Getting Your Home Ready for Trick-or-Treaters


Consider these tips to ensure a fun and safe Halloween night.

As we settle into fall, many of us start looking forward to Halloween. It’s a holiday adults can enjoy as much as kids. But, homeowners do have one serious obligation on this fun night: If you expect trick-or-treaters, you must make sure the path to your door is a safe one.

Take no trips

Inevitably, some giddy ghosts and ghouls will race excitedly to your door. Be prepared.

In the full light of day, inspect your lawn, driveway and front path for trip hazards like exposed tree roots, cracks in concrete or missing pavers. Make repairs where possible, or, at the very least, cut off access to unsafe areas.

Meanwhile, if you’ve decorated the front yard with decorations like light-up pumpkins and animated figures, keep electrical cords away from your walkways.

Light the way

Make sure the path to your house is bright enough for trick-or-treaters to approach safely.

You don’t need to install a full suite of year-round landscape lighting simply to accommodate visitors on Halloween night. There are plenty of temporary and affordable options for illumination, from glow sticks to tea lights.

And although it may seem more in keeping with the mood of this spooky night to switch off your porch light, it’s much safer — not to mention more inviting — to keep it on.

Resist flammable decor

Whether vandals or accidents are to blame, there are many more fires on Halloween than a typical October night, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Holiday decorations are often quite flammable, involving materials such as paper, hay and dried cornstalks.

If you can’t resist adorning your home and yard with such potentially dangerous items, then be sure to keep them away from candles and other heat sources. If jack-o’-lanterns or luminaries figure into your celebrations, illuminate them using LED tea lights, not open flames.

Curb your dog

Chances are yours is a friendly dog. But if some Halloween costumes are convincing enough to frighten small children, those same get-ups could be equally disturbing to your pooch — particularly on such a high-energy night.

It’s good sense to contain your dog in an indoor space that’s comfortable and secure.

A festive parade of goblins and ghouls, princesses and superheroes will soon be marching to your house. Do your part by clearing the path and lighting the way. Be safe out there, and have a happy Halloween!

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 2014.



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A Former Religious Retreat Remodeled As A Chic Family Home


Discovered on The Modern House: St. Francis House, a monastic retreat transformed into “an exceptionally chic modern home.” Located in Cambridgeshire, a 45-minute train journey from London, the late-Georgian structure was built as a country estate. It was in the 1950s that a religious order moved in and purpose-rebuilt the place as a silent retreat, stripping out just about all of  the original detailing and introducing, among other things, 22 spartan bedrooms on the second floor.

Ten years ago, when Anna Unwin and Willie McDougall spotted the property in a real estate listing, they were looking to relocate from London with their three daughters. Anna, who runs AU Bespoke, is an interiors stylist and sourcing specialist, and Willie is a developer—talents that enabled them to envision a new life for all 8,500-square feet.

They opened up the downstairs as a series of invitingly tranquil living spaces, and added one of the chicest pale pink kitchens we’ve come across. As for the upstairs monk’s cells, they converted those into five bedroom suites, glam bathrooms included. Their kids are now grown and the couple say they feel ready to roam—they both have business in Ibiza and plan to spend half time there—so their giant remodel is back on the market. Join us for a tour—and go to The Modern House if you’re tempted to move in.

Photography courtesy of The Modern House.

The brick house is set on one-and-a-half acres in the heart of the historic village of Hemingford Grey,  miles northwest of Cambridge. The front garden is shown here, as is a glimpse of the now fully glazed back of the house (the garden room at the far end is the AU Bespoke showroom, open by appointment—Anna formerly had a shop in London&#8
Above: The brick house is set on one-and-a-half acres in the heart of the historic village of Hemingford Grey, 15 miles northwest of Cambridge. The front garden is shown here, as is a glimpse of the now fully glazed back of the house (the garden room at the far end is the AU Bespoke showroom, open by appointment—Anna formerly had a shop in London’s Primrose Hill and now sells haute-vintage design.)
&#8
Above: “It was pretty much a hostel when we got it, so there was a fair amount of structural work to do,” Willie told The Modern House. “We knocked down walls, changed all the windows, and just made it more domestic.” The couple are shown here on the veranda off the main sitting room.

The roof tiles are Welsh slate, one of many details that look as if they’ve always been here but were in fact brought in by Anna and Willie.

