Tag Archives: Construction

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Confinement is changing our attitudes toward our homes

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Familiarity has not bred contempt for our living spaces, but it has set us thinking about what kind of homes we want now that we are spending more time in them. Recent surveys of consumers and home professionals show that after months of confinement homeowners have redesign on their mind.

In part, they are motivated by the changes in home life resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The trend toward greater concern for wellness and more contact with nature has increased as well.

To learn more about how spending more time at home was impacting our attitudes toward the places we live, Sears Home Services conducted a survey of more than 1,000 adults who lived with at least one other person. The majority (44%) said they were feeling less satisfied with their home since the beginning of the pandemic.

Those living in homes of less than 1,000 square feet and/or with only one bedroom were more likely to be dissatisfied. In addition, a similar proportion (42%) said it was more difficult for them to find “alone time.”

Curiously, although only 9% of respondents said that exercise was a favorite form of “alone time,” when asked what features they would like to add to their home, the No. 1 response was a home gym (41%), followed by a home office (37%), a dedicated gaming space (32%), and more kitchen space (31%). Reversing a recent trend, adding a bedroom or a bathroom were lower down on the list — a sign of how people are shifting from thinking of their homes as social spaces to thinking of them as exclusively personal spaces.

Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery conducted its own survey to gather consumer views on home remodeling and showrooms during the pandemic. Respondents were fairly evenly split between those who wanted to remodel to increase functionality in the home (27%) and those who wanted a new look for the home (26%). Only 12% said they had no redesign plans in mind.

The majority said that, based on their experience during the pandemic, they would like to redesign either their bathroom (47%) or their kitchen (44%). However, those who owned a home other than a single-family residence, such as a condo or co-op, said their top choice would be to redesign or update the living room (41%) or bedroom (42%), where, presumably, they are likely to spend most of their time.

Taking a longer view, the International Furniture and Design Association (IFDA) followed up on a 2010 study, “Vision for the Future of Home,” in which it asked its members to predict trends in home design and homeowners’ preferences by the year 2030. Their responses reflect the impact the pandemic has had on what features people now want in their homes. They foresee a growing demand for sensor- and voice-activated home furnishings, as well as for indoor/outdoor rooms.

Although the trend in real estate in recent months has been toward buying bigger homes and moving away from open floorplans, the IFDA survey does not reflect that. Its members predict that homes will continue to shrink in size and that there will be waning demand for formal living and dining rooms. In addition, noting the impact of lifestyle changes, 96% said that aging-in-place would be considered in any design plan, and 94% said the same for wellness concerns.

Similar to the IFDA findings, a comprehensive study on the impact of people’s behavior, life stage and habits on kitchen and bath design, involving 750 home professionals, conducted prior to the onset for the pandemic by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) identified the desire for more open floor plans and larger kitchens as top trends. It will be interesting to see if these trends persist or return as the pandemic’s impact ebbs, of if our attitudes toward our home will be altered by the pandemic for years to come.

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The ultimate WFH guide: Everything you need to create the perfect home office space

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Working from home is the new normal for millions of Americans. In the past, you may have occasionally worked from home — which typically involved balancing a laptop on your knee or creating some space on your kitchen countertop. But now that you’re working from home on a regular basis, neither the “knee thing” nor working next to your blender is a viable option.

However, creating an effective (and comfortable) work-from-home office space includes various components. Where should the office be? What should it include? How can you stay organized? What else do you need to know?

We rounded up a variety of interior designers, organizers and other experts, along with some of the coolest WFH items, to create the ultimate WFH office guide.

Selecting the Right Location

If you don’t already have a home office, your first dilemma is how to stop being a nomad in your own home. According to Susie Hayman, productivity consultant and owner of InYourBizness, and president of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), creating a permanent workspace is important. “Having a designated office space is key to being productive, as it reduces distractions, increases your ability to focus, and provides a clear delineation between personal/professional or work/play lives,” she says. “When I’m in my office, that’s when I work; when I’m in the kitchen, that’s when I eat/cook.”

However, if you don’t have the luxury of separate space, your options are limited. “I always advise against setting up work in the bedroom,” Hayman says. “If need be, a specified area of a family/living space could be an alternate solution, or a corner or area of the living space would work, as long as it is comfortable.”

To give you some ideas, Lexington Homes in Chicago provided the photos above as examples of how the niches in some of its apartments and townhouses are being used for dedicated office space.

Choosing a WFH Desk

Selecting an office desk may depend on where you plan to place it. For example, if the desk is going to be in an exposed area, you may want it to look nicer. However, Cristina Miguelez, remodeling specialist at Fixr, says it’s really more about how it works for you than how the actual desk looks. “There are a lot of ways to dress up a desk and make it look great, but a flimsy desk or one that isn’t suiting your needs isn’t going to last long term,” she says.

In fact, she’s strongly against those flimsy desks that you can put together with an Allen key. “Pressboard will only delaminate the first time you spill your coffee on it.” Miguelez recommends a simple, timeless desk — ideally made of hardwood. “Reclaimed wood makes a great statement if you want to be on trend, and it will still last forever.”

In addition to solid wood options like the Zona Desk, standing desks, like the Vari Electric Standing Desk and the Seville Classics Tempered Glass Desk, are popular options because you can adjust the height (with the press of a button) so you can work either standing or sitting.

Another consideration is what you’ll be doing at your desk. “If you need a lot of storage, then opt for a desk with a lot of different types of drawers, as this will be really versatile,” Miguelez explains. If you don’t need drawers for storage, she says you can often find a much bigger desk for the same amount of money. “Need a lot of space but a little storage? Still skip the drawers and invest in some shelves as well; you’ll be able to spread out over the larger surface.”

Lastly, to make your space neater, she recommends getting a desk that will let you thread cords through it — or one that you can drill a hole through.

