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Are You Buying At The Top Of The Real Estate Market?

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Founder of Apartment Loan Store a Commercial Mortgage Firm. Author of “The Encyclopedia of Commercial Real Estate Advice,” Publisher- Wiley.

Imagine you are out shopping for toilet paper. You go to a large grocery and find the shelves completely bare. The manager says they are getting more in soon. Uncertainty is not your thing; you are relieved to find some (at an exorbitant price) at a convenience store. Darn, it’s the one-ply rough type you’re not fond of — but it’s yours if you want to pay three bucks a roll. Should you wait a bit longer to see what the large store gets in? Maybe it will even be the soft cushy stuff you like?

I know, it seems like a joke to compare shopping for toilet paper to shopping for real estate, but in today’s market, there are some similarities. Yes, really: Both are affected by the laws of supply and demand. Remember, the scenario above actually did happen at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when toilet tissue became a rare find. And today, except for retail, office and hotel properties, there is a historically low inventory of almost all types of real estate for sale, pushing prices up. And instead of buyers waiting to find that property that really fits their practical, financial and aesthetic objectives, many opt to buy something that is far from their dream and overpriced to boot. Why? Because they are afraid if they don’t buy today, prices will only go higher tomorrow. 

Why is it such a seller’s market right now?

According to realtor.com, housing inventory declined by 39.6% in 2020. This is huge and, combined with an increase in demand, has created unrealistically high prices. To add insult to injury, many owners who would like to sell have been hesitant to list their properties for sale. They seem to be worried about finding a suitable replacement property with so few to choose from and most being overpriced. And some think they will lose out if they sell today. They think prices will go up even higher if they wait. Compounding this, the pandemic has caused many sellers to be sluggish in showing their properties, hesitant to offer viewings to buyers who may expose them to the virus.

With mortgage rates still at all-time lows, you might think there would be an abundance of new construction starts. This would solve some of the problem by adding more inventory. But this is not happening, because there is nothing lenders hate more than uncertainty. We are talking about high unemployment, the number of properties in forbearance, the record number of tenants paying late or not paying at all and not knowing how long new properties will take to get occupied. So, with lenders calling the shots, loan guidelines are more stringent and loan-to-cost and loan-to-value ratios are lowering. This has resulted in many borrowers not qualifying and fewer residential and commercial construction starts.

How do you know if you are buying at the bottom of the market?

I’ve covered the four stages of the real estate market cycle and the best time to buy in detail for my book. Simply, the recession phase is followed by the recovery phase, expansion phase and hyper-supply phase. As the recession phase moves into the recovery phase, prices are at their lowest, foreclosures are at their highest and this is usually the bottom of the market — and the best time to buy. 

We have been in the coronavirus recession for about a year now, and real estate prices should be coming down. In fact, we should be hitting close to the bottom of the market. But conversely, prices are still going up. This is likely due to this recession being an anomaly caused by a pandemic during strong economic times. Recessions are commonly caused by unrealistically high real estate prices during weak economic times, which causes the bubble to burst. High prices topple because they have been based on smoke and mirrors, or should I say the whims of buyers, sellers and real estate brokers. Ideally, they should be supported by growth in jobs, wages and GDP.

How do you know if you are buying at the top of the market?

If real estate prices have gone up because of a strong economy — we are talking about growth in jobs, wages and GDP — then you are likely not buying at the top of the market. But if prices are at their highest because of low inventory, and it doesn’t look like more will be coming online soon, this could be a sign that you are buying at the top of the market. After all, it is just a matter of time before there is a correction. Yes, the market cycle will change just as it always has. There will be new construction again and more properties put up for sale, causing inventories to rise and prices to come down.

Commercial and investment real estate have an additional factor. If you are paying a price that currently does not even come close to giving you the cash-on-cash return you should be earning, then you are almost certainly a candidate for buying at the top of the market. Be careful if you are leaning toward buying a property today that is overpriced thinking it will be worth more in the future. Does this really make sense? OK, if it’s in a great neighborhood with under-market rents and you don’t have to make many improvements to raise rents and you can achieve this in a year, then maybe yes.

Foremost, keep in mind that buying at the top of the market creates sellers who win and buyers who lose. Be clear about which side of this coin you want to be on. In other words, if the shelves are almost bare, don’t panic and buy a property because it’s the best of the worst that are available. Sit back and relax. Take the time to find the property that meets your practical, financial and aesthetic objectives.


