Between omicron, inflation, and a variety of problems both within and outside U.S. borders, Joe and Jill Biden have a lot on their plates. But hey, it’s the holidays! And so, as tradition goes, the first couple took a break from serious stuff to decorate the White House for Christmas.
More than 100 volunteers joined the president and first lady in making The People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. gleam merry and bright. Indeed, 41 trees were hauled in, along with 25 wreaths, 10,000 ornaments (including one with their own portrait, shown below), and nearly 80,000 lights (we sincerely hope they have a method for keeping them untangled).
“As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country,” Jill Biden shared as she unveiled the holiday finery to the public.
Pegged to the theme “Gifts From the Heart,” each display has its own “gift” attached, as in “the gift of learning,” “the gift of gratitude,” and “the gift of visual arts.”
Oh—and don’t forget the gingerbread house. This year’s spiced and iced confection features not just a huge version of the White House, but also eight hometown structures that evoke the tough job front-line workers had this past year (think police, firefighters, grocery clerks, and more).
What designers really think of Jill Biden’s holiday decor
But like everything that happens in Washington, DC, there are opinions that run the gamut related to Biden’s choice in holiday color palette and themes. That’s politics, after all!
Some professional designers, like Andra DelMonico at Trendey, felt the themes were a bit difficult to grasp, even “muddled and requiring long-winded explanations.”
“If you’re going to have a theme, it should be easily recognizable,” DelMonico explains. “But each room has a subtheme like faith, family, nature, service, and unity—stop overcomplicating it.”
And not every bauble works, alas.
“There’s no focal point or memorable showpiece,” DelMonico adds. “And some things don’t even look like Christmas decorations, like the art tribute in the Vermeil Room.”
And what’s with the oversized “Alice in Wonderland” gifts surrounding the East Wing entrance?
“These red and blue gifts with the giant bow are way too much—it makes me flinch every time I look at it,” says Marco Bizzley, an interior designer and consultant at HouseGrail.
But there’s also lots to love, say the experts, particularly the tree with doves, which “offers a sense of peace and hope,” says Bizzley.
DelMonico gives points to the tree that celebrates family, with the miniature framed images of first families throughout the years.
“That’s a great idea and one you could easily do in your own home,” she says.
How Biden’s holiday decor compares with past administrations’
Still, as we take in this year’s White House holiday decor, it makes sense to harken back to past presidencies and compare the looks.
For starters, Biden’s decor certainly seems a bit bland when placed alongside Melania Trump‘s far more striking (or some might say frightening) all-red tree parade in the East Colonnade during Donald Trump‘s stint in office.
Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle Obama certainly had their share of questionable Christmas decor choices when they added monstrous replicas of their dogs Sunny and Bo into the mix.
Even the Clinton White House caved in to a pet theme, giving their cat Socks his own stocking. Whether that’s cute or hokey depends, we guess, on your affinity for animals and whether you consider them part of the family, and the holiday festivities.
In other words, every presidential family has its own unique ideas about holiday decor. Lest you start to judge, look inward first—or at least out toward that inflatable Santa in your own front yard.
When it comes to smart home tech, I’m a late bloomer. It all seemed like more of a hassle than it’s worth.
Then I inherited a pair of first-generation Echo Dots from my dad. After countless heart-to-hearts with my new BFF Alexa, I realized, “Oh, now I get it!”
Since that fateful day, I’ve embraced smart lights, smart plugs, smart doorbells, and more—all of which have made my life easier and more fun. And trust me, if I can figure this stuff out, so can you!
Now that I’m fully converted, with the holidays coming, I started pondering what else a smart home could do. I found a bunch of ways that you can use your smart home speakers, doorbells, and more during this season that will up the sparkle, ease your stress, and wow your guests.
1. Design a light show
While twinkly lights are a hallmark of holiday decor, it’s a huge pain to have to crawl under the tree every morning and night to turn them on or off, or to trudge outside in the cold to light up your lawn display. These annoyances can all be over with a Smart Plug ($24.99).
By connecting your holiday lights to a smart plug, installing the app on your phone, and pairing the plug with your smart speaker (Amazon Echo or Google Nest), you can control any decorative lights in your home with a simple voice command.
For example: “Alexa, turn on holiday lights” (full disclosure, I’ve got this going on in my apartment right now).
Take it a step further, and you can schedule a Google or Alexa Routine that will turn your holiday lights on and off at the same time every day.
This can also minimize fire hazards if you forget to turn off your Christmas tree lights before bed or when you leave the house.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, lighting was involved in almost half (45%) of home Christmas tree fires (other hazards include candles or heating equipment placed too close to the tree).
For the even more technically adventurous, it is possible to sync your lights to pulse to the beat of holiday tunes.
This requires a special strand of smart lights, like the LEDs available from Twinkly or Novolink, but the results—well, just imagine your own home disco to Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas.” You get the idea!
2. Program your doorbell to sing carols
Got Christmas carolers at your door—or just a visitor who’s pressed your Ring Doorbell ($199.99)? Turns out you can change your chime to sing holiday tunes.
To do this, connect your Ring doorbell to your smart speaker, open the Alexa app on your phone, click “Access devices,” and tap your Ring device.
You’ll be presented with doorbell sound options ranging from “Deck the Halls,” to “Jingle Bells,” to “Christmas Elves.” Mine is currently set to “Turkey” (the “Gobble, gobble, gobble” makes me laugh every time).
Then, next Halloween, you can program doorbell sound effects from creepy organ to maniacal laugh. Talk about a great way to freak out your guests.
3. Protect your packages
Speaking of knowing what’s going on at your front door, with the current supply-chain delays (and ever-hovering porch pirates), you definitely don’t want to miss the UPS guy these days.
Another option if you don’t have a video doorbell is to ask Alexa to alert you when packages have been delivered, so they don’t languish on the front porch.
If you’re waiting on a delivery from Amazon, you can say, “Alexa, where’s my stuff?” to get updates on impending arrivals.
