Sales of new single-family houses in the United States jumped 17.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 733 thousand in November of 2017 from a downwardly revised 624 thousand in October and beating market forecasts of 654 thousand. It was the strongest number since July of 2007. Sales rose in all four regions. New Home Sales in the United States averaged 650.82 Thousand from 1963 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 1389 Thousand in July of 2005 and a record low of 270 Thousand in February of 2011.
US New Home Sales Highest Since July 2007
Sales of new single-family houses in the United States jumped 17.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 733 thousand in November of 2017 from a downwardly revised 624 thousand in October and beating market forecasts of 654 thousand. Sales rose in all four regions.
Sales surged in all four main regions: South (14.9 percent to 416 thousand); West (31.1 percent to 194 thousand); Midwest (6.9 percent to 77 thousand) and Northeast (9.5 percent to 46 thousand):
The median sales price of new houses sold was $318,700, above $315,000 a year earlier. The average sales price was $377,100, also higher than $363,400 in November of 2016.
The stock of new houses for sale was flat at 283 thousand. This represents a supply of 4.6 months at the current sales rate.
Year-on-year, new home sales increased 26.6 percent.
National home price appreciation continued in September, while local home prices grew at different rates. All of the 20 metro areas had positive annual growth rates.
The Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, reported by S&P Dow Jones Indices, rose at a seasonally adjusted annual growth rate of 9.0% in September, faster than an 8.2% increase in August. It was the highest seasonally adjusted annual growth rate since October 2013. Tight inventory of existing homes is contributing to strong house price appreciation.
Meanwhile, the Home Price Index, released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.2% in September, following the 9.7% increase in August.
Figure 2 shows the annual growth rate of home prices for 20 major U.S. metropolitan areas. In September, local home price varied greatly and its annual growth rates ranged from 2.2% to 16.4%. However, all 20 metro areas tracked recorded year-over-year appreciation.
Among the 20 metro areas, Atlanta, San Francisco and Tampa had the highest home price appreciation. Atlanta led the way with 16.4%, followed by San Francisco with 14.6% and Tampa with a 12.7% increase. Half of the 20 metro areas exceeded the national average of 9.0%. The ten metro areas that had lower home price appreciation than the national level were: Los Angeles (8.1%), Denver (7.9%), Charlotte (7.4%), Seattle (6.8%), Miami (6.6%), Chicago (6.4%), Portland (6.2%), Detroit (3.9%), Washington, DC (3.7%) and Minneapolis (2.2%).
Get ready, New Yorkers: SantaCon is about to flood streets (and bars) of New York once again. If you live under a rock and haven’t seen or heard of SantaCon, it’s that one time of year where flocks of Santa and elf impersonators embark on a festive bar crawl, making a booze-fueled scene through the city that you’ll find either amusing or annoying to watch. It all goes down this Saturday, December 9.
Update: The SantaCon organizers have announced the locations for this year’s event, and as predicted, it’ll be concentrated in Manhattan—namely in Midtown and down to the East Village. The festivities will kick off at the James A. Farley Post Office across from Penn Station (of course) at 10 a.m., and things will continue on from there.
If you’re looking to participate, we recommend keeping an eye on SantaCon’s official website and Twitterpage for more details.
But if you want to avoid the whole thing (and something tells us that if you’re reading this, you do), we have a few tips along with some alternatives that don’t involve being around a swarm of drunken Santas gallivanting around.
Stay in the outer boroughs. There’s less of a risk of running into any hordes of Santas in the outer boroughs. Though we do recommend staying away from neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bushwick, since they’re a little to close to Manhattan for comfort.
Avoid going through Midtown if at all possible. Bars on the SantaCon route tend to span much of Midtown, so if you had plans in the area, maybe save it for Sunday. This includes riding the subway through the area. Nowhere is safe from Santas.
Get the heck out of town. There are likely to be some bridge-and-tunnel Santas coming in on the LIRR or Metro-North—both of which have imposed alcohol bans on Saturday, along with the New Jersey Transit, who is imposing a ban on all liquid beverages. If you’re going in the opposite direction of Manhattan, you should be safe.