&#8
Above: “The remodel took two years–we lived in one side of the house while the other was being finished and vice-versa,” Anna tells us. Among the things that got added: French doors, bespoke interior doors paneled with antiqued mirrors (from Rough Old Glass), and a vast herringbone floor (from reclaimed parquet specialists Eco Flooring UK) salvaged from the M15’s old London headquarters in Thames House on the Strand.
The low-slung sofas are from Caravane.
Above: The low-slung sofas are from Caravane.
The couple imported two th-century stone mantels from France. &#8
Above: The couple imported two 18th-century stone mantels from France. “Seeing trends come and go has made me want to stick with really good-quality materials and timeless forms that hold up over the years,” says Anna.
Anna slipcovered the furniture in vintage Hungarian linen &#8
Above: Anna slipcovered the furniture in vintage Hungarian linen “so everything is washable—important in a busy house with children and dogs.” The hanging lights are Tom Dixon’s Mirror Balls.
The herringbone floor extends into the dining room and adjacent kitchen. Sliding doors provide the glass-topped table with an expansive garden view. The black and white prints were made for Anna by her friend Louisa Grey of House of Grey. (Go to Kitchen of the Week to see Grey&#8
Above: The herringbone floor extends into the dining room and adjacent kitchen. Sliding doors provide the glass-topped table with an expansive garden view. The black and white prints were made for Anna by her friend Louisa Grey of House of Grey. (Go to Kitchen of the Week to see Grey’s kitchen.)
The new kitchen, installed in place of the religious order&#8
Above: The new kitchen, installed in place of the religious order’s canteen, has custom cabinets painted Farrow & Ball Setting Plaster. The brass lights are a vintage Italian design.
The Corian counters have undermount hammered copper sinks from The French House. The range is tucked into a hearth; the backsplash is made of the same Rough Old Glass mirror used on the doors. &#8
Above: The Corian counters have undermount hammered copper sinks from The French House. The range is tucked into a hearth; the backsplash is made of the same Rough Old Glass mirror used on the doors. “It’s easy to clean,” says Anna.

The World War I brass bullet cases on the mantel are from Anna’s AU Bespoke collection.

Opposite a classic china cupboard, the breakfast area veers modern with a Saarinen Table and Panton Chairs. The kitchen walls are painted Farrow & Ball Strong White.
Above: Opposite a classic china cupboard, the breakfast area veers modern with a Saarinen Table and Panton Chairs. The kitchen walls are painted Farrow & Ball Strong White.
The stair with under cupboard is one of the few original details in the house. The couple stripped the rail to reveal the natural wood.
Above: The stair with under cupboard is one of the few original details in the house. The couple stripped the rail to reveal the natural wood.
A linen-upholstered bed and sofa—both from Caravane—in a guest room.
Above: A linen-upholstered bed and sofa—both from Caravane—in a guest room.
Accessories hang from vintage ceramic butcher&#8
Above: Accessories hang from vintage ceramic butcher’s hooks in the guest bath. All of the baths have custom three-part mirrored cabinets.
The master bath is tiled in gray-veined marble that rises to enclose the tub. The trough sink and towel rail are from C.P. Hart.
Above: The master bath is tiled in gray-veined marble that rises to enclose the tub. The trough sink and towel rail are from C.P. Hart.
The estate&#8
Above: The estate’s original chapel remains—the wood floor is original; Anna and Willie had the walls plastered. Willie currently uses the space as a gym, but, says Anna, “we’ve left it as a blank slate for the next owners. A cinema room, a yoga room, a library—it could be so many things.”

Go to The Modern House to see more.

Here are some three more standout house transformations in England:



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Hot Seat: Ted Manley of Manley Deas Kochalski


Declining foreclosure volume has created a “new normal” in default levels, but servicers can’t get complacent. Ted Manley, co-founder and principal at Manley Deas Kochalski, explains why now is the perfect time to optimize processes with talent and technology to prepare for the inevitable volume increase.  

HousingWire: What are some of the pressing issues facing servicers right now from a regulatory standpoint?

Ted Manley: Interestingly, the most pressing issues aren’t regulatory in nature. Instead, they relate to foreclosure volume now and later. The key issue is how servicers are going to adapt to “the new normal” created by declining volume. We all know that the default rate remains at a pre-crisis level. The data indicates – and experts say – that foreclosures won’t adjust upward from current levels for approximately 12 to 18 months.