4. Perfect your party planning
Feel like you need an assistant to get everything on your holiday list done? If you have a smart home, the good news is you have your own virtual elf eager to help.
For starters, simply ask your smart speaker to create a to-do list to ensure that nothing gets forgotten, or to remind you of a task.
Start with “Alexa/Hey Google, create a list,” and add items to it. Then when you get frazzled, and can’t remember what it was you needed to do next, simply ask Alexa what’s on the to-do list. It’s like having another brain.
You can also use your smart speaker to add essential party items, like paper goods or decor, to your virtual shopping cart, and even place your order using your voice.
5. Get help in the kitchen
No doubt holiday cooking and baking are par for the season, but both can get stressful and messy. Fortunately, a smart home hub can help you even if your hands are covered in flour.
Realize suddenly that you’re missing vital ingredients? Fix it fast by voice-ordering through Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods.
Need to find recipes? Smart speakers can also help with that, and keep you from getting sticky fingers all over a recipe book.
6. Set a seasonal scene
Once all the prep is done, and the festivities have begun, it’s time to set the scene!
No holiday is complete without music, and the Echo Studio (Amazon’s high-end smart speaker) can help amplify your playlists.
If you have more than one smart device, you can also “group” them together.
For example, in the Alexa app, simply open the app, click “Access Devices,” hit the “+” sign in the upper right-hand corner, and you’ll see an option for “Add Group.”
Once you have a group created, you can say, “Alexa, play music everywhere,” and simultaneously blast your fave holiday tunes all over the house.
Walking into a home improvement or furniture store these days can feel like being the last person at the supermarket before a blizzard—with scores of desperate shoppers rifling through half-empty shelves. But it’s not because of an impending natural disaster or a zombie apocalypse.
From major appliances like ovens and dishwashers to lumber to the smallest pieces of pipe, items needed to build or fix up homes have become torturously hard to come by as the global supply chain issues drag on. The unavailability of or delays in receiving critical parts, materials, and labor is worsening the already severe housing shortage and making it harder for folks to fix up the homes they own. And while it’s wreaking havoc most directly on new construction and home renovation, the impact is being felt in all corners of real estate.
So what’s really behind the Great Slowdown—and how long will it last?
The data team at Realtor.com® decided to take a deep dive into what’s causing the big holdup, and which items are most affected by the severely congested supply chain.
Supply chain issues, or hiccups getting a product from the manufacturing stage to its final destination, are affecting “everything, including the kitchen sink,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. “It’s the nuts and bolts, literally, to build a home.”
That’s helping to push prices of new homes higher—the median sales price for a new home in October was $407,700, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s up 17.5% compared with the same time a year ago and significantly higher than the median listing price of all homes last month, which was $380,000, according to Realtor.com listing data.
So what’s going on? What we found was a perfect storm of issues, exacerbated by COVID-19. Many companies around the world, unsure of how the pandemic would affect buyer behavior, scaled back on production and laid off workers early on. Others were affected by stay-at-home orders and sick workers. But as lockdowns forced more people to remain in their houses, many folks, instead of buying less, bought more as they upgraded their homes or sought larger ones.
“As people spent more time at home, they started to buy more things—from electronics to art supplies,” says Ali Wolf, chief economist of building consultancy Zonda. “The change in consumer behavior came while factories were dealing with COVID outbreaks, limited access to raw materials, temporary shutdowns, and a labor shortage.”
While factories have largely reopened and been ramping up production, supply chain bottlenecks have meant it’s been much harder to get items to the U.S. And what does make it through the ports has become more expensive. A shortage of shipping containers plus tariffs on goods is causing delays and making things pricier for consumers. Meanwhile, a lack of workers at ports and drivers to get the items to their final destinations is further slowing things down.
Looking ahead, economists project these issues will persist at least through the next year—perhaps getting even worse before it gets better.
“Consumers should expect continued frustration with delays and rising prices,” says Wolf. But as the virus subsides and people’s spending habits go back to normal, things should be better by 2023.
“The demand pressure on manufacturers should soften and give ports and factories time to better catch up,” says Wolf.
Until then, Dietz says, people should plan accordingly. “Consumers need to be patient and strategic.”
We know—easier said than done. So let’s take a closer look at why things are so gummed up.
Lumber prices shot up at the start of the pandemic, in part because closed borders due to COVID-19 meant getting supplies from Canada (where the United States gets most of its wood) became more difficult. Tariffs on Canadian exports enacted before the pandemic meant the wood was already expensive. So when demand shot up to build new homes and renovate old ones, prices exploded.
At one point lumber costs were so high, they were adding about $36,000 to the cost of building a new home, according to the National Association of Home Builders. While lumber prices are way down compared with the summer peak, they remain well above what people were paying before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, any relative savings are offset by other items that have increased in price.
“Those declines in lumber prices have had a positive effect, but they have not come down all the way,” says Dietz. “And the pricing of just about everything else has gone up.”
One of the biggest issues homebuilders—and renovation-minded owners—are contending with right now are long delays in the arrival of major appliances, says economist Dietz.
Homeowners whose stoves or washing machines stop working are having to wait months on replacements. Builders need dishwashers and dryers to install in the homes they plan to sell.
Global supply chain issues have led to a backlog of nearly $3 billion in goods that have been ordered but not yet shipped, according to U.S. Census data. Even if the appliance is made in the U.S., many use parts and computer chips that are made abroad. So if those are held up in the supply chain snafus, the appliances can’t be manufactured, holding up the whole system for everyone.
“Whether it’s a remodeling project or a new build, delays in the supply chain are having an impact here in the housing market,” Dietz says.
So you’d like to paint your living room a new color? Nice! But that’s going to cost you.
The price to paint a room or the exterior of a home has gone up substantially lately. Paint prices have spiked 15% since 2019, as key ingredients have become harder to come by. The already rising costs were exacerbated by the extreme weather in Texas over the past year or so. A freak cold snap and multiple hurricanes damaged chemical processing plants there in 2020 and 2021, causing manufacturers to slow down or temporarily halt production.
