There was a time when seeing a Starbucks or higher end grocery store like Whole Foods appear in your neighborhood meant the area’s economy was thriving and property values were headed in the right direction. These were companies that sought out customers with the discretionary income necessary to order Iced Dirty Chai Lattes and premium cuts of grass fed organic beef – so seeing one in pop up in your area was a positive sign.
Today, it’s legal cannabis dispensaries that are acting as a beacon – indicating that a neighborhood’s property values are, or soon will be, on the rise. Forbes magazine actually calls cannabis “the next real estate disrupter.” The publishing giant also shared research that showed how legalizing the sale of marijuana in Colorado “increased home values by about 6% – or an average of $15,600 per house.”
In 2018, The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) put out a study called Marijuana and Real Estate: A Budding Issue. The organization surveyed close to 8,000 REALTORS® who were doing business in states where cannabis was legalized either recreationally or medically. They found that a large number reported a jump in both residential and commercial property values.
If you are having a hard time wrapping your head around how a cannabis dispensary could elevate your neighborhood it might be because you are picturing the “head shops” found in strip malls back in the 1980s and 90s. Poorly lit, dusty storefronts that were stocked with rolling papers, tie dyed t-shirts and scented with patchouli.
But now that there is money to be made in this legalized industry, dispensaries want to attract the kind of customers who enjoy calling out their custom order, and shopping organic. Many of these new shop interiors and packaging are beautifully designed and well marketed.
The Architectural Digest article, “Designing for the New Culture of Cannabis” talks about companies like Lowell Herb Co, “a California-based farm, which brings a bucolic farm-to-table concept to its brand. Their Instagram-worthy, organic products are wrapped in rustic-chic packaging, while their one-ounce cannabis bouquet is a charming mix of eucalyptus, greens, and still-on-the-stem pot flowers.”
A real life example of this in an urban setting would be Dispensary 33, a cannabis shop that first opened in Uptown Chicago, on the corner of Clark and Argyle, in 2015. The modern, well lit shop has geometrically designed tables, light wood and clean white packaging. Their arrival just so happened to coincide with an overall revitalization of the area, leading to property value increases. Homes in that area went up 12.9% in this past year alone.
For rural and suburban settings, the increase in tax revenues that dispensaries bring can be transformative to communities. For example, PEW magazine calls garden City Colorado “The Little Town That Pot Built”. Prior to the arrival of the town’s first medical marijuana dispensary they collected approximately $360,000 in business tax revenue each year. Once pot became legalized for recreational use, that number increased to well over $2 million annually.
Thanks to the massive tax revenue increase Garden City has “been able to spend more on public works such as the new sidewalks and crosswalks along Eighth Avenue, the street outside Empire State Pizza. The city also provides grants of up to $8,000 to help local businesses pay for property investments such as facade improvements.”
The reality is that not all homeowners welcome legal dispensaries into their community. The good news, is that when they do come they are proving to raise property values and their target market requires that they deliver an aesthetically attractive and discreet storefront.
As a homeowner, your abode is your pride and joy, and considering how hard you’ve worked to get to this point, how couldn’t it be? After spending countless months—let’s be honest, years—decorating and curating your home, you want to be sure everything is accounted for in case a disaster occurs. Surprisingly, only around half of homeowners have a home inventory, based on a poll from the Insurance Information Institute. This rate has stayed rather stagnant over the past decade, and it’s time for that to change.
Disasters don’t give us a warning. Without a home inventory, you would have to file every single one of your possessions immediately after experiencing something truly awful. Not to mention any forgotten items will be gone forever. Public insurance adjuster Davd Moore offers some insight when sharing, “You can lose thousands of dollars because you didn’t include everything.”
Documenting all of your belongings certainly may seem like an intimidating undertaking, but with the right assistance and resources it can be totally manageable. As of March 2019, natural catastrophes caused an estimated $52.3 billion in losses in the U.S. With only half of Americans proactively taking inventory, that is a lot of sentimental possessions being unaccounted for. So, if you’re wondering if it’s worth it to make a home inventory list—the answer is yes.
