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RESIDENTIAL & RENTAL LIVING A look at the housing market • Topeka housing development, page 6 • Checklist for renters, page 13


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Monthly home expenses that rack up fast Melissa Erickson More Content Now

After saving for the down payment and finding the perfect home, it’s time to crunch the numbers. Many new buyers don’t realize the hidden costs of homeownership. The average U.S. homeowner spends about $2,000 per year on maintenance services, according to a new report. Sixty-three percent of respondents engaged at least one recurring maintenance provider, including 35 percent who have signed up for two or more. The survey asked

about eight programs: housekeeping, homeowners’ association dues, landscaping, security systems, pool care, snow removal, septic service, and trash and recycling collection. The highest monthly costs were for house-

keeping, $285; homeowners’ association dues, $210; landscaping, $144; and security systems, $130. “These figures illustrate the hidden costs of homeownership, and it’s important to note they don’t include repairs

such as a broken refrigerator, washing machine or air conditioner,” said analyst Taylor Tepper. “These are just ongoing, routine tasks like keeping your house and yard clean. Make sure to factor these costs into your new budget when you buy a house. Or do them yourself to save thousands of dollars each year.” These expenses are not a surprise, but they do add up faster than many anticipate. “People know if they want a housekeeper they’re going to have to pay for that service. But homeowners may be surprised at how quickly

these costs add up, especially with a tight budget,” Tepper said. Among the surveyed options, private trash/ recycling programs are the most common, followed by landscaping and homeowners’ association dues. Use of most of these services tends to increase with age and income “The key is to be mindful of your spending,” Tepper said. “Each of these expenses may have merit, but you should only consider them if you’ve accounted for them in your budget. Likewise, if times get tough, maintenance services could be an area to cut.”

CONTACT US Phone: (785) 295-1240 Fax: (785) 295-1230





ONLINE Cover illustration: Thad Allton/ The Capital-Journal

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BUY? Is it a good time to


For some, yes. But here’s what to watch for

By Melissa Erickson More Content Now

“Although there are significant regional variations in the housing market and what is unfolding in certain parts of the economy, the strong economic fundamentals suggest that it may still be a good time to buy.” Murat Arik, Middle Tennessee State University


ith interest rates on the rise and expected to climb higher, home buyers may be rushing to invest in a property before it gets more expensive to borrow money. That begs the question: Is now a good time to buy a house? “With so many variables to consider, there are no cookie-cutter answers,” said Robert Solomon, clinical professor of law at University of California Irvine. “There is a housing shortage in many metropolitan areas and, when combined with foreign investment, housing is overpriced in many areas. The corollary is that there are other areas with higher vacancy rates and when combined with low interest rates, housing may be a bargain.” Housing affordability is becoming a major concern in many markets, said Murat Arik, director and assistant professor of management in the Business and Economic Research Center, Jones College of Business, Middle Tennessee State University. “If and when the Federal Reserve increases the interest rate, that will

add an additional layer of burden for the potential home buyers,” Arik said. “Although there are significant regional variations in the housing market and what is unfolding in certain parts of the economy, the strong economic fundamentals suggest that it may still be a good time to buy.” There’s really no straightforward answer. “On one hand, current mortgage interest rates suggest it is still a good time to buy. On the other hand, looking at the broader market, there are several discouraging factors for potential buyers,” Arik said. Negatively affecting the homebuying decision is that home prices are growing faster than wages, Arik said. Additionally, home prices will continue to grow even faster because of several pressures, including low housing inventory and increased demand from various population segments, Arik said. Political factors unfolding in the country may also impact overall sentiment across the economy on housing-related activities, Arik said. These include “increasing market volatility, increasing lumber prices, increasing tariffs on steel and aluminum, impact of tax overhaul

and potential trade war over the expected tariffs on steel and aluminum,” he said. Indicators to watch At least four aspects of the economy are worth watching when considering whether to buy a home, said Donald Haurin, professor emeritus in the Department of Economics at Ohio State University. They include: 1. The Federal Reserve’s and experts’ comments on the expected changes in mortgage interest rates or the 10-year bond. Do they predict it will rise by a percentage point or more? 2. Indices of current house price changes. Are they remaining strong? If yes, investment value of house remains high. 3. The average time on market of local houses. If it is rising substantially, the local housing market is likely slowing. This suggests that house prices will not increase as much as in the past two years, reducing the investment value of ownership. 4. Indicators of the health of the local economy, such as the local unemployment rate. A strong economy suggests the housing market will remain strong.