However, FHA delinquencies are trending higher than expected, while modified mortgages are experiencing higher failure levels. It’s hard to predict the impact these two factors will have on the forecast, but we need to remain prepared for volume to increase. Managing a low-volume business while staying flexible and prepared for the inevitable increase is one of the most pressing challenges right now.

HW: How are you seeing companies adapt to these challenges?

TM: Many organizations are using this time to create even leaner and more effective processes to ensure procedures are optimized. This advance work will make sure they can handle future volume expeditiously within the highly regulated default landscape.

On our side of the business, in addition to optimizing our processes, we’re offering a wider range of services to existing clients and using our expanded offerings to attract additional clients. For example, two relatively new areas we’ve embarked upon with great success are timeshare mortgage defaults and a nationwide bankruptcy practice. Implementing this strategy while foreclosure levels are manageable allows us to provide even greater support to our long-time clients while expanding our client base.

We couldn’t do that, of course, without maintaining our ability to attract top talent and exceed client expectations, so both remain priorities. In addition, we continue to innovate, automate, and streamline our processes to provide the best client service in the industry.

HW: Law firms aren’t always associated with tech innovation, but MDK seems to be the exception. How does your proprietary technology distinguish your firm?

TM: Great question. Our clients regard MDK as one of the most sophisticated law firms in the industry. As the environment changes, we continue to improve our proprietary system, Casee. For example, we’ve added flexibility and additional customization features to ensure we can quickly adapt to industry challenges and at a significant scale.

We are developing systems that allow us to launch new lines of business and services. As we research, experiment, and analyze technology in new-to-us service areas, we share these efficiencies and improvements with our core clients in the residential mortgage industry.

One example is the auction management system we built to support the private-selling officer option created by Ohio’s foreclosure reform bill. This platform’s back-end workflow capabilities stand to provide additional value in default servicing beyond its original design.

HW: Looking forward, what should servicers keep an eye on for the second part of the year?

TM: We strongly encourage our clients and colleagues to embrace the new normal while preparing for a foreclosure volume increase in the not-too-distant future. Rather than merely accepting and managing current levels, look for ways to streamline and optimize processes with both talent and technology. It’s the best way to prepare for change, and change is a constant for all of us.

*This article has been updated with correct information on Ted Manley and Manley Deas Kochalski LLC



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House & Home


In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for making an awkward living-dining room more polished.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: The angled wall in my living room has me stumped, and I’m not sure what to put on my bare walls. Could you help me with furniture and lighting? T.M., Dawson Creek, B.C.

ask a designer awkward living-dining-room

Answer: You’re on the right track with your deep wall color, but the bare walls make the room fall a bit flat. A wonderful way to add architectural interest and texture to a space is to invest in built-in bookcases. Consider having shallow, wraparound built-ins made for both long living room walls, as well as the angled wall. Paint the bookcases the same dark hue and fill the shelves with books, art and decorative objets. Be sure to vary the “fullness” of each shelf to avoid a look that’s packed too tight. Treating all three walls the same way will also help disguise the awkward angle.

ask a designer living-dining room

Next, update your sofa with a contemporary charcoal-colored version with subtle texture. The tone-on-tone effect of the sofa, walls and bookcases will create a snug, cocooned feeling. Consider choosing a sofa that’s slightly less deep than your current one to gain back some of the space that will be taken up by the new bookcases.

ask a designer sofa

(Source: Kimberly Sofa in Midnight by Distinctly Home, $1,599, thebay.com)

I recommend swapping out your love seat for two luxurious club chairs in a channelled black leather.

ask a designer chair

(Source: Schuler Club Chair, $999, shelterfurniture.ca)

Then, add a smoked glass coffee table for a modern touch; the glass, although tinted, will make the table feel lighter.

ask a designer coffee table

(Source: Verre Square Coffee Table in Grey, $599, eq3.com)

A round wooden accent table placed between the club chairs and a nubby wool rug underfoot will bring in a touch of warmth.

ask a designer rug side table

(Source: Trill Round Wood Side Table, $499, cb2.ca)

ask a designer rug

(Source: Hand-Woven Chunky Woolen Cable Rug in Off-White by NuLoom, $444, homedepot.ca)

In your adjoining dining area, replace the exposed bulb fixture with a more streamlined shaded version that will cast a softer glow. Its classic style will also temper the more modern pieces in the living area.

ask a designer light fixture

(Source: Piaf 39 Inch 4 Light Chandelier by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort, $1,467, robinsonlightingcentre.com)

This mix of textures and styles will add plenty of interest to your space and give you a cozy but dynamic room, perfect for relaxing or entertaining.

