DIY Projects That Add Value to Your Home

Regardless if you are looking to put your home on the market this spring or planning to sell further down the road, there are so many home improvements projects you can do right now on your own to add value to your home. A well-informed and responsible homeowner keeps track of all remodels and updates over the years, and will also be aware of the projects that can provide the best return on their investment.

The average return at resale for home improvement projects is 63.7% of a project’s cost if the home is sold within a year, according to the Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 annual Cost vs. Value Report. Even if you aren’t looking to sell your home anytime soon, according to the National Realtor Association’s 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, after remodeling, 74% of homeowners had a greater desire to be in their home, 65% had increased enjoyment in their home, and 77% felt a major sense of accomplishment when they think about their completed project. Continue reading to learn some easy DIY home improvement projects whether you are selling or staying put this spring.

Deep Clean and Declutter

A good deep clean and declutter of your space is a cheap and easy way to keep your home looking it’s best. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t know which DIY project to start with first, begin with a deep clean. Not only will this help you feel more at peace being in a clean and fresh space, but performing the deep clean will allow you to notice parts of your home you never noticed before; like the outdated popcorn ceilings in your bathroom or that your kitchen cabinets have a lot of chips and scratches in them. Clearing up clutter makes deep cleaning that much easier, so make sure any visible clutter is tucked away in its correct spot or in a closet before starting your deep clean. Start high; ceiling, high light fixtures, ceiling trim, and ceiling fan blades. Then go low; window and door casings, walls, baseboards, window and door glass, doorknobs, and whatever else you feel that you don’t normally clean on a routine basis.

Paint the Interior

A fresh coat of paint, even if it’s the same color as it previously was, brings vibrance to any room and will make it feel like new. Newly painted rooms add value by providing a clean and updated look for potential buyers. Painting your home’s interior is a very cost-effective home improvement project, and can be accomplished by any homeowner willing to take on the task. Make sure that you properly clean and prep surfaces before painting, such as taping edges and doorways down. Apply a couple coats to make the new paint look vibrant and consistent. If you are looking to sell your home, stick with neutral colors when choosing your paint so it will appeal to a larger number of people.

Refresh Your Bathroom

An outdated or boring bathroom can really take away from the room’s overall style and feel. Giving your bathroom a quick refresh doesn’t need to be expensive. Upgrade old or outdated light fixtures, outlets, knobs, and pulls. Usually, you will just need a screwdriver to be able to replace these types of items This simple project won’t require too much of your time but will yield a big difference. If you’re thinking about painting the bathroom or going with another color scheme for your bathroom accent pieces, don’t be so quick to sell or throw out your existing bathroom décor. Spray paint is fairly cheap, and comes in so many colors and textures, too. For example, if you’re looking to change the accent pieces in your bathroom from white to black, don’t waste your money buying a new black mirror frame, instead, take that white mirror frame and spray paint it black for a fraction of the price.

Refinish or Paint Cabinets

If painting your interior walls wasn’t enough of a challenge, consider taking on the project of refinishing or painting your cabinets. This project can be more time consuming, and requires a little bit more skill, but it is a great project to take on that will add value to your home. It’s a fantastic way to completely transform the look and feel of a kitchen. Before putting on a stain or new paint, you’ll need to start sanding the cabinets down to remove any existing finish or paint; this is best done by removing the cabinets from the wall first. It’s also not a bad idea to replace or polish up any worn-out knobs or pulls to your cabinets for that brand new look.

Replace Flooring

Especially if you’re trying to sell your home, it’s a good idea to replace or spruce up your floors if they are outdated or worn out. Homebuyers prefer hard flooring options compared to wall-to-wall carpeting. And while the idea of removing carpeting or refinishing wood floors on your own can seem like a daunting task, this DIY project can be accomplished with the correct tools, budget, and time. Be prepared to dedicate some time to removing the existing carpet or other flooring material, as well as preparing the space and installing the new flooring. New wood floors or even high-quality vinyl or tile floors can deliver a significant return on your investment and is definitely worth the time and money spent.

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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Home Staging Tips for This Spring

Spring is the season of change and transformation. Spring brings sunshine, new growth and a fresh outlook on the year ahead. While you can’t change the location of your home, you can change its condition to attract top dollar when putting your home up for sale. If you’re looking to attract buyers for your home this spring, get ready to sell with these Spring home staging tips:

Spruce Up Curb Appeal

Start with the outside of your property – ensure a clean exterior appearance by power washing your siding and sidewalks, washing windows and shutters, clearing winter debris, clearing up the gardens, and pruning the trees and shrubs. To mark the change of season, a fresh coat of paint on the front door can present an inviting and welcoming first impression. When mowing your lawn, consider mowing diagonally to make your yard appear larger. Depending on your location, yard space can be a sought-after perk. So, if you are lucky enough to have any amount of outside space, do your best to maximize it to it’s full potential.

Freshen Up the Interior

Scrub down the inside of your home until it sparkles! Clean the interior by organizing, de-cluttering, and deep cleaning the whole space. It’s also a good time to store away any winter attire and equipment laying around. It’s important to note while doing this to avoid jamming your clutter into your closets. Most buyers are interested in the closest and storage space you have to offer so expect them to be looking in those places. Try to free up as much surface space as you can on shelves, coffee and side tables – especially kitchen countertops. Wicker or rope baskets can be perfect for throwing in items that you need but don’t necessarily want to see or have a place for. Storage units and containers are also another great option should you require more space.

Embrace New Beginnings

Embrace the new beginnings Spring brings by integrating floral prints, bright and pastel colors, and spring flowers in your home. Do this by accenting colorful artwork, decorations, pillows, throws, and displaying glass bowls filled with seasonal fruit. Essentially, any accessory against a neutral backdrop will add warmth and energy into any home. Replace dark winter towels with fresh, colorful towels for the bathrooms and kitchen. If you do nothing else, make sure your home is clean, clutter, and odor free – remember that you are probably used to your pet’s smells, but your buyers are not! Try to let natural light in as much as you can to make the rooms appear larger. Also consider bringing in real plants to add some color and make the home feel closer to nature. It makes your home feel like a true home, not a hotel or museum.