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Topeka housing market hard to define

An initial rendering for Wheatfield Apartments depicts the luxury housing complex being built at S.W. 29th St. and S.W. Fairlawn Road. [SUBMITTED BY SCHWERDT DESIGN GROUP INC.]

By Morgan Chilson


he exact recipe that makes up the Topeka housing and rental market is tough to determine. Multiple factors shift constantly, making it difficult to accurately assess needs. The Topeka CapitalJournal delved into the issues with area experts, who shared their insights on the housing and rental markets. What’s for sale? When Linda Briden started six years ago as executive director of the Sunflower Association of Realtors, there were five to six months of

houses for sale in the area inventory. “Right now, from the stats we got for March in the Topeka area, there’s 1.8 months of inventory,” she said. That creates a tight housing

market, particularly in midrange homes where there’s a booming seller’s market. “If you get in to see it and you like it, you better be preapproved and be prepared to make an offer right away,” Briden said. A ‘bizarre’ market Longtime Realtor Helen Crow echoes Briden’s comments, but she’s perplexed as to what’s happening locally in what she called a “bizarre” market. It’s common to have between 800 and 1,400 homes listed for sale in the area’s multiple listings database, Crow says. When Topeka hits around 750

or 800, it’s low. But this year, homebuyers face significantly different numbers. “I have not seen us break 375 currently on any given day,” Crow said. “This is inexplicable. We have hundreds and hundreds of empty houses in town. We’ve got a vast oversupply of housing in Topeka, but we’ve got this real estate market that’s so tight.” Crow points to multiple vacant houses in central Topeka, at Lake Sherwood and throughout the capital city that aren’t listed, and she’s not sure why. But whatever the reason, houses are selling fast. “We haven’t had a market this hot since the ‘70s,” she said.

Crow shows her listings 10 or 11 times on average. In the past, it’s taken her 42 days and active marketing to do that. During 2017 and 2018 spring markets, it’s taken her about three days to get 11 showings — and that’s without spending money on advertising. High-dollar homes Any homes in the suburbs under $250,000 with no major issues sell fast, Crow says. “Last time I checked, only two sales closed this year over $500,000,” she said. “Last year, we sold 3,300 homes in our multiple listings database in Shawnee County, and 33 of them were

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over $500,000, or 1 percent.” Buyers wanting that level of home often build custom houses. Ivan Weichert, CEO of the Topeka Area Building Association, says he’s seeing more spec building by area builders in the $175,000 to $275,000 range, which had dropped off after the recession in 2008. Spec building means the builders don’t have a buyer ahead of time. To him, that indicates a new confidence in the market from builders. In love with lofts

A courtyard, with swimming pools and plenty of seating, is among the features of a Kansas City project on which the Wheatfield Apartments is being patterned. [SUBMITTED BY SCHWERDT DESIGN GROUP INC.]

By the numbers The following is a snapshot of Topeka housing development:


New residential building permits in 2017


Decrease in new residential building permits from 2016

A Sky Lounge, with a fireplace and view of the city, is among the amenities offered at a Kansas City project on which the Wheatfield Apartments is being patterned. [SUBMITTED BY SCHWERDT DESIGN GROUP INC.]

There’s a strong demand for unique, loft-style housing in downtown. I would say our typical tenant is mid-20s to mid-30s, generally a young professional that wants to live somewhere unique.” Mark Burenheide, developer


Permits for residential additions and alterations in 2017

11-12 yrs. How long the supply of prime vacant lots in Topeka to build new single- or two-family housing will last