And 5 fun things to do that are far away from SantaCon:
Check out local artwork in the Bronx. The Poe Park Visitor Center will be hosting its fifth annual Whimsical Winter Wonder… Exhibition, where you can catch artwork from over a dozen established and upcoming local artists.
Head on over to a Winter Wonderland. Enjoy an afternoon filled with crafts, hot chocolate, and a trackless train as part of Winter Wonderland, happening at Brookville Park in Queens.
Go dancing on a vintage train. The New York Transit Museum will invite revelers onto the vintage subway cars for a swing-themed dance party. The Nostalgia Swing Train will travel from Second Avenue to the museum’s Downtown Brooklyn location, where the party will continue. Costumes—of the non-Santa, ’40s-inspired variety—are encouraged.
Learn how to make a holiday wreath. Have an itch to learn how to make your own holiday wreaths? If so, here is your chance. Horticulturist and landscape designer Wambui Ippolito will be conducting a workshop at Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Admission is $75 and includes all materials.
Embark on an adventure at the Bronx Zoo. If you really want to do something out of the ordinary, make your way to the Bronx Zoo and check out their Treetop Adventure center where you can climb across various obstacle courses and enjoy two zipline adventures.
According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate is at 63.9% in the third quarter 2017, which is statistically unchanged from its last quarter reading of 63.7%. The rate of homeownership is on an upward trend after dropping to a cycle low of 62.9% in the second quarter 2016. Compared to the peak of 69.2% in 2004, the homeownership rate is below by 5.3% and remains below the 25-year average rate of 66.3%.
Younger homebuyers are gradually entering the housing market after the Recession. Compared to a year ago, the homeownership rates among households ages 35-44 increased from 58.4% to 59.3%. Millennials also registered noticeable gains – from 35.2% to 35.6%. Older households, ages 65 and over, is the only group where homeownership rates showed a slight decline of 0.1%.
The nonseasonally adjusted homeowner vacancy rate remained low at 1.6% in the third quarter 2017, down by 0.2% from previous year and statistically not different from the rate in the second quarter. At the same time, the national rental vacancy rate increased to 7.5%, compared to only 6.9% a year ago.
The HVS also provides a timely measure of household formations – the key driver of housing demand. Although it is not perfectly consistent with other Census Bureau surveys (Current Population Survey’s March ASEC, American Community Survey, and Decennial Census), the HVS remains a useful source of relatively real-time data.
The housing stock-based HVS revealed that the number of households increased to 119.1 million during the third quarter of 2017. This is 0.4 million higher than a year ago and sustains gains recorded in 2016. Growth in household formations will spur rental housing demand first, and ultimately, home sales. Indeed, the number of homeowner households rose by 0.8 million, after experiencing a large gain of 1.3 million in the second quarter.
An efficient HVAC system can you save you loads of money in the long run and keep your home nice and comfortable throughout the year. Problems in the ductwork, however, can quickly consume your energy budget and make it hard to heat and cool certain areas of the home. If you suspect your HVAC system is not working properly, follow this short guide to help identify and fix common ductwork problems.
Abnormal Energy Bills
A sudden spike in your energy bill is a good sign that your home’s HVAC system is compromised. Leaky connectors and poor designs lead to air flow loss, which makes the system work harder to heat and cool the home. This in turn expends more energy and runs up the electricity bill.
Another good indication of a bad HVAC system is noisy ductwork. In rectangular ducting, these noises are usually the result of the metal expanding and contracting. It should be noted that noises are typical when the system first turns on or off. You should be concerned, however, if the noises continue while the system is running. If you hear a whistling sound, for example, you are likely dealing with vent covers that are too small for the system.
If you have areas of the home that are hard to heat and cool or get overly stuffy, your HVAC system probably has a leak or two. Uneven temperatures are caused by poor air flow because the system is simply losing too much air to properly do its job. In extreme cases, you will not be able to heat or cool certain areas of the home even if the thermostat is turned to its highest setting.