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Real Estate

How to Build the Outdoor Kitchen of Your Dreams

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An outdoor kitchen can be a major benefit to any home, making it possible to hold barbecues, pool parties, and picnics without having to cook indoors and miss all the fun. The right outdoor kitchen can increase property values and boost satisfaction with added outdoor living space. 

However, all outdoor kitchens aren’t made the same, and the wrong kitchen for your space can compromise your summer plans. Before charging ahead with building an outdoor kitchen, be sure you have a solid plan in place that ticks every box.

Choose a Location for your outdoor kitchen

Properties with large yards can offer plenty of areas to build an outdoor kitchen, but choosing the right space in your yard can make or break kitchen success. Make sure you do your research or contact a professional before building out your space or you’ll potentially find yourself with an awkward layout.

When picking a place to put your kitchen, consider factors like:

  • Proximity to pools, patios, or other favorite backyard features
  • Accessibility from exterior doors
  • Privacy from neighbors
  • Storage and security
  • Ease of installation

Determine Features to Highlight

Every chef has individual preferences. Some love grilling with gas, while others are dedicated to charcoal. Kegs and taps may matter to summer party fans, while an ice chest for blending chilled drinks could be priority number one for others. Regardless, it’s critical to understand that an outdoor kitchen isn’t intended to be an equivalent of an indoor kitchen. Instead, it’s a separate space to meet unique demands and likely won’t be able to accommodate the same functions and appliances as inside spaces.

When planning your kitchen, know what priorities matter most to you. This can mean the flow of your cooking space, what appliances you’d like to have, any extra amenities you can’t live without, and especially the appearance of your outdoor kitchen. Determine what you want to highlight in your outdoor kitchen – before the ball starts rolling and it’s too late.

Hire the Right Contractor

The right contractor can be the difference between an amazing end result and a failed project. Without someone who can see your vision and properly execute it, you may be left with a subpar kitchen that doesn’t meet your needs.

When vetting contractors, it’s important to look beyond the basics, like price. Instead, be sure to also consider:

  • Experience with similar projects
  • Completion timeline
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Creativity and flexibility

Select Flooring

Flooring isn’t often considered in exterior projects, but it can play a big role in how to build an outdoor kitchen space. In an outdoor kitchen, flooring needs to be safe to use while cooking, easy to clean, weather-resistant, and in line with the style preferences that will guide the rest of your kitchen decor.

If you’re not sure what kinds of flooring are common in outdoor kitchens, speaking to your contractor can help you narrow your choices and determine the right avenue to take when choosing wood, tile, stone, or concrete to use as flooring.

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Shop for Countertops

Like choosing flooring, shopping for countertops is a decision that must be informed by style as well as functionality. Your counter needs to be the right size and shape for cooking expectations, but also in line with the overall look and feel you want from your kitchen.

And, like flooring, outdoor conditions need to be part of the evaluation process. Unless your kitchen will be completely covered and closed off at all times, countertops must be able to stand up to rain, wind, hail, high heat, and potentially low temperatures. So, if you live in an area like Phoenix, AZ, your countertops need to be able to withstand high temperatures, or if you live in Vancouver, BC they need to be rain resistant. Choose your countertop with appearance in mind, but durability as well. A counter that can’t stand up to your cooking demands or the local climate will not be effective. 

Select Your Appliances

The appliances you choose when building an outdoor kitchen will define its cooking abilities. The wrong appliances, such as those meant for indoor kitchens, or ones that don’t fit the space can limit efficiency and can minimize both its current value and resale value. 

When choosing appliances, use those graded for outdoor use, whether that means better durability or more weatherproofing options. In addition, keep size and scale in mind. For example, if you’re planning on hosting large barbecues, you’ll need a bigger grill than a standard residential product. 

Note that in colder climates, appliances that require electricity or water lines may need to be winterized to prevent frozen pipes and other seasonal damage.

Choose Proper Lighting

Lighting may seem like an afterthought in a kitchen that will be at least partially lit by the sun, but the lighting you choose can make a difference in providing an accessible cooking area. Further, the right lighting can keep an outdoor kitchen functional after dark.