Incorporate Spring’s Aromas

Incorporating the sweet and beautiful smells of spring is one way to ensure that your house smells amazing when buyers visit. Making your home smell like a Spring day provides a pleasant odor that can help boost your buyer’s mood. Some of the best smelling Spring flowers to display in your home are lilies, peonies, and hyacinths. Lemons are also a good natural deodorizer that can add nice splash of color to kitchen. If you prefer non-perishable items, consider using spring-scented candle warmers or diffusing essential oils.

These Spring staging tips will help you create a warm, cheerful, and welcoming environment for all your buyers.

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Pricing Your Home

Pricing a home is not a simple process, and sellers are not immune to making mistakes that will waste both time and money. Have a stress-free home sale by avoiding these four pricing mistakes that sellers commonly make when pricing their home.

Mistake #1: Foregoing Research

Local market information is freely available online, so be sure to use it to your advantage! Look for homes similar to yours that have been listed in your neighborhood over the past six months to get a rough estimate of what your home would be worth. You’ll want to stay within a ¼ mile to a ½ mile from your home unless there are not many comps in the vicinity or the property is in a rural area. It’s very easy to be fooled looking at a website online where it gives you a very high price on your home, that’s where a listing agent comes in to help you navigate.

Mistake #2: Hiring the Wrong Agent

Now that you’ve done some research, it’s time to find an agent that will keep your best interest in mind. When pricing your home, a listing agent has your back in ways that online property listing sites just can’t compete with. An experienced agent:

  • Has real world experience and connections in your community.
  • Knows your neighborhood’s micro-market like the back of their hand.
  • Can properly assess with their expertise how your home stacks up to similar ones recently sold in your area.
  • Can personally tour your property to see where your home fits in the real estate landscape.

A good listing agent will consider online market data as well as rely on first-hand knowledge about your home and neighborhood’s unique features to make an informed listing price for you. Listing agents can also help with marketing your home by suggesting certain social media platforms to post on, introduce you to pro stages, inspectors, and contractors who can make any needed changes or repairs.

Mistake #3: Pricing Too High from the Start

Your home can either make a good or bad initial impression to buyers from your first listing price. It’s worth it to make sure you set it at a reasonable price to begin with. According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2020 they reported that sellers typically sold their homes for 99% of the listing price, while 38% reported reducing the asking price at least once. If your home enters the market overpriced, many buyers could overlook your property from the beginning because it will be out of their price range. By the time you are able to react and adjust the price, many potential buyers will have already found something else. Other buyers may be interested in the lowered price, but they’ll also be able to see that your home has been sitting on the market for a while and may wonder if there is something wrong with the home. Avoid this mistake by working with a real estate professional to correctly price your home the first time to gain the attention of serious buyers and sell more quickly.

Mistake #4: Getting Too Emotionally Involved

It’s likely you’ve spent a great amount of time, money, and energy transforming your property into a place you call home. It’s completely normal to be emotionally invested in its sale. On the other hand, buyers won’t have that same warm fuzzy feeling about your home as you do – so what you think your home is worth shouldn’t be a factor in determining your listing price. Try to stay objective during the pricing process and focus on the statistics from your real estate agent’s CMA (Comparative Market Analysis). Similarly, don’t be personally offended by lowball offers. Instead, think of these lowball offers as a starting point of negotiation that could result in a sale.

By our Preferred Vendor, Choice Home Warranty.

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How Safe Is It To Hire A Cleaning Service During COVID-19?

It seems natural to respond out of caution by locking things down during the crisis, but the experts from governments to media to the doctors have been saying “BE CLEAN” and if you use a  responsible house cleaning service it may actually help improve the home’s health.

Hygiene-Cleanliness-Sanitation…more important than ever before!

We are living by so many guidelines that basically discourage us from inviting people into our homes and this is the dilemma when deciding whether or not to bring a cleaner inside your home.

Of course we all want to prevent the virus from spreading by practicing all the health protocols, but disallowing a cleaner into your home is denying them the importance task of keeping your home clean. Now you have a Catch 22 situation.

At Maid in America you’ll have peace of mind knowing that we have trained to ensure every precaution is taken to provide our essential service responsibly and safely! This far outweighs the reasons NOT to hire a cleaner.

Since April 2020 cleaning services have been deemed essential!

When the original ‘Stay At Home Order’ was lifted it was replaced by the new guidance of economic recovery for championing health as well as physical distancing. Our Governor of Georgia aligned with the specifications laid out by the CDC and the White House.

There were health guidelines for businesses and customers with guidance that allowed for the partial resumption of operations. Many off these services, such as gyms, spas, and pools are actually far more invasive than inviting a cleaner into your house.

Still not convinced?  Read on…

Here is why hiring a cleaning is more important than ever before:

  1. Responsible-Safe-ProfessionalA cleaner offers a professional service and one that is critical in a time when it is particularly important to keep a hygienic environment for your family or the workers at your office. In a nutshell, an illness that affects most of the world and thrives off an unhygienic environment isn’t the time to be lax or skimp on keeping your home clean. While you might feel that you are perfectly capable of properly cleaning your home yourself, can you really do a better job than an experienced, trained professional?
  2. Take a breakAren’t we all exhausted? Of course you and I are just as everybody else because it is affecting so many aspects of life. So, why go through extra stress? Hiring a cleaner is one less thing on your plate.  Now, you will have more time to do the more important things in life that are fun and pleasurable, while having one less task on your list that is already long enough!

    Ahh… now you and your families health will be benefiting, plus you will sleep better knowing that your pro-activity will ensure the safety and well-being of those you love.

  3.  Your contribution to society mattersAs a responsible citizen, you can rest easy knowing that you are playing your role in fighting the spread of the virus.

    When we become more serious about our role in maintaining high levels of hygiene, the quicker the virus can be eliminated. All of us would like to put COVID-19 behind us as quickly as possible. This is definitely not the time for cutting corners with cleanliness.

    One person, one household CAN make a difference!  This is a collective effort by all of us to stomp this virus. While we have been advised to distance ourselves and stay indoors to beat the virus it is equally important to keep cleaners working to ensure professional hygiene levels. This is just as important as social distancing or isolating.

