure. The high home prices should give even strapped owners a cushion, allowing them to sell their homes and potentially even walk away with a profit. That’s a departure from the late 2000s, when many folks owed far more than their homes were worth on the market.

The loss of a home “would create some personal hardship,” says Hale. “But they’ll probably be able to walk away and be in OK financial shape.”

Could some folks overpay for homes that will lose value?

Buying a house is often the biggest investment that most folks will ever make—so they want to make sure it will increase in value. But many folks are wondering if the value of homes purchased today at record-high prices will fall once the COVID-19 pandemic is over and the market returns to some semblance of sanity.

Will they be able to sell them for at least as much as they paid? Or will they wind up owing more on their loans than their homes are worth?

The experts say most buyers shouldn’t worry. The lack of supply combined with the high demand should keep home prices stable—for the most part.

“It’s certainly possible that home prices can decline. But I don’t think it’s likely we’ll see big declines,” says Realtor.com’s Hale. “It’s more likely prices will flatten where they are.”

Desirable suburbs with lots of amenities and short commutes to the bigger cities are expected to continue increasing in value, say experts. Popular vacation markets and growing cities that are attracting good jobs are also expected to do well in coming years.

The markets that could be the most vulnerable are some of the smaller cities and exurbs without a lot of high-paying jobs. These experienced a big run-up in a short amount of time as folks suddenly wanted more space and land, but as more folks go back to the office and there are fewer out-of-town buyers with big bucks, prices in these areas are likely to revert to what local incomes can support. However, the adjustment is not likely to be drastic.

“It’s not going to be at all like the Great Recession,” Wolf says. “The price corrections will be relatively modest. It will probably be communities where the bounce back in terms of employment, in jobs, is more lackluster than other parts of the country.”

Will the housing market ever settle down?

Mortgage interest rates are the wild card. When they hit record lows, falling below 3% on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for the first time, prices had room to shoot up without increasing a buyer’s monthly mortgage payment.

If rates go up into the 4% or 5% range, many buyers wouldn’t be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments on the homes they want anymore. So they could leave the market, reducing demand.

As mortgage rates rise, “that’s going to suck the wind out of this very, very frothy market,” says Zandi.

The reverse is true as well, of course. If they were to dip, that would allow prices to continue ticking up. However, economists don’t believe rates have much room to go lower.

In addition, the market may cool off a little as the pandemic ends and people feel safe in the cities and traveling again. That doesn’t mean that demand won’t continue to be strong and more homes for sale will suddenly materialize. But it make take some of the pressure off—leading to, perhaps, only single-digit price increases in the coming years.

“People aren’t going to be as fixated on their homes as they’ve been the last year, because now they can get out,” says Wolf. “We are expecting to see a slowdown in home price growth.”

The post Home Prices Have Hit a New High—Is the Housing Market About To Crash? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.