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Top 10 home trends for 2021

As people rethink their homes’ functionality after spending more time in them, features we never knew we needed — such as a home gym or no-touch appliances — are more important than ever.

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We’ve all been there this year — toddlers interrupting Zoom meetings, daydreaming (or Zillow Surfing!) for more space, and shamelessly feeding sourdough starter kits. 2020 has changed the way we live in and outside our homes.

As people rethink their homes’ functionality after spending more time in them, features we never knew we needed — such as a home gym or no-touch appliances — are more important than ever. While public health precautions continue to keep us at home, these features will only become more popular to create spaces that keep our families safe, all while providing an oasis of comfort.

Driven by this new COVID era, Zillow shares top 10 home trends for 2021 that will not only add comfort, but might even add extra value to your home.

‘Zoom Rooms’

A Zillow survey found a desire for a home with a dedicated office tops the list of reasons why Americans working from home say they would consider a move, if they were to continue working remotely at least occasionally. In 2021, people will receive more clarity from their employers about the ability to telecommute moving forward, which could trigger a move to a home with more space.  And, as people tire of working from a kitchen table, they will be wanting a more permanent — and quiet — solution for their at-home desk.

As of November, the number of listings mentioned “home office” or “Zoom room” increased by 48.5% compared to the same time last year. Pennsylvania home builder Berks Homes also says requests for an at-home study in lieu of existing living space more than doubled this year.

‘Homecation’ Amenities

With lots of time and nowhere to go, homeowners are coming up with creative solutions to create vacation-vibes right at home. “Pool” was the top Zillow keyword search term in 2020. “Waterfront” and “dock” also landed in the top ten. Additionally, homeowners may be looking for big and small ways to create a luxury experience at home, from upgrading to a spa-like bathtub or relaxing rain shower. Zillow research shows home buyers paid more for amenities that make their home feel like a retreat. Listings that mentioned a free-standing tub typically sold for 5.5% more than expected, while the listing keyword “spa-inspired” contributed to a 1.8% price premium.

The rise of remote work will allow more homeowners to turn their favorite vacation destination into their hometown. Page views of for-sale listings in areas typically considered vacation destinations – such as Key West, the Jersey Shore and Cape Cod — are up nearly 50% compared to last year.

Intergenerational Living 

Intergenerational living will rise in popularity as young adults and grandparents alike find themselves moving in with family for financial and health reasons. According to Generations United, about one in six Americans currently live in multigenerational households, and this year, the share of young people moving back home reached all-time highs as more Millennials and Gen Z’ers than ever – particularly renters – found themselves packing their bags and moving back in with their parents.

Katie Detwiler, Chief Experience Officer at Berks Homes says this trend is manifesting in how people are designing new construction homes, with more requests than ever before for a finished basement with a full bathroom, and bedroom additions.

Gourmet Kitchens

This year inspired people to break out of their old baking habits and start new hobbies in the kitchen, and in 2021 homeowners will want to level-up from their sourdough obsession to create other culinary masterpieces. A previous Zillow survey1 finds 41% of people value a well-equipped kitchen more than before as a result of social distancing recommendations — and more people will want the space to show off their new culinary skills in the next year.

“We’ve seen an increase in requests for gourmet kitchens,” says Katie Detwiler, Berks Homes’ Chief Experience Officer. “This includes bigger cabinets and island additions so homeowners have the space they need to cook their gourmet meals.” Berks Homes has seen more than 100 more requests for alternate kitchens and island additions this year compared to last.

Backyard Oasis

A yard that is safe and functional has taken on renewed importance — a Zillow survey from the Harris Poll2 found that 41% of people say they value a large outdoor space more as a result of social distancing recommendations.