Organizing Your Workspace and Hiding Clutter

“Pieces of clutter — whether binders, piles of paper, or that extra filing cabinet you need to squeeze around — are distractions and productivity thieves,” says Christopher Grubb, interior designer and founder of Beverly Hills-based Arch-Interiors Design Group. “I believe in ‘out of sight, get more done.’” Productivity aside, clutter is also unattractive. “So, hide computer CPUs, printers and shredders in credenzas and cabinets — think something stylish you would put in your living, family, or dining room.” However, you need to make sure that it’s deep enough to hide your equipment — and he recommends drilling a small hole in the back for your cords to pass through. In addition, Grubbs suggests adding colorful or textured baskets to a bookcase or shelving unit to add style and hide clutter.

The cool thing about working from home is that you get to choose your storage options, so you’re not required to stick with the boring options usually available at your company. “Stylish baskets can hold bulky items, even in plain sight, such as on a shelf or in a corner,” says Frank Keshishian, founder of L.A. Design Concepts, a direct-to-consumer supplier of trade-only home decor, textiles and furnishings. “These items turn unsightly clutter into an organized trove.” He also recommends creative bookends to turn your books into a work of art.

According to Kevin Busch, vice president of operations for Mr. Handyman, most people aren’t utilizing the wasted spaces in their home office space. “We always recommend finding ways to ‘go vertical’ and use wall space rather than floor space when possible,” he says. “Hanging storage shelves rather than adding another bookcase or filing cabinet is a good option and keeps the room feeling less cluttered.” Busch also recommends hanging dry-erase boards, chalkboards and cork boards.

Using Ergonomic Tech Essentials

Working on your computer for long periods of time can result in carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. The Humanscale/Razer Productivity Suite includes an ergonomically designed wireless mechanical keyboard with white LED backlit, fingerprint-resistant keycaps. The Pro Click Mouse is also ergonomically designed to position the wrist at a 30-degree angle, which prevents discomfort and injuries. The Pro Glide mouse pad is made of thick, high-density rubber foam, with a textured micro-wave cloth surface.

Another option for stylish and practical tech goodies is the Satechi Collection, which includes a variety of accessories, including a wireless compact backlit keyboard, aluminum Bluetooth rechargeable wireless mouse, eco-leather water-resistant desk mat to protect your desk space from scratches, and aluminum wireless presenter for controlling presentations.

Handling Virtual Meetings

Most people think about their appearance during virtual meetings. However, Mindy Godding, owner of Abundance Organizing in Richmond, Virginia, and NAPO board member, believes you should also pay attention to your virtual meeting background. “Spend time considering the items in view when you participate in video conferencing, and display items that tell your personal story or share your interests,” she says.

“In the absence of ‘water cooler’ opportunities to relate informally with colleagues, background visuals can offer a means of connecting with co-workers.” However, Godding warns against computer-generated virtual background images, especially if you have a trust-building role in your organization.

If you don’t have a dedicated office, Grubb recommends considering the layout as it relates to virtual meetings. For example, if your office is going to be in the guest room, he thinks a sleeper sofa is a good choice. “By day, a sofa with art above is a great Zoom background, and then, when is a guest is over you can pull it out and make up the bed.” Another recommendation is a Murphy bed with surrounding shelves. “By day it looks like a cabinet that you can add lots of great accessories to, but you can pull out the bed when in need,” Grubb says.

Working More Efficiently

Control clutter and add some elegance to your workspace with the pebble-grain Italian leather Courant Catch:3 accessory tray. You can charge your phone on one side, and keep your glasses, watch, keys, pens, and other items on the other side. There’s also an option to add a silver or gold foil monogram to the tray.

The Quartet Glass Dry Erase Computer Pad can fit between your keyboard and monitor, providing a convenient non-absorbent glass that lets you write, erase, and rewrite notes. It also has space to hide various items.

With the 42-page Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook, you can write ideas and lists or fill out your weekly or monthly planner (using a Pilot FriXion pen, marker, or highlighter), and save your information to the cloud. Then, you can wipe the pages clean with a damp cloth, which allows you to reuse the notebook over and over again.

The cost of printer cartridges can quickly add up. However, the Epson EcoTank Cartridge-Free Super Tank Printer uses large, refillable ink bottles instead. So, you only need to refill the color that’s empty (black, yellow, cyan, magenta). Epson projects that this results in up to a 90% savings increase compared to ink cartridges.

Maintaining a Schedule

When you’re rolling out of bed and taking a few steps to get to your office, it can be difficult to separate work time from non-work time. “Keep the same schedule you had when you were going to an office — take breaks for snacks, meals, and movement,” advises Hayman.

“Get up at the same time each morning, as if you’re going to work, get dressed, schedule your work time with breaks, just as you would in an office setting,” she says. That’s another reason why both your location and your office set up are so important. You want to avoid the temptation to stop and do housework. On the other hand, if your environment is uncomfortable, you’ll look for opportunities to keep leaving it.

Godding recommends creating a daily schedule and to-do list. “Share the day’s goals with your ‘co-workers’ at home so everyone agrees on schedule, quiet times, break times, etc.”

She also recommends using a voice-controlled tech assistant like Alexa or Echo. “These auditory devices can provide reminders when it’s time to move from one task to the next, providing structure to your day.”

Making Your Work Area More Comfortable

One way to create a WFH environment that is conducive to productivity is by eliminating what’s causing you discomfort. If you hate those plastic chair mats that slide around whenever you move your chair (and also tend to turn yellow), consider a Vitrazza Rectangle Glass Chair Mat. The 1.4-inch thick safety glass has polished edges, is coated to resist fine scratches, and has been tested to over 1,000 pounds. As a result, your chair glides smoothly, and the mat will never move inadvertently.