Finding Problem Areas
Detecting problems in the ducting is a straightforward process. The biggest issues typically include bad seals around joints, improperly seated vents, and poorly supported ducts. You might also examine the overall design of the ductwork as the installer may have made mistakes in the original installation. Look for areas that feature sharp turns in the ducting as this can significantly reduce air flow.
You can also feel for air loss with your hands. Start by feeling the air pressure coming out of vents in multiple rooms. If you detect a difference between vents, then you know you have a leak somewhere in line with that vent. You can narrow down the location of the leak by using some incense, toilet paper, or wet fingertips. The incense and toilet paper will move or your fingers will get cold when coming in contact with the leak.
Examine the ducting for any obvious signs of gaps, holes, and cracks. The most likely problem areas include connections and seams, and places where the ducting links up with the ceiling, floor, registers, and vents. For flexible ducting, ensure the pieces are not crimped or tangled.
Fixing Ductwork Leaks
Once you locate the problem area, it’s time for a little repair. All you need to repair leaky ductwork is some HVAC-grade aluminum foil, a putty knife, gloves, and a few cloths. Begin by cleaning the area with a damp cloth and keep a lookout for any sharp edges. It’s recommended to use mastic for loose fittings, though foil tape can also prevent air loss. Just make sure the connection is tightened up and the screws are back in place before you apply tape. If you detect any major cracks in the ducting, you may need to replace the section with a new piece of sheet metal.
Gary Cohn: ‘People don’t buy homes because of the mortgage deduction’-or do they?
In the midst of the mad selling and explaining and quantifying and qualifying of potentially the biggest U.S. tax overhaul in decades, President Donald Trump‘s chief economic advisor stood at a White House podium and made a bold declaration: “People don’t buy homes because of the mortgage deduction.”
He said that, even though members of the Trump administration have repeatedly said they will “protect” the popular tax break.
There are a lot of reasons people buy homes — financial, practical and emotional. For the vast majority of those who make that choice, it is by far their single largest investment. Until the financial crisis, the common belief was the home prices always rise, and a home was therefore a proven way to build wealth, but that was proven wrong.
More than 6.5 million homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the past 10 years, according to Attom Data Solutions, and 2.8 million current homeowners still owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth. This after home prices plummeted nationally for the first time since the Great Depression.
Most consumers, at least according to several recent surveys, still believe that a home is a good investment. The majority of renters still aspire to homeownership, despite the fact that millennials have been deemed the “renter generation.” That designation is likely more due to high student loan debt and lower initial employment for this generation than anything else. Millennials have also been slower to marry and have children, which are the primary drivers of homeownership.
“I think people buy homes because it represents security and a way to build wealth and a sense of stability,” said Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “I don’t think the mortgage interest deduction plays a large role in that decision.”
For a great many homeowners, the deduction isn’t even a financial factor. A taxpayer can only take the deduction if he or she itemizes, and just one-third of taxpayers itemize, but about 64 percent of Americans own a home (and just over one-third of homeowners have no mortgage). Three-quarters of those who do itemize take the deduction, but if the standard deduction were raised, fewer taxpayers would itemize, and therefore the mortgage deduction would be used even less.
“Gary Cohn is probably right about that,” said Richard Green, director and chair of University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate. “It does absolutely encourage people to buy bigger houses than they would, but does it flip the switch between buying and renting? — maybe half a percent in homeownership, very little.”
Green notes that the deduction is most important to those living in states like California, which has both high tax rates and high home prices. Home prices there, he said, could drop without the deduction. As for overall homeownership, he points to other nations like Canada and Australia, which have no mortgage deduction but have very high homeownership rates.
The National Association of Realtors, one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in Washington, vehemently opposes any change to the deduction. Even though there has been no change so far, they came out against the current plan, claiming that because it would result in fewer taxpayers itemizing, it would weaken the power of the deduction.