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to askadesigner@hhmedia.com.



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Black Renters In The South Are Bearing The Brunt Of America’s Eviction Crisis


ATLANTA — On a brisk morning in mid-December, Valencia Hicks was running late to the Fulton County courthouse in hopes of avoiding eviction.

The 43-year-old mother had been forced out of her home the year before, a process that had uprooted her family from their apartment in East Point, Georgia. At her new brick split-level, Hicks decided not to pay her $995 monthly rent because her landlord hadn’t adequately fixed broken appliances, preventing the family from enjoying affordable home-cooked meals. The landlord, in turn, filed for eviction.

Like most tenants facing eviction in Fulton County, Hicks is African-American and lacked a lawyer. She planned to tell the judge about her family’s hardships. Not only did she have a disability, reliant on government checks for rent, but she also was raising two boys who each had autism.

Without a favorable ruling, a landlord could move forward with padlocking the door and placing their items on the curb. If she was lucky, she might get her wish of celebrating Christmas there.

A long understudied facet of the American housing market, evictions have hit no area of the country harder than the South, a region home to most of the top-evicting large and mid-sized U.S. cities, according to a list released by Princeton’s Eviction Lab.

Last year Eviction Lab debuted what’s thought to be the nation’s largest eviction database, revealing that U.S. property owners had submitted at least 2.3 million eviction filings in 2016. For housing experts from Louisiana to Virginia, it provided the evidence to confirm what they long suspected: Black renters disproportionately bore the brunt of the eviction crisis.

Eviction Lab found that nine of the 10 highest-evicting large cities were not only located in the South but also had populations that were at least 30 percent black.

Moreover, the top 25 entries in its ranking of mid-sized cities — including East Point, population 35,000 — experienced an eviction rate at least four times higher than the national average of 2.3 percent.

“If you’ve read about the housing crisis, it seems located in New York and San Francisco, but the eviction crisis is happening in cities with a fairly low cost of living like North Charleston, South Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Evicted.

“There’s a lot of questions left unanswered, but the data allows us to see the problem in a way we’d never seen it before,” Desmond said. “That’s allowed the narrative to change in some communities.”

The current shutdown of many federal agencies could make the matter worse. If the shutdown lasts much longer, housing experts fear evictions could spike nationwide because landlords who rent to low-income tenants might not be able to get rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Strengthening tenant rights

As some southern legislatures kick off their 2019 sessions this month, many state lawmakers are considering a new slate of bills to curb the larger affordable housing crisis. Following the launch of Eviction Lab’s database, local advocates intend to further raise awareness of the consequences of eviction, a process that can start with a single missed rent payment.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, greets attendees after remarks at a 2018 meeting of the Campaign to Reduce Evic



Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, greets attendees after remarks at a 2018 meeting of the Campaign to Reduce Evictions in Richmond, Virginia.

Not only do evicted people face barriers to new housing, studies suggest evictions also are linked to worse health and educational outcomes, according to research respectively from Desmond and the Urban Institute. With evictions often clustered in lower-income black neighborhoods, entire communities can face the fallout of a churn of new neighbors that severs close-knit social networks.

This status quo is often protected and nurtured by politicians and property owners. Landlords in Mississippi routinely file for eviction as a legal way to collect rent, according to an investigation last year by Mississippi Today.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Georgia statehouse have stymied proposals to strengthen tenant rights.

From 2012 to 2016, Republican state Rep. Wendell Willard, then the chairman of the influential House Judiciary Committee, received at least $30,000 from various companies with ties to the housing industry, based on a Stateline review of campaign contributions. No bill to bolster tenant rights advanced out of his committee.

The former chairman of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Josh McKoon, didn’t grant a hearing to a bill that would have forced landlords to fix “unsafe or unhealthy conditions” in rental units such as mold growth, pest infestation and tainted water.

McKoon says the committee under his leadership granted hearings to any lawmaker who requested one, but that lawmakers sometimes file legislation “to have a broader conversation” about an issue.

“We try to give judges a fair amount of discretion,” said Willard, who said campaign contributions had no influence on his decision-making on the issue. “I think we have a pretty good body of law in Georgia that’s been developed over many decades on dispossessory. But if something needs to be changed, we try to change it.”

