Blog : Homebuyers

Living in the Future: Smart Home Technology

Living in the Future: Smart Home Technology

Remember the beloved cartoon, “The Jetsons?” Robot maids, jet packs, moving sidewalks, and flying cars? In the 1960s, when the cartoon was first released, there seemed to be only frivolous imaginary creations. Fast-forward to 2019 and many of the technology predictions from, “The Jetsons” have actually come true! Talking alarm clocks, flat screen TVs, smartwatches and video chats to name a few!

These tech gadgets don’t stop there, they’ve recently made their way into real estate via “Smart Home Technology.”

What is Smart Home Technology?

  • Technology with sensors or devices that can be remotely monitored, controlled and accessed via smartphones, tablets, or apps

What are the most popular applications of Smart Home Technology?

  • Wireless Speakers
  • Thermostats
  • Home Security Systems
  • Cleaning Devices (robot vacuums)
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Lighting
  • Door Locks
  • Refrigerators
  • Water Monitors
  • Laundry Machines

What limitations exist?

  • Adaptation can be costly and time-consuming. Buying the adaptors, setting up the networks, learning the controls and having the proper maintenance/updates can be troublesome and expensive.
  • The networks these gadgets rely upon can be prone to security breaches! Be wary of your personal data and monitor your credit and personal information regularly. (Gateway has a very inexpensive Identity Protection product for just $10/month!)

What consumers want and use:

A 2012 consumer report that pulled data from the National Association of Home Builders looked for what Smart home devices homeowners wanted most and found that top five were wireless security systems (50%), programmable thermostats (47%), security cameras (40%), lighting control systems and wireless home audio systems (39%), and home theater and multi-zone HVAC systems (37%).1

A 2015 study from “The Harris Poll” shows:

While the information provided in the studies published above from 2012 and 2015, the desires of Home Owners have not seemed to vary since then. A few of Amazon’s most purchased products include their “Amazon Echo Dot” a smart home speaker/wireless voice control, “Amazon Fire Stick” smart home streaming device, “Amazon Fire Tablet” that can control the smart home apps/functions, the “iRobot” vacuum, “WeMo mini smart plugs” that turn regular outlets into Smart Home hubs, “YI Dome Camera” for security footage, and more!3

What do you use in your house? We’d love to hear from you!

To learn more about our partners at Gateway Insurance Group, Inc. visit their website.

References:

1- “What Homeowners Want”. Home Tech Integration. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
Chart- McCarthy, Niall. “How Prevalent Is Smart Technology In U.S. Homes?”. Forbes. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
3- https://www.bestproducts.com/lifestyle/g3486/best-selling-products-on-amazon/?slide=1
Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a brokerdealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Gateway Financial Advisors, Inc., and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. are not affiliated.
Shakti and Service Dog Ember

Shakti and Service Dog Ember

Yoga is well known for its benefits to the mind, body and spirit. But for Canine Companions® graduate Shakti, it also led to service dog Ember.

Shakti, who’s had multiple sclerosis (MS) for 21 years, is an avid yogi and instructs yoga classes for people with disabilities. Two of her long-time students, both of whom have MS, would bring their Canine Companions service dogs to the weekly classes Shakti had been teaching. Shakti was able to see firsthand how expertly-trained assistance dogs can help a person with a disability.

Shakti’s journey to Service Dog Ember

Shakti’s MS causes her to have issues with her legs, and she uses an electric wheelchair for mobility. After observing her students’ dogs and the benefits they provide, Shakti decided to apply for a service dog herself. By having an expertly-trained service dog by her side, Shakti was hopeful her independence would be increased.

Shakti was as matched with Service Dog Ember – free of charge – by Canine Companions for Independence. Ember picks up dropped items and delivers them to Shakti, opens and closes, turns on and off lights, and so much more. Shakti says, “I can count on Ember to help me and be by my side wherever I go.” She continues, “This is such an amazing thing to happen for me.”

To learn more about the Veterans Initiative offered through our partners at Canine Companions for Independence, click here!