Sure, you may have a good idea of what you own, but are you aware of the value of all your assets? It can be difficult to put a price on everything you have accumulated over your lifetime, which is exactly why documenting everything is so essential to be fairly reimbursed if you suffer losses from any natural or man-made disasters. A woman who lost her home after the devastating Tubbs Fire, Alice Plichcik, shares, “You don’t realize how much you have lost until you try to replace everything.”
Here are six steps to help make the process of inventorying your belongings as easy as possible.
Baby steps are key here. On the bright side, this process may give you the push you need to declutter a bit. When beginning to take inventory, choose one room or a section of your house at a time. Starting this process is the biggest step, so take your time! Try focusing on one area of your home a day, or even a week, to make it seem less stressful and overwhelming in the long run.
As cherished as your bookshelves and crammed closets are, starting with your more expensive and larger items will make this task more tolerable. Your big ticket items will need the most amount of attention and time, so it’s best to get those out of the way first so the remaining items seem more approachable to catalogue.
Keeping this list organized is crucial. It is hard to comprehend how many items you own until you’re writing them down and all of a sudden your list has reached page 20. In order to keep this inventory document as organized as possible, try listing your valuables by categories such as electronics, furniture, etc.
You’re not alone here, and becomes very clear when you start to look into the variety of apps created to help homeowners take inventory of their belongings. If you’re looking to speed things up, give Encircle a try. With this app you’ll focus on one room at a time by quickly snapping some photos of your space and then going back to add details on individual items. Another noteworthy app is Nest Egg, which will cost you $4 for the full version, but is well worth it. While it will take you longer to enter in all of the details of your things, it offers benefits such as giving you a heads up that a warranty is nearing expiration, or that something on loan is due back soon. Both of these apps, and most that are offered, are password protected so there is no need to fear your private information getting out.
A video is actually an excellent option if you are worried about how tedious this process will be. Taking a detailed video of each room in your home will help jog your memory if there is anything you’ve missed. Additional details such as serial numbers and/or model numbers for expensive pieces is important to jot down but a video is a great start, or alternatively you could take a more in depth video and get a close-up shot of these details on your items. If you hung onto a receipt for an item, you can even get that on the video as well to be reimbursed for the exact price. Many insurance companies accept this type of recording during a claim—some even prefer it. If you’re choosing this route, just double check that your insurance company accepts a video, like State Farm does for example. Photos are also very helpful in keeping things cohesive when putting together a list. Many apps previously mentioned allow you to insert photos along with the details of the object to help keep things organized.
One advantage to using an app or a Google Doc rather than a list is that it is secure in the cloud or your drive. If making a list on another program on your computer, be sure to put a copy on an external hard drive and keep it in a safe spot.
Life happens, and unfortunately, disasters do as well. If you’re responsible and proactive when it comes to your beloved possessions, then there is no reason to live in fear of potential damage. Whether you’ve lived in your home for 50 years or are just beginning your homeownership journey, you can start your home inventory list today and prepare for your future. As the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, Robert Hunter, says, “The whole idea of insurance is to make you whole, not under-pay you or over-pay you.” Your home inventory is something you will continue to work on as you obtain more belongings. Once you get started, the rest will come easily. Anytime you splurge on a new electronic, or upgrade a worn out appliance, just be sure to update your list so you’re always prepared for the worst. Don’t put off a task now that you’ll certainly regret later.
When we scroll on our phones or tablets we often go at breakneck speed – absorbing as much information and entertainment as possible before moving on to the next part of our day. Our handheld devices are tiny escape hatches that contain an endless stream of information. But sometimes, the pace at which we use our devices can make it harder for us to dive deeper into the subjects that interest us.
But podcasts? The modulated voice of the podcast show’s host often sets a comfortable pace – one that can feel more conducive to absorbing the information they are laying down. Best of all, they can play in the background while we tend to other things.
It can be inspiring to listen to podcasts that align with the task that you’re working on while listening. If you’re a homeowner or prospective homeowner who is ready to tackle an overgrown garden, take on the repair jobs you’ve been side-eyeing all winter or are just focused on the topic of homeownership, the following podcasts are for you.