Armed with data and heightened public awareness, in part thanks to Desmond’s book Evicted released two years ago, some housing advocates are pursuing changes in law with a renewed energy to decrease evictions, increase affordable housing and reduce disparities that exist for black renters in the South.

While eviction rates have spiked in states like South Carolina, according to Eviction Lab data, Georgia and Virginia have seen their rates trend downward since the Great Recession.

“Evictions are both a consequence of cumulative forces of poverty — and black poverty — and a cause of it,” said Dan Immergluck, an urban studies professor at Georgia State University. “Evictions hurt folks in all kinds of ways. Because evictions are concentrated in black neighborhoods, it impacts whole communities.”

Higher rents, more evictions

Evictions are the latest in a long line of housing policies that have disproportionately harmed black Americans. Over the past century, well-documented discriminatory practices like redlining, restrictive covenants and predatory lending have denied black people the opportunity to buy homes.

Discouraged from homeownership — and the accompanying wealth-building benefits — many black people rented instead. In 2015, the African-American homeownership rate was about 42 percent, more than 20 points lower than the rate for all groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But a 2018 study found that black people are more likely to pay higher rents than white people in the same areas.

And a Cleveland State University researcher surveying rental agreement laws found that no southern state had a suite of laws protecting tenants over landlords.

Every week, attorney Jesse McCoy sees this play out inside eviction court in Durham, North Carolina. The tenants, he said, are mostly black. Many make honest pleas to a judge about their life’s circumstances — which almost always lack legal standing.

McCoy thinks many of those same tenants would have legitimate grievances, from roach infestations to black mold, that might yield a favorable outcome. But without consulting counsel, he said, they rarely raise legal arguments.

“If you don’t understand rights, you can’t advocate for yourself,” said Sue Berkowitz, director of the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, an organization that helps clients in South Carolina, a state with an eviction rate of 8.9 percent, nearly four times the national average.

Housing attorneys throughout the South think that tenants facing an eviction case could have better outcomes in court if they were guaranteed the right to counsel — a right now ensured in select cities such as New York.

“An eviction — even a filing — follows you around,” said Elora Raymond, an assistant professor of city planning and real estate development at Clemson University. “If you get evictions filed against you in Georgia, and move to California, you still have that history.

“If that’s happening more in South Carolina or Georgia,” she said, referring to two states with high percentages of black residents, “and less in Montana or Colorado — there’s a racial implication.”

Virginia Poverty Law Center attorney Christine Marra said tenants who have had rental applications denied are less likely to find safe or affordable housing.

In some cases, those renters often can find housing only farther from where they lived before, potentially impacting other family issues, such as a child’s academic performance. And health care researchers have found that evictions are linked to higher rates of depression, stress and suicide.

Garland Nellom, a 51-year-old mother of three who faced eviction in New Jersey, said she moved to Georgia four years ago after her youngest son, who had asthma and an allergy to the mold she later discovered in their apartment, died. He was 11 years old. Nellom found an apartment in College Park, Georgia, for $745 a month.

Soon, she noticed problems including rodents and mold. She withheld her rent in protest — a practice that in some northeastern and western states can be done legally to force serious repairs from a neglectful landlord, but in Georgia can be grounds for eviction. Her landlord took legal action.

They ultimately settled the dispute, thanks to a lawyer Nellom had secured through the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, and she stayed. This past summer she left for good upon finding exposed wire in her laundry room, which had flooded once again. Given her spotty housing record, landlords wanted her to pay a higher security deposit, which she was unable to do living on disability.

“I was fearful I was going to die,” she said. “I had nowhere to go — nowhere. I put my name on homeless shelter lists. They were full. I had neighbors gracious enough to let me stay.”

Focused on change

Faced with the scope of the eviction crisis, advocates are lobbying for changes to address housing disparities throughout the South.

In North Carolina, McCoy has helped oversee Durham’s eviction diversion program, which pairs Duke law students with unrepresented tenants facing eviction.

South Carolina state Rep. Marvin Pendarvis, a Democrat from North Charleston, is pushing a bill to approve “repair and deduct,” a practice allowed in many states, in which tenants front the costs of repairs if a landlord doesn’t fix the issue, and deduct that amount from a future rent payment.

And in Virginia, which is home to some of the nation’s highest eviction rates, a coalition of lawyers, researchers and activists last year launched the Campaign to Reduce Evictions.

