The Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision Is a Housing Game Changer

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Friday not only opens the doors to legal same-sex marriage throughout the 50 states—it will also help increase homeownership among LGBT couples.

People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation’s highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

“As with other momentous social landmarks, this progress will trigger key milestones along the path to homeownership,” Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, said in a statement. She noted that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is “a powerful market segment that represents an estimated buying power of $840 billion.”

That’s a lot of buying power, and legal marriage will only make it stronger. With home prices rising and mortgage requirements increasingly stringent, two incomes are pretty much required to afford a home in much of the country, and marriage helps convince lenders of a couple’s mortgage-worthiness.

“There is no more awkwardness—no more ‘joint tenants’ or however gay people have had to take titles in order to own,” said Summer Greene, general manager of Better Homes and Gardens Florida 1st in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “That means less paperwork, and now it’s therefore easier to qualify. Before you’d have people committed for 20 years and would have to have two different applications for mortgages, et cetera.”

Calling the decision “the new Civil Rights Act,” Greene said, “There is no more cherry-picking which state you can live in because it is fair and nondiscriminating. Life is simpler.”

According to a recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, 81% of its nearly 1,800 LGBT respondents felt that “a ruling for marriage equality will make them feel more financially protected and confident.”

That lack of confidence may help explain why LGBT homeownership rates lag those of America overall. According to the survey, 54% of LGBT respondents owned homes, compared with the national homeownership rate of 63.8% (which is itself at thelowest point since 1993).

LGBTs who rent—particularly millennials—have their own concerns, however.

“For a generation that many have deemed ‘Generation Rent,’” the survey said, “an overwhelming 82% of LGBT millennials surveyed are concerned about rising rents, and 59% say they plan to have children in the future, both of which are potential motivators for purchasing a home.”

Legal marriage does not, of course, guarantee freedom from housing discrimination, which a whopping 73% of the survey’s respondents said was a strong concern, whether they wanted to buy or rent.

For home sellers, the decision opens up the market to a wider array of potential buyers. What will they be looking for? According to the survey, outdoor living space and an open-concept living area “reign supreme.”

Posted by Realtor.com Team

Pick Your Favorite Party-Ready Pool

Which of these professional pool designs is your ideal escape from the summer heat?

With temperatures rising as summer begins, a refreshing dip in a cool pool is at the top of most folks’ lists. Do you daydream about your ideal backyard oasis with a crystal blue pool and stylish lounge chairs? Zillow compared six gorgeous outdoor pools from professionals on Zillow Digs™ to find the leading pool design for the season.

Which pool is best primed for a party? The hard part is choosing just one. Get your vote in now and check back to see the winner on July 1, 2015.

Modern or Mediterranean luxury

If luxury designs with maximum privacy and all the high-end additions are right up your alley, check out these pools. The modern pool designs include geometric-shaped patios, fountains, outdoor kitchens and hot tubs. For something warmer, Mediterranean swimming pools offer elegant designs using a mix of earth-toned stone structures and extravagant features like fireplaces and built-in fire pits.

Traditional garden grandeur

Not into that celebrity look? Select a favorite from these peaceful, garden-forward designs. The lush green plantings accent the crisp blue water perfectly. Each includes a water feature and poolside patio with lounge chairs. Surrounding most traditional pool designs you’ll find pergola or trellis structures to support climbing vines with colorful blooms.

Tropical pool paradise

Alternatively, feel right at home in the summer heat alongside one of these tropical pools. Both boast palm trees and other tropical vegetation. Notice the curved pools common with this design. Enjoy tropical layouts on warm summer evenings with lighting features such as tiki torches, pathway lamps and built-in fixtures. Is one of these your dream pool?

Posted by Tali Wee on Zillow

May 2015 Another Great Month for Missouri Home Sales

Missouri home sales continue to grow in the month of May! They are up from May of last year. Click below for a full report of sales statistics or to watch the video.

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7 Ways to Reduce Stress During a Move

 Moving can be challenging — but it doesn’t have to be a stress fest.

Whether you’ve decided to accept a new job offer in another city, found the perfect apartment on Trulia, or finally closed on the home of your dreams, a fresh start is always exciting. Packing all your belongings into boxes and lugging it all to a new home? Not so much.

We get it. Moving can be crazy and stressful — but there are ways to survive the process without aging yourself prematurely.

Here are seven ways to manage your stress before, during, and after you’ve boxed up your life.

Block off a chunk of time to focus exclusively on packing. Request a day off from work, find a baby sitter or family member to watch your children, or clear your schedule for a weekend

1. Purge

Clutter creates stress. Minimize the junk clogging your closets and you’ll automatically breathe a sigh of relief. Clear the clutter from your home by organizing things you no longer need into three piles: Sell, Donate, and Toss.

Put big-ticket or valuable items in the “sell” pile. Then snap some photos and list them on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook. (Or go old school if the weather’s nice and hold a massive yard sale.)

Score a tax deduction by donating items to Goodwill or a local thrift store. Throw away or recycle any items that have little or no use left in them.