Best Podcast For First-Time Homeowners
Back in 2007, Sherry and John Petersik started a blog to chronicle the ups and downs of buying and renovating their first home. Since then, the couple has gone on to renovate a total of 5 homes, publish a book, create home products for major retailers like Home Depot and Target and start their own podcast.
They remodel with realistic, affordable materials and furniture (think Ikea) and have a sense of humor about the whole process. Their podcast has great guests and offers tips on purchasing your first home as well as coping when things go wrong after you buy.
Some great episodes to get started with are:
- #110: And Then The Bathroom Started Flooding
- #129: When It Feels Like Everything’s Going Wrong
- #136: Maximizing House Joy (For Minimal Money)
Best Podcast(s) For Home Improvement
It was too hard to pick just one podcast for this category, especially since homeownership is pretty much synonymous with home repairs. If you own a home, something is breaking or about to break at any given point. These two podcasts tell you how to do everything from removing squirrels from your attic to installing recessed lighting.
This nationally syndicated radio show and podcast is hosted by the very pleasant Leslie Segrete and Tom Kraeutler. They are extremely knowledgeable and have a way of explaining repairs that instills confidence in the novice homeowner. The show has a call-in format, so the episodes are always full of unexpected home repair questions.
Some popular episodes to get started with are:
This NPR podcast is well loved by both homeowners and professionals. It’s a great place to learn how to do some basic home repairs as well as determining if it’s time to call in outside help. The show is based in Mississippi but covers home repair topics relevant to homeowners across the US.
Some fan favorites to begin with are:
- Bug Out – March 6, 2019
- Deck Fixes and Summer Projects – July 2018
- Bad Home Improvement Ideas – December 2016
The Holistic Housing Podcast is created by the National Association for County Community and Economic Development (NACCED). Hosts Sarah and Laura have a great banter and aren’t afraid to inject humor into their episodes. Show topics include; urban revitalization, placemaking, the American Dream and more. The duo also bring on thought leaders and lawmakers to talk about how current policies affect homeowners and their communities.
Here are a couple of good episodes to get started with:
The REALTOR® Party was created in order to promote the candidates and public policies that support homeowners and their property rights. Though their podcasts are not regularly scheduled, the episodes they have up are worth a listen as they cover policy issues relevant to homeowners.
Best Podcast For Homeowners On The Move:
For most of us, our homes are the biggest investment we’ll ever make, so loading up a podcast that give homeowners a competitive edge is worth it. Real Estate Radio maintains fast pace and sticks to relevant and critical information. The host, Stephen Gasque, of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is well suited for the job with a background in both journalism and real estate.
Technically, this is a live radio show, but all the episodes are available podcast style as well. So it’s your preference.
Here are a couple of solid, past episodes to get you started:
Homeowner Finances – Afford Anything
While host Paula Pant has some great expert interviews, the best part of her podcasts is how actionable each of them are. She often breaks down the numbers that are put before her by callers who need help purchasing a home or getting out of debt.
For example, in her May 27, 2019 podcast she helps Amy decide whether or not she should downsize to a smaller home. She also helps Katherine create a budget so she can househack her duplex. (Househacking means buying a multi-unit property that you plan to live in as well as rent out.)
Here are a few of Pant’s podcasts that are most relevant to homeowners:
Clay Heighten and Debra Caudy wanted their son Jon, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to be able to live in his own home one day. As they edged closer to retirement, the idea that Jon might not be prepared, or able, to live in his own home became an increasing concern for them.
The couple realized that there was a big gap in the existing housing market – they were unable to find homes built with the specific needs of autistic adults in mind. There was also little to no education in place to help autistic adults learn how to transition into an independent, home-based lifestyle one day. There were certainly independent living facilities, but nothing that gave residents the full experience of home living.
The couple decided to spearhead their own solution by launching a non-profit with a $750,000 investment of their own money. The money was used to purchase 29 acres of land in 2015 with the long term goal of raising additional funds in order to build a housing development exclusively for adults with ASD on the property.
The couple’s vision was to build a housing community called 29 Acres – a development built specifically to support the safety, independence and spatial needs of ASD adults. Because Autism occurs on a spectrum, the couple wanted to make sure the development was set up to support residents who needed additional assistance and also empower the high-functioning residents who would go on to purchase or rent their own homes outside of the community one day.