Suppliers are unable to pump out enough paint as builders try to construct new homes as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, as more people began to work from home during the pandemic, many decided they were sick of their old paint colors.
High demand, meet low supply. Questions?
“Homebuilders have been busy building new homes, while existing-home owners have been focused on sprucing up existing properties,” says economist Wolf. That’s causing paint prices to rise, as companies are unable to make enough for all of the folks who want it.
“This increased demand is coming at a time where suppliers are struggling to keep up,” adds Wolf.
Another industry hurt by high lumber prices is furniture. Shortages of wood are making it harder to produce things like coffee tables, bookshelves, or even wooden sofa frames. Foam, or stuffing to make mattresses and couches, is also hard to come by since it’s often made with materials produced by those very same Texas chemical plants that were shuttered by extreme weather events.
Adding to the problem are international shipping delays. Since a large share of the furniture purchased in America is made in Asia, folks are having a harder time getting what they want.
Those who order furniture are now having to wait months for their items to be delivered instead of weeks.
This double whammy of materials shortages and global supply chain snafus, plus higher demand to remodel homes, is causing furniture prices to spike.
Even if these materials and appliance shortages subsided and inflation got back to normal, there is another larger issue that’s been plaguing the housing market for nearly a decade. There are just not enough construction workers to build homes or take on renovation projects.
Part of that is because of a growing lack of interest in the profession, says Larry Wigger, a supply chain management professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“We’ve kind of stigmatized blue-collar labor here in the U.S.,” Wigger says, as more people were encouraged to go to college over the past few decades. “That has reduced the pipeline of young people going into those careers. And [as] people retire, there are fewer of the older generation of workers in that labor pool.”
Foreign-born workers now make up about a quarter of construction industry workers, according to the National Association of Home Builders. But a decline in immigration since President Donald Trump‘s administration, exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions, means the industry is short hundreds of thousands of workers, Dietz says.
This shortage of workers is part of the reason the U.S. is short more than 5 million homes as of June, according to the Realtor.com economics team. In order to make up the difference in the next five years, builders would need to build homes at three times the speed they are now.
“If you go back to the Great Recession, the residential construction industry lost a million and a half workers because of the dramatic declines of home construction,” Dietz says. That’s because many builders went out of business after the housing bust and workers found other jobs. The industry still hasn’t fully recovered.
“We’ve gained about 1 million of those back, but it’s been a long process.”
Despite a gradual return to the office for some employees and a renewed appetite for city living, suburban homes remain in demand across the U.S., according to a report Tuesday from Realtor.com.
Throughout the pandemic, home sales across the country’s suburban enclaves have skyrocketed as residents seek out easy access to the outdoors and larger properties. In fact, the number of home buyers shopping across the country’s leafy suburbs has surged 42.1% since the onset of Covid-19, the online real estate hub said.
Their popularity doesn’t look set to dissipate any time soon. Suburban homes accounted for 62% of online home views on Realtor.com in September, compared to 38% for listings in urban areas.
“The suburbs have always attracted home buyers looking for more house for their money, but recent data reflects just how much suburban competition has intensified. With the rise in long-term remote work options and downtown rents making a rapid comeback, suburban vs. urban housing dynamics are shifting,” Danielle Hale, Realtor.com chief economist, said in the report.
“From inventory to time on market, recent data shows suburban buyer activity has accelerated at a faster pace than in urban areas,” she continued. “Notably, the price premium is shrinking between notoriously expensive urban housing and suburban for-sale homes, typically known for more bargains.”
When it comes to supply levels, the continued preference for suburban living is underlined by the sector’s lower levels of stock. While inventory is lagging across the board, the number of homes in the market was down 13% annually in the suburbs in September and 8% in urban areas.
As a result of the stiff competition, prices are being driven higher, faster, in the suburbs, and has pulled down the urban price premium to 7%, from 10% in 2019, the report said.
Mansion Global is owned by Dow Jones. Both Dow Jones and Realtor.com are owned by News Corp.
After more than a year of staggering increases in home prices, the party appears to be coming to an end.
The growth in prices, which rose more than 30% this year in some of the nation’s hottest real estate markets, appears to have peaked nationally. Home prices are still increasing, but substantially less than they were just a few months ago. There are even signs that some of the hottest real estate markets in the nation are slowing, with homes taking longer to sell and undergoing more price reductions.
And while this doesn’t mean the wishes of buyers will come true and real estate will suddenly become far more affordable, real estate experts do expect price increases in coming months to be much more manageable going forward in much—but not all—of the country.
“Prices and sellers reached for the moon this year. It looks like we are now about to move back to Earth,” says George Ratiu, director of economic research at Realtor.com®.
He anticipates more homes will go up for sale, helping to alleviate the severe housing shortage responsible for the unprecedented prices.
“For many buyers, particularly those who have been frustrated and wondered when will they get a break, this is the beginning of the market slowing down,” Ratiu says.
Even in two of the nation’s most competitive housing markets—Austin, TX, and Boise ID, both of which skyrocketed in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic—there are signs a semblance of normality is returning. Sellers are now slashing prices in an increasing number of listings, and bidding wars are dying down.
However, real estate experts caution there are some hot markets that haven’t yet hit a zenith. So this real estate “correction,” such as it is, all depends on where in the U.S. you might be looking for a home.
“Earlier in the year, you could throw a dart at a map of the U.S. and wherever you landed, the housing market would be smoldering hot. Today, that’s not a guarantee,” says Ali Wolf, chief economist at national building consultancy Zonda.
The real estate market appears to be shifting
By the time the leaves turn in autumn, prices generally decline. This is the time of year that, in a normal market, smaller, less expensive homes go up for sale. The desperation of families on a tight school or relocation timeline that usually drives prices up even higher is largely absent. Plus, fewer folks are eager to buy or sell a home around the holidays.