“This proposal recommends a backdoor elimination of the mortgage interest deduction for all but the top 5 percent who would still itemize their deductions,” wrote NAR President William Brown in a release. “When combined with the elimination of the state and local tax deduction, these efforts represent a tax increase on millions of middle-class homeowners.”
In response to Cohn’s statement, Brown said, “There’s a reason our nation has incentivized homeownership in the tax code for over a century. It works, and helps make homeownership more affordable for middle-class families who might not otherwise be able to close the deal, while setting them on track for a strong financial future.”
Tax breaks do work. Witness the first-time homebuyer tax credit, designed to spur homebuying during the housing crash. It did cause a temporary but sizeable jump in home sales. The mortgage interest deduction, however, gives bigger benefits to those in higher tax brackets with larger loans. In other words, it benefits more wealthy owners, and is therefore less likely to the driving factor for homeownership.
Still, Brown contends that the lost incentive for even some to buy a home, “could cause home values to fall.”
Could home values really fall under the new tax plan? That depends less on taxes and more on the fundamental reason why home prices are currently overheating, which is a historically low supply of homes for sale. It is unlikely that the very strong supply and demand imbalance right now would be hit hard by any changes to the mortgage deduction, especially given that the largest generation is entering its homebuying years.
“We’ve got big supply issues right now. The reason housing purchases are down is because supply is down,” said Dan Gilbert, CEO of Quicken Loans in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Gilbert was more concerned with interest rates than the deduction and the net amount consumers will pay in taxes in the end.
Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert: As long as rates are reasonable, mortgage deduction going away doesn’t matter
The fact is, today’s housing market needs more houses far more than it needs lower taxes. In that respect, the mortgage interest deduction is far less important than tax savings for small-business owners, like homebuilders, who could increase production if costs were lower. The vast majority of homebuilders are small-business owners.
“I think the lower the cost of doing business, the more you can create a situation that leads to affordable housing,” said Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, in an interview on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” “The women and men that make up the homebuilding sector are businesspeople as well, and we have to look at the holistic treatment of business taxes and housing taxes.”
NAHB CEO: We have to look at tax reform plan holistically
While the realtors claim that without the savings from the mortgage deduction, some buyers couldn’t afford a home, others claim home prices are higher because the savings from the deduction gives consumers more buying power.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.85 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending October 5, 2017, up from last week when it averaged 3.83 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.42 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.15 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.13 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.72 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Quote Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“After holding steady last week, rates ticked up this week. The 10-year Treasury yield rose 8 basis points, while the 30-year mortgage rate increased 2 basis points to 3.85 percent.”
“We have better light rings than any other products on the market,” says Adam Mittleman. This is a sentence that I have never before heard uttered by anyone, even after a long time living on Planet Earth. But because I am visiting Nest, and Mittleman is its Head of Product Design, working on a new gadget that this startup-turned-controversial Alphabet division is launching, I can’t say I am surprised. After all, light rings—the shimmering glow-circles that allow digital appliances to provide feedback—have been a leitmotif for Nest throughout its eventful journey of disrupting the home. Thermostats, smoke alarms, and now Nest’s new home security system signal users via rings. Nest has given a lot of thought to them. Literally years of thought.
Naturally, there is a light ring on the Nest Guard, which is the hub of the Nest Secure suite. That suite has been in the works since well before the company was acquired by Google in January 2014 and then underwent a second recalibration in October 2015 when Google made Nest one of the divisions (“bets”) in the Alphabet archipelago. Depending on the message the new Nest Guard wants to convey, its ring might glow red, yellow or green.
Mittleman passionately cites the three potential problems that occur if a company does not pay attention to the design of its light rings. “One, the light is too direct, so that calls too much attention to itself,” he says. “Two, color uniformity can be really bad. Say, a yellow might look like some mix between oranges and reds and yellows, and it just doesn’t look really good. Three, hotspots. That’s the most common affliction—they’ll be much brighter in one location and then get dim and then bright and then dim and bright and dim.”