Once it is fully completed, the community will have 15 homes, and provide the experience of independent home living to 60 ASD adults. This shared home setup creates a healthy mix of social and private space for residents. It also means that ASD adults who need day-to-day support will be able to have caregivers live with them. Plans for the housing complex include beautiful grounds and an activity center. The activity center will serve as a social gathering place as well hosting the 29 Acres residential Transition Academy.
The academy is an integral part of the couple’s vision. It is a 2 year, tuition based, residential transition program for high-functioning young adults on the autism spectrum. One of the academy’s goals is to set residents up for success should they decide to move out and become homeowners or renters outside of 29 Acres one day.
As of today, 29 Acres has broken ground and Phase I of their construction process, eight homes, the community center, a pool and walking paths, are underway. Residents should be able to move into the community the summer of 2020.
However, the organization didn’t wait for construction to finish in order to begin their mission of empowerment. They rented homes in Little Elm, Texas so they could begin offering independent living to eight ASD adults as well as providing them with a trial run of their residential Transition Academy. Eight more students will begin in 2019 and by 2020 there will be 32 students enrolled in the program.
The organization is also providing education outreach services to ASD adults in surrounding communities. Currently they are offering a summer, day program called Enrich 29 and host a weekly club called 29 Friends that helps adults with autism share meaningful experiences together.
Rural living is often portrayed in American popular culture as either beautifully idyllic or comically run down. Since 2006 blogger and now famous lifestyle guru Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman, has been painting a picture of cowboys riding over sunset-lit Oklahoma hillsides to their beautifully decorated ranch houses. This year, ABC put out a sitcom called Bless This Mess that shows a charmingly inept city-slicker couple trying to give it a go in a run down, dilapidated, rural Nebraska farmhouse.
But the reality, is that life in rural America life is not picture-perfect for every homeowner and living in houses where the roof is caving in and the barn is falling down is not all that amusing in real life. Many rural residents today are struggling to find affordable housing, keep their homes in good repair or simply keep their homes at all.
Cornell University recently put out a paper called, Addressing Rural Housing Challenges: What USDA can do by Corianne Payton Scally. The paper tells us that the worsening of the rural housing market over the last 10 years has had a direct impact on the economic health of people living in rural communities.
“Housing supply has failed to keep up in growing rural communities, and persistent poverty has deepened. Without additional public and private investment, rural families and seniors will continue to struggle to afford decent shelter.”
The paper goes on to outline ways in which The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development agency could offer additional support. An approach that makes sense if you consider the fact that the USDA already assists over “1.2 million homeowners with affordable mortgages and over 400,000 households with quality, affordable rental housing.”
However, despite the USDA’s significant contribution to the rural housing market, rural residents need additional, and more agile support. As a direct result, private and nonprofit resources have taken a greater role in building a future for rural homeowners. Let’s take a look at three of the more active ones in areas of loans, advocacy and community support.
The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) is a nonprofit organization that has been helping prospective, rural homeowners with poor credit purchase and upgrade their homes without having to go through subprime lenders.
NACA says that they believe predatory lenders, with high interest rate loans, set rural homeowners up for failure. NACA’s approach is to provide homeownership education, fair rates and no closing fees. They are not direct lenders, but work with banks on behalf of homeowners.Two of NACA’s biggest partners are Citigroup and Bank of America.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) sounds like an organization that was set up, well for REALTORS® – but they are actually a group that has been working hard to advocate for rural homeowners rights.
NAR President John Smaby shared that when the government shutdown occurred this past January the organization, “asked the Trump administration to provide relief to people whose Rural Housing Loan Program mortgage applications have been held up by the partial government shutdown.” NAR requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Rural Housing Service, provide the staff necessary to process outstanding USDA loans during the department’s temporary reopening of its Farm Service Agency offices.
NAR has also been a strong supporter of the extension and reformation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) – a program that matters a great deal to many rural homeowners who rely on the financial assistance NFIP provides after a natural disaster.
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has become an important resource for rural communities. They are known for assembling grant funding from private and public sources, but they also provide communities with needed empowerment. LISC seeks to understand what rural residents need to thrive in all ways and then sets out to provide them with those things – be it housing grants, job training or technical assistance.