“We’re falling more into a seasonal pattern, which may seem like a correction because we haven’t seen the market slow toward the end of the year like we normally do,” says Wolf.
But even with seasonal declines, Wolf is noticing primary changes to the market.
“We’re past the point of anything goes in the housing market,” she says. “We’re not going to see the same level of home price growth. You won’t have to remove all the contingencies just to win a home.”
Seasonality appears to be just one component of the shift.
Nationally, median home list prices have held steady over the past four months, hovering around $380,000 after peaking at $385,000 in June, according to the most recent Realtor.com data. The number of homes with price cuts has more than doubled from a low in February. Plus homes are taking longer to sell.
The number of days on the market before a home sells, a sign of how hot a market is, has also steadily been rising since June, increasing from a low of 37 days to 45 in October.
Rising mortgage interest rates are also likely helping to keep price growth in check as homebuyers have only so much money they can spend on housing each month. Rates fluctuate, but they’ve been trending upward from the historic 2.65% for 30-year fixed-rate loans last January.
Even a half-percentage point could increase monthly housing payments by about $80—or $960 a year—on a median-priced home of $380,000. (This assumes buyers put down 20% and doesn’t include property taxes or insurance costs.)
Homes that are priced too high will likely attract less interest as buyers are now grappling with higher homeownership costs. That means fewer bidding wars and offers over the asking price, which can greatly increase prices as well.
“The pool of buyers who can continue to push prices higher from here is a lot smaller than it was last year,” says Wolf.
Where will home prices keep zooming up?
Not every real estate market will fare the same. The most desirable ones that have the least amount of housing available will continue to see prices spike. However, price growth is slowing, and some experts even predict could dip, in places that have lost lots of jobs and residents in recent years, and since the pandemic.
“We’re going to see markets and prices move differently across the geographies,” says Ratiu. “Local economies can make all the difference in how local real estate performs.”
For example, prices in many Rust Belt and other struggling Midwestern cities aren’t expected to continue ratcheting up at unheard-of levels. Locals won’t be able to keep up as salaries may not be high enough to support the prices. Less competition typically leads prices to fall.
“Some of the markets got a little too hot and prices were rising faster than incomes, so some slowdown in price growth was expected,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. “In some individual markets, you could have slight declines.”
The pandemic effect of remote workers moving from higher-priced parts of the country to more affordable ones is also likely to taper off. Remote workers and retirees leaving California and other expensive parts of the country helped keep prices high as their new homes likely seemed like bargains compared with where they came from.
But that’s likely to be coming to an end.
“Most of the people who wanted to move already moved,” says Ratiu.
However, prices could continue shooting up in Southern and other cities that have experienced strong job growth. New residents are more likely to continue moving to places with strong economies and lucrative work opportunities.
“There are a few markets that have not peaked out yet,” says Norm Miller, a real estate finance professor at the University of San Diego. He cited places like Phoenix and Charlotte, NC, both of which have strong economies and growing populations. However, by now “most have flattened out.”
Hottest pandemic real estate markets appear to have peaked
The tide has been turning in blistering metros like Austin and Boise. As offices shuttered in the early days of the pandemic and remote work took hold, these places became attractive, more affordable alternatives to high-priced cities. Buyers were able to purchase larger homes for much less than what they would have spent in their former communities.
In Austin, prices skyrocketed nearly 54% over the past two years in the metro area when comparing median list prices from pre-pandemic October 2019 to October 2021 using Realtor.com data. The median list price hit $549,900 in October. That’s a new all-time high after months of record-shattering prices.
However, some measures show that price growth reached its apex around August. Prices on the same homes were still 36% higher in September than the same time a year earlier, but were down from 40% in August, according to the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University in College Station. The center has an index that looks at prices of the same properties over time.
“Price growth will continue to drop,” says Louis Torres, a research economist at the center.
In Boise, list prices reached similarly new heights. They shot up 47% from October 2019 to hit $530,000 in October 2021, according to Realtor.com data. They’ve since dipped a bit, falling just under 2% from July to October.
However, all signs point to the market beginning to normalize. Over the past two months, the number of homes for sale has risen more than 150%, says Robert Inman, director of operations at Boise’s Best Real Estate, a Keller Williams affiliate. Buyers are no longer going so high over the asking price, and price reductions are picking up.
That’s largely due to an influx of new construction hitting the market, says Inman. That meant there were fewer buyers competing for the same properties, taking some of the steam out of the bidding wars.
“We had a bunch of sellers being told they could get whatever they wanted, and they did,” says Inman. However, “we can’t see 20% appreciation year over year forever. And now we’ve gotten to a point where most people can’t afford homes.”
Why prices aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels
Unfortunately for cash-strapped buyers (and fortunately for homeowners), home prices aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. The reason is that there simply aren’t enough homes to go around. That’s the reverse of what happened leading up to the housing bubble popping in the 2000s.
Back then, there were more homes for sale than buyers. It was also easier for just about anyone to get a mortgage. These days, the opposite is true. The nation is suffering from a severe housing shortage at a time when more Americans are hitting prime homebuying years.
Builders grappling with a lack labor and materials and supply chain backups have been unable to ramp up. That lack of supply, coupled with high demand, should ensure prices don’t plummet.
“We’re not producing enough entry-level housing construction,” says building economist Dietz.
The exception could be if something unexpected were to hit the economy, or if mortgage rates jumped substantially.
“Unless mortgage rates would hit 4.5% or higher in the next year, it’s unlikely we’ll get a significant correction in prices,” says real estate finance professor Miller.
The phenomenon of working from anywhere with a strong Wi-Fi connection is also likely to keep prices high, says Ed Pinto, director of the Housing Center at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank.
Remote workers, or those who go into their offices only a day or two a week, who can’t afford the prices will either remain renters or move farther out of cities to cheaper areas.