  4. Stop the spread of fear and pandemonium by letting common sense and responsible actions leadIt can be argued that you have given into the fear of the pandemic by cancelling your cleaning service. While people’s lives all over the world were forced to change drastically in 2020, hiding away in fear isn’t the solution. Don’t let fear and panic derail you from making a sensible decision.
  5. Social DistancingJust because you are welcoming a cleaner in your home does not automatically mean that you no longer have to practice social distancing. The simple fact is that you ARE social distancing anyway once you leave your house if you are a responsible citizen.

    Whenever the UPS comes to your door with a package, or when you run essential errands like going to the local grocery store, you should keep at least 6 feet away from other people. You should keep enforcing the same rules with the cleaner, too.  In fact, Maid in America will ask you to be in another room if you are home during the cleaning just to be extra safe.

  6. COVID-19 PrecautionsAcross the world, businesses and professionals are being forced to adapt to the crisis. That means that professional standards are being enforced by companies along with their staff that continue to interact with customers.  We are no exception and we take it seriously!

    Responsible, professional cleaning services will ensure that personal protective equipment is worn whenever a staff member is sent into somebody’s home. The cleaners will be wearing gloves and masks to add an additional layer of protection.

    The cleaning staff are also trained on how to clean your house professionally without risking infection or spreading it, keeping everything at a maximum level of sanitation, and reducing the risk to you and your family.

  7. Support your local businesses…RESPONSIBLYCOVID-19 has brought about uncertain times across the globe. Worries of job losses and income – especially  those in the domestic service industry.

    Whenever possible, please consider playing your role in supporting local businesses. Retaining the services provided by a cleaner is a great way to do this.

  8. You are at home moreThis means that you and your family have been using the house more. The kids have been home-schooled and you likely have been working from home. This alone is a good enough reason to ensure that you are on top of things with regards to getting your home professionally cleaned.
  9. Now that you are home more you can start ‘De-Cluttering’projects”Although this is a great time for de-cluttering it can create several hygiene issues. Stirring the dust on the long-forgotten clutter is a real issue not to mention extra trash which can be gross!  Now is the perfect time for a professional cleaner to clean up behind you.
  10. Professional ProductsA professional cleaning company typically uses commercial-grade, heavy-duty cleaning products that you may not have access to.  They most likely have disinfectants that are EPA registered.

    Maid in America has made sure to use the same botanical disinfectant that we have always used AND we are proud to say that it is on the EPA’s list!



Wear your masks whenever the cleaner is inside your home doing their job.

Make sure that hand sanitizer is always available.

Instruct other members of your household to stay out of the way. You want to ensure that the cleaner can do their job effectively. Ensure that you, your children, and any pets are somewhere else while they clean.

Manage your household to minimize the risk to both you and the cleaner. It will mean that the job is done better, faster, and everybody will have peace of mind during this worrying time.

Get Hiring

The key reasons for hiring a cleaner during the COVID-19 crisis should be clear: to keep your home hygienic, sterilized, and sanitized, and spotless.  Then of course, you have the benefit of enjoying more TIME to do the things you enjoy.

By our Preferred Vendor, Vicki Bates with Maid in America

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5 Multifamily Trends to Watch in 2021

The pandemic changed virtually every aspect of life for Americans, including how we shop, the ways our children learn, where we do our work, and — in many cases — our living conditions. The multifamily real estate investment market has also changed substantially since this time one year ago, but some ownership tenets remain, such as the opportunities in value-add properties, the importance of finding the right location, and a focus on supplying tenants what they want in terms of amenities and living space.

“Now is still a great time to buy a multifamily property,” said Nicholas Zolotas, a Realtor at Herrick Lutts Realty Partners in Beverly, Massachusetts. “Each deal has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, but with interest rates being so low and rental demand climbing, even with rising prices you can still achieve a good return.”

As always, he said, purchasing value-add properties where you can renovate to enhance returns is one key path to profitability. But the increased focus on value-add deals is just one of several trends that experts discussed with LoopNet.

Value-Add Properties Provide the Most Opportunities

Unlike the retail sector, which continues to struggle, multifamily commercial properties remain a solid investment, experts said.

“Multifamily [value-add] is the only [sector] I feel confident about right now,” said Cyrus Vaghar of Coldwell-Banker Real Estate in Newton, Massachusetts. “Many developers looking to do mixed-use projects have simply axed the retail on the first floor and are now simply making their buildout a [solely residential] development.”

Most agree that the greatest profit potential exists in value-add buildings, particularly in secondary markets.

“We’ve netted fantastic returns for our investors with our strategy of buying value-add properties in burgeoning secondary markets,” said Lexi Rich, marketing director for Lloyd Jones, LLC, a multifamily and senior living investment and management firm in Miami. “We certainly don’t see this sector of multifamily investment going away any time soon.”

Even in areas where rents have plummeted or stagnated, investors who can spruce up a building with well-chosen renovations, such as an updated kitchen with new appliances and finishes or outdoor living space, can draw in tenants quickly and turn a profit.

“Each deal and each market is different,” Rich said. “Generally, we target an ROI of 20% or higher when deciding which value-add initiatives to implement, and then charge a rent premium accordingly once those upgrades are complete.”

She added, “Sometimes, the market calls for a major upgrade package that includes new flooring and quartz countertops, but in other situations, more nuanced upgrades like new cabinet hardware or adding a tile backsplash can make a big difference to refresh a unit and bring in new renters.”

Experts also noted that forward-thinking investors should overhaul properties with the potential for future condo conversions in mind. If you’re investing in Class-B value-add properties, consider upgrades that would permit a profitable sale in the future, said Michelle Mumoli, a broker for Jersey City, New Jersey-based Triplemint, a firm specializing in multifamily and residential new development properties across the state.

She suggested upgrades that can make the units self-sustaining and practical for future condo sales, giving residents greater privacy and more autonomy over their living space.

“Investors should consider gut renovations that may include creating better floor plans, and providing in-unit washer/dryers and tankless water heaters,” she said.

Buildings with Six to 10 Units Represent Great Opportunities

Several sources suggested that larger buildings (more than four units) may carry greater profits, especially if President Biden introduces tax legislation that rewards environmentally friendly multifamily dwellings. In addition, Biden’s proposed housing regulation changes include reducing or eliminating exclusionary zoning policies, which could put more multi-dwelling units (MDUs) in suburban and rural areas.