For example, LISC has been outspoken about how important it is that communities in rural areas have access to high speed broadband. They believe it directly translates into the community’s ability to expand and improve their rural economy. LISC states that, “Internet Service Providers are currently required to report broadband availability and speed twice a year. But the data provided can be misleading as entire zip codes can be marked as “served” if just one house in the area is served by high speed broadband internet.This means the maps currently used by Congress, federal agencies, and the State do not paint an accurate picture of reliable internet access in rural areas.”
So LISC partnered with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to create the TestIT smartphone app. The app “invites rural residents to participate in the effort, identifying current broadband speed and service gaps in underserved communities.”
Senior homeowners in rural areas face challenges that their urban and suburban counterparts might never know. The blog, New Life On A Homestead shares that even though a combination of farmers markets and Amazon Prime makes life in the country much more convenient than it used to be – it’s still a long drive to the shops if you’ve run out of food and supplies.
A HUD article, Housing Challenges of Rural Seniors, tells us that having limited access to shops also contributes to the social isolation that many rural seniors contend with. This is especially true for seniors who are no longer driving and rely on public transportation to participate in their community since “rural areas are less likely than other places to have robust public transit systems.”
HUD reports that medical care can also be a concern since, “sparsely populated areas are less likely to have certain types of medical specialists and may be distant from a hospital. These challenges may cause seniors to delay needed health care, allowing their health to worsen before they finally seek care — sometimes under emergency circumstances.”
Lastly, the ability to maintain rural property can be difficult as owners age. New Life On Homestead writer, Tom Harkins, talks about the high level of maintenance that all rural property owners must contend with. “Something is always going wrong on a rural homestead; be prepared to identify a problem, and make repairs. Maintaining your land is time consuming, too.”
However, Harkins shares that one of the upsides to living in a rural area is that, “communities in rural areas tend to be more tight knit. Since there are typically less government services available, neighbors have to rely upon one another more.” This solid community involvement is one of the reasons that seniors are able to stay in their homes despite the challenges of rural living.
Maine is one of the states that is leading the way with proactive, rural senior care – which makes sense since Maine has the nation’s third-largest percentage of older Americans. HUD’s article states that close to 16 percent of the state’s population are age 65 or older, and it’s the nation’s most rural state, with about 61 percent of its population living in rural areas.
Harpswell, Maine is a coastal town where a quarter of the residents are age 65 or older. They’ve put together an Aging at Home team that tackles the heavy maintenance rural residents require and senior homeowners have difficulty managing. The handy men and women are made up of retirees that dedicate their free time to helping seniors with upkeep. The group was inspired by the Aging in Place groups that Habitat for Humanity has put in place nationwide for low income seniors.
The town of Bowdoinham, Maine created the Bowdoinham Age-Friendly Action Plan in 2012. The community began by focusing on adult services, transportation and care partner support. The town’s Advisory Committee on Aging (ACOA) has been working to create programs that encourage older adults to be actively engaged and avoid the social isolation that makes life lonely for rural residents.
Telehealth is an emerging medical solution that has the potential to help many rural, senior homeowners age in place healthily. Telehealth allows for remote examinations, consultations and even in-home monitoring. Currently, three southeast hospitals are working with the University of Alabama to see if telehealth could even help to improve palliative care for rural African-Americans.
Forty thousand home sales hang in the balance as Congress debates the renewal of our National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) this May. Because home and rental insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, flood insurance is often the only way homeowners can receive the funds they need to repair and rebuild. Without it, homeowners are left dependent upon the federal government for rebuilding assistance after major floods.
However, FEMA only steps in if the flooding is declared a disaster by the president – and the payout is nowhere near comparable to what NFIP delivers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, NFIP “provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and up to $100,000 for personal possessions.”
The Advocate, a newspaper serving Baton Rouge, Louisiana, tells readers what kind of payout they could expect from FEMA after a disaster – and it’s not $250,000.
“Although a federal aid program to help disaster victims can provide as much as $33,000 per household, typical grants run a fraction of that amount, averaging $8,000 or less, according to an analysis by The Advocate of payouts in a dozen recent high-profile disasters.