Red, yellow, green. In its brief history, Nest’s own progress might also be charted by a color-shifting light ring signaling the unit’s varying fortunes. Because Alphabet doesn’t break out sales figures or other numbers for Nest, it’s hard to say for sure what those actual fortunes are, but these days a yellow beam might be cutting the company a break. For a long stretch, Nest’s biggest splashes have been product recalls, destructive public infighting, and the departure of its CEO and cofounder. Meanwhile, Nest hasn’t announced a major new product category in ages. Until today. In Nest’s biggest moment in years, it is announcing a series of products that take it onto new ground—and, it hopes, flips its light ring to green for good.
The new products include the aforementioned Nest Secure, a home security system; Nest Hello, an internet-connected doorbell; an outdoor version of its Nest Cam IQ security camera (which uses Google face recognition to identify people who wander into range); and, perhaps most significant, the integration of the voice-based Google Assistant into Nest products, beginning with the indoor IQ camera.
The launch not only brings Nest into new territory, but also sends a signal that despite changes and setbacks, it’s still powered by the same impulse: to transform the home by reinventing mundane home appliances and services with internet connectivity and cutting-edge design. “The DNA hasn’t changed,” says Matt Rogers, who cofounded the company in 2010 with its first CEO, Tony Fadell. “But I think we finally are able to achieve what we’ve always talked about doing. We’re in millions of homes now. We’ve laid this foundation of products that solve really important problems and now we can link them together and do more with them.” Given, of course, that the lights glow green.
The face of Nest used to be Fadell, a visionary product designer best known for his iPod work, and a famously exacting leader. (He reportedly tried to cut short his cofounder’s honeymoon so the new bridegroom could address some product crises. Rogers refused.) The new leader would prefer not to be its face. When Fadell left in June 2016, Larry Page replaced him with Marwan Fawaz, a nuts-and-bolts guy who is much in the mold of other recent Alphabet division leaders: experienced, middle-aged guys (always guys) known less for vision than for delivering quarterly results. Though Fawaz is not reticent about invoking his considerable experience, his approach is methodical and straightforward. And decidedly not flamboyant. “They call me No Drama Marwan,” he says.
Fawaz’s previous jobs have involved launching and managing products for cable and telecom firms. The jewel of his resume was leading the Motorola Home product, a rare success in the troubled recent history of that firm. Also of note is his chairing the Technical Advisory Board of the security firm ADT. Fawaz says that his marching orders from Alphabet CEO Page were clear: “We want to make sure the presence in the home, and the business, is meaningful and global and [that] it’s successful. That it could thrive on its own as a business. You can interpret that by financial discipline, bringing new products to market, scaling the business.” Though it was widely believed that Alphabet was considering offers to sell off Nest (a rumor confirmed to me by knowledgeable sources), Fawaz assured Nesters on day one that the company was not for sale. He takes pains to assure me that despite what some may believe, the company will not go back on the block. “Selling Nest is not the right decision,” he says. “Nest has so much potential being in the Alphabet family.”
Fawaz sees his job as carrying forth the Nest mission by scaling its current products to larger audiences and markets. “We’re about creating the conscious home,” Fadell once saidabout the mission. “To take a truly important device that has had no great innovation and make that device really, really great.”
But that message got lost in a series of blunders and corporate shifts. The calamities began soon after the Google acquisition, when the company discovered a serious flaw in its smoke alarm. Its coolest feature, the Nest Wave—the ability to shut down a false alarm by waving your hand—held a potential danger: Under some circumstances it could have kept the alarm silent during a real fire or carbon monoxide release. Though no case like that had ever been reported, Nest halted sales for a few weeks and issued a recall to disable the feature in 440,000 Protect units.
During the next few years, news from Nest always seemed to have a bite to it. Users pestered the company with lawsuits about marketing promises and other issues. Rumored products didn’t appear. And everybody wondered just how many gadgets Nest was selling. Alphabet’s silence did not build confidence.