“For bigger developers and groups, we’re recommending [buildings with] six- to 10-family units,” said Mumoli. “We’re heading to what once were rural areas with proximity to transportation and, with developers, creating services for future residents. There are great opportunities happening right now.”

Vaghar cited one developer who applied for permitting to expand the footprint of a property by connecting two side-by-side multifamily dwellings and adding 10 new units. “Before the pandemic and with high rents, the financial incentives to do so would not have been there,” Vaghar said.

“As you get above four units, you enter in the commercial loan market where rates are still sub-4% in a lot of places.,” Zolotas noted. “You also have some banks getting creative and giving 35-year amortization, which allows a property to cash-flow well, even with the climbing property prices.”

Renters Seek Dedicated Spaces for Indoor and Outdoor Living

Before putting money into upgrades, look at renovations with an eye on post-pandemic living. Consider what elements of everyday life will change once COVID-19 vaccinations achieve widespread distribution and we operate in a “new normal,” along with the type of amenities tenants want now.

In December 2020, 41.8% of the U.S. workforce continued to work remotely, according to a recent study from online work marketplace Upwork. The same study found that 22% of the American workforce will be full-time remote in 2025, representing an 87% increase from pre-pandemic numbers.

“Tenants need to be able to live and work in their homes, with a dedicated space for their work and schooling, as well as outdoor space that is private,” said Mumoli.

For instance, a study from the National Association of Home Builders found that 80% of homebuyers listed a backyard patio as “essential” in a new home. Renters today want similar amenities, especially as people may put off buying their first home in favor of renting until the economic uncertainty of the pandemic levels out.

Dedicated home office space is also a selling point, but desk nooks in the living room, kitchen or dining area can also provide the flexibility today’s mobile workforce needs. Hard-wired ethernet lines can help ensure solid internet connections for video conferencing or distance learning.

Tenants Prioritize Privacy and Personalization More Than Ever

Pre-pandemic, millennial renters sought out community spaces where they could create bonds with their neighbors. Now, people have started seeking out privacy and have formed their own pods built not by proximity, but by shared ideals for safety and risk tolerance surrounding the virus. In other words, people are choosing to spend time with people they trust and who are being as cautious as they are about COVID-19.

With this in mind, today’s tenants seek private entrances with outdoor access to and from their apartment and in-unit amenities such as laundry service and high-speed WiFi.

“Prior to the pandemic, residents prioritized first-class amenities, fitness centers, and resort-style pools,” Rich said. “After doing research into residents’ new desires, we’ve pivoted to prioritizing the interiors of our apartments. Residents want more space … and a more spacious kitchen as they’re cooking more meals at home.”

She further emphasized that amenities should focus on convenience for the way we live today. For instance, a package locker room for deliveries would best serve the needs of tenants now and post-pandemic, as digital shopping and grocery deliveries have become a new part of life.

“It would be wise for companies to invest in a refrigerated package locker section for residents who receive meal delivery kits or groceries through Instacart or Amazon Fresh,” Rich added.

The Urban Exodus Will Continue, But Big Cities Won’t Die

Most investors we spoke with agreed that an urban exodus is still in full force. “The longer the pandemic continues, the less confidence I have in people wanting to move back to the city in the short-to-medium term,” said Vaghar, who operates primarily within Boston and the surrounding suburbs.

Mumoli agreed that most residents who left major cities and now work remotely won’t return to commuting, but believes the country’s biggest cities will always thrive on a new influx of residents. “A new surge of people will move in, where previously it was unaffordable for them. Life in cities will be different, but it will come back,” she said.

As renters leave top-tier coastal cities like New York, Boston, and areas of Northern and Southern California, they are flocking to the regions such as the Sunbelt, experts say.

“Especially as more companies from the Northeast U.S. and California announce plans to move their headquarters to these Southern states, we’re focused on multifamily properties in suburban markets in the Sunbelt,” Rich explained. “Florida and Texas are attractive due to their agreeable climates, tax benefits for businesses, and generally lower cost of living compared to New York and California.” She noted that Houston, along with the Florida cities of Jacksonville, Orlando, and Daytona Beach, will also “be getting a lot of play this year.”

As multifamily investors prepare for a new era of post-pandemic rentals, lifestyle changes introduced as a result of COVID-19 will continue to affect building amenities, floor plans, and even what renters consider prime locations for quite some time.

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Hybrid Work is Coming: Key Terms and Concepts You Need to Know

Vaccinations are going into arms every day and more schools are meeting in person for at least a few days a week. This momentum has enabled some employees to visit their offices and literally dust the cobwebs off their workstations.

The work-from-home dynamic, which scaled up significantly in 2020, has turned out to be technically feasible for most, but many believe that it is not an equal substitute for face-to-face interaction in an office environment. According to Mia Marshall, a principal with architecture firm MZA based in Seattle, “the face-to-face component is critical for informal interaction and taking relationships to a different level.”

Companies recognize that in-person workplaces are still critical to maintaining company culture, innovation, employee onboarding, training and much more. But as communities slowly reopen, the looming question for office-based business owners is not ‘do my employees need to return to the office?’ but rather ‘how often do my employees need to work from the office?’

LoopNet compiled a list of key terms and concepts to help business owners determine if it makes sense for their enterprise to adopt a remote work policy and, if so, what it might look like.

Hybrid and Flexible Work

These terms are often used interchangeably, but generally hybrid work models emphasize the physical locations in which employees labor, while flexible work policies mostly refer to how an employee organizes their workday or week.

Hybrid work. Hybrid work, or the hybrid work model, establishes some balance between working in the office and working from a remote location. Each employer will need to figure out how many and which days each week, month or quarter employees will need to be in the office. “I think there is definitely no one size fits all. I think every company is going to be different. [Decisions will be based on each] individual, their role, [and] what their job position within the company is,” said Marshall. Each hybrid work model will vary by task and department, time of year, urgency of deadlines, stage of a project, etc.

Flexible work. This term is sometimes used as a substitute for hybrid work, implying that employees have latitude to work from a variety of locations. However, in practice, flexible work policies in most employee handbooks tend to give employees options relating to the number of hours they will work each day or week (e.g., four 10-hour days or five eight-hour days, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.). In some cases, flexible work policies also cover the locations from which employees will work, but the point is that these are two distinct considerations, each of which needs to be addressed.