March floods in Louisiana and Texas averaged in the $5,000 range. The average payout for those affected by Hurricanes Rita, Isaac and Gustav was about $3,000, according to data provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
If the NFIP fails to receive another extension this spring, it isn’t just coastal homeowners that will suffer. “Roughly half of the flood disasters since 1990 occurred in landlocked states” Austin Perez, Senior Policy Representative at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) explained. “According to years of NAR research, about 40,000 home sales stall each month that Congress fails to reauthorize the NFIP.”
NAR supports long-term reauthorization and reform, and believes that continuing the existing pattern of renewal after renewal only postpones – rather than fixes the program. On March of this year, NAR’s representative, Chicago REALTOR® Mabél Guzmán testified before the House Financial Services Committee, advocating for reform and sustainability.
Guzmán called for improved flood mapping as well as fair premium setting and increased mitigation funding – changes that would allow the program to stay in place for the long term. She also talked about how removing regulatory obstacles would give homeowners access to a more robust, competitive private flood insurance market.
“The embattled National Flood Insurance Program is central to U.S. disaster preparedness efforts,” Guzmán said in her testimony. “According to NAR research, the program is also essential to completing half-a-million home sales per year, each of which contributes two jobs and $80,000 to America’s economy. However, the NFIP was not designed nor intended to address the catastrophic loss years we have seen since 2005, meaning the program is not sustainable as currently structured.”
Whenever there has been a shift in the demographics of our population, new housing needs have emerged. The example most of us are familiar with is when the return of soldiers from WWII created a demand for housing to accommodate their newly growing families. Today, a new, and often overlooked, demographic is poised to influence the way we build, customize and market our homes.
There are currently 1.5 million individuals that have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (or ASDs) in the United States, 80% of them under the age of 22. OPENING DOORS: A Discussion Of Residential Options For Adults Living With Autism And Related Disorders from the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) shares that this is a rising trend as well. “In the 1980s, the incidence of autism was 1 in 10,000 children. Throughout the 1990s, the rate steadily climbed and reached 1 in 500.”
Because autism is a heterogenous diagnosis it’s hard to pinpoint what percentage of autistic children and adolescents will seek out independent living and homeownership when they become adults. However, the Autistic Housing Network can tell us that there are presently 496,000 autistic adults that do not live at home with their family. Given the consistently rising population, it’s safe to say that the demand for homes that will appeal to the unique needs of autistic adults is growing.
The Autism Housing Network article, “Designing Living Spaces for Autism on a Budget” cautions that there is no “one-size-fits-all approach” to creating or purchasing a space for people on the autism spectrum. Yet, there are some requirements that REALTORS® and designers working with autistic clients have found to be increasingly common.
- Clearly defined living spaces that have seperate rooms for separate functions. A home with one area for sleep, another for recreation, and so on is often requested. Open floor plans or studio type dwellings don’t offer the division of purpose that many autistic adults require in order to create a consistent living routine.
- A space that supports their specific interests and hobbies. Reddit user and autistic homeowner Jimmyhand90 shared that he “bought on floor plan and suitability for needs.” It was important to him that the garden was large enough, and “shaped right to build an enclosure for my cats.”
- A predictable layout. The SAARC report found that eclectic home layouts don’t provide the “spatial sequencing, smooth transitions between rooms and uses, and the potential to establish routines” that help autistic homeowners minimize stress.
The increasing need for autistic friendly homes is generating some creative housing solutions as well. The Madison House Autism Foundation is encouraging prospective, autistic home buyers to look into the tiny home trend. They believe the adaptivity and low cost of these structures make them a great choice.
A group of families in North Texas purchased 29 acres of land in 2015 in order to build a housing development exclusively for adults with ASD. The homes and surrounding property were built specifically to support the safety, independance and needs of ASD adults. The housing development will be fully open in the spring of 2020 and will cater to needs across the spectrum.
One of the services 29 Acres will provide is access to their Transition Academy, a 2 year program that teaches residents to feel confident during daily activities like paying bills, grocery shopping and home care – providing ASD adults with a stepping stone towards independent homeownership.