In June 2014, Nest bought Dropcam for $555 million, filling a gap in its smart home strategy with the connected camera leader. Though Nest’s painstaking integration of the technology into its system proceeded, however, it failed at combining the two companies’ cultures. Dropcam’s former CEO Greg Duffy, who had joined Nest to head the camera team, became so frustrated—primarily with Fadell—that he reportedly suggested that Page remove Fadell and make himCEO. After Duffy was rebuffed, he took his gripes public in a scathing Medium post.
Meanwhile, under the new Alphabet structure, tough-minded CFO Ruth Porat was putting the “bets” on a shorter leash, demanding better quarterly results. This didn’t please Fadell, who believed that investing in innovation was more important at the moment than focusing on profits. (All these woes and more were mercilessly recounted in a well-circulated takedown by The Information.)
Fadell left Nest in June 2016. Fawaz immediately replaced him.
(Some wondered why Fadell’s cofounder Rogers did not get the nod. His answer is: not yet. “I love spending time on product and design [but] having a sole product- and design-focused CEO is not enough. You need someone who’s focused on either the business or product, but it’s hard to do both. I think the split that Marwan and I have works really well. Maybe I’ll be CEO of Nest one day. Maybe a CEO of a different company.”)
The pileup of calamities might have hurt Nest’s profile among the digerati. But those who remained at the company (though, indeed, some Fadell loyalists have split) say that aside from the personalities of the respective leaders, the culture is still pretty much the same. One positive sign was the return early this year of Nest’s original VP of technology, Yoky Matsuoka, who left the company in 2015 and wound up at Apple. “When I started to look for the place where I can really have the most impact, I was really surprised to see that Nest was on the top of the list,” she says.
The real measure of Nest’s success, however, rests on its sales figures. Alphabet keeps those closer than the secrets of its search algorithm—but if you shake the tea leaves just right, you can see signs that Nest has sold pretty well. The fact that it had to recall 440,000 smoke detectors indicates that, even at its high price, the Nest Protect was a hit. Also, Nest products always seem to hold high positions on Amazon’s best seller lists. As I was researching this story, I actually got some concrete evidence: While talking about how he hoped the company would grow in the future, one of Nest’s executives blurted out a number: “Nest is on track to be a billion-dollar run rate company by the end of the year.” And that’s before Nest hits the market with the roster of products it’s launching today.
Making a security system—a connection-dependent home appliance whose current incarnations have been driving users crazy—has always seemed to be in Nest’s wheelhouse, and everyone has long assumed the company was working on one. Indeed, Nest has being doing just that—for almost four years. So the introduction of Nest Secure (shipping in November) and the companion video doorbell (out early next year) have been years in the making. In that time, Nest has finished up a communications protocol (Weave) and a wireless standard (Thread) to develop a platform where not only Nest products but also outside developers could plug in together and connect a whole Internet of Things-worth of stuff. But another reason it took so long was the high stakes of getting something wrong. “If a music app fails, people can say, ‘Wow. That’s a crappy product.’ The consequences aren’t so big,” says Matsuoka, who is now Nest’s Chief Technology Officer. “But in security, you have to make sure the door sensor works reliably every time the door cracks open.”
As with most Nest products, the apparent star of the show is a control device that gives users a window into the workings of a tool that was previously buried in analog obscurity. In the case of Nest Secure, that is a sleek tabletop disk—much in the mold of the recent routers from Eero or Google—that replaces the standard (ugly) keypad where customers anxiously tap in their codes before an alarm shrieks.