Remote Work, Work From Home and Distributed Work

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably but there are nuances to each. Understanding those nuances upfront may help employers be intentional about the parameters they set for their hybrid work policy, ensuring that it makes sense for their workflow and culture.

Remote work. This term has been used for decades and generally means working from anywhere that is not an assigned company office. Today, remote work means that an individual can work from any location with a Wi-Fi connection (e.g., an airport, a coffee shop or their mother-in-law’s house) as long as they can access company networks, communicate with clients and colleagues, and be productive relative to the work that needs to be done.

Each company defines remote work in its own way. For example, a company with a headquarters location and several suburban or nationwide locations may say that an employee working outside of their assigned office is working remotely.

Work from home (WFH). On the surface this seems clear, but this definition varies. For some employers it means literally working from home from a designated workspace where computer monitors, and other necessary equipment are set up. Others use WFH as a substitute for remote work, but in essence it is a subset of remote work and employers will need to determine if their hybrid model will confine employees to their desks at home, i.e., literally working from home, or if it will give them the latitude to work from any non-office location.

“Are you at your highest and best use sitting at your home office where you can kill it and get all your work done or are you highly productive in the office,” posited Marshall. “It all comes down to where you do your best work,” she said.

Distributed work. According to a CoreNet study, distributed work means physically separated workplaces from which businesses can continue to operate. In practice, this model typically features a headquarters location with most employees working from home. In a regional setting, employees may be just a car ride away from one another; in a national setting they may likely be scattered, needing to fly to gather with colleagues. The model enables companies to reduce real estate costs because they lease very little office space. It also allows companies to reduce overall salary expenses due to lower salary requirements in secondary and tertiary markets.

However, with distributed work “you basically have no hub, or home base to be your center of culture [or place where] you’re managing your brand and culture,” said Marshall. Employees can gather for retreats and team-building sessions “but you don’t have the same brand and cultural development in a conference room in a hotel that you have at the headquarters office,” she noted. “And while, you might save on some real estate, your travel expenses [may] skyrocket.”

The Hub and Spoke Model

This is a term believed to have originated in the airline industry to describe groupings of one large and many small airports for purposes of routing air traffic. In the office sector, the concept has been adapted to convey the idea of a centrally situated headquarters in a central business district (CBD) that is supplemented by various smaller offices and workplaces in suburban locations.

This notion existed in real estate decades before the COVID-19 pandemic, as employers worked to balance elements such as client engagement, employee productivity, commute times and real estate costs. The concept is remerging with vigor as companies focus on creating post-pandemic real estate footprints that will optimize their version of the hybrid work model.

In the model, the headquarters office (or hub) is in a geographically central location and serves as a place for meeting with company leadership, to collaborate with team members, work on critical projects and have challenging conversations — all things that seem to work best in face-to-face settings. “Spoke” locations are generally smaller facilities, such as satellite offices, coworking or executive suite spaces, hotel lobbies, coffee shops and employee homes.

The Third Place

The third place is a term that can be applied in various contexts. With the hub and spoke model, the third place means a location that is neither one’s home nor office. Examples include a coffee shop, a coworking facility or even a company office other than the employee’s designated location. The “third place will always be the next step; it’s not your home, it’s not your office, it’s something in between. This concept was prevalent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will become mainstream, more than ever, across many industries,” Marshall said.

Coworking spaces are often mentioned as a type of third space for employees. Marshall said these spaces can be secured in various parts of a region for employees to meet as teams or to provide a change of scenery — and boost in productivity — for an individual worker.

Relative to an office building, third places include shared locations or common areas in buildings like a lobby, lounge area or coffee/sandwhich shop. Inside an office suite, this space can be a quiet room meant to serve as an escape from a desk in an open-plan office, the office kitchen or meeting areas. These are all places that, if properly designed, can be offered as “touchdown” spots for individuals that work from the office occasionally.

Desks, Offices, Collaboration Rooms and Scheduling Apps

Once decisions are made about the real estate “footprint” or the combination of locations and types of facilities that fit the needs of an employer, decisions need to be made about which buildings employees will have access to, when they will be able to work there, what types of workstations will be provided and where each employee will land when they arrive. These are granular decisions that will need to be made in concert with the remote work policy of each company. The following are terms that will arise in the course of making those determinations.

Assigned and Unassigned Desks. For the hybrid work model to be cost-optimized by employers, Marshall said “you have to fill the real estate all the time. I mean, who wants real estate that’s not being utilized?” This means the days of assigned desks may be over and “desk sharing will be happening more and more,” she added. Other terms for unassigned office seating include free address, hot desk, hoteling and “touchdown” space.”

Private Offices. Private offices will continue to exist in a hybrid work model, mostly for C-suite positions. But Marshall said they will do double and possibly triple duty. Individuals assigned offices may be sharing them with another senior employee, and, if neither of them is using it, the private office may be used as a conference room.

Conference, Huddle and Collaborative Rooms. These spaces where multiple people will gather inside the office are considered the heart of the hybrid work model. “Collaboration space is going to grow substantially,” said Marshall. She indicated that roughly half of the space in an office suite could become collaborative workspace. There will be “larger meeting rooms with moving walls that can open up and flex into much larger space and really can expand and contract.” These rooms will be designed to accommodate two or more people with tables, chairs, extensive audiovisual features and robust soundproofing.

Scheduling Apps. Marshall noted that scheduling apps will be a critical part of the hybrid work model. “There’s going to be a reservation process where you can see, ‘this is the space that’s available on Tuesday between two and four o’clock, I’m going to grab it.’” These scheduling apps are often partnered with sensors attached to workstations, offices and conference rooms. Vivid floorplans show the location, size and capacity of work areas and indicate when each is available or booked and by whom.


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Upwork Study Finds 22% of American Workforce Will Be Remote by 2025

Growing acceptance of remote work amid the pandemic will create increasingly distributed and flexible teams in 2021 and beyond

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – December 15, 2020 – Upwork, the world’s largest work marketplace, today released the results of its second 2020 Future Workforce Pulse Report, a survey that examines the hiring habits and sentiment of over 1,000 U.S. hiring managers. The findings reveal that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% percent increase from pre-pandemic levels.