Mark Burenheide, developer of multiple lofts, including the Jackson Street Lofts in the former Assumption School at 735 S.W. Jackson St., says he could lease 15 to 20 more lofts if he had them available. “I’ve got a waiting list on all three properties that we’ve got,” he said. “There’s a strong demand for unique, loft-style housing in downtown. I would say our typical tenant is mid20s to mid-30s, generally a young professional that wants to live somewhere unique.” Planned projects will tackle some of that need, including one by Michael Wilson creating lofts at 101 N. Kansas Ave. and the development of apartments in the former AT&T building at 823 S.E. Quincy St. More luxury? Although the idea that Topeka needs more luxury apartments comes up in almost any housing discussion, multiple experts question whether Topekans really will pay the dollars necessary to make such a development successful. “We hardly ever see rent across $1,500 a month,” Crow said, adding that includes houses. But she is one person who would like to see a few more luxury accommodations available. She can relate multiple instances of taking new physicians to local townhomes and her clients’ desire to have

nicer rental options. “This doctor said, ‘Helen, you don’t understand. We are not going to live here,’” Crow recalled as she drove him and his wife through one of the popular areas in southwest Topeka. “I said, ‘We'll see.’” When she took him to another popular area, he used his cell phone to call the doctor who recruited him and asked where he had lived when he first moved to town. It was in the same area Crow was showing the rental homes. On the other hand, Crow says, the Topeka market probably wouldn’t support the rent on a $350,000 house. Building new Investor and developer Jim Klausman believes the city can support some luxury apartments, and he’s included them in his Wheatfield development planned for S.W. 29th St. and S.W. Fairlawn Road. It’s the amenities, he says, that typically define apartments as “luxury.” “It’s really an amenity package that really brings that more concierge level of services,” he said. “Generally, there’s a workout area in the complex, a nice pool area — just a number of really increased kinds of amenities that you won’t find in most apartments.” Burenheide’s lofts with their wait lists don’t fit that definition, although one development has a small weight room. He’s considered putting in a pool, but he thinks his tenants value parking spaces more than a pool. “Our projects are so tight from a space perspective that, to me, a parking space is more valuable than a swimming pool,” he said. “That’s one of the top questions that we have. People want to be able to leave their car parked there and walk to work.” Contact business writer Morgan Chilson at (785) 295-1659.

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‘Secondary’ areas are becoming homeowners’ first choices By Melissa Erickson More Content Now





he nation’s biggest real estate markets are powerhouses in population and economic impact, but for a higher standard of living and lower housing costs, many people choose to live in secondary markets. Secondary markets like Seattle, Washington, and Austin, Texas, took top spots over primary markets including New York City, Chicago and San Francisco in the 2018 Emerging Trends in Real Estate report. Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth and Boston were the only primary markets to break the survey’s top 10 “markets to watch.” The report was created by experts at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute. Other highly ranked areas were Salt Lake City, Utah; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; San Jose, California; and Nashville, Tennessee. “A secondary market is an area that doesn’t represent one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Instead it may be either an up-and-coming suburb or just a smaller city that is experiencing significant growth. Some characteristics are job growth, more affordable housing than major markets, tax benefits and a better quality of life which may be achieved due to cost of living, local attractions and general way of life of its residents,” said New York City-based real estate investment analyst Allison Bethell of “The following characteristics are key ingredients for a rising secondary housing market: a big college population — because increasingly, graduates like to stay to pursue a career where they already have friends and romantic ties instead of relocating again — abundance of good-paying jobs particularly in technology and other high-growth sectors, and housing costs that are in line with local wages,” said Joe Melendez, chief executive officer of ValueInsured, a company that provides down payment protection for home buyers.

The millennials’ market

On the rise

Close to the action

“Secondary market is a very interesting topic in housing, especially now in the new age of mobile technology and telecommuting,” Melendez said. “Even the most ambitious young people now do not feel the need to be in New York, Boston, L.A., San Francisco in order to launch a successful career. By avoiding those markets, they avoid the sky-high housing costs. Wages are increasing at a healthy pace, but not at the 7 to 15 percent annual home price increase you see at some of the top metros. “Millennials’ ability to form their own communities organically and quickly has also contributed to the rise of new dynamic cities,” Melendez said.

“With a rising cost of living, moving to a secondary market is a great way to maintain a quality lifestyle without breaking the bank,” said Evan Roberts, a real estate agent with Dependable Homebuyers in Baltimore, Maryland. “Many secondary markets, like Baltimore, have been improving over the past decade with more people moving to the city, more business (like Under Armour) planting roots, and more restaurants and bars opening to accommodate the demand of gentrification. By buying a home now you’re locking in a low price in a neighborhood that’s rising and will likely be less affordable in the future.”

