February 2018
Portrait of Bart Baker

Bart Baker

First Weber Group Realtors


Sales rebound modestly in October as prices increase

First Weber had best year EVER with nearly $3.5 billion in sales.

Multiple Listing Service, MLS,
Sales rebound modestly in October as prices increase

Another record year for Wisconsin housing

Wisconsin REALTORS Association,

While tight inventories continue to constrain sales, the robust economy has fueled demand and pushed sales to record levels for the third straight year, according to the most recent analysis of the existing home market by the Wisconsin REALTORS Association. December home sales actually fell 3.3 percent compared to December 2016, and the statewide median price rose 6.5 percent to $170,420 over that same period. Despite December sales, annual sales for all of 2017 were up 1.4 percent over 2016, setting an all-time record for Wisconsin's housing market, with just over 83,000 units sold. Prices were also higher in 2017, with the annual median price of $174,000, which was 5.5 percent higher than 2016.

"Given our extremely low inventory levels throughout the year, hitting a new record high in sales shows just how hot Wisconsin's housing market really was in 2017," said Peter Sveum, WRA board chairman. The unemployment rate fell to just 3 percent in December 2017 compared to 4.1 percent in December 2016. The state unemployment record goes back to 1976, and the only other time when the Wisconsin unemployment rate hit 3 percent was the summer of 1999. Finally, mortgage rates have remained very favorable, dropping from 4.20 percent at the end of 2016 to 3.95 percent in December 2017. "We're only about a half percent higher than the all-time low for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which occurred five years ago," said Sveum. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate stood at 3.35 percent in both November 2012 and December 2012.

"The good news is that Wisconsin housing remains relatively affordable," said WRA President & CEO Michael Theo. "Higher prices were at least partially offset by two things; a drop in mortgage rates and an increase in median family income over the last year," said Theo. Although mortgage rates will likely inch upward, as long as inflation remains in check, mortgage rates should remain low by historical standards.

A quick look at tax reform and what could impact homeowners most

A quick look at tax reform and what could impact homeowners most

RISMedia, by Liz Dominguez,

1. Cap on Mortgage Interest Deduction
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the limit for the mortgage interest rate deduction for new loans starting Dec. 15 to $750,000. Loans that were taken out before this date are grandfathered into the previous tax policy, which featured a $1 million cap on the deduction. Homeowners can refinance their existing mortgage balance up to $1 million while still being able to deduct the interest. The new loan cannot exceed the amount of debt being refinanced.

2. New SALT Deduction Limit
In the final bill, taxpayers can itemize deductions up to $10,000 for their total state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. The cap is the same for both individual and married filers.

3. Preserved Exclusion of Capital Gains
This tax policy remains unchanged from the previous law, which stated that homeowners must live in their home for two out of the past five years in order to qualify for the exclusion.

4. Deductibility on Home Equity Loans
The new law states that taxpayers will no longer be able to deduct interest paid on home equity loans beginning in 2018, unless the funds are being used to significantly improve the residence. This provision expires in 2026, when it reverts back to the previous cap of $100,000 of home equity debt.

5. Doubling of the Standard Deduction
In the previous law, the standard deduction for single taxpayers and married couples filing jointly was $6,350. This amount is nearly doubled in the new law to $12,000. For married couples filing jointly, the previous standard deduction was $12,700, which has been increased to $24,000.

Location and Timing
The impact, however, will largely be based on where taxpayers are located. Those in high cost states may see the biggest changes in how they file, especially with the new $10,000 SALT limit. According to NAR research, here are the five metro areas that will be most affected by the new tax law, based on homes with mortgages valued over $750,000. They are San Jose Sunnyvale Santa Clara, Calif., San Francisco Oakland Hayward, Calif., Santa Cruz Watsonville, Calif., Santa Maria Santa Barbara, Calif., and Urban Honolulu, Hawaii.

“The tax bill decreases homeownership incentives, but these benefits are not the only factors in the homeownership decision,” says realtor.com Senior Economist Joseph Kirchner, Ph.D. “In the short run, homebuyers can look forward to more money in their pocket that can be used for a down payment or larger home.” He adds that cuts in government services and economic development programs, along with the rescinding of tax cuts for individuals in a few years and the impact of tax reform-induced deficit on inflation, will weaken the impact of the after tax income boost on homeownership.