“Our research shows the long-lasting impact that remote work and COVID-19 are likely to have on how hiring managers think about their organizations,” says Upwork Chief Economist, Adam Ozimek. “As businesses adapt and learn from this remote work experiment, many are altering their long term plans to accommodate this way of working. On work marketplaces like Upwork, we can already see this shift underway with increased demand for remote professionals.”

The survey comes at a time when remote work is increasingly a mainstay of American professional life, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the sudden shift to remote work has been an adjustment, the survey finds hiring managers are seeing the positive benefits to a distributed workforce and plan to continue leveraging remote talent. For additional results visit the full survey page here and to view analysis by Upwork’s Chief Economist Adam Ozimek, read his report here.


Key findings reveal:

  • Companies continue to be remote: Nine months into the pandemic, 41.8 percent of the American workforce remains fully remote.
  • The number of remote workers in the next five years is expected to be nearly double what it was before COVID-19: By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be remote, an increase of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates.
  • Remote work will continue through 2021: Managers believe that 26.7 percent of the workforce will be fully remote in one year suggesting that individuals will gradually continue to return to the office, but a significant share will remain remote in the near future.
  • Companies say remote work is getting easier, not harder, as time goes on: 68 percent of hiring managers say remote work is going more smoothly now than when their company first made the shift at the start of the pandemic.
  • Increased productivity and flexibility continue to be key benefits of remote work: 70 percent of hiring managers cite reduction of non-essential meetings, 60 percent cite increased schedule flexibility, and 54 percent cite no commute as aspects of remote work that have worked better than expected.

Additional findings include:

Despite the success of remote work, hiring managers continue to face resourcing issues:

  • 58 percent of hiring managers agree that they feel stretched to capacity due to limited resources and support
  • 61 percent of teams either lack people or skills to complete all their work
  • 52 percent of teams have had to delay or cancel projects due to the lack of available talent

Some are already finding relief with independent professionals:

  • 48 percent of hiring managers are working with independent talent today
  • 73 percent of managers who see the value in remote work are engaging independent professionals
  • The median number of days a position is open for independent professional is half of a FT employee (7 days vs. 14 days)

And more are beginning to unlock the potential of independent professionals as they become more comfortable with remote teams:

  • A 10% increase in the share of workers who willfully remote in the long run is associated with a 1.6% to 2.7% increase in the likelihood of hiring freelancers

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Mortgage Rates Reverse Course, Dropping For First Time In 2 Months

After 7 weeks of consecutive increases in mortgage rates, Freddie Mac’s most recent survey shows a decrease, giving borrowers the chance to refinance Mortgage rates reverse course, dropping for first time in 2 months BY KELSEY RAMÍREZ Today 7:53 A.M.

Mortgage interest rates dropped for the first time after nearly two months of upward momentum, giving some borrowers who haven’t yet done so the opportunity to refinance.

The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to 3.13 percent for the week ending Apr. 8, 2021, according to the latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey from Freddie Mac. This is down five basis points from 3.18 percent last week, and down from 3.33 percent last year.

“After moving up for seven consecutive weeks, mortgage rates have dropped due to the recent, modest decline of U.S. Treasury yields,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater said in a statement. “As the economy recovers, it should experience a strong rebound in the labor market. Combined, these positive signals will continue to bolster purchase demand. The drop in rates creates yet another opportunity for those who have not refinanced to take a look at the possibility.”

The average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also dropped from 2.45 percent last week to 2.42 percent. This is down from 2.77 percent last year.

On the other hand, the five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage increased to 2.92 percent, up from 2.84 percent. This was still down from last year, when it averaged 3.4 percent.
Over the past seven weeks, interest rates have continued to rise consistently. This rise in rates slowed housing market activity and mortgage applications dropped as rates went higher. In fact, refinance applications dropped 5 percent from the previous week and 20 percent from last year in the Mortgage Bankers Association’s most recent report.

However, some experts also hoped that these rising rates would cool rapidly rising home prices, which are currently growing at their fastest rate since 2006. And while rates are still expected to continue rising throughout 2021, this week’s drop could give the housing market another boost in activity.

State of Commercial Lending……

Because we process through so many loans every month and we are constantly sending deals to numerous lenders every week, I get a real good feel for trends in underwriting. So here is the current state of commercial lending from an underwriters perspective……

SBA- SBA lenders have been steady throughout the pandemic as bailout legislation utilized the SBA heavily, but they scaled way back in certain asset classes like hotels and gyms. Which of course, makes sense since those businesses got shut down the hardest. However, those asset classes are beginning to be looked at again. In just the last week we have gotten approvals on 3 hotels and 2 gyms. Restaurants with drive throughs still had money available last year but normal restaurants are being favorably underwritten again. Although many businesses had down years in 2020 which may limit them, a well put together package, maybe with month to month P & L’s showing that most of the losses stemmed from the lockdown and that you are back doing well, can still get approved. There seems to be no fear of another lockdown in the underwriters at the moment so if you can show that you are past last year’s lockdowns, money is available. CAUTION: Lenders are still bogged down with PPP loans and banks are VERY slow. Although we do have a few new lenders that are NOT backed up and with them we can still close in the 45-60 day timeframe, that is not normal. So patience is needed on SBA loans…..

Conventional Loans- it is interesting, but even though banks are flush with cash, they have not significantly loosened guidelines on conventional loans. They almost will never do a cash out loan, and they are still steering clear of tough asset classes. Retail loans are still tougher to get done then Multi-family and industrial and often will have to put 5-10% more down with the exception of corporate NNN deals which are still aggressively bid on. Although they remain cautious, if a property or a borrower is strong, there is certainly money available and the rates, although edging up of late, are still very low. Competition for great deals is VERY hot with life companies, CMBS companies and banks all duking it out for the best assets and borrowers. Marginal deals are still generally not being done by the banks and need to look at private money or alternative lending sources.