Secondary-market cities are great bets when located near a growing major metro area, said Realtor and attorney Bruce Ailion of Atlanta’s RE/MAX Town and Country. “They have a steady supply of rental tenants when located in a college town on the residential side. On the commercial side, each of these locations has an auto, medical, fast food and other franchise, doctors, lawyers, CPAs and other professionals. Secondary locations in secondary markets may offer rental yields 2 to 3 percent above what a similar business would have in the nearby metro area,” Ailion said. “As a lifestyle location you are more likely to know your neighbors (and) retail shop owners, and typically there are lower taxes and less crime,” he said.

By Melissa Erickson


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More Content Now


t may take a while before the implications of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, are entirely clear, but it will affect the real estate market. “Given the increase in the standard deduction and the decrease in the amount of debt covered by the mortgage interest deduction, there will be fewer home buyers moving forward. Expect the housing market to be soft for the next few years as a result,” said Gabriel Mathy, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at American University, Washington, D.C. The lower mortgage interest deduction may keep some buyers from purchasing a new home. “Anyone borrowing a large amount to buy a home will pay more in taxes and this will discourage some buyers, who will rent instead,” Mathy said. High-end market hit The new tax bill lowers the amount of interest on mortgage debt, and that will affect home buyers in moreexpensive markets, said Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax & Consulting, Rockville Center, New York. “In the past, taxpayers could deduct interest on mortgage loans up to $1 million. In the new tax plan, current homeowners can keep deducting up to $1 million, but new homeowners can only deduct up to $750,000 on homes,” Zimmelman said. In particular buyers will take a hit in certain luxury markets like

Tax reform bill effects on real estate

Manhattan and San Francisco, where the median home price is well over $750,000, said Meisa Bonelli, senior tax professional with Millennial Tax, a provider of preparation and education for solopreneurs, freelancers and microbusinesses in New York City. “Forty percent of American homeowners, if they had to sell their homes tomorrow, would have to consider how their prospective buyers would be affected by the new mortgage interest deduction cap,” Bonelli said. “The best thing may be for sellers to require larger down payments up front to weed out buyers that may be factoring in the mortgage interest deduction per a home’s sale price.”

SALT cap of $10,000 The new tax plan caps state and local tax deductions at $10,000, plus the income or sales tax. ”The state and local property tax cap may stop people from moving to higher-tax areas. It’s possible this could make the value of homes in those areas go down, while increasing the prices of homes in more-affordable areas,” Zimmelman said. Additionally, in areas with local and state taxes that are higher than average, “home values could start to decline as a result of the new tax plan. … After some time, the prices of homes in more-affordable areas could actually increase as a result,” Zimmelman said.

Sellers may hold off The new tax bill also affects sellers because it eliminates the moving expenses deduction for most taxpayers. “After 2018, only members of the armed forces on active duty can deduct moving expenses,” Zimmelman said. It will also affect people who are planning to sell a property as retirement income. “For people that have factored in selling their homes as part of their retirement portfolio, they should give themselves more time to sell their homes if the value of their home is 5 to 10 percent above $750,000. Why? Because most buyers today don’t put down the traditional 20 percent down payment to obtain their mortgage,” Bonelli said. Equity loans more expensive Another change is that home equity loans are no longer deductible. “In the past, taxpayers could deduct up to $100,000 in interest paid on home equity debt. The new tax law eliminates this deduction unless the home equity line was used to purchase another home or for home renovations,” Zimmelman said. “That may turn buyers off to fixer-upper properties,” Bonelli said. “Home equity loans had more advantage than 203k (FHA) loans in the past because they were cheaper to originate. Now, it may make sense for buyers to look for rehabilitation properties if they can get 203k financing because if the mortgage is under $750,000, the interest will be tax-deductible.”