The group has drafted more than 30 proposed changes that would make it easier for tenants to understand the court process for evictions, increase tenant legal rights trainings, pump $20 million into the state’s housing trust fund and expand the state’s low-income housing tax credit.

In response to news reports about Virginia’s high evictions rate, National Apartment Association President Robert Pinnegar recently claimed that “misunderstandings” about evictions have unfairly cast landlords in a negative light.

“Apartment owners do not target evictions for any group or reason,” he wrote in a letter to the Washington Post. “Evictions are a last resort in the rental housing business.”

Housing advocates further recognize that changes can only be effective if they also address the shortage of affordable housing affecting many southern cities.

Some officials have recognized the need: Atlanta Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has vowed to put $1 billion toward more affordable housing. But low-income housing developers say additional funds or tax credits are needed to build new units.

Policies like inclusionary zoning — requiring developers to make a fixed percentage of rental units affordable in new developments — have received a mixed reception across the South.

“Don’t just build new affordable housing,” Immergluck said. “States and localities need to think about creating their own voucher program that might focus on particular populations like families with kids. I don’t see southern states funding a permanent voucher program. Maybe it’s short term.”

Short of a universal housing voucher program, something that Desmond has called for, the Princeton professor thinks states could reduce evictions by making smaller policy changes, such as providing additional legal support, wraparound services, short-term financial assistance or better record keeping.

“We might have a referendum on housing in 2020 — and we haven’t had that in a long time,” Desmond said. “I do think we’re in a moment where we could ask for something ambitious.”

Until tenant rights and affordable housing supplies improve, many experts say black southerners like Hicks will remain vulnerable to eviction. Hicks showed up over 30 minutes late to her Dec. 18 court date. Weary and worried, she said she experienced more traffic than usual.

In a letter to the judge, Hicks explained that she hadn’t slept well because one of her autistic sons had tried to open the upstairs windows of their house late that night. But the judge, offering no explanation, denied Hicks’ request to stay longer in her brick split-level.

According to court records, Hicks’ landlord could have filed for a writ of possession immediately to regain possession of the house. So Hicks called apartment complexes and family members hours away in case she needed to relocate fast.

She desperately wanted a place nearby to keep her boys in the same special-needs program at Banneker High School. But no one she called had immediate availability. She felt disheartened.

“Evictions shouldn’t hurt you after the eviction,” she said. “The laws are more for the landlords and rental companies than the tenants. It’s hurting people. It’s hurting us.”

The day after New Year’s, Hicks was finishing up packing her house, thankful the county marshals hadn’t yet been called to place her possessions on the curb. Her landlord had let her stay through the holidays, but wanted her out in just a few days’ time. She didn’t know where her family would go next. But one thing was certain: She couldn’t stay there.

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Danish Light: 8 Ideas to Steal from a New Restaurant in Copenhagen by a Studio on the Rise


Midway through a particularly bleak New York City winter, I’ve been fantasizing about a potential escape—most recently, to Copenhagen. A few weeks ago I was planning an imaginary/hopeful trip, looking at airfares, and poking around the Internet for new hotels and wine bars to try when I stumbled upon Hverdagen—a new restaurant in the city’s industrial-cool Kødbyen neighborhood with warm, clean-lined interiors, paper lanterns, and terra cotta-colored details—and added it to my wish-list itinerary.

A little more digging revealed that the restaurant interiors are by Danish studio Vermland, founded by cabinet maker Joakim Tolf Vulpius and young architect Anton Bak—the very same Anton Bak behind a scrappy two-week, $1000 renovation in Brooklyn we featured a couple of years ago, when he was a spacial designer at the Royal Danish Academy and his partner, Kristina Line, was interning at Søren Rose Studio in New York. The design world is small.

Back to the restaurant: It’s full of lovely, subtle design details to take note of—and looks well worth a visit should you find yourself in Copenhagen.

Photography by Jannick Boerlum, courtesy of Vermland.

1. Hang the table.

To encourage shared, family-style meals, the dining room is designed around a long communal table, which also serves to create separate spaces within the single room. (Take a close look: The table is suspended from the ceiling—without any screws or nails, thanks to clever joinery.)
Above: To encourage shared, family-style meals, the dining room is designed around a long communal table, which also serves to create separate spaces within the single room. (Take a close look: The table is suspended from the ceiling—without any screws or nails, thanks to clever joinery.)