NextHome Titletown launches office location in Massachusetts

NextHome Titletown launches office location in Massachusetts

Rory Gill

Pleasanton, CA — May 30, 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Titletown. The brokerage will represent the sixth NextHome location opened in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Boston-based brokerage will be operated by broker/owner Rory Gill. NextHome Titletown will cover the three counties of Suffolk, Middlesex, and Essex. Agents at the brokerage will service areas throughout the Boston Metropolitan Area including the areas of Roxbury, Cambridge, Winthrop, Salem, North Shore, and Beacon Hill, to name a few. Additionally, the brokerage services southern New Hampshire.

The team at NextHome Titletown works with all types of buyers and sellers including first-time home buyers, move-up buyers, relocation, luxury listings, multi-family, and other real estate services. A specialty for the brokerage is working with investors who are acquiring properties for long-term hold and increasing their real estate portfolio holdings.

As Rory has built his brokerage, he takes pride in having agents at his company who focus on becoming neighborhood specialists. This hyper-focus on neighborhood knowledge allows these agents to be a community resource that many other companies don’t have. By doing this, residents of specific neighborhoods know that their NextHome Titletown agent understands all facets about buying and selling to that niche.

Rory comes from a legal background as a specialist in real estate law. He attained his real estate license seven years ago while attending law school. He graduated from Boston University in 2006, then later earned his law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in 2011.

After receiving his law degree, Rory opened his own real estate law practice in December of 2011 – Urban Village Legal.

In 2013, Rory attained his broker’s license with the intention of using it for personally buying and selling properties. As he delved more and more into the real estate side, he realized how much he enjoyed the sales side and sought to open his own real estate brokerage.

His legal background brings a unique dynamic that many other brokerages don’t have on their leadership team.

In 2018, he came across the NextHome franchise and found that the company really aligned with what he was looking for in marketing, technology, and systems.

“NextHome provided a unique and different opportunity that allowed me to run a brokerage the way I wanted, yet allowed me the framework of a company that had the very best in tools and systems,” said Rory.

Rory proudly says that agents who work at NextHome Titletown will experience something that no other company locally can offer.

“I wanted to create a brokerage where agents had the coaching and training matched with first-class technology and tools,” said Rory. “All while providing a setting where these agents know they are getting solid real estate legal advice that allows them to focus on their business growth and providing their clients with the very best in service and advice.”

Rory is very active with investor groups such as the Boston Real Estate Guild. His investment knowledge is well known throughout the local investor circles and has allowed Rory the opportunity to work with some of the savviest Boston area real estate investors and developers.

Outside of selling real estate, Rory keeps busy being a new father. His husband of almost five years, Jason Muth, has been in sales and marketing for a radio group for many years. Jason brings additional value to the company in assisting Rory with new and fresh ideas in web and social media marketing to Boston neighborhoods. They are hosts on a real estate legal podcast called The Real Estate Law Podcast.

Rory and Jason are the proud parents to a beautiful one-month-old daughter, Cecily Quinn Gill-Muth.

Please join us in congratulating Rory and the rest of the team at NextHome Titletown on their new NextHome office launch!

NextHome launches first Rhode Island office for the franchise

NextHome launches first Rhode Island office for the franchise

Brian Buonaiuto

Pleasanton, CA — April 9, 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Ocean State Realty Group. This new brokerage represents the very first office location opened in the state of Rhode Island by the NextHome franchise. The Cranston-based brokerage will be owned and operated by broker Brian Buonaiuto. He will be joined at the brokerage by his wife, Tara, who is also a licensed agent.

NextHome Ocean State Realty Group will provide real estate services such as first-time buyer, investor, rehab & resale, military relocation, and traditional single-family sales for the entire state of Rhode Island. The brokerage also works closely with the Homes For Heroes program – a home buying program specifically designed for first responders, military personnel, medical professionals, and school teachers.

“Our brokerage takes pride in being able to service the entire state,” said Brian. “Based on the size of Rhode Island, an agent can drive from one side of the state to the other in 45 minutes.”

Brian comes from a background in corporate management, where he had previously worked at several different Fortune 500 Companies such as Burger King, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Public Storage.