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Interest rates Experts say money will get more expensive to borrow, but it won’t put real estate out of reach

By Melissa Erickson More Content Now

“There are also pockets of oversupply in many metropolitan areas, with some uncertainty as to whether the maturing millenials will continue to boost demand for condos in more central areas.” Alessandro Rebucci, Johns Hopkins University


peculation abounds about interest rates. When will the Federal Reserve raise rates again? How quickly and how often will they rise? One thing experts agree on: “We know that interest rates are going to continue to rise,” said Alessandro Rebucci, associate professor at the Carey Business School at John Hopkins University and an expert in international finance, applied macroeconomics and financial crises. “The recent tax cut means much higher government borrowing, household consumption and business investment, so also higher wages and inflation. The stock market will continue to adjust downward toward more realistic valuations or turn bear if the Fed fails to deliver on its balancing act. Volatility is back with a vengeance and here to stay,” Rebucci said. James P. Gaines, chief economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, agreed. “We’re expecting to see movement. The Fed has said it’s going to raise rates with between one and four increases. Assume it’s three — about 75 basis points. With that, long-term rates will adjust upwards to some extent,” Gaines said. But, rising interest rates probably won’t have much of an impact on the

housing market this year, Gaines said. “People who are on the fence about buying a home will see prices go up and interest rates go up and they may think, ‘I might as well buy now,’” Gaines said. “The kicker is that inventory is low. Everything works in a circle.” Hoping for a soft landing “The housing market will naturally cool down in this process, hopefully landing softly rather than crashing,” Rebucci said. “For many American households, the higher cost of mortgage financing, once higher interest rates have fully passed through, combined with more limited deductibility of interest payments will outpace any tax relief approved late last year. This is a net negative for the housing market. “There are also pockets of oversupply in many metropolitan areas, with some uncertainty as to whether the maturing millenials will continue to boost demand for condos in more central areas,” Rebucci said. Buyers may downgrade Interest rates are not expected to spike, Gaines said. During the last boom the mortgage rate was 6 percent. Now we’re in the 4 percent range. “By and large it will not make that

much of an impact on the housing market. ... The home buyer who is looking at a $300,000 home might buy a $275,000 or $250,000 home, but they will still buy. This might give them the push they need to buy now,” Gaines said. Interest rates on the move also affect home builders, who “get nervous when rates go up,” Gaines said. Because rising rates make it more difficult for buyers to afford the home they want, builders will try to create homes in more affordable price ranges, Gaines said. In the long run While the Federal Reserve controls short-term rates, the market determines the long term. “The imbalance between demand and supply of longer-dated U.S. government paper does not bode well for longer-term bond prices or the stability of their yields to which our mortgage market is anchored,” Rebucci said. “Because of the tax cuts, the Treasury needs to issue massive amounts of new debt. The Fed would like to stop buying, while foreigners, concerned by the widening trade deficit, are watching rather than shopping in the bond market. The odds of a recession — and a serious housing market correction — within the next 24 months are definitely higher than they were before the tax cuts.”

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Many tenant-landlord disputes can be avoided Both parties need to understand their responsibilities

LANDLORDS AND TENANTS For more information about the responsibilities of landlords and tenants, contact: • Shawnee County Landlords Association Inc., P.O. Box 2025, Topeka, 66601, (785) 640-2828, • Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., 1195 S.W. Buchanan, Suite 101, (800) 383-0217,

By Phil Anderson

Landlords and tenants are famous for having squabbles, but many disagreements can be resolved — or even avoided — if both sides learn what to look for in advance. Teresa Baker, rental and housing program manager for Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., 1195 S.W. Buchanan, Suite 101, says she frequently hears tenants’ complaints regarding a lack of maintenance at various housing units. “If looking to rent at a particular apartment complex or in a neighborhood,” Baker said, “ask the neighbors how the landlord takes care of the property. Is the landlord receptive to requests or very slow to respond? “It’s more difficult for a tenant to screen a prospective landlord than the reverse, but making the effort will save money and frustration.” Baker suggests a renter start by conducting an Internet search of the landlord’s name and examining reviews on apartment-search websites. “However, keep in mind that people are far more likely to make a complaint rather than give a compliment,” Baker noted. “I can report that good landlords far outweigh their counterparts in Topeka.” Baker points out that “not all rental

Bette Allen, center, meets with other members of the Shawnee County Landlords Association at The Landing Grille and Bar, 2920 S.E. Croco Road. Allen is president of the association. [PHIL ANDERSON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

experiences are bad,” but because HCCI is in the counseling business, “we only hear the negatives.” Renters should understand their rights and responsibilities before signing a lease. “They can view our Kansas Tenants Handbook (that’s) available free of charge on our website,” she said. “It offers information in an easy-to-understand manner. Of course, we have a handbook for landlords as well.” In addition to its interaction with tenants, HCCI works closely with landlords