Instead of squinting at your tiny laptop screen, consider getting a large computer monitor instead. Then you can put the laptop in a vertical monitor stand to save valuable desktop space. Another option for increasing your screen size is to add a portable monitor to your laptop setup. The Vissles 15.6” Portable Touchscreen Monitor plugs into your laptop and provides a second monitor. It can also be used to turn your phone into a tablet.

If your chin is resting on your collarbone as you work, that’s a good sign you need to raise the height of your monitor. The Grovemade Monitor Stand is 4.2” in height, and can improve your posture by bringing it closer to eye level.

Understanding Lighting

Don’t underestimate the importance of light. If possible, Gena Kirk, VP of corporate studio at KB Home, recommends setting up your desk near a window with plenty of access to natural light. “Light can energize you and make you more productive and alert.”

According to Keshishian, lighting is also an opportunity to marry beauty and efficiency. “A desk lamp and a floor lamp combine to create a glow that’s comfortable and inviting — everything commercial office fluorescents are not.”

And depending on the direction that your home office faces, Busch says you may want to invest in some good blinds and/or curtains. “This will better regulate how much natural light you want, or don’t want, coming in while you work.”

Connecting Seamlessly

Now that you’re connecting more computer equipment, don’t neglect the need for adequate power without creating a rat’s nest of wires. “Having a designated power solution with both multiple outlets and USB ports adds accessibility for whatever device is being used,” says Chip Wade, HGTV star and professional contractor. “Keeping things off the floor and making them mobile will give you the greatest flexibility for needs as they change.”

The Plugable Triple Display Dock has three video outputs (HDMI 2K, HDMI 4K, and DVI/VGA), in addition to five USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and a headphone/microphone jack.

If you’re using a Mac, the HyperJuice Dual Wall Charger for MacBook Pro computers is compatible for laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and allows you to quickly charge up to four devices at one time. It’s also foldable and operates at a low temperature.

The Legrand Wiremold Power Strip has a slim design that can be mounted on your desk. It includes two power outlets and two USB charging ports that have a smart chip, allowing them to charge as rapidly as OEM chargers.

Factoring in Wellness

Sitting at your desk all day while you’re at home is just as bad as sitting at it all day in the office. Godding recommends building time in your day for both movement and stillness. “Movement can energize the body and mind, eliminate body fatigue, and relieve stress,” she explains. “Calming activities like meditation, mindfulness, a short restorative nap, etc., can help protect your state of mind against stressors like isolation, distraction, anxiety, and uncertainty.”

And she has another suggestion: get a plant.“ Workers report improved concentration and perceived better air quality when there is a plant in their workspace.”

Creating Good Vibes and Cancelling the Noise

Kirk recommends having access to music in your home office. “Play soothing sounds or your favorite music between conference calls,” she says. “Music can improve efficiency and provide inspiration, and it can also help you relax and get your creative juices flowing.”

You can listen to music and block out noise with Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones, which have 35 hours of battery life. When you don’t want to use the wireless option, the headphone cable allows you to plug in, and the headphones also have a mic for making phone calls. If you prefer in-ear headphones, the Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless neckband, noise-isolating headphones include an extra pair of silicone and foam tips, and provide up to 20 hours of playtime. They also work with Siri or Google Assistant to make phone calls or play music.

If you’re looking for portable speakers to use in your WFH setup, the light grey Cambridge Audio Speaker can keep a battery charge for up to 14 hours. It includes a USB charging port, and the Bluetooth and built-in mic allows you to make and receive calls using the speaker. The black Belkin SoundForm Elite Smart Speaker has voice-controlled features and can be used with either Alexa or Google Assistant. It also has integrated wireless charging, so you can charge your smartphone while you’re listening to music.

Starting the Day Right

A cup of Joe is a great way to start every workday. If you like making coffee using pods, the Instant Pod Coffee & Espresso Maker lets you brew single servings of both K-Cup pods and Nespresso capsules. The 68-ounce water reservoir provides hot water on demand.

However, if you prefer brewing pots of coffee, the stainless steel Mr. Coffee 10 Cup Brew Thermal Coffee Maker has a double-walled thermal carafe to keep coffee hot. And if you’re the type of person who can’t wait for the entire pot to finish brewing, the auto-pause function lets you grab a cup before the brew cycle is over.

Studies reveal that most people don’t drink enough during a typical workday. Often, it’s just a matter of not wanting to stop working and get up to refill your glass. However, the Fluidstance Fillup Personal Water Tower holds 70 ounces of water, and has a double-walled tank that can keep water cold for up to 24 hours. There’s also a convenient leather strap to carry it by.

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Better days ahead for remodelers

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People have spent a lot of time in their homes in the past six months, which has given them plenty of occasions to notice repairs and improvements they’ve wanted to make. They also have had more time on their hands because they are going out a lot less.

The combination has produced a boom in the home improvement industry, especially in product sales. For remodelers and designers, however, it has been a mixed blessing. While demand for professional services has rebounded in recent months from the historic lows in early spring, it has been dampened by the large number of homeowners choosing to undertake home improvement projects themselves. That trend is expected to change in the months ahead as homeowners shift their attention from smaller, simpler repairs to more substantial renovations requiring more expertise.

Once stay-at-home restrictions were relaxed and stores were allowed to re-open, sales of home improvement products surged. Results of the latest Home Improvement Products Market Study from the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) finds an estimated increase of 8.7% in spending on home improvement products this year, compared to 3.2% growth in 2019.

HIRI forecasts that consumers will account for an 11% increase in sales this year, while professional contractor purchases are estimated to increase 3.8%. That imbalance reflects two trends: homeowners doing more DIY projects and homeowners preferring to do their own purchasing of products, even when a pro is involved in a project.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Market Outlook Report for the second quarter of 2020, the proportion of homeowners actively working on home improvement projects increased from 19% in the first quarter to 36% in the second quarter. However, fewer of those projects, including kitchen and bathroom remodels, involved the use of professionals.