There are many easy upgrades to make a backyard a relaxing oasis the whole family can enjoy, and in tandem, increase the resale value of your home. Zillow research finds homes mentioning “firepit” in the listing sold for 2.8% more than similar homes, and “outdoor kitchen” sold for 4.5% more. Smart sprinkler systems and outdoor lighting are other features that add a contemporary flare to a backyard that also help your home sell up to 15 days faster than expected.

Smart and Safe Tech

It’s more vital than ever that our homes stay as germ-free as possible, and smart-home technology has come to save the day, with products like touchless appliances, self-cleaning toilets and bidets. And while a lot of these products are niche right now, they will evolve to become the standard in home design. Next year as homeowners can start welcoming guests back inside, they will increasingly seek out creative solutions to keep their spaces as germ-free and chic as possible. 

“Our tech-driven appliances, solid surfaces and smart fixtures have come to the rescue,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow home design expert and founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. “Features like voice-activated faucets, robotic vacuums, and electronic-assistant controlled lights have updated the traditional tasks of cooking and cleaning by incorporating thoughtful innovation into home products.”

Smart home technology is becoming increasingly appealing to buyers. A Zillow analysis  found that listings mentioning a smart light in their listing description sold seven days faster than expected, and listings mentioning a smart thermostat sold 6 days faster than expected. Features like a shiny, new touchless faucet will rise in popularity as homeowners prioritize the cleanliness of their home to keep their families safe and germ-free.

Small City Living

Increased opportunity for remote work has pushed many home shoppers to reconsider how and where they want to live. Since there is less need to be close to urban job centers, shoppers in 2021 may opt for wide open spaces and smaller, more affordable communities. This trend is already playing out in search traffic data.

Small cities, such as Borger, Texas, Pierre, S.D. and Vernal, Utah, accounted for the greatest year-over-year growth in out-of-town search traffic, and a dozen markets such as Pierre, SD, Jackson, WY and Hudson, NY saw out-of-town search traffic double this year. Newly pending sales for small cities (population between 54,000 and 137,000) is up 34.3% since last year, and have seen positive year-over-year pending sales since July. Small city living will only continue to rise as telework becomes more permanent and open up homeownership opportunities for renters.

Health and Wellness at Home

People across the country quickly adapted to rapidly changing restrictions, creating fitness clubs or mental wellness spaces in their homes. In November, 4.1% of for-sale listings on Zillow mentioned health and wellness areas in the home. Listings that mentioned “health and wellness” increased starting in summer, peaking in November as lockdown orders resumed and daylight took away precious daylight hours for outdoor activities.

But it’s not just physical health homeowners are prioritizing. The isolation from social activities and loved ones will increase the need for more-private “feng shui” areas — spaces for reflection and meditation to stay mentally fit, as well. Berks Homes have seen floor plans adding an extra bedroom over a garage or in their basement increase this year. These additional private spaces may start to become meditation rooms, or a quiet room to escape the chaos of life.

Pet-Friendly Living

The flexibility of remote work gave many people the opportunity to be home all day, and in turn, made it easier to add a new best friend to their family. According to a Nielsen survey, 20% of respondents in July said they adopted one or more dogs or cats between March and June, up from less than 5% over the same time last year. An increase in furry friends joining families means “pet-friendly” rentals are on the rise, as landlords entice renters with added benefits. Zillow research3 found that 73.1% of rental listings allow pets.

As people welcome more furry family members, Zillow expects they will be looking for pet-friendly features in their next home. A 2020 Zillow analysis found for-sale listings mentioning a pet shower or dog wash in their listing description sold for 5.1% more than similar homes, while listings mentioning a fenced backyard in their listing description sold 6.8 days faster than expected.

Rise in Demand for New Construction

Traffic for new construction homes has increased significantly on Zillow4, up 82% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter a year ago, signaling an increasing number of shoppers interested in personalizing their home’s features and living in a new, clean space. A 2020 Zillow survey found5 more than a quarter of buyers who bought a new construction home did so to customize home features, while 37% chose new construction because everything in the home was new and never used.