2. Keep to a tight color palette.

The serene, clean-lined interiors feel warm and fresh thanks to a two-tone color palette: rusty terra cottas and pinks (on the crockery, banquettes, stool tops) and minty greens (the mugs and glassware holding flatware and salt and pepper on every table).
Above: The serene, clean-lined interiors feel warm and fresh thanks to a two-tone color palette: rusty terra cottas and pinks (on the crockery, banquettes, stool tops) and minty greens (the mugs and glassware holding flatware and salt and pepper on every table).

3. Disguise the W.C.

Behind a statement-making pink curtain (from Kvadrat)? The door to the washroom.
Above: Behind a statement-making pink curtain (from Kvadrat)? The door to the washroom.

4. And keep materials of a piece.

Above: Every piece of furniture in the restaurant is made from a single Douglas fir tree and inspired by Japanese joinery.

5. Add texture with dried branches.

Our latest favorite example of dried branches as decor: cloud-like bunches hung above the banquettes.
Above: Our latest favorite example of dried branches as decor: cloud-like bunches hung above the banquettes.

6. Employ the subtlest of checks.

The banquettes feature leather seat cushions (from Sorensen Leather) and back cushions covered in checkered fabric, a play on a kitchen dishtowel and a nod to everyday, casual dining, Bak and Vulpius say.
Above: The banquettes feature leather seat cushions (from Sorensen Leather) and back cushions covered in checkered fabric, a play on a kitchen dishtowel and a nod to everyday, casual dining, Bak and Vulpius say.

7. Hang lanterns.

Simple paper lanterns add a bit of buoyancy. (For more, see data-src=
Above: Simple paper lanterns add a bit of buoyancy. (For more, see 11 Times Noguchi Lamps Stole the Spotlight.)

8. Use food as decor.

And, in custom shelves behind the bar, bundles of chilis, heads of garlic, and bunches of herbs make for an impromptu garland.
Above: And, in custom shelves behind the bar, bundles of chilis, heads of garlic, and bunches of herbs make for an impromptu garland.

More Copenhagen restaurants and restaurants on my someday-itinerary:



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The May 1 Ban On Pocket Listings Will Marginally Benefit Buyers And Hurt Sellers


In any industry, insider information is valuable. Having a tip gives you an advantage. It has been the MO of successful real estate agents for decades, but business as usual is coming to a halt on May 1, 2020.

On November 11, 2019, the National Association of Realtors board of directors voted 729-70 to ban the practice of “pocket listings,” also often referred to as listings coming soon, private listings, exclusive listings or off-market properties. Specifically, “within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants.”

Pocket listings are defined as real estate listings “retained by a listing broker or salesperson who does not make the listing available to other brokers in the office or to other multiple listing service (MLS) members.”

Wanting what you can’t have has created this situation while FOMO has popularized it. The premise of the decision to ban pocket listings stems from the practice of withholding inventory from ready and able buyers. In any market, but especially tight ones, this infuriates fatigued buyers who are unable to find their way home.

This hardship is well known for any buyer who can’t find their dream home. When it does come online and they rush to submit an offer, they are often met with a multiple offer situation, often losing. When wanting an explanation of why they lost, they are only met with “There was a stronger offer.” A few months later they see the closed property online and respond back with “I would have paid that!”

What’s missing from the public discourse is the benefit that pocket listings have brought sellers. Homeowners benefit by cutting through insincere buyers and avoiding inconvenient showings, uncompetitive offers and multiple open houses where unqualified consumers, nosy neighbors and researching future sellers peruse the home while the owner takes the dog for a two-hour walk.

Buyers benefit from pocket listings too. Anyone who has purchased a home will tell you to pay a premium (that you’re comfortable with) to put the right home under contract. Searching is exhausting, and pocket listings force you to make a decision. Private listings create a unique situation for decisive buyers to put their best foot forward to get what they want.

 Forcing a seller to publicly market their property cheats them of the opportunity to test the waters on price and interest. No two homes are created equal, and price per square foot is a high-level vantage point complicated by finishes, floor plan, elevation, location and orientation. Pricing a unique home is more art than science and only becomes more difficult as the price increases.

The opportunities pocket listings bring may not be easily found by everyone, but if a buyer is serious, or their agent is working hard for them, they will find them. Most every established real estate brand or portal in the country has a “coming soon” section. If an agent found an off-market listing for their client, they would approach the listing agent, and the two would make a deal.