Head of Product for Nest Secure Sophie Le Guen explains the advantages: flexibility in placement (not everybody uses the same door to enter a house); no need to rip open the walls to install wiring; and it looks good. It also provides a number of ways to avoid what Nest discovered was the biggest failing of current systems: false alarms, the majority of which are caused by the same beloved family members (and their pets) that the system is meant to protect. The most important way of defeating those unwelcome, ear-piercing warnings (the Nest Guard is capable of 85db of eardrum misery) is a walnut-sized fob known as the Nest Tag—a $25 personalized pebble that verifies (via near-field communications) someone who’s supposed to be there. If you open a door or window when the system is alarmed, holding the Tag near the Nest Guard prevents the sound blast. “I can give it to my mother-in-law, I can give it to my kid, and they have no stress about how to arm and disarm because you just tag in and tag out,” says Le Guen. Not that you have to give your mother-in-law (or, say, the dogwalker) constant access: Using the Nest App, you can specify limited times and dates that the tag will work.
Like memorable character actors crushing in cameos, the real showstoppers of Nest products are often its sensors—and this is especially the case with Nest Secure. Called Nest Detect, the security system’s new $59 sensor performs double duty as a motion detector and a magnet-equipped monitor that detects when a door or window is opened. Another advantage of the Nest Detect is something it doesn’t do: light up when it detects motion. “People don’t want to be reminded that there’s a security device [watching them],” says Le Guen.
Steven Favreau is the type to go big – and go home.
When he set out to put down roots near his hometown of Boston, Favreau fell in love with an old country estate in quaint Chelsea, VT. It was the perfect place for this interior designer to escape from the hubbub of big city life after working with celebrity clients and more.
“It was a quintessential Vermont house in a quintessential Vermont town,” said Favreau, about spotting the house in 2012. “I hopped on a plane and bought it the next week.”
Built in 1832, the house was once owned by a man named Aaron Davis, whose family lived in it for at least 100 years. Davis’ granddaughter eventually sold the 23-acre property in the 1980s, and the new owner converted it into a bed and breakfast. (There’s still a portrait of Davis above one of the home’s five fireplaces.)
After Favreau purchased the 5-bed, 5-bath home, he sought to restore it to its original grandeur – at a frenetic pace. A contractor brought in a crew to rework everything from the wiring (it was a fire waiting to happen) to the wallpaper (there were 8 layers throughout the house). The workers even put in a massive new beam to support the house and keep it from sinking.
“The house sprung back to life and all the old Lally columns fell to the ground,” Favreau remembered. “They heard, ‘Bam-bam! Clank-clank!’ as they jacked it back to life.”
Up next on the designer’s list: keeping the look, feel and integrity of the antique touches, while updating the space to accommodate today’s trends. He tore out a downstairs wall to expand the kitchen to 700 square feet; the master suite got a modern bath with a soaking tub.
Favreau painted walls in his signature bright colors and added bold wallpaper. In a tip-of-the-hat to the history of the Green Mountain State, he lined the master bathroom with tree-print wallpaper. The dining room got a splash of flamingo pink with a print of Victorian-looking cake plates – a nod to the era in which the house was built.
“What I wanted to use for inspiration was the house and the period of the house, so nodding to the period and updating it with a contemporary aesthetic,” Favreau said. “It says today, but it also says yesterday.”
Some things are distinctly New England. A wooden footbridge connects the main property to 22 secluded acres on the other side of the White River. On warm summer nights, Favreau’s family will pull a dining room table out onto the bridge and dine al fresco.
In the winter, the adjacent land allows for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
There’s also an old wood barn, which Favreau envisions becoming an event space for weddings or storage. The possibilities for the next owner are limitless, he said.
“It’s a big glorious house, and my family is a big glorious family. We’ve enjoyed it,” he added. “I feel like I’ve loved my time being there and up in Vermont, but it’s time to find the next one. Maybe an oceanside property.”
The home is on the market for $695,000. Zoe Hathorn Washburn of Snyder Donegan carries the listing.
The NAHB Housing Market Index in the United States fell to 64 in July of 2017 from a downwardly revised 66 in June, below market expectations of 67. It is the lowest reading in eight months. The index of current single-family home sales went down 2 points to 70; sales expectations over the next six months declined 2 points to 73 and buyer traffic edged down 1 point to 48. Nahb Housing Market Index in the United States averaged 49.44 from 1985 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 78 in December of 1998 and a record low of 8 in January of 2009.