Home Care

DIY home upgrades to add style and beauty

Consider these DIY ideas to spruce up your home’s aesthetics and create a more attractive place to live.

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Home upgrades are necessary for a variety of reasons, but many homeowners look to update their homes to add comfort and beauty. While a complete renovation can be appealing, it can also be costly and time consuming.

However, if you’re willing to take on some of the work yourself, there are ways to upgrade your living spaces to add style (and value) without the assistance of a contractor. Consider these DIY ideas to spruce up your home’s aesthetics and create a more attractive place to live.

Freshen Up Paint

When it comes to simple DIY projects, a new coat of paint can drastically update your spaces without making major renovations. Light colors like gray, beige or white can make smaller spaces feel more open while darker shades like navy and purple can create a dramatic look. If you don’t want (or need) to paint the entire room, adding a pop of color with an accent wall or touching up the trim are quick and easy improvements. Adding paint to a less traditional spot like the ceiling or refreshing cabinets with a new color can also help bring your spaces to life.

Install Mess-Free Stone Accents

If you’re looking to add warmth and texture, easy-to-install stone veneer can provide the look of natural stone without the expense. A mortarless option like ClipStone is designed to be installed with screws and common tools, making it easy to achieve the look of traditional masonry without the hassle and mess. Durable and low maintenance, you don’t have to worry about sealing or painting and it’s a perfect option for exterior or interior installation that can be installed in any weather conditions. Available in a variety of styles and colors, homeowners can mix and match to create a custom look. Plus, it features a built-in water management system, overlapping edges to minimize gaps, reversible outside corners and a variety of available accessories.

Upgrade Window Treatments

Windows can often be overlooked or left with the simple paper shades or aluminum blinds the builder initially installed. Consider replacing them with plantation shutters, wooden blinds or drapes that better suit the style of the room. In addition to blinds, curtains provide another opportunity to add design elements that align with your tastes. From geometric panels to sheers, the possibilities are nearly endless. Or simply match the curtain panels to the color of your walls or an accent color for a look that can match almost any style.

Update Accessories

Cabinet pulls, outlet covers, curtain rods, switch plates and doorknobs are easily ignored, but replacing them can be an inexpensive way to add small touches of elegance to your home. With a variety of designs and finishes to choose from, including bronze, brushed nickel, copper and stainless steel, updating worn pull handles and knobs can create an affordable look that appears expensive. The same is true for metal switch covers and outlet plates. While decorative curtain rods may be on the pricier side, adding a coat of paint in a metallic finish could provide a cheaper alternative.

Improve Curb Appeal

There are a multitude of inexpensive ways to give your home’s exterior a makeover. Start by pressure washing your siding and windows, which can make your house look almost as good as a fresh coat of paint for a fraction of the time and money. Remember to also clean your driveway, patio and walkways to maximize your investment. Pulling weeds, trimming trees and bushes, and patching bald spots in the yard can also go a long way as can planting greenery in front of your home and making landscaping upgrades like adding mulch beds, water features or decorative edging. Another idea: replace your front door or give it a fresh coat of paint to add a pop of color to your porch.

Find more ideas for improving your living spaces at myclipstone.com.

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Home Care

Tips to homeowners seeking a reputable contractor

Homeowners should proactively seek a contractor when their property is damaged due to a windstorm (e.g., hurricane, tornado) or fire. An unsolicited offer from a contractor with whom the homeowner is unfamiliar should be treated with skepticism.

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Contractor fraud often occurs after major natural disasters which impact large numbers of homeowners, with some contractors initiating contact with homeowners long after the disaster occurred. Unethical contractors frequently use flyers and door hangers to generate business. In Florida, there are contractors who solicit roof replacement claims door-to-door even when no storm has occurred. Homeowners, however, have ways to determine a contractor’s credentials and reputation.

