pinterest logoMarch 2016 — Housing millions of images and thousands more each second, Pinterest is a playground for those seeking inspiration. Which home décor trends will make a splash on Pinterest feeds this year? Interior designer Taniya Nayak, of HGTV and Food Network fame, points to six major décor movements:

1. Digitally Defined – “Geometric shapes and angles have become associated with technology; this evokes creativity and innovative design because they're edgy and create movement,” says Nayak.

One way to incorporate this trend within a space is using geometric floor tiles in different colors. The edginess of the tile with the mix of color will keep your eye constantly moving. Geometric shapes alone, like in a light fixture with lots of edges, will also create a dramatic and stunning statement.

You can also incorporate this trend with “pixilation” for a modern and clean look. Pixelated artwork made up of monochromatic cubes can be simplistic and fit in a variety of spaces.

2. Fresh and Fab – “Fun saturated colors, such as yellow and blue, produce an energetic and happy feeling,” Nayak says. “Let your imagination run wild and paint a bold accent wall for an eye-catching statement, or paint an antiqued piece of furniture a bright color for an unexpected combination of modern and traditional elements.”

paintbrush1March 2016 — Repainting a room in your home? Don't overlook the psychological impact of color. Studies have shown that different hues create different moods, and can even affect behavior, says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.

"There are lots of good reasons to select a particular paint color, including personal preferences and design considerations, but often overlooked is the psychological power certain colors exert on mood, attitude, and outlook," says Zimmer.

"Even before you go to the paint store or start to look at color cards, think about the mood you'd like in your surroundings," continues Zimmer. "Do you want the space to be relaxing or invigorating? Once you make that decision, the color choice becomes easier.”

If your goal is to create a tranquil space, then look for a soft green or pale blue. These are the most calming colors, so they're ideal for rooms where you rest and relax, such as the family room or bedroom.

hourglassMarch 2016 — This year started off with the average time to close a loan increasing to 50 total days, according to the latest Origination Insight Report released by Ellie Mae®. While the average time to close a refinance increased one day from 47 to 48 days, the average time to close a purchase loan climbed one day to 51. The average time to close FHA loans increased from 49 days to 51 days and conventional loans remained largely unchanged at 49 days. Time to close VA loans increased from 52 to 53 days

Conventional purchase closing rates reached a new high, climbing above 73 percent for the first time since Ellie Mae began tracking data in August 2011. Closing rates for all loans increased one percentage point to 68 percent. Refinance closing rates increased to nearly 65 percent, while purchase closing rates increased to just over 72 percent.

In terms of loan purpose, purchases represented 52 percent of all closed loans while refinances as a percentage of lenders’ overall loan volume jumped to 47 percent.

downarrow2016March 2016 — The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties decreased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.77 percent of all loans outstanding at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015. This was the lowest level since the third quarter of 2006. The delinquency rate decreased 22 basis points from the previous quarter, and 91 basis points from one year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) National Delinquency Survey, released recently at the association's National Mortgage Servicing Conference and Expo 2016 in Orlando, Fla. The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans in the process of foreclosure.

The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started during the fourth quarter was 0.36 percent, a decrease of two basis points from the previous quarter, and down 10 basis points from one year ago. This foreclosure starts rate was at the lowest level since the second quarter of 2003.

kitchen sinkMarch 2016 — It is tempting to discard existing appliances when you build new cabinets around them. Rethink the idea. If the appliances are workable, keep them – and save yourself from $1,000 to $5,000, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Also keep the present location of major fixtures, appliances and utilities relative to the plumbing, gas and electrical outlets. Rearranging plumbing, wiring and jacks can be very expensive. Refacing existing cabinets can reduce the cost of your kitchen remodel considerably and eliminate the need for new flooring, countertops and appliances. If you must get new cabinets, options such as spice racks and slide out wire baskets can be added later. Also, install cabinets without soffits to decrease labor cost; and avoid trim moldings, or use a simple trim. If you must have a new wood trim to match the new cabinets, order pre-finished trim to decrease labor cost; avoid having the painting or staining done on-site. Other helpful tips: choose neutral colors for fixtures, appliances and laminates and avoid the need for a new floor by sanding and refinishing a hardwood floor that may be underneath the existing vinyl flooring.

