Pumpkins, Gourds & Mums – Oh my!

Well, it officially feels like Fall! So, with that in mind, we’ll discuss some ideas for decorating your front stoop or porch for the season. In home technology, we’re approaching the deadline for the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to vote on a case that could impose tariffs on solar panels in the US. The vote will take place on Halloween – a pretty ominous choice of date. And, as we continue to follow the housing data for DC, it looks like new condo prices are leveling off as inventory grows. This is pretty consistent with what we have been seeing in the District overall in recent months.

There’s a brisk feeling in the air…at least in the mornings! So, let’s talk about ideas for decorating your house for the season, and boosting your curb appeal. Country Living magazine did a great piece with loads of ideas for all different types of spaces and styles – a small stoop, a large porch, monochromatic modern, or country traditional.

The photo above is a great example of using non-traditional fall colors and a relatively simple color scheme to create a modern and beautiful seasonal display. Perhaps my favorite piece of advice from the Country Living article is – when in doubt, add more gourds! They are such a bizarre creation of nature, the more the merrier! If you have your house currently listed for sale, it’s a great opportunity to improve your curb appeal – the key is to make your home welcoming, not overwhelming. Think mums, not mummies! Everyone loves mums and pumpkins, but ghosts and ghouls may literally scare some people away (see the picture above for what not to do)!

If you have been reading my weekly for a while, you know I like to follow all things solar. Well, earlier this year, two US companies, Suniva and SolarWorld filed a petition with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting tariffs be imposed on specific solar cells and modules that are manufactured overseas. The two companies argue that they have been “dealt serious injury” as a result of these imports – both companies have in fact either filed for bankruptcy or declared insolvency. The rest of the US solar industry argues that the increased cost of panels will cause a downturn in the booming US business and ultimately a loss of more than 90,000 jobs. There’s a great analysis of the impact of the potential tariffs by Green Tech Media. If you leave out the political spin in the article, the bottom line is that costs will go up (and have already started heading that way in anticipation of the tariffs), making your breakeven as a homeowner harder to achieve. The US ITC will vote on October 31st and then it’s off to Trump for a final decision.

Each week there seems to be something new to report in condo development. With all of the building, especially in DC, inventory of new condos now sits at 12.8 months, up from 8.8 months last year. As the inventory has grown, prices have also started to level off. This seems to be in line with some of the housing data coming out of DC in recent months – prices seems to be leveling off. I wouldn’t call it a buyer’s market just yet however. The pipeline of new condo development is down versus last year so the pace of inventory growth is subsiding. And, if you’re looking in Upper Northwest or Central DC (Dupont, Logan Circle, West End, etc), bad news – prices are still rising in those neighborhoods.

In broader community development, Elon Musk reportedly received a permit from Maryland for construction of a Hyperloop tunnel under a 10.3 mile section of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The goal is to get from DC to NYC in 29 minutes. Speaking of rapid transit, a community meeting was held recently in Bowie to review potential paths for a high speed magnetic levitation (maglev) train to run between DC and Baltimore. The proposed train would make the trip in fifteen minutes. Should this come to fruition, it could have a huge impact on commuter traffic (depending on the economics). It’s definitely something to watch (plus, wouldn’t it be cool to have a real high speed train in the US?)

On Thursday, Senate Republicans passed the first hurdle towards tax reform by narrowly passing a $4 trillion budget. The hard part of writing legislation comes next. If you’re wondering what this might mean for real estate, the Washington Post has a recent piece that lays out what scant details we have. The key topic for real estate is the mortgage interest deduction – which appears to be staying put – but its benefits may be diminished. By proposing a doubling of the standard deduction, it’s likely that fewer people will choose to itemize their deductions and include the mortgage interest write-off. If fewer people see the tangible positive benefits of the deduction, then that specific benefit of homeownership is diminished. Naturally, this will impact home prices. None of this is set in stone and there are sure to be developments in the days and weeks ahead – more to come on this.

On the national real estate front, a survey of homebuilders showed a renewed confidence in the market. While there is still a shortage of labor in the industry, homebuilders are optimistic about the future. In particular, demand for new homes has started to increase as a result of the tight inventory of existing homes. This week, 30-year mortgage rates fell from 3.91% to 3.88%, breaking a two-week streak of increases.

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