Knowing he was no longer interested in corporate America, Brian had an eye on pursuing his passion for real estate and in 2018, he left his management role to make the move to selling homes full time.

“I wanted to take my business experience and direct it towards a career where I felt I could really make a difference with buyers and sellers who were looking for great representation,” said Brian.

He started with a small independent brokerage in Cranston and did very well in his first year. But it was a conversation with a friend from Florida that caught his attention.

“I was anxious to start my own brokerage as soon as I was able,” said Brian. “My friend told me about her brokerage (NextHome Gulf Coast) and I looked into the franchise.”

“Everything I saw, I absolutely loved,” he added.

Brian says the NextHome Ocean State Realty Group difference will be having “a company that delivers high level technology that not only helps the buyers and sellers, but also allows agents to provide a ton of value for their clients.”

Brian and Tara have been married for six years and they have a five-year-old son, Jack. With Jack having autism, the couple are very involved with multiple charities and organizations that provide support to families with autistic children.

Please join us in congratulating Brian, Tara and the rest of the team at NextHome Ocean State Realty Group on the opening of the first NextHome office in the state of Rhode Island!

Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at Charis@NextHome.com.

Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome opens newest brokerage in Waynesville, Missouri

NextHome opens newest brokerage in Waynesville, Missouri

Lisa Ellis

Pleasanton, CA — March 26 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Team Ellis. This new brokerage represents the sixth office location opened in the state of Missouri by the NextHome franchise. The Waynesville-based brokerage will be owned and operated by top REALTOR® and Broker of record, Lisa Ellis.

NextHome Team Ellis will provide real estate services such as first-time buyer, investor, multi-family, land, military relocation and traditional single-family sales for all of the St. Robert and Fort Wood area. More than 90% of NextHome Team Ellis’ business is working with military families. The agents at the brokerage are experts in working with unique military loans and programs such as Veteran’s Assistance and Homes For Heroes.

Located two-and-a-half hours west of St. Louis, the town of Waynesville is known for its deep military roots. As a military post, Waynesville is the home to the United States Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.

Now in her 21st year, Lisa started real estate in 1998 at a local independent brokerage in St. Robert.  She made the move to a Coldwell Banker franchised brokerage in 2000 and saw a huge rise in her business.

In 2004, Lisa moved to a local RE/Max and grew her personal real estate sales year-over-year and was consistently a top producer in her market.

In keeping up with her business, Lisa moved to Century 21 Prestige in 2010 to manage the 12 agent brokerage, while forming her own personal real estate team – Team Ellis. She grew the team to three agents, selling more than 60 transactions annually.

After seven years of managing and running a real estate team, Lisa returned to the RE/Max brand to fully focus on sales with Team Ellis. In 2018, the five-person Team Ellis group sold more than $12 million and 87 transaction sides. Incredible numbers for an area with an average sales price of $133,000.

Lisa attributes the growth and success of the team to focusing on world-class service and client care that has her buyers and sellers returning again and again.

After 20 years in real estate and selling at the highest level, Lisa was ready to take the next step in her career – owning a brokerage.

“As I was doing some research about various franchise models, a real estate friend of mine suggested I check out NextHome,” said Lisa. “Everything I saw about the NextHome franchise fit what I was looking for. The branding, marketing and friendly feel of the company really had me intrigued. I had a great conversation with (NextHome’s VP of Sales) Charis Moreno and I brought all the info back to our team.”

“The Team Ellis members were excited and totally onboard,” she added.

Besides Lisa, NextHome Team Ellis is comprised of five dynamic REALTORS® – Angie Masterton, Hazel O’Donnell, Maryanne O’Brien, JP Macormic and Linda Wyatt.

Lisa and Team Ellis are very involved in the community. They work closely with Fort Leonard Wood, supporting military events as local sponsors and volunteers. Team Ellis also sponsors local youth sports teams in basketball and soccer.

Lisa and her husband, retired US Army E7 First Sergeant, Renard, have four children and four grandchildren.

Please join us in welcoming Lisa and the rest of the team at NextHome Team Ellis on the opening of their brand new office in Waynesville, MO!

Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at Charis@NextHome.com.

Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome expands in New Jersey with NextHome Evolution

NextHome expands in New Jersey with NextHome Evolution

Rosemarie Heldmann

Pleasanton, CA — March 20, 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Evolution. This new brokerage represents the sixth office location opened in the state of New Jersey by the NextHome franchise.

The Chester-based brokerage will be owned and operated by REALTOR® and Broker of record, Rosemarie Heldmann. NextHome Evolution will provide real estate services such as first-time buyer, investor, multi-family, land, luxury and traditional single-family sales for all of Morris County, including the towns of Chester, Long Valley, Mendham, Peapack-Gladstone, and Bedminster.

The Chester Township is located west of Morristown and home to just under 9,000 residents. The town is 40 miles west of New York City and features many Victorian-style homes and palatial estates.

While Rosemarie started her real estate sales career in 2014, she has been involved with buying and selling real estate for many years.

After a 20+ year career as an owner of a retail jewelry shop, Rosemarie went full time into selling real estate five years ago. As an avid commercial real estate investor, she used that experience to help others buy and sell real estate.

“For many years before I became a REALTOR®, I was actively buying, rehabbing and holding properties for long-term investment,” said Rosemarie. “I originally intended on getting my license and focus on purchasing my own properties.”

“But after having other investors and interested home buyers ask me if I could help them, it made sense for me to help others buy and sell properties as well,” she added.

In 2017, Rosemarie attained her broker’s license and opened her brokerage, Fieldstone Real Estate.

Although very successful, Rosemarie decided that 2018 was the year to diversify her business to add more residential sales. She found NextHome through a simple Google search of “real estate franchises.”

“I saw a NextHome sign in front of a listing when I was driving home one evening,” recalled Rosemarie. “I had to stop the car and take a look at the sign. It was so eye-catching and fresh, I was blown away by the branding.”

“Once I did more research about the company, I was hooked and knew NextHome was what I was looking for.”

When not selling real estate, Rosemarie plays tennis competitively. She has been playing tennis on the highest level for more than 45 years – often traveling to play matches throughout the state of New Jersey.

She is the mother of four daughters – Erika (30), Paige (27), Olivia (22), and Sophia (19).

Please join us in welcoming Rosemarie and the rest of the team at NextHome Evolution on the opening of their brand new office in Chester, NJ!

Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at Charis@NextHome.com.

Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome Willamette opens second office location

NextHome Willamette opens second office location

Heidi and Ben Andrews

Pleasanton, CA — March 15, 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Willamette – Vancouver, Washington Branch. This new brokerage represents the seventh office location opened in Washington by the NextHome franchise.

The Vancouver-based brokerage will be owned and operated by 16-year real estate veteran and top producing broker, Ben Andrews. The second-generation REALTOR® will lead the office of 7 agents. NextHome Willamette – Vancouver Branch will provide real estate services such as first-time buyer, investor, multi-family, land, luxury and traditional single-family sales to the areas of Camas, Ridgefield, Hazel Dell, Battle Ground, Brush Prairie, and the remainder of Clark County.

While in the state of Washington, Vancouver is actually a suburb of the Portland Oregon Metro Area. The city is home to nearly 175,000 residents and has been on numerous lists as One of The Best Places in the Nation To Live.

In 1999, Ben’s parents and brother started Willamette Realty. As a family owned brokerage, the company grew to over 40+ agents.

As a graduate of University of Oregon, Ben spent six years as a professional track runner specializing in the mile. Once he decided the time was right to retire, he joined his family in the real estate business.

In 2003, Ben and his girlfriend at the time (and wife today) Heidi, started as REALTORS® with Willamette Realty. While they built a solid real estate business, it was when they developed their hyper-local focused website, www.PearlDistrict.com, that the business really started taking off.

“We put a lot of effort into our website to be the community resource for all things Pearl District here in Portland,” said Ben. “We saw the business go from $3 million in volume annually to nearly $10 million a year in sales.”

In 2010, the Andrews had their first child, Henry, and that changed a lot for the couple and their business focus.