“As soon as somebody drops out because they can’t afford the house due to rapid appreciation, there’s somebody in line who’s ready and willing and able to buy the house at a higher price,” Pinto says.
Anita and Ken Corsini, famed for flipping homes on HGTV’s “Flip or Flop Atlanta,” are now sharing their hard-won wisdom with others on their new series, “Flipping Showdown.”
In the show (which premiered Nov. 17), the Corsinis mentor three teams of flippers who each renovate a fixer-upper. In the end, the best team will win the grand prize of $100,000, plus the chance to grow their real estate franchise with Ken and Anita’s company, Red Barn Homes.
Curious about what it’s like to teach new flippers the ropes, we talked to Anita and Ken about their new show, how much has changed with renovation these days, plus one huge mistake they made early on that taught them an important lesson.
How did ‘Flipping Showdown’ come about?
Ken: This show has sort of been in the works since 2020. Earlier in the year, we started having conversations with HGTV. We had a show concept, they had a show concept, and we sort of started meshing and melding. We fine-tuned it over a number of months into “Flipping Showdown.”
How is this show different from ‘Flip or Flop Atlanta’?
Ken: We really did luck out with talented teams that did a very good job, and really all three could have won. It’s legitimately a pressure cooker. It’s funny because on “Flip or Flop,” I feel like we probably come across as just house flippers goofing off, you know?
Anita: [On “Flip or Flop”], it’s our money; it’s our house. If we make that decision, it’s on us. But when you’re handing that money over to somebody else, then that’s tricky.
Some of these competitors are relatively new to the business. Were there any big mistakes you had to head off?
Ken: For the most part, we’re giving these teams a lot of latitude. But if you’re going to do something that’s really going to screw up the house, we’re going to veto if we have to.
Anita: At the end of the day, I’ve got to sell this house, right? And I want to sell it fast.
Ken: There was only one time we had to veto, and it was because we saw a paint chip. I’m not going to say what team or what house. They were going to paint the entire house straight-up Smurf blue. We’re like, “Not a chance. No, we’re not going to pay to have this house painted twice.”
Anita: But it was the 11th hour and we just happened to figure this out.
Ken: It wasn’t even floated by us. Their guy was on the way to the store to buy the paint. So we had to make sure they got the message.
Are there any big mistakes you two made in your early days?
Ken: We’ve learned over the years to stay in our lanes. Like, what am I good at? What are you good at? And I learned early on: I’m not good at design. I’m not going to choose colors.
I remember I picked a green color for a house, and I found it online. Our painter goes out and paints the whole house, and it literally looked like a Kermit the Frog house. It was the worst, and he painted the whole thing. Like, it was too late to do anything about it, and nobody on our team has ever let me live that down. They are like, “Ken, you are not allowed to choose colors,” and I said, “OK, you’re right. I’m done.”
Anita: Part of that is Ken is a fast decision-maker. I’m much more careful and put a lot of thought into things.
Are there any houses you regret buying?
Ken: You buy a thousand houses, you’re going to have some humdingers in there. There were a number of years where we were flipping a hundred houses a year and when you’re making so many decisions, you can’t possibly know the ins and outs of every house. You can’t always know that you’ve got foundation issues or that next door is a crack house; it’s all the different things that can weigh into making it a difficult house to flip. So yes, lots of houses that we bought over the years we wish we hadn’t bought. It’s the nature of the business, especially at scale.
Anita: There are all sorts of obstacles that can potentially happen, like foundation problems that double the budget. And city issues of getting permitting that made it take six months to get started on a renovation, and then by the time you go to sell it, there’s no money to be made because the margins are narrow. I mean, you name it.
Ken: There’s always that big chance that you can flop.
The market is tough for homebuyers right now. Got any advice on making their offers stand out?
Anita: It’s very hard because of the hedge funds that are out there offering cash. Those are homes that are getting 10, 15 offers, and it’s really difficult to stand out if you’re Joe Buyer with FHA financing. You need the right agent. You’ve got to have someone who knows how to write an attractive offer.
Anita, Is there any particular look or design that you love right now?
Anita: I always have an undercurrent of a boho Persian theme because I’m Persian. I can’t help it. So yes, there’s always a little bit of that. I’m actually working on a line of home goods, so it’s fun to kind of thread my culture through it.
I’m really into an olive green color, and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been gardening so much, but I am a big proponent of design what you love. Don’t design for the trend.
When you’re house flipping, trends will sell. So you can do that and use that. But if I’m really helping you develop a home that you love, I’m going to start with what do you love? What makes your home feel grounded and comfortable for you?
You two were college sweethearts. What’s it like working together?
Anita: It’s really fun. It doesn’t mean we don’t disagree.
Ken: Like the deck color I just chose last week. It’s funny. I made this mistake probably 15 years ago and said I would never choose another color again. But occasionally, I will step into her lane and make really bad decisions, which I did last week.
Anita: We had to pick a paint color for our deck. It was just pressure-washed and needed to get painted.
Ken: I was like, it’s ready to go. Let’s make this decision fast. She doesn’t make a decision fast. She wants to think about it, study it, go buy some samples. I’m like, pick a color. Let’s go.
Anita: And we have a pink deck now.
Ken: It’s a really bad color.
Anita: You just have to shake it off and laugh about it.
As rental prices continue to spike, many renters are on the hunt for new cities to move to.
Remote work life, price fluctuations, and COVID-19 restrictions are leading more renters to pick up and go as they seek out more affordable places to live, according to data released by rental listing website Apartment List’s quarterly Renter Migration Report. And some of the hottest, tech cities such as Silicon Valley’s San Jose, CA,Raleigh, NC, and Austin, TX, are seeing some of the most turnover as renters cycle in and out of these areas.
Nearly 40% of renters searching for apartments on the site were looking in a different metropolitan area from where they currently live. And 26% were searching in a different state.
The report was based on rental searches on Apartment List between July 1 and Sept. 30. Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller cities.