hammerMarch 2016 — A well-written contract should contain the following information:

  • The contractor’s name, address, telephone and license number, if applicable
  • Details about what will and will not be done
  • A detailed list of materials for the project, including model, brand name and color
  • The approximate start date and substantial completion dates
  • A written notice of your right to cancel a contract within three business days of signing, without penalty – provided the contract was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premise
  • Financial terms that are spelled out clearly, including payment schedules and any cancellation penalties
  • A one-year minimum warranty identified as either “full” or “limited” to cover materials and workmanship, as well as the name and address of the party who will honor the warranty
  • A binding arbitration clause, in the event a disagreement occurs

You may also want to include a statement that you will not be responsible if payment to the contractors’ subcontractors and suppliers are not made. You may also want to establish that the contractor should obtain all the necessary permits and that all blank spots in the contract be filled in with phrases like “does not apply.”

pause buttonFebruary 2016 — The once lofty expectations of an additional interest rate hike to occur in 2016 are shrinking. This minimized chance follows a recent Fed policy statement, which suggested that the U.S. central bank might not hike rates in the midst of a slowing economy.

However, a hike is not out of the question; there is a predicted 12 percent probability of a quarter-point increase when the Federal Open Market Committee’s next policy meeting ends on March 16, but according to CME’s Fed Watch Tool, the probability of four rates hikes occurring in 2016 is close to 0 percent. Sources show a 50 percent chance of the next rate hike occurring in December, 2016.

paintbrush1February 2016 — A fresh coat of paint is an upgrade well worth the effort. Your best bet for color?

The lighter, the better, says Paint Quality Institute Paint and Color Expert Debbie Zimmer.

"Deep, saturated shades have been popular for years, but the palette that's in vogue right now is just the opposite," says Zimmer. "Interior designers and colorists are favoring lighter hues, including off-whites, that just tease the eye with traces of color."

Interestingly enough, there is a psychological benefit to a lighter indoor environment. Brighter surroundings can lift our spirits, and soft tints derived from certain color families—green and blue, for example—can feel restorative after a stressful day.

Vaguely reminiscent of the "pastels" of yesteryear, the light colors that are gaining popularity today are more sophisticated ensembles, often marrying three or more different hues to create soft color that is often hard to put a name to. Layering color in this way produces fascinating visual effects.

social mediaFebruary 2016 — As you ready for the busy spring season, keep in mind that the majority of your audience will be searching for you online.

“Your online marketing presence should be a main focal point of your business planning, especially when it comes to social media,” says Patty McNease, director of marketing for

Here are fresh marketing ideas to help you start your year off right.

Utilize Automation.

The less time you need to spend in front of a computer sending emails or composing tweets, the more time you’ll have for what you do best — home transactions.

Today, advancements in automated marketing have made it possible for agents to save hours each week while still connecting with clients and generating new leads. Services such as CRM integration, lead nurturing and management, automated email marketing, and sales cycle management are now easier than ever, and are helping to revolutionize real estate marketing.

peopleFebruary 2016 — Home sales are poised to zoom to the highest levels since 2006 this year, following a fast start and rosy 2016 housing forecasts.

Gains in new home construction and existing home sales are both expected to push total home sales to the highest levels in years. The new-home construction market is expected to see the most gains in 2016, said the National Association of Realtors, which is forecasting a 12 percent year-over-year increase in housing starts and a 16 percent year-over-year growth in new home sales. The gains in existing-home sales are expected to be more moderate, with expectations of a three percent year-over-year gain.

“The improvements we’ve seen over the last few years have enabled a recovery in the existing-home market…,” said Jonathan Smoke,’s chief economist. Total sales for existing and new homes are expected to reach six million for the first time since 2006 next year.

consumers1February 2016 — The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had increased in December, improved moderately in January. The Index now stands at 98.1 (1985=100), up from 96.3 in December. The Present Situation Index was unchanged at 116.4, while the Expectations Index increased from 83.0 to 85.9 in January.

“Consumer confidence improved slightly in January, following an increase in December,” says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions held steady, while their expectations for the next six months improved moderately. For now, consumers do not foresee the volatility in financial markets as having a negative impact on the economy.”