Teresa Baker, rental housing program manager for Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., 1195 S.W. Buchanan, Suite 101, says prospective tenants need to check out a landlord before signing a lease to rent a property from them. [PHIL ANDERSON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

and property managers. HCCI is a member of the Shawnee County Landlords Association

and Apartment Council of Topeka. In the end, Baker says, rental is a “two-way

street” for landlords and renters. Landlords, who also have their unique needs, meet locally to hash out their concerns and exchange ideas. The Shawnee County Landlords Association, the main vehicle for property owners to come together and exchange ideas, meets at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at The Landing Grille and Bar, 2920 S.E. Croco Road. Guest speakers keep the group up-to-date on issues of interest to landlords, as well as with current happenings with city and

county government. In turn, government officials learn much from them through their interaction. Bette Allen, president of the Shawnee County Landlords Association, says landlords also find a listening ear when they share their frustrations and concerns during meetings. “It’s not always the landlord’s fault,” Allen said. “A lot of times, the tenants cause the problem and the landlord gets blamed for it.” Allen says a key part of the association is landlords sharing tips on ways to help motivate tenants to pay their rent on time and take care of the property. Pat DeLapp, a local landlord, says he is grateful to be part of the association. “I think it’s fantastic,” DeLapp said. “If you have a problem, you can find someone in the group who’s had a similar experience.” Contact breaking news and religion reporter Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195.

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Before you sign a lease, ask questions Here’s a checklist potential renters might find helpful By Tim Hrenchir

Potential renters should do their homework before signing a contract to rent a house or apartment. Those looking to rent should gain a welldefined picture of the living environment involved by seeking the perspectives of people other than their prospective landlord, says Teresa Baker, rental housing program manager for Topeka’s Housing and Credit Counseling Inc. Baker encourages potential renters to contact residents of the apartment complex or single-family home neighborhood they’re looking at and ask questions aimed at helping determine whether the rental they’re considering is a good fit. “After you pen your ‘John Hancock,’ it will be too late to take these things into consideration to ensure that you find

Individuals need to take a look at the apartment or house they hope to rent before signing a lease. Potential renters also should ask about the maintenance of the property, if pets are allowed, what utilities are provided, safety of the neighborhood and other concerns. [PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

the best place to live,” said the website Baker recommends potential renters get a look at the actual rental property they’ll occupy — or at least one that’s very similar to it — instead of a “model” unit. A model unit “features the look of the lifestyle potential renters may desire, but it may not look like the apartment

the renter will be assigned,” she said. Here are some other questions Baker suggests people ask before signing a lease for an apartment or other rental property: • Is the neighborhood safe? • Does the landlord treat tenants in a professional manner? Does the landlord respect the privacy of tenants? • Does the landlord

effectively maintain his or her rentals? Is 24-hour emergency maintenance available? Are repairs made on a timely basis? • Does the rental property allow pets? If so, what are its rules regarding what pets are and aren’t allowed? Does the landlord assess any fees or deposits to residents with pets? • Will utilities be

covered by the tenant’s rent payment? If so, which utilities? • What kind of personalization of the property — such as hanging curtains or placing nails in walls — is allowed? • Who is responsible for yard maintenance and snow and ice removal? This should be clearly outlined in the lease.

• Does the property offer a laundry room or washer and dryer connections? • Will air conditioning be provided, and is the air conditioner in working order? The state of Kansas doesn’t require air conditioning in rental units, Baker says. However, if supplied, the air-conditioning system must be maintained. • If the landlord offers amenities such as a pool, fireplace or gym, will the tenant actually use the amenities and be able to afford any increase in rent that may come along with them? • Is there ample parking for the vehicles the tenant owns? • Does the landlord provide scheduled pest control, and have there been any past issues with pests? • What will the landlord do to address any disability accommodations the tenant may need? • What are the rules about allowing guests to stay with renters? Contact local government reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184.