Private Money Lenders- like conventional lenders, private money lenders are FLUSH on cash. There is NO SHORTAGE of money available in commercial lending right now-the #1 complaint of private money lenders is that there are not enough good deals. Private money guys are not stupid, they will not underwrite deals that make no sense. But they are aggressive and go after the deals that no bank will touch. I just got a $50 Million dollar approval on a land deal in FL and a $22 Million approval on a construction loan for an assisted living facility in FL at an LTV above 80%. So the money is out there….but the deal has to work for the lender. All lenders have different hot spots so it pays to use someone who has a lot of sources and knows what each lender likes. As a private money lender ourself, we understand private money and have great partners that can get a broad range of deals done…..

Alternative Lenders- Probably the biggest growth in the last 3 months has been in the alternative space. This is the space between bank and private money, just misses the bank qualifications, and too good for the private money lenders. This space almost got completely shut down back in Q2 of last year. But over the last 3 months, with vaccines and massive expansion of the money supply, these lenders are getting funded again and are getting aggressive with new players entering the space and old players opening up like they were before. We have a multitude of options now for deals that just miss the banks. We truly are THE PLACE TO GO WHEN THE BANKS SAY NO.

In summary, there is plenty of money available among all types of lending classifications. With lots of money available and lenders loosening restrictions, this bodes very well for continued economic expansion. The fact that there is not “stupid money” out there, meaning, lenders are still being prudent, also is BULLISH for growth. It is a good time to be in lending. As long as there is no disruptive economic event, the fundamentals look good for continued expansion. Businesses would do well to learn from the lenders-be aggressive, but under control. And if a disruptive event happens, be quick to respond. Do that, and you can have a successful year!

Connecting with Nature: Tips on achieving Biophilic Design….

The trend of “biophilic” design which is connecting to nature thru design is being incorporated in more homes in order to create more flow between indoors and outdoors with expanded living spaces. One of the places Tish Mills takes her initial cues from for a project, especially a ground-up, is from the surroundings, views, and nature.  It doesn’t matter if the house is contemporary or traditional.

What’s the best way to Bring Nature Indoors? 

Utilize the site and surroundings to pick up on color palettes, not just the greenery. There could be interesting tree bark, mushroom, the color of the dirt, that gives you a feeling for elements to bring into space.

Lighting is another area. Sometimes it’s the way it reflects on the property.  She did an entire space in Napa Valley based on the beautiful sunsets.  Windows, Slider, and French doors all can bring indoor/outdoor spaces together.

Textures are another great influencer that reminds me of a project in Sedona, AZ, and the beautiful red mountains that surround the area with the heavy rock formations.   Using stone and other natural materials can give an environment a grounded feeling.  The way that a stone can feel on bare feet makes an instant connection to nature.

And finally, climate.  For a beach house, she doesn’t use heavy materials given the light nature of the surroundings and the typical temperatures.  Fabrics need to breathe.

And with everyone staying at home, what kinds of things are you doing to extend outdoor living spaces?

This area is on fire right now.  “Pools are the new black” everyone has to have one.   Seriously, pool areas, walking trails on properties with destinations like benches at prime viewing have been a common request. Outdoor televisions on porches and near pools are another.  We had a client make sure their front yard could be used for Lacrosse practice if need be.  People are using every inch of their property since we’ve all spent so much time at home.

What’s new in outdoor living areas?

Comfortable seating areas are at a new level.  Thank goodness outdoor and performance fabrics have developed and been elevated to a new level with a plethora of colors, patterns, weights over the past few years.  We really can make an outdoor porch act like a living room at this point.  I also love the motorized retractable screens and Infratech heaters which can turn outdoor porches into year-round spaces regardless of what part of the country.    And the outdoor kitchens have been a thing for quite a while, but with ventilation now the outdoor kitchens can be much more inclusive and even include the drop-in countertop burners for cooktop burners in addition to grilling spaces.

Here is to nature!

Tish Mills Kirk of Tish Mills Interiors, a preferred vendor of The Meridian Real Estate Group, is an award-winning interior designer who has been working with clients in their homes for more than two decades. She believes that it is essential to put together a cohesive plan for your home renovation before you get started that can be carried out by the team of experts you assemble.

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How House Floor Plans Help In Selling Homes

A real estate floor plan is a powerful tool that can make your property stand out, appeal to buyers, and give you an extra competitive edge. So, what makes the floor plan so powerful? A floor plan accurately expresses what the house has to offer. Real estate photos are great, but they are not enough. Homebuyers need a way to really understand a home beyond the photos, and a real estate floor plan can do that.

Some statistics that point out the importance of floor plans in real estate:

  • Adding a floor plan to a real estate listing can increase click-throughs from buyers by 52% (Rightmove)
  • According to Zillow, the floor plan is the 2nd most important feature on a listing and correlates highly with capturing potential leads
  • Research done by Rightmove showed that properties marketed with a floor plan created 30% more interest than properties without one.

Types of House Floor Plans

There are two types of floor plans: 2D floor plans and 3D floor plans.

  • 2D plans

2D plan is a flat layout that does not show the depth or height of objects, but it can communicate the technical side of the project, show the structure of the house clearly, and display the measurements of each room and the surface areas.

  • 3D Plans

A 3D plan shows the floor layout in 3D. 3D floor plans make it very easy to understand the size and layout of spaces. It effectively communicates the house design vision to the home buyer, provides a very clear understanding of the overall project, and shows a fully furnished project to visualize each room’s actual size.

Advantages of Floor Plans In House Sales

  • Saves time

Before people buy a house, they spend a considerable amount of time researching listings, making an appointment for a property visit, and then traveling to see the property in person. If they don’t like the house layout, they just end up wasting their time, money, and effort.

If there is a floor plan along with your listing, potential buyers will get to check the layout before making a showing appointment. This ensures that their time, as well as yours, is not wasted.

  • Keeps buyers engaged

When you provide a floor plan in your listing, potential buyers can visualize the house. A floor plan increases the buyer’s interest, making them more likely to book a showing appointment.

  • Provides an overview of the house layout

Real estate photos help sell a lifestyle by giving potential buyers the feel of the house, but they fail to portray how all the rooms in the house flow together. A floor plan allows the buyers to understand the house layout and how all the rooms in the house come together to become whole.

  • Helps recall the house layout

Most people forget the rooms or tend to overlook a portion of the house. But when you show the house in full on the floor plan, the potential buyer will get to see the whole house and its details, thus adding a perceived value.