More than half were done without consulting or hiring a pro, up from around a third in the first quarter. About one in five homeowners engaged the help of friends or family members to assist with a larger project, and more than a third chose to do the work themselves.

An analysis of consumer surveys and data from the Census Bureau conducted by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) shows homeowners for the most part are planning or have undertaken more manageable DIY projects, such as lawn and garden improvements, painting, minor repairs, and refreshing the décor. In many cases, homeowners said they did the work because they had more spare time (84%) and were home more often (81%). In other cases, homeowners are reluctant to allow contractors into their homes because of the health crisis (21%), and/or they save money (34%). These simpler improvements concluded and as conditions improve, the surge in DIY activity is likely to subside, say industry experts.

Based on previous market cycles, the authors of the JCHS study believe “there are no indications of a longer-term reversal in preferences of owners toward undertaking projects themselves, particularly larger and more complicated home improvements.” A sentiment shared by NKBA CEO Bill Darcy, who, in the release of the market outlook report, stated, “as the economy continues to reopen and improve, we expect smaller DIY projects will lead to more significant renovations.”

That optimism is bolstered by the newly released Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) forecast from JCHS. Revising its second-quarter forecast, which had expected negative growth in home improvement and repairs spending by the second quarter of 2021, analysts at the Remodeling Futures Program predict spending will reach annual growth of 4.1% this year and will continue to realize moderate gains through much of 2021, softening to 1.7% annual growth by the third quarter. The more positive outlook is largely due to the economy recovering faster than expected and the strong housing market activity in recent months.

While Chris Herbert, JCHS managing director, cautions, “it remains to be seen if the strong sales market this summer translates into larger improvements that would drive even stronger growth in the coming quarters,” there is still reason for optimism, observes associate project director Abbe Will, noting, “recent strengthening of home prices and sales activity — including second home purchases — could provide further boosts to remodeling and repair next year.”

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Go low (tech) to make your building more COVID-safe

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For the last five years, it seems that every conversation that I’ve had has included the word “disruptive.” At one point, the term may have actually had some meaning, but today it’s so overused that it has pretty much faded into background noise. The thinking behind it is sound: old ways of dealing with problems need to evolve into new approaches.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, operators of commercial properties are faced with unprecedented challenges — and in many cases, the bright, shiny, new solution is not the best way to solve problems. In fact, proven low-technology approaches might be the best way forward, at least in the short term. The good news is that these are often much less expensive than more modern tools.

Exhibit A is social distancing. While local and national policies are constantly shifting, most experts agree that until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is discovered, people will need to maintain safe distances between others in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Here in North America, most of us have been doing this since March, and it’s already beginning to feel normal. It’s not a great situation for anyone, but it is going to be the standard into next year — and maybe even longer.

Modern buildings were never designed for social distancing, and property managers are scrambling to cobble together solutions that will enable people to stay safe while keeping their buildings useful for tenants and visitors. In many ways, the situation that commercial property companies face today is similar to what airports had to address after the 9/11 attacks, when security concerns fundamentally changed the use of public spaces.

The big question now is how property owners can strike the delicate balance between safety, aesthetics, and practicality. Needless to say, it’s not an easy answer, and there isn’t a single magic bullet that will make everything better.

There are several tried-and-true methods that have been used to manage traffic though, which are also perfectly suited for the current crisis. One of the most obvious is the use of partitions to keep people physically apart. Velvet ropes may be synonymous with exclusive dance clubs in New York, but they are also an incredibly effective way of keeping people in queues in public spaces. If you walk into any bank today, you will most likely see some temporary physical barriers on the floor. It may not be beautiful or elegant, but it’s a great approach during COVID.

Another approach that has become very common is increased signage. Buildings have always had guides, of course, but they often require people to walk to a particular location to look up where they’re going. That obviously isn’t going to work during a pandemic, because it’s simply not possible to have hundreds of people congregating around a kiosk or directory and still maintain a safe distance from each other.

Over the last six months, property owners have remedied this by putting up signs on walls throughout their buildings to let people know where to go. It’s a practical solution that works, but let’s face it: it’s not very attractive at all. Commercial property companies spend millions of dollars making their buildings look great, and sticking pieces of paper to the wall with tape is clearly not compatible with a high-end aesthetic.

This is where custom stickers can play a larger role in providing effective wayfinding while maintaining the integrity of a building’s look and feel. Admittedly, it’s not as modern or cool as a touchscreen kiosk in the middle of the lobby, but it is a lot safer when it comes to minimizing the potential for virus spread.

These stickers can serve the same purpose as printed signs, but property managers can create templates that enforce uniformity and don’t clash with the existing aesthetic. For example, property companies can create a standard size for stickers (say, a 10-inch circle) and implement dos-and-don’ts to ensure that the businesses in their building don’t post anything that could be distracting or confusing. They can also control where the stickers are allowed to be posted, which would prevent unsightly displays, especially in premium common areas.

Walls are the only places where decals can be useful. If you walked into any retail store in the last six months, you’ve probably noticed tape on the floor indicating where people are allowed to stand. That’s an effective approach for public safety, but like hand-painted signs, they look ugly and cheap — definitely not the look that property owners are going for. That’s where vinyl floor stickers can help, not only in protecting others, but also in creating a more professional feel. As an example, a row of stickers, set 6 feet apart, in front of the security desk could be a great way to bridge the gap between safety and aesthetics. This approach can be just as effective as partitions and ropes, without the feeling of clutter and claustrophobia.