“Disasters can bring out the best in people as they rush to help those in need. Unfortunately, disasters also attract predatory contractors looking to defraud and deceive disaster victims,” said David Glawe, president and CEO, NICB. “After most disasters, these shameful contractors use well-rehearsed, predatory practices to exploit stressed disaster victims when they are most vulnerable. As a result, survivors pay these bad actors who do little or no work.”

Triple-I and the NICB offer these five tips to homeowners in the market for a reputable contractor.

  1. If you didn’t request it, reject it—Homeowners should proactively seek a contractor when their property is damaged due to a windstorm (e.g., hurricane, tornado) or fire.  An unsolicited offer from a contractor with whom the homeowner is unfamiliar should be treated with skepticism.
  2. Get at least three written estimates for the work and compare bids—In the aftermath of a major natural disaster, contractors are in high demand.  The pandemic and supply chain disruptions also have put additional pressure on labor and building material costs.  Homeowners should solicit at least three written estimates from three different contractors.
  3. Check credentials, including licenses, references, and insurance—Reputable contractors will provide homeowners with their state and local business licenses, physical business address and telephone numbers, and references.
  4. Make sure your contract includes estimated construction schedules and prices for labor and materials—If a contractor requires full payment upfront for a job, homeowners should think twice about doing business with them. It is common, however, for a contractor to request some money upfront after signing a contract with a homeowner as the contractor needs to buy supplies. 
  5. Contact your insurer to make sure your policy is up to date— If a contractor offers advice on what a homeowners insurance policy covers, the property owner should have this interpretation double-checked by an insurance professional affiliated with the insurer who covers the damaged home.
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Home Care

Tips, tools to help customers save energy, money as temperatures rise

High temperatures bring higher usage for customers, which can translate into higher bills. But a few smart, simple tips can help energy users take control of their bill and save money.

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As the mercury rises today and over the weekend, Duke Energy is providing tips and tools to help customers save energy – and money – while trying to stay cool.

Duke Energy has sufficient resources to meet customers’ energy needs and continues to monitor its power plants, power lines and other equipment to help ensure customers receive reliable service during the heat wave.

High temperatures bring higher usage for customers, which can translate into higher bills. But a few smart, simple tips can help energy users take control of their bill and save money.

Low- to no-cost energy efficiency tips

High temperatures can lead to higher energy usage and bills as customers combat the heat. Below are some tips to help manage your energy use.

  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the lower your energy usage and bill will be.
  • Close blinds, drapes and curtains during the hottest part of the day. Keeping your blinds, drapes and curtains closed will help prevent the sun’s rays from heating your house.
  • Use a ceiling fan in occupied rooms to supplement your air conditioning. Make sure the fans are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction to push cool air down into living spaces. Only use ceiling fans in rooms that are occupied; fans cool people, not things.
  • Grill outdoors. Using your electric oven and stovetop creates a lot of indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that don’t require cooking.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. Be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Lights emit heat and cause your air conditioning system to work harder.

Track, manage your energy usage

Energy use typically spikes in the summer since air conditioning is one of the biggest energy users in your home. Customers can also easily track and adjust their usage during this week’s heat wave.

  • Customers with smart meters can check online to view their daily usage. Smart meters collect usage information by the hour, so checking spikes throughout the month – by day and even hour – can show what appliances and behaviors are increasing their bills. Video available here.
  • Duke Energy customers with smart meters also receive usage alerts through email and/or text halfway through their billing cycle, well before their bill arrives, with their current usage amount and a projection of what their final monthly bill could be.
  • Customers can also set budget alerts, so they know when their bill reaches a specific dollar amount of their choosing, allowing them to adjust their usage and help save money on their bill.
  • Customers without smart meters can sign up to receive high bill alerts for when adverse weather is projected to increase their electric bills by at least 30% and $30 compared to historical usage.

Other energy-saving programs, tips and guidance to help you manage higher energy bills that can result from increased energy is available at duke-energy.com/Summer.

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