“Instead of going out and constantly getting new business, we really changed our focus to building our business by referral,” recalled Ben. “2012 was a year that changed everything for us.”

In 2012, the couple sold more than $18 million in volume.

“We hired a coach, started putting systems in place, and six years later, this process has allowed us to increase our business, yet take more time to be home with our son,” added Ben.

Finding NextHome through a mutual friend and business colleague, Sean Hackney who is the broker/owner of NextHome Northwest Living, Ben knew it was time to start his own brokerage with the franchise.

“The company was everything I was looking for in a real estate brand,” said Ben. “From the marketing, to the look and feel of the branding, to the high-level technology. We couldn’t be happier to be a part of NextHome.”

With the growth of the existing office and the client requests to assist on the other side of the Washington/Oregon border, it was the right time to expand into a new market.

“We focus on having a referral based business and teaching our agents to rely on deep relationships with their clients,” said Ben. “Our agents are in business for themselves, but not by themselves.”

Please join us in congratulating Ben, Heidi and the rest of the team at NextHome Willamette – Vancouver Branch on the opening of their second office location!

Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at Charis@NextHome.com.

Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

NextHome At The Beach opens second location in Florida

NextHome At The Beach opens second location in Florida

Paige Brewer, Robyn Stahl, Sandra Fernandez (left to right)

Pleasanton, CA — March 13, 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome At The Beach – Miami Branch. The new brokerage is the 49th NextHome franchise location in the state of Florida.

The NextHome At The Beach – Miami Branch will be owned by business partners Robyn Stahl and Paige Brewer. They will be joined on the leadership team by the Managing Broker and longtime Miami real estate icon, Sandra Fernandez. The company has agents who will help clients in both Spanish and English.

“We’ve known Sandra through the Women’s Council of REALTORS® over the past four years,” said Paige. “We have always loved her commitment to leadership, dedication towards education and her efforts in helping others. To have such a productive agent also be a part of our expansion has been a perfect match.”

“Paige and I have worked alongside Sandra for several years and fully trust that she will run the brokerage with such care,” added Robyn. “Her love and passion for real estate is unmatched.”

Sandra holds several important National Association of REALTORS® designations including Council of Residential Specialist (CRS), Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB), Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI), Performance Management Network (PMN), Short Sale and Foreclosure Resources Certificate (SFR), Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), At Home with Diversity (AHWD), Broker Price Opinion Resource Certificate (BROR), and Military Relocation Professional (MRP).

She currently serves as the Chair for the Florida REALTORS® Leadership Academy.

The 62-associate brokerage will support the entire Miami-Dade County and Florida Keys, which has more than 5 million residents in the Miami Metropolitan Area.

The company will provide sales services for residential, luxury, commercial, second homes, multi-family, investment properties, and first-time home buyer opportunities.

Robyn has been in real estate since 1986 in various roles as a real estate professional. She served as a mortgage processor and title processor for nearly 25 years before getting her real estate license in 2013.

Paige started her real estate career in Louisiana in 2009 and moved to Daytona Beach upon her husband’s retirement from the military. His retirement proved to be the perfect opportunity to move to a Florida beach community.

The business partners met while volunteering as members of their local Women’s Council of REALTORS®. While both women worked in the Daytona Beach area, they connected while members of two separate real estate companies.

In 2016, Brewer served as the President of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® -Daytona Beach Area Network and in 2017, she served as the District Vice President for District 8 and 9 for the state of Florida.

Over the past two years, their NextHome At The Beach location in Daytona has been incredibly successful. As an award-winning office of 20+ agents, expansion was inevitable.

With the leadership trio of Robyn, Paige and Sandra, NextHome At The Beach is positioned to see even more success in 2019.

Please join us in congratulating Robyn, Paige, Sandra, and the rest of their team at NextHome At The Beach for the grand opening of their second NextHome office!

The NextHome franchise opens location in Bethpage, New York

The NextHome franchise opens location in Bethpage, New York

Joseph Saldana (left) and Anthony Pellicane (right)

Pleasanton, CA — March 7, 2019 — NextHome is proud to announce our newest addition to the franchise, NextHome Revere. The brokerage represents the 7th location opened in the state of New York for the NextHome franchise.