According to an NAR statement, “As a result of the changes made throughout the legislative process, NAR is now projecting slower growth in home prices of 1 to 3 percent in 2018 as low inventories continue to spur price gains. However, some local markets, particularly in high cost, higher tax areas, will likely see price declines as a result of the legislation’s new restrictions on mortgage interest and state and local taxes.”

2018 home design forecast includes statement floors and floral prints

2018 home design forecast includes statement floors and floral prints

RISMedia’s Housecall, by Jameson Doris,

Out with succulents and in with floral prints—2018 is shaping up to be a big year for color!

With 2017 coming to a close, many companies are releasing year-end predictions for what home decor will look like come the new year. Trulia recently unveiled its 2018 Home Design Trend Predictions, which named pattern on pattern, wallpaper and high gloss lacquer on walls as some of the trends that will be “in” next year.

Trends that Trulia predicts will be “out” next year include exposed lighting, granite countertops and bamboo flooring. Additionally, according to the Zillow Home Trend Forecast, succulents, bar carts and all-white kitchens may soon be forgotten home decor trends, as well.

Related: 2018 Design Forecast: Color Me Purple

"While homes with all-white kitchens can be beautiful in photos, they are hard to keep clean and they may sell for less money,” says Zillow's home design expert Kerrie Kelly. “In 2018, expect to see a shift away from the farmhouse chic trend. Instead, look for a rise in warmer colors, unique natural woods—both in flooring and cabinetry—and floral prints."

The 2018 real estate trend to watch

The 2018 real estate trend to watch

RISMedia, by Len Elder Instructor, McKissock Learning and Superior School of Real Estate,

Surban is like the melding of two words to form a new one. Surban is defined as a suburban area that has the feel of urban, but it is a blend of the best of urban and suburban life. Urban planners would previously have described these as mixed use areas. But surban is a relatively new term that fits a bit better.

Characteristics include

  • located in suburban rather than urban areas,
  • anchored in areas with highly rated schools and low crime rates,
  • dominated by a number of housing options, from single family residences to condos to townhomes,
  • surrounded by great retail and shopping areas in walkable distance,
  • and highlighted with social venues such as restaurants, bars and entertainment.

The Urban Land Institute estimates that these areas will draw at least 80 percent of the coming wave of households and will attract the most families in the next 10 years.


4 things NOT to do when putting your home on the market

RISMedia’s Housecall, by Zoe Eisenberg,

Don’t over improve
Make any needed fixes to your space, but don't go above and beyond. You may lose money doing so.

Don’t over decorate
When prepping for sale, neutralize your decorating scheme so it's more universally palatable.

Don’t hang around
Get out of the house, take the kids with you, and if you can't leave for whatever reason, at least go sit in the backyard. (On the other hand, if you're buying a home and not selling, then making it personal is the way to go, especially when writing your offer letter. Pull those heart strings!)

Don’t take things personal
Real estate is a business, but buying and selling homes is very, very emotional. However, when selling your home, try your very best not to take things personally.

4 reasons your smaller house can sell for more than ever before

Cleaning house on the quick and cheap

RISMedia, by Barbara Pronin,

We once met a woman who loved to clean house. She said it gave her a feeling of accomplishment. For many, however, it’s a thankless chore, and the sooner done, the better. Consumer editors at Woman’s Day Magazine and the DIY Network offer ways to save time and money and still keep your home sparkling clean.

All-purpose cleaners
No need to buy cleaning solutions for a single purpose. Fill a squirt bottle with four tablespoons of baking soda and a quart of warm water. Use it to clean kitchen counters, appliances, inside the fridge and more, or add one third cup vinegar to a quart of water to clean glass, countertops and even floors.

Burnt food on burners
Remove burnt on food from stove burners by soaking them overnight in a zip lock bag filled with a cup of ammonia.

Burnt food in pans
No need to throw out or replace that badly burnt pan. Heat a cup of white vinegar in it until warm. Remove from the heat and mix in two tablespoons of baking powder. After 15 minutes, rinse with warm water and voila!

Microwave magic
To degrease and clean the inside of your microwave, cook one half cup of water mixed with one half cup of vinegar in it for two minutes. A clean rag should wipe the mess right off.