Hanging lights, floodlights, lights built into a backsplash, or outdoor lanterns can all be effective choices depending on your space. Evaluate your usage plans, the location of your kitchen, and professional advice when it comes to knowing how to build an outdoor kitchen space. Regardless of personal preferences, always make sure lights are appropriate for outdoor use.

Decorate Your Outdoor Kitchen 

Once the basics are built out, selecting decor is the final step in how to build an outdoor kitchen. This can include adding wood or stone accents, potted plants, a fire pit, a patio, a comfy outdoor couch, or a table and chairs. How you decorate will depend on your own preferences, as well as what the space itself can accommodate.

While decorating, also consider whether you may want an awning or roof area to provide shade while cooking or to safeguard kitchen equipment from the weather. Some appliances, like refrigerated units, are best kept out of direct sunlight, so some cover could be advantageous.

Enjoy

An outdoor kitchen can be the perfect way to add a mini oasis to your backyard. The ideal complement to a spacious patio, a pool, or lovely landscaping, an exterior kitchen can make hosting parties or simply relaxing with friends and family a little easier. With the right location, a clear plan, a talented contractor, and educated choices about flooring, countertops, appliances, and decor, it’s possible to turn your yard into the entertainment destination of your dreams. 

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How Diverse Entrepreneurs Nurture The American Dream

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There is perhaps no business more grounded in community than real estate. As trusted advisors to people looking for a place they can call home, real estate agents and brokers have an influential role in promoting and developing communities in the markets they serve. It is for this reason that operating with integrity and mindfully promoting equality and inclusiveness is impactful. As community leaders with deep local contacts and connections, agents and brokers are well positioned to shape the communities they serve. As we often say within our Coldwell Banker network, working in real estate is truly important work.

During fair housing month, we reflect on people across the United States that may share the commonly held dream of homeownership, but may not have the means, information or the partner to help achieve that dream. We have made some strides since the Fair Housing Act was established in 1968, but there is a great deal of work yet to do.

Discrimination impacts buyers and renters today. Through our work in the business, we can promote fairness and reap the benefits of being inclusive. One way of doing so is ensuring representation at all levels of the real estate industry, and particularly among broker owners. While most agents are women, many owners and leaders are not. There is plenty of room for more diversity of all types in real estate careers. Representation at the agent and owner level adds greater possibility for in depth knowledge, respect and understanding of needs in our business and client base.

At Coldwell Banker, we have been focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion through strategic initiatives including our programs like Agents of Change and What Moves Her, as well as partnerships with AREAA, NAHREP, NAREB, and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. Many of our agents and affiliates are active participants in local and national realtor boards promoting diversity. And, just over a year ago, we launched our Inclusive Ownership program, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the industry aimed at increasing representation of minority, women, LGBTQ+ and veteran entrepreneurs in real estate through exclusive resources, tools and mentorship – and it has already made a significant difference for affiliated members. One of the first business owners to join the program was Tina Marie Hernandez, a Latina entrepreneur who has found a home and partnership with Coldwell Banker.

Partnering with Entrepreneurs to Build Businesses & Communities

Tina Marie Hernandez is a broker and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Omni Group in Southern California with her husband Rich A. Hernandez. As a Latina woman working in real estate for 30 years, Tina is the ultimate entrepreneur, who operates a successful business and investments, while constantly generating new business initiatives. She also knows firsthand that the Latinx community deals with several disadvantages when finding a home, from being shown less listings, quoted higher fees, or given heavier application processes’ than their white counterparts. Latinos can also be challenged by a lack of generational wealth, which can show up for buyers as they race to qualify for home purchases, particularly in markets that are as competitive for buyers as the one we are in today.

Tina recalls instances in which earning her leadership role took extra energy. “Both as a woman and Latina, working my way up to the broker-owner level took a lot of proving myself. I had to fight harder than my male counterparts for a seat at the table, and always felt pressure to prove to prospective business partners that I am successful and can help them be successful too,” she explains.

For decades, Tina and Rich’s main goal for their business has been to give their Latinx clients equal opportunities and help them build generational wealth. But they were only able to do so much of that when their brokerage, The Omni Group, was independent.

