Upcycle, Upcoming & Upsetting

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We have all heard this before. But, what about upcycling? What is upcycling, and how is it different from recycling? We’ll dig into this in design trends this week. In local news, Amazon announced that DC, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia are all on the short list of finalists for its new headquarters. Wow! And, DC now has its first local listings offered for sale in Bitcoin (even though it has tanked recently). The markets could care less about the government shutdown. Interest rates continue to climb higher driving mortgage rates to the highest levels seen in nine months.

We all know about recycling, but what about upcycling? Upcycling is “the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful.” It is not separating your paper and plastic and putting it in a bin so that someone will break those materials down and turn them into something completely new. In upcycling, you skip the process where the materials are broken down and you work with what you have. In researching this, there are some truly terrible examples of upcycling, like “swants” – old sweaters made into pants. No, just no. But, then there are some pretty amazing home decor and fashion items. Take the pendant light made of an upcycled washing machine drum available on Remade By. Or, there are amazing reshaped glass bottles designed by Liane Rossler. If you do some research, you can also find all sorts of DIY upcycling projects. If you are crafty, why not give it a go?

Back in September, there was a lot of talk about the search for Amazon’s second headquarters. This week, they announced the twenty cities that are finalists in that search, with the DC area being heavily represented. DC, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia are all among the top twenty. The list is geographically skewed towards the east, with only one city on the west coast on the list, Los Angeles. There are a lot of articles about the announcement, but this Washington Post piece is particularly good because it includes snippets from some of the most entertaining videos made by cities that applied for HQ2. We’ll all be waiting for the upcoming future announcement of the winner.

In other news, we now have four properties offered for sale in the District where the owner will accept Bitcoin as payment. We have talked a lot about Bitcoin since late last year and heard of properties here and there accepting the cryptocurrency. But, now you can buy a two-bedroom two-bath condo in Columbia Heights. It’s unfortunate timing for the unit’s sellers as Bitcoin has lost nearly half its value in the last month amidst talk of regulation of the market by both China and South Korea.

While the government shutdown may be upsetting and unsettling for government employees, the markets seemed to pay little attention. History indicates that past shutdowns have had little, if any, long-term impact on the economy. The real issue for the markets could come if and when we next approach the debt ceiling. One article estimates we will have to wrestle with the debt ceiling in March. If Republicans and Democrats can’t agree to raise the borrowing limit, that’s when we have real problems – like the potential for the US to default on its debt. We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

As the trend of higher stocks and rates continues, the 30-year mortgage rate rose above 4% for the first time since last May. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey came in at 4.04%. Mortgage traders saw rates hit 9-month highs this week, with originators (lenders) quoting 30-year fixed-rates in the 4.125-4.25% range.


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