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Millennials buying homes later than parents Young adults with student loan debt avoiding mortgage By Luke Ranker

When lifelong Topekan Lucas Ryan and his fiance, Ashley Klemme, wanted to buy a home in the city, they knew exactly what to look for: a small house that fit their budget and was in a walkable neighborhood near parks and downtown. Ryan and Klemme found what they wanted in a beige two-story house with brown shutters at S.W. 17th St. and S.W. Campbell Ave., on the edge of the Collins Park neighborhood. The couple couldn’t quite afford a home within the neighborhood’s traditional boundaries, but this house came with the bonus of hardwood floors hidden under carpet. “We’ve always loved the established-neighborhood feel of central Topeka,” Ryan said. “We’re within spitting distance of downtown, but we’re also far enough away that if anything is happening down there it won’t disrupt us too much. We can take the dogs for a walk and head to the park.” Ryan, 21, and Klemme, 23, fit the mold of what many Realtors consider the typical millennial home buyer, says Linda Briden, CEO of Sunflower Association of Realtors. Once thought to be the generation unwilling to buy homes, those born between 1981 and 1996 now make up the bulk of the housing market. In 2017, 36 percent of buyers were millennials, and 60 percent of them were first-time home buyers. “(Millennials) are buying. They’re just not buying at quite as a young age as their parents,” Briden said, noting

Lucas Ryan and his fiance, Ashley Klemme — like many millennials — wanted to buy a home that would fit their budget and be near parks and downtown Topeka. [CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

millennials are purchasing homes about five years later than the previous generation. The increase in student loan debt has made the younger generation unwilling to take on a mortgage, Briden surmises. Forbes reports that $1.3 trillion was owed in the United States at the end of 2016, with the average debt of college graduates that year close to $40,000. As a result, she says, young adults are buying later and looking for smaller homes that require less investment. While previous generations focused life around their home, younger Americans are more interested in activities outside their dwellings. “Their activities are centered outside the home — traveling, going out,” Briden

said. “They’re not willing to invest as much in a home as other generations, because they’re looking to spend that money elsewhere.” Topeka has an advantage over neighboring cities because the cost of living has remained lower, says Gabriel O’Shea, executive director at Forge, a young professional leadership program that’s part of the Greater Topeka Partnership. However, Topeka falls behind in rentals attractive to young people. Recently, Forge organized Top City Interns, which brought 200 young professionals to the city for work experience but also served as a way to promote living and working in Topeka. O’Shea said many of them couldn’t find housing in neighborhoods

attractive to young people, like College Hill and downtown. “It’s not that we don’t have enough, they’re just not what young people are looking for,” he said. “You want to be around people your age, people you can experience the city with.” As with every generation, there’s not a set pattern for millennial house shoppers, Briden says. While some want homes near a city’s center or in a walkable community, those with children are more concerned with school districts and parks and may opt for the suburbs. Ryan, a Realtor with Keller Williams One Legacy Partners who works with clients around his own age, agrees. “There’s not a single definition of what we (millennials)

are looking for,” he said. “The big common denominator is that we like houses with a bit of personality or a house we can make a story for ourselves, not one of those cookie-cutter houses you drive down the block and it looks like everything else.” Unlike Ryan, who bought a house in the city’s core, O’Shea and wife, Kristen, opted for a home near N.W. 39th St. and S.W. Rochester Road. Though it’s right outside the city limits, the location offers a quick commute to downtown and access to nature trails north of Topeka. It also came with a sizable yard. “You get a lot of bang for your buck in Topeka,” he said. Along with student loan debt, Ryan says, many young professionals came of age during the collapse of the housing market in 2008 and have been wary of the market. However, interest rates have fallen, and now a mortgage, in some cases, is more affordable than rent. “Our mortgage is cheaper than the rents we were paying in KC (Kansas City),” he said, “and now we have twice as much square footage and a corner lot.” Millennials also are more willing to find creative ways to offset the cost of a mortgage. Ryan says he’s heard from many young homeowners who have rented out extra rooms, either with a traditional lease or through Airbnb, an online marketing and hospitality service for people who want to rent or lease short-term lodging. “You realize you don’t need that third bedroom,” he said. “Well, that’s an income source that makes that mortgage a lot easier.” Contact reporter Luke Ranker at (785) 295-1270 or @lrankerNEWS on Twitter.