Smart companies conduct focus groups before they release a product and often release it in test markets before launching to major ones. This isn’t any different. Listing something as “coming soon” allows an agent to take it to the market and get input from colleagues and the public before finalizing the price. Pocket listings allow sellers to do this without adversely affecting the property by adding market time. If the public decides they want it, the situation will persuade a buyer to make an offer and avoid competing with other buyers. If they are willing to pay a premium acceptable to the seller, who is using their best judgment to weigh the risk/reward of bringing the home to market or not, why should a trade organization tell a seller their thinking is faulty?

This policy has created tension in the industry, with the public and for regulators, due to a lack of education and transparency. In most cases, these properties are not being hidden from the public — they just aren’t available in one place. Real estate brands want you to use their app instead of a competitor’s. Knowing you can find exclusive inventory is a good way to get you there. This is a long-established practice. In places like New York, there is not one central database or MLS.

For as long as agents have been selling real estate, there have been pocket listings. This change will make a slightly more equitable landscape for buyers while hurting sellers who don’t own cookie-cutter homes or don’t want to announce to the world they’re selling. I also see it as un-American. Sellers should have the right to make this decision, not a collective of Realtors who are pressured by politics and optics.

Parking spaces in the same building on the same floor don’t command the same price. It varies due to demand like any market, but the distance to the elevator, proximity to a column, where it is in the garage and other seemingly inconsequential factors have varying degrees of importance to everyone, and they adjust the price accordingly. Now apply all that to a home.



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Housing Affordability in December 2019


At the national level, housing affordability conditions improved in December 2019 compared to a year ago and fell modestly compared to November, according to NAR’s Housing Affordability Index. Median home prices rose 8.0 % in December from one year ago. The effective 30-year fixed mortgage rate1 also rose to 3.78% this December from 3.75% in November although this mortgage rate is still lower compared to the year-ago level of 4.99%.

Bar chart: December Housing Affordability in 2019 and 2018

As of December 2019, the national and regional indices were all above 100, meaning that a family with the median income had more than the income required to afford a median-priced home. The income required to afford a mortgage, or the qualifying income, is the income needed so that mortgage payments make up no more than 25% of family income. The most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 211.5 (median family income of $78,785 is almost twice the qualifying income of $37,248). The least affordable region remained the West, where the index was 116.1 (median family income of $85,720 and the qualifying income of $73,824).  For comparison, the index was 165.6 in the South (median family income of $72,900 and the qualifying income of $44,106) and 165.9 in the Northeast (median family income of $90,618 with a qualifying income of $54,624).

Housing affordability2[> increased from a year ago in all four regions.[>

However, with home prices rising faster than income, affordability is down from last month in two of the four regions.

Nationally, mortgage rates were down 121 basis points from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points). The median sales price for a single-family home sold in December in the US was $277,000, up 8.0% from a year ago, while median family incomes rose 3.3 % in 2019 from one year ago.

Bar chart: U.S. and Regional Incomes 2019 and 2018

With lower mortgage rates compared to one year ago, the payment as a percentage of income fell to 15.5% this November from 17.1% a year ago. Regionally, the West has the highest mortgage payment to income share at 21.5% of income. The Northeast and the South had the second highest share at 15.1%. The Midwest had the lowest mortgage payment as a percentage of income at 11.8%.

Line graph: Payment as a Percent of Income December 2018 to December 2019

This week the MBA reported mortgage applications increased 1.1% compared to last week for the third straight week. There is still a housing shortage and more inventory is needed for potential home buyers. Mortgage rates are still historically low.

What does housing affordability look like in your market? View the full data release.

The Housing Affordability Index calculation assumes a 20 percent down payment and a 25 percent qualifying ratio (principal and interest payment to income). See further details on the methodology and assumptions behind the calculation.


1 Starting in May 2019, FHFA discontinued the release of several mortgage rates and only published an adjustable-rate mortgage called PMMS+ based on Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey.  With these changes, NAR discontinued the release of the HAI Composite Index (based on 30-year fixed-rate and ARM) and starting in May 2019 only releases the HAI based on a 30-year mortgage. NAR calculates the 30-year effective fixed rate based on Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed mortgage contract rate, 30-year fixed mortgage points and fees, and a median loan value based on the NAR median price and a 20% down payment.

2 A Home Affordability Index (HAI) value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index of 120 signifies that a family earning the median income has 20 percent more than the level of income needed pay the mortgage on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment so that the monthly payment and interest will not exceed 25 percent of this level of income (qualifying income).



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