Today’s buildings were not designed with a pandemic in mind. They were developed with a desire to create a welcoming environment in which human beings feel safe and secure. The virus has turned that on its head, and we are faced with the unpleasant reality of transforming spaces that are supposed to be open into zones where social distancing is enforced.

Quite simply, commercial properties were never constructed for the current circumstances, and as a result we are all in uncharted territory. Over the next months or even years, there will be major advances in technology to help keep us safe by slowing or preventing the spread of COVID-19. But for right now, the best approach may actually be the lowest-tech one.

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How the CDC’s ban on evictions affects small landlords

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On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an order to halt residential evictions through Dec. 31, 2020. The CDC issued the order under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, almost a third (32%) of renters responded that if evicted, they would have to move in with family or friends. However, the CDC notes that “household contacts are six times more likely to become infected by an index of COVID-19 than other close contacts.”

In addition, some evicted renters may go to transitional housing, and others would be homeless. But according to the CDC, extensive outbreaks have occurred in homeless shelters. There’s also a concern that some homeless renters could become unsheltered (meaning they’re sleeping outside, etc.), and this group is at even higher risk of spreading COVID-19.

The CDC notes that the order doesn’t relieve individuals of their obligation to pay rent, and doesn’t preclude charging or collecting fees, penalties, and interest as the result of failing to pay rent in a timely manner.

In addition, residents can still be evicted for other reasons, like engaging in criminal activity, posing a health or safety risk, or damaging rental property. And tenants who make more than $99,000 a year ($198,000 for couples) are also excluded from the order.

Between 30 and 40 million people could be at risk of eviction, according to a report by the Aspen Institute, so the halt was welcome news to many Americans already on the edge. “You have a group of people who might currently be out of a job, and depending on the city or state in which they live, finding another job is nearly impossible,” says Juan Martin, real estate agent and investor at IBR Group Corp. “Leaving them out to dry is a bit inhumane.”

According to the 2025 American Housing Survey, of the 48.5 million rental units in the U.S., 22.7 million are owned by mom-and-pop landlords. “These are not necessarily extremely wealthy individuals, they are regular people who saved up and made the right decisions,” Martin explains.

So, how will the ban affect these small landlords?

Unable to Pay

The first and most obvious effect of the CDC’s ban on evictions is that small landlords will struggle to meet their own financial obligations. Jessica Ornsby, founder of A+O Law Group and a landlord/tenant attorney, says small landlords will likely be disparately impacted. “Many small landlords may qualify for mortgage forbearance as well, but that does not protect against the entirety of the possible economic loss,” she says. “For landlords who rely upon rental revenue for income, these landlords will be without recourse when a tenant stops paying rent.”

Williams Gonzalez, president of Federal Direct Tax Services, notes that, for example, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has urged banks to waive mortgage payments for three months. “However, he does not have the authority to order them to do so — only Congress can do that.”

And Gonzalez says that other bills, such as water and sewer, have not been postponed. “Some landlords have worked out payment plans with tenants, while others have said they cannot offer concessions because they face their own challenges,” he says.

Also, not all landlords even quality for a forbearance. And among those who do, Bill Samuel, residential real estate investor and owner of Blue Ladder Development, says this isn’t a true solution to their problems. “It is important to understand that landlords aren’t being made whole by the forbearance plan because there are still expenses they are paying with no revenue coming in for properties with tenants who aren’t paying,” he says. “Small landlords are simply getting partial temporary relief, and the question is: how long can small landlords survive operating at a loss?”

Unable to Inhabit

Some small landlords may have leased out properties thinking that if they themselves ever got in financial straits, they could always go live in the rental property. “In situations where the landlord previously intended to reenter the rental property for personal use and occupancy, what happens now?” asks Ornsby. “If a tenant now refuses to leave, that landlord would be unable to take legal action to allow them to take residence.”

Unable to Keep/Unable to Sell

Stephen Keighery, founder of Home Buyer Louisiana and Bald Eagle Investments, owns several rentals in New Orleans and is lucky enough to have spare capital to survive this period. But, he says that some of his friends are facing the realization that they might have to sell their rentals. “They can’t pay their note and taxes when the tenant isn’t paying and have no way of collecting the rent.”

But he says even selling a property could be problematic. “Other landlords don’t want to buy a house with a tenant that is not paying and they can’t evict — unless there is a significant discount on the price,” Keighery explains. “I understand the need to protect tenants during this period, but they’re neglecting the need to protect small landlords like us.”

Obligated to Make Repairs

Just as utilities and other bills are still due, small landlords are still responsible for upkeep. “If there are items within the rental property that need to be repaired, the landlord is still obligated to make those repairs,” Ornsby says. “The financial obligations associated with doing so seem incongruent with the same landlords possibly going months without any rental income.”

What’s Next?

So, what can small landlords do to stay afloat? Gonzalez recommends that they call their own creditors and set up whatever terms are possible. “Also, shore up whatever cash you can hold onto.”

And if a tenant breaks any of the rules that can result in eviction, Gonzalez recommends consulting an attorney and immediately taking action.

“With new tenants, consider asking for more than a security deposit, as well as the first and last month’s rent,” he says. “Even if discounts need to be offered, 2020 is a different year from any other, and it requires different rules.”

David Reischer, a real estate attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com, agrees, and adds, “A landlord must be exceptionally vigilant when it comes to screening a potential person to reside in a property for even a short period of time, because evicting a person is a long, arduous and expensive process even in the best of times.”

He says landlords need to think long, hard, and carefully before choosing renters. “Even for a period as short as 14 days, if the tenant decides not to leave for whatever reason, then there will be serious consequences for the landlord’s ability to legally get the person removed.”

Is the Housing Landscape Forever Changed?

When all of this is over, the housing landscape may never look the same. “While evictions are currently halted, the backlog continues to grow,” explains David Dye, founder and CEO of GoldView Realty. Dye is a real estate and mortgage broker, as well as a rental property owner. “Once evictions are allowed to resume, many fear that the sheer number of proceedings at one time will worsen the housing issue in America,” he says.