The company will be owned and operated by long-time business partners Joseph Saldana and Anthony Pellicane.

Based out of Bethpage, NextHome Revere will provide real estate services such as single-family residential sales, first-time home buyers, multi-family, commercial, new construction, second homes, vacation homes, retiree services, and veteran relocation services in the boroughs of Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn, as well as Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

Both Anthony and Joseph followed similar real estate paths before linking up and partnering in 2012.

After a 20+ year career in law enforcement with the New York Police Department, Anthony started his real estate career in 2000 on the lending side. In 2004, he joined the Douglas Elliman real estate company and did both mortgage and real estate.

Successfully selling real estate, Anthony focused his attention to only real estate sales and in 2010 opened Simplicity Homes Real Estate.

Joseph started his real estate career as a mortgage lender in 2000. Working strictly on loans, he owned his own mortgage company until 2008, when he joined Cruz Real Estate, a real estate foreclosure firm. Joseph solely worked on REO and foreclosure properties until 2012.

While on their independent real estate paths, the future business partners met each other in 2010 when Joseph previewed a property that Anthony was holding open. The two men stuck up a friendship and worked together several times over the next few years.

Seeing an opportunity to work together, the formed a partnership in late 2012 and opened Joseph Anthony Homes in 2013.

“Joseph’s business savvy and how he makes confident and quality decisions for our team has been invaluable for our partnership,” said Anthony. “Joseph has been a great friend and a perfect partner to work with.”

“I’ve always loved that the two of us put in equal effort in making our business successful,” added Joseph. “So many times, we’ve seen other business partnerships not work because of one person not carrying their weight. I’ve never had to worry about that with Anthony. His work ethic is unmatched and I’m proud to be in business with him.”

The partners found NextHome in 2018 completely by accident. Interestingly enough, the introduction to the company came during a presentation from a competing franchise.

“We were looking at real estate franchises and while in a presentation with a well-known real estate franchise, they presented NextHome on the screen as a ‘disruptor’ and that piqued my interest,” said Joseph. “After researching what NextHome had to offer, we knew we found our franchise partner.”

On February 1st, 2019, NextHome Revere held its Grand Opening and had over 100 friends, family, past clients and community members in attendance. Also in attendance was NextHome’s Vice President Imran Poladi.

“Being there in person to see the launch of NextHome Revere was something special,” said Imran. “To see the outpouring of support and how dedicated these men are to not only providing great service to their clients and community, but also to their wonderful group of agents, I couldn’t be more proud of them. I speak for all of us at NextHome in saying we couldn’t be happier to have Anthony and Joseph be part of the NextHome family.”

Please join us in congratulating Anthony, Joseph, and the rest of the team at NextHome Revere on the opening of their NextHome office in Bethpage, NY!

Interested in being a part of the NextHome Real Estate Franchise? Contact VP of Sales Charis Moreno at Charis@NextHome.com.

Each office is an independently owned and operated business.

For First Time in 5 Years, Buyers Have More Selection to Start the Year (January 2019 Market Report)

For First Time in 5 Years, Buyers Have More Selection to Start the Year (January 2019 Market Report)

  • U.S. for-sale home inventory increased 1.2 percent from a year ago. The largest inventory increases were seen in softening but still competitive West Coast markets.
  • The typical U.S. home was worth $225,300 in January, 7.5 percent more than a year ago.
  • The median rent rose 2.1 percent over a year ago to $1,468, the third straight month of accelerating appreciation.

January marked the reversal of a longstanding trend in the housing market – a modest annual gain in for-sale inventory last month means that for the first time in at least a half decade, the U.S. housing market began the calendar year with more homes available for sale than the year prior.

There were slightly more than 1.6 million U.S. homes listed for sale on Zillow in January, up 1.2 percent from a year ago and the first annual gain recorded in January since prior to 2014,[1] according to the January Zillow Real Estate Market Report.[2] The small bump in inventory to start the year may give those buyers eager to get an early jump on the spring home shopping season some reason for optimism after years of consistent inventory declines, though inventory levels overall remain constrained.