Here’s the most fun part: Eat through the contents of your refrigerator and pantry. Spend the weeks prior to your move creating oddball meals based on whatever happens to be in your cupboards. And don’t forget to drink all your booze!

2. Clear your calendar

Block off a chunk of time to focus exclusively on packing. Request a day off from work, find a baby sitter or family member to watch your children, or clear your schedule for a weekend. You’ll get more done by packing continuously for several hours than you will by packing in short bursts of time.

If possible, bribe some of your friends to help. Promise to buy them dinner and drinks if they’ll donate a few hours of their time to help you pack and move.

3. Accumulate boxes

Start accumulating a stack of newspapers and boxes several weeks prior to your move. Ask friends if they have leftover boxes from previous moves or visit local grocery stores and retail outlets, walk back to where the employees unpack the inventory, and ask if you can walk off with a stack of boxes. Costco and Trader Joe’s both keep a steady supply of boxes in-store.

If you’re willing to splurge, you can buy boxes from shipping and packing stores or your local home improvement store. The benefit to buying boxes is that they’ll all be standard sizes, making them easier to stack and load.

4. Plan

Don’t start packing without a strategy. One of the most efficient ways to pack your belongings is to methodically move from room to room. Clearly label each box based on where in your home it was packed. This way, when you unload boxes in your new house, you’ll know where each box should go.

5. Protect your valuables

The last thing you need is a nagging concern that you can’t find your wedding ring and passport. Those worries will stress you out more than almost any other aspect of moving!

Pack one suitcase as if you’re going on vacation and include the items you’ll need to immediately access, such as clean underwear, socks, and a toothbrush. Add valuables and the most important documents so that you’ll know they haven’t gone missing.

6. Give ample time and deadlines

Nothing is more stressful than knowing that you can’t start moving into your new home until 8 a.m., but you need to be out of your apartment at noon that same day.

If you can, allow for your time in each place to overlap. This may mean paying two rents or two mortgages for up to a month, but it will allow you the benefit of time — and that will work wonders on your stress levels.

Also, create minideadlines for yourself. Promise yourself that you’ll pack up one room per day, or that you’ll unpack for two hours per night after you move into your new home.

7. Delegate

Finally, the best way to reduce stress is by outsourcing and delegating. Use online resources like TaskRabbit and Craigslist to search for people who can help you pack and move. Before they leave, ask them to help assemble furniture and move big boxes and furniture where you want it.

As the saying goes, many hands make light work. And when you’re moving, you need as many hands as you can get.

Posted by Paula Pant on Trulia

Buy Your First Home, Even Without “Perfect” Credit

Purchasing your first home is no small event, and first time homebuyers often wonder if they have what it takes to be approved for a mortgage. This chart gives you a breakdown of the average credit scores that have been approved over the years and gives you an idea of the growing ability for Americans to secure a loan.
Need Perfect Credit

It’s a Catio, Daddio! Safe Outdoor Access for Frisky Felines

Move over, man caves. The catio has arrived.

Jennifer Hillman with Little Lord Founterloy in the background

Anyone interested in feline enrichment knows how much cats love the outdoors. They also know how risky it is for cats to be free-roaming — they can be hit by cars, trapped in garages and just plain lost. Then there are the birds they kill (although windows also do major damage to bird populations).

Some of the world’s most forward-thinking cat owners have devised a solution: the catio.

It’s the animal-lover’s answer to the man cave, a space set aside to keep our feline companions safe and happy.

Basically, catios are screened-in porches glorified with stairs, shelves, cushions and scratching posts — as well as sturdy walls, roofs and floors to keep cats in and other critters out. Catios come in all shapes and sizes and can be homemade, custom made or ordered online.

Margo in her catio (photo courtesy of Jean White)

From these enclosed perches, cats can mock-chirp at birds and squirrels all the livelong day without anyone coming to harm.

‘Go on out; it’s beautiful out’

Jennifer Hillman of Seattle has two catios: one built in 2001 when she moved to a new house and did not want her five cats roaming the neighborhood, and the other built six years ago where her shed once stood. They’re connected by a little tunnel.

The cats tend to visit after meals, and Hillman jokes that she sometimes feels like a pestering mom — “go on out; it’s beautiful out!”

She figures her catios cost about $500 each, mostly for wood and wire.

Her catios were part of a recent Catio Tour in Seattle sponsored and organized by The Humane Society of the United States, where Hillman is director of strategic advocacy and campaigns; PAWS, a Seattle-area rescue and wildlife rehabilitation center; and Catio Spaces, a Seattle company that designs and builds catios.

Cynthia Chomos, founder of Catio Spaces, built her first catio in 2013 for her orange-and-white tabby, Serena, to “experience the sights and sounds and smells and stimulation of the natural world.”

Now Serena follows the sun between two catios — one in the backyard facing east, and one in a window box facing west — and Chomos designs and oversees the building of catios for other homes. They tend to measure 6-by-8 or 8-by-10 feet and cost roughly $2,500 to $5,000.