“While laws are allowing landlords to recoup deferred rent in the future, many small landlords know that their tenants are not going to be able to afford it.” For many small landlords, Dye says obtaining back rent is going to be a lost cause. “With the courts being backlogged, getting a judgment against a tenant will be difficult.”

One landlord frustrated with the system and already shifting gears is Brian Davis, co-founder at SparkRental.com. “Eviction is literally the only legal enforcement mechanism available to landlords, and without it, leases become unenforceable and are effectively one-way contracts.”

Under those circumstances, Davis questions why anyone would invest in rental properties if they can’t actually collect the return and enforce their leases.

“My partner and I are shifting our primary real estate investments away from residential rentals, and toward investments that can actually be enforced and collected, like land,” he says. “If the public and politicians are going to demonize landlords, then we’re going to stop putting our money into providing the service of rental housing.”

Davis has also shifted his remaining rental investments to higher-end housing. “The default rate among higher-end renters is a tiny fraction of the default rate among lower-income renters,” he says. “There’s simply no reason to invest in lower-income rentals when you can’t enforce your leases — it’s all downside and no upside.”

These changes may also have an unintended negative effect on renters as well. When the floodgates open and evictions are allowed to resume, Dye predicts that many renters with an eviction on their record will find it difficult to find a new home.

Domenick Tiziano, creator of Accidental Rental, agrees. “This will ultimately cause many smaller landlords to sell to institutional investors to get out of the game,” he says. “Unfortunately, it’s these small landlords who often give less than perfect tenants a chance to rent.” He believes that institutional investors are much stricter, and this will hurt a lot of renters in the end.

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Urban exodus revives luxury home sales

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Not all the news about the coronavirus pandemic is bad news. After slowing to a crawl in April and May, sales of luxury single-family homes rebounded in late June and July as affluent urbanites fled from congested cities and the confines of their high-end condos to seek out safer, more open spaces.

In some more desirable areas, sales more than doubled or tripled over the same time last year. However, rising prices and shrinking inventories may bring the rally to an end in the coming months.

As with the housing market in general, low interest rates and a desire for bigger homes with private outdoor spaces spurred a flurry of luxury home buying during the summer months. According to online real estate broker Redfin, sales of homes in the top 5%, based on market value, began to recover toward the end of the three-month period ending July 31, falling just 6.2% after a record 22.6% decline during the three months ending June 30.

“Now more than ever, homebuyers are seeking out features long associated with luxury homes, like spacious yards, home offices, gyms and private swimming pools,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather.

A recent article in Builder magazine reported on the sudden surge in demand for vacation and second homes that began to develop around mid-June. With areas of the country starting to open up again after several months of lock own, buyers looking for safer locales and more private space flocked to areas like southwest Florida, mid-Atlantic beach communities, and western resort areas in Arizona, Colorado and Utah in search of easy-to-access second or vacation homes. In just a few weeks, sellers saw activity increase two to three times over what it had been in the spring.

Along with vacation homes and second homes, reports Maison Global, big-ticket transactions are also driving sales of spacious single-family homes in major cities, such as Miami and the Los Angeles and New York metro areas. Notes reporter Virginia K. Smith, “Record-low interest rates; a record-high S&P 500; the appeal of stable assets in a volatile economy; and work-from-home and remote-learning policies have all combined to create a robust market for high-priced single-family properties that can serve as catch-all compounds, live-work spaces, and resorts as their well-off owners hunker down.”

For the August edition of the Luxury Market Report, the editors focused on five second home markets that have seen a significant increase in high net worth purchasing in the past few months: the Hamptons, the Palm Beaches, Coeur d’Alene, Lake Tahoe and the Hawaii Islands. They note in particular a trend of affluent buyers moving from urban areas to embrace “country-style” living. In the Hamptons, for example, their data show sales of luxury properties were up 50% from May to July.

Similarly, Long Island’s Newsday states pending sales of single-family homes in the Hamptons are up 121% year-over-year. The number of those selling for more than $1 million is 151% higher, and sales of single-family homes in the $2 million to $10 million range have more than tripled compared to a year ago.

This sudden and intense surge in demand naturally has caused prices to rise. Redfin reports that, having fallen by 1.7% in the spring, prices for single-family luxury homes at the end of July were up 1.2% from July 2019. The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing shows the median price of single-family luxury home grew by $22,500 from July to August.

At the same time, inventories of available properties for sale are declining in many desirable areas. The combination of higher prices and low inventory, along with colder weather, could cause demand to drop off in the fourth quarter.

For interior designers, the return of luxury home sales, particularly second and vacation homes, should bode well for future business. Even those that are new properties will likely need some modifications to ensure occupant health and safety and to make them suitable for remote working, fitness activities, and for hosting guests.

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Report: Was there enough oversight for federal virus aid?

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Hindsight can be so clear sometimes. A new report on recipients of federal pandemic aid from the CARES Act asks if there was adequate congressional oversight before tax dollars went out the door as the economy closed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in March.

“The revelation that tens of thousands of CARES Act recipients have records of misconduct — including some cases of a criminal nature — raises the question of whether the eligibility criteria for the grant and loan programs were strict enough,” according to Philip Mattera, research director at Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog group.

“Policymakers also need to consider whether these recipients should be subjected to additional scrutiny to ensure their misbehavior does not continue while on this new kind of federal dole.”

According to Mattera and his co-author, Mellissa Chang, 43,000 recipients of money from the CARES Act received $57 billion in grants and $91 million in loans after committing fraud, wage theft, and health and safety violations over the past decade. These 43,000 businesses and nonprofit groups represent 0.043 of the 1 million recipients of the historic $2 trillion from the federal CARES Act in 2020.