“Independent brokerages often have a lack of structure and a smaller network of connections and resources,” she explained. “Knowing how important it is for business leaders relate to the people they serve, Rich and I knew that we had that special connection with our community but were lacking a platform to expand our impact. When we found out about the Coldwell Banker initiative to boost diverse owners and their businesses, it was the absolutely best decision both personally and professionally for us to join. Coldwell Banker has made it crystal clear to us the value we bring to Coldwell Banker as well. As we share our perspective, knowledge and initiatives. The relationship is of mutual value – it’s a true partnership”

The Value of a Trusted Brand for Community-Building

Today, Tina Marie says affiliating with Coldwell Banker through the Inclusive Ownership Program was the best decision she has ever made for her business. “By joining Coldwell Banker, we’ve joined an incredibly warm and professional group of networked people, and added the tools, structure, mentorship and national recognition to back up the hard work that goes into our business every single day to serve every aspect of our beloved community,” she said.

Tina, and other owners who joined the program, say that the credibility and customer confidence that comes with affiliating with Coldwell Banker has been priceless. Having the Coldwell Banker name behind our new affiliates’ businesses and access to its exclusive resources has elevated their brand, their reputation and their impact on their communities. By way of a simple current example, Coldwell Banker prepared social media assets for brokers to highlight during fair housing month, as well as the Delivering the Promise of Fair Housing course and a pledge. In fact, Coldwell Banker invites everyone in the real estate industry to give some thought to the important role we play in shaping communities, and take the pledge. Change often begins with a shift in mindset, and a commitment.

Real estate is a “people” business built on genuine connections between brokers, agents and their clients. For clients to feel represented by businesses that they trust, that empowers them to find the home that they desire and deserve. A place where they and their loved ones will thrive, where they will be a valued member of a community. We are on a continued journey and guiding our clients in a trustworthy way is a meaningful service that agents and brokers provide, which can have worthy results.

I am happy to report that 13 new affiliated companies have been welcomed into the program and Coldwell Banker looks to double that size in the coming year. If you are a business entrepreneur who could benefit from the Coldwell Banker Inclusive Ownership program, we would like to hear from you. Learn how to apply.

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Design Experts Predict These 5 Outdoor Living Trends Will Be Hot For Summer 2021

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Beautifully designed outdoor living spaces are going to be hot for summer 2021.

Summer vacation plans are still on pause for millions of homeowners, which means lots of people are looking for ways to turn their outdoor spaces into dreamy warm weather escapes. “People are craving the idea of taking a vacation,” says designer Sara Barney. “As a way to replace a tropical trip, homeowners have started focusing on making their outdoor living spaces feel like a destination-inspired oasis.”

Read on for some of the top trends and expert advice on turning a backyard, deck or patio into a personal oasis.

Durable Long-Lasting Furniture

“If you’re going to be lounging around your outdoor space, you have to be comfortable and the furniture should be made to last,” says Sara Barney of Bandd Design. Barney adds that “more traditional outdoor furniture materials, like plastic, wood, and wicker aren’t built to last various weather conditions (humidity, storms, etc).” And because her clients are spending so much more time in their outdoor spaces, Barney now opts for more durable materials that she knows “will last a lifetime,” like metal, aluminum or concrete.

Bringing the Living Room Outside

John McClain of John McClain Design believes that, as people move their lives outside for the summer, they should think about designing their outdoor spaces “the same way they decorate their indoor spaces.” Specifically, McClain notes that “area rugs, comfortable furniture, beautiful lighting, cozy blankets, and enough flat surfaces to place food and drink on are essential” for a lounge-worthy outdoor space.

Comfy Seating is a Must

The team at Pulp Design Studios explains that a well-designed outdoor living space “is all about comfort. It’s essential to have nice comfortable outdoor seating and heat for warmth. It’s important to have all the great elements of an indoor space, but outside.”

Outdoor Planters = Decor of the Summer

“Fun and stylish planters are a great way to add depth and personality to your outdoor space,” says the team at Pulp Design Studios. And with the wide variety of looks and sizes to choose from, decorative planters are easy to customize to every space and style.

Outdoor Kitchens

“The lines between indoor and outdoor design are blurring more and more,” says designer John McClain. “Our clients are looking for the exact same amenities that they currently have in their indoor spaces in their outdoor spaces. Outdoor entertaining areas are being kicked up a notch! Full kitchens with every appliance and amenity possible,” are becoming increasingly popular as homeowners seeks to extend the possibilities of life outdoors.

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