People can also buy Catio Spaces’ do-it-yourself plans for $49.95, with $5 going to an animal welfare organization.

One of Chomos’ most interesting projects was the building of a 26-foot catio that wrapped around a house to keep two “serial bird killers” and their two “canine cohorts” indoors. The owner — who can walk through the catio to reach the backyard — has since added a chicken to the mix, Chomos has heard.

‘A vet bill is way more’

Although that sounds like the cat’s meow, one catio set-up that would be hard to beat belongs to Dan Reeder, who built and bolted a three-story catio townhouse to his own house and connected it via a long tunnel to a catio large enough for Dan to join the cats in the backyard.

The retired math teacher and paper mache artist figures he spent about $3,000 on the structures, which are well-fortified with wire mesh even under the main catio floor, because “I didn’t want a possum to appear in the house.”

The catios were finished in time for his cat Riley to spend her last summer outdoors before she died at the age of 20.

His other two cats, Max and Eddie, continue to enjoy their outdoor time, and the catios have curbed Reeder’s guilt over Max waiting for him to play. “I used to feel guilty all day,” Reeder said.

Jean White of Bellevue, WA, bought her catio, which was also on the recent tour, for about $1,200 from the website Cats on Deck.

“It may sound pricey, but a vet bill is way more,” said White, who lives near a bus route and in an area where there are coyotes and raccoons.

Like most catios, hers is connected to the house by cat doors — in her case, one in the bathroom window and one connected to a sliding-glass door.

“Margo, the Siamese, loves it,” she said. When Jean first adopted Scout, a black-and-white tuxedo cat, she didn’t realize there was a cat door in the wall and thought Margo was disappearing into a curtain.

“She was so surprised!” Then Scout figured it out, and now the cats alternate between lounging and chasing each other in a loop, day and night.

Scout and Margo (photo courtesy of Jean White)

Posted by Melissa Alisson on Zillow

6 Unusual Tips for Pool Care

Keep your outdoor spaces sparkling with these easy pool-cleaning hacks.

If you have a pool, odds are, you know the usual maintenance tips — vacuuming, skimming, maintaining water and pH levels, changing filters — like the back of your hand. And you probably also know that keeping up with routine maintenance can be a real pain when all you want to do is enjoy your pool.

Here are six hacks you can use to keep your pool clean — and make your summer a bit more relaxing.

1. Supercharge that skimmer

Skimmer baskets already do a great job filtering out leaves and other debris from your pool, but they also leave a lot behind.

How to make that skimmer work harder? Take an old pair of pantyhose and wrap them around the baskets. Hair, sand, and fine dirt are no match for the teeny-tiny holes in the fabric. Remember to clean out the baskets once a week, and skim the surface for large debris every few days or as needed.

2. Natural bug banishers

Bugs are not only a nuisance to sunbathers and swimmers, but after they’ve buzzed their last buzz? A pest to clean up as well.

Whether they end up in your skimmer baskets or floating on the surface, keep them at bay by planting lemongrass nearby. The plant’s skin contains citronella, which helps ward off mosquitoes. If wasps and hornets are a problem, create a decoy wasps’ nest by filling a brown paper bag with plastic grocery bags. Generally, the stinging bugs won’t build a nest within 200 feet of an existing one (even if it’s a fake).

3. Use baking soda

Baking soda is a powerhouse outside the kitchen — for cleaning, freshening clothes, and even cleaning your pool.

Check your pool’s pH levels once or twice a week and after a heavy rain. A pound of baking soda is equal to a pound of any alkalinity product and is a fraction of the cost.

Bonus: Make a paste of baking soda and water to clean the tile and grout in your pool. Do this about once a week to prevent algae from growing.

4. Toss in tennis balls

From sunscreen and makeup to hair products and body oil, grime is bound to build up in your pool. Place a few new tennis balls in the water, or stick them in the skimmers so they’re out of sight. They’ll help absorb the oil, leaving you with crystal-clear water.

5. Make bathing suits a requirement

A friend forgot a bathing suit, so he jumps in with his khaki shorts on. A pool party gets a little rowdy and soon everybody’s fully clothed in the pool. Your cousin has a sun allergy, so he swims in a T-shirt.

In small doses, clothing will do no harm. But fibers fray and dyes can bleed when in contact with chlorine, which can make your pool cloudy over time. Make it a rule that only bathing suits are allowed.

6. Go au naturel

If you really want to cut back on your pool maintenance, opt for a “natural” pool. Most are made of two zones: one for swimming, which is lined with rubber or concrete, and a zone with aquatic vegetation that acts as a biological filter. A simple pump will keep the water flowing through either a gravel filter or the natural plant filter.

It may seem like a lot of work, with all those plants in your pool, but because it’s a natural ecosystem, it takes care of itself. You won’t have to monitor pH or chlorine — just skimming the surface and occasional vacuuming to remove any debris from the bottom should do the trick.

Posted by Jennifer Gravely on Trulia