The Good Jobs First report’s findings are bracing.

“6,087 healthcare providers received $85 billion in grants and loans despite having paid $9 billion in penalties, most related to accusations of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid programs.

38,362 small businesses received $37 billion in loans though they have paid penalties of $3 billion, mostly for wage theft and jeopardizing worker health and safety.

147 colleges and universities received $503 million in grants and paid $900 million in penalties, mostly for-profit institutions that have used deceptive marketing practices to attract students and then saddling them with sky-high debt.

32 aviation-sector companies received $25 billion in grants and loans despite having paid $600 million in penalties related to worker safety, to settle discrimination cases and, in one case, for allegedly bribing foreign officials.”

The air carriers included American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

Two of the main CARES Act aid vehicles were the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Disaster Injury Loan program. Uncle Sam also provided relief via the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, buying corporate bonds to backstop the commercial credit market. The Fed made over 1,300 purchases totaling about $3.6 billion for bonds that Fortune 500 and Global 500 corporations issued.

Frank Knapp heads the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “While having more qualifications for businesses that applied for the PPP loans would have addressed some of the issues found in this report,” he told MultiBriefs in an email, “it was critical that the federal government quickly get money to small businesses and their employees to help them survive. Any fraud or loans going to underserving businesses was an unfortunate and unavoidable consequence of the need to quickly get money to Main Street for the vast majority of deserving businesses.”

Mattera and Chang’s report, “The Corporate Culprits Receiving COVID Bailouts,” is available at www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporateculprits.

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Heathrow’s airlines must pay for failed expansion plans

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A clash has recently developed between British Airways owners IAG and London Heathrow Airport after it was revealed that the airport can pass on the bill for the money it spent on its failed third runway proposal to its airlines.

Plans to expand Heathrow with a third runway have been in the works since the 1970s, but in recent years a major push to gain approval was undertaken. So much so that early preparation and investigation works, not to mention the planning and legal work behind the bid, amounted to £504 million.

The U.K.’s Court of Appeal ruled the third runway plan “unlawful” in February on environmental grounds. The anticipated increased in emissions would mean the country could not live up to the Paris Agreement signed by EU members in 2015.

It was seen as a victory for environmental campaigners who opposed the £14 billion expansion.

Encountered so far in the build up to the third runway expansion have been the so-called Category B and C costs, which comprise £394 million in planning and ground investigations, and £110 million of early construction work completed to prepare the site.

A regulatory consultation by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recommended that costs incurred up to the February ruling can be passed on to Heathrow’s airline carriers.

This has naturally caused anger among carriers, not least International Airlines Group (IAG) which owns British Airways, Heathrow’s biggest customer.

Willie Walsh, who stepped down as boss of IAG recently, was a frequent critic of the expansion plans and expressed concerns of its “reckless spending” that would inevitably be passed on to airlines.

In the same report commissioned by the CAA that recommended Heathrow passing on its costs to airlines, it also commented on the lack of a “clear and single integrated baseline plan through to obtaining planning consent that aligned requirements and scope with the associated time, cost and risk.”

Difficult Times for Heathrow

Heathrow, like many of the world’s airports, has been faced with unprecedented cuts to its business since the COVID-19 outbreak. Passenger figures plummeted 81% in August over the same period last year.

Rules over quarantine when entering the U.K. have put many travelers off flying and business travelers have remained at home. The airport is investing heavily in technology to screen passengers and make the passenger journey safer. Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said, “The government can fix this by changing the rules so that if you test negative for COVID, you can come out of quarantine early.”

Yet as the country’s job furlough scheme comes to an end next month, Holland-Kaye has warned that up to a third of the 75,000 jobs the airport supports directly and indirectly could be at risk without an improvement in the aviation sector.

Making the obvious connection, offsetting £500 million lost to its planning application would make a huge difference in the situation Heathrow is facing because of coronavirus. However, according to IAG, “In any other business, a wealthy, privately owned company like Heathrow Ltd would have to meet its own sunk costs.”

This decision by the CAA vindicates Heathrow — a private, non-government entity — in punishing its customers at an already difficult time. It sets a precedent for other airports around the world that were undertaking expansion prior to the downturn in aviation and may have incurred costs they hope to offset now that the outlook has changed.

Is a Third Runway Still Likely?

Following the ruling in February, Heathrow Airport said it was “Ready to work with the Government to fix the issue that the court has raised” in addressing the emissions targets.

Despite all that has happened in 2020 around COVID-19, it seems Heathrow is still pressing ahead in its appeal but will likely delay the actual construction if approved until a time when the aviation industry and U.K. economy show sufficient signs of recovery.

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Remodeling activity rebounds, but for how long?

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Even though a large portion of homeowners are undertaking do-it-yourself home repair and improvement projects, demand for professional remodeling services rebounded in the second quarter. Business conditions appeared to be improving further in the first half of the third quarter as well.

Come the fourth quarter, however, business may very well begin to taper off, initiating a downward trend that will stretch into the middle of next year and possibly longer.

Like most home professionals, remodelers saw a sudden and severe drop in demand for their services toward the end of the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States. But demand renewed once restrictions began to relax in late May.

Analysis of user data by Houzz revealed a near-60% increase in U.S. project leads for home professionals on its platform in the month June compared to June of the previous year. Most of these were for outdoor projects, but kitchen and bath professionals experienced a 40% increase in demand as well, the study found.

Those findings concur with that of the Q2 2020 Residential Remodeling Index (RRI), recently released by MetroStudy/Zonda. It shows big-ticket remodeling spending was up 1.7% from the previous quarter and up 7.5% from June 2019. The RRI rose by 8.4 points over the first quarter to a new high of 128.8, indicating spending was 28.8% higher than the previous peak of 2007.

