The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Odd Parcels: Of Glass, Flips and Stats

Privacy windows are starting to find their way into new homes.

Builders are putting these decorative glass windows in such spaces as bathrooms, hallways, stairways, even bedrooms and home offices, to add a decorative touch. No curtains or blinds necessary.

The windows feature silk-screened, tempered glass with clear decorative lines on the interior. And they fit a standard 3-by-5-foot opening, so they install “just as quickly and easily as a standard clear glass window,” says Roger Murphy, president of Hy-Lite, a popular window brand.

Here’s an interesting twist -- or flip, if you will -- on flipping houses: A company that buys places on the cheap, fixes them up and resells them at a big profit is sharing the largesse with the owners who sold the “flipped” houses in the first place.

Typically, the fix-and-flip set lowball sellers, make only rudimentary repairs and walk away with a huge chunk of change. But Brian Peavey, of the aptly named ProfitShare, is paying his sellers back.

How much is returned to the seller? Peavey doesn’t have a set percentage -- rebates are based on each individual deal and the profits they generate -- but the average is between 1 and 3 percent of the price he pays sellers.

Not only is profit sharing a way to keep sellers happy and away from sites that rate businesses, says Peavy, it “promotes client engagement and loyalty, lowers the cost of doing business and increases revenue and net income.”

The company, based in Boise, Idaho, is the only company in the fix-and-flip business to adopt this model, Peavy claims. “This is a radical take not only on real estate and house flipping, but on business in general. There is no need to make money off the pain of others. By sharing the profits everybody wins!”

It costs money to move from smaller to larger digs. Exactly how much more depends on numerous factors. But new research from Zillow found it ain’t cheap.

A family looking to expand from a three-bedroom house it purchased in 2009 to one with four bedrooms now can expect to pay $614 more on average for their mortgage. That’s $7,368 a year, and it doesn’t count higher property taxes, larger insurance bills and perhaps homeowner association dues.

Of course, the new mortgage payments were even larger on the East and West Coasts than in Middle America, where houses are far less expensive. In the notoriously expensive Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose markets, moving from three to four bedrooms added at least $2,000 to the average monthly payment, according to Zillow.

In Cleveland and Indianapolis, on the other hand, such a move would raise the monthly payment by less than $200. In Baltimore, the increase would be $289. But in Washington, D.C., about 40 miles away, it would be $647.

Some more figures to consider:

New houses always sell at a premium; after all, they are brand-new. But because relatively few houses are being built -- in the decade between 2006 and 2016, the shortfall is about 6.6 million -- new houses are now selling at a 32 percent premium over existing homes. Normal is about 18 percent.

According to Black Knight Financial Services, it currently takes 22.6 percent of the median income nationally to make the monthly principal and interest payment on the median price home of $277,500. That means $12,795 out of the median annual income of $56,616 goes to housing.

Still, the current median monthly PI payment is far below the peak of 35 percent of income required in 2006, before the housing meltdown. Furthermore, it is not yet up to the pre-crisis level of 26.7 percent on average between 2000 and 2005.

The cost of utilities -- electricity, natural gas, water and sewer -- add 25 percent to the cost of owning a home, ATTOM Data Solutions says in a new white paper. That’s why instead of PITI -- principal, interest, taxes and insurance -- home buyers should absolutely consider a new acronym -- PIETI -- with the “E” standing for energy when trying to figure what the new house will cost.