“We’re definitely seeing the remote work flexibility effect,” says Rob Warnock, senior research associate at Apartment List. “The pandemic really shifted people’s priorities and what they want out of their living space, coupled with affordability becoming a scarce commodity. People are rethinking where they want to be renters, what fits their personal lifestyle and economic situation.”
Indeed, rents in cities have dramatically increased across the country in 2021. Nationally, median rental prices bounded up more than 16% since January. In some hot cities, the increases were more than double that jump.
‘Revolving door’ rental markets
Tech hot spots where many residents can work remotely are seeing some of the greatest percentage of renters moving in and out. Raleigh and San Jose in particular had the highest number (more than 50%) of renters searching to move away from and to the cities. Austin is also seeing a high degree of turnover.
“These cities are in a tech-friendly part of the country where we know remote jobs are most prevalent. Some people are going to take advantage, while others are saying, ‘This is my opportunity to move to a city and afford something that was once unaffordable,’” Warnock says.
There are only fewer than a half-dozen cities where rent prices are still lower than they were before the pandemic. Two of the most expensive places in the country, San Francisco and San Jose, are some of those regions where there is still technically a discount to be had, according to Apartment List estimates.
But that doesn’t mean bargains abound. In San Francisco, the average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment was $3,300, while it was $2,809 in San Jose, according to Apartment List.
Florida continues to be a hot spot for New Yorkers
New Yorkers continue to be hot for Florida, with its warm weather and no income tax. About 14% of renters from New York were searching for homes in the Sunshine State. And 10% were hunting in lower-priced Pennsylvania, and another 10% were looking in other parts of New York state. About 7% were looking at California properties.
Miami is the No. 1 city for New York City renters, with 6.1% of searches leaving the Big Apple. The Florida metros of Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville are other areas New Yorkers are searching for homes.
While New Yorkers continue to plant new roots in Florida, there’s been an influx of new renters coming from California as well, says Rose Kemp, an Orlando-based real estate agent with Re/Max Town Center. She also noted the “snowbird” trend of older renters leaving Northern states in the winter for warm weather is continuing.
“We’re getting people coming in from all over, and more so from new places like California. That’s never happened,” she says. “We’re seeing more people leave cold-weather states from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. We can’t build enough apartments fast enough. Our inventory is low, and rentals are in hot and high demand.”
Most renters looking to make a move to another city are coming from California, according to the Apartment List report. Renters hailing from the Golden State have their sights set on Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas. Nevada in particular is where more than half of all apartment searches came from among people living in California as it’s a cheaper, nearby alternative.
More California renters seem to be increasingly affected by the state’s progressive politics, and potentially its COVID-19 restrictions, the report suggests. California’s net population took a record hit in 2020, when it lost more than 182,000 residents in the wake of COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
High state taxes could also be a reason for the exodus. The average sale price of a single-family home in California spiked 23.9%, to $758,990 in March, compared with the same time period last year, according to the AP.
“The way state governments and local leaderships are running cities and states is having a huge effect on whether they want to stay or not,” says Kemp.
Everyone by now has heard of the “Great Resignation.” Workers all over the country—whether burned out, fed up, or just experiencing serious post-pandemic wanderlust—have decided now’s the time to finally call it quits.
However, there’s another transformative workforce trend also emerging, one that may have an even bigger long-term impact. Think of it as the “Great Reshuffle.” Because Americans aren’t just quitting old gigs—they’re also taking on new ones, wherever they may be. And often that means pulling up roots and buying or renting a home in a brand-new town, city, or state.
Thanks to the rise of remote work over the past year and a half, white-collar workers who can work from anywhere have been taking advantage of that freedom in ever-increasing numbers. Those previously desk-bound employees have moved away from the coasts to more affordable locales. Amid the shuffle, some workers have found perennial favorites like New York and San Francisco less attractive. They’re more drawn to states where housing costs are lower and where newer tech hubs are emerging.
To find out where folks are picking up and moving the most for work, the data team at Realtor.com® examined workforce migration data numbers provided by the employment website LinkedIn. We then dove deeper to investigate the impact on local real estate markets affected by this reshuffle. What we found were cities clustered in the South and West, all with steady economic growth, an abundance of jobs, and a lower cost of living.
“These regions have two big advantages: The weather is relatively warm, and housing is more affordable, says Guy Berger, principal economist at LinkedIn. “That was already making them big attractors to talent even before the pandemic. Now, with remote work more prevalent … that attraction has been turbocharged.”
But with the continued influx, these towns may not be cheap for much longer. In fact, our data shows the median list price in all but one of these cities below has seen double-digit growth compared with the same time a year ago.
It has become something of a cycle: New workers who need housing drive up competition for homes, and if they come from pricier areas like California, they can flex their buying power to crowd locals out of the housing market.
“An influx of newcomers is best viewed as an opportunity, not a challenge—creating more economic opportunities for everyone,” says Berger. “But without building more homes, this influx could also put upward pressure on home prices and rental costs—thereby reproducing the same problems experienced by big coastal metro areas.”
To arrive at our top 10, we analyzed data from LinkedIn, which has information on more than 180 million members in the United States. Migration is defined as when members change the location on their LinkedIn profile. To calculate the migration rate, LinkedIn looked at the number of migrants in a metro area who had changed their location over the past 12 months and then divided that by the total number of people in that area with LinkedIn profiles. To allow for more geographic diversity, we included only one metro area per state. (A metro area includes the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.)
The reshuffling of America may just be starting! So where is it currently having the biggest repercussions in real estate? Let’s have a look.
New workers per every 10,000 LinkedIn members: 150
Median list price in October: $549,900
Percentage change from a year ago: 33%
Austin has been one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. for some time now, thanks to its burgeoning tech scene and a bevy of businesses relocating there.
The state capital boasts offices for most of the major tech companies, including Dell, Samsung, Apple, and Google. Even billionaire Elon Musk sees the potential in the Lone Star State. The Tesla founder announced in October that he will be moving the headquarters of his electric car company, in part because of high housing prices and untenable commutes for his employees in California.