Similar numbers were reported by other industry organizations. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced that its Remodeling Market Index (RMI) for the second quarter posted a reading of 73 after plummeting to 24 in the previous quarter. All the components of the index, both current and future conditions, were at 70 or higher, well into positive territory.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) stated its Kitchen & Bath Market Index (KBMI) second quarter reading edged up 4.2 points, to 44.2. Members gave a higher rating for the current health of the industry during the second quarter (5.9 vs. a first quarter rating of 4.1). But the most dramatic change in an indicator was in the future prospects metric, which leaped from 19.8 in the first quarter to 61.9 for the second, reflecting a high level of project inquiries.

Further indication of improving conditions can been seen in the results of the NKBA Pulse survey for August, in which members reported that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their business had alleviated somewhat since June and July. The overall impact rating for all member sectors declined from 6.4 to 6.0. The impact rating for designers fell from 6.8 to 6.0, with nearly half of designers saying that demand for their services had been rising during the month of July.

Despite the welcome reversal, long-range forecasts for the industry indicate that it likely will be temporary. The most recent Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), released in July by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS), projects annual declines in renovation and repair spending of 0.4% by the second quarter of 2021.

The Q2 2020 RRI foresees quarterly decreases starting in the fourth quarter of this year and continuing into next year, with year-over-year decreases beginning in the second quarter of 2021. MetroStudy/Zonda presently are projecting 6.3% year-over-year increased growth for 2020 but a decline of 1.2% in 2021.

Among the factors likely to drag on demand for remodeling services in the near future are the shortage of existing homes for sale, sustained high unemployment, and weak economic growth.

For now, homeowners with means are rushing to complete home improvement projects while they can. Once that wave has passed, demand won’t stop altogether but likely will subside.

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It’s time for a reset — we need to change the game of business

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This article was originally published on RealLeaders.

Millions of Americans are out of work as a result of the pandemic. It’s not their fault. A growing number of small business owners have been forced to close their shops through no fault of their own.

The combination of the virus, the ongoing social outcries, protectionism, and trade wars have rocked our great entrepreneurial nation’s very foundation. These shockwaves aren’t expected to subside anytime soon. The long-term impact of so many unemployed people creates uncertainty everywhere, from our local neighborhoods and downtowns to state and federal agencies. We’re all wondering when businesses can recover and begin hiring again. We all need hope. We need something positive to rally around and look to as we go through these monumental changes.

Now is our opportunity for a reset — we need to change the game.

The crisis has given us the chance to rethink how to bridge the gaps in our society that separate the haves from the have-nots. We have a unique excuse to evaluate where we stand. It’s time to rethink the status quo and explore new ideas. Now is the time to have an open and honest conversation about the pivotal role that businesses play in employing people and building wealth. To save the American Dream, which is about opportunities that create a greater quality of life for everyone, we need to teach people the basics of financial and business literacy.

Opening up business

We have a vast knowledge gap in our country when it comes to financial literacy. In our corporation, we’ve spent more than 40 years trying to rectify that. Every associate in our corporation is taught how to speak the language of business. We call this open-book leadership system, “The Great Game of Business.” Our end goal has always been to build a business of businesspeople who think and act like owners. They are taught the tools needed to take control of their destinies and are empowered to develop plans that create and protect their jobs and help grow the company.

The whole idea of transparency and financial literacy teaches people how to succeed even during the worst of times. When we tell people the truth, we build a foundation of trust for the company to stand on going forward in good times and bad. To do that, we’ve tried to eliminate the fear people have that they can’t understand business. By opening the books and embracing transparency, we give our associates the information they need to make the best decisions. But that can only happen when they truly understand the financials that they have a part in creating.

In closed-book companies, associates often assume that all of the profits go into the owners’ pockets. Meanwhile, owners don’t think their associates understand all of the liabilities or risks they’ve taken on. This leads to a lack of understanding on both sides — and results in resentments and mistrust. These are among the many tensions in business today that could quickly be resolved through transparency and financial education.

When you teach and share the numbers with everyone in the company, three things happen: you inspire trust and confidence; people engage in creating their vision of the future, and the entire organization unites around shared goals.

Leaders need to understand the power of trust. It’s amazing how freeing it is to trust in and share information with employees. Everyone sleeps better at night because they know they can arrive at solutions by working together.

Developing a new language

Changing the game by teaching people the game of business works. We’ve seen it in thousands of companies worldwide who are creating a better future for themselves and their associates. We understand that taking that step might require a giant leap of faith — and a lot of hard work. Just like we’ve seen the value of adding STEM courses to school curriculums, we need to add financial literacy. And if the academic institutions won’t do it, then businesses must become the teachers.

Teaching financial literacy requires the same immersive approach that some schools take in teaching students a foreign language. We need to speak it all day, every day until it becomes routine and becomes the language that everyone speaks across the entire company. It crosses departments. It helps us work together and highlights where we make a difference to each other — which is something we need now more than ever.

Building a better quality of life

A significant aspect of teaching financial literacy to associates is that education doesn’t stop inside the business. We’ve heard time and time again of people bringing it into their homes and communities. It becomes a formula for building a better life. People have told us things like: “I’ve always had a budget, but I truly didn’t understand it. Seeing how a business is run and how small things can affect so many people shows me how to make a difference.”

Teaching people the language of business also results in much more than financial success. Informed associates are empowered to make recommendations, fix problems, and have a say in the company’s direction. A transparent system gives them the ability to understand what they need to lead a secure and fulfilling life.

That’s why we believe business can make a positive difference in the world. It empowers people to pursue their dreams. But to truly change the game, we need everyone working together and playing off the same song sheet. When we open up the business rules to everyone and provide the information on which to act, it empowers everyone to move forward hand in hand to achieve the American Dream.

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