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Boomers’ demands alter senior living trends Facilities providing more open spaces, more amenities

Improve lighting, widen doors The Capital-Journal

By Angela Deines

Moving from a culture of care to a culture of hospitality is what many senior living facilities are doing to adjust to the market demands of aging baby boomers. Baby boomers were born between the mid1940s and mid-1960s. “Baby boomers are just now coming of age when looking at facilities like ours, where we provide a lot of services,” said Claudia Larkin, vice president and CEO at Brewster, 1205 S.W. 29th St. “Space is important, and they’re used to certain amenities in their home, and they’re looking for those again.” The generation that preceded the baby boomers was “more thrifty” and didn’t require much when downsizing and moving into a senior living facility, Larkin says. When Brewster opened in the 1960s, the apartments were less than 400 square feet. “We don’t have those anymore,” Larkin said, adding that baby boomers want more space and services than their parents and newer apartments at the senior living complex start at about 1,900 square feet. “I attribute a little of that to it being their first downsize,” she said

Modifications can help homeowners ‘age in place’

Brewster expects to open the 13-unit Cottonwood Villas at its complex in southwest Topeka later this summer. Officials of the senior living facility said they are moving from a culture of care to a culture of hospitality to respond to baby boomers’ demands for bigger spaces and more amenities. [THAD ALLTON/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL]

of why baby boomers’ demands for space has grown. “They’re leaving homes a little larger.” Universal design elements are other aspects baby boomers are asking for in senior living facilities, Larkin says. Those elements include zeroentry showers, flooring that allows for ease of mobility, table height breakfast bars and wall ovens and microwaves that eliminate the need for bending. Larkin says the 13-unit Cottonwood Villas currently under construction at Brewster is on schedule to be completed for move-in later this summer. The facility’s board of directors also has given approval for the building of a pool and 266-seat cultural arts center with a live performance stage. An intergenerational coordinator has been

hired to create and facilitate joint programming for Brewster residents and children, including an art camp this summer with Quincy Elementary students. “There’s so many benefits to putting the generations together,” Larkin said. “For one, it staves off dementia.” The joining of the generations is also important for another senior living company that announced it will open a three-story, 132unit independent living facility in the spring of 2020 on the former Topeka State Hospital grounds near S.W. 6th and S.W. MacVicar avenues. “We always try to involve the community,” said Jerry Hill, of Calamar Inc. “We do a lot of things with students, but the opportunity to be here on the campus (means we) will

have much more structured interactions with the students … it just makes for a very vibrant community.” Calamar’s community — at what is currently Topeka USD 501’s Kanza Education and Science Park — is expected to include retirees of the school district, who will get the first opportunity to lease an apartment within the first year of the facility’s opening and have their first month of rent free of charge. “That was something that we asked for specifically. I don’t know of anywhere else that is done,” said Larry Robbins, USD 501’s deputy superintendent. “I saw that it was not only an opportunity for our students, but since it’s a senior living facility, it’s something they can do for our adults who have spent years dedicating themselves

to education.” Some of the intergenerational activities expected on Calamar’s campus once it opens are student performances, technology assistance, tutoring and internships for students interested in senior health care. With eight facilities in the Midwest, Hill says, Calamar’s expansion into Topeka was too attractive to pass up. “It’s a very stable community,” he said. “State government is here. It’s a community that many people want to stay in. They don’t want to maintain a home (after retiring), but they want to stay in the same area to keep their doctor, their church, those kinds of things. It just makes it a very strong market.” Contact education reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143.

Proper home modifications are important for baby boomers and other older adults who choose not to move into a senior living facility but rather “age in place,” according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. That’s because many of their homes were built in earlier decades “when there was less awareness of the need to ensure physical accessibility for older adults and persons with disabilities,” the institute indicates. AARP suggests these home modifications to promote safe aging in place. Simple changes: • Add non-slip strips to existing hard floor surfaces. • Improve lighting. • Install telephones with large numbers and letters. • Install grab bars and lever door handles. More complex changes: • Install ramps, chair lifts, stair glides, roll-in showers and handrails on both sides of stairs. • Widen doorways or install swing-clear hinges on doors. • Lower countertops.

G16  Sunday, June 3, 2018 

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