Most transplants are coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City, according to LinkedIn data—a signal workers are ditching pricier tech hubs in favor of Austin’s potential.
About 16% of people who’ve moved to Texas have come from California, says Luis BernardoTorres, research economist at the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. They’re drawn to more affordable housing and the lack of state income tax, although admittedly property taxes are high compared with the rest of the South.
“People vote with their feet, and they’re voting for Texas,” says Torres.
However, the influx of tech workers has put pressure on the local housing market. Home prices in Austin were up more than 30% last month compared with the same time a year ago, according to Realtor.com listing data. Meanwhile, rents are even higher than pre-pandemic levels, up 20% from March 2020 to September 2021.
Along the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast, tourism is a major industry in Sarasota—and the area has seen more visitors in recent months with vaccinated folks in search of a getaway on the water. Other key local industries include manufacturing, shipping, education, and health care.
But with so many people moving in, there aren’t enough homes to go around, which has sent prices shooting up across the state.
“We have a lot of influx in our area and not enough rooftops to cover it,” says Alma Alexander, a listing agent with Coldwell Banker in Tampa.
New worker rate: 102
Median list price: $368,520
Percentage change: 40%
Myrtle Beach is generally thought of as a retiree town, but lately, it’s not just boomers helping this city boom.
Many of the people buying homes here in the past year and a half were folks with families who wanted to work remotely in a beachside location, says Radha Herring, a Realtor® with Watermark Real Estate Group.
“In the midst of lockdowns and schools going virtual, they realized that they could work and go to school from anywhere,” says Herring.
Other local employers here include hospitals, schools, and Coastal Carolina University.
New worker rate: 92
Median list price: $469,000
Percentage change: 7%
Artsy Asheville is nestled in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. It attracts newcomers with easy access to nature, a quirky vibe, a plethora of excellent restaurants, and a brewery on seemingly every other corner. But there’s more to the place than tourism and beer, as one local newspaper put it.
Automotive factories, tourism, health care, and manufacturing are big drivers of the economy. They include companies such as parachute-maker Mills Manufacturing, GE Aviation, and Linamar, which makes automobile parts, industrial equipment, and electric products.
Home prices have gone way up here lately, in part because there’s more competition from people moving to the area, according to Lauren McKinney, an agent with Beverly-Hanks Realtors in Asheville.
“Unfortunately for the locals, the people coming in have cash,” McKinney says. “They can sell their condo in Miami and pay cash for a million-dollar house. Unfortunately for the people in Asheville who are trying to get a mortgage, their offer just isn’t competitive.”
North Carolina, in general, has become a popular state for job seekers since the pandemic. Beach and college town Wilmington, the Research Triangle area of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, and Charlotte all saw big increases in workers moving there.
New worker rate: 89
Median list price: $450,000
Percentage change: 13%
Music City was hit hard at the start of the pandemic, but other key industries have been driving a steady stream of people moving South.
Nashville has started to become a tech hub in its own right, with Amazon and Oracle both building campuses in the area. Another key industry here is health care—including pharmaceuticals and hospital software.
Workers from New York and Chicago have steadily been making their way to Nashville, says Angela Wright, a real estate broker with Compass in Nashville.
“They feel like they’re getting a pay raise because of the tax savings of not having to pay state income tax,” Wright says of remote workers who’ve chosen to make Nashville home.
New worker rate: 81
Median list price: $530,000
Percentage change: 25%
Boise is another city that has seen smoldering growth over the past few years that has fully ignited since the pandemic.
People are flocking to the area to enjoy its natural treasures, says Jeff Wills, president of Boise Regional Realtors. Recreational options abound here, including hiking, skiing, and river rafting.
Agriculture is a dominant industry in the area, but the area long known only for potatoes was recently named a top up-and-coming tech market, according to real estate investment firm CBRE. HP Inc. and Micron Technology both have offices there.
“Idaho is the first state in the country to see job growth recover—and even exceed pre-pandemic levels in almost all industries,” says Lloyd Allen, managing director for CBRE in Utah and Idaho.
Median list prices for Idaho as a whole were up 28% last month compared with a year earlier, according to Realtor.com data. That’s been a huge boon for homeowners in the state, where two-thirds of all homes are equity rich. But it makes life tougher for those looking to buy a home for the first time.
“Anytime you have a resource that is already limited in nature, you have more people demanding more supply, it’s going to have an impact on the median price,” says Wills.
New worker rate: 72
Median list price: $349,000
Percentage change: 17%
Known widely as Rocket City, Huntsville is home to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, making it one of the major research and aeronautics hubs in the South. Other high-tech industries in the area include information technology and cybersecurity. Facebook, Toyota, and Jeff Bezos‘ space company Blue Origin all have a presence there.
The inexpensive housing stock is also a draw, says Matt Curtis, who owns an eponymous real estate firm in the area.
“Even with recent price increases and appreciation in home prices, we’re still below the median sales price for the rest of the country,” Curtis says. Investors are also looking to scoop up homes in the area, creating a squeeze on inventory.
“It is creating a challenge for first-time local buyers who don’t have the equity to pay above list price.”
New worker rate: 61
Median list price: $615,000
Percentage change: 18%
The Rocky Mountains are beckoning workers to the capital of Colorado, with natural recreations in the mountains and a bustling tech sector. Mile High City is the headquarters of Frontier Airlines and is home to several big tech firms. As one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana (way back in 2012), Colorado is a leader in that industry as well.
The influx of workers is sending housing costs ever higher. Median rents in Denver have surged 14% in the past year, according to Realtor.com data.
“This is the real challenge right now for a lot of people in these cities” whose economies depend on tech, says George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com. “Many in those markets are finding their rents being increased by significant amounts.”