Inventory fell year-over-year for 44 straight months beginning in January 2015, before reversing course in September 2018. It has since grown on an annual basis in four of the past five months, though at a fairly tepid pace. And inventory remains far below peak levels: The 1,618,058 U.S. homes for sale in January is down more than 20 percent from the recent high of more than 2 million set in July 2014.

Inventory remains below peaks reached in the past five years in all 35 of the nation’s largest markets for which we have adequate inventory data – in many cases far below. January inventory was more than 20 percent below recent peaks in 24 of these 35 markets, and less than 10 percent below peak in just seven.

Still, inventory did rise year-over-year in 28 of those 35 large markets, and many are adding inventory at a rapid pace, especially a handful of previously red-hot West Coast markets. On an annual basis, January inventory grew 42.9 percent in San Jose, Calif. (904 more homes available for sale in January 2019 from January 2018), 36.9 percent in Seattle (3,324 more homes), 31.9 percent in San Diego (2,450 more homes), 29.1 percent in Los Angeles (6,682 more homes) and 25 percent in San Francisco (1,556 more homes). Recent rapid growth in inventory is putting many of these areas closer to recent peak levels: Inventory is less than 10 percent below recent peaks in Los Angeles and San Jose, and is just 2.3 percent below the peak in San Francisco.

For the past several years, many homebuyers may have felt they couldn’t catch a break as the number of homes available for sale continued to shrink each passing month. But something shifted during the second half of 2018, and while home buyers aren’t yet out of the woods there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. The number of homes on the market is hesitantly inching higher – now approaching the highest level in a year and a half. And in the priciest markets, the jump has been even more definitive.

But buyers should not mistake a few more options for a sudden bounty, and this latest growth spurt in inventory has done little to cool rapid home value appreciation that has been driven in large part by high demand from buyers and limited availability of homes for sale. The median U.S. home value in January was $225,300, up 7.5 percent year-over-year. Annual U.S. home value growth has remained steady in the seven percent range over the past two years, though the national numbers obscure substantial differences across the country.

Home values were up year-over-year in each of the country’s 35 largest markets. Indianapolis and Atlanta experienced the biggest jumps over the past year, with home values increasing by more than 12 percent in both metros.

Rents also continue to grow. The U.S. median rent rose to $1,468/month in January, up 2.1 percent from a year ago, the largest annual increase in rent since May 2018 and the third straight month of annual growth after a brief flattening and decline in August, September and October 2018. Rent increased or remained flat in all major metros, with Orlando (up 7.4 percent) experiencing the biggest increase. On the other end of the spectrum, rents were flat in Portland over the past year.

Mortgage rates on Zillow ended January at 4.14 percent,[3] the lowest rate of the month. On January 1, rates began the year at their highest point, 4.3 percent. By the end of January, mortgage rates had retreated 61 basis points from their most-recent November 2018 peak.

Lower rates headed into the spring home shopping season may give buyers slightly more wiggle room in their budgets, helping to keep monthly mortgage payments more manageable even as home prices themselves continue to rise. But the benefit of lower rates may prove to be a double-edged sword for buyers – lower rates do boost affordability, but may also drive more buyers into the market, creating a more competitive environment than the brief lull the market experienced as 2018 came to a close.

[1] Zillow inventory data begin in January 2013, so year-over-year calculations for the month of January are only available beginning in January 2014.

[2] The Zillow Real Estate Market Reports are a monthly overview of the national and local real estate markets. The data in Zillow’s Real Estate Market Reports are aggregated from public sources by a number of data providers for 928 metropolitan and micropolitan areas, in many cases dating to 1996. Mortgage and home loan data are typically recorded in each county and publicly available through a county recorder’s office. All current monthly data at the national, state, metro, city, ZIP code and neighborhood level can be accessed at www.zillow.com/research/data.

[3] Zillow’s real-time mortgage rates are based on thousands of custom mortgage quotes submitted daily to anonymous borrowers on the Zillow Mortgages site and reflect the most recent changes in the market.

For more helpful tips, visit the Zillow Blog.