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Hit the Deck with Easy Upgrades

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It’s time for fun in the sun, and not too late to make some improvements to your deck. Before you have family and friends over for summer barbeques, take a weekend to make your deck more attractive, comfortable and better integrated with your backyard.

You want your deck and yard to look like they flow together. One way to do that is to plan around what you’d like to view, such as side gardens with flowers. The deck steps can lead down to the landing area or pavers in the grass that allows you and your guests to walk around and admire the plants up close.

Just as you want to orient your deck to pleasing views, you want to block out views that aren’t as nice. It’s easy to add screens, outdoor curtains or lattices so that you can enjoy the fresh air with more privacy. BobVila.com recommends adding a pergola to the deck. It’s a regal touch and the open slats of the roof will still allow airflow.

Lowes.com says to plan your deck for how you’ll use it. Is the space large enough for a barbeque, portable fireplace, or hibachi? Do you want to dine outdoors? You can buy outdoor dining furniture or build in a banquet. You can also add bench seating to one side. Anything that’s built-in and well-cared-for will add value to your home.

Top off the new look with planters for pops of color. And don’t forget soft lighting for evenings.

Homeownership Builds Middle Class Wealth

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A new study by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) found that between 2010 and 2020, nearly 980,000 households shared $2.1 trillion in housing wealth. How did they do it? Time and patience.

NAR defines a middle-class homeowner as one earning an income of over 80% to 200% of the area median income in markets with 50,000 or over middle incomers. If they purchased in 2010 at $162,600, they were likely to accumulate $229,400 in housing wealth, 86% of which is attributable to price appreciation over time. Within these markets, median single-family residences appreciated by 8.3%.

The top 10 rising middle-income housing markets were Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale (103,690), Austin-Round Rock (61,323), Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin (55,252), Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (53,421), Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland (52,716), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell (48,819), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (35,063), Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro (34,373), Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (31,284) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (28,979).

Another word for housing wealth is equity – the percentage of ownership you have in your home as opposed to the bank. When the housing market is good, it raises the value of your home because homebuyers want homes like yours. You can also build equity by paying down your mortgage, making extra payments toward your principal, and making attractive improvements to your home.

Housing typically increases in value by two to three percent annually, so the record gains of the past few years are atypical. However, housing inflation plus mortgage interest rates well below overall inflation are inspiring homebuyers to leap into the market. While quick gains are possible, the buy and hold strategy works better for most homeowners.

How Will the Russia-Ukraine War Impact U.S. Housing?

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As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, the real estate industry in the U.S. is beginning to ask questions. How will the war affect the economy and how will it impact the housing market? At the very least, global conflict is unnerving, but is there hidden opportunity for American homebuyers?

According to REALTOR Magazine, stocks and cryptocurrency have been volatile. As sources of payment for homes, these may impact the luxury real estate market the most. Inflation is at a 40-year high, and only likely to get worse. Household budgets are already being tested with rising oil, gas and food prices. Rents, home prices and new construction are more expensive. Lumber prices have soared 40% in the last year. Higher mortgage rates will slow homebuying demand, explained Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

When consumers at any level get nervous, they tend to curtail spending, particularly for large purchases like homes. “The impact on the U.S. housing markets from the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been muted so far,” George Ratiu, manager of economic research at Realtor.com, told Fortune.com. But an escalation of the European crisis could lead to more trade route and supply chain problems and higher prices, he said.

As investors reallocate their portfolios toward U.S. Treasuries, it could cause interest rates to fall. But if oil prices remain above the $100/barrel level, inflation continues, and interest rates and adjustable rates increase, the impact on the housing market could be negative, causing home sellers to lower prices.