New worker rate: 59
Median list price: $469,900
Percentage change: 11%
Natural beauty and a slower pace of life have proved a potent combo for the only city in the Northeast on this list. Residents can take in the gorgeous fall colors near picturesque trails or ride a ferry to one of Portland’s secluded but lovely islands. The local port, L.L. Bean, and the health care industry are major employers, and manufacturing and distribution are key industries.
Low-cost real estate has always been a draw here, but out-of-state competition is driving up prices and putting pressure on local workers. Still, the city is a homebuyer’s bargain compared with some other cities nearby.
“The cost of real estate is so high in major metropolitan areas like New York that they see a way of becoming debt-free by just investing in Maine real estate that’s essentially probably half the price,” says Davian Akers of Keller-William Realty in Portland.
New worker rate: 54
Median list price: $485,000
Percentage change: 17%
The fifth-largest city in the U.S. boasts warm, sunny weather all year long, plus access to some of the greatest natural wonders of the world, including the Grand Canyon. In addition to the weather, a booming tech market has also helped draw in new workers. Delivery service DoorDash has a presence here, and used-car retailer Carvana has headquarters in nearby Tempe.
A massive shortage of housing has been an issue in Arizona, but builders are feverishly buying up land to put up more homes says Kristy Ryan, a real estate associate at Re/Max Fine Properties in nearby Scottsdale. This brings some hope that more construction could help cool down prices.
“We have a ton of big-time national homebuilders that haven’t been here before coming into our market,” Ryan says. “They know there’s a huge demand here and an enormous shortage.”
Forget an automatic migration to Florida. Many older Americans want to stay put as they age—and that could have a big impact on the housing market.
With low mortgage rates locked in, more than three-quarters of those aged 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long haul provided they can have some remodeling done so they can better age in place, according to a recent AARP Home and Community Preferences Survey. And in a twist, that could be good news for cash-strapped, first-time homebuyers and a blow to buyers looking to trade up into nicer, larger abodes.
To come up with its findings, AARP surveyed more than 2,800 adults aged 18 and older in June and July.
“It’s a long-standing trend that people want to stay in their homes as they age, and the older population is growing,” says Rodney Harrell, vice president of family, home, and community at AARP. “Remodeling will be a growth area as we see demand for a variety of functional design changes, like wheelchair accessibility if a house has too many stairs.”
Baby boomers staying put could be a boon to cash-strapped, first-time buyers if there are fewer wealthier baby boomers putting offers on the same, smaller homes, says Ali Wolf, chief economist at Meyers Research, a housing market data firm. Boomers and millennials have historically competed for similarly sized properties, with millennials looking at entry-level pricing while boomers are looking to downsize into smaller quarters.
“The overlap proved detrimental to the younger [buyers] because they were less able to make the most competitive offer,” says Wolf. “Competition for smaller, more reasonably priced homes is unlikely to ever significantly abate, but with more older Americans deciding to stay put, some millennials may find the market easier to navigate.”
However, Gen X buyers may be hurt by this trend as fewer larger homes in more desirable neighborhoods may go up for sale, Wolf explains. These buyers may be looking at move-up homes to accommodate growing families or having their parents move in with them.
Why baby boomers want to stay where they are
The reason that 77% of respondents want to remain in their homes is because they said they value their communities and access to things like health care, safe outdoor spaces, clean water, and healthy foods. But many of those homeowners plan to remodel their homes into fully accessible forever homes, according to the survey.
A third of respondents said they would need to make changes to their homes so they could live safely and feel more comfortable. The majority, 71%, said their home has accessibility issues both inside and out.
Nearly four-fifths, 79%, said they need to modify bathrooms with grab bars or no-step showers. Safety was another priority, with 61% saying an emergency response system was needed. And almost half, 48%, said they would need a smart home device such as a voice-activated home assistant or doorbell camera.
Some seniors are choosing to age in place because they’ve locked in low financing options. More than half, 57%, are mortgage holders who had an interest rate below 4%, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. While rates are low now, they’re expected to continue going up. Add in record-high home prices, and it may make more financial sense for many baby boomers to stay where they are.
“It makes sense that many older adults plan on aging in their homes. Housing is a good inflation hedge, and many may feel relieved to know their monthly payment is locked in,” says Wolf.
This year, Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest soccer player of all time, left his former club F.C. Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.
Like many a recent transplant, Messi decided to start life in his new town as a renter, reportedly taking the lease on a $23,000-plus per month home in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Whenever he decides to buy, though, he’ll be in an envious position—it will probably take him longer to find a home than it will to make the money he needs to purchase it.
U.K. financial website Money took a look at the world’s top athletes and calculated how many minutes they would have to work to afford the typical home in the country where they ply their trade. Messi, who earns $130 million a year, or $247 a minute, would have to put in about 20 hours on the pitch to afford the average French home. Making the monthly rent on his current dwelling, meanwhile, will take him about an hour and a half.
Messi isn’t even the most prolific earner on the Money list. That distinction falls to mixed martial artist Conor McGregor, who earned $180 million in 2020. That’s in a year where he had just one fight lasting a grand total of 40 seconds. At his 2020 pace of $342 per minute, it would take McGregor a little more than 14 hours to purchase the average home in the U.K. In 2019, he purchased a home in his native Ireland for $2.7 million —about 5½ days of work for the fighter. A spokesperson for Mr. McGregor said they do not comment on his income or residences. The other athletes mentioned did not respond to requests for comment.
Clocking in at a mere $46.3 million a year and $87 per minute, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a relative pauper. Accordingly, he would have to work a comparatively endless 33 hours to afford the average home in the U.S. Of course, a 7-foot-tall basketball star nicknamed the “Greek Freak” for his feats of athleticism isn’t going to live in an average home. Antetokounmpo’s actual house is a $1.8 million spread in River Hills, Wis. That’s almost two weeks of work.
Then there’s tennis champ Naomi Osaka, who famously skipped the French Open and Wimbledon this year amid mental-health concerns. She made $58.6 million, or $112 per minute in 2020. At that rate, she could have paid off her $6.9 million Beverly Hills home in about 43 days.