  • Helps visualize spaces

Without floor plans, potential buyers will not be able to visualize the spatial arrangement and sizing of the home. If your listing is featured without a floor plan, many buyers are more likely to skip the listing.

  • Helps determine floor area easily

When the listing is with a floor plan, it becomes easy for the buyers to determine the property’s size and floor area. This will help the potential buyer determine whether the property is good value for money or not.

  • Highlights the best features of the property

If the yard is the big selling feature of the house, it needs to be on the floor plan. Whether it’s the pool, shed, entertaining area, or additional parking, adding this feature to the floor plan gives the buyers a better scope of the property and helps them focus on the features you want to highlight.


Author Bio:  

Rahul Agarwal is the Co-founder & Chief Business Officer at Styldod, where he has taught a computer to do interior design! Styldod provides the most hassle-free & inexpensive virtual staging solutions and other 3D rendering services for real estate agents so they can sell their listings faster, and for higher prices. Rahul was also a co-founder of Mebelkart (which is acquired by Ask Me). He’s your everyday IIT Kanpur nerd who pushes the boundaries with his innovative entrepreneurial stints and is also a sound startup investor & advisor. Rahul attributes his success as a professional to the discipline he has learned from his district hockey days, being a swimmer and a gym enthusiast.

Soaring Lumber Costs Cause Spike in Home Prices

In the 42 years Ricky Grubbs has been in the truss business, he’s never seen lumber costs so high.

This time last year, Grubbs said he was paying $8,000 for a truckload of two-by-four, number one-grade lumber. That same truckload today costs him about $30,000.

“People need to start paying attention to what’s going on,” said Grubbs, general manager of Duley Truss in Dunnellon.

Stacey Worthington, president of the Citrus County Building Alliance, said reports from her builder-members indicate lumber prices locally are up 40%-50% and adding $10,000 to $12,000 to the price of a single-family home.

Worthington said COVID-19 led to lumber yard lockdowns for a time, resulting in a lack of production in materials. That led to high demand and low supply so prices increased.

“Hopefully, as COVID restrictions are lifted across the country, it might alleviate the problem,” she said. “We have a lot of demand right now for affordable housing but no supply.”

Crystal River Mayor and homebuilder Joe Meek said higher lumber prices and other construction materials are freezing lower-income people out of the market. He said the lack of affordable housing — apartments, condos and multi-family housing — has been a problem in the county and this will exacerbate the situation.

“That is a concern,” he said.

As if lumber price increases aren’t enough, Meek said he got word this week that drywall prices are going up 20%.

Who’s to blame?

Grubbs blames much of the soaring prices to “greedy lumber mills” that are purposely keeping supply low to drive up costs.

Many in the public, he said, are unaware of how bad this situation is becoming. If gas prices went up $8 overnight, there would be mass protests, he said.

But rising lumber prices, he said, seem to fly under the radar except for those who work in the construction industry and folks who want to buy a home.

Grubbs said he knows of one builder who had to raise the price of one of his model homes from $180,000 to $229,000 just to break even.

Two years ago, a truss sold for $48. Today, it’s $90, he said.



Grubbs figures he’s had to eat $150,000 because of locked-in prices he quoted to customers last year.

Now, Grubbs said he only guarantees prices for 15 days in case he has to change an estimate. And for contractors, he’s quoting a price based on today’s cost but won’t give a final price until 30 days prior to fabrication — just in case.

What’s keeping the home-construction industry going right now are the low interest rates and pent-up demand for new homes, he said.

‘On the cusp’

It’s even worse throughout the country.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said the average price of a single-family home has risen more than $24,000, and many clients are having to walk away because they can’t afford the increase.

“This fast-price escalation is having far-reaching consequences throughout the industry, and prohibiting home builders and partner organizations from providing much-needed housing to families across the country,” the NAHB said in a statement.

Bruce Kaufman, president of Bruce Kaufman Construction in Homosassa, said he’s holding up so far.

Kaufman said he limits himself to building 51 homes a year and that hasn’t changed due to higher lumber costs.

At least, not yet.

“I feel we’re on the cusp of it affecting things,” he said.

Kaufman said if the situation is not reversed, many in Citrus County will be priced out of the market.

For example, the lumber package it used to cost him to build a smaller home (about 1,200 square feet) was $6,500. Now it’s $15,000.

“I really feel for the younger first-time homebuyers or older people not as fortunate in their early lives to save a lot of money,” Kaufman said. “We really can’t fulfill those people’s needs.”

Kaufman said it might help to boycott the lumber industry for a week but doesn’t believe it will happen.

Impact at Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity of Citrus County’s goal is to build 21 homes a year for income-challenged families unable to qualify for conventional financing.

Despite lumber prices doubling in the past 14 months, the nonprofit organization intends to keep building at that pace, said President/CEO George Rusaw.

But there are definite challenges ahead.

Because of the hike in lumber and other materials — not to mention appliances — the local Habitat is about $225,000 over budget in construction costs. That translates to around $10,000 more for each home built.

“To address that, we’ve been working hard trying to raise more money to offset that,” Rusaw said. “Fortunately, we have capital reserves to where it won’t keep us from building those 21 homes. But we can’t keep dipping into reserves.”

The pandemic has curtailed fundraisers but, fortunately, other donations have been coming in at a healthy pace, he said.

Still, “we need all the help we can get,” he said.

When the pandemic hit, lumber mills and appliance manufacturers curtailed production, figuring home demand would halt.

“Just the opposite happened,” Rusaw said. “The buying public went out and they started buying existing homes and brand new homes at almost record paces,” he said.

It was the classic scenario: high demand, plus low supply equals higher prices.

Citrus County ‘well-positioned’

Meek said prices may be up but he doesn’t see a drop-off of new-home construction in Citrus County.

There is a nationwide trend now where folks are leaving the big cities and moving to rural areas and still be near amenities.

Citrus County fits the bill, said Meek, who owns Citrus Builder.

And even with higher local home prices, they are still a better buy than the metro areas, he said.

“I think that Citrus County, from a community standpoint, is extremely well-positioned in regard to growth and the future,” Meek said. “We are a community in demand with the lifestyle